\Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her.
~ Leviticus 18:20
And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
~ 2 Samuel 11:27
They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
~ Jeremiah 5:8-9
And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire; Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.
~ Jeremiah 29:22-23
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
~ Malachi 3:5
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
~ Matthew 5:27-28
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
~ Romans 7:2-3
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
~ Hebrews 13:4
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
~ Revelation 21:8
The Seventh Commandment, by Thomas Watson.
“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14
II. The thing forbidden in the commandment is infecting ourselves with bodily pollution and impurity. “You shall not commit adultery.” The fountain of this sin is lust. Since the fall, holy love has degenerated to lust. Lust is the fever of the soul. There is a twofold adultery.
(1) Mental. “Whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matt 5:28. As a man may die of an inward bleeding, so he may be damned for the inward boilings of lust, if it is not mortified.
(2) Physical; as when sin has conceived, and brought forth in the act. This is expressly forbidden, “You shall not commit adultery.” This commandment is set up as a hedge to keep out impurity; and those who break this hedge a serpent shall bite them. Job calls adultery a “heinous crime.” Job 31:2: Every failing is not a crime; and every crime is not a heinous crime; but adultery is “a heinous crime.” The Lord calls it villainy. “They have committed villainy in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives.” Jer 29:23.
Wherein appears the greatness of this sin?
(1) It is a breach of the marriage-oath. When people come together in matrimony, they bind themselves by covenant to each other, in the presence of God, to be true and faithful in the marital relation. Unchastity breaks this solemn oath; and herein adultery is worse than fornication, because it is a breach of the marital bond.
(2) The greatness of the sin lies in this: that it is a great dishonor done to God. God says, “You shall not commit adultery.” The adulterer sets his will above God’s law, tramples upon his command, affronts him to his face; as if a subject should tear his prince’s proclamation. The adulterer is highly injurious to all the persons in the Trinity. To God the Father. Sinner, God has given you your life, and you do waste the lamp of life, the flower of your age in lewdness. He has bestowed on you many mercies, health, and estate, and you spend all on harlots. Did God give you wages–to serve the devil! It is injurious to God the Son, in two ways. As he has purchased you with his blood. “You are bought with a price.” 1 Cor 6:20. Now he who is bought is not his own; it is a sin for him to go to another, without consent, from Christ, who has bought him with a price. As by virtue of baptism you are a Christian, and professes that Christ is your head, and you are a member of Christ; therefore, what an injury is it to Christ, to “take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot”? 1 Cor 6:15. It is injurious to God the Holy Spirit; for the body is his temple. “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?” 1 Cor 6:19. And how great a sin is it to defile his temple!
(3) The sin of adultery lies in this: that it is committed with mature DELIBERATION. There is contriving the sin in the mind, then consent in the will, and then the sin is put forth into act. To sin against the light of nature, and to sin deliberately, is like the dye to the wool, it gives sin a tincture, and dyes it of a crimson color.
(4) That which makes adultery so sinful is, that it is NEEDLESS. God has provided a remedy to prevent it. “To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife.” 1 Cor 7:2. Therefore, after this remedy prescribed, to be guilty of fornication or adultery, is inexcusable; it is like a rich thief, who steals when he has no need. This increases the sin.
Use one. The church of Rome is here condemned, which allows the sin of fortification and adultery. It does not allow its priests to marry—but they may have their paramours. The worst kind of impurity, incest with the nearest of kin, is dispensed with for money. It was once said of Rome, Rome was become a common stew. And no wonder, when the Pope, for a sum of money, could give a license to commit impurity; and, if the license were not enough, he would give them a pardon. Many of the Papists judge fornication to be venial. God condemns the very lusting. Matt 5:28. If God condemns the thought, how dare they allow the act of fornication? You see what a cage of unclean birds the church of Rome is. They call themselves the Holy Catholic Church; but how can they be holy–who are so steeped and parboiled in fornication, incest, sodomy, and all manner of impurity!
Use two. It is a matter for lamentation to see this commandment so slighted and violated among us. Adultery is the reigning sin of the times. “They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker.” Hos 7:4. The time of King Henry VIII was called the golden age—but this may be called the unclean age, wherein whore-hunting is common. “In your filthiness is lewdness.” Ezek 24:13. Luther tells us of one who said, “If he might but satisfy his lust, and be carried from one whore-house to another, he would desire no other heaven”; and who afterwards breathed out his soul between two notorious strumpets. This is to love forbidden fruit, to love to drink of stolen waters. “Son of man,” he said, “do you see what they are doing? Do you see the great sins the people of Israel are doing to drive me from my Temple? But come, and you will see even greater sins than these!” Then he brought me to the door of the Temple courtyard, where I could see an opening in the wall. He said to me, “Now, son of man, dig into the wall.” So I dug into the wall and uncovered a door to a hidden room. “Go in,” he said, “and see the unspeakable wickedness going on in there!” Ezekiel 8:6-9. Could we, as the prophet, dig in the walls of many houses, what vile abominations should we see there! In some chambers we might see fornication; dig further, and we may see adultery; dig further, and we may see incest, etc. And may not the Lord go from his sanctuary? God might remove his gospel, and then we might write Ichabod on this nation, “The glory is departed.” Let us mourn for what we cannot reform.
Use three. For exhortation, to keep ourselves from the sin of adultery. “Let every man have his own wife,” says Paul, not his concubine, nor his paramour. 1 Cor 7:2. That I may deter you from adultery, let me show you the great evil of it.
(1) It is a thievish sin. It is the highest sort of theft. The adulterer steals from his neighbor, that which is more than his goods and estate; he steals away his wife from him, who is flesh of his flesh.
(2) Adultery debases a person. It makes him resemble the beasts; therefore the adulterer is described like a horse neighing. “Everyone neighed after his neighbor’s wife.” Jer 5:8. Nay, it is worse than brutish; for some creatures that are void of reason—yet by the instinct of nature, observe some decorum and chastity. The turtle dove is a chaste creature, and keeps to its mate; and the stork, wherever he flies, comes into no nest but his own. Naturalists write that if a stork, leaving his own mate, joins with any other, all the rest of the storks fall upon it, and pull its feathers from it. Adultery is worse than brutish, it degrades a person of his honor.
(3) Adultery pollutes. The devil is called an unclean spirit. Luke 11:24. The adulterer is the devil’s first-born; he is unclean; he is a moving quagmire; he is all over ulcerated with sin; his eyes sparkle with lust; his mouth foams out filth; his heart burns like mount Etna, in unclean desires. He is so filthy, that if he dies in this sin, all the flames of hell will never purge away his immorality. And, as for the adulteress, who can paint her black enough? The Scripture calls her a deep ditch. Prov 23:27. She is a common sewer; whereas a believer’s body is a living temple, and his soul a little heaven, bespangled with the graces, as so many stars. The body of a harlot is a walking dung–hill, and her soul a lesser hell.
(4) Adultery is destructive to the body. “Afterward you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body.” Prov 5:11. Immorality turns the body into a hospital, it brings foul diseases, and eats the beauty of the face. As the flame wastes the candle, so the fire of lust consumes the bones. The adulterer hastens his own death. “So she seduced him with her pretty speech. With her flattery she enticed him. He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter or like a trapped stag, awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart. He was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing it would cost him his life!” Proverbs 7:21-23. The Romans had their funerals at the gate of Venus’ temple, to signify that lust brings death. Venus is lust.
(5.) Adultery is a drain upon the purse; it wastes not the body only—but the estate. “Keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life!” Proverbs 6:24-26. Whores are the devil’s horse-leeches, sponges that suck in money. The prodigal son spent his inheritance, when he fell among harlots. Luke 15:30. The concubine of King Edward III, when he was dying, got all she could from him, and even plucked the rings off his fingers, and so left him. He who lives in luxury, dies in beggary.
(6) Adultery destroys reputation. “But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul. Wounds and constant disgrace are his lot. His shame will never be erased!” Prov 6:32, 33. Some, when they get wounds, get honor. The soldier’s wounds are full of honor; the martyr’s wounds for Christ are full of honor; but the adulterer gets wounds—but no honor to his name. “His shame will never be erased!” Wounds of reputation–no physician can heal. When the adulterer dies, his shame lives. When his body rots underground, his name rots above ground. His bastard children are living monuments of his shame.
(7) This sin impairs the mind. It steals away the understanding; it stupefies the heart. “Whoredom and wine take away the heart.” Hos 4:11. It eats all purity out of the heart. Solomon besotted himself with women, and they enticed him to idolatry.
(8) This sin incurs temporal judgments. The Mosaic law made the penalty for adultery, to be death. “The adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death;” and the usual death was stoning. Lev 20:10; Deut 22:24. The Salons commanded people guilty of this sin to be burnt. The Romans caused their heads to be stricken off. Like a scorpion–this sin carries a sting in its tail. The adultery of Paris and Helen was the death of both, and the ruin of Troy. “For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge!” Prov 6:34. The adulterer is often killed in the act of his sin. Adultery cost Otho the emperor, and Pope Sixtus IV their lives. “Lust’s practice is to make a joyful entrance—but she leaves in misery.” I have read of two in London, who, having defiled themselves with adultery, were immediately struck dead with lightening from heaven. If all who are now guilty of this sin were to be punished in this manner, it would rain fire again, as on Sodom!
(9) Adultery, without repentance, damns the soul. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexual offenders . . . will inherit the kingdom of God!” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The fire of lust brings to the fire of hell. “God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral!” Heb 13:4. Though men may neglect to judge them—yet God will judge them!
But will not God judge all other sinners? Yes. Why then does the apostle say, “God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral”? The meaning is, he will judge them assuredly; they shall not escape the hand of justice; and he will punish them severely. “The Lord knows how to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished—but chiefly those who walk in the lust of immorality.” 2 Pet 2:9, 10. The harlot’s breasts keeps from Abraham’s bosom! “The delight lasts a moment, the torment an eternity!” Who for a cup of pleasure–would drink a sea of wrath! “Her guests are in the depths of hell.” Prov 9:18. A wise traveler, though many pleasant dishes are set before him at the inn, forbears to eat all of them–because of the reckoning. We are all travelers to Jerusalem above; and when many baits of temptation are set before us, we should refrain, and think of the reckoning which will be brought in at death. With what pleasure could Dionysius eat his dainties, when he saw there was a glittering sword hung over his head as he sat at table? While the adulterer feeds on strange flesh, the sword of God’s justice hangs over his head. Causinus speaks of a tree growing in Spain, that is of a sweet smell, and pleasant to the taste—but its juice is poisonous. This is an emblem of a harlot; who is perfumed with powders, and lovely to look on—but poisonous and damnable to the soul! “She has cast down many wounded, yes, many strong men have been slain by her.” Prov 7:26.
(10) The adulterer does what lies in him, to destroy the soul of another–and so kills two at once! He is worse than the thief; for, suppose a thief robs a man, yes, and also takes away his life– the man’s soul may be happy; he may go to heaven as well as if he had died in his bed. But he who commits adultery, endangers the soul of another, and does all he can, to deprive her of salvation. Now, what a fearful thing is it to be an instrument to draw another to hell!
(11) The adulterer is abhorred of God. “The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; he who is abhorred by the Lord, will fall into it.” Prov 22:14. What can be worse than to be abhorred of God? God may be angry with his own children; but for God to abhor a man–is the highest degree of hatred!
How does the Lord show his abhorrence of the adulterer? In giving him up to a reprobate mind, and a seared conscience. Rom 1:28. He is then in such a condition that he cannot repent. He is abhorred of God. The immoral person stands upon the threshold of hell; and when death gives him a push, he tumbles in!
(12) Adultery sows discord. It destroys peace and love–the two best flowers that grow in a family. It sets husband against wife, and wife against husband; and so causes the “joints of the same body to smite one against another.” This division in a family works confusion; for “A house divided against a house falls.” Luke 11:17. All this should sound a warning in our ears, and call us off from the pursuit of so damnable a sin as immorality. Hear what the Scriptures say: “Her house is the way to hell.” Prov 7:27.
Use four. I shall give some directions, by way of antidote, to keep from the infection of this sin.
(1) Do not come into the company of a whorish woman; avoid her house, as a seaman does a rock. “Run from her! Don’t go near the door of her house!” Proverbs 5:8. He who would not have the plague, must not come near infected houses; every whore-house has the plague in it. Not to avoid the occasion of sin, and yet pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” is, as if one should put his finger into the candle, and yet pray that it may not be burnt!
(2) Look to your eyes. Much sin comes in by the eye. “Having eyes full of adultery.” 2 Pet 2:14. The eye tempts the imagination, and the imagination works upon the heart. A lustful amorous eye, may usher in sin. Eve first saw the tree of knowledge–and then she took. Gen 3:6. First she looked–and then she loved. The eye often sets the heart on fire; therefore Job laid a law upon his eyes. “I made a covenant with my eyes–not to look with lust upon a young woman.” Job 31:1. Democritus the philosopher plucked out his eyes, because he would not be tempted with vain objects; the Scripture does not bid us do this—but to set a watch before our eyes.
(3) Look to your lips. Take heed of any unclean word which may enkindle unclean thoughts in yourselves or others. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” 1 Cor 15:33. Impure discourse, is the bellows to blow up the fire of lust. Much evil is conveyed to the heart by the tongue. “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth!” Psalm 141:3.
(4) Look in a special manner to your heart. “Guard your heart with all diligence.” Proverbs 4:23. Every person has a tempter in his own bosom. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts.” Matt 15:19. Thinking of sin, makes way for the act of sin. Suppress the first risings of sin in your heart. As the serpent, when danger is near– guards his head, so keep your heart, which is the spring from whence all lustful motions proceed.
(5) Look to your attire. We read of the attire of a harlot. Proverbs 7:10. A wanton dress is a provocation to lust. Cuttings and braidings of the hair, a painted face, half-naked breasts, are allurements to immorality. Where the sign is hung out–people will go in and taste the liquor. Jerome says, “those who by their lascivious attire endeavor to draw others to lust, though no evil follows–are tempters–and shall be punished, because they offered the poison to others, even though they would not drink.”
(6) Take heed of evil company. Sin is a very contagious disease; one person tempts another to sin, and hardens him in it. There are three cords which draw men to immorality:
the inclination of the heart,
the persuasion of evil company, and
the embraces of the harlot.
This threefold cord is not easily broken. “A fire was kindled in their company.” Psalm 106:18. The fire of lust is kindled in bad company.
(7) Beware of going to theaters and plays. A play-house is often a preface to a whorehouse. “Plays furnish the seeds of wickedness.” We are bid to avoid all appearance of evil; and are not plays the appearance of evil? Such sights are there, which are not fit to be beheld with chaste eyes. A learned divine observes, that many have on their death-beds confessed, with tears, that the pollution of their bodies has been occasioned by going to plays.
(8) Take heed of mixed dancing. “Dances are instruments of lust and wantonness.” From dancing, people come to dalliance with another, and from dalliance to immorality. “There is,” says Calvin, “for the most part, some unchaste behavior in dancing.” Dances draw the heart to immorality–by wanton gestures, by unchaste touches, and by lustful looks. Chrysostom inveighed against mixed dancing in his time. “We read,” he says, “of a marriage feast—but of dancing there we read not.” Matt 25:7. Many have been ensnared by dancing; as the duke of Normandy, and others. “Dancing is not the conduct of a chaste woman—but of the adulteress,” Ambrose. Chrysostom says, “Where dancing is, there the devil is!” I speak chiefly of mixed dancing. We read of dances in Scripture—but they were sober and modest. Exod 15:20. They were not mixed dances— but pious and religious, being usually accompanied with singing praises to God.
(9) Take heed of lascivious books and pictures, which provoke to lust. As the reading of the Scripture stirs up love to God, so reading vile books stirs up the mind to wickedness. To lascivious books I may add lascivious pictures, which bewitch the eye, and are incendiaries to lust! They secretly convey poison to the heart.
(10) Take heed of excess in diet. When gluttony and drunkenness lead the van, immorality and wantonness bring up the rear. “Wine inflames lust.” “Sodom’s sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony.” Ezekiel 16:49. The foulest weeds grow out of the fattest soil. Immorality proceeds from excess. “When I had fed them to the full, everyone neighed after his neighbor’s wife.” Jer 5:8. Get the “golden bridle of temperance.” God allows the refreshment of nature, and what may fit us the better for his service; but beware of surfeit. Excess in temporal things–clouds the mind, chokes good affections, and provokes lust. “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control.” 1 Cor 9:27. The flesh pampered–is liable to immorality.
(11) Take heed of idleness. When a man is idle, he is ready to receive any temptation. The devil sows most of his seeds of temptation in fallow ground. Idleness is the cause of sodomy and immorality. “Sodom’s sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony.” Ezek 16:49. When David was idle on the top of his house, he espied Bathsheba, and committed adultery with her. 2 Sam 11:4. Jerome gave his friend counsel to be always well employed in God’s vineyard, that when the devil came, he might have no leisure to listen to temptation.
(12) To avoid fornication and adultery, let every man have a chaste, entire love to his own wife. Ezekiel’s wife was the desire of his eyes. Chap 24:16. When Solomon had dissuaded from immoral women, he prescribed a remedy against it. “Rejoice with the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18. It is not having a wife—but loving a wife– which makes a man live chastely. He who loves his wife, whom Solomon calls his fountain, will not go abroad to drink of muddy, poisoned waters. Pure marital love is a gift of God, and comes from heaven; but, like the vestal fire, it must be nourished, so that it does not go out. He who does not love his wife, is the likeliest person to embrace the bosom of a harlot.
(13) Labor to get the fear of God into your hearts. “By the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil.” Proverbs 16:6. As the embankment keeps out the water, so the fear of the Lord keeps out immorality. Such as lack the fear of God, lack the bridle which should check them from sin! How did Joseph keep from his mistress’ temptation? The fear of God pulled him back! “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God!” Gen. 39:9. Bernard calls holy fear, “the door-keeper of the soul.” As a nobleman’s porter stands at the door, and keeps out vagrants, so the fear of God stands and keeps out all sinful temptations from entering.
(14) Take delight in the Word of God. “How sweet are your words unto my taste.” Psalm 119:103. Chrysostom compares God’s Word to a garden. If we walk in this garden, and suck sweetness from the flowers of the promises, we shall never care to pluck the “forbidden fruit.” “Let the Scriptures be my pure pleasure,” says Augustine. The reason why people seek after unchaste, sinful pleasures–is because they have nothing better. Caesar riding through a city, and seeing the women play with dogs and parrots, said, “Surely, they have no children.” So those who sport with harlots have no better pleasures. He who has once tasted Christ in a promise, is ravished with delight; and he would scorn a temptation to sin! Job said, that the Word was his “appointed food.” Job 23:12. No wonder then, that he made a “covenant with his eyes.”
(15) If you would abstain from adultery, use serious consideration.