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Rules for suppressing Voluptuousness.

The precepts and advices which are of best and of general use in the curing of sensuality, are these:

1. Accustom thyself to cut off all superfluity in the provisions of thy life, for our desires will enlarge beyond the present possession so long as all the things of this world are unsatisfying: if, therefore, you suffer them to extend beyond the measures of necessity or moderated conveniency, they will still swell: but you reduce them to a little compass when you make nature to be your limit. We must more take care that our desires should cease6666Desideria tua parvo redime; hoe enim tantum curare debes, ut desinant.—Senec. than that they should be satisfied: and, therefore, reducing them in narrow scantlings and small proportions is the best instrument to redeem their trouble, and prevent the dropsy, because that is next to an universal denying them: it is certainly a paring off from them all unreasonableness and irregularity. “For whatsoever covets unseemly things, and is apt to swell into an inconvenient bulk, is to be chastened and tempered: and such are sensuality, and a boy,6767Lic. iii. Eth c. 12. p. 129. ed. Wilk. said the philosopher.

2. Suppress your sensual desires in their first approach;6868Facilius est initia affectuum prohibere, quam impetum regere.—Senec. ep. 86. for then they are least, and thy faculties and election are stronger; but if they, in their weakness, prevail upon thy strengths, there will be no resisting them when they are increased, and thy abilities lessened. “You shall scarce obtain of them to end, if you suffer them to begin.”

3. Divert them with some laudable employment, and take off their edge by inadvertency, or a not attending to them. For, since the faculties of a man cannot at the same time, with any sharpness, attend to two objects, if you employ your spirit upon a book or a bodily labour, or any innocent and indifferent employment, you have no room left for the present trouble of a sensual temptation. For to this sense it was, that Alexander told the queen of Caria, that his tutor, Leonidas, had provided two cooks for him;6969μυκτιποριαυ και ολιγαριστιαν. “Hard marches all night and a small dinner the next day: these tamed his youthful aptnesses to dissolution, so long as he ate of their provisions.

4. Look upon pleasures, not upon that side that is next the sun, or where they look beauteously; that is, as they come towards you to be enjoyed, for then they paint and smile, and dress themselves up in tinsel and glass gems, and counterfeit imagery; but when thou hast rifled and discomposed them with enjoying their false beauties, and that they begin to go off, then behold them in their nakedness and weariness.7070Νυκτιποριαν και ολιγαρισταν. See, what a sigh and sorrow, what naked unhandsome proportions, and a filthy carcass they discover; and the next time they counterfeit, remember what you have already discovered, and be no more abused. And I have known some wise persons have advised to cure the passions and longings of their children by letting them taste of every thing they passionately fancied; for they should be sure to find less in it than they looked for, and the impatience of their being denied would be loosened and made slack: and when our wishes are no bigger than the thing deserves, and our usages of them according to our needs (which may be obtained by trying what they are, and what good they can do us,) we shall find in all pleasures so little entertainment, that the vanity of the possession will soon reprove the violence of the appetite.7171Voluptates abeuntes fessas et poenitentia plenas, animis nostris natura subjecit, quo minus cupide repetantur.—Seneca. Laete venire Venus, trists abire solet. And if this permission be in innocent instances it may be of good use: but Solomon tried it in all things, taking his fill of all pleasures, and soon grew weary of them all. The same thing we may do by reason which we do by experience, if either we look upon pleasures as we are sure they look when they go off, after their enjoyment; or if we will credit the experience of those men who have tasted them and loathed them.

5. Often consider and contemplate the joys of heaven, that, when they have filled thy desires, which are the sails of the soul, thou mayst steer only thither, and never more look back to Sodom. And when thy soul dwells above, and looks down upon the pleasures of the world, they seem like things at distance, little and contemptible, and men running after the satisfaction of their sottish appetites seem foolish as fishes, thousands of them running after a rotten worm, that covers a deadly book; or, at the best, but like children with great noise pursuing a bubble rising from a walnut-shell, which ends sooner than the noise.

6. To this the example of Christ and his apostles, of Moses, and all the wise men of all ages of the world, will much help; who, understanding how to distinguish good from evil, did choose a sad and melancholy way to felicity, rather than the broad, pleasant, and easy path to folly and misery.

But this is but the general. Its first particular is temperance.

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