ON THE VIRTUE OF CHASTITY
Consider first, the excellence of the virtue of chastity, which makes us in this mortal flesh resemble in some measure the angels in heaven, (Matt. xxii. 30,) and which entitles us to be the special favourite of Jesus Christ, the lover of purity and the spouse of pure souls, who, when he came amongst us, would not be born but of the purest of virgins, and ever showed the most particular love to his virgin disciple St. John, (to whom also, on account of his purity, he recommended his virgin mother when he was dying on the cross, John xix. 27,) and who in heaven is ever followed by virgins whither soever he goeth, who sing before the throne as it were a new canticle, which none of the rest of the blessed can sing, Apoc. xiv. 3, 4. Chastity is the lily of virtues; the bright ornament of the soul; the profession and practice of which by so many thousands is one of the greatest evidences of the truth and of the excellency of the Christian religion; of the wonderful grace it communicates to its followers, and of the purity and sanctity of the author of it. O my soul, let us ever esteem, love and embrace this angelical virtue, which makes its lovers the favourites of heaven.
Consider 2ndly, in what manner this virtue is recommended to all Christians, by the apostle, 1 Thess. iv. 3, 4, 7, ‘This is the will of God,’ saith he, ‘your sanctification, (that is that you should be pure ad holy,) that you should abstain from fornication, (from all uncleanness,) that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel, (his body,) in sanctification and honour, not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles, who know not God – for God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but to holiness,’ that is to purity and chastity. Yes, Christians, the virtue of chastity, by the will and law of God, and by the sanctity of the Christian calling, is for all; married, as well as unmarried. The married must be chaste, not only by keeping their bed undefiled by adultery or any unnatural excess; but also by refraining from every thought, word, or action, that is not confined within the several limits fixed by the divine law of matrimony; or that is not referred to any of these holy ends, for which God instituted marriage. O how necessary is this conjugal chastity! O how many thousands are lost in this state, by allowing themselves many criminal liberties; and falsely imagining everything to be lawful for them which their unbridled passions suggests! The unmarried must also keep themselves pure and chaste, by a constant care absolutely to resist and to renounce all carnal pleasures, and all the irregular motions or impressions of lust, either in body or in mind.
Consider 3rdly, that, in order to procure or maintain this precious virtue of chastity, besides the necessity of fervent prayer, (for no one can be continent, except God gave it, Wisd. viii. 21,) two other virtues are also necessary, without which chastity will not be able to stand her ground for any long time in the soul, viz., mortification and humility. By mortification the flesh is brought under subjection to the spirit; and by humility the spirit is subjected to God: and thus the whole man becomes regular and orderly, and easily resists the passion of lust. But where the flesh is unmortified it grows headstrong and unruly; and where the spirit is proud it is justly abandoned by God to the slavery of those shameful passions, from which it shall never be delivered but by humility.
Conclude to labour with all thy power for the acquisition of this precious jewel of purity and chastity. O spare no cost to purchase it: it is worth all thou canst give for it and infinitely more. But remember, it will never stay long with thee if thou give entertainment to its mortal enemies, intemperance and pride.