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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

by
Thomas Vincent


LXIX. Ques. What is forbidden in the sixth cornmandment?
Ans.
The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

Q. 1. Whom doth the sixth commandment forbid us to kill?
A. The sixth commandment forbiddeth us to kill either ourselves or others.

Q. 2. How are we forbidden to kill ourselves or others?
A. We are forbidden to kill ourselves or others, either directly, by taking away our own or others' life; or indirectly, by doing anything that tendeth thereunto.

Q. 3. Is it lawful upon any account to kill ourselves, as when thereby we shall prevent others from putting us to death with torture and disgrace; as Cato and other heathens, who slew themselves, and Saul, who fell upon his own sword, that he might not be slain and abused by the uncircumcised Philistines?
A. 1. It is unlawful in any case to kill ourselves. "And the keeper of the prison drew out his sword, and would have killed himself; but Paul cried with a loud voice, Do thyself no harm." Acts 16:27, 28. 2. Although the heathens counted it a virtue, and the part of a brave heroic spirit, in some cases to kill themselves, yet the law of God alloweth no such thing, but accounteth such persons self-murderers. 3. It was Saul's sin to die in that act of self-murder; and we ought rather to submit ourselves to any abuses and tortures of others, which is their sin, than to lay violent hands on ourselves, and so die in a sin which there is no time nor place for repenting of afterwards.

Q. 4. Is it possible for them that kill themselves to be saved, when there can be no repenting afterwards for this sin?
A. 1. It is possible for some to give themselves their death wound, and yet repent before they die, and be saved, although this be very rare. 2. It is possible that some, who are children of God, may in a frenzy (Satan taking advantage to inject temptations hereunto) kill themselves, and yet, through habitual faith and repentance, attain to salvation.

Q. 5. Is it lawful in any case to kill others?
A. It is lawful to kill others 1. In the execution of the just sentence of the public laws, especially on such as have been murderers. "Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death." Numb. 35:30. 2. In lawful war. "Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood." Jer. 48:18. 3. In necessary self-defence. "If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall be no blood shed for him." Exod. 22:2.

Q. 6. Is it lawful to fight and kill one another in a duel?
A. 1. It is unlawful to fight a private duel, except a man be set upon by another, and he cannot avoid it; then it is lawful for a man, in his own defence, to fight and slay his enemy that assaulteth him. 2. It is lawful to fight a public duel, if a single enemy, at the head of an army, do make a challenge, and it may be the means to prevent the effusion of more blood; as David did well to fight with, and kill Goliath.

Q. 7. May we not be guilty of the murder of ourselves or others any other way than by directly taking our own or others' lives?
A. We may be guilty of the murder of ourselves or others indirectly, by doing any thing that tendeth to take away our own or others' lives. As 1. By neglecting or withholding the lawful and necessary means for the preservation of life; such as meat, drink, sleep, clothes, physic, needful recreations, and the like: when we forbear to make use of the necessary preservatives of life ourselves, either through a pinching humour, or Satan's temptations, that we have no right to them, and thereby hasten our end, we are guilty of self-murder: when we deny the necessaries of life to others in extreme want, through covetousness and want of pity, we are guilty of their murder. 2. By excess in eating, drinking, carking care, envy, immoderate sorrow, or doing any thing which may break and debilitate, or take off the vigour of our minds, and which may breed distempers in our bodies; this tendeth to self-murder. "Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life." Luke 21:34. "Envy is the rottenness of the bones." Prov. 14:30. "A broken spirit drieth the bones." Prov. 17:22. 3. By hatred, sinful anger, malice, bitter speeches, oppression; especially by striking, wounding, and anywise hurting the bodies of others; this tendeth to the taking away the lives of others, and is murder in God's account' 'Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." 1 John 3:15. "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire." Matt. 5:21,22. "If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." Gal. 5:15 "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword." Prov. 12:18. "In the midst of thee have they dwelt by oppression: in thee have they vexed the fatherless and the widow." Ezek. 22:7.

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