Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XII.: THE EXCELLENCE OF THE MORAL TEACHING OF THE CHURCH. - The Triumph of the Cross
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CHAPTER XII.: THE EXCELLENCE OF THE MORAL TEACHING OF THE CHURCH. - Girolamo Savonarola, The Triumph of the Cross 
The Triumph of the Cross, trans. from the Italian, edited, with an Introduction by the Very Rev. Father John Procter, S.T.L. With a frontispiece portrait of the author (London: Sands & Co., 1901).
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THE EXCELLENCE OF THE MORAL TEACHING OF THE CHURCH.
We have already shown how reasonably Holy Scripture sets before us two tables of commandments: one teaching us our duty to God, and the other showing what we owe to our neighbour. For, as each man forms part of a community, he must be rightly disposed, both towards the head of the community, and to his fellow-members; that is to say, towards God, and towards his neighbours. Man is rightly disposed towards God, when He loves Him with his whole heart, his whole soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength. But as we owe to our civil rulers three duties, viz., loyalty, reverence, and obedient service, the Christian religion sums up these our obligations to God in three commandments. The first commandment bids us to honour the one only true God, and none other; the second, to reverence His Holy Name; the third, to pay Him obedient service, by honouring His day, by both interior and exterior acts of worship. From these three commandments spring all the other precepts which relate to man’s service of God; and by disobedience to them, he forfeits his eternal salvation.
The second table of the Law concerns man’s duty to his neighbour. This consists in doing him good, and avoiding injury to him. The first commandment of this table is, “Honour thy father and thy mother”. And the honour which we are hereby bidden to render to our parents means, not merely that we must reverence them in our words, but, likewise, that we must help them by good works. The next three commandments forbid us to injure any one. We can do harm to others in three ways, namely by injury to them in their own person; by injuring them in the person of those connected with them; and by injuring their property. Hence, the first of these commandments forbids homicide; the second prohibits adultery; and the third theft. And, as we are commanded to abstain from injury to others, not only in deed, but also in word or desire, the next commandment forbids false testimony; and the two following warn us against coveting either the wife, or the property of another.
But, it may be asked, why are only these two particular forms of covetousness specified, when desires contrary to any of the other commandments are equally criminal? I answer, that the evangelical law punishes, not only exterior deeds, but likewise interior inordinate affections. Special mention has, however, been made of these two kinds of evil desire, because men might hesitate to condemn them; whereas they would consider interior rebellion against God or infidelity to Him inexcusable; and they would look on contempt of parents, or desire to bring death or dishonour on their fellow-men as equally detestable. But a covetous longing for the property of others seems so natural to man, that unless such covetousness had been expressly forbidden, he would not have regarded it as sinful. We see, therefore, how perfectly Christianity legislates for mankind in all things, whether internal or external; and that all other precepts, and all philosophical systems of ethics, may be reduced to these ten commandments, which, in fact, comprise points which no heathen sages have ever understood.
Certain counsels are, furthermore, subjoined to the commandments. For, as the whole scope of the Christian life tends to the perfection of Divine love, which cannot be attained without purity of heart, the teaching of the Church divides the Christian law into two parts, namely, into positive and negative laws and precepts. The positive laws regard the perfection of charity by enjoining good works. The negative precepts concern purity, by forbidding all that can defile the soul. Now, in order to complete the perfection of this charity and purity, Christ has left us certain counsels. He exhorts those that will be perfect, to sell all that they have and give it to the poor; to observe chastity; and to embrace the religious life, whereby they will renounce not only earthly possessions, but themselves, in order to become entirely devoted to the contemplation of eternal things, and, in a certain sense, to be made one with God. In these counsels, we behold the consummate wisdom of the Christian religion, in all matters pertaining to morality. For nothing, required by reason, is neglected; and nothing contrary to reason is enjoined. A comparison of this system with any other school of ethics, will show a superiority, as marked as is the distance between heaven and earth, or the difference between light and darkness.