THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 72. What is forbidden in the Seventh Commandment?

ANSWER: The Seventh Commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.


Q. 1 What is forbidden in this commandment under the name of ADULTERY?

A. All sorts of unchastity or uncleanness, of what kind, or in what manner soever committed, Eph. 5:3.

Q. 2:In what respects may persons be guilty of unchastity or uncleanness?

A. They may be guilty this way, in their thoughts, words, and actions.

Q. 3. When are persons chargeable before God with unchaste thoughts?

A. When lustful desires are entertained and gratified in the mind; and, as it were, acted in the imagination; Prov. 6:18; Matt. 5:28.

Q. 4. What are the usual incentives to unchaste thoughts?

A. "Lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage-plays, and the like."[94]

Q. 5. What influence have stage-plays upon fomenting unchaste thoughts?

A. They are generally stuffed with such amorous adventures, many of them of a most criminal nature, that they have a native tendency to debauch and defile the mind. If "no corrupt communication" is to "proceed out of our mouth," according to Eph. 4:29; neither ought we to listen to it with our ears, as is done by those who attend the profane diversions of the stage.

Q. 6. What is meant by unchaste words?

A. All filthy, obscene, or smutty discourse; than which, nothing can be more grating and disagreeable to modest ears, Eph. 5:4.

Q. 7. What are the unchaste actions that are forbidden in this commandment?

A. Besides several others, that ought not to be named among Heathens, far less Christians, there are these following: polygamy, unjust divorce, fornication, and adultery, properly so called.

Q. 8. What is POLYGAMY?

A. It is the having more wives or husbands than one at the same time, Mal. 2:14.

Q. 9. Is this a sin contrary to the law of nature?

A. Yes; for it is contrary to the first institution of marriage; God having created but one woman, as a help meet for man; Gen. 2:22-25, compared with Matt. 19:5, 6.

Q 10. Is it a sin prohibited in scripture?

A Yes; Lev 18:18 -- "Thou shalt not take a wife to her sister, to vex her -- in her lifetime."

Q. 11. What is the meaning of taking a wife to her sister?

A. The meaning is, (according to the marginal reading,) Thou shalt not take one wife to another; that is, thou shalt not have more wives than one at a time.

Q. 12 But may not this be a prohibition of incest, namely, of marrying the wife's sister?.

A. No; because it is said, Thou shalt not do it in her lifetime; whereas it would be incestuous in a man to marry his sister-in-law after his wife's death, as well as to do it in her lifetime; so that the meaning is, Thou shalt not take another wife to her whom thou hast married, by which means they would become sisters.

Q. 13. Who was the first polygamist we read of in scripture?

A. Lamech, of the posterity of Cain, who had two wives, Gen. 4:19.

Q. 14. Were not several of the godly likewise guilty in this matter, as Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others?

A. Yes; but though these and other bad actions of good men are recorded in scripture, they are not approved of, nor proposed for our imitation; but rather set up as beacons, to prevent our making shipwreck on the same rocks.

Q. 15. Has not God even testified his displeasure at the sin of polygamy, in the godly, though we do not read of his reproving them for it in express words?

A. Yes; he has testified his displeasure in the course of his providence, by the emulations, quarrels, and disturbances, that were thus occasioned in their families; as in the instances of Sarah and Hagar, in Abraham's family, Gen. 21:10, 11; of Leah and Rachel, in Jacob's, Gen. 30:1, 15; and of Hannah and Peninnah, in Elkanah's family, 1 Sam. 1:6.

Q. 16. Does not God seem to approve of polygamy, when he says to David, "I gave thee thy master's wives into thy bosom?" 2 Sam. 12:8.

A. It being the custom of those times, for succeeding kings to take possession of all that belonged to their predecessors, the meaning is, I have made thee king, in room of Saul, and have given thee the property of all that appertained to him: but we do not read of David taking any of Saul's wives into his bed.

Q. 17. What is an unjust DIVORCE?

A. It is the prosecuting and obtaining a dissolution of marriage, upon other grounds than such as are warranted in the word of God, and by right reason.

Q. 18. What are the grounds upon which a divorce may be sued for, and obtained, according to the word of God and right reason?

A. "Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion, as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage, Matt. 19:8, 9; 1 Cor. 7:15."[95]

Q. 19. Did not Moses suffer the Israelites to put away their wives, upon slighter grounds than that of adultery as may be alleged from Deut. 24:1?

A. Moses, in the text cited, gives no positive command about divorces in such cases; but only, in order to restrain the licentious freedom of the Israelites, in turning off their wives, at their own hand, upon every trivial occasion, he enjoins that none put away his wife, but upon a legal process or a bill of divorce, obtained in the ordinary course of law; which is the true meaning of the place.

Q. 20. Why then does our Lord tell the Pharisees, Matt. 19:8, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives?"

A. The meaning is, Moses, because of the wicked and malicious disposition of the Jews, and in order to prevent a greater evil, namely, the ill usage, or even killing of their hated wives, (if they could not be separated from them) permitted processes of divorce to be legally commenced.

Q. 21. Why is it added, "but from the beginning it was not so?"

A. Because, according to the original institution of marriage, nothing could dissolve it but the death of one of the parties, Matt. 19:6 -- "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."

Q. 22. Is it lawful to marry after a divorce is obtained?

A. "It is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce, and after the divorce, to marry another as if the offending party were dead."[96]

Q. 23. Is the innocent party obliged, from Matt. 5:32, to sue for a divorce?

A. No; divorces are not enjoined as a precept, but allowed as a privilege, which the innocent party may claim, or not, as they please.

Q. 24. What if the adultery be on both sides?

A. In that case the right of divorce seems to be taken away from each of them.

Q. 25. What is FORNICATION?

A. It is uncleanness committed between a man and a woman, both of them being unmarried; as it would seem Shechem and Dinah were, when guilty this way, Gen. 34:2.

Q. 26. Was this esteemed a sin among the Heathens?

A. No they made light of it, (as too many professed Christians have always done ) hence the synod of Jerusalem enjoined the converted Gentiles to "abstain from fornication," Acts 15:29.

Q. 27. In what lies the evil of this sin?

A. It defiles the body, 1 Cor. 6:18; stupefies the conscience, Hos. 4:11; and exposes to eternal wrath and damnation, 1 Cor. 6:9.

Q. 28. What is ADULTERY properly so called?

A. It is uncleanness committed between a man and a woman, either both or one of them at least, in a married relation.

Q. 29. What is it commonly called when both the guilty persons are married?

A. It is called double adultery, as was the case between David and Bathsheba, 2 Sam. 11:3, 4.

Q. 30. Whether are the consequences to families worse, when the man is married and the woman free; or when the woman is married and the man free?

A. The consequences to families seem to be worse when the woman is married; because a man's offspring is thus corrupted, and his inheritance is alienated to a spurious issue.

Q. 31. What are the aggravations of this heinous sin?

A. It is a breach of the marriage oath, Mal. 2:14; an involving of two at once in the same guilt, 1 Cor. 6:16; and is a crime committed after obtaining the remedy which God has provided against it, chap. 7:2.

Q. 32. What are the fatal effects of adultery in this life?

A. It consumes the body, Prov. 5:11; wastes a man's estate, bringing him "to a piece of bread," chap. 6:26; and leaves an indelible blot upon his name: "His reproach shall not be wiped away," ver. 33.

Q. 33. What will be the effect of it in the life to come?

A. Eternal wrath and damnation, if rich mercy and grace prevent it not, Eph. 5:5.

Q. 34. How does God testify his abhorrence of this sin?

A. By declaring that he will reserve the punishment of it, in his own hand, to be inflicted in a very peculiar manner, upon such as are guilty of it, Heb. 13:4 -- "Whore-mongers and adulterers God will judge."

Q. 35. What are the usual incentives to this and other acts of uncleanness?

A. Drunkenness, Gen. 19:33; "fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness," Ezek. 16:49.

Q. 36. What is the evil of idleness?

A. It is a deliberate wasting of precious time, to the manifest detriment both of soul and body, Eccl. 10:18; and is a fit season for temptations to lust, Prov. 7:7, 8.

Q. 37. In what consists the evil of gluttony?

A. It indisposes for all duty, both religious and civil, Prov 23:21; and is making a god of our belly, Phil. 3:19.

Q. 38. What is the evil of drunkenness?

A. It deforms the image of God in the soul, by divesting a man of the right use of his reason; and leaves him defenceless against all temptations, Prov. 23:29, 30.

Q. 39. What are the proper remedies against lust, and all the incentives to it?
A. A serious reflection upon the all-seeing eye of an infinitely holy God, Gen. 39:9; walking "in the Spirit," which will preserve us from fulfilling "the lusts of the flesh," Gal. 5:16; keeping a strict watch over our hearts, Prov. 4:23; studying to shun all occasions of this sin by the external senses, Job 31:1; and fervent prayer to God to be kept from it, and all temptations to it, Psalm 119:37.


[94] Larger Catechism, Question 139

[95] Confession of Faith, chapter 24 § 6.

[96] Ibid., chapter 24 § 5.


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