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more than any single species of vice whatsoever. That ready perception of guilt, that prompt and decisive resolution against it, which constitutes a virtuous character, is seldom found in persons addicted to these indulgences. They prepare an easy admission for every sin that seeks it; are, in low life, usually the first stage in men's progress to the most desperate villanies; and, in high life, to that lamented dissoluteness of principle, which manifests itself in a profligacy of public conduct, and a contempt of the obligations of religion and of moral probity. Add to this, that habits of libertinism incapacitate and indispose the mind for all intellectual, moral, and religious pleasures*.”
The fact is incontrovertible; and when we consider the polluting influence of the crime itself, and the debasing tendency of the means usually employed in its accomplishment, we can, without much difficulty, account for it. Not only is secrecy, in the greater number of cases, deemed necessary, but the perpetrators are brought into the society of vicious persons, and are led to employ deceit and fraud in the gratification of their licentious appetites. Hence, the persons over whom this wickedness acquires ascendency become thoroughly unprincipled, impious, blasphemers, treacherous, drunken, and ready for every crime.
To those who are yet on the threshold of this course, we would say, Return. Advance but a little further, and your recovery is hopeless. None (comparatively none) who fully set out on this way of destruction turn again, neither take they hold of the paths of life. “ Behold now is your accepted time, and now is the day of your salvation.”
* Mor. Phil. vol. i. p. 292
The species of cohabitation referred to by Paley, though distinguishable from a vagrant concubinage, is not sanctioned by marriage, and therefore, the persons who practise it live in continual fornication. If, as has been alleged, in its defence, the situation of the parties be the same thing as marriage, why do they not marry? If the man chooses this situation because he has it in his power to dismiss the woman at his pleasure, or to retain her in a state of humiliation and dependence inconsistent with the rights which marriage would confer upon her, it is not the same thing. It is not at any rate the same thing to the children. The cohabitation of men and women, without having previously undertaken the obligations, and conferred the mutual rights of marriage, is immoral, because it is opposed to the injunctions of Scripture, and because it not only discourages and tends to prevent marriage, and the blessings of which marriage is productive, but is the source of the most pernicious consequences.
In proportion to the criminality of fornication should be our vigilance in guarding against those temptations which lead to it. For this purpose let us live under the habitual conviction that the Scriptures prohibit,
I. All impurity of thought. “ He that looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”—“ Out of the heart,” says our Saviour,“ proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies ; these are the things which defile a man.” When the heart is preserved with all diligence, the conversation
and the life will be pure ; but when the imagination is licentious, the whole man is contaminated. It is melancholy to think of the numberless methods by which, in these degenerate times, impure thoughts are suggested to the mind; and by which unthinking youth are peculiarly exposed to dangers.
II. Impurity of words is also forbidden. They are at once the expression of an improper state of heart, and the means of awakening impure thoughts and desires. Their use is degrading to us as rational beings, and altogether unsuited to our character as christians. “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient.”-On earth, what object is there more degraded, more to be abhorred, than the man who from inbred pollution of heart, diffuses, through the medium of obscene language, a corrupting influence around him?
III. It is scarcely necessary to add, that every approach to licentiousness of conduct is to be guarded against as criminal.
Irregularity, as has been truly remarked, has no limits; one excess draws on another ;-the most easy, therefore, as well as the most excellent way of being virtuous, is to be so entirely." We ought, therefore, in this, as in everything else, to “ abstain from all appearance of evil.”
This is a robbery of the most atrocious description, committed by a series of heartless villanies, and followed by irreparable injury. To the victim of this injury it is productive of the inconceivable wretchedness mentioned in the former chapter. Deprived of what is to all a source of comfort, reputation, she is covered with infamy; and if her maintenance depend upon her character, she loses her employment, and becomes a forlorn outcast, without food and raiment. What adds to the enormity of this crime is, that it is usually succeeded by a total subversion of moral principle, and, consequently, by the perdition of the hapless being seduced. Who but the Judge of all the earth, can estimate the desert of the authors of mischief so irretrievable ?
The victim of this mischief may have been the pride of her family, the object of her parents' fondness and delight, who they hoped would be the honour and happiness of their declining years. Till now innocence and peace smiled on their dwellingplace. But as though their felicity had been viewed by a malignant eye, the tempter, by falsehoods and artifices, has succeeded in its destruction, and has overwhelmed the members of a virtuous household in the most agonizing shame and sorrow. parent ask, what would be his feelings, if the dis
honour supposed were inflicted on a beloved child ; and let every brother say, in what way he could estimate the injury did it relate to a sister.
“ If it be justly considered, as adding tenfold horror to the crime of murder, that he on whom death was inflicted, was a friend and benefactor of the assassin, and forgave the deadly blow, even while he recognised the arm from which it came,—what weight of guilt does the very love, which, even after ruin, still lingers in her gentle heart that was betrayed, add to the atrocious selfishness of him who rejoiced to perceive the tenderness of love, only as a proof that his artifices had not been wasted; who, in abandoning her afterwards to all her misery, regretted only the difficulty which he might have in shaking off a love so obstinate.
" Let us imagine, then, gathered into one terrible moment—the distraction of parents,—the tears of sisters,—the shame and remorse of the frail outcast; or perhaps, in the dreadful progress of depravation of what was shame and remorse—a wild excess of guilt, that seeks only to forget the past, and that scarcely knows, in the distraction of many acquired vices, what it is which constitutes at the moment the anguish which it feels—if all this combination of miseries could be made visible, as it were, to the very eyes of the seducer, and the instant production of it were to depend on a single word of renewed solicitation on his part—what passion, that calls itself love in any human breast, can we conceive to be unmoved by such a sight, as to utter calmly a word so destruetive? And if a single moment of the miserable result be so