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Of Pleasure.


I Proceed to Pleasure, which is either bodily or spiritual, sensual, or intellectual. But first I shall endeavour to explain what is meant by 64this Word Pleasure, what is the true sense and notion of it.

Pleasure is that agreeable and delightful Sense that is excited in the Soul, either by an impression or motion made upon the outward Organs or Sensation, by any suitable Object, and conveyed by the Nerves to the Brain; or else by internal consideration and reflection upon any Object or Action by the understanding. Those are called pleasant Tastes or Smells which are apt to cause such a gentle motion of the Nerves belonging to the Organs of those Senses, the Tongue and Nose; as is naturally destined to excite a grateful and delicious sense in the Soul: Those delectable Sights, which in like manner affect our Eyes, as curious Pictures and Statues, artificial Engines, elegant and regular Motions: Those agreeable Sounds which have a charming influence on our Ears, as Musick and Harmony. The Touch or Feeling is gratified and delighted by various Motions of those Nerves which do not minister to the other Senses.

To the Senses of Touch and Taste, appertain those Pleasures, which by the wise Providence of God are annexed to the satisfaction of our natural Appetites.


These Appetites implanted in us, and all Animals, are to those Things or Actions, which serve either to the support and preservation of the Individuum, or each particular Animal; or to the propagation of the Kind. Those which serve to the support and preservation of the Individuum, are the Appetites of Meat and Drink, or the Actions of Eating and Drinking: To which the Divine Providence hath not only premised a painful Sense of Hunger to be a Monitor to us when we have need of Meat and Drink, and compel us to the use of them; but hath also annexed Pleasure to the very Actions of Eating and Drinking, which otherwise would have been no very grateful Exercise.

This Pleasure of eating and drinking abides no longer than till the Necessities of Nature are satisfied, and so far Religion doth allow of it. When our Hunger and Thirst are well appeased, all that follows is but a faint kind of Pleasure, if it be not rather to be styled Satiety, or Glutting: Yet doth not the use of Meats and Drinks consist in an indivisible point; there is a more moderate and restrained use of them: When we keep within the bounds of our Appetites; ἀκορεσίη τροφῆς as Hippocrates 66calls it, not feeding to satiety, nor of the most delicate Viands. This ought to be our daily practice; and there is a more free and liberal use of them in feasting, which is also allowed us upon occasions of Joy; and on Days of Thanksgiving; as Marriages, Christenings, Victory over publick Enemies, Commemorations of great Mercies to Mankind in general, our own Nation, or our selves in particular: Such are the Festivals of our Saviour’s Nativity, Resurrection, Ascension, Mission of the Holy Ghost, &c. Our Saviour himself was pleased to honour a Marriage-feast with his presence: And he accepted of a great Feast from Matthew at his calling, Luke 5. 25. But to speak in general, the Apostle saith, God giveth us all things richly to enjoy. And the Wiseman, Eccles. 5. 18. It is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor that he taketh under the Sun, all the days of his Use, which God giveth him; for it is his portion: And in the next Verse he saith, It is the gift of God. The same we have, Chap. 3. 13, So we see God allows us a free use, and cheerful enjoyment of these outward Blessings. We are to serve God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all 67 things, Deut. 28. 47. God doth not prohibit us the use and participation of these or any other sensible Pleasures, that are agreeable to Reason, or our true Interests; but only our Mistakes and Excesses, in and about them (as the Bishop of Chester speaks) teaching us so to regulate our selves in the life of them, that they may truly deserve the name of Pleasure.

As for those Appetites and Actions which tend to the propagation and continuance of the Species and the Pleasures that attend them, God hath not denied us a moderate and regular satisfaction and use of them; nay, in some cases commanded it.

Now the most sincere Pleasure proceeds from such a moderate, regular, seasonable, well circumstantiate use; such an enjoyment as may be reflected upon without horror, fear of Punishment, or consciousness of guilt, which attends the excessive, irregular, unseasonable use, or rather, the abuse of them, and renders the thought and memory of them very bitter and grievous: But of this particular I have written in a former 66   Dissolution of the World. pag. 390.Treatise.


But here it may be objected, That our Saviour in the Gospel hath abridged us of some Pleasures of this kind, which are not in themselves sinful or unlawful, as having been permitted by God to the Jews, and practised by the Ancient Patriarchs, and other men eminent for Piety, without reproof, I mean, the use of many Wives.

To which I answer, That granting Polygamy not to be in it self unlawful, or to have any natural turpitude in it; yet is our Saviour’s Prohibition grounded upon good Reason, viz. because God at the first created Mankind Male and Female; that is, one Female only, as well as one Male; and in effect he doth so still; there being as many, nay more Males than Females born into the World: And therefore it is unreasonable that some men should have many Wives, because they cannot have them unless others lack.

That there are more Males than Females born, appears, by the Catalogues in all places, where accounts have been taken of the number of each Sex: And I doubt not but the case is the same in all places where such accounts have not been taken.

It may here be asked why these Appetites are so vehement and importunate?


I answer, To secure the great end of continuing the Species, and carrying on the World: For had they been weak and languid, it might have come to pass, that through inadvertency, or to avoid the labor and trouble of bringing up Children, and maintaining of Families, the greatest part of men might have abstained from such Actions, and so the Race of Mankind by degrees have been extinct, and the World dispeopled.

That these Appetites are so extravagant and irregular, and not without great difficulty to be moderated and ruled, or kept within bounds, is an effect of the Apostasy of Man: That God permits them so to continue, one cause may be, that they may be matter wherein to exercise Virtue: For were these vicious Inclinations, and inordinate Appetites taken way, were men left in absolute indifferency to Good and Evil, there could be no such thing as Virtue and Vice, nothing praise, or blame-worthy, no place for Rewards or Punishments. For the exercise of Virtue consists in resisting, and striving against vicious Appetites, subduing Passions, and mortifying of Lusts; and those that labour herein, are virtuous Persons. Those that are slothful, that lay the 70Reins upon the Necks of their Lusts, and follow whither they lead and hurry them away, are vicious,

You will say, Are not these Exercises painful and repugnant to our natural Appetites and Inclinations, and consequently contrary to Pleasure? Is. not the subduing of Lusts compared to the cutting off of Members, which cannot be done without pain?

I answer, It must be granted, that there is difficulty at first in the New Birth, in passing from one state to another, all Excellent things being hard to obtain, Difficilia quæ pulchra. Indeed we are so made as not much to value that which cost us no pains; and on the contrary, as Dr. Cockburn well observes, the Mind of Man is never so well pleased, as when it useth its Reason, and always takes most delight in the things which it self hath wrought. And therefore, as he proceeds, it was, and is wisely provided, to set the Necessaries, the Comforts, and Conveniences of Life at some distance from Laziness and Sloth, and to hedge them about with some difficulties, that while we search and labour for them, we may at the same time, and by the same means improve our Intellectual Faculties, 71and carry on the growth and perfection of our Souls. I might add, That the labor and exercise of the Body doth also conduce much to the Health and Strength, and Well-being of that. For as Hippocrates well saith, ἄσκησις ὑγιὴς ἀοκνίη πόνων, unslothfulness in Labour, if I may make such a Word, is the means to preserve health.

And, not only bodily Necessaries, but the knowledge of the Mysteries of Nature and the Works of God, and curious Mathematical Speculation, is to be obtained with Study and Industry. For by this use and exercise of our Intellectual Faculties, our Mind and Understanding is highly advanced and improved to such a degree, as suddenly to penetrate and comprehend the most abstruse and subtile Inventions and Notions of Naturalists and Mathematicians. And as Weapons and Utensils by lying by unoccupied do contract a Scurf or Rust, but do usu & tractatione spendescere; become bright by handling and use; so do our Understandings also. And though this study and contention of mind be laborious and painful, yet the enlarging the Understanding, and acquisition of Knowledge, and hitting upon useful Discoveries and Inventions, do abundantly compensate for 72that; nay, sometimes fill the Mind with unspeakable joy and pleasure. Pythagoras was so overjoyed at the invention of the 49th Proportion of the first Book of Euclide’s El. that he sacrificed a Hecatombe to the Gods: And I have read of a Smith, that upon the invention of an Engine to make Water to ascend by descending, which was nothing else but Archimedes his Screw, and which had been invented long before, though he knew nothing of it, was so overwhelmed with joy, that it broke his Brains, and quite distracted him.

No wonder then that Virtue which is the most excellent of all acquisitions should be difficult to attain. Indeed the difficulty and labor of attaining and exercising of it, makes it to be commendable or rewardable. And therefore though it be in it self an excellent thing, and may be said to be its own reward, yet because it is difficult and uneasy to Flesh and Blood, in this our lapsed and degenerate Estate, God is pleased for our encouragement, to propose to us an ample reward, no less than eternal Life and Happiness. He hath promised to give grace and glory, and to withhold no good thing from them who lead a holy life. And if this be not sufficient to 73quicken our endeavours, and to encourage us to strive, and wrestle, and run, nothing can; for I am sure a greater than this cannot be proposed, it containing all the good we can desire, or are indeed capable of enjoying. The Heathen Poet tells us.

Τῆς δ᾽ ἀρετῆς ἱδρῶτα θεοὶ προπάροιθεν ἔθηκαν
Ἀθάνατοι· μακρὸς δὲ καὶ ὄρθιος οἶμος ἐπ᾽ ἀυτήν,
Καὶ τρηχὺς τὸ πρῶτον.

The Gods have set Sweat before Virtue, the way to which is long, steep and rough at the first: But afterward that becomes easy and delightful, which was at first difficult; and a great deal of pleasure and joy attends the very contention with, and conquests of our Lusts and Passions; and that godly sorrow that is required as one of the first acts in the change of our condition, is always accompanied with secret pleasure: And as it is said of wicked Men, That in the midst of laughter their heart is sorrowful; so may it be said of good Men, That in the midst of their sorrow their heart is joyful. On the other hand, there are far greater difficulties and pains to be undergone in the Service and Drudgery of impetuous Lusts. 77   Bishop Wilkins.The Trouble of being 74cured is not so great as that of being sick; nor is the trouble of being sober comparable to .that of being debauched, and intemperate. Non est (saith Seneca) ut quibusdam dictum est, arduum in virtutes & asperum iter; plano adeuntur. Non vanæ vobis auctor rei venio; facilis ear ad beatam vitam via, inite modò bonis auspiciis, ipsisque Diis bene juvantibus, &c. The way to Virtue is not (as some have written) steep and rough, but plain and level. Let me become to you the Author of a new, and not frivolous thing. The way to a happy Life is easy, do but enter upon it with God’s help: It is much more difficult to do what they [wicked Men] do. What is more facile than calmness and quiet of mind? What more laborious than Anger? What more remiss and void of trouble than Clemency? What more busy and toilsome than Cruelty? Chastity is vacant and at ease: Lust is always occupied and unquiet. He that tells Lies is hard put to it to maintain and make them good; and yet for all his shifts, is often detected, and put to shame: Whereas he that speaks truth is void of all fear and trouble. The like may be said of other Virtues and Vices compared together: So that Virtue is in 75it self more agreeable to Reason, and more easy and eligible than Vice; and it proceeds from the pravity and corruption of our Natures, that we do not chuse it accordingly.

Besides, in all Pleasures we are to consider, whether the subsequent pain and sorrow do not outweigh the present enjoyment; which if it do, the voluptuary Philosophers themselves advise to abstain from them. Now the Pleasures of sin, (as the Scripture calls them) as Intemperance and Impurity do often bring upon the committers of them Pain and Sickness, and sometimes noisome Diseases in this Life; but, to be sure, eternal Misery and Distress in the World to come: Between which, and a short and transient Pleasure, there is no proportion. I might add hereto the Judgment of Seneca, concerning the filthiness and unmanliness, of these Vices of Intemperance and Lust: Nulli (saith he) turpitùs occupati sunt: No Men are more sordidly employed. Etiamsi vanâ gloriæ imagine teneantur, speciosè tamen errant: Licet avaros mihi, &c. If Men be taken with a vain image of glory, they err, but yet speciously. Should you enumerate to me covetous Persons, or angry Men, or such as 76exercise unjust hatred, or war one against another; all these viriliùs peccant, sin more manly: But such as give up, or prostitute themselves to Gluttony, Drunkenness, and Lust, eorum inhonesta labes est; their stain is dishonourable and sordid.

Of the Pleasures of the Senses of Seeing, Hearing, and Swelling I shall say nothing, but that if duly circumstantiated, and placed upon proper Objects, they have no turpitude in them, but may lawfully be enjoyed. Of Seeing and Hearing I have said something in a former Discourse.

As for those things which we call by the name of Sports and Diversions, Religion doth likewise admit of a moderate use of these: And what is beyond such a use doth rather tire Men, than recreate them: 88   Bishop Wilkins.It being as much the property of such things to weary a Man, when he is once sufficiently refreshed by them, as it is to refresh him when he is wearied by other things.

Of Intellectual Pleasures we shall speak when we come to treat of the Happiness of the inward Man.

Here it may be objected, That the Life of a Christian is a melancholy and mournful 77Life, and that we must take leave of all the Pleasures and Delights of the World, when once we enter upon it. Doth not Salomon say, Eccles. 7. 2. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting, &c. V. 3. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better. V. 4. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; and the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

This is a great prejudice against a holy Life, and deters many Men from venturing up it. They are loath to part with all Mirth and Jollity and Pleasure, which they esteem the chief Happiness of their Lives, and to live more retrained and regular Lives; at least they desire to enjoy them a little longer, till they are tired and glutted with them, deferring their Repentance to Sickness or old Age.

To this I answer, That innocent mirth and joy, or even feasting it self, are not absolutely forbidden. The same Author tells us, That there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh: A time to mourn, and a time to dance: And that every thing is beautiful in its Season; nay, Christians are commanded to rejoice evermore. But in this 78place he compares Laughter and Sorrow; Feasting and Mourning together, and prefers the latter, and upon very good reason; because Feasting is oftentimes an occasion of temptation to intemperance and excess in eating and drinking; idle and vain talk; scurrilous and prophane jesting; lascivious Songs, which tend to corrupt Mens Manners, effeminate their Minds, and bring them in love with sensual and bruitish Pleasures. Whereas from sorrow and mourning there is no such danger, whatever the occasion of it be; whether publick calamities, losses, death of Relations, or Friends. Thereby we are brought to consider the uncertainty of all these outward Enjoyments, not to overvalue them, or set our hearts upon them, that so we may hot be overwhelmed with grief at the loss of them; to bewail our own and others Sins, which for the most part bring these afflictions and sufferings upon our selves, or them; to condole with, comfort and support those who are too much dejected and apt to sink under their burthens.

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