Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Be not deceived: ...fornicators... shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
- Paul the Apostle
(1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
- Paul the Apostle
(1 Corinthians 6:13-20, 1 Corinthians 7:1-2)
Directions Against Fornication
Avoid uncleaness. Avoid the things that dispose you to it as gluttony, your fullness of diet, and pampering the flesh, idleness, and other things mentioned under the next title of subduing lust. The abating of the filthy desires is the surest way to prevent the filthy act which may be done if you are but willing.
Avoid the present temptations. Go not where the snare lies without necessity. Abhor the devil's bellows that blow up the fire of lust such as enticing apparel; filthy talk and sights of which more also under the next title.
Carefully avoid all opportunity of sinning. "Come not near the door of her house." saith Solomon. (Prov. 5:8) Avoid the company of the person you are in danger of. Come not where she is, and this you can do if you're willing. None will force you. If you will go and seek for a theif, no wonder you are robbed. If you will go seek fire to put in the thatch, no wonder if your house is burnt. The devil will sufficiently play the temptor. You don't need to help him. That is his part. Leave it to himself. It is your part to watch against him, and he will find you work. If you watch as narrowly and constantly as you can, it is well if you escape. As you love your soul, avoid all opportunities of sinning. Make it impossible to yourself. Much of your safety lies in this point. Never be in secret company with her you are in danger of, but either not at all or in the sight of others especially contrive not such opportunities as to be together in the night, in the dark, or on the Lord's Day when others are at church nor one of the devil's seasons for such works nor any such opportunity, leisure, or secrecy for opportunity itself is a strong temptation. It is the way to make a theif to set money in his way or so to trust him that he can easily deceive or rob you and never be discovered so it is a way to make yourself unclean to get such an opportunity of sinning, that you may easily do it without any probability of impediment or discovery from men. The chief point in all the watch is to keep far enough off. If you touch the pitch, you will be defiled. Whosoever touches her shall not be innocent. (Prov. 6:29) Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burnt? Can one go upon hot coals and his feet not be burnt? So he that goeth in to his neighbor's wife. (Verses 27 and 28) Don't bring the fire and the gunpowder too near. If you cannot keep it a distance nor forbear the presence of the bait, you're not liked to forbear the sin.
Reverence your own conscience. Mark what it speaks now for it will surely speak it in a more terrible manner. Hear it voluntarily for it is terrible to hear it when you cannot resist. Treat with conscience in the way while it is reconcilable for you know not how terrible a tormentor it is. I don't doubt that it has given you some gripes about your very lust before it ever came to practice, but the sorest of it's gripes now are but the playing of the cat with the mouse before the killing gripe is given.
Does no man see you? Conscience sees you and you are a wretch indeed if you reverence not conscience more than man! As Christothsem saith, "Suppose no man know the crime but himself and the woman with whom he did commit it. How will he bear the rebukes of conscience when he carries about with him so sharp and bitter an accuser? For no man can overrun himself, and no man can avoid the sentence of this court within him. It is a tribunal not to be corrupted with money nor perverted by flattery. For it is divine being placed in the soul by God Himself. The less the adulterer now feels it, the more he hastens to the perdition of a soul. Do you not feel the sentence passed within you, a terrible sentence telling you of the wrath of a revenging God? Bless God that it is not yet an irreversible sentence, but sow out your pardon quickly lest it come to be that. Do you not feel that you are afraid and ashamed to pray or to address yourself to God, much more afraid to think of dying and appearing before Him? If your sin make you ready to fly from Him now, if you knew how, can you now look Him in the face at last or can you hope to stand with comfort at His bar? Are you fit to live in heaven with Him that makes yourself unfit to pray to Him? Even lawful procreation, as I said before, does blush to come too near to holy exercises.
Conscience is a better friend to you than you imagine when it would reclaim you from your sin. It will be a sharper enemy than you can imagine if you obey it not.
Suppose you saw written upon the door of that house or chamber where you entered to sin:
"Whoremongers and Adulterers: God Will Judge. (Heb. 13:4)"
Write that and such sentences upon the chamber door or, at least, upon the door on your heart. Keep your eye upon the terrible threatenings of the dreadful God. Dare you sin when vengence is at your back? Will not the thought of hellfire quench the fire of lust or restrain you from your presumptuous sin? Do you not say with Joseph, "How shall I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:7)
As it is written of a chase woman that being tempted by a fornicator wished at first for him to hold his finger in the fire, and when refused answer him, "What then should I burn in hell to satisfy you?" So ask yourself, "Can I more easily overcome the flames of hell than the flames of lust?"
Remember, man, that God stands by. If he were not there, you could not be there for in Him you live and move and are. He that made the eye must see, and He that made the light and darkness must be in the dark as well as in the light. If you imagine that He is absent or ignorant, you believe not that He is God. For an absent and ignorant god is no God, and dare you, I say, dare you commit such a villiany and God behold you? What that you would be ashamed to do if a child should see? Which you would do not if a mortal man stood by? Do you think that your locks or secrecy have darkened or shut out God? Do you not know that he sees not only within your curtains but within your heart?
Oh, what a hardened heart you have that in the sight of God your maker and judge you dare to do such wickedness! Ask your conscience, man, "Would I do this if I knew tomorrow I was going to die and go before God? Would I do this if I saw God or, yay, but an angel in the room?" If not, should you do it if God is as sure there as if you saw Him? Oh, remember man that he is a Holy God and hateth uncleaness and that he is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:29)
Suppose all the while that you saw the devil opening the door and bringing you your mate and driving on the match in persuading you to the sin. What if he appeared to you openly to play his part as sure as he now plays it unseen? Would not your lust be cooled? Would not the devil cure the disease which he has excited in you? Why then do you obey him now when he is certainly the instigator as if you saw him? Why, man, have you so little reason that seen and not seen will make so great a difference with you? What if you were blind? Would you play the fornicator before all the company because you don't see them when you know that they are there? If you know anything, you know that God is there, and you may feel by the temptation that Satan is in it. Will you not be ruled by the laws unless you see the King? Will you not fear for the infection of the plague unless you see it? Use your reason for your soul as well as for your body, and do in the case as you would do if you saw the devil tempting you and Christ forbidding you.
If thou be unmarried, marry. If these remedies will not serve, it is better to marry than to burn. (1 Cor. 7:9) It is God's ordinance, partly, for the sinned. Marriage is honorable, and the bed undefiled. (Heb. 13:4) It is a resemblance of Christ's union with His church and is sanctified to believers. (Eph. 5, 1 Cor. 7) Perhaps it may cast you upon great troubles in the world if you be unready for that state as it is with the pretenses. Forbear then your sin with these rates or else for lawful means must be used that would undo you. It is better your body be undone than your soul if you will needs have it to be one of them. If you be married, already you are a monster and not a man if the remedy prevail not with you, but yet the other directions may also be submissable to you.
If lest mean prevail not, open your case to some able, faithful friend and engage them to watch over you, and tell them when you are most endagered by the temptation. This will shame you for your sin and lay more engagements on you to forbear it. If you tell your friend, "Now I am tempted to the sin, and now I'm going to it.", he will quickly stop you, break your secrecy, and you lose your opportunity. You can do this if you be willing. If your conscience so much as prevaileth with you as to resolve against your sin or to be willing to escape then take the time while conscience is awake and go tell your friend. Tell them who it is that is your wicked companion, and let them know all the haunts that they may know the better how to help you. Do you say that this will shame you? It will do so to him that is it is known to, but that is a benefit of it and that is reason I advise you to it. That shame may help to save your soul. If you go on, the sin will shame and damn you, and a greater shame than this is a gentle remedy to so foul and dangerous a disease.
Therefore, if all of this will not serve turn, tell it to many, yay, rather tell it to all the town if not be cured then the public shame will do much more. Confess it to your pastor and desire him openly to beg the prayers of the congregation for the pardon and recovery. Begin thus to crave the fruit of Church discipline yourself so far you shall be from flying from it. As burning against it is a desperate harden sinners do. If you say, "This is a hard lesson!", remember that suffering and hell is harder. Do not say that I wrong you by putting you upon scandal and open shame. It is you that put yourself upon it by making it necessary in refusing all easier remedies. I put you on it but on supisition that you will not be more easily cured. Almost as Christ puts you on cutting off your right hand or plucking out your right eye lest all the body be cast into hell. This is not the way that He commands you first to take. He would have you avoid the need of it, but He tells you that it is better to do the worse and that this is an easy suffering in comparison of hell. So I advise you that if your credit, forbear sin in a cheaper way, but if you will not do so, take this way rather than damn your soul. Let the shame of all the town be upon you, the boy should hooed after you in the streets if it would drive you from your sin, how easy would suffering in comparison to what it is like to be? Concealment is Satan's great advantage. It would be hard for you to sin lest if were but opened.
- Richard Baxter