O, it is beautiful to see a young man living a life of purity, standing upright where thousands of other young men fall. You will move in honorable circles all your days; and some old friend of your father will meet you and say: “My son, how glad I am to see you look so well. Just like your father, for all the world. I thought you would turn out well when I used to hold you on my knee. Do you ever hear from the old folks?”
After a while you yourself will be old, and lean quite heavily on your cane, and take short steps, and hold the book off to the other side of the light. And men will take off their hats in your presence. Your body, unharmed by early indulgences, will get weaker, only as the sleepy child gets more and more unable to hold up its head, and falls back into its mother’s lap: so you shall lay yourself down into the arms of the Christian’s tomb, and on the slab that marks the place will be chiselled: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
But here is a young man who takes the other route. The voices of uncleanness charm him away. He reads bad books. Lives in vicious circles. Loses the glow from his cheek, the sparkle from his eye, and the purity from his soul. The good shun him. Down he goes, little by little. They who knew him when he came to town, while yet lingering on his head was a pure mother’s blessing, and on his lip the dew of a pure sister’s kiss, now pass him, and nay, “What an awful wreck!” His eye bleared with frequent carousals. His cheek bruised in the grog-shop fight. His lip swollen with evil indulgences. Look out what you say to him. For a trifle he will take your life. Lower down and lower down, until, outcast of God and man, he lies in the alms-house, a blotch of loathsomeness and pain. Sometimes he calls out for God; and then for more drink. Now he prays; now curses. Now laughs as fiends laugh. Then bites his nails to the quick. Then runs both hands through the shock of hair that hangs about his head—like the mane of a wild beast. Then shivers—until the cot shakes—with unutterable terror. Then, with uplifted fist, fights back the devils, or clutches the serpents that seem winding him in their coil. Then asks for water, which is instantly consumed by his cracked lips. Going his round some morning, the surgeon finds him dead.
Straighten the limbs. You need not try to comb out or shove back the matted locks. Wrap him in a sheet. Put him in a box. Two men will carry it down to the wagon at the door. With chalk, write on the top of the box the name of the exhausted libertine.
Do you know who it is?
That is you, O man, if, yielding to the temptations to an impure life, you go out, and perish.
There is a way that seemeth bright, and fair, and beautiful; but the end thereof is BLACKNESS OF DARKNESS FOREVER.