And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.
~ Psalm 78:18

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: 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.
~ Galatians 5:19-21

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
~ Galatians 6:8

Directions Against Fornication and All Uncleanness, by Richard Baxter. This is an excerpt from his work, “The Christian Directory”.

1. Though as it is a sin against another, Adultery and Fornication is forbidden in the seventh Commandment, and should there be handled, yet as it is a sin against our own bodies, which should be members of Christ, and Temples of the Holy Ghost, as 1 Cor. 6. 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 shall shew the Greatness of the sin, and 2. give Directions for the cure.

2. There is no sin so odious, but Love to it, and frequent using it, will do much to reconcile the very judgement 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 Makers will is enough to condemn it, and shall be enough to condemn those that are the servants of it. He hath said, Thou shalt not commit adultery. 1 Cor. 6. 9, 10. Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor esseminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind—shall inherit the Kingdom of God. V. 15, 16, 17, 18, 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 joyned to an harlot is one body: for two (saith he) shall be one flesh: But he that is joyned 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 Hereticks in those times were tempted to think fornication no great sin). So Ephes. 5. 3, 4, 5, 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. 5. 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. 4. 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, as the Gentiles which know not God. See also Col. 3. 5, 6. Heb. 13. 4. Marriage is honourable, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Rev. 21. 8. The abominable—and whoremongers—shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. Rev. 22. 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.

3. 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 fearlesly, till first they have hardned their hearts and seared their consciences and overcome the light of nature, by frequent wilful sinning. 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 meer 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 despight 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 it self 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) Ephes. 5. 3. & v. 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 Cham is cursed for beholding it, and the other Sons blest for their modest and reverent covering him.

4. And that God hath not put this Law into man’s nature without very great cause, albeit the Implicite belief and submission due to him, should satisfie 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 deflowre 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 taken 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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 bruits, 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.

8. Object. But (you’ll 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 bruits themselves are taught by nature to be as strict in their copulations: Though it be otherwise with the meer terrestrial beasts and birds, yet the aërial go by couples: Those that are called the fowles 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 shew 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 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.

9. Children being the pretiousest 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 Kings coyn, 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 ruine of all societies and souls.

10. 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: Bruitish promiscuous generation tendeth to the production of a bruitish 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. 7. 14. Mal. 2. 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 bateth putting away.

11. 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 bruitish kind of pleasure. It carrieth away the thoughts; and distempereth the passions, and corrupteth the phantasie, 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 your selves 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 bruitish, and shall be destroyed: If the Soul rule the Body, you live according to true humane 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 Traytors to God, that debase his Image, and turn man into Beast, Rom. 8. 13. If the Pleasure of the Soul be your most predominant pleasure, 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 shew 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 sanctifie 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.

12. 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. 21. 4, 5. Such sensual things and sacred things do not well agree too near.

13. 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: O 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 hang’d themselves! Conscience will condemn this sin with a heavy condemnation, till custom or infidelity have utterly seared it.

14. 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’s an hundred to one that they are utterly hardned in all abhomination, and scarce make conscience of any other villany whatsoever! 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 reconcileable 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 heynous 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; yea of this later 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 shew 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. They are terrible words, Prov. 2. 18, 19. For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead: 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.

15. And it is the greater sin because it is not committed alone; but the Devil taketh them by couples: Lust enflameth lust: And the fewel set together makes the greatest flame: Thou art guilty of the sin of thy wretched companion, as well as of thine own.

16. 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 born his testimony against it, by many signal judgements, which all Histories almost acquaint you with. As there is scarce any sin that the New-testament more frequently and bitterly condemneth, (as you may see in Pauls Epistles, 2 Pet. 2. Jud &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 bruitish sort, go about stigmatized with a mark of God’s vengeance, the prognostick or warning of a heavier vengeance. And there is 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 publickly known) Let them be never so great, and never so gallant, victorious, successful, liberal, and 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. 10. 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 Arch-Bishop of Mentz writing to Ethilbald an English King that was a fornicator, Epist. 19 saith (Fornication is a reproach not only anong Christians, but Pagans—For in old Saxonie, if a virgin had thus stained her Fathers house, or a marryed woman, breaking the marriage covenant had committed adultery, sometime they force her to hang her self 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 cloaths 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 is 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 banquetting with his Earles, 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 abhominating 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. To. 2. pag. 55. 56.

And how great sufferings was laid on Priests, Monks and Nuns that had committed fornication, by several years imprisonment and scourging, in an edict of Carloman by the advice of a Council of Bishops.

And Bonific. writeth to Lullo that he was fain to suffer a Priest to officiate, baptise, 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 heynous 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 it self.

Answ. David did sin: And is the sin ever the less for that? It’s easier 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. Solomons 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 controversie 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, Mar. 10. 5. but from the beginning it was not so; but one man and one woman were conjoyned 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 inordinacie was connived at for their multiplication, but never absolutely allowed and approved of. And yet fornication is punished severely; and Adultery with Death.