Sermon by Thomas Bray
NOTE: Thomas Bray was the leading figure in the founding of the Society for the Reformation of Manners, and the man responsible for the prosecution of Captain Edward Rigby in 1698, and many other mollies through the 1720s.
For GOD, or for SATAN:
By THOMAS BRAY, D.D. Minister of St. Botolph's, Aldgate.
Printed at the Desire of the Society.
S E R M O N
St. Mary le BOW,
Reformation of Manners,
December 27, 1708.
LONDON: Printed and Sold by H. Hills, in Black-fryars, near the Water-side, For the Benefit of the Poor. 1709.
1 John III. Ver. 8.
He that committeth Sin is of the Devil; for the Devil sinneth from the Beginning.
OUR Apostle having in the 4th Verse, given us to understand the horrid Nature, and Evil of Sin; that it is a going counter to the Laws and Orders of him, who is Supreme Lord of all things, and whose Rules therefore ought to be inviolable; Whosoever comitteth Sin, trangresseth also the Law; for Sin is the Transgression of the Law. He then proceeds in my Text to tell us plainly, that whosoever lives in Opposition to the Laws of God, is on the Devil's Side, in that cursed rebellion, which from the Beginning of the World, that apostate Spirit raised, and continues still to carry on against his Creator: He that sommitteth Sin is of the Devil; for the Devil sinneth from the Beginning. [p.3] . . .
But how shall we marshall our selves, you will say, in so universal, so grand a War? how shall we know our several Stations? And how shall we approve our Conduct, or exert our Courae therein? All this indeed seems material to the Case now under Consideration. And have Patience with me whilst, as God's Herald, I declare unto you, as the War it self you are all summoned to, so the Laws you are to observe in it, whether as Ministers, Magaistrates, or People. [p.8] . . .
I presume to say, it is not only incumbent upon us [as Ministers] thus to do from the Pulpit; and more over, by an innocent, wise, and exemplary Conduct, do all that is possible in our selves to promote Virtue, to beat down Sin, and both by Precept and Example to wast and weaken the Kingdom of Darkness; But that we ought also to muster up all the Force we can from others to batter down its strong Holds; that it behoves us to bring up the Squadrons of the honest Reformers against its strongest Forts; that we are to rally them back if need be, when by mighty Opposition they begin to sink; and that it becomes us to animate them in the Pursuit, when the Enemy gives Ground. In a Word, and to speak plainly without Metaphor, we ought to give all possible Encouragement to the happy Instruments of so much good of this Kind, both the Religious Societies and those of Reformation.
And blessed, for ever blessed be God, that so many of our Right Reverend Prelates, and other inferiour Divines, have given so vast Encouragement, so many Years together, of this Kind; Encouragements much greater than I am able to express; and therefore for a large Testimony of it, I must refer you to the grateful Account thereof which the Societies themselves have published. (See the Account of the Progress of the Societies for Reformation of Manners.) [p.9] . . .
But how, you will say, shall the Magistrate discharge his Duty in battering down the strong Holds of Sin and Satan, and Supporting and Advancing the Kingdom of God? Why, if I may be permitted to speak after Him, who has pleaded the Cause of God so much better; By a vigorous and impartial Execution of the Laws against Profaneness and Immorality; especially against such Acts of that kind, as are meer Outrages against that Divine Majesty from whom they derive their own Authority, as has been now shewn; and against the Violations of those Laws of his, which have a distinguising Mark put upon them, as those he would have observed particularly: Crimes of the former kind are Blasphemy, and profane Cursing and Swearing; by which the Sinner flies as it were in the very Face of God: Of the latter Sort are all the Sins of Uncleanness, Fornication, Adultery and that Crimen non nominandum, Sodomy Of which there have been found of late, such horrible Instances among us, but [p.10] to the eternal Honour of our Reformers, brought to condign Punishment: Indeed any of the Sins of Uncleanness whatever are not to be so much as named among Christians, these being so incompatible with our most Holy Profession, as St. Paul asserts, Eph. 5.3. Which Character of them does sufficiently mark Them out, as in a peculiar Manner worthy a Christian Magistrate's Animadversion and Punishment. And such Magistrats as shall, without Favour or Affection, or the Fear or Awe of any one, chastise these or the like Offenders; and moreover, nor frown upon, but Coutenance and Encourae such as shall Inform again them, They will thereby approve theselves worthy the Character the same Apostle there gives them, and shew they are Rules, who are not a Terror to good Works, but to the Evil: and that they are the Ministers of God to the World for Good. [p.11] . . .
If you find your selves possest of a Noble and Heroick Spirit; if you feel in hir Breasts a generous Ardour; if you thirst for Glory, and effect the Post of Honour, turn Informers. These are they who offer and present themselves for the Grand Attacque; These bravely scale the Walls of Sin, These carry off the Devil's Vassals Captives after them, hailing them to the Tribunal of the Christian Magistrate, to receive their Sentence, and suffer condign Punishment. [p.12] . . .
Nor need you reckon it a Shame, but indeed the highest Honour, to be so far engaged in this Matter. And indeed it would be hard, if those who have brought to our Church and Nation so much Honour, should not themselves be Honoured. They are the many noble Works begun, and of late carried on among us, to the Destruction of Satan's Usurp'd Dominion, and the Advancement of Christ's Kingdom, which draw the Eyes of all Protestant Countries upon us; and for which we hear such loud Applauses to our Church and Nation from so many Kingdoms and States Abroad; and shall not the Society for Reformation of Manners, and their noble Band of Heroick Informers, which have contributed so much to brng us this Honour, be themselves Honoured? Far be it from any good Christian to deny them what is so justly due to them; Nay, and as they were first in this great Work, is primarily due to them. [p.13] . . .
Well; but it may be said, since so many Brothel-Houses have been suppress'd, and Criminals of divers Sorts Committed and Punish'd, the Heat of this Battle is pretty well over. And it must be confess'd, with the utmost Acknowledgements and Gratitude, that tho' there will be growing Occasions of the like Vigorous Prosecutions of the Prophane and Immoral as has been hitherto, or else they will soon make Head again; Prostitutes are now less seen in our Streets, Oaths are less heard in Conversatios, and Prophanations of the Lord's-Day are not so Publick as before the noble Endeavours of these Gentlemen to suppress the Disoderly: So that upon that score, let it be at present granted, there may not be so much Occasion to urge it upon the Pious to Contribute towards the Charge, the very Great Charge which has been found in the Overthrow [p.14] of these Enemies to God and our Country; Let this be granted:
Yet, alas! we hear of a much more fearful, as it is a far more abominable Host approaching; and that the Sodomites are invading our Land. Now here we must maintain our Ground against Satan's Efforts; nay, must repel this Enemy the Sodomite, to the driving him out of the Land, cost what it will. For assuredly, if we do not, God will pour down a Deluge of Wrath upon us, so as totally to devour both us and ours, and that will cost us our All This is therefore like another War we are engaged in, wherein we must keep out the Enemy, tho' it be at the expence of the whole.
To some up all that you have heard in a Word. You are Engaged, you see, in a necessary War, in the Defence of the divine Majesty and his Laws, against all the Powers and Works of Darkness; and you must one Way or other, you see, be Actively Engaged in it. And as I hope all who have to Day heard me are convinced, that nothing of a Neutrality will be permitted to any one Person in the World; so I hope np one will think of it. Think of a Neutrality. God forbid! The Matter is brought to one Point, this single Issue, that it is For God or for Satan; And for God's Sake let us not be for the Devil! Oh! let none of us be on the Devil's Side, whatever may befall us. [p.15] . . .
SOURCE: Thomas Bray, For God, or for Satan, London, 1709.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Sermon by Thomas Bray,
1709," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A
Sourcebook. 17 August 2021