JMC : The Catholic Religion / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

The Ten Commandments.

302. We have seen (n. 291) that God rules all men by the natural law, which is the eternal law as made known to us by reason. Now reason is essentially the same in all men; therefore the duties arising under the natural law are essentially the same in all ages and among all races. The principal of these duties are, as it were, written in the heart of man; that is, known to him immediately or by obvious reasoning: they have besides been explicitly revealed in the Commandments which God gave to His Chosen People, and a brief compendium of which He proclaimed to them from Mount Sinai "Now the third day was come and the morning appeared; and behold, thunders began to be heard, and lightning to flash, and a very thick cloud to cover the mount. And all Mount Sinai was on smoke, because the Lord was come down upon it in fire; and the smoke arose from it as out of a furnace and all the mount was terrible" (Ex. XIX, 16-18). Next (ib. XX) the Commandments are given as spoken by the Lord on that occasion. Afterwards they were delivered to Moses written on two tables of stone. On the first table were the first three, regarding the honor due to God; on the second, the remaining seven, which explain the duties of man to his neighbor.

The First Commandment.

303. The first commandment is this: "I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange Gods before Me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them nor serve them. I am the Lord, thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments" (Ex. XX, 2-6). The chief purpose of this commandment is evidently Divine worship, which is rendered by the virtue of religion. By forbidding false worship, God requires the virtue of faith; by promising rewards, He inculcates hope, and by promising these rewards to them that love Him, He inculcates charity.

The three virtues of faith, hope, and charity, by which we believe in God, hope in Him, and love Him, are called theological. They are supernatural virtues, or above the reach of our unaided nature; yet, since all men are destined to supernatural beatitude, they are required of all men, and have been required of all from the time of our first parents. They are produced in us by the Holy Ghost. who enables us to assent to the teachings of Divine revelation by faith, to trust God's revealed promises by hope, and by charity to love God, who is revealed to us as the supernatural and supreme Good, worthy of all love. They are gratuitously infused in Baptism, and each of them remains in the soul till it is destroyed by a mortal sin directly opposed to it (n. 306). Any mortal sin will expel charity, but not faith and hope (nn. 306, 307). Together with the theological virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Ghost are infused in Baptism. These are certain effects produced on the soul which dispose it to be readily moved by the Holy Spirit in matters leading to salvation. They are often compared to the sails of a boat, which the wind inflates so as to propel the vessel. They are commonly reckoned to be the seven enumerated by Isaias (XI, 23), of which Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, and Knowledge perfect the intellect; while Fortitude, Piety, and the Fear of the Lord belong to the will of man. It is probable that the moral virtues are infused with the theological.

304. As to the necessity of faith, Pope Innocent XI, in 1679, condemned the doctrine that there is no special precept of faith. There is, therefore, according to Catholic teaching, a necessity of precept to have faith. Besides, there is also a necessity of means to have it. The difference is this: when an act is necessary by precept only, he who omits the act because he does not know of the precept may suffer no evil consequences from his omission (n. 301); but when it is necessary as a means to an end, he who omits it even innocently fails to attain the end. Now faith is necessary as a means to salvation. For the Council of Trent declares that no man ever was justified without faith. And St. Paul writes: "We believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified" (Gal. II, 16). That God intends to give this grace to all men was explained above (n. 210).

305. The motive of faith (n. 119) is also called its formal object. By the material object of faith we understand all the truths that God has revealed, and that He teaches us through His Church (n. 117).

Now we have shown that we must believe all these (n. 117). We have the same reason for believing all the points as we have for believing any one point, namely that God has revealed them. But we need not believe every truth explicitly, or distinctly: it is enough that we believe the principal truths explicitly, the rest implicitly, that is in as much as the other truths are involved or contained in those which are explicitly believed. Now, what truths is it necessary to believe explicitly? St. Paul says: "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and is a Rewarder to them that seek Him" (Heb. XI, 6). He is speaking of that faith which is necessary as means. Therefore explicit belief in God's existence and in His rewards is necessary as a means to salvation. Many hold that the Trinity and the Incarnation must also be explicitly believed. There are other points which we are required by precept to believe explicitly. They are the substance of the Apostles' Creed, the Decalogue, and the chief precepts of the Church; also certain matters concerning the Sacraments, and at least the substance of the Lord's Prayer.

306. The sins against faith, by which the virtue of faith is destroyed, are the following: 1. Infidelity, which is committed either by positively refusing to accept Christianity when its necessity is understood, or by neglecting to examine carefully into the matter, and thus remaining without faith in Christ. 2. Heresy (hairesis, choice) by which a baptized person denies a truth that the Church teaches, or affirms an error that the Church condemns as opposed to faith. The sin is only material if it results from invincible ignorance; else it is formal; the heresy is fully consummated when the error is stubbornly maintained. A doubt about a doctrine of the Church, even though not outwardly expressed, if fully deliberate, is a grievous sin, because it implies a rejection of belief in the infallibility of the Church.

3. Apostacy, or abandonment of the Church, which consists either in withdrawing from its communion, or in denying its authority to teach. There are occasions when it is our duty openly to profess the faith: "For with the heart we believe unto justice, bmt with the mouth profession is made unto salvation" (Rom. X, 10). This duty binds us whenever the honor of God, our own spiritual good, or that of our neighbor cannot be properly defended without such profession. It is sinful to neglect for a considerable time the exercise of the virtue of faith.

307. We are obliged to hope that if we do our part, God will grant us salvation with all the means necessary to obtain it. The motive of our hope, what theologians call its formal object, is the goodness of God, and His fidelity to keep his promises. The sins committed against this virtue are:

1. Despair of God's goodness or of His fidelity to His promises.

2. Presumption, that is the perversion of hope, when we trust to obtain salvation without using the requisite means; or when we act rashly, unreasonably trusting in God's protection.

3. Indifference to salvation, or neglect to exercise the virtue of hope.

308. Charity is the virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake and our neighbor as ourselves for the sake of God. Love is twofold: by the love of benevolence, or friendship, we wish well to another by the love of desire we wish to obtain some good for ourselves. We should love God in both these ways, wishing Him all good because He is worthy of it, and wishing to possess Him as the supreme source of our happiness. When we say that we must love God above all things, we do not mean that we must feel more tenderly towards Him than towards any other persons; for feeling is a passion, not a virtue: but we mean that we must have a higher appreciation of God than of any other person or thing; so that we would for no consideration turn away from God. The reason of this, or the formal motive of our love of God, is that He is the highest Good, the most deserving of love and fidelity. A reliable test of our love for Him in our fidelity in keeping His commandments: "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, him it is that loveth Me", says the Lord (Jo. XIV, 21).

As children should at proper times give expression to their love for their parents, so all men are obliged occasionally to make acts of love of God; in particular, soon after they arrive at the full use of reason, when for the first time they realize His right to their love. Such an act of love is not difficult to make: it is contained, for instance, in these words of the Lord's prayer, "Hallowed by Thy name". The words "Thy kingdom come" express an act of hope, while every prayer implies an act of faith.

309. To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we wish all other men such happiness as we ought to wish for ourselves: but we need not love them as much as ourselves, we need not be as solicitous for their welfare as we are for our own. The reasons why we must thus love our neighbor are: 1. Because God wills it so: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. XIX, 19); 2. Because all men are adopted sons of God, or at least called to be such; 3. Because all are created in the image of God; 4. Because all share with us a common miniature and good order requires that like shall love like.

Now all these reasons hold still, even though a neighbor hate us; and therefore we must love even our enemies. In fact God has given us an explicit command to do so: "I say to you, love your enemies; do good to them that hate you, pray for those who persecute and calumniate you; that you may be children of your Father, who is in Heaven" (Matt. V, 44, 45). Usually he would violate this commandment who would refuse an enemy such marks of kindness as are generally given to men of the same rank, or would refuse a relative such love as belongs to such relationship. It is always against charity to exclude any man from our common prayers, such as the "Our Father"; nor must we only avoid bearing hatred, but we ought even to cherish good will towards all men generally.

Right order requires that a man shall love most, 1. His wife, 2. His children, 3. His parents, 4. His brothers and sisters, and other relatives, 5. All those of his household. He owes civil protection to his fellow-citizens, a share of his bodily goods to his needy relatives, spiritual aid to his fellow-Christians, etc., to each according to the special nature of his claim. We are obliged to assist all who are in extreme spiritual need, even, if necessary, by exposing our lives for them. When any are in extreme temporal need, we must go to great, though not extreme trouble to help them; even in ordinary need we may not refuse all assistance to the poor (See n. 325). The rule of charity for all is the following, and by it we shall be judged, namely: "As long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me", and "As long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it unto Me" (Matt. XXV, 40, 45).

310. Any wilful violation of the laws just explained is a sin against fraternal charity. The most grievous of these sins is scandal (skandalon, a stumbling block); that is, an ill ordered word or action which gives the neighbor an occasion of doing wrong. If the neighbor's sin is directly intended, the scandal is called direct, or diabolical; else it is indirect, and must be judged by the rules concerning evil effects indirectly willed (n. 296). It is chiefly, but not exclusively, of direct scandal that Christ said "He that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world on account of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come; but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh" (Matt. XVIII, 6).

A common way of giving scandal is by co-operation in evil deeds, or in such as have evil effects. If the evil effect is directly willed, the co-operation is formal; else, it is only material: in the latter case it must be judged by the same rules as indirect scandal. If our conduct is orderly, and still it becomes an occasion of sin to others, this may be owing to their own wickedness or to their weakness. If it is owing to their own wickedness, there is what is called pharisaical scandal, because the Pharisees were thus scandalized at the very miracles of Christ; if it is owing to their weakness, it is the scandal of the weak: even this it is proper to avoid if we can conveniently do so. For St. Paul said of himself: "If meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat meat, lest I should scandalize my brother" (1 Cor. VIII, 13).

311. We have said that the love of God is lost by every mortal sin (n. 303). The state of a soul deprived of this love, and consequently of sanctifying grace, which is inseparable from the love of God, is the state of sin, also called habitual sin. An actual sin is any thought, word, deed, or omission against the law of God. It is either mortal, or venial; mortal, if it causes the supernatural death of the soul, by depriving it of grace, which is its supernatural life (n. 217); else, it is venial; that is, readily pardoned (venia, pardon) in comparison with mortal sin.

Mortal sin always supposes three conditions: 1. Some grievous matter; 2. Full knowledge that this matter is strictly commanded or prohibited; 3. Full consent of the free-will to the act forbidden, or to the omission of the act commanded.

312. We have also stated that the direct purpose ot the first commandment is the rendering of proper worship to God (n. 303). Now this is done by the virtue of religion. Worship is called adoration, or latria, when it renders supreme honor, such as is due to God alone; its chief act is sacrifice. Worship is called dulia (doulos, a servant), or inferior worship, when it honors persons as servants of God, as the Angels and Saints truly are; it is styled hyperdulia (huper, above), when it recognizes one servant of God, namely, His blessed Mother, as more honorable than all the others.

We honor all the Saints and Angels for God's sake, i. e. because He loves and honors them; and also for their own sake, i. e. because of their personal sanctity, which the Holy Ghost has wrought in them by His grace. But when we honor images or relics of Christ or His Saints, we do not honor such lifeless things for their own sake, since they possess no personal sanctity: we give them relative honor only, while to holy persons we give absolute honor, honor meant for themselves.

It is objected that God forbade the making of images; but this is not so: all nations, Protestant nations included, have ever judged it proper to make images; but God forbade making them for the purpose of adoring and serving them (n. 303). We find overwhelming proofs, in the Catacombs and elsewhere, of veneration rendered to images and relics of Saints in the Apostolic ages; and the persecutions of the Iconoclast emperors show that, in their time, this practice was universal in the Church. St. John Damascene wrote learned works in defense of it (Libr. IV. De Fid. Orth.). He says: "The image of the king is also called the king, and there are not two kings in consequence. . . . Honoring the image is honoring the one who is set forth in the image. . . . Do not reject the veneration of images".

313. Sins against religion are of two kinds: superstition, or improper worship, and irreligion, or irreverence toward God.

1. Superstition takes many forms: (a) Idolatry renders to a creature the supreme honor which belongs to God alone. (b) Vain observances are words or actions used to obtain effects which they have no power to produce from nature, nor from God, nor from the prayers of the Church. (c) Magic strives to produce preternatural effects by the explicit or implicit invocation of evil spirits (n. 161). (d) Divination, or fortune telling, at least implicitly consults evil spirits to find out hidden or future things. Modes of divination may vary considerably with times and places: but this one principle condemns them all: It is impious for the children of God to seek favors from the rebel angels, His bitterest enemies, as if God were not powerful enough or not good enough for us (4. Kings I, 3). It was to punish such abominations that God ordered the seven nations of Canaan to be exterminated by His Chosen People; for He said to the latter: "When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee, beware lest thou have a mind to imitate the abominations of those nations. Neither let there be among you any one . . . that consulteth sooth-sayers, or observeth dreams or omens; neither let there be any wizard or charmer, nor any one that consulteth pythonic spirits, or fortune tellers, or that seeketh the truth from the dead. For the Lord abhorreth all these things, and for these abominations He will destroy them at thy coming" (Deut. XVIII, 9-12). In our day these superstitious practices are used by Spiritists and Theosophists, whose common tendency is to undermine belief in the Divinity of Christ and in the eternity of punishment. Much of their pretences is no doubt mere imposture, as was also the case with the idolatrous priests of old (Dan. XIV); but yet, wherever the interference of evil spirits can be reasonably suspected, the friends of God must, under pain of sin, keep aloof from such practices. 2. Sins of irreligion are chiefly:

(a) Tempting God, that is, putting His power, knowledge, justice, etc., to a test, as if His perfection were doubtful.

(b) Sacrilege, that is, desecrating or dishonoring sacred persons, places, or things; thus there are three kinds of sacrilege: personal, local, and real.

(c) Simony, that is, buying, selling, or bartering for temporal goods any spiritual things, or temoporal things on account of the spiritual benefits annexed to them; as when relics or blessed articles are bought or sold. This was the sin of Simon the Magician (Acts VIII, 18-24), who offered St. Peter money to obtain supernatural power; and the sin is named after him.

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