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Title: Stop in Time: A word in season, from a faithful friend, on a very serious subject

Author: Anonymous

Release date: December 29, 2021 [eBook #67035]

Language: English


Transcribed from the 1866 T. Edmondson edition by David Price.









By the Author ofKind Words, to the Young Women, etc.,”
A Mother’s Care, &c.


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Dear Patty,

When I had put things straight after I got home last night, and could sit down quietly and think over our strange conversation, my heart sank within me.  I was so hurried for fear of being late for the coach, while we were talking, and so grieved and surprised by what you told me, that I could not, there and then, go much beyond the sad news itself.  Dear heart! what sorrow and shame in a decent family!  And so nice a girl too, as your cousin seemed.  Her father will scarce ever lift up his head after it, to say nothing of a poor child brought into the world with a stain on its birth, and without a right to a father’s care; both mother and child a reproach to each other.

But after all, it is not so much that, as what you said along of it that has gone so sorely against my heart.  Why, my dear child, where have you heard such things?  Whoever it is that has put them into your head has some bad design upon you, you may be quite sure.  If it be a man, be he who he will, he means you harm.  Man or woman, they are no decent body’s thoughts, at any rate.  Only following nature, indeed!  You did not think that was an excuse when the servant girl took your ribbon, for all it was nature p. 4enough in her to like a bit of finery.  What! and are we to liken ourselves to the beasts that perish?  I don’t know whether it is most wicked or most foolish to make a pretence that their ways can ever be a guide to us.  It is setting the ass to drive the man, for sure, if we are to learn from them.  Has not God made man quite different from the brutes?  Has not He made him in His own image, and given him laws to keep, and reason and conscience to guide him in keeping them?  The commonest things of every day shew us on what a different footing we reckon ourselves.  We do not punish the animal that breaks through our fence and eats our hay-grass, for it has had no laws given to it, and has no knowledge of right or wrong; but we deal very differently with the man who watches his opportunity, and takes the meal out of our bin.

And as to pretending that there can be no great harm in a sin because it is common, no honest mind can be deceived by so plain a falsity.  Heaven knows thieving is common enough, cheating and lying are common enough, drunkenness, swearing and housebreaking are common enough; but no one goes so far us to pretend that these are not wrong on that account.  Why, child, there would not need to be all this hiding, and shame, and even child-murder, if every one did not know quite well in their own hearts that the thing was a sore evil, sin and disgrace.  Never lend an ear on the devil’s side, above all on this subject.  It does not do for any woman to dally and balance between right and wrong on such slippery ground.  If she does, she is sure to lose her footing.  The only safety is in the straight open road of right.  Keep to it, and never play and trifle with the first leadings to evil ways.  No one can forecast what misery one heedless step in these slippery bye-paths may bring after it.  What do you, or what does any decent young girl know p. 5about the hidden dangers, and pit-falls, and the vice, and the wretchedness that make old hearts sorrowful to think of?

The subject is a painful one; but it is much too serious and weighty to slur over because it is awkward to speak upon it.  Such truths as these should be solemnly laid before the young, for they need to hear them above others; and since in this your father cannot so well talk quite plainly to you, it is for your aunt, who loves you as a mother, to take a mother’s place.  Mark what I say—there is a deal of difference between man and woman in this matter.  Though they sin together, the woman sinks by far the lowest.  How God will judge hereafter between the two, I am not now going to ask; but in this world the shame and loss come much heavier upon the woman.  Modesty is, above all else, a woman’s virtue, and the loss of it is a terrible blot, which lays her open to the contempt of all, even of the very man who robs her of it.  I have heard tell that it was said by a very knowing man, who wrote a great many wise things long ago, “When a woman gives herself up to a man, and goes the whole length with him, it binds her closer to him, but it cures the man.”  This was said by a French writer more than a hundred years ago, and that only shows the more plainly that it is a truth of all times, and all countries.  And look if it is not so.  Do not we see in a hundred cases, up and down, that the man leaves the woman in her disgrace, and cares no more about her?

Patty, my lass, hear a plain word from your old aunt.  If a woman is the first to come forward, or is over ready to follow on the first beckoning, a man knows pretty well that he need not put himself out of the way to marry her in order to have her; and if he is unprincipled or thoughtless, he will take advantage p. 6of her weakness, and sin and shame will follow, as sure as night follows evening.  My child, take a good counsel from one that loves you.  If any man, let him be who he will, follows after you, and you care for him ever so much, aye, and trust him for meaning to make you his wife ever so surely, keep him in his right place, and do not let him go one step beyond what is decent.  He will respect you the more, and his love will be the deeper and the truer in the end.  Mind this—if you show yourself willing to go half way with him, he will never be the one to stop you.  It rests with you to take care of yourself, and to help him too, to keep in the right road, so that you may both stand before God and man on your wedding-day, honest, and free from blame and shame.

But Patty, my dear, all this has not been much more than worldly wisdom, but we are bound to look beyond that, and to consider the solemn command of Almighty God to keep ourselves modest and pure in His sight as the servants of Christ.  Some would say I had begun at the wrong end in speaking first of earthly shame and earthly credit; but I think that, may-be, young folks listen readiest when we do not begin too seriously with them.  But, dear child, I could not with a good conscience end, without laying before you, with my heart’s prayer for God’s help, what His holy Word says about this grave sin of fornication and uncleanness.

In these days we seem to think we can make it lighter by giving it an easier name—speaking of the fornicator as “wild” or “gay,” and miscalling a woman’s shame “misfortune.”  But let us hear what God’s word says.  “Marriage is honourable in all.”  “But fornication and all uncleanness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.”  “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?”

p. 7The marriage law was given to man in the very beginning by God himself, who ordained it to be a sacred state, in which two should be as one flesh.  Our blessed Saviour speaks of the wedded pair as “those whom God hath joined together.”  What shall we say then of such as despise God’s ordinance, and set at defiance the restraint He has laid upon them, as though that was not needful which He has commanded?  They who, in despite of His word, are as one flesh together without the holy bond of marriage, are wilful sinners against God, insulting His will, and defying the law which He has given and confirmed in Jesus Christ.  And let none cheat themselves into thinking that if they manage to keep the sin secret, and to be free from the burden and shame of the birth of a child, there is any the less real harm in it.  It is the foul blot of the unclean deed upon the soul, the stain before God, that is the evil to be dreaded most.  That stain is the same whether it is kept hidden from the world or not, just as the lie is a sin on the soul, all the same, though it should never be found out.

Oh my dear child! when I think of the depths to which a woman may sink, a depth of infamy I do not dare to put before you in all its terrible plainness, I tremble to think of any young girl listening to the man or woman who would lead her to look upon this sin lightly.  Turn your mind from the very thought of it.  Shut your ears against it.  Let it not once be named.  Pray to God in your daily prayer, to hold you back from that temptation, to deliver you from that evil, to keep you by His Holy Spirit from impure desires and from occasion of falling; and ask Him for the purity of heart which will make you pure in living.

I cannot write more.  My heart is too full of trouble.  May God have you in his safe keeping.  Your affectionate aunt,



p. 8“That is my aunt Margaret’s letter,” said worthy Mrs. Ellerbeck, as she folded up a large old-fashioned letter sheet, and wrapped it in a handkerchief, and laid it back in the drawer.  “That is my good aunt’s letter, and I have blessed her for it all these forty years back.”

“How I wish,” answered I, “that many a one had just such another friend, to stand between her and ruin.  It is always a grief to me that young girls who must needs work for their living are so often thrown into dangerous situations, as in factories, or town apprenticeships, or in country farm service; or, indeed, anywhere, if no one will hold out a hand to keep them back from harm.”

“There is scarce any young girl, in our line of life,” said Mrs. Ellerbeck, “either at home or in service, but what a plain word would come well to; for even at the best of homes there are always ways enough to go wrong; and what between some of their elders being too careless, and some too shame-faced, young folks don’t hear these truths as much as they need to do.  Many a one first gets the knowledge, sadly enough, at her own cost, when it is too late.”

“It is indeed a cruel thing,” said I, “not to warn and guard the young against a peril like this that besets them everywhere.  But if any one might have been safely left to herself, I should have thought it would have been you Mrs. Ellerbeck.”

“Nay,” answered my worthy friend, “I needed the warning as ill as any one just then; for I had got to hear some very free opinions from an unprincipled young fellow, who had some law work at our house about a land lease, and who was uncommon clever at putting a bad notion into fair words.  There are those who can shift a meaning to any side, and turn even a scripture text backwards way; and they will talk p. 9you down, and tell you this is not this, and that follows the other, till they well nigh drive a simple body to think none before them had ever seen their way to take a pair of tongs by the right end: and how was it likely a young lass would see through that sort of craft, and least of all if she was blindfolded by being a good bit noticed and flattered?”

“But how was it,” asked I, “that your excellent father did not at once put a stop to such talk?”

“You may be sure,” said Mrs. Ellerbeck, “it was never carried on in his hearing, but only at bye moments, waiting for him, and the like.  And it was this very hiding and scheming that helped me to give more heed to my aunt’s warning; for, thought I, if all this is really so true and right, why not speak it out openly? and why should I hang back myself from letting my father hear it?  Ah! if people would but believe there is certain mischief in what is in the dark and underhand!  It’s always Faulty that needs to skulk.”

“Nothing can be more certain,” said I, “and now may I ask, was this letter of your aunt’s, the good angel, as we may say, that warded off the evil?”

“It was like having a candle brought into a dark room,” answered Mrs. Ellerbeck.  “But, after all, holding up the light to people is only half the battle; for many a one will rather shut their eyes than look an unwelcome truth in the face, and none are so blind as those that won’t see.  I say it with sorrow, Not the best any one can say or do, can turn others from wrong to right, unless they have some care themselves for good above bad, and something of a mind to serve their Maker: and I thank God’s grace I had that much; and my aunt’s letter worked upon it.  It was, may-be, a bit of a struggle at first to do it; but I called my father in, and then the young fellow drew p. 10off quickly enough.  If a man means well by a woman he can bear a father’s eye, and never flinch; but above-board is no card for the deceiver.  Aye, aye! I have reason to bless my good aunt’s memory.  And,” continued Mrs. Ellerbeck, as a tear rose to her eye, “when I look now with a sort of grateful pride upon my own good man, and think in all the years we waited before we married, how true we were to our Bible laws, and blameless between ourselves before God and man, and what trust and honour we have had for one another in every change in life to our grey old age, and how we can each of us warn son and daughter against loose doings with a good face, my heart stirs with a longing that I could draw over others to hold fast to honour and modest ways, and to keep off from what will bring them trouble and repentance, and stand in their light all their life long.”

“Well then, Mrs. Ellerbeck,” said I, “if that is your mind, will you let me put this letter of your aunt’s into print, and what you have said along with it too?”

“Aye that I will,” answered she, “and may God’s blessing go with it!”


And now, Good Friends, men or women, all you who have at heart the good of others, and the welfare of your country, all who can estimate the worth of honour in man and purity in woman, join us in the attempt to arrest this growing evil of licentiousness which, above every other form of vice, poisons the springs of our domestic and social well-being, by degrading woman’s character, and making her who should be man’s heavenward help and purest earthly stay, his fellow in grossness and even his decoy to vice.  It is impossible to exaggerate an evil which so debases our most sacred relationships, disordering family ties, lowering the dignity of marriage, casting shame upon the holy name of mother, and, so to say, plucking the rose from the forehead of pure love and stamping it with the brand of lust.

p. 11Parents—but mothers especially—we call upon you to help in the good work.  Surely you of all others have most interest in it, as it must in nature be your dearest wish to see your sons true, and your daughters virtuous.  Yet this cannot be unless you will yourselves sow the early seeds.  The school and the church do not form the character.  The pastor and teacher will urge self-restraint in vain if the home manners and example are slack in recommending it.  Consider the lasting effect of early impressions throughout life, and how surely you may make them work for good in this respect, if you will check your boys betimes in coarse speech and action, and speak to them more plainly of the sin of unchastity, and of the baseness and crime of seduction, and train them, as they grow older, to understand the sanctity of true love, and to value and respect modesty in woman.

And especially we would urge you to watch over your girls from their childish years upwards, and in all possible ways to foster their natural modesty.  Accustom them to hear more commonly at the home fireside, from parents’ lips, how excellent a thing is true womanly worth in daughter, sister, and wife, and how grievous the loss of it; how contrary to true feminine dignity are forward manners, flashy dress, and every other bait for men’s free notice.  And we would earnestly press upon you to use your rightful authority more firmly in forbidding those sure leadings to mischief, late hours, bad company, and wild merry makings, such as the public-house dance, the theatre, or loose revels of whatsoever kind, in town or country.  What but evil can come of that fatal habit of indulgence which, rather than cross a thoughtless wish, will let youth run headlong into temptations which it has not even the sense to fear, and has hardly the chance of overcoming.

And you, Young Women, who have above all others the most direct power in your own hands, give us the best of all help—that of your own pure example.  The men are what the women make them.  If you will be modest, and true to yourselves, they will shape their ways accordingly; if you, by your true worth, will claim respect and honour from them, they will undoubtedly yield the just tribute to you.  If you will resolve to follow the gospel law, and serve your God in the purity He enjoins, admitting no love dealings but what have the warrant of heaven, you will help them to do likewise.  Whereas, if by your own forwardness you invite them to loose advances, you become in fact their tempters, and the workers of your own degradation.

Waken up to your responsibilities—you, the daughters, wives, and mothers of our cottage homes.  You have more of your country’s honour and welfare depending upon you than you are aware of; for home influences are wholly in women’s hands, and each home puts forth its growth for good or evil, each is a small seed-plot of virtue or vice, which is, we may say truly, given in charge to the woman, “to dress it and to keep it.”  It is not only the children of a family that are moulded by the woman’s hands; p. 12she gives the tone and character to all the household.  Where the mother is looked up to with reverence and love, and the elder sister leads onwards in good ways, there will be an influence for good over all; nor will it be confined to the single home; it will have its effect on a neighbourhood.  And alas! for the opposite case!  Who can say how far the evil influences of one disorderly family may reach, or of one woman of reprobate habits, who “forgetteth the covenant of her God.”

We are all Christians in name; but are we not sometimes more zealous for the form of our faith than for its fruits?  Many who contend warmly over some of the more doubtful points of doctrine, are less careful than they should be to lay to heart the plainer truths and the weightier matters of the law.  There are those who call themselves Bible christians, and talk readily of Gospel truth.  What says the Gospel?  “Flee fornication.”  “Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor adulterers shall inherit the kingdom of God.”  What are our Saviour’s words?  “Adulteries, fornications, &c., these are the things which defile a man.”  These are Gospel truths.  This is the Gospel law.  How can we justify ourselves if we neglect to give it good heed in our own hearts, or if we withhold its warning from those whose souls are given to us in charge?







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