ON PRESCRIPTIONS AGAINST INTEMPERANCE
Consider first, that in order to overcome the vice of intemperance, one of the first and most necessary prescriptions is to fly the occasions of it, and to keep as much as possible at a distance from the danger which is always at hand, in the revellings or drinking hours of worldlings, and ought always to be apprehended in such places and companies where excess is promoted and encouraged by common practice and example. Let not him that has already experienced his own weakness, by falling into sin on such occasions, venture himself any more there. The burnt child ought to dread the fire. Much less should he that has unhappily contracted a habit of intemperance expose himself to such places or companies, whatever the consequence of his refusal may be; he will never get the better of that pernicious habit as long as he frequents such places and such company. Let no man here deceive himself with pretexts of civility or necessity – his soul is at stake, eternity is at stake. O let him not risk his all for fear of displeasing drunken companions. The plague is amongst them; let him fly far away from the infection. The devil is amongst them; there is death in their cups, a mortal poison that reaches even to the soul. Hell is following them close at the heels; let him keep off from them, lest he be also involved in their destruction.
Consider 2ndly, that the arms which are to be employed against the vice of intemperance are particularly prayer and mortification. Fervent prayer, frequently repeated, draws down the powerful assistance of God’s grace, without which this evil, which is too natural to our corruption, is not to be overcome. And mortification disarms the enemy, by restraining the sensual appetite and bringing it into due order and subjection. Every Christian as such, ought to aim at leading a mortified life, in quality of a disciple of a crucified God; he must endeavour to walk in the narrow way by a general self-denial, if he expects to arrive at true life, and would be acknowledged by his Lord and master for one of his. How much more is every sinner – if he hopes to secure to himself the remission of his sins, by being a penitent indeed, – obliged to expiate them by fasting and other mortifications, and penitential exercises? Now the putting in practice this mortification and penance, which is so general a duty, will effectually deliver us from the tyranny of intemperance, and even cut off all the approaches of this enemy. O let us embrace then this happy means of gaining a complete victory over this mortal evil and all its wretched train of sins.
Consider 3rdly, that the most sovereign means of all for subduing intemperance, and indeed all other vices, is a daily application of the soul to the study of true wisdom, by the exercise of recollection and mental prayer, and the contemplation of heavenly truths. This helps the soul to another kind of appetite, which will grow daily upon her for the things of God, and give her a loathing and disgust for all sensual and carnal satisfactions. The relish of truth, the sweet savour of the heavenly manna, found in the conversation with God in our interior; the consideration and meditation on his eternal feast, where he shall inebriate his guests with the never-failing plenty of his house, and make them drink of the torrent of his pleasure, at the very head of the fountain of life, which is with him is sufficiently abundant to wean the soul that accustoms herself to this kind of diet from all sensual affections, and to give her an effectual and eternal abhorrence for all those husks of swine that keep earthly-minded Christians both from the table and from the kingdom of their heavenly Father.
Conclude to follow these prescriptions, if thou wouldst effectually be preserved from, or cured of, this mortal disease of intemperance. Even in thy ordinary meals and necessary refreshments let not sensuality hurry thee away to indulge thyself in eating and drinking, merely for the pleasure of it, but take that necessary support of nature with a pure intention, in obedience to the will of God, as a medicine for the preserving of thy health, and season it with the remembrance of the gall and vinegar of thy Saviour.