« AnteriorContinuar »
a fallen, polluted, guilty creature, to rise above the degradation of his nature, arrayed in the beauties of holiness. Never, my friends, will you flee youthful lusts, till you flee from impending wrath, from the justly merited displeasure of God, to that refuge which the gospel has provided. Bring a man, under the consciousness of impurity and the lively apprehension of its evil, to the cross of Christ; and “that once seen is death to every vice." The fountain of mercy is the source of strength. The testimony which inspires confidence and hope, by making known the forgiveness of sin, through a Redeemer, can alone purify the powers and affections of the mind; and constrain the subject of its influence to “cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord." I wish this important sentiment to be distinctly understood, that in all the autions and directions which the subject of discussion may suggest, an implied conviction may be felt of the absolute, indispensable necessity of what the Scriptures represent as an union with Jesus Christ, in order to our “ bringing forth fruit to God.” The gospel supposes, in every statement of its characteristic truths, that men by nature are “ without strength," impotent as well as depraved; it secures not only pardon to the guilty, but purifying influence to the polluted, and spiritual vigour to the weak. Receive the truth in the love of it, embrace by faith an almighty Saviour, submit to the “righteousness of God,” the method of obtaining the divine favour revealed in the gospel, and you will find none of the commandments grievous: the yoke of duty will be easy, and its burden, even the most rigid injunctions of it, will be light. Obedience springing from the powerful impulse of love to the Redeemer, will adorn your conduct, and most successfully will you "flee youthful lusts.” Remember that in order to your constant and habitual compliance with the exhortations of the apostle, the grace of Christ must be implored and imparted—and his “strength must be made perfect in your weakness.”
In the first place, consider what you ought to AVOID ; youthful lusts." The objects of abhorrence and detestation are distinctly specified in this short but impressive caution. No palliating, softening epithets are employed to lessen their enormity, or divest them of their disgusting qualities. They are not pleaded for, by being called, as too many in modern times represent them—“ mere juvenile indiscretions”-“youthful follies,” which maturer age will correct; but they are marked by a term, which at once describes and condemns them. Lust, in the language of scripture, has an extensive latitude of meaning; it is applied to evil desire in general—the desire of what is in itself unlawful and forbidden, or
the intemperate desire of what is in itself lawful and allowed. This explanation accords with the assertion of the apostle John in his first epistle, in which he gives an accurate classification of evil desires. “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world."*
The passions and appetites of our nature are powerful principles of action. Were they always subjected to the government of enlightened reason, they would become sources of innocent gratification; indulgence would leave no stain, and remembrance would awaken
But from their fatal predominance over the convictions of the understanding, and the remonstrances of conscience, what streams of sin and misery have inundated the world! To these, as their immediate sources, may be traced innumerable diseases which ruin the body, by causing its premature debility, and securing its inevitable destruction. But their direst evil is—that they against the soul,"† impair the mind, and pollute the heart. · How soon does their pernicious influence corrupt the very faculty of judging, and destroy the sensibility of conscience; “searing it as with a hot iron," and rendering it callous to all the impressions of guilt. “Whence arise, wars and fightings-come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members ?"I Domestic feuds-national antipathies—and all the unutterable horrors of war, are the awful consequences of ungoverned passions; "they defile the whole body, set on fire the course of nature, and are themselves set on fire of hell.”'S
It requires little observation to discern the inefficacy of every mode of restraint on these tyrants of man, excepting that which arises from the influence of evangelical principles; but effectual as is their authority, there is reason to lament that the contest between remaining imperfection and the spiritual nature, renders every monition, ensample, and motive necessary, which can arouse our fear, stimulate our diligence, or promote our circumspection. If the apostle found it requisite to exhort even Timothy, of whose eminent piety he had witnessed such decisive proofs, to "flee youthful lusts,” with how much greater force should every word in this solemn admonition be imprinted on your hearts !
In order to render the impression more vivid, let us consider to what evil desires the young are peculiarly exposed—what are the unhallowed passions that require their utmost vigilance and opposition.
I would first exhort you, my young friends, to guard against the seductions of sensuality; against what are emphatically termed “fleshly lusts.” On no subject are the sacred writers more frequent, or more alarming in their denunciations, than on this. Aware of the wide-spreading nature of the contagion, they continually remind us of its evil, and direct us to the means of counteracting and expelling it. As if it were an enemy of gigantic magnitude, and in possession of innumerable points of attack, we are enjoined to be perpetually on the alert against its machinations, in order to resist its power, or retreat from the field in which our victory might be doubtful. The Scriptures employ in their warnings and prohibitions, on this topic, a redundancy of epithets, or rather a preciseness of description, which tends to prevent the possibility of selfdeception, so that the most retired and refined sensuality stands exposed in all its atrocity, as intimately connected with the grossest violations of order and purity. “Out of the heart of man,” says the great Teacher sent from God,"proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, lasciviousness, an evil eye: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man." “Know ye not,” exclaims the apostle Paul with holy indignation, " that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor extortioners, nor drunkards—shall inherit the kingdom of God. -Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them members of a harlot? God forbid! Flee fornication ; he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”+ Addressing the Ephesians, he says with equal decision—“Fornication, and all uncleanness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient-for no whoremonger, nor unclean person, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of God."I Again, with singular minuteness of detail, clearly demonstrating the apostle's impression of the evil of sensuality in all its possible modes of pollution, he thus exhorts the Colossians—"Mortify your members, which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience."'S
1 John ii. 16.
† 1 Pet. ii. 11.
James iv. 1.
$ James iii. 6.
Such are a few of the awful denunciations contained in the sacred volume against the “lusts of the flesh.” Nor do they exist merely in the form of prohibitions; the danger of neglecting, and the advantages of regarding them, are frequently exemplified in the
• Mark vii. 21-23.
+ 1 Cor. vi. 9--20.
narrations of Scripture. There we see embodied in faithful details the beauty of holiness, and the deformity of vice. Beholding the rocks on which thousands have been wrecked, you are taught to steer your course aright amidst surrounding dangers. Oh that the warning voice of this infallible monitor may be ever sounded in your ears, when the blandishments of sin would tempt you from the paths of virtue! “At the window of my house,” says one drew the picture from life, (and would to God, the dismal scene were never realised now !) “I looked through my casement, and beheld among the simple ones; I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house; in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night. And, behold, there met him a woman, with the attire of a harlot, and subtile of heart-with much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks !”
But contemplate another and a brighter scene. Look at the slave of Potiphar, the captain of the royal guard, in the land of Egypt. Behold the fascinations of beauty, aided by the superiority of rank, and invested with all that wealth, persuasion, and secrecy could give them, to allure and destroy. Does the favourite son of Jacob stand to deliberate? Are any dangerous calculations permitted to induce a moment's suspense ? No, my friends—he knows that flight, immediate flight, is the only way to conquest. All the high considerations of honour and duty rush to his recollection. Above all, he remembers that the eye of Omniscience is upon him, that its allpenetrating vision can enter the darkest recesses of depravity, and disclose before an assembled world the “chambers of imagery,” and the solitude of sin. “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God!" This remonstrance and appeal gained him the victory—and the chastity of Joseph is held in everlasting remembrance.t
• Prov. viii.
+ In both these instances, the guilt of seduction is attributed to females. In all ages, the power of meretricious attraction has been, no doubt, awfully successful and extensive; but if it were necessary to attempt an estimate of the comparative degrees of virtue in the sexes, no hesitation could be felt, in awarding its decisive preponderance to females. Their fatal influence, when ill-directed, may be accounted for, on the well-known maxim, that “the best things when corrupted become the worst.” The infamy attached to their unchastity, naturally associates them together-and thus their number and their vices become notorious. Hence arise; a strong presumption that all those who are not known to be vicious, are in reality virtuous. But can such a presumption be made in favour of men? Are they excluded from decent society by their vices ? It must however be acknowledged, that this very state of things increases on one side, and lessens on the other, the force of temptation.
Would you, my young friends, successfully avoid the dangers of sensuality, let me earnestly exhort you, in the next place, to beware of intemperance. By intemperance, I mean particularly the excessive indulgence of those appetites of our nature on which our existence depends. It is sometimes said, that such indulgence, so degrading to human dignity, and so basely irrational, places a man on a level with the brutes that perish. But it is insulting to brutes to make the comparison. The laws of animal instinct teach them moderation : and the dictates of universal conscience as well as the “grace of God," should teach men, that “ denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly in this present evil world."“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine, they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright: at the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder !"*
Intemperance is the baneful source of most destructive evils ; it is the powerful stimulus to all the deeds of darkness; it is the unnatural excitement by which the sons of Belial are roused and prepared for the commission of crimes, which they would shudder to perpetrate in the cool moments of sobriety. It is the direful habit which, of all others, is most inveterate; seldom indeed do we hear of the reformation of a drunkard; his chains are riveted and coiled by infernal power, and he loves the iron bondage. Some habits have their waxing and waning periods--they rise and fall during the short - lived existence of man, giving place to succeeding tyrants, more adapted to the changes of age and circumstance; but intemperance, when once permitted to exert its domination, grows with the growth—and strengthens even with the decline of all the mental and natural powers. It ruins the constitution, wastes the estate, embitters domestic life, degrades the character, and damns the soul! O fly, fly for your life, from the cup of intoxication! Pleasant it may be to the mouth—but it will be afterwards wormwood and gall! Abstain from every appearance of evil. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united!"
Amongst the evil principles which the apostle warns us to avoid, may be included also—high-mindedness: for immediately after the exhortation in the text, he says, “ The servant of the Lord must not strive ; but be gentle unto all, apt to teach, patient, in meekness
# Prov. xxiii. 29.-32.