Imatges de pÓgina

needs no proof. But without all these things, Religion, as the world is constituted, cannot exist. The loss of the Sabbath alone soon becomes, every where, the loss of Religion. The Preaching of the Gospel, united with the Ordinances of Public Worship, is the only effectual mean of keeping Religious Education alive in the world. Religious Education, in its turn, gives existence and life to Public Worship: and both united, are the great and efficacious means of continuing the Kingdom of God, and producing the Salvation of Man.

Such, in a summary view, are the Origin, the Nature, and the Benefits, of Marriage. No man of common sobriety, can hesitate to acknowledge, that these benefits are inestimable and immense. Of course, the Institution, whence they were derived, and without which they would not exist, is of incomprehensible importance to mankind. How worthy of the Wisdom of the Infinite Mind is the erection of so vast, and so glorious, a fabric, upon a foundation so simple, apparently so inadequate, and yet proved by all the experience of Man to be sufficiently extensive, solid, and enduring! How small a cause, to the human eye, is here seen to produce effects, innumerable in their multitude, and supreme in their importance! What serious mind can hesitate to acknowledge, that such a Work is wrought by the Counsel of God?



EXODUS XX. 14.-Thou shalt not commit adultery.

HAVING in the preceding discourse considered the Origin, Nature, and Benefits of Marriage; the Institution, which is the basis of the prohibition in the Text; I shall now proceed to examine the Prohibition itself.

The thing, which is here universally prohibited, is Lewdness: Lewdness in every form; in thought, word, and action. This is unanswerably evident from our Saviour's comment on this precept. He, that looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Before I begin the immediate discussion of this subject, I shall premise a few General Observations.

It is universally known, that there is, and for a great length of time has been, a riveted prejudice against the introduction of this subject into the Desk. When the peculiar delicacy, attending it, is considered; it cannot be thought strange, that such a prejudice should in some degree exist. Even the most chaste and correct observations concerning it are apt to give pain; or at least to excite an alarm in a refined and apprehensive mind. What Nature itself, perhaps, dictates, Custom and Manners have not a little enhanced. The opinions, and feelings, to which I have referred, have been carried to a length unwarranted either by the Scriptures, or Common Sense. The subject seems, in fact, to have been banished from the Desk: and Ministers, by their general and profound silence concerning it, appear to have sanc tioned the conclusion, that there is one, and that not a small, part of Scripture, which, so far as Preaching is concerned, is not profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, nor for instruction in righteousness.

But let me solemnly ask every religious man, whether this conduct can be justified. The rejoicing of St. Paul, at the close of his life, was the testimony of a good conscience, that not by fleshly wisdom, but by the Grace of God, he had his conversation in the world; the testimony of a good conscience, that he was pure from the blood of all men, because he had not shunned to declare the whole Counsel of God. Is it not a plain, and prominent, part of the Counsel of God, to forbid, to discourage, to prevent, this profligate conduct of mankind' Why else was this precept inserted in the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Decalogue; and promulged amid the lightnings of Sinai? Why else is it throughout the Scriptures made the subject of such forci ble prohibitions, and the object of such awful threatenings?

What reason can be given, why it should not be introduced into the Desk? Can common sense either prove, or discern, the usefulness of excluding it? Is it fit, is it safe, is it not preposterous, is it not ruinous, to the best interests of mankind, to leave the whole management of it to loose and abandoned men; and to suf fer them from year to year, and from century to century, to go on in a course of corruption; seducing, and destroying, thousands and millions, especially of the young, the gay, and the giddy: while we, Ministers of Christ, divinely appointed to watch for the souls of men, quietly sit by, and see them hurried on to perdition! Shall we be awed by the cry of indelicacy, originally raised by the most indelicate of mankind, only to keep the field open for its own malignant occupancy? Shall we not infinitely rather lay hold on every opportunity, and all the means furnished here, as well as elsewhere, to rescue our fellow-creatures from destruction?

And shall not the House of God, and this Sacred Day; both divinely consecrated, not only to His worship at large, but to this very end, that the wicked may be warned of the error of his way, that he turn from it, and save his soul alive; shelter this subject, a solemn prominent subject of his own express commands, awful exhortations, and terrible threatenings, from misconception, sport, and sneer? Shall not the known presence of this Tremendous Being in His House silence every unscriptural com plaint; check every wayward thought; forbid every roving of an unhallowed imagination; and appal every light-minded sinner; however prone he may be to forget the presence of his Maker; or unwilling to remember, that this Great Being is, at the very time, searching his heart, and trying his reins, to reward him according to his works?

But why, it may be asked, may not the evil be left to other correctives? Why is it necessary, that Ministers of the Gospel should make it the theme of their public discourses? Why may not the business of reformation be entrusted to the Satirist, the Poet, and the Moralist; to private conversation, and to the Religious Instruction of Parents? The answer to these questions is at hand. God has required Ministers to cry aloud and spare not, to lift up their voices as a trumpet, and to shew his people their transgressions. He has declared to Ministers, that if they warn not the wicked of his way, the wicked shall die in his sins; but his blood He will require at their hands. The point in debate must, I think, be allowed to be here finally settled; unless some argument can be devised to show, that a Minister is bound to make himself answerable for the blood of those sinners, to whom he preaches. Besides, the Satirist, the Poet, and the Moralist, in a

multitude of instances, have been enlisted on the side of Vice; and have endeavoured to stimulate, rather than repress, the evil under examination. Where they are not; how few persons read their books, compared with the number of those, who are present at the preaching of the Gospel! Probably two-thirds of a million of persons hear the Gospel preached, weekly, in New-England. Not one in a thousand of these, perhaps, has ever read a book, 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 JEHOVAH; 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,
Strutting and vap'ring in an empty school,
Spent all his force and made no proselyte,
I say the Pulpit, in the sober use

Of its legitimate, peculiar powers,

Must stand acknowledg'd, while the world shal stand,

The most important and effectual guard,

Support, and ornament, of Virtue's cause."

With these things in view, I consider & 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. Lohall make it my business, however, to treat it in such a manner, that, if any of my Audience siall entertain thoughts concerning it, forbidden by their Creator, it shall be their own fauk, 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. Sull greater is the danger, when vice approaches under a form, especially alluring; and, at the same time, steals gradually, and VOL. III.


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 eager ness, 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 compu tation, 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 wansgression. The numbers of the Poet, the delightful melody of Song, the fascination of the Chisel, and the spell of the Pencil, have Leen all volunteered in the ser vice 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 i 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.

« AnteriorContinua »