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I.10. Conclusion of the Ten Commandments
Thus we have the Ten Commandments, a compend of divine doctrine, as to what
we are to do in order that our whole life may be pleasing to God, and the true
fountain and channel from and in which everything must arise and flow that is to
be a good work, so that outside of the Ten Commandments no work or thing can
be good or pleasing to God, however great or precious it be in the eyes of the
world. Let us see now what our great saints can boast of their spiritual orders and
their great and grievous works which they have invented and set up, while they
let these pass, as though they were far too insignificant, or had long ago been
perfectly fulfilled.
I am of opinion indeed, that here one will find his hands full, [and will have
enough] to do to observe these, namely, meekness, patience, and love towards
enemies, chastity, kindness, etc., and what such virtues imply. But such works
are not of value and make no display in the eyes of the world; for they are not
peculiar and conceited works and restricted to particular times, places, rites, and
customs, but are common, every-day domestic works which one neighbor can
practice toward another; therefore they are not of high esteem.
But the other works cause people to open their eyes and ears wide, and men aid
to this effect by the great display, expense, and magnificent buildings with which
they adorn them, so that everything shines and glitters. There they waft incense,
they sing and ring bells, they light tapers and candles, so that nothing else can
be seen or heard. For when a priest stands there in a surplice embroidered with
gilt, or a layman continues all day upon his knees in church, that is regarded as a
most precious work which no one can sufficiently praise. But when a poor girl
tends a little child and faithfully does what she is told that is considered nothing;
for else what should monks and nuns seek in their cloisters?
But see, is not that a cursed presumption of those desperate saints who dare to
invent a higher and better life and estate than the Ten Commandments teach,
pretending (as we have said) that this is an ordinary life for the common man, but
that theirs is for saints and perfect ones? And the miserable blind people do not
see that no man can get so far as to keep one of the Ten Commandments as it
should be kept, but both the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer must come to
our aid (as we shall hear), by which that [power and strength to keep the
commandments] is sought and prayed for and received continually. Therefore all
their boasting amounts to as much as if I boasted and said: To be sure, I have
not a penny to make payment with, but I confidently undertake to pay ten florins.
All this I say and urge in order that men might become rid of the sad misuse
which has taken such deep root and still cleaves to everybody, and in all estates