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seriously exposing this unhappy part of the human character. Even where their books are read, and read with attention, they are little regarded, and produce little effect. The Desk possesses means of appalling, and overthrowing, vice, and upholding morality, which nothing else can boast. The Day, the Place, the Circumstances, of the Assembly; the Purposes, for which they are gathered; and the solemn Commission of Jehovan; furnish Ministers with advantages for this great end, unrivalled, and unexampled. Accordingly, their Office has been more efficacious in producing real reformation, than all the other means, employed by man. “ The Pulpit,” says a Poet of distinguished excellence and wisdom,
“The Pulpit, when the sat’rist has at last,
With these things in view, I consider it as my own duty to bring this Subject into the Desk without hesitation; and to treat it in the same definite and earnest manner, which is demanded by the precepts of the Gospel. I shall make it my business, however, to treat it in such a manner, that, if any of my Audience shall entertain thoughts concerning it, forbidden by their Creator, it shall be their own fault and not mine. With these preliminary remarks, I proceed to observe, I. That this Command forbids all impure Thoughts. The proof of this I have already given, in our Saviour's comment on this precept. Impure thoughts are the immediate, and only, sources of impure conversation, and an impure life. If the thoughts be cleansed; the man will be clean, of course. There is scarcely a more dangerous employment, than the indulgence of a licentious Imagination. This is an evil, to which youths are peculiarly exposed. The peculiar strength of every
passion, and the peculiar want of watchfulness, and self-restraint, render them an easy prey to every vice, which solicits admission. Still greater is the danger, when vice approaches under a form, especially alluring; and, at the same time, steals gradually, and therefore insensibly, upon the mind. By all these evils, is the sin under consideration accompanied. It rises in the minds of the young, instinctively; surrounded with many allurements, and unaccompanied by that loathing and horror, with which the mind naturally regards vice of many other kinds. At the same time, the mind is prone to be utterly unconscious of any transgression, and of any danger. The imagination, thoughtless and unrestrained, wanders over the forbidden ground, often without thinking that it is forbidden; and has already been guilty of many and perilous transgressions, when it is scarcely aware of having transgressed at all. In this manner its attachment to these excursions continually gains strength. Continually are they repeated with more eagerness, and with more frequency. At length they become habitual: and scarcely any habit is stronger, or with less difficulty overcome. In every leisure season, the mind, if it will watch its own movements, will find itself roving without restraint, and often without being aware that it has begun to rove, on this interdicted ground; and will be astonished to perceive, after a sober computation, how great a part of all its thinking is made up of these licentious thoughts.
Most unhappily, aids, and allurements, to this licentious indulgence are never wanting. Genius, in every age, and in every country, has, to a great extent, prostituted its elevated powers for the deplorable purpose of seducing thoughtless minds to this sin. The unsuspecting imagination, ignorant of the dangers, which spread before it, has by this gay and fiery serpent, glittering with spots of gold, and painted with colours of enchantment, been allured to pluck the fruit of this forbidden tree, and hazard the death, denounced against the transgression. The numbers of the Poet, the delightful melody of Song, the fascination of the Chisel, and the spell of the Pencil, have been all volunteered in the service of Satan, for the moral destruction of unhappy man. To finish this work of malignity, the Stage has lent all its splendid apparatus of mischief; the Shop been converted into a show-box of temptations; and its Owner into a pander of iniquity. Feeble, erratic, and giddy, as the mind of man is in its nature; prepared to welcome temptation, and to hail every passing sin; can we wonder, that it should yield to this formidable train of seducers ? To a virtuous mind scarcely any possession is of more value. or more productive of enjoyment or safety, than a chastened Imagination, regularly subjected to the control of the Conscience. Wherever this faculty is under this control, the mind has achieved a power of keeping temptation at a distance, of resisting it when approaching, and of overcoming it when invading, attainable in no other manner. Its path towards heaven becomes, therefore, comparatively unobstructed, easy, and secure. Sin does not easily beset it; and its moral improvement, while it is on the one hand undisturbed, is on the other rapid and delightful. II. This Command forbids all licentious Words, of the same nature. Impure thoughts beget impure words; and impure words, in their turn, generate, enhance, and multiply, impure thoughts. This retro-active influence of the tongue upon the heart, by means of which, sinful conversation becomes the means of producing sinful thoughts, I have had occasion to explain at large in a former discourse. It will, therefore, be unnecessary to dwell upon it here. No serious observer of human life can doubt, that by our own language, as well as that of others, whenever it is impure, impure thoughts are awakened; a licentious imagination set on fire; and licentious designs, which otherwise would never have entered the mind, called up into existence, and execution. In this employment, also, our fellow-men unite with us in the strange, and melancholy, purpose of mutual corruption. All the dangers and mischiefs, all the temptations and sins, presented to each other by evil companions, are to be found here. Here, wicked men and seducers war worse and worse; deceiving, and being deceived; mutually seducing, and being seduced. The only safety, with respect to this part of the subject in hand, is found in an exact conformity to the very forcible precept of St. Paul: But filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting, let it not be so much as named among you. The original words are aid)(forms, obscenity; of Moyla, impure scurrility; and surfars) un, when used in a bad sense, as here, answering to double entendres, or seemingly decent speeches with double meanings. Of all these the Apostle says not, Let them not be used, but, Let them not be so much as named among you, as becometh saints. Let no foundation be furnished by your conversation even for mentioning it as a fact, that such language has ever been uttered by you. For, no conversation, beside that, which is thus pure, can become your character as Christians. See Eph. v. 3, 4. Strict and virtuous delicacy in our language is not only indispensable to decency, and dignity, of character, but to all purity of heart, and all excellency of life. III. This Command forbids all licentious Conduct of this nature. As this position will not be questioned; and as this conduct, in every form, is prohibited, elsewhere, in a multitude of Scriptural passages; I shall spare myself the labour of proof; and shall proceed to suggest several Reasons for our obedience to this precept; or, what is the same thing, to mention, several Evils, arising from disobedience. 1. The Licentious Conduct, forbidden by this precept, discourages, and prevents, Marriage. This discouragment, and prevention, regularly take place in exact proportion to the prevalence of the conduct; and are therefore chargeable upon it, whenever, and wherever, and however it exists. The innumerable, and immense, blessings of the Marriage Institution have been summarily recited in the preceding discourse. They are the blessings, which keep the Moral World in being, and secure it from an untimely, and most terrible, dissolution. They are the blessings, without which life, in instances literally innumerable, would be blasted in the bud; without which, when it escaped this premature destruction, its continuance would prove a curse; without which, Natural affection, and amiableness, would not exist; without which, domestic Education would be extinct; Industry and Economy never begin; and man be left to the precarious subsistence of a savage. But for this Institution, Learning, Knowledge, and Refinement, would expire; Government sink in the gulf of Anarchy; and Religion, hunted from the habitations of men, hasten back to her native heavens. Man, in the mean time, stripped of all that is respectable, amiable, or hopeful, in his character, and degraded to all that is odious, brutal, and desperate, would prowl in solitudes and deserts, to satisfy his rage and hunger. The correspondence between heaven and earth would cease; and the celestial inhabitants would no longer expect, nor find, new accessions to their happy society from this miserable world. To all these evils every lewd man directly contributes. Were his principles, and practices, adopted universally by his fellowmen; all these evils would universally prevail. That they do not actually thus prevail is, in no sense, owing to him. To the utmost of his power he labours to introduce them all. 2. This Conduct, in almost all cases, pre-supposes Seduction. Seduction, in its very nature, involves fraud of the worst kind. It is probably always accomplished by means of the most solemn promises, and often with oaths still more solemn. Both the promises and oaths, however, are violated in a manner, supremely profligate and shameful. The object, to which they are directed, is base, malignant, and treacherous, in the extreme; and the manner, in which it is prosecuted, is marked with the same treachery and baseness. He, who can coolly adopt it, has put off the character of a man, and put on that of a fiend; and, with the spirit of a fiend alone, he pursues, and accomplishes, the infernal purpose. The ruin sought, and achieved, is immense. It is not the filching of property. It is not the burning of a house. It is not the deprivation of liberty. It is not the destruction of life. The Seducer plunders the wretched victim of character, morals, happiness, hope, and heaven; enthrals her in the eternal bondage of sin; consumes her beyond the grave in endless fire; and murders her soul with an ever-living death. With the same comprehensive, and terrible malignity, he destroys himself; calls down upon his own head the vengeance of that Almighty Hand, which will suffer no sinner to escape; and awakens the terrors of that undying conscience, which will enhance even the agonies of perdition. All this is perpetrated, in the