Golden Legend – Ten Commandments

Here follow the Ten Commandments of our Law.

The first commandment that God commanded is this. Thou shalt not worship no strange ne diverse gods. That is to say, thou shalt worship no god but me, and thou shalt not retain thine hope but in me, for who that setteth principally his hope on any creature or faith or belief in any thing more than in me, sinneth deadly. And such be they that worship idols, and make their god of a creature; whosoever so doth, sinneth against this commandment. And so do they that overmuch love their treasures, gold or silver, or any other earthly thing that be passing and transitory, or set their heart or hope on any thing by which they forget and leave God their creator and maker which hath lent to them all that they live by. And therefore ought they to serve him with all their goods, and above all things to love him and worship him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength, like as the first commandment enseigneth and teacheth us.

The second commandment is this, that thou shalt not take the name of God in vain, that is to say, thou shalt not swear by him for nothing. In this commandment our Lord commandeth in the gospel that thou shalt not swear by the heaven ne by earth ne by other creature. But for good cause and rightful a man may swear without sin, as in judgment or in requiring of truth, or without judgment in good and needful causes. And in none other manner without reason by the name of our Lord and for nought. If he swear false wittingly he is forsworn, and that is against the commandment and sinneth deadly, for he sweareth against his conscience, and that is when he sweareth by advice and by deliberation, but a man should swear truly and yet not for nought or for any vain or ill thing, ne maliciously. But to swear lightly without hurt or blame is venial sin, but the custom thereof is perilous and may well turn to deadly sin but if he take heed. But he then that sweareth horribly by our Lord, or by any of his members, or by his saints in despite, and blasphemeth in things that be not true, or otherwise, he sinneth deadly, he may have no reason whereby he may excuse him. And they that most accustom them in this sin they sin most, etc.

The third commandment is that thou have mind and remember that thou hallow and keep holy thy Sabbath day or Sunday. That is to say, that thou shalt do no work nor operation on the Sunday or holy day, but thou shalt rest from all worldly labour and intend to prayer, and to serve God thy maker, which rested the seventh day of the works that he made in the six days tofore, in which he made and ordained the world. This commandment accomplisheth he that keepeth to his power the peace of his conscience for to serve God more holily. Then this day that the Jews called Sabbath is as much to say as rest. This commandment may no man keep spiritually that is encumbered in his conscience with deadly sin, such a conscience can not be in rest ne in peace as long as he is in such a state. In the stead of the Sabbath day which was straitly kept in the old law, holy church hath established the Sunday in the new law. For our Lord arose from death to life on the Sunday, and therefore we ought to keep it holily, and be in rest from the works of the week tofore, and to cease of the work of sin, and to intend to do ghostly works, and to follow our Lord beseeching him of mercy and to thank him for his benefits, for they that break the Sunday and the other solemn feasts that be stablished to be hallowed in holy church, they sin deadly, for they do directly against the commandment of God aforesaid and holy church, but if it be for some necessity that holy church admitteth and granteth. But they sin much more then, that employ the Sunday and the feasts in sins, in lechery, in going to taverns in the service time, in gluttony and drinking drunk, and in other sins, outrages against God. For alas for sorrow I trow there is more sin committed on the Sunday and holy days and feasts than in the other work days. For then be they drunk, fight and slay, and be not occupied virtuously in God’s service as they ought to do. And as God commandeth us to remember and have in mind to keep and hallow the holy day, they that so do sin deadly and observe and keep not this third commandment. These three commandments be written in the first table and appertain only to God.

The fourth commandment is that thou shalt honour and worship thy father and mother, for thou shalt live the longer on earth. This commandment admonisheth us that we be well ware to anger father and mother in any wise. Or who that curseth them or set hand on them in evil will, sinneth deadly. In this commandment is understood the honour that we should do to our ghostly and spiritual fathers, that is to them that have the cure of us, to teach and chastise us, as be the prelates of the Church, and they that have the charge and cure of our souls, and to keep our bodies. And he that will not obey to him that hath the cure over him when he enseigneth and teacheth him good that he is bound to do, he sinneth grievously and is inobedient, which is deadly sin.

The fifth commandment is that thou shalt slay no man. This commandment will that no man shall slay the other for vengeance, ne for his goods, or for any other evil cause, it is deadly sin. But for to slay malefactors in executing of justice or for other good cause, if it be lawful it may well be done. In this commandment is defended the sin of wrath and hate, of rancour and of ire. For as the Scripture saith: Who hateth his brother is an homicide when it is by his will, and he sinneth deadly; and he that beareth anger in his heart long, for such ire long holden in the heart is rancour and hate, which is deadly sin, and is against this commandment. And yet sinneth he more that doth or purchaseth shame, villany or hurt to another wrongfully, or counselleth or helpeth to grieve another for to avenge him. But wrath or anger lightly past without will to noy or grieve any other, is not deadly sin.

The sixth commandment is, thou shalt not do adultery, that is to say, thou shalt not have fleshly company with another man’s wife. In this commandment it is forbidden and defended all manner sin of the flesh which is called generally lechery, which is a right foul sin and villainous. How be it that there is some branch of it that is not deadly sin, as oft movings of the flesh that may not be eschewed, which men ought to restrain and refrain as much as they may. And this cometh oft times by outrageous drinking and eating, or by evil thought, or foul touching, for in such things may be great peril. And in this commandment is defended all sin against nature, in what manner it be done in his person or other.

The seventh commandment is that thou shalt do no theft. This commandment forbiddeth to take away other men’s things whatsomever they be, without reason, against the will of them that owe or make them. In this commandment is defended ravin, usury, robbery and deceit, and beguiling other for to have their havoir or good. And he that doth against this commandment is bound to make restitution and yield again that he hath so gotten or taken, if he know to whom he ought to render it. And if he know not, he is bounden to give it for God’s sake, or do by the counsel of holy church. For who retaineth wrongfully and without reason other men’s goods against their will, sinneth deadly, if he pay not where as he oweth, if he know where and be in his power and hath whereof. And if he know not let him do by the counsel of holy church, and whoso doth not so, sinneth against this commandment deadly.

The eighth commandment is that thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. In this commandment is forbidden that no man shall lie wittingly, for whoso lieth doth against this commandment. And also that he forswear not him in judgment, ne make no leasings to annoy ne grieve another, nor he ought not to missay ne speak evil of others in intention to impair his good name and fame, for it is deadly sin. Against this commandment do they that say evil of good men behind them, and backbite them, and do this wittingly by malice, which is called detraction. And also they that accuse some of their folly, or hearken by manner of adulation or flattering, when they that men speak of be not present. They that do thus and say such words do against this commandment, for they be all false witnesses.

The ninth commandment is that thou shalt not desire the wife of thy neighbour, nor shalt not covet her in thine heart, that is to say, thou shalt not consent to sin with her with thy body. This commandment defendeth to desire to have company with all manner women out of marriage, and the evil signs that be without forth make men for to draw them to sin, as the evil words of such matter, or the foul and evil attouching, kissing, handling and such other. And the difference between this commandment and the sixth aforesaid is that, the sixth commandment forbiddeth the deed without forth, and this forbiddeth the consenting within forth; for the consenting within forth to have company with a woman that is not his by marriage is deadly sin, after the sentence of the gospel that saith: Who that seeth a woman and coveteth her in his heart, he hath now sinned in his heart and deadly. This is to understand of the consenting expressed in his thought.

The tenth commandment is that thou shalt not covet nothing that is, or longeth to, thy neighbour. This commandment defendeth will to have things that belong to other men by evil reason or wrongfully. In this commandment is defended envy of other men’s weal, of other men’s grace or welfare. For such envy cometh of evil covetise to have such good or such grace or fortune as he seeth in other. And this covetise is when the consenting and thought be certainly one, then it is deadly sin. And if there be any evil movings without will and consenting of damage or hurt of other, this is not deadly sin. If he sin herein it is but venial sin. These be the ten commandments of our Lord, of which the three first belong to God, and the seven other be ordained for our neighbours. Every person that hath wit and understanding in himself, and age, is bound to know them and to obey and keep these ten commandments aforesaid or else he sinneth deadly.

Thus Moses abode in the hill forty days and forty nights and received of Almighty God the tables with the commandments written with the hand of God; and also received and learned many ceremonies and statutes that God ordained, by which the children of Israel should be ruled and judged. And whiles that Moses was thus with our Lord on the mount, the children of Israel saw that he tarried and descended not, and some of them said that he was dead or gone away, and would not return again, and some said nay; but in conclusion they gathered them together against Aaron, and said to him: Make to us some gods that may go tofore us, we know not what is befallen to Moses. Then Aaron said: Take the gold that hangeth in the ears of your wives and your children, and bring it to me. The people did as he bade, and brought the gold to Aaron, which he took and molt it and made thereof a calf. Then they said, These be thy gods, Israel, that brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Then the people made an altar tofore it, and made great joy and mirth, and danced and played tofore the calf, and offered and made sacrifices thereto. Our Lord spake to Moses, saying: Go hence and descend down, thy people have sinned whom thou hast brought forth from the land of Egypt. They have soon forsaken and left the way which thou hast showed to them. They have made to them a calf blown, and they have worshipped it, and offered sacrifices thereto, saying: These be thy gods, Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Yet said our Lord to Moses: I see well that this people is of evil disposition, suffer me that I may wreak my wrath on them, and I shall destroy them. I shall make thee governor of great people. Moses then prayed our Lord God saying: Why art thou wroth, Lord, against thy people that thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt in a great strength and a boisterous hand? I beseech thee, Lord, let not the Egyptians say that their God hath locked them out for to slay them in the mountains. I pray thee Lord that thy wrath may assuage, and be thou pleased and benign upon the wickedness of thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob thy servants, to whom thou promisedst and swaredst by thyself saying: I shall multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and the universal land of which I have spoken I shall give to your seed, and ye shall possess and have it ever. And with these words our Lord was pleased that he would do no harm as he had said unto his people; and Moses returned from the mount, bearing two tables of stone, written both with the hand of God. And the scripture that was in the tables were the ten commandments as fore be written. Joshua hearing the great noise of the children of Israel said to Moses: I trow they fight beneath, which answered and said: It is no cry of exhorting men to fight, ne noise to compel me to flee, but I hear the noise of singing. When he approached to them he saw the calf and the instruments of mirth, and he was so wroth that he threw down the tables and brake them at the foot of the hill, and ran and caught down the calf that they had made, and burnt and smote it all to powder, which he cast into water and gave it to drink to the children of Israel. Then said Moses to Aaron: What hath this people done to thee that thou hast made to sin grievously? To whom he answered: Let not my lord take none indignation at me, thou knowest well that this people is prone and ready to sin. They said to me: Make us gods that may go tofore us; we know not what is fallen to this Moses that led us out of Egypt. To whom I said: Who of you that hath gold give it me; they took and gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and thereof came out this calf. And then said Moses: All they that be of God’s part and have not sinned in this calf let them join to me; and the children of Levi joined to him, and he bade each man take a sword on his side and take vengeance and slay every each his brother, friend, and his neighbour that have trespassed. And so the children of Levi went and slew thirty three thousand of the children of Israel. And then said Moses: Ye have hallowed this day your hands unto our Lord, and ye shall be therefore blessed. The second day Moses spake to the people and said: Ye have committed and done the greatest sin that may be. I shall ascend unto our Lord again, and shall pray him for your sin. Then Moses ascended again, and received afterwards two tables again, which our Lord bade him make. And therein our Lord wrote the commandments. And after, our Lord commanded him to make an ark and a tabernacle: in which ark was kept three things. First the rod with which he did marvels, a pot full of manna, and the two tables with commandments. And then after Moses taught them the law; how each man should behave him against other and what he should do, and what he should not do, and departed them into twelve tribes, and commanded that every man should bring a rod into the Tabernacle. And Moses wrote each name on the rod, and Moses shut fast the tabernacle. And on the morn there was found one of the rods that burgeoned and bare leaves and fruit, and was of an almond tree. That rod fell to Aaron.

And after this, long time, the children desired to eat flesh and remembered of the flesh that they ate in Egypt, and grudged against Moses, and would have ordained to them a duke for to have returned into Egypt. Wherefore Moses was so woe that he desired of our Lord to deliver him from this life, because he saw them so unkind against God. Then God sent to them so great plenty of curlews that two days and one night they flew so thick by the ground that they took great number, for they flew but the height of two cubits. And they had so many that they dried them hanging on their tabernacles and tents. Yet were they not content, but ever grudging, wherefore God smote them and took vengeance on them by a great plague and many died and were buried there. And then from thence they went into Hazeroth and dwelt. After this Miriam and Aaron, brother and sister of Moses began to speak against Moses, because of his wife which was of Ethiopia, and said: God hath not spoken only by Moses, hath he not also spoken to us? Wherefore our Lord was wroth. Moses was the humblest and the meekest man that was in all the world. Anon then, our Lord said to him, and to Aaron and to Miriam: Go ye three only unto the tabernacle; and there our Lord said that there was none like to Moses, to whom he had spoken mouth to mouth, and reproved Aaron and Miriam because they spake so to Moses, and being wroth, departed from them, and anon, Miriam was smitten and made leper and white like snow. And when Aaron beheld her and saw her smitten with leprosy, he said to Moses: I beseech the Lord that thou set not the sin on us which we have committed follily, and let not this our sister be as a dead woman, or as born out of time and cast away from her mother, behold and see, half her flesh is devoured of the leprosy. Then Moses cried unto our Lord, saying: I beseech thee Lord that thou heal her; to whom our Lord said: If her father had spit in her face should she not be put to shame and rebuke seven days? Let her depart out of the castles seven days, and after she shall be called in again. So Miriam was shut out of the castles seven days, and the people removed not from the place till she was called again.

After this our Lord commanded Moses to send men into the land of Canaan that he should give them charge for to see and consider the goodness thereof, and that of every tribe he should send some. Moses did so as our Lord had commanded, which went in and brought of the fruits with them, and they brought a branch with one cluster of grapes as much as two men might bear between them upon a colestaff. When they had seen the country and considered by the space of forty days they returned and told the commodities of the land, but some said that the people were strong, and many kings and giants, in such wise that they said it was impregnable and that the people were much stronger than they were. Wherefore the people anon were afeard, and murmured against Moses and would return again into Egypt. Then Joshua and Caleb, which were two of them that had considered the land, said to the people: Why grudge ye and wherefore be ye afraid? We have well seen the country, and it is good to win. The country floweth full of milk and honey, be not rebel against God, he shall give it us, be ye not afeard. Then all the people cried against them, and when they would have taken stones and stoned them, our Lord in his glory appeared in a cloud upon the covering of the tabernacle, and said to Moses: This people believeth not the signs and wonders that I have showed and done to them. I shall destroy them all by pestilence, and I shall make thee a prince upon people greater and stronger than this is. Then prayed Moses to our Lord for the people, that he would have pity on them and not destroy them, but to have mercy on them after the magnitude of his mercy. And our Lord at his request forgave them. Nevertheless our Lord said that all the men that had seen his majesty, and the signs and marvels that he did in Egypt, and in desert, and have tempted him ten times, and not obeyed unto his voice, shall not see ne come into the country and land that I have promised to their fathers, but Joshua and Caleb, my servants, shall enter into the land, and their seed shall possess it. Moses told all this unto the children and they wailed and sorrowed greatly therefore.

After this the people removed from thence and came into the desert of Sin; and there Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron, died, and was buried in the same place. Then the people lacked water and came and grudged against Moses, and yet wished they had abided in Egypt. Then Moses and Aaron entered into the Tabernacle and fell down to the ground low, and prayed unto our Lord, saying: Lord God, hear the clamour of thy people, and open to them thy treasure, a fountain of living water, that they may drink and the murmuration of them may cease. Our Lord said to him then: Take the rod in thy hand, and thou and Aaron thy brother, assemble and gather the people and speak ye to the stone, and it shall give out water. And when the water cometh let all the multitude drink and their beasts. Moses then took the rod as our Lord bade, and gathered all the people tofore the stone and said to them: Hear ye rebels and out of belief; trow ye not that we may give you water out of this stone? And he lift up his hand and smote between the stone, and water came and flowed out in the most largest wise, in such wise that the people and beasts drank their fill. Then said God to Moses and Aaron: Because ye have not believed me and sanctified my name tofore the children of Israel, and given to me the laud, but have done this in your name, ye shall not bring this people into the land that I shall give to them. And therefore this water was called the water of contradiction, where the children grudged against God.

Anon after this, by God’s commandment, Moses took Aaron upon the hill, and despoiled him of his vesture, and clothed therewith his son Eleazar, and made him upperest bishop for his father Aaron. And there Aaron died in the top of the hill, and Moses descended with Eleazar. And when all the multitude of people saw that Aaron was dead, they wept and wailed on him thirty days in every tribe and family.

After this the people went about the land of Edom, and began to wax weary, and grudged against our Lord and Moses, and said yet: Why hast thou led us out of the land of Egypt for to slay us in this desert and wilderness? Bread faileth us, there is no water, and our souls abhor and loathe this light meat. For which cause God sent among them fiery-serpents, which bit and wounded many of them and slew also. Then they that were hurt came into Moses and said: We have sinned, for we have spoken against our Lord and thee; pray for us unto God that he deliver from us these serpents. Then Moses prayed our Lord for the people. And our Lord said to him: Make a serpent of brass and set it up for a sign, and whosomever be hurt, and looketh thereon and beholdeth it, shall live and be whole. Then Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it up for a sign, and when they that were hurt beheld it they were made whole.

After this when Moses had showed to them all the laws of our Lord, and ceremonies, and had governed them forty years, and that he was an hundred and twenty years old, he ascended from the fields of Moab upon the mountain of Nebo into the top of Pisgah against Jericho, and there our Lord showed to him all the land of Gilead unto Dan, and the land of promise from that one end unto that other. And then our Lord said to him: This is the land that I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I shall give it to thy seed. Now thou hast seen it with thine eyes, and shalt not enter ne come therein. And there in that place died Moses, servant of our Lord, as God commanded, and was buried in the vale of the land of Moab against Beth-peor. And yet never man knew his sepulchre unto this day. Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eyes never dimmed, ne his teeth were never moved. The children of Israel wept and mourned for him thirty days in the fields of Moab. Joshua the son of Nun was replenished with the spirit of wisdom; for Moses set on him his hands, and the children obeyed him as our Lord had commanded to Moses. And there was never after a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, which knew and spake to God face to face in all signs and tokens that God did and showed by him in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants.