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most effectual preservatives against the sins of lewdness, which of all others most easily and most violently beset us during the early and best part of human life; and these are, employment, temperance, choice of company, and the regulation of the thoughts.
The first precaution against those vices is constant employment. There are few who can bear leisure ; that is, whom leisure does not lead into vicious attachments.
When a man looks about him, and finds nothing for him to do, all his evil thoughts and propensities are directly setting themselves to work; and when once the attention has got hold of any criminal indulgence, it is not easily set loose. Resolutions against these serve only to rivet the thoughts the faster upon our minds, and there are few who can hold out against the continual teazing of such thoughts. The only way was, at first, to have kept our attention better employed; and it is still the only way, to convert it to something else. This account is confirmed by observation. I do not say that the active and the diligent are always free from these vices, for a man may be vicious, in spite of every thing ; but I think you will find few exceptions to the remark, that the idle are generally dissolute; that those who have no business, or do not take to their business, are conmonly a nuisance to the neighbourhood they live in, in this very respect. Let those, then, who are to live by their labor or business, receive this additional reason for sticking close to their occupation ; that they can hardly fail of success, or of a comfortable livelihood however ; that they make their employment by sticking to it, easy, which otherwise is sure to become irksome and fretting. Besides both these reasons, they are taking the most reasonable method, and perhaps the only one, of passing their time innocently here upon earth, and procuring thereby the happiness they look for hereafter. As to those who have no employment, they have great reason to lament the want of one as a misfortune, if it was only on the account abovementioned; but a man must be very low in understanding, as well as left very short in his education, who cannot contrive some method of bestowing his activity and thoughts which may procure him advantage or credit, or at least an innocent ainusement, as well as make him of some service to the neighbourhood he lives in.
The next safeguard against the vices of lewdness is temperance, especially in drinking. Was drunkenness nothing more than a brutality for the time, every one who had a concern for his duty would avoid it; but the mischief is seldom over so soon. The consequences are too often fatal to virtue in another respect; not only to the drunken man's, if he had any, but to the virtue of some poor sufferer who falls in his way. Drunkenness, in reality, both inflames men's passions, and confounds and deadens the reason and reflection, and every principle that can restrain them; so that it always destroys the balance, as one may say, which was intended in the human constitution; and if men of the best and ablest sort can scarcely control their passions, it is not expected they should retain much command over them when such an advantage is thrown into the wrong scale. Now if to these you add a notion, which men in general take
that drunkenness is an excuse for what men do in that condition, and hich notion in effect amounts to this; that when men find themselves drunk, they are at liberty to do what they please; if you lay all these considerations together, it cannot, I think, be reasonably supposed that men will preserve a
I constant regard to morality and religion in the government of their natural passions, who do not lay a restraint upon themselves in the article of drunkenness.
The next great point to be attended to by those who are anxious for the preservation of this virtue from the allurements of criminal pleasures, is the choice of company. Companions, however they differ in other respects, commonly resemble one another in their vices. The influence of a good man's example may not possibly be always able to make those who associate and converse with him good; but the contagion of a vicious man's life will seldom fail to infect and draw in all who keep him company; and the reason is, it is in one case against the stream, in the other case with it ; in the one case, the example has to combat with our natural propensities, in the other case, it aids and assists them. Nothing so soon and so effectually wears off that horror and shrinking back of the mind from any vicious actions, with which good education and good principles have inspired us, as the practices of our companions. We are astonished at first to hear with how much ease they speak of those things which we have been taught to shudder at, and with how little reluctance and regret they practise them; but our surprise by degrees wears off. We begin to think there cannot be all the danger or guilt in those indulgences which we supposed; we then insensibly gather courage; and as we set not up for singularity, or a superior standard of virtue, we do not understand how that should be so heinous an offence in us, which others allow to themselves without concern or remorse. Thus are our sentiments insensibly changed ; and yet the nature of things is not thereby changed. What was immoral, and profligate, and destructive of the happiness of human society, and contrary to God Almighty's commands, and under the sentence of condemnation in his word which he has revealed to us, is so still. Nor are the consequences less likely to overtake us because we have forgotten them. Another thing, which vastly increases the baneful influence of dissolute company, and renders us, as some may suppose, almost excusable, is a certain shyness in some men, which will seldom allow them to make much opposition to the solicitations and examples of their companions, how contrary soever to their own choice and judgment, if they had been permitted to choose and judge for themselves; and then there is generally, in addition to all this, the fear of ridicule, which to the tenderness and sensibility of young minds is like the fear of death. And the misfortune is, they make no distinction; their being laughed at, whether with reason or without, is equally insupportable; and especially when these scruples look like want of spirit, or their companions give that turn or that name to it; though, in truth, it is want of spirit, and nothing else, that keeps them in such company ; for what, in reality, can be more meanspirited than to be led in a state of subjection to those about us, without choice, force, or judgment of our own; and to be compelled, for it is compulsion, to give up our consciences, principles, and resolutions ?
I mention this, not so much to fortify young men against the influence of bad company, for I have little hopes of that, but to advise them to keep out of their way, to be wary and cautious how they trust themselves in the society, much less with the intimacy, of a dissolute character.
The last and great preservative I shall mention is the regulation of the thoughts. «Whosoever,' says our Saviour, ' looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already with her in his heart;' that is, whoever voluntarily entertains loose and bad thoughts and designs, makes himself in a degree a partaker of the crime ; so that our Saviour imposed it as a duty upon his followers to lay a restraint upon their thoughts; and our Saviour knew what was in man when he did so; he knew that, without a proper control and regulation of our thoughts, it is in vain to expect virtue in our practice; for licentious thoughts will, earlier or later, according as opportunities present themselves, or we grow tired of struggling with them, lead to licentious practices. I have already mentioned the way of managing our thoughts, that is, by keeping them
constantly employed upon some proper object; and I believe there is no other way.
These, then, are the precautions, which, with the blessing and assistance of Divine grace, are most fitting to conduct us through this world, and in a debauched and licentious age of it, with innocence in that respect in which of all others there is the most danger, and by which men are drawn into such confirmed habits of universal profligacy as are dreadful to observe.
Men are perpetually complaining that they resolve against these vices, but that their resolutions, in the time of trial, never stand out; and how should they? They have never used any of those cautions, put in practice any of those preservatives, which are absolutely necessary to keep up selfgovernment, or a command over their passions, and to give stability and success to any resolutions. Their virtue does not take the alarm in time. They take up with an idle life; they see no harm in that, if they can afford it, or if they cannot, it is their own concern. Profaneness, drunkenness, unreasonable hours, are only so much frolic, which is over the next morning. They find out, or are found out by, dissolute companions. They are courted for their mirth, or vivacity, or humor, or entertaining qualities, without any care about the danger of the consequences. A habit of vicious thoughts is suffered to grow upon us, because, if it do not lead to a habit of acting, where is the mischief? And then all vice, or entry to vice, is laid open, every precaution neglected, every incentive excited or inflamed, and we are surprised that we are overcome.
1 TIMOTHY VI. 6, 7, 8.
Godliness with contentment is great gain; for we brought nothing into the
world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out; and having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.
RESTLESSNESS and impatience in the situation of life they are placed in, is in some men a disposition, in others a habit; in others, again, a false calculation of the advantages and disadvantages of different conditions. And it is in all a temper of mind extremely prejudicial to a man's happiness, as it will not suffer him to acquiesce in, or enjoy, the satisfactions which are within the reach of his present situation, and is no mean whatever of procuring him a better. It has an ill effect upon his virtue ; as no man accommodates himself properly to the duties of a station with which he is discontented, which he is laboring only to get rid of. Although there may be no reflections, perhaps, which can compose the fretfulness of his disposition, or correct a confirmed habit of being out of humor with every thing that belongs to himself, and pleased with whatever he sees others possess; yet where discontent proceeds, as it sometimes does, from mistaken notions of the happiness and misery of different conditions, a little just reasoning and consideration may help to cure it.
Now what deceives most men in comparing their own situation with that of others, is this; that they are perfectly sensible of their own cares, their griefs and difficulties, the hardships and inconveniences of their own situation, and know little or nothing of those of others. A man's happiness or misery, so far, I mean, as it is affected by outward condition, depends almost always upon invisible circumstances, secret particulars which others are not acquainted with, and never suspect. Few can truly estimate the real circumstances in the condition of others, the evils and inconveniences they suffer; nor if they do, will they trouble themselves to confess what they believe.
Besides, evils are never known till they are passed ; that is, there is such a difference between our judgment of the evils which we experience, and those which we are only told of, that the smallest of our own sufferings seems to outweigh the greatest we observe in others. Add to this, that such is also the infirmity or the perverseness of the human mind, that pain of all kind makes a much greater impression than pleasure, inconveniences than advantages, the irksome part of a man's condition, than the benefits and privileges of it. So that when we come to reflect on our own situation, the evil of it is always uppermost. Instead of taking the good and the bad together, and fairly balancing both sides of the account, we dwell, for example, upon the fatigue, or the confinement, or the humiliation, or the indigence, or other disadvantages of our condition, which are remembered distinctly, and with all their aggravations; whilst the comfort and advantages, the peace, quietness, and security and independence, the freedom from care and from danger, and many substantial blessings we enjoy, we