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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of the Tenth Commandment.

Q. 79. Which is the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment is, [Thou shalt not covet thy neighhour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbourís wife, nor his manservant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighhourís.]

Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, and a right and charitable frame of spirit towards our neighbour, and all that is his.

Q. 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment forbiddeth alt discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions and affections to any thing that is his.


Q. 1. What is the principal scope and aim of the tenth commandment?
A. It is to prevent all occasions of transgressing the other precepts of the second table, by restraining this sin of covetousness in the heart; Psalm 119:35-36. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments, for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.

Q. 2. What doth this tenth command require of us in reference to ourselves?
A. It requires of us perfect contentment and satisfaction with that estate and condition wherein God hath placed us in the world.; Hebrews 13:5. Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have, &c. Reckoning it to be good for us to be in that state we are, though never so low or afflicted; Psalm 119:67. Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word. And verse 71. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.

Q. 3. Is contentment with Godís appointments attainable in this life?
A. Some Christians have attained to a very great measure, and eminent degree of contentment in the midst of changeable and afflictive providences; Philippians 4:11. I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Psalm 16:5-6. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places: yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Q. 4. Is there no danger of the sin of discontentment in a full and prosperous condition?
A. Fulness of the world secures no man from the sin of discontentment with his own, or covering that which is anotherís; because the desires enlarge as the estate doth; Psalm 62:10. If riches increase, set not your heart upon them. An instance whereof we have in Ahab, 1 Kings 21: 4. And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased, because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers; and he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.

Q. .5. Whence doth discontent with our condition spring?
A. It springs partly from our ignorance of Godís wisdom and love in ordering all for our good; Romans 8:28. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, &c. Partly from our inconsiderateness of the vanity of the creatures; 1 Timothy 6:7-8. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. And partly from our unbelief; Matthew 6:31-32. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek;) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

Q. 6. Is contentment with our own estate all that this commandment requires?
A. No; it requires a charitable frame of spirit towards our neighhours also; Romans 12:10, 15. Be kindly affectionate one to another, with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Q. 7. What is the first sin forbidden in this commandment?
A. It directly and especially forbids all sinful and inordinate desires and motions after other menís enjoyments; Colossians 3:5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Q. 8. What is the second sin forbidden in this commandment?
A. It forbids all cruelty and incompassionateness to others in necessity, and keeping back from them that relief which is made theirs by Godís command; Proverbs 11:24. There is that with-holdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. Leviticus 19:9-10. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard: thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.

Q. 9. What is the third sin forbidden in this commandment?
A. It forbids the detaining of the hirelings wages, when it is due; Habakkuk 2:9-11. Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil. Thou hast consulted shame to thy house, by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.

Q. 10. What is the fourth sin forbidden in this commandment?
A. It forbids all inward grudgings at, and envyings of the enjoyments of others, whether they be inward goods of the mind, or outward, belonging to the body; 1 Corinthians 13:14. Charity envieth not &c.

Q. 11. What is the mischief of covetousness?
A. It distracts thy heart in duties; Ezekiel 33:31. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouths they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. Provokes the wrath of God; Isaiah 57:17. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him, &c. And where it reigns it becomes idolatry; Colossians 3:5. And covetousness, which is idolatry.

Q. 12. What is the first inference from hence?
A. It calls all men to humiliation for the inordinacy of their affections towards the world, their discontent with their own and envyings of others conditions.

Q. 13. What is the second inference from hence?
A. As ever we would keep clear from this sin, let us make God our portion; Psalm 16:5, 6. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup; thou maintainest my lot. And labour to get the soul-satisfying comforts of his Spirit; John 4:14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst, &c. 2 Corinthians 6:10. As having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Q. 14. What is the last inference from hence?
A. If God has given us a sufficiency of the things of this life for our necessity, let us be satisfied, though we want other things for our delight; 1 Timothy 6:8. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. And relieve ourselves by an expectation of those better things laid up in heaven for us, if we be believers; James 2:5. Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, arid heirs of the kingdom, which he hath promised to them that love him.

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