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throw whole families into a state of putrefaction ? It is saying too little to affirm, that this woman ought to shed bitter tears at the recollection of her scandalous and dissolute life. The priests and magistrates, and people of Nain ought to have covered themselves in sack cloth and asbes for having tolerated such a house, for not having one spark of the zeal of Phinehas the son of Eleczar, Num. xxv. 11. For having left one stone upon another as a monument of the profligacy of the city, and for not having erased the very foundations of such a house though they, who were employed in the business, had been buried in the ruins. One such house suffered in a city is enough to draw down the curse of heaven on a whole province, a whole kingdom.
Rome, what a fair opportunity have I now to confound thee! Am I not able to produce in the sight of the whole world full proof of thy shame and infamy? Do not a part of thy revenues proceed from a tax on prostitution ?* Are not prostitutes of both sexes thy nursing fathers, and nursing mothers ; is not the holy see in part supported, to use the language of scripture by the hire of a whore, and the price of dog? Deut. xxii. 18. But alas ! I should leave these too much reason to retort. I should fear, you would oppose our excesses against your excesses. I should have too much reason to fear a wound by the dart shot at thee. I should tremble lest thou shouldest draw it smoking from thine own unclean heart, and lodge it in ours. O God! teach my hands to day to war, and my fingures to fight. My brethren, should access to this pulpit be for ever forbiden to us in
* See the second volume of these sermons, serm. X. p. 269, in the note.
to behold evil that God, is are publicly
future ; though I were sure this discourse would be considered as a torch of sedition intended to set all these provinces in a flame; and should a part of the punishment due to the fomenters of the crime fall upon the head of him who hath the courage to reprove it, I do, and I will declare, that the prosperity of these provinces can never, no never be well established, while such affronts are publicly offered to the majesty of that God, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, Hab. i. 13. Ah! Proclaim no more fasts, convoke no more solemn assemblies, appoint no more public prayers to avert the anger of heaven. Let not the priests, the ministers of the Lord weep between the porch and the altar, let them not say, spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, Joel ii. 17. All this exterior of devotion will be useless, while there are amongst us places publicly set apart for impurity. The filthy vapor, that proceeds from them, will ascend, and form a thick cloud between us and the throne of grace, a cloud, which the most ardent prayers cannot pierce through.
Perhaps our penitent had been guilty of adultery. What idea must a woman form of herself, if she have committed this crime, and considers it in its true point of light? Let her attentively observe the dangerous condition, into which she hath plunged herself, and that to which she is yet exposed. She hath taken for her model the woman described by Solomon, and who hath had too many copies in latter ages, that strange woman in the attire of an harlot, who is subtle of heart, loud and stubborn, her feet abiding not in her house, now without, now in the streets, lying in wait at every corner, and saying to such among the youth as are void of understanding, I have peace offerings with me, this day have 1 paid my vows. I VOL. v.
have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with fine linnen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love, for the good man is not at home, he is gone a long journey, and will not come home till the day appointed, Prov. vii. 5. &c. Is it necessary, think you, my brethren, to alter many of these descriptive expressions to give a likeness of the manners of our times ?
Are not modern dissipations described in the perpetual motion of this strange woman, whose feet abide not in her house, who is now without in the country,' then, in the streets, and at every corner? What are some curious, elegant and fashionable dresses, but the attire of a harlot ? Are not the continual artifices, and accumulated dissimulations, which some people use to conceal future designs, or to cover past crimes, are not these features of this subtle woman? What are those pains taken to form certain parties of pleasure but features of this woman, who saith, I have peace offerings with me, I have this day paid my vows, come let us solace ourselves with loves ? What are certain moments expected with impatience, managed with industry and employed with avidity, but features of this woman, who saith to fools among the youths, the good man is not at home, nor will he come home till the day appointed ?-I stop.-If the unchaste woman in the text, had been guilty of adultery, she had defiled the most sacred and inviolable of all connections. She had kindled discord in the family of him, who was the object of her criminal regard. She had given an example of impurity and perfidy to her children and her domestics, to the world and to the church. She had affronted in the most cruel and fatal manner the man, to whom she owed the tenderest attachment, and the most profound respect. She had covered her parents with disgrace, and provoked such as knew her debauchery to inquire from which of her ancestors she had received such impure and tainted blood. She had divided her heart and her bed with the most implacable enemy of her family. She had hazarded the legitimacy of her children, and confounded the lawful heir with a spurious offspring. Are any tears too bitter to expiate such an odious complication of crimes? is any quantity too great to shed to wash away such guilt as this ?
But we will not take pains to blacken the reputation of this penitent: we may suppose her unchaste, as the evangelist leads us to do, without supposing her an adulteress or a prostitute. She might have fallen once, and only once. Her sin, however, even in this case must have become a perpetual source of sorrow, thousands and thousands of sad reflections must have pierced her heart. Was this the only fruit of my education? Is this all I have learned from the many lessons, that have been given me from my cradle, and which seem so proper to guard me for ever against the rocks where my feeble virtue has been shipwrecked? I have renounced the decency of my sex, the appurtenances of which always have been timidity, scrupulosity, delicacy and modesty. I have committed one of those crimes, which, whether it be justice or cruelty, mankind never forgive. I have given myself up to the unkindness and contempt of him, to whom I have shamefully sacrificed my honor. I have fixed daggers in the hearts of my parents, I have caused that to be attributed to their negligence, which was occasioned only by my own depravity and folly. I have banished myself for ever from the company of prudent persons.
How can I bear their looks? Where can I find a night dark enough to conceal me from their sight?
Thus might our mourner think; but to refer all her grief to motives of tlris kind would be to insult her repentance. She hath other motives more worthy of a penitent. This' heart, the heart that my God demanded with so much condescension and love, I have denied him, and given up to voluptuousness. This body, which should have been a temple of the holy Ghost, is become the den of an impure passion. The time and pains I should have employed in the work of my salvation, I have spent in robbing Jesus Christ of his conquests. I have disputed with my Saviour the souls he redeemed with his blood, and what he came to save I have endeavored to sink in perdition. I am become the cause of the remorse of my accomplice in sin, he considers me with horror, he reproaches me with the very temptations, to which he exposed me, and when our eyes meet in a religious assembly, or in the performance of a ceremony of devotion, he tacitly tells me, that I made him unworthy to be there. I shall be his executioner on his death bed, perhaps I shall be so through all eternity. I have exposed myself to a thousand dangers, from which nothing but the grace of God hath protected me, to a thousand perils and dreadful consequences, the sad and horrible examples of which stain all history. Such are the causes of the tears of this penitent. She stood at the feet of Jesus Christ weeping, and washed his feet with tears. This is the first character of true repentance, it consists in part in keen remorse.
Repentance must be wise in its application. Our sinner did not go to the foot of mount Sinai, to seek for absolution under pretence of her own righteousness, and to demand justification as a re