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to mistake it. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled, and unbelieving, nothing is pure, Titus i. 15. I recollect the sense, which a celebrated bishop in the isle of Cyprus gave these words in the first ages of the church. I speak of Spiridion. A traveller exhausted with the fatigue of his journey waited on him on a day, which the church had set apart for fasting. Spiridion instantly ordered some refreshment for him, and invited him by his own example to eat. No, I must not eat, said the stranger, because I am a christian. And because you are a christian, replied the bishop to him, you may eat without scruple, agreeably to the decision of an apostle, Unto the pure all things are pure. We cannot be ignorant of the shameful abuse, which some have made of this maxim. We know, some have extended it even to the most essential articles of positive law, which no one can violate without sin. We know particularly the insolence with which some place themselves in the list of those pure persons, of whom the apostle speaks, although their gross ignorance, and novel divinity may justly place them in the opposite class. But the abuse of a maxim ought not to prevent the lawful use of it. There are some things, which are criminal or lawful according to the degree of knowledge and holiness of him who performs them. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled, and unbelieving, nothing is pure. Would you then know how far to carry your scruples in regard to some steps? Examine sincerely and with rectitude to what degree you are pure in this respect. I mean, examine sincerely and uprightly, whether you be so far advanced in christianity, as not to endanger your faith and holiness by this step.
Do you enquire whether you may without scruple read a work intended to sap the foundation of christianity? Examine yourself. A man arrived at a certain degree of knowledge is confirmed in the faith even by the objections, which are proposed to him to engage him to renounce his religion. Unto the pure all things are pure. If you answer this description, read without scruple Lucretius, Spinoza, and all the other enemies of religion. The darkness, with which they pretend to cover it, will only advance its splendor in your eyes. The blows, which they gave it, will only serve to convince you that it is invulnerable. But if you be yet a child in understanding, as an apostle speaks, such books may be dangerous to you; poison without an antidote will convey itself into your vitals, and destroy all the powers of your soul.
Would you know, whether you may without scruple mix with the world? Examine yourself. Unto the pure all things are pure. A man arrived at a certain degree of holiness derives, from an intercourse with the world, only pity for the world. Examples of vice serve only to confirin him in virtue. If you answer this discription, go into the world without scruple: but if your virtue be yet weak, if intercourse with the world disconcert the frame of your mind, if the pleasures of the world captivate your imagination, and leave impressions which you cannot efface, if, after you have passed a few hours in the world, you find it follows you, even when you wish to get rid of it, then what can you do so proper as to retreat from an enemy dangerous to virtue. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled nothing is pure.
VI. In fine, If we wish our ways should be
established, let us weigh them with the different judgments, which we ourselves form concerning them. The meaning of the maxims, the substance of what we daily hear in the world, and which the writings of libertines have rendered famous, that youth is the season for pleasure, and that we should make the most of it; that fit opportunities should not be let slip, because they so seldom happen, and that not to avail ourselves of them would discover ignorance of one's-self; the substance of this sophism (shall I say of infirmity or impiety?) is not new. If some of you urge this now, so did the Jews in the time of Isaiah. This prophet was ordered to inform them, that they had sinned to the utmost bounds of the patience of God: that there remained only one method of preventing their total ruin, that was fasting, mourning, baldness, and girding with sackcloth, in a word, exercises of lively and genuine repentance. These prophane people, from the very same principle on which the prophet grounded the necessity of their conversion, drew arguments to embolden them in sin; they slew oxen, they killed sheep, they gave themselves up to unbridled intemperance, and they said, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die.
This is precisely the maxim of our libertines." Youth is the season for pleasure, and we should improve it; opportunities of enjoyment are rare, we should be enemies to ourselves not to avail ourselves of them. Would not one say, on hearing this language, that an old man going out of the world must needs regret that he did not give himself up to pleasure in his youth? Would not one suppose that the sick, in beds of infirmity and pain must needs reproach themselves for not spending their health and strength in luxury and debauchery? Would not one imagine, that the des
pair of the damned through all eternity will proceed from their recollecting that they checked their passions in this world?
On the contrary, what will poison the years of your old age, should you arrive at it, what will aggravate the pains, and envenom the disquietudes inseparable from old age, will be the abuse you made of your youth.
So in sickness, reproaches and remorse will rise out of a recollection of crimes committed when you was well, and will change your death-bed into an anticipated hell. Then, thou miserable wretch, who makest thy belly thy God, the remembrance of days and nights consumed in drunkenness will aggravate every pain which thine intemperate life hath brought upon thee. Then, thou miserable man, who incessantly renderest an idolatrous worship to thy gold, saying to it in acts of supreme adoration, thou art my confidence; then will the rust of it be a witness against thee, and eat thy flesh, as it were with fire. Then, unhappy man, whose equipages, retinue and palaces are the fruits of oppression and injustice, then the hire of the laborers, which have reaped down thy fields, which is of thee kept back by fraud, will cry, and the cries of the reapers will enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, then the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. Then, miserable wretch, thou who makest the members of Christ the members of an harlot, then that Drusilla, who now fascinates thine eyes, who seems to thee to unite in her person all manner of accomplishments; that Drusilla, who makes thee forget what thou owest to the world and the church, to thy children, thy family, thy God, and thy soul, that Drusilla will appear to thee as the centre of all horrors; then she, who al
ways appeared to thee as a goddess, will become as dreadful as a fury; then like that abominable man, of whom the holy scriptures speak, who carried his brutality so far as to offer violence to a sister, whose honor ought to have been to him as dear as his own life; then will the hatred wherewith thou hatest her, be greater than the love wherewith thou hadst loved her, 2 Sam. xiii. 15.
The same in regard to the damned, what will give weight to the chains of darkness with which they will be loaded, what will augment the voracity of that worm, which will devour them, and the activity of the flames, which will consume them in a future state, will be the reproaches of their own consciences for the headlong impetuosity of their passions in this world.
My brethren, the best direction we can follow for the establishment of our ways is frequently to set the judgment, which we shall one day form of them, against that which we now form. Let us often think of our death-bed. Let us often realize that terrible moment, which will close time, and open eternity. Let us often put this question to ourselves, What judgment shall I form of that kind of life, which I now lead, when a burning fevèr consumes my blood, when unsuccessful remedies, when useless cares, when a pale physician, when a weeping family, when all around shall announce to me the approach of death? What should I then think of those continual dissipations, which consume the most of my time; what of those puerile amusements, which take up all my attention; what of these anxious fears, which fill all the capacity of my soul; what of these criminal pleasures, which infatuate me; what judgment shall I make of all these things in that terrible day, when the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, when the founda