Many people imagine that a boy who is impure must betray himself, and that if no overt acts of indecency are observed the innocence of a boy’s mind may be safely inferred. Knowledge on these subjects has, however, been almost invariably gained under conditions of the utmost secrecy, and the behaviour of adults has effectively fostered the idea of concealment. Hence we might expect that the secret would be jealously guarded and that any overt act of impurity would be avoided in the presence of adults with even greater circumspection than the public performance of an excretory act. The habit of self-abuse, moreover, is practised usually under the double cover of darkness and the bed-clothes. The temptation occurs far less by day than by night, and a boy who yields to it in the day invariably chooses a closet or other private place in which he feels secure from detection.
To many people it is inconceivable that a lad can harbour impure feelings and habits without obvious deterioration; but even if a child’s lapses into these things were associated with conscious guilt, does our knowledge of human nature justify us in supposing that evil in the heart is certain to betray itself in a visible degradation of the outer life? If we believe the language of the devout, we must admit that the most spiritual of men hide in their heart thoughts of which they are heartily ashamed. It is not into the mouth of the reprobate but into the mouth of her devoted members as they enter upon their sacramental service that the Church puts the significant prayer, “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts in our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit.” Inconsistency in adults is far too well recognised to need proof. In children it is even more obvious, and for this reason that, looked at aright, it is the faculty of maintaining the general health of the soul, spite of local morbid conditions—a faculty which is strongest in the simpler and more adaptable mind of the child.
Impurity as a disease has a long incubation period. When he contracts the disease, its victim is often wholly unconscious of his danger; and, both because the disease is an internal one and is slow in development, it is a very long time before obvious symptoms appear. Meanwhile a corruption may have set in which will ultimately ruin the whole life.
RESULTS OF YOUTHFUL IMPURITY.
It is difficult to exaggerate the evils which result from the present system under which boys grow to manhood without any adult guidance in relation to the laws of sex.