QUESTION 81. What is forbidden in the Tenth Commandment?
ANSWER: The Tenth Commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions and affections to any thing that is his.
Q. 1. What is the leading sin forbidden in this commandment?
A. It is COVETOUSNESS: Thou shalt not covet.
Q. 2. What is covetousness?
A. It is an excessive and irregular desire after those worldly goods which we have not, Prov. 1:19, and which God, in his providence, does not see meet that we should have, Psalm 75:6, 7.
Q. 3. How does the excess of an avaricious mind discover itself?
A. By such an insatiable thirst after worldly gain, as can never be satisfied, Prov. 30:15.
Q. 4. In what consists the irregularity of covetousness?
A. In the desire of worldly goods which are in the possession of our neighbour, and even sometimes as they are his, 1 Kings 21:2.
Q. 5. How does the covetousness of the heart discover itself?
A. By discontentment with our own estate, and envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour.
Q. 6. What is discontentment with our own estate?
A. It is to murmur and fret at our present condition in the world, as being worse than we think should fall to our share, or than we are expecting and looking for, 2 Kings 6:33.
Q. 7. What is the aggravation of this sin?
A. It argues an unwillingness to be at God's disposal, Psalm 12:4; an esteeming ourselves more competent judges than he, of what is best for us, 1 Kings 1:5; and it is, in effect, usurping the throne of God, and taking his government into our own hands, Ex. 5:2.
Q. 8. What are the proper remedies against it?
A. The only sovereign remedy, is to give Christ the pre-eminence in our hearts, Psalm 73:25; for then we will undervalue all temporal things, in comparison of him, Psalm 76:4.
Q. 9. What is envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour?
A. It is to repine and grudge at his prosperous circumstances, Neh. 2:10, or any superior endowment or privilege he is possessed of above ourselves, Psalm 112:9, 10.
Q. 10. What is the evil of this sin?
A. It wastes and consumes the body, Prov. 14:30 -- " Envy is the rottenness of the bones," and it is fertile of "confusion, and every evil work," James 3:16.
Q. 11. What is the source or spring of covetousness?
A. The inordinate motions and affections that are in our souls.
Q. 12. What do you understand by the inordinate motions and affections here forbidden?
A. Not only the unlawful purposes, intentions, and desires, that are actually formed in the heart, but even the first risings and stirrings of corruption in the soul, which are antecedent to the consent of the will, Gen. 6:5.
Q. 13. Are not the vicious lusts and desires that are, formed and assented to in the heart, forbidden in other commandments of the second table, as well as in this?
A. Yes; as appears from our Saviour's exposition of the Seventh Commandment, Matt. 5:28 -- "But I say unto you, Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
Q. 14. How then is this commandment distinguished from others, which forbid heart sins equally with it?
A. This commandment is levelled particularly at the root of all sin, namely, habitual lust, or corruption of nature, together with its very first motions, and especially as these are contrary to the love of our neighbour; whereas, other commandments chiefly respect such secret and heart sins as are actually committed, though not known to the world.
Q. 15. How does it appear that this commandment is levelled particularly at habitual lust, or at the root of all sin?
A. Because, since other commandments chiefly forbid heart sins actually formed, this commandment must forbid the very rise of them, or the least bias and inclination to evil; otherwise it would not be distinct from the rest, nor would the law be absolutely perfect.
Q. 16. Does not the apostle James distinguish between lust and sin, chap. 1:15 -- " When lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin;" and will it not from thence follow, that lust, or corruption of nature, is not properly sin, and consequently not forbidden in this commandment?
A. The apostle distinguishes between lust and sin merely as a corrupt principle and the act which it produces; both which are hateful to God, and contrary to his law.
Q. 17. If lust, or corruption of nature, cannot be remedied, or extirpated by any prescription in the Divine law, why is it at all prohibited?
A. It is nevertheless prohibited, both because contrary to the nature of God, and as a mean to reprove and humble us for it, Rom. 7:9.
Q. 18. What is the difference between human and Divine laws on this head?
A. Human laws respect only overt or open acts of sin, but Divine laws respect likewise the internal inclination and disposition which persons have to commit it, Psalm 66:18.
Q. 19. What is the opinion of the Papists concerning the prohibition of habitual lust?
A. They pretend that the law of God respects only the corruption of our actions, but not the habit or principle from whence they proceed.
Q. 20. How are they refuted?
A. From the spirituality of the law, which extends to the motions of the heart, as well as the actions of the life, Rom. 7:14, 23.
Q. 21. If, the first motions of corruption are not entertained, but immediately curbed and restrained, why are they prohibited as sinful?
A. Because, however soon they are curbed or restrained; yet having once been in the soul, they cannot but leave a stain and pollution behind them, contrary to the holiness and purity required in the law, James 1:14.
Q. 22. Who are they that are sensible of these inordinate motions and affections of the heart, and are humbled for the same?
A. None properly but the regenerate; as is evident from the instance of the apostle, who says of himself, after his conversion, "I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet," Rom. 7:7.
Q. 23. What is the apostle's meaning in these words?
A. It is, as if he had said, I had not known this strong propensity that is in my heart to all manner of sin, even before it be consented to, or deliberately committed; unless the Spirit of God had discovered it to me, in this precept of the law forbidding the same.
Q. 24. How does this propensity to sin evidence itself?
A. In that no sooner is the object presented, than instantly there is an inordinate motion and affection of the heart after it. The combustible matter within catches fire at the very first spark of temptation, Josh. 7:21.
Q. 25. What may we learn from the general scope of this, and all the other commandments?
A. That though we could forbear the evil, and do the good contained in every commandment, it would not be sufficient, except we did it for the Lord's sake, out of love to him, and regard to his authority, Ezek. 20:19.