The First Book of Homilies - Homily 11 Against Whoredom and Adultery Although there are, good Christian people, great swarms of vices worthy to be rebuked, such is the decay in true godliness and virtuous living: yet above all other vices, the outrageous seas of adultery, the breaking of wedlock, whoredom, fornication and uncleanliness, have not only burst in, but overtaken almost the whole world, to the great dishonour of God, the exceeding infamy of the name of Christ, the notable decay of true Religion, and the utter destruction of the public good. So abundantly, that the vice is now normal, this vice is grown in such a way, that many no longer count it a sin at all, but rather a pastime, a dalliance, and but a touch of youth: not rebuked, but winked at: not to be punished, but to be laughed at. So it is now necessary to discuss the sin of whoredom and fornication, telling you how great a sin it is; how odious, hateful and abominable it is, and always has been before God and all good people, and how grievously punished both by the law of God, and the laws of many Princes. I also intend to show you certain remedies, so you may by the grace of God, put aside this most detestable sin of whoredom and fornication, and lead your lives in all honesty and cleanliness, and understand that fornication and whoredom are, in the sight of God, most abominable sins. You remember the commandment of God, You shalt not commit adultery (Exodus 20.14): by the which word, adultery, which is properly understood to be the unlawful commixing or joining together of a married man with any woman beside his wife, or of a wife with any man beside her husband: yet it also signifies all unlawful use of those parts, which are ordained for procreation. And this one commandment, forbidding adultery, does sufficiently paint and set out before our eyes the greatness of this sin of whoredom, and manifestly declares how greatly it ought to be abhorred of all honest and faithful people. And none shall think themselves exempted from this commandment, whether old or young, married or unmarried, man or woman, hear what God the Father says by the prophet Moses: There shall be no whore among the daughters of Israel, nor no whoremonger among the sons of Israel (Deuteronomy 23.17). Here is whoredom, fornication, and all other uncleanliness forbidden to all kinds of people, all degrees, and all ages without exception. And that we shall not doubt that this precept or commandment pertains to us indeed, hear what Christ, the perfect teacher of all truth, says in the New Testament, You have heard that it was said in time past, You shall not commit adultery: but I say to you, whoever sees another with lust in their thinking has committed adultery already in their heart (Matthew 5.27-28). Here our Saviour Christ not only confirms and establishes the law against adultery, given in the Old Testament of God the Father by his servant Moses, and makes it of full strength, continually to remain among those who profess his Name in the new law: but he also condemns the gross interpretation of the Scribes and Pharisees, who taught that the this commandment only required to abstain from the outward adultery, and not from the filthy desires and impure lust. This teaches us an exact and full perfection of purity and cleanliness of life, both to keep our bodies undefiled, and our hearts pure and free from all evil thoughts, carnal desires, and fleshly ambitions. How can we then be free from this commandment, where so great charge is laid on us? May a servant do what he will in any thing, having commandment of his master to the contrary? Is not Christ our Master? Are we not his servants? How then can we neglect our Master’s will and pleasure, and follow our own will and fantasies? Christ says You are my friends if you keep those things that I command you (John 15.14). Now has, Christ our Master, commanded us that we should forsake all uncleanliness and filthiness both in body and spirit: this therefore must we do, if we look to please God. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew we read, that the Scribes and Pharisees were grievously offended with Christ, because his disciples did not keep the traditions of the forefathers, for they did not wash their hands when they went to dinner or supper (Matthew 15.1-2): And among other things, Christ answered and said, Hear and understand; It is not that thing which enters the mouth defiles one, but that which comes out of the mouth defiles one (Matthew 15.10-11). For those things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and they defile one. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, breaking of wedlock, whoredom, theft, false witness, blasphemy: these are the things which defile you (Matthew 15.19-20, Mark 7.21). Here may we see, that not only murder, theft, false witness, and blasphemy, defile one, but also evil thoughts, breaking of wedlock, fornication, and whoredom. Who is now of so little understanding, that they will esteem whoredom and fornication to be things of small importance, and of no weight before God? Christ, who is the truth, can not lie and he says evil thoughts, breaking of wedlock, whoredom, and fornication defile one, that is to say, corrupt both the body and soul, and make the temples of the Holy Ghost, the filthy dunghill, or dungeon of unclean spirits; the House of God, the dwelling place of Satan (Titus 1.15). And again in the Gospel of Saint John, the woman taken in adultery, was brought to Christ, who said to her, Go your way, and sin no more (John 8.11). Does he not call whoredom sin? And what is the reward of sin, but everlasting death (Romans 6.23)? If whoredom be sin, then it is not lawful for us to commit it. Saint John says, Those who commit sin are of the devil (1 John 3.8). And our Saviour says, Everyone who sins, is the servant of sin (John 8.34). If whoredom had not been sin, Saint John the Baptist would not have rebuked King Herod for taking his brother’s wife, but he told him plainly, that it was not lawful for him to take his brothers wife. He did not wink at the whoredom of Herod, though he was a king of power, but boldly reproved him for wicked and abominable living (Mark 6.18), and for this he lost his head. But he would rather suffer death than see God so dishonoured, by the breaking of his holy precept and commandment, than to see whoredom unrebuked, even in a king. If whoredom was but a pastime, a dalliance, and not to be passed off, as many count it today. Truly John would have been insane to the displeasure of a king, be cast in prison, and lose his head, for a trifle. But John knew how filthy, stinking, and abominable the sin of whoredom is in the sight of God, therefore would not he leave it unrebuked, not even in a king, If whoredom is not lawful in a king, neither is it lawful in a subject. If whoredom be not lawful in a public or common officer, neither is it lawful in a private person. If it is not lawful in King, nor subject, neither in common officer, nor private person, truly then it is lawful in no man or woman of whatsoever degree or age they are. Furthermore in the Acts of the Apostles we read that when the Apostles and Elders with the whole Congregation, were gathered together to pacify the hearts of the faithful living in Antioch. They were disquieted through the false doctrine of certain Jewish preachers. They sent word to the brethren, that it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to them, to charge them with no more than the necessary things: among other, they willed them to abstain from idolatry and fornication, they said, if you keep yourselves from these you shall do well (Acts 15.28-29). Note here, how these holy and blessed Fathers of Christ’s Church, would charge the congregation with no more things than were necessary. Mark also how among those things, from the which they commanded the brethren of Antioch to abstain, fornication and whoredom is numbered. It is therefore necessary, by the determination and consent of the Holy Ghost, and the Apostles and Elders, with the whole Congregation that as from idolatry and superstition, so likewise we must abstain from fornication and whoredom. It is necessary to salvation to abstain from idolatry: So is it to abstain from whoredom. Is there any nearer way to lead to damnation, than to be an idolater? No. There is no faster way to damnation, than to be a fornicator and whoremonger. Now, where are those people, which so lightly esteem breaking of wedlock, whoredom, fornication and adultery. It is necessary, says the Holy Ghost, the blessed Apostles, the Elders, with the whole Congregation of Christ, it is necessary to salvation, they say to abstain from whoredom. If it be necessary to salvation, then woe be to them who neglect their salvation and give their minds to filthy and stinking sin, to so wicked a vice, and to such a detestable abomination.