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HEB. XIII. 4.
Marriage is honourable 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? 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 of 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 in
considerable 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? 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 dif ference. 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? Is there no punish ment 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? 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 once been brought to allow himself in habitual whoredom and uncleanness, generally speaking, it is all over with him. As to his religious principles, 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, somehow 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.