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by laying in provision for it. And all the malicious enmity and opposition to God and godliness is from hence, because they cross the interest and desires of the flesh : the final cause is it for which men invent and use all the means that tend to it. Therefore all other sin being nothing but the means for the pleasing of our fleshly appetites and fancies, . it is evident that fleshpleasing is the common cause of them all ; and is to all other sin as the spring is to the watch, or the poise to the clock; the weight which giveth them all their motion. Cure this sin and you have taken off the poise, and cured all the positive sins of the soul: though the privative sins would be still uncured, if there were no more done; because that which makes the clock stand still, is not enough to make it go right. But, indeed, nothing but the love of pleasing God, can truly cure the love of fleshpleasing: and such a cure is the cure of every sin, both positive and privative, active and defective. 2. Fleshpleasing is the grand idolatry of the world: and the flesh the greatest idol that ever was set up against God. Therefore Paul saith of sensual worldlings, that “their belly is their god,” and thence it is that they “mind earthly things,” and “glory in their shame, and are enemies to the cross of Christ,” that is, to sufferings for Christ, and the doctrine and duties which would cause their sufferings. That is a man's god which he taketh for his chief good, and loveth best, and trusteth in most, and is most desirous to please: and this is the flesh to every sensualist. He “loveth pleasure more than God’.” He “ savoureth" or “mindeth” the “things of the flesh,” and “liveth” to it, and “walketh after it".” He “maketh provision for it to satisfy its appetite or lusts".” He “soweth to the flesh *;” and fulfilleth his lust, when it lusteth against the Spirit *.” And thus, while concupiscence or sensuality hath dominion, sin is said to have dominion over them, and they are servants to it *. For “to whom men yield themselves servants to obey, his servants they are whom they serve or obey ".” It is not bowing the knee and praying to another, that is the chief idolatry. As loving, and pleasing, and obeying, and trusting,
• 2 Tim. iii. 2.4. * Rom. viii. 1.5–8. 13. a Rom. xiii. 14.
and seeking, and delighting in him, are the chiefest parts of the service of God, which he preferreth before a thousand sacrifices or compliments: so loving the flesh, and pleasing it, and obeying it, and trusting in it, and seeking, and delighting in its pleasures, are the chief service of the flesh; and more than if you offered sacrifice to it, and therefore is the grand idolatry. And so the flesh is the chief enemy of God, which hath the chiefest love and service which are due to him, and robs him of the hearts of all mankind that are carnal and unsanctified. All the Baals, and Jupiters, and Apollos, and other idols of the world set together, have not so much of the love and service due to God, as the flesh alone hath. If other things be idolized by the sensualist, it is but as they subserve his flesh, and therefore they are made but inferior idols. He may idolize his wealth, and idolize men in power and worldly greatness; but it is but as they can help or hurt his flesh : this hath his heart. By the interest of the flesh, he judgeth of his condition; by this he judgeth of his friends; by this he chooseth his actions or refuseth them ; and by this he measureth the words and actions of all others. He takes all for good which pleaseth his flesh, and all for bad that is against his pleasure.
3. The flesh is not only the common idol, but the most devouring idol in all the world. It hath not, as subservient, flattered idols have, only a knee and compliment, or now and then a sacrifice or ceremony; but it hath the heart, the tongue, the body to serve it; the whole estate, the service of friends, the use of wit and utmost diligence; in a word, it hath all. It is loved and served by the sensualist, as God should be loved and served by his own, even “with all the heart, and soul, and might:” they “honour it with their substance, and the firstfruits of their increase.” It is as faithfully served as Christ requireth to be of his disciples: men will part with father, and mother, and brother, and sister, and nearest friends, and all that is against it, for the pleasing of their flesh. Nay, Christ required men to part with no greater matter for him than transitory, earthly things, which they must shortly part with whether they will or no: but they do for the flesh ten thousand thousand fold more, than ever they were required to do for Christ. They forsake God for it. They forsake Christ, and heaven, and
their salvation for it. They forsake all the solid comforts of this life, and all the joys of the life to come for it. They sell all that they have, and lay down the price at its feet: yea, more than all they have, even all their hopes of what they might have to all eternity. They suffer a martyrdom in the flames of hell for ever, for their flesh. All the pains they take is for it. All the wrong they do to others; and all the stirs and ruins that they make in the world, is for it. And all the time they spend is for it: and had they a thousand years more to live, they would spend it all accordingly. If any thing seem excepted for God, it is but the bones, or crumbs, or leavings of the flesh: or rather, it is nothing; for God hath not indeed the hours which he seems to have : he hath but a few fair words and compliments, when the flesh hath their hearts in the midst of their hypocritical worship, and on his holy day: and they serve him but as the Indians serve the devil, that he may serve their turns, and do them no hurt. 4. How base an idol is the flesh! If all the derision used by Elijah and the prophets against the heathenish idolatry, be due, is not as much due against the idolatry of all the sensual? Is it so great a madness to serve an idol of silver, or gold, or stone, or wood? What better is it to serve an idol of flesh and blood? A paunch of guts? That is full of filth and excrements within, and the skin itself, the cleanest part, is ashamed to be uncovered? We may say to the carnal worldling, as Elijah to the Baalists, and more; “Call upon your God in the hour of your distress: cry aloud; perhaps he is asleep, or he is blowing his nose, or vomiting, or purging: certainly he will be shortly rotting in the grave, more loathsome than the dirt or dung upon the earth.” And is this a God to sacrifice all that we can get to ? And to give all our time, and care, and labour, and our souls and all to ? O judge of this idolatry, as God will make you judge at last! 5. And here next consider how impious and horrid an abasement it is of the eternal God, to prefer so vile a thing before him? And whether every ungodly, sensual man, be not a constant, practical blasphemer? What dost thou but say continually by thy practice, “This dunghill, nasty flesh, is to be preferred before God: to be more loved, and obeyed, and served? It deserveth more of my time than he: it is more worthy of my delight and love.” God will be judge, (and judge in righteousness ere long,) whether this be not the daily language of thy life, though thy tongue be taught some better manners. And whether this be blasphemy, judge thyself. Whether thou judge God or the flesh more worthy to be pleased, and which thou thinkest it better to please, ask thy own heart, when cards, and dice, and eating, and drinking, and gallantry, and idleness, and greatness, and abundance, do all seem so sweet unto thee, in comparison of thy thoughts of God, and his holy word and service And when morning and night, and whenever thou art alone, those thoughts can run out with unweariedness and pleasure, upon these provisions for thy flesh, which thou canst hardly force to look up unto God, a quarter of an hour, though with unwillingness. 6. Think also what a contempt of heaven it is, to prefer the pleasing of the flesh before it. There are but two ends which all men aim at; the pleasing of the flesh on earth, or the enjoying of God in heaven; (unless any be deluded to think that he shall have a sensual life hereafter too, as well as here.) And these two stand one against the other. And he that sets up one, doth renounce (or as good as renounce) the other. “If ye sow to the flesh, of the flesh ye shall reap corruption: but if ye sow to the spirit, of the spirit ye shall reap everlasting life".” Your wealth, and honour, and sports, and pleasures, and appetites are put in the scales of heaven, and all the joys and hopes hereafter; (to say you hope to have them both, is the cheat of infidelity, that believes not God.) And is not heaven most basely esteemed of by those that prefer so base a thing before it? 7. Remember that fleshpleasing is a great contempt and treachery against the soul. It is a great contempt of an immortal soul, to prefer its corruptible flesh before it, and to make its servant to become its master, and to ride on horseback, while it goes, as it were, on foot. Is the flesh worthy of so much time, and cost, and care, and so much ado as is made for it in the world, and is not a never-dying soul worth more? Nay, it is a betraying of the soul: you set up its enemy before it; and put its safety into an eneb Gal. vi. 8.
my's hands: and you cast away all its joys and hopes for the gratifying of the flesh. Might it not complain of your cruelty, and say, Must my endless happiness be sold to purchase so short a pleasure for your flesh 2 Must I be undone for ever, and lie in hell, that it may be satisfied for a little time 2 But why talk I of the soul's complaint? Alas! it is itself that it must complain of For it is its own doing! It hath its choice: the flesh can but tempt it, and not constrain it: God hath put the chief power and government into its hands: if it will sell its own eternal hopes, to pamper worm's meat, it must speed accordingly. You would not think very honourably of that man's wit or honesty, who would sell the patrimony of all his children, and all his friends that trusted him therewith, and after sell their persons into slavery, and all this to purchase him a delicious feast, with sports and gallantry for a day! And is he wiser or better that selleth (in effect) the inheritance of his soul, and betrayeth it to hell and devils, for ever, and all this to purchase the fleshly pleasure of so short a life? 8. Remember what a beastly life it is to be a sensualist. It is an unmanning of yourselves. Sensual pleasures are brutish pleasures; beasts have them as well as men. We have the higher faculty of reason, to subdue and rule the beastly part. And reason is the man; and hath a higher kind of felicity to delight in. Do you think that man is made for no higher matters than a beast? And that you have not a more noble object for your delight than your swine or dog hath, who have the pleasure of meat, and lust, and play, and ease, and fancy, as well as you? Certainly where sensual pleasures are preferred before the higher pleasures of the soul, that man becomes a beast or worse, subjecting his reason to his brutish part. 9. Think what an inconsiderable, pitiful felicity, it is that fleshly persons choose: how small and short, as well as sordid. O how quickly will the game be ended ! and the delights of boiling lust be gone ! How quickly will the drink be past their throats, and their delicate dishes be turned into filth ! How short is the sport and laughter of the fool! And how quickly will that face be the index of a pained body, or a grieved, self-tormenting mind! It is but a few days till all their stately greatness will be levelled; and the