No Cross, No Crown
Do not love the world or the things that are by the world.
For everything by the world,
The luxury [indulgence of pleasure to the senses] opposed in this discourse should not be allowed among Christians, because both what invents it, delights in it, and pleads so strongly for it, is inconsistent with the true spirit of Christianity; nor is the nature of the Christianity compatible. Immortality and eternal life were brought to light, so that all the invented pleasures of mortal life, in which the world lives, might be denied and relinquished. And it is for this reason, that nothing less than immense rewards and eternal mansions are promised, that men and women might therefore be encouraged willingly to forsake the vanity and fleshly satisfactions of the world, and encounter with boldness the shame and sufferings they must expect to receive, perhaps at the hand of their nearest intimates and relations.
For if the Christian religion had admitted the possession of this world in any other way than the simple and naked use of those creatures, given by God for the necessity and convenience of the whole creation; (for instance, if Christianity allowed all the pride, vanity, curiosity, pomp, exchange of apparel, honors, preferences, fashions, and the customary recreations of the world, with whatever may delight and gratify their senses); then what need is there of a daily cross; a self-denying life; working out salvation with fear and trembling; seeking the things that are above; having the treasure and heart in heaven; no idle talking, no vain jesting. What need would there be for fearing and waiting on God all the day long; undergoing all reproach, scorn, hard usage, bitter mockings, and cruel deaths? What need are these things? And why should these things [sacrifices and persecutions] be expected in order to attain that glorious immortality and eternal crown, if the vanity, pride, expense, idleness, lust, envy, malice, and whole manner of living among the so called christians, were allowed by the true Christian religion? No need, certainly. But the Lord Jesus Christ knew well in what foolish trifles and vain pleasures, as well as gross ungodliness, the minds of men and women were occupied; and how much they were degenerated from the heavenly principle of life into a lustful, unlawful seeking after the enjoyments of this perishing world; worse, inventing daily new satisfactions to gratify the carnal appetites. So He also foresaw the difficulty that all would have to relinquish and forsake them at His call, and with what great unwillingness they would take their leave of them, and be weaned from them. Therefore to induce them to it, He did not speak to them in the language of the law, that they should have an earthly Canaan, (promise land), great dignities, many descendants, a long life, and the like. No, rather the contrary, to take these things in their course, He speaks to them in a higher strain: namely, He assures them of a kingdom and a crown that are immortal, that neither time, cruelty, death, grave, or hell, with all its instruments, shall ever be able to disappoint or take away from those who should believe and obey Him. Further, that they should be taken into that near alliance of loving friends, yes, the intimate divine relation of dear brethren, and co-heirs with Him of all celestial happiness, and a glorious immortality. Therefore, if it is recorded that those who heard not Moses were to die, then much more those who refuse to hear and obey the precepts of this great and eternal Rewarder of all that diligently seek and follow Him.
2. And therefore He was pleased to give us, in his own example, a taste of what his disciples must expect to drink deeply of, namely, the cup of self-denial, cruel trials, and most bitter afflictions. He came not to consecrate a way to the eternal rest, through gold, and silver, ribbons, laces, prints, perfumes, costly clothes, curious trims, correct dresses, rich jewels, pleasant recreations, plays, parties, balls, masques, revels, romances, love-songs, and the like pastimes of the world; no, no, alas! but by forsaking all such kinds of entertainments, yes, and sometimes more lawful enjoyments too; and cheerfully undergoing the loss of all on the one hand, and the reproach, shame, and the most cruel persecution from ungodly men on the other. He would have never lacked such variety of worldly pleasures if they had been suitable to the nature of his kingdom for He was tempted, as are his followers, with no less bait than all the glories of the world. But He commanded them to seek another country and to lay up treasures in the heavens that fade not away; and therefore He charged them to never think about what they should eat, drink, or put on, "because," said He, "after these things the Gentiles," that do not know God, "do seek" (Mat 6:19-33); (and also Christians that pretend to know Him), but "having food and raiment, therewith to be content" (1 Tim 6:6-11); He, I say, that commanded this doctrine, and led that holy and heavenly example, even the Lord Jesus Christ, told those who would be his disciples to take up the same cross and follow Him (Luke 14:26-27, Luke 14:33).
3. Oh who will follow Him? Who will be true Christians? We must not think to steer another course, nor to drink of another cup, than has the Captain of our salvation done before us (Heb 2:10), [and insisted we do the same]. No, for it is the very question He asked James and John, the sons of Zebedee of old when they desired to sit at his right and left hand in his kingdom, "Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Mat 20:22). Otherwise they are not disciples, not Christians. Whoever they are that would come to Christ and be true Christians, must readily abandon every delight that would steal away the affections of the mind, and exercise it from the divine principle of life, and freely write a bill of divorce for every beloved vanity; and everything under the Sun of Righteousness is vanity compared with Him.
4. Objection 1. But some are ready to object, who will use Scripture to justify their lusts, although it is misapplied: The kingdom of God stands not in food, or in drink, or in apparel, [nor in the denial of, which is their position] etc.
5. Therefore a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is to have his mind so conversant about heavenly things, that the things of this world may be used as if they were not; that having such things as are necessary and convenient, he will be content, without the superfluity of the world (1 Tim 6:8). By this the pleasure that in times of ignorance was taken in the customs and fashions of the world may more abundantly be supplied in the hidden and heavenly life of Jesus. For unless there is an abiding in Christ, it will be impossible to bring forth that much fruit (John 15:4-8), which He requires at the hand of his followers, and wherein his Father is glorified. But as it is clear that those who live in the vanities, pleasures, recreations, and lusts of the world do not abide in Him and do not know Him for those who know Him, depart from iniquity; so is their [those who don't know him] abiding and delighting in those bewitching pleasures, is the very reason why they are so ignorant and insensible of Him. Him who continually stands knocking at the door of their hearts (Rev 3:20); in whom they ought to abide, and whose divine power they should know to be the cross on which every beloved lust and alluring vanity would be slain and crucified; so that they might feel the heavenly life to spring up in their hearts, and themselves to be quickened to seek the things that are above; that when Christ shall appear, they might appear with Him in glory, who is over all, God blessed for ever (Col 3:1, Col: 3-4, Rom 9:5). Amen.
Next, those customs and fashions, which make up the common attire and conduct of the times, do eminently obstruct the inward retirement of people's minds, by which they may come to behold the glories of immortality. Instead of fearing their Creator in the days of their youth, and seeking the kingdom of God as their life's first priority (Eccl 12:1, Mat 6:33 ), expecting the addition of such other things as may be necessary and convenient (Luke 12:30), according to the injunctions of God and the Lord Jesus Christ; instead, as soon as they can do anything, they look after pride, vanity, and that conduct which is most delightful to the flesh (Eph 2:3), which becomes their most delightful entertainment. All these things which only beget lustful conceptions, and inflame to inordinate thoughts, immoral discourses, lewd behavior, if not at last to wicked actions. To such it is tedious and offensive to speak of heaven or another life. Tell them reflect upon their actions, not grieve the Holy Spirit, consider an eternal doom, prepare for judgment; and the best return that is usual is reproachful jests (Eph 5:3-4), and profane replies, if not direct blows. Their thoughts are otherwise employed; their mornings are too short for them to wash, to smooth, to paint, to patch, to braid, to curl, to gum, to powder, and otherwise to attire and adorn themselves. Their afternoons are as commonly used for visits and for plays; where their usual entertainment is some stories taken from the more approved romances; some strange adventures, some passionate love stories, unkind refusals, grand impediments, pressing addresses, miserable disappointments, wonderful surprises, unexpected encounters, castles surprised, imprisoned lovers rescued, and meetings of supposed dead ones; bloody duels, feeble voices echoing from solitary graves, overheard mournful complaints, deep-fetched sighs sent from wild deserts, and intrigues managed with unheard-of subtlety (Psalm 12:2; Isa 5:12; 59:3-4). And while all things seem at the greatest distance, then are dead people alive, enemies are friends, despair turned to enjoyment, and all their impossibilities reconciled; things that never were, nor are, nor ever shall or can be, they all come to pass. As if men and women were too slow to answer the loose suggestions of corrupt nature; or were too intent on more divine speculations and heavenly affairs, they have all that is possible for the most extravagant wits to invent; not only express lies, but utter impossibilities to very nature, on purpose to excite their minds to those idle passions, and intoxicate their giddy fancies with swelling nothings but airy fictions. These not only consume their time, effeminate [weakness in men and addiction to pleasure] their natures, debase their reason, and set them to make them a reality in their lives, making each adventure theirs by imitation. But if disappointed, (as who can otherwise expect from such mere imaginings), they seek to kill their frustration with whatever is their greatest vice. And yet these are some of their most innocent recreations, which are the very traps of Satan, to ensnare people; aimed at their weakness, and illogically capturing their affections by entertainments, which are the most alluring to their physical lusts. These create vanity in their hearts, and their eyes see only what is compatible with their lustful thoughts, and their looks whisper the secret inflammations of their intemperate minds (Pro 7:10-21); wandering so long abroad, until their lustful actions bring night home, and load their minds and reputations with lust and scandalous qualities.
2. Here is the purpose of their fashions and recreations: to gratify the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Clothes that were given to cover, now need a covering for their shameful excess; and what should remind men of lost innocence, they pride and glory in. The hundredth part of these things cost man the loss of Paradise, which are now used as agreeable recreation, yes, the waste of time. For as it was Adam's fault to seek a satisfaction to himself, other than what God ordained; so it is the exercise, pleasure, and perfection of the age, to spend the greatest portion of their time in vanities, which are so far from the end of their creation, namely, a divine life, that they are destructive of it.
3.If the pleasures of this age were true and solid, Adam and Eve would have been miserable in their innocence, who did not know them. But as it was once their happiness, not to know them in any degree, so it is theirs that know Christ indeed, to be by his eternal power redeemed and raised to the love of immortality. This is yet a mystery to those who live and have pleasure in their curious trims, rich and changeable apparel, nicety of dress, invention and imitation of fashions, costly attire, mincing gaits, [walk affectedly], lustful looks, romances, plays, parties, balls, feasts, and the like conduct desired. For as these would never have been if man had stayed at home with his Creator and given the entire exercise of his mind to the noble ends of his creation, so it is certain that the use of these vanities is not only a sign that men and women are yet ignorant of their [potential] true rest and pleasure, but it greatly obstructs and hinders the retirement of their minds and their serious inquiry after those things that are eternal. Oh that there is so much noise, clutter, invention, traffic, curiosity, diligence, pains, and vast expense of time and estate, to please and gratify poor vain mortality! And yet the soul, the very image of divinity itself, has so little of their consideration. What, Oh what more pregnant instances and evident tokens can be given, that it is the body, the senses, the case, (a little flesh and bone covered with skin), the toys, follies, and very vanities of this mortal life and perishing world that please, that take, that capture them; on which they dote; and think they never have too much time, love, or money to bestow upon them!
4. Thus are their minds employed; and they are so vain in their imaginations and dark in their understandings that they not only believe them innocent, but persuade themselves that they are good Christians all this while; and to rebuke them is worse than heresy (Luke 8:14,Pro 1:30,10:17,12:1,15:14,Isa 58:1-10). Thus are they strangers to the hidden life; and by these things they are diverted from all serious examination of themselves, (Jer 14:19-21). These so-called Christians are satisfied with a little by-rote babble and a forced zeal of half-an-hour's talk in other men's words, [their sect's weekly sermon], which results in nothing different they do (Eze 33:32,Mat 6:7); [the words babbled and read] being no more their states, or at least their intention, as their works show, than it was the young man's in the Gospel, that said he would go, and did not. But alas! why? Oh there are other guests! What are they? Pharamond, Cleopatra, Cassandra, Clelia; a play, a ball, a spring-garden; the park, the gallant, the exchange — in a word, the world. These stay, these call, these beckon, and these they follow, and these are their most familiar associates. Thus are their hearts captivated away from the divine exercise and from such external affairs that benefit themselves or needy neighbors; instead they occupy themselves with the received ideas of those toys and follies into their loose and airy minds; and if in all things they cannot practice them because they lack the means of it, yet as much as may be, at least to dote upon them, be taken with them, and willingly allow their thoughts to be hurried after them. All which greatly indisposes the minds, and distracts the souls of people from the divine life and principle of the holy Jesus; but, as it has been often said, more especially the minds of the younger sort to whom the like diversions (Jer 2: 5), (where their inclinations being presented with what is very suitable to them, they become excited to more vanity than ever they thought upon before), are incomparably dearer than all that can be said of God's fear, a retired life, eternal rewards, and joys unspeakable and full of glory. So vain, so blind, and so very insensible are men and women, of what truly makes a disciple of Christ (Rom 13:11-12, Mat 15:7-14). Oh! that they would ponder on these things, and watch against them, and come out of all these vanities, for the coming of the Lord, for fear of being unprepared; and taken up with other guests, they enter not into his everlasting rest.
5. What further manifests the unlawfulness of these numerous fashions and recreations is, that they are either the inventions of vain, idle, and lustful minds, to gratify their own sensualities, and raise the like wicked curiosity in others, to imitate the same; by which nothing but lust and folly are promoted; or the contrivances of indigent and impoverished wits, who make it the next way for their income. In both of these respects they ought to be detested. For the first licenses express ungodliness, and the latter approves a wretched way of livelihood, and consequently diverts from more lawful, more serviceable, and more necessary employments. That such persons are both the inventors and actors of all these follies cannot be difficult to demonstrate; for were it possible that any one could bring us father Adam's girdle, and mother Eve's apron, what laughing, what jeering, what mocking of their homely fashions would there be! Surely their tailor would find few others interested in purchase, although we read, it was God Himself that made them coats of skins (Gen. 3:21). The same may be asked of all the other vanities, concerning the holy men and women through all the generations of holy writings. How many pieces of ribbon, and what feathers, lace-bands, and the like, did Adam and Eve wear in Paradise, or out of it? What rich embroideries, silks, points, etc. had Abel, Enoch, Noah, and good old Abraham? Did Eve, Sarah, Susannah, Elizabeth, and the Virgin Mary use to curl, powder, patch, paint, wear false locks, or strange colors, rich points, trimmings, laced gowns, embroidered petticoats, shoes with slip-slaps laced with silk or silver lace, and ruled like pigeons' feet, with several yards, if not pieces of ribbons? How many plays did Jesus Christ and his apostles attend for pleasure and diversion? What poets, romances, comedies, and the like did the apostles and saints make, or use to pass away their time with? I know that they all tried to save their time, to avoid foolish talking, vain jesting, profane babblings, and fabulous stories (Eph 5:1-5;15-16; 2 Tim. 2:16, 22; Mat 25:13; Phil 2:12-13; Col 3:1-2, 3:5) as what tends to ungodliness. And rather to watch, to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, to flee foolish and youthful lusts, and to pursue righteousness, peace, goodness, love, charity; and to mind the things that are above as they would have honor, glory, immortality, and eternal life.
6. But if I were asked, where did they come from then? I could quickly answer, from the gentiles, who did not know not God. For some among them detested those vanities, as will be shown; they were the pleasures of an effeminate [weakness in men and addiction to pleasure] Sardanapalus, a fantastic Miracles, a comical Aristophanes, a prodigal Charaxus, a luxurious Aristippus; and the practices of such women as the infamous Clytemnestra, the painted Jezebel, the lascivious Campaspe, the immodest Posthumia, the costly Corinthian Laïs, the most impudent Flora, the wanton Egyptian Cleopatra, and most insatiable Messalina. These persons whose memories have stunk through all ages, and that carry with them a perpetual rot; these, and not the only self-denying men and women in ancient times, were devoted to the like recreations and vain delights. No, the more sober of the very heathen themselves, upon a principle of great virtue, as is by all confessed, detested the like folly and wanton practices. There is none of them to be found in Plato, or in Seneca's works; Pythagoras, Socrates, Phocion, Zeno, etc., did not accustom themselves to these entertainments. The virtuous Penelope, the chaste Lucretia, and the serious Cornelia, with many others, could find themselves employment enough among their children, servants, and neighbors. They, though nobles, next to their devotion, delighted most in spinning, weaving, gardening, needlework, and similar domestic duties, and commendable entertainment; who, though called heathen, expressed much more Christianity in all their actions than do the unrestrained, foolish people of this age, despite being called Christians. But above all, you play-mongers, where do you think your so passionately beloved comedies came from; for there is no other diversion that is more destructive, that is not more in esteem, and fondly frequented? Why, I will tell you: their great-grandfather was a heathen, and that not of the best sort; his name was Epicharmus. It is true, he is called a philosopher, or a lover of wisdom; but he was only so by name; and no more in reality than the comedians of these times are true Christians. It is reported of him by Suidas, a Greek historian, that he was the first man who invented comedies; and by the help of one Phormus, he also created fifty fables. But do you know his country, and the reason of his invention? His country was Syracuse, the chief city in Sicily, famous for the infamy of many tyrants; to please and gratify the lusts of some of whom, he set his wits to work. Do you not consider this an ill origin? And is it less in any one to imitate, or justify the same, since the more sober heathen have themselves condemned them? No, is it not an abomination for those who call themselves Christians to both imitate and justify similar inventions? Neither did the melancholy tragedies have a better parent, namely, one Thespis, an Athenian poet; to whom they also do ascribe the original of that impudent custom of painting faces, and the counterfeit, or representation of other persons, by change of habit, humors, etc., all which are now so much in use and reputation with the great ones of the times. To these let me add that amorous poet, whom an inordinate passion of love first transported to those poetical raptures of admiration, indeed sordid effeminacy [weakness in men and addiction to pleasure], if not idolatry; they call him Alcman or Alcina, a Lydian: he, being exceedingly in love with a young woman of his own country, is said to have been the first person that gave the world a sight of that kind of folly, namely, love stories and verses; which have been so diligently imitated by almost all nations ever since in their romances.
7. Objection 2. I know that some will say: But we have many comedies and tragedies, sonnets, catches, etc., to counteract vice, and by which we learn many commendable things. Though this excuse is shameful, yet many have used it, for lack of shame. or understanding, or both. Now I readily confess that among the heathen it was the next remedy against the common vices to the more grave and moral lectures of their philosophers, of which number I shall instance two: Euripides, whom Suidas calls a learned tragic poet, and Eupolis, whom the same historian calls a comical poet. The first was a man so chaste, and therefore so unlike those of our days, that he was called a hater of women, that is, only unrestrained ones, for he was twice married; the other he characterizes as a most severe criticizer of faults. From which I gather, that their design was not to feed the idle lazy fancies of people, nor merely to get money. But since by the means of loose good sense, the people had been debauched; their work then was to reclaim them, rendering vice ridiculous, and turning sense against wickedness. And this appears correct, from the description given, that Euripides was supposed to have been torn in pieces by loose women; which doubtless was for crying out against their shamelessness; and the other, having been slain in the battle between the Athenians and Lacedæmonians, was so missed, that a later law banned such poets to be allowed to bear arms; doubtless it was because in losing him, they lost a convicter of vice. The purpose of the approved comedians and tragedians of those times was only to reform the people by making sin odious. They did this not so much by a rational and argumentative way, the usual way of their philosophers; but instead employed sharp jeers, severe reflections, and showing their vicious sins to be shameful, ridiculous, and detestable; so that for reputation sake people would seek to not be guilty of them; which to me is only a little softer than a whip or a jail. Now if you who plead for them will be contented to be accounted heathen, and also among those of the more vicious and wicked sort, who would rather be jeered than argued out of your sins, we shall acknowledge to you that such comedies and tragedies as these may be serviceable. But if so, then shame! Don't abuse the name of Jesus Christ so shamelessly by calling yourselves Christians; you whose lusts are so strong, that you are forced to use the low ways of the heathen to repel them to depart from evil; and not for the love of virtue, but out of fear, shame, or reputation. Is this your love to Jesus, your reverence to the Scriptures, that through faith are able to equip the perfect man of God? Has all your talk about ordinances, prayers, sacraments, Christianity, and the like, come to this; that at last you must rely on such instructors that were permitted by the sober heathen to reclaim the most vicious of the people that were among them? Also, do you rely on remedies, nothing for which is below, except corporal punishment?
8. This is so far from Christianity that many of the nobler heathen, men and women, were better taught, and better disposed; they found out more heavenly contemplations, and subjects of an eternal nature to meditate upon. No, so far did they outstrip the Christians of these times, that they not only were exemplary by their grave and sober conversations; but for their public benefit the Athenians instituted the Gynæçosmi, or twenty men, who should make it their business to observe the people's apparel and behavior; that if any were found immodest, and to demean themselves loosely, they had full authority to punish them. But the case is now altered; it is punishable to reprove such; yes, it is matter of the greatest insolence and reproach. No, so impudent have some grown in their impieties, that they laugh at such religious persons; and not only manifest a great neglect of piety, and a severe life by their own looseness, but their extreme contempt of it, by rendering it ridiculous, through comical and abusive jests on public stages. How dangerous it is, and apt to make religion of little worth in the people's eyes. Besides the demonstration of this age, let us remember that Aristophanes had not a readier way to bring the reputation of Socrates in question with the people, who greatly reverenced him for his grave and virtuous life and doctrine, than by his abusive representations of him in a play; which made the airy, wanton, unstable crowd rather part with Socrates in earnest than Socrates in jest. Nor can a better reason be given why the poor Quakers are made so much the scorn of men, than because of their severe reproofs of sin and vanity, and their self-denying conduct, amidst so great intemperance in all worldly satisfactions. Yet all this while can such libertines swagger and puff-up in pride as Christians, while being against precepts and examples; but insist that we must be whimsical, conceited, morose, and melancholy, or else therefore we are heretics, deceivers? O blindness! Pharisaical hypocrisy! Is is as if they were fit to be judges of religion; or that it were possible for them to have a sight and sense of true religion, or really to be religious, while darkened in their understandings by the god of the pleasures of this world; and while their minds are so wrapped up in external enjoyments, and the variety of worldly delight. No, in the name of the everlasting God, you mock Him, and deceive your souls; for the wrath of the Almighty is against you all while you are in that spirit and condition. In vain are all your babbles and set performances, God laughs you to scorn; his anger is kindling because of these things. Therefore be you warned to temperance, and repent.
9. Besides, this sort of people are not only wicked, loose, and vain, who invent and act these things; but by your great delight in such vain inventions you encourage others therein, thereby hindering them from more honest and more serviceable employments. For what is the reason that most commodities are held at such excessive rates, but because labor is so very expensive? And why is it so, but because so many hands are otherwise employed, even about the very vanity of all vanities? No, how common is it with these mercenary procurers to people's folly, that when their purses begin to grow low, they shall present them with a new and pretended more convenient fashion; and that perhaps before the former costly habits shall have done half their service; which either must be given away, or costly modified to be in style. O prodigal, yet frequent folly!
10. Objection 3. I know I am coming to encounter the most plausible objection that is used to justify when driven to a pinch, namely: but how shall those many families subsist whose livelihood depends upon such fashions and recreations as you so earnestly denounce? I answer: it is a bad argument to plead for the commission of the least evil even if a good may come of it. If you and they have made wickedness your pleasure and your profit, be content that it should be your grief and punishment until the consumer can learn to be without such vanity, and the employees have found more honest employments. It is the vanity of the few wealthy ones that makes so much toil for the many small; and the great excess of the one occasions the great labor of the other. If men would learn to be contented with few things, such as are necessary and convenient, (the ancient Christian life), all things might be at a cheaper rate, and men might live for little. If the landlords had less lusts to satisfy, the tenants might have less rent to pay, and turn from poor to rich, whereby they might be able to find more honest and domestic employments for their children than becoming swindlers and living by their wits, which is just a better word for their sins. If the report of the more intelligent in husbandry are credible, lands are generally improvable by fifty percent. If there were more hands employed in more lawful and serviceable products, they would be cheaper, and greater sale might be made of them, by which a benefit would redound to the world in general. Instead, the burden lies heavier upon the laborious country, that so many hands and shoulders are employed by the lust-caterers of the cities, there is a lack in those to tend the plough and useful husbandry. If men never think themselves rich enough, they are constantly busy and in trouble; but those who can take the primitive state and God's creation for their model may learn with a little to be contented; as knowing that desires after wealth not only prevent or destroy true faith, but, when attained, only increase their snares and troubles. It is no evil to repent of evil; but that cannot happen while men uphold what they should repent of. It is a bad argument to avoid temperance, or justify excess, because the actors and inventors of excess would lack a livelihood; since to feed them is to nurse the excess instead of starving it. Let those vanity merchants that have gotten sufficient, be content to retreat, and spend it more honestly than they got it; and those who really are poor, rather be helped by charity to better employments. This is more prudent, more Christian, than to consume money upon such foolish toys and follies. Public workhouses would be effectual remedies to all these lazy and lustful appetites, with more profit and a better conscience. Therefore it is that Christians cannot, we dare not, justify our conduct by the world's. No, but by our plainness and moderation we testify against such extravagant vanities; and by our grave and steady life we manifest our dislike, on God's behalf, of such intemperate and loose curiosity. Yes, we even deny ourselves what otherwise perhaps we could lawfully use with a just indifference, if not satisfaction, because of that abuse that is among the general public.
11. Objection 4. I know that some are ready further to object: Has God given us these enjoyments on purpose to condemn us, if we use them? Answer: But to such miserable, poor, silly souls, who would rather charge the most high and holy God with the invention or creation of their dirty vanities than want a plea to justify their own practice, not knowing how, for shame, or fear, or love to throw them off; I answer: that what God made for man's use was good, and what the blessed Lord Jesus Christ allowed or enjoined, or gave us in his most heavenly example, is to be observed, believed and practiced (Luke 8:14; 12:28-31). But in the whole catalogue the Scriptures given of both, I never found the attires, recreations, and way of living, so much in request with the generality of the Christians of these times. No certainly, God created man a holy, wise, sober, grave, and reasonable creature, fit to govern himself and the world. But divinity was then the great object of his reason and pleasure; all external enjoyments of God's giving were for necessity, convenience, and lawful delight — (with this provision too), that the Almighty was to be seen, and sensibly enjoyed and reverenced in the enjoyment of them all. But how very wide the Christians of these times are from this primitive institution is not difficult to determine, although they make such loud pretensions to that most holy Jesus. He, who not only gave the world a certain evidence of a happy restoration by his own coming, but promised his assistance to all that would follow Him in the self-denial and way of his holy cross (John 8:12; 15:7-8; 17:20); and therefore has so severely commanded no less on all, if they would be everlastingly saved. I pose two questions: 1) whether the minds of men and women not profoundly involved in all excess and vanity, are less involved compared to those who know Him by only hearsay [or reading]; and 2) whether being thus banished from the presence of the Lord, by their greedy seeking the things that are below, and thereby having lost the taste of divine pleasure, have they not resigned to themselves to an imaginary pleasure in order to quiet or smother their conscience, and pass their time without that anguish and trouble which are the consequences of sin, so that they might be at ease and security while in the world? Let their own consciences declare the answer to these questions (Rom 2:8-9). Adam's temptation is represented by the fruit of a tree (Gen 3:6), thereby intimating the great influence of external objects, as they exceed in beauty, impress upon our senses; so that unless the mind keeps upon its constant watch, so prevalent are visible things that it is hard for one to escape being ensnared in them (Mark 13:33-37). And he shall only need to be sometimes entrapped, to cast so thick a veil of darkness over the mind, that not only shall it with pleasure continue in its chains to lust and vanity, but proudly censure such as refuse to swear to them, strongly pleading for them, as serviceable and convenient. What strange passions do perishing objects raise in those minds where way is made, and entertainment given to lust and vanity. But Christ Jesus is manifested in us, and has given to us a taste and understanding of Him that is true; and to all such a proportion of his good Spirit, as is sufficient if they would obey it, to redeem their minds from that captivity they have been in to lust and vanity; and entirely ransom them from the dominion of all visible objects, and whatsoever may gratify the desires of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16). By Him they might be regenerated in their minds, changed in their affections, and have their whole hearts set on things that are above, where moth nor rust can never pass, nor enter to harm or destroy.
12. But it is a manifest sign of what mold and make the persons are, who practice and plead for such shameful Egyptian rags as pleasures. It is to be hoped that they never knew, or to be feared they have forgotten, the humble, plain, meek, holy, self-denying, and exemplary life, which the eternal Spirit sanctifies all obedient hearts into. Yes, it is unquestionable that either such have always been ignorant, or else they have lost sight of that good land, that heavenly country, that blessed inheritance that they once had some glimmering prospect of (Gal 5:22-25; Eph 5:8-11,15-16). Oh that they would but withdraw a while, sit down, weigh and consider with themselves where they are, and whose work and will they are doing! That they would once believe the devil does not have a more destructive strategy more destructive to their immortal souls than this of exercising their minds in the foolish fashions and loose recreations of the times! Great and gross impieties beget a detestation in the opinion of sober understanding and reputation; and therefore, since the devil rightly sees such things have no success with many, it is his next, and most fatal design to find some other entertainments that carry less appearance of gross wrong, (though more acceptable, because of less scandal). And so the devil promotes more pleasure in their enjoyment, on purpose to busy and arrest people from a diligent search and inquiry after those matters which necessarily concern their eternal peace (Eph 6:10-17). Being ignorant of the heavenly life, they may not be induced to press after it; but being only formally religious, according to the traditions and precepts of others, proceed to their common pleasures, and find no check from it, their religion and conduct for the most part agreeing together. Therefore an improvement in the knowledge of God, going on from grace to grace, growing to the measure of the stature of Jesus Christ Himself (Eph 4:12-13), is not known. But as it was in the beginning at age seven, so it is at seventy; though, not so innocent, unless by reason of the old saying, "Old men are twice children."
Oh! the mystery of godliness, the heavenly life, the true Christian, are another thing. Therefore we conclude that as the design of the devil, where he cannot involve and draw into gross sin, is to busy, delight, and allure the minds of men and women by more seeming innocent entertainments, on purpose that he may more easily secure them from minding their duty and progress, and obedience to the only true God, which is eternal life (John 17:3). And thereby to take up their minds from heavenly and eternal things; so those who would be delivered from these snares should mind the holy, just, grave, and self-denying teachings of God's grace and Spirit in themselves, that they may reject, and for ever abandon the like vanity and evil (Titus 2:11-15); and by a reformed conduct condemn the world of its intemperance. So will the true discipleship be obtained, for otherwise many enormous consequences and destructive effects will follow. It is to encourage such impious persons to continue and proceed in the trades of feeding the people's lusts; and thereby such make themselves partakers of their plagues, who, by continual fresh desire to the like curiosities, and that way of spending time and estate, induce them to spend more time in studying how to abuse time; for fear, through their pinching and small allowance, those prodigals should call their father's house to mind. For whatever they think, more pleasant baits, alluring objects, grateful entertainments, cunning emissaries, acceptable sermons, insinuating lectures, taking orators, the crafty devil has not ever had, by which to entice and ensnare the minds of people, and totally to divert them from heavenly reflections and divine meditations, than the attire, sports, plays, and pastimes of this godless age, the school and shop of Satan, before so reasonably condemned.
But despite these pastime diversions being destructive, and therefore against God's law, I never heard any criticism beyond mere indifference. Yet so great is their abuse, so universally sad are their effects, like an infection, that they should to be rejected by all. They should be especially rejected by those whose sobriety has preserved them on this side of that excess, or whose judgments, though themselves be guilty, can see their waste of time. For what is indifference, but what may be done, or left undone? Yet both reason and religion teach that when they are indulged, to withdraw from them becomes a cross to their desires; thus the pass-time diversions surpass mere indifference, and become a necessity of their lives. This violates the very nature of the things themselves, and a perfect abuse enters; and consequently they are no longer to be considered in the rank of things simply indifferent, but unlawful.
2. Now that the whole exchange of things, against which I have so earnestly contended, are generally abused by the excess of almost all ages, sexes, and qualities of people, will be confessed by many; but who use them without abuse, seeing no wrong just because others abuse them and are thus harmed. I answer that since they have acknowledged their indifference to these things; and if so, since they acknowledge their great abuse, they should be wholly forsaken. For since they may as well be let alone as done at any time, surely they should then of duty be let alone, when the use of them is encouraging the general excess, and a mere exciting others to continue in their abuse, because they find persons reputed sober to imitate them, or otherwise give them an example (Phil 3:17). Precepts are not half so forcible as examples.
3. Everyone that pretends to be serious ought to inspect himself, to see if he has been too eager to help on excesses. One can never make too much haste out of those inconveniences that by his former example he encouraged any to; that by a new example he may put a seasonable check upon the intemperance of others. A wise parent always withdraws those objects, however innocent in themselves, which are too prevalent upon the weak senses of his children, on purpose that they might be weaned. And it is as frequent with men to bend a crooked stick as much in the opposite way, that they might make it straight at last. Those who have more sobriety than others should not forget their stewardships, but exercise that gift of God to the protection of their neighbors. It was murdering Cain that rudely asked the Lord, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9). For every man is necessarily obliged to that; and therefore should be so wise as to deny himself the use of such indifferent enjoyments as cannot be used by him without too manifest an encouragement to his neighbor's folly.
4. God has sufficiently excited men to what is said; for in the case of the brazen serpent (2 Kings 18:3-4), which was a heavenly institution and type of Christ, He with great displeasure commanded it should be broken to pieces because they were too fond and doting upon it. Yes, the very groves themselves, however pleasant for situation, beautiful for their walks and trees, must be cut down; and why? Only because they had been abused to idolatrous uses. And what is an idol but what the mind puts an over-estimate or value upon? None can benefit themselves so much by an indifferent thing as others by not using that abused liberty.
5. If those things were convenient in themselves, which is a step nearer necessity than mere indifference, yet when by circumstances they become prejudicial, such convenience itself ought to be put off; much more what is only indifferent should be denied. People ought not to weigh their private satisfactions more than a public good; nor please themselves in too free a use of indifferent things, at the cost of being prejudicial to the public as they certainly are, whose use of them, if no worse, becomes a bad example to others, and begets an impatience in their minds to have the like. Therefore it is both reasonable and incumbent on all to make only such things necessary as tend to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3), and to employ their freedom with most advantage to their neighbors. So that here is a two-fold obligation; the one not to be a bad example in the use of such things, which though they may use them, yet not without giving too much encouragement to the abuse and excessive vanity of their neighbors. The other obligation is that they ought to go so far as to yield in consideration of such religious people, who are offended at these fashions, and that kind of conduct as to reject them (Rom 14:1-23).
6. Now those who, notwithstanding what I have urged, will yet proceed; what is it but that they have so involved themselves and their affections in them, that it is hardly possible to reform them; and that for all their many solemn declarations against their fondness to such follies, they really love them more than Christ and his Cross? Such cannot seek the good of others, who have so little respect of their own. For, after a serious consideration, what vanity, pride, idleness, expense of time and estates have been and yet are! How many persons debauched from their first sobriety, and women from their natural sweetness and innocence to loose, airy, wanton, and many times more enormous practices! How many plentiful estates have been overrun by numerous debts; chastity ensnared by accursed lustful intrigues; youthful health overtaken by the hasty seizure of unnatural distempers, and the remaining days of such spent upon a rack of their vice's procuring, and so made slaves to the unmerciful but necessary effects of their own inordinate pleasures. In which agony they vow the greatest temperance, but are no sooner out of it, than in their vice again (Lam 4:5, Job 21:13-14,Psa 55:23, 37:10, Eccl 8:12, Psa 37:1-2, Pro 2:22).
7. That these things are the case, and almost innumerable more, I am persuaded no ingenuous person of any experience will deny. How then, upon a serious reflection, any that pretend conscience, or the fear of God Almighty, can longer continue in the garb, livery, and conduct of those whose whole life tends to little else than what I have repeated, much less join with them in their abominable excess, I leave to the just principle in themselves to judge (Jer 16:5-9). No, surely! this is not to obey the voice of God, who in all ages did loudly cry to all, Come out (of what?) of the ways, fashions, converse, and spirit of Babylon (Isa 3:13-16, Jer 1:16, 15:6-7, Amos 6:3-7). What is that? The great city of all these vain, foolish, immoral, superfluous, and wicked practices, against which the Scriptures denounce most dreadful judgments; ascribing all the intemperance of men and women to the cup of wickedness she has given them to drink; who are unconcerned of the things of wickedness, as if they must be. And for witness, John in his revelation says, in her description, how as much as she has glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so give her that much torment and sorrow. And the kings of the earth, who have lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her and lament her; and the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buys her merchandise any more. The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and thyine-wood, and all manner of vessels of ivory, and all manner of vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble; and cinnamon, and odors, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men (Rev 18:7-9,11-13). Behold the character and judgment of luxury; and though I know it has a further spiritual significance than what is literal, yet there is enough to show the pomp, plenty, fullness, idleness, ease, immorality, vanity, lust, and excess of luxury that reign in her. But at the terrible day who will go to her exchange any more? Who to her plays? Who will follow her fashions then? And who shall traffic in her delicate inventions? Not one; for she shall be judged. No plea shall excuse or rescue her from the wrath of the judge; for strong is the Lord who will perform it (Rev 18:8). If these reasonable pleas will not prevail, yet however I shall caution such in the repetition of part of Babylon's miserable doom; mind, my friends, more heavenly things hasten to obey that righteous Spirit [within you], which would exercise and delight you in what is eternal; or else with Babylon, the mother of lust and vanity, the fruits that your souls lust after shall depart from you, and all things which are dainty and goodly shall depart from you, and you shall find them no more. O Rich Man who ignores Lazarus! No more (Rev 18:14). Lay your treasures, therefore, up in heaven, Oh you inhabitants of the earth, where nothing can break through to harm them (Luke 12:33-34); but where time will shortly be swallowed up of eternity.
8. But my arguments against these things end not here for the opposite most of all conduces to good; namely, temperance in food, plainness in apparel, with a meek, shame-faced, and quiet spirit, and that conversation which does only express the same in all godly honesty: as the apostle said, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, but rather giving of thanks; for let no man deceive you with vain words, because of these things comes the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience" (Col 4:5-6, 1 Thes 4:11-12, 1 Pet 3:1-4, Eph 4:29, 5:3-6, 1 Tim 4:12, Phil 3:16-20). And if men and women were but thus adorned after this truly Christian manner, impudence would soon receive a check; and lust, pride, vanity, and immorality find a rebuke (2 Peter 2:12; Pro 31:23-31; James 2:2-9). They would not be able to attack such universal chastity or encounter such godly austerity. Virtue would be in credit, and vice afraid and ashamed, and excess not dare to show its face. There would be an end of gluttony and gaudiness of apparel, flattering titles, and a luxurious life (2 Peter 3:11); and then primitive innocence and plainness would come back again ( Psalm 26:6), and that plain-hearted, downright, harmless life would be restored, of not much caring what we should eat, drink, or put on (Luke 12:22-30), as Christ tells us the Gentiles did, and as we know this age daily does, under all its talk of religion. But to live as the ancients, who with moderate care for necessaries and conveniences of life, devoted themselves to the concerns of a celestial kingdom, and more minded their improvements in righteousness than their increase in riches; for they laid their treasure up in heaven (Mat 25:21), and endured tribulation for an inheritance that cannot be taken away.
9. But the temperance I plead for is not only religiously but politically good: it is in the interest of good government to curb and rebuke excesses; it prevents many mischiefs. Luxury brings effeminacy, [men grown soft and weak, given to pleasure], laziness, poverty, and misery (Pro 10:4; Eccl 10:16-18); but temperance preserves the land. It keeps out foreign vanities, and improves our own commodities. Now we are their debtors, then they would be debtors to us for our native manufactures. By this means, such persons who by their excess, not charity, have deeply pledged their estates, may in a short space be enabled to clear them from those encumbrances which otherwise, like moths, soon eat out plentiful revenues. It helps persons of humble substance to improve their small stocks, that they may not expend their dear earnings and hard-got wages upon superfluous apparel, foolish May-games, plays, dances, shows, taverns, ale-houses, and the like folly and intemperance, of which this land is more infested, and by which it is rendered more ridiculous than any kingdom in the world. For no nation I know of is so infested with cheating mountebanks,* savage morrice-dancers,** pick-pockets, and profane players and stagers, to the slight of religion, the shame of government and the great idleness, expense, and debauchery of the people; for which the Spirit of the Lord is grieved, and the judgments of the Almighty are at the door, and the sentence ready to be pronounced, "Let him that is unjust be unjust still" (Rev 22:11; Eccl 12:1). Therefore it is that we cannot but loudly call upon the generality of the times, and testify both by our life and doctrine against the like vanities and abuses, that if possibly any may be weaned from their folly, and choose the good old path of temperance, wisdom, gravity, and holiness, the only way to inherit the blessings of peace and plenty here, and eternal happiness hereafter.
10. Lastly, supposing we had none of these foregoing reasons justly to reprove the practice of the land in these particulars; however, let it be sufficient for us to say, that when people have first learned to fear, worship, and obey their Creator, to pay their numerous vicious debts, to alleviate and abate their oppressed tenants; but above all outward regards, when the pale faces are more pitied, when the famished poor, the distressed widow, and helpless orphan, (God's works and your fellow-creatures, are provided for); then, I say, if then, it will be time enough for you to plead the indifference of your pleasures. But that the sweat and tedious labor of the husbandman, early and late, cold and hot, wet and dry, should be converted into the pleasure, ease, and pastime of a small number of men; that the care, the plough, the flail, should be in that continual severity laid upon nineteen parts of the land to feed the inordinate lusts and delicious appetites of the twentieth, is so far from the appointment of the great Governor of the world, and God of the spirits of all flesh; that, to imagine such horrible injustice as the effects of his determinations, and not the intemperance of men, is wretched and blasphemous. As on the other side, it would be to deserve no pity, no help, no relief from God Almighty, for people to continue that expense in vanity and pleasure, while the great necessities of such objects go unanswered; especially since God has made the sons of men but stewards to each other's urgent needs and relief. Yes, so strict is it commanded, that on the omission of these things, we find this dreadful sentence partly to be valid, "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire," etc. (Mat 25:41-46). As on the contrary, to visit the sick, see the imprisoned, relieve the needy, etc. are such excellent properties in Christ's account, that upon this He will pronounce such as blessed, saying, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you," etc. (Mat 25:34-40). So that the great are not, with the leviathan in the deep, to prey upon the small, much less to make a sport of the lives and labor of the lesser ones, to gratify their inordinate senses.
11. I therefore humbly offer an address to the serious consideration of the civil magistrates, that, if the money which is expended in every parish in such vain fashions as wearing of laces, jewels, embroideries, unnecessary ribbons, trimmings, costly furniture, and attendance, together with what is commonly consumed in taverns, feasts, gaming, etc., could be collected into a public stock, or something in lieu of this extravagant and fruitless expense, there might be reparation to the broken tenants, workhouses for the able, and alms-houses for the aged and impotent. Then we would have no beggars in the land, the cry of the widow and the orphan would cease, and charitable relief might easily be afforded towards the redemption of poor captives, and the refreshment of such distressed Protestants as labor under the miseries of persecution in other countries. No, the Exchequer's needs, on just emergencies, might be supplied by such a bank. This sacrifice and service would please the just and merciful God; it would be a noble example of gravity and temperance to foreign states, and an unspeakable benefit to ourselves at home.
Alas! why should men need persuasions to what their own happiness so necessarily leads them? Had these virtuosos of the times but a sense of heathen Cato's generosity, they would rather deny their carnal appetites than leave such noble enterprises undone. But that they should eat, drink, play, game, and sport away their health, estates, and, above all, their irrevocable precious time, which should be dedicated to the Lord as a necessary introduction to a blessed eternity, and than which, if they only knew it, no worldly comfort could come in competition. I say, that they should be continually employed about these poor low things, is to have the heathen judge them in God's days, as well as Christian precepts and examples condemn them. And their final doom will prove the more astonishing, in that this vanity and excess are acted under a profession of the self-denying religion of Jesus, whose life and doctrine are a perpetual reproach to the most of Christians. For He was humble, but they are proud; He forgiving, they revengeful; He meek, they fierce; He plain, they gaudy; He abstemious, they luxurious; He chaste, they unrestrained; He a pilgrim on earth, they citizens of the world. In truth, He was born poor, poorly attended, and obscurely brought up; He lived despised, and died hated of the men of his own nation. Oh you pretended followers of this crucified Jesus! Examine yourselves, try yourselves, know you not your own selves; if He dwells not, if He rules not in you, that you are reprobates? (2 Cor 13:5) Be you not deceived, for God will not be mocked, such as you sow, such you must reap, (Gal 6:7-8) at last with forced repentances,* such as you sow, such you must reap in God's day. I implore you to hear me, and remember you were invited to and offered the salvation of God. As you sow, you reap: if you are enemies to the Cross of Christ — and you are so if you will not bear it, but do as you like, and not as you ought; if you are uncircumcised in heart and ear, and you are so, if you will not hear, and open to Him that knocks at the door within; and if you resist and quench the Spirit in yourselves that strives with you to bring you to God, (which you certainly do when you rebel against its motions, reproofs, and instructions), then you sow to the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof, and of the flesh will you reap the fruits of corruption, woe, anguish, and tribulation (Rom 2:8-9), from God, the Judge of quick and dead, by Jesus Christ. But if you will daily bear the holy Cross of Christ, and sow to the Spirit; if you will listen to the light and grace that comes by Jesus, and which He has given to all people for salvation; and conform your thoughts, words, and deeds by it, which leads and teaches the lovers of it to deny all ungodliness and the world's lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world, then may you with confidence look for the blessed hope and joyful coming, and glorious appearance of the great God and our savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13). Let it be so, O you Christians, and escape the wrath to come! Why will you die? Let the time past suffice: remember, that No Cross, No Crown. Redeem then the time, for the days are evil (Eph 5:16), and yours are but very few (James 4:14). Therefore gird up the loins of your minds, be sober, fear, watch, pray, and endure to the end; calling to mind for your encouragement and consolation, that all such as through patience and well-doing wait for immortality (Rom 2:7) shall reap glory, honor, and eternal life in the kingdom of the Father, whose is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.
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