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PART THREE

OF THE ORTHODOX CONFESSION
OF THE EASTERN CHURCH


Q. 1. Which is the third part of the Orthodox Confession?

R. The third part of the Orthodox Confession is that which treats the love of God and neighbor and is found in the divine Decalogue, which Christ the Lord ratified in the New Law and taught, in a more perfect manner, when he said: "He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." [1]


Q. 2. What is required for the consideration of these divine precepts?

R. There are certain precepts that command us to do good, and others that forbid us to do evil. Wherefore, whoever wishes to understand the precepts, first must know what is good and what is evil. By "good" is characteristically understood every virtue; by "evil" is indicated every sin. Therefore, first the virtues and sins must be treated, and then the ten commandments of God.


Q. 3. How must one understand good works, that is, Christian virtues?

R. Good works (that is, Christian virtue) are the fruit that comes from faith, as from a good tree, according to Scripture: "Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them." [2] And elsewhere: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." [3] Still elsewhere: "And by this we know that we have known him, if we keep his commandments." [4] But, for the sake of easier understanding, we say that good works are the fulfilling of the commandments of God, with divine help and the disposition of our mind that comes from our own will, with eagerness and love for God and neighbor, where there is no obstacle, which can be properly called an impediment.


Q. 4. Which of those Christian virtues are more necessary?

R. There are three Christian virtues, without which no one can be saved: faith, hope and charity, mentioned by the Apostle when he says: "And now there remain faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." [5] The first two virtues have been sufficiently treated, in accord with our intent, in the first two parts of the "Orthodox Confession". We will speak of the third in the present part, which also concerns the divine commandments.


Q. 5. Do certain others proceed from these general virtues?

R. First of all, from these virtues proceed these three: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, which are pleasing to God from faith through hope unto charity.


Q. 6. What is prayer?

R. Sufficient teaching on prayer is found in the second part of the "Orthodox Confession".


Q. 7. What is fasting?

R. According to the meaning of the Christian virtues, fasting is abstinence from all food, or some food because of illness, as well as from all drink, all wordly pleasures and evil sensations, so as to more easily discharge one's prayer and please the Lord God, as well as to mortify the concupiscence of the flesh and obtain God's grace. Sacred Scripture makes mention of this fasting when it says: "But let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulation, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labors, in watchings, in fastings." [6] And elsewhere: "Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather together the people." [7] And later: "Spare, O Lord, spare your people; and give not your inheritance to reproach." [8] If it is worthily performed, this fasting is the highest satisfaction to God for our sins, as it was in the city of Nineve, about which there is more extensive treatment among the precepts of the Church.


Q. 8. How many types of fasting are there?

R. Fasting is two-fold: the first is accustomed to be performed at certain times, as are the four fasts of every year, as well as on the fourth and sixth day of the week (I); the second fast is occasional, which is wont to be maintained at times because of certain reasons of state or some city, but, nevertheless, promulgated by the Primate of the Church. This type of fast should also be maintained for this reason: that obedience might be given to the Church. There is also one fast that is public, another that is private. The public one is that which the entire Church observes; the private one is that which a certain province, or a certain city, or some person by himself observes; this latter comes about from some personal vow, or from the command of the confessor.


Q. 9. What is almsgiving?

R. Almsgiving is a work of mercy, for the sake of the total spiritual and temporal good, without respect of person, who requests this type of almsgiving. This virtue is very much necessary for the Christian man, as Sacred Scripture teaches: "For alms delivers from death, and the same is that which purges away sins, and those who give alms and act justly, will enjoy life." [9] (2) Even in the New Testarnent, in recommending almsgiving, it is taught: "Go sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven." [10] Christ the Lord promised that he will give a great reward at the last judgment, when he said: "Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brothers, you did it to me." [11] Then he will say: "Come, you blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." [12] Holy almsgiving together with fasting makes a prayer pleasing to God, so that it will be answered by God, just as the Angel said to Cornelius: "Your prayers and your alms have ascended for a memorial in the sight of God." [13] All the works of mercy, concerning which there is teaching in the second part of this "Orthodox Confession" (QQ. 40-54), are contained in this virtue.


Q.10. Which others also proceed from these virtues? R. Four general virtues: wisdom or prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.


Q. 11. What is Christian wisdom or prudence?

R. Christian wisdom is diligent and premeditated consideration, in all knowledge and in every work, that the Lord God and neighbor might not be offended. Christ the Lord teaches of this prudence: "Be therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves." [14] In explaining this, St. Paul speaks thus: "See, therefore, brothers, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore, become not unwise, but understanding what is the will of God." [15]This Christian prudence is based on sincerity, total propriety and complete good judgment, lest we be deceived by the enemy of our soul and by those that persecute us.


Q. 12. What is justice?

R. Holy justice is to render to each man what is his, in accord with equality, without distinction of persons, not only in regard to possessions, but also in regard to honor; but, Christian justice is not only to return good for good, but also never allows us to wish evil for evil upon one who has done us evil, in accord with the teaching of the Apostle: "To no man rendering evil for evil. Providing good things in the sight of all men." [16] And it is in accord with this very justice that the Apostle says: "Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom honor. Owe no man anything, but to love one another. For he that loves his neighbor, has fulfilled the law." [17]


Q. 13. Do the authorities sin against justice, when they duly punish sinners?

R. To be sure "there is no power but from God," [18] just as St. Paul says. (3) "For princes are not a terror to those of the good work, but of the evil Will you then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and you shall have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you, for good. But, if you do that which is evil, fear; for he bears not the sword in vain. For he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil." [19]


Q. 14. What is temperance?

R. Temperance is to maintain balance in food, drink, clothing, words and all deeds, and by it is chosen the most upright way, as the Apostle says: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy." [20] And elsewhere in the same vein: "But let all things be done decently, and according to order." [21]


Q. 15. What is fortitude?

R. Fortitude, the Christian virtue, is strength of spirit, (which one has against) (4) the distress of all temptations, which we bear because of Christ from visible and invisible enemies; in explaining this fortitude, the Apostle speaks thus: "Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakeness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword?" [22] Still later: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?" [23] There was teaching on these virtues, when we spoke of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part 1, Q. 77) and other virtues.


Q. 16. What is sin?

R. Sin does not have its own being, for it is not a creature of God; wherefore, what it is, cannot be expressed; nevertheless, it can be said that it is the impudent will of man and the devil; or, as Sacred Scripture says: "sin is iniquity." [24] Iniquity, however, is transgression of the law, but this transgression is properly the contradiction of the divine will, which arises from one's mind and will; from this contradiction come death and all the divine wrath, as Sacred Scripture says: "Then when concupiscence has conceived, it brings forth sin; but sin, when it is completed, begets death." [25]


Q. l 7. In how many parts is sin divided?

R. According to Sacred Scripture, one sin is unto death and another is not unto death; [26] hence, some sins are mortal, others are venial or not mortal.


Q. 18. What is mortal sin?

R. Mortal sin is inordinate concupiscence, which arises from one's own mind and will, doing something expressly forbidden by God through a commandment and failing to do that which is ordered by the same commandments; love of God or neighbor is transgressed through this concupiscence, which also removes man from the grace of God and kills him, if it is total; wherefore, it is traditionally called "mortal sin", as the Apostle teaches: "Wages of sin is death." [27] But, consent alone wounds man.


Q. l9. Into how many parts is mortal sin divided?

R. One type of mortal sin is original, the other is acquired for ourselves or made.


Q. 20. What is original sin?

R. Original sin is the breaking of the divine law given to Adam, our ancestor, in Paradise, when it was said: "But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat. For on whatever day you shall eat of it, you shall die the death." [28] This original sin passed from Adam into the whole nature of man, for we were all in Adam; and so, sin passed to all of us through this one Adam. Wherefore, we are conceived and we are born in this sin, as Sacred Scripture teaches: "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned." [29] This original sin can be erased by no penance, but is destroyed only by the grace of God because of the merits and the shedding of the most precious blood of Jesus Christ our Lord; and this comes about through the sacrament (5), to be sure, of holy baptism. For whoever is not baptized, is not free from sin, but is the son of wrath and eternal condemnation, according to the saying: "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." [30]


Q. 21. What is mortal sin acquired by ourselves?

R. Acquired mortal sin is that which we commit in mature mind after baptism, from our own will and intention against a definite divine commandment, in transgression of love for God and neighbor, through which we lose the divine grace received in baptism and the kingdom of heaven, and we are given back as captives to eternal death, as the Apostle says: "Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey, whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto Justice?" [31] This sin is wont to be removed by holy penance and the mercy of God, also by the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the priest forgives sin during confession.


Q. 22. Into how many parts can this mortal sin be divided?

R. Into three parts: in the first part we can place the chief sins, that is, those from which the others flow; in the second part are those against the Holy Spirit; in the third part are the sins which more often cry out for God's vengeance in this world.


Q. 23. How many are the chief mortal sins?

R. These: pride, avarice, profligacy or fornication, envy, gluttony in food and drink, anger or hardened hatred and laziness or sloth.


Q. 24. What is pride?

R. Pride is the excessive longing for one's own glory beyond fairness, proceeding from whatever true or false perfection. Such sin first arose in that Lucifer, from which sin all the others flow as if from a poisoned spring. Wisdom speaks of it: "The fear of the Lord hates evil, arrogance and pride and the wicked way." [32] And elsewhere: "Pride is hateful before God and men." [33] Opposed to this sin is the virtue of humility, which Christ the Lord commended; in urging us to embrace it, he says: "Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls." [34]


Q. 25. Which individual sins arise from this wickedness?

R. These: to suspect evil of one's neighbor, or detract from the clergy and laity, disobedience to the Church and authorities, boasting, hypocrisy, quarrels, obstinacy, dissension, inordinate curiosity, pleasure with oneself, breaking of the commandments of God, perseverance in evil and similar others. Whoever wishes to be free from this sin, should always have before his eyes God's work spoken to Adam:"Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return." [35] Also, to be remembered is the last judgment, punishment and those words of the Apostle, who says: "God resists the proud, but to the humble he gives grace." [36]


Q. 26. What is avarice?

R. Avarice is the excessive desire of having riches, estates, etc. Scripture speaks about this sin: "He that hates covetousness, shall prolong his days." [37] And the Apostle:"Having their heart exercised with covet ousness, children of malediction." [38] The virtue of generosity is the opposite, according to the saying: "He has distributed, he has given to the poor, his justice remains for ever and ever." [39]


Q. 27. Which sins flow from this one?

R. From avarice are born these sins: robbery, homicide, deceit, cheating, assault, violence, mercilessness, inhumanity, hardness of heart, envy, infidelity, injury to the poor and others, cheapness, theft and similar others. Whoever wishes to avoid this sin, should remember the voluntary poverty of Christ the Lord, as he himself speaks of himself: "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of man has not where to lay his head." [40] Finally, it must be considered that man is made the distributor and not the master of the riches, an account of the distribution of which he will make to God at the last judgment.


Q. 28. What is profligacy or fornication?

R. It is the immoderate desire of the flesh, against the commandment of God, which sin is committed against one's own body, as the Apostle says: "Every sin that a man does, is without the body; but he that commits fornication, sins against his own body." [41] To the point, since every Christian is a member of the body of Christ, they defile themselves by intercourse with prostitutes in fornication and pro fligacy. And that he is a member of the body of Christ, the Apostle teaches: "Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid!" [42] And later: "Flee fornication." [43] Chastity is opposed to this sin.


Q. 29. Which other ones proceed from this sin?

R. Mental blindness, hatred toward God, godlessness, despair, extravagancy, sloth, hatred toward neighbor and similar others. But, whoever wishes to avoid this sin, let him always think that the Lord God rests only in a pure and chaste heart; wherefore, the Psalmist asks that his heart may be made pure: "Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within my bowels." [44]


Q. 30. What is envy?

R. Envy is sadness and sorrow of heart over the neighbor's good, but delight and joy over his evil It customarily occurs, either because he is richer, or because he is equally rich. It runs the same in relation to good reputation, honors, knowledge and other virtues Scripture speaks about this sin: "Wherefore, laying away all malice, and all guile, and dissimulations, and envies, and all detractions, as newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow." [45]


Q. 31. Which sins arise from envy?

R. Hatred, detractions, contempt, deceit, deceptions and homicide. Whoever really wishes to avoid this sin, should consider that every good is given by the grace of God, in accord with the saying: "What have you that you have not received? And if you have received, why do you glory, as if you have not received it?" [46] And whoever is envious of another's good given by the Lord God, blasphemes God himself, and becomes similar to the one to whom it was said: "Is your eye evil because I am good? Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will?" [47] The opposite of this sin is good-will.


Q. 32. What is gluttony?

R. Gluttony is the excessive use of food and drink, about which sin Scripture says: "Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly." [48] And elsewhere: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness." [49]


Q. 33. Which sins are derived from gluttony?

R. Sloth, or sluggishness in devotion, carnal concupiscence, indecent jokes and laughter, excessive boldness, low estimation of neighbor, scandal, quarrels, impolite manners, grave illnesses and extravagence. Opposed to this is abstinence and moderation in use, according to the saying: "But let all things be done decently, and according to order." [50] Q. 34. What is anger?

R. Anger or unyielding hatred is the desire, impassioned with rage, to avenge an accused or innocent person, about which Sacred Scripture says: "And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man works not the justice of God." [51] And elsewhere: "Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamor, and blasphemy, be put away from you, with all malice." [52]


Q. 35.Which sins are derived from anger or unyielding hatred?

R. Quarrels, envies, homicides, madness, vengeance and similar condemned sins are derived. Opposed to this is patience, about which the Apostle speaks thus: "For patience is necessary for you, that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise." [53]


Q. 36. What is sloth?

R. Sloth is a certain coolness of soul for eternal salvation, because of which man is loath to do good for the sake of avoiding the work, which produces a readiness and aptitude for the good; against this sin the Apostle speaks thus: "That you become not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience shall inherit the promise." [54] The Savior himself, in expressing the same, says to the slothful: "Wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed." [55] Likewise, a little later: "And the unprofitable servant, cast out into the exterior darkness There shall be weeping and the gnashing of teeth." [56]


Q. 37. Which sins are derived from sloth?

R. Willful inactivity, justification of evil, excessive indulgence, scandal, suspicion and things similar to these. Watchfulness and diligence are opposed to this sin, in encouraging us to which virtue the Lord says: "Watch therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour," [57] in which the Son of man will come. And the Apostle says: "Be sober and watch, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour; being strong in faith, resist him." [58]


Q. 38. Which sins are against the Holy Spirit?

R. Excessive confidence in the grace of God, despair of the mercy of God, opposition to an obvious and recognized truth, or denial of the Christian orthodox faith.


Q. 39. What is excessive confidence in the grace of God?

R. Excessive confidence is the presumption of the expectation of God's mercy, by which one expects that he cannot be excluded from the grace of God, even if a sinner, or that he cannot be punished; by this sin divine justice is devalued. The Apostle warns those aware of this sin when he says: "Do you despise the riches of his goodness, and patience and long-suffering? Do you not know that the kindness of God leads to penance? But, according to your hardness and impenitent heart, you treasure up to yourself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God." [59] Such are those who boldly make known: "since God wished that I be saved and was unwilling that I be condemned; therefore, let them not worry about bettering their life and gaining eternal salvation." Sacred Scripture warns them saying: "Even so it is not the will of your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." [60] And the Lord speaks through the Prophet: "As I live, says the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." [61] And elsewhere, the Apostle: "Who wills that all men be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." [62] They likewise sin who hope to be saved by faith alone without good works.


Q. 40. What is despair of the mercy of God?

R. Despair is the sinner's lack of confidence in the mercy of God because of a false consideration, by which, in regarding his evil as surpassing the mercy of God, he thinks that God cannot have mercy on him, as Cain said: "My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon." [63] This blasphemy of Cain very much deprecated the divine mercy. Therefore, even though one be burdened by the most serious sins, he should never despair of the infinite mercy of God, knowing that the prodigal son was received by the father. And Christ the Lord teaches us to spare our brother, who has sinned against us, not only seven times when he is converted, but seventy times seven each day. [64] And the Prophet says: "Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. And rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil." [65]


Q. 41. What is opposition to a recognized truth?

R. It is when someone stubbornly opposes in word and deed a good thought, so as to err openly, against his own conscience; Sacred Scripture says of such sinners: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice." [66] And they likewise sin who slander the good works of their neighbor, saying that they are not from God, as the Pharisees and Jews blasphemed Christ the Lord, when he was driving out by his word the unclean spirits and performing miracles. He also commits this sin, who is envious of the grace of God in his neighbor and fails through malice to instruct the unlettered in the articles of faith, from which malice may the Lord God deliver all the orthodox. And the same thing is to be said also about those, who say that someone's devotion and all other good works, which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, are hypocrisy. Finally, they sin against the Holy Spirit, who deny the Christian orthodox faith, according to Sacred Scripture: "Everyone therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. [67]


Q. 42. Which sins more often cry out for God's vengeance in this world? R. These. Willful homicide, about which Sacred Scripture says: "The voice of your brother's blood cries out to me from earth."[68] The sin of sodomy, about which the Lord says: "The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied, and their sin is become exceedingly grievous. I will go down and see whether they have done according to the cry that is come to me, or whether it be not so, that I may know." [69] It is the same in regard to the oppression of widows and orphans and the withholding of wages of laborers, according to the Prophet: "And I will come to you in judgment, and will be a speedy witness against sorcerers, and adulterers, and false swearers, and them that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widows and the fatherless, and oppress the stranger and have not feared me, says the Lord of hosts." [70] "He that strikes his father or mother, shall be put to death." [71] Still later: "He that curses his father, or mother, shall die the death." [72] Q. 43. What is non-mortal sin?


R. Non-mortal sin (which is called venial by others) is that which no man can avoid, with the exception of Christ the Lord and the most Blessed Virgin Mary, but it does not deprive us of divine grace nor make us accused of eternal death; Sacred Scripture says of such sin: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." [73] Such sinners are numberless, but their sins are a special type and are not numbered among the mortal. And they are not to be despised, but, in going to bed, should be recalled and lamented daily along with other sins, according to the Psalmist: "The things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds." [74] And elsewhere: "Every night I will wash my bed, and I will water my couch with my tears." [75] And pardon must be sought through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, for even the divine majesty holds them in hatred, and if these sins are not erased by penance, they easily lead one to mortal sin, as they bring to man coolness, sloth and negligence in following the divine commands.


Q. 44. Are there any ways by which man shares in the sins of others?

R. The sins of others are shared in, first, when we urge someone to sin, especially one who cannot take counsel for himself, or completely places his trust in us; such as confessors, who allow men to live impudently against the divine commandments and church traditions; likewise, the master in regard to his servants, married men in regard to their wives, parents in regard to their children, and teachers in regard to their students. All these and those similar to them will give an account on the day of judgment of those whom they have under their authority; therefore, the Apostle warns: "Impose not hands lightly upon any man, neither be partaker of other men's sins. Keep yourself chaste. " [76]


Q. 45. In which other way do men share in the sins of others?

R. Whenever someone offers the occasion of sin by some scandal, provoking one to sin by deeds, shameless words, praising evil and castigating good works. In regard here also is the one who willfully incites, but does not forbid nor encourage, since he is bound by his office; then he becomes a sharer in the sin of others.


Q. 46. Since the virtues and vices have been discussed, there is question now of the commands of God?

R. The divine commandments are ten, in which still others are included.


Q. 47. And are the commandments of the old Testament abrogated?

R. The commandments of the Old Law which pertained to rituals and shaped all the works of Christ are abrogated and have withdrawn, as a shadow, with the coming of truth itself; and Christians are not bound to fulfill them. But the commandments which pertain to the keeping of love for God and neighbor, these must be fulfilled by Christians, more perfectly, however, than by the Israelites of the old Law, since the former have become sharers in the greater blessings of God, and have gained, in an unparalleled fashion, the grace of the Holy Spirit through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, our good works should be superior to the works of the Jews, in accord with the saying: "Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." [77] Likewise: "You have heard that it was said to them of old: 'You shall not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of judgment ' But l say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. Ar-d whosoever shall say to his brother 'Raca', shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say 'You fool', shall be in danger of hell fire." [78] The same thing is said even in other places. Therefore, all the command ments must be kept, which look to the maintaining of love for God and neighbor, because the whole Law and the Prophets are based on these two, as it is said: "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is similar to this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets." [79]


Q. 48. How are there ten commandments, since Christ the Lord gives only two? R. These two commandments are the most important and fundamental, on which all others are based; therefore, they are divided into two accounts, In the first are expressed those which instruct us in the observance of love toward God. In the second are those which teach how we ought to observe love toward neighbor Therefore, Christ authorized all ten through these two. And he speaks of this law: "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fall. [80]


Q. 49. What is the first commandment of the prior account?

R. The first commandment of the prior account is this: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall not have strange gods before me."


Q. 50. How is this commandment to be understood?

R. This first commandment begins by itself to show man that he must know, for man is created rational on this account, that he might know the Lord and his Creator and praise him. It does not begin from the creation of the world, but "I am God who brought you out of the land of Egypt," because it was more appropriate to begin with a later miraculous event, which remained before the eyes of the Jews, so that they might better recognize the Lord God and serve him, glorifying him more devotedly. He can elsewhere give witness to himself: "I made the earth, and I created man upon it, my hands stretched forth the heavens, and I have commanded all their host." [82] "I am the Lord and there is none else; there is no God besides me." [83] Christians are bound more than Jews by this commandment, since greater deliverance was given by the Lord God to the Christians than to them, even as the Apostle says: "Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins." [84] In the second part of this commandment, Israel is forbidden to worship and offer the devotion of latria to any but God alone. Therefore, included in this commandment is the glory of God on earth, which begins from acknowledging him.


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