Lee Gatiss preaches Part 2 of the Anglican Homily on sexual sin, from 1547.
You have been taught in the first part of this sermon against adultery, how today that vice reigns above all other vices, and what is meant by that word “adultery.” You have been taught how holy scripture dissuades us from that filthy sin, and what corruption comes to our souls through the sin of adultery.
Paul’s teaching Now to continue on this theme, let us hear what the blessed apostle St. Paul says on this subject. Writing to the Romans he has these words: “Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:12-14 NIV).
Here the holy apostle exhorts us to cast away the works of darkness, among which he includes gluttonous eating and drinking, sexual immorality and debauchery, which all serve this vice and are preparations for the filthy sin of the flesh. He calls them the deeds or works of darkness, not only because they are usually done in darkness or in the night time — “for everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed” (John 3:20) — but also because they lead the way to that utter darkness “where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42, 50; 22:13; 25:30). Paul says elsewhere in Romans: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. We are debtors, but not to the flesh that we should live in accordance with it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die” (Romans 8:8, 12-13).
Again Paul says: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). And a little before that he says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).
What godly reasons does the blessed apostle St. Paul bring out here to dissuade us from sexual immorality and all uncleanness? Your members, he says, are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and if anyone defiles that temple, God will destroy them (1 Corinthians 3:17). If we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, how unfitting it is then to drive the Holy Spirit from us through sexual sin, and in his place to set the wicked spirits of uncleanness and fornication, and to be joined to them and serve them! “You were bought at a price”, he says, “Therefore honour God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Christ, that innocent Lamb of God, has bought us from the slavery of the devil “not with corruptible gold and silver but with his most precious blood” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Why? That we should fall again into our old uncleanness and abominable living? Surely not! It was so that we should serve him all the days of our lives (Isaiah 38:20), in holiness and righteousness (Luke 1:74-75), and that we should glorify him in our bodies by purity and cleanness of life. He also declares that our bodies are the members of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15). How unseemly a thing it is then, to cease to be embodied and united with Christ, and through sexual immorality to be joined and made one with a prostitute. What greater dishonour or injury can we do to Christ, than to take away from him the members of his body and to join them with prostitutes, devils, and wicked spirits? And what more dishonour can we do to ourselves than through uncleanness to lose so excellent a dignity and freedom, and to become bondservants and miserable captives to the spirits of darkness?
Let us therefore consider first the glory of Christ and then our state, the dignity and freedom which God has given us by giving us his Holy Spirit. And let us valiantly defend it, against Satan and all his crafty assaults, that Christ may be honoured and that we may not lose our liberty but always remain united in spirit with him.
In the epistle to the Ephesians, the blessed apostle urges that among us “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:3-5; cf. Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). So that we remember to be holy, pure, and free from all uncleanness, the holy apostle calls us “saints”, holy people, because we are sanctified and made holy in the blood of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Now, if we are saints, what have we to do with the lifestyles of unbelievers? St. Peter says, “Just as the one who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
The effects of sexual sin So far we have heard how grievous a sin fornication and sexual immorality is, and how greatly God abhors it throughout the whole of scripture. How can it be anything else but a most abominable sin, seeing that it must not even be named among Christians, much less in any way be committed (Ephesians 5:3)? Surely, if we weighed the greatness of this sin and considered it in the right way, we would find the sin of sexual immorality to be that most filthy lake, foul puddle, and stinking sewer into which all kinds of sins and evils flow, and where they have their resting place and home.
For does not the adulterer have a pride in their sexual immorality? As the wise man says, “They are glad when they have done evil, and rejoice in the perverseness of evil” (Proverbs 2:14). Is not the sexually immoral person also idle, delighting in no godly exercise but only in that most filthy and carnal pleasure? Is not their mind also distracted and utterly drawn away from all virtuous studies and fruitful labours, and given only to carnal imaginations? Does not the sexual immoral person give their mind to gluttony, so that they are more able to serve their lusts and carnal pleasures? Do they not give their minds to covetousness and to dodgy dealing with others so that they are better able to maintain their illicit affairs and continue in their filthy and unlawful love? Do they not swell with envy against others, fearing that their prey should be allured and taken away from them? And are they not angry and full of wrath and displeasure against their own own beloveds, if at any time their carnal and devilish requests are turned down?
What sin or kind of sin is it, that is not joined with fornication and sexual immorality? It is a monster of many heads. It receives all kinds of vices and refuses all kinds of virtues. If one individual sin brings damnation, what is to be thought of that sin which is accompanied by all evils and whatever is hateful to God, damnable to mankind, and pleasant to Satan?
Great is the damnation that hangs over the heads of the sexually immoral and adulterers. What else can I say about the other damages which issue and flow out of this stinking puddle of sexual immorality? Is not that treasure, prized above all by honest persons — the good reputation and name of a man or woman — lost through sexual sin? What livelihood, what substance, what goods, what riches, does sexual immorality consume and bring to nothing! What valiantness and strength is many times made weak and destroyed by it! What intelligence is not degraded and defaced through sexual immorality! What beauty, however excellent it might be, is not disfigured through it! Is it not an enemy to the pleasant flower of youth? Does it not bring grey hairs and old age before its time?
What gift of nature, however precious, is not corrupted by sexual sin? Do not sexually transmitted diseases come this way? And where do so many illegitimate children come from, to the high displeasure of God and the dishonour of holy marriage, but from sexual immorality? How many consume all their wealth and possessions, and in the end fall into such extreme poverty that they turn to stealing and are prosecuted, because of this sin! What contention and even manslaughter comes from sexual sin? How many young women lose their virginity, how many widows are defiled? How much are the public finances impoverished and troubled because of it? How much is God’s word regarded with contempt and distorted by sexual sin and those who are sexually immoral?
This vice is the cause of a great number of the divorces which nowadays are so common, to the great displeasure of God and the breaking of the most holy knot and bond of marriage. For when this most detestable sin has once crept into the heart of an adulterer, so that they are entangled with unlawful and unchaste love, straightaway their true and lawful spouse is despised, their presence abhorred, their company hated and avoided, whatever they do is criticised, and there is no peace in the house as long as they are in sight. In short, they must leave because the other can stand them no longer. Thus through sexual immorality the honest and innocent partner is put away and another is put in their place. O abomination!
Christ our saviour, true God and man, coming to restore the Law of his heavenly Father to its right sense, understanding, and meaning, among other things reformed the abuse of this law of God (Matthew 19:8-9). For by custom, Jewish men used to divorce their wives at will, for any cause. Christ, correcting this evil custom, taught that if anyone divorced his wife and married another for any reason except adultery (which was then punishable by death), then they were an adulterer, and they also forced their divorced wife to commit adultery if she was joined to any other man (and that man also, joining with her, also committed adultery). What is the state then of those adulterers who for the love of someone other than their spouse put away their true and lawful partner against all law, right, reason, and conscience? Damnable is the state in which they stand. Swift destruction shall fall on them if they do not repent and amend this. For God will not ever suffer holy marriage to be dishonoured, hated, and despised like this. He will decisively punish this carnal and licentious way of living, and cause his holy ordinance to be held in reverence and honour. For surely marriage (as the apostle says) is “honourable among all, and the marriage bed undefiled, but the sexually immoral and fornicators God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4), that is to say, punish and condemn.
Why have we made such an effort to describe and set forth the greatness of the sin of sexual immorality and the damage that comes out of and flows from it? Words will soon fail anyone who tries to set it out according to the full seriousness and heinousness of it. However, this is all spoken with the intent that everyone should flee sexual immorality and live in the fear of God. God grant that it may not be spoken in vain!