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the commandment says, " Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house.' Now, suppose I have an house which is suited to my convenience, but, because my neighbour's is more magnificent, I desire to have his, such desire arises plainly from pride, and is altogether sinful. But suppose I have no house at all, or that which I live in is not suited to my convenience, may I not desire my neighbour's ? Yes, so it be ordinately; that is, without desiring it to bis hurt, and endeavouring to procure it only in honest ways: otherwise my desire of his house, though lawful in itself, becomes sinful and inordinate. Ahab would have Naboth's vineyard : now, grant it would have been convenient for him, yet he desired it inordinately; he must have it, right or wrong ; and, since there was but one way to it, innocent Naboth shall rather be iniquitously put to death as a traitor, and so the vineyard come to the king by forfeiture, than he will go without it.
One further thing should also be observed, that as it is difficult for us to desire necessary things ordinately, so also that desires in themselves sinful will be apt to mix with those that arise from necessity. Ahab, we will say, wanted Naboth's vineyard for a garden of herbs; but, had there not been some desire of pomp or pleasure accompanying it, he could not be in such want of a garden of herbs as to take Naboth's refusal so much to heart as he did.
Nay, and many times the really sinful desire will be clothing itself under the guise of necessity, and pretend necessity where there is really none.
Can we suppose King Ahab was in real want of a garden of herbs ? Is it not more probable that some scheme of indulgence or pomp made him conceit he wanted Naboth's vineyard ; and that, for any matter of necessity in the thing, he could as well have done without it?
But you will say Ahab was a king, and many things are necessary to the state of a king that are not so to others. This is true.
But pride and indulgence are just as much sinful principles in the great as in others. And necessity in their station is just no other than necessity in any other station. So that their station shall never justify desires either sinful in themselves, or sinful in the inordinacy of them.
To collect now all that has been said, we see there are two
kinds of desires : one of real necessity, which are not sinful unless inordinate ; and the other issuing from corrupt nature, and always sinful. The sin of inordinate desire after necessary things falls under the seventh and eighth commandments; the business of the seventh commandment being to regulate our bodily desires, as that of the eighth is to direct our desires in respect of worldly possessions. So that the precise sense of the tenth commandment is now fixed down, according to the interpretation St. Paul has given of it, to such covetings or desires as are in themselves sinful, and therefore charge us with guilt, although they be not formed into determined purposes of accomplishment, nor brought into outward act.
Should I attempt to enumerate all those various lustings and desires, that pass through our hearts without being permitted to make a settlement there, and yet are forbidden by this commandment, the undertaking would be endless. Yet it will be needful to give some sort of account of them. And the commandment itself must be the rule for me to go by. It says, Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbour's. Now to follow the order of the foregoing commandments of the second table, to which it was shown above this concupiscence could have only respect immediately ; I say my neighbour's dignity is his, his soul and body are his, his wife is his, his goods are his, his good name is his ; and the covetings or lustings of our hearts after any of these things which are his are here forbidden. short word upon each of these will be sufficient, and the whole together will, I think, take in the whole scope of the law of sin, which is in our members, in all its sudden, secret, and most abominable workings.
First,-- Thou shalt not covet or have any sinful desires in thy heart after thy neighbour's dignity. And here all those sudden risings of heart against the authority of God, in the persons of those he has set over us, come in and are condemned. We have been from our youth up, and still are, in one degree or other in a state of subjection; and if all stubborn, impatient, self-willed, angry suggestions of the heart, against our governors, are so many covetings of his dignity, and therefore sins against this tenth commandment; (and that they are really covetings of
his dignity, who does not see, when they are but saying in our hearts, Ah! that I were but in his place ?) I say, if all these stubborn risings of corrupt nature against our superiors be trespasses against the tenth commandment, (and we have been all in subjection to various superiors, to parents, schoolmasters and mistresses, other masters, husbands, ministers, magistrates, those that are more aged, more honourable, more qualified than we,) who can count the number of his sins in this one point only ?
Secondly.—Thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour’s life ; thou must not have a motion to his hurt in soul or body within thy heart. All envious, revengeful, unmerciful suggestions against him, are contrary to charity, and rise out of a depraved nature. Nay, you say, But suppose I have not yielded to them ? That alters not the case. God is in this commandment condemning your sinful nature, and charging you with guilt because of all and every of those lustings that have at any time been in your heart against your brother's spiritual or temporal welfare. When anger rose in your
breast because of some injury you thought to have been done you ; or displeasure because of his eminence beyond you in wealth, or grace, or abilities ; or jealousy because he seemed coming too near you ; or secret satisfaction when you heard the news of his miscarriage in duty, misfortune in business, his sickness or death, as one standing in your way: when any of these accursed lustings wrought in your heart, there was sin. And if you are not a perfect stranger to your own heart, and so of course not well acquainted with the glorious and necessary salvation of Jesus Christ, you are very sure that such horrid instances of corruption have been in you, while you tremble at the very remembrance of them.
Thirdly.—Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife. But it is difficult to speak of this subject before any who have indulged imaginations of this sort without raising them ; yes, even though the subject should be touched with the utmost degree of tenderness and caution, and in such manner as to be no kind of temptation to a chaste mind. I therefore do but mention that point, and pass on to observe, that all manner of sensuality being also condemned by the seventh commandment, all motions towards it fall under the censure of the tenth. God will be the portion and joy of his people ; but our depraved hearts have found out another portion in sensual gratifications. And who has not found the heart rising up to meet indulgence with joy? Why did our Apostle take so much pains to hold his bodily appetites in subjection, but that he found the cravings of them so importunate ? It is the body that is the great snare to the soul ; and who can say how many thousand times his soul has given entertainment to the sinful desires of it, while the very refreshments of nature, our meat, drink, and sleep, afford it such constant opportunities?
But, Fourthly, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods. What I now speak of is not the sin of covetousness ; that is, anxious desiring from a discontentedness with what I have already, nor that determining and devising of theft before it is committed ; but that which is at the bottom of both, the sinful stirrings of corrupt nature after the interests of the world, in which our foolish hearts do naturally trust. Thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour's goods ; that is, every secret wish thou hast found in thy heart, that any part of another's substance, his house, estate, wealth, were thine, that thou mightest be more safe and secure in the world (that is to say, more out of the reach of God's providence and of all dependence upon him), was a sin. Search therefore the records of your conscience. You have not wished to have your neighbour's goods by fraud or force, I allow : but have you never wished any of them yours from the instigation of a world-trusting heart ? We have, as to the expression, only lightly said, perhaps, If I had but so much of such an one's fortune ; but have in our hearts more seriously wished it than we imagine. What are all those fearful, careful, thoughts about worldly wealth, but so many lustings, not of moderate desire after what is necessary, but of a sinful desire to be as great a man as my neighbour ? And that amounts to the same thing as wishing he and I might change places. And is then every anxious worldly desire a sinful coveting your neighbour's goods ? I pray you, then, see what a nest of them your heart has been. Has it not been so ? What ! no anxious desires or fears, which, like guests of a day, have tarried with you awhile at least, though they could not fix upon you habits of covetousness, nor prevail with you to design any schemes of dishonesty ? Surely, whosoever you are, your worldly heart has brought infinite guilt upon you. Yet once more :
Fifthly.—Thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour's good name. The meaning of this is, thou mayest never have in thy heart one suggestion of envy because thy neighbour is better than thou ; of hatred because his virtues reprove thy vices ; of displeasure because he will follow his conscience sooner than thy will ; of delight, no, not in the least degree, in hearing of or beholding his sins: this is desiring hurt to thy neighbour's name: yea, though thou dost not approve any of these suggestions, but art really displeased with them, and wouldst never more know them, yet they are thy sins. But have we never known any of these devilish suggestions in us, never any risings of envy against any who seemed better Christians than ourselves, never any stirrings of dislike against others because their conduct reproved ours and made us uneasy, no workings of displeasure because our brother would do what seemed to him right, no sudden chillings of heart when we have heard others praised, no malignant satisfaction when they have been evil-spoken of ? Truly I would not venture to charge any living man with the least of these things, were it not that I know they are natural to us all, and among the most fearful proofs of our fallen state.
What has been said may suffice to show the design of this last commandment, and therein the sad sinfulness of our nature.
That we have all experienced the secret workings of the corrupt principle in us, in the manner described, I take for granted ; for “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to
But whether we have reckoned these motions and desires that we have found in our hearts to be sinful is a question. St. Paul was a great and learned man ; yet, till this commandment was laid open to him in its deep meaning, he tells us himself he either did not know concupiscence, or did not know the sinfulness of it, and the guilt it brought him under. It will be our business therefore to be very close with our hearts, and to search out this root of bitterness, which, if it had not been in us,
Prov. xxvii. 19.