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LETTER OF ADVICE TO A FRIEND,
U PON THB
MODERN ARGUMENT OF THE LAWFULNESS OF SIMPLE FORNI
CATION, HALF-ADULTERY, AND POLYGAMY.
Printed 1696. Quarto, containing fourteen pages.
July 17, 1696. THE discourse, which happened in our company last night, has
obliged me to write this letter to you. I am astonished to see such paradoxes of iniquity set up, and to prevail so unreasonably among men who think themselves the greatest masters of reason. To think polygamy and fornication lawful; nay, as some have maintained (for there is no stop in wickedness), even adultery too.
There is nothing in this matter; but men, having their appetites unbridled, by any restraint or discipline of religion, have given them a loose, are resolved to pursue whithersoever they go; and invent the best arguments they can to defend them. Nay, some come at last to believe what they have at first offered in jest, and to try what it would do. And it is a just judgment, and often threatened by God, to give those up to follow their own imaginations, who have no pleasure in his ways; but, instead of loving them, and setting themselves, with the full force and strength of their minds, carefully and diligently to follow them, and to take pleasure in them, do, on the contrary, delight to rally them, and to hear arguments set up against them, which is a sure intimation of a dislike of them, and consequently a contempt of him who enjoined them; nay, a hatred of him; for we cannot love him, and hate his laws. We never saw him, and know him only by his laws, and that light of himself, which he has given us therein. Therefore, when we would transgress the plain letter of the law, as all the world has ever understood it, we can never be sure but that we are in the dismal num. ber, and under the heavy curse of the haters of God, unless we can bring an authority which will out-balance that upon which the letter of the law doés stand. Now all the world has hitherto understood that both fornication and adultery are forbidden under the gospel, And what is it which our modern wits have to oppose to this: Why, (forsooth!) as you have heard some of them say, that the same word, in greek, signifies adultery and fornication, which is a great mistake, otherwise than as it is in English, and ir all languages. There are
general words which comprehend both, as whoredom, uncleanness, and the like. But there are likewise particular words, which distinguish the particular species of these from one another; and you. have these reckoned up distinctly, Gal. v. 19, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness. And the words adultery and fornication are as much distinguished in the Greek as in the English ; Moyola is adultery, and progreía is fornication. And this poor and false criticism is sufficient to carry those, who have strong inclinations, to the hazard of their souls, against the received and current testimony of the whole world ; whereas they would not venture a penny against a crown, were there balf that'odds against them.
Let me vext recollect to you the arguments they brought for their pretended opinion from reason. I call it pretended opinion, because, though men endeavour to amuse themselves, that they be not stopped in the hot pursuit of their lusts, yet I cannot believe, that, in cool thoughts, any, who has ever learned the first principles of christianity, can persuade himself (especially upon a sick-bed) that any fornication and uncleanness can be allowed in the gospel, which requires the utmost purity, not only of the eye, but of the heart. However, let us hear their reasons. They urge from justice, that there is no wrong to any third person, where both the parties are single.
But this argument will have no effect, unless they can annul the commands of God, which forbid it: because we are hound, and that in the strictest justice, to obey God's commands, even in things which are indifferent in their own nature. It was death to neglect circumcision, and other legal institutions. God sought to kill Moses himself, for neglecting to circumcise his son, Exod. ir. 24.
2. The argument is false, that there is no wrong done to any third person in fornication : for it is a great wrong to the parents, relations, and whole family. Let any man judge of this, by the resentment he would have against any who should debauch his mother, daughter, or sister, and against them so debauched.
3. If there was no wrong to any other, yet, if it be a sin, it is the greatest wrong to the person and themselves, to damn their souls. And it is the highest injustice, as to this world; it ruins their reputation, and this, especially in women, is not only a shame (if they should be content to bear with that) but it is a real loss, and hindrance of their fortunes : and, though it should not be known, it is a great injustice to the man who shall marry such a woman.
If any man think little of this, let them consider how they would take it to marry another man's whore; and let them do as they would be done to. But there is yet a greater injustice, and that is, to the person herself; for she, that is once debauched, is laid open to the temptations of others; and, when forsaken by her first lover, seldom returns to her virgin modesty, but seeks out, or is found by some other; and often goes on to common prostitution ; all which is, in justice, chargeable upon her first corrupter. And if, as many believe, the reason, why Dives desired the conversion of his brethren, was not
charity to their souls (for that is not found in bell), but because his pupishments were increased to the same degree that his evil example did spread upon earth, by wbich we must suppose bis brethren and nearest acquaintance to be chiefly infected, this will be a terrible consideration to those who do corrupt others.
What I have said, as to fornication, that is betwixt two single persons, will operate more strongly against that new notion of adultery which you heard advanced, viz, That adulterium is quasi, ad alterius thorum, i. e. to go to another's bed; and therefore that, betwixt a single and a married person, it is adultery only in the single person, who invades the bed of another.
But this poor quibble, upon the Latin word, adulterium, is lost in the Greek original of the text, forzela. But, as to the reason of the thing, if the single person invades, the married does defile and betray the bed of another; and moreover adds the breach of the solemn vow to God, which is enacted in the office of matrimony. Besides, if one be guilty, both must; because it is a sin to be accessary to the sin of another.
Wretched are these shifts, which men, bent to their own destrucLion, have found out to delude themselves! but they will stand them in no stead at the bar of the great tribunal; no nor qualify their desponding consciences upon their death-bed; upon which men have a notion of sinful pleasures, when they are to be for ever separated from them, very different from that which they had, while they were in the pursuit of them; and those arguments, which then appeared favourable to the gratification of their lusts, will now be seen in their true colours, to be nothing but deceit and fatal delusi. on; like promises, which are said to be made to witches by their fa. miliars, which are not discovered, till their death, to have a double meaning; a false one to delude them with hopes while they lived; but the true one always verified in their destruction, when it is too late to prevent it.
When men sin out of buman infirmity, there is a sting of consci, ence always remains; which, by the blessing of God, may some time or other reclaim them; though it is the most extreme danger and madness, to go on in our sins trusting to this; for, when babits are grown strong, it is the utmost difficulty to return them... Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil,' Jer. xüj. 23.
But some, to get rid of that terrible monitor, a wounded conscience (when they are resolved not to part with their vices) do study and greedily catch at arguments, to alter the nature of their sin (which cannot be altered) and so come at last to persuade them. selyes that they are persuaded of the lawfulness, at least tolerableness of a darling sin; which therefore they indulge, if not without all reluctance, yet with less than they had before; and therefore think this a happy con quest.
But alas! it is a miserable one over themselves; and their condition tien is most desperate, for this is a corrupting of their princi, ples; and there is no repenting or returning from that sin, which
they think not to be a sin, ör can find excuses for it, such as, for the present, shall satisfy them; at least stop the mouth of a clamorous conscience, Balaam sought such an excuse, and he found It; and he that seeks shall find in this wicked sense, as well as in the contrary sense of which our Saviour spoke it.
And now let me reason a little with you upon the merits of this cause. God is a spirit, and therefore spirit is more real, more substantial than body; and the true pleasure is indeed but spiritual, in that low degree, by which our spirit or soul partakes of pleasure by the mediation of the body; or the body only by the powers of the soul, which enliven and actuate it; and from which it receives its sensation; and therefore, when our soul is gone, the body is no longer sensible either of pleasure or pain; because the soul acts no more by it. But those pure souls, which act without the incumbrance of bodies, have a perception much more quick and delicate, than can be conveyed by such gross and elementary bodies, as ours are rendered since the fall. And therefore the happiness, which is laid up for us, is to be freed from the dull and terrestrial bodies; and to have spirutual bodies given to us, fashioned like tinto Christ's glorious body. This is our utmost happiness, and thither all our endeavours should tend. And this is the great end of our religion, to wean us from the body; to fit and prepare us for the spiritual state; fot we must be, in some sort, made like unto it before we enter into it; and that is to be done, while we are in this life. Now, of all sins; those of the flesh are the most opposite to the spiritual enjoyment, and therefore the flesh is to be kept under, even in our lawful allowances; we may sin by excess in them; how much less then are forbidden pleasures to be allowed of? For all these do proceed from an inordinate affection ; which of itself is a sin.' Therefore, taking this matter from the bottom, you see the reason of the severe prohibitions against the sins of the flesh; they are utterly inconsistent with a spiritual estate ; they do, the most of all other sims, incapacitate us from the spiritual delight; they put us into a frame quite opposite to it; and that is, to God, whom the pare hearts and minds do only see (Matth. V. 8.) for he is spiritwally discerned. Therefore it is said, Gal. v. 17. • That the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the Aesh; and these are contrary the one to the other. And 1 Pet. ii. il. Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abu Hain from fleshly lasts, wbich war against the soul. Observe they war against the soul; and the reason why we should subdue them is, because we are sťrangers and pilgrims, that is, in this world; our rest, our enjoyment, is not here; but we are ordained to be made partakets of the divine nature, but this shall be only to those who have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, Pet. 4. That is, either those wbo huve not been guilty of it ; or who have sincerely repeated, and returned from it; as Mary Magdalen, one of whom Christ cast seven devils, Mar. xvi. 9. There ate evil spirits (believe it) which possess those who give them selves up to uncleanness; and these must be dispossessed before she
holy spirit of God will enter; which will never descend to a foul and polluted soul. This is the great argument used, i Cor. vi.
That our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost; and chap. iii. 17. If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy. We are n:embers of Christ, shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot?' This consideration is dreadful ! • The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.' Here is great honour given to our bodies; the Lord has reserved them for himself, and himself for them. This is a great mystery, and should strike us with astonishment ! And from hence it may be argued, that, when we abuse our bodies, we commit adultery even against God; wbo is married to us, Jer. jii. 14. And, to shew the hatefulness of this sin, idolatry is all along through the prophets called going a whoring from the Lord, committing adultery against bim. And, as this is most provoking to God, so it comes nearest to ourselves, it affects us most of any other sin. • Every sin that a man doeth is without the body, but he, that committeth fornication, sinneth against his own body.' It is like putting hand on one's self, assaulting of uur own bodies. And God hath punished this sin severely, in Sampson, in David, in Solomon; the greatest, the wisest, the bravest of men. this sin of lust, for which the world was drowned, Sodom burned, and the Canaanites utterly destroyed, Lev, xviji, 27. God hath poured greater vengeance upon no sort of sin. Many late examples might be given. King James I. in bis Basiloxòv Aôpor to prince Henry, particularly observes that this sin is often punished with want of lawful issue, or the death of those we have, and he gives his grandfather king James V. for an instance, who was much subject to incontinency, and lost both his sons most unfortunately, and left his crown to an infant daugliter. And, on the other hand, he observes how God had blessed himself with a greater gift of continency, and a numerous issue. As he did in both respects to his son king Charles I. But king Charles II. had no lawful issue ; and his unlawful was a grief of heart to him, joining with the seditious party against him. How many noble families in England might be brought as instances, to confirm this observation, whose honours are fallen, or gone into collateral families, for want of lawful heirs, from the most remarkable corrupters of the marriage bed? But I will not take up time in this. I refer you, for the heinousness of this sin, and God's punishments upon it, to the Homily against adultery, and The whole duty of man, upon this head.
I shall only observe, that there is a kind of evil spirits, as our Saviour tells us, wbich will not be got out but by prayer and fasting ; and certainly this of lust is one of that kind. For, while we pam. per our body to that degree, that it is grievous to us to deny it a meal of meat; when shall we subdue it, and bring it under, that it may serve us, but not master us ; not overcome our reason, to lay aside the care of the soul, which is eternal, to gratify its beastly desires, which are but for a moment. But the guilt never dies, tho' the body be laid in the dust. How foolish then, how dreadful, how