Front Page Titles (by Subject) Corolary I - The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy
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Corolary I - George Turnbull, The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy, ed. and with an Introduction by Alexander Broadie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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From the preceeding account of human nature, and the perfection which man is made, formed and intended to pursue, we may plainly see, why man is so often exhorted in scripture, to mortify and subdue his bodily appetites. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, says St. Paul,a fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. For which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. And, in another place, the same apostle exhorts us to the same purpose in these words.b Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. And he tells us, that if we live after the flesh we shall die; but if we thro’ the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.a
And indeed they must not have attended, neither to the nature of virtue, nor to the close dependence of our body and mind, who think such precepts unnecessarily harsh, and that progress can be made in virtue, which is properly called in scripture, sanctifying our body and mind, without strict bodily discipline, without thwarting, opposing, denying, and subduing our carnal appetites. They must not have attended to the nature of virtue, or of progress towards moral perfection. For virtue, as it properly signifies strength and magnanimity of mind, so it properly consists in power and dominion over our appetites; in self-command and mastership<279> of the mind: so it was defined by the best ancient moralists. And this is the virtue or perfection we are made to attain to. Our senses grow up first, because reason is a principle, which in the nature of things must be advanced to strength and vigour by gradual cultivation; and their objects are continually assailing and solliciting us; so that unless a very happy education prevents it, our sensitive appetites must have become very strong, before reason can have force enough to call them to account, and assume authority over them. But being endued with reason, in its nature a governing principle, we are made to cultivate it into a capacity of governing, and to set it up, and maintain and support it as a ruler in our mind. In this does our perfection lie. And therefore it must be our duty to exert ourselves to acquire sufficient strength of mind; not only not to allow ourselves to be transported into any pursuit by any of our appetites till we have examined it soundly and carefully; but to be able on every proper occasion to contradict and oppose them. Self-command and strength of reason cannot be otherwise attained to. For he who doth not accustom himself to submit his appetites, and to deny them their requests, cannot but be a prey or dupe to them; he cannot be master or have dominion over them. But that habitual firmness and magnanimity of mind is attained, as all other habits, by repeated exercises, and must therefore be attained by frequent self-denials. And accordingly it hath been recommended by the wisest philosophers, contrary to the ordinary way, to inure children to submit their desires, and go without their longings; because the principle of all virtue and excellence lies in a power of denying ourselves the satisfaction of our own desires, where reason does not authorize them. And this power is to be got by custom, and made easy and familiar by an early practice. The very first thing therefore, say these writers, that children should learn to know, should be, that they were not to have any thing,<280> because it pleased them, but because it was thought fit for them. This is certainly the proper method of forming early in young minds the truly virtuous temper, real magnanimity, and strength of mind, or the habit of self-command. But this disposition is not surely to be formed in young minds by proper discipline and exercise, in order to be destroyed and effaced as soon as we grow up by opposite practice. We cannot take a right view of our make and present state, without seeing the necessity of continuing this discipline over ourselves throughout our whole life; without considering ourselves always as children, with respect to the perfection we may attain to, and ought to be continually aspiring and contending after. For what is the highest attainment in virtue or moral perfection, which is in other words the contempt of sensual delight in comparison of rational satisfaction; what is it in proportion to the perfection that may yet be arrived at by the continuation of proper care and culture?
But they must also be indeed great strangers to our make and constitution, insomuch as to have quite forgot the close and intimate reciprocal communion between our minds and our bodies, who imagine, that the temper which hath been described can be attained or upheld, if we pamper our bodies, and give full swing to all our corporeal appetites; or if contrariwise we do not live in the strictest habitual sobriety, and frequently deny ourselves even innocent gratifications, in order to make self-denial easy, when noble ends call for it at our hands; friendship, the love of our country, or any other such virtuous and generous affection. It does not follow from hence, that severe fastings, penances, and bodily chastisements at stated times are necessary, or even that they make any part of religion and virtue. They are commonly enjoined and undergone by way of attonement for habitual irregularity, and to make amends for the want of a true principle of virtue, which<281> always works regularly and uniformly, than which opinion nothing can be more absurd. Nor does it follow from what hath been said, that men are to live a rigidly abstemious life, and to deny themselves the necessaries to sustenance; habitually to starve and emaciate themselves, and live in downright contradiction to all that sense and sensitive appetite demands. Every thing hath its extremes; and therefore virtue and truth may be justly said in general to consist in the middle. We are commanded to raise our minds above all sensual gratifications, and to set our affections chiefly upon moral exercises, and the pleasures accruing from them; and we are as certainly made for that end as we have reason to govern our appetites. And therefore, far from making sensual enjoyment our main end, we are to submit all our sensitive appetites to reason, and to inure them to yield easily and readily to what duty requires, to what the improvement of our rational faculties, and the interests of mankind and society require. But this cannot be done, not only without habituating ourselves to sobriety; but without frequent acts of self-denial, even where the indulgence would not be in any degree criminal, nor even so much as indecent. And in this case, because different constitutions require different management, every man must be left to his own prudence: general rules cannot be laid down. It is every man’s business to study his temper and complexion, that he may know what is necessary for him to do, in order to maintain and improve in that spiritual turn of mind, which is the perfection of a rational being. I call it spiritual turn of mind, because it is called in scripture, the life of the soul, or living to the spirit, being properly the life of our rational powers, the life of all those powers and dispositions in our constitution, which exalt us to the rank of moral agents; our understanding, our judgment, our reason, and our sense of good and evil, orderly and disorderly, becoming and unfit. The pleasures that<282> result from the exercises, which improve these faculties and dispositions, are the noblest we are capable of; they are of a kind, not only with the enjoyments which make other moral creatures superior to us happy, but with the felicity of God our Creator himself, whose happiness results from the exercises of his infinitely perfect moral powers.
But the reasonableness of those christian precepts, by which we are commanded to subdue and mortify our bodies, and to quicken our spiritual part, and to make provision for it, will yet more plainly appear, if we attend to some other ways of speaking in holy writ on the same subject. “Now the study of virtue is there called, putting off the old man, and putting on a new nature, or becoming a new creature.” And the meaning of these phrases, with the reasonableness of the view that is given by them of the virtue belonging to men, as the excellence they ought to pursue and aspire after with all diligence, will be evident,
I. If we reflect, in the first place, that, though some few may, through the good influence of virtuous example, and of a wise and happy education, be said to be sanctified from the womb, so liberal, so generous, so virtuous, so truly noble is their cast of mind; yet generally speaking, men are so corrupt, the whole world always hath, and still lieth in such wickedness, that with respect to the far greater part of mankind the study of virtue is beginning to reform, and is a severe struggle against bad habits early contracted, and deeply rooted. It is therefore putting off an old inveterate corrupt nature, and putting on a new form and temper: it is moulding ourselves anew: it is being born again, and becoming as children, to be formed into a right shape; becoming docile, tractable, and pliable, as little children, in order to be instructed in, and formed to the temper which becomes rational creatures, and in order to have another set of affections<283> and appetites established in us than those which lead the wicked captive to their gross and impure pursuits. This is the case when the habitually corrupt are called to turn from their wickedness, and to change their ways. They are really called upon to change their hearts, and to form a new spirit within them. And how few are there in the world, who escape its pollutions, so as not to be early in that class; or to be among those righteous who have not need of repentance; nothing to reform in their temper or conduct; or nothing to do but to advance in the perfection they are already in the train of pursuing. Those to whom the apostles addressed these exhortations were plunged in vice and sensuality, as appears from the character given of them. And an exhortation to every man who is a slave to his appetites, and hath not yet attained to the power of right self-government by his reason must run in that strain. “Wash you, make you clean; sanctify yourself; purify your heart; mortify the body, and make provision for your spirit, that you may enter into the holy, virtuous, and spiritual life, which will end in a life everlasting of virtue and rational virtuous happiness.”
II. But farther, let it be considered on this head, that not only are we so made, that unless a very virtuous institution prevent it, our sensitive appetites must become very strong or rather very impetuous, before our reason can have attained to the authority it must have to govern them as they ought, which can only be acquired by gradual culture and exercise: but as all rational creatures can only attain to moral improvements in the same way of gradual culture; so it is probable, that all reasonable creatures have, tho’ not affections and appetites of the same species with ours; yet such as are in this respect analogous to ours, that they are implanted in them to be the subjects of their rational government, as ours are<284> to be the subjects of our reason and moral discipline; and thus to be to them, as ours are to us, means or materials of exercise and trial. We cannot conceive moral beings to be formed to virtue, but by the discipline of reason; nor can we conceive a state of discipline and probation, when there is nothing to temptortry; nothing to seduce, nothing to be conquered. And yet, whatever may be as to that, it is certain, that our sensitive powers and appetites, and the sensible objects suited to them, at the same time that they afford us means and materials of rational employments, on account of the order, harmony, and concord that prevails in the disposition and government of the sensible world, and in other respects, are really to us means of probation, because they give occasion to a competition between sensual and rational pursuit; they lay a foundation, as it were, for a warfare, and give opportunity for strength and conquest. Our senses do in fact strongly importune us, and yet because we have reason, and are capable of ruling, subduing, and conquering sense, and of pursuing rational delights, preferably to those of sense, we must certainly be made for that end; it must certainly be our perfection, and it must likewise be the sure way to our greatest happiness, unless our reason be made to be frustrated in pursuing the only end it can be thought to be made for, consistently with our way of judging about the end for which any frame whatsoever is intended. This being our make, we must necessarily conclude, that we are made to conquer sense, and to improve our reason; or to establish in our minds an habitual preference to rational delights, as those from which our happiness is to redound, when we have arrived by due culture in our state of discipline and probation to consider able perfection of the moral kind. For not to infer this from our make, is really to assert no less an absurdity, than that we are endued with<285> reason capable of being improved, and yet are not intended for rational improvement and perfection.
[a. ]Col. iii. 5, 6.
[b. ]Rom. xiii. 12, 13, 14.
[a. ]Rom. viii. 6, 13.