The Baltimore Catechism
369. Q. What is the Sixth Commandment?
A. The Sixth Commandment is: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
A. We are commanded by the Sixth Commandment to be pure in thought and modest in all our looks, words, and actions.
We should be most careful about this Commandment, because almost every violation of it is a mortal sin. For example, if you steal only a little, it is a venial sin; for in stealing the greatness of the sin will depend upon the amount you steal–. but if you do a real bad action. or think a real bad thought against the Sixth Commandment, it will be a mortal sin, no matter how short the time. Again, we have more temptations against this Commandment, for we are tempted by our own bodies and we cannot avoid them: hence the necessity of being always guarded against this sin. It enters into our soul through our senses, they are, as it were, the doors of our soul. It enters by our eyes looking at bad objects or pictures; by our ears listening to bad conversation; by our tongue saying and repeating immodest words, etc. If then, we guard all the doors of our soul. sin cannot enter. It would be foolish to lock all the doors in your house but one, for one will suffice to admit a thief, and we might as well leave them all open as one. So, too, we must guard all the senses–, for sin can enter by one only as well as by all.
A. The Sixth Commandment forbids all unchaste freedom with another’s wife or husband: also all immodesty with ourselves or others in looks, dress, words, or actions.
A. The Sixth Commandment does forbid the reading of bad and immodest books and newspapers.
Reading brings us into the company of those who wrote the book. Now we should be just as careful to avoid a bad book as a bad man, and even more so; for while we read we can stop to think, and read over again, so that bad words read will often make more impression upon us than bad words spoken to us. You should avoid not only bad, but useless books. You could not waste all your time with an idle man without becoming like him–an idler. So if you waste your time on useless books, your knowledge will be just like the books–useless. Many authors write only for the sake of money, and care little whether their book is good or bad, provided it sells well. How many young people have been ruined by bad books, and how many more by foolish books! Boys, for example, read in some worthless book of desperate deeds of highway robbery or piracy, and are at once filled with the desire to imitate the hero of the tale. Young girls, on the other hand, are equally infatuated by the wonderful fortunes and adventures of some young woman whose life has been so vividly described in a trashy novel. As the result of such reading, young persons lose the true idea of virtue and valor of true, noble manhood and womanhood, and with their hearts and minds corrupted set up vice for their model.
Again, these books are filled with such terrible lies and unlikely things that any sensible boy or girl should see their foolishness at once. Think, for example, of a book relating how two boys defeated and killed or captured several hundred Indians! Is that likely? The truth is, if two Indians shook their tomahawks at as many boys as you could crowd into this building, every single one of them would run for his life.
Let me give you still another reason for not reading trashy books. Your minds can hold just so much good or evil information, and if you fill them full of lies and nonsense you leave no room for true knowledge.
Do not, therefore, get into the habit of reading foolish storypapers and cheap novels. Read good books in which you can find information that will be useful to you all through your life.
If now and then you read story–books for amusement or rest from study, let them be good story–books, written by good authors. Ask someone’s advice about the books you read–someone who is capable of giving such advice: your pastor, your teachers, and frequently your parents and friends. Learn all through your life to ask advice on every important matter. How many mistakes in life would have been prevented if those making them had only asked advice from the proper persons and followed it. Your parents have traveled the road of life before you. Now it is known to them and they can point out its dangers. To you the road is entirely new, and it will be only after you have traveled it and arrived nearly at its end in the latter days of your life that you also will be able to advise others how to pass through it in safety. This road can be traveled only once, so be advised by those who have learned its many dangers by their own experience. You should be very glad that those of experience are willing to teach you, and if you neglect their warnings you will be very sorry for it someday.