THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
FORTY-FOURTH LORD’S DAY.
Question 113. What doth the tenth commandment require of us?
Answer. That even the smallest inclination, or thought, contrary to any of God t commands, never rise in our hearts; but that at all times we hate sin with our whole hearts, and delight in all righteousness.
That this commandment, which has respect to lust, or concupiscence, is one, and not two, is evident
1. From the fact that Moses repeats it in a different order in Ex. 20 1 17, and Deut. 5:21, as we have already shown.
2. From the fact that Moses comprehends it in one verse in both of the places to which we have just referred.
3. From the interpretation of Paul, who comprises in one commandment! all that Moses says in relation to this subject, when he says, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Rom. 7:7.)
4. From the fact that the Papists and others are accustomed, in their expositions of this part of the Decalogue, to join together the coveting of our neighbor s house and wife; because they, without doubt, perceived that the coveting of our neighbor s wife, house, and all other things which be long to our neighbor, are here forbidden, for one and the same reason. It follows, therefore, either that there is but one precept touching concupiscence, or that there must be as many commandments enumerated, as there are things belonging to our neighbor which we are forbidden to covet.
5. From the authority of the best ancient writers, both among the Jews and Christians, to whom we have referred in our remarks upon the division of the Decalogue.
The design and end of this commandment is the internal obedience and regulation of all our affections towards God, and our neighbor and his goods, which must also be included in all the other commandments. Should some one object and say, Therefore this commandment is superfluous, Inasmuch as it requires nothing new, or which has not been expressed in the foregoing precepts; we reply, that it is not superfluous, seeing that it is added to the other commandments, as a general rule and interpretation, according to which the internal obedience of all the other commandments must be understood, because this is spoken of the whole Decalogue generally. This commandment, therefore, enjoins original righteousness towards God and our neighbor, which consists in a true knowledge of God in the mind, with an inclination in the will to obey the will of God as known. It also forbids concupiscence, which is an inordinate desire or corrupt inclination, coveting those things which God has forbidden. It properly, however, commands original righteousness towards our neighbor, which is a desire and inclination to perform towards our neighbor all the duties which are required from us, and to preserve and defend his safety. There are two extremes of this original righteousness here forbidden: 1. Original sin towards our neighbor, which is called concupiscence, which consists in desiring and wishing those things, which would be an injury to our neighbor; 2. An inordinate love of our neighbor, which leads to the neglect of God for his sake. There are some who hold that concupiscence and original sin are one and the same thing; but they differ in the same way in which an effect differs from a cause, or as a part of a thing differs from the whole. Concupiscence is a propensity to those things which are prohibited by the divine law. Original sin is the state of condemnation in which the whole human race has become involved by the fall, and a want of the knowledge and will of God.
We must here observe, that not only are corrupt and disordered inclinations sins, but that thinking of evil, in as far as it is connected with an inclination and propensity to pursue it, or with a desire to practice it, is sin. Concupiscence, although it is without doubt born in us, is both an evil and sin; for we are not to judge according to nature, but according to the law whether a thing be sin or not. Whatever is opposed to the law is sin, whether it be born in us, or not.
The Pelagians denied that concupiscence is sin. The law, on the contrary, declares, Thou shalt not covet. And Paul says, u I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Rom. 7:7.) The Pelagians were condemned in many councils, which were called together on account of the errors of Pelagius and Celestius, about the year of our Lord 420, and subsequently.
Obj. 1. Natural things are not sins. Concupiscence is natural. Therefore it is no sin. Ans. There is here a fallacy of the accident in the minor proposition; for inordinate concupiscence was not before the fall, but became joined to our nature after the fall. It is therefore not natural in itself, but is by an accident, inasmuch as it is now, since the fall, born with us; or it is natural in this sense, that it is an evil accident connecting itself inseparably with a nature good in itself. Or we may reply to the objection thus: there are four terms in this syllogism arising from the ambiguity of the word natural. In the major it signifies a thing created good by God naturally; viz., a natural desire of man before the fall, which was not contrary to the will of God. But in the minor it signifies a thing which does not properly belong to us by creation, but which we have brought upon ourselves by the fall.
To this it is objected: a natural desire or inclination which works those things which contribute to the preservation of man, and avoids those which are injurious, is not sinful, even though it belongs to a corrupt nature, because it is created by God, and is a desire good in itself. Such, now, is concupiscence. Therefore, it is no sin. Ans. We reply to the major proposition, that appetites and desires are good in themselves, in as tar as they are mere desires. It is different, however, with those desires which are inordinate, and which are directed upon objects prohibited by God, as is the case with all the appetites and desires of our corrupt nature; be cause, they are either not directed upon such objects as they ought, or not in the manner and with the design with which they should be, so that they are all corrupt and sinful. “An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. 7:18.) To desire the fruit of a tree was natural; but to desire it contrary to the express command of God, as Eve did, was in its own nature wicked and sinful.
Obj. 2. That which it is impossible for us to produce in ourselves, or to prevent, is no sin. Concupiscence, now, is in us in such a way that we can neither throw it off, nor produce it in ourselves. Therefore, it is no sin. Ans. The major proposition is false: for sin is not to be estimated by any liberty or necessity of our nature, but by the law and will of God. Whatever is in opposition to the law is sin, whether men have power to avoid it or not. Nor does God do any injustice to us by requiring from us that which we cannot perform; because he demanded these things of us when they were possible, and gave us the power to perform them. And although we have now lost this power, yet God has not lost his right to demand what he committed to our trust. For further remarks upon this subject, we would refer the reader to what has been said in the exposition of the ninth Question of the Catechism, page 66.
Obj. 3. Sin renders man obnoxious to the eternal wrath of God. Concupiscence does not expose those who are regenerated to the wrath of God: for there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1.) Therefore, concupiscence is no sin, at least not in the regenerate. Ans. There is a fallacy of accident in the minor proposition; for that concupiscence does not condemn the regenerate, comes to pass by an accident, which is the grace of God, which does not impute it to the faithful. This, however, does not occur in this way, as though concupiscence were no sin; for other sins in like manner do not condemn the regenerate, not because they are no sins, but because they have obtained the pardon of them through Christ.
Obj. 4. Original sin is removed in baptism. Therefore, concupiscence is no sin in those who are baptized. We reply to the antecedent, that original sin is not simply and wholly removed in baptism; but merely as it respects its guilt. Corruption and an inclination to sin remain still in those who are baptized. This is what the Schoolmen mean, when they say, the formal part of sin is removed, but the material remains. Should any one reply, that where the formal part of sin is removed, there the thing itself is removed, inasmuch as the form gives being to the thing; so that original sin itself must be removed in baptism; we answer, that there is here an error in understanding that to be spoken generally, which is true only in a certain respect. The formal part of sin is removed, not simply, but in respect to the guilt of sin; for the formal part of sin is two-fold, and includes, 1. Opposition to the law, and an inclination to sin. 2. Guilt, or desert of punishment. The guilt of sin is removed, but the inclination remains. “I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind.” (Rom. 7:23).
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