Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

the poet during the whole piece are exerted in attempt. ing to render this woman the object not only of the compassion and forgiveness, but of the esteem and af. fection of the audience. The injured husband, con. vinced of his wife's repentance, forms a resolution, which every man of true feeling and christian piety will probably approve. He forgives her offence, and prom. ises her through life his advice, protection, and fortune, together with every thing which can alleviate the misery of her situation, but refuses to replace her in the situation of his wife. But this is not sufficient for the Ger. mun author. His efforts are employed, and it is to be feared but to successfully, in making the audience consider the husband as an unrelenting savage, while they are led by the art of the poet anxiously to wish to see an adultress restored to that rank of women who have not violated the most solemi covenant that can be made with man, nor disobeyed one of the most positive laws which has been enjoined by God.

About the same time that this first attempt at repre. senting an adultress in an exemplary light was made by a German dramatist, which forms an era in manners ; a direct vindication of adultery was for the first time attempted by a woman, a professed admirer and imitator of the German suicide Werter. The female Werter, as she is styled by her biographer, asserts, in a work intit. led “The Wrongs of Women,” that adultery is justi. fiable, and that the restrictions placed on it by the laws of England constitute one of the Wrongs of Women.

And this leads me to dwell a little longer on this most destructive class in the whole wide range of mod. ern corruptors, who effect the most desperate work of the passions, without so much as pretending to urge their violence in extenuation of the guilt of indulging them. They solicit this very indulgence with a sort of cold. blooded speculation, and invite the reader to the most unbounded gratifications, with all the saturnine coolness of a geometrical calculation. Theirs is an iniquity rather of phlegm than of spirit: and in the pestilent

[ocr errors]

pt.

[ocr errors]

OL!

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

atmosphere they raise about them, as in the infernal th

climate described by Milton, af.

The parching air* Burns frore, and frost performs th' effect of fire. This cool, calculating, intellectual wickedness eats out the very heart and core of virtue, and like a deadly mil. dew blights and shrivels the blooming promise of the human spring.

Its benumbing touch communicates a torpid sluggishness, which paralyzes the soul. It des

cants on depravity, and details its grossest acts as frigid. . bi

ly as if its object were to allay the tumult of the passions,

while it is letting them loose oo mankind, by "plucking 70

off the muzzle” of present restraint and future account. ableness. The system is a dire infusion compounded of bold impiety, brutish sonsnality, and exquisite foily,

which creeping fatally about the heart checks the moral 3 circulation, and totally stops the pulse of goodness by

the extinction of the vital principle. Thus not only

choking the stream of actual virtue, but drying up the by very fountain of future remorse and remote repentance, S; The ravages which some of the old offenders against

purity made in the youthful heart, by the exercise of a fervid but licentious imagination on the passions, was

like the mischief effected by floods, cataracts, and vol. to

The desolation indeed was terrible, and the ruin was tremendous : yet it was a ruin which did not infallibly preclude the possibility of recovery. The country, though deluged and devastated, was not ut. terly put beyond the power of restoration. The har. vests- indeed were destroyed, and all was wide sterility. But, though the crops were lost, the seeds of vegetation were not absolutely eradicated ; so that, after a long and barren blank, fertility might finally return.

But the heart once infected with this newly medicata ed venom, subtil though sluggish in its operation,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

01

[ocr errors]

canos.

* « When the north-wind bloweth it devoureth the mountains, "and burueth the wilderness, and consumeth the grass as fire.”

Eccles. xl. 20.

resembles what travellers relate of that blasted spot the dead-sea, where those devoted cities once stood which for their pollutions were burnt with fire from heaven. It continues a stagnant lake of putrifying waters. No wholesome blade ever more shoots up; the air is so tainted that no living thing subsists within its influence. Near the sulphureous pool the very principle of life is annihilated, All is death,

Death, unrepealable eternal death!

But let us take comfort. These projects are not yet generally realized. These atrocious principles are not yet adopted into common practice. Though corruptions seem with a confluent tide to be pouring in upon us from every quarter, yet there is still left among us a discriminating judguient. Clear and strongly marked distinctions between right and wrong stillsubsist. While we continue to cherish this sanity of mind, the case is not desperate. Though that crime, the growth of which always exhibits the most irrefragable proof of the dissoluteness of public manners ; though that crime, which cuts up order and virtue by the roots, and violates the sanctity of vows, is awfully increasing,

'Till senates seem
For purposes of empire less conven’d
Than to release the adult'ress from her bonds;

yet, thanks to the surviving efficacy of a holy religion, to the operation of virtuous laws, and to the energy and unshaken integrity with which these laws are now ad. ministered ; and most of all perhaps to a standard of murals which continues in force, when the principles which sanctioned it are no more : this crime, in the fe. male sex at least, is still held in just abhorrence ; if it be practised, it is not honourable; if it be committed, it is not justified ;, we do not yet affect to palliate its turpi. tude ; as yet it hides its abhorred head in lurking priv. acy; and reprobation hitherto follows its publicity.

But on your exerting your influence, with just appli. cation and increasing energy, may in no small degree depend whether this corruption shall still continue to be resisted. For, from admiring to adopting, the step is short, and the progress rapid ; and it is in the moral as in the natural world ; the motion, in the case of minds as well as of bodies, is accelerated as they approach the centre to which they are tending.

O ye to whom this address is particularly directed ! an awful charge is, in this instance, committed to your hands; as you discharge it or shrink from it, you pro. mote or injure the honour of your daughters and the happiness of your sons, of both which you are the de. positaries. And, while you resolutely persevere in mak. ing a stand against the encroachments of this crime, suffer not your firmness to be shaken by that affectation of charity, which is growing into a general substitute for principle. Abuse not so noble a quality as Christian candour, by mis-employing it in instances to which it does not apply. Pity the wretched woman you dare not countenance; and bless him who has " made

you to differ.” If unhappily she be your relation or friend, anxiously watch for the period when we shall be desert. ed by her betrayer; and see if, by your Christian offi. ces, she can be snatched from a perpetuity of vice. But if, through the Divine blessing on your patient endeav. ours, she should ever be awakened to remorse, be not anxious to restore the forlorn penitent to that society against whose laws she has so grievously offended ; and remember, that her soliciting such a restoration, furnishes but too plain a proof that she is not the penitent your partiality would believe ; since penitence is more anx. ious to make its peace with Heaven than with the world. Joyfully would a truly contrite spirit commute an earthly for an everlasting reprobation ! To restore a criminal to public society, is perhaps to tempt her to repeat her crime, or to deaden her repentance for having committed it, as well as to injure that society ; wbile to restore a strayed soul to God will add lustre to your Christian character, and brighten your eternal crown.

In the mean time, there are other evils, ultimately perhaps tending to this, into which we are falling,

D

through that sort of fashionable candour which, as was hinted above, is among the mischievous characteristics of the present day ; of which period perhaps it is not the smallest evil, that vices are made to look so like virtues, and are so assimilated to them, that it requires watchfulness and judgment sufficiently to analyze and discrim. inale. There are certain women of good fashion who practice irregularities not consistent with the strictness of virtue; while their good sense and knowledge of the world make them at the same time keenly alive to the value of reputation. They want to retain their indul. gencies, without quite forfeiting their credit ; but find. ing their fame fast declining, they artfully cling, by flattery and marked attentions, to a few persons of more than ordinary character; and thus, till they are driven to let go their hold, continue to prop a falling fame.

On the other hand, there are not wanting women of distinction, of very correct general conduct, and of no ordinary sense and virtue, who, confiding with a high mind on what they too confidently call the integrity of their own hearts; anxious to deserve a good fame on the one hand, by a life free from reproach, yet secretly too desirous on the other of securing a worldly and fashionable reputation ; while their general associates are persons of honour, and their general resort places of safety ; yet allow themselves to be occasionally present at the midnight orgies of revelry and gaming, in houses of no honourable estimation ; and thus help to keep up characters, which, without their sustaining hand, would sink to their just level of contempt and reprobation. While they are holding out this plank to a drowning reputation, rather, it is to be feared, shewing their own strength than assisting another's weakness, they value themselves, perhaps, on not partaking of the worst parts of the amusements which may be carrying on; but they sanction them by their presence; they lend their countenance to corruptions they should abhor, and their example to the young and inex, perienced, who are looking about for some such sanction to justify them in that which they were before inclined

« ForrigeFortsæt »