Directions for Governing the Appetite
Or, Directions against Gluttony
Richard Baxter, 1615-1691
The most that is necessary to be said to acquaint you with the nature and evil of this sin, is said before in my chapter, The Sinfulness of Flesh-Pleasing. But something more particularly must be said:
1. To show you what is and what is not the sin of gluttony.
2. To show you the causes of it.
3. To show you the odiousness of it.
4. To acquaint you with the more particular helps and means against it.
I. Gluttony is a voluntary excess in eating, for the pleasing of the appetite, or some other carnal end.
(1.) It is sometimes an excess in quantity, when more is eaten than is meet.
(2.) Or else it may be an excess in the delicious quantity, when more regard is had to the delight and sweetness than is fit.
(3.) Or it may be an excess in the frequency and ordinary unseasonableness of eating; when men eat too oft, and sit at it too long.
(4.) It may be an excess in the costliness or price; when men feed themselves at too high rates.
(5.) Or it may be an excess of curiosity in the dressing, and saucing, and ordering of all.
2. And it is usually for some carnal end. Whether it may be properly called gluttony, if a man should think that at a sacrifice of thanksgiving he were bound to eat inordinately, and so made the service of God his end, we need not inquire (though I see not but it may have that name). For that is a case that is more rare; and it is undoubtedly a sin: and it is gluttony, if it be done for the pleasing of others that are importunate with you.
But the common gluttony is when it is done for the pleasing of the appetite, with such a pleasure, as is no help to health or duty, but usually a hurt to body or soul; the body being hurt by the excess, the soul is hurt by the inordinate pleasure.
Yes, it is a kind of gluttony and excess, when men will not fast or abstain when they are required, from that which at other times they may use with temperance and without blame. If a man use not to eat excessively nor deliciously, yet if he will not abstain from his temperate diet, either at a public fast, or when his lust requires him to take down his body, or when his physician would diet him for his health, and his disease else would be increased by what he eats, this is an inordinate eating and excess to that person, at that time. Or if the delight that the appetite has in one sort of meat, which is hurtful to the body, prevail against reason and health so with the person that he will not forbear it, it is a degree of gluttony, though for quantity and quality it be in itself but mean and ordinary.
By this you may see:
1. That it is not the same quantity which is an excess in one, which is in another. A laboring man may eat somewhat more than one that does not labor; and a strong and healthful body, more than the weak and sick. It must be an excess in quantity, as to that particular person at that time, which is, when to please his appetite he eats more than is profitable to his health or duty.
2. So also the frequency must be considered with the quality of the person; for one person may rationally eat a little and often, for his health, and another may luxuriously eat more often than is profitable to health. Ecclesiastes 10.16, 17, "Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes eat in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes eat in due season, for strength and not for drunkenness."
3. And in point of costliness, the same measure is not to be set to a prince and to a ploughman; that is luxurious excess in one, which may be temperance and frugality in another. But yet, unprofitable cost, which, all things considered, would do more good another way, is excess in whomever.
4. And in curiosity of diet a difference must be allowed: the happier healthful man need not be so curious as the sick; and the happy ploughman need not be so curious, as state and expectation somewhat require the noble and the rich to be.
5. And for length of time, though unnecessary sitting out time at table is a sin in any, yet the happy poor man is not obliged to spend all out so much this way, as the rich may do.
6. And it is not all delight in food, or pleasing the appetite, that is a sin; but only that which is made men's end, and not referred to a higher end; even when the delight itself does not tend to health, nor alacrity in duty, nor is used to that end, but to please the flesh and tempt unto excess.
7. And it is not necessary that we measure the profitableness of quantity or quality by the present and immediate benefits; but by the more remote, sometimes: so merciful is God, that he allows us that which is truly for our good, and forbids us but that which does us hurt, or at least, no good.
8. All sin in eating is not gluttony—but only such as are here described.
II. The CAUSES of gluttony are these:
1. The chief is an inordinate appetite, together with a fleshly mind and will, which is set upon flesh-pleasing as its felicity. "Those who are after the flesh, mind the things of the flesh," Romans viii. 6, 7. This gluttony, which one calls the throat devil, and the belly devil is the first cause.
2. The next cause is, the want of strong reason, faith, and a spiritual appetite and mind—which should call off the glutton, and take him up with higher pleasures; even such as are more manly, and in which his real happiness does consist. "Those who are after the Spirit, mind the things of the Spirit," Romans viii. 6. Reason alone may do something to call up a man from this felicity of a beast, (as appears by the philosopher's assaults upon the epicures,) but faith and love, which feast the soul with sweeter delicacies, must do the cure.
3. Gluttony is much increased by use. When the appetite is used to be satisfied, it will be the more importunate and impetuous; whereas a custom of temperance makes it easy, and makes excess a matter of no delight, but burden.
I remember myself, that when I first set upon the use of Cornaro's and Lessius' diet, as it is called, (which I did for a time, for some special reasons,) it seemed a little hard for two or three days; but within a week it became a pleasure, and another sort, or more was not desirable. And I think almost all that use one dish only, and a small quantity, do find that more is a trouble and not a temptation to them: so great a matter is use (unless it be with very strong and laboring people).
4. Idleness and want of diligence in a calling is a great cause of luxury and gluttony. Though labor causes a healthful appetite, yet it cures a beastly, sensual mind. An idle person has leisure to think of his belly, what to eat and what to drink, and to be longing after this and that; whereas a man who is wholly taken up in lawful business, especially such as finds employment for the mind as well as for the body, has no leisure for such thoughts. He who is close at his studies, or other calling, has something else to think on than his appetite.
5. Another incentive of gluttony is the pride of rich men, who, to be accounted good housekeepers, and to live at such rates as are agreeable to their grandeur—do make their houses shops of sin, and as bad as alehouses; making their tables a snare both to themselves and others, by fullness, variety, deliciousness, costliness, and curiosity of fare! It is the honor of their houses that a man may drink excessively when he pleases—and that their tables have excellent provisions for gluttony, and put all that sit at them upon the trial of their temperance, whether a bait so near them, and so studiously fitted, can tempt them to break the bounds and measure which God has set them.
It is a lamentable thing when such as have the rule of others, and influence on the common people—shall think their honor lies upon their sin; yes, upon such a constant course of sinning; and shall think it a dishonor to them to live in sweet and wholesome temperance, and to see that those about them do the same. And all this is, either because they overvalue the esteem and talk of fleshly epicures—cannot bear the censure of a swine; or else because they are themselves of the same mind, and are such as glory in their shame, Philippians iii. 18, 19.
6. Another incentive is the custom of urging and importuning others to eat still more and more—as if it were a necessary act of friendship. People are grown so uncharitable and selfish, that they suspect one another, and think they are not welcome—if they are not urged thus to eat; and those who invite them think they must do it to avoid the suspicion of such a sordid mind.
I do not deny but it is fit to urge any to that which it is fit for them to do; and if we see that modesty makes them eat less than is best for them, we may persuade them to eat more. But now, without any due disrespect to what is best for them—men think it a necessary compliment to provoke others more and more to eat, until they peremptorily refuse it! But among the most familiar friends, there is scarcely any who will admonish one another against excess, and advise them to stop when they have enough, and tell them how easy it is to stop when they have enough, and tell them how easy it is to step beyond our bounds, and how much more prone we are to exceed, than to come short. And so custom and compliment are preferred before temperance and honest fidelity.
You will say, What will men think of us if we should not persuade them to eat, much more if we should desire them to eat no more?
1. Regard your duty, more than what men think of you. Prefer virtue, before the thoughts or breath of men.
2. But yet if you do it wisely, the wise and good will think much the better of you. You may easily let them see that you do it not in sordid sparing, but in love of temperance and of them; if you speak but when there is need either for eating more or less; and if your discourse is first in general for temperance, and apply it not until you see that they need help in the application.
3. It is undeniable that healthful people are much more prone to excess, than to the defect in eating—and that nature is very much bent to luxury and gluttony, I think as much as to any one sin; and it is as sure that it is a beastly, breeding, odious sin. And if this is so, is it not clear that we should do a great deal more to help one another against such luxury, than to provoke them to it? Had we not a greater regard to men's favor and regard, than to God and the good of their souls—the case were soon decided.
7. Another cause of gluttony is, that rich men are not acquainted with the true use of riches, nor think of the account which they must make to God of all they have. They think that their riches are their own, and that they may use them as they please; or that they are given to them as plentiful provisions for their flesh, and they may use them for themselves, to satisfy their own desires, as long as they drop some crumbs, or scraps, or small matters to the poor. They think they may be saved just in the same way that the rich man in Luke 16 was damned! And he who would have warned his five brethren that they come not to that place of torment, is yet himself no warning to his followers. They are clothed in purple and fine linen or silk, and fare sumptuously or deliciously every day; and have their good things in this life, and perhaps think they merit by giving the scraps to Lazarus (which it is like what that rich man also did). But God will one day make them know, that the richest were but his stewards, and should have made a better distribution of his provisions, and a better improvement of his talents; and that they had nothing of all their riches given them, for any hurtful or unprofitable pleasing of their appetites; nor had more allowance for luxury than the poor. If they knew the right use of riches, it would reform them.
8. Another cause of gluttony is their unacquaintedness with those rational and spiritual exercises in which the delightful fruits of temperance do most appear. A man who is but a serious student in any noble study whatever, finds a great deal of serenity and aptitude come by temperance, and a great deal of cloudy mistiness on his mind and dullness on his invention come by fullness and excess. A man who is used to holy contemplations, meditation, reading, prayer, self-examination, or spiritual converse above, or with his heart, does easily find a very great difference; how temperance helps him, and luxury and fullness hinder him.
Now these epicures have no acquaintance with any such holy or manly works, nor any mind of them, and are therefore unacquainted with the sweetness and benefit of temperance—and having no taste or trial of its benefits, they cannot value it. They have nothing to do when they rise from eating, but a little talk about their worldly business, or compliment and talk with company which expect them, or go to their sports simply to empty their paunches for another meal, and quicken their appetites lest luxury should decay. They are as the Israelites who worshiped the golden calf, (and as the heathens their god Bacchus,) Exodus 32.6, "They sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Their diet is fitted to their work; their idle or worldly lives agree with gluttony; but were they accustomed to better work, they would find a necessity of a better diet.
9. Another great cause of gluttony is, men's beastly ignorance of what is hurtful or helpful to their very health: they make their appetites their rule for the quantity and quality of their food—and they think that nature teaches them so to do, because it gives them such an appetite. But this is the measure to a beast—and to prove themselves beasts, they therefore take it for their measure; as if their natures were not rational, but only fleshly; or nature had not given them reason to be the superior and governor of sense. As if they knew not that God gives the brutes an appetite more bounded, because they have not reason to bound it; and gives them not the temptation of your delicate varieties; or gives them foods answerable to their appetites. Yet God gives man to be the rational governor of those of those appetites which are for his special service and apt to exceed.
If a man's swine, his horses, and his cattle were all left to their appetites, they would live but a little while. If gluttony is not lawful in mankind, which is lawful in brutes—then why should they not confess the same of the appetite. Men have so much love of life and fear of death, that if they did but know how much their gluttony hastens their death—it would do more to restrain it with the most, than the fear of eternal death does. But they judge of their digestion by their present feeling: if they feel not their stomachs sick, or disposed to vomit, or if no present pain corrects them, they think they have eaten no more than does them good. But of this more anon in the directions.
10. Another great cause of gluttony is, that it is grown the commonest custom, and being not known, is in no disgrace, unless men eat until they vomit, or to some extraordinary measure. And so the measure which every man sees another use—he thinks is moderation, and is fit for him. Whereas the ignorance of their own health, has made gluttony almost as common as eating, with those that are not restrained by poverty or sickness. And so every man is an example of evil to another—and encourage one another in the sin. If gluttony were but in as much disgrace as whoredom, yes, or as drunkenness is—and as easily known, and as commonly taken notice of, it would contribute much to a common reformation.
III. The Greatness of the Sin of Gluttony.
To know the greatness of the sin, is the chief part of the cure, with those who do but believe that there is a God. I shall therefore next tell you of its nature, effects, and accidents, which make it a great sin, and therefore should make it odious to all.
1. Luxury and gluttony is a sin exceeding contrary to the love of God—it is idolatry. It has the heart, which God should have; and therefore gluttons are commonly and well called belly-gods, and god-bellies, because that love, that care, that delight, that service and diligence which God should have—is given by the glutton to his belly and his throat! He loves the pleasing of his appetite—better than the pleasing of God. His dishes are more delightful to him—than any holy exercise is. His thoughts are more frequent and more sweet of his belly—than of God or godliness. His care and labor are more that he may be pleased in foods and drinks—than that he may secure his salvation, and be justified and sanctified.
Indeed, the Scripture gives them this reproach, Philippians iii. 19, "Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, who glory in their shame, who mind earthly things"—being enemies to the cross of Christ, that is, to bearing the cross for Christ, and to the crucifying of the flesh, and to the mortifying parts of religion. Nay, such a devouring idol is the belly, that it swallows up more by intemperance and excess—than all other idols in the world do.
Remember that the very life of the sin is in the appetite and heart! When a man's heart is set upon his belly, though he eats ever so little because he is poor—he is a glutton in heart. When you make a great matter of it, what you shall eat and drink as to the delight; and when you take it for a great loss or suffering if you fare hardly, and are troubled at it, and your thoughts and talk are of your belly, and you have not that indifference whether your fare is coarse or pleasant, (so long as it is wholesome,) as all temperate people have—this is the heart of gluttony, and is the heart's forsaking of God, and making the appetite its god.
2. Gluttony is self-murder! Though it does not kill suddenly—it kills surely! It kills by degrees. The wisest physicians believe that gluttony or excess in eating or drinking, is a principal cause of death, though not the most immediate cause. Gluttony will not let them die easily and quickly, but torments them first with manifold diseases while they live. You eat more than nature can needs, and because you feel it not trouble you or make you sick—you think that it does not hurt you; whereas it does by degrees first alters and vitiates the temperament of the blood and humours, making it a crude, unnatural thing, unfit for the due nutrition of the body. Gluttony turns the nourishing mass into a burdensome, toxic mixture—than of that sweet, nutritious milk of nature, quickened with those spirits and well-proportioned heat, which should make it fit to be the oil of life.
Hence it is that one part of the body is tainted with corruption, and another consumes as destitute of fit nutriment; and the blood vessels secretly obstructed by the grossness or other unfitness of the blood to run its circle and perform its offices, is the cause of a multitude of lamentable diseases. The frigid distempers of the brain, the lethargy, the head-ache, and oft the madness, come all from these effects of gluttony and excess, which are made upon the blood and humours.
Yes the palpitations of the heart, and faintings, which men think rather come from weakness—do usually come either from oppression of nature by gluttony. The loathing of food and lack of appetite is ordinarily from the crudities or distempers caused by gluttony. Yes, the very canine appetite which would still have more, is caused by a viciousness in the humours thus contracted. The pains of the stomach, vomitings, hiccoughs, inflammations, thirsts, are usually from this cause. The obstructions of the liver, the jaundice, inflammations, abscesses and ulcers, are commonly from gluttony. Hence also usually are inflammations, pains, obstructions, of the body. Hence commonly is the stone, nephritic torments, and stoppages of urine, and ulcers of the bladder. Hence commonly is the most of the fevers which are found in the world, and bring such multitudes to the grave. Even those that immediately are caused by colds, distempers of the air or infections, are oft caused principally by long excess in gluttony, which vitiates the humours, and prepares them for the disease. Hence also are gouts and hysterical affects, and diseases of the eyes and other exterior parts.
We may well say that gluttony enriches farmers, fills the churchyards, and hastens multitudes untimely to their ends!
Perhaps you will say that the most temperate have diseases. Experience teaches me to answer, that usually children are permitted to be voracious and gluttonous, either in quantity or in quality, eating things unwholesome; and so when gluttony has bred the disease, or laid in the matter, then all the temperance that can be used is little enough to keep it under control all their life afterwards.
Many who have been brought to the doors of death by gluttony, have been preserved after many years to a competent old age by temperance, and many totally freed from their diseases.
Judge now what a murderer gluttony is—and what an enemy to mankind!
3. Gluttony is also a deadly enemy to the MIND, and to all the noble employments of reason. It unfits men for any close and serious studies, and therefore tends to nourish ignorance, and keep men fools. It greatly unfits men for hearing God's word, or reading, or praying, or meditating, or any holy work, and makes them have more mind to sleep. Gluttony so indisposes and dulls them, that they have no life or fitness for their duty. But a clear head, not troubled with their drowsy foods, will do more and get more in an hour, than a full-bellied beast will do in many. So that gluttony is as much an enemy to all religious and manly studies, as drunkenness is an enemy to an army, where the drunken soldiers are disabled to resist the enemy.
4. Gluttony is also an enemy to diligence, in every honest trade and calling; for it dulls the BODY as well as the mind. It makes men heavy, and drowsy, and slothful, and go about their business as if they wore a coat of lead, and were in fetters; they have no vivacity and alacrity, and are fitter to sleep, than work.
5. Gluttony is the immediate effect of a carnal mind, and of the damnable sin of flesh-pleasing, before described. A carnal mind is the very sum of iniquity, and the proper name of an unregenerate state; "It is enmity against God, and neither is nor can be subject to his law;" so that those who are thus "in the flesh cannot please God; and those who walk after the flesh shall die," Romans viii. 6-8, 13. The filthiest sins of lechers, and misers, and thieves, are but to please the flesh: and who serves the flesh more than the glutton does?
6. Gluttony is the breeder and feeder of all other lusts. It pampers the flesh to feed it, and make it a sacrifice for lust. As dunging the ground does make it fruitful, especially of weeds; so does gluttony fill the mind with the weeds and vermin of filthy thoughts, and filthy desires, and words, and deeds.
7. Gluttony is a base and beastly kind of sin. For a man to place his happiness in the same pleasure as a swine, and to make his reason serve his throat, or sink into his belly; as if he were but a hogshead to be filled and emptied; or as if he were made only to carry food from the table to the dunghill—how base a kind of life is this! Yes, many beasts will not eat and drink excessively as the gluttonous epicure will do.
8. Gluttony is a wasteful consumer and devourer of the creatures of God. What is he worthy of, who would take meat and drink and cast it away into the river? Nay, that would be at a great deal of cost and curiosity to get the pleasantest food he could procure, to cast away? The glutton does worse. It were better of the two, to throw all his excesses into the sink or ditch—for then they would not first hurt his body. And are the creatures of God of no more worth? Are they given you to do worse than cast them away? Would you have your children use their provisions thus?
9. Gluttony is a most unthankful sin—it takes God's mercies, and spews them as it were in his face! Gluttony carries his provisions over to his enemy, even to the strengthening of fleshly lusts; and turns them all against himself! You could not have a bit of food, but from God's liberality and blessing; and will you use it to provoke him and dishonor him?
10. Gluttony is a sin which turns your own mercies, and wealth, and food—into your snare, and to your deadly ruin. You please your throat—and poison your soul! It would be a thousand times better for you, that you had lived on scraps, and in the poorest manner—than thus to have turned your plenty to your damnable sin.
"When you shall have eaten and be full, then beware lest you forget the Lord," Deuteronomy vi. 11, 12.
"Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread." Proverbs 30:8.
"They ate until they had more than enough, for he had given them what they craved. But before they turned from the food they craved, even while it was still in their mouths, God's anger rose against them." Psalm 78:29-31
11. Gluttony is a great time-wasting sin. What a great deal of time is spent in getting the money that is laid out to please the throat! And then by servants in preparing for it; and then in long sitting at table and feastings; and not a little in taking medicine to ease or cure the diseases which it causes; besides all the time which is lost in languishing sickness, or cut off by untimely death. Thus they live to eat—and eat to frustrate and to shorten life.
12. Gluttony is a thief that robs you of your estates, and devours that which is given you for better uses, and for which you must give account to God. It is a costly sin, and consumes more than would serve to many better purposes. How great a part of the riches of most kingdoms are spent in luxury and excess!
13. Gluttony is a sin that is a great enemy to the common good. Princes and commonwealths have reason to hate it, and restrain it as the enemy of their safety. Men have not money to defray the public charges, necessary to the safety of the land, because they consume it on their bellies. Armies and navies must be unpaid, and fortifications neglected, and all that tends to the glory of a people must be opposed as against their personal interest—because all is too little for the throat! No great works can be done to the honor of the nation or the public good; no schools or alms-houses built or endowed, no colleges erected, no hospitals, nor any excellent work—because the guts devour it all! If it were known how much of the treasure of the land is thrown down the sink by epicures of all degrees, this sin would be frowned into more disgrace.
14. Gluttony is a sin greatly aggravated by the necessities of the poor. What an incongruity is it, that one member of Christ (as he would be thought) should be feeding himself deliciously every day, and abounding with abused superfluities—while another is starving and pining away in a cottage, or begging at the door! Some families do worse, and cast their delicacies and abundance to their dogs, while thousands are famishing, and would gladly feed on such unwholesome food as kills them—as soon as luxury kills the epicure!
Do these men believe that they shall be judged according to their feeding of the poor? Or do they take themselves to be members of the same body with those whose sufferings they so little feel? 1 Corinthians xii. 26. It may be you will say, "I relieve many of the poor." But are there not more yet to be relieved? As long as there are any in distress—it is the greater sin for you to be luxurious. "If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs." Deuteronomy 15:7-8
Nay, how often are the poor oppressed to satisfy luxurious appetites! Abundance must have hard bargains and hard usage, and toil like horses, and scarcely be able to get bread for their families—that they may bring in all to belly-god landlords, who consume the fruit of other men's labor upon their devouring flesh.
15. Gluttony is the more heinous sin, because of the common calamities of the church and servants of Christ throughout the world. One part of the church is oppressed by the Turk, and another by the pope, and many countries are wasted by the cruelties of armies, and persecuted by proud, impious enemies. Is it fit then for others to be wallowing in sensuality and gluttony? "You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end!" Amos 6:4-7
It is a time of great humiliation—and are you now given up to fleshly luxury? "The Lord, the LORD Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! "Let us eat and drink," you say, "for tomorrow we die!" Isaiah 22:12-13
16. Luxury and gluttony is a sin most unfitting for men in so great misery, and incongruous to the state of the gluttonous themselves. O man, if you had but a true sight of your sin and misery, of death and judgment, and of the dreadful God whom you offend—you would perceive that fasting, and prayer, and tears befit one in your condition much better than glutting your devouring flesh. What! a man unpardoned, unsanctified, in the power of Satan, ready to be damned if thus you die, (for so I must suppose of a glutton,) for such a man to be taking his fleshly pleasure! For a Dives to be faring sumptuously every day, who must shortly beg for a drop of water to cool his tongue, is as foolish as for a thief to feast on his way to the gallows—yes, and much more. For you might yet prevent your misery—and another posture better fits you to that end: "Fasting" and "crying mightily to God," is fitter to your state. See Jonah 3.8; Joel 1.14; 2.15.
17. Gluttony is a sin so much the greater—by how much the more delight you have in the committing of it. The sweetest, most voluntary and beloved sin—is the greatest sin. And few are more pleasant and beloved than this.
18. Those are the worst sins, which have least repentance; but gluttony is so far from being truly repented of by the luxurious epicure—that he loves it, and cares and contrives how to commit it, and buys it with the price of much of his estate.
19. Gluttony is the greater sin, because it is so frequently committed. Men live in it as their daily practice and delight. They live for it, and make it the end of other sins. Gluttony is not a sin that they seldom fall into, but it is almost as familiar with them, as to eat and drink! Being turned into beasts—they live like beasts continually.
20. Lastly, gluttony is a spreading sin, and therefore is become common, even the sin of countries, of rich and poor; for both sorts love their bellies, though both have not the same provision for them. And they are so far from taking warning from one another, that they are encouraged one by another. The sin of gluttony is scarcely noted in one of a hundred who daily live in it. There are almost none who reprove it, or help one another against it, (unless by impoverishing each other,) but most by persuasions and example, encourage it (though some much more than others). By this time you may see that gluttony it is no rare, nor venial, little sin.
And now you may see also, that it is no wonder if no one of the commandments expressly forbid this sin—not only because it is a sin against ourselves directly, but also because it is against every one also of the ten commandments. Do not think that either riches or poverty will excuse the sin of gluttony—when even princes are restrained so much as from unseasonable eating, "Woe to you, O land whose princes feast in the morning!" Ecclesiastes 10:16
If it was one of the great sins that Sodom was burnt with fire for, judge whether England be in no danger by it. Read, O England, and know yourself, and tremble: "Sodom's sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness—while the poor and needy suffered outside her door!" Ezekiel 16:49
IV. The Directions or Helps against gluttony.
Direction I.Mortify the flesh, according to the directions in chapter 4, part 7. Subdue its inclinations and desires; and learn to esteem and use it but as a servant. Think what a pitiful price a little gluttonous pleasure of the throat is—for a man to sell his God and his salvation for! Learn to be indifferent whether your food is pleasing to your appetite or not—and make no great matter of it. Remember what an odious, swinish, damning sin it is—for a man's heart to be set upon his belly. "All who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts!" Galatians v. 24.
Direction II.Live faithfully to God, and upon spiritual, durable delights. And then you will fetch the measure of your eating and drinking from their tendency to that higher end. There is no using any inferior thing aright—until you have first well resolved of your end, and use it as a means thereto, and mark how far it is a means of grace.
Direction III.See all your food as provided and given you by God, and ask it and the blessing of it at his hand—and then it will much restrain you from using it against him. He is a wretch indeed, who will take his food as from his father's hand—and throws it in his face! He who thinks he is most indebted to himself for his plenty, will say as the fool, Luke xii. 19, 20, "Soul, take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry—you have enough laid up for many years." But he who perceives it is the hand of God that supplies it to him, will use it more reverently. It is a horrid aggravation of the gluttony of this age, that they play the hypocrites in it, and first (for custom) crave God's blessing on their food, and then sit down and sin against him with it! Such are the prayers of hypocritical sensualists. But a serious discerning of God as the giver, would teach you "Whether you eat or drink—to do all to his glory" from whom it comes.
Direction IV.See by faith the blood of Christ as the purchasing cause of all you have—and then surely you will bear more reverence to his blood, than to cast the fruit of it into the sink of sensuality, and to do worse than throw it upon the dunghill. What! must Christ be a sacrifice to God, and die to recover to you the mercies which you had forfeited—and now will you cast them to the dogs—and please a sinful appetite with them? Did Jesus die to purchase you provisions for your lusts, and to serve the flesh with?
Direction V.Do not forget how the first sin came into the world—even by eating the forbidden fruit. And let the slain creatures whose lives are lost for you, remember you for that sin which brought the burden on them for your sakes. And then every piece of flesh that you see, will appear to you as with this caution written upon it: O sin not as your first parents sinned by pleasing of your appetite! For this our death, and your devouring the flesh of your fellow-creatures, is the fruit of that sin, and warns you to be temperate. Revel not to excess, in your fellow-creatures' lives.
Direction VI.Keep an obedient, tender conscience, not scrupulously perplexing yourselves about every bit you eat, (as melancholy people do,) but checking your appetite, and telling you of God's commands, and teaching you to fear all sensual excess. It is a graceless, disobedient, senseless heart—which makes men so boldly obey their appetite. When the fear of God is not in their hearts, it is no wonder if they "feed" and "feast themselves without fear," Jude 12. Either they make a small matter of sin in the general, or at least of this in particular. It is usually the same people who do not fear to spend their time in idleness, amusements, or vanity, and live in worldliness or fleshly lusts—who live in gluttony.
The belly is a brute which does not live by reason. Where conscience is asleep and seared, reason and Scripture do little move a sensual belly-God. Anything will serve instead of reason to prove it lawful, and to answer all that is said against it. There is no disputing the case with a man who is asleep; especially if his guts and appetite are awake. You may almost as well bring reason and Scripture to keep a swine from over-eating, or persuade a hungry dog from a bone—as to take off a glutton from the pleasing of his throat, if he be once grown blockish, and has overcome his conscience by unbelief, or stilled it with a stupefying opiate. His taste then serves instead of reason, and against reason. Then he says, I feel it does me good; (that is, he feels that it pleases his appetite—as a swine feels that his meat does him good when he is ready to burst;) and this answers all that can be said against it. Then he can sacrifice his time and treasure to his belly, and make a jest of the temperance of sober men, as if it were but a needless self-affliction, or fit only for some weak and sickly people.
If the constant fear and obedience of God does not rule the soul—the appetite will rule. And if a tender conscience is not porter—the throat will consume anything that the appetite desires.
One sight of Heaven or Hell, to awaken their reason and sleepy consciences—would be the best remedy to convince them of the odiousness and danger of this sin!
Direction VII.Understand well what is most conducible to your health—and let that be the ordinary measure of your diet for quantity, and quality, and time. Surely your nature itself, if you are yet men, should have nothing to say against this measure, and consequently against all the rest of the directions which suppose it. Nature has given you reason as well as appetite, and reason tells you that your health is more to be regarded than your appetite.
I hope you will not say that God is too strict with you, or would diet you too hardly, as long as he allows you (ordinarily) to choose that (when you can have it lawfully) which is most for your own health, and forbids you nothing but that which hurts you. What heathen or infidel who is not either mad or swinish, will not allow this measure and choice, as well as Christians? Yes, if you believe not a life to come, methinks you should be reluctant to shorten this life which now you have. God would but keep you from hurting yourselves by your excess, as you would keep your children or your swine from hurting themselves.
Though God has a further end in it, and so must you—namely, that a healthful body may be serviceable to a holy soul, in your Master's work—yet it is the health of your bodies which is to be your nearest and immediate end and measure.
THE MEASURE OF EATING.
It is a very great oversight in the education of youth, that they are not taught some common and necessary precepts about diet, acquainting them with what tends to health and life—and what tends to sickness, pain, and death. It would be no unprofitable or unnecessary thing, if princes took a course that all their subjects might have some such common needful precepts familiarly known; (as if it were in the books that children first learn to read in, together with the precepts of their moral duty.) For it is certain that men do not love death or sickness, and that all men love their health and life; and therefore those who fear not God, would be much restrained from excess, by the fear of sickness and of death. What an advantage this would be to the commonwealth, you may easily perceive, when you consider what a mass of treasure it would save, besides the lives, and health, and strength of so many subjects.
It is certain that most people have no considerable knowledge as to what measure is best for them—but the common rule that they judge by, is their appetite. They think they have eaten enough, when they have eaten as long as they desire, and not before. If they could eat more with an appetite, and not be sick after it—they never would think that they have been guilty of gluttony or excess.
FIRST, therefore, you must know, that appetite is not to be your rule or measure, either for quantity, quality, or time. For:
1. Appetite is irrational, and reason is your ruling faculty—if you are men.
2. Appetite depends on the desires of the body—and not merely on the natural need of food. A man in a dropsy is most thirsty—but has least cause to drink; though frequently in a malignant fever, a draught of cold drink would probably be his death, yet his appetite desires it nevertheless.
Some stomachs have commonly a strong appetite, be the digestion ever so weak, and most of them could eat with an appetite above twice as much as they ought to eat. And on the contrary, some others desire not so much as is necessary to their sustenance—and must be urged to eat against their appetite.
3. Most healthful people in the world have an appetite greater than nature can well digest, and would kill themselves if they pleased their appetites. God never gave man his appetite to be the measure of his eating or drinking—but to make that grateful to him, which reason bids him take.
4. Man's appetite is not now so sound and regular as it was before the fall; but is grown more rebellious and unruly, and diseased as the body is—and therefore it is now much more unfit to be our measure, than it was before the fall.
5. You see it even in swine, and many greedy children—that would shortly kill themselves, if they had not the reason of others to rule them.
6. Poison itself may be as delightful to the appetite as wholesome foods. Dangerous foods may be as delightful to the appetite, as those that are most wholesome. So that it is most certain, that appetite is not fit to be the measure of a man's eating.
SECONDLY, it is certain also, that the present feeling of ease or sickness, is no certain rule to judge of your digestion, or your measure by; for though some tender, relaxed stomachs are sick or troubled when they are overcharged, or exceed their measure—yet with the most it is not so—unless they exceed to very swinishness, they are not sick upon it, nor feel any hurt at present by less excesses, but only that the excess vitiates the body, and prepares it for sicknesses by degrees. One may not feel the illness for many years, until it has turned to some incurable disease (for the diseases that are bred so long, are ordinarily much more incurable, than those that come but from sudden accidents and alterations, in a cleaner body).
Therefore to say, "I feel it does me no harm, and therefore it is not excess," is the saying of an idiot, who has no foreseeing reason, and resists not an enemy while he is garrisoning, fortifying, and arming himself—but only when it comes to blows. This is like him who goes into a pesthouse, and says, "I feel it do me no harm!" but within few days or weeks, he will feel it. As if the beginning of a consumption were no hurt to them, because they feel it not! Thus living like a beast—they will at last brutify their brains as well as their bellies!
THIRDLY,it is certain also, that the common custom and opinion is no certain rule. Nay, certainly common custom and opinion is an erring rule; for judging by appetite has brought men ordinarily to take sinful excess to be but temperance. All these then are false measures.
If I should here presume to give you any rules for judging of a right measure, physicians would think I went beyond my calling, and some of them might be offended at a design that tends so much to their impoverishing, and those who serve the greedy worm would be more offended. Therefore I shall only give you these general intimations:
1. Nature is content with a little—but appetite is never content until it has drowned nature.
2. It is the wholesomeness of the nutriment, which is more conducible to health, than the quantity.
3. Nature will more easily overcome twice the quantity of some light and wholesome nourishment—than half so much of gross and heavy foods. (Therefore those who prescribe just twelve ounces a day, without differencing foods which so much differ, do much mistake.)
4. Active people must have more food than inactive people.
5. Hard laborers must have more than easy laborers—and these more than the idle, or students, or any that stir but little.
6. That which troubles the stomach in the digestion is too much, or too bad—unless with very weak, sickly people.
7. So is that too much or bad, which makes you more dull for study, or more heavy and unfit for labor (unless some disease be the principal cause.)
8. A body that by excess is already filled with crudities, should take less than another—that nature may have time to digest and waste them.
9. Every one should labor to know the inclinations of their own bodies, and what diseases they are most inclined to. They ought to have the judgment of their physician or some skillful person, to give them such directions as are suitable to their own particular inclinations and diseases.
10. Hard laborers err more in the quality than the quantity, partly through poverty, partly through ignorance, and partly through appetite—while they refuse that which is more wholesome, if it is less pleasing to them.
11. If I may presume to conjecture, ordinarily very hard laborers exceed in quantity about a fourth part; shopkeepers and people of easier trades ordinarily exceed about a third part; voluptuous gentlemen and others who have no hard labor, do usually exceed about half in half; and the same gentlemen usually exceed in variety, costliness, curiosity, and time, much more than they do in quantity (so that they are gluttons of the first magnitude). The children of those that govern not their appetites, but let them eat and drink as much and as often as they desire it—do usually exceed above half in half, and lay the foundation of the diseases and miseries of all their lives! All this is about the truth, though the belly believes it not.
When you are once grown wise enough what in measure, and time, and quality, is fittest for your health—the do not go beyond that upon any importunity of appetite, or of friends; for all that is beyond that is gluttony and sensuality, in its degree.
Direction VIII.If you can lawfully avoid it, make not your table a snare of temptation to yourselves or others. I know a greedy appetite will make any table that has but necessities, a snare to itself. But do not unnecessarily become devils, or tempters to yourselves or others.
1. For QUALITY, do not make deliciousness of appetite too much—unless for some weak, distempered stomachs, the best food is that which leaves behind it in the mouth, neither a troublesome loathing, nor an eager appetite after more, for the taste's sake; but such as bread is, that leaves the palate in an indifferent moderation. The inventions of new and delicious dishes, merely to please the appetite—is gluttony inviting to greater gluttony; excess in quality—inviting to excess in quantity.
Objection: But, you will say, "I shall be thought niggardly or sordid, and reproached behind my back, if my table is so fitted for only the temperate."
Answer: This is the pleading of pride, for the sin of gluttony! Rather than you will be talked against by belly-gods, or ignorant, fleshly people—you will sin against God, and prepare a feast or sacrifice for Bacchus or Venus! The ancient Christians were torn with beasts, because they would not cast a little frankincense into the fire on the altar of an idol. But you will feed so many idol bellies so liberally to avoid their censure! Did not I tell you, that gluttony is an irrational vice? Good and temperate people will speak well of you for it—and do you more regard the judgment and esteem of belly-gods?
Objection: But it is not only riotous, luxurious people that I mean; I have no such at my table; but it will be the matter of calumny even to good people, and those who are sober.
Answer: I have told you gluttony has become a common sin; and many are tainted with it through custom, who otherwise are good and sober: but shall they therefore be left as incurable? Or shall they make all others as bad as they? And must we all commit that sin, which some sober people are grown to favor? You bear their censures about different opinions in religion, and other matters of difference—so why not here? The Quakers may be witnesses against you, that while they run into the contrary extreme, can bear the deepest censures of all the world about them. And cannot you for honest temperance and sobriety, bear the censures of some distempered or guilty people who are of another mind. Certainly in this they are not temperate people—when they plead for excess, and the baits of sensuality and intemperance.
2. For VARIETY also—do not make your table unnecessarily a snare. Unnecessary variety and pleasantness of foods, are the devil's great instruments to draw men to gluttony! I would wish no good people to be his cooks or caterers! When the very brutish appetite itself begins to say of one dish, I have enough—then comes another to tempt it unto more excess, and another after that to tempt it unto yet more excess.
All this that I have said, I have the concurrent judgment of physicians who condemn fullness and variety, as the great enemies of health, and nurseries of diseases! And is not the concurrent judgment of physicians more valuable about matters of health—than your private opinions, or appetites? Yet when sickness requires variety—then it is necessary.
3. Do not sit too long at table—for beside the sin of wasting time, it is but the way to swallow down a little, and then a little more. He who would be temperate, if he sat but a quarter of an hour, (which is ordinarily enough,) will glut himself when he has the temptation of half an hour (which is enough for the entertainment of strangers); much more when you must sit out an hour—which is always too much. Though fast eating is not healthy, yet sober feeding may satisfy nature in a little time.
4. See that your provisions are not more costly than is necessary—though I know there must be a difference allowed for people and times, yet see that no cost be bestowed unnecessarily. Let sober reason, and not pride and gluttony—judge of the necessity.
We commonly call him the rich glutton in Luke 16—who fared sumptuously every day. It is not said that he ate any more than other men, but that he fared sumptuously. You cannot answer it comfortably to God, to spend upon the belly, which might do more good another way. It is a horrid sin to spend such store of wealth unnecessarily upon the belly, as is ordinarily done. The cheapest diet must usually be preferred.
Objection: But the scandal of covetousness must be avoided, as well as gluttony. Folks will say, that all this is done merely from a miserable, covetous, niggardly mind.
1. It is easier to bear the censure of man, than the displeasure of God.
2. No scandal must be avoided, by running into sin.
3. With temperate people, your excess is much more scandalous.
4. I will teach you a cure for this in the next direction.
Objection: But what if I set variety and plenty on my table? May not men choose whether they will eat too much? Do you think men are swine—that do not know when they have enough?
Answer: Yes, we see by certain experience, that most men do not know when they have enough, and are gluttonous. There is not one of many, but is much more prone to exceed, than to come short. Many sins by excess, for every one who sins by eating too little. Is sin so small a matter with you, that you will lay snares before men, and then say that they may take heed for themselves? So men may choose whether they will go into a whore-house—and yet it is a sin to invite men into them.
Will you excuse the devil for tempting Eve with the forbidden fruit, because she might choose whether she would meddle with it? What is that on your table, which is purposely cooked to the tempting of the appetite, and is fitted to draw men to gluttony and excess, and is no way needful? "Woe to him who lays a stumbling-block before the blind!" "Let no man put a stumbling-block in his brother's way." It is the wicked's curse, "Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block." And it was Balaam's sin, that he taught Balak to tempt Israel, or lay a stumbling-block before them.
Direction IX.Resolve to bestow the cost of such superfluities—upon the poor, or some other charitable use—so that it does not become a sacrifice to the belly. Let the greatest and most needful uses be first served. It is no time for you to be glutting your appetites, and wallowing in excess—when so many about you lack even clothes and bread! If you do thus lay out all upon the poor, which you spare from feeding your own and other men's gluttony, then none can say that your sparing is through covetous niggardliness—and so that reproach is taken off of you.
The price of one feast will buy bread for a great many poor people. It is small thanks to you to give to the poor some leavings, when your bellies are first glutted with as much as the appetite desired. This costs you nothing—even a swine will leave that to another, which he cannot eat. But if you will a little pinch your flesh, or deny yourselves, and live more sparingly and thriftily, that you may have the more to give to the poor—this is commendable indeed.
Direction X.Do not over-persuade any to eat more, when there is no need—but rather help one another against running into gluttony, by seasonable discourses of the sinfulness of gluttony, and of the excellency of temperance, and by friendly watchings over and warning one another. Satan and the flesh, and its unavoidable baits, are temptation strong enough; we need not by sinful kindness, to add more.
Direction XI.When you feel your appetites eager—check them by reason and conscience, and resolve that your appetites shall not be pleased. Unresolvedness keeps up the temptation; if you would but resolve at once, you would be quiet. But when the devil finds you yielding, or wavering, or unresolved—he will never give you rest.
"When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive." Proverbs 23:1-3. "Put a knife to your throat," that is, threaten yourself into temperance. Keep up resolution, and the power of reason.
Direction XII.Remember what your body is, and what it will shortly be, and how loathsome and vile it will be in the dust. And then think how far such a body should be pampered and pleased—and at what a price. Do not pay too dear, for a feast for worms! Look into the grave, and see what the end of all is—of all your pleasant foods and drinks; of all your marvelous and costly fare. You may see there the skulls cast up, and the ugly hole of that mouth which devoured so many sweet, delicious morsels—but there is none of the pleasure of it now left. Oh astonishing folly! that men can so easily, so eagerly, so obstinately, waste their estates, and neglect their souls, and displease their God, and in effect even sell their hopes of Heaven—for so small and sordid a delight, as the pleasing of such a piece of flesh, which must shortly have so vile an end!
Was it worth so much care, and toil, and cost, and the casting away of your salvation—to pamper that body a little while, which must shortly be such a loathsome carcass? Methinks one sight of a skull or a grave, would make you look upon gluttony and luxury as madness!
A funeral is a safer place for you than a feast. "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart." Ecclesiastes 7:2
David says of the wicked, "Let me not eat of their dainties;" but, "let the righteous smite me and reprove me," Psalm 141:4, 5.
So dangerous a thing is feasting even among friends, where of itself it is lawful, that Job thought it a season for his fears and sacrifice;
"Job's sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, 'Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' This was Job's regular custom.' Job 1:4-5
Direction XIII.Go into the houses of the poor sometimes, and see what provisions they live upon, and what time they spend at table; and then think whether their food or yours tend more to the mortification of fleshly lusts? and whether theirs will not be as sweet as yours at the last? and whether mere riches should make so great a difference in eating and drinking between them and you? I know that where they lack what is necessary to their health—it is lawful for you to exceed them, and be thankful; but not so as to forget their needs, nor so as to turn your plenty to excess. The very sight now and then of a poor man's food and manner of life, would do you good—seeing affects more than hearsay.
Direction XIV.Look upon the ancient Christians, the patterns of temperance, and think whether their lives were like yours. They were much in fastings and abstinence, and strangers to gluttony and excess; they were so prone to excess of abstinence, rather than excess of food, that many of them lived in wildernesses or cells, upon roots, or upon bread and water: (from the imitation of whom, in a formal, hypocritical manner, came the swarms of friars that are now in the world) and will you commend their holiness and temperance, and yet be so far from any serious imitation of them, that you will, in gluttony and excess, oppose yourselves directly against them?
I have now detected the odiousness of this sin of gluttony, and told you if you are willing—how you may best avoid it. If all this will not serve, but there is "any profane person among you like Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright," Hebrews xii. 16, who for the pleasing of his throat—will sell his soul; let him know that God has another kind of cure for such: he may cast you into poverty, where you shall be a glutton only in desire, but have nothing to satisfy your desires. He may shortly cast you into those diseases, which shall make you loathe your pleasant fare, and wish you had the poor man's fare and appetite; and make you say of all the baits of your sensuality, "I have no pleasure in them!" Ecclesiastes xii. 1.
The case will be altered with you when all your wealth, and friends, and greatness cannot keep your pampered carcass from corruption, nor procure your soul a comfort equal to a drop of water to cool your tongue, tormented in the flames of God's displeasure! Then all the comfort you can procure from God and conscience will be but this sad memento, "Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony!" Luke 16:25
"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter!" James 5:1,5
Yet after all this, I shall remind you that you should not run into the contrary extreme. Do not place more religion in external abstinence and fastings than you ought. Know your own condition, and how far either fasting or eating is really a help or a hindrance to you in those greater things which are their ends, and so far use them. A feeble body must be carefully supported—an unruly body must be carefully subdued. The same medicines do not serve for contrary illnesses and diseases.
To think, like the Catholics, that abstaining from meats, and glutting yourselves with fish and other foods, is acceptable to God; or that mere abstaining so many hours in a week, and indulging your appetite at other times, is meritorious; or that abstinence from food will prove you holy, without an abstinence from sin—all this is self-deluding error.
Nor must you raise a great many of perplexing scruples about all that you eat or drink, to no edification, but merely to your vexation. But in cheerful temperance—preserve your health, and subdue your fleshly appetites.