No Cross, No Crown
I have come to the second part of this discourse, which is greed or covetousness, an epidemic and a raging disease in the world, attended with all the mischiefs that can make men miserable in themselves, and in society; so near akin to the foregoing evil, pride, that they are seldom apart. Generosity being almost as hateful to the proud, as to the covetous, I shall define it thus: covetousness is the love of money or riches (Eph 5:3-5): which, as the apostle has said, "is the root of all evil" (1 Tim 6:9-10). It branches itself into these three parts: first, desiring of unlawful things; secondly, unlawful desiring of lawful things; and lastly, hoarding up or unprofitably withholding the benefit of them from the relief of private persons, or the public. I shall first deliver the sense of Scripture, and what examples are therein afforded against this impiety; and next, my own reasons, with some authorities from authors of credit. By which it will appear, that the working of the love of riches out of the hearts of people is as much the business of the Cross of Christ, as the rooting out of any one sin that man is fallen into.
2. First is the desire or coveting of unlawful things, which is is expressly forbidden by God Himself, in the law He delivered to Moses upon Mount Sinai, for a rule to his people the Jews to walk by: "You shall not covet," said God, "your neighbor's house: you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor's" (Exo 20:17). This God confirmed by thunderings and lightnings, and other sensible solemnities, to strike the people with more awe in receiving and keeping of it, and to make the breach of these moral precepts more terrible to them. Micah complains in his time, "they covet fields, and take them by violence" (Micah 2:2); but their end was misery. Therefore was it said of old, "Woe to those who covet an evil covetousness;" this is to our point. We have many remarkable instances of this in Scripture; two of which I will briefly report.
3. David, though otherwise a good man, by unwatchfulness is taken. The beauty of Uriah's wife was too hard for him, being disarmed, and off from his spiritual watch. Nothing could turn his desire; Uriah must be placed in a dangerous service, where he was likely to be killed. This was to hasten the unlawful satisfaction of his desires, by a way that appeared short of direct murder. The contrivance took; Uriah is killed, and his wife is quickly David's. This event showed David's covetousness. But did it turn out well for him? No, his pleasure soon turned to anguish and bitterness of spirit. His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow; the waves went over his head (Psalm 51,77,42:7).* He was consumed within him. He was stuck in the mire and clay; he cried, he wept. Yes, his eyes were as a fountain of tears (Psalm 69:2,14). Guilt was upon him, and he must be purged; his sins needed to be washed white as snow for they were red as crimson, or he is lost for ever. His repentance prevailed. Notice what work this part of covetousness makes! What evil! What sorrow! Oh that the people of this covetousness would let the sense of David's sorrow sink deep into their souls, that they might come to David's salvation! Restore me, said that good man; it seems he once knew a better state; yes, and this may teach the better sort to fear, and stand in awe too, for fear they may sin and fall. For David was taken at a disadvantage; he was off his watch, and gone from the cross; the law was not his lamp and light, at that instant. He was a wanderer from his safety, his strong tower, and so surprised; then and there it was the enemy that met him, and then vanquished him.
4. The second instance of the penalty for unlawful covetousness is that of Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21). It was coveted by Ahab and Jezebel, which led them to such an unlawful desire, they found the way to obtain it. Naboth must die because he would not sell it. So they accused the innocent man of blasphemy, and find two knights of the post, sons of Belial, to testify against him. Thus, in the name of God, and in show of pure zeal to his glory, Naboth must die; and accordingly was stoned to death. The news of which coming to Jezebel, she told Ahab to arise and take possession of the vineyard, for Naboth was dead. But God followed both of them with his fierce vengeance. "In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth," said Elijah, in the name of the Lord, "shall dogs lick your blood, even yours; and I will bring evil upon you, and take away your posterity;" and of Jezebel, his wife and partner in his covetousness and murder, he adds, "The dogs shall eat her flesh by the walls of Jezreel." Here is the infamy and punishment due to this part of covetousness. Let this deter those who desire unlawful things, the rights of others, for God, who is just, will certainly repay such with interest in the end. But perhaps these are few; either that they do not, or dare not show it, because the law will bite if they do. But the next part [below discussed] has people enough, who will yet exclaim against the evil of this aspect of covetousness; and, by their seeming abhorrence of it, would excuse themselves of all guilt in the rest. Let us next consider that.
5. The next, and most common part of covetousness is the unlawful desire of lawful things; especially of riches. Money is lawful, but the love of it is the root of all evil. So riches are lawful, but those who pursue them fall into several temptations, snares, and lusts. He calls them uncertain riches, to show their folly and danger that set their hearts upon them. Covetousness is hateful to God; He has denounced great judgments upon those who are guilty of it. God charged it on Israel of old, as one of the reasons of his judgments: "For the iniquity of his covetousness," said God, "was I wroth and smote him" (Isa 57:17). In another place, "Every one is given to covetousness, and from the prophet to the priest, every one deals falsely" (Jer 6:13); "therefore will I give their wives to others, and their fields to those who shall inherit them" (Jer 8:10). In another place God complained thus: "Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness" (Jer 22:17). By Ezekiel, God renews and repeats his complaint against their covetousness: "And they come to you as the people comes, and sit before you as my people; they hear your words, but will not do them; with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness" (Eze 33:31). Therefore God, in the choice of magistrates, made it part of their qualification to hate covetousness, foreseeing the mischief that would follow to that society or government where covetous men were in power; that self would bias them, and they would seek their own ends at the cost of the public. David desired that his heart might not incline to covetousness, but to the testimonies of his God (Psalm 119:36). And the wise man expressly tells us, "He that hates covetousness shall prolong his days" (Pro 28:16), making a curse to follow it. And it is by Luke charged upon the Pharisees as a mark of their wickedness: and Christ, in that evangelist tells his followers "take heed and beware of covetousness"; and He gives a reason for it that carries a most excellent instruction in it; "for," said He, "a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses" (Luke 12:15): but He goes further; He joins covetousness with adultery, murder, and blasphemy (Mark 7:21-22). No wonder then if the Apostle Paul is so liberal in his censure of this evil: he places it with all unrighteousness, to the Romans (Rom 1:29). To the Ephesians he writes the like, adding, "Let not covetousness be so much as named among you" (Eph 5:3): and bids the Colossians mortify their members: and names several sins, as fornication, uncleanness, and such like, but ends with "covetousness: which," said he, "is idolatry" (Col 3:5). And we know there is not a greater offence against God: no, this very apostle calls "the love of money the root of all evil;" "which," said he, "while some have coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. For those who will be rich fall into temptations, and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts. O man of God," said he to his beloved friend Timothy, "flee these things, and follow after righteousness, faith, patience, and meekness" (1 Tim 6:9-11).
6. Peter was of the same mind; for he makes covetousness to be one of the great marks of the false prophets and teachers that should arise among Christians, and by that they might know them, "who," said he, "through covetousness shall with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2 Peter 2:3). To conclude, therefore, the author to the Hebrews, at the end of his epistle, leaves this, with other things, not without great zeal and weight upon them: "Let," says he, "your conduct be without covetousness" (Heb 13:5); he rests not in this generality, but goes on, "and be content with such things as you have; for God has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you." What then? Must we conclude that those who are not content, but seek to be rich, have forsaken God? The conclusion seems hard; but yet it is natural for clearly such are not content with what they have; they would have more. They covet to be rich, if they may; they live not with that dependence and regard to Providence to which they are exhorted, nor is godliness, with content, great gain to them.
7. Truly it is a reproach to a man, especially to a religious man, that he does not know when he has enough; when to leave off; when to be satisfied. Notwithstanding that God sends him one plentiful season of grain after another, he is so far from making that the cause of withdrawing from the pursuits of the world, that he makes it a reason for launching further into it; as if the more he has, the more he may pursue. He therefore renews his appetite, bestirs himself more than ever, that he may have a share in the contest, while anything is to be gotten. This leads to trouble, not retirement; and gain, not contentment, the duty and comfort of a Christian. Oh that this were better considered! For by not being so observable nor obnoxious to the law* as other vices are, there is more danger for lack of that check. It is plain that most people strive not for their needs, but for wealth. Some love it strongly, and spend it liberally when they have gotten it. Though this is sinful, yet more commendable than to love money for money's sake. That is one of the basest passions with which the mind of man can be captivated; a perfect lust, and a greater, and more soul-defiling one, than any of the sexual sins. Which considered, it should quicken people into a serious examination, how far this temptation of love of money has entered them; and all the more because the steps it makes into the mind are almost insensible, which renders the danger greater. Thousands think themselves unconcerned in the caution, and yet are perfectly guilty of the evil. Now can it be otherwise, when those who have, from a low condition, acquired thousands, labor yet to advance, yes, double and triple those thousands; and that with the same care and contrivance by which they got them? Is this to live comfortably, or to be rich? Do we not see how early they rise; how late they go to bed? How full of the change, the shop, the warehouse, the customhouse; of bills, bonds, charter-parties, etc., they are? Running up and down, as if it were to save the life of a condemned innocent. An insatiable lust, and in which they are ungrateful to God, as well as hurtful to men, who gives it to them to use, and not to love — thus the abuse. And if this continual care, contrivance, and industry is not from the love of money in those who have ten times more than they began with, and much more than they spend or need, I know not what testimony man can give of his love for anything.
8. To conclude: Covetousness is an enemy to government and magistrates; for it tends to corruption. Therefore those who God ordained were such as feared Him and hated covetousness. Next: It hurts society, for older merchants keep the younger ones poor. And the great reason why some have too little and so are forced to drudge like slaves to feed their families, and keep their chin above the water, is, because the rich work and strive to be richer, and covet more, which dries up the little streams of profit from smaller folks. There should be a standard, both as to the value and time of business volume; and then the profit of the owner to be shared among his employees who deserve it. This would both to help the young to get their livelihood, and to give the older time to think of leaving this world wisely, in which they have been so busy, that they might obtain a share in the next world, of which they have been so careless.
9. There is yet another mischief to government for covetousness leads men to abuse and defraud government, by concealing or falsifying the goods they deal in; as bringing in forbidden goods by stealth; or lawful goods, so as to avoid the payment of duties, or owning the goods of enemies for gain; or that they are not well made, or dishonestly measured; with abundance of that sort of deceit.
10. But covetousness has also caused destructive feuds in families; for estates falling into the hands of those whose greed has put them upon drawing greater profit to themselves than was consistent with justice, has given birth to much trouble, and caused great oppression. It too often happening, that such executors have kept the right owners out of possession with the money they should pay them.
11. But this is not all because covetousness betrays friendship; a bribe cannot be better placed to do an ill thing, or undo a man. No, covetousness is too often a murderer both of soul and body. Of the soul, because it kills that life it should have in God; where money masters the mind; it extinguishes all love to better things. Of the body, for it will kill for money, by assassinations, poisons, false witness, etc. I shall conclude the topic of covetousness, with the sin and doom of two covetous men, Judas, and Simon the sorcerer.
Judas's religion fell in thorny ground: love of money choked him. Pride and anger in the Jews endeavored to murder Christ; but until covetousness set her hand to effect it, they were all at a loss. They found Judas had the bag, and probably loved money; they would test him, and did. The price was set, and Judas betrays his Master, his Lord, into the hands of his most cruel adversaries. But to do him right he returned the money, and to be revenged on himself, was his own hangman. A wicked act, a wicked end. Come on, you covetous; what say you now to brother Judas? Was he not an evil man? Did he not act very wickedly? Yes, yes; would you have done so? No, no; by no means. Very well; but so said those wicked Jews of stoning the prophets, and who yet crucified the beloved Son of God; He who came to save them, and would have done it, if they had received Him, and not rejected the day of their visitation. Rub your eyes well, for the dust has gotten into them; and carefully read in your own consciences, and see if, out of love to money, you have not betrayed the Just One in yourselves, and so are brothers with Judas in iniquity. I speak for God against an idol; bear with me. Have you not resisted, yes, quenched the good Spirit of Christ in your pursuit after your beloved wealth? Examine yourselves, try yourselves; know you not your own selves: if Christ dwells not, if He rules not, and is not above all beloved in you, you are reprobates: in an undone condition! (2 Cor 13:5).
12. The other covetous man is Simon the sorcerer, a baptized believer too; but his faith could not go deep enough for covetousness (Acts 8:9-24). He would have driven a bargain with Peter: so much money for so much Holy Ghost; that he might sell it again, and make a good trade of it; corruptly measuring Peter by himself, as if he had only a better knack of cozening the people than himself, who had set up in Samaria for the great power of God, before the power of God in Philip and Peter undeceived the people. But what was Peter's answer and judgment? "Thy money," says he, "perish with you; you have neither part nor lot in this matter: you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." A dismal sentence. Besides, covetousness tends to luxury, and rises often out of it for from having much, they spend much, and so become poor by luxury. Such are covetous to get, to spend more, which temperance would prevent. For if men would not, or could not, by good laws well executed, and a better education, be so lavish in their tables, houses, furniture, apparel, and gaming, there would be no such temptation to covet earnestly after what they could not spend; for there are few misers that loves money for money's sake.
13. Which leads to the last and basest part of covetousness, which is yet the most sordid, namely, hoarding up, or keeping money unprofitably, both to others and themselves too. This is Solomon's miser, that makes himself rich, and has nothing (Pro 13:7): a great sin in the sight of God. He complained of such as had stored up the labors of the poor in their houses; he calls it their spoils, and it is a grinding of the poor, because they see it not again. He exhorts to be as those who consider the poor, and commands every one to open freely to his brother that is in need (Psalm 41:1, Deut. 15:7-8); not only he that is spiritually, but naturally so; and not withhold his gift from the poor. The apostle charges Timothy, in the sight of God, and before Jesus Christ, that he fail not to "charge those who are rich in this world, that they trust not in their uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives liberally; and that they do good with them, that they may be rich in good works" (1 Tim 6:17-18). Riches are apt to corrupt; and what keeps them sweet and best is charity. He that does not use them, does not get them for the end for which they are given, but loves them for themselves, and not their service. The miser is poor in his wealth; he is in want for fear of spending; and increases his fear with his hope, which is his gain. And so he tortures himself with his pleasure; the most like to the man that hid his talent in a napkin, of all others, for this man's talents are hid in his bags out of sight, in vaults, under boards, behind wainscots; else upon bonds and mortgages, growing but as underground for it is good to none.
14. The covetous man hates all useful arts and sciences as vain, for fear they should cost him something to learn of. Therefore ingenuity has no more place in his mind than in his pocket. He lets houses fall, to prevent the charge of repairs; and for his spare diet, plain clothes, and inexpensive furniture, he would claim to the account of moderation. O monster of a man! that can take up the cross [deny himself] for reason coveting money, but not take up the cross for Christ.
15. But he pretends negatively to some religion too for he always rails at extravagance, the better to cover his greed. If you would bestow a box of [as did Mary on the feet of Jesus] on a good man's head; to save money, and to seem righteous, he tells you of the poor, [like Judas]. But if the poor come, he excuses his want of charity with the unworthiness of the poor person, or the causes of his poverty, or that he can bestow his money on those who are more deserving. Such rarely opens his purse until quarter-day [the day rent and interest payments are made] for fear of losing it.
16. But he is more miserable than the poorest; for he doesn't enjoy his money, yet he fears its loss; they don't fear the loss of things money can buy. Thus he is poor by overvaluing his wealth. But he is wretched, who has money yet goes hungry in a restaurant. For having made a god of his gold, who knows, but he thinks it unnatural to eat [spend for food] what he worships?
17. And to illustrate further depravity, I myself have known some that have wearied themselves into the grave to get money; and to be true to their principle, when sick would not spare a fee to a doctor, to help themselves continue to live as poor slaves; and so died to save money — a reality that canonizes them martyrs for money.
18. But now let us see what instances the Scripture will give us in reproof of the sordid hoarders and hiders of money. A good-like young man came to Christ, and inquired the way to eternal life. Christ told him he knew the commandments. He replied he had kept them from his youth; it seems he was not an uncontrolled person, and indeed such are usually not so, to save money. And yet he lacked one thing, said Christ; "sell all, distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me" (Mat 19:21). It seems Christ pinched him in the sore place; He hit the mark, and struck him to the heart, who knew his heart; by this He tried how well he had kept the commandment "to love God above all." It was said, the young man was very sorrowful, and went his way; and the reason which is given is, that he was very rich. The tides met, money and eternal life; contrary desires, but which prevailed? Alas! His riches! But what said Christ to this? "How hardly shall those who have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" He adds, "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mat 19:23-24): that is, such a rich man, namely, a covetous rich man, to whom it is hard to do good with what he has; it is more than a miracle. Oh who then would want to be rich and covetous! It was upon these rich men that Christ pronounced his woe, saying, "Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation here" (Luke 6:24). What! none in the heavens? No, unless you become willing to be poor men, can resign all, live detached to the world, keep it at arm's length, yes, under foot; using money as a servant and not a master.
19. The other instance is a very dismal one too: it is that of Ananias and Sapphira. In the beginning of the apostolic times, it was customary for those who received the word of life to bring what substance they had and lay at the apostles' feet; of these Joses, surnamed Barnabas, was exemplary. Among the rest, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, confessing to the truth, sold their possession, but covetously reserved some of the purchase-money from the common purse to themselves, and brought a part for the whole, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter, a plain and bold man, in the majesty of the Spirit, said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost; and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own power? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God" (Acts 5:3-4). But what followed this covetousness and hypocrisy of Ananias? Why, "Ananias hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost." The like befell his wife, being privy to the deceit their avarice had led them to. And it is said that "great fear came upon all the church, and those who heard of these things" (Acts 5:5-11), and also should on those who now read them. For if this judgment was shown and recorded that we should beware of the like evils, what will become of those who, under the profession of Christianity, a religion that teaches men to live detached from the world, and to yield up all to the will and service of Christ, and his kingdom, not only retain a part, but all; and cannot part with the least thing for Christ's sake? I implore God to incline the hearts of my readers to weigh these things. This would not have befallen Ananias and Sapphira, if they had acted as in God's presence, and with that entire love, truth, and sincerity that became them. Oh that people would use the light that Christ has given them, to search and see how far they are under the power of this iniquity! For would they but watch against the love of the world, and be less in bondage to the things that are seen, which are worldly, they would begin to set their hearts on things above, that are of an eternal nature. Their life would be hidden with Christ in God, out of the reach of all the uncertainties of time, and troubles, and changes of mortality. No, if people would only consider how hard it is to get riches, how uncertainly they are kept, the envy they bring; that they can neither make a man wise, nor cure diseases, nor add to life, much less give peace in death; no, nor hardly yield any solid benefit above food and raiment (which may be had without them), and that if there be any good use for them, it is to relieve others in distress; being but stewards of the plentiful providences of God, and consequently accountable for our stewardship. If, I say, if these considerations had any room in our minds, we should not thus strive to get, nor care to hide and keep such a poor and impotent thing [as money]. Oh that the Cross of Christ, which is the Spirit and power of God in man, might have more place in the soul, that it might crucify us more and more to the world, and the world to us. That, like the days of paradise, the earth might again be the footstool, and the treasure of the earth a servant, and not a god to man! — Many have written against this vice; three I will mention.
20. William Tindal, that worthy apostle of the English reformation, has an entire discourse, to which I refer the reader, entitled "The Parable of the wicked Mammon." The next is:
21. Peter Charron, a famous Frenchman, and in particular for the book he wrote of wisdom, has a chapter against covetousness; part of which take as follows:
Thus much of Charron, a wise and great man. My next testimony is yielded by an author not unlikely to engage some sort of people for his wit; may they equally value his morality, and the judgment of his riper time.
22. Abraham Cowley, a witty and ingenious man, yields us the other testimony, of avarice he writes thus:
' And O! what man's condition can be worse
Thus much against greed, that moth of the soul, and canker of the mind.
I am now come to the other extreme, and that is luxury, which is an excessive indulgence of self, in ease and pleasure. This is the last great impiety struck at in this discourse of the holy Cross of Christ, which indeed is much the subject of its mortifying virtue and power. A disease as epidemical as killing, it creeps into all stations and ranks of men: the poorest often exceeding their ability in order to indulge their appetite; and the rich frequently wallowing in those things that please the lusts of their eye and flesh, and the pride of life; regardless of the severe discipline of Jesus, whom they call savior, as if luxury, and not the cross, were the ordained way to heaven. What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and what shall we put on? Once the care of luxurious heathen is now the practice of, and which is worse the study of pretended Christians. But let such be ashamed, and repent; remembering that Jesus did not reproach the Gentiles for those things, in order to indulge his followers in them. Those who will have Christ to be theirs must be sure to be His; to be like-minded, to live in temperance and moderation, as knowing the Lord is at hand. Sumptuous apparel, rich unguents, delicate washes, stately furniture, costly cookery, and such diversions as balls, masques, music-meetings, plays, romances, [adding today's TV programming and movies], etc., which are the delight and entertainment of the times, belong not to the holy path that Jesus and his true disciples and followers trod to glory. No. "Through many hardships and tribulations," says one of the least of them, "must we enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22, Eph 3:8). I do earnestly implore the celebrant and luxurious, into whose hands this discourse shall be directed, to consider well the reasons and examples here advanced against their way of living; if happily they may come to see how remote it is from true Christianity, and how dangerous to their eternal peace. God Almighty, by his grace, soften their hearts to instruction, and shed abroad his tender love in their souls, that they may be overcome to repentance, and to the love of the holy way of the cross of Jesus, the blessed Redeemer of men. For they cannot think that He can benefit them, while they refuse to lay down their sins for the love of Him who laid down his life for the love of them. Or that He will give them a place in heaven, that refuse Him any in their hearts on earth. But let us examine luxury in all its parts.
2. Luxury has many parts; the first that is forbidden by the self-denying Jesus, is gluttony,* "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink? — for after these things do the Gentiles seek" (Mat 6:31-32). As if He said, the heathen, those who live without the true God, whose care is to please their appetite more than to seek God and his kingdom; you must not do so, but "seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Mat 6:33). That which is suitable for you will follow; let everything have its time and order.
This carries a serious reprehension to the luxurious eater and drinker, who is taken up with an excessive care of his palate, what shall he eat, and what shall he drink; who being often at a loss what to have next, therefore has an officer to invent, and a cook to dress, disguise, and drown the species, that it may cheat the eye, look new and strange; and all to excite an appetite, or raise an admiration. To be sure there is great variety, and that curious and costly; the sauce, it may be, dearer than the meat. And so full is he fed, that without it he can hardly feel his stomach empty; which is to force a hunger, rather than to satisfy it. And as he eats, so he drinks: rarely for thirst, but pleasure; to please his palate. For that purpose he will have several sorts, and he must taste them all: one, however good, is dull and tiresome; variety is more delightful than the best; and therefore the whole world is little enough to fill his cellar. But were he temperate in his proportions, his variety might be imputed rather to curiosity than luxury. But what the temperate man uses as a cordial [a small liqueur], he drinks by full draughts, until inflamed by excess, he is fitted to be an instrument of mischief, if not to other persons, yet always to himself, whom perhaps at last he does not know; for such brutality are some come to, they will sip themselves out of their own knowledge of themselves. This is the lust of the flesh, that is not of the Father, but of the world; for upon this comes in the music and dance, and mirth, and the laughter, which is madness (Eccl 2:2); that the noise of one pleasure may drown the iniquity of another, for fear his own heart should deal too plainly with him. Thus the luxurious live: they forget God, they regard not the afflicted. Oh that the sons and daughters of men would consider their indulgence and their iniquity in these things! How ill do they repay the goodness of God in the use and abuse of the plenty He yields them! How cruel are they to his creatures, how lavish of their lives and virtue, how thankless for them; forgetting the Giver, and abusing his gifts, and despising counsel, and casting instruction behind them! They lose tenderness and forget duty, being swallowed up of gluttony, adding one excess to another. God rebuked this sin in the Jews, by the prophet Amos: "You that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the stall; that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph" (Amos 6:3-6). These, it seems, were the vices of the degenerate Jews, under all their pretence to religion; and are they not of Christians at this day? Yes, they are, and these are the great parts of luxury struck at in this discourse. Remember the rich man, with all his sumptuous fare, went to hell: and the apostle pronounces heavy woes upon those "whose god is their belly: for such glory in their shame" (Phil 3:19).
Christ places these things to the courts of worldly kings, not his kingdom; making them unseemly in his followers. His feast, therefore, to the multitude, which was his miracle, was plain and simple; enough, but without curiosity or art of cookery; and it went well, for they were hungry, the best and fittest time to eat. And the apostle, in his directions to his much-beloved Timothy, debases the lovers of worldly fullness; advising him to treasure godliness and content as the greatest gain, adding, "and having food and raiment, let us therewith be content" (1 Tim. 6:6-8). Behold the abstinent, and most contented life of those pilgrims, the sons of heaven, and immortal offspring of the great power of God. They were in fasts and perils often, and ate what was set before them; and in all conditions learned to be contented. O blessed men! O blessed spirits! Let my soul dwell with yours for ever.
3. But the diseases which luxury begets and nourishes make it an enemy to mankind. For besides the trouble it brings to the souls of people, it undermines health, and shortens the life of man, in that it only gives but ill nourishment and so leaves and feeds corrupt bodily functions, whereby the body becomes rank and foul, lazy and unhealthy; unfit for exercise, and even more unfit for honest labor. The spirits being thus loaded with ill flesh, and the mind weakened, a man is made inactive, and so useless in civil society for idleness follows luxury, as well as diseases. These are the burdens of the world, devourers of good things, self-lovers, and so forgetters of God. But what is sad, and yet just, the end of those who forget God, is to be turned into hell (Psalm 9:17, 2 Thes 1:9).
4. But there is another part of luxury that has great place with vain man and woman, and that is the elegance of apparel, one of the most foolish, because most costly, empty, and unprofitable excesses people can well be guilty of.
5. Nor is it otherwise with recreations, as they call them; for these are nearly related. Man was made a noble, rational, grave creature; his pleasure stood in his duty, and his duty in obeying God: which is to love, fear, adore, and serve Him; and in using the creation with true temperance and godly moderation; as knowing well that the Lord, his judge, was at hand, the inspector and rewarder of his works. In short, his happiness* was in his communion with God; his error was to leave that conversation, and let his eyes wander abroad to gaze on transitory things. If the recreations of the age were as pleasant and necessary as they are said and made to be, Adam and Eve would have been unhappy then, because they never knew them. But if they had never fallen, and the world never been tainted by their folly and ill example, perhaps man would never have known the necessity or use of many of these things. Sin gave them birth, as it did elegant apparel; once they had sinned, Adam and Eve were afraid of the presence of the Lord, which was the joy of their innocence. And then their minds wandered, sought other pleasures, and began to forget God; as He complained afterwards by the prophet Amos, "they put far away the evil day: they eat of the fat of the flock; they drink wine in bowls; they anoint themselves upon beds of ivory; they chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David," not heeding or remembering the affliction and captivity of poor Joseph (Amos 6:3-6). Joseph whom they wickedly sold, innocence was quite banished, and they [the Jewish people] began to be accustomed to shame, until they were grown shameless in the imitation [of true pleasure, which is holiness]. And truly, it is now no less shameful to approach primitive innocence by modest plainness, than it was a matter of shame to Adam that he lost it, and became forced to tack fig-leaves for a covering. Therefore in vain do men and women deck themselves with superficial pretences to religion, and flatter their miserable souls with the fair titles of Christian, innocent, good, virtuous, and the like, while such vanities and follies reign. Therefore to you all, from the eternal God, I am bound to declare, you mock Him that will not be mocked, and deceive yourselves (Gal 6:7); such intemperance must be denied, and you must know yourselves changed, and more nearly approached to primitive purity, before you can be entitled to what you do now but usurp; for none but those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (Rom 8:14); which guides into all temperance and meekness (Gal 5:23).
6. But the Christian world, as it would be called, is justly indicted, because the very end of the first institution of apparel is grossly perverted. The utmost service that clothes originally were designed for, when sin had stripped them of their native innocence, was, as has been said, to cover them, therefore plain and modest; next, to keep out cold, therefore substantial; lastly, to declare sexes, therefore distinguishing. So that then necessity provoked to clothing, but now, pride and vain curiosity; in former times some benefit incurred, but now, indulgence and pleasure. Then they minded them for covering, but now, that is the least part; their greedy eyes must be provided with gaudy superfluities, as if they made their clothes for decorating, to be seen rather than worn; only for the sake of other curiosities that must be sewn upon them, although they neither keep from cold, nor distinguish sexes; but signally display their indulgent, fantastic, full-fed minds, that have them.
7. Then the recreations were to serve God, be just, follow their occupations, mind their flocks, do good, exercise their bodies in such a manner as was suitable to gravity, temperance and virtue; but now that word, recreations, is extended to almost every folly. So much have men degenerated from Adam in his disobedience; so much more confident and artificial have they grown in all impieties; yes, their minds, through custom, have become so very insensible of the inconvenience that attends the like follies, that what was once mere necessity is now the delight, pleasure, and recreation of age. How ignoble is it, how ignoble and unworthy of a reasonable creature! Man, who is endued with understanding, fit to contemplate immortality, and made a companion (if not superior) to angels, that he should desire a little dust, a few shameful rags; inventions of mere pride and luxury; toys so apish and fantastic, entertainments so dull and earthly, that a rattle, a baby, a hobby-horse, a top, which are by no means so foolish in a simple child, nor unworthy of his thoughts, as are such inventions of the care and pleasure of grown men!* It is a mark of great stupidity that such vanities should exercise the noble mind of man, and image of the great Creator of heaven and earth.
8. Of this many among the very heathen of old had so clear a view that they detested all such vanity, looking upon curiosity in apparel, and that variety of recreations now in vogue and esteem with false Christians, to be destructive of good behavior, in that it more easily stole away the minds of people from sobriety to wantonness, idleness, effeminacy [weakness in men and addiction to pleasure], and made them only companions for the beast that perishes. Witness these famous men, Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristides, Cato, Seneca, Epictetus, etc., who place true honor and satisfaction in nothing below virtue and immortality. No, such are the remains of innocence among some Moors and Indians in our times, that if a Christian, (though he must be an odd one), fling out a filthy word, it is customary with them, by way of moral, to bring him water to purge his mouth. How much do similar virtues and reasonable instances accuse people professing Christianity of gross folly and intemperance! Oh that men and women had the fear of God before their eyes; and that they were so charitable to themselves as to remember from where they came, what they are doing, and to what they must return. So that more noble, more virtuous, more rational and heavenly things might be the matters of their pleasure and entertainment. That they would be once persuaded to believe how inconsistent the folly, vanity, and conversation they are mostly exercised in, really are with the true nobility of a reasonable soul. And let that just principle, which taught the heathen, teach them; for fear it will be found more tolerable for the heathen than such Christians, in the day of account. For if their shorter notions, and more imperfect sense of things could yet recognize so much vanity; if their degree of light condemned it, and they, in obedience to it, cease to use it; does it not behoove Christians much more?
9. Again: these things, which have been before condemned have never been the conduct or practice of the holy men and women of old times, whom the Scriptures recommend for holy examples, worthy of imitation. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were plain men, and princes, as grazers are, over their families and flocks. They were not solicitous for the vanities so much lived in by the people of this generation, for they pleased God by faith. Abraham first forsook his father's house, kindred, and country; a true type or figure of that self-denial all must know, that would have Abraham to be their father. They must not think to live in those pleasures, fashions, and customs they are called to leave; no, but part with all hopes of the great recompense of reward, and that better country which is eternal in the heavens (Heb 11:26,16,2 Cor 5:1). The prophets were generally poor: one a shepherd, another a herdsman, etc. They often cried out to the full-fed indulgent Israelites to repent, to fear and dread the living God, to forsake the sins and vanities they lived in; but they never imitated them. John the Baptist, the messenger of the Lord, preached his embassy to the world in a coat of camel's hair, a rough and homely garment (Mat 3:4). Nor can it be conceived that Jesus Christ himself was much better clothed, who, according to the flesh, was of poor descent, and in life of great plainness; insomuch that it was usual in a way of derision to say, "Is not this Jesus, the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mat 13:55, Mark 6:3). And this Jesus tells his followers that as for "soft raiment, fine apparel and delicacies, they were for kings' courts" (Luke 7:25); implying, that He and his followers were not to seek after those things; but seems by this to express the great difference that was between the lovers of the fashions and customs of the world, and those whom He had chosen out of it. And He did not only come in that poor and despicable manner Himself, that He might stain the pride of all flesh, but by this became exemplary to his followers, as to what a self-denying life they must lead, if they would be his true disciples. No, He further leaves it with them in a parable, to the end that it might make the deeper impression, and that they might see how inconsistent a pompous, worldly-pleasing life is with the kingdom He came to establish and call men to the possession of; and that is the remarkable story of Dives, who is represented first, as a rich man (Luke 16:19-31); next as an indulgent man in his rich apparel, his many dishes, and his pack of dogs; and lastly, as an uncharitable man, or one who was more concerned to please the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, and fare sumptuously every day, than to take compassion of poor Lazarus at his gate; no, his dogs were more pitiful and kind than he. But what was the doom of this jolly man, this great rich man? We read it was everlasting torment; but that of Lazarus, eternal joy with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God. In short, Lazarus was a good man, the other a great man; the one poor and temperate, the other rich and luxurious. There are too many of them alive; and it would be well, if his doom might awaken them to repentance.
10. Nor were the twelve apostles, the immediate messengers of the Lord Jesus Christ, other than poor men; one a fisherman, another a tent-maker and he that was of the greatest, though perhaps not the best employment, was a custom gatherer (Mat4:18,9:9,Acts 18:3). So that it is very unlikely that any of them were followers of the fashions of the world. No, they were so far from it, that, as became the followers of Christ (1 Cor 4:9-14), they lived poor, afflicted, self-denying lives; advising the churches to walk as they had them for examples (Phil 3:17,1 Peter 2:21). And to shut up this particular argument, they gave this touching account of the holy women in former times, as an example of godly temperance (1 Peter 3:3-4), namely, that first they did expressly abstain from gold, silver, plaited hair, fine apparel, or such like; and next, that their adornment was a meek and quiet spirit, and the hidden man of the heart, which are of great price with the Lord; affirming that those who live in pleasure are dead while they live (1 Tim. 5:6). For the cares and pleasures of this life choke and destroy the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:14), and quite hinder all progress in the hidden and divine life. Therefore we find that the holy men and women of former times were not accustomed to these pleasures and vain recreations; but having their minds set on things above, sought another kingdom, which consists in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit: who, having obtained a good report, and entered into their eternal rest, therefore their works follow, and praise them in the gates (Rom 14:17,Heb 11:2,4:9,Rev 14:13).
But such excess in apparel and pleasure was not only forbidden in scripture, but it was the ground of that sorrowful message by the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel: "Moreover the Lord said, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts; in that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments, and their cauls [hair nets], and their round tires [head dresses] like the moon; the chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers; the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the head-bands, and the tablets, and ear-rings, the rings and nose-jewels; the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins; the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods and the veils; and it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell, there shall be a stink; and instead of a girdle, a rent; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth, and burning instead of beauty: your men shall fall by the sword, and your mighty in the war; and her gates shall lament and mourn, and she being desolate, shall sit upon the ground" (Isa 3:16-26). Behold, O vain and foolish inhabitants of England and Europe, your folly and your doom! (The very practice, and garb, and vanity of this age being as liable to the wrath of God, which hangs over England and Europe, and is ready to be executed on their rebellions inhabitants.) Yet read the prophet Ezekiel's vision of miserable Tyre, what punishment her pride and pleasure brought upon her; and among many other circumstances these are some: "These were your merchants in all sorts of things; in blue clothes and broidered work, and in chests of rich apparel, emeralds, purple, fine linen, coral and agate, spices, with all precious stones, and gold, horses, chariots," etc.; for which hear part of her doom: "Thy riches, and your fairs, your merchandise, and all your company, which is in the midst of you, shall fall into the midst of the sea in the day of your ruin; and the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at you; and their merchants hiss at you; you shall be a terror, and shall be no more" (Eze 27). Thus has God declared his displeasure against the luxury of this wanton [indulgent] world. Yet further the prophet Zephaniah goes, for thus he speaks: "And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord's sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel" (Zep 1:8). Of how evil consequence was it in those times, for the greatest men to give themselves the liberty of following the vain customs of other nations; or of changing the usual end of clothes, or apparel, to gratify foolish curiosities!
2. This did the Lord Jesus Christ expressly charge his disciples not to be careful about: insinuating that such as were could not be his disciples: for, says He, "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or how shall we be clothed? for after all these things the Gentiles seek: for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Mat 6:31-33). Under these things of eating, and drinking, and apparel, He encompasses all external things whatever. This is so prevalent among worldly Christians, being ignorant of an invisible, heavenly kingdom of God and his righteousness; the very matters He commands them to ignore are their highest priority; making food and clothing a problem for them, when they should be innocently enjoyed. If then, in such cases, the minds of his disciples were not to be solicitous, much less in foolish, superstitious, idle inventions, to gratify the carnal appetites and minds of men, so certain it is that those who live therein are none of his followers, but the Gentiles and heathens; and as He elsewhere says, "The nations of the world who know not God" (Luke 12:22-33). If then the distinguishing mark between the disciples of Jesus and those of the world is that one minds the things of heaven and God's kingdom, that "stands in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom 14:17);( having no cares of external matters, even the most innocent and necessary); and that the other minds eating, drinking, apparel, and the affairs of this world, with the lusts, pleasures, profits, and honors that belong to it; be you entreated for your souls' sakes, O inhabitants of England, to be serious, to reflect awhile upon yourselves what care and cost you are at of time and money, about foolish, no, vicious things; so far are you degenerated from the primitive Christian life. What buying and selling, what dealing and wrangling, what writing and advertising, what toil and labor, what noise, hurry, bustle, and confusion, what study, what little contrivances and overreachings, what eating, drinking, vanity of apparel, most ridiculous recreations; in short, what rising early, going to bed late, expense of precious time is there about things that perish! View the streets, shops, exchanges, plays, parks, coffee-houses, etc., and is not the world, this fading world, written upon every face? Say not within yourselves, "How otherwise should men live and the world exist?" This is the common, though frivolous objection. There is enough for all. Let some content themselves with less; a few things, plain and decent, serve a Christian life. It is lust, pride, and greed, that thrust men upon such folly. Were God's kingdom more the exercise of their minds, these perishing entertainments would have but little of their time or thoughts.
3. This self-denying doctrine was confirmed and enforced by the apostles in their example, as we have already shown; and in their precepts too, as we shall yet evidence in those two most remarkable passages of Paul and Peter; where they not only tell us what should be done, but also what should be denied and avoided: "In like manner I will, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel; with shamefacedness [modesty] and sobriety, not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array (then it seems these are immodest) but which becomes women professing godliness, with good works" (1 Tim. 2:9-10). Absolutely implying, that those who attire themselves with gold, silver, broidered hair, pearls, costly array, cannot in so doing be women professing godliness; making those very things to be contrary to modesty, and consequently that they are evil, and unbecoming women professing godliness. To which the Apostle Peter joins another precept after the like sort, namely, "Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, and of putting on of apparel:" what? then. "But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in what is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3:3-5). And as an inducement, he adds: "For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves." Which not only shows that holy women were so adorned, and that it requires such as would be holy, and trust in the holy God, to be so adorned; but, also, that those who used those forbidden ornaments were the women and people in all ages, that, for all their talk, were not holy, nor did trust in God. Such are so far from trusting in God that the Apostle Paul expressly says, that "she that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives" (1 Tim. 5:6). And the same apostle further enjoined, that Christians should have their conversations in heaven, and their minds fixed on things above (Phil 3:20, Col 3:1-4); "walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and indulgence, not in envy and strife" (Rom 13:13): "let not fornication, uncleanness, or covetousness be once named among you: neither filthiness, nor foolish talking nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks" (Eph 5:3-4): "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" (Eph 4:29); but "put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts of it." (Rom 13:14). And "grieve not the Holy Spirit," as all non-edifying conversation does, (Mat 11:26, Eph 4:29-30): but "be you followers of God, as dear children: walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph 5:1,5:15-16).
4. By this measure yourselves, O inhabitants of this land, who think yourselves wronged, if we do not account you Christians; see what proportion your life and spirit bear with these most holy and self-denying precepts and examples. Well, my friends, my soul mourns for you; I have been with and among you; your life and pastime are not strangers to my notice; and with compassion, yes, inexpressible pity, I bewail your folly. Oh that you would be wise! Oh that the just principle in yourselves would be heard! Oh that eternity had time to plead a little with you! Why should your beds, your glasses, your clothes, your tables, your loves, your plays, your parks, your treats, your recreations — poor perishing joys — have all your souls, your time, your care, your purse, and consideration? Be you admonished, I implore you, in the name of the living God, by one that some of you know has had his share in these things, and consequently time to know how little the like vanities lead to true and solid happiness. No, my friends, God Almighty knows, and would to God, you would believe and follow me; they end in shame and sorrow. Faithful is that most holy One, who has determined that every man and woman shall reap what they sow. And will not trouble, anguish, and disappointment be a sad and dreadful harvest for you to reap, for all your misspent time and substance, about excesses and vain recreations? Retire then; quench not the Holy Spirit in yourselves; redeem your precious abused time. Frequent such conversation as may help you against your evil inclinations; so shall you follow the examples, and keep the precepts of Jesus Christ, and all his followers. For we have plainly demonstrated, that no such way of living, as is in practice among you of the land, ever was, or can be truly Christian.
5. But the best recreation is to do good. And all Christian customs tend to abstaining from excess, and some good and beneficial end; which more or less may be in every action (1 Peter 1:15, Heb 10:25, 1 Peter 4:9-11, Mat 25:36-37). Men and women would be diligent to follow their respective callings; frequent the assemblies of religious people; visit sober neighbors to be edified, and wicked ones to reform them; be careful in the tuition of their children, exemplary to their servants; relieve the needy, see the sick, visit the imprisoned; administer to their infirmities and indispositions, endeavor peace among neighbors. Also, to study moderately such commendable, profitable and useful arts, as navigation, arithmetic, geometry, husbandry, gardening, handicraft, medicine, etc.; and that women spin, sew, knit, weave, garden, preserve, and the like, those of a housewife and honest employments, the practice of the greatest and noblest matrons, and youth, among even the very heathen; helping others, who for lack of funds are unable to keep servants, to ease them in their necessary affairs. Often in private retirements from all worldly objects, they enjoy the Lord, with private and steady meditations on the divine life and heavenly inheritance; which to leave undone and accomplish other things, under the notion of recreations, is lacking respect for what is good. It is most vain for any to object that they cannot do these always, and therefore why may not they use these common diversions? I ask, what diversions? What do they want to do? What do they want to have? Those in the trades don't have time enough to do half of what has been recommended. And as for those who have nothing to do, and indeed do nothing, which is worse than all else except sin, which is worst of all, they plead for variety of pleasant, of profitable, yes, of supposedly very honorable employments and diversions for them. Such can with great delight sit at a play, a ball, a masque, at cards, dice, etc., drinking, reveling, feasting, and the like, an entire day; yes, turn night into day, and invert the very order of the creation, to humor their lusts (Amos 6:3-8); and were it not for eating and sleeping, it would be past a doubt, whether they would ever find time to cease from those vain and sinful pastimes, until the hasty calls of death should summon their appearance in another world. Yet they think it intolerable and hardly possible, for any to sit the same length of time in a profitable or religious exercise.
6. But how do these think to pass their vast eternity away? "For as the tree falls, so it lies" (Eccl 11:3). Let none deceive themselves, nor mock their immortal souls with a pleasant, but most false and destructive dream, that they shall be changed by a constraining and irresistible power, just when their souls take leave of their bodies; no, no, my friends, "what you sow, that shall you reap" (Gal 6:4-9). If you sow vanity, folly, visible delights, fading pleasures, no better shall you ever reap than corruption, sorrow and the woeful anguish of eternal disappointments. But alas! what is the reason that the cry is so common, "Must we always dote on these things?" Why most certainly it is this: they do not know the joy and peace of speaking and acting, as in the presence of the most holy God that far exceeds such vain understandings (Eph 4:18-20). They are darkened with the glories and pleasures of the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4); whose religion is so many mumbling and ignorantly devout said words, such as they could teach parrots. For if they were of those whose hearts are set on things above, and whose treasure is in heaven, there would their minds dwell, and their greatest pleasure constantly be. And such who call that a burden, and seek to be refreshed by such pastimes as a play, a ball, a masquerade, cards, dice, or the like, I am bold to affirm, they not only never knew the divine excellence of God and his truth, but thereby declare themselves most unfit for them in another world. For how is it possible that they can be delighted for eternity with that satisfaction;* which is so tedious and irksome for thirty or forty years, that, for a supply of recreation to their minds, the little toys and vanities of this perishing world must be brought into practice and request? Surely, those who are to be judged for every idle word (Mat 12:36), must not use sports to pass away that time which they are commanded so diligently to redeem, considering no less work is to be done than making their calling and election sure (Eph 5:16, Phil 3:14, 2 Peter 1:10, Col 4: 5). Much less should they study to invent recreations for their vain minds, and spend the greatest part of their days, and months, and years in that, not allowing a quarter of that time toward the great concern of their lives and souls, for which that time was given them. (James 4:14)
7. There is but little need to spend time with foolish diversions for time flies away so swiftly by itself; and, when once gone, is never to be recalled. Plays, parks, balls, treats, romances, music, love-sonnets, and the like, will be a very invalid plea, for any other purpose than their condemnation who are taken and delighted with them, at the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
O my friends! these were never invented, but by that mind which had first lost the joy and ravishing delights of God's holy presence. So that we conclude first that of those many excellent employments, (already mentioned as worthy to possess such minds as are inclined to these vanities), there is plenty enough to occupy them, not only to take up their spare hours, but double so much; and that with great delight, diversion, and profit, both to themselves and others; were they but once weaned from vain and fruitless follies. And if they would only consider, how great the satisfaction, and how certain the rewards are, which attend this, and the other life; and of such universal benefits and virtuous examples. The second conclusion is, that what is alleged by me can be displeasing and ungrateful to none, except those who do not know what it is to walk with God, to prepare for an eternal mansion, to have the mind exercised on heavenly and good things, to follow the examples of the holy men and women of former happy ages. Those who do not know Christ's doctrine, life, death, and resurrection, [by experiencing each] but only have their minds fastened to the flesh and by the desires of the flesh, are allured, deceived, and miserably ruined. And lastly, are those who despise heaven, and the joys that are not seen, though eternal, for a few perishing trifles that they do see; though they are decreed to pass away. How are these [people] baptized with Christ, into his holy life, cruel sufferings, shameful death, and raised with Him to immortal desires, heavenly meditations, a new divine life, growing into the knowledge of heavenly mysteries, and all holiness, even to the measure of the stature of Jesus Christ, the great example of all (Rom 6:3-8, 1 Cor 12:13, Gal 3:27, Col 2:12-13, Eph 4:13). How, I say, do these [people] resemble the most necessary Christian qualifications; and what share do they have in them? Let their consciences tell them upon a serious inquiry in the cool of the day.
8. But in the next place, such attire and pastimes do not only show the exceeding worldliness of people's inclinations, and their very great ignorance of the divine joys; but by imitating these fashions, and frequenting these places and diversions, not only much good is omitted, but a certain door is open to much evil to be committed: first, precious time, worth a world on a dying bed, is lost; money that might be employed for the general good, is vainly spent; pleasure is taken in mere shame; lusts are gratified; the minds of the people are alienated from heavenly things, and exercised about mere folly; and men become acceptable by their appearance and the current style of their dress and apparel; from where respect [partiality] to persons does so naturally arise (James 2:1-9), that to deny it is to affirm the sun does not shine at noonday. Nothing is more notorious than the cringing, scraping, calling sir, and calling madam of persons, according to the gaudiness and richness of their attire; which is detestable to God, and so absolutely forbidden in the Scriptures, that to do it is to break the whole law, and consequently to incur the punishment of it. Next, what great holes do the like practices make in men's estates! How are their vocations neglected, young women deluded, the marriage-bed invaded, contentions and family animosities begotten, partings of man and wife, disinheriting of children, dismissing of servants! On the other hand, servants made slaves, children disregarded, wives despised and shamefully abused, through the intemperance of their husbands; which either puts them upon the same extravagance, or taking such cruel injustice to heart, they pine away their days in grief and misery. But of all these wretched inventions, the playhouses, [today TV, movies, and DVD's], like so many hellish seminaries, do most perniciously conduce to these sad and miserable ends; where little besides frothy, loose, if not directly obscene and profane habits are represented, which are of notoriously ill consequence upon the minds of most; especially the youth that frequent them. And thus it is that idle and debauched plays are encouraged and maintained; which scarcely a greater abomination can be thought of than that rank of ungodly pastimes, as will shortly particularly be shown; and truly nothing but the excessive pleasure people take in them could blind their eyes from seeing it.
9. But lastly, the grand aversion of mind in people to follow solid, serious, and heavenly meditations; by the almost continual, as well as pleasant rumination in their minds, of those various adventures they have been entertained with, which in the more youthful can never miss to inflame and empower their boiling and susceptible states. And in the rest of the common recreations of balls, masques, treats, cards, dice, etc., there are the like opportunities to promote the like evils. And yet further; how many quarrels, animosities, no, murders too, as well as expense of estate and precious time, have been the immediate consequences of the like practices! In short, these were the ways of the Gentiles that knew not God, but never the practice of those who feared Him (Eph 4:17-25). No, the more noble among the heathen themselves, namely, Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato, Antisthenes, Heraclitus, Zeno, Aristides, Cato, Tully, Epictetus, Seneca, etc., have left their disgust to these things upon record, as odious and destructive, not only of the honor of the immortal God, but of all good order and government; as leading into looseness, idleness, ignorance, and effeminacy [weakness in men with addiction to pleasure] , the great cankers and bane of all states and empires. And the pretended innocence of these things steals away their minds from what is better, into the love of them; indeed, it gives them confidence to plead for them, and by no means will they think differently. But why? Because it is a liberty that feeds the flesh and gratifies the lustful eye and palate of poor mortality. Therefore they think it a laudable condition to be no better than the beast, who eats and drinks whatever his nature does require; although the number is very small of such, so very exorbitant are men and women grown in this present age. For most either believe their actions are to be ruled by their own will; or else at best, that not to be stained with the vilest wickedness is a matter of great boasting: and indeed it is so in a time when nothing is too wicked to be done. But certainly, it is a sign of universal ungodliness in a land, when not to be guilty of the sins the very heathen loathe, is to be virtuous, yes, and Christian too; and that is their major claim of reputation — a dismal symptom to a country! But is it not to be greatly blinded, that those we call infidels should detest those practices as infamous, which people that call themselves Christians cannot or will not see to be such, but gild them over with the fair titles of ornaments, decency, recreation, and the like? Well, my friends, if there were no God, no heaven, no hell, no holy examples, no Jesus Christ, in cross, doctrine, and life, to be conformed to; yet would charity to the poor, help to the needy, peace among neighbors, visits to the sick, care of the widow and fatherless, with the rest of those worldly good practices already repeated, be a nobler employment, and much more worthy of your expense and pains. Nor indeed is it to be conceived, that the way to glory is smoothed with such a variety of carnal pleasures; for then conviction, a wounded spirit, a broken heart, a regenerate mind (Pro 18:14,51:17; Mat 5:4, Luke 6:25, Rom 2:7, Psalm 40:8, Rom 7:22, Heb 11:13-16, Rom 1:25-30); in a word, immortality, would prove as mere fictions that some make them, and others therefore think them. No, these practices are for ever to be extinguished and expelled from all Christian society. For I affirm, that to one who internally knows God, and has a sense of his blessed presence, all such recreations are death; yes, more dangerously evil, and more apt to steal away the mind from the heavenly exercise, than grosser ungodly acts. For the grosser sorts are so big they are plainly seen; so dirty they are easily detected, which education and common temperance, as well as frame of mind in many, teach them to abhor. And if the grosser acts are committed, they carry with them a stronger conviction. But these pretended innocent acts, these supposed harmless satisfactions (Job 1:4), are more surprising, more destructive; for as they easily gain an admission by the senses, so the more they pretend to innocence, the more they secure the minds of people in the common use of their evil consequences, so that with a mighty confidence they can plead for them.
10. But as this is plainly not to deny themselves (1 John 2:15-17), but on the contrary, to employ the vain inventions of carnal men and women, to gratify the desire of the eye, the desire of the flesh, and the pride of life (all which exercise the mind below the divine and only true pleasure, or else, tell me what does). So let it be known to those who are such, that the heavenly life and Christian joys are of another kind, as has already been expressed. Yes, that the true disciples of the Lord Christ must be crucified to these as to objects and employments that attract downwards, and that their affections should be raised to a more sublime and spiritual conduct; to use this world, even in its most innocent enjoyments, as if they used it not. But if they take pleasure in anything below, it should be in such good practices as before mentioned, by which a benefit may result in some respect to others. In which God is honored over all visible things, the nation relieved, the government bettered, themselves rendered exemplary of good, and thereby justly entitled to present happiness, a sweet memorial with posterity — as well as to a seat at his right hand, where there are joys and pleasures for ever (Job 36:7; Psalm 5:12; Pro 10:7,11); than which there can be nothing more honorable, nothing more certain, world without end.
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