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"and he shall be holden with the cords of his "sins."
It is very true, the sins of the flesh do not always produce all the bitter fruits which I have mentioned. But then such instances of them, as at first are imagined the safest, frequently prove extremely hurtful; or, however, entice persons on to worse, till they come at length to the most flagrant and pernicious. Very few, who transgress the Scripture bounds, ever stop at those lengths, which themselves, when they set out, thought the greatest that were defensible. Liberties taken by men before marriage, incline them to repeat the same liberties after marriage, and also to entertain the most injurious jealousies of good women, grounded on the knowledge which they have formerly had of bad ones. Their past successes embolden and incite them to new and more flagitious attempts; and by appetites thus indulged, and habits contracted, they are carried on perpetually further and further, till they come to be guilty, and sometimes merely for the sake and the name of being guilty, of what they would once have trembled to hear proposed.
But supposing they keep within the limits of what they at first imagined to be allowable; is imagination (and reason, when biassed by passions, is nothing better,) the test of truth? Supposing their behaviour could be harmless otherwise, is not the example dangerous? Will, or can, the world around them take notice of all the pretended peculiarities that distinguish their case, and preserve it from being a sin, while other crimes, to which at first sight it is very like, are confessedly great ones? Or will not all, who have bad inclinations or unsettled principles, take shelter under their practice, and either despise their re
(8) Prov. v. 8-13, 21, 22.
finements, or easily invent similar ones for their
But further yet; if it be argued, that offences of this nature may by circumstances be rendered excusable, why not others also? why may not robbery, why may not murder be defended, by saying, that though undoubtedly in general they are very wrong, yet in such or such particular occurrences, there is on the whole very little hurt, or none at all, done by them, but perhaps good? And what would become of the human race, were such pleas admitted? The ends of government can be attained by no other than by plain, determinate, comprehensive laws, to be steadily observed; and no one's inclinations, or fanciful theories, are to decide, when they bind, and when not; but deviations from them are criminal, if on no other account, yet because they are deviations; though differently criminal indeed according to their different degrees. Thus in the matter before us, what approaches nearer to marriage is, ordinarily speaking, so far less blameable, than what is more distant from it; but nothing can be void of blame, and of great blame, that breaks the ordinances of God or man. For even the latter, if they oblige the conscience in any case, must oblige it in this, where public and private welfare is so essentially concerned. And as to the former, though sensual irregularities may suit very well with some sorts of superstition, yet their inconsistence with any thing that deserves the name of religion, is confessed in effect by the persons guilty of them. For if some few such do hypocritically, in vain hope of concealment, keep on the appearance of it, yet who amongst them can preserve the reality of it? Offences of this kind, how plausibly soever palliated, yet, being committed against known prohibitions, wear out of the mind all reverence to
God's commandments, all expectation of his future favour; nay, the very desire of spiritual happiness hereafter; and though many, who indulge in licentiousness, have, notwithstanding, very good qualities, yet, would they review their hearts and lives, they would find that they have much the fewer for it; and that those which remain are often made useless, often endangered-often perverted by it.
But the sins already mentioned, are, by no means, the only ones to be avoided in consequence of this Commandment; whatever invites to them, whatever approaches towards them, whatever is contrary to decency and honour, whatever taints the purity of the mind, inflames the passions, and wears off the impressions of virtuous shame; all immodesty of appearance or behaviour; all entertainments, books, pictures, conversations, tending to excite or excuse the indulgence of irregular desires, are, in their proportion, prohibited and criminal. And unless we prudently guard against. the smaller offences of this kind, the more heinous will be too likely to force their way; as our Lord very strongly warns us: "Ye have heard "it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not "commit adultery; but I say unto you, that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her,' "hath committed adultery with her already in his "heart." And though vicious inclinations were never to go further than the heart, yet, if, instead of merely intruding against our will, they are designedly encouraged to dwell there, they corrupt the very fountain of spiritual life; and none but "the pure in heart shall see God."1
All persons, therefore, should be very careful to turn their minds from forbidden objects, to fix their attention so constantly and steadily on use
(9) Matt. vi. 27, 28.
(1) Matt. v. 8.
ful and commendable employments, as to have no leisure for vices, and to govern themselves by such rules of temperance and prudence, that every sensual appetite may be kept in subjection to the dictates of reason, and the laws of religion; always remembering that Christianity both delivers to us the strictest precepts of holiness, and sets before us the strongest motives to it; our peculiar relation to a holy God and Saviour; our being "the temples of the Holy Ghost," which "tem"ple, if any man defile, him will God destroy ;"3 our being "pilgrims and strangers on earth,"4 not intended to have our portion here, but to inherit a spiritual happiness hereafter; and "every "one that hath this hope, must purify himself " even as God is pure." I shall conclude, therefore, with St. Paul's exhortation: "Fornication, "and all uncleanness, let it not be once named "among you, as becometh saints; neither filthi"ness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are "not convenient; for this ye know, that no "whoremonger, nor unclean person, hath any "inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of "God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; "for because of these things cometh the wrath of "God upon the children of disobedience. Be not "ye, therefore, partakers with them; walk as chil"dren of light, and have no fellowship with the "unfruitful works of darkness." 996
(2) 1 Cor. vi. 19. (3) 1 Cor. iii. 17. (4) 1 Pet. ii. 11. (5) 1 John iii. 3. (6) Eph. v. 3-11.
UNDER the Eighth Commandment is comprehended, our duty to our neighbour, in respect of his worldly substance. And, to explain it distinctly, I shall endeavour to show,
I. What it forbids; and
II. What, by consequence, it requires.
I. As to the former: The wickedness of mankind has invented ways to commit such an astonishing variety of sins against this Commandment, that it is impossible to reckon them up, and dreadful to think of them. But most, if not all of them, are so manifestly sins, that the least reflection is enough to make any one sensible, how much he is bound conscientiously to avoid them. And he who desires to preserve himself innocent, easily may.
The most open and shameless crime of this sort, is robbery; taking from another what is his, by force; which, adding violence against his person, to invasion of his property, and making every part of human life unsafe, is a complicated transgression of very deep guilt.
The next degree is secret theft; privately converting to our own use what is not our own. do this in matters of great value, is confessedly pernicious wickedness. And though it were only in what may seem a trifle, yet, every man's right to the smallest part of what belongs to him, is the same as to the largest; and he ought no more to be wronged of one than of the other. Besides, little instances of dishonesty, cause great disquiet; make the sufferers distrustful of all about them;