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ENMITY





KILLING is not the only thing forbidden by the Fifth Commandment:
thereby are prescribed all forms of enmity, of which killing is one,
that attack either directly or indirectly, in thought or desire, as
well as in deed, the life, limbs or health of the neighbor. The fifth
precept protects the physical man; everything therefore that partakes
of the nature of a design on the body of another is an offense against
this commandment. All such offenses are not equally grievous, but each
contains a malice of its own, which is prescribed under the head of
killing.

Enmity that takes the form of fighting, assault and battery, is clearly
a breach of the law of God. It is lawful to wound, maim and otherwise
disable an assailant, on the principle of self-defense, when there is
no other means of protecting oneself against attack. But outside this
contingency, such conduct is ruffianism before man, and sin before God.
The State alone has the right to inflict penalties and avenge wrongs;
to turn this right over to every individual would be destructive of
society. If this sort of a thing is unlawful and criminal when there
might be some kind of an excuse for it on the ground of injury
received, the malice thereof is aggravated considerably by the fact of
there being no excuse at all, or only imaginary ones.

There is another form of enmity or hatred that runs not to blows but to
words. Herein is evil, not because of any bodily injury wrought, of
which there is none, but because of the diabolical spirit that
manifests itself, a spirit reproved by God and which, in given
circumstances, is ready to resort to physical injury and even to the
letting of blood. There can be no doubt that hatred in itself is
forbidden by this commandment, for "whosoever hateth his brother is a
murderer," according to St. John. It matters little, therefore, whether
such hatred be in deeds or in words; the malice is there and the sin is
consummated. A person, too weak to do an enemy bodily harm, may often
use his or her tongue to better effect than another could his fists,
and the verbal outrage thus committed may be worse than a physical one.

It is not even necessary that the spirit of enmity show itself at all
on the outside for the incurring of such guilt as attends the violation
of this commandment. It is sufficient that it possess the soul and go
no farther than a desire to do harm. This is the spirit of revenge, and
it is none the less sinful in the eyes of God because it lacks the
complement of exterior acts. It is immoral to nourish a grudge against
a fellow-man. Such a spirit only awaits an occasion to deal a blow,
and, when that occasion shows itself, will be ready, willing and
anxious to strike. The Lord refuses the gifts and offerings and prayers
of such people as these; they are told to go and become reconciled with
their brother and lay low the spirit that holds them; then, and only
then, will their offerings be acceptable.

Even less than this suffices to constitute a breach of the Fifth
Commandment. It is the quality of such passions as envy and jealousy to
sometimes be content with the mere thought of injury done to their
object, without, even going so far as to desire to work the evil
themselves. These passions are often held in check for a time; but, in
the event of misfortune befalling the hated rival, there follows a
sense of complacency and satisfaction which, if entertained, has all
the malice of mortal sin. If, on the contrary, the prosperity of
another inspire us with a feeling of regret and sadness, which is
deliberately countenanced and consented to, there can be no doubt as to
the grievous malice of such a failing.

Finally recklessness may be the cause of our harming another. It is a
sound principle of morals that one is responsible for his acts in the
measure of his foreseeing, and consenting to, the results and
consequences. But there is still another sound principle according to
which every man is accountable, at least indirectly, for the evil
consequences of his actions, even though they be unforeseen and
involuntary, in the measure of the want of ordinary human prudence
shown in his conduct. A man with a loaded revolver in his hand may not
have any design on the lives of his neighbors; but if he blazes away
right and left, and happens to fill this or that one with lead, he is
guilty, if he is in his right mind; and a sin, a mortal sin, is still a
sin, even if it is committed indirectly. Negligence is often culpable,
and ignorance frequently a sin.

Naturally, just as the soul is superior to the body, so evil example,
scandal, the killing of the soul of another is a crime of a far greater
enormity than the working of injury unto the body. Scandal comes
properly under the head of murder; but it is less blood than lust that
furnishes it with working material. It will therefore be treated in its
place and time.





Next: OUR ENEMIES

Previous: THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS



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