William Evans.

The Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) online

. (page 56 of 105)
Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 56 of 105)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

or that he will give them a place in heaven,
who refuse him any in their hearts on earth.
But let us examine luxury in all its parts.

2. Luxury has many parts ; and the first
that is forbidden by the self-denying Jesus, is
the belly: " Take no thought," says he to his
disciples," saying, what shall we eat, or what
shall we drink 1 — for after these things do the
Gentiles seek :" as if he had said, the uncir-
cumcised, the heathen, such as live without
the true God, make a god of their belly, 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 unto you." That which is
convenient 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 he
shall eat, and what he shall 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 scai'ce find a stomach ;
which is to force hunger, rather than to satisfy
it. And as he eats, so he drinks ; rarely for
thirst, but pleasui'e ; to please his palate. For
this purpose he will have divers 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,
he drinks by full draughts, till, inflamed by
excess, he is fitted to be an instrument of mis-
chief, if not to others, always to himself;
whom perhaps at last he knows not: for such
brutality are some come to, they will sip them-
selves out of their own knowledge. 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 the dance, the mirth, and the laugh-
ter, which is madness, that the noise of one
pleasure may drown the iniquity of another,
lest his own heart should deal too plainly with
him. Thus the luxurious live ; " they forget
God, they regard not the afflicted." O that
the sons and daughters of men would consider
their wantonness and their iniquity in these
things ! How ill do they requite the goodness
of God, in the use and abuse of the plenty he
yields them : how cruel are they to his crea-
tures, how lavish of their lives and virtue,
how thankless for them ; forgetting the giver,
and abusing the gift by their lusts ; and de-
spising counsel, and casting instruction behind
them. They lose tenderness, and forget duty,
being swallowed up of voluptuousness; adding
one excess to another. God rebuked this sin
in the Jews by the prophet Amos : " Ye 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 midst 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." — 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 7
Yea, they are ; and these are the great parts
of luxury, struck at in this discourse. Remem-
ber Dives, 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."

Christ places these things to the courts of
worldly kings, not his kingdom ; making them
unseemly in his followers: his feast therefore,
which was his miracle to the multitude, was
plain and simple ; enough, but without curi-
osity, or the art of cookery : and it went down
well, for they were hungry; the best and fittest
time to eat. The apostle, in his directions to
his much beloved Timothy, debases the lover
of worldly fulness; advising him to "godliness
and content, as the chiefest gain :" adding,
" and having food and raiment, let us there-
with be content." Behold the abstemious and
most contented life of those royal 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. The diseases which luxury begets and
nourishes, make it an enemy to mankind :
for, besides the mischief it brings to the souls
of people, it undermines health, and shortens
the life of man, in that it gives but ill nourish-
ment, and so leaves and feeds corrupt humours,
whereby the body becomes rank and foul, lazy
and scorbutic, unfit for exercise, or for honest
labour. The spirits being thus loaded with ill
flesh, and the mind effeminated, 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, devour-
ers of good things, self-lovers, and forgetters
of God : but, (which is sad, and yet just) the
end of those that forget God, is to be " turned
into hell."

4. There is another part of luxury, which
has great place with vain man and woman,
and that is the gorgeousness of apparel, one
of the foolishest, because most costly, empty
and unprofitable excesses people can well be
guilty of. We are taught by the Scriptures
of truth to believe that sin brought the first
coat ; and, if consent of writers be of force,
it was as well without as within: to those that
so believe, I direct my discourse, because they,
I am sure, are the generality. I say, if sin
brought the first coat, poor Adam's offspring
have little reason to be proud or curious in
their clothes ; for it seems their original was
base, and the finery of them will neither make

them noble, nor man innocent again. Doubt-
less, blessed was that time, when innocence,
not ignorance, freed our first parents from
such shifts : they were then naked, and knew
no shame ; but sin made them ashamed to be
longer naked. Since therefore guilt brought
shame, and shame an apron and a coat, how
very low are they fallen who glory in their
shame, and are proud of their fall? for so they
are, who use care and cost to trim and set off
the very badge and livery of that lamentable
lapse. It is all one, as if a man who had lost
his nose by a scandalous distemper, should
take pains to set out a false one, in such shape
and splendor, as should give the greater occa-
sion for all to gaze upon him ; as if he would
tell them he had lost his nose, for fear they
should think he had not. But would a wise
man be in love with a false nose, though ever
so rich, and however finely made? no: and
shall people who call themselves Christians,
show so much love for clothes, as to neglect
innocence, their first clothing? Doth it not
show what cost of time, pains, and money,
people are at to set off their shame, with the
greatest show and solemnity of folly ? Is it
not to delight in the effect of that cause, which
they rather should lament? If a thief were to
wear chains all his life, would their being gold,
and well made, abate his infamy? To be sure,
his being choice of them would increase it.
This is the very case of the vain fashion-
mongers of this shameless age ; yet will they
be Christians, judges in religion, and saints.
O miserable state indeed ! to be so blinded by
the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and
the pride of life, as to call shame decency,
and to be curious and expensive about that
which should be their humiliation. And not
only are they grown in love with these vani-
ties, and thereby express how wide they are
from primitive innocence ; but it is notorious
how many fashions have been and are invented
on purpose to excite lust : which still puts them
at a gi'eater distance from a simple and harm-
less state, and enslaves their minds to base

5. Nor is it otherwise with recreations, as
they call them ; for these are nearly related.
Man was made a noble, rational, grave crea-
ture : his pleasure stood in his duty, and his
duty in obeying God; which was to love, fear,
adore, and serve him ; and in using the crea-
tion with true temperance and godly modera-
tion; 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,
how unhappy would Adam and Eve have been,
who never knew them. But had they never
fallen, and the world not been tainted by their
folly and ill example; perhaps man had never
known the necessity or use of many of these
things. Sin gave them birth, as it did the
other ; they were afraid of the presence of
the Lord, which was the joy of their inno-
cency, when they had sinned ; and then their
minds wandered, sought other pleasures, and
began to forget God ; as he complained after-
wards by the prophet Amos : " They put far
away the evil day : they eat the fat of the
flock : they drink wine in bowls : they anoint
themselves with the chief perfumes ; they
stretch themselves upon beds of ivory : they
chant to the sound of the viol, and invent
unto themselves instruments of music, like
David," not heeding, or remembering, the
afflictions and captivity of poor Joseph. Him
they wickedly sold ; innocency was quite
banished, shame soon began to grow a cus-
tom, till they were grown shameless in the
imitation. And truly, it is now no less a
shame to approach primitive innocence by
modest plainness, than it was matter of shame
to Adam that he lost it, and became forced to
tack fig-leaves together for a covering. In
vain do men and women deck themselves
with specious pretences to religion, and flatter
their miserable souls with the fair titles of
Christian, innocent, good, virtuous, and the
like, whilst such vanities and follies reign.
Wherefore to you all, from the eternal God,
I am bound to declare, " you mock him who
will not be mocked, and deceive yourselves ;"
such intemperance must be denied, and you
must know yourselves changed, and more
nearly approach to primitive purity, before
you can be entitled to what you now do but
usurp ; for none but those who are led by the
spirit of God, are the children of God, which
guides into all temperance and meekness.

6. But the Christian world, as it would be
called, is justly reproveable, 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 man and woman of their native inno-
cence, was, as hath been said, to cover their
shame, therefore plain and modest : next, to
fence out cold, therefore substantial : lastly, to
declare sexes, therefore distinguishing. So
that then necessity provoked clothing, now
pride and vain curiosity : in former times
some benefit obliged, but now wantonness and
pleasure induce : 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

trimming, to be seen rather than worn ; only
for the sake of other curiosities that must be
tacked upon them, although they neither cover
shame, fence from cold, nor distinguish sexes ;
but signally display their wanton, fantastic,
full-fed minds, who have them.

7. Then the best recreations were to serve
God, to be just, to follow their vocations, to
mind their flocks, to do good, and exercise
their bodies in such manner as was suitable
to gravity? temperance and virtue ; but now
that word is extended to almost every folly
that carries any appearance above open scan-
dalous filth, detested of the very actors, when
they have done it ; so much are men degene-
rated from Adam in his disobedience; so much
more confident and artificial are they grown
in all impieties. Their minds, through custom,
are become so very insensible of the inconve-
niency that attends the like follies, that what
was once mere necessity, a badge of shame,
or at best but a remedy, is now the delight,
pleasui'e, and recreation of the age. How
ignoble is it ! how ignominious and unworthy
of that reasonable creature ; that man who is
endued with understanding, fit to contemplate
immoi'tality, and made a companion to angels,
should mind 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, 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 men. It is a mark of great stupidity,-that
such vanities should exercise the noble mind
of man, the image of the great Creator of
heaven and earth.

8. Of this many among the very heathens
of old had so clear a prospect, that they de-
tested 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 manners, in that it more
easily stolen away the minds of people from
sobriety to wantonness, idleness, and effemi-
nacy, and made them only companions for the
beast that perishes: witness those famous men,
Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristides, Cato,
Seneca, Epictetus, &c. who placed true hon-
our and satisfaction in nothing below virtue
and immortality. Nay, such are the remains
of innocence among some Moors and Indians
in our times, that they do not only traffic in a
simple posture, but if a Christian (though he
must be an odd one) sling out a filthy word,
it is customary with them, by way of moral,
to bring him water to purge his mouth. How
much do the like virtues, and reasonable in-
stances, accuse people professing Christianity,
of gross folly and intemperance? O! that men



and women had the fear of God before their
eyes ! and that they were so charitable to
themselves, as to remember whence they
came, what they are doing, and to what they
must return : that so, more noble, more virtu-
ous, more rational and heavenly things might
be the matters of their pleasure and entertain-
ment ! 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 reasona-
ble soul ; and let that just principle, which
taught the heathens, teach them, lest it be
found more tolerable for heathens than for
such Christians in the day of account! For if
their shorter notions, and more imperfect sense
of things could yet discover so much vanity ;
if their degree of light condemned it, and they,
in obedience thereunto, disused it, doth it not
behove Christians much more? Christ came
not to extinguish, but to improve that know-
ledge : and they who think they need do less
now than before, had need to act better than
they think. I conclude that the fashions and
recreations now in repute are very abusive of
the end of man's creation ; and the inconve-
niencies that attend them, as wantonness, idle-
ness, prodigality, pride, lust, respect of per-
sons (witness a plume of feathers, or a lace-
coat in a country village, whatever be the
man that wears them) with the like fruits,
are repugnant to the duty, reason, and true
pleasure of man, and absolutely inconsistent
with that wisdom, knowledge, manhood, tempe-
rance and industry, which render man truly
noble and good.

9. Again, these things which have been
hitherto condemned, have never been the con-
versation or practice of the holy men and
women of old times, whom the Scriptures re-
commend for holy examples, worthy of imi-
tation. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were plain
men, and princes, as graziers are, over their
families and flocks. They were not solicitous
of the vanities so much lived in by the people
of this generation, for in all things they pleased
God by faith. The first forsook his father's
house, kindred, and country ; a true type or
figure of that self-denial all must know, who
would have Abraham for their father. They
must not think to live in those pleasui-es, fash-
ions and customs which they are called to
leave ; but part with all, in hopes of the great
recompense of reward, " and that better
country, which is eternal in the heavens."
The prophets were generally poor mechanics ;
one a shepherd, another an herdsman, &c.
They often cried to the full-fed, wanton Isra-
elites to repent, to fear and dread the living
God, and to forsake the sins and vanities they
lived in; but they never imitated them. John

Baptist, the messenger of the Lord, who was
sanctified in his mother's womb, preached his
embassy to the world in a coat of camel's
hair, a rough, and homely garment. Nor
can it be conceived that Jesus Chi'ist himself
was much better apparelled, who according to
the flesh, was of poor descent, and in a life of
great plainness ; insomuch that it was usual
in way of derision to say, " Is not this Jesus,
the son of Joseph the carpenter?" And this
Jesus tells his followers, that as for soft rai-
ment, gorgeous apparel and delicacies, they
were for kings courts : implying, that he and
his followers were not to seek after those
things, but seems thereby to express the great
difference that was betwixt the lovers of the
fashions and customs of the world, and those
whom he had chosen out of it. He did not
only come in that mean and despicable man-
ner himself, that he might stain the pride of
all flesh, but therein became exemplary to his
followers, what a self-denying life they must
lead, if they would be his true disciples. Nay,
he farther leaves it with them in a parable, to
the end that it might make the deeper impres-
sion, 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. This is the remarkable
story of Dives, who is represented, first as a
rich man ; next as a voluptuous man, in his
rich apparel, his many dishes, and his pack
of dogs ; and lastly, as an uncharitable man,
one who was more concerned how 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 : Even his dogs were more pitiful
and kind than he. But what was the doom of
this jolly man, this great Dives ? We read it
was everlasting torment; but that of Lazarus
eternal joy with Abraham, 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 luxu-
rious : there are many of such alive ; and it
wei'e well, if his doom might awaken them to

10. Nor were the twelve apostles, the im-
mediate 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. It is very unlikely that
any of them were followers of the fashions of
the world : nay, they were so far from it, that,
as became the followers of Christ, they lived
poor, afflicted, self-denying lives ; bidding the
churches to walk as they had them for exam-
ples. And to shut up this particulai", they
gave this pathetical account of the holy women



in former times, as an example of godly tem-
perance, namely, that first they did expressly
abstain from gold, silver, braided 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
such as live in pleasure, are dead whilst they
live;" for that the cares and pleasures of this
life choke and destroy the seed of the king-
dom, and hinder all progress in the hidden
and divine life. Wherefore 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, entered into their eternal rest," there-
fore their works follow, and praise them in the

1. The judgments of God denounced upon the
Jews for their luxury ; all ranks included. 2.
Christ charges his disciples to have a care of
the guilt of it : a supplication to the inhabitants
of England. 3. Temperance pressed upon the
churches by the apostles. 4. An exhortation to
England to measure herself by that rule. 5.
What Christian recreations are. 6. Who need
other sports to pass away their time, are unfit
for heaven and eternity. 7. Man has but a few
days; they may be better bestowed: this doc-
trine is ungrateful to none that would be truly
blessed. 8. Not only good is omitted by this
luxurious life, but evil committed, as breach of
marriage and love, loss of health and estate, &c.
play-houses and stages most instrumental to this
mischief. 9. How youth is by them inflamed to
vanity : what mischief comes of revels, gam-
ings, &c. Below the life of noble heathens.
10. The true disciples of Jesus are mortified to
these things: the pleasure and reward of a
good employment of time.

1. Excess in apparel and pleasure was not
only forbidden in Scripture, but it was the
ground of that lamentable message by the
prophet Isaiah, to the people of Israel : " More-
over," the Lord saith, "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 ci-own of the head of the
daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover
their secret parts ; the Lord will take away
the bravery of their tinkling ornaments ; and
Vol. I.— No. 7.

their cauls (or net- works, in the Hebrew) and
their round tires like the moon ; the chains
and the bracelets, and the spangled orna-
ments ; the bonnets, and the ornaments of the
legs, and the head-bands, and the tablets, and
the 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 in-
stead of sweet smells, 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 sack-cloth, and burn-
ing instead of beauty. Thy men shall fall by
the sword, and thy mighty in the war; and her
gates shall lament and mourn, and she, being
desolate, shall sit upon the ground." Behold,
O vain and foolish inhabitants of England and
Europe, your folly and your doom ! Read the
prophet Ezekiel's vision of miserable Tyre,
what punishment her pride and pleasure
brought upon her ; and amongst many other
circumstances these are some ; " These were
thy merchants in all sorts of things ; in blue
clothes and bi-oidered work, and in chests of
rich apparel, emeralds, purple, fine linen,
coral and agate, spices, with all precious
stones and gold, horses, chariots, &,c." For
which hear part of her doom, " Thy riches
and thy fairs, thy merchandise, and all thy
company, which is in the midst of thee, shall
fall into the midst of the sea, in the day of
thy ruin ; and the inhabitants of the isles
shall be astonished at thee, and their mer-
chants hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and
shalt be no more." Thus hath God declared
his displeasure against the luxury of this wan-
ton world. The prophet Zephaniah goes yet
further, for thus he speaks: "And it shall
come to pass, in the day of the Lord's sacri-

Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 56 of 105)