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"Let thy mind's sweetness have its operation
Upon thy person, clothes, and habitation."
And surely every one should attend to this, if he would not have the good which is in him evil spoken of.
6. Another mistake with regard to apparel, has been common in the religious world. It has been supposed by some, that there ought to be no difference at all in the apparel of Christians. But neither these texts, nor any other in the Book of God, teach any such thing, or direct that the dress of the Master or the Mistress should be nothing different from that of their servants. There may, undoubtedly, be a moderate difference of apparel between persons of different stations. And where the eye is single, this will easily be adjusted by the Rules of Christian Prudence.
7. Yea, it may be doubted, whether any part of Scripture forbids, (at least I know not any,) those in any nation that are invested with supreme Authority, to be arrayed in gold and costly apparel; or to adorn their immediate attendants, or Magistrates, or Officers with the same. It is not improbable, that our blessed Lord intended to give countenance to this custom, when he said, without the least mark of censure, or disapprobation, "Behold, those that wear gorgeous" (splendid) "apparel, are in kings courts," Luke vii. 25.
8. What is then the meaning of these scriptures? What is it which they forbid? They manifestly forbid ordinary Christians, those in the lower or middle ranks of life, to be adorned with gold, or pearls, or costly apparel. But why? What harm is there herein? This deserves our serious consideration. But it is highly expedient, or rather absolutely necessary for all who would consider it to any purpose, as far as is possible to divest themselves of all prejudice, and to stand open to conviction: Is it not necessary likewise in the highest degree, that they should earnestly beseech the Father of Lights, that, "by his holy inspiration they may think the things that are right, and, by his merciful guidance perform the same?" Then they will not say, no
not in their hearts, (as I fear too many have done,) what the famous Jew said to the Christian, "Thou shalt not persuade me, though thou hast persuaded me.”
9. The question is, What harm does it do, to adorn ourselves with gold, or pearls, or costly array? Suppose you can afford it? That is, suppose it does not hurt or impoverish your family? The first harm it does is, It engenders Pride, and where it is already, increases it. Whoever narrowly observes what passes in his own heart, will easily discern this. Nothing is more natural than to think ourselves better, because we are dressed in better clothes. And it is scarcely possible for a man to wear costly apparel, without, in some measure, valuing himself upon it. One of the old Heathens was so well apprized of this, that when he had a spite to a poor man, and had a mind to turn his head, he made him a present of a suit of fine clothes. "Eutrapelus, cuicunq; nocere volebat, Vestimenta dabat pretiosa."
He could not then but imagine himself to be as much better, as he was finer than his neighbour. And how many thousands, not only lords and gentlemen in England, but honest tradesmen argue the same way? Inferring the superior value of their persons from the value of their clothes!
10. "But may not one man be as proud though clad in sackcloth, as another is, though clad in cloth of gold?" As this argument meets us at every turn, and is supposed to be unanswerable, it will be worth while to answer it once for all, and to shew the utter emptiness of it. not, then, one in sackcloth," you ask, "be as proud as he that is clad in cloth of gold?" I answer, Certainly he may: I suppose, no one doubts of it. And what inference can you draw from this? Take a parallel case. One man that drinks a cup of wholesome wine may be as sick as another that drinks poison. But does this prove that the poison has no more tendency to hurt a man than the wine? Or does it excuse any man for taking what has a natural tendency to make him sick? Now to apply this, experience
shews that fine clothes have a natural tendency to make a man sick of pride. Plain clothes have not. Although it is true, you may be sick of pride in these also, yet they have no natural tendency, either to cause or increase this sickness. Therefore, let all that desire to be clothed with humility, abstain from that poison.
11. Secondly, The wearing gay or costly apparel, naturally tends to breed and to increase Vanity. By vanity I here mean the love and desire of being admired and praised. Every one of you that is fond of dress, has a witness of this in your own bosom. Whether you will confess it before man or not, you are convinced of this before God. You know in your hearts, it is with a view to be admired that you thus adorn yourselves: and that you would not be at the pains, were none to see you, but God and his holy angels. Now the more you indulge this foolish desire, the more it grows upon you. You have vanity enough by nature; but by thus indulging it, you increase it a hundredfold. O stop! Aim at pleasing God alone, and all these ornaments will drop off.
12. Thirdly, the wearing of gay and costly apparel, naturally tends to beget Anger, and every turbulent and uneasy passion. And it is on this very account, that the Apostle places this "outward adorning” in direct opposition to the "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit." How remarkably does he add," which is in the sight of God of great price :"
"Than gold or pearls more precious far,
None can easily conceive, unless he himself were to make the sad experiment, the contrariety there is between the outward adorning, and this inward quietness of spirit. : You never can thoroughly enjoy this, while you are fond of the other. It is only while you sit loose to that "outward adorning," that you can in "patience possess your soul." Then only when you have cast off your fondness for dress, will the Peace of God reign in your hearts.
13. Fourthly, Gay and costly apparel directly tends to
create and inflame lust. I was in doubt whether to name this brutal appetite. Or, in order to spare delicate ears, to express it by some gentle circumlocution. (Like the Dean, who some years ago, told his audience at Whitehall, "If you do not repent, you will go to a place, which I have too much manners to name before this good company.") But I think it best to speak out: since the more the word shocks your ears, the more it may arm your heart. The fact is plain and undeniable: it has this effect both on the wearer and the beholder. To the former, our elegant poet, Cowley, addresses these fine lines:
"The' adorning thee with so much art
'Tis like the poisoning of a dart,
Too apt before to kill."
That is, (to express the matter in plain terms, without any colouring,) "You poison the beholder, with far more of this base appetite, than otherwise he would feel." Did you not know, this would be the natural consequence of your elegant adorning? To push the question home, did you not desire, did you not design it should? And yet all the time, how did you
-Set to public view A specious face of innocence and virtue ?" Meanwhile you do not yourself escape the snare which you spread for others. The dart recoils, and you are infected with the same poison with which you infected them. You kindle a flame, which, at the same time, consumes both yourself and your admirers. And it is well, if it does not plunge both you and them into the flames of hell.
14. Fifthly, The wearing costly array is directly opposite to the being adorned with good works. Nothing can be more evident than this: for the more you lay out on your own apparel, the less you have left to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to lodge the strangers, to relieve those that are sick and in prison, and to lessen the numberless afflictions to which we are exposed in this vale of tears. And here is no room for the evasion used before, " 1 may
be as humble in cloth of gold, as in sackcloth." If you could be as humble, when you choose costly, as when you choose plain apparel, (which I flatly deny,) yet you could not be as beneficent, as plenteous in good works. Every shilling which you save from your own apparel, you may expend in clothing the naked, and relieving the various necessities of the Poor, whom ye "have always with you." Therefore, every shilling which you needlessly spend on your apparel, is, in effect, stolen from God and the Poor. And how many precious opportunities of doing good have you defrauded yourself of! How often have you disabled yourself from doing good, by purchasing what you did not want! For what end did you buy these ornaments? To please God? No; but to please your own fancy, or to gain the admiration and applause of those that were no wiser than yourself. How much good might you have done with that money! And what an irreparable loss have you sustained by not doing it, if it be true that the day is at hand, when "every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour !"
15. I pray consider this well. Perhaps you have not seen it in this light before. When you are laying out that money in costly apparel, which you could have otherwise spared for the poor, you thereby deprive them of what God, the Proprietor of all, had lodged in your hands for their use. If so, what you put upon yourself, you are, in effect, tearing from the back of the naked; as the costly and delicate food which you eat, you are snatching from the mouth of the hungry. For mercy, for pity, for Christ's sake, for the honour of his gospel, stay your hand. Do not throw this money away. Do not lay out on nothing, yea, worse than nothing, what may clothe your poor, naked, shivering, fellow-creature!
16. Many years ago, when I was at Oxford, in a cold winter's day, a young maid, (one of those we kept at school,) called upon me. I said, You seem half-starved. Have you nothing to cover you but that thin linen gown? She said, "Sir, this is all I have!" I put my hand in my