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On the proper regulation of the Appetites.

IN connection with the views, which have been presented in the preceding chapter, it is to be remembered, that the leading Appetites and Propensities, in their specific forms, are but so many modifications of Desire. And if it is acknowledged to be important, that the desires should be properly regulated, it is equally important, that the specific appetites and propensities, into which desire under the appropriate circumstances modifies itself, should be subjected to a similar regulation. And the same general remark will apply to the Affections also, as well as to the appetites and the propensive principles; inasmuch as the affections are known to be characterized by desire, as an essential and leading element, and are susceptible of an inordinate action.

(1) — In the few observations, which we propose to make on the subject of the Appetites at the present time, our first remark is this. The appetites are good in their appropriate place; but when they are not properly regulated, by being restricted to their appropriate occasions and objects, they are the source of great evil. I believe it is generally admitted, that the undue indulgence of the appetites, the "lower passions," as they are sometimes denominated, is the true source of inward impurity; a state of mind, which it is to be feared most persons know by melancholy experience, better than it can be illustrated by any description. Men speak of the appetites in terms, which obviously indicate their convictions on this subject; they speak of them, whenever they operate out of their appropriate sphere and degree, as low, degrading, and polluting, and compare those, who thus indulge in them, to the swine that wallow in the mire.

There is also something in one's consciousness, which supports this view. When the appetites are entirely subdued and kept in their place, the subject of them, at least so far as the appetites are concerned, feels that he is pure in heart. But when it is otherwise, there is a sense not only of guilt, but of
degradation; there is an inward consciousness of what may be termed metaphorically a stain or blot upon the mind. The soul feels itself, in the experience of its own state, to be very different from what it is at other times. The holy soul may be likened to a mirror, into which God may look, and behold the features of his own character reflected. But when it yields itself to the undue influence of the appetites, the mirror becomes stained and darkened, and God is no longer seen in it.

(2.) — In accordance with these views, a person may become impure, as in point of fact many do become impure, by the inordinate indulgence of the appetite for food and drink. The Savior ate and drank without prejudice to his holiness, because he did so in fulfillment of the laws of nature. The truly devoted followers of the Savior will endeavor to imitate his example in this respect. "I felt no disposition," says the pious Brainerd, "to eat and drink for the sake of the pleasure of it; but only to support my nature, and to fit me for divine service." It may perhaps be properly added, that even heathenism, which thus utters a voice to teach and reprove an imperfect Christianity, can furnish us a lesson on this subject. It is said of Hannibal, the celebrated Carthaginian commander, that in the use of food and drink he consulted merely the real wants of the physical system, without any regard to the suggestions of sensual pleasure. In the language of the Roman historian, "CIBI POTIONISQUE DESIDERIO NATURALI, NON VOLUPTATE, MODUS FINITUS." This fact, among other striking traits of character, is obviously mentioned as a ground of commendation by the historian, who, heathen as he was, as well as the celebrated subject of his remarks, seems to have had a clear perception of the intentions of nature.

Happy would it be, if such views and practices more generally prevailed. But it is a painful truth that multitudes of persons, and some even of those who claim to be the Savior's followers, pollute themselves by taking food, not for the sake of the food and in the fulfillment of the intentions of nature, but for the sake of the pleasure which it gives; making the pleasure the ultimate and oftentimes the sole object. In other words, they eat and drink for their lust's sake. They do not eat and drink, because it is necessary to support nature; an important object, which, when properly kept in view, has a tendency to limit the quality and quantity of the articles taken, but in order that they may gratify their selfish propensities. Such are the persons, that are properly denominated
impure; and they feel themselves to be so. The superabundance of the flesh, nourished by meats and drinks stimulating in their nature, and inordinate in quantity, seems to spread a coat of its dark and unseemly accretion over the mind itself. The amount of impurity, which results from this source, is immense; and will abundantly account for the lamentations of many persons over their spiritual leanness.

(3.) — One of the principles, coming under the denomination of the Appetites, is that, which results from the relation of the sexes. A serious mind, certainly, one that is disposed to recognize the benevolent hand of God in all his works, will not be inclined to speak in terms of disparagement of this appetite, which, in an important sense, is the foundation of the family state. But sin, which has spread its poison every where, has converted that, which was designed for good, and nothing but good, into a source of evil. Every desire, founded upon the relation of the sexes, which is not in accordance with the providence and the will of God, leaves a stain upon the mind's purity, and is at war with holiness. But it is necessary merely to allude to the dangers from this source. The holy mind, which appreciates the importance of watchfulness in every direction, will not be inattentive to the perplexities and hazards which exist here. A single emotion, at variance with entire purity of heart, is inconsistent, so long as it exists, with communion with God, and with his favor.

(4.) — We leave this subject with one or two observations more. In connection with what has been remarked, we are naturally led to urge upon all persons, who wish to live a life of true holiness, the great importance of living in such a manner, in the exercise and indulgence of the appetites, as to fulfill, and nothing more than fulfill the intentions of nature; or rather the intentions of the wise and benevolent Author of nature. The life of God in the soul has a much closer connection with modes of living, than is generally supposed. If Christians, instead of indulging and pampering the appetite for meats and drinks, would be satisfied with simple nourishment, and with that small quantity, which is adequate to all the purposes of nature, what abundant blessings would infallibly result both to body and mind! Many dark hours, which are now the subject of sad complaints on the part of professed Christians, would be exchanged for bright ones. God would then reveal his face of affectionate love, which it is impossible for him to do to those, who enslave themselves in this manner.— And in relation to any other principles, which properly come under the head of the appetites, beneficial and important as they undoubtedly are in their place, if they could be restrained to the purposes and the limits which their author has assigned, it would certainly make a vast difference in the relative amount of sin and holiness, of suffering and happiness in the world. Christian, think of these things! Ye, who seek the experience, the indispensable and blessed experience, of holiness of heart, earnestly make them the subject of reflection and prayer. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."