HOMILY AGAINST EXCESS OF APPAREL
AN HOMILIE AGAINST
excesse of Apparrell.
WHERE ye haue heeretofore beene excited & stirred to vse temperance of meates and drinkes, and to auoyd the excesse thereof, many wayes hurtfull to the state of the common wealth, and so odious before Almighty GOD, being the authour and giuer of such creatures, to comfort and stablish our frayle nature with thankes vnto him, and not by abusing of them to prouoke his liberality to seuere punishing of that disorder. In like maner it is conuenient, that yee bee admonished of another soule & chargeable excesse: I meane, of apparell, at these dayes so gorgeous, that neither Almighty GOD by his word can stay our proud curiosity in the same, neither yet godly and necessary lawes, made of our Princes, and oft repeated with the penalties, can bridle this detestable abuse, whereby both GOD is openly contemned, and the Princes Lawes manifestly disobeyed, to the great perill of the Realme. Wherefore, that sobriety also in this excesse may bee espied among vs, I shall declare vnto you, both the moderate vse of apparell, approoued by GOD in his holy word, and also the abuses therof, which he forbiddeth and disalloweth, as it may appeare by the inconueniences which dayly encrease, by the iust iudgement of GOD, where that measure is not kept, which he himselfe hath appointed. If we consider the end and purpose whereunto Almighty GOD hath ordayned his creatures, we shall easily perceiue that he alloweth vs apparell, not only for necessities sake, but also for an honest comelinesse. Euen as in herbes, trees, and sundry fruites, we haue not onely diuers necessary vses, but also the pleasant sight and sweet smell, to delight vs withall, wherein wee may behold the singular loue of GOD towards mankinde, in that hee hath prouided both to releeue our necessities, and also to refresh our senses with an honest and moderate recreation. Therefore Dauid in the hundred and fourth Psalme, confessing GODS carefull prouidence, sheweth that GOD not only prouideth things necessary for men, as hearbs and other meats, but also such things as may reioyce & comfort, as wine to make glad the heart, oyles and oyntments to make the face to shine (Psalms 104.14-15). So that they are altogether past the limites of humanity, who yeelding onely to necessity, forbid the lawfull fruition of GODS benefits. With whose traditions wee may not be ledde, if we giue eare to S. Paul, writing to the Colossians, willing them not to hearken vnto such men as shall say, Touch not, Taste not, Handle not, superstitiously bereauing them of the fruition of GODS creatures (Colossians 2.21). And no lesse truely ought we to beware, lest vnder pretence of Christian liberty, wee take licence to doe what wee list, aduancing our selues in sumptuous apparell, and despising other, preparing ourselues in fine brauery, to wanton, lewde, and vnchaste behauiour.
4 Lessons. To the auoyding whereof, it behouueth vs to be mindefull of foure lessons, taught in holy Scripture, whereby we shall learne to temper our selues, and to restraine our immoderate affections, to that measure which GOD hath appoynted (Romans 13.14). The first is, that we make not prouision for the flesh, to accomplish the lustes thereof, with costly apparell, as that harlot did, of whom Salomon speaketh, Prouerbes the seuenth, which perfumed her bed, and deckt it with costly ornaments of Egypt, to the fulfilling of her lewd lust: but rather ought we by moderate temperance to cut off all occasions, whereby the flesh might get the victorie (Proverbs 7.16-17). The second is written by Saint Paul, in the vii. Chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthes, where he teacheth vs to vse this world, as though we vsed it not. Whereby he cutteth away not onely all ambition, pride, and vaine pompe in apparell: but also all inordinate care and affection, which withdraweth vs from the contemplation of heauenly things, and consideration of our duetie towards GOD. They that are much occupied in caring for things pertaining to the body, are most commonly negligent and carelesse in matters concerning the soule (1 Corinthians 7.31-33). Therefore our Sauiour Christ willeth vs not to take thought what wee shall eate, or what we shall drinke, or wherewith wee shall bee clothed, but rather to seeke the Kingdome of GOD, and the righteousnesse thereof (Matthew 6.31, 33). Whereby wee may learne to beware, lest wee vse those things to our hinderance, which GOD hath ordained for our comfort and furtherance, towards his Kingdome. The third is, that we take in good part our estate and condition, and content our selues with that which GOD sendeth, whether it bee much or little. He that is ashamed of base and simple attire, will be proud of gorgious apparell, if hee may get it. Wee must learne therefore of the Apostle S. Paul both to vse plenty, and also to suffer penury (Philippians 4.12), remembring that we must yeeld accounts, of those things which wee haue receiued vnto him who abhorreth all excesse, pride, ostentation, and vanitie, who also vtterly condemneth and disalloweth whatsoeuer draweth vs from our duety toward GOD, or diminisheth our charity towards our neighbours and children, whom we ought to loue as ourselues. The fourth and last rule is, that euery man behold and consider his owne vocation, in as much as GOD hath appointed euery man his degree and office, within the limittes whereof it behoueth him to keepe himselfe. Therefore all may not looke to weare like apparell, but euery one according to his degree, as GOD hath placed him. Which, if it were obserued, many one doubtlesse should bee compelled to weare a ruffet coate, which now ruffeleth in silkes and veluets, spending more by the yeere in sumptuous apparell, then their fathers receiued for the whole reuenue of their lands. But alas now a dayes how many may wee behold occupied wholy in pampering the flesh, taking no care at all, but onely how to decke themselues, setting their affection altogether on worldly brauerie, abusing GODS goodnesse, when he sendeth plenty, to satisfie their wonton lusts, hauing no regard to the degree wherein GOD hath placed them. The Israelites were contented with such apparell as GOD gaue them, although it were base and simple: And GOD so blessed them, that their shooes and clothes lasted them fourtie yeeres (Deuteronomy 29.5), yea, and those clothes which their fathers had worne, their children were contented to vse afterward. But we are neuer contented, and therefore we prosper not, so that most commonly hee that ruffeleth in his Sables, in his fine furred gowne, corked slippers, trime buskinnes, and warme mittons, is more ready to chill for colde, then the poore labouring man, which can abide in the field all the day long, when the North winde blowes, with a few beggerly cloutes about him. Wee are loth to weare such as our fathers haue left vs, we thinke not that sufficient or good ynough for vs. Wee must haue one gowne for the day, another for the night, one long, another shorte, one for Winter, another for Summer, one through furred, another but faced, one for the working day, another for the holie day, one of this colour, another of that colour, one of Cloth, another of Silke or Damaske. We must haue change of apparell, one afore dinner, and another after, one of the Spanish fashion, another Turkie: and to bee briefe, neuer content with sufficient. Our Sauiour Christ bad his disciples they should not haue two coates: but the most men, farre vnlike to his schollers, haue their presses so full of apparell, that many know not how many sorts they haue (Matthew 10.10). Which thing caused Saint Iames to pronounce this terrible curse against such wealthie worldlings, Goe to yee rich men, weepe and howle on your wretchednesse that shall come vpon you, your riches are corrupt, and your garments are moth eaten, ye haue liued in pleasure on the earth, and in wantonnesse, yee haue nourished your hearts, as in the day of slaughter (James 5.1-2, 5). Marke I beseech you, Saint Iames calleth them miserable, notwithstanding their richesse and and plenty of apparell, forasmuch as they pamper their bodies, to their owne destruction. What was the rich glutton the better for his fine fare and costly apparell? Did not he nourish himselfe to bee tormented in hell fire (Luke 16.19-25)? Let vs learne therefore to content our selues, hauing foode and rayment, as Saint Paul teacheth, least desiring to bee enriched with aboundance, wee fall into temptations, snares, and many noysome lustes, which drowne men in perdition and destruction (1 Timothy 6.9). Certainely, such as delight in gorgious apparell, are commonly puffed vp with pride, and filled with diuers vanities. So were the daughters of Sion and people of Ierusalem whom Esai the Prophet threatneth, because they walked with stretched out neckes and wandering eyes, mincing as they went, and nicely treading with their feet, that Almighty GOD would make their heads baulde, and discouer their secret shame. In that day, saith hee, shall the Lord take away the ornament of the slippers, and the caules, and the round attires, and the sweete balles, and the bracelets, and the attires of the head, and the sloppes, and the head bandes, and the tabletes, and the eareringes, the rings, and the mufflers, the costly apparell, and the vailes, and wimples, and the crisping pinne, and the glasses, and the fine linnen, and the hoodes, and the launes (Isaiah 3.16-23). So that almightie GOD would not suffer his benefits to bee vainely and wontonly abused, no not of that people whom he most tenderly loued, and had chosen to himselfe before all other. No lesse truely is the vanitie that is vsed among vs in these dayes. For the proude and haughtie stomacks of the daughters of England, are so maintained with diuers disguised sortes of costly apparell, that as Tertullian an auncient father saith, there is left no difference in apparell betweene an honest matrone and a common strumpet (Tertullian, `Apolog. Con. Gentes,' chap. 6). Yea many men are become so effeminate, that they care not what they spend in disguising themselues, euer desiring new toyes, and inuenting new fashions. Therefore a certaine man that would picture euery countreyman in his accustomed apparell, when hee had painted other nations, he pictured the English man all naked, and gaue him cloth vnder his arme, and bade him make it himselfe as hee thought best, for hee changed his fashion so often, that he knew not how to make it. Thus with our phantasticall deuises, wee make our selues laughing stockes to other nations, while one spendeth his patrimonie vpon pounces and cuttes, another bestoweth more on a dauncing shirte, then might suffice to buy him honest and comely apparell for his whole bodie. Some hang their reuenues about their neckes, ruffling in their ruffes, and many a one ieopardeth his best ioynt, to maintaine himselfe in sumptuous rayment. And euery man, nothing considering his estate and condition, seeketh to excell other in costly attire. Whereby it commeth to passe, that in abundance and plentie of all things, we yet complaine of want and penurie, while one man spendeth that which might serue a multitude, and no man distributeth of the abundance which hee hath receiued, and all men excessiuely waste that which should serue to supply the necessities of other. There hath beene very good prouision made against such abuses, by diuers good and wholsome lawes, which if they were practised as they ought to bee of all true subiects, they might in some part serue to diminish this raging and riotous excesse in apparell. But alas, there appeareth amongst vs little feare and obedience either of GOD, or man. Therefore must wee needes looke for GODS fearefull vengeance from heauen, to ouerthrowe our presumption and pride, as hee ouerthrew Herode, who in his royall apparell, forgetting GOD, was smitten of an Angell, and eaten vp of wormes (Acts 12.21-23). By which terrible example, GOD hath taught vs that wee are but wormes meate, although we pamper our selues neuer so much in gorgeous apparell.
Here we may learne that which Iesus the sonne of Sirach teacheth, not to be proud of clothing and rayment, neither to exalt our selues in the day of honour, because the workes of the Lord are wonderfull, and glorious, secret, and vnknowen (Apoc. Ecclesiastes 11.4), teaching vs with humblenesse of minde, euery one to be mindfull of the vocation whereunto GOD hath called him. Let Christians therefore endeuour themselues to quench the care of pleasing the flesh, let vs vse the benefits of GOD in this world, in such wise, that we be not too much occupied in prouiding for the body. Let vs content our selues quietly with that which GOD sendeth, bee it neuer so little. And if it please him to send plenty, let vs not waxe proud thereof, but let vs vse it moderately, aswell to our owne comfort, as to the reliefe of such as stand in necessity. He that in abundance and plenty of apparel hideth his face from him that is naked, despiseth his owne flesh, as Esay the Prophet sayth (Isaiah 58.7). Let vs learne to know ourselues, and not to despise other, let vs remember that we stand all before the Maiesty of Almighty GOD, who shall iudge vs by his holy word, wherin he forbiddeth excesse, not onely to men, but also to women. So that none can excuse themselues, of what estate or condition so euer they be. Let vs therefore present our selues before his throne, as Tertullian exhorteth, with the ornaments which the Apostle speaketh of, Ephesians the sixt Chapter, hauing our loynes girt about with the verity, hauing the breast-plate of righteousnesse, and shodde with shoes prepared by the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6.14-15). Let vs take vnto vs simplicity, chastity, and comelinesse, submitting our neckes to the sweet yoke of Christ (Matthew 11.30). Let women be subiect to their husbands, and they are sufficiently attired, sayth Tertullian. The wife of one Philo an heathen Philosopher, being demanded why she ware no gold: she answered, that she thought her husbands vertues sufficient ornaments. How much more ought Christian women, instructed by the word of GOD, to content themselues in their husbands? yea, how much more ought euery Christian to content himselfe in our Sauiour Christ, thinking himselfe sufficiently garnished with his heauenly vertues. But it wil be here obiected & sayd of some nice & vaine women, that al which we do in painting our faces, in dying our haire, in embalming our bodies, in decking vs with gay apparell, is to please our husbands, to delight his eyes, and to retayne his loue towards vs. O vaine excuse, and most shamefull answer, to the reproch of thy husband. What couldst thou more say to set out his foolishnesse, then to charge him to bee pleased and delighted with the Diuels tire? Who can paint her face and curle her hayre, and change it into an vnnaturall colour, but therein doeth worke reproofe to her maker, who made her? As though shee could make her selfe more comely then GOD hath appointed the measure of her beauty. What doe these women, but goe about to reforme that which GOD hath made? not knowing that all things naturall are the worke of GOD, and things disguised and vnnaturall be the workes of the Diuell. And as though a wise and Christian husband should delight to see his wife in such painted and flourished visages, which common harlots most doe vse, to traine therewith their louers to naughtinesse, or as though an honest woman could delight to be like an harlot for pleasing of her husband. Nay, nay, these be but vaine excuses of such as go about to please rather others then their husbands. And such attires be but to prouoke her to shew her selfe abroad, to entice others: a worthy matter. She must keep debate with her husband to maintaine such apparel, whereby shee is the worse huswife, the seldomer at home to see to her charge, and so neglect his thrift, by giuing great prouocation to her houshold to waste and wantonnesse, while shee must wander abroad to shew her owne vanity, and her husbands foolishnesse. By which her pride, she stirreth vp much enuie of others which bee as vainely delighted as she is. She doeth but deserue mockes and scorns, to set out all her commendation in Iewish and Ethnicke apparell, and yet brag of her Christianity. She doeth but waste superfluously her husbands stocke by such sumptuousnesse, and sometimes shee is the cause of much bribery, extortion, & deceit, in her husbands dealings, that she may be the more gorgiously set out to the sight of the vaine world, to please the Diuels eyes, and not GODS, who giueth to euery creature sufficient and moderate comelines, wherewith we should bee contented if wee were of God. What other thing doest thou by those means, but prouokest other to tempt thee, to deceiue thy soule, by the baite of thy pompe and pride? What else doest thou, but settest out thy pride, and makest of the vndecent apparell of thy body, the deuils net, to catch the soules of them which behold thee? O thou woman, not a Christian, but worse, then a Panim, thou minister of the deuill: Why pamperest thou that carren flesh so high, which sometime doeth stincke and rotte on the earth as thou goest? Howsoeuer thou perfumest thy selfe, yet cannot thy beastlynesse be hidden or ouercome with thy smelles and sauours, which doe rather defourme and misshape thee, then beautifie thee. What meant Solomon to say, of such trimming of vaine women, when hee sayd, A faire woman without good manners and conditions is like a Sowe which hath a ring of golde vpon her snout (Proverbs 11.22)? but that the more thou garnish thy selfe with these outward blasinges, the lesse thou carest for the inward garnishing of thy minde, and so doest but deforme thy selfe by such aray, and not beautifie thy selfe? Heare, heare, what Christes holy Apostles doe write, Let not the outward apparell of women (saith Saint Peter) bee decked with the brayding of haire, with wrapping on of golde, or goodly clothing: but let the minde, and the conscience, which is not seene with the eyes, be pure and cleane, that is, sayth hee, an acceptable and an excellent thing before GOD. For so the olde ancient holy women attired themselues, and were obedient to their husbands (1 Peter 3.3-5). And Saint Paul saith, that women should apparell themselues with shamefastnesse and sobernesse, and not with braydes of their haire, or gold, or pearle, or precious clothes, but as women should doe which will expresse godlinesse by their good outward workes (1 Timothy 2.9-10). If ye will not keepe the Apostles preceptes, at the least let vs heare what pagans, which were ignorant of Christ, haue sayde in this matter. Democrates saith, The ornament of a woman, standeth in scarcitie of speach and apparell. Sophocles saith of such apparell thus, It is not an ornament, O thou foole, but a shame and a manifest shew of thy folly. Socrates saith, that that is a garnishing to a woman, which declareth out her honestie. The Grecians vse it in a prouerbe: It is not gold or pearle which is a beauty to a woman, but good conditions.
And Aristotle biddeth that a woman should vse lesse apparell then the lawe doth suffer. For it is not the goodlinesse of apparell, nor the excellencie of beautie, nor the abundance of gold, that maketh a woman to bee esteemed, but modestie, and diligence to liue honestly in all things. This outragious vanitie is now growen so farre, that there is no shame taken of it. We reade in histories, that when king Dionysius sent to the women of Lacedemon rich robes, they answered and sayd, that they shall doe vs more shame then honour: and therefore refused them. The women in Rome in old time abhorred that gay apparell which king Pyrrhus sent to them, and none were so greedy and vaine to accept them. And a law was openly made of the Senate, and a long time obserued, that no woman should weare ouer halfe an ounce of gold, nor should weare clothes of diuers colours. But perchaunce some daintie dame will say and answere mee, that they must doe some thing to shew their birth and blood, to shew their husbands riches: as though nobility were chiefly seene by these things, which be common to those which bee most vile, as though thy husbands riches were not better bestowed then in such superfluities, as though when thou wast christened, thou diddest not renounce the pride of this world, and the pompe of the flesh. I speake not against conuenient apparell for euery state agreeable: but against the superfluity, against the vaine delight to couet such vanities, to deuise new fashions to feede thy pride with, to spend so much vpon thy carkasse, that thou and thy husband are compelled to robbe the poore, to maintaine thy costlinesse. Heare how that noble holy woman Queene Hester, setteth out these goodly ornaments (as they be called) when (in respect of sauing GODS people) she was compelled to put on such glorious apparell, knowing that it was a fit stable to blinde the eyes of carnall fooles. Thus she prayed, Thou knowest, O Lord, the necessity, which I am driuen to, to put on this apparell, and that I abhorre this signe of pride, and of this glory which I beare on my head, and that I defie it as a filthy cloth, and that I weare it not when I am alone. Againe, by what meanes was Holophernes deceiued, by the glittering shew of apparell, which that holy woman Iudith did put on her, not as delighting in them, nor seeking vaine voluptuous pleasure by them: but shee ware it of pure necessitie by GODS dispensation, vsing this vanitie to ouercome the vaine eyes of GODS enemie. Such desire was in those noble women, being very loth and vnwilling otherwise to weare such sumptuous apparell, by the which others should be caused to forget themselues. These be commended in Scripture for abhorring such vanities, which by constraint and great necessitie, against their hearts desire, they were compelled to weare them for a time. And shall such women bee worthy commendations, which neither bee comparable with these women aforesayd in nobility, nor comparable to them in their good zeale to GOD and his people, whose dayly delight and seeking is to flourish in such gay shifts and changes, neuer satisfied, nor regarding who smarteth for their apparell, so they may come by it? O vaine men, which be subiects to their wittes in these inordinate affections. O vaine women, to procure so much hurt to themselues, by the which they come the sooner to misery in this world and in the meane time be abhorred of GOD, hated and scorned of wise men, and in the end, like to be ioyned with such, who in hell, too late repenting themselues, shall openly complaine with these wordes: What hath our pride profited vs? or what profit hath the pompe of riches brought vs? All these things are passed away like a shadow. As for vertue, we did neuer shew any signe thereof: And thus wee are consumed in our wickednesse. If thou sayest that the custome is to bee followed, and the vse of the world doeth compell thee to such curiosity, then I aske of thee, whose custome should be followed? wise folkes manners, or fooles? If thou sayest the wise: then I say, follow them: For fooles customes, who should follow but fooles? Consider that the consent of wise men, ought to be alleadged for a custome. Now if any lewd custome be vsed, be thou the first to breake it, labour to diminish it and lay it downe: and more laud before GOD, and more commendation shalt thou win by it, then by all the glory of such superfluity.
Thus ye haue heard declared vnto you, what GOD requireth by his word concerning the moderate vse of his creatures. Let vs learne to vse them moderately as he hath appointed. Almighty GOD hath taught vs, to what end and purpose we should vse our apparell. Let vs therefore learne so to behaue our selues in the vse thereof, as becommeth Christians, alwayes shewing our selues thankefull to our heauenly Father for his great and mercifull benefits, who giueth vnto vs our dayly bread, that is to say, all things necessary for this our needy life, vnto whom we shall render accounts for all his benefits, at the glorious appearing of our Sauiour Christ, to whom with the Father and the holy Ghost, bee all honour, prayse, and glory for euer and euer. Amen.
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