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of Hosts, thou, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart.....unto thee have I opened my cause. Thus, if, whilst wicked men are maliciously conspiring how to blot and sully our names, we can but keep our consciences clear; what need we much trouble ourselves how the wind blows abroad, since we are harboured under the retreat of a peaceable heart? They may possibly persuade others to believe their calumnies; but God, who searcheth the heart and conscience, knows that we are injured and he is hastening on a day, wherein he will clear up our righteousness; and then the testimony of a good conscience shall put ten thousand slanderers to silence.
And thus I have spoken of this Second Sin, of Slander and Detraction.
III. The Third Sin against this Commandment, is, BASE FLATTERY and SOOTHING; which is a quite opposite extreme to the other, as both are opposite to truth.
Now this is, either Self-flattery, or the Flattering of others.
i. There is a SELF-FLATTERY.
And, indeed, every man is, as Plutarch well observed, his own greatest flatterer: and, however empty and defective we may be; yet we are all apt to love ourselves, perhaps without a rival, and to be puffed up with a vain conceit of our own imaginary perfections, to applaud and commend ourselves in our own thoughts and fancies, and to think that we excel all others in what we have; and, what we have not, we despise as nothing worth. From this abundance of a vain heart, break out arrogant boastings of ourselves, contemming of others, a presumptuous intruding ourselves into those employments and functions which we are no way able to manage. Learn, therefore, O Christian, to take the just measure of thyself. Let it not be too scanty for that will make thee pusillanimous and cowardly; and, through an extreme of modesty, render thee unserviceable to God and the world. But rather let it be too scanty, than too large for this will make thee proud, and arrogant, and undertaking; and, by exercising thyself in things too high for thee, thou wilt but spoil whatsoever thou rashly and overweeningly venturest upon. If thou art at any time called or necessitated to speak of thyself, let it rather be less than the truth, than more: for the tongue is of itself very apt to be lavish, when it hath so sweet and pleasing a theme, as a man's own praise.
Take the advice of Solomon: Prov. xxvii. 2. Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
ii. There is a SINFUL FLATTERING OF OTHERS: and that, either by an immoderate extolling of their virtues;, or, what is worse, by a wicked commendation even of their very vices.
This is a sin most odious unto God, who hath threatened to cut off all flattering lips: Ps. xii. 3. But, especially, it is most detestable in ministers, whose very office and function it is to reprove men for their sins: if they shall daub with untempered mortar, and sew pillows under men's elbows; crying Peace, Peace, when, there is no peace to the wicked, only that they may full them asleep in their security, they do but betray their souls; and the blood of them God will certainly require at their hands.
Thus much, for the Ninth Commandment.
Thou shalt not cover thy neighbour's house: thou shalt not cover thy neighbour's wife; nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his or, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neigbour's.
THUS are we, at last, through the divine assistance, arrived to the Tenth and last Precept of the Moral Law.
Indeed, the Papists and the Lutherans divide it into two; making these words, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, to be one entire command; and then putting together the other branches of it, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, nor his servant, &c. to piece up the last. But then, withal, to keep the number of them from swelling beyond a Decalogue, or Ten Words, the Lutherans join the First and Second together into one; and the Papists, in propounding the Commandments to the people, wholly leave it out; fearing they may be corrupted
by hearing it, because it speaks too boldly against their idolatry and image-worship.
But, how infinitely temerarious is it, for vile wretches either to invert, or defalcate, and, as it were, to decimate the Laws of the Great God; by the which, they and all their actions must be judged at the Last Day!
And, certainly, were it not, that they might the better conceal from the ignorant common people the dangerous and heretical words of the Second Commandment, they could have lain under no temptation at all, to do a thing altogether so unreasonable, as the dividing of this Tenth Commandment into Two: for, upon the same ground, might they as well have divided it into seven; since there are many more concupiscences mentioned in it, than that of our Neighbour's Wife, and of his House. And, if each of these must constitute a distinct precept, why not also, Thou shalt not covet his Man-Servant: Thou shalt not covet his Ox, &c.
Besides, the order of the words makes clearly against them. For, whereas they make, Thou shalt not covet thy Neighbour's Wife, to be the Ninth; in the text, those words, Thou shalt not covet thy Neighbour's House, go before them: so that, either they must needs confess it to belong to the Tenth, or else must grant a most unintelligible Hyperbaton both of sense and words; such, as would bring in utter confusion and disorder amongst those laws, which God certainly prescribed us in a most admirable method and disposition.
I. But, to speak no more of this: the sin, here prohibited, is CONCUPISCENCE, or an unlawful lusting after what is another man's.
For, since God had, in the other Commandments, forbidden the Acts of sin against our neighbour, he well knew that the best means, to keep men from committing sin in act, would be to keep them from desiring it in Heart: and therefore, he, who is a Spirit, imposeth a law upon our spirits; and forbids us to covet, what before he had forbidden us to perpetrate. It is true, that other precepts are spiritual likewise; and their authority reacheth to the mind, and the most secret thoughts and imaginations of the heart: for our Saviour, Mat. v. accuseth him of adultery, that doth but lust after a woman; and him of murder, that is but angry with his brother without a cause and it is a most certain rule, that whatsoever precept
prohibits the outward act of any sin, prohibits likewise the inward propension and desires of the soul towards it. But because these are not plainly and literally expressed in the former Commands, therefore the Infinite Wisdom of God thought it fit to add this last Command; wherein he doth expressly arraign and condemn the very first motions of our hearts towards any sinful object: and, whereas before he had commanded us, not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to slander, and bear false witness; now, in the last place, for the greater security that these his laws should not be violated, he commands us, not so much as to harbour in our hearts any desire towards these. So that this Tenth Commandment may well be called Vinculum Legis and it is especially the bond, that strengthens and confirms the Second Table: for because all our outward actions take their first rise from our inward motions and concupiscence, there is no such way to provide for our innocency, as to lay a check and restraint upon these.
Concupiscence is, sometimes, taken in Scripture in a good sense; but, more often, in an evil. There is an honest and lawful concupiscence: when we desire those things, which are lawful, to which we have right, and of which we have need. There is, likewise, a holy and pious, and a wicked and sinful concupiscence. We have both together, Gal. v. 17. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
It is only concerning this sinful concupiscence, that we are at present to speak.
This evil concupiscence is the first-born of original sin; the first essay, and expression of that corruption, which hath seized on us, and on all the wretched posterity of Adam.
For, in original sin, besides the guilt which results from the imputation of the primitive transgression to us and makes us liable to eternal death, there is likewise an universal depravation of our natures, consisting in Two Things.
First. In a loss of those spiritual perfections, wherewith man was endowed in his creation.
And this is the defacing of the image of God, which was stamped upon our nature in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.
And, as a consequent upon this,
Secondly. In a violent propension and inclination to whatso
ever is really evil, and contrary to the holy will and commands of God.
And this is the image of the Devil, into which man, by his voluntary apostasy and defection, hath transformed himself.
Now this inordinate inclination of the soul to what is evil and sinful, is properly the concupiscence forbidden in this Commandment. For the soul of man, being an active and busy creature, must still be putting forth itself in actions suitable to its nature. But, before the Fall, man enjoyed supernatural grace, though in a natural way; which enabled him to point every the least motion of his soul towards God, and to fix him as the object and end of all his actions: but, forfeiting this grace by the Fall, and being left in the hands of mere nature, all his actions now, instead of aspiring unto God, pitch only upon the creature. And this becomes sin unto us, not merely because we affect and desire created good; for that is lawful: but because we affect and desire it, in an inordinate manner; that is, without affecting and desiring God. And, thus, the soul not being able, without grace and the image of God, to raise its operations unto God, pitched upon what it can, viz. low, sinful objects, to the neglect and slighting of God, and the great concernments of heaven. And this is, in the general, that inordinate disposition of the soul, which is here called coveting or concupiscence.
There are Four Degrees of this sinful Concupiscence.
i. There is the MOTUS PRIMÒ PRIMI, THE FIRST FILM AND SHADOW OF AN EVIL THOUGHT; the imperfect embryo of a sin, before it is well shaped in us, or hath received any lineaments and features.
And these the Scripture calls the Imaginations of the Thoughts of Men's Hearts: Gen. vi. 5. God saw.....that every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually: that is, the very first figment and flushing of our thoughts, is evil and corrupt. Indeed, some of these are injected by the Devil. Many times, he assaults the dearest of God's children with horrid and black temptations: and importunately casts into their minds strange thoughts of questioning the very being of God, the truth of the Scriptures, the immortality of the soul, future rewards and punishments; and such other blasphemous, hideous, and