An English army-officer in India who had been living an impure life went around one evening to argue religion with the chaplain. During their talk the officer said:
"Religion is all very well, but you must admit that there are difficulties -- about the miracles, for instance."
The chaplain knew the man and his besetting sin, and quietly looking him in the face, answered:
"Yes, there are some things in the Bible not very plain, I admit; but the seventh commandment is very plain."
I would to God I could pass over this commandment, but I feel that the time has come to cry aloud and spare not. Plain speaking about it is not very fashionable nowadays. "Teachers of religion have by common consent banished from their public teaching all advice, warning or allusion in regard to love between the sexes," says Dr. Stalker. These themes are left to poets and novelists to handle. In an autobiography recently published in England, the writer attributed no small share of the follies and vices of his earlier years to his never having heard a plain, outspoken sermon on this seventh commandment.
But though men are inclined to pass it by, God is not silent or indifferent in regard to it. When I hear any one make light of adultery and licentiousness, I take the Bible and see how God has let his curse and wrath come down upon it.
"Thou shalt not commit adultery. . . . For this is a 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. . . . By means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbor's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. . . . Whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonor shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. . . . Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind shall inherit the kingdom of God. . . . But fornication, and all uncleanness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving thanks. 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. . . . Whoremongers shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. . . . For without are whoremongers. . . ."
These are a few of the threatenings and warnings contained in the old Book, up to its closing chapter. It speaks plainly, without compromise.
MARRIAGE AND THE HOME.
This commandment is God's bulwark around marriage and the home. Marriage is one of the institutions that existed in Eden; it is older than the fall. It is the most sacred relationship that can exist between human beings, taking precedence even of the relationship of the parent and child. Some one has pointed out that as in the beginning God created one man and one woman, this is the true order for all ages. Where family ties are disregarded and dishonored, the results are always fatal. The home existed before the church, and unless the home is kept pure and undefiled, there can be no family religion and the church is in danger. Adultery and licentiousness have swept nation after nation out of existence. Did it not bring fire and brimstone from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah? What carried Rome into ruin? The obscene frescoes and statues at Pompeii and Naples tell the tale. Where there is no sacredness around the home, population dwindles; family virtues disappear; the children are corrupt from their very birth; the seeds of sure decay are already planted. In 1895 there were twenty-five thousand divorces in this country. I was on one of the fashionable streets of a prominent city some time ago, where every family except two in the whole street had either a son or a daughter that had been divorced. Divorce and debauchery go hand in hand. We are not gaining much in turning away from this old law, are we?
THE DEVIL'S COUNTERFEIT.
Lust is the devil's counterfeit of love. There is nothing more beautiful on earth than a pure love, and there is nothing so blighting as lust. I do not know of a quicker, shorter way down to hell than by adultery and the kindred sins condemned by this commandment. The Bible says that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, but "whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart." Lust will drive all natural affection out of a man's heart. For the sake of some vile harlot he will trample on the feelings and entreaties of a sainted mother and beautiful wife and godly sister.
Young man, are you leading an impure life? Suppose God's scales should drop down before you, what would you do? Are you fit for the kingdom of heaven? You know very well that you are not. You loathe yourself. When you look upon that pure wife or mother, you say,
"What a vile wretch I am! The harlot is bringing me down to an untimely and dishonored grave."
May God show us what a fearful sin it is! The idea of making light of it! I do not know of any sin that will make a man run down to ruin more quickly. I am appalled when I think of what is going on in the world; of so many young men living impure lives, and talking about the virtue of women as if it didn't amount to anything. This sin is coming in upon us like a flood at the present day. In every city there is an army of prostitutes. Young men by hundreds are being utterly ruined by this accursed sin.
THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER.
I think that the most infernal thing the sun shines on in America is the way woman is treated after she has been ruined by a man, often under fair promises of marriage. Some one said that when the prodigal son came home he had the best robe and the fatted calf, but what does the prodigal daughter get? Although she may have been more sinned against than sinning, she is cast out and ostracized by society. She is condemned to an almost hopeless life of degradation and shame, sinking step by step into a loathsome grave, unless she hurries her doom by suicide. But the wretch who has ruined her in body and soul, holds his head as high as ever, and society attaches no stain to him. If he had failed to pay his gambling debts or was detected cheating at cards, he would promptly be dropped by society; but he may boast of his impure life, and his companions will think nothing of it. Parents who would not allow their daughters to become acquainted with a man who is rude in manners, sometimes do not hesitate to accept the society of men who are known to be impure.
Talk about stealing -- a man who steals the virtue of a woman is the meanest thief that ever was on the face of the earth! One who goes into your house and steals your money is a prince compared with a vile libertine who takes the virtue of your sister, or steals the affection of your wife, and robs you of her; no sneakthief that ever walked the earth is so mean as he. How men pass laws to protect their property, but when that which is far nearer and dearer to them than money is taken, it is made light of! If a man should push a young lady into the river and she should be drowned, the law would lay hold of him, and he would be tried for murder and hung. But if he wins her affection and ruins her, and then casts her off, isn't he worse, than a murderer? There are some sins that are worse than murder, and that is one of them. If some one should treat your wife or sister so, you would want to shoot him as you would a dog. Why do you not respect all women as you do your mother and sister? "What law of justice forgives the obscene bird of prey, while it kicks out of its path the soiled and bleeding dove?"
GOD'S COMING JUDGMENT.
God has appointed a day when this matter will be set right. "Be not deceived: God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." He will render to every man according to his deeds. You may walk down the aisle of the church and take your seat, thinking that no one knows of your sin. But God is on the throne, and He will surely bring you to judgment. Do you believe that God will allow this infernal thing to go on, -- women bearing all the blame while guilty men go unpunished? God has appointed a day when He will judge this world in righteousness, and the day is fast approaching.
If you are guilty of this sin, do not let the day pass until you repent. If you are living in some secret sin, or are fostering impure thoughts, make up your mind that by the grace of God you will be delivered. I don't believe a man who is guilty of this sin is ever going to see the kingdom of God unless he repents in sackcloth and ashes, and does all he can to make restitution.
AN EVIL HARVEST.
Even in this life adultery and uncleanness bring their awful results, both physical and mental. The pleasure and excitement that lead so many astray at the beginning soon pass away, and only the evil remains. Vice carries a sting in its tail, like the scorpion. The body is sinned against, and the body sooner or later suffers. "Every sin that a man doeth is without the body: but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body," said Paul. Nature herself punishes with nameless diseases, and the man goes down to the grave rotten, leaving the effects of his sin to blight his posterity. There are nations whose manhood has been eaten out by this awful scourge.
It drags a man lower than the beasts. It stains the memory. I believe that memory is "the worm that never dies," and the memory is never cleansed of obscene stories and unclean acts. Even if a man repents and reforms he often has to fight the past.
Lust gave Samson into the power of Delilah, who robbed him of his strength. It led David to commit murder and called down upon him the wrath of God, and if he had not repented he would have lost heaven. I believe that if Joseph had responded to the enticement of Potiphar's wife, his light would have gone out in darkness.
It ends in one or other of two ways: either in remorse and shame because of the realization of the loss of purity, with a terrible struggle against a hard taskmaster; or in hardness of heart, brutalizing of the finer senses, which is a more dreadful condition.
We hear a good deal about intemperance nowadays. That sin advertises itself; it shows its marks upon the face and in the conduct. But this hides itself away under the shadow of the night. A man who tampers with this evil goes on step by step until his character is blasted, his reputation ruined, his health gone, and his life made as dark as hell. May God wake up the nation to see how this awful sin is spreading!
Will any one deny that the house of the strange woman is "the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death," as the Bible says? Are there not men whose characters have been utterly ruined for this life through this accursed sin? Are there not wives who would rather sink into their graves than live? Many a man went with a pure woman to the altar a few years ago, and promised to love and cherish her. Now he has given his affections to some vile harlot, and brought ruin on his wife and children!
ARE YOU GUILTY?
Young man, young woman, are you guilty, even in thought? Bear in mind what Christ said: "Ye have heard that 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 has committed adultery with her already in his heart." How many would repent but that they are tied hand and foot, and some vile harlot, whose feet are fastened in hell, clings to him and says: "If you give me up, I will expose you!" Can you step on the scales and take that harlot with you?
If you are guilty of this awful sin, escape for your life. Hear God's voice while there is yet time. Confess your sin to Him. Ask Him to snap the fetters that bind you. Ask Him to give you victory over your passions. If your right eye offends, pluck it out. If your right hand offends, cut it off. Shake yourself like Samson, and say:
"By the grace of God I will not go down to an adulterer's grave."
There is hope for you, adulterer. There is hope for you, adulteress. God will not turn you away if you truly repent. No matter how low down in vice and misery you may have sunk, you may be washed, you may be sanctified, you may be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Remember what Christ said to that woman which was a sinner -- "Thy sins are forgiven thee; thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace;" and to that woman that was taken in adultery -- "Go, and sin no more."