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THE FIRST BOOK.
OF MODERATION IN MATTER OF PRACTICE.
Of the Use and Necessity of Moderation, in general. I CANNOT but second and commend that great Clerk of Paris, who, as our witty countryman Bromiard* reports, when King Louis of France required him to write down the best word that ever he had learnt, called for a fair skin of parchment; and, in the midst of it, wrote this one word, MEASURE; and sent it sealed up to the king. The king, opening the sheet, and finding no other inscription, thought himself mocked by his philosopher; and, calling for him, expostulated the matter : but when it was shewed him, that all virtues, and all religious and worthy actions, were regulated by this one word; and that, without this, virtue itself turned vicious; he rested well satisfied. And so he well might; for it was a word, well worthy of one of the seven Sages of Greece ; from whom, indeed, it was borrowed, and only put into a new coat: for, while he said of old, for his motto, “ Nothing too mucht,” he meant no other, but to comprehend both extremes under the mention of one. Neither, in his sense, is it any paradox to say, that too little is too much: for, as too much bounty is prodigality, so too much sparing is niggardliness]; so as in every defect there is an excess, and both are a transgression of Measure.
Neither could ought be spoken, of more use or excellency: for, what goodness can there be in the world, without Moderation; whether in the use of God's creatures, or in our own disposition and carriage? Without this, justice is no other, than cruel rigour; mercy, unjust remissness; pleasure, brutish sensuality; love, frenzy; anger, fury; sorrow, desperate mopishness; joy, distempered wildness; knowledge, saucy curiosity; piety, superstition; care, wracking distraction; courage, mad rashness : shortly, there can be nothing under heaven, without it, but mere vice and confusion. Like as in nature, if the elements should forget the temper of their due mixture, and encroach upon each other by excess, what could follow, but universal ruin? or, what is it, that shall put an end to this great frame of the world, but the predominancy of that last devouring fire? It is therefore Moderation, by which this inferior world stands: since that wise and great God, who hath ordained the continuance of it, hath decreed so to contemper all the parts thereof, that none of them should exceed the bounds of their own proportion and degree, to the prejudice of the other. Yea, what is the heaven itself, but, as Gerson compares it well, as a great clock regularly moving in an equal sway of all the orbs; without difference of poise, without variation of minutes; in a constant state of eviternal evenness, both of being and motion ? Neither is it any other, by which this little world of ours, whether of body or mind, is upheld in any safe or tolerable estate : when humours pass their stint, the body sickens; when passions, the mind.
* Brom. Sum. Prædic. + Mydin ayar, Nequid nimis. So Pythagoras : πάντα μέτρια.
# Non est ergo temperantia in solis resecandis superfiuis, est et in admitlendis necessariis. Bern. de Consid. l. i. c.8.
There is nothing, therefore, in the world, more wholesome, or more necessary for us to learn, than this gracious lesson of Moderation : without which, in very truth, a man is so far from being a Christian, that he is not himself. This is the centre, wherein all both divine and moral philosophy meet; the rule of life; the governess of manners; the silken string, that runs through the pearlchain of all virtues; the very ecliptic line, under which reason, and religion, moves without any deviation : and, therefore, most worthy of our best thoughts, of our most careful observance.
PRACTICAL MODERATION IN MATTER OF PLEASURE. What then is there incident into the whole course of human life, but matter of practice, or matter of speculation and judgment ? and both these are swayed and ordered by Moderation.
Practical Moderation shall lead the way; as that, which is most worthy; and whereto the Speculative is, for the most part, reduced; and whereby it is mainly governed. This, howsoever it reacheth to the managing of all the inward dispositions of the soul, and all the outward carriages of life; may therefore admit of so many severalties of discourse, as there are varieties of desires, inclinations, actions, passions of man: yet shall, for the tractation of it, be confined to some few of those noted heads, which we meet with in every turn of this our earthly pilgrimage.
The chief employment of Moderation is, in the MATTER OF PLEASURE; which, like an unruly and headstrong horse, is
ready to run away with the rider, if the strict curb of just Mode. ration do not hold it in: the indiscreet check whereof, also, may prove no less perilous to an unskilful manager.
Of the Extremes, (1) in the Pleasures of the Palate; (2) in other
Usages of the Body; (3) in the cases of Lust. THE EXTREMES of Pleasures are in matter of Diet, and other Appurtenances of Life, or in matter of Lust.
(1.) We begin with the Pleasures of the Palate : wherein the Extremes of both Kinds are palpable, and worthy both of our fu:] consideration and careful accordance.
[1.] How prone we are to Excess in these pleasures of the palate, appears too well, in that this temptation found place in Paradise itself. The first motive, that inclined our liquorish grandmother Eve, was, that she saw the tree was good for food; and then follows, that it was pleasant to the eyes: her appetite betrayed her soul. And, after, when, in that first world, men began to be multiplied, (Gen. vi. 1.) that giantly brood of men-eaters, if we may believe Berosus*, procured abortions, to pamper their gluttony with tender morsels. Afterwards, even in the holy seed, we find an Isaac, apt to misplace the blessing for a dish of venison; and his son Esau, selling his birth-right for a mess of broth: we find Israel, tempting God in the desert, and longing to be fed with flesh, and cramming it in till it came out of their nostrils; Ps. Ixxvii. 29. Num. xi. 20. We find too many under the Gospel, whose belly is their God; and, therein, their bane. “ By unsatiable greediness have many been dead,” saith Ecclesiasticus; ch. xxxvii. 31: and how many do we see daily, that dig their graves with their teeth; and do therefore perish, because they do not put their knife to their throat! Prov. xxiii. 2.
And as for immoderation in drinking, the first news that we hear of wine, is, in Noah's drunkenness: he was the true Janus, the inventer of the scruzing of the grape to his cost; whom, if the heathens celebrated, we justly censure, as beginning this glory in shame. The next was in Lot's incest and stupidiiy; and, ever since, wine is a mocker, as wise Solomon well styles it'; Prov. xx. I. The heathen have made a god of it, and given it the title of Freedomt. Abuse hath made it a devil, and turned that liberty into licentiousness: whereupon, some foolish heretics have absurdly ascribed it to that hellish original. Mine, saith the Apostle, wherein is excess; Eph. v. 18. How many have our eyes been witnesses of, whom their unruly appetite, this way, bath turned into beasts! how many, into monsters of wickedness! Certainly, a drunkard is in, at all: neither is there any vice under heaven,
t sa sufigoos. Liber Paler.
from which he can secure himself. It is memorable, that our Jewish Doctors* tell us of a certain Gentile King; who, lighting upon eleven of their learned and holy Rabbins, put them to their choice, whether they would eat swine's flesh, or drink of their ethnic wine, or lie with harlots: swine's flesh, they hated; harlots, they professed to abhor; wine, they yield unto : but, by that time they had awhile plied that bewitching liquor, all came alike to them; both the flesh of swine and of harlots were easily admitted. Experience yields us so woeful instances of the lamentable effects of drunkenness, every day, that we need not dwell upon particulars.
[2.] The Other Extreme is more rare; and, though faulty enough, yet less brutish. How many have all ages afforded, whó, out of a fear of complying too much with their appetite, have not stuck to offer hard measure to nature! not thinking they could be godly enough, except they were cruel to themselves.
It is hard to believe the reports of the rigorous austerity of some of the ancients : one of whom, Macarius, could profess to Evagrius, that, in twenty years, he had not taken his fill of bread, or water, or sleep: another, Arsenius, would not give himself so much ease, as to sit or stand, in taking repast; but was still wont to eat walking; professing that he would not gratify his body so much, as to yield it so much ease, and holding the time but lost, which he bestowed in feedingt.
And, for the quality of their sustenance, what shall we say to the diet of some votaries ? Amongst whom, Laurences, Bishop of Dublin, was wont to eat no other bread, than that, which was mixed with lye; in emulation of him, that said, I have eaten ashes as bread ; Ps. cii. 9. Friar Valentine 5 went beyond him ; who, for ten years together, did eat nothing but only bread dipt in the juice of wormwood. I shall not need to press any other instance of this kind, than that, which St. Jerome|| gives of Paul, the first hermit; who, living in a cave, within the desert, was beholden to a palmtree, both for his diet and clothes; whereto he adds, Quod ne cui impossibile, &c. “Which that it may not seem impossible to any man, I take the Lord Jesus and alt his angels, to witness, that I have seen Monks, whereof one, shut up for thirty years together, that lived only with barley bread, and muddy water.” Thus he. Had not these men placed a kind of holiness in crossing their palate, they might have fared otherwise. When Francis of Assise was bidden to the great Cardinal Hostiensis to dinner, he pours down upon that curious damask cloth, spread for better viands, before them, all those scraps of alms out of his sleeve, which his good dames of the city had given him; and could say, that if the Cardinal's cheer were better, yet his was holier. Yet even these
* Schichard. de Jur. Reg. Hebr. V. Bell. Gentilis Rex Pirgandicus, &c. + Socrat. I. iv. c. 23. # Vita S. Laur. § Lib.
Confor. 8. il Hieron. in vir. Pauli. 9 Panis eleemosyn&, panis sanctus. Confor, Fruct. separatur.
parcels might be delicate (panis desideriorum), in comparison of Daniel's pulse, or the Baptist's locusts, or the Fuilletan's salads.
That, which Eusebius casts upon St. James, we see now practised by the Carthusians and Minims, abstinence from flesh. Some antiquity of tradition hath dieted St. Peter*, with lupines; St. Matthew, with berries and herbs. Howsoever, I know those Saints had fared better: the one feasted his Master, at his own house : the other fed on fish and honeycomb, at his Master's last table; and saw the sheet let down, with all varieties of dainties; and heard, Arise, Peter, kill and eat.
And, if we yield so much to Baronius, as to grant that St. Paul was always abstemious, (though it follows not, as Lorinus well, because for thirty days he complied with Nazarites in the Temple) it is more than we owe him; since it is not like, he, that prescribed wine to Timothy, a younger man, would forbear it himself, upon the like or greater necessities.
This we are sure of, that this Chosen Vessel was careful to beat downt his body : and that many of those ancient Worthies, the great patterns of mortification, stinted their flesh with the straitest. Good Hilarionj, instead of barley, could threaten to feed this ass of his with chaff: and devout Bernard § professes how much wrong he had done to himself, by this well meant rigour, in disabling him for better services: complaining, that he had, by this means, turned a virtue into vice; and killed a subject, while he meant to subdue an enemy. And even their St. Francis|| himself, at his death, could confess too late, that he had used his brother body too hardly.
A faint imitation of which severity, we find in those, who now-a-days turn religious abstinence into change of diet; and therein place no little merit. For my part, I cannot yield there is more delicacy in flesh, than in other dishes. I remember it was the word of that wise Statesman of Rome, that it was never well with them, siuce a fish was sold for more than an ox: and that famous glutton could say of old; “ That is the best flesh, which is no flesh:” and all experience shews, that oil, wine, shell-fishes, are more powerful to stir and infiame nature, than other duller liquors; and viands of flesh, which are of more gross and heavy nourishment: neither was it for nothing, that the mythologists feigned Venus to be bred of the sea. The ingenuity of Lindanus** can confess, how little these kinds of fasts differ from the most exact gluttonies.
Let the fond Ebionites, Encratites, Manichees, hate the very nature of some meats: I am sure they are all alike to their Maker.
* De se Petrus. Solo pane et olivis, raròque oleribus utor. Clem. de
gestis Petri, + υπωπιάζαν. Socrat. l. iv. c. 23. § Bern. Meditat. Devoliss.
|| Conform. I. ij. fruct. 3. p. 211. I O quantum distamus ab his, qui, tempore Antonii, fuére Monachi ! Bern. Apolog. ad Gul. Abbat.
Jejunia nostra vini copiâ natant; piscium varietate carnium superant delicius.