Proud as a Peacock

I am not promoting or endorsing John Bunyan as a true Christian when I quote from him.  The following is from his “Life and Death of Mr. Badman” (1680) where Mr. Wiseman and Mr. Attentive engage in dialogue.  This particular piece is about the sin of pride and how pride affects basic Biblical modesty and morality. A cultural criticism of sorts (underlining mine).

Mr. Attentive:  ‘Now you are speaking of the cause of pride, pray shew [show] me yet further why pride is now so much in request?’

Mr. Wiseman:  ‘I will shew [show] you what I think are the reasons of it.

1. The first is because such persons are led by their own hearts, rather than by the Word of God.  I told you before that the original fountain of pride is the heart.  For out of the heart comes pride; it is therefore because they are led by their hearts which naturally tends to lift them up in pride.  This pride of heart tempts them, and by its deceits overcometh them; yea it doth put a bewitching vertue [sic] into their peacocks feathers and then they are swallowed up with the vanity of them. …’

Mr. Wiseman:  ‘But what can be the end of those that are proud in the decking of themselves after their antic manner? Why are they for going with their bull’s foretops…with their naked shoulders and paps hanging out like a cow’s bag? Why are they for painting their faces, for stretching out their neck and for putting of themselves unto all the formalities which proud fancy leads them to? Is it because they would honour God? because they would adorn the gospel? because they would beautify religion and make sinners to fall in love with their own salvation? No, no, it is rather to please their lusts to satisfy their wild and extravagant fancies; and I wish none doth it to stir up lust in others to the end they may commit uncleanness with them.

I believe, whatever is their end, this is one of the great designs of the devil and I believe also that Satan has drawn more into the sin of uncleanness by the spangling show of fine cloths than he could possibly have drawn unto it without them. I wonder what it was that of old was called the attire of a harlot; certainly it could not be more bewitching and tempting than are the garments of many professors this day.‘”

Mr. Wiseman speaks of the whorish apparel of professing Christians in his day.  As I have wandered through the wilderness of the world wide web for many years, I have observed the prevalence of professing Christian women who desire to ape the attire of an harlot (Proverbs 31:10; 1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Consider this thought experiment:  The men who originally penned question-and-answer 138 and 139 in the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) are transported to some present-day place that houses this Catechism [1].  Would they not think they had been transported into a bawd’s boarding house?

[ [1] Note: Not a blanket-endorsement of the WLC as completely orthodox or a promotion of the authors as true Christian men.  See my article, The Wicked Westminster Confession.]

Mr. Wiseman:  ‘Another thing that bespeaks a man or woman inclining to wantonness and uncleanness it is an adorning themselves in light and wanton apparel. The attire of an harlot is too frequently in our day the attire of professors; a vile thing, and argueth much wantonness and vileness of affection I know not what to say. Doth a wanton eye argue shamefacedness? Doth wanton talk argue chastity? And doth immodest apparel with stretched-out necks, naked breasts, a made speech, and mincing gaits…argue mortification of lusts?

If any say that these things may argue pride as well as carnal lusts; well, but why are they proud? Is it not to trick up the body? And why do they with pride trick up the body if it be not to provoke both themselves and others to lusts? God knoweth their hearts without their outsides: and we know their hearts by their outsides.‘”

Contrary to a popular and seemingly absolute sentiment, there are certain times when “judging a book by its cover” is an entirely appropriate thing to do.