1. When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
2. And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
3. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
THE book of God is our rule of practice, not less than of faith. It enforces religion not only in our religious, but in our natural, actions. (1 Corinthians 10:31.) It directs in the daily details of common life. Suppose we are invited, in the way of Providence, to the table of a man of rank — how wise the caution — Consider diligently what is before thee! Think where you are; what is the besetting temptation; what impression your conduct is likely to make. Wantonness of appetite, or levity of manner, gives a plausible ground of prejudice to the ungodly, or “stumbling to the weak.”†
But after all, ourselves are mainly concerned. May not the luxuries of the table spread before us stir up disproportionate indulgence? The rule is plain and urgent. If thou art conscious of being given to appetite, making it thy first object and delight, — bridle it as by violence. (Matthew 18:8, 9.) Act as if a knife was at thy throat. Be stern and resolute with thyself.† Give no quarter to the lust. Resist every renewed indulgence. The dainties are deceitful meat, sometimes from the insincerity of the host;† always from the disappointment of the anticipated pleasure. (Ecclesiastes 2:10, 11.) To use them may be lawful. To be desirous of them is fearfully dangerous.
Who that knows his own weakness will deem this caution needless? Alas! was not “the lust of the flesh” the first inlet to that sin, which has overwhelmed us all? (Genesis 3:6.) Often has it tarnished a Christian profession,† and damped the liveliness of spiritual apprehensions and enjoyments.† If Christ’s disciples, conversant only with mean and homely fare, needed a caution to “take heed;”† much more must it apply to a ruler’s table, where everything ministers to the temptation.
It is man’s high prerogative to “have dominion over the creature.”† It is his shame therefore, that the creature in any form should have dominion over him. God gives us our body to feed, not to pamper; to be the servant, not the master, of the soul. He gives bread for our necessities,† man craves “meat for his lust.”† We are to “make provision” for the wants, not “for the lusts, of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14.) And surely a soul, that “puts on the Lord Jesus Christ,” can never degrade itself to be a purveyor of the flesh. If a heathen could say, ‘I am greater and born to greater things than to be the servant of my body’† — is it not a shame for a Christian, born as he is, the heir of an everlasting crown, to be the slave of his carnal indulgences?
To go as near as we can to the bounds of intemperance, is to incur imminent danger of exceeding. ‘He that takes his full liberty in what he may, shall repent him.’† Temptation presses hard. Then put the strongest guard at this weak point. ‘Curb thy desires, though they be somewhat importunate, and thou shalt find in time incredible benefit by it.’† Take the prayer of our Church — ‘Grant unto us such abstinence, that our flesh being subdued unto the spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions.’† Connect with it the resolution of one Apostle — “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27) — and the rule of another — “Add to your faith temperance.” (2 Peter 1:5, 6.) This practical warfare will break the power of many a strong temptation, and triumph over the flesh gloriously.†