William Evans.

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is an answer and antidote against the power
of this objection. He teaches us to embrace
truth under all those scandals. The Jews had
more to say of this kind than any, whose way
had a more extraordinary institution ; but
Christ minds not either institution or succes-
sion. He was a New Man, and came to con-
secrate a new way, and that in the will of
God ; and the power which accompanied his
ministry, and that of his followers, abundantly
proved the divine authority of his mission, who
thereby warns his servants to expect and to
bear contradiction, reviling and persecution :
for if they did it to the green tree, much more
were they to expect that' they would do it to
the dry : if to the Lord, then to the servant.
Why then should Christians fear that re-
proach and tribulation, which are the com-
panions of His religion, since they work to his
sincex'e followers a far more exceeding and
eternal weight of glory? But indeed they have
great cause to fear and be ashamed who are
the authors of such reproach and suffering,
so contrary to the meek and merciful spirit of
Christ : for if they are blessed who are reviled
and persecuted for his sake ; the revilers and
persecutoi's must be cursed. But this is not
all : he bade his disciples " follow him, and
learn of him, for he was meek and lowly :"
he taught them to bear injuries, and not smite
again; to exceed in kindness; to go two miles,
when asked to go one; to part with cloak and
coat too ; to give to them that ask, and to lend
to them that borrow; to forgive, nay, and
love enemies too; commanding them, saying,
"Bless them that curse you ; do good to them
that hate you ; and pray for them which de-
spitefully use you and persecute you:" urg-
ing them with this most sensible demonstra-
tion, " That you may be the children of
your Father, which is in heaven ; for he
maketh the sun to rise upon the good and the
evil, and his rain to descend upon the just and
the unjust." He also taught his disciples to
believe and rely upon God's providence, from
the care he had over the least of his creatures :
" Therefore," saith he, " I say unto you, take
no thought for your life, what you shall eat,
and what you shall drink, nor yet for your
body, what you shall put on : is not the life
more than meat, and the body, than raiment ?
Behold the fowls of the air ; for they sow not,
neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ;
yet your heavenly Father feedeth them ; are
you not much better than they? Which of
vou by taking thought, can add one cubit unto
his stature? And why take ye thought for
raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field, how
they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:



and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in
all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the
field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast
into the oven, shall he not much more clothe
you 1 O ye of little faith 1 Therefore take no
thought, saying. What shall we eat, or what
shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be
clothed, for after all these things do the Gen-
tiles seek, for your heavenly Father knoweth
that you have need of all these things. But
seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his
righteousness, and all these things shall be
added unto you. Take therefore no thought for
to-morrow, for to-morrow shall take thought
for the things of itself; sufficient unto the day
is the evil thereof."

Oh ! how plain, how sweet, how full, yet
how brief, are his blessed sentences ! they
thereby show from whence they came, and
that Divinity itself spoke them. Whatever is
laboured, forced and scattered in the best
of other writers, and not all neither, is here
comprised after a natural, easy and conspicu-
ous manner. He sets nature above art, and
trust above care. This is he himself, who
came poor into the world, and so lived in it :
he lay in a manger, conversed with mechanics ;
fasted much, retired often: and when he feast-
ed, it was with barley loaves and fish, dressed
doubtless in an easy and homely manner. He
was solitary in his life, in his death ignomini-
ous. " The foxes had holes, the birds of the
air had nests, but the Son of man had not a
place whereon to lay his head." He who
made all things as God, had nothing as man.
Which hath this blessed instruction in it, that
the meanest and poorest should not be dejected,
nor yet the richest and highest be exalted. In
fine, having taught this doctrine, and lived as
he spoke, he died to confirm it; and offered up
himself a propitiation for the " sins of the
whole world," when no other sacrifice could
be found, which could atone for man with
God : Rising above the power of death and
the grave, he led captivity captive, and is be-
come the first-born from the dead, the Lord of
the living ; and his living people praise him,
who is worthy for ever.

2. John the Baptist, who was the fore-runner
of Christ's appearance in the flesh, by his own
abstinence sufficiently declared what sort of
person it was, he came to prepare the people
to receive. For, though sanctified in his
mother's womb, and declared by Christ to be
the greatest of all prophets, yet his clothing
was but a coarse garment of camel's hair, and
a leathern girdle, and his food only locusts
and wild honey: a life very natural and of
great simplicity. This was all the pomp and
retinue, which the greatest ambassador that

ever came to the world was attended with,
about the best of messages, to wit, " Repent,
for the kingdom of God is at hand." And,
" There is One coming after me, whose shoes-
latchet I am not worthy to unloose, who shall
baptize you with fire, and with the Holy Ghost;
and is the Lamb of God that taketh away the
sin of the world." Did the fore-runner of the
coming of God, for Emmanuel is God with
men, appear without the state, grandeur and
luxury of the world? and shall those who pre-
tend to receive the message, and that as glad-
tidings too, and confess the Emmanuel, Christ
Jesus, to be the Lord, live in the vanity and
excess of the world, and care more for their
fine clothes, delicate dishes, rich furniture,
stately attendance, and pleasant diversion,
than for the holy cross of Christ, and the
blessed narrow way that leadeth to salvation ?
Be ashamed and repent !

3. Petek, Andrew, Philip, and the rest
of the holy apostles, were by calling, as well
as doctrine, not a luxurious people. They
were poor fishermen and mechanics ; for
Christ called not his disciples out of the
higher ranks of men ; nor had they ability,
any more than will, to use the excesses herein
reproved. You may conceive what their lives
were, by what their Master's doctrine was ;
for they were the true scholars of this hea-
venly discipline. Peter thus speaks, and ex-
horteth the Christians of his time, " Let not
your adorning be that outward adorning of
plaiting the hair, and the wearing of gold, and
of putting on of apparel ; but let it be the
hidden man of the heart, in that which is not
corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and
quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of
great price ; for after this manner in the old
time, the holy women, who also trusted in
God, adorned themselves. Wherefore gird
up the loins of your minds, be sober, and hope
to the end, as obedient children; not fashioning
yourselves according to your former lusts, in
your ignorance, but as he which hath called
you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of
conversation. And giving all diligence, add
to yom* faith, virtue ; to virtue, knowledge ;
and to knowledge, temperance; and to tempe-
rance, patience ; and to patience, godliness ;
and to godliness, brotherly kindness ; and to
brotherly kindness, charity: for if these things
be in you, and abound, they make you that
you shall be neither barren nor unfruitful :
for so an entrance shall be ministered unto
you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ : Not
rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing ;
but contrary-wise, blessing; knowing that you
are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a
blessing : for even hereunto were ye called,



because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us
an example, that we should follow his steps,
who did no sin, neither was guile found in his
mouth ; who, when he was reviled, reviled
not again ; when he suffered, he threatened
not, but committed himself to him that judgeth

4. Paul, who was also an apostle, though,
as he saith, " born out of due time :" a man
of great knowledge and leai'ning, but " I count
it, saith he, all loss for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom
I have suffered the loss of all things, and do
count them but dung, that I may win Chi'ist.
Brethren, be followers of me, and mark them
which walk so, as je have us for an example:
for many walk, of whom I have told you often,
and now tell you, even weeping, that they are
the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end
is destruction ; for their god is their belly,
they glory in their shame, and they mind
earthly things. For our conversation is in
heaven ; from whence we look also for our
Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. In like man-
ner also, I will that women adorn themselves
in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and
sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or
pearls, or costly array; but with good works,
as becometh women professing godliness. Be
followei's of God, as dear children; and walk
in love, as Christ also hath loved us : but for-
nication, and all uncleanness, and covetous-
ness, let it not be once named amongst you,
as becometh saints ; neither filthiness, nor
foolish talking nor jesting, which are not con-
venient ; but rather giving of thanks : for this
ye know, that no whoremonger, unclean per-
son, nor covetous man, who is an idolator,
hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ
and of God. See then that you walk circum-
spectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming
the time, because the days are evil. Where-
fore be ye not unwise, .but understanding Avhat
the will of the Lord is; and be not drunk with
wine, wherein is excess, but be fdled with the
spirit, speaking to yourselves in hymns and
spiritual songs, singing, and making melody
in your hearts to the Lord. Rejoice in the
Lord always ; and I say again, rejoice. Let
your moderation be known to all men, for the
Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing ; for
we brought nothing into this world, and it is
certain we can carry nothing out: and, having
food and raiment, let us be therewith content;
for godliness with contentment is great gain :
But they that will be rich, fall into temptation
and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful
lusts, which drown men in perdition and de-
struction : for the love of money is the root
of all evil ; which whilst some coveted after,
they have erred from the faith, and pierced

themselves through with many sorrows. But
thou, O man of God, flee these things, and
follow after righteousness, godliness, faith,
love, patience, meekness. Fight the good
fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life,
whereunto thou art also called, and hast pro-
fessed a good profession before many wit-
nesses. I give thee charge in the sight of
God, who quickeneth all things, and before
Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate wit-
nessed a good confession, that thou keep this
commandment without spot, unrebukable, until
the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Charge
them that are rich in this world, that they be
not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches,
but in the living God, who giveth us richly all
things to enjoy; that they do good, that they
be rich in good works, ready to distribute,
willing to communicate, laying up in store for
themselves a good foundation against the time
to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to
thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings,
and oppositions of science, falsely so called,
which some professing, have erred concern-
ing the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen."

This is the blessed doctrine which these
messengers of eternal life declared; and, what
is more, they lived as they spoke. You find
an account of their reception in the world and
the way of their living, is in his first epistle
to the Corinthians; "For I think, saith he,
that God hath set forth us, the apostles, last,
as it were men appointed to death ; for we are
made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and
to men. We are fools for Christ's sake ; we
are weak, we are despised : even unto this
present hour we both hunger and thirst, and
have no certain dwelling-place ; and labour,
working with our hands : Being reviled, we
bless ; being persecuted, we suffer it ; being
defamed, we entreat. We are made as the
filth of the world, and are as the off-scouring
of all things unto this day." This is the
entertainment those faithful followers of Jesus
received at the hands of an ungrateful world:
but he who tells us of this, also tells us it is
no unusual thing ; " For," saith he, " such as
will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer
persecution." Besides, he knew it had been
the portion of the righteous in preceding ages,
as in his excellent account of the faith, trials
and victory of the holy ancients, in his epistle
to the Hebrews, he largely expi'esses where he
tells us, how great a sojourner Abraham was,
even in the land of promise, a stranger in his
own country, for God had given it unto him
and his posterity ; " Dwelling," saith he, " in
tents with Isaac and Jacob." And why not
better settled? Was it for want of understand-
ing, or ability, or materials ? No, he gives a



better reason; "For," sailh he, "Abraham
looked for a city which had foundations,
whose builder and maker is God." And
speaking of Moses, he tells us, " That by
faith, when he was come to years of discre-
tion, he refused to be called the son of Pha-
raoh's daughter, choosing rather to sufler
affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy
the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the
reproach of Christ greater riches than the trea-
sures of Egypt ; for he had respect unto the
recompense of reward, nor feared he the
wrath of the king, for he endured, seeing him
who is invisible."

He adds, " And others had trials of cruel
mockings and scourgings ; yea, moreover, of
bonds and imprisonments : they were stoned,
they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were
slain with the sword ; they wandered about in
sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute,
afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was
not worthy. They wandered in deserts, and
in i-nountains, and in dens, and caves of the
earth ; and these all have obtained a good
report." Methinks this should a little abate
the intemperance of professed Christians. I
do not bid them be thus miserable, but I would
not have them make themselves so hereafter ;
for even this afflicted life hath joys transcend-
ing the utmost pleasure which sin can give,
and in the end it will be found that it were
better to be a poor pilgrim, than a citizen of
the world. Nor was this only the life and in-
struction of apostolical teachers ; the same
plainness and simplicity of life was also fol-
lowed by the first Christians.

5. OusELius, in his Animadversions on
Minutius Felix, saith, the primitive Christians
were reproached by the Gentiles, for their ill-
breeding, rude and unpolished language, and
unfashionable behaviour, as a people who
knew not how to carry themselves in their
addresses and salutations, calling them rus-
tics and clowns, which the Christians easily
bore, valuing their profession the more for its
nonconformity to the world; wherefore it was
usual with them, by way of irony and con-
tempt, to call the Gentiles, the well-bred, the
eloquent, and the leai'ned. This he proves by
ample testimonies out of Ai'nobius, Lactantius,
Isiodorus, Pelusiota, Theodoret and others.
Which may instruct us, that the Christians
behaviour was not regulated by the customs
of the country they lived in, as is usually
objected against our singularity : no, they re-
fused the embellishment of art, and would not
wear the furniture of her invention ; but as
they were singular in their religion, so in the
way of their conversation among men."*

* Animad. in Min. Fel. p. 25.

6. Clemens Romanus, if author of the
Constitutions that go under his name, hath
this among the rest : " Abstain from the vain
books of the Gentiles. What have you to do
with strange and unprofitable discourses, which
only serve to seduce weak persons ?"** This
Clement is remembered by Paul in one of his
epistles; who in this exactly follows his advice
to Timothy, about vain questions, doubtful dis-
putes, and opposition of scienccft Let us
see how this moderation and purity of man-
ners continued.

7. Machiavel, no mean author, in his
Disputations assures us, That the first promo-
ters of Christianity were so diligent in rooting
out the vanities and superstitions of the Gen-
tiles, that they commanded all such poets
and historians, as commended anything of
the Gentile conversation or worship, to be
burned.:}::]: But that zeal is evidently ex-
tinguished, and those follies revived among
the professors of the religion of Jesus.

8. Tertullian, Cheysostom;, Theophy-
LACT, Gregory Nazianzene,§§ upon these
words of Christ, " But I say unto you, that
every idle word that men shall speak, they
shall give an account thereof in the day of
judgment," thus reflect upon vain discourse;
" The words mean," saith Tertullian, " of all
vain and superfluous speech, more talk than
is necessary :" says Chrysostom, " Of such
words as are not convenient, nor profitable,
but move immodesty." Says Theophylact,
" Of all lies, calumnies, all inordinate and ri-^
diculous speeches." Says Gregory, " Such
words meu shall account for, which want that
profit ever redounding from modest discourses,
and that are seldom uttered from any prece-
ding necessity or cause ; things frivolous,
fables, old wives tales." All which suffi-
ciently reprehend the plays, poetry, and ro-
mances of the times, of great folly, vanity
and sin.

9. Gregory, a father of the church, and a
very extraordinary man, was so zealous for
the simplicity and purity of the mind, lan-
guage, and lives of the Christians of his time,
that he suppressed several Greek authors, as
Menander, Diphilus, ApoUodorus, Philemon,
Alexis, Sappho, and others, which were the
recreations of the vain Gentiles. Hear his
judgment of fine clothes, which are none of
the least part of the luxury and vanity of the
age, " There be. some," saith he, " are of
opinion that the wearing of precious and
sumptuous apparel is no sin ; which, if it were
no fault, the Divine Word would never have

** Constit. Clem. Rom. 1. 1. c. 2.

ft Phil. iv. 3. tt Mach. Dis. 1. 2. c. 5.

^ Tert. lib. de Patien. Chrysost.



so punctually expressed, nor historically re-
lated, how the rich man, that was tormented
in hell, was clothed in purple and silk : whence
we may note, that, touching the matter or sub-
ject of attire, human curiosity availeth highly.
The first substance of our garments was very
mean, to wit, skins with wool ; whence it is
we read, God made Adam and his wife coats
of skins ; that is, of skins of dead beasts.
Afterwards, in the growing pride and vanity
of men and women, they came to pure wool,
because lighter; after that to flax: then to the
ordure of worms, to wit, silk ; lastly, to gold
and silver, and precious stones ; with excess
of apparel highly displeased God : An instance
whereof, which the very pagans themselves
observed, we read, that the very first among
the Romans who ever wore purple was struck
with a thunderbolt, and so died suddenly, for
a terror to all succeeding times, that none
should attempt to live proudly in precious
attire." This was the sense of Gregory Na-
zianzene, that ancient Christian writer, who
wore commonly a poor coat, like to a frock ;
so did Justin Martyr, Jerom and Austin, as
their best robe.

10. Jeeom, a famous man, and also styled
a father of the church, above all others seems
positive in this matter, in an epistle he wrote
to a noble virgin, called Dometrias, in which
he exhorted her, That after she had ended her
devotion, she should take in hand wool and
weaving, after the commendable example of
Dorcas ; that by such changing and variety
of works, the day might seem less tedious,
and the attempts of Satan less grievous ; con-
cluding his religious exhortation with this
positive sentence : " I speak generally ; No
raiment or habit whatsoever shall seem pre-
cious in Christ's sight, but that which thou
makest thyself; either for thy own particular
use, or example of other virgins, or to give
unto thy grandmother or mother : no, though
otherwise thou didst distribute thy goods to
the poor." Let but this strictness be con-
sidered, and compared with the apparel and
conversation of the age : for, however phari-
see-like they otherwise saint him, and call
him an holy father, sure it is, they reject his

11. Hilary, bishop of Poictiers, a father
of the church, and famous for his writings
against the Arians, having travelled into Syi'ia,
was informed, that Abra, his only daughter,
whom he left with her mother, was by the
greatest lords of the country solicited in mar-
riage ; being a young woman well-bred, fair
and rich, and in the prime of her age. He
wrote to her, earnestly pressing her, By no
means to fix her affections upon the pleasure,
greatness or advantage that might be presented

to her; for in his voyage he had found a greater
and worthier match, an husband of far more
power and magnificence, who would endow
her with robes and jewels of an inestimable
value. This he did to take off her desires
from the world, that he might wed her unto
God : And it was his fervent and frequent
prayer, which in some sense was answered;
lor she lived religiously, and died a virgin.
He thus showed great nobility of mind, and
taught his daughter to tread upon the moun-
tains of worldly glory ; and it was not less
honourable in her, who so readily yielded to
the excellent counsel of her pious father.

12. Ajibrose, another father, was lieuten-
ant of the province and city of Milan, and
upon his discreetly appeasing the multitude,
who were disordered upon some difference
amongst them about electing a bishop, was
by their uniform consent chosen himself. Al-
though this person, of all others, might have
been thought to plead for the accustomed re-
creations, especially as he had not been long
a Christian, for he was a Catechumenist, or
one but lately instructed, at the time of his
being elected : yet doth he in so many words
determine the matter thus : " Plays ought not
to be known by Christians :" then not made,
heard, and defended by them, or they must be
no Christians who do so.

13. Augustine, famous for his many books,
and knowledge in church affairs, whose sen-
tences are oracles with some, gives as his
opinion of plays, and the like recreations,
" That they were more pernicious and abomi-
nable, than those idolatrous sacrifices, which
were offered in honour of their pagan gods."*
Doubtless he thought the one not so offensive
to reason, and the impressions which Divinity
hath made on every understanding, as the
other, which were pleasant to the senses, and
therefore apt to steal away the mind from
better things. It was his maxim, " That
everything a man doth, is either an hindrance
or furtherance to good."")" This would be es- .
teemed intolerable doctrine in a poor Quaker;
yet will the Quaker rejoice, if it be esteemed
and followed, as good doctrine in Augustine.

14. The Council of Carthage, though times
then began to look somewhat more misty, and
the purity and spirituality of religion to be
much declined by the professors of Chris-
tianity ; yet there was so much zeal lefl
against the worst part of heathenism, that I
find an express Canon against the reading of
vain books and comedies of the Gentiles, lest
the minds of the people should be defiled by
them. But this age either hath no such Canon,

* August, de civit. Dei, 1. 2. 7.
t De ira Dei, 1. 2. c. 7.



or executeth it not, to the shame of their pro-

15. Cardan more particularly relateth, how
even Gregory the great was so zealous of pre-
serving purity of manners among Christians,

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 66 of 105)