Deuteronomy 5:21
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not covet your neighbor's house or field, or his manservant or maidservant, or his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Law of PurityJ. P. Newman, D. D.Deuteronomy 5:21
Neither Shalt Thou Desire Thy Neighbour's WifeK. H. Caspari.Deuteronomy 5:21
The Tenth CommandmentEdwards, JonathanDeuteronomy 5:21
The Tenth CommandmentDean Farrar.Deuteronomy 5:21
The Tenth CommandmentS. Walker, B. A.Deuteronomy 5:21
The Tenth CommandmentElizabeth Wordsworth.Deuteronomy 5:21
The DecalogueR.M. Edgar Deuteronomy 5:1-21
Reminiscences of HorebJ. Orr Deuteronomy 5:1-33
The Divine Plan for the Conduct of Our Life on EarthD. Davies Deuteronomy 5:6-21
Character Determines EnvironmentD. Davies Deuteronomy 5:21-33

I. THE STORMY ELEMENTS OF NATURE SERVE AT TIMES AS THE FITTING ROBES OF DEITY. All natural objects are the projections in space of his creative voice. He spake and they appeared. He is still behind all phenomena - the only real substance. Since he is all-wise, the sole fount of knowledge, the true Revealer of secrets, he is properly said to be appareled with light. The rainbow is his diadem, the morning sun is his radiant face, the thundercloud his chariot. To human eyes, he can only be visible in such forms as these. His holiness can be visibly expressed in no other form than fire. The profound inscrutable ness of his will is best made manifest by the "thick darkness." His insufferable glory is attempered by a cloud. His kingly power is betokened by a "great voice." Such is his fitting environment.

II. THE NEAR APPROACH OF GOD IS INTOLERABLE TO SINFUL MEN. The unrenewed man shrinks from contact with absolute purity. He is in an uncongenial atmosphere - like a fish out of its native element. What tremendous losses foolish man submits to rather than abandon sin - losses of privilege, friendship, joy! So Peter prayed, when the vision of Christ's wondrous power dawned on him, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." But the renewed man yearns and pants for a nearer, and yet nearer, approach to God. "I pray thee, show me thy glory!" This is his joy - to be near God, to grow like him. And yet, how often do we shrink from the passage of death, the passage by which we penetrate into the inner palace of Deity! Whatever brings us into nearer fellowship with God ought to be welcomed.

III. A SIGHT OF GOD KILLS EITHER THE SIN OR THE SINNER. There is no question that God intends the former, but if the guilty man will not part with his sin - identifies himself with it - then he too dies. To know God, and his redeeming Son, is tantamount to eternal life. But to know God only in his judicial character, to have defective acquaintance with him, alarms and kills. The love of sin perverts the judgment, and destroys good logic. These Hebrews said, "We have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth;" and then they inconsistently add, "Therefore why should we die?" In presence of that mystic flame, they promise loyal obedience. If only life may be spared, and God's commands be conveyed in a less alarming manner, they pledge themselves to be his liege servants. Alas! men little know their own weaknesses! So men still say that if they had such a revelation as they wished - such in degree, and such in kind - they would yield compliance! Yet the real difficulty arises not from defects in the external revelation, but from the internal disposition.

IV. GOD'S APPORTIONMENT OF HONOR AND DISHONOR APPROVED BY MEN. HOW different his language to different persons! To some, "Go, get you into your tents again;" to another, "Stand thou here by me." To dwell near to God, and to enjoy his revelations of light and love - this is really man's crowning privilege, this his heaven. Yet the bulk of men are blind to their own good, dead to noblest joy. To possess any pleasure, their environment must be suited to their character; the external must correspond with the internal. "Depart from me!" says man to his Maker. "Depart from me!" responds our God. "Out of our own mouths we are judged."

V. OBSERVE GOD'S INTENSE LONGING FOR MAN'S GOOD. How pathetic are such ejaculations as these, "Oh that there were such a heart in them, to fear me always!"

1. Religion must be a matter of the heart.

2. Religion is not a compulsory, but voluntary, service.

3. Religion commands the allegiance of the whole man - his reverence, submission, and practical service; and that not spasmodic, but continuous.

4. Religion brings largest benefit to ourselves and to our children. Even bad men have, at times, desires after a better life - fitful moods of regret and aspiration. God, in his wondrous patience, smiles on these - approves a passing thought or a transient feeling-and says, in his paternal love, "Would that this frame of feeling continued!" These are the openings of opportunity's golden door.

VI. THE WORLD'S OBEDIENCE IS DEPENDENT ON HUMAN MINISTRIES, The majority of men will not listen to God unless he speak to them through human agencies. Men will only read God's Word as it is written, in large capitals, in saintly lives. Thus God commanded Moses: "I will speak unto thee... thou shalt teach them, that they may do." The pardoned man becomes God's interpreter to the world. "Speak thou to us," they say, "and we will hear." "As Christ was, so we are to be in the world" - light-bearers. The heathen nations learn only through the Church the redeeming work of God. - D.

Neither shalt thou desire.
Nothing, be it ever so mean, is to be coveted which belongs to another, if it be to his loss and detriment. Wherefore it is observable that this commandment is thus briefly expressed by the Saviour (Matthew 10:19). Defraud not, take not away. Christ Himself made this alteration of the word in the last commandment, and knew best the meaning of it. He makes coveting and defrauding the same, because he that inordinately desires that which is another's doth it to his wrong. To wish any. thing hurtful to others is unlawful, though we never outwardly act what we design. "He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person" (Proverbs 24:8). He merits that denomination on the account of those purposes of mischief which are in his heart. And as the Decalogue, so the Gospel declares this truth. Our Saviour interprets lascivious desires to be lascivious deeds (Matthew 5:28). This is the Christian law, that the inward fault is to be accounted for; the will alone makes us obnoxious, though we proceed no further. We are forbid not only to entertain any intentions and wishes, but any imaginations and thoughts tending to the hurt of others. Secondly, I come to speak of the affirmative part, or the duties enjoined in this commandment. Here, then, we are bid to act out of an inward principle of holiness. The law doth not only exact of us external obedience, but internal sanctity. And the Gospel doth this much more, it enjoins us not only to cleanse our hands, but to purify our hearts (James 4:8). As we must take care of our lives, so we must expel all vicious appetites, lusts, and desires out of our minds. We must regulate our intentions and purposes, and rectify our thoughts and imaginations. This likewise is required of us in the affirmative part of this commandment, that we desire and wish in our hearts all good to our neighbours; that we be so far from coveting what is theirs, that we continually aim at their welfare, and employ our thoughts in promoting it. Besides, this is another part of the positive precept, that we be content with what is our own. We are bid here to acquiesce in God's providence, and to rest satisfied with the condition He hath placed us in. In short, then, if we would have the general sum of both the negative and affirmative part of this commandment, it is thus comprised in the apostle's words, "Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have" (Hebrews 13:5). Here is forbidden an inordinate coveting of what we have not, and a being discontented with what we have. So that I think I shall accomplish the design of this commandment by treating distinctly of these two, covetousness and contentment. I begin with the former. First, as to its nature. It is an inordinate desire after those worldly goods which we have not, and which it is not fitting we should have. I say, it is an excessive desire after those things. And this is one main thing that constitutes the sin of covetousness, as we may gather from the description of it in the sacred writings. Those who are addicted to it are said to be greedy of gain (Proverbs 1:19). And covetousness itself is set forth by that greedy creature the horse leech with its two daughters, i.e. its double forked tongue wherewith it continually sucks blood (Proverbs 30:15). This comparison is used to express the insatiableness of those persons' desires who are given to avarice. Secondly, as covetousness is an immoderate, so it is an inordinate and irregular desire of worldly goods. For —

1. It is a desire of them as they are our neighbour's. And thereby is intimated to us that the covetous have an evil eye, and grudge at the good of others. They are angry that they have not a monopoly of worldly riches, and it grieves them that anyone hath a share of them besides themselves.

2. The inordinacy of this avaricious desire of the things of this world consists in this, that it is a longing after them as the chief good. Riches are desired by the covetous for themselves wholly, and are reckoned as the greatest happiness. In the second place, I am to display the evil and mischief of this sin. And this I will do by showing —(1) Covetousness and the love of the world are the source of most sins in men's lives (1 Timothy 6:9). There is no kind of sin almost that you can mention but it springs from this root. Covetous persons break all the commandments. There is no sin but it will thrive upon such a root, there is no vice but this will supply nourishment to it. But a good conscience cannot grow upon it, and nothing that is virtuous can prosper.(2) And so I proceed to the second particular, which will give us a further account of the evil and mischief of covetousness, namely, that it is the source of punishment. And here I will show first that this vice is its own punishment. The same judgment befalls the covetous that befell Korah and his company, they are swallowed up of the earth, and they cannot extricate themselves out of this misery. This greedy appetite never suffers him to say, It is enough: but in the fulness of his sufficiency he is in straits (Job 20:22). And we are told by another wise man, that "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase" (Ecclesiastes 5:10). This is the genuine effect of covetousness, and this impossibility of being satisfied is a continual torment. Again, these persons, as they torment themselves, so they are judicially punished by God. Sometimes the hand of God blasts them immediately, as Gehazi was smitten with leprosy. Sometimes they are found out by the magistrate, and made sacrifices to justice, as Achan with his golden wedge. And sometimes through the judgment of God men of violence are permitted to spoil them of what they have so sordidly raked together. At other times we see that they are abruptly cut off in the career of their covetous pursuits (Jeremiah 17:11). Sometimes they are their own executioners, as the covetous Judas was. Lastly, the covetous are punished in another world. The third and last thing I undertook, which was to offer proper remedies against this inordinate desiring of the things of this world. The general expedient is that we must study to moderate our appetites and affections, we must take pains with ourselves to bring our souls into a right temper, for it is the mind that causes all the disturbance in us; wherefore, if this be not duly disposed, no condition will please us, and we shall be perpetually craving and uneasy. The more particular rules are these —

1. Know and remember this, that riches and abundance are commonly indulged to the worst of men, and hence you may conclude they are of no great worth. Christ chose poverty, and left it as a portion to His disciples, and the holiest men have been denied the riches of this world. Let us meditate on this, in order to the disengaging of our souls from a covetous desire after wealth and abundance.

2. Observe the design of God's afflicting hand. Remember this, that He sends outward crosses on purpose to diminish our immoderate longing after these things.

3. Divert your worldly designs by those that are spiritual. Mind these things, which are of the highest nature: covet earnestly the best gifts; labour to be rich towards God. Be always earnestly seeking the graces of God's Spirit, communion with Him, and His love and favour. Thus cure your malady by revulsion.

4. Always carry in your eye the other world, and then you will be cured of your immoderate longings after this. Look up to heaven and contemplate that, and then the earth will seem to be but a poor, shrivelled point. Thus I have propounded the proper remedies which you may successfully make use of for the extirpating of covetousness and the immoderate love of the world. And because you can do nothing of this without the Divine aid, forget not to be frequent in prayer. I come, then, now to that which is the positive part of this commandment, namely, contentedness. And here I am to show —

1. The true nature of it.

2. The excellency and benefit of it.

3. The means of attaining it.First, I will give an account of the true nature of contentment. And this we may learn from what hath been said concerning covetousness, for true contentment is opposite to covetousness, and therefore is rightly defined a cessation of all covetous desires, and an acquiescing in what we have. Contentment therefore denotes these two things: first, that the desire of what is absent is taken off; secondly, that there is a satisfaction in what is present. For this is certain, that our ease and comfort consist in having what we desire, and in being pleased with what we have. Now, then, if a man desires something and yet wants it, or hath something and is not pleased with it, he cannot possibly be contented. Here, then, is the noble art of Christianity to take off the edge of out appetites, to qualify or to quench our thirst, and also to make us in love with the present, to bring our minds to an acquiescence in the condition that God places us in. This latter is the chief thing in contentment, and, indeed, comprehends the other; for if we contentedly enjoy the present, we shall not enlarge our desires to things that are absent. This is enjoined us by the apostle in Hebrews 13:5, "Be content with such things as ye have," or, "with the present things," for so it should be translated. Secondly, the excellency and benefit of contentment are to be treated of. First, this must needs be a very excellent grace, because it argues a brave and generous spirit. Secondly, it is attended with pleasure as well as honour. Thirdly, it is also profitable (1 Timothy 6:6). A contented mind is impregnable. We are rich with a treasure that none but ourselves can rob us of. Fourthly and lastly, to sum up all in a word, contentment makes us happy. Now, he that hath arrived to the art of contentment must needs be happy, because his will and the things he converses with exactly suit with one another. The third thing is to show what are the proper means of attaining this excellent grace of contentedness. Here I will propound these following directions: — First, in order to contentment it is necessary that we understand aright the true nature and disposition of the things of this world, that we form right conceptions concerning them. In the first place, we must know that they are in their own nature indifferent. They are not really good, and so not the proper objects of our desires. Consider this, and be content. Secondly, let us consider how little will suffice us, and how unnecessary the abundance of the things of this world is. Thirdly, another effectual way to procure contentment is to make a balance, and indifferently to poise both your crosses and your blessings. If you will take the pains to lay the latter in one scale, as well as the former in another, you will make them even, though one seemed to you to be weightier than the other. Have you never heard that the wind and tempest which battered the vessel and tore its sails drove it at last to the desired haven? Valerius Maximus tells us of one in a Tyrian ship who was struck into the sea by a wave on one side, and presently another wave on the other side of the ship hoisted him up into it. So with respect to those things which we are now speaking of, there is an abundant requital. Whenever there is any loss or adverse event there is constantly some compensation goes along with it — at least, if we rightly and skilfully improve the adverse accident, for thereby we may turn blanks into prizes. There is never anything taken from us but we may find there is some supply made for it, or else there is something yet left behind that may make us forget our loss. Wherefore under this head let me advise you, instead of reckoning up what you have not, to consider what you have; and this will lead you to contentment. You can never sufficiently thank God for letting you enjoy the use of your hands, your feet, your eyes, your tongue, for these are much greater things than any you can name that you are destitute of. Consider that you have your liberty, which is an unspeakable blessing; that you are provided for daily with a sufficient portion of meat and drink; that you have not only necessary food, but raiment; that you have a habitation to shelter you from the injury of the weather. Consider, likewise, that if we labour under some particular grievance, yet God generally continues to us some blessing which makes amends for it. Set, then, your health against your poverty, and know that some wealthy persons would purchase the former, though they had the latter into the bargain. Or perhaps you are afflicted with an unhealthful state of body, with pain and torture, But then you may be supported under this grievance by reflecting on those considerable mercies which God hath not deprived you of, as a competent allowance of the other good things of this life — the help of physicians, many obliging friends and relations, a good name, etc. Fourthly, in order to contentedness, it is requisite that we be not solicitous about the future. Our present ease depends much on our behaviour as to the future. Therefore here we are to regulate ourselves, and to take care that we be not inquisitive and anxious about the events that are to come. "Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire," saith Solomon (Ecclesiastes 6:9). It is better to enjoy the good things that are present and before our eyes than to follow after future and uncertain objects with vain inquiries and wishes, for "this walking of the soul," as the Hebrew in this text elegantly hath it, this ranging of our minds, will certainly create us trouble and dissatisfaction. Wherefore let us confine ourselves to the present, and thankfully enjoy that, and not trouble our thoughts with what shall befall us hereafter. Fifthly, to cherish and preserve in him this excellent frame of spirit, he strives to learn the art and skill of making the best of all that happens to him. Sixthly, be not dejected and discouraged by what the men of the world, who have their portion in this life, are wont to suggest to you. Lastly, be thoroughly convinced of the Divine Providence which rules the world and takes care of us, and firmly depend and rely upon this, and then it is impossible you should be discontented. Seeing Infinite Wisdom governs the world and manages all things to the best ends and purposes, we may fully persuade ourselves that all things shall work together for our good.

( J. Edwards, D. D..)

Observe, first, that this is a unique commandment. Search all the laws of all the world, and you will not find one which resembles it. Human laws can only prohibit crimes of which human eyes can take cognisance; the hearts of men are beyond their reach. The tyrant can only command the outward obedience, of his slave, but he cannot subdue the fierce rebellion which rages in that slave's heart. He makes no attempt to order what he is impotent to enforce. The unique command which prohibits not only commissions but concupiscence can be uttered by God alone. And herein the ten commands on Sinai anticipated the eight beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. The law says, "Thou shalt not desire"; the Gospel says, "Blessed are the pure in heart." It is a commandment preeminently spiritual; it cuts at the root of all formalism and all hypocrisy; it shows that each man is not what he seems to be to men, but what he is in the eyes of God. The lesson which the Tenth Commandment teaches us is that God must be obeyed, not with eye service as men pleasers, but with singleness of heart. Even the heathen say that the God with whom we have to do is one with whom nothing avails except heart obedience. "Wickedness and injustice," says Aristotle, "lie in the intention." "He," says Juvenal, "who thinks in silent wickedness within himself incurs the guilt of the deed." And this command is tender as well as unique, for it is designed to save us from error; it is meant, not to terrify us, but to train; it reveals to us, as with a flash out of God's eternity, when and how the work of our life has to be done; it shows us that there is" no sound cure for any disease, without the removal of the cause. The literal meaning of the commandment is, Thou shalt not excessively or wrongfully, thou shalt not unlawfully or irregularly, desire anything which thou canst not innocently and uprightly "possess." Perhaps you think, What harm can a mere desire do when I have not even expressed it? "What wrong can there be in such an airy nothing, such an impalpable thought?" The answer is two-fold. First, that airy nothing, that impalpable thought, as you call it, is a very real thing. It is seen in heaven, it is heard in heaven, in heaven it needs forgiveness, and consequently that thought will, if dwelt upon, be certainly the prolific mother of all sins. It is the cockatrice's egg which brings forth the vapour of the fiery flying serpent. Guilty longings are the avant-couriers of the performance of guilty lusts concealed in the guise of a harmless infant, the guilty curiosity, the guilty lingering on the confines of temptation. The guilty wish pushes open the wicket gate, and then, when it has done so it springs into the menacing stature of a giant demon. The sole way to keep ourselves from the infinite possibility of sin is only to follow the exhortation of St. James: "Cleanse your hearts, ye sinners; purify your hearts, ye double-minded." It is with the latter form of concupiscence, with the covetousness which is idolatry, that the extension of the commandment chiefly deals. It warns us against the greed of accumulation and the thirst for gold. This commandment says to our England of today, "Which wilt thou be, the freeman of Christ or the bond slave of Mammon? Which wilt thou be, an example to the world or its corrupter? Rich thou art beyond all nations, and art ever becoming more and more rich. But wealth means weal, means well-being; it does not mean riches and woe to thy weal." But this commandment teaches us something more than contentment, lovely, indeed, and full of happiness as a virtue. Utter content is but the passive form of the most fruitful of all virtues — it is self-sacrifice. But he who has ceased to desire will rejoice also to abstain; he who desires to cease that selfish greediness for what does not belong to him, or what he ought largely to share with others, will be eager to give with wise generosity — he will find that herein is happiness. St. Edmund of Canterbury, one of our sweet English saints, used to leave his money on the sill of the window of his staircase for anyone to take who would, and sometimes he would sprinkle dust over it, saying, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." Another great man said, "We have no time to get rich; the expulsive power of good affections leaves no time for meaner passions." The lives of such saints poured silent contempt on gold, and how great is their reward! They are uplifted above the base temptations which surround the toiling, moiling multitude. Self-abnegation, the subdual of concupiscence, means that the soul is satisfied with God. Dissatisfaction is the necessary curse of worldly life. "Vanity of vanity," says one of the best-known novels of the century, "which of us has what he desires, and having it is satisfied? Answer me, children of the world, votaries of self-indulgence, slaves of gold; answer me, and confess your misery." Covetousness means a curse, but he who gives all to Christ gains all from Christ; he who will lose his life for Christ's sake shall always find it. Can you imagine a more struggling and apparently miserable lot than that of some poor harmless missionary in the depths of Africa? Not long ago a dying missionary wrote home from the wilds of Africa: "Tell my family and all my friends that I rejoice to have left all for Christ. Were my sacrifice to make again, I think, as I lie here dying in a strange land, I would make it again a thousand times. I would not change my lot for all the happiness of the world." "This German beast, says Leo X, "cares nothing for gold," — a strange phenomenon when all the priests and all the world cared so much for gold; but because Luther did not care for gold, and lived and died a very poor man, it raised the hearts of myriads of men to seek their treasure where he had done — in things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.

(Dean Farrar.)

For settling the true sense of these words it will be needful to remark — First, that in the nine former commandments there has been direction given for every inward and outward act of duty owing to God or man, and all the sinful conduct contrary thereto has been prohibited and condemned. Secondly, that the design of the whole law being evidently to make sin fully known, that design would not be answered by it if there had not been a particular commandment in it which should condemn those sinful desires of our nature which are the principles of all sinful acts whatever. In the seventh chapter to the Romans St. Paul does most plainly interpret this Tenth Commandment as condemning the natural desires of our depraved hearts. And lest it should be wondered that no other desires are here mentioned than those which refer to the second table, the reason is that all the sinful desires of our nature are only after the things prohibited in the second table. The sin of our nature against the first table is to have no desire after God; and therefore, there being in our nature no desire after God, that desire only that is in our nature can be condemned, namely, desire after earthly and sensual things, both which are expressly mentioned in this commandment, coveting our neighbour's house being an earthly desire, and coveting his wife a sensual one. But yet, that all desires after the things and enjoyments of this present time might not seem to be disallowed and sinful, the commandment also gives us to understand how we shall make a distinction between those desires after present things which spring from our corrupted nature and are in themselves sinful and such as are innocent and, indeed, in our present circumstances, necessary. Thou shalt not desire anything that is thy neighbour's, for to desire what is another's for thy convenience or gratification issues directly from the carnality and worldliness of thy nature, and plainly proves an inclination for present things which is neither consistent with love to God nor man. Nay, and many times the really sinful desire will be clothing itself under the guise of necessity, and pretend necessity where there is really none. Can we suppose King Ahab was in real want of a garden of herbs? Is it not more probable that some scheme of indulgence or pomp made him conceive he wanted Naboth's vineyard, and that, for any matter of necessity in the thing, he could as well have done without it? Should I attempt to enumerate all those various lustings and desires that pass through our hearts without being permitted to make a settlement there, and yet are forbidden by this commandment, the undertaking would be endless Yet it will be needful to give some sort of account of them. First, thou shalt not covet or have any sinful desires in thy heart after thy neighbour's dignity. And here all those sudden risings of heart against the authority of God in the persons of those he has set over us come in and are condemned. Secondly, thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour's life; thou must not have a motion to his hurt in soul or body within thy heart. All envious, revengeful, unmerciful suggestions against him are contrary to charity, and rise out of a depraved nature. Thirdly, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife. All manner of sensuality being also condemned by the Seventh Commandment, all motions towards it fall under the censure of the tenth. Fourthly, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods. What I now speak of is not the sin of covetousness, nor that devising of theft before it is committed, but that which is at the bottom of both — the sinful stirrings of corrupt nature after the interests of the world, in which our foolish hearts do naturally trust. You have not wished to have your neighbour's goods by fraud or force, I allow; but have you never wished any of them yours from the instigation of a world-trusting heart? Fifthly, thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour's good name. The meaning of this is, thou mayest never have in thy heart one suggestion of envy because thy neighbour is better than thou, of hatred because his virtues reprove thy vices, of displeasure because he will follow his conscience sooner than thy will, of delight — no, not in the least degree — in hearing of or beholding his sins. This is desiring hurt to thy neighbour's name. Yea, though thou dost not approve any of these suggestions, but art really displeased with them and wouldest never more know them, yet they are thy sins. What has been said may suffice to show the design of this last commandment, and therein the sad sinfulness of our nature.

(S. Walker, B. A.)

The first thing which this commandment teaches us is that all desire is wrong when we set our hearts upon a thing which we cannot fairly and justly obtain. Ahab and Jezebel broke it when they took Naboth's vineyard. Is it ever right to desire? And what makes a desire right or wrong? Here we are all full of wishes and desires. Desire is one of the great motive forces of the world. If we had no desires we should have no progress. It is a sense of want that makes us exert ourselves, and very often bring to pass a great many results which we never set before ourselves as ends. What, then, is to be our criterion? Desire is not a wrong thing in itself. Desire of learning is not wrong; desire of success, say, in an examination, or in our future career in life, is surely not wrong? Roughly, very roughly, speaking, success is the guarantee from outside that we were right in pursuing such and such a course, in using our talents in such and such a way; while failure, speaking again very roughly, seems to mean that we have wasted our time, or mistaken our vocation. It is not always so, of course. Desire is not, it may be repeated, a wrong thing in itself. When is it wrong?

1. When we desire things that are unworthy of us, as when Nero wished to be applauded as a stage performer, or when a great man, like Browning's "Lost Leader," is led aside from his path by the offer of some petty title or distinction; and, alas! if we look into our own hearts, we shall often find, almost with a sudden shock of shame and dismay, how miserably petty are some of the objects around which our imagination is building its castles in the air.

2. Again, desire is wrong when it throws us off our balance, and makes us take a one-sided view of life.

3. Desire is clearly blamable when we allow it to absorb us and make us forgetful of the needs of others.

4. Again, desire is wrong when indulged in such a way that the failure of what we desire makes us discontented.

5. Again, if our ambition, our love, our de, ire, makes us forgetful of God, is it not worse still? There is, however, one other thing I should like to say. Primarily, and roughly speaking, God does fulfil, or shows us how to accomplish, our wishes. There is a decided a priori probability that we shall get what we want. As an exquisite fragment of Greek poetry tells us, Hesperus (the evening star) brings everything home: the sheep to the fold, and the child to the mother. So we may say of the evening of life, in very many cases, it has brought to the man or the woman the objects of lifelong desire. "All things," as we say, "come round to him who waits." But it is also possible to have a wrong desire fulfilled, and to mourn its fulfilment as our bitterest misfortune. "Occidat dum imperet (Let him kill me if he only reign!)," said Agrippina of Nero, and her aspiration was terribly realised. The thirty pieces of silver were the "desire" of Judas Iscariot! How often do we see this still! The moment we try to force God's will we desire wrongly, and are sure to repent of it.

(Elizabeth Wordsworth.)

The last of the Ten Commandments is the most important; it relates to the heart, out of which are the "issues of life." It is a law that cannot be broken by any word that man may speak, by any act that he may perform. It is descriptive of character, and supposes a moral state out of which flow all motives, desires, thoughts, words, and deeds. All the other commandments are violated by an act or a word; but the tenth is supremely mental in its scope and purpose. In this last of the Divine ten precepts is the law of desire. To covet is to desire the "forbidden fruit." It is not external, but internal; it relates to what a man thinks and feels. A desire is a conception, a wish, an inclination, an aspiration, which may or may not lead on to action. The penalty is not stated. Will it not be exclusion from God? The great thought is desire within the limitations of law. There is a pleasurable, beneficent, lawful exercise of desire. There is a covetousness that is right and commendable. We are commanded to "covet earnestly the best gifts," and to "covet to prophesy" — that is, to teach the way of the Lord. Intense desire is indispensable to success. What were life without aspiration? Desire nerves the soul, stimulates the intellect, animates the mind. Men may aspire to all knowledge, to the largest wealth, to the highest honours, to the greatest achievements, to the widest influence, to boundless usefulness, to all attainable purity; but God must be supreme; principle the rule; charity the end. A man may desire a wife, but not another's; a horse, but not his neighbour's; a trusty servant, but not to the disadvantage of an employer; an ox, an ass, a field, but not to the injury of its owner. How execrable the man who lessens the esteem of a husband for the woman he has wedded and then ingratiates himself in the affections of that alienated wife that he may have her! The imagination is the domain wherein the law of purity operates, and therein should hold supreme sway. No other mental faculty is so potent in the formation of the character and in giving direction to the destiny of men and nations. The imagination rules the world for good and evil. The sacred writers couple the imagination with the heart, which is neither accidental nor incidental, but is done with intelligent intent. It is to remind us of the immense power of this masterful faculty over the great passions of our nature. To capture, control, purify, refine, elevate this dominating power of the soul is the mission of the law of purity: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." How beneficent is the imagination when subject to law; how malevolent its influence when unrestrained and lawless! Like the reason and the memory, the imagination is subject to discipline and the sovereign will of man. This law of purity demands a passive state and an active manifestation. Christianity is the religion of the imagination. Christ is the only religious Teacher known to man who demands of His people a moral condition antecedent to act of devotion. If God is not a respecter of persons He is of character, and that He has foreordained unto eternal life. Christ's demand for a moral condition antecedent to all mental and physical action is in harmony with the order of nature. There is a passive state of our muscular forces and intellectual powers upon which the active depends, and of which the active is the living expression. If the arm is strong to defend, there must be healthfulness in the muscles thereof. If the faculties of the mind respond to the will, there must be latent vigour in the intellect. Man's moral nature is both passive and active, and experience is in proof that as is the passive so is the active. If the affections respond only to objects of purity, if the conscience only to the voice of right, if the will only to the call of duty, there must be inherent purity and strength in all our moral powers when quiescent. Christ is the Saviour and Sovereign of the heart wherein He incarnates purity. He must be at the fountainhead of life, that the issues thereof may be Divine. And it is a matter of experience that with purity there comes an intellectual elevation, a sharpening and quickening of all the mental powers, whereby the "perfect man in Christ" discerns more readily between right and wrong; and the heavenly calm that reigns in all his being, and the "perfect peace" wherein he is ever kept, conduce to tranquillity of intellect, correctness of taste, candour of intention, carefulness of judgment, and impartiality, of decision. The imagination acts directly on the moral character, and by its abuse the will is weakened, the mental energy is dissipated, and the whole life is polluted. Purity and happiness are inseparable. In nothing more is the beneficence of the Creator apparent than in His ordination that happiness here and hereafter shall flow out of the character of a man. The blessings of human life, such as honourable birth, liberal education, ample fortune, high social position, renown among men, abundance of health, and length of days, may contribute to the repose of soul and add to the joy of life; but these can never be the radical source of happiness. The whole history of the world is a proof that happiness never flows into a man, but rather flows out of him. And what is true of earth will be true of heaven. Such was the conception of the Psalmist, who sings, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness."

(J. P. Newman, D. D.)

This commandment is in brief, "Thou shalt not covet"; or, to put it positively, Give Me thine heart. Give it not to the world and all its store. Thus beginning and end of the Ten Words are united — the circle completed. "He who keeps the first commandment," said one of the fathers, "possesses the spring of all good works and righteousness, i.e. the love of God; and he who keeps the last commandment checks the fountain of all sin, namely, evil desire, whence flow all wicked works" (1 John 2:15). What does this command require of us?

I. THAT WE SHOULD NOT WELD TO EVIL DESIRES. This is the easiest requirement.

1. The story of Ahab and Naboth's vineyard is a terrible example of the result of yielding to covetousness. Yet how many Ahabs are there who lust after their neighbour's house, etc., and who, when the neighbour has come down in the world and a friendly hand might raise him, do not stretch out that hand, but eagerly seize hold of the coveted possession!

2. How many are there also who, out of envy and covetousness, will disturb the peace of a household — raising discord between man and wife, between servant and master! Not more than one in ten can be found, perhaps, who would, on the contrary, seek to reconcile, in love and faithfulness, husband and wife, and how many will seek to draw a good and faithful servant even from a friend's service, with promise of higher wages, etc.! How many will either possess themselves of what is another's; or, if that cannot be, with the wickedest meanness seek to destroy or spoil the possession!

3. In this commandment God puts a check on the sin and evil desires which haunt men's hearts like savage creatures, ready to break forth in shameful deeds. He knows that wicked desires manifest themselves universally: envy, which covets a neighbour's goods; hate, which seeks a neighbour's undoing; fleshly lusts, which flame out in debauchery, pride, vanity, etc. But the apology of men, "Sin was stronger than I," will not stand; but "Let not sin reign" (Romans 6:12).


1. Men can weaken and repress such desires, but they can also excite, foster, and indulge them. The poor boy who fled from the shelter which had been accorded to him through the frost and snow of a winter's night, until the desire to steal which the ticking of a watch aroused in him had vanished, thus bravely conquered evil desire.

2. Many who have not seized a neighbour's possession have yet coveted it, and have not put restraint on this desire. Some would not injure a neighbour, but are yet rejoiced when misfortune falls on him. The envious man may never attempt to ruin another's happiness; yet if the evil thoughts were clearly brought to the light of day, how would he himself shrink from them!

3. Even when such evil desires do not blossom into deed, yet they are reckoned even as deeds in the pure light of heaven. Adultery and uncleanness, murder and revenge, envy and anger, are classed as "works of the flesh."

4. We may not prevent evil thoughts coming into our minds, but we may take care that they gain no footing within us. "You can't prevent the birds flying about your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair, said Luther. Through labour, prayer, remembrance of God and our Saviour we can give evil thoughts no place in our hearts.

III. THAT WE SHOULD HAVE NO EVIL THOUGHTS IN OUR HEARTS. This is the most difficult endeavour.

1. "Thou shalt be holy, for I am holy." "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." It is not enough that we should repress, etc., these evil desires; we must seek to banish them entirely. Not only must the weed be repressed; it must be uprooted. Can we do this? Let us hear the apostle (Romans 7:18-35).

2. But here our power has an end. Like the young man who came to the Saviour, we may keep outwardly, in appearance, all the commandments; yet this command is put here to show us that yet we have not attained — that our hearts are not yet fully temples of God; that though our lives might seem perfect to men, yet God calls us by nature lost and ruined. Thus before God stand those who say, To do good is the best religion. Truly, in doing good, religion manifests itself; but to attempt by our own little display of common honesty, etc., to make ourselves rich before God, and to despise the Christian faith, is vain. To say that this good-doing is the best religion is to lie.

3. God looks on the heart. He measures the actions by the heart. He looks not merely on the stamp which the coin bears, but at the metal from which it is formed above all. Woe to us were there no other way to life than perfectly keeping the commandments! But thank God, we have our Christian faith. The blessing we gain from an earnest consideration of this commandment is that it brings home the fact that salvation is not by the law alone, and makes us eager to learn the good news which is called the Gospel, and which tells us that "the just shall live by his faith."

(K. H. Caspari.)

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