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The Tenth Commandment

By A.W. Pink

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour's" (Ex. 20:17).

The Puritan Ezekiel Hopkins (to whom we are indebted for much in this chapter, as also for many helpful points in the preceding ones) has pointed out that there are four degrees of this sinful concupiscence or coveting.

Firstly the vision  an evil thought, the imperfect embryo of a sin before it is shaped in us or has any lineaments or features.

Secondly the evil motions of our corrupt nature are entertained in the mind with some degree of complacency.
Thirdly when these evil motions are entertained by us, then an assent and an approbation to sin follow in ones practical judgment, which, being blinded and carried away by the strength of corrupt and carnal affections, commends the sin to the executive faculty.
Note how all of this receives illustration in the colloquy between Eve and the Serpent before she partook of the forbidden fruit.

Finally when any sinful motion has thus secured an allowance from the judgment, then it betakes itself to the will for a decree. The understanding having approved it, the will must now resolve to commit it; and then the sin is fully formed within and lacks nothing but opportunity to bring it forth into open action.

This final precept, then, utters its solemn protest against sin in the inner life. Herein we may behold and adore the boundless dominion or sovereignty of the great God. He proclaims His rights over the hidden realm of desires. His authority reaches to the soul and conscience and lays an obligation upon our very thoughts and imaginations, which no human laws can do. It would be vain for men to impose statutes upon that of which they can take no cognizance, and therefore our desires and lustings are free from their censure, except so far as they discover themselves by overt acts. But though they escape the commands and notice of men, yet they escape not the scrutiny and sentence of God, for He sees not as men see, neither judges He as men judge. The secrets of all hearts are open and naked before His eyes; not the least breath of a desire can stir in our souls but it is more distinctly visible to Him than the shining of the midday sun is to us.

God's Law, like His knowledge, reaches into the most secret recesses of your soul, searches every corner of your heart, judges those lusts which no human eye can espy, and if they be harbored and approved of, condemns you as a guilty transgressor and worthy of eternal death, no matter how pleasing your external deportment may be.

Then how vain it is for us to content ourselves with an outward conformity to God's Law! How we should labor to approve our hearts in sincerity and purity before God; otherwise we are but pharisaical hypocrites who wash merely the outside of the cup while within we are still full of unclean lusts.

How many there are who suppose that God's Law reaches only to the outward man, and that, though they entertain and cherish wicked desires and evil purposes in their hearts, so long as these lusts break not forth into external crimes they will not be charged to their account. But the Day of Judgment will show it is far otherwise.

How very few reflect upon heart sins! How very few pray, "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults"! Be not deceived, God is not mocked, and He cannot be duped by external shows.

See here the wisdom of God in setting this commandment at the close of the Decalogue, for it is a fence and guard to all the rest. It is from inward defilements of the soul that all our visible sins of word and deed have their rise.

All Sabbath-breaking proceeds from the restlessness which is born of unholy desire. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries" etc. (Matthew 15:19).

Observe well that Christ places "evil thoughts" in the front, as the leader of this vile regiment! "Thou shalt not covet." Thou shalt not set thine heart upon, or have the least hankering after, what belongs to another.

An objector may say, "It is impossible to prevent the desire for what we admire." Very true, yet in that fact is revealed the fallen condition of man and the desperate wickedness of his heart.

That such desire is sinful and damning is only discovered in the light of this commandment. He who honestly faces this final precept in the Decalogue must be convicted of his sinfulness and brought to realize his helplessness, or this is its ultimate design.

God has given His Holy Law to us in order that we might see the utter hopelessness of our case if we are left to ourselves. This He has done in order to shut us up to Christ and the magnitude of His grace toward repentant sinners who will believe on His beloved Son, Who perfectly obeyed the Law and in Whom the Father is well pleased!

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