We take his arm. We flatter his appearance. We take off our hats. He is admitted to our parlors. For him we cast our votes. For him we speak our eulogies. And when he has gone we read over the heap of compost: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They rest from their labors and their works do follow them.”
In the fashionable city to-day there walk a thousand libertines. They are a moving pest. Their breath is the sirocco of the desert. Their bones have in them the decay of the pit. They have the eye of a basilisk. They have been soaked in filth, and steeped in uncleanliness, and consumed in sin, and they are all adrip with the loathsomeness of eternal death. I take hold of the robe of one of these elegant gentlemen, and pull it aside, and say, “Behold a Leper!”
First, if you desire to shun this evil, you will have nothing to do with bad books and impure newspapers. With such an affluent literature as is coming forth from our swift-revolving printing-presses, there is no excuse for dragging one’s self through sewers of unchastity. Why walk in the ditch, when right beside the ditch is the solid flagging? It seems that in the literature of the day the ten plagues of Egypt have returned, and the frogs and lice have hopped and skipped over our parlor tables.
Waiting impatiently in the house of some parishioner, for the completion of a very protracted toilet, I have picked up a book from the parlor table, and found that every leaf was a scale of leprosy.
Parents are delighted to have their children read, but they should be sure as to what they read. You do not have to walk a day or two in an infected district to get the cholera or typhoid fever; and one wave of moral unhealth will fever and blast an immortal nature. Perhaps, knowing not what you did, you read a bad book. Do you not remember it altogether? Yes; and perhaps you will never get over it.
However strong and exalted your character, never read a bad book. By the time you get through the first chapter you will see the drift; If you find the marks of the hoofs of the devil in the pictures, or in the style, or in the plot, away with it. You may tear your coat, or break a vase, and repair them again, but the point where the rip or fracture took place will always be evident. It takes less than an hour to do your heart a damage which no time can entirely repair. Look carefully over your child’s library; see what book it is that he reads after he has gone to bed, with the gas turned upon the pillow. Do not always take it for granted that a book is good because it is a Sunday-school book. As far as possible know who wrote it, who illustrated it, who published it, who sold it.
Young man, as you value Heaven, never buy a book from one of those men who meet you in the square, and, after looking both ways, to see if the police are watching, shows you a book—very cheap. Have him arrested as you would kill a rattle-snake. Grab him, and shout “Police! police!”