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Acts of Modesty as it is opposed to Indecency.

1. In your prayers, in churches and places of religion, use reverent postures, great attention, grave ceremony, the lowest gestures of humility, remembering that we speak to God, in our reverence to whom we cannot possibly exceed; but that the expression of this reverence be according to law or custom, and the example of the most prudent and pious persons; that is, let it be the best in its kind to the best of essences.

2. In all public meetings, private addresses, in discourse, in journeys, use those forms of salutation, reverence, and decency, which the custom prescribes, and is usual amongst the most sober persons, giving honour to whom honour belongeth, taking place of none of thy betters, and in all cases of question concerning civil precedency giving it to any one that will take it, if it be only thy own right that is in question.

3. Observe the proportion of affections in all meetings, and to all persons: be not merry at a funeral, nor sad upon a festival’ but rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

4. Abstain from wanton and dissolute laughter, petulant and uncomely jests, loud talking, jeering, and all such actions, which in civil account are called indecencies and incivilities.

5. Towards your parents use all modesty of duty and humble carriage; towards them and all your kindred, be severe in the modesties of chastity, ever fearing, lest the freedoms of natural kindness should enlarge into any neighbourhood of unhandsomeness. For all incestuous mixtures, and all circumstances and degrees towards it, are the highest violations of modesty in the world; for therefore incest is grown to be so high a crime, especially in the last periods of the world, because it breaks that reverence which the consent of all nations and the severity of human laws hath enjoined towards our parents and nearest kindred, in imitation of that law which God gave to the Jews in prosecution of modesty in this instance.

6. Be a curious observer of all those things which are of good report, and are parts of public honesty.128128Philip, iv. 8. For public fame, and the sentence of prudent and public persons is the measure of good and evil in things indifferent, and charity requires us to comply with those fancies and affections which are agreeable to nature, or the analogy of virtue, or public laws, or old customs. It is against modesty for a woman to marry a second husband as long as she bears a burden by the first; or to admit a second love while her funeral tears are not wiped from her cheeks. It is against public honesty to do some lawful actions of privacy in public theatres, and therefore in such cases retirement is a duty of modesty.129129At meretrix abigit testem veloque seraque; Raraque Summaeni fornice rima patet.—Mart. i. 53.

7. Be grave, decent, and modest, in thy clothing and ornament; never let it be above thy condition not always equal to it; never light or amorous discovering a nakedness through a thin veil which thou pretendest to hide; never to lay a snare for a soul; but remember what becomes a Christian, professing holiness, chastity, and the discipline of the holy Jesus: and the first effect of this let your servants feel by your gentleness and aptness to be pleased with their usual diligence, and ordinary conduct.130130Tuta sit ornatrix: odi quae sauciat ora Unguibus, et rapta brachia figit acu. Devovet, et tangit Dominae caput illa, simulque Plorat ad invisas sanguinolenta comas.—Ovid. A.A.3 238. For the man or woman that is dressed with anger and impatience wears pride under their robes, and immodesty above.

8. Hither also is to be reduced singular and affected walking, proud, nice, and ridiculous gestures of body, painting and lascivious dressings; all of which together God reproves by the prophet: ‘The Lord saith, Because the daughters of Sion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and make a tinkling with their feet; therefore the Lord will smite her with a scab of the crown of the head, and will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments.’131131Isa. iii. 16-18. And this duty of modesty, in this instance, is expressly enjoined to all Christian women by St. Paul: ‘That women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety, not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearl, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.1321321Tim. ii. 9.

9. As those meats are to be avoided which tempt our stomachs beyond our hunger, so, also, should prudent persons decline all such spectacles, relations, theatres, loud noises and outcries, which concern us not, and are besides our natural or moral interest. Our senses should not, like petulant and wanton girls, wander into markets and theatres without just employment; but when they are sent abroad by reason, return quickly with their errand, and remain modestly at home under their guide, till they be sent again.133133(Edipum curiositas in extremas conjecit calamitates.—Plut.

10. Let all persons be curious in observing modesty towards themselves, in the handsome treating their own body, and such as are in their power, whether living or dead. Against this rule they offend who expose to others their own, or pry into others’ nakedness beyond the limits of necessity, or where a leave is not made holy by a permission from God. It is also said, that God was pleased to work a miracle about the body of Epiphanius to reprove the immodest curiosity of an unconcerned person who pried too near, when charitable people were composing it to the grave. In all these cases and particulars, although they seem little, yet our duty and concernment is not little. Concerning which I use the words of the son of Sirach, “He that despiseth little things shall perish by little and little.”

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