[extracted from THE LAW UNSEALED.]
Besides these things that are more general in folks carriage, there is somewhat further in our clothing and diet, which is to be spoken to here, seeing in these we ought to be Christian, sober, grave, &c.; and in nothing do our lightness, vanity, (as we ordinarily use to call people vain from their apparel), pride, wantonness, and rioting appear more, than in vain garbs. Hence the apostle Paul, 1 Tim. 2:9. Joineth modest apparel with shamefacedness and sobriety or chastity; as also doth the apostle Peter, 1 Pet. 3:2,3; and Jezebel and others, decking and dressing to seek love, is ever accounted an high degree of looseness. It is a wonder that men should take pleasure to debord [go to excess] in their clothing which is the badge of their perfidiousness, and was at first appointed to cover their shame and nakedness. It is observed, that the Hebrew word בגד doth signify both perfidiousness and clothing, and cometh from that word which signifieth to break covenant; the Lord thereby intending, by the very consideration of our clothes, to humble us, and keep us in mind of our first breach of covenant with him; and yet, such is our wickedness, that we will glory in that which is indeed our shame, as if it were a special ornament; and whereas at first clothing was appointed for covering nakedness, for preventing of incitements to lust, and for decency, now, Jezebel-like, it is made use of to be a provocation thereunto; see Prov. 7:10. God, in his first appointment of raiment, for preventing of vanity, and commending honest sobriety therein, did make for our first parents coats of skins.
And therefore we say, that in men and women both there is condemned by the Lord, 1. Costliness and excessive bravery of apparel, 1 Tim. 2:9. Which saith not that we are to foster sordidness or baseness, or that men in all places or stations, and of all ranks, should, as to their apparel, be equal, but that none should exceed. It is strange, that sometimes the poorest and meanest for place, and often for qualifications, are finest this way, as if it were the best or only way to commend and set them out; and that some should have more in clothes than in their stock, is utterly intolerable. 2. Strangeness in the ever-changing fashions, and extravagant modes of apparel, while as the Lord by nature hath continued the shape of men’s bodies to be the same; for what is meant else by strange apparel, so often forbidden in the scripture, but that which is commonly called the fashion, or new fashion, a new and uncouth garb? And certainly men’s minds are often infected with lascivious thoughts, and lustful inclinations, even by the use and sight of gaudy and vain clothing; and we will see light, loose, conceited minds discover themselves in nothing sooner than in their apparel, and fashions, and conceitedness in them. 3. There is a lightness in clothing as to colour, mounting as seen in these dressings of the hair, in powderings, laces, ribbons, points, &c. Some things indeed there mentioned are not simply unlawful, especially to persons of higher quality, and at all times; but the particulars following are condemned: 1. Affecting of, and having a lust after, brave clothing, making our back our god, as some do their belly. Phil. 3:19. and this may be where clothes are but mean, yet the lust and appetite after them may be great. 2. Haughtiness and vanity in clothes and dressings, when we think ourselves better with them than without them; or esteem ourselves because of them above others, in other things superior, or at least equal to us. 3. Excess in these, in their superfluity and costliness, as is said above and beyond our state and station. 4. Wantonness and lightness in them, which is especially in nakedness, as to such and such parts of the body, which in modesty are to be hid; for women having clothes for a cover, ought to make use of them for that end; and it is more than probable, that that walking with stretched-out necks, there reproved, relateth to women, their making more of their necks, and their breasts bare, than should be, or is decent, they affected to discover or raise their gorgets [necklaces], when God commendeth modesty, and nature is best pleased in its own unaffected freedom, yet they stretched them out: It is both a wonderful and sad thing, that women should need to be reproved for such things, which are in themselves, 1. So gross, that let the most innocent be inquired, whence these more than ordinary discoveries do proceed: and they must at least grant, that the first practisers of such a fashion, could have no other design in it, than the more hereby to please and allure men’s carnal eyes and regards: And, 2. So impudent; for if to be all naked be shameful and exceeding ready to provoke lust, must not nakedness in part, more or less, be, and do the same? So that this will be found a glorying in their shame; for nakedness hitherto was always looked upon as a reproach: We read of old of such as were grave, that they covered themselves with a vail: And, 1 Cor. 11. Married women’s going abroad uncovered is looked on as unnatural: What would such say if they lived in our times? We are persuaded the gravest among women are most averse from this evil, and the lightest are most prone and given to it: And seeing all women should be grave, it must import a disclaiming of that qualification where this lightness is delighted in: If therefore there be any shame, if there be any conscience, we will expect to prevail with some who are touched with the sense of gravity, that they may be good examples to the rest, and once endeavour effectually to bring gravity and modest shamefacedness in fashion again.
There is in clothes a base effeminateness amongst men (which some way emasculateth or unmanneth them) who delight in those things which women dote upon, as dressing of hair, powderings, washings, (when exceeded in), rings, jewels &c. which are spoken of, and reproved in the daughters of Zion, Isa. 3. and so must be much more unsuitable to men. Also interchanging of apparel is condemned; men putting on women’s, and women men’s clothes, which is unsuitable to that distinction of sexes which the Lord hath made, and is condemned in the word, as a confusion, an absurd, unnatural thing, and an inlet to much wickedness. Whereof the Dutch annotators, as several fathers did long before them, on 1 Cor. 11:14. Make men’s nourishing and wearing of long hair to be some degree, it being given to women, not only for an ornament and covering, but also in part for distinction of the female sex from the male.
And here, having touched a little on this vain dressing of the hair (now almost in as many various modes as thee are fashions of apparel), especially incident to women; it will not be impertinent to subjoin a strange story, which learned, pious, and grave Mr. Bolton, in his Four Last Things, p. 40. Repeats from his author the famous Herculus Saxonia, professor of physic in Padua: “The Plica (saith he) is a most loathsome and horrible disease in the hair, unheard of on former times, as morbus gallicus, and fudor anglicus, bred by modern luxury and excess; it seizeth especially upon women, and by reason of a viscuous, venomous humour, glueth together, as it were, the hairs of the head, with a prodigious ugly implication and entanglement, sometimes taking the form of a great snake, sometimes of many little serpents, full of nastiness, vermin, and noisome smell: And that which is most to be admired, and never eye saw before, these being pricked with a needle, they yield bloody drops. And at the first spreading of this dreadful disease in Poland, all that did cut off their horrible and snaky hair, lost their eyes, or the humour falling down upon other parts of the body, tortured them extremely. It began first, not many years ago, in Poland, it is now entered into many parts of Germany. And methinks (says Mr. Bolton) our monstrous fashionists, both male and female, the one for nourishing their horrid bushes of vanity, the other for their most unnatural and cursed cutting their hair, should every hour fear and tremble, lest they bring it on their own heads, and amongst us in this kingdom.” It is also worthy the noticing, that Tertullian hath to this purpose, in his book, De Cultu Mul. Cap. 7. Where, having expostulated with Christian women for their various vain dressings of the hair, he bespeaks them thus: “Drive away the bondage of busking [decorating or styling] from a free head, in vain do you labour to appear thus dressed, in vain do you make use of the most expert frizzlers of hair; God commands you to be covered and vailed. I with that I, most miserable man, may be privileged to lift up my head, if it were but among the feet of the people of God, in that blessed day of Christians, exulting gladness, then will I see if ye will arise out of your graves with that varnish and paint of white and red, and with such a head-dress; and if the angels will carry you up so adorned and painted to meet Christ in the clouds.” And again, cap. 13. “These delights and toys (says he) must be shaken off, with the softness and looseness whereof the virtue and valour of faith may be weakened. Moreover, I know not if theses hands that are accustomed to be surrounded with rings and bracelets, or such other ornaments, will endure to be benumbed and stupefied with the hardness of a chain: I know not if the legs, after the use of such fine hose garters, will suffer itself to be strained and pinched into fetters, or a pair of stocks: I am afraid that the neck, accustomed to chains of pearls and emeralds, will hardly admit of the two-handed sword: Therefore, O blessed women! (saith he), let us meditate and dwell on the thoughts of hardship, and we shall not feel it; let us relinquish and abandon these delicacies and frolics, and we shall not desire them; let us stand ready armed to encounter all violent assaults, having nothing which we will be afraid to forego and part with: These, these are the stay and ropes of the anchor of our hope.”
“Let your eyes be painted with shamefacedness and quietness of spirit, fastening in your ears the word of God, and tying about your necks the yoke of Christ, subject your head to your husbands, and so you shall be abundantly adorned and comely. Let your hands be exercised with wool, let your feet keep at home, and be fixed in the house, and they will please much more than if they were all in gold; clothe yourselves with the silk of goodness and virtue, with the fine linen of holiness, with the purpure [purple—i.e, coloured as the royalty] of chastity; and being after this fashion painted and adorned, you will have God to be your lover.” Which notably agreeth with what the apostle saith, 1 Tim. 2:9,10. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety, not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” 1 Peter, 3:1,2. especially 3,4,5. Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning, of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or 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 in the sight of God is of great price. For after this manner, in the old time, the holy women also who trusted in God adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands. See also Titus, 2:4,5.
Next to what has been said of dressing the body, somewhat may not inappositely be spoke to anent dressing and decking of houses and beds, and anent household furniture or plenishing, wherein there may be an evil concupiscence and lust, and an inordinate affection; our minds being often by a little thing kindled and set on fire. See to this purpose, Prov. 7:17. where that woman spoken of hath first the attire of an whore, then, he saith, her bed is dressed, her tapestry and curtains provided, incense and perfumes are in the chambers: So also beds of ivory are reproved, Amos, 6:4. Which are all used for entertaining the great lust of uncleanness, which ordinarily have these alluring extravagancies attending and waiting upon it. O! what provision do some make for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof; and how careful caterers are they this way for their corruptions? And certainly Christians are not in their houses, more than in their persons, left to live at random, and without bounds; and folks no doubt may be unsuitable to their out bounds; and folks no doubt may be unsuitable to their stations, as much in the one as in the other. This excess may be also in the light and wanton manner of adorning houses and buildings with filthy and immodest paintings, pictures, and statues, and such like, which, with other things, is spoken of and condemned, Ezek. 23:14. But withal, in what we have spoken in these excesses so incident even to professors, we would not have folks too rigidly to expone [expound] us, for we know that there are lawful recreations; nor are honesty and comeliness in behaviour and apparel blameable, but to be commended in their place: Neither would we have any think that we suppose all such who do the things above censured, to be incited to them from this principle of lust. But for clearing of the matter further, it would be considered, 1. That we speak of these things as they are abused, and particularly condemned in this church. 2. We would consider the end of the things themselves, as they have been at first sinfully introduced, what ever may be the innocent intention of a particular user. 3. We would respect others, who may be offended and provoked to lust, by what an actor is not provoked with, and also may be sinfully tempted to the like from that example, or if no so, yet may possibly be induced to judge them vain who walk so and so in light apparel, who dance, &c. which we would prevent and guard against. 4. We would not only abstain from evil, but from all appearance of it. Now, certainly all these things we have spoken of look like ill, and may breed misconstructions in others, even possibly beyond our own mind and intention. We may also consider the mind of very heathens in reference to these things, as also of the fathers, councils, and the divines which are cited by Rivet and Martyr on this command. The Council Laod. Can. 53. Apud. Bals. Hath these words, Let Christians, when they go to marriages, abstain from dancing, but dine or sup. And another saith, Nemo fere saltat sobrius nisi forte insanit; no man almost danceth that is sober, unless perchance he be in a fit of distraction or madness. Neither doth David’s or Miriam’s dancing, being used by them as a part of worship in the occasions of extraordinary exultations, say any thing for the dancing that is now in use, as their songs of praise to God used in these their dancings abundantly shew: And beside, their dancings were not promiscuous, men with women, but men or women apart. Beside, if the seeing of vain objects provoke to lust, the circumstances and incitements of dancing must do it much more: And what men commonly say, Take away the promiscuousness of dancing, and itself will fall; it doth confirm this, that dancing is not pleaded for, or delighted in, as it is a recreative motion, but as promiscuous with women, which, beside the great provocation to lust spoken of, occasioneth that both much time and expense is bestowed on learning this which is attended with no profit.