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unshapen monsters, against the very fundamentals of religion, for the truth of which they would willingly sacrifice their very lives, as a testimony to them: these, indeed, are not their sins, although they are their great troubles and afflictions; for they come only from a principle without them, and they are merely passive and sufferers by them, so long as they are watchful to abhor and resist them, and to cast these fiery darts of the Devil back again into his face. But then there are other first motions arising up in our hearts towards those sins, which are more delightful and pleasant to our sensual inclinations: these, whatso ever the Papists say to the contrary, as soon as ever they do but begin to heave and stir in our breasts, are truly sins; and do, in their measure, pollute and defile the soul: for the soul of man is like a clear mirror, upon which if you only breathe, you sully it, and leave a dimness upon it; so, truly, the very first breathings of an evil thought and desire in our souls, do sully their beauty, and dim their lustre, and render the image of God less conspicuous in them than it was before.
ii. A farther degree of this concupiscence, is, WAEN THESE
EVIL MOTIONS ARE ENTERTAINED IN THE SENSUAL MIND WITH SOME MEASURE OF COMPLACENCY AND DELIGHT.
When a sinful object offers itself to a carnal heart, there is a kind of inward pleasing titillation, that affects it with delight, and begets a kind of sympathy between them: that look, as in natural sympathies, a man is taken and delighted with an object before he knows the reason why he is so; so, likewise, in this sinful sympathy, that is between a carnal heart and a sensual object, the heart is taken and delighted with it, before it hath had time to consider what there is in it that should so move and affect it. At the very first sight and glimpse of a person, we many times find that we conceive some more particular respect for him, than possibly for a whole crowd of others, though all may be equally unknown unto us: so, upon the very first glimpse and apparition of a sinful thought in our minds, we find that there is something in it that commands a particular regard from us; that unbosoms and unlocks our very souls unto it, even before we have the leisure to examine why.
iii. Hereupon follows ASSENT AND APPROBATION OF THE SIN IN THE PRACTICAL JUDGMENT; which, being blinded and forcibly
carried away by the violence of corrupt and carnal affections, commends the sin to the executive faculties.
The understanding is the great trier of every deliberate action; so that nothing passeth into act, which hath not first passed examination and censure there: whether this or that action is to be done, is the great question canvassed in this court; and all the powers and faculties of the soul wait what definitive sentence will be here pronounced, and so accordingly proceed. Now, here, two things do usually appear, and put in their plea to the judgment against sin: God's law; and God's advocate, Conscience: the Law condemns, and Conscience cites that Law. But then the Affections step in; and bribe the judge with profit, or pleasure, or honour, and thereby corrupt the judgment to give its vote and assent unto sin.
iv. When any sinful motion hath thus gotten an allowance and pass from the judgment; then it BETAKES ITSELF TO THE WILL
FOR A DECREE.
The judgment approves it; and, therefore, the will must now resolve to commit it: and then the sin is fully perfected and formed within; and there wants nothing but opportunity, to bring it forth into act.
And thus you see what this concupiscence is, and the degrees of it: viz. the First Bubblings-up of evil thoughts in our hearts; our Complacency and Delight in them, (as, indeed, it is very hard, and much against corrupt nature, not to love these firstborn of our souls); the Assent and Allowance of our Judgment; and the Decree and Resolution of our Wills: each of these is forbidden in this Commandment.
But if the sin proceeds any further, it then exceeds the bounds and limits of this Commandment; and falls under the prohibition of some of the former, which forbid the outward acts of sin.
Thus much, concerning Evil Concupiscence, in the general. But here is mention likewise made of several particular objects of it: Thy Neighbour's House, his Wife, his Servants, his Cattle; (under which are comprehended all sorts of his possessions;) and all is included under the last clause, Nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. So that, to desire to take from him, either his life, or his good name, or his virtue, is this condemned covetousness; as well as a desire to take from him his temporal possessions and enjoyments.
II. I shall close up all with some PRACTICAL USE AND IMPROVEMENT.
i. LEARN, HERE, TO ADORE THE UNLIMITED AND BOUNDLESS
SOVEREIGNTY OF THE GREAT GOD.
His authority immediately reacheth to the very soul and conscience, and lays an obligation upon our very thoughts and desires; which no human laws can do. It is but a folly for men to intermeddle with or impose laws upon that, of which they can take no cognizance: and, therefore, our thoughts and desires are free from their censure, any farther than they discover themselves by overt acts. But, though they escape the commands and notice of men, yet they cannot escape God: He seeth not as men see; neither judgeth he as men judge: the secrets of all hearts are open and bare before his eyes: he looks through our very souls, and there is not the least hint of a thought, not the least breath of a desire stirring in us; but it is more distinctly visible unto him, than the most opacous bodies are unto us. The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity: Ps. xciv.11. And, therefore, his law, like his knowledge, reacheth unto the most secret recesses of the soul, searcheth every corner of the heart, judgeth and condemns those callow lusts which men never espy; and, if these find harbour and shelter there, condemns thee as a transgressor, and guilty of eternal death, how plausible soever thy external demeanour may be.
ii. CONTENT NOT THYSELF WITH AN OUTWARD CONFORMITY TO THE LAW; BUT LABOUR TO APPROVE THY HEART IN SINCERITY AND PURITY UNTO GOD: otherwise, thou art but a pharisaical hypocrite; and washest only the outside of the cup, when within thou art still full of unclean lusts.
This was 'the corrupt doctrine of the Scribes and Pharisees, that the Law reached only to the outward man: and, although we entertained and cherished wicked desires and evil purposes in our hearts; yet, so long as they did not break forth into outward crimes, they were not to be imputed unto us, nor did God account them as sins. And this St. Paul confesseth of himself, that, whilst he was trained up in pharisaical principles, he did not understand the inward motions of lusts to be sins.
But, alas! this is but gilding over a dry and rotten post: which, though it may look beautiful, to men; yet, when God
comes to examine it, will not abide the fiery trial *. Thou art as truly a murderer, a thief, an adulterer in God's sight, if thou dost but harbour bloody, unclean, unjust thoughts in thy heart; as thou wouldst be in men's, if thou shouldst actually kill, or steal, or wallow in the open and professed acts of uncleanness.
Indeed, most men do herein grossly delude themselves: and, if they can but refrain from the outward commission of gross and scandalous sins, they very seldom reflect upon their heartlusts; which, like deep ulcers, rankle inwardly, and perhaps grow incurable, when all the while they may be skimmed over with a fair and inoffensive life. Although the heart estuate and boil over with malicious, revengeful, lascivious thoughts; yet they usually dispense with these, and their natural conscience indulgeth them without disturbance.
But deceive not yourselves, God is not mocked; nor can he be imposed upon by external shews: neither will he judge of thee as others do, or as thou thyself dost.
I know it is a very difficult thing, to convince men of the great evil that there is in sinful thoughts and desires; and, therefore, very difficult to persuade them to labour against them for because they are of a small and minute being, therefore men think they carry in them but small guilt and little danger. Every man, that hath but a remnant of conscience left him, will beware of gross and notorious crimes, that carry the mark of hell and damnation visibly stamped upon their foreheads such as he, that can without reluctance commit them, must needs own himself for the apparent offspring of the Devil. But, for an invisible thought, a notion, a desire, a thing next nothing; this certainly I may please myself withal; for this can hurt no one. By a malicious purpose, I wrong no man: by a covetous desire, I extort from no man: and what so great evil then can there be in this?
It is true, indeed, wert thou only to deal with men, whom immaterial things touch not, there were no such great evil in them but, when thou hast likewise to do with an immaterial and spiritual God, before whom thy very thoughts and desires appear as substantial and considerable as thy outward actions; then know that these, as slight and thin beings as they are, fall under his censure here, and will fall under his revenge hereafter.
*-scelus intra se tacitum qui cogitat ullum,
Εν τη προηρεσία, εσιν ή μοχθηρία και το αδίκων. Arist. Rhe. c. 14.
Now were this persuasion effectually wrought into the minds. of men, were it possible they should indulge themselves as they do, in vain, frothy, unclean, malicious thoughts and desires? were it possible they should so closely brood on these cockatrice eggs, which will bring forth nothing but serpents to sting them to eternal death? were it possible they should delight in rolling and tossing a sin to and fro in their fancy; and, by imagining it, make the Devil some recompence for not daring to commit it? Certainly, such men are altogether unacquainted with the life and power of true grace, when as those sins, which they dare not act, yet they dare with pleasure contemplate and dally with, in their fancies and imaginations.
Turn, therefore, your eyes inwards. Bewail and strive against that natural concupiscence, which lodgeth there; and never content thyself, that thou hast dammed up the streams of thy corruptions, from overflowing thy life and actions; till thou hast, in some good measure, dried up the fountain of it.
iii. See here the best and the surest methods, to keep us from the outward violation of God's laws; which is, to MORTIFY OUR
CORRUPT CONCUPISCENCE AND DESIRES.
And, therefore, as I told you, the wisdom of God hath set this Commandment in the last place, as a fence and guard to all the rest. Thou shalt not Covet; and then, certainly, Thou shalt not Kill, nor Steal, nor commit Adultery, nor bear False-Witness ; but be kept pure from all outward defilements of the flesh, when thou art thus cleansed from the inward defilements of the spirit.
For, from these it is, that all the more visible sins of our lives and actions have their supply. And, therefore, saith our Saviour, Mat. xv. 19. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Observe, that he puts evil thoughts in the front, as the leader of all this black regiment: for, out of this evil treasure of the heart, men bring forth evil things; and all the fruits of the flesh, the grapes of Sodom, and the clusters of Gomorrah, receive their sap and nourishment from this root of bitterness.
It ought, therefore, most deservedly to be the great and chief care of every Christian, to lay the axe to this root; to purge and heal this fountain, that sends forth such corrupt and poisonous streams; to keep his heart clean from sinful thoughts and affections, and then his life will be clean by consequence. And,