On the Mortification of the Sensual Appetite

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August 22nd

ON THE MORTIFICATION OF THE SENSUAL APPETITE

Consider first, that our sensual appetite, that is, the strong inclination we have to gratify our senses, and to indulge them in their pleasures, is one of the most dangerous enemies the soul has, and stands most in need of being restrained and corrected by mortification. The flesh, with its senses, was designed to be the servant of the soul, and to be subservient to its true welfare and happiness. But if the sensual appetite be not kept under subjection by mortification, the servant will quickly become mistress, and the poor soul will be made her slave, and will be dragged along by her irregular inclinations into all kinds of evils. Our sensuality therefore must be mortified; we must absolutely deny ourselves all unlawful, sensual, and carnal pleasures; we must fly them more than death; we must retrench all excess and immoderation in the use even of lawful pleasures and diversions; we must never suffer ourselves to affect them much less to have a passion for them; we must accustom ourselves to curb and thwart the inclinations of our senses in things lawful or indifferent, that so we may acquire a greater facility in overcoming our sensual appetite when it inclines to things unlawful, and may at the same time punish our having formerly indulged ourselves in them. In fine, we must never do anything merely for our pleasure.

Consider 2ndly, the opposition there is between a sensual life or a life of pleasure and a truly Christian life, which is agreeable to the maxims of the gospel and the practice of Christ and of all his saints, who have taken up their crosses to follow him, and have always borne in their bodies the mortification of Jesus, and have been, as it were, crucified with him. This opposition is so great that the apostle cannot speak without weeping for those half Christians who give themselves up to their pleasures; of whom he says, Philip. iii. 18, 19, 'that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; that their end is destruction; that their god is their belly; that they glory in their shame, and mind only earthly things.' Christ did not study his own pleasure. 'He did not please himself,' Rom. xv.3. His whole life was a cross, which he voluntarily chose for the glory of his Father, and for the love of us. The apostle 'chastised his body, and brought it into subjection,' by voluntary mortifications, 1 Cor. ix. 27; all the saints have walked in the same footsteps, they have all crucified their own flesh Gal.v. 24. 'The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and none but they that use violence upon themselves beareth it away,' Matt. xi. 12. And shall Christians think that a sensual life will ever bring them thither? No; true 'wisdom is not found in the land of them that live in delights,' Job xxviii. 13. And we are not to imagine we may give ourselves up to our pleasure here, and yet promise ourselves 'the good things of the Lord in the land of he living' hereafter.

Consider 3rdly, that there is no one but what may and ought to practice the mortification of the flesh and of its sensual appetites; and that too by restraining it often from things otherwise lawful. The guilty must do it to punish themselves for their past sins; the innocent must do it, in order to keep themselves from falling into sin, which will be the unavoidable consequence of their not mortifying and keeping under so dangerous an enemy. None must excuse themselves here on account of their want of strength or health; 'tis easy for a Christian of a good will to contrive and to put in execution a variety of self-denials that neither require any bodily strength nor prejudice the health. If we are not able to wear the hair shirt or use the discipline; if we cannot fast or lie upon the hard floor, we may at least retrench many superfluities and affected niceties in our eating, drinking, clothing, & c.; we may shorten the time we give to unnecessary lying in bed; we may upon many occasions withdraw ourselves from such things as we are inclined to, and which perhaps are less wholesome for us, and choose such things as are less agreeable to our own inclinations; in fine, we may daily and hourly mortify, in many things, our eyes, our ears, our tongue, &c.

Conclude to make it thy daily business to mortify on every occasion thy sensual appetite, lest otherwise flesh and blood prevail on thy soul and she fall an everlasting prey to her mortal enemies.
 
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