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 com
andment. All such offenses are not equally grievous, but each

contains a malice of its own, which is prescribed under the head of


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.