A Prayer Under Strong Temptations
Holy God! I desire to humble myself here before Thee, for that continual proneness which is in me to sin against Thee, that I am so unlike to Thee, and so contrary to what Thy holy laws require me to be. After all the great things thou hast done for me, alas! how apt am I still to spoil and undo myself! The malicious tempter is laying snares for me every where; and the things of this world are still pressing hard upon me, either to terrify me out of my duty, or to humour me into my ruin. And O how ready is my sinful flesh to side with the cruel enemy against my own soul! Innumerable evils have compassed me about; my iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head, therefore my heart fails me.A Prayer for Chastity
O the sin that still dwelleth in me, that is so nigh to me, that does so easily beset me, and is so apt to prevail against me, to pull me away from the obedience of Thy blessed will, and to engage me in forbidden things, displeasing in Thy sight, and destructive to my soul! O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? when the custom of sinning has so increased my sinful inclinations, that the leopard may as soon change his spots, and the Ethiopian his skin, as I who am so accustomed to evil can of myself, cease from it, if the Lord of hosts be not with me; if the God of Jacob be not my refuge. But with Thee, the Almighty God, all things are possible; yea, Thou canst as easily make us holy as bid us be so. To Thee the very powers of hell are weakness; nothing in the world can resist Thy will. O pity Thy poor tempted creature, and give me not up, in justice, to a reprobate sense, and to vile affections, nor to such blindness of mind and hardness of heart, as should render me past feeling; nor ever punish my former sins, by giving me over to their sway and power; but let it be Thy gracious pleasure, O Lord, that all my prevailing iniquities may flee and perish at Thy presence.
O give out the commanding word to those filthy corruptions, hitherto shall ye go and no further. Speak death to my sins, that my soul may live, and for ever bless thy name. Stop and heal the running sores, that they may no more break out as they have done, to the dishonor of Thy name, the wounding of my conscience, and hindering the concerns of my own and others' present peace, and eternal bliss; yea, so sanctify my nature, O Lord, and renew me, even in the spirit of my mind, that my heart may rise against the sinful evils, and that I may hate all iniquity, and every false way; so resisting the devil, that I may not conspire with the deadly enemy of souls to undo myself. O give me power from on high, to set me above the power of my sins; and give me grace sufficient to turn my heart against the love of my sins, that I may not be false in Thy covenant, nor false to my own chief interest, but manfully fight Thy battles, and approve myself Thy faithful soldier and servant to my life's end; that being so faithful unto death, Thou mayest give unto me the crown of life, and take me at last from this warfare to reign with Thee, world without end. Amen.
O God of infinite purity, Thou hast called us, not to uncleanness, but to holiness; Thou hast commanded us to be holy as Thou art holy; and hast promised to none but the pure in heart to see and enjoy Thee in the beauties of holiness, and the joys above. O how shall I, a polluted wretch, shew myself before Thy heavenly Majesty, who art perfect purity; and in whose sight even heaven itself is not clean? O most gracious Lord! look not upon me as I am in myself, and as I through my sins have made myself vile, even in my own eyes; for then Thou canst not choose but abhor my soul, and pour out all Thy wrath upon me; but wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from all my sin and guilt in that fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, the precious blood of the Lamb of God, slain to take away the sins of the world.A Prayer for the Mortification of all fleshly Lusts
Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean: O create a clean heart in me, and say to my sin-defiled soul, as Thou didst to the leper, I will, be thou clean, and I shall be cleansed and fitted now for Thy holy service, and hereafter for Thy heavenly glory. O my God! cast the unclean spirit out from Thy temple; and if he will not go out but by prayer and fasting, let me add such abstinence to my prayers, as may help to starve the fleshly lusts that war against my soul: and by any means help me, my strength and my Redeemer, to possess my vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, as those that know not God.
Holy Lord, chase away the birds of prey that would devour Thy sacrifice; and drive out these unclean beasts that would trample down the plantation of Thy grace in my soul O let me not live after the flesh, lest I eternally die; but by Thy Spirit so mortify the deeds of the body, that I may for ever live; instead of doing the works of the flesh, let me hate the very garment spotted with it; and not without detestation once name the filthy lusts. Help me, my God, to avoid every occasion of falling, and to abstain from all appearance of evil, and so to delight in Purity, and to keep myself from my iniquity, that I may lead the noble spiritual life as becomes the child of my heavenly Father; and not grieve Thy Holy Spirit, O God, but be pleasing in Thy blessed sight, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
I have vowed and promised unto Thee, my God, to renounce all the sinful lusts of the flesh, and am devoted as holy to the Lord; that having put on Jesus Christ, I should not make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lust thereof, but cleanse myself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God; but though I have some delight in the law of God, after the inner man; yet I find another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members; and this I acknowledge and bewail to Thee, O Lord Almighty! who alone canst set me free from the lusts that are too hard for me.
O help me, Lord God of my salvation, against the power of these prevailing iniquities, and purge away all my sins, for the glory of Thy name; may the time past of my life suffice to have served my own lusts and pleasures. O let not sin any longer reign in my mortal body, that I should obey it in the lusts thereof, but help me, Lord, to cut off the right hand, and to pluck out the right eye, to keep under my body, and to bring it into subjection, that I may have the mastery of my lusts, and overcome the sins that have so often overcome me. O mortify and destroy in me every rebellious motion, and every vicious inclination that exalts itself against the gospel and government of Christ Jesus; that gives satan advantage over me, and hinders my Savior from reigning as a king supreme in my heart.
Preserve me, Lord most holy, from all those sinful pleasures that would make me fall short of the heavenly pleasures which are at Thy right hand for evermore. O let me not lead a sensual life, minding the things of the flesh, as if they were the only esteemed and beloved things; but make me so spiritually minded, that I may above all things, favor and relish the things of the Spirit of God. Let not sinful flesh and lust, but Thy heavenly Spirit and grace, have the predominancy in my soul, to guide and govern my heart and life; especially let the sins to which I am most strongly induced, be effectually subdued. O let me not yield myself the miserable slave of my soul-ruining lusts; but carry myself as the wise and faithful follower of my heavenly Lord and Saviour; and as Thou who hast called me, art holy, so make me holy in disposition, and in all my conversation; such a lover and follower of holiness, that I may see and enjoy the Lord.
O gird me with might to that spiritual conflict wherein I am engaged; not only against flesh and blood, but infernal foes, too strong for me to deal with, that through Christ strengthening me, I may go on conquering and to conquer all that withstands Thy glory, and my salvation, till satan be bruised under my feet; that nothing may ever be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, my Lord. Amen.
The Virtue of Chastity, Explained and Defended
by Rev. Arthur Devine, 1897
1. Chastity enjoined by the Sixth and Ninth Commandments. The nature of this virtue.
2. The division and excellence of this virtue.
3. Virginity: its nature. How it may be lost and restored.
4. Chastity is a virtue most pleasing to God, proved by many considerations.
5. This virtue need not be confounded with the state of celibacy, or profession of the Evangelical Counsel.
6. Chastity conducive to health, proved by various authorities and extracts.
7. Objections against the practice of chastity answered. The 'wild oats' theory refuted by four considerations.
8. The falsehood that all young men exceed the bounds of morality exposed.
9. An answer to the excuse derived from the example of respectable old men who were once supposed to be immoral.
10. The state of future happiness, and special rewards to be bestowed in heaven on the pure of heart.
1. The Sixth and Ninth Commandments, which forbid luxury and impurity, enjoin chastity. This is the virtue opposed to that vice and all the sins that proceed from it. After treating of the vice and its different species, we have now to consider and explain the virtue and its obligations as enjoined by the moral law of God.
Chastity is a virtue which moderates the sensual appetite and excludes unlawful concupiscence and all impure indulgence of the senses. It is opposed to luxury in all its species, either of thought, word, or deed.
It is a special virtue, because it has a special object of its own, namely, to overcome concupiscence and the impure desires of our nature. The principle of procreation, next to that of self-preservation, is the most powerful within the human breast, and therefore a special virtue is required in order to keep it within lawful bounds. It is a virtue distinct from abstinence, which has for its object the moderation of the appetite for food and drink; and it is contained under the general virtue of temperance, which is the virtue ordained for the moderation of all concupiscence and pleasures, either of the sense of touch or taste.
2. Chastity is divided into conjugal chastity, virginal chastity, and that of widowhood. Conjugal chastity does not imply any greater excellence than abstinence from unlawful pleasures against purity, or against the sanctity of the married state. The chastity of widowhood adds something to common chastity, but does not include all that is perfect in the matter of this virtue, and it is inferior to virginity, which is a special virtue of chastity in its most perfect form.
Virginity is not the most perfect of all virtues, but in its own kind, namely, in the matter of chastity, it is the most excellent, inasmuch as it transcends conjugal chastity and that of widowhood, and therefore it is considered a special ornament, and adds a most attractive beauty to the soul.
The Council of Trent (Sess. XXIV., Can. 10.) has declared it of faith that it is better and more blessed to remain in a state of virginity or celibacy than to get married, and hence we can understand the value of this virtue before God and in the eyes of His Church.
3. Virginity, inasmuch as it is a virtue, is in the soul; or virginal chastity, as it is called, is that chastity which abstains from all impure pleasures, and proposes to abstain from them always. Its formal nature and its complement consists in the resolution always to abstain from such pleasures, and in keeping that resolution.
This virtue may be lost: (1) by any external or internal sin against holy purity; (2) by changing the resolution of always abstaining from all pleasures of the kind, and consequently by forming the intention of getting married. The lost virtue may, however, be again recovered: (1) by repentance, provided no grave external sin against purity has been committed; (2) by again renewing the resolution of perpetual chastity.
It is not necessary to say more about corporal virginity, which may be lost by a grave external sin of impurity, than to notice that though this corporal integrity remain lost, the soul may by repentance and the exercise of the virtue of chastity reach to the highest degrees of this virtue, and obtain far greater rewards from God than those that have never fallen; at the same time, the body, not the soul, may bear traces of the sin committed: the peculiar reward of innocent and unimpaired virginity belongs to those who have never violated their chastity.
4. We may now state, with Bishop Hay, that chastity, or purity, is one of the virtues most agreeable to God, which he proves from the following considerations: (1) God calls us particularly to the practice of this virtue, as being that in which our sanctification in a special manner consists. This is the will of God, your sanctification : that you should abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour. Not in the passion of lust, like the gentiles that know not God . . . for God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto sanctification. Therefore he that despiseth these things, despiseth not man but God. (1 Thess. iv. 3-8.)
(2) Jesus Christ, while on earth, showed a particular love for this virtue, and for those who practised it. He would have none but the purest of virgins for His mother. He ever showed a particular love to His virgin disciple St. John, who on that account was called the beloved disciple, and at His death He recommended His virgin mother to none but His virgin disciple. (3) It makes a person like to the Angels themselves, for, as our Saviour says: At the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married, but shall be as the Angels of God in heaven (St. Matt. xxii. 30). Nay, as St. Chrysostom observes, it makes a person even superior to the Angels, by the victories gained over the temptations of impurity, of which the Angels have no experience. Hence the Scripture says: A holy and shame-faced woman is grace upon grace, and no price is worthy of a continent soul (2 Ecclus. xxvi. 19).
5. The virtue of chastity of which I speak here is not to be confined to, or confounded with, the state of celibacy, or that which is vowed by the profession of the Evangelical Counsels. These are free, and to be embraced by those who receive a Divine vocation to embrace Holy Orders or the religious state. Such a state and profession is not rigorously commanded, but only counselled. The virtue of chastity is commanded and obligatory, and therefore my instructions are intended for all, and especially for single people living in the world. In another work I have already explained the Evangelical Counsels and their obligations with regard to those who have made vows to observe them. Here I wish to explain the obligations of Christians in general, imposed by the virtue of chastity, and, above all, as they affect young and old living unmarried in the world. For such as these wrong impressions should be removed and wicked objections answered.
6. According to the best medical testimony, continence is quite possible, and not only compatible with, but conducive to, health; although, in obedience to a universal law of nature, continence becomes very difficult when the body has become accustomed to incontinence, but even then it is not impossible nor injurious, but very beneficial to health. In proof of this I may quote the following extracts:
'Unmarried men who intend to lead a celibate life must not believe that they can do so if they indulge indiscriminately in the pleasures of the table; for them abstemious diet.'. .is absolutely essential; and so assisted they may with impunity to themselves, and advantage to society, continue to lead a celibate life ' (Dr. Acton).
'To private knowledge is added the weight of solemn public testimony from men of ardent temperament, who have reached the full vigour of life in the practice of chastity. . . . Strong testimony as to the compatibility of chastity and health is furnished by the Catholic priesthood (and, it might be added, by the countless number of religious men and women in every age and in every country). It is well known as a positive fact that vast numbers of men (and women) are found in every age and country, who honestly keep their vows, and who, by avoidance of temptation, by direction of the mind to intellectual pursuits, and devotion to great humanitarian objects, pass long lives in health and vigour.'
'The opportunity of wide observation enjoyed by the head-masters of public schools, and all engaged in education, lends great weight to their testimony. The master of over 800 boys and young men states: "The result of my personal observation, extending over a great many years, is that hard exercise in the open air is, in most cases, an efficient remedy against vicious propensities. A large number of our young men thus make a law unto themselves, and pass the period of their youth in temperance and purity, till they have realized a position that enables them to marry (Hime, 'Morality.')."'
'In primitive Christian communities, and many countries and village populations uncorrupted by the stimulants of luxury, we observe the advantage of chastity to the health of youth. In these simple, healthy societies, an earnest religious teaching which subordinates material to spiritual life, and the strong public sentiment of the village, combine with the out-door life to preserve the honesty of the young men and women, who become the parents of vigorous children who, in their turn, form the strong backbone of the nation.'
'We thus learn from the experience of the past, and from a comprehensive view of existing facts, that self-control and entire chastity are a great advantage to the health of a young man; that all his powers will be strengthened, and that he will render a service to his country, to the vigour of his race, by leading an entirely virtuous life before marriage.'
'The tender father, the wise mother, may throw aside the counsels of despair, and learn the truth: that virtue is the only safe life for their sons. Let them hold, with the strong conviction of positive knowledge, to the truth, that chastity at this early age (and at any age) strengthens the physical and mental powers, increases the force needed to combat any inherited morbid tendency, preserves the selfrespect, the reverence for womanhood, which are the essence of manliness, and prepares the young man for that great institution--on which the highest future of every nation depends--true and happy marriage.'
'Every other course of life is full of danger to the young man--danger both of mind and body; danger to himself and to others; dangers, not seen at first in their full force, but becoming more and more apparent at every step of the evil course, until the far-seeing eye beholds the full desolation of corrupted manhood and wasted womanhood which results from the first step in the downward road ('Counsel to Parents,' by Dr. E. Black well, apud Hime.).'
These extracts will serve to throw much light on the Catholic doctrine and practice to those outside the Catholic Church, who are carried away by false statements and calumnies against the religious state and religious communities, who do not seem to understand that such a state is not only possible, but one of the highest perfection and happiness both for soul and body. It is unintelligible to any honest man how any people can listen to such gross calumnies, unless their own minds and hearts are already corrupted to such an extent that they will not believe that others can and do live pure and chaste lives adorned by all the other Christian virtues.
7. There are one or two other common objections or theories that are urged in justification of the conduct of some who hesitate to embrace a virtuous and honest manner of life. The first may be called the 'wild oats theory', which is well described by an author whom I have already quoted on this subject. It is the gratifying delusion that 'it is quite time enough to settle down and become steady by-and-by'; that 'youth is the proper season for enjoyment, for being wild and jolly,' as if, forsooth, to be 'jolly,' ' wild,' 'extravagant,' 'sinful,' 'unchaste,' and 'happy' were all synonymous terms, the period for sowing one's 'wild oats.'
He uses four considerations in answer to this theory, which show how extremely absurd are these sentiments as an excuse for sensuality.
(1) In the first place, sensuality, whether indulged in in youth or in middle or old age, is sinful, and therefore ought not under any circumstance to be indulged in by those, no matter whether young men, middle-aged or old, who wish to keep God's holy will and commandments.
(2) In the second place, during the process of sowing his wild oats here, this wilful transgressor, this deliberate offender, may contract such a taste for sin that he may not find it by any means so easy or so agreeable as he presupposes to cast off his yoke, whenever he is pleased to think reformation desirable or necessary.
(3) In the third place, he may not only have become thoroughly degraded and debased himself, but (fearful reflection!) he may also find to his intense grief, possibly even to his extreme surprise, that he has been the means of corrupting the character and undermining the good principles of others who had been unfortunately influenced and led astray by his evil example, or were more or less associated with him in scenes of early vice.
(4) Fourthly and lastly, supposing that the youth who, according to the hypothesis, is thus weakly yielding up his conscience and self-esteem to the dominion of his passions, and advisedly defers turning over a new leaf till 'to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow,' should die suddenly of heart disease, let us say, or by drowning, or in a railway accident, 'cut off even in the blossoms of his sin'--what then? I ask, what then?
'Or supposing that he die not thus suddenly even in an instant, but that he be laid up suddenly prostrate with some painfully debilitating illness, such as typhoid or typhus fever or small-pox, for example, or scarlatina, or some other still more painful disease where the surgeon's knife is necessary to relieve, though possibly it may be incapable of restoring to health, the unfortunate sufferer: how in this case, I ask, is it possible for him to collect his thoughts, and become religious and sincerely penitent for the first time in his life when death's stern, angry voice is summoning him away? For who can reflect candidly on the past, and look forward with resignation and prayerfully to the future, when, with torturing spasm and burning brow, he is conscious of little beyond his weakness, of little beyond the pain and agony that thrill through his writhing, wretched frame; or when, to stretch, our imagination a very little step further he may be even in a state of bodily collapse and complete prostration of his mental powers? In short, may not a time come when, mental and bodily vigour being gone, it is "too late to mend"?'
Treasure up, then, deeply in your hearts, and let it be a constantly active and restraining principle in your conduct throughout life, the moral of the parable of the foolish virgins:
'Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill!8. I shall notice one or two other excuses that are so false and misleading, but, nevertheless, are often used for the worst of purposes--that is, the falsehood that 'all young men exceed the bounds of morality,' and that those amongst them who have lived pure and chaste have been mere 'prigs,' 'milksops,' 'weaklings,' 'muffs,' men whose society must have been uncommonly 'slow' (to use the slang phraseology of the vicious). On the contrary, many can look to old acquaintances who as young men lived pure, chaste lives, uncontaminated by the grosser vices which constitute dissipation, and these, in the words of Mr. Hime, who refers to them, 'were the first specimens of the young men at the time I refer to in the University . . . and were acknowledged superior to the large majority of their class fellows in all respects--physically as well as morally and intellectually.
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.
No light had we; for that we do repent.
And learning this, the Bridegroom will relent.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.
'No light: so late! and dark and chill the night!
Oh, let us in, that we may find the light!
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.
Have we not heard the Bridegroom is so sweet?
Oh, let us in, though late, to kiss His feet!
No, no, too late ! ye cannot enter now.'
(Tennyson's ' Guinevere.')
'They were remarkable for their brilliant successes at the most searching and critical examinations, quite as much as they were for the propriety and steadiness of their conduct; and they were remarkable also for their distinguished achievements in the racquet-court, in the gymnasium, in the hunting-field, in the football-field, on the water, as sportsmen, and at cricket.'
'All young men, I repeat, do not fall; and among those who scorn to yield up the supremacy of their conscience and self-esteem to that of their passions, you will find, I again repeat, even as you might naturally expect, not only the most diligent and distinguished of our University students, but also her ablest cricketers, football-players, oarsmen, athletes, and sporting men. It is among such as these you will find your most agreeable and pleasant companions, your most loyal and truest friends.'
The foregoing remarks and arguments will furnish an answer to all that can be said against a pure and chaste life being the best and the happiest for all, young and old. There is, however, one other form which an excuse may sometimes take, from the example of those who were wild and vicious in their youth, and afterwards settled down to a steady, quiet and respectable position in life. It is shaped in this manner, by the author already so often quoted: 'But look at old Mr. So-and-So! He was an awfully wild fellow in his youth, and yet he is now one of the best and happiest and most respected old men I know.'
9. How shall I summarize that author's remarks in answer to this? First, it is not by any means certain that the old man was at all wild in his youth. Old men boast, and young people often hear charges against them only from somebody else.
Supposing, secondly, that he was a wild fellow: he may not be now one of the most respected; and even though reformed, he may be far from being the happiest of men.
(1) Often and often this miscalled happy man, when lonely and dejected, may be filled with sad, vain regrets as with many a retrospection crushed he broods over the past time wasted and abused;
(2) his moral and physical weakness maybe reappearing in his innocent children, in revenge, as it were, upon him for the sins of his youth;
(3) what of the friends--male or female--whose prospects of happiness he may have entirely blighted, whose morals he may have corrupted by his own evil communications?
(4) what of the fact that he has actually made the world worse through his own sins?
Can such a one, weighed down with reflections like these, be called happy? Can his old age, even if respected, be as peaceful and as calm as it would have been had he never walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful?
10. I may now conclude this chapter on chastity, by looking to the state of future happiness, and the peculiar rewards which shall be bestowed in heaven upon those who practise this virtue here on earth.
'The names of the Father and of the Lamb are written on their foreheads; they follow and attend the Lamb whithersoever He goes, and sing a new canticle of praise which no other can sing. And I beheld, says St. John: and lo a Lamb stood upon Mount Zion, and with Him an hundred and forty-four thousand who were purchased from the earth . . . These are they who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were purchased from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb (Apoc. xiv. 35).
Let us therefore remember the recommendations in the writings of the Apostles, thus: In all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God in . . . chastity (2 Cor. vi. 4-6). The fruit of the spirit is charity . . . modesty, continency, chastity (Gal. v. 22, 23.). Be thou an example to the faithful in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity (I Tim. iv. 12).
Finally, let us bear in mind that the state of celibacy, in which this virtue is practised in the greatest perfection, is preferred to that of matrimony, because it frees us from many cares which attend the married state, and leaves the mind at liberty to attend to the service of God. He that is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your profit, that you may have power to attend upon the Lord without impediment (I Cor. vii. 32-35. See Hay's 'Devout Christian.').