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ance, as he hath all manner of advantages over the luxurious in respect to virtue, so hath he this also in relation to pleasure; that whereas the most relishing delicacies are hardly tasted by him, who treats his palate with nothing else, so the plainest and most insipid food seems high-seasoned to him, who is accustomed to nothing more delicious, and who stays to be hungry before he eats. The full soul loatheth a honey-comb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.' To fare pleasantly, and sumptuously, are two different things; for we one person feeding deliciously on the poorest diet, while the stomach of another turns at the richest dainties. Intemperance turns the sweetest morsels of the luxurious into filth and poison; but selfdenial is that stony rock, out of which God fed his people with honey.
How miserable, and yet how ridiculous, a thing is it, that he, who studies nothing but his pleasures, and sacrifices his soul to them, should be almost wholly disappointed of his hopes! The weakness of our nature will not permit us to enjoy that excess, which its depravity will not suffer us to stop short of. God hath so made us, that one and the same method is necessary to the improving our pleasures here to the height, and insuring our happiness hereafter, that is, temperance, which consists in a due medium between the extremes of riot and austerity. If allured by appetite, we rise above it, we inflame our passions beyond a possibility of being governed, and are disappointed of pleasure now, and happiness for ever; if compelled by the natural fierceness of our passions to use violence, and curb them by mortification, we must be content, I own, to want a great part of the innocent comforts, which the temperate man enjoys in this world; but then we provide for our happiness in that which is to come.
We are so miserably blinded by the customs of the world, that we neither see things in their proper lights, nor are able to trace them to their immediate and manifest
Hence it is that we so often foolishly express our wonder at the horrible vices of the great, not considering, that it is impossible, men so softened by ease, so steeped in luxury, so pampered with riot, should not be absolute slaves to their appetites and lusts, and through them, to every
enormity the devil himself could practise, were he in their places. What are their fortunes, their studies, their time, applied to, but to excess and pleasure ? Consider a little, what is the grand end of that prodigious commerce which extends itself to all the corners of the world. Is it not to supply the wealthy with articles of luxury ? The beasts of burden by land, and the ships by sea, have little else to do, than to furnish materials for their houses, their tables, their apparel. View them in their palaces, splendidly furnished; in their clothes, gorgeously laced and brocaded ; and at their tables, loaded with pampering food, and inflaming wines : see them carried sometimes by beasts, sometimes by men, from one wanton entertainment to another, courted to vice, and Aattered to folly, and you will quickly perceive, that pride, lust, and impotence of will, must reign absolutely over their hearts. And you know, where these have taken up their abode, deceit and inhumani ty can hardly be wanting
Now let us follow these men to the stage of action and business, that we may see what effects passions, so disposed, may have upon their lives and conversations. Extravagance, like that just now described, requires an infinite expense
to support it. All arts, such as gaming, fraud, perjury, are set at work to raise money. The fox is called in, to cater for the wolf; and, if he fails of a supply, the wolf himself goes out, and with unrelenting oppression, grinding the face of the
poor, and plundering the widow and the orphan, sweeps all before him. In the mean time, the fire already kindled among his passions, by luxury and riot, must have vent; at first it smokes in libertine discourse and oaths, and immediately after blazes out in adultery and murder.
To clear the way for passions and practices like these, conscience must be priestcraft, and Christianity a lie. There is nothing more certain, than that the kitchen and cellar, are the true fountains of libertinism and deism. The divines, who have laboured to refute those destructive novelties, by reason, have mistaken the root of the controversy, for want of looking carefully into those two places ; which had they done, they might have seen heresy turning on a spit, and libertinism ripening in a hogshead. The bad principles of the high fed are but the excrement of gluttony and drunkenness. The reason of the luxurious, is placed over the boiling furnace of their passions, and so heated and clouded in the steam arising from thence, that all applications to their understandings must be vain and fruitless.
Let us leave them to live and perish like the beasts; and address ourselves to those, who, finding in their hearts the same outrageous appetites and passions, do nevertheless, as yet retain some sense of religion, and some desire to provide for the safety of their souls. These men, although sorely pressed and overpowered, are yet in the field against the flesh; and we may ask them, whether, if they were to lay siege to an enemy's fortress, they would supply it with provisions? Or, if they were to defend a garrison of their own against a powerful assailant, whether they would not bind and imprison such partisans of the enemy as should happen to be within the walls? Their answer is ready; they certainly would. Is it possible then, they should not know, that their passions are enemies and traitors to them, or that luxurious living is the very food and fuel of their passions ? If they are convinced of these things, nothing can be more plain, than that recourse must be had to great temperance at all times, and often to fasting and other acts of mortification. If a man is really a Christian, let him examine himself by his former experience, whether luxurious, or low living, contributes most to the government of his passions; and if he concludes in favour of the latter, then let him ask himself, whether he can be so mad, as to lay a greater stress on riot or abstinence, than on heaven or hell; so as to lose the company of angels, and take up for ever with that of devils, for the sake of such company as meat and drink can draw together, who for the most part have little to distinguish them from dogs and ravens, assembled by the scent of carrion.
But if he is not convinced, that high living is so great a provocative to his passions, nor abstinence so powerful a bridle, it is perhaps because having never tried any but the former, he thinks the violence of his passions is owing to nature, not intemperance. That it is, in some measure, owing to nature, is very certain; but he will never know how great a share of the blame is to be laid on intemperance, till he tries what moderation and abstinence will do. If he
consults the word of God for satisfaction in this point, he will there see the effect of intemperance on the passions. Lot gets drunk, and commits incest with his daughters. Esau sells his birthright for a morsel of meat, and becomes a fornicator and profane person. David, after a full meal, falls immediately into temptation, and commits adultery. St. Paul advises us, not to walk in rioting and drunkenness;' nor in, what are the almost necessary consequences,
chambering and wantonness, strife and envying. Those who live in pleasure on the earth, who are wanton, who nourish themselves as in the day of slaughter,' are noted by St. James, as grievous oppressors.'
If he is not convinced of the expediency and duty of mortification, let him hear the words of our Saviour: ‘Enter in at the strait gate. He that will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross. Let him also hear St. Paul : The world is crucified to me, and I to the world. I chasten my body, and I bring it into subjection, lest, after I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts. If ye, through the Spirit; do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live; make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.'
Pursuant to these divine authorities, all those holy men, who have ever been distinguished among Christians for the exalted goodness of their lives, have been as remarkable for ruling over their appetites and passions with a 'severe and heavy hand. When wars or other public calamities threaten us, we see the nation Aies to fasting, as the most powerful enforcer of prayer, as that which, according to St. Basil, furnishes it with wings. To fast and humble ourselves before God, is the surest means to turn away national judgments, as may appear by the cases of Ahab, Esther, and the Ninevites.
Whosoever is sincerely concerned at the violence of his passions, and willing to restrain them, will see sufficient reason, in what hath been said, to persuade him, that selfdenial may possibly answer his intention herein; and this persuasion ought at least so far to prevail on him, as to make him resolve on a trial, which, if he is not made of other
materials, and cast in a different mould, from the rest of mankind, must be attended with success.
Without the assistance of God, use what means we will, it is presumption to hope for a victory over ourselves. But before we can hope for the Divine grace, we must shew a willingness to do that which is in our own power. Besides, we cannot expect that God's Holy Spirit should take up his abode with us, while his enemy the flesh is countenanced and supported by all the tenderness for it we can possibly indulge it with.
If, however, the sincere Christian shall once begin thus to prepare the way of the Lord, and to make his paths straight and smooth,' he will have all the reason in the world to depend upon the assistance of God, in finishing so good and gracious a work; for there is nothing a man can do so acceptable in the sight of that most compassionate Being, as subduing his unruly passions to the divine will. Such a sacrifice of self-love to God, such a denying of ourselves to please him, is the most agreeable and glorious offering we can make him. All afflictions contribute to a good life, but that most, which we voluntarily lay on ourselves, through a hatred to sin, and a sincere desire of approving ourselves dutiful servants in the eyes of so good a Master. Our heavenly Father is better pleased to see his children afflict themselves for their faults, than to be obliged to lay his rod on them; and what he approves of, he will bless and assist.
We are however to consider, that God is far from approving of mortification, merely for its own sake. He delights not in the afflictions of his creatures. He hath filled the world with objects fitted to entertain our senses and passions; and while we enjoy them innocently, and with a due sense of gratitude to him, he is as well pleased with our enjoyments, as he was with those of our first parents, before they fell. Nor does he accept of them as the punishment or atonement of our sins, having appointed the blood of Christ for the one, and eternal misery for the other. He only approves of them, when they are applied to the curbing and reforming the irregularities of the passions. For this reason, till our fasts reach the mind, they are no fasts in respect of religion, or in the sight of God. If in the