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The evil Consequent of Uncleanness.

The blessings and proper effects of chastity we shall best understand, by reckoning the evils of uncleanness and carnality.

1. Uncleanness, of all vices, is the most shameful. ‘The eye of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me; and disguiseth his face. In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the day-time; they knew not the light, for the morning is to them as the shadow of death. He is swift as the waters; their portion is cursed in the earth; he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.’9090Job, xxiv. 15, etc. Shame is the eldest daughter of uncleanness.9191Ατιρια παξμ.

2. The appetites of uncleanness are full of cares and trouble, and its fruitation is sorrow and repentance. The way of the adulterer is hedged with thorns;9292Hos. ii. 6. full of fears and jealousies, burning desires and impatient waitings, tediousness of delay, and sufferance of affronts and amazements of discovery.9393Appetitus fornicationis anxietas est, satietas vero poenitentia.—S. Hieron.

3. Most of its kinds are of that condition that they involve the ruin of two souls, and he that is a fornicator or adulterous steals the soul, as well as dishonours the body of his neighbour; and so it becomes like the sin of falling Lucifer, who brought a part of the stars with his tail from heaven.

4. Of all carnal sins, it is that alone which the devil takes delight to imitate and counterfeit; communicating with witches and impure persons in the corporal act, but in this only.

5. Uncleanness, with all its kinds, is a vice which hath a professed enmity against the body, ‘Every sin which a man doth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.’94941 Cor. vi. 18.

6. Uncleanness is hugely contrary to the spirit of government9595φξαρτικαι των αρχων. by embasing the spirit of a man, making if effeminate, sneaking, soft, and foolish, without courage, without confidence. David felt this after his folly with Bathsheba; he fell to unkingly acts and stratagems to hide the crime; and he did nothing but increase it, and remained timorous and poor spirited, till he prayed to God once more to establish him with a free and a princely spirit.9696Spiritu principali me confirma.—Psal. 1l. And no superior dare strictly observe discipline upon his charge, if he hath let himself loose to the shame of incontinence.

7.The gospel hath added two arguments against uncleanness which were never before used, nor, indeed, could be; since God hath given the Holy Spirit to them that are baptized, and rightly confirmed and entered into covenant with him, our bodies are made temples of the Holy Ghost, in which he dwells; and therefore uncleanness is sacrilege, and defiles a temple. It is St. Paul’s argument, ‘Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?’97971 Cor. vi. 19. and ‘He that defiles a temple him will God destroy.98981 Cor. iii. 17. Therefore glorify God in your bodies; that is, flee fornication. To which, for the likeness of the argument, add, that our bodies are members of Christ; and therefore God forbid that we should take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot.’ So that uncleanness dishonours Christ, and dishonours the Holy Spirit: it is a sin against God, and in this sense, a sin against the Holy Ghost.

8. The next special argument which the gospel ministers, especially against adultery, and for the preservation of the purity of marriage, is, that marriage is by Christ hallowed into a mystery, to signify the sacramental and mystical union of Christ and his church.9999Ephes. v. 32. He, therefore, that breaks this knot, which the church and their mutual faiths have tied, and Christ hath knit up into a mystery dishonours a great rite of Christianity, of high, spiritual, and excellent signification.

9. St. Gregory reckons uncleanness to be the parent of these monsters, blindness of mind, inconsideration, precipitancy, or giddiness in actions, self-love, hatred of God, love of the present pleasures, a despite or despair of the joys of religion here, and of heaven hereafter. Whereas, a pure mind in a chaste body is the mother of wisdom and deliberation, sober counsels and ingenuous actions, open deportment and a sweet carriage, sincere principles and unprejudicate understanding, love of God and self-denial, peace and confidence, holy prayers and spiritual comfort, and a pleasure of spirit infinitely greater than the sottish and beastly pleasures of unchastity. “For to overcome pleasure is the greatest pleasure; and no victory is greater than that which is gotten over our lusts and filthy inclinations.”

10. Add to all these, the public dishonesty and disreputation that all the nations of the world have cast upon adulterous and unhallowed embraces. Abimelech, to the men of Gerar, made it death to meddle with the wife of Isaac, and Judah condemned Thamar to be burnt for her adulterous conception; and God, besides the law made to put the adulterous person to death, did constitute a settled and constant miracle to discover the adultery of a suspected woman, that her bowels should burst with drinking the waters of jealousy. The Egyptian law was to cut off the nose of the adulteress, and the offending part of the adulterer. The Locrians put out both the adulterer’s eyes. The Germans (as Tacitus reports) placed the adulteress amidst her kindred, naked, and shaved her head, and caused her husband to beat her with clubs through the city. The Gortynaeans crowned the man with wool, to shame him for his effeminacy; and the Cumani caused the woman to ride upon an ass, naked, and hooted at, and for ever after called her by an appellative of scorn, “a rider upon the ass.” All nations, barbarous and evil, agreeing in their general design, of rooting so dishonest and shameful a vice from under heaven.

The middle ages of the church were not pleased that the adulteress should be put to death: but in the primitive ages, the civil laws by which Christians were then governed gave leave to the wronged husband to kill his adulterous wife if he took her in the fact; but because it was a privilege indulged to men, rather than a direct detestation of the crime, a consideration of the injury rather than of the uncleanness, therefore it was soon altered; but yet hath caused an inquiry, Whether is worse, the adultery of the man or the woman?

The resolution of which case, in order to our present affair, is thus: in respect of the person, the fault is greater in a man than in a woman, who is of a more pliant and easy spirit, and weaker understanding, and hath nothing to supply the unequal strengths of men, but the defensative of a passive nature and armour of modesty, which is the natural ornament of that sex. “And it is unjust that the man should demand chastity and severity from his wife which himself will not observe towards her,100100Apud Aug. de Adulter. Conjug-Plut. Conjug. Praecept.—Casso saltem delectamine amare quot potiri non licest. said the good Emperor Antoninus: it is as if the man should persuade his wife to fight against those enemies to which he had yielded himself a prisoner.101101Patellas luxuriae oculos, dixit Isidorus. In respect of the effects and evil consequents, the adultery of the woman is worse, as bringing bastardly into a family, and disinherisons or great injuries to the lawful children, and infinite violations of peace, and murders, and divorces, and all the effects of rage and madness. But in respect of the crime, and as relating to God, they are equal, intolerable, and damnable: and since it is no more permitted to men to have many wives than to women to have many husbands, and that in this respect their privilege is equal, their sin is so too. And this is the case of the question in Christianity. And the church anciently refused to admit such persons to the holy communion, until they had done seven years penances in fasting, in sackcloth, in severe inflictions and instruments of charity and sorrow, according to the discipline of those ages.


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