ON PRESCRIPTIONS AGAINST IMPURITY
Consider first, that the most necessary of all prescriptions and precautions against impurity is to keep at a distance from the danger and to fly all the immediate occasions of it, more especially the company and conversation of all such persons as are a temptation to us; as also the reading of loose or idle books, such as romances, plays, & c., the frequenting of masquerades and comedies; the indulging too much the sensual appetite in eating and drinking; the giving too great a liberty to the eyes, (which are the windows through which the death of lust usually enters into the soul,) or to roving imaginations and dangerous amusements, and the leading of an idle and dissipated life. The indulging of one’s self in all or any of these ways opens the gates of the soul to lust, and ‘he that loves the danger shall perish in it,’ Ecclus. iii. 27. This enemy is ever lying in wait for us to shoot his fiery darts at our heart; we must, then, be always upon our guard, and keep ourselves as much as possible out of his reach; we must take approach of danger; we must not play nor daily with him by taking or admitting of any freedoms or liberties, even of a lesser degree: he that will venture to play with a wild beast must expect a mortal gripe. If our Lord has assured us, (Matt. v. 28,) that a wanton glance of the eye is capable of bringing death to the soul, how much more a wanton touch or embrace?
Consider 2ndly, that our corrupt nature is so prone to this evil of impurity, and the allurements and temptations to it are so common, and withal so violent, especially in youth, that the flight of the occasions alone will not suffice to gain the victory over this vice without frequent conflicts; (for whither shall we fly where the flesh and the devil will not follow us?) and therefore it will be also necessary for us to fight, and consequently to provide ourselves with proper arms for this warfare; and as we are not strong enough of ourselves to overcome such formidable enemies, we must engage heaven on our side, in order to secure the victory. This infers the necessity, if we would get the better of lust, of a diligence in all spiritual exercises; of frequent and fervent prayer; of frequenting the sacraments; of daily reading and meditating on divine truths; of having frequent recourse to the precious blood of Christ, the source of all grace, by a constant devotion to his sacred passion and death, and of earnestly craving the prayers and intercession of the blessed Virgin and of all the holy angels and saints. More especially, when we find ourselves assaulted with these temptations, we must resolutely resist the first motions of the enemy by turning ourselves immediately to Jesus Christ crucified; calling upon him with all our power, “Lord, save me, or I perish;’ hiding ourselves in his wounds, and not ceasing to implore his mercy and grace till the temptation ceases.
Consider 3rdly, what kind of arms we must provide for this warfare, viz., a lively faith and a strong confidence in Jesus Christ, joined with an humble diffidence in our own strength, (for if we have any dependence on the strength of our own resolutions we shall certainly fall,) a sense also of the presence of God, and above all things the fear and love of God. The fear of his divine judgments that always hand over the heads of wilful sinners; the remembrance of the approaches of death; the consideration of the worm that shall never die, and of the fire that shall never be quenched, prepared for the punishment of lust, are certainly powerful restraints to keep the soul from consenting to a crime which she has reason to apprehend may be followed the next moment by death, judgment, and hell. but the love of God is a still more powerful restraint; because it discovers such charms in his infinite beauty and infinite goodness as make all the allurements of lust appear not only most wretched and contemptible, but also most odious and abominable.
Conclude to make use of all these prescriptions against this mortal enemy of thy soul. Fly whenever thou art able, for this is a war in which thou art not allowed to seek the occasions of meeting the enemy or of facing him. When thou canst not fly, fight; but with thy eye turned away from the enemy, and fixed on Christ crucified. Make a good provision for thyself by the help of daily meditations on the fear and love of God, and he will give thee the victory.