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the cross of Christ charm you? Then let us arise-let us in earnest begin the work. Let us hang upon God. Let us with the ten thousand ministers and Christians of our land, prove, illustrate and point home the word of God. At the fervor of our prayers, and the earnestness of our persuasions, "let the pillars of heaven tremble, let the mountains of the earth be shaken."
And why should we not thus labor? Toil is nothing in such a cause. Jesus will be honored. Sinners will be saved. Our own souls will be magnified. For they that be wise and turn many to righteousness will shine-will shine, while others are in darkness -will shine in heaven-will shine as the stars. Yea, when the stars have gone out, they shall shine on and on, forever and
SIN has no excuse. And yet there is no form of iniquity but seeks to hide itself under some flimsy pretext or covering. One sin excuses itself on the ground of original propensity; another of temptation. This sin sets up the plea of law, that, of custom or fashion. Now, vice excuses itself on the ground of interest, honor or example, now of appetite, pleasure or passion. One sin says, "Let me alone, for it is a breach of constitutional right to meddle with me." Another says, "Let me alone, for it is interference with the right to eat, drink and sell whatsoever seemeth good." Another says, "Let me alone, the law of nations or honor licenses me." Still another," Let me alone, for it is a shame to speak of me," and flies behind the vail of false modesty.
But the day is coming, smile or blush as you may, when there will be nothing too indecent or indelicate to be made known. Shall we be awestruck by the cry of indecency, when God commands us to speak; when our very land is death-struck; when our ships pollute the sea and shore; when our great cities are ulcers of crime, and our villages and towns are taking the infection; when the very sanctuary of virtue is invaded and defiled, and our homes and firesides are imperilled? We offer no apology for declaring God's counsel. His word is profitable for correction and reproof. And be it so that a riveted prejudice has generally prevailed against the exposure of this sin of licentiousness, I believe that prejudice has always been greatest where there was most need of such expoFalse modesty is always most clamorous where there is least of the
true. Let not the pulpit quail before the threats and prejudices of the age. Let sin, whether bold and unblushing, or lurking and shame-faced, be fearlessly rebuked.
"When satire has at last spent all its force,
To bring temptation and her lures to shame,
The seventh commandment forbids every form of sensuality in act or thought. It requires the government of the sensual passions. It throws the sanction of Heaven over the purity and chastity of the race. It forbids improper words and looks, indelicate acts, seductive arts, and all indecent modes of dress and exposure. It excludes the use of books, prints, and pictures, that excite the passions and debase the morals. It discountenances those vile exhibitions and disclosures upon the stage or otherwise, that tend to corrupt the imagination and undermine the moral principles.
I need not go into further particulars here. Doth not nature itself teach us? Conscience and scripture are emphatic in their remonstrance against this form of wickedness. The law of God requires purity within and without; where only the eye of heaven beholds, as well as where the eye of man restrains. This law like the sword of the cherubim, turns in every direction to guard the tree of virtue and of life. I now ask candid attention to several reasons or dissuasives against this vice.
I. The most fearful denunciations of Scripture are against it. Warning stands upon almost every page. It is in some sense the sin denounced in the Bible. "The works of the flesh" that exclude from heaven are made up very much of different forms of this sin. "Because of these things," to wit, "fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection and evil concupiscence, the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience." The Bible is a fearful book to the guilty. It has no ray of hope nor beam of promise for the wicked. He that is guilty of this sin cannot expect to enter the gate of heaven; when it is declared that, "without are dogs and sorcerers and whoremongers and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie !"
II. Nature protests against this sin. Her voice is the voice of God; her laws, the laws of God. The Deity has left the imprint of his plan upon the fair surface, as well as among the deep foundations of nature. There is an aspect of innocence and propriety upon all her works. Lessons of virtue and purity are taught in her laws and beauties. There is morality in every landscape and flowery scene. Everything without suggests propriety, purity and virtue, and rebukes vulgarity and uncleanness. Especially was man made to be pure. Everything in either volume of God's great revelation admonishes him to be virtuous. Nature protests against this great wickedness in the form of prostrate health, and a ruined constitution; of loathsome disease and entailed distress and degradation inherited by innocent offspring. Nature remonstrates, too, in the deep instincts and tastes violated by this sin, and in the loss of refined sensibilities obliterated by vice.
And how highly the sensualist pays for his enjoyments. Short pleasures often plant permanent sorrows. Inordinate indulgences die usually by their own excesses. Forbidden joys, like the powder and the fire, are consumed by their own fierce embrace. And who can bear the burden of a condemning conscience, the tooth of corroding remorse, or the pointed finger of disgrace, detestation and self-loathing? Infamy and fearful forebodings are the price paid for forbidden pleasure.
Pure enjoyment grows on the path-side of noble pursuits. It meets you always in the highway of duty. He that triumphs over temptation is a prince among men. There is far more joy in self-conquest than in yielding to sin. He who gains a victory over bimself, sits upon a throne of power and enjoyment. Not the wine sparkling in the glass, nor the voluptuous music and dance, nor the pillow of forbidden pleasure, can compare with the calm consciousness and ennobling transports of one that has followed through perils the path of rectitude and honor.
There is no violation of law against which God has hung out so many beacon-warnings as here. There is no sin that has so many signs exhibited in terror from every window of the soul. If God made one tree more sacred than the rest, and threw around it his strongest interdictions, can we wonder that in the paradise of morals, there should be one trait, one tree, one virtue, more guarded and sacred than the rest.
If he has suffered some one disease to spread, or animal or plant to grow, that is more destructive than all others, may we not believe that some one vice has come to infect the human family, that is more injurious and fatal than every other? This is true in nature, may it not be so in morals? I would not take an iota from the turpitude of other vices, by exaggerating the guilt of this but I believe this to be the most aggravated form of wickedness that infects the world. Nature unperverted, as interpreter of the divine will, protests and revolts against it. If there was a serpent in the grove where you walk, whose bite or charm was death; or a plant or flower there, the plucking or perfume of which was fatal, how cautiously would you tread that enchanted ground! Or if there was a disease in your vicinity, whose contagion was deadly, or a room in your house, the opening of which would send out the malaria of death upon you, how close would you keep that disease or that room! In cases like these you will keep close to nature. You would heed her admoni
tions, obey her laws, and learn her lessons.
And will you not heed her voice, when she warns you against a vice whose power to ruin is not confined to the body, nor to time; but reaches and ruins the soul! The evils just named are limited to the physical health, and to the present scene; but sin kills beyond the tomb. Eternity has no balm, no remedy for its plagues or its woes.
And where the warnings of Scripture and nature are all unheeded, God lets the character become a wreck. And can we wonder? If vegetation divorced itself from nature's plan and rules, should we not expect that everything would die? If the divine mechanism of the body vetoed the laws of physical life, should we not expect earth to become a charnelhouse of death? And if the heavens should cast off the reins of gravitation, and act independently of God's great power in nature, would not everything fall into confusion? And can the higher laws that regulate social life, and control the spiritual world be violated with less impunity
or less injury? What but horror, here and hereafter, can be inherited where every moral refinement and conservative instinct and sentiment is corrupted, and every impulse and warning and standard of nature and virtue is violated? The end of such a course is destruction.
III. Sensuality breaks down the moral principles, and when this is done, the superstructure of character falls, and the ornaments of virtue perish; as we shall see.
The moral principles may be termed the masonry of the mind. They are the strong foundations of an enduring character. Nothing can be substituted for them: nothing beautiful or valuable can long survive them. But they cannot long stand the shock of allowed crime.
Look at some of them. The mind, in a healthy state, is conscious of certain fixed points of belief; but habits of sensuality set the mind all afloat. The mind has an unhesitating adherence to right and truth, to just the extent that natural confidence and conscience bear sway in the soul; but this sin tends to sweep these standards away, and confuse and corrupt the moral perceptions. The mind, too, has an innate sense of accountability, an anticipation of final retribution; but a course of confirmed licentiousness reverses these convictions and produces a state of indifference to the future. A sense of justice,. sentiments of humanity, feelings of natural affection and noble aspirations belong to human nature, and hold a high rank among the moral principles; but habits of sensuality are sure to exterminate these conservative impulses, and make shipwreck of every moral sentiment.
Among the obvious effects or signs of this sin are a loss of the moral judgment, the absence of self-control and self-respect, a prevailing skepticism and moral recklessness. Nor is this all. An incapability of domestic contentment follows; a loss of power to fix the affections, a destruction of the natural attachments, the absence of moral discernments, of respect for superiors, for authority, or the throne above. Who being past feeling, have given themselves to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness. A sense of shame and disgust at length passes away from the very sin that at first filled the face with blushes. One who is in the practice of a wickedness does not perceive its guilt. We have to go out of a house to see it, so we have to leave a habit to see its grossness. Nothing can equal the loss of the moral sentiments, nothing can compensate that loss. As a house whose sills and joints are rotted off, so is the character of the confirmed sensualist; it leans towards destruction. It trembles, and the first breath will lay it in the dust.
IV. Sensuality does violence to the virtues. The virtues are outposts of the character, mortised into the foundations of principle. They are the outward, the active, the ornamental in the life. But they cannot long survive the wreck of the moral principles, any more than the sails and colors of a ship can float after the deck has gone down. As the tassels crown the corn, or the bow the shower, so the virtues the character.
But licentiousness sends a mildew upon all the field of virtues. As nights of frost strike the glory of the forest, nights of forbidden pleasure put upon the moral verdure the imprints of death. Sincerity fails, honor withers, truth and right are prostrate, friendship, affection, humanity and
patriotism perish, and all the spontaneous instincts and disinterested habits and traits lie in the dust. The Upas shade of licentiousness, how soon it chills the hearts of happy households and fills the sanctuary of home with strong repellances. The law of love and peace and truth, of kindness and contentment and confidence is at an end. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever, but the shame of transgression is pollution and death.
V. This sin ruins others. The seventh is the only commandment whose violation necessarily involves others in guilt. But this sin is one of temptation, and seeks companionship in crime. Happy is he who can say, I have corrupted no one, I have defrauded no one. What reflection more cutting than to feel that we have been the cause of another's ruin? Who, on his death-bed, or in eternity, could endure the thought that his pleasures had been enjoyed at the expense of another's wretchedness. Shun, therefore, every art and snare and charm that ruins the soul. Like the stone that falls upon the still lake, every violated law stirs the whole surface of the soul, and fearful billows of ruin will roll up and out forever.
I make no explanation here for referring to a matter, which, perhaps, none of you ever thought of connecting with the evils of licentiousness. Í allude to the practice of giving up one's will to the magnetism or magic of another. God made man to preserve his own self-possession and personal consciousness, and to maintain always and everywhere a free will, and sense of responsibility. These are things which he cannot alienate or violate with impunity. No one has a right to allow himself or herself to be put beyond their own discretion or self-control, or to put another into that state. It is a violation of the law of nature and of God. I cannot away with this practice! It is wrong in principle and wrong in nature; while some, no doubt, are initiated innocently, and come out of these states innocent. No one can dabble with these enchantments and divinations without moral and mental injury. I forewarn you, my friends, that licentiousness is going to reap a heavy harvest from this new philosophy. Such susceptible ones, instead of following those who practice these charms, ought to put themselves at once under the care of a skillful physician, or fly to some insane retreat for safety. Sin has a thousand treacherous arts to practice on the mind.
VI. This sin leads to every other. It is the smooth but precipitous way that leads to hell. We have glanced at the destruction it works in the moral nature. Let us now see its effect upon other vices. One sin has a natural affinity for another. The vices, like the birds of passage, go in flocks; or like ravenous beasts, in groups, or gangs. They are weak in each other's absence, but strong in each other's embrace. One prepares the way for another, paves the way for another, removes the obstructions of principle and habit, that lie in the way of the rest. They grow with each other's growth and strengthen with each other's strength. Like seeks like, tempts like, has an affinity, a charm for the same. Emphatically true is this of sensuality, when it becomes the master passion. It is lenient towards every evil, licenses every iniquity, and stimulates every vile habit. A slight allowance here is like the letting forth of waters, the embankments of moral principle, the fortifications of bold virtue, are swept away, or struck down. All soon becomes a wreck.