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our courts of justice. There is sometimes a false and an affected delicacy allowed to operate, to which faithfulness is often sacrificed; and which, in many instances, proceeds from a want of proper courage in the discharge of official duties. It is to be seriously apprehended, that there are men of lewd and licentious minds, even in assemblies professedly religious, and they ought to have their portion of admonition in due season, and in a proper manner, as well as others. Awful as it may be to bring the positive commandments of the Almighty before them, it will yet be more awful for them to stand at his bar, without having ever considered them at all. And the minister who shall be guilty of refraining from the full statement of truth, and who shall refuse to travel over all the lengths and breadths of the holy volume, through a fastidious feeling on this subject, may suspect whether, by so far seeking " to please men,” and spare himself, he can be “the servant of Christ.”*
The words of my text combine all that the Saviour has observed in this sermon on “ the seventh commandment.” He explains the prohibition which that commandment contains, on the same principle as he does the preceding. He shows that not only does the commission of the grossest sensuality constitute the evil in question; but that the indulgence of all lascivious looks and imaginations, by which the mind is polluted, is of the same character in the sight of the law. The subject is, therefore, both solemn in its nature, and universal in its claims, on the attention of mankind. Positive and specific crime, all may not commit, but by the enlarged interpretation of an Infallible Expositor, who can say that he is not comprehended in the charge: “ Out of the heart proceed evil
Gal. i. 10.
thoughts, murders, adulteries ?"* “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;"^ and no man who has ever seriously studied it, will deny, at least, a mental commission of this sin. Let us, therefore, summons all the powers of our understanding, and the affections of our heart, to a devout consideration
I. OF THE SIN PROHIBITED.
II. THE MEANS PRESCRIBED FOR ITS PRBVENTION; AND,
III. THE MOTIVE INTRODUCED FOR THEIR ADOP
And while we are thus employed, may divine grace, through the all-sufficient energy of the blessed spirit, “crucify our flesh, with its affections and lusts," that so we may attain holy chastity of body and mind, which the commandment enforces and requires.
I. THE SIN PROHIBITED IN THE TEXT.
"Ye have heard that it was said to 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." The case was this :-The Jewish doctors were of opinion that the Divine Being did not regard evil thoughts in the light of sins, unless they were against himself; and that, therefore, He would never punish a man for their indulgence, provided the sin they contemplated was uncommitted. They carried this unscriptural notion so far, as to affirm that, while the Supreme Majesty of heaven and earth regarded a good thought, the same as if it were a good deed; yet, that He did not view an evil thought the
same as if it were an evil deed. They had not, however, sufficient charity to believe that this privilege extended to other nations, but to them only who were the lineal descendants of Abraham. In fact, they taught the very converse of this opinion with respect to the Gentiles; and instructed the Jews to believe, that the good thoughts of all men, themselves excepted, were wholly negative, unless they were reduced to practice; but that evil desires made them as culpable as if they were accomplished. So blind and selfish are men, when the admission of the truth would interfere with their appetites and interests !
Now, this absurd and unscriptural notion they applied to “ the seventh commandment." And it was to overthrow the monstrous position, that the Lord Jesus Christ assured them, in the most distinct and solemn manner, “ that whosoever," whether Jew or Gentile, “looketh on a woman to lust after her," or as it is expressed in the tenth commandment, "to covet her,” violates the precept, and is in danger of its penalty. While, therefore, He represents this portion of the moral law as expressly condemning the actual offence, He also extends its meaning to the utter prohibition of all impurity whatsoever. Let us, therefore, consider it as including the deed, the word, and the thought of uncleanness.
First. The letter of the commandment forbids every degree of lewdness in action. The highest offence of this kind is “adultery;" the crime of unfaithfulness in persons who have entered “the holy estate of matrimony." Little as some loose moralists think of this crime, there is none mentioned in the page of Scripture as more atrocious in its nature, more aggravating in its commission, or more tremendous in its consequences. Listen to the testimony of Job: “For this is an heinous crime: yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges. For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase."* Let us hear the testimony of Solomon, as to the adultress : “Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.”+ Let us hear the testimony of St. Paul: “ Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”I Let us hear also the testimony of the Lord himself: “I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the bireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts."S Here we find this dreadful evil mingled with perjury and oppression, and with almost every other sin, upon which the indignation of heaven will at length be poured out.
By some strange anomaly, not easily accounted for, the statute law of our land considers this atrocious transgression merely a civil injury, to be compensated by a pecuniary award. Hence, there are men, in a court of justice, who will treat it with indecent merriment, as a very trifling matter indeed. But “ to the law and to the testimony, and, if they speak not acording to this word, it is because there is no light in them."| And can that be a trifling evil which comprises every other species of impurity? Look at its effects wherever they operate? It first debases, degrades, and vilifies, the breast in which it is conceived; and then, rising like a mighty torrent, it overflows its channel, inundates the abode of innocence and virtue, and sweeps away what is dearer than life itself-domestic peace and comfort! If the punishment of the crime were
Heb. xiii. 4.
* Job xxxi. II, 12.
Mal. iii. 5.
+ Prov. vii. 27.
equal to the maguitude of the offence, many a noble sinner would be levelled with the lowest.
The next degree of this scandalous offence, in atrocity, is “fornication;" which is also condemned in these pages, as an evil of no common amount. This consists in the unchastity of unmarried persons; and if it be less sinful than adultery, because it violates no marriage vow, it is, nevertheless, positively forbidden by the law of God. The institution of marriage was mercifully intended as a remedy against this dangerous sin; and he who slights the gracious appointment of heaven, for the sake of gratifying an unbridled appetite, must be sunk as low as the lowest in sensuality and vice. The slave of such a passion is the most degraded wretch of human kind. To say nothing of the poverty, disease, and dishonour, which its indulgence commonly entails on the body, look at its deadly influence on the soul. If there be one demon expelled with more difficulty than another from the heart, it is the demon of impurity. By its fascinations, and its pretexts, it blinds the understanding, cauterizes the conscience, pollutes the imagination, and overpowers every right principle, which the pious attention of a parent or a pastor might have been the means of implanting within. Can it, therefore, be questionable, whether it is offensive to God, and ruinous to the immortal spirit? Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience."* The offence is specifically described, and specifically condemned, -" fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”+ The writers of the Holy Scriptures knew nothing of that perversion of language which can give soft and specious names to vile passions, and wicked deeds; or of those spurious and pernicious refinements which the enemy