William Evans.

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

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cal raptures of admiration, indeed sordid effem-
inacy, if not idolatry. They call him Alcman,
or Alcina, a Lydian : he, being exceedingly
in love with a young woman of his own
country, is said to have been the first person
that srave the world a si^ht of that kind of
folly, namely, love-stories and verses ; which
have been so diligently imitated by almost all
nations ever since in their romances.

7. I know that some will say. But we have
many comedies and tragedies, sonnets, &c.
that are on purpose to reprehend vice, from
whence we learn many commendable things.
Though this be shameful, yet many for want
of shame or understanding, or both, have re-
turned me this for answer. Now I readily
confess, that amongst the heathens, it was the
next remedy against the common vices, to the



more grave and moral lectures of their philoso-
phers, of which number I shall instance two :
Euripides, whom Suidas calls a learned tragi-
cal poet, and Eupolis, whom the same histo-
rian calls a comical poet. The first was a
man so chaste, and therefore so unlike those
of our days, that he was called M/c-oyyvjjj or
one that hated women, that is, wanton women,
for he was twice married : the other he char-
acters as a most severe reprehender of faults.
From which I gather, that their design was
not to feed the idle, lazy fancies of people, nor
merely to get money; but since by the means
of loose wits, the people had been debauched,
their work was to reclaim them, rendering
vice ridiculous, and turning wit against wick-
edness. And this appears from the description
given, as also that Euripides was supposed to
have been torn in pieces by wanton women ;
which doubtless was for declaiming against
their impudence. The other being slain in the
battle betwixt the Athenians and Lacedemoni-
ans, was so regretted, that a law was made,
that never after, such poets should l>e allowed
to bear arms; probably because in losing him,
they lost a reprover of vice. So that the end
of the approved comedians and tragedians of
those times was but to reform the people, by
making sin odious : and that not so much in
a rational and argumentative way, usual with
their philosophers, as by sharp jeers, severe
reflections, and rendering their vicious actions
so shameful, ridiculous, and detestable, that
for reputation sake they might no longer be
guilty of them: which to me is but little softer
than a whip, or a Bridewell. Now if you who
plead for them, will be contented to be ac-
counted heathens, and those of the more disso-
lute and wicked sort too, that will sooner be
jeered than argued out of your sins, we shall
acknowledge to you, that such comedies and
tragedies as these may be serviceable. But
then for shame, abuse not the name of Jesus
Christ so impudently, as to call yourselves
Christians, whose lusts are so strong, that you
are forced to use the low shifts of heathens to
repel them : to leave their evils not for the
love of virtue, but out of fear, shame, or repu-
tation. Is this your love to Jesus ? your
reverence to the Scriptures, which, through
faith, are able to make the " man of God per-
fect?" Is all your prattle about ordinances,
prayers, sacraments, Christianity, and the like,
come to this ; that at last you must betake your-
selves to such instructors, as were by the sober
heathens permitted to reclaim the most vicious
of the people that were amongst them ? and
remedies too, below which there is nothing but
corporal punishment ?

8. This is so far from Christianity, that
many of the nobler heathens, men and women,

were better taught and better disposed , they
found out more heavenly contemplations, and
subjects of an eternal nature to meditate upon.
Nay, so far did they outstrip the Christians of
these times, that they not only were exemplary
by their grave and sober conversation, but,
for the public benefit, the Athenians instituted
the Gynsecosmi or Twenty Men, who should
make it their business to observe the people's
apparel and behaviour; that if any were found
immodest, and to demean themselves loosely,
they had full authority to punish them. But
the case is altered; it is punishable to reprove
such ; yes, it is a matter of the greatest con-
tumely and reproach. Nay, so impudent are
some grown in their impieties, that they sport
themselves with such religious persons ; and
not only manifest a great neglect of piety,
and a severe life, by their own looseness, but
their extreme contempt of it, by rendering it
ridiculous through comical and abusive jests
on public stages. How dangerous this is, and
apt to make religion little worth in the people's
eyes, beside the demonstration of this age, let
us remember that Aristophanes had not a
readier way to bring the reputation of Socrates
in question with the people, who gi-eatly reve-
renced him for his grave and virtuous life and
doctrine, than by abusive representations of
him in a play : which made the airy, wanton,
unstable crowed rather part with Socrates in
earnest, than Socrates in jest. Nor can a
better reason be given, why the poor Quakers
are made so much the scorn of men, than be-
cause of their severe reprehensions of sin and
vanity, and their self-denying conversation
amidst so great intemperance in all worldly
satisfactions. Yet such libertines all this
while strut and swell for Christians, and stout
it out against precept and example ; but we
must be whimsical, conceited, morose, melan-
choly, or else heretics, deceivers, and what
not ? O blindness ! pharisaical hypocrisy ! as
if such were fit to be judges of religion, or
that it were possible for them to have a sight
and sense of true religion, or really to be reli-
gious, whilst darkened in their understandings
by the god of the pleasures of this world, and
their minds so wrapped up in external enjoy-
ments, and the variety of worldly delights.
No ; in the name of the everlasting God, you
mock him, and deceive your souls; for the
wrath of the Almighty is against you all,
whilst in that spirit and condition : in vain
are all your talking and set performances ;
God laughs you to scorn ; his ano-er is
kindling because of these things. Wherefore
be ye warned to temperance, and repent.

9. Besides, this sort of people are not only
wicked, loose and vain, who both invent and
act these things ; but by your great delight in



such inventions, you encourage them therein,
and hinder them trom more honest and moi'e
serviceable employments. For what is the
reason that most commodities are held at such
excessive rates, but because labour is so very
dear? And why is it so, but because so many
hands are otherwise bestowed, even about the
very vanity of all vanities ? Nay, how com-
mon is it with these mercenary procurers to
people's folly, that when their purses begin to
grow low, they present them with a new, and
pretendedly more convenient fashion ; and
that perhaps, before the former costly habits
shall have done half their service : which
either must be given away, or new vampt in
the cut most alamode. O prodigal, yet fre-
quent folly !

10. I know I am coming to encounter the
most plausible objection they are used to
urge, when driven to a pinch, viz. "But how
shall those many families subsist, whose live-
lihood depends upon such fashions and recrea-
tions as you so earnestly decry?" I answer;
It is a bad argument to plead for the commis-
sion of the least evil, that good may come of
it. If you and they have made wickedness
your pleasure and your profit, be ye content
that it should be your grief and punishment,
till the one can learn to be without such vanity,
and the others have found out more honest em-
ployments. It is the vanity of the few great
ones that makes so much toil for the many
small ; and the great excess of the one occa-
sions the great labour of the other. Would
men learn to be contented with few things,
such as are necessary and convenient, the
ancient Christian life, all things might be at a
cheaper rate, and men might live for little. If
the landlords had fewer lusts to satisfy, the
tenants might have less rent to pay, and turn
from poor to rich, whereby they might be able
to find more honest and domestic employments
for their children, than becoming sharpers, and
living by their wits, which is but a better word
for their sins. And if the report of the more
intelligent in husbandry be credible, lands are
generally improveable ten in twenty. Were
there more hands about more lawful and
serviceable manufactures, they would be
cheaper, and greater vent might be made of
them, by which a benefit would redound to
the world in general. Nay, the burden lies
the heavier upon the laborious country, that
so many hands and shoulders as the lust-
caterers of the cities employ, should be want-
ing to the plough and useful husbandry.

If men never think themselves rich enough,
they may never miss of trouble and employ-
ment ; but those who can take the primitive
state and God's creation for their model, may
learn with a little to be contented ; knowing

that desires after wealth do not only prevent
or destroy true faith, but that when got, it
increases snares and trouble. It is no evil to
repent of evil ; but that cannot be, whilst men
maintain what they should repent of: it is a
bad argument to avoid temperance, or justify
the contrary, because otherwise the actors and
inventors of the excess would want a liveli-
hood ; since to feed them in that way is to
nurse the cause, instead of starving it. Let
such of those vanity-hucksters as have got
sufficient, be contented to retreat and spend it
more honestly than they have got it ; and
such as really are poor, be rather helped by
charity to better callings ; this were more
prudent, nay. Christian, than to consume
money upon such foolish toys and fopperies.
Public work-houses would be effectual reme-
dies to all these lazy and lustful distempers,
with more pi'ofit, and a better conscience.

Therefore it is that we cannot, we dare not,
square our conversation by the world's : no,
but by our plainness and moderation to testify
against such extravagant vanities ; and by
our grave and steady life to manifest our
dislike, on God's behalf, to such intemperate
and wanton curiosity ; yea, to deny ourselves
what otherwise perhaps we lawfully could
use with a just indifferency, if not satisfac-
tion, because of its abuse amongst the gene-

11. I know, that some are ready farther to
object; "Hath God given us these enjoyments
on purpose to damn us if we use them ?"
Answ. To such miserable, poor, silly souls,
who would rather charge the most high and
holy God with the invention or creation of
their dirty vanities, than want a plea to justify
their own practice, not knowing how for
shame, or fear, or love, to throw them off; I
answer, that what God made for man's use
was good ; and what the blessed Lord Jesus
Christ allowed, or enjoined, or gave us in his
most heavenly example, is to be observed, be-
lieved, and practised. But in the whole cata-
logue which the Scriptures give of both, I
never found the attires, recreations, and way
of living, so much in request with the gene-
rality of the Christians of these times. No
certainly. God created man an holy, wise,
sober, grave, and reasonable creature, fit to
govern himself and the world ; but Divinity
was then the great object of his reason and
pleasure ; all external enjoyments of God's
giving being for necessity, convenience, and
lawful delight, with this proviso too, that the
Almighty was to be seen, and sensibly enjoyed
and reverenced, in every one of them. But
how very wide the Christians of these times
are from this primitive institution is not diffi-
cult to determine, although they make such



loud pretensions to that most holy Jesus, who
not only gave the world a certain evidence of
an happy restoration, by his own coming, but
promised his assistance to all who would fol-
low him in the self-denial and way of his holy
cross ; and therefore hath severely enjoined
it on all, as they would be everlastingly saved.
But let their conscience declare whether the
minds of men and women ai'e not as pro-
foundly involved in all excess and vanity, as
those who know him not any farther than by
hear-say ; and whether being thus banished
from the presence of the Lord, by greedily
seeking the things that are below, and thereby
having lost the taste of divine pleasure, they
have not feigned to themselves an imaginary
pleasure, to quiet or smother conscience, and
pass their time without that anguish and trou-
ble, which are the consequences of sin, that
so they might be at ease and security while in
the world. Adam's temptation is represented
by the fruit of a tree ; thereby intimating the
great influence external objects, as they ex-
ceed in beauty, carry with them upon our
senses : so that unless the mind keep upon its
constant watch, so prevalent are visible things,
that it is hard for one to escape being ensnared
in them. We need to be only sometimes en-
trapped, to cast so thick a veil of darkness
over the mind, that not only it shall with plea-
sure continue in its fetters to lust and vanity,
but proudly censure such as refuse to wear
them, strongly pleading for them, as servicea-
ble and convenient. This strange passion do
perishing objects raise in those minds, where
way is made, and entertainment given to them.
But Christ Jesus is manifested in us, and hath
given unto us a taste and understanding of
him that is true : and to all, such a measure
of his good spirit, as is sufficient, would they
obey it, to redeem their minds from the cap-
tivity they have been in to lust and vanity,
and entirely ransom them from the dominion
of all visible objects, and whatsoever may
gratify the desires of the eye, the lust of the
flesh, and the pride of life, that they might
be regenerated in their minds, changed in
their afiectioiis, and have their whole hearts
set on things that are above, where neither
moth nor rust can ever enter, to harm or

12. But it is a manifest sign, of what mould
and make those persons are, who practise and
plead for such Egyptian shameful rags, as
pleasures. It is to be hoped that they never
knew, or to be feared they have forgot, the
humble, plain, meek, holy, self-denying, and
exemplary life, which the eternal Spirit sanc-
tifies all obedient hearts into ; yea, it is indu-
bitable, that either such always have been
ignorant, or else that they have lost sight, of

that good land, that heavenly country and
blessed inheritance, of which they once had
some glimmering prospect. O that they
would but withdraw a while, sit down, weigh
and consider with themselves, where they are,
and whose work and will they are doing! that
they would once believe the devil hath not a
stratagem more pernicious to their immortal
souls, than this of exercising their minds in
the foolish fashions and wanton recreations of
the times ! Great and gross impieties beget a
detestation in the opinion of sober education
and reputation. Therefore since the devil
sees such things have no success with many,
it is his next and most fatal design to find
some other entertainments, that carry less in-
fection in their looks, though more security,
because less scandal and more pleasure in
their enjoyment, on purpose to busy and
arrest people from a diligent search and in-
quiry after those matters, which necessarily
concern their eternal peace : that being igno-
rant of the heavenly life, they may not be
induced to press after it: Being only formally
religious, according to the traditions and pre-
cepts of others, they proceed to their common
pleasures, and find no check therefrom, their
religion and conversation for the most part
agreeing well together, whereby an improve-
ment in the knowledge of God, a going on
from grace to grace, a growing to the measure
of the stature of Jesus Christ himself is not
known : but as it was in the beginning at
seven, so it is at seventy ; nay, not so inno-
cent, unless by reason of the saying. Old men
are twice children. Oh ! the mystery of god-
liness, the heavenly life, the true Christian,
are another thing ! We conclude then, that as
the design of the devil, where he cannot in-
volve and draw into gross sin, is to busy, de-
light, and allure the minds of men and women,
by more seeming innocent entertainments, on
purpose that he may more easily secure them
from minding their duty and progress, and
obedience to the only true God, which is eter-
nal life ; and thereby take their minds from
heavenly and eternal things ; so those who
would be delivered from these snares should
mind the holy, just, grave, and self-denying
teachings of God's grace and spirit in them-
selves, that they may reject and for ever
abandon the like vanity and evil ; and, by a
reformed conversation, condemn the world of
its intemperance : thus will the true disciple-
ship be obtained ; for otherwise many enor-
mous consequences, and pernicious efl'ects will
follow. It is to encourage such impious per-
sons to continue and proceed in the like trades
of feeding the people's lusts, and thereby such
make themselves partakers of their plagues,
who, by continual fresh desires for the like



curiosities, and that way of spending time and
estate, induce them to spend more time in
studying how to " abuse time ;" lest through
their pinching and small allowance, those
prodigals should call their Father's house to
mind. For, whatsoever any think to the con-
trary, more pleasant baits, alluring objects,
grateful entertainments, cunning emissaries,
acceptable sermons, insinuating lectures, or
taking orators, the crafty devil has never
had, by which to entice and ensnare the
minds of people, and totally to divert them
from heavenly reflections, and divine medita-
tions, than the attire, sports, plays, and pas-
times of this godless age, the school and shop
of satan, hitherto so reasonably condemned.


1. But if these customs, &c. were but indifferent,
yet being abused, they deserve to be rejected.
2. The abuse is acknowledged by those that use
them, therefore should leave them. 3. Such as
pretend to seriousness, should exemplarily with-
draw from such latitudes : a wise parent weans
his child of what it dotes too much upon ; and
we should watch over ourselves and neighbours.
4. God, in the case of the brazen serpent, &c.
gives us an example to put away the use of
abused things. 5. If these things were some-
times convenient, yet when their use is prejudi-
cial in example, they should be disused. 6.
Such as yet proceed to love their unlawful
pleasures more than Christ and his cross, the
mischief they have brought to persons and es-
tates, bodies and souls. 7. Ingenuous people
know this to be true; an appeal to God's witness
in the guilty : their state that of Babylon. 8.
But temperance in food, and plainness in appa-
rel, and sober conversation, conduce most to
good : so the apostle teaches in his epistles. 9.
Temperance enriches a land: it is a political
good, as well as a religious one in all govern-
ments. 10. When people have done their duty
to God, it will be time enough to think of pleas-
ing themselves. 11. An address to the magis-
trates, and all people, how to convert their time
and money to better purposes.

1. Should these things be as indifferent,
as they are proved perniciously unlawful, for
I never heard any advance their plea beyond
the bounds of mere indifferency, yet so great
is their abuse, so universal the sad effects
thereof, like an infection, that they therefore
ought to be rejected of all, especially those,
whose sobriety hath preserved them from that
excess, or whose judgments, though them-
selves be guilty, suggest the folly of such in-

temperance. For what is an indifferent thing,
but that which may be done, or left undone ?
Granting this were the case, yet both reason
and religion teach, that when they are used
with such an excess of appetite, that to leave
them would be a cross to their desires, they
have exceeded the bounds of mere indiffer-
ency, and are thereby rendered no less than
necessary. Which being a violation of the
very nature of the things themselves, a per-
fect abuse enters ; and consequeritly they are
no longer to be considered in the rank of
things simply indifferent, but unlawful.

2. Now that those things against which I
have so earnestly contended, are generally
abused by the excess of almost all ages,
sexes, and qualities of people, will be con-
fessed by many, who yet decline not to con-
form themselves to them ; and to whom, as I
have understood, it seems lawful, because say
they, the abuse of others should be no argu-
ment why we should not use them. But to
such I answer, that they have quite forgotten,
or will not remember, they have acknowledged
these things to be but of an indifl^erent nature :
if so, (and vanity never urged more) I say,
there can be nothing more clear, than since
they acknov/ledge their great abuse, they
ought wholly to be forsaken. For since they
may as well be let alone as done, at any time,
surely they should of duty be let alone, when
the use of them is abetting the general excess,
and a mere exciting others to continue in their
abuse, because they find that persons reputed
sober imitate them, or give them an example :
precepts are not half so forcible as examples.

3. Every one that pretends to seriousness
ought to inspect himself, as having been too
forward to help on the excess, and can never
make too much haste out of those inconveni-
encies, which by his former example he en-
couraged any to ; that, by a new one, he may
put a seasonable check upon the intemperance
of others. A wise parent ever withdraws
those objects, however innocent in themselves,
which are too prevalent upon the weak senses
of his children, on purpose that they might be
weaned. And it is as frequent with men to
bend a crooked stick as much the contrary
way, that they might make it strait at last.
Those that have more sobriety than others
should not forget their stewardships, but exer-
cise that gift of God to the security of their
neighbours. It was murdering Cain who
rudely asked the Lord, " If he was his bro-
ther's keeper?" Every man is necessarily
obliged thereto ; and therefore should be so
wise, as to deny himself the use of such in-
different enjoyments, as cannot be used by
him without a manifest encouragement to his
neighboui's' folly.



4. God hath sufficiently excited men to
what is said ; for in the case of the brazen
serpent, which was an heavenly institution
and type of Christ, he with great displeasure
enjoined that it should be broken to pieces,
because they were too fond and doting upon
it. Yes, the very groves themselves, how-
ever pleasant for situation, beautiful for their
walks and trees, must be cut down ; and
why 1 only because they had been abused to
idolatrous uses. And what is an idol, but
that which the mind puts an over-estimate or
value upon? None can benefit themselves so
much by an indifferent thing, as others by not
using that abused liberty.

5. If those things were convenient in them-
selves, which is a step nearer necessity than
mere indifferency, yet when by circumstances
they become prejudicial, such conveniency
itself ought to be given up ; much more what
is but indifferent shoidd be denied. People
ought not to weigh their private satisfactions
more than public good; nor please themselves
in too free an use of indifferent things, at the
cost of being really prejudicial to the public,
as they certainly are, when the use of them
(if no worse) becomes exemplary to others,
and begets an impatience in their minds to
have the like. Wherefore it is both reasona-
ble and incumbent on all, to make only such
things necessary, as tend to life and godliness,
and to employ their freedom with most advan-
tage to their neighbours. So that here is a
two-fold obligation ; the one not to be ex-
emplary in the use of such things ; which,
though they may use them, yet not without
giving too much countenance to the abuse
and excessive vanity of their neighbours.
The other obligation is, that they ought so
far to condescend to such religious people
who are offended at these fashions, and that
kind of conversation, as to reject them.

6. T hose, who, notwithstanding what 1 have

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 59 of 105)