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Why do we say "Cleanliness is next to Godliness"?

Well-Known Expressions

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Background:

This expression in its current form is believed to have originated with John Wesley, founder of Methodism, who delivered a 1791 sermon titled "On Dress" in which he says:

"But, before we enter on the subject, let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this, nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly this is a duty, not a sin. Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness."

Almost two centuries earlier, Francis Bacon expressed a similar sentiment in The Advancement of Learning:

"Cleanliness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverance to God."

While both Wesley and Bacon appear to be more interested in the simple matter of hygiene–perhaps with a focus on their congregants not smelling bad while sitting next to their fellow parishioners in a packed church during Sunday service–the concept of ritual purification dates back to the earliest known Babylonian and Hebrew religious tracts; and thus, it is likely, has its roots considerably further back in time.

Alphabetical list of expressions

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