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As an unclean garment may be washed, so the heart may be purified and made clean. Ghosts of past impurities still may dog us, but they are ghosts that may be laid with an imperative " Get thee behind me, Satan." They are like the lions that affrighted Bunyan's pilgrim-chained securely. They may roar and threaten, but they are powerless if we deny their power. The man who is striving for purity wholeheartedly is like one who sits safely in a guarded house. Old memories of evil things like specters may peer in at the windows and mow and gibber at him, but they can not touch him unless he gives them power, unless he unlocks the door of his heart and bids them enter.

As the lotus flower grows out of the mud, so may purity and beauty spring up from even the vilest past if we but will it so. As purity is power so impurity is impotence, weakness, degeneracy. Many a man goes on in an impure career thinking himself secure, thinking his secret hidden. But impurity, like murder, will out. There was a noted pugilist who was unexpectedly defeated in a great ring battle. People said the fight was a "fake," that it was a "put up job." But those who knew said " impurity." He had lived an evil, debauched life for several years, and he went into the ring impaired in strength, weakened by his transgressions of the law of pure living. Purity is power; impurity is weakness.

There is a saying of Scripture which is absolutely scientific: " Be sure your sin will find you out." Note this; it is not that your sin will be found out, but your sin will find you out. Sin recoils on the sinner, and of all sins that surely find us out, the sins against purity are the most certain to bring retribution.

Young men do not think that listening to an offcolor story, or anything that is vulgar, can injure them much, and, for fear of ridicule, they laugh when they hear anything of the kind, even when it is repulsive to them, and when they loathe it. It is a rare thing for a young man to express with emphasis his disapproval.

To know life properly is to know the best in it, not the worst. No one ever yet was made stronger by his knowledge of impurity or experience in sin.

It is said that the mind's phonograph will faithfully reproduce a bad story even up to the point of death. Do not listen once. You can never get the stain entirely out of your life. Your character will absorb the poison. Impurity is especially fatal in its grip upon the young, because of the vividness of the youthful imagination and the facility with which insinuating suggestions enter the youthful thought.

Our court records show that a very large percentage of criminals began their downfall through the fatal contagion of impurity communicated from various associations.

Remember that you can not tell what may come to you in the future, what honor or promotion; and you can not afford to take chances upon having anything in your history which can come up to embarrass you or to keep you back. A thing which you now look upon as a bit of pleasure may come up in the future to hamper your progress. The thing you do today while trying to have a good time may come up to block your progress years afterwards.

I know men who have been thrust into positions of honor and public trust who would give anything in the world if they could blot out some of the unclean experiences of their youth. Things in their early history, which they had forgotten all about and which they never expected to hear from again, are raked up when they become candidates for office or positions of trust. These forgotten bits of so-called pleasure loom up in after-life as insurmountable bars across their pathway.

I know a very rich young man who thought he was just having a good time in his youth-sowing his wild oats-who would give a large part of his vast wealth today if he could blot out a few years of his folly.

It seems strange that men will work hard to build a reputation, and then throw it all away by some weakness in their character. How many men there are in this country with great brain power, men who are kings in their specialties, men who have worked like slaves to achieve their aims, whose reputations have been practically ruined by the flaw of impurity! Character is a record of our thoughts and acts. That which we think about most, the ideals and motives uppermost in our mind, are constantly solidifying into character. What we are constantly thinking about, and aiming toward and trying to obtain becomes a permanent part of the life.

The man whose thoughts are low and impure, very quickly gives this bent and tendency to his character. The character levels itself with the thought, whether high or low. No man can have a pure, clean character who does not habitually have pure, clean thoughts. The immoral man is invariably an impure thinker whatever we harbor in the mind out-pictures itself in the body. In Eastern countries the leper is compelled to cry, " Unclean, unclean," upon the approach of any one not so cursed. What a blessing to humanity if our modern moral lepers were compelled to cry, " Unclean, unclean," before they approach innocent victims with their deadly contagion!

About the vilest thing on earth is a human being whose character is so tainted with impurity that he leaves the slimy trail of the serpent wherever he goes. There never was a more beautiful and pathetic prayer than that of the poor soiled, broken-hearted Psalmist in his hour of shame, " Create in me a clean heart." " Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, who shall stand in His holy place?

He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." There are thousands of men who would cut off their right hands today to be free from the stain, the poison, of impurity.

There can be no lasting greatness without purity. Vice honeycombs the physical strength as well as destroys the moral fiber. Now and again some man of note topples with a crash to sudden ruin. Yet the cause of the moral collapse is not sudden. There has been a slow undermining of virtue going on probably for years; then, in an hour when honor, truth, or honesty is brought to a crucial test, the weakened character gives way and there is an appalling commercial or social crash which often finds an echo in the revolver shot of the suicide.

Tennyson shows the effect of Launcelot's guilty love for Guinevere, in the great knight's conscious loss of power. His wrongful passion indirectly brought about the death of fair Elaine. He himself at times shrank from puny men wont to go down before the shadow of his spear. Like a scarlet blot his sin stains all his greatness, and he muses on it remorsefully:

"For what am I? What profits me my name Of greatest knight? I fought for it and have it. Pleasure to have it, none; to lose it pain; Now grown a part of me: but what use in it? To make men worse by making my sin known? Or sin seem less, the sinner seeming great? "

Later when the knights of the Round Table joined in the search for the Holy Grail, that lost sacred vessel,

"The cup, the cup itself from which our Lord Drank at the last sad supper with his own,"

Launcelot was overtaken by his sin and failed ignominiously. Only Galahad the Pure was permitted to see the cup unsurrounded by a blinding glory, a fearful splendor of watching eyes and guarding shapes.

No one is quite the same in his own estimation when he has been once guilty of contact with impurity. His self-respect has suffered a loss. Something has gone out of his life. His own good opinion of himself has suffered deterioration, and he can never face his life task with quite the same confidence again. Somehow he feels that the world will know of his soul's debauch and judge him accordingly.

There is nothing which will mar a life more quickly than the consciousness of a soul-stain. The loss of self-respect, the loss of character, is irreparable.

We are beginning to find that there is an intimate connection between absolute purity of one's thought and life and his good health, good thinking, and good work, a very close connection between the moral faculties and the physical health; that nothing so exhausts vitality and vitiates the quality of work and ideals, so takes the edge off of one's ambition, dulls the brain and aspiration, as impurity of thought and life. It seems to blight all the faculties and to demoralize the whole man, so that his efficiency is very much lessened. He does not speak with the same authority. The air of the conqueror disappears from his manner. He does not think so clearly; he does not act with so great certainty, and his self-faith is lost, because confidence is based upon self-respect, and he can no longer respect himself when he does things which he would not respect in another.

The fact that his impure acts are done secretly makes no difference. No one can thoroughly respect himself when he does that which demoralizes him, which is unbecoming a gentleman, no matter whether other people know it or not. Impurity blights everything it touches.

It is not enough to be thought pure and clean and sound. One must actually be pure and clean and sound morally, or his self-respect is undermined.

Purity is power because it means integrity of thought, integrity of conduct. It means wholeness. The impure man can not be a great power, because he can not thoroughly believe in himself when conscious that he is rotten in any part of his nature. Impurity works like leaven, which affects everything in a man. The very consciousness that the impurity is working within him robs him of power.

Apart from the moral side of this question, let us show how these things affect one's success in life by sapping the energies, weakening the nature, lowering one's standards, blurring one's ideals, discouraging one's ambition, and lessening one's vitality and power.

In the last analysis of success, the mainspring of achievement must rest in the strength of one's vitality, for, without a stock of health equal to great emergencies and persistent longevity, even the greatest ambition is comparatively powerless. And there is nothing that will sap the life-forces so quickly as dissipation and impure living.

Is there anything truer than that " To be carnally minded is death?" If the thought is carnal, the body must correspond, must express it in some physical discord. Nothing else will destroy the very foundations of vitality quicker than impurity of thought and animal self-indulgence. The ideals must be kept bright and the ambition clean-cut.

Purity of thought means that the mental processes are not clouded, muddy, or clogged by brain ash from a dissipated life, from violation of the laws of health. Pure thought comes from pure blood, and pure blood from a clean, sane life. Purity signifies a great deal besides freedom from sensual taint. It means saneness, purity, and quality.

It has been characteristic of great leaders, men whose greatness has stood the acid test of time, that they have been virtuous in conduct, pure in thought.

" I have such a rich story that I want to tell you," said an officer, who one evening came into the Union camp in a rollicking mood. "There are no ladies present, are there? " General Grant, lifting his eyes from the paper which he was reading, and looking the officer squarely in the eye, said slowly and deliberately " No, but there are gentlemen present."

A great trait of Grant's character," said George W. Childs, " was his purity. I never heard him express an impure thought, or make an indelicate allusion in any way or shape. There is nothing I ever heard him say that could not be repeated in the presence of women. If a man was brought up for an appointment, and it was shown that he was an immoral man, Grant would not appoint him, no matter how great the pressure brought to bear."

On one occasion, when Grant formed one of a dinner-party of Americans in a foreign city, conversation drifted into references to questionable affairs, when he suddenly rose and said, "Gentlemen, please excuse me, I will retire." It is the glory of a man to have clean lips and a clean mind. It is the glory of a woman not to know evil, even in her thoughts.

Isaac Newton's most intimate friend in young manhood was a noted foreign chemist. They were constant associates until one day the Italian told an impure story, after which Newton never would associate with him.

" My extreme youth, when I took command of the army of Italy," said Napoleon, " rendered it necessary that I should evince great reserve of manners and the utmost severity of morals. This was indispensable to enable me to sustain authority over men so greatly my superiors in age and experience.

I pursued a line of conduct in the highest degree irreproachable and exemplary. In spotless morality I was a Cato, and must have appeared such to all. I was a philosopher and a sage. My supremacy could be retained only by proving myself a better man than any other man in the army. Had I yielded to human weakness, I should have lost my power."

The military antagonist and conqueror of Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, was a man of simple life and austere virtue. When he was laid to rest in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral, " in streaming London's central roar," the poet who wrote his funeral ode was able to say of him

"Whatever record leap to light He never shall be shamed."

The peril of impurity lies in the insidiousness of the poison. Just one taint of impurity, one glance at a lewd picture, one hearing of an unclean story may begin the fatal corruption of mind and heart.

"It is the little rift within the lute

That by and by will make the music mute,

The little rift within the lover's lute

Or little pitted speck in garnered fruit

That rotting inward slowly molders all."

When Bunyan's pilgrim was assailed by temptation he stopped his ears with his fingers and fled for his life. Let the young man who values himself, who sets store upon health and has ambition to succeed in his chosen career, be deaf to unclean speech and flee the companionship of those who think and speak uncleanness.

It is the experience of every man who has forsaken vice and turned his feet into the paths of virtue that evil memories will, in his holiest hours, leap upon him like a lion from ambush.

Into the harmony of the hymn he sings memory will interpolate unbidden, the words of some sensual song. Pictures of his de bauches, his past licentiousness, will fill his vision, and the unhappy victim can only beat upon his breast and cry, " Me miserable! Whither shall I flee? " This has been, through all time, the experience of the men that have sought sanctity in seclusion. The saints, the hermits in their caves, the monks in their cells, could never escape the obsessions of memory which with horrible realism and scorching vividness revived past scenes of sin.

A boy once showed to another a book of impure words and pictures. He to whom the book was shown had it in his hands only a few minutes. In afterlife he held high office in the church, and years and years afterwards told a friend that he would give half he possessed had he never seen, it, because its impure images, at the most holy times, would arise unbidden to his mind.

Physicians tell us that every particle of the body changes in a very few years; but no chemistry, human or divine, can entirely expunge from the mind a bad picture. Like the paintings buried for centuries in Pompeii, without the loss of tint or shade, these pictures are as brilliant in age as in youth. Association begets assimilation. We can not mix with evil associations without being contaminated; can not touch pitch without being defiled. Impurity is especially fatal in its grip upon the young, because of the vividness of the youthful imagination and the facility with which insinuating suggestions enter the youthful thought.

Indelible and satanic is the taint of the evil suggestive power which a lewd, questionable picture or story leaves upon the mind. Nothing else more fatally mars the ideals of life and lowers the standard of manhood and womanhood.

To read writers whose lines express the utmost possible impurity so dexterously and cunningly that not a vulgar word is used, but rosy, glowing, suggestive language-authors who soften evil and show deformity with the tints of beauty-what is this but to take the feet out of the straight road into the guiltiest path of seduction ?

Very few realize the power of a diseased imagination to ruin a precious life. Perhaps the defect began in a little speck of taint. No other faculty has such power to curse or bless mankind, to build up or tear down, to ennoble or debauch, to make happy or miserable, or has such power upon our destiny, as the imagination.

Many a ruined life began its downfall in the dry rot of a perverted imagination. How little we realize that by subtle, moral manufacture, repeated acts of the imagination weave themselves into a mighty tapestry, every figure and fancy of which will stand out in living colors in the character-web of our lives, to approve or condemn us.

In many cases where, for no apparent reason, one is making failure after failure, never reaching, even approximately, the position which was anticipated for him, if he would look frankly into his own heart, and searchingly at his own secret habits, he would find that which, hidden, like the worm at the heart of the rose, is destroying and making impossible all that ennobles, beautifies, and enriches life.

" I solemnly warn you," says Beecher, " against indulging a morbid imagination. In that busy and mischievous faculty begins the evil. Were it not for his airy imagination, man might stand his own master, - not overmatched by the worst part of himself. But ah ! these summer reveries, these venturesome dreams, these fairy castles, builded for no good purposes, they are haunted by impure spirits, who will fascinate, bewitch, and corrupt you.

Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed art thou, most favored of God, whose THOUGHTs are chastened; whose imagination will not breathe or fly in tainted air, and whose path hath been measured by the golden reed of purity."

To be pure in heart is the youth's first great commandment. Do not listen to men who tell you that " vice is a necessity." Nothing is a necessity that is wrong, - that debauches self-respect. " All wickedness is weakness." Vice and vigor have nothing in common. Purity is strength, health, power. Do not imagine that impurity can be hidden! One may as, well expect to have consumption or any other deadly disease, and to look and appear healthy, as to be impure in thought and mind, and to look and appear manly and noble souled. Character writes its record in the flesh.

" No, no, these are not trifles," said George Whitefield, when a friend asked why he was so particular to bathe frequently, and always have his linen scrupulously clean; " a minister must be without spot, even in his garments." Purity in a good man can not be carried too far. There is a permanency in the stamp left by the sins resulting from impure thought that follows even to the grave. Diseases unnameable, the consequences of the Scarlet Sin, the following after the "strange woman," write their record in the very bones, literally fulfilling the Scripture statement - " Their sins shall lie down with their bones in the dust."

We often detect in the eye and in the manner the black leper spots of impurity long before the youth suspects they have ever been noticed. When there is a scar or a stain upon one's self-respect it is bound to appear on the surface sooner or later. What fearful blots and stains are left on the characters of those who have to fight for a lifetime to rid themselves of a blighting and contaminating influence, moral or physical!

Chemists tell us that scarlet is the only color which can not be bleached. There is no known chemical which can remove it. So, formerly, scarlet rags were made into blotting paper. When the sacred writer wished to emphasize the power of Divine forgiveness, of Divine love, he said: " Even though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as wool! " It certainly takes omnipotent power to expunge impurity from the mind. There is certainly one sin which only Divine power can bleach out of the character-the sin of impurity.

No man can think much of himself when he is conscious of impurity anywhere in his life. And the very knowledge that one is absolutely pure in his thought and clean in his life increases his self-respect and his self-faith wonderfully. It is a terrible handicap to be conscious that, however much others may think of us, we are foul inside, that our thoughts are vile. It does not matter that our vicious acts are secret, we can not cover them.

Whatever we have thought or done will outpicture itself in the expression, in the bearing. It will be hung out upon the bulletin board of the face and manner for the world to read. We instinctively feel a person's reality; not what he pretends, but what he is, for we radiate our reality, which often contradicts our words. There is only one panacea for impurity. Constant occupation and pure, high thinking are absolutely necessary to a clean life.

" I should be a poor counselor of young men," wrote a true friend of youth, " if I taught you that purity is possible only by isolation from the world. We do not want that sort of holiness which can thrive only in seclusion; we want that virile, manly purity which keeps itself unspotted from the world, even amid its worst debasements, just as the lily lifts its slender chalice of white and gold to heaven, untainted by the soil in which it grows, though that soil be the reservoir of death and putrefaction." Impurity is the forfeiture of manliness. The true man must be untarnished. James went so far as to declare that this is just what religion is. " Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this "to keep himself unspotted from the world."

Every true man shrinks from uncleanness. He knows what it means. Impurity makes lofty friendships impossible. It robs all of life's intercourse of its freshness and its joyous innocence. It sullies all beauty. It does these things chiefly because it separates men from God and His vision. The best and holiest is barred to the stained man. Impurity makes it impossible for him to appreciate what is pure and fine, dulls his finer perceptions, and he is not given the place where only pure and fine things are.

There can be no such thing as an impure gentleman. The two words contradict each other. A gentleman must be pure. He need not have fine clothes. He may have had few advantages. But he must be pure and clean. And, if he have all outward grace and gift and be inwardly unclean, though he may call himself a gentleman, he is a liar and a lie.

O, young man, guard your heart-purity! Keep innocency ! Never lose it; if it be gone, you have lost from the casket the most precious gift of God. The first purity of imagination, of thought, and of feeling, if soiled, can be cleansed by no fuller's soap. If a harp be broken, art may repair it; if a light be quenched, the flame may kindle it; but if a flower be crushed, what art can repair it? If an odor be wafted away, who can collect or bring it back?

Parents are, in many cases, responsible for the impurity of their children. Through a mistaken sense of delicacy, they allow the awakened, searching mind of the child to get information concerning its physical nature from the mind of some boy or girl no better taught than itself, and so conceive wholly wrong and harmful ideas concerning things of which it is vitally important that every human being. should at the outset of life have clear and adequate ideas. Such silence, many times, is fatal, and always foolish, if not criminal.

I have noticed," says William Acton, " that all patients who have confessed to me that they have practised vice, lamented that they were not, when children, made aware of its consequences; and I have been pressed over and over again to urge on parents, guardians, schoolmasters, and others interested in the education of youth, the necessity of giving to their charges some warning, some intimation, of their danger. To parents and guardians I offer my earnest advice that they should, by hearty sympathy and frank explanation, aid their charges in maintaining pure lives." What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted ?

A prominent writer says: " If young persons poison their bodies and corrupt their minds with vicious courses, no lapse of time, after a reform, is likely to restore them to physical soundness and the soul purity of their earlier days."

There is one idea concerning purity which should never have been conceived, and, having been conceived, should be, once and forever, eternally exploded. It is that purity is different in the different sexes.

It would be loosening the foundations of virtue to countenance the notion that, because of a difference in sex, men are at liberty to set morality at defiance, and to do with impunity that which, if done by a woman, would stain her character for life.

To maintain a pure and virtuous condition of society, therefore, man as well as woman must be virtuous and pure, both alike shunning all acts infringing on the heart, character, and conscience, - shunning them as poison, which, once imbibed, can never be entirely thrown out again.

Is there any reason why a man should have any license to drag his thoughts through the mud and filth any more than a woman? Is there any sex in principle? Isn't a stain a blot upon a boy's character just as bad as upon a girl's? If purity is so refining and elevating for one sex, why should it not be for the other? It is incredible that a man should be socially ostracized for comparatively minor offenses, yet be rotten with immorality and be received into the best homes. But, if a woman makes the least false step in this direction, she is not only ostracized but treated with the utmost contempt, while the man who was the chief sinner in causing a woman's downfall, society will pardon.

To put it on the very lowest ground, I am certain that if young men knew and realized the fearful risks to health that they take by indulging in gross impurities they would put them by with a shudder of disgust and aversion. It may very easily happen-it very often actually does happen-that one single step from the path of purity clouds a man's whole life with misery and unspeakable suffering; and not only that, but even entails lifelong disease on children yet unborn.

To return to its Maker at the close of life the marvelous body which He gave us, scarred by a heedless life, with the heart rotten with impurity, the imagination filled with vicious images, the character honeycombed with vice, is a most ungrateful return for the priceless life of opportunity.

A mind retaining all the dew and freshness of innocence shrinks from the very idea of impurity, the very suggestion of it, as if it were sin to have even thought or heard of it, as if even the shadow of the evil would leave some soil on the unsullied whiteness of the virgin mind. " When modesty is once extinguished, it knows not a return."


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