ON THOU SHALT NOT COVET, &c.
Consider first, that after forbidding the sins and injuries committed by words or actions, God forbids also, in these two last commandments, the sins of thought and desire; particularly with relation to avarice and lust: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife:’ ‘ Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.’ These two kinds of irregular desires and inclinations, suggested by the lust of the flesh and by the love of the mammon of this world, are like a raging pestilence, which has infected the greatest part of mankind from the beginning – like another deluge they even overflow the earth. Money and carnal pleasures are the two great idols set up by Satan to confront the living God; to these men sacrifice their hearts and affections; the young by the concupiscence of the flesh, the old by the concupiscence of the eyes; and thus both old and young are for the most part debauched from the love and service of God, and made slaves to sin and victims to hell. Ah! Christians, never think yourselves innocent, though you keep your hands from stealing, and your bodies from fornication or adultery, if you do not at the same time keep your eyes and your hearts from coveting. Such you are in the sight of God, as your affections and desires are; if these are criminal you cannot be innocent.
Consider 2ndly, that by this precept, ‘thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife,’ we are recommended to set a guard upon our thoughts, upon our hearts, upon our eyes, and upon all other senses, that the fire of concupiscence may not make its way through any of those avenues into our souls, to burn them here with lust, and with the dark flames of hell hereafter. Ah! what have we not to apprehend from the depraved inclinations of our corrupt nature, if we do not turn away both our senses, and our imaginations, from all alluring objects, and shut those gates against the first suggestions of evil? How much more are all Christians bound to fly all such occasions as expose them to a more imminent and immediate danger of lewd thoughts and desires, as a great part of modern comedies, balls, masquerades, &c., are known to do, more especially with relation to the younger sort. And yet, alas! how few are there that are not too fond of these dangerous diversions, which are so near akin to the pomps of Satan, which we renounced at our baptism.
Consider 3rdly, the necessity of restraining also the corrupt inclinations of that other branch of concupiscence which relates to our neighbour’s goods In order to this, we must in the first place renounce and detest all unjust desires, and such as any way tend to withhold from our neighbour, or deprive him of what, in justice, belongs to him: as also all wishes of his death, that we may come at his possessions; all desires of public or private calamities, for one’s own particular advantage, & c. But then we must not stop here, we must lay the axe to the root of all these evils, which is the love of this mammon of iniquity; this unhappy vice of covetousness, which if it be not cut up, and cast out of the heart, will not suffer either justice or grace long to reside there, according to that of the apostle, 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10: ‘They that want to become rich, fall into the temptation, and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires which drown men in destruction and perdition, for covetousness is the root of all evils.’
Conclude to fight, till death, against both these branches of concupiscence as capital enemies of the soul, which if not guarded against and overcome, are capable of doing us infinitely more harm than all the devils in hell.