« PreviousContinue »
of the soul employs to inveigle the unsuspecting victim into his chains.
It extends to all unchaste expressions. When once an individual can allow himself to utter indecent words, he is not far from the commission of indecent actions. Immodest speech proceeds from an impurity of heart, and feeds the lascivious flame both in him who utters, and he who hears it. It is no ill-founded or unauthorized supposition, that the person of either sex, who can delight in lewd discourse, waits only for opportunity to gratify all the sinful desires of the heart. Now all this is unequivocally condemned by the law of God; and 66 the seventh commandment" stands not alone in passing the sentence of its condemnation. Let us hear an apostle: "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, which are not convenient."* In another part of the same epistle, we are clearly directed as to the character of our discourse: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."+ Oh that men would but seriously remember the solemn assurance of our Saviour: " I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." The wanton song, the indelicate allusion, the witticism of double meaning, will all be brought into the reckoning, and receive their doom of lasting reprobation. Be it your concern, therefore, my brethren, to "let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt," that you may unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." have no fellowship with these
Ephes. v. 3, 4.
Thirdly. The spirit of the precept before us equally forbids the indulgence of all libidinous thoughts and affections. Thus, the text, "Whosoever looketh," not only by the literal, but by the mental eye, is a transgressor. Doubtless, there are many persons who, whatever other. faults they have, consider themselves free from adultery; and so they may as to the specific crime. But the sin may have been committed "in the heart," and of that this spiritual law takes special cognizance. And where is the individual, male or female, who has never felt one irregular desire, or the least stir of dishonourable affection in their breast? Who would dare disclose all the thoughts of the bosom, even to the dearest friend? Do not our memories frequently retain with delight improper expressions, which we should strive to erase from the tablet of record within? But enough. The truth is, we are "born in sin," and must be born again of the spirit of God, ere we can be "pure in heart." "O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?"*
II. OBSERVE THE MEANS WHICH THE TEXT PRESCRIBES FOR ITS PREVENTION.
These are divided into two kinds; the former-is the mortification of our corrupt affections, and the latter-a scriptural regard to the law of God with respect to divorce. Let us consider them respectively.
First. The mortification of our corrupt affections. "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee." In these words there is, beyond
* Jer. iv. 14.
all question, an allusion to the practice of surgeons, who amputate the corrupted limb, in order to preserve those that are sound from infection. Now, disrobed of its figurative dress, the sentiment is, that if we value the welfare of our souls above every other thing, we must cut off all occasions of committing the sin which the text condemns. We are not required, indeed, to lacerate the flesh and dismember the body literally; for "the right eye" might be wrenched from its socket, and the "right hand" cut from the arm that directs and sustains it, while the most headstrong propensities remain in all their vigour within. But the most beloved object that contravenes the purity of the heart, and the most endeared pleasure that endangers our salvation, must be relinquished, though it should be like the surrender of a " right eye" and a right hand." Study, therefore, the source whence this or any other besetting sin derives its main strength to rebel, and having detected it, spare no pains, neither account any thing as a sacrifice, to put it down; "for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."
The spirit of the direction takes in your company. "Evil communications corrupt good manners."* When once persons, of either sex, and of every age, can rashly venture into danger, it is not possible to say, how low they may presently fall. Wicked people should be avoided, especially by our youth, as cautiously and constantly as a desolating pestilence. However, at first, the untainted mind may abhor evil practices, yet the way of sin is downhill; and once put in motion, in that direction the unhappy victim proceeds with increased velocity, till he can revolve no
With an heart prone to all that is ill, "can one
* 1 Cor. xv. 33.
walk on the coals and not be burnt?" Is it any matter of surprise, that young people, with little experience, and strong passions, should often become corrupted in their morals, and ruined in their peace, by the improper associations which their parents or guardians so often allow them to form? Listen, ye well-disposed and amiable youth, to the voice of instruction: "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away."*
It includes also your habits,—such as diet, dress, and employments. On each of these much may be said. Moderation, in the use of every comfort which a bountiful Providence bestows, is the law both of health and enjoyment. Temperance is to the body what virtue is to the soul-its vigour and beauty. The overthrow of Sodom should be a beacon to warn us against running into every excess. Three evils conspired to accomplish that dreadful catastrophe,— pride, luxury, and indolence. Let us hear the statement from the mouth of God by his prophet: "Behold! this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom,-pride, fulness of head, and abundance of idleness, was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me; therefore I took them away as I saw good."+ Men of pampered appetites, and idle lives, are fit for the commission of every evil. Mortify, therefore, your inclinations, by keeping out of the atmosphere of pollution. Turn from the sight of lewd exhibitions, and desist from the reading of such novels whose chief tendency is to kindle the passions, and direct to the practice of sin with dexterity. Let your time be honestly employed; for as one has quaintly observed, "when no one else has
Prov. iv. 14, 15.
+ Ezek. xvi. 49, 50.
hired you, the devil will be sure to find something for you to do for himself."
Once more. It includes likewise your secular interests. Is it so that your trade exposes you to sin? This is a difficult case indeed. It is hard to determine, in many instances, the path of duty which we ought to take; and harder still to adopt it when we have discovered it: but, on this point, there can be no hesitation as to what ought to be done. If obedience to the spirit of the precept before us requires the surrender of every earthly prospect, away let it go, rather than hazard the safety of our eternal interests. Yes, these sources from which we have been accustomed to derive support-these delightful pursuits of gain easily acquired, and these lucrative schemes of enterprise, which promise a large reward for our toil and anxiety, must all be abandoned--promptly and cheerfully abandoned, if they defile the conscience and ensnare the soul. In this course of Christian duty, we may trust the God of Providence, and be assured that he will provide, if not affluence, "yet a dinner of herbs with contentment," which will be sweeter than all the dainties of the world, purchased at the expense of our salvation.
Secondly. A stedfast adherence to the law of God. This the Saviour illustrates by reference to the Jewish custom of divorce. In perfect consistency with other parts of their conduct, the Rabbinnical doctors grossly abused the permission allowed them. The licentious manners of these men, even under the mask of superior sanctity, is almost incredible. The original design of marriage, was the union of one man with one woman, who being knit together in one unalienable bond of affection, were mutually to share each others joys and sorrows, until death should dissolve the connection. Through the depravity of the human heart there were soon many sad deviations intro