It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
~ 1 Corinthians 5:1
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
~ 1 Corinthians 6:18
Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
~ Exodus 23:1
A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.
~ Proverbs 11:1
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:50
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
~ Matthew 19:29
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
~ 1 Timothy 1:9-10
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
~ Hebrews 12:14
Directions against Fornication and all Uncleanness, by Richard Baxter. The following contains an excerpt from Part Five or his work, “A Christian Directory”.
Title 1. Directions against Fornication and all Uncleanness.
Though as they are sins against another, adultery and fornication are forbidden in the seventh commandment, and should there be handled, yet as they are sins against our own bodies, which should be members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost, as 1 Cor. vi. 15, 18, 19, so it is here to be handled among the rest of the sins of the senses: and I the rather choose to take it up here, because what I have said in the two last titles, against gluttony and drunkenness, serve also for this. The same arguments, and convincing questions, and directions, will almost all serve, if you do but change the name of the sin: and as the reader loveth not needless tediousness, so I am glad of this means to avoid the too often naming of such an odious, filthy sin: yet something most proper to it must be spoken. And, 1. I show the greatness of the sin; and, 2. Give directions for the cure.
1. There is no sin so odious, but love to it, and frequent using it, will do much to reconcile the very judgment to it; either to think it lawful, or tolerable and venial: to think it no sin, or but a little sin, and easily forgiven. And so with some brutish persons it doth in this. But, 1. It is reason enough against any sin, that it is forbidden by the most wise, infallible, universal King of all the world. Thy Maker’s will is enough to condemn it, and shall be enough to condemn those that are servants of it.(448) He hath said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, “Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind—shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Ver. 15-19, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body: for two (saith he) shall be one flesh. But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” (Mark that he speaketh not this to fornicators; for their bodies are not temples of the Holy Ghost; but to them that by filthy heretics in those times were tempted to think fornication no great sin.) So Eph. v. 3-6, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, and covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints: neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting.—For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience: be not ye therefore partakers with them.” Gal. v. 19, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,—of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Thess. iv. 3, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, not in the lust of concupiscence,(Pg 331) as the gentiles which know not God.” See also Col. v. 5, 6. Heb. xiii. 4, “Marriage is honourable, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Rev. xxi. 8, “The abominable,—and whoremongers—shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” Rev. xxii. 15, “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers.” Jude 7, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” I shall add no more lest I be tedious.
2. Besides Scripture, God hath planted in nature a special pudor and modesty to restrain this sin; and they that commit it do violate the law of nature, and sin against a witness and condemner that is within them. And scarce any one of them ever committeth it boldly, quietly, and fearlessly, till first they have hardened their hearts, and seared their consciences, and overcome the light of nature, by frequent, wilful sinning.(449) Nature hideth the obscene parts, and teacheth man to blush at the mention of any thing that is beyond the bounds of modesty. Say not that it is mere custom, for the vitiated nature of man is not so over-precise, nor the villany of the world so rare and modest, but before this day it had quite banished all restraints of this sin, above most others, if they could have done it, and if God had not written the law which condemneth it very deep in nature, with almost indelible characters. So that in despite of the horrid wickedness of the earth, though mankind be almost universally inclined to lust, yet there be universally laws and customs restraining it; so that except a very few savages and cannibals like beasts, there is no nation on the earth where filthiness is not a shame, and modesty layeth not some rebukes upon uncleanness. Ask no further then for a law, when thy nature itself is a law against it. And the better any man is, the more doth he abhor the lusts of uncleanness. So that “among saints,” saith the apostle, it is “not to be named,” (that is, not without need and detestation,) Eph. v. 3; and ver. 12, “For it is a shame even to speak of those things that are done of them in secret.” And when drunkenness had uncovered the shame of Noah, his son Ham is cursed for beholding it, and the other sons blest for their modesty and reverent covering him.
3. And that God hath not put this law into man’s nature without very great cause, albeit the implicit belief and submission due to him should satisfy us, though we knew not the causes particularly, yet much of them is notorious to common observation: as that if God had not restrained lust by laws, it would have made the female sex most contemptible and miserable, and used worse by men than dogs are. For, first, rapes and violence would deflower them, because they are too weak to make resistance: and if that had been restrained, yet the lust of men would have been unsatisfied, and most would have grown weary of the same woman whom they had abused, and take another; at least when she grew old, they would choose a younger, and so the aged women would be the most calamitous creatures upon earth. Besides that lust is addicted to variety, and groweth weary of the same; the fallings out between men and women, and the sicknesses that make their persons less pleasing, and age, and other accidents, would expose them almost all to utter misery. And men would be law-makers, and therefore would make no laws for their relief, but what consisted with their lusts and ends. So that half the world would have been ruined, had it not been for the laws of matrimony, and such other as restrain the lusts of men.
4. Also there would be a confused mixture in procreation, and no men would well know what children are their own: which is worse than not to know their lands or houses.
5. Hereby all natural affection would be diminished or extinguished: as the love of husband and wife, so the love between fathers and children would be diminished.
6. And consequently the due education of children would be hindered, or utterly overthrown. The mothers that should first take care of them, would be disabled and turned away, that fresh harlots might be received, who would hate the offspring of the former. So that by this means the world and all societies, and civility, would be ruined, and men would be made worse than brutes, whom nature hath either better taught, or else made for them some other supply. Learning, religion, and civility would be all in a manner extinct, as we see they are among those few savage cannibals that are under no restraint. For how much all these depend upon education, experience telleth us. In a word, this confusion in procreation, would introduce such confusion in men’s hearts, and families, and all societies, by corrupting and destroying necessary affection and education, that it would be the greatest plague imaginable to mankind, and make the world so base and beastly, that to destroy mankind from off the earth would seem much more desirable. Judge then whether God should have left men’s lusts unrestrained.
Object. But (you will say) there might have been some moderate restraint to a certain number, as it is with the Mahometans, without so much strictness as Christ doth use.
Answ. That this strictness is necessary, and is an excellency in God’s law, appeareth thus. 1. By the greatness of the mischief which else would follow: to be remiss in preventing such a confusion in the world, would be an enmity to the world. 2. In that man’s nature is so violently inclined to break over, that if the hedge were not close, there were no sufficient restraining them; they would quickly run out at a little gap. 3. The wiser and the better any nation or persons are, even among the heathens, the more fully do they consent to the strictness of God’s laws. 4. The cleanest sort of brutes themselves are taught by nature to be as strict in their copulations: though it be otherwise with the mere terrestrial beasts and birds, yet the aerial go by couples: those that are called the fowls of the heavens, that fly in the air, are commonly taught this chastity by nature; as if God would not have lust come near to heaven. 5. The families of the Mahometans that have more wives than one, do show the mischief of it in the effects, in the hatred and disagreement of their wives, and the great slavery that women are kept in; making them like slaves that they may keep them quiet. And when women are thus enslaved, who have so(Pg 332) great a part in the education of children, by which all virtue and civility are maintained in the world, it must needs tend to the debasing and brutifying of mankind.
7. Children being the preciousest of all our treasure, it is necessary that the strictest laws be made for the securing of their good education and their welfare. If it shall be treason to debase or counterfeit the king’s coin, and if men must be hanged for robbing you of your goods or money, and the laws are not thought too strict that are made to secure your estates; how much more is it necessary that the laws be strict against the vitiating of mankind, and against the debasement of your image on your children, and against that which tendeth to the extirpation of all virtue, and the ruin of all societies and souls!
8. God will have a holy seed in the world, that shall bear his image of holiness, and therefore he will have all means fitted thereunto. Brutish, promiscuous generation tendeth to the production of a brutish seed. And though the word preached is the means of sanctifying those that remain unsanctified from their youth; yet a holy marriage, and holy dedication of children to God, and holy education of them, are the former means, which God would not have neglected or corrupted, and to which he promiseth his blessing: as you may see, 1 Cor. vii. 14; Mal. ii. 15, “Did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth: for the Lord hateth putting away.”
9. Yea, lust corrupteth the mind of the person himself, if it be not very much restrained and moderated. It turneth it from the only excellent pleasure, by the force of that brutish kind of pleasure.(450) It carrieth away the thoughts, and distempereth the passions, and corrupteth the fantasy, and thereby doth easily corrupt the intellect and heart. Pleasure is so much of the end of man, which his nature leadeth him to desire, that the chief thing in the world to make a man good and happy, is to engage his heart to those pleasures which are good, and make men happy. And the chief thing to make him bad and miserable, is to engage him in the pleasures which make men bad and end in misery. And the principal thing by which you may know yourselves or others, what you are, is to know what your pleasures are; or at least, what you choose and desire for your pleasure. If the body rule the soul, you are brutish, and shall be destroyed: if the soul rule the body, you live according to true human nature and the ends of your creation. If the pleasures of the body are the predominant pleasures which you are most addicted to, then the body ruleth the soul, and you shall perish as traitors to God, that debase his image, and turn man into beast, Rom. viii. 13: if the pleasures of the soul be your most predominant pleasures, which you are most addicted to, (though you attain as yet but little of it,) then the soul doth rule the body, and you live like men: and this cannot well be, till faith show the soul those higher pleasures in God and everlasting glory, which may carry it above all fleshly pleasures. By all this set together you may easily perceive that the way of the devil to corrupt and damn men, is to keep them from faith, that they may have no heavenly, spiritual pleasure, and to strengthen sensuality, and give them their fill of fleshly pleasures, to imprison their minds that they may ascend no higher: and that the way to sanctify and save men, is to help them by faith to heavenly pleasure, and to abate and keep under that fleshly pleasure that would draw down their minds. And by this you may see how to understand the doctrine of mortification, and taming the body, and abstaining from the pleasures of the flesh: and you may now understand what personal mischief lust doth to the soul.
10. Your own experience and consciences will tell you, that if it be not exceedingly moderated, it unfitteth you for every holy duty. You are unfit to meditate on God, or to pray to him, or to receive his word or sacrament: and therefore nature teacheth those that meddle with holy things to be more continent than others; which Scripture also secondeth, 1 Sam. xxi. 4, 5. Such sensual things and sacred things do not well agree too near.(451)
11. And as by all this you see sufficient cause why God should make stricter laws for the bridling of lust, than fleshly, lustful persons like; so when his laws are broken by the unclean, it is a sin that conscience (till it be quite debauched) doth deeply accuse the guilty for, and beareth a very clear testimony against. Oh the unquietness! the horror! the despair that I have known many persons in, even for the sin of self-pollution, that never proceeded to fornication! And how many adulterers and fornicators have we known that have lived and died in despair, and some of them hanged themselves! Conscience will condemn this sin with a heavy condemnation, till custom or infidelity have utterly seared it.(452)
12. And it is also very observable, that when men have once mastered conscience in this point, and reconciled it to this sin of fornication, it is a hundred to one that they are utterly hardened in all abomination, and scarce make conscience of any other villany whatsoever!(453) If once fornication go for nothing, or a small matter with them, usually all other sin is with them of the same account: if they have but an equal temptation to it, lying, and swearing, and perjury, and theft, yea, and murder and treason, would seem small too: I never knew any one of these but he was reconcilable and prepared for any villany that the devil set him upon: and if I know such a man, I would no more trust him than I would trust a man that wants nothing but interest and opportunity to commit any heinous sin that you can name. Though I confess I have known divers of the former sort, that have committed this sin under horror and despair, that have retained some good in other points, and have been recovered; yet of this latter sort, that have reconciled their consciences to fornication, I never knew one that was recovered, or that retained any thing of conscience or honesty, but so much of the show of it as their pride and worldly interest commanded them: and they were malignant enemies of goodness in others, and lived according to the unclean spirit which possessed them.(454) They are terrible words, Prov. ii. 18, 19, “For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead:(Pg 333) none that go unto her return again, neither take they hold on the paths of life.” Age keepeth them from actual filthiness and lust (and so may hell, for there is no fornication); but they retain their debauched, seared consciences.
13. And it is the greater sin because it is not committed alone; but the devil taketh them by couples. Lust inflameth lust: and the fuel set together makes the greatest flame. Thou art guilty of the sin of thy wretched companion, as well as of thine own.
14. Lastly, the miserable effects of it, and the punishments that in this life have attended it, do tell us how God accounteth of the sin: it hath ruined persons, families, and kingdoms; and God hath borne his testimony against it, by many signal judgments, which all histories almost acquaint you with.(455) As there is scarce any sin that the New Testament more frequently and bitterly condemneth, (as you may see in Paul’s Epistles, 2 Pet. ii., Jude, &c.) so there are not many that God’s providence more frequently pursueth with shame and misery on earth: and in the latter end of the world, God hath added one concomitant plague not known before, called commonly the lues venerea, the venereous pox, so that many of the most brutish sort go about stigmatized with a mark of God’s vengeance, the prognostic or warning of a heavier vengeance. And there are none of them all (that by great repentance be not made new creatures) but leave an infamous name and memory when they are dead (if their sin was publicly known.) Let them be never so great, and never so gallant, victorious, successful, liberal, flattered, or applauded while they lived, God ordereth it so, that truth shall ordinarily prevail with the historians that write of them when they are dead; and with all sober men their names rot and stink, as well as their bodies. Prov. x. 7, “The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot.” So much of the greatness of the sin. Boniface archbishop of Mentz, writing to Ethilbald an English king that was a fornicator, Epist. 19. saith, Fornication is a reproach, not only among christians, but pagans——For in old Saxony if a virgin had thus stained her father’s house, or a married woman, breaking the marriage covenant, had committed adultery; sometimes they force her to hang herself with her own hand, and over her ashes when she is burnt they hang the fornicator; sometimes they gather a band of women, they lead her about, scourging her with rods; and cutting off her clothes at the girdle, and with small knives cutting and pricking all her body, they send her from village to village, thus bloody and mangled with little wounds; and so more and more, incited by a zeal for chastity, do meet her and scourge her again, till they leave her either dead or scarce alive, that others may fear adultery and luxury. And the Wineds, which are the filthiest and worst sort of men, do keep the love of matrimony with so great a zeal, that the woman will refuse to live when her husband is dead. And after some reproofs of the fornicating king, he addeth these further stories. Ceolred, your Highness’ predecessor, as they witness who were present, he being splendidly banqueting with his earls, was by the evil spirit that drew him to violate God’s law, suddenly distracted in his sin; so that without repentance and confession, being raging mad and talking with the devil, and abominating God’s priests, he departed out of this life, no doubt to the torments of hell. And Osred (king of the Deiri and Bernicii) the spirit of luxury carried in fornication and defiling the sacred virgins in the monasteries, till such time as by a vile and base kind of death, he lost his glorious kingdom, together with his youthful and luxurious life. Wherefore, most dear son, take heed of the ditch into which thou hast seen others fall before thee.——Vid. Auct. Bib. Pat. tom. ii. p. 55, 56.
And how great sufferings were laid on priests, monks, and nuns that had committed fornication, by several years’ imprisonment and scourging, see ibid. p. 84. in an edict of Carloman, by the advice of a council of bishops.
And Epist. lxxxv. p. 87, Boniface writeth to Lullo that he was fain to suffer a priest to officiate, baptize, pray, &c. that had long ago committed fornication, because there was none but he alone to be had in all the country, and he thought it better to venture that one man’s soul, than let all the people perish, and desireth Lullo’s counsel in it. By all which we may see how heinous a sin fornication was then judged.
Object. But (say the filthy ones) did not David commit the sin of adultery? Did not God permit them many wives among the Jews? How many had Solomon? Therefore this is no such great sin as you pretend. Thus every filthiness a little while will plead for itself.
Answ. David did sin; and is the sin ever the less for that? It is easier to forbear it, than undergo the tears and sorrows which David did endure for his sin! Besides the bitterness of his soul for it, his son Absalom rebelleth and driveth him out of his kingdom, and his own wives are openly defiled; and yet God leaveth it as a perpetual blot upon his name. Solomon’s sin was so great that it almost ruined him and his kingdom; though experience caused him to say more against it than is said in the Old Testament by any other, yet it is a controversy among divines whether he was ever recovered and saved; and ten tribes of the twelve were therefore taken from his line, and given to Jeroboam. And is this any encouragement to you to imitate him? Christ telleth you in the case of divorcement, that God permitted (not allowed, but forbore) some such sins in the Jews, because of the “hardness of their hearts,” Mark x. 5; but from the beginning it was not so; but one man and one woman were conjoined in the primitive institution. And the special reason why plurality was connived at among the Jews, was for the fuller peopling of the nation: they being the only covenanted people of God, and being few among encompassing enemies, and being separated from the people of the earth, their strength, and safety, and glory lay much on their increased number, and therefore some inordinacy was connived at for their multiplication, but never absolutely allowed and approved of. And yet fornication is punished severely, and adultery with death.
II. The Directions against Fornication.
Direct. I. If you would avoid uncleanness, avoid the things that dispose you to it; as gluttony, or fulness of diet, and pampering the flesh, idleness, and other things mentioned under the next title, of subduing lust. The abating of the filthy desires, is the surest way to prevent the filthy act; which may be done if you are but willing.
Direct. II. Avoid the present temptations. Go not where the snare lieth without necessity. Abhor the devil’s bellows that blow up the fire of lust; such as enticing apparel, filthy talk and sights, of which more also under the next title.
Direct. III. Carefully avoid all opportunity of sinning. “Come not near the door of her house,” saith Solomon, Prov. v. 8. Avoid the company of(Pg 334) the person thou art in danger of. Come not where she is; this thou canst do if thou art willing; none will force thee. If thou wilt go seek for a thief, no wonder if thou be robbed. If thou wilt go seek fire to put in the thatch, no wonder if thy house be burnt. The devil will sufficiently play the tempter; thou needest not help him; that is his part, leave it to himself; it is thy part to watch against him; and he will find thee work; if thou watch as narrowly and constantly as thou canst, it is well if thou escape. As thou lovest thy soul, avoid all opportunities of sinning; make it impossible to thyself: much of thy safety lieth in this point. Never be in secret company with her thou art in danger of; but either not at all, or only in the sight of others: especially contrive not such opportunities, as to be together in the night, in the dark, or on the Lord’s day when others are at church, (one of the devil’s seasons for such works,) or any such opportunity, leisure, and secrecy; for opportunity itself is a strong temptation. As it is the way to make a thief, to set money in his way, or so to trust him as that he can easily deceive or rob you and never be discovered; so it is the way to make yourself unclean, to get such an opportunity of sinning, that you may easily do it, without any probability of impediment or discovery from men. The chief point in all the art or watch is, to keep far enough off. If you touch the pitch you will be defiled. “Whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent,” Prov. vi. 29. “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burnt? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife,” ver. 27, 28. Bring not the fire and the gunpowder too near. If thou canst not keep at a distance, nor forbear the presence of the bait, thou art not like to forbear the sin.
Direct. IV. Reverence thy own conscience. Mark what it speaketh now, for it will shortly speak it in a more terrible manner: hear it voluntarily; for it is terrible to hear it when thou canst not resist: treat with conscience in the way while it is reconcilable; for thou knowest not how terrible a tormentor it is. I doubt not but it hath given thee some gripes for thy very lust, before it ever came to practice; but the sorest of its gripes now, are but like the playing of the cat with the mouse, before the killing gripe is given. Doth no man see thee? Conscience seeth thee; and thou art a wretch indeed if thou reverence not conscience more than man: as Chrysostom saith, Suppose no man know the crime but himself and the woman with whom he did commit it! How will he bear the rebukes of conscience, when he carrieth about with him so sharp and bitter an accuser? For no man can overrun himself; and no man can avoid the sentence of this court within him: it is a tribunal not to be corrupted with money, nor perverted by flattery; for it is divine, being placed in the soul by God himself: the less the adulterer now feeleth it, the more he hasteneth to the perdition of his soul. Dost thou not feel a sentence passed within thee? a terrible sentence, telling thee of the wrath of a revenging God? Bless God that it is not yet an irreversible sentence; but sue out thy pardon quickly lest it come to that. Dost thou not feel, that thou art afraid and ashamed to pray or to address thyself to God? much more afraid to think of dying, and appearing before him? If thy sin make thee ready to fly from him now, if thou knewest how, canst thou look him in the face at last; or canst thou hope to stand with comfort at his bar? Art thou fit to live in heaven with him, that makest thyself unfit to pray to him? Even lawful procreation (as I said before) doth blush to come too near to holy exercises:(456) as Chrysostom saith, Die quo liberis operam dedisti legitime, quamvis crimen illud non sit, orare tamen non audes—Quod si ab incontaminato lecto resurgens times ad orandum accedere; quum in diaboli lecto sis, cur horribile Dei nomen audes invocare? Conscience is a better friend to thee than thou dost imagine when it would reclaim thee from thy sin; and will be a sharper enemy than thou canst now imagine, if thou obey it not.
Direct. V. Suppose thou sawest written upon the door of the house or chamber where thou enterest to sin, “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge,” Heb. xiii. 4. And write that, or such sentences, upon thy chamber door, or at least upon thy heart. Keep thy eye upon the terrible threatenings of the dreadful God. Darest thou sin, when vengeance is at thy back? Will not the thought of hell-fire quench the fire of lust, or restrain thee from thy presumptuous sin? Dost thou not say with Joseph, “How shall I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Gen. xxxix. 7. As it is written of a chaste woman, that being tempted by a fornicator, wished him first at her request to hold his finger in the fire: and when he refused, answered him, Why then should I burn in hell to satisfy you? So ask thyself, Can I easilier overcome the flames of hell, than the flames of lust?
Direct. VI. Remember man that God stands by. If he were not there, thou couldst not be there; for in him thou livest, and movest, and art. He that made the eye must see, and he that made the light and darkness, doth see as well in the dark as in the light; if thou imagine that he is absent or ignorant, thou believest not that he is God; for an absent and ignorant God is no God. And darest thou, I say darest thou, commit such a villany and God behold thee? What! that which thou wouldst be ashamed a child should see! which thou wouldst not do if a mortal man stood by! Dost thou think that thy locks, or secrecy, or darkness, have darkened or shut out God? Dost thou not know that he seeth not only within thy curtains, but within thy heart? Oh what a hardened heart hast thou, that in the sight of God, thy Maker and thy Judge, darest do such wickedness! Ask thy conscience, man, Would I do this if I were to die to-morrow, and go to God? would I do this if I saw God, yea, or but an angel, in the room? If not, shouldst thou do it, when God is as sure there as if thou sawest him? O remember, man, that he is a holy God, and hateth uncleanness, and that he is a “consuming fire,” Heb. xii. 29.
Direct. VII. Suppose all the while that thou sawest the devil opening thee the door, and bringing thee thy mate, and driving on the match, and persuading thee to the sin. What if he appeared to thee openly to play his part, as sure as he now playeth it unseen; would not thy lust be cooled? and would not the devil cure the disease which he hath excited in thee? Why then dost thou obey him now, when he is as certainly the instigator as if thou sawest him? Why, man, hast thou so little reason, that seeing and not seeing will make so great a difference with thee? What if thou wert blind, wouldst thou play the fornicator before all the company, because thou seest them not, when thou knowest they are there? If thou know any thing, thou knowest God is there; and thou mayst feel by the temptation that Satan is in it. Wilt thou not be ruled by the laws, unless(Pg 335) thou see the king? Wilt thou not fear the infection of the plague unless thou see it? Use thy reason for thy soul as well as for thy body, and do in the case as thou wouldst do if thou saw the devil tempting thee, and Christ forbidding thee.
Direct. VIII. If thou be unmarried, marry, if easier remedies will not serve. “It is better to marry than burn,” 1 Cor. vii. 9. It is God’s ordinance partly for this end. “Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled,” Heb. xiii. 4. It is a resemblance of Christ’s union with his church, and is sanctified to believers, Eph. v.; 1 Cor. vii. Perhaps it may cast thee upon great troubles in the world, if thou be unready for that state (as it is with apprentices). Forbear then thy sin at easier rates, or else the lawful means must be used though it undo thee. It is better thy body be undone than thy soul, if thou wilt needs have it to be one of them. But if thou be married already thou art a monster, and not a man, if the remedy prevail not with thee: but yet the other directions may be also serviceable to thee.
Direct. IX. If less means prevail not, open thy case to some able, faithful friend, and engage them to watch over thee; and tell them when thou art most endangered by the temptation. This will shame thee from the sin, and lay more engagements on thee to forbear it. If thou tell thy friend, Now I am tempted to the sin, and now I am going to it; he will quickly stop thee: break thy secrecy and thou losest thy opportunity. Thou canst do this if thou be willing; if ever thy conscience prevail so far with thee, as to resolve against thy sin, or to be willing to escape, then take the time while conscience is awake, and go tell thy friend: and tell him who it is that is thy wicked companion, and let him know all thy haunts, that he may know the better how to help thee. Dost thou say, that this will shame thee? It will do so to him that it is known to: but that is the benefit of it, and that is the reason I advise thee to it, that shame may help to save thy soul. If thou go on, the sin will both shame and damn thee: and a greater shame than this is a gentle remedy in so foul and dangerous a disease.
Direct. X. Therefore, if yet all this will not serve turn, tell it to many, yea, rather tell it to all the town than not be cured: and then the public shame will do much more. Confess it to thy pastor, and desire him openly to beg the prayers of the congregation for thy pardon and recovery. Begin thus to crave the fruit of church discipline thyself; so far shouldst thou be from flying from it, and spurning against it as the desperate, hardened sinners do. If thou say, this is a hard lesson, remember that the suffering of hell is harder. Do not say that I wrong thee, by putting thee upon scandal and open shame: it is thou that puttest thyself upon it, by making it necessary, and refusing all easier remedies. I put thee on it, but on supposition that thou wilt not be easilier cured: almost as Christ puts thee upon “cutting off a right hand,” or “plucking out a right eye, lest all the body be cast into hell.” This is not the way that he commandeth thee first to take: he would have thee avoid the need of it: but he tells thee that it is better to do so than worse; and that this is an easy suffering in comparison of hell. And so I advise thee, if thou love thy credit, forbear thy sin in a cheaper way; but if thou wilt not do so, take this way rather than damn thy soul. If the shame of all the town be upon thee, and the boys should hoot after thee in the streets, if it would drive thee from thy sin, how easy were thy suffering in comparison of what it is like to be! Concealment is Satan’s great advantage. It would be hard for thee to sin thus if it were but opened.
Title 2. Directions against inward, filthy Lusts.
Direct. I. Because with most the temperature of the body hath a great hand in this sin, your first care must be about the body, to reduce it unto a temper less inclined to lust; and here the chief remedy is fasting and much abstinence. And this may the better be borne, because for the most part it is persons so strong as to be able to endure it that are under this temptation. If your temptation be not strong, the less abstinence from meat and drink may serve turn (for I would prescribe you no stronger physic than is needful to cure your disease). But if it be violent, and lesser means will not prevail, it is better your bodies be somewhat weakened, than your souls corrupted and undone. Therefore in this case, 1. Eat no breakfasts nor suppers; but one meal a day, unless a bit or two of bread and a sup or two of water in the morning, and yet not too full a dinner; and nothing at night. 2. Drink no wine or strong drink, but water if the stomach can bear it without sickness (and usually in such hot bodies it is healthfuler than beer). 3. Eat no hot spices, or strong, or heating, or windy meats: eat lettuce and such cooling herbs. 4. If need require it, be often let blood, or purged with such purges as copiously evacuate serosity, and not only irritate. 5. And oft bathe in cold water. But the physician should be advised with, that they may be safely done.
If you think this course too dear a cure, and had rather cherish your flesh and lust, you are not the persons that I am now directing; for I speak to such only as are willing to be cured, and to use the necessary means that they may be cured. If you be not brought to this, your conscience had need of better awakening. I am sure Christ saith that when the bridegroom was taken from them, his disciples should “fast,” Mark ii. 19, 20. And even painful Paul was “in fasting often,” 2 Cor. vi. 5; xi. 27, and “kept under his body and brought it into subjection, lest by any means when he had preached to others, himself should be a cast-away,” 1 Cor. ix. 27. And I am sure that the ancient christians, that lived in solitude, and ate many of them nothing but bread and water, or meaner fare than bread, did not think this cure too dear.(457) Yea, smaller necessities than this engaged them in “fasting,” 1 Cor. vii. 5. This unclean devil will scarcely be cast out but by “prayer and fasting,” Mark ix. 29.
And I must tell you that fulness doth naturally cherish lust, as fuel doth the fire. Fulness of bread prepared the Sodomites for their filthy lusts. It is no more wonder that a stuffed paunch hath a lustful fury, than that the water runs into the pipes when the cistern is full, or than it is wonder to see a dunghill bear weeds, or a carrion to be full of crawling maggots. Plutarch speaks of a Spartan that being asked why Lycurgus made no law against adultery, answered, There are no adulterers with us: but saith the other, What if there should be any? saith the Spartan, Then he is to pay an ox so great as shall stand on this side the river Taget and drink of the river Eurota: saith the other, That is impossible: and saith the Spartan, Et quo pacto Spartæ existat adulter in qua divitiæ, deliciæ, et corporis adscititius cultus probro habentur? et contra verecundia, modestia, ac obedientiæ magistratibus debitæ observatio decori laudique dantur? that is, And how can there be an adulterer at Sparta, where riches, delights, and strange attire, or ornament are a disgrace or reproach? and contrarily shamefacedness, modesty, and the(Pg 336) observance of due obedience to magistrates, is an honour and praise? And if rich men think it their privilege to fare sumptuously and satisfy their appetites, they must take it for their privilege to feed their lust. But God giveth no man plenty for such uses; nor is it any excuse for eating and drinking much, because you have much, any more than it would be to your cooks to put much salt in your meat more than in poorer men’s, because you have more.(458) He that observeth the filthy and pernicious effects of that gluttony which is accounted rich men’s honour and felicity, will never envy them that miserable happiness, but say rather as Antisthenes, Hostium filiis contingat in deliciis vivere,(459) Let it befall the children of my enemies to live in delights; but that the curse is too heavy for a christian to use to any of his enemies. But for himself he must remember that he is the servant of a holy God, and hath a holy work to do, and holy sacrifices to offer to him, and therefore must not pamper his flesh, as if he were preparing a sacrifice for Venus. For, as 1 Thess. iv. 3, 4, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, not in the lust of concupiscence, as the gentiles that know not God.” As the philosopher answered Antigonus when he asked him whether he should go to a merry feast that he was invited to, Thou art the son of a king;(460) so it is answer enough for a christian against temptations to voluptuousness, I am the son of the most holy God. If thou be invited to feasts where urgency or allurement is like to make thee break thy bounds, go not, or go back when thou seest the bait. As Epaminondas in Plutarch finding excess at a feast that he was invited to, went away when he saw it, saying, Ego te sacrificare, non lascivire putaram; so say thou, I came to dine and not to be wanton or luxurious; to support my body for duty, and not to pamper it for lust. Plutarch marvelleth at the folly of those men that detest the charms of witches lest they hurt them, and fear not but love the charms of dishes which hurt a thousand where witches hurt one. Withdraw the fuel of excess, and the fire of lust will of itself go out; or at least this enemy must be besieged and starved out, when it cannot be conquered by storm.
Direct. II. Take heed of idleness, and be wholly taken up in diligent business of your lawful callings, when you are not exercised in the more immediate service of God.(461) David in his idleness or vacancy catched those sparks of lust, which in his troubles and military life he was preserved from. Idleness is the soil, the culture, and the opportunity of lust. The idle person goeth to school to the devil; he sets all other employment aside, that the devil may have time to teach him, and treat with him, and solicit him to evil.(462) Do you wonder that he is thinking on lustful objects, or that he is taken up in feasting and drinking, in chambering and wantonness? why he has nothing else to do: whereas a laborious, diligent person hath a body subdued and hardened against the mollities, the effeminateness of the wanton; and a mind employed and taken up with better things. Leave thy body and mind no leisure to think of tempting, filthy objects, or to look after them. As Hierom saith, Facito aliquid operis, ut semper diabolus inveniat te occupatum: Be still doing some work, that the devil may always find thee busy. And do not for thy fleshly ease remit thy labours and indulge thy flesh. Rise early and go late to bed, and put thyself upon a necessity of diligence all the day: undertake and engage thyself in as much business as thou art able to go through, that if thou wouldst, thou mayst not be able to give any indulgence to the flesh; for if thou be not still pressed by necessity, lust will serve itself by idleness, and the flesh will lie down if it feel not the spur: therefore are the rich and idle more lustful and filthy than the poor labouring people. The same bed is the place of sloth and lust. Hear a heathen, and refuse not to imitate him. Seneca saith, No day passeth me in idleness: part of the night I reserve for studies: I do not purposely set myself to sleep, but yield to it when it overcometh me; and when my eyes are wearied with watching, and are falling, I hold them to their work:—I had rather it went ill with me than delicately or tenderly. If thou be delicate or tender, the mind by little and little is effeminate, and is dissolved into the similitude of the idleness and sloth in which it lieth. I sleep very little, and take but a short nap: it sufficeth me to have ceased watching: sometimes I know that I slept, sometimes I do but suspect it.(463) Aristotle saith, Nature made nothing to be idle. And Plato calls idleness the plague of mortals. If thou be resolved to serve and please thy flesh, then never ask advice against thy lust; for it is part of the pleasure of it; and then no wonder if thou refuse this physic as too bitter, and the remedy as too dear. But if thou be resolved to be cured and to be saved, stick not at the pains: give up thyself totally to thy business, and lust will die for want of food.
Direct. III. If thou wouldst be free from lust, keep far enough from the tempting object. If possible, dwell not in the house with any person that thou feelest thyself endangered by; if that be not possible, avoid their company, especially in private: abhor all lascivious and immodest actions. Dost thou give thyself the liberty of wanton dalliance, and lustful embracements, and yet think to be free from lust? wilt thou put thy hand into the fire, when thou art afraid of being burnt? Either thou hast the power of thy own heart, or thou hast not: if thou hast, why dost thou not quench thy lust? if thou hast not, why dost thou cast it upon greater temptations, and put it further out of thy power than it is? Fly from a tempting object for thy safety, as thou wouldst fly from an enemy for thy life. These loving enemies are more dangerous than hating enemies: they get the key of our hearts, and come in and steal our treasure with our consent, or without resistance; when an open enemy is suspected and shut out.
Direct. IV. Command thy eyes, and, as Job xxxi. 1, make a covenant with them, that thou mayst not think on tempting objects: shut these windows, and thou preservest thy heart. Gaze not upon any alluring object. A look hath kindled that fire of lust in many a heart, that hath ended in the fire of hell. It is easier to stop lust at these outward doors, than drive it out when it hath tainted the heart. If thou canst not do this much, how canst thou do more?(Pg 337) An ungoverned eye fetcheth fire to burn the soul that should have governed it.(464)
Direct. V. Linger not in the pleasant snares of lust, if thou feel but the least beginnings of it; but quickly cast water on the first discerned spark, before it break out into a flame. The amorous poet can teach you this, Ovid. de Rem. Am.(465) If ever delay be dangerous, it is here. For delay will occasion such engagements to sin, that you must come off at a far dearer rate. If the meat be undigestible, it is best not look on it; it is the next best, not to touch or taste it; but if once it go down, it will cost you sickness and pain to get it up again; and if you do not, you perish by it.
Direct. VI. Abhor lascivious, immodest speech: as such words come from either vain or filthy hearts, and show the absence of the fear of God, so they tend to make the hearer like the speaker. And if thy ears grow but patient and reconcilable to such discourse, thou hast lost much of thy innocence already. Christians must abhor the mentioning of such filthy sins, in any other manner, but such as tends to bring the hearers to abhor them. “Be not deceived; evil words corrupt good manners,” 1 Cor. xv. 33. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers; and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” Corrupt communication is rotten, stinking communication; and none but dogs and crows love carrion. But “fornication and all uncleanness and (πλεονεξια) inordinate lust or luxury, let it not once be named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting,” &c.
Direct. VII. Abhor the covering of filthy lust with handsome names to make it the more acceptable. Their discourse is more dangerous that would thus dress up an ugly lust, than theirs that speak of it in nasty language. Thus among the brutish party, it goeth under the names of love, and having a mistress, and courting, and such like. But (as one said that is cited in Stobæus) it is doubled. Lust, that is commonly called love, and doubled love is stark madness. If filthiness will walk abroad, let it go for filthiness, and appear as it is.
Direct. VIII. Avoid the reading of romances, and love stories; which are the library of Venus; or the devil’s books of the lustful art; to cover over filthiness with cleanly names, and bewitch the fantasies of fools with fine words; to make men conceive of the ready way to hell, under the notions and images of excellency, beauty, love, gallantry; and by representing strong and amorous passions, to stir up the same passions in the reader. As he that will needs read a conjuring book, is well enough served if devils come about his ears; so they that will needs read such romances and other books of the burning art, it is just with God to suffer an unclean devil to possess them, and to suffer them to catch the fever of lust, which may not only burn up the heart, but cause that pernicious deliriation in the brain, which is the ordinary symptom of it.
Direct. IX. Avoid all wanton stage-plays and dancings, which either cover the odiousness of lust, or produce temptations to it.(466) As God hath his preachers, and holy assemblies and exercises, for the communion of saints, and the stirring up of love and holiness; so these are Satan’s instruments, and assemblies, and exercises, for the communion of sinners, and for the stirring up of lust and filthiness. They that will go to the devil’s church deserve to be possessed with his principles, and numbered with his disciples. The ancient christians were very severe against the seeing of these spectacula, shows or plays; especially in any of the clergy.
Direct. X. Avoid all tempting, unnecessary ornaments or attire, and the regarding or gazing on them upon others. It is a procacious, lustful desire to seem comely and amiable, which is the common cause of this excess. The folly, or lust, or both, of fashionists and gaudy gallants, is so conspicuous to all in their affected dress, that never did pride more cross itself, than in such publications of such disgraceful folly or lust.(467) They that take on them to be adversaries to lust, and yet are careful when they present themselves to sight, to appear in the most adorned manner, and do all that harlots can do to make themselves a snare to fools, do put the charitable hard to it, whether to believe that it is their tongues or their backs that are the liar. As Hierom saith, Thou deservest hell, though none be the worse for thee; for thou broughtest the poison, if there had been any to drink it. Let thy apparel be suited not only to thy rank, but to thy disease. If thou be inclined to lust, go the more meanly clad thyself, and gaze not on the ornaments of others. It is folly indeed that will be enamoured of the tailor’s work: yet this is so common, that it is frequently more the apparel than the person that enticeth first; and homely rags would have prevented the deceit; as the poet saith,
Auferimur cultu: gemmis auroque: teguntur Omnia: pars minima est ipsa puella sui.(468)
Direct. XI. Think on thy tempting object as it is within, and as it shortly will appear without. How ordinary is it for that which you call beauty to be the portion of a fool; and a fair skin to cover a silly, childish, peevish mind, and a soul that is enslaved to the devil. And as Solomon saith, Prov. xi. 22, “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman without discretion.” And will you lust after such an adorned thing? Think also what a dunghill of filth is covered with those ornaments; that it would turn thy stomach if thou sawest what is within them. And think what a face that would be, if it were but covered with the pox; and what a face it will be when sickness or age hath consumed or wrinkled it; and think what thy admired carcass will be, when it hath lain a few days in the grave: then thou wouldst have little mind of it; and how quickly will that be! O man, there is nothing truly amiable in the creature, but the image of God; the wisdom, and holiness, and righteousness of the soul. Love this then, if thou wilt love with wisdom, with purity and safety; for the love of purity is pure and safe.
Direct. XII. Think on thy own death, and how(Pg 338) fast thou hastest to another world. Is a lustful heart a seemly temper for one that is ready to die, and ready to see God, and come into that world, where there is nothing but pure and holy doth abide?