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OF THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT.
EXOD. XX. 14. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
THE scope of this command is the preservation of our own and our neighbours chastity and purity. God is a holy God, and the devil is an unclean spirit: we must therefore study purity in all manner of conversation. Our Lord puts this command before the sixth, Mark x. 19. because our chastity should be as dear to us as our life, and we should be as much afraid of that which defiles the body as that which destroys it.
This command is a negative precept, and expressly forbids adultery: but under that is comprehended all manner of uncleanness whatsoever, with all the causes and occasions leading thereunto. And the positive part of this command is, that we must preserve our own and our neighbour's chastity by all due means.
In discoursing further, I shall consider,
I. The duties required in this command.
I. Our first business is to consider what is required in this command; and the Catechism, agreeably to holy scripture, tells us, that it requires the preservation of our own and our neighbour's chastity in heart, speech, and behaviour.'
The duties of this command may therefore be reduced to two general heads. 1. The preservation of our own chastity, 2. The preservation of that of our neighbour,
FIRST, This command requires us to preserve our own chastity and purity. There is a twofold chastity. 1. In single life; when it is led in purity, it is like the angelical; when in impurity, it is devilish. 2. There is conjugal chastity, when married persons keep themselves within the bounds of the law of that state. This lies in two things. (1.) With respect to all others, keeping themselves pure and uncorrupted.
(2.) With respect to another, keeping themselves within the bounds of Christian sobriety and moderation. In whatsoever state we are, this is the will of God, even our sanctification, that we should abstain from fornication; that every one of us should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, not in the lust of concupiscence,' 1 Thess. iv. 3, 4, 5.
Now, there is a threefold chastity required of us, and to be preserved by us.
First, Chastity in heart, 1 Thess. iv. 5. forecited. God knows the heart, and therefore his laws reach the heart, and he will judge for heart-sins. We must keep our minds pure, that the thoughts be not led astray and corrupted. Hence Job made a covenant with his eyes,' chap. xxxi. 1. And we must keep our affections pure, that they be not vitiated. Job saw this when he appeals to God, If mine heart have been deceived by a woman,' ver. 9. This is to be pure before God, who seeth in secret, and searcheth the hidden things of darkness. The least glance of the heart over this hedge is a crime.
Secondly, Chastity of speech, Col. iv. 6. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.' As there is tongue-murder, there is tongue-adultery. But our speeches must savour of sobriety and purity: and so they will, if the heart be pure; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The Holy Ghost, in the scriptures, gives us a pattern to be imitated in our speeches concerning those things that have a natural turpitude with them, vailing the same in modest expressions.
Thirdly, Chastity in behaviour, which comprehends both the keeping of the body undefiled by any gross act, and a modest carriage every way, 1 Pet. iii. 2. Modesty must appear in the whole of our behaviour, that the purity of the heart may shine forth thereby, as the candle gives light through the lanthorn.
Now, as this threefold chastity is required here, so the proper means for preserving it are also required.
1. Watching over our senses. These are the ports at which Satan breaks in, and ruins people's purity. The heart and the senses are like a candle-wick, at the end of which lies a heap of powder. Object sets fire to the senses
at the wick, and these carry it along to the heart where the corruption lies as a heap of powder. Particularly,
(1.) The eyes, Job xxxi. 1. These were the gates at which sin first entered into the world; and these have been the gates of destruction to many, whereby their fame, body, and souls, have been destroyed together. It is remarkable that the Sodomites were smitten with blindness, who took so little care to watch their eyes while they had the use of them. Curious glances of the eye have been fatal to many, as to David, 2 Sam, xi, 2. and to Joseph's mistress, Gen. xxxix. 7.
(2.) The ears. The corruption of the heart makes people liable to be chained with Satan's fetters by the ears as well as the eyes; as appears from Prov. vii. 21, 22.
With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks.' And curious listening to rotten speeches, or whatsoever has a tendency to corrupt the heart is to open the door to let out our purity.
2. Temperance, a sober use of meat, drink, sleep, and recreations. Hence our Lord warns his disciples, Luke xxi. $4. Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness.' Tem perance is a necessary hedge for chastity, and the breaking over that hedge is a near way to sacrifice the other. See Acts xxiv. 24, 25. And, after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled.' Why did the apostle chuse that subject before these great persons? Why, truly it was very fit. Historians tell us, that this Drusilla was a most libidinous woman, and had left her husband, Aziz king of Emenessa; and while he was yet living, she was married to Felix, who was taken with her beauty; and so they lived together in adultery. The body being pampered becomes a luxuriant beast; and those that cram their bellies with meat or drink, are but one remove from, and in near disposition to filthiness; for one sensuality makes way for another.
On this account it is that fasting and prayer may be to people a duty of this command; for, as some devils are not
cast out, so some are not held out but by fasting and prayer. They that would keep themselves pure, must have their bodies in subjection, and that may require, in some cases, a holy violence, 1 Cor. ix. 27.
3. Keeping of chaste and modest company. Hence Solomon exhorts, Prov. v. 8, 9. Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel.' How many have been ruined by the company they have fallen into, worse then they had fallen into a den of lions and wolves? Ill company wears off insensibly the impressions of virtue on people's spirits; and if they be not at war with them, the inaintaining of peace and converse will make people like them.
Being busied in some honest employment. Those that would be virtuous indeed, must not eat the bread of idleness, Honest labour and business cuts off many temptations that idle persons are liable to. Had David been in the field with his army, when he was rising from off his bed in the eveningtide, 2 Sam. xi. 2. he had preserved his chastity when he lost it, and so had Dinah, if she had been at her business in her father's house, when she went out to see the daughters of the land, Gen. xxxiv. 1.
5. Marriage, by those that have not the gift of continency, Hence says the apostle, 1 Cor. vii. 2, 9. To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. But if they cannot contain, let them marry for it is better to marry than to burn.'-Neither marriage nor single life are in themselves morally good or evil, but indifferent. But that state of life is to be chosen by every one, that will most conduce to their leading a holy life. So every particular person ought by themselves to ponder their gift, and other circumstances, which will let them see what is sin and what is duty in this case,
6. Cohabitation and conjugal love and affection betwixt married persons, without which that state will be no fence to purity, but a snare. Hence Solomon says, Prov. v. 19, 20.
Let her be as the loving hind, and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times, and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stran
7. Lastly, Shunning all occasions, and resisting all temptations, to the contrary, Prov. v. 8. forecited. So did Joseph, Gen. xxxix. 8. It is a dangerous business to parley with them. The town that is content to capitulate with the enemy, is next door to surrendering. There are two sins that the scripture bids us flee from. 1. Idolatry, 1 Cor. x. 14. 2: Uncleanness, 1 Cor. vi. 18. Why? Because they are bewitching evils. It is safer to flee, than to stand to fight them.
SECONDLY, This command requires us to preserve the chastity of others, and that so far as we can, in their hearts, lips, and lives. For so far as we might prevent the sin of others, and do it not, and much more when we occasion it, it becomes ours. Besides, that in preserving our own chastity, we preserve that of others, and so the means conducing to the one do also conduce to the other. Our duty in this point may be reduced to these two heads.
1. That we may do nothing which may ensnare others. For whosoever lays the snare is partner in the sin that comes by it. A lamentable instance of this we have in Judah and his daughter-in-law: they were neither of them careful to preserve the other's chastity, and so they fell each by an other's snare, Gen. xxxviii. 14, 15, 16. For this cause modest apparel is here required, 1 Tim. ii. 9: and a careful avoiding of all unseemly behaviour, which may have a tendency to defile the minds of others, though we ourselves have no ill intention. Thus, Bathsheba's washing herself in a place where she might be seen of others, was the sad occasion of the sin that David and she were plunged into, 2 Sam. xi. 2. And truly where both grace and good manners are wanting, it is little wonder that people break their necks over one another.
2. That we do every thing incumbent on us to preserve the chastity of others, in heart, speech, and behaviour. Let married persons live together in due love and affection to one another. Let each one be an example of purity to others. Let those whom ye see in danger be rescued by all means, whether by force or persuasion, as the circumstances require. And let none bring others guilt on their own heads, by being silent when they see the smoke, till the flame rise and discover itself. Let parents and masters do what they can to prevent the ruin of their children and servants, by rebuking