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A woman guilty of this crime, who, to use the words of Scripture, "forsaketh the guide "of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her "God,"4 brings peculiar disgrace on her husband, her children, and friends; and may bring an illegitimate offspring to inherit what is the right of others; nor is the infamy and punishment to which she exposes herself, a less dreadful evil for being a deserved one. And if falsehood on the men's part, hath not all the same aggravations, it hath very great ones in their stead. They are almost constantly the tempters; they often carry on their wicked designs for a long time together; they too commonly use the vilest means to accomplish them. And as they claim the strictest fidelity, it is ungenerous, as well as unjust, to fail of paying it. All men must feel how bitter it would be to them to be injured in this respect; let them think, then, what it is to be injurious in it; and since the crime is the same when committed by them, as when committed against them, let them own that it deserves the same condemnation from the Judge of the world. "The Lord hath been "witness (saith the Prophet) between thee and "the wife of thy youth, against whom thou dealest "treacherously; yet is she the companion and the "wife of thy covenant. Therefore, take heed to "your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with "the wife of his youth."
It will be safest, but I hope it is not necessary, to add, that an unmarried man or woman, offending with the wife or husband of any one, being no less guilty of adultery than the person with whom the offence is committed, is, consequently, an accomplice in all the wickedness, and all the mischief above-mentioned; and this frequently with aggravating circumstances of the greatest. (5) Mal. ii. 14, 15.
(4) Prov. ii. 17.
baseness, and treachery, and ingratitude, and cruelty, that can be imagined. Whatever some may plead, surely none can think such behaviour defensible; and, most surely, they will not find it so; for "marriage is honourable in all, and the "bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers "God will judge."
The crime of adultery being so great, it follows, that all improper familiarities, which, though undesignedly, may lead to adultery, and all imprudent behaviour which may give suspicion of it, is to be avoided as matter of conscience; that all groundless jealousy is to be checked by those who are inclined to it, and discouraged by others, as most heinous injustice; and that every thing should be carefully observed by both parties, which may endear them to each other. No persons, therefore, should ever enter into the marriage-bond with such as they cannot esteem and love; and all persons, who have entered into it, should use all means, not only to preserve esteem and love, but to increase it; affectionate condescension on the husband's part, cheerful submission on the wife's; mildness and tenderness, prudence and attention to their common interest, and that of their joint posterity, on both parts. It is usually, in a great measure at least, from the want of these engaging qualities in one or the other, that falsehood arises. And if that doth not, some other evil will; too likely to produce effects equally grievous, and, therefore, to be considered as equally forbidden.
But now, from the mutual fidelity required of married persons, I proceed, secondly, to the chastity and modesty required of all persons.
Supposing that only such as live single, were to be guilty with each other: yet, by means even of this licentiousness, in proportion as it prevails, the
(6) Heb, xiii. 4,
regularity and good order of society are overturned, the credit and peace of families destroyed, the proper disposal of young people in marriage prevented, the due education of children and provision for them neglected, the keenest animosities perpetually excited, and the most shocking murders frequently committed, of the parties themselves, their rivals, their innocent babes; in short, every enormity follows from hence, that lawless passion can introduce. For all sins, indeed, but especially this, lead persons on to more and greater; to all manner of falsehood to secure their success, all manner of dishonesty to provide for the expensiveness of these courses-all manner of barbarity to hide the shame, or lighten the inconveniencies of them; till thus they become abandoned to every crime, by indulging this one.
But let us consider the fatal effects of it on the two sexes, separately. Women that lose their innocence, which seldom fails of being soon discovered, lose their good name entirely along with it; are marked out, and given up at once to almost irrecoverable infamy; and even mere suspicion hath, in some measure, the same bad consequences with certain proof. It is, doubtless, extremely unjust to work up mere imprudences into gross transgressions; and even the greatest transgressors ought to be treated with all possible compassion, when they appear truly penitent. But, unless they appear so, a wide distinction between them and others ought to be made. And they who contribute, whether designedly or thoughtlessly, to place good, bad, and doubtful characters all on a level, do, most preposterously, obscure and debase their own virtue, if they have any; keep guilt in countenance, and defraud right conduct of the peculiar esteem which belongs to it; thus injuring at once the cause of religion and morals, and the interests of society. But, besides the
general disregard, of which vicious women will experience not a little, even in places and times of the most relaxed ways of thinking, they have a sorer evil to expect, of being, sooner or later, for the most part very soon, cast off and abandoned, with contempt and scorn, by their seducers. Or even should they have reparation made them by marriage, this doth not take away the sin at all, and the disgrace but very imperfectly; not to say that it still leaves them peculiarly exposed to the reproaches and the jealousy of their husbands ever after.
And if men that seduce women, are not looked on by the world with so much abhorrence, as women that are seduced, at least they deserve to be looked on with greater. For, there cannot easily be more exquisite wickedness, than, merely for the gratifying of a brutal appetite, or idle fancy, to change all the prospect which a young person hath of being happy and respected through life, into guilt, and dishonour, and distress, out of which, too probably, she will never be disentangled, under the false and treacherous pretence of tender regard. If we have any feeling of conscience within us, we must feel this to be most unworthy behaviour. And if the Ruler of the world hath any attention to the moral character of his rational creatures, which is the noblest object of his attention, that can be conceived, he must show it on such occasions, and, therefore, may be believed when he saith he will.
But supposing men not to corrupt the innocent, but to sin with such alone as make a profession of sin, yet, even this manner of breaking the law of God, hath most dreadful consequences. It hinders the increase of a nation in general. It leaves the few children that proceed from these mixtures, abandoned to misery, uselessness, and wickedIt turns aside the minds of persons from
beneficial and laudable employments, to mean sensual pursuits. It encourages and increases the most dissolute, and in every sense, abandoned set of wretches in the world, common prostitutes, to their own miserable and early destruction; and that of multitudes of unwary youths, who would else have escaped. It debases the heart, by the influence of such vile and profligate company, to vile and profligate ways of thinking and acting. It sometimes produces quarrels, that are immediately fatal; sometimes friendships, that are equally so, to every valuable purpose of life. It leads men to extravagance and profusion, grieves all that wish them well, distresses those who are to support them, and drives them to the most criminal methods of supporting themselves. It tempts men to excesses and irregularities of every kind-wastes their health and strength-brings on them painful and opprobrious diseases, too often communicated to those whom they afterwards marry; and to their miserable posterity, if they have any. By all these mischiefs, which, for the most part, come upon them in the beginning of their days, the remainder of them is made either short or tedious, perhaps both. With great wisdom, therefore, doth Solomon exhort, "Remove thy way from the strange woman, and come not nigh the door of her house, lest thou give thine "honour unto others, and thy years unto the "cruel; lest strangers be filled with thy wealth, "and thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and "thy body are consumed, and say, How have I "hated instruction, and my heart despised re"proof, and I have not obeyed the voice of my "teachers. For the ways of man are before the "eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his go“ings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked,
(7) Wisd. ii. 1.