Nothing grieves me so much as the great number of unmarried mothers. Nothing in all my work has sent me so often to my room to pray and weep bitter tears of sorrow as the shameful way in which these young girls go on in their sin, and alas, for the number of young men, "who creep into houses and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts." 2 Tim. 3:6.
I wish I could reach the ears of every pure young girl. I would say, "Do not take that young man's hand. It is polluted, shut the door in his face. Send him back to the girl he has ruined." Mothers and fathers you are to blame for much of this evil. There is no door to your homes called "watchfulness," no guard there. The children go out and in just as they please. Did you not know that the home was given by God as a shelter for the child till it was strong to bear the temptations of life? But you say, "My child must have some amusement." "Yes, but you go with it to the place of amusement.
Many a child has been sent on an excursion, or to a hall, or to a party, and has come back ruined. Be more careful about the companionship of your child than about the food it eats.
Above all make your home a happy place of amusement. Let the children play and laugh and talk and be as free, as gay, as the birds in the trees. Let the home be a glad place.
Be careful for the sake of your children who come into your home. That sweet young girl is worth more than a million dollars. Guard her purity, her modesty as you would the apple of your eye, and that dear boy also. It is a great mistake that only girls need to be guarded. Boys need as much care and watching as the girls. Do not let the children listen to "filthy conversation." I would turn a man or woman out of my house that dared to speak a polluted word. Fill the children's hearts with beautiful thoughts of God, of heaven, of angels, of love, of truth, of birds, of flowers, of all the beautiful things God has done.
You know He says in Matthew 15:19 that out of heart proceed adulteries.
The natural heart will have bad thoughts unless Jesus comes in and fills it with love and light. But I hear you say, "How can I bring my children up rightly when everything wrong is at my very door, all day long?" Yes I know it. Have I not sat down by thousands of firesides in this state and listened as the parents told of the dangers that surrounded their children, and what could I do but weep and pray with them and thank God that some parents did feel the great work God had given them to do. But you know there are thousands of other parents who utterly neglect the care of their children, and even lead them into sin, and set them the example. To those let us go with all the earnestness of a message from God, tell them how God thundered from Mt. Sinai these words, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Do it before it is too late, do it to-day.
Pastors, you can do much to correct this evil.
Be strong and brave to reprove even if it be the richest man in your town. Take an example from John the Baptist, who dared to tell the king on his throne that his was an unlawful marriage. What if it did cost him his life, he died a glorious martyr and is now near the throne. We are often tempted to cover up sin because the man or woman has influence or riches. It is better to die and go to heaven than to live like a coward and be lost at last.
I have written several papers explaining the "White Cross" movement to the colored men, from one of which I give you the following:
On the subject of purity, the pulpit and press have been too silent, ballrooms, card tables, and saloons have been denounced, and the sin of adultery left untouched. Some, whose ears were more refined than their hearts, said it should not be spoken of in public. But they did not learn this false modesty from the Bible. God thundered from Mt. Sinai, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" with the same emphasis that He did, "Thou shalt not kill."
In Bible narrative, if a man or woman committed adultery, it is recorded simply because when God writes a man's history he tells the truth, even though it be of the king on his throne. There is no covering up of evil.
Paul exposes the sins of adultery in detail, mentioning its different forms. When Paul wrote to the young minister, Timothy, he said, "Keep thyself pure." 2 Tim. 2:22. "Flee youthful lusts." 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Tim. 5:22. It is not likely that Timothy needed this advice any more than the ministers of to-day do. It would be a good thing if there were more Pauls to-day to teach, to exhort, to rebuke the preachers, young and old. Of all men they should be the purest on earth. In virtue of their office, they are admitted into every home, and can sit down by every fireside and talk with our daughters and wives.
Listen to their conversation. In many cases you will find they are joking the young girls about the boys, and about that wedding cake. Silly, foolish talk of which our young girls hear so much even from the preacher. It is no wonder they think they must hurry and marry. Why does not the minister talk to them of education and other sensible subjects, and do it in a manly, dignified way, and not in the silly, foolish manner that suggests evil, to say the least? We say there are some ministers who do; we hope their number is few. In regard to this sin of adultery, woman has been blamed more than man. There is no authority in God's Word for it. It is only a custom or tradition that has bound a heavy burden on poor woman. It is true she cannot conceal her guilt, but if man was noble and brave, he would stand up beside her and bear half the blame. Where is that vile coward that won your daughter's heart, led her into sin, and then disappeared and left you and your daughter to care for his child? Can you think of anything more dastardly, mean, and cowardly than this act? I have no words to express my contempt for such men, and there are so many of them. It is man's place as the stronger person to protect the woman who is the "weaker vessel." He should be her guardian, her protector, and shield from insult and sin, instead of leading her into it. If a woman has to pass a dangerous road she takes a man along to protect her. If there is not room in the life-boat for all, put the women in first. Protect her and let the men swim or drown. Man is woman's natural protector. It is not so considered with regard to adultery.
Man seems to think he has a right to degrade woman and as a result look at the great crowds of degraded women and girls struggling in the mire of sin and shame to-day, and how came they there? Man's strong arm shoved them down from the hill of purity and he is doing it to-day by the thousands, and after man has done his Satanic work, he washes his hands in seeming innocency and goes on his way. Is this manly? Is this brave? Tell me, my dear strong brother. God gave you to me for my protector because you are strong and I am weak. How fearfully you betrayed your trust!
You have it in your power to stop this great vice if you only will. You ask, "How can I?" I will tell you. Let me illustrate. You are thrown inadvertently into the company, for perhaps one short half-hour, of a thoughtless, perhaps wicked, woman. Now, you need not say one word on the subject of adultery. Just take the low sensual look out of your own eyes, take the coarse jest out of your own mouth. Do not dare to lay your hands upon that woman. In short, take the adultery all out of your own heart. You are strong. You can or ought to be, able to control yourself.
Look into that woman's face with the clear, calm look of the pure in heart, and treat her with the respect due a woman. You will find that half an hour has done more to reform that woman than would a hundred lectures from her own sex. Your purity has made her long to be pure and holy. The women want to please you. The natural desire of woman to please man is much stronger than that of man to please woman. Brothers, you can save her if you will. The influence of one pure man is more powerful for good in a company whose morals are bad, than that of a woman equally good.
We have magnified woman's power to reform this and other evils. My experience is that man has the greater power, but in order to shield himself from responsibility, he thus compliments woman. One thing that has tended to degrade the colored women is, they are not treated with the respect due a woman, by the white men, and in too many cases the black man has followed the example of his white brother in this sad respect. You are not quick to rise and give woman the best seat, or relieve her of any bundle she may be carrying. You do not insist on your wife sitting down and sharing your nice breakfast, you are very well content to let her be your servant. All preachers do not share the best with their wives. I have known some of these men to accept frequently an invitation to dinner on the Sabbath from a church member, stay and have a social time, perhaps till the evening service, while their poor wives were left at home lonely and neglected.
Again you are not careful about the language you use in woman's presence. I have often gone into a store or private house and caught a word of conversation that was not proper.
They stopped when I came, yet there sat the colored women listening to it all. On the plantation the women have been obliged to listen to the coarse conversation of both white and colored men. This has had a tendency to make woman immodest. Watch the women getting off the boat or cars. The conductor helps the white woman off, but the black woman in many cases may find her own way off, even when there were colored men who might have helped her. The fact that white men do not treat your women with respect ought to make you more tender and respectful to every woman. Even though she be a bad woman you should try to protect her. If you are a good, pure man, you can afford to do it. Brothers, let me remind you that in the days of slavery you did not have the debasing influence thrown around you that your sisters had. Your virtue was not taken from you by force. Poor colored woman! She is still the slave of both white and black man. In view of this fact we have a right to expect that the black man be purer and stronger than the woman.
Now if there be any nobility, any manliness about you, you will strive hard to lift up your deeply-wronged and much-abused sisters. I believe you will help. I have faith in you, my colored brothers. You only need to know where to begin and how to carry this reform forward.
Just here I want to bear my testimony that in all my years in the South there has never been on the part of any colored man the slightest approach to undue familiarity with me; on the contrary, they have treated me with the utmost respect. And I have carefully watched their conduct toward other white women, and I cannot believe that the black man ever insults a white woman. I am, however, sorry to say, that the colored men do not always treat their own women with the courtesy and respect due to her, nor does woman behave with becoming reserve. There is much undue familiarity that tends to evil. We have a large number of true men and women who are working to reform this evil. It is hard to rise above the old-time rough manners of slavery and harder still to keep the impure thoughts out of hearts when only the head has been educated. One dear girl wrote me about her mother these words, "My mother has never been to school, but she has an educated heart. She is sure a good mother." I replied, "If I cannot have both heart and head educated, then I should choose the educated heart. May God educate your whole being, body, heart, and mind to be used for His glory, is my prayer for you, my dear girl."
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