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Measures of Temperance in Eating.

1. Eat not before the time, unless necessity, or charity, or any intervening accident, which may make it reasonable and prudent, should happen. Remember, it had almost cost Jonathan his life, because he tasted a little honey before the sun went down, contrary to the king’s commandment; and although a great need which he had excused him from the sin of gluttony, yet it is inexcusable when thou eatest before the usual time, and thrustest thy hand into the dish unseasonably, out of greediness of the pleasure, and impatience of the delay.

2. Eat not hastily and impatiently, but with such decent and timely action that your eating be human act, subject to deliberation and choice, and that you may consider in the eating: whereas, he that eats hastily cannot consider particularly of the circumstances, degrees, and little accidents and chances, that happen in his meal; but may contract many little indecencies, and be suddenly surprised.

3. Eat not delicately or nicely, that is, be not troublesome to thyself or others in the choice of thy meats or the delicacy of thy sauces. It was imputed us a sin to the sons of Israel, that they loathed manna and longed for flesh: the quails stunk in their nostrils, and the wrath of God fell upon them. And the the manner of dressing, the sons of Eli were noted of indiscreet curiosity: they would not have the flesh boiled but raw, that they might roast it with fire. Not that it was a sin to eat it, or desire meat roasted; but that when it was appointed to be boiled, they refused it: which declared an intemperate and a nice palate. It was lawful in all senses to comply with a weak and a nice stomach, but not with a nice and curious palate. When our health requires it, that ought to be provided for; but not so our sensuality and intemperate longings. Whatsoever is set before you eat it, be it never so delicate; and be it plain and common, so it be wholesome, and fit for you, it must not be refused upon curiosity: for every degree of that is a degree of intemperance. Happy and innocent were the ages of our forefathers, who ate herbs and parched corn, and drank the pure stream, and broke their fast with nuts and roots;7272Felix initium, prior aetas contenia dulcibus arvis; Facileque sera solebat jejunia solvere glande. Boeth. lib. 1. de Consol. Arbuteos foetus, montanaque fraga legebant.—Ov. M. i. 104. and when they were permitted flesh, ate it only dressed with hunger and fire; and the first sauce they had was bitter herbs, and sometimes bread dipped in vinegar. But in this circumstance, moderation is to be reckoned in proportion to the present customs, to the company, to edification, and the judgment of honest and wise persons, and the necessities of nature.

4. Eat not too much: load neither thy stomach nor thy understanding. If thou sit at a bountiful table, be not greedy upon it, and say not there is much meat on it. Remember that a wicked eye is an evil thing: and what is created more wicked than an eye? Therefore it weepeth upon every occasion. Stretch not thy hand whithersoever it looketh, and thrust it not with him into the dish. A very little is sufficient for a man well nurtured, and he fetcheth not his wind short upon his bed.

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