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Of the Sin of Whoredom and Fornication

excerpted from:
An Address to Protestants of all Persuasions (1679)


The next crying sin is that of Whoredom and Fornication. From one of the cleanest people under Heaven, I fear, we are become one of the most unchaste, at least in and about London. The French have sufficiently revenged themselves upon us, by the loose manners they have brought amongst us, of which this makes a great part. But I must needs say, to their credit, but our reproach, they keep their Wits in their debaucheries; whilst we, by over-doing them, in the imitation of them, lose both. What is become of the ancient Education of the Kingdom? Our Integrity, Gravity and Manhood, which gave our men so great reputation in the world? Is it not turned into Swearing and Drinking, Fiddling and Dancing, fine Clothes, a Duel and a Wench? Their Profaneness must pass for Wit, and their base Crafts be called Policy.

But where is that retired Breeding, which made our women as famous for their Virtue, as they were always held for their Beauty? Alas! there hath been a sort of industry used to subdue their native modesty, as if it were ill breeding to have it; and arts practiced to make them hardy against their own blushes, and master their shy and bashful disposition (so peculiar to chastity) into an unconverted confidence: As if it were their perfection to be insensible of ill, and to be tame at all things a virtue. Strange! That Sobriety should be turned into Levity! and Lust called Love! and Wantonness, Good-Humor! To introduce which, nothing has been so Pernicious as the use of Plays and Romances amongst us, where the warm and uneven passions of our youth, easily transported beyond the government of their reason, have been moved to try that in earnest, which they have heard or seen in jest.

But which way soever this ungodly latitude came in, certain it is, that what forty years ago was not fit to be named in conversation, is now practiced without any scruple. Marriage, which is God's Ordinance, and as lovely to chaste minds as lawful, is now grown a dull thing, old and clownish, kept up only for issue, and that because the law will have it so; a sort of formality, not yet thought fit to be abrogated: So that what was once ordained of God for many other helps and comforts, and permitted by the holy apostle to prevent lust, "(better marry than burn)" is by the extravagant growth of vice turned to quite the contrary. For some Men, and (which is worse) some Women too, have said, "They could love their Wives and Husbands, if they were not their Wives and Husbands;" though that be the true reason why they ought to love them. It is, in short, to say, if they were in that condition in which they ought not to love them, they could, love them; but being in that condition in which they ought to love them, they declare they cannot love them: Yet, alas! they must be called Christians, and Children of God: What a shame is this; and what scandal to society? But, for God's sake, let this impiety be laid to heart! Let not the Marriage-bed be so horribly defiled; let not our Virgins be so basely abused: It destroys Honor, Fortitude, Health: It pollutes houses, and makes the issue of the nation spurious: It occasions great unkindnesses, rents, confusions and divisions in families, between husband and wife, parents and children, masters, mistresses, and servants: It spots their name: But, above all, the poor children are unhappy, that wear an ignominy they never deserved. In fine, it teaches young men to slight marriage, and married men to break their contracts. If Religion were not interested in it, yet the very Breed of the Nation is visibly injured by it: Good horse-men are more nice and careful in their steeds: The policy of these kingdoms is concerned in preventing the mischief, that follow such Licentious Practices.

But if we will consider the share that Religion has, both in Virginity and in Marriage, we shall find many severe sentences passed upon the violators of them. "Thou shalt not commit adultery," saith God. "The adulterer shall be put to death," saith the same God. "I will be a swift witness against the adulterer," saith the Lord. "Know ye not, that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate persons, nor abusers of themselves with mankind." And the holy apostle gives the reason, "The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body; Know ye not," saith he, "that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid! Flee fornication: He that committeth fornication, sinneth against his own body. What!" saith he, "know ye not, your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." O can men profess to believe these things, and lead that wretched life they live! But yet again hear this man of God: "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named amongst you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. ket no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience: Be not ye therefore partakers with them, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; but rather reprove them: See then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." I shall conclude with these two passages: the first is this, "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge!" This is the other, "But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." This alone ought to deter all people, who have any respect for Holy Scripture, and do believe the mind of God to be declared therein. Let then both Cities, Courts, Towns and Houses, be swept of such iniquity; let the law have its course upon those immoral transgressors; let not God be provoked to destroy us, and let all such turn to God by unfeigned repentance; that Sobriety, Chastity, and Virtuous Conversation, may return again among us. So shall we escape the wrath, that for this, with other enormities, is ready to break out yet farther against us.

-- William Penn founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.