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THE moralist is usually severe, and the quality of his censure is
merciless, when he attempts to treat the unwholesome theme of moral
deformity; and all his efforts are mere attempts, for no human language
can do full justice to such a theme, or fully express the contempt such
excesses deserve. It is just, then, that, when he stands in the
presence of the moral leper who blushes not for his degradation, he
flay with the whip of scorn and contempt, scourge with anathema and
brand him with every stigma of infamy, in order that the load of
opprobrium thus heaped upon his guilty head may at least deter the
clean from such defilement.

But, if guilt is always guilt, the quality of guilt is varied. Just as
all virtue is not equally meritorious, so to other sources than
personal unworthiness may often be traced moral debility that strives
against natural causes, necessary conditions of environment and an
ever-present and ever-active influence for evil. A fall does not always
betoken profound degradation nor a stain, acute perversity of the will.
Those therefore who wrestle manfully with the effects of regretted
lapses or weaknesses, who fight down, sometimes perhaps unsuccessfully,
the strong tendencies of a too exuberant animal nature, who strive to
neutralize an influence that unduly oppresses them,--against these,
guilty though they may have been, is not directed the moralist's
unmeasured censure. His reproaches in such cases tend less to condemn
than to awake to a sense of moral responsibility; earnestness in
pointing out remedy and safeguards takes the place of severity against
wilfulness. For he knows that not a few sentences of condemnation
Christ writes on the sands, as He did in a celebrated case, and many an
over-zealous accuser he has confounded, like the villainous Pharisees
whom He challenged to show a hand white enough to be worthy to cast the
first stone.

Evidently such pity and commiseration should not serve to make vice
less unlovely and thus undo the very work it is intended to perform. It
should not have the characteristics of certain books and plays that
pretend to teach morality by exposing vice in all its seductiveness.
Over-sensitive and maudlin sympathy is as ridiculous as it is
unhealthy; its tendency is principally to encourage and spoil. But a
judicious, discreet and measured sympathy will lift up the fallen,
strengthen the weak and help the timorous over many a difficulty. It
will suggest, too, the means best calculated to insure freedom from
slavery of the passions.

The first of these is self-denial, which is the inseparable companion
of chastity; when they are not found together, seldom does either
exist. And by self-denial is here meant the destruction of that eternal
r reference for self, that is at the bottom of all uncleanness, that
makes all things, however sacred, subservient to one's own pleasures,
that considers nothing unlawful but what goes against the grain of
natural impulse and natural appetites. There may be other causes, but
this self-love is a primary one. Say what you will, but one does not
fall from his own level; the moral world is like the physical; if you
are raised aloft in disregard for the laws of truth, you are going to
come down with a thud. If you imagine all the pleasures of life made
for you, and become lawful because your nature craves for them, you are
taking a too high estimate of yourself; you are going before a fall He
who takes a correct measure of himself, gets his bearings in relation
to God, comes to realize his own weak points and several deficiencies,
and acknowledges the obligations such a state of affairs places upon
him, that one may sin, but he will not go far.

He may fall, because he is human, because strength sufficient to guard
us against the assaults of impurity is not from us, but from God. The
spirit of humility, therefore, which makes known to him his own
insufficiency, must be fortified with the spirit of faith which makes
him ask for support through prayer. It is faith that makes prayer
possible, and living faith, the spirit of faith, that makes us pray
aright. This kind of prayer need not express itself in words; it may be
a habit, a long drawn out desire, an habitual longing for help coupled
with firm confidence in God's mercy to grant our request. No state of
soul however disordered can long resist such a power, and no habit of
evil but in time will be annihilated by it.

The man or woman who undertakes to keep himself or herself pure, or to
rise out of a habit of sin without the liberal use of divine
supplication has in hand a very ungrateful task, and he or she will
realize it before going far. And unless that prayer is sincere and
heartfelt, a prayer full of faith that will not entertain the thought
of failure, every effort will be barren of results. You must speak to
God as to one near you, and remember that He is near you all the time.

Then there are the sacraments to repair every breach and to heal every
wound. Penance will cleanse you, communion will adorn and equip you
anew. Confession will give you a better knowledge of yourself every
time you go; the Food of God will strengthen every fibre of your soul
and steel you against the seductions that otherwise would make you a
ready victim. Don't go once a year, go ten, twenty times and more, if
necessary, go until you feel that you own yourself, that you can
command and be obeyed. Then you will not have to be told to stop; you
will be safe.



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