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HEARTS





THE heart, the seat of the affections, is, after the mind whose
authority and direction it is made to obey, man's noblest faculty; but
it may, in the event of its contemning reason's dictates, become the
source and fountain-head of inordinate lust and an instrument of much
moral disaster and ruin. When the intelligence becomes powerless to
command and to say what and when and how the affections shall disport
themselves, then man becomes a slave to his heart and is led like an
ass by the nose hither and thither; and when nature thus runs
unrestrained and wild, it makes for the mudholes of lust wherein to
wallow and besot itself.

The heart is made to love what is good; now, good is real or apparent.
Love is blind, and needs reason to discern for it what is good and what
is not, reason to direct its affections into their legitimate channels.
But the heart may refuse to be thus controlled, swayed by the
whisperings of ignorant pride and conceit; or it may be unable to
receive the impulse of the reason on account of the unhealthy fumes
that arise from a too exuberant animal nature unchastened by
self-denial. Then it is that, free to act as it lists, it accepts
indiscriminately everything with an appearance of good, in which gets
mixed up much of that which appeals to the inferior appetites. And in
the end it gets lost.

Again, the heart is a power for good or evil; it may be likened to a
magazine, holding within its throbbing sides an explosive deposit of
untold energy and puissance, capable of all things within the range of
the human. While it may lift man to the very pinnacle of goodness, it
may also sink him to the lowest level of infamy. Only, in one case, it
is spiritualized love, in the other, it is carnal; in one case it obeys
the spirit, in the other, the flesh; in one case its true name is
charity, in the other, it is animal, sexual instinct, and it is only
improperly called love. For God is love. Love therefore is pure. That
which is not pure is not love.

People who trifle with the affections usually come to woe sooner or
later, sooner rather than later; affairs of the heart are always
morally malodorous affairs. Frequently there is evil on one side at
least, in intention, from the start. The devil's game is to play on the
chaste attachment, and in an unguarded moment, to swing it around to
his point. If the victim does not balk at the first shock and surprise,
the game is won; for long experience has made him confident of being
able to make the counterfeit look like the real; and it requires, as a
general rule, little argument to make us look at our faults in their
best light.

Many a pure love has degenerated and many a virtue fallen, why? because
people forget who and what they are, forget they are human, forget they
are creatures of flesh and blood, predisposed to sin, saturated with
concupiscence and naturally frail as a reed against the seductions of
the wily one. They forget this, and act as though theirs were art
angelic, instead of a human, nature. They imagine themselves proof
against that which counts such victims as David and Solomon, which
would cause the fall of a Father of the desert, or even of an angel
from heaven encumbered with the burden we carry, if he despised the
claims of ordinary common sense.

And this forgetfulness on their part, let it be remembered, is wholly
voluntary and culpable, at least in its cause. They may not have been
attentive at the precise moment that the flames of passion reached the
mine of their affections; but they were well aware that things would
come inevitably to such a pass. And when the mine went up, as it was
natural, what wonder if disaster followed! Who is to blame but
themselves? People do not play with matches around a powder magazine;
and if they do, very little consolation comes with the knowledge of
their folly when they are being picked up in sections from out of the
ruins.

Of course there are easier victims than these, such as would not
recognize true inter-sexual love if they saw it through a magnifying
glass; everything of the nature of a fancy or whim, of a sensation or
emotion with them is love. Love-sick maidens are usually soft-brained,
and their languorous swains, lascivious. The latter pose as "killers;"
the former wear their heart on their sleeve, and are convinced that
every second man they meet who treats them gallantly is smitten with
their charms and is passionately in love with them.

Some go in for excitement and novelty, to break the monotony of
virtuous restraint. They are anxious for a little adventure and
romance. A good thing, too, to have these exploits to narrate to their
friends. But they do not tell all to their friends; they would be
ashamed to. If said friends are wise they can supply the deficiencies.
And when it is all over, it is the same old story of the man that did
not know the gun was loaded.

They therefore who would remain pure must of all necessity keep custody
over their heart's affections, make right reason and faith their guide
and make the will force obedience thereto. If wrong attachments are
formed, then there is nothing to do but to eradicate them, to cut, tear
and crush; they must be destroyed at any cost. A pennyweight of
prudence might have prevented the evil; it will now take mortification
in large and repeated doses to undo it. In this alone is there
salvation.





Next: OCCASIONS

Previous: WHEREIN NATURE IS OPPOSED



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