Whatever ground we may have gotten upon our enemies, we have gotten none upon our vices, the worst enemies of the two; but are even subdued and led captive by the one while we triumph so gloriously over the other.
Bid early defiance unto those vices which are of thine inward family, and having a root in thy temper plead a right and propriety in thee. Raise timely barriers against those strongholds built upon the rock of nature, and make this a great part of the militia of thy life. Delude not thyself into iniquities from participation or community, which abate the sense but not the obliquity of them. To conceive sins less, or less of sins, because others also transgress, were morally to commit that natural fallacy of man, to take comfort from society, and think adversities less because others also suffer them.
To burn away in mad waste the divine aromas and plainly celestial elements from our existence; to change our holy-of-holies into a place of riot; to make the soul itself hard, impious, barren! Surely a day is coming when it will be known again what virtue is in purity and continence of life; how divine is the blush of young human cheeks; how high, beneficent, sternly inexorable, if forgotten, is the duty laid, not on women only, but on every creature, in regard to these particulars! Well, if such a day never come again, then I perceive much else will never come again. Magnanimity and depth of insight will never come; heroic purity of heart and of eye; noble pious valour, to amend us and the age of bronze and lacker, how can they ever come? The scandalous bronze-lacker age of hungry animalisms, spiritual impotencies and mendacities, will have to run its course, till the pit follow it.
Vicious habits are so great a stain to human nature, and so odious in themselves, that every person actuated by right reason would avoid them, though he were sure they would be always concealed both from God and man, and had no future punishment entailed upon them.
Natural good is so intimately connected with moral good, and natural evil with moral evil, that I am as certain as if I heard a voice from Heaven proclaim it, that God is on the side of virtue. He has learnt much, and has not lived in vain, who has practically discovered that most strict and necessary connection that does and will ever exist between vice and misery, and virtue and happiness. The greatest miracle that the Almighty could perform would be to make a bad man happy, even in heaven: He must unparadise that blessed place to accomplish it. In its primary signification all vice, that is, all excess, brings its own punishment even here. By certain fixed, settled, and established laws of Him who is the God of Nature, excess of every kind destroys that constitution that temperance would preserve. The debauchee, therefore, offers up his body a living sacrifice to sin.
In this piece it was my design to explain and enforce this doctrine, that vicious actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but forbidden because they are hurtful, the nature of men alone considered; that it was, therefore, every ones interest to be virtuous who wished to be happy even in this world.
This is to be remembered, that it is not possible now to keep a young gentleman from vice by a total ignorance of it, unless you will all his life mew him up in a closet, and never let him go into company.