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The Apostle's charge then is, that the woman's head ought to be covered, to show that she is under another's power: but how, and how far, and when this covering is required, will require a further disquisition : - which I shall the rather enter into, because I see some religious and well-affected women carried away with erroneous opinions concerning this point; whose tender consciences have been abused by the misinterpretations of some ignorants, to be drawn to hold, that this covering must be absolute, and total, and perpetual, so as, if any hair at all be seen, it is a violation of this charge and their duty: to which purpose they urge that of verse 15 as a fuil commentary upon this text, that the hair was given the woman for a covering; and, upon this ground, they are apt to censure them, who take liberty to expose any of their hair, though never so moderately to others' view.
I beseech you, Dear Brethren and Sisters, misconstrue me not, as one, that affect to be a patron of rustianly and dissolute fashions; of excess or immodesty, in this kind: these I hate from my soul; and must tell those rain dames, that where such bushes are hanged out, it is an argument, that something is exposed to sale. But, as I would not have you inordinately wild; so I would not have you scrupulously superstitious, in restraining the due bounds of lawful Christian liberty, and placing sin where God never meant it.
That I may, therefore, lay some grounds of this my just determination, know
(1.) That in the use of garments and these outward appendances of the body, there is much latitude and variety, according to the several guises of nations, and degrees of persons. There are countries, the extremity of whose cold climate is such, that it is no boot to hid both sexes be covered, yea mufiled up, for their own safety: there are others so scorching, that will hardly admit of any covering, either for head or body. There are some, whose hair is so large, that it is able to hide them : there are others, whose curled heads are alike short, in both sexes; and give no advantage to the covering of either. He, that made these differences of climates and people, hath not thought fit to confine them to oue universal rule; only contenting himself with a general prescription of decency, which in all countries must be regulated, according to the custom or convenience of the place. For, certainly, these sacred ceremonies must follow the rule of the civil: for that, which is held a tolen of subjection to our princes and other superiors, in all countries is so used in the service of the King above all Gods. The Turks and all Mahometans therefore, not uncovering their heads to their Bashas or their Grand Lord, keep their heads covered in their devotions; and, only by bowing or prostration, testify their humble subjection 10 God. The French Divines preach with their hiats on; ours, micovered: both preiend good reason, and custom, for these contrary fashions; neither are either of them to be censured, as faulty and exorbitant. And, with us, we hold the head uncovered, if the hat he off; though the cap be on: others make no difference, if there be ought at all on the head
grey or bald.
(2.) Consider, that the hair was given by God, both to men and women, for an ornament: for which cause, though it pass, in our account, for no better than an excretion ; yet it was created, toge. ther with man and woman, in their first perfection. Were it not thus, surely baldness would be held a beauty, and not a blemish : neither would the prophet Elisha have taken it for so heinous an atfront, that the children cried Asccnde, Calve : neither would God have expressed it, as an intimation of his severest judgment upon Israel, On every head shall be baldness ; Jer. xlviii. 37: neither would God have ordained it for a law to Israel, that he, who was enamoured of a captive woman, should first shave her hair, to take off the edge of his affection; Deut. xxi. 12: neither would Nehemiah have taken this revenge of the hair of his mis-married countrymen; Neh. xiii. 25. It was but a just question, that Augustus Cæsar asked his daughter Julia, when she had her white hairs pulled out daily, Whether, within a few years, she would rather be
And our story tells us, that, when it was asked why the Spartans suffered their hair to grow, Agesilaus answered, that was the cheapest ornament that belonged to the body. In a word, therefore, if our hair were given for a deformity to us, it could but be all hidden.
(3.) Let it be considered, that our Apostle's main drift here, is, to give order for the habiting of women, in the public assemblies and exercises of their devotions ; not, for their ordinary and domestic attire. Which appears plainly in the 5th verse: Every woman, that prayeth or prophesyeth with her head uncovered, dishonoureth her head : he saith not, every woman that walks abroad upon civil occasions, or, that stays at home upon her household affairs, without a vail on her head, dishonours her head: and, verse 13, Judge in yourselves, is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered ? It is a public prayer, that is there meant, parallel to the prophecy before mentioned. Both which, in these first times of the Church, were in extraordinary use; without the danger of a precedent to us, upon whom the expe' of the Church and the ends of the World, are at once come. And, if there were no more proofs, my Text were enough, which enjoins the vailing of the head to be used because of the Angels ; relating, as all interpreters give it, to the public congregations of the Saints of God, as we shall see in the sequel.
(4.) It must be known, that this covering of the head hath principal relation to the face, which is the best and most conspicuous part of the head: so as it is supposed, that the humility and modesty of the woman doth most show itself, in the vailing of the face from the view of beholders; the back parts of the head not giving so much cause of note and distinction, nor so much occasion of temptation to any eye. Those, therefore, who, by virtue of this place, would have all their hair hid, must, much more, and upon better reason, contend, that their face should be always covered: wherein one absurdity and servile inconvenience would easily craw on another.
Shortly then, it follows irrefragably from all this, that, however the garish and wanton fashion of the woman's dishevelling her hair, and the lascivious turning it into nets for the catching of fond and amorous eyes, be justly forbidden, both to grave matrons and to chaste and well governed virgins ; yet, that no law of God, or good reason, disallows such a moderate laying out of some part of the hair, as may give a safe comeliness to the face, without the just scandal of any wise beholder.
Neither doth that other Text make ought for this fancy; where the Apostle tells us, that the woman's hair was given her for a covering : but rather evinces the contrary. The meaning is, it was given her for a covering, actively to cover her, not passively to be covered by her. For St. Paul, intending to show how unseemly it was for women to show themselves in public exercises, with a bare face, an open brow, an uncovered hair before the multitude ; fetches an argument from nature itself, which plainly points her what she ought to do: in that it hath furnished her with a native vail, which is her hair. Since, therefore, provident nature bath given her a long hair purposely to be a cover unto her, it therein sho vs how fit it is, that her moilesty and discretion should provide her such a covering for her head, when she will be opening her mouth in the public assembly, as may testify her womanly bashfulness and humble subjection.
To shut up this point therefore, there can be no just pretence from this or any other scripture, for this misraised scrupulousness, Rather for the contrary the Holy Ghost seems to make, in that his Divine Epithalanion, wherein he brings in Christ the Heavenly Bridegroom magnifying his bride the Church with this sweet al. lusion: Behold, thou art fair, my love : behold, thou art fair: thon hast doves' eyes within thy locks : thy hair is as a flock of goats
, that appear from Mount Gilead; Cant. iv. 1. Lo, the duve-like eyes of the Church are within her locks; and her hair is not as a hidden fock, but appears; and that in a glorious beauty. Let no wellaffected Christian bring herself under the bondage of an observation, which God never enjoined; or pass a groundless and rash verdict upon others, for that, which God hath never forbidden : but, with a due care of a holy outward decency, let every one, in the fear of God. look to the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price; 1 Pet. ii. 4. And so I bare done with the Rule or Canon of the Apostle.
II. Come we now to the GROUNDS of it.
The former whereof bath reference to what he had said, con cerning the eminent condition of the man in respect of the woman; fetched from both the material and final cause : material, the wo man is of the map; final, the woman is created for the man, not the contrary.
But, because this point is coincident with that, which we have formerly touched, concerning the husband's superiority, I shall not need to renew my discourse upon this subject; but choose rather
to descend to that second ground, which, by the Vulgate and some Fathers quoting the place, is brought in by way of a copulative, And, because of the angels : a ground so deep, that great wits and judgments have professed not to fathom it. Quid hoc sit, saith learned Beza, nondum intelligo : and our no less learned Caieron confesses, that herein interpreters differ, ut qui maximè.
For those late writers, which have read the words dià TYSayyénes; Because of the young men; I must needs say, they would make a clear sense, if we might take their words for the use of
such word in the Greek tongue; which, for my part, I must confess ne. ver to have met with,
To pass over the improbable gnesses of many, the words are taken by some, in a borrowed sense; by some others, in a na, teral.
1. In a BORROWED SENSE, by those, either who by Angels here understand God's Ministers ; or, as those that take it for Holy Men of whatever profession.
These latter seem not to have any fair warrant for their interpretation : since, however we find somewhere that the saints shall be in a condition like to the angels; yet, no where do we find them called angels.
The former want not good probability for their construction : neither is it an unusual thing with the Spirit of God, to call his Ministers by the name of Angels. So Malachi ii. 7. 785a ', for he is the Angel, or Messenger of the Lord: and, of John the Baptist the same Prophet can say, Malachi iii. 1. 'Onba nbw, I will send my Messenger, or Angel : yea the very name of the prophet that writes, is no other than Malachi, My Angel
. And ye know in the Apocalypse how oft the prime governors of the Church are called Angels: whereupon St. Chrysostom, as I remember, makes the reason of that full expression of St. Paul, If an Angel from heaven, Gal. i. 8, to allude unto this distinction, that even God's Ministers are his Angels too, though upon earth: a title given them, both in regard of their mission and of their near relation to God; and of those qualities, which these Men of God should imitate in those blessed spirits.
The very name is doctrinal; and teacheth us, both what God expects from us both to himself and you, and what he expects from you to us : from us, faithfulness and diligence in his holy errands, whereabouts we are sent to the world; from you, love and reverence to those messengers, which he employs about your salvation. But, it was my meaning only to call to this sense at the window in my passage; as that, which I hold not within the com. pass of the Holy Ghost's intention.
2. Doubtless the sense is NATURAL and proper: not of men, by. way of allusion; but of those, which are spirits, by essence.
And yet, even in this sense, there is some variety of judgment : while some take this to be spoken of evil angels; others, of good.
(1.) Those, which apply this to Evil Angels, are likewise in a double opinion: for, some take it passively, lest even those angels
should be tempted; others actively, lest they should take occasion to tempt.
The former conceit is as gross, as it hath been ancient, of Tertullian and some others; that even spirits, to whom they ascribe a kind of materiality, may be taken with the immodest vendication of a fleshly beauty: to which purpose they do ignorantly mistake that of Gen. vi. 2; that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair ; not considering the sequel, that they took them wives of all that they chose. Surely, if ever spirits have affected these fleshly sins ; yet, of married spirits, there was never dream in any sober head. This fancy is too absurd to merit a confutation. No doubt, wicked spirits take delight in drawing the sons of men to inordinate affections and beastly practices; but, that themselves place any pleasure in bodily obscenities, is a matter not easy to he believed: or, if they should be obnoxious to those camal desires, that the interposing of a vail should any way avail to the re traint of their wicked inclinations and purposes, it is too poor a thought to enter into any wise understanding.
The other, viz. lest, those spirits should take this occasion of tempting, might pass for current, if ever we could find, in the whole body of the Scripture, where the evil spirits are absolutely called Angels, without some addition of distinction, which is learned Cameron's observation ; except only that one, 1 Cor. vi. * 3: where they are so stiled, for the greater honour of the saints that shall judge them. However, the truth of the proposition is undeniable; That so we ought to habit and order ourselves, that we may not give advantage to the Evil Spirits, either to our temptation, or their prevalence. We may be sure those tempters will omit no occasion of winning us to filthiness. Do you not think, that, when they see wanton dames come disguised into God's house, as it were into the box of the play-house; with their breast bare almost to the navel, their arms to the elbow, their necks to the shoulder-points ; darting their lascivious eyes every way ; and, in their whole fashion and gesture, bewraying such lightness, as might be able to debauch a whole assembly : think ye not, I say, that they applaud themselves in so rich a booty; as knowing, that every eye that is transported, and every heart that is fired, with that immodest gazing-stock, are so many spoils and trophies of their temptations? It is a true and seasonable word, that holy Cyprian said to the dames of his time, That it was not enough them to keep themselves from being corrupted by others' solicitations, unless they took care so to dress and deport themselves that they might not be occasions of raising wanton thoughts in the beholders : for, surely, we cannot free ourselves from those sins, wherein others, by our ineans, though beside our particular intentions, are ensnared. There is much liberty, I confess, in matter of attire: but let me, withal, give you St. Paul's Item to his Galatians; Brethren, ye have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another ; Gal. v. 13. When, and how, is our liberty an occasion to the flesh; but when