You shall not commit adultery.
The faithful observance of the matrimonial contract is guarded by this Commandment. Marriage holds both socially and morally a quite exceptional rank among contracts.
I. Glance for a moment at its SOCIAL consequences, which are those that bulk most largely in the view of a civil legislator. No community can be more orderly, healthy, rich, or happy, than the sum of the families which compose it.
II. The MORAL aspects of marriage, however, are those which in this place deserve the most careful attention.
1. The law of marriage is a restraint upon the relations of the sexes which at first sight may appear arbitrary or conventional. It is less so than it looks. Monogamy is suggested by the proportion which exists between males and females in the population, and is found to be conducive both to individual well-being and to the growth of society. Manifestly, therefore, it has its roots in the nature of man himself, and is in harmony with the best conditions of his being. Still, it is a restraint; and a restraint imposed just where the animal nature of man is most pronounced and his personal passions are most head-strong. The limitations of the marriage-bond constitute only a single department (though an important one) of that old-fashioned and manly virtue called "temperance," or the due control of oneself. It is a virtue which has to be learned in youth; and in learning it we need to bear in remembrance what St. Peter says, that the lusts of the flesh are the peculiar foes of the spiritual life; its incessant and its mortal foes: "Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."
2. There is a second aspect of this law of marriage to which I must venture to invite your attention. I have said that it testifies to the need for restraint upon the physical appetites. It shows no less the extreme consequence of associating the strongest and most necessary of all appetites with a whole cluster of higher moral and social affections before it can be worthy of human beings. The union of true husband and wife in holy wedlock involves a crowd of complex elements, many of which touch the spiritual nature. It assumes a "marriage of true minds"; for that is not an ideal marriage which is not first a union of souls before the "twain become one flesh." It reposes upon mutual esteem. It presupposes common tastes and establishes a most perfect system of common interests. It is, to begin with, a friendship, although the closest of all friendships. It leads to a noble dependence of weakness upon strength, and a chivalrous guardianship of strength over weakness. It asks for a self-renunciation on the part of each to the welfare of the other, which is the very perfection of disinterested love. It engages principle and honour to sustain mere inclination, and raises what would otherwise be the passion of an hour into a permanent devotion. By means of all this, the nobler social and moral emotions are enlisted in the service of "love," so that there emerges that lofty ideal of chaste wedded affection in which lies the chief poetry of common lives.
(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not commit adultery.