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Questions, and Cases of Conscience about Apparel.


Questions, and Cases of Conscience about Apparel.

James Dodson

[extracted from Samuel Clarke’s Marrow of Divinity (1659)]

CHAP. XIII. Questions, and Cases of Conscience about Apparel.

Quest. How are we to use Apparel?

Answ. Men and Women are to cover their bodies with decent and comely Apparel, and so to attire themselves, as that in their Apparel they do express the virtues of their minds, and the graces that be in their hearts, especially modesty, shamefastness and frugality.

Quest. Wherein stands decency and comeliness of Apparel?

Answ. First, in covering the whole body with it, except such parts as are left bare for necessities sake, as the face, and hands, Gen. 3.10, 21. By sin came [I] shame upon the whole body, and the Lord made and appointed the wearing of garments, for the covering of the deformity of our naked bodies, Deut. 28.48. Nakedness is threatened as a curse, therefore affected nakedness is monstrous and vile.

Secondly, in the fashion making our garments in a decent manner, which is, 1st. When its fitted for the sex, Deut. 22.5. 2. According to the condition,[II] office and calling we are in, and according to our estate, and after the ancient customs of the Country, and place we live in, and to the example of the most grave, godly, and sober men and women of our own rank, Mat. 11.8. Zeph. 1.8. 1 Cor. 11.14, 15. Phil. 4.8. 1 Pet. 3.3, 4, 5.

Quest. May not ornaments of gold, silver, pearls, precious stones, lace, silk, satins, velvets, &c. be used?

Answ. Yea, some necessary cautions in using them being observed, as may be proved, Gen. 24.22, 47. and 41.42. Exod. 32.3. Psal. 45.13, 14. Mat. 6.29.

Ob. But the Prophets seem to condemn and threaten such ornaments, Isa. 3 18, &c.

Answ. Some of those ornaments were indeed mere vanities, and therefore not to be used. Others were in themselves lawful, and are not simply condemned, but only in the abuse of them as they were made instruments and ensigns of pride, wantonness, and the lightness of the women, as appears, v. 16.

Ob. But 1 Tim. 2.9. 1 Pet. 3.3. the Apostles forbid the wearing of gold, or costly Apparel?

Answ. In these texts the Apostles do not simply forbid the wearing of such things, but the abuse of them in riot and excess, directing their speeches to women, who it seems were excessive in adorning their outward man, and neglected the inward ornaments of modesty and humility, the chief ornaments of Christians. Hence 1 Tim. 2.9, 10. 1 Pet. 3.4. the latter are chiefly commended.

Quest. What are those cautions to be observed in using these ornaments?

[I] Answ. First, they must be used sparingly, and with moderation, according to the rank, place and calling wherein God hath set us, and the example of the gravest and godly persons of our own rank and place, Dan. 5.16, 17, 29. with Mat. 11.8.

[II] Secondly, they must not be used always alike; but according to the times and seasons, Jer. 2.32. Luke 16.19. It was the rich man’s fault to wear them every day.

[III] Thirdly, they must be used to a right end; not to get honour and esteem amongst men: much less to inveigle others, (as the harlot did, Prov. 7.10, 16.) but to the honouring of the body, that therein God may be honoured, Gen. 24.15. 1 Cor. 12.23. 1 Thes. 4.4.

Quest. How do men and women sin in their Apparel?

[I] Ans. First, When they wear strange fashions and guises: threatened even in Kings children, Zeph. 1.8. the general rule is, whatsoever things are of good report, these do, Phil. 4.8.

[II] Secondly, When with their Apparel, they cover not their nakedness, but as having put off all shame, they discover those parts which modesty requires to be covered.

[III] Thirdly, when they have their Apparel so made, as disfits them for employment, and makes them like pictures in a frame, you cannot stir one part except you stir all: they can scarce feed themselves: Solomon’s good Housewife was not so clothed, Prov. 31.13, &c.

[IV] Fourthly, when by their Apparel they confound Sexes: forbidden, Deut.· 22.5.

[V] Fifthly, when they wear any garment in religious or civil employments to the scandal and offence of their brethren.

[VI] Sixthly, when they prank up themselves beyond their calling, estate, and degree.

[VII] Seventhly, when they distinguish not between times of mourning and rejoicing: whereas the like garments are not fit for all seasons.

Quest. What are the proper uses of Apparel?

[I] Answ. First, to cover our nakedness, and to hide our corporal shame and defects.

[II] Secondly, to defend our bodies from the injury of wind and weather, both of the Summers heat, and the Winters cold. Hence Garments, quasi Gardments.

Thirdly, to preserve and cherish natural heat and life, which otherwise would [III] spend too fast,

What shall we say then to those that make them the ensigns of vanity, and incentives to lust and luxury? whence else are those bushes of hair and periwigs, those frizzlings, crispings, curlings, powderings, paintings, patchings and spottings, especially of women’s faces? What are the toys they call fancies? Are they not such as an old Writer calls Satanae ingenia, the devil’s fancies? whereas there is nothing more foolish, did we rightly consider it, then to shew pride in garments, which are indeed the ensigns of our shame; as if the Thief should be proud of his halter: They are called by a word in the Hebrew, which signifies perfidiousness, as being tokens of our perfidious dealing with God: when as at first man was naked, and yet not ashamed: They are but coverings of this vile body, Phil. 3.21. or as it is in the Greek, The Body of our Humiliation: such as we cannot think of without humbling our souls for the intemperance, and uncleanness of it. And must our pride break forth in decking such a body? The Apostle saith, Rom. 8.10. the body is dead because of sin: sure then a course hair-cloth may best become a dead Corpse See Elton on the Commandments.

Quest. What is further to be considered in the use of Apparel?

Answ. First, the preparation of it to be worn.

Secondly, the wearing of it when it is prepared.[I]

Quest. What Rules are to be observed in the preparing of it?[II]

Answ. Our care for apparel and bodily ornaments is to be very moderate, Mat. 6.28, &c. 1 Tim. 6.8.

Quest. How shall we know what is necessary?

Answ. A thing is necessary two ways.

First, in respect of nature, for the preservation of life and health.[I]

Secondly, in respect of our place, calling and condition, for upholding the [II] credit of it. Now that’s necessary raiment which is necessary both these ways.

Quest. Who shall judge what is necessary for persons of every condition?

Answ. First, vain and curious persons are not competent Judges: but the [I] examples of grave, modest, and frugal persons in every order and estate, who by their knowledge and experience are best able to determine it.

Secondly, though we must not seek for more then necessary Apparel, yet if [II] God of his goodness give us more, we must receive it thankfully, and use it to the good example of others.

Ob. But John Baptist saith, we must not have above one coat?

Answ. His meaning must needs be, that he that hath not only necessary raiment but superfluity; must give of his abundance unto them that want. Christ himself had two coats, and St. Paul a coat and a cloak.

2. Rule: All Apparel must be fitted to the body, in a comely and decent manner, as becomes holiness, Tit. 2.3.

Quest. How shall this be done?

Answ. By observing these five rules.

First, it must be according to the sex both for men and women, Deut. 22.5.[I] which is not a ceremonial Law, but grounded upon the Law of nature, and common honesty.

Secondly, our Apparel must be suited to our callings, that it may not hinder nor disable us in the performance of the duties thereof. This justly condemns [II] the Apparel, (especially of women and maid-servants) which sets them, as it were, in a frame, that they cannot with ease and conveniency do their businesses whilst they have it on.

Thirdly, our Apparel must be suited to our means, that so we may be able to [III] maintain our families, and relieve the poor.

Fourthly, it must be answerable to our estate, and dignity, for distinction of [IV] order, and degrees in the society of men, when Joseph was set over the land of Egypt, he was arrayed in fine linen with a chain of gold about his neck, Gen. 41.42. So Judg. 5.30. Mat. 11.8. the contrary brings great confusion, and overthrows the order which God hath set in the states and conditions of men.

[V] Fifthly, it must be fitted according to the ancient and laudable custom of the Country wherein we dwell.

Quest. But if we see a fashion used in other Countries that we like, may we not take it up?

Answ. No, for God hath threatened to visit all such, Zeph. 1.8. Paul taxes it as a great disorder in the Corinthians, that men wore long hair, and women went uncovered, 1 Cor. 11.13, 14.

[VI] Sixthly, our garments must be such as may express the virtues of our minds, especially of modesty, shamefastness and frugality, 1 Tim. 2.9, 10. Mat. 5.16.

Quest. What spiritual use are we to make of our Apparel?

[I] Answ. First, we must take occasion thereby to be humbled for our nakedness, in regard of grace, and of God’s favour by reason of original sin: They that are proud of their Apparel, are proud of their shame. Its as if a thief should be proud of his bolts or halter. Garments are the cover of our shame, and the signs of our sins.

[II] Secondly, by putting on our garments we are to be minded to put on Christ, Rom. 13.14. which is done when by prayer we come to God, and entreat him to make the active and passive obedience of Christ a covering for us, and that Christ may be made to us wisdom, righteousness, &c. and that we may be made conformable to him both in life and death in all moral duties, and that we may have the same mind, affection and conversation that he had.

[III] Thirdly by putting off our clothes, we are to put off the old man, i. e. the masse and body of sinful corruption; and that’s done when we hate sin, and firmly resolve against it.

[IV] Fourthly, when we clothe and gird our selves, we are taught to gird up the loins of our minds, to have our lamps burning, to prepare our selves to meet Christ, whether at death or the last judgment.

Quest. Why must we take heed of pride in Apparel?

[I] Answ. First, because hereby we waste that that should be better employed, as for the good of the Church, Common-wealth, our families, and especially for the relief of the poor.

[II] Secondly, hereby precious time is abused, when we spend so much time in adorning our bodies, that we want leisure to adorn and beautify our souls.

[III] Thirdly, hereby our attire it self is abused, being made a sign of the vanity of our minds, and the wantonness of our hearts, which should shew the Religion of our hearts.

[IV] Fourthly, it confounds order in the societies of men: It coming hereby to pass, that there is little or no difference between inferiours and superiours.

[V] Fifthly, great judgments are threatened against pride in apparel, Isa. 2.11, 12. and 3.16, &c. Zeph. 3.11.

Mr. Perkins, Vol. 2. p. 135.

Quest. What further Reasons may be rendered against excess in Apparel?

Answ. First, God hath forbidden garishness and excess in Apparel, and therefore except we will shew our selves not to regard his word, we must take heed of it, 1 Pet. 3.3, 4. 1 Tim. 2.9, 10.

Secondly, consider the coming in of Apparel, and we shall see that we have [II] little cause to be proud of it: For we had none in the state of innocency, nor needed none; we were naked, and not ashamed: at which time Apparel would have been to mans body as a cloud to the Sun, not to deck but to darken it: but when by sin we had wounded our selves, God was feign to cover it with a plaster. Our Apparel then is a badge of our sin, and ought to humble us, and who is proud of a plaster that covers a filthy sore.

Thirdly, its a most unseemly thing for Christians to put excellency in Apparel,[III] and to be so careful about these outward toys. It becomes the world well enough that know no better clothing, neither looking for grace here, nor glory hereafter: but Christians should think themselves most beautiful, when they are most modestly attired; when they are arrayed with grace. We profess our selves to be Pilgrims here, and therefore should not fashion our selves to the world, &c. Rom. 12.2. 1 Pet. 1.14.

Fourthly, its absurd to place excellency in such a thing as Apparel, for [IV] we borrow it of poor creatures that are far inferiour to our selves. The best silk is the excrements of a crawling worms and the finest cloth is but the fleece of a silly sheep. And when all is done, we are not so fine as the lily of the field, Mat. 6.28, 29.

Fifthly, when the outside is most decked, commonly the inside is most neglected,[V] whereas the body is but the case of the soul, and apparel the case of the body, and we use not to make the case of a thing so good, as that we put therein. Such are like a poor Jade with a velvet Saddle, and guilded trappings.

Sixthly, whereas such as are so careful to get brave apparel, do it to get honour [VI] and esteem, God notably crosses them; some laugh at them and flout them for it, others envy them, and others are angry at them for it: So that whereas they thought to please all, they please none, neither God nor man.

Seventhly, it makes none better that wear it, whether they are beautiful or deformed,[VII] virtuous or vicious. If beautiful, what needs such a deal of stir, which yet doth but hinder their native beauty? If deformed it usually makes it but more known and taken notice of. If they be virtuous its not their gay clothes, but their virtue that adorns them: If vicious, every one will say, that its cost ill bestowed, and it will but increase their vices.

Eighthly, they that affect costly apparel sin,[VIII]

1. Against God by abusing his creatures to pride, and neglecting his Worship publick or private, or by coming unprepared thereto, whilst they spend so much time in adorning themselves, dressing themselves by the hour, and praying by the minute.

2. Against themselves by neglecting the inward clothing of their souls, and procuring much envy, and ill speech, and many censures from others.

3. Against their neighbours by provoking them to imitate their bad example: For when some begin, others will follow, and Pride spreads quickly, especially where Religion keeps it not down.

Ninthly, its not only a sin, but the cause and increaser of much sin. It comes [IX] from pride, and is a great increaser of pride. It hinders the service of God, and the good of our own souls. It breaks the neck of Hospitality, destroys Charity, causeth racking of rents in the Country, and falsehood and deceit amongst Tradesmen to maintain it. It causeth lust in the wearers, and provokes it in others.

Ob. But though we wear such Apparel, we are not proud of it, but as humble as others?

Answ. How shall we judge of that which is within, but by the outward fruits. Our light should shine outwardly that others may behold it, Mat. 5.16. we should keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and man, Acts 24.16.

Ob. We do it to please our husbands, they will have it so?

Answ. Many pretend this, when indeed they do it to please their own vain minds. But if any have such phantastical husbands, they must yet take heed of going too far lest they displease God. Let them rather please their husbands by their humble subjection, and modest and sober carriage.

Ob. We do but what most do?

Answ. We must not follow a multitude to do evil: Exodus 23.2.

Ob. We could be content to lay it aside, if others would do so?

Answ. We ought not to tarry for others, but rather to begin and give them a good example.

Mr. Rogers on Peter.

[X] Tenthly, cost and curiosity is against the first Institution of Apparel: God clothed our first Parents in beasts skins, and we are not better then they. He attired them in an habit becoming sorrow, and the state of banished persons.

[XI] Eleventhly, Our bodies are but houses of clay, and therefore we should not be too solicitous to adorn them.

[XII] Twelfthly, because of the absence of the Bridegroom Christ. A chaste Spouse is not much taken up in adorning her self, when her husband is from home.

[XIII] Thirteenthly, such as were most curious herein, are branded in Scripture to be most notoriously wicked persons, as Thamar, Jezebel the whore, Rev. 17.3. Isa. 3.16, &c. Dives, Luke 16.19.

Mr. Byfield on Peter.

Quest. If there be any deformity in the body, may we not labour to cover it?

Answ. Yes: but we may not set a new form on the face: Dissembling is condemned as well in deed as in word, every one should be content with their own natural favour, and complexion that God hath given them, and account of it as a precious thing, be it better or worse. For the outward form and favour that a man hath, is the work of God himself proportioned, and fitted to him by his special Providence. Being therefore the Lords own work, and his Will thus to frame it rather then otherwise, there is great reason that we should rest contented with the same. They therefore that devise, and use artificial forms, and favours to set upon their bodies and faces by painting, and colouring, that they may seem such as indeed they are not, are condemned by the light of nature, and much more by the light of God’s Word, wherein we have but one only example thereof, and that is of wicked Jezebel, 2 Kings 9.30. who by this mark is noted for a notorious strumpet, in that she painted her face. For what is this but to find fault with God’s own Workmanship? and to seek to correct the same by a counterfeit work of our own devising, which cannot but be highly derogatory to his wisdom, and displeasing to his Majesty.

Quest. What Arguments may be brought against women’s painting their faces?

Answ. It is not only evil in regard of the abuse, but utterly unlawful and abominable in its own nature, and in the general practice of it, as offending not only against the Law of God, but the very light of nature, such as have no spark of grace branding it with a note of reproach wheresoever they discover it: Yea, even those that practice it do condemn it in their own consciences, and are ashamed to be taken with the fact: But that all Christians may abhor it, Let them consider,

1. That God is not the Author of this beauty, but the devil himself, who brings the works of God into disgrace, not only by counterfeiting them, but by labouring to excel them. Saint Cyprian thinks, that when wicked Angels, professing love to lewd women, that they might destroy them, abused their bodies to filthiness, as a reward of their wickedness, they taught them this Art of painting; whence he inferreth, Haec non sunt membra quae Deus fecit, sed quae Diabolus infecit. These painted parts are not of God’s making, but of the Devil’s corrupting. Now what impiety is it to Professors of Christianity, being formed by God to seek to be reformed, and bettered by the Devil. Hence Tertullian saith, The Devil hath certainly devised this Art, that he might oppose himself against God: For that is God’s work which is natural, and that the Devils which is counterfeited: And what hellish wickedness (saith he) is it to add to God’s work, the Devils Art? &c.

Secondly, as it hath an evil Author, so it is in it self evil, as springing from [II] sinful roots, and bringing forth abundance of cursed fruits.

1. The root from which it springs is sometimes Pride, which moves them, when they cannot match others in natural beauty, to use these Artificial helps, that they may excel them in that which is counterfeit. Sometimes it springs from lust, and inward uncleanness, which moves them to use these inveigling Arts, that by seeming more beautiful than they are, they may ensnare the affections of those that look upon them.

2. The cursed fruits which it produceth, are either against God, others, or themselves.

1. Against God they offend, by presuming to adulterate his works, and by taking upon them to mend that which (as they suppose) he hath made amiss. Hence St. Cyprian, God made man according to his own Image, and dare any presume to change that which God hath made? In so doing they offer wrong to God, when they strive to reform and transform that which he hath formed. For that which is natural is the Work of God, but the alteration of it is the work of the Devil, &c.

2. They offend against men by deceiving and abusing them, making them to admire a painted Statue in stead of God’s work. Again, they much more sin against them, whilst by these devilish Arts, and counterfeit beauty, they enflame their hearts with filthy and unlawful lusts. Hence St. Jerome calls it; the fire of youth, the fuel of lust, and the sign which shews where an unchaste heart dwells.

3. They most of all sin against themselves, yea, against both their bodies and souls. For it shews that they are ashamed of themselves in their native colour, and therefore being displeased therewith, like Players, they come disguised in the likeness of other persons, and for want of a better, they act their parts in the habit of an harlot. Now what is this but unnaturally to deny themselves? what is it but to make themselves counterfeit idols, that unto them lust may offer the sacrifice of uncleanness? what is it but to expose themselves to the scorn and laughter of those, who seeing their counterfeit beauty, shall afterwards happen to see them in their own complexion, and natural foulness. Again, whilst they labour to attain to this counterfeit beauty, they lose that true complexion which they have by nature: For with their medicines and minerals which they use for this purpose, they make their colour pale, they wrinkle their faces, yea, ofttimes poison their skin, and make dim their eye-sight, and so over-greedily seeking false beauty, they find true deformity, and make themselves loathsome indeed, that they may appear beautiful in shew.

4. They sin against their good name, whilst following the practice of Harlots, they deservedly get the reputation of being Harlots. For this outward painting of these earthly houses, makes men think that they are to be let, and by hanging out this sign of Lust, they invite Customers, seeming to offer their honesty to sale at easy rates: whereas Christians should not only avoid sin, but the very appearance thereof. And concerning such St. Ambrose passeth this sentence: Having adulterated their faces, they will soon after think of adulterating their chastity, and defiling their bodies.

5. They disgrace their Profession of Religion, whilst professing themselves the members of Christ, they behave themselves like the limbs of Satan. The best beauty of a Christian woman is modesty and shamefastness, and the best ornament is simplicity and humility: but how far are they from simplicity and truth, who lie and dissemble, even when they say nothing, speaking falsehood and dissimulation with their very faces, to as many as look upon them? unless they think that only verbal untruth is forbidden, and actual falsehood permitted. Or that it is a greater fault to dissemble in speeches, then to deceive in deeds and actions.

Ob. For our selves we take no great pleasure in it, but we must do it to please our husbands, that we may gain their love, and keep them from lusting after strange women?

Answ. But you ought not by pleasing men to displease God: therefore if it could be imagined that any man is so void of understanding, as that he would have his wife, whom he desires to keep honest, to use the qualities and practice of an Harlot, yet she ought not to content him by burdening her soul with a known sin. Neither can it be imagined, that women hereby can wind themselves into their husbands love, or preserve him from unlawful lusts: For if neither the fear of God’s judgments, threatening the Laws of men, and the danger of falling hereby into innumerable evils, will deter him from following such base courses: nor the love of God and his sweet Promises will allure him to the performance of his duty, how can it be imagined that he will be drawn by a painted vizard to embrace this Conjugal love, or be preserved from strange lusts with a counterfeit beauty? Yea, rather such wives make themselves loathsome to their Husbands, whilst these artificial supplies puts them in mind of their natural defect, and this counterfeit beauty, of that real deformity which it hideth. If then you would have your husbands love you, observe rather a sober gravity, then affect a counterfeit beauty, and deck your minds with ornaments of virtue, as with meekness, humility, chastity, &c. which being permanent and unchangeable, will make his love constant and perpetual.

Mr. Downham’s Warfare.