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MEDITATION XXXVII

CHASTITY

Christ’s Mind is the Abode of Purity

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

IF thou wouldst be a true disciple of Christ, thou shouldst cultivate a holy chastity. God, thy most indulgent heavenly Father, is of a pure and holy mind, and thou oughtest to call upon Him with prayers that come from a pure heart. A certain wise man said that chastity of body and purity of spirit are the two keys of religion and happiness. If the body is not kept pure and chaste, it will scarcely be possible for the soul to glow with a holy fervor in prayer. “Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. vi. 19). We must guard it then with the greatest care so that we defile not this dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. “Our members are the members of Christ” (1 Cor. vi. 15); we must take good heed then, that we pollute not these members of Christ. Let us cling unto the Lord in faith and purity, that we may be one spirit with Him (1 Cor. vi. 17). The Sodomites burning with lust were struck by the Lord with blindness (Gen. xix. 11), a punishment that evidently affected both body and soul; and the same punishment is still meted out to the impure. The Lord rained brimstone and fire out of heaven and destroyed those lustful Sodomites (Gen. xix. 24); so shall God enkindle the lust that now burns in the heart of the lecher into an eternal flame; nor shall this fire ever be extinguished, but “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever” (Rev. xiv. 11). “Without are dogs” (Rev. xxii. 15); that is, outside the heavenly Jerusalem, and excluded from it are the impure and the lustful. Christ hath washed us in His own precious blood in the holy Sacrament of Baptism; and, oh, we must take the utmost care that we pollute not ourselves with unholy lusts. A sense of natural shame makes ungodly men blush to commit these lustful sins in the sight of their fellowmen; but, alas! they blush not to commit them in the sight of God and of holy angels. No walls can conceal our deeds from the eyes of God, which glow with a light above that of the sun. No corners or recesses are so small as to exclude the presence of the holy angels. No retreat can secure us from the accusations of a guilty conscience. It is strange that the flames of wantonness should ascend, as it were, to the very heavens, whilst the stench of its foulness sinks to the very depths of hell. Such brief and fleeting pleasure will be followed by eternal torment. The pleasure of lust is momentary, its torture is everlasting. Oh, let the memory of Him who was crucified for thee crucify thy sinful flesh within thee. Let the thought of the fires of hell extinguish the fires of unholy passion, and thy tears of penitence quench the flames of lust in thee. Let divine fear so control thy flesh that carnal love may not lead thee astray. Bear in mind that the desire of lust is full of trouble and madness, that the act itself is abominably disgraceful; and that its consequences are shame and remorse. Look not upon the deceitful face of the devil inciting thee to lust, but think rather of the stings of conscience that will torment those who yield to him. Think not of the passing pleasure thou mayest enjoy, but rather of the lasting condemnation thou shalt suffer for sin. Cultivate a love for the knowledge found in the Holy Scriptures, and thou wilt not love the vices of the flesh. Always be busied with some work, that when the tempter approaches thee he may find thee fully occupied. David was led astray by him at a time when he was unoccupied (2 Sam. xi. 2); and Joseph on the contrary could not be led astray, because he was busily employed when the tempter came to him (Gen. xxxix. 9).

Remember that death is threatening thee every hour of thy life, and then thou wilt easily spurn all carnal desires. Love temperance, and thou wilt easily overcome base passions. A stomach inflamed with wine speedily arouses lustful desires. Chastity is imperiled by luxurious living. If then thou pamperest thy body with luxuries, thou art nourishing within thyself an enemy that may destroy thy soul. Our flesh is to be so cared for that it may serve our highest welfare; it must be so subdued as not to become proud. Keep in mind the terrors of the judgment, and thou wilt easily quench the fervor of lust. If the hidden things of our hearts shall be brought to light at the judgment (1 Cor. iv. 5), how much more then those things done in secret! Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment (Matt. xii. 36); how much more then for our foul and unchaste words! And if we must give account for these, how much more for our foul and unchaste deeds! The accusation against thee there will be just as long as thy life has been here. Thine accusers there will be just as many as thy sins have been here. Those thoughts which have become bad by our familiar use of them will not go unexamined at the judgment. What advantage is there then in concealing thy sins of lust for awhile from the eyes of men, when after awhile at the judgment they must be brought to light before the assembled universe? What advantage after all in escaping the tribunal of the earthly judge, since by no possibility canst thou escape that of the Judge above? Thou canst not bribe that Judge, for He is most just; thou canst not then move Him by thy prayers, for He is very strict; thou canst not then escape His province or jurisdiction, for He is all-powerful; nor canst thou deceive Him with vain excuses, for He is all-wise; nor canst thou appeal from the sentence He pronounces upon thee, for He is the Supreme Judge. His judgment will be according to the truth; it will be publicly proclaimed; it will be executed with the strictest severity.

Therefore, O my soul, devoted to God, let the terrors of this awful Judge be continually before thine eyes, so thou shalt not be led astray by the fire of lust. Be as the fragrant rose in thy love, as the lowly violet in thy humility, as the spotless lily in thy chastity. Learn of Christ (Matt. xi. 29), thy spiritual Spouse, humility and purity of life. Great is the dignity of chastity, because it was consecrated in the body of Christ; great is its dignity also, because it helps us while living in the flesh to live above the flesh. As there is nothing baser than to live under the dominion of the flesh, so there is nothing more glorious than to live with the flesh in entire subjection to us. Not only must we avoid external acts of lust, but impure thoughts as well, because God judgeth not only our external acts, but also the secret thoughts of our hearts. We may often do violence to our piety by a sinful look simply, and to our chastity by the lust of the eye. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. v. 28). How difficult may be the struggle in this respect, but, oh, how glorious will be the victory! It is difficult to restrain the fires of lust; it excites the young, it inflames the youth, it wearies the old and decrepit, it spurns not the hut of the poor, it respects not the palace of the rich. But the more difficult the struggle, the more glorious will be the final victory! The very first impulses to impurity must be at once checked, nor must we add fuel to the flame by indulging in evil thoughts. Although the Apostle bids us struggle against all other vices, yet in respect of this sin he enjoins upon us not to fight it, but to flee from it. “Flee fornication” (1 Cor. vi. 18), he says. If a strange beggar comes to our doors, with feigned simplicity of manner for the sake of imposing upon us, and we refuse him admittance, he goes away; but if we admit him to our home, he becomes our guest, he gradually grows bolder and more presumptuous, until at length, if we allow him, he becomes our master; and so unholy passion assails us; if we give it no encouragement it speedily withdraws. If thou wouldst not have this hated enemy rule thee, receive it not into the home of thy heart.

Preserve us, O God, in holiness of mind and in purity of body!



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