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04 November, 2014

I Solemnly Warn You Against Indulging a Sensual Imagination

Henry Beecher

7277105152_903ecbfe82I solemnly warn you against indulging a sensual imagination. In that busy and mischievous faculty, begins the evil. Were it not for his evil imaginations, man might stand his own master — not overmatched by the worst part of himself. But ah! these summer-reveries, these venturesome dreams, these fairy-castles — built for no good purposes — they are haunted by impure spirits, who will fascinate, bewitch, and corrupt you! Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are you, most favored of God, whose thoughts are pure; whose imagination will not breathe or fly in tainted air; and whose path has been measured by the Golden Rod of Purity.

May I not paint PURITY, as a saintly virgin, in spotless white, walking with open face, in an air so clear that no vapor can stain it? Her steps are a queen's steps; God is her father, and you her brother — if you will make her yours! Let your heart be her dwelling. Wear her ring upon your hand — and her charm on your heart.

II. Next to evil imaginations, I warn the young of evil companions. Decaying fruit corrupts the neighboring fruit. You cannot make your head a metropolis of base stories, the earand tongue a highway of immodest words — and yet be pure. Another, as well as yourself — may throw a spark on the gun-powder of your passions — beware how your companions do it! No man is your friend who will corrupt you. An impure man is every godly man's enemy — your deadly foe; and all the worse, if he hides his poisoned dagger under the cloak of friendship. Therefore, select your associates, assort them, winnow them. Keep the grain — and let the wind sweep away the chaff.

III. But I warn you, with yet more solemn emphasis — against Evil Books and Evil Pictures! There is in every town an under-current which glides beneath our feet, unsuspected by the pure; out of which, notwithstanding, our sons scoop many a poisoned goblet. Books are hidden in trunks, concealed in dark holes; pictures are stored in sly portfolios, or trafficked from hand to hand; and the handiwork of depraved art is seen in forms which ought to make a harlot blush!

I would think a man would loathe himself, and wake up from owning such things, as from a horrible nightmare! Those who circulate them — are incendiaries of all morality! And those who make them — are the worst public criminals! A pure heart would shrink from these abominable things — as from death itself!

France, where true religion long ago was extinguished, smothered in immorality — has flooded the world with a species of literature redolent of the vilest depravity. Upon the plea of exhibiting human nature — novels are now scooped out of the very lava of corrupt passions. They are true to nature — but to nature as it exists in grossly vile and immoral hearts. Under a plea of reality — we have shown to us, troops of harlots — to prove that they are not so bad as purists think; and gangs of desperadoes — to show that there is nothing in crime inconsistent with the noblest feelings. We have in French and English, novels of the infernal school — humane murderers, lascivious saints, upright infidels, honest robbers. The devotion of these artists, is such as might be expected from vile thieves, in the vortex of thrice-deformed vice.

Obscene libertines are now our professors of morality. They scrape the very sediment and muck of society — to mold their creations; and their books are monster-galleries, in which the inhabitants of old Sodom would have felt at home as connoisseurs.

Over loathsome women, and unutterably vile men, huddled together in motley groups, and over all their monstrous deeds — their lies, their plots, their crimes, their horrendous pleasures, their appalling conversation — is thrown the impure light of a sensual imagination — until they glow with an infernal luster!

Such novels are the common-sewers of society, into which drain the concentrated filth of the worst passions, of the worst creatures, of the worst cities! Such novels come to us impudently pretending to be reformers of morals, and liberalizers of religion; they propose to instruct our laws, and teach justice to a discreet humanity!

The Ten Plagues have visited our literature: water is turned to blood; frogs and lice creep and hop over our most familiar things — the couch, the cradle, and the bread-box; locusts, plague, and fire — are smiting every green thing. I am ashamed and outraged, when I think that wretches could be found to open these foreign seals — and let out their plagues upon us — that any Satanic pilgrim should voyage to France to dip from the dead sea of her abomination — such immoral filth for our children.

It were a mercy compared to this, to import . . . 
venomous serpents from Africa — and pour them out in our homes; 
ferocious lions — and free them in our towns;
poisonous lizards and scorpions and black tarantulas — and put them in our gardens! 
Men could slay these — but those offspring-reptiles of the French mind — who can kill these? You might as well draw sword on a plague — or charge malaria with the bayonet!

This black smut-lettered literature circulates in our towns, floats in our stores, nestles in the shops, is fingered and read nightly, and hatches broods of obscene thoughts in the young mind! While the parent strives to infuse Christian purity into his child's heart — he is checked by most accursed messengers of evil; and the child's heart hisses already like a nest of young and nimble vipers!

IV. Once more, let me persuade you that no examples in high places — can justify imitation in low places. Your purity is too precious to be bartered, because an official rogue tempts by his example! I wish that every eminent place of state were a sphere of purity and light, from which should be flung down on your path a cheering glow to guide you on to virtue. But if these wandering stars, reserved I do believe for final blackness of darkness, wheel their malignant spheres in the orbits of corruption — do not follow after them! God is greater than wicked great men; Heaven is higher than the highest places of nations; and if God and Heaven are not brighter to your eyes than great men in high places — then you must take part in their doom, when, before long, God shall dash them to pieces!

V. Let me beseech you, lastly, to guard your heart-purity. Never lose it! If it is gone — you have lost from the casket the most precious gift of God. The first purity of imagination, of thought, and of feeling, if soiled — can be cleansed by no fuller's soap. If lost — it cannot be found, though sought carefully with tears! If a harp is broken — it may be repaired; if a light is quenched — the flame may enkindle it; but if a flower is crushed — what art can repair it? If an fragrance is wafted away — who can collect or bring it back?

The heart of youth is a wide prairie. Over it hang the clouds of Heaven, to water it; and the sun throws its broad sheets of light upon it, to awake its life. Out of its bosom spring, the long season through, flowers of a hundred names and hues, entwining together their lovely forms, wafting to each other a grateful fragrance, and nodding each to each in the summer-breeze. Oh! such would man be — did he sustain that purity of heart which God gave him!

But you now have a Depraved Heart. It is a vast continent; on it are mountain-ranges of evil powers, and dark deep streams, and pools, and morasses. If once the full and terrible clouds of temptation settle thick and fixedly upon you, and begin to cast down their dreadful stores — may God save whom man can never! Then the heart shall feel tides and streams of irresistible power, mocking its control, and hurrying fiercely down from steep to steep, with growing desolation. Your only resource is to avoid the uprising of your giant-passions.

We are drawing near to Christmas day, by the usage of ages, consecrated to celebrate the birth of Christ. At his advent, God hung out a prophet-star in the Heaven; guided by it, the wise men journeyed from the east and worshiped at his feet. Oh! let the star of Purity hang out to your eye, brighter than the orient orb to the Magi; let it lead you, not to the Babe — but to His feet who now stands in Heaven, a Prince and Savior! If you have sinned — one look, one touch, shall cleanse you while you are worshiping, and you shall rise up healed.