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that sincerely resolves and endeavours to prosecute his last and blessed end.
Directions to fix the choice aright. The danger from the senses and the fan. cy, of perverting our choice. The power of fancy considered. The carnal affections are the worst counsellors. The senses and carnal affections are incapable of apprehending spiritual things; they are deceitful and very numerous and clamorous. The general example of men is corruptive of our judgments about worldly things. It is foolish to be directed by the multitude in an affair of eternal moment. The universal judgment of worldly men in their last serious hours, is considerate, and to be be lieved.
I SHALL now come to the directions how to fix our choice aright.
This is a matter of everlasting consequence; it therefore becomes us with the most intense application of mind to consider it, and according to the advice of wisdom, "to keep the heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
Indeed the choice were not difficult between lying vanities and substantial blessedness, if uncorrupted reason had the superior sway but in this lapsed state of nature, the understanding and will are so depraved, that present things pleasing to sense, ravish the heart into a compliance. Men are deceived, not compelled into ruin the subtile seducer prevails by fair temptations. This will be evident by reflecting upon the frame and composition of man, as he consists of spirit, soul and body, and the manner of his acting. The spirit is the intellective discerning faculty, the seat of reason, capable to compare and judge of the qualities of things, and foresee their issues. The body includes the lower
faculties, the senses, fancy and passions, that are conversant about present things. The soul is the will, the principle of election, in the midst of the other, as the centre to which all their addresses flow. Now upon the proposal of the spiritual and carnal good in order to choice, the will is to be directed by the mind, and by its own authority to rule the lower passions. But alas! the mind has lost its primitive light and purity, vigilance and integrity, neglects its duty, and from ignorance, error and carnal prejudices often pleads for the flesh and the will, the rational appetite, is voluntarily subordinate, and enslaved by the sensitive. From hence it is, that in the competition, heaven with all its glory is despised, and the present world embraced. To open this more particularly, consider:
1. The senses can only taste and enjoy grosser dreggy plea
2. The fancy that depends upon them in its operations, and is guided by their report, conceives of felicity only under the notion of sensitive pleasure. We may illustrate this by the practice of Aretius a painter, recorded with infamy, who being often employed to paint the goddesses to be set in the pagan temples, always drew their pictures by the faces and complexions of his harlots, that the objects of his impure love might have veneration, and a divinity attributed to them, under the titles, and pretence of Minerva, Juno, Diana, and the other goddesses adored by the heathens. This impiety in an idolater, is resembled by men who fancy happiness (that is a spiritual divine perfection enjoyed in the glorious vision of God) to be a carnal fruition, and having with sensible colours and lineaments represented it agreeable to their brutish faculties, place it in their hearts, and sacrifice all their thoughts, affections, and service to it.
The fancy is very powerful in men upon a double account. (1.) The understanding naturally receives the notions of things by phantasms that are still mixing in its contemplations. While the soul is confined to a tabernacle of flesh, it apprehends no object without the precedent excitation of the senses. From whence it is impossible, that a person absolutely deprived of sight from his birth, should have an idea of light, or colours; or that is
*Flagitio insigni, semper alicujus fœminæ amore flagrans, & ob id Deas pingens sub dilectarum imagine. Itaq; Scorta ejus venerabantur. Plin.
born deaf, should conceive what sound is; the sense never having imparted an account of it to them. And the image of the object is not immediately transmitted from the sense to the mind, but first to the imagination, that prepares it for its view. And from hence the sensual fancy is so predominant in swaying the judgment, and inclining the will. As those counsellors of state that have the ear of the prince, and are continually with him, by specious informations, and disguising truth, influence him to approve or reject persons and things according to the various aspects given by them. The same object propounded in a dark confused manner, weakly moves us; but varnished and beautified with lively and pleasant colours by the imagination, is armed with such power that ravishes the esteem of the mind, and consent of the will. Now celestial happiness being purely spiritual, “such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor entered into the heart of man to conceive," though some discoveries be made of it by revelation, yet the imagination makes such an obscure detracting idea of it, that it affects no more, than a dead shadow drawn in some imperfect lines of an exquisite beauty. But when the fancy is warmed and enlivened by the presence of sensible objects, it makes a vigorous impression of them upon the mind, and that represents the pictures of pleasure as very lovely and delightful to the will, which presently embraces them.
(2.) The fancy has a marvellous force upon the sensitive appetite, that eagerly desires what is represented as pleasant, though the enlightened mind sees through the temptation, and knows it is a mere dream, that brings neither solid nor durable joy. One in a fever is pleased by imagining fountains and streams, though he knows that imaginary waters cannot quench his thirst, nor afford the least real refreshment. Now the sensitive appetite being inflamed by the fancy, imparts a contagious fire to the will, and that induces the mind, either to concur with it, and palliate the deceit, and to judge favourably according to its inclinations, or makes it slack or remiss in its office, diverting the thoughts from what might control the appetite; or if the understanding still contradicts, yet it is in so cold and speculative a manner," that the law of the members" rebels against the superior light, and is too strong" for the law of the mind," and that saying is verified,
Video meliora probóq;
I see what is worthy to be chosen, but pursue what is to be abhorred. Thus miserably weak are the rational guiding powers in man since his fall, thus imperious and violent the brutish faculties. In short, illusion and concupiscence are the principal causes why the most noble and divine good is undervalued and rejected in comparison of inferior transitory vanities. O the cheap damnation of beguiled souls! A mess of pottage was more valuable to Esau, than the birthright that had annexed to it the regal and priestly dignity. Unwise and unhappy wretches! "that follow lying vanities, and forsake their own mercies."
Thus I have briefly set down the process of men's foolish choice in this degenerate state. Now that we may with a free uncorrupted judgment compare things in order to a wise choice of trué felicity, it follows from what has been said, that as the apostle in obeying his heavenly commission, "conferred not with flesh and blood; we must not in this matter of infinite importance, attend,
1st. To the suggestions and desires of the senses and carnal appetites, which are the worst counsellors, as being incapable of judging what is our proper happiness, deceitful and importu
(1.) They are incapable of apprehending spiritual eternal things, which alone bring true and complete satisfaction to the soul, and cannot look forward to the end of sinful pleasures, and balance the terrible evils they leave at parting, with the slight vanishing content that springs from their presence. Therefore as blind persons lay hold on things they feel, so the sensitive faculties, that are blind and brutish, adhere to gross present enjoyments, not understanding the pure spotless felicity that is to come, and despising what they do not understand. Now who would in an affair upon which his all depends, advise with children and fools, whose judgment of things is without counsel, their counsel without discourse, their discourse without reason? There is nothing more contrary to the order of nature, than for men that should affect with judgment, to judge by their affections.
(2.) The carnal appetite with its lusts are very deceitful, a
party within holding correspondence with our spiritual enemies, the armies of evil angels, so active and assiduous in conspiring and accomplishing the damnation of men. The devil in scripture is called the tempter by way of eminence, who manages and improves all temptations; and his pernicious design is by the objects of sense, ordered and made more alluring and killing by his various arts, to engage the affections into a compliance, and so to gain the will. Now our great danger is not so much from satan the enemy without, as from the carnal appetite, the traitor within, that gives him the first and easy entrance into the soul. He can only entice by representing what is amiable to sense, but the corrupt appetite inclines to the closing with it. He tempted Jesus Christ, but was repelled with shame," having found nothing within him to work upon." The perfect regularity of faculties in our blessed Saviour was not in the least disordered, neither by his fairest insinuations, or most furious assaults. And we might preserve our innocence inviolable, notwithstanding all his attempts, did not some corrupt affection, cherished in our bosoms, lay us naked and open to his poisoned darts. The apostle Peter, who had a spiritual eye, and discerned wherein the strength of our great enemy lies, admonishes christians," dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, that war against the soul." And we are told by him, that "the corruption that is in the world, is through lust." The outward objects are useful and beneficial in their kind, the abuse of them is from lust. The poison is not in the flower, but in the spider. It is therefore infinitely dangerous to consult, or trust our carnal faculties in this matter, for they are bribed and corrupted, and will commend temporal things, to our choice.
(3.) The sensual affections are so numerous and clamorous, so vehement and hasty, that if they are admitted to counsel, and give the decisive vote, the voice of conscience will not be heard or regarded. In concernments of a lower nature, it is constantly seen, that nothing more disturbs reason, and makes men improvident and precipitant in their determinations, than a disordered passion. From hence, it is a prudent rule, that as it is not fit to eat in the height of a fever, because the meat feeds the disease, by increasing the feverish, not the vital heat: so it is not good to deliberate in the heat of any affection. For then the thoughts strongly blow up the passion, and smother reason, and