“Then Jesus spoke to the crowd and to His disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees have sat down on Moses‘ seat. Therefore all things, as many things as they tell you to keep, keep and do. But do not do according to their works, for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:1-3).
“(1) Come not into the company of a whorish woman; avoid her house, as a seaman does a rock. ‘Come not nigh the door of her house.’ Prov 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 beware of 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 fancy, and the fancy works upon the heart. A wanton 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, why then should I think upon a maid?’ 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 unseemly word that 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.’ Psa 141:3.
(4) Look in a special manner to your heart. ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence.’ Prov 4:23. Every one 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, keeps 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. Prov 7:10. A wanton dress is a provocation to lust. Cuttings and braidings of the hair, a painted face, naked breasts, are allurements to vanity. Where the sign is hung out, people will go in and taste the liquor. Jerome says, they who by their lascivious attire endeavour to draw others to lust, though no evil follows, are tempters, and shall be punished, because they offered the poison to others, though they would not drink.
(6) Take heed of evil company. Serpunt vitia et in proximum quemque transiliunt [Vices spread abroad and spring on to any standing by]. Seneca. Sin is a very catching disease; one tempts another to sin, and hardens him in it. There are three cords that draw men to adultery: the inclination of the heart, the persuasion of evil company, and the embraces of the harlot; and this threefold cord is not easily broken. ‘A fire was kindled in their company.’ Psa 106:18. The fire of lust is kindled in bad company.
(7) Beware of going to plays. A play-house is often a preface to a whorehouse. Ludi praebent semina nequitiae [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 that are not fit to be beheld with chaste eyes. Both Fathers and Councils have shown their dislike to going to plays. 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. Instrumenta luxuriae tripudia [Dances are instruments of wantonness]. From dancing, people come to dalliance with another, and from dalliance to uncleanness. ‘There is,’ says Calvin, ‘for the most part, some unchaste behaviour in dancing.’ Dances draw the heart to folly 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, and of virgins going before with lamps, but of dancing there we read not.’ Matt 25:7. Many have been ensnared by dancing; as the duke of Normandy, and others. Saltatio adadulteras non ad pudicas pertinet [Dancing is the province, not of the 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 that provoke to lust. As the reading of the Scripture stirs up love to God, so reading bad books stirs up the mind to wickedness. I could name one who published a book to the world full of effeminate, amorous, and wanton expressions, who, before he died, was much troubled for it, and burned the book which made so many burn in lust. 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, chambering and wantonness bring up the rear. Vinum fomentum libidinis; ‘any wine inflames lust;’ and fulness of bread is made the cause of Sodom’s uncleanness. Ezek 16:49. The rankest weeds grow out of the fattest soil. Uncleanness proceeds from excess. ‘When I had fed them to the full, every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife.’ Jer 5:8. Get the ‘golden bridle of temperance.’ God allows recruits of nature, and what may fit us the better for his service; but beware of surfeit. Excess in the creature clouds the mind, chokes good affections, and provokes lust. Paul did ‘keep under his body.’ 1 Cor 9:27. The flesh pampered is apt to rebel. Corpus impinguatum recalcitrat.
(11) Take heed of idleness. When a man is out of a calling, he is ready to receive any temptation. We do not sow seed in fallow-ground; but the devil sows most seed of temptation in such as lie fallow. Idleness is the cause of sodomy and uncleanness. Ezek 16:49. When David was idle on the top of his house, he espied Bathsheba, and took her to him. 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. Ezek 24:16. When Solomon had dissuaded from strange women, he prescribed a remedy against it. ‘Rejoice with the wife of thy youth.’ Prov 5:18. It is not having a wife, but loving a wife, that 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 conjugal love is a gift of God, and comes from heaven; but, like the vestal fire, it must be cherished, that it go not out. He who loves not his wife, is the likeliest person to embrace the bosom of a stranger.
(13) Labour to get the fear of God into your hearts. ‘By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.’ Prov 16:6. As the embankment keeps out the water, so the fear of the Lord keeps out uncleanness. Such as want the fear of God, want the bridle that should check them from sin. How did Joseph keep from his mistress’s 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, janitor animae, ‘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” (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments).