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in the present instance, I think that it is made out with great certainty, that sins of debauchery and licentiousness were what the apostle had specifically in his mind, when he pronounced this condemnation. The next observation I have to make is, that these sins were then common amongst the heathen ; that the Christians, before their conversion, had been addicted to them ; that those who practised them were endeavouring, under various pretexts, to draw others to be partakers with them ; that these pretexts were to be resisted by the consideration that, let the slaves or the advocates of those vices say what they will, “the wrath of God, because of these, cometh upon the children of disobedience.” These sins were so common amongst the idolatrous heathens, that they were emphatically called idolatry itself, and that in all the different passages which have been quoted. Again, some of the Christians themselves, before their conversion, had been addicted to them. ‘Ye were sometimes darkmess, but now are ye light in the Lord ; walk as children of the light;” and more express in the epistle to the Colossians, speaking of the same practices; ‘In the which,’ says he, ‘ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.” Thirdly; those who practised these crimes were endeavouring, by various practices, to draw in others to be partakers with them ; “Be not ye partakers with them. Let no man deceive you with vain words; have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.’ This was the state and character of the times. This was the situation of the persons whom St Paul so earnestly admonishes. And in similar situations, the like admonitions will be always necessary. For I take upon me to say, that whensoever any licentious practice becomes common in the country, palliatives and excuses, salvos and subterfuges, will never be wanting to draw in and encourage the timid and apprehensive who are entering upon such courses, as well as to fortify and to harden those who are actually and deeply engaged in them ; that there will always be found, as I said before, deceivers; and likewise persons very willing, not to say desirous, to be deceived ; that as it was in St Paul's time, so since, so now, so hereafter, it will be the case, that those who give a loose to such practices will endeavour by many vain words, by various forced and futile reasons, both to make themselves as easy as they can in the course which they are following, and to bring others, first to relax in their own condemnation of such examples, and then to imitate them. When this once happens, and it happens to all of us, that is the very case in which we ought to recollect St Paul’s powerful warning, delivered under circumstances perfectly similar to those which we experience; ‘Let no man deceive you with vain words; ” with artful salvos and subterfuges, with contrived excuses and extenuations; for the solemn truth remains, and so you will find it to be, that “because of these things, cometh the wrath of God on the children of disobedience.”
Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
IN treating of the crime of whoredom, thus solemnly rebuked in these words, I shall simply mention to you the mischiefs attending it, and the severe declarations of scripture against it ; and then leave it to yourselves to judge whether the allowing ourselves in this practice can be consistent with the hopes of getting to heaven at the last.
Now, I maintain, that whoredom is destructive to the public, destructive to the person joined with us in the crime, and destructive to ourselves. It destroys the public in this way; if there be one thing more than another of consequence to the public morality, it is the encouraging and keeping up of family connexion; for without families, what would become of the world 2 The business of it could not be carried on ; there would be little private comfort; there would be no industry or regularity in the country; children could not be brought up with any tolerable care, or sent into the world to do any good in it. But more need not be said ; for every man that reflects a moment must perceive that it is morally impossible to keep up any peace, quietness, happiness, or order amongst mankind, without families; and as a proof of it, marriage institutions, of some kind or other, obtain, as far as I know, in every quarter and country of the world ; a plain proof that men are convinced it is absolutely necessary for the common good.
Now whoredom and fornication are ‘sure to hinder and discourage marriage; for if people are restrained from the unlawful indulgence of the passions, nature herself will take care to point out to them what is lawful, and marriage will be more or less frequent and happy, according as men are tied down from loose and irregular gratifications. I am aware what you will answer ; that this may be a consideration of consequence upon the whole, but that in a single person’s case, the harm a single person can do to the whole community in this respect is but a trifle, scarcely to be perceived. To which I answer, that you may say this almost of any crime; it is not a vast or very sensible mischief that any one man, however wicked, can do to the public at large ; but you will please to remember withal, that if the mischief you do is but a trifle with respect to the public happiness, the punishment you suffer for it hereafter is but a trifle with respect, to the public misery; the one is proportionable to the other, though but inconsiderable with respect to the whole; it may be enough to destroy you, who in the same view are also inconsiderable. But the proper answer to this, which is a very common way of talking and thinking, is this; What would be the consequence if every one were to argue so 2 I allow myself in this, which I own in the general practice to be wrong and hurtful, because my single case can make but small difference. Another has the same reason to say so that you have ; and so if this excuse is to be allowed in one instance, there is nothing left but to allow the sanction to every one that pleases; that is, to make an end at once of all morality and religion in the world.
But secondly ; whoredom, I contend, is mischievous in the highest degree possible to the partner of our guilt, the person concerned with us in it. I desire to draw your attention to this point. Imagine a wife, a daughter, a sister of your own, to be the person seduced and corrupted; you cannot conceive a heavier misfortune, an affliction or disgrace that can equal it. What shame, confusion, and misery in a family How is a happy and united house thrown into a scene of bitterness, anguish, and reproach | What think you of the author of this misery : Is there no guilt in his behaviour 2 Is there no punishment due to it, to be expected for it, from a just and righteous God He may have got out of the way, and does not see or know all the misery he has occasioned; but does that make it less, or extenuate his offence 2 I am free to say, that if we compute crimes by the unhappiness and distress they knowingly occasion, and I know no better method of computing, not half the offences for which men suffer death by the law, are so guilty as this of seducing and corrupting a young person to her ruin. The loss of money or property is nothing to it. Now, I may say, whoredom always begins or ends with this. It too often begins with this ; or otherwise profligate young men who have already debauched and corrupted themselves in the world, become the authors of this mischief and calamity to others. Thirdly ; it is mischievous also to the offender himself, and in this way; it draws down the mind from all sense of religion, and by degrees loosens and wears away all the good principles that were in a man. There are some points, which when well passed, all is over with a man; and this seems to be one of those points. When a man has been once brought to allow himself in habitual whoredom and uncleanness, generally speaking, it is all over with him. As to his religious princiciples, he will soon, if I am not mistaken, find a change himself in this respect, which he will be surprised at ; that is, many things which before seemed shocking and abominable to him become so familiar and accustomed to his thoughts as to be made light of; all spiritual meditation and reflection, all religion, and the hopes of it, are laid aside when a man has given himself up entirely to this vice; indeed, he is neither fit for such thoughts, nor has any relish for them ; his thoughts and his relish are taken up with something else, from which he finds it impossible to lift or disengage himself. I am saying no more than what I believe fact and observation will easily testify. There are scarce any who give themselves up habitually to this vice who retain any sense of their various obligations, or live in the fear of God in other instances. It has a more immediate tendency, I think, than any other vice to create a disregard to all other breaches of the law, and to occasion a total neglect of duty. The duties of devotion, those particularly relating to the Deity, suffer especially by this practice, which clouds the understanding, corrupts the will, debases the affections, and indisposes the whole man for devotion and any proper service of God. It usually occasions all kinds of sins, and prevents the repentance of any. We need not go far to seek for the causes of this effect. One may be, that as there can be no peace but by reconciling, some how or other, their practice with their principles, they who will not conform themselves to the purity required by the gospel, are forced, as it were, to conform their notions to their own impure conversation, and either at once to have done with the belief of Christianity, or, what is more easy and common, to stifle the remembrance of it. These are the consequences of whoredom to the public at large, to the partner of our crime in particular, and upon ourselves; and I do not know that I have exaggerated them, or put down any which are not true. * I proceed, in the next place, to set before you some of those declarations against it which are to be found in scripture. I could produce a great deal out of the Book of Proverbs, from the Book of Wisdom, and the prophets, but I shall confine myself to what Christ and his apostles have said, as being of the higher authority with us, and that according to which we shall be judged. ‘Out of the heart,” says our Saviour himself, ‘proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things which defile a man.” This is what our Saviour himself says ; and one word from him decides the point. You will observe also with what company fornication is classed; with murders, thefts, false wit– ness, blasphemies. I do not mean that these crimes are all to be reckoned equal, because they are all mentioned together; but it proves that they all are crimes. The apostles are more full ; and for this reason, that they had to do with the heathens, who made very light of this crime. St Peter enforces the duty of chastity upon the new Christians in the following very strong terms; “Dearly beloved,” says he in his first epistle, ‘I beseech you as pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” And again in his second epistle ; ‘The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished ; but chiefly them that walk after the flesh, in the lust of uncleanness.’ These are very plain and affecting words; ‘the Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished; but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.’ St Paul also has treated this subject very largely; as indeed he had occasion, being that to which the people he wrote to were before their conversion much addicted ; “but fornication, and all uncleanness, let it not be once named amongst you, as becometh Saints.’ St Paul shows here very plainly his sense of the heinousness of this vice. He not only says, let it not be practised, but “not once named amongst you, as becometh saints.’ This to the Ephesians. To the Corinthians he sets forth the guilt of this vice in this way; ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you ? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.’ And that the defiling here spoken of is intended of fornication is pretty plain from