« ForrigeFortsæt »
"felves with too fhort and narrow definitions of "the crime; vainly imagining, that where there " is not the outward act of lewdness, there is no "adultery. For I muft tell you, that whofoever "allows his eyes the liberty of gazing upon a woman, with an intention of kindling in himself or her, lafcivious and unchafte defires; and whatsoever woman adorns her felf out of a defign of "raifing an unlawful paffion in the breast of a be"holder; he or fhe, tho' they only indulge them"felves in luftful wifhes and imaginations, without "proceeding to any unlawful act, are adulterers in "the efteem of God, and will be punished as fuch. "And tho' perhaps, confidering the corruption of "human nature, a restraint of this kind may feem "as grievous as the plucking out a right eye, or "the cutting off a right hand; yet it must be "done, if ye will avoid the torments of hell fire, "which wait upon the breach of this commandment. The want or lofs of any enjoyment here, "though never fo delightful, or (as ye may think it) hard to be parted with, is furely rather to be "chofen than eternal ruin. And as to the matter ❝of divorce, which is another liberty contrary to "the tenor of the fame commandment; it was in"deed for fome peculiar reafons permitted to your "fathers to put away their wives, when they had "taken a diflike to them; provided they did it "with the formalities of law, a bill of divorce❝ment put into their hands. But this was not fo "from the beginning, nor lawful in it felf; only "a licence granted to that ftiff-necked generation, "for fear of a worse confequence, and for prevent"ing of a greater evil. This permiffion I do now "by divine authority revoke, and I will that ye,
my Difciples, keep ftrictly up to the primitive in"ftitution of matrimony; which was such a con"junction, as made man and wife one flesh, not
"again to be disjoined, but by violence; and "therefore whofoever puts away his wife, unless "the first of all break the union by joining her "felf with another, causeth both her and him that "marries her to commit adultery.
THIS paragraph therefore fupplies us with two particulars worthy of our enquiry.
I. THE extent of this commandment, and the height to which our Saviour carries the notion of christian chastity. II. WHAT he has directed with regard to di
I. THE extent of this commandment, and the height to which our Saviour carries the notion of chriftian chaftity. When God, the fole Author and Difpofer of all things, thinks fit to publish his laws and decrees to the world, it is not for the devil to contend with the Almighty, and deny his authority; no, that would be too much; all that this wily enemy of mankind has to do, is by falfe gloffes and pretexts to beguile the frail mind of man, and endeavour to interpret away the fubftance of the command. This we fee was the cafe with the Jews; the devil durft not fay that adultery was lawful, when God had given this commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery; but taking advantage of the indulgence that was allowed that stubborn people, for the hardness of their hearts, to put away their wives by a bill of divorcement for fome great and notorious crimes, he introduces it into practice for every frivolous pretence and idle diflike; and fo far prevails over the minds of that people, that we find their very doctors and interpreters of the law gravely putting the question to our Saviour, whether it was not lawful for a man
to put away his wife upon every occafion. Our Saviour confutes this error, and at the fame time explains the prohibition in its utmost latitude, extending it to all uncleannefs of the mind as well as the body; forbidding the inward luft of fancy and defire: By which is not here meant all natural defire in general; for God has implanted no appetite in us that is originally finful, or that becomes fo any other way but by corruption and abuse. Nor is it the firft kindling of an impure thought; for that an unavoidable accident may do, and when it does, we ought to mourn for the corruption of our hearts, and labour presently to fupprefs it. But what our Saviour here fpeaks of, is a luftful inclination blown up into a flame by our encouragement and fond indulgence. It is the act of the will that makes this finful; when a loose heart fends out the eye to pimp for its debauched defires, and the roving lewd imagination pleases and entertains it felf with the fpeculation of a vice, which it wishes for an opportunity of practifing. And in this cafe fornication or adultery is really committed in the heart, for fo far as the finner dares to go, he goes; He has the enjoyment in a corrupted fancy, and the defilement fticks upon his confcience; his fpirit, the best part of him, is debauched, and no thanks to any virtue in him, that his body is not fo too. Whofoever looketh on a woman to luft after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. When we thus gaze and entertain a vicious fancy, what do we do clfe but court temptation? And where is it like to end, if circumftances happen to favour our defires, but in actual and compleat impurity? St. Peter's expreffion is remarkable to this purpose, where he defcribes fome who walked after the flesh in the luft of uncleannefs, Having eyes full of adultery,
2 Pet. ii. 14.
and that CANNOT CEASE FROM SIN. Implying, that the indulgence they gave to a luftful eye, not only argued, but encreased the filthiness of their hearts; and chain'd them down to habits of lewdnefs by fuch a powerful fafcination, that they could not ceafe from fin. The fad example of David ought to be remember'd alfo, who from the top of his palace gazed himself into wicked defires of Bathfheba, till he had made his appetite too ftrong both for his reafon and his religion, and could not ftop fhort of finishing the fin his fancy had begun: nor could he ftop even there; for adultery with the wife drew him on to a deliberate murder of the hufband; and the guilt of both these horrid crimes fo ftupified his confcience, that 'tis thought to be near a year before he was brought to repentance for them by the Prophet Nathan. Whofoever therefore would be chafte, muft keep a ftrict guard upon his Eyes, and as *Job did, must make a covenant with them. He muft avoid with abhorrence all unclean thoughts, and all lafcivious books and pictures. He muft ftop his ears to all fmut, and indecent jefts, and lewd converfation, and he must shun the company of fuch as are addicted to them. For as our Saviour's defign in this paragraph is to fence in the feventh commandment, and in order to that directs us to guard the purity of our minds; and that this may be effectu ally done, he cautions us against fuch impreffions from without as may defile them: this inftance of looking upon a woman to luft after her, may very well include a prohibition of whatever is like to contribute to the fame impurity. And now after the divine preacher had thus reftrained this appetite, and directed us to fuch an exactnefs of purity in our very thoughts; one would not think, I fay, that
* Job xxxi. 1.
the tempter could poffibly fuggeft any thing against this commandment, that could have any influence upon us: Yet fome wretches there are fo abandon'd of God, and wholly given up to fin and folly, that after all that our Saviour has faid, fhould he return to the world again, we fhould hear them exceed their masters the Pharifees, and even dare to ask their Lord, whether fornication be not lawful; pleading that, by the interpretation of the original, it does not appear that fornication is any where forbid in the New Teftament. They are willing to load adultery as heavy as you pleafe, and paint it in the blackeft colours, if you will but allow fornication to be comparatively little or nothing: And indeed it must be confefs'd, that adultery is a fin of a deep dye, and has many and very heinous aggravations; yet 'twere cafy to fhew that the New Teftament every where abounds with texts against fornication as well as adultery, and to fhew that they both ftand forbid by name with equal earnestness, But I fhall confine my felf to the argument in this paragragh of our Saviour's fermon, and defire to know how fornication is confiftent with the chastity here prescribed; and the fevere obligations to purity, which thofe are under who profess to serve a pure and holy God, and are baptized into a pure and holy religion. * For this is the will of God, even our fanctification, that we should abstain from fornication; that every one of us should know how to poffefs his veffel in fanctification and honour, not in the luft of concupifcence, even as the Gentiles, who know not God. Muft I refrain from every loose and idle thought, and may I commit actual lewdness? Muft I not look on a woman to luft after her, and may I fulfil the lufts of the flesh with her? Muft I cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye, ra
I Theff. iv. 3, 4, 5.