“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 5:28].
Here we have an exposition of the seventh commandment by the supreme Prophet of God, wherein He reveals the height, depth, and breadth of the spirituality of the Divine Law. That commandment not only forbids all acts of uncleanness, but also the DESIRE OF THEM.
The Pharisees made it extend no farther than to the outward and physical act, supposing that if the iniquity was restricted to the mind, God would be indifferent. Yet their own Scriptures declared, “If I regard iniquity in my HEART, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18), and Christ here made it known that if a man allows himself to gaze upon a woman till his appetites are excited and sexual thoughts are engendered, then the holy Law of God judges him to be guilty of adultery and subject to its curse; and if he indulges his licentious imagination so as to devise means for the gratification thereof, then is his guilt that much greater, even though providence thwart the execution of his plans.
Our Lord here declared that the seventh commandment is broken even by a secret though unexpressed desire. There is, then, such a thing as HEART ADULTERY– alas, that this is so rarely made conscience of today. Impure thoughts and wanton imaginations which never issue in the culminating act are breaches of the Divine Law.
All lusting after the forbidden object is condemned. Where the lascivious desire is rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel, it is the commission of the act so far as the heart is concerned, for there is then lacking nothing but a convenient opportunity for the crime itself. He who weighs the spirits judges the going out of the heart after that which is evil as sin, so they who cherish irregular desires are transgressors of the law of impurity.
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” ft is not an involuntary glance which constitutes the sin, but when evil thoughts are thereby prompted by our depraved natures. The first step and degree, then, of this crime is when lust stirs within us. The second stage and degree is when we deliberately APPROACH UNTO-a feeding of the eye with the sight of the forbidden fruit, where further satisfaction cannot be obtained. Then if this lust be not sternly mortified, the heart swiftly becomes enthralled and the soul is brought into complete bondage to Satan, so that IT IS FETTERED BY CHAINS WHICH NO HUMAN POWER CAN BREAK. Such was the deplorable condition of those mentioned by the apostle, “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin” (2 Pet. 2:14).
Well did Matthew Henry point out, “The eye is both the inlet and the outlet of a great deal of wickedness of this kind; witness Joseph’s mistress (Gen. 39:7), Samson (Judges 16:1), David (2 Sam. 11:2). What need have we, therefore, with holy Job, to ‘make a covenant with our eyes’ (31:1) to make this bargain with them: that they should have the pleasure of beholding the light of the sun and the works of God, provided that they would never fasten or dwell upon anything that might occasion impure imaginations or desires; and under this penalty, that if they did, they must smart for it in penitential tears. What have we the covering of our eyes for, but to restrain corrupt glances and to keep out defiling impressions?” How much sorrow and humiliation would be avoided if such wholesome counsel was duly laid to heart and carried out in practice.
By clear and necessary implication, Christ here also forbade the using of any other of our senses and members to stir up lust. If ensnaring looks be reprehensible, then so much more unclean conversation and wanton dalliances, which are the fuel of this hellish fire.
Again, if lustful looking be so grievous a sin, THEN THOSE WHO DRESS AND EXPOSE THEMSELVES WITH DESIRES TO BE LOOKED AT AND LUSTED AFTER-AS JEZEBEL, WHO PAINTED HER FACE, TIRED HER HEAD, AND LOOKED OUT OF THE WINDOW (2 KINGS 9:30)-ARE NOT LESS, BUT EVEN MORE GUILTY.
In this matter it is only too often the case that men sin, but women tempt them so to do. How great, then, must be the guilt of the great majority of the modern misses who deliberately seek to arouse the sexual passions of our young men. And how much greater still is the guilt of most of their mothers for allowing them to become lascivious temptresses.
As looking to lust is here forbidden, so by proportion are all other like occasions unto adultery. THE READING OF BOOKS which make light of immodesty and indecency, and that cater to those who relish the suggestive and questionable, are therefore prohibited. So too is the use of light and wanton talk and the jesting about loose morals: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting” (Eph. 5:3, 4). Many who are given to this think it a trifling matter, but in reality they are double offenders, for not only have they a wanton eye, but a lascivious tongue also. In like manner, promiscuous dancing and mixed bathing are most certainly condemned by the seventh commandment, for in both there is additional provocation unto lust.
How solemnly do these words of Christ in Matthew 5:28, condemn us, for even though (by preserving grace) our bodies have not been defiled by the outward act of adultery, yet who can say “My HEART is clean”? Who is free from a wanton eye, from evil desires, from impure imaginations? Who can truthfully affirm that he has never been guilty of questionable jesting and unchaste conversation? Must we not all of us lay our hands upon our mouths and condemn ourselves as offenders in the sight of God?
Surely we have ample cause to humble ourselves beneath His mighty hand and acknowledge our breach of the seventh commandment. And if our repentance and confession be sincere, shall we not be doubly on our guard against a repetition of these sins, seeking to avoid temptations and taking heed of every occasion which may incite us? Surely it is evident that if our hearts be honest before God we cannot do less. Yea, shall we not with increased earnestness pray, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken Thou me in Thy way” (Ps. 119:37)?
Again, if the lust of the heart be adultery in the sight of God, then with what diligence and care should we respond to that injunction, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us CLEANSE ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1); that is, labour to keep our hearts and minds as pure as our bodies. Unless they do so Christians themselves will be deprived of a comforting assurance of their personal interest in the love of God, for when they defile their minds by harboring impure thoughts the Spirit is grieved, and withholds His witness to our sonship. Nay, if we truly realize that the Holy One has taken up His abode within our hearts, must we not put forth every effort to keep the guest-chamber clean?
As the best way to keep down weeds is to plant the garden with vegetables and flowers, so the most effective means of excluding from the mind those foul imaginations is for it to be filled with thoughts of spiritual things, to have our affections set upon things above. If we give God His proper place within, Satan will be defeated.
We feel that we cannot do better in closing this article than by quoting here the salutary counsels of another: “To temptations to impurity in some of its forms we are commonly exposed, and it requires constant vigilance to avoid falling before some of them. There are a few advices which, on this subject, I would affectionately urge on the attention of the young. Be on your guard against loose and unprincipled companions. ‘Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.’ It is impossible to associate intimately with the profligate without danger.
ABSTAIN FROM THE PERUSAL OF BOOKS TAINTED WITH IMPURITY. These are scarcely less mischievous-in many cases they are more so-than the company of the wicked.
THE DELIBERATE PERUSAL OF SUCH BOOKS IS A PLAIN PROOF THAT THE MIND AND CONSCIENCE ARE ALREADY IN A DEEPLY POLLUTED STATE!
Keep at a distance from all indelicate and even doubtful amusements-I allude chiefly to theatrical amusements-where the mind is exposed, in many instances, to all the evils at once of depraved society and licentious writing. Seek to have your mind occupied and your affections engaged with ‘things unseen and eternal.’ Habitually realize the intimate presence of that God, who is of purer eyes, than to behold iniquity. Never forget that His eye is on your heart, and that ‘all things are naked and opened’ to Him: and, as one of the best and most effectual methods of mortifying your members which are on the earth-crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts-“Seek the things which are at God’s right hand.’
Never tamper with temptations, but flee youthful lusts”