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Directions for the Government of the Senses.
General Directions for the Government of the Senses (by a Life of Faith).
The most wise and gracious God, having been pleased to constitute us of soul and body, that our nobler part in its preparation and passage to a nobler state, might have a companion and instrument suited to the lower place and employment, through which it is to pass, hath appointed our senses not only for the exercise, and helps of life, and the management of our inferior actions, and the communication of his inferior mercies, but also to be the common passage to the fantasy, and so to the mind, and to be serviceable to our rational powers, and help in our service of our Maker, and communion with him in his higher gifts. To these ends all our senses should be used; as being capable of being sanctified and serviceable to God. But sin made its entrance by them, and by sin they are now corrupted and vitiated with the body, and are grown inordinate, violent, and unruly in their appetite; and the rational powers having lost and forsaken God, their proper end and chiefest object, have hired or captivated themselves to the sensitive appetite, to serve its ends. And so the sensitive appetite is become the ruling faculty in the unsanctified, and the senses the common entrance of sin, and instruments of satan : and though the work of grace be primarily in the rational powers, yet secondarily the lower powers themselves also are sanctified, and brought under the government of a renewed mind and will, and so restored to their proper use. And though I cannot say that grace immediately maketh any alteration on the senses, yet mediately it doth, by altering the mind, and so the will, and then the imagination, and so the sensitive appetite, and so in exercise the sense itself. We see that temperance and chastity do not only restrain, but take down the appetite from the rage and violence which before it had : not the natural appetite, but the sensitive, so far as it is sinful. The sanctifying and government of the senses and their appetite, lieth in two parts : first, In guarding them against the entrance of sin: and secondly, In using them to be the entrance of good into the soul. But this latter is so high a work that too few are skilled in it: and few can well perform the other. Direct. 1. ‘The principal part of the work is about the superior faculties, to get a well-informed judgment, and a holy and confirmed will; and not about the sense itself.” Reason is dethroned by sin: and the will is left unguided and unguarded to the rapes of sensual violence. Reason must be restored, before sense will be well governed; for what else must be their immediate governor? It is no sin in brutes to live by sense, because they have not reason to rule it; and in man it is ruled more or less, as reason is more or less restored : when reason is only cleared about things temporal (as in men of worldly wisdom) there sense will be mastered and ruled as to such temporal ends, as far as they require it. But where reason is sanctified, there sense is ruled to the ends of sanctification, according to the measure of grace. Direct. II. “It is only the high, eternal things of God and our salvation, objectively settled in the mind and will, and become as it were connatural to them, and made our ruling end and interest that can suffice to a true and holy government of the senses.” Lower things may muzzle them, and make men seem temperate and sober as far as their honour, and wealth, and health, and life require it: but this is but stopping a gap, while most of the hedge lieth open, and an engaging the sense to serve the flesh, the world, and the devil, in a handsome, calm, and less dishonoured way, and not so filthily and furiously as others. Direct. 111. ‘The main part of this government in the exercise, is in taking special care that no sensitive good be made the ultimate end of our desire, nor sought for itself, nor rested in, nor delighted in too much ; but to see that the soul (having first habitually fixed on its proper higher end and happiness) do direct all the actions of every sense (so far as it falls under deliberation and choice) to serve it remotely to those holy ends.” For the sense is not sanctified, if it be not used to a holy end, and its object is not sanctified to us, if it be not made serviceable to more holy objects. A mere negative restraint of sense for common ends, is but such as those ends are for which it is done. When the eyes, and ears, and taste, and feeling are all taught by reason to serve God to his glory and our salvation, then and never till then they are well governed. Direct. Iv. ‘To this end the constant use of a lively belief of the Word of God, and the things unseen of the other world, must be the first and principal means by which our reason must govern every sense, both as to their restraint and right employment.’ And therefore living by sight, and living by faith are opposed in Scripture. For “we walk by faith, not by sight”;” that is, sight and sense are not our principal guiding faculty, but subservient to faith; nor the objects of sight the things which we principally or ultimately seek or set by, but the objects of faith: as it is before expounded, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal".” Therefore “faith” is described to be the “substance of things hoped for,” and “the evidence of things not seen".” Believing is to a Christian instead of seeing; because he knoweth by God's testimony, that the things believed are true, though they are unseen. And you know that the objects of sense are all but trifles, to the great astonishing objects of faith. Therefore if faith be lively, it must needs prevail and overrule the senses, because its objects utterly cloud and make nothing of the transitory objects of sense. Therefore the apostle John saith, “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith".” And “Moses by seeing him that is invisible,” overcame the desires of Egypt's treasures, and the “fear of the wrath of the king having respect to the recompence of reward".” Stephen easily bore his cruel death, when “he saw heaven opened, and Christ standing at the right hand of God'.” I dare appeal to that man that is most sensual, and saith, ‘ I am not able to deny my appetite, or rule my senses,” whether he would not be able if he did but see at the same time what is done in the other world? If he saw heaven, and hell, the glorified and the damned, and saw the majesty of that God who commandeth him to forbear, would he not then be able to let alone the cup, the dish, the harlot, the sport, which is now so powerful with him? I would not thank the most beastly sensualist among you, to live as temperately (as to the act) as the strictest saint alive, if he did but see the worlds which departed souls now see. It is not possible but it would overpower his sensual desires; yea, and call off those senses to serve him in some inquiry what he should do to be saved. Therefore if believing the unseen world, be instead of seeing it with our eyes, it is most certain that the means to overcome sensuality is faith, and lively belief must rule our senses. Direct. v. “The more this belief of God and glory doth kindle love to them, the more effectual it will be in the government of the senses.” Our common proverb saith, ‘Where the love is, there is the eye.” How readily doth it follow the heart! Love will not alter the sense itself, but it commandeth the use of all the senses. It will not clear . a dim, decayed sight; but it will command it what to look upon. As the stronger love of one dish, or one sport, or one company, will carry you from another which you love more faintly; so the love of God, and heaven, and holiness, will carry you from the captivity of all sensual things. Direct. vi. “It must be well considered how powerful and dangerous things sensible are, and how high and hard a work it is in this our depraved, earthly state to live by faith upon things unseen, and to rule the sense and be carried above it: that so the soul may be awakened to a sufficient fear and watchfulness, and may fly to Christ for assistance to his faith.” It is no small thing for a man in flesh, to live above flesh. The way of the soul's reception and operation, is so much by the senses here, that it is apt to grow too familiar with things sensible, and to be strange to things which it never saw. It is a great work to make a man in flesh to deny the pleasures which he seeth, and tasteth, and feeleth, for such pleasures as he only heareth of; and heareth of as never to be enjoyed till after death, in a world
which sense hath no acquaintance with. O what a glory it is to faith, that it can perform such a work as this How hard it is to a weak believer ! And the strongest find it work enough. Consider this, that it may awake you to set upon this work with that care that the greatness of it requireth, and you may live by faith, above a life of sight and sense: for it is this that your happiness or misery lieth on.
Direct. v11. “Sense must not only be kept out of the throne, but from any participation in the government; and we must take heed of receiving it into our counsels, or treating with it, or hearing it plead its cause; and we must see that it get nothing by striving, importunity, or violence, but that it be governed despotically and absolutely, as the horse is governed by the rider.” For if the government once be halved between sense and reason, your lives will be half bestial: and when reason ruleth not, faith and grace ruleth not; for faith is to reason, as sight is to the eye. There are no such beasts in human shape, who lay by all the use of reason, and are governed by sense alone (unless it be idiots or madmen). But sense should have no part of the government at all. And where it is chief in power, the devil is there the unseen governor. You cannot here excuse yourselves by any plea of necessity or constraint: for though the sense be violent as well as enticing, yet God hath made the reason and will the absolute governors under him; and by all its rebellion and violence, sense cannot depose them, nor force them to one sin, but doth all the mischief by procuring their consent. Which is done sometimes by affecting the fantasy and passions too deeply with the pleasure and alluring sweetness of their objects, that so the higher faculties may be drawn into consent: and sometimes by wearying out the resisting mind and will, and causing them to remit their opposition, and relax the reins, and by a sinful privation of restraint to permit the sense to take its course. A headstrong horse is not so easily ruled, as one of a tender mouth that hath been well ridden : and, therefore, though it be in the power of the rider to rule him, yet sometimes for his own ease he will loose the reins; and a horse that is used thus by a slothful or unskilful rider, to have his will whenever he striveth, will strive whenever he is crossed of his will, and so will be the master. As ill-bred