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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of the Sixth Commandment.

Q. 67. Which is the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment is, [Thou shalt not kill.]

Q. 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Q. 69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.


Q. 1. What is the natural order of these commandments in the second table?

A. In these commands God begins with the nearest concern of man, which is life; Job 2:4. Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life. Next to that his command guards his nearest relative, from whom the best outward comfort is to rise, his wife: Mark 10:8. And they twain shall be one flesh, &c. After that his good name, which is very precious to him; Ecclesiastes 7:1. A good name is better than precious ointment. And then his goods, which support his life; Isaiah 3:1. For behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah, the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water.

Q. 2. How far doth this commandment extend itself ?
A. It prohibits all cruelty, and commands all help, care, and pity, so far as menís hearts and hands can go, for the relief and preservation of others; Psalm 119:96. But thy commandment is exceeding broad.

Q. 3. Doth this command respect only the outward action, or also the inward passion of the soul?
A. It respects and bridles the inward passion of the soul, as well as outward actions; as hatred, 1 John 3:15. Whosoever hateth his brother, is a murderer, &c. And causeless anger; Matthew 5:22. But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment, &c.

Q. 4. Doth this command only respect the lives of others?
A. No; it primarily respects our own lives, and forbids us all things that tend to the shortening and ruin of them; Ephesians 5:29. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord doth the church.

Q. 5. How many ways may men sin against this command, with respect to their own lives?
A. A man sinneth against his own life, not only by destroying himself, as the jailor would have done; Acts 16:27. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled; but by refusing food or physic to preserve life, or macerating our bodies with excessive sorrows; 2 Corinthians 7:10. But the sorrow of the world worketh death. Or envy at others felicity; Proverbs 14:30. But envy, the rottenness of the bones.

Q. 6. How are men guilty of murder with respect to others?
A. Murder, with respect to others, may be either with relation to their bodies; Numbers 35:30. Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death, &c. Or to their souls, which is the most heinous murder in the world; Ezekiel 3:18. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die, and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way to save his life: the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

Q. 7. Is all destruction of anotherís life murder in the account of God?
A. No; It is not, if the life of a person be taken away in the course of justice; Genesis 9:6. Whoso sheddeth manís blood, by man shall his blood be shed. Or, in a just and necessary war; Judges 5:23. Curse ye Meroz, (said the angel of the Lord) curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Or by pure accident; Deuteronomy 19:5. As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and ligh teth upon his neighbour that he die, he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live. Or in self-defence; Exodus 22:2. If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.

Q. 8. Is there no other way of breaking this command?
A. Yes there is: Innocents may be murdered under the form. and solemnities both of justice and religion. So Naboth was murdered by Jezebel: 1 Kings 21:12-13. They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: And the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones that he died. And the martyrs by bloody Papists. And this strongly proves a day of judgment; Ecclesiastes 3:16-17. And moreover, I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there, and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: For there is a time there for every purpose, and for every work.

Q. 9. Are duels forbidden in this comnmandment?
A. Yes, they are; for whatever point of honour be touched, or whatever provocation be given, we are not to be our own avengers; Romans 12:19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, &c.

Q. 10. What is the first inference hence?
A. That we have great cause to bless God for his protecting law, and for human laws grounded upon his law for the protection of our lives; Romans 13:4. For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.

Q. 11. What is the second inference hence?
A. That all that are guilty of this sin, have great cause to be humbled and afflicted: For it is a crying sin, Genesis 4:10. The voice of thy brotherís blood crieth unto me from the ground. Yet not to despair of mercy upon true repentance. Manasseh shed innocent blood, and yet was pardoned, upon repentance; 2 Kings 21:16. Moreover, Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, &c.

Q. 12. What is the third inference hence?
A. Let all men watch against pride, passion, malice, and revenge, the sin of the heart, from which this horrid sin proceeds; Matthew 15:18-19. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, &c.

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