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Vincent Alsop: "The Sinfulness of Strange Apparel"

Vincent Alsop, an English nonconformist preacher, who lived from 1630 to 1703, preached a sermon, published and still available to read on Zephaniah 1:8, which reads: “And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.” The title of the sermon was fittingly, “The Sinfulness of Strange Apparel.”

I know when we read “strange,” we may think of something that clashes and looks very weird. “Strange” in the King James Version, read at the time, meant “foreign” or “worldly.” Zephaniah spoke of apparel in Israel that did not conform to godliness. When some might hear a sermon with the title such as Alsop’s, they might think no apparel could be sinful. Yet, Zephaniah wrote that he will punish the princes and the king’s children for what they wore.

Someone can go wrong with dress or appearance to the extent that God would punish for these mere externals. Alsop said a lot in this one sermon, but of that, he made at least these three following statements:

(1) “That the present generation is lamentably intoxicated with novelties, and as sadly degenerated from the gravity of some former ages, can neither be denied, nor concealed, nor defended, nor, I fear, reformed.” (2) “That there may be a case put, wherein in some exigency it may be lawful for the woman to wear the apparel of the man . . . What particular form of apparel shall distinguish the one sex from the other, must be determined by the custom of particular countries.” (3) “Whatever pretends to ornament, which is inconsistent with modesty, gravity, and sobriety, and whatever is according to godliness, is no ornament, but a defilement.”

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