1 Corinthians 15:32
If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantages it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink…
1. The text is the epicure's proverb, began on a weak mistake, thought witty by an undiscerning company, and prevailing greatly because it strikes the fancy and maintains the merry meeting. The pagans recommended sensuality in this life because they knew of no enjoyments in another.
2. They are to be excused rather than us. They placed themselves in the order of beasts, making their bodies but receptacles of flesh and wine; therefore they treated themselves accordingly. But why should we do the same things who have higher principles, and the revelation of immortality?
3. To reprove the follies of mankind and their improper motions towards felicity. Note —
I. THAT PLENTY AND THE PLEASURES OF THE WORLD ARE NO PROPER INSTRUMENTS OF HAPPINESS. A man must have some violence done to himself ere he can receive them. If we go beyond what is needful, we put that to hazard which nature has secured. It is not nature that desires superfluities, but lust. By a disease we acquire the passion for luxuries, which eventually become necessaries, and then cease to gratify. Contrast the happiness of the virtuous poor man in his cottage, his sound sleep, quiet breast, easy provision, sober night, healthful morning, and joyous heart, with the noises, diseases, passions, which fill the houses of the luxurious and the hearts of the ambitious.
II. INTEMPERANCE IN EATING AND DRINKING IS OPPOSED TO THE EPICURE'S DESIGN. The voluptuous man has the least share of pleasure.
1. It is an enemy to health which is a handle by which we can apprehend pleasure, and the same which makes life delicious. For what content can a full table administer to a man in a fever? Health carries us to Church, and makes us rejoice in the communion of saints; but an intemperate table makes us lose all this. It bears part of its punishment in this life, and has this appendage, that unless it be repented of it is not remitted in the life to come. The epicure's genial proverb might be a little altered. "Let us eat and drink, for by this means to-morrow we shall die"; yet it is not so, for such men lead a healthless life; they are long in dying, and die in torment. What folly for men to pray for healthy bodies, and then pour in loads of flesh and seas of wine. The temptations which men meet with from without in these cases are in themselves most unreasonable, and soonest confuted. He that tempts me to drink beyond measure, what does he, but tempt me to lay aside my reason, or civilly invite me to a fever? When Athens was, destroyed by the plague, Socrates escaped through the temperate diet to which he had accustomed himself. He had enough for health, study, philosophy, and religion; but he had no superfluities to bring on groans and sickly nights. All gluttons are convinced of the excellence of temperance in order to moral felicity and health; for after they have lost both they are obliged to go to temperance to recover them. Fools, not to keep their health by the means which they seek to restore it! Such men "heap up wrath against the day of wrath." When the heathen feasted their gods they gave nothing but an animal, poured a little wine on the altar, and burnt a little frankincense: but when they feasted themselves they had many vessels of Campanian wine, turtles, beeves, wild boars, etc. And little do we spend on charity and religion; but we spend so much on ourselves that we make ourselves sick, and seem to be in love with our own mischief.
2. A constant full table is less pleasant than the temperate provisions of the virtuous, or the natural banquets of the poor. "Thanks be to the God of nature," said Epicurus, "that He hath made that which is necessary to be ready at hand, and easy to be had; whilst that which cannot easily be obtained is not necessary at all," i.e., in effect it cannot be constantly pleasant: for want makes the appetite and the appetite makes the pleasure; so that men are greatly mistaken when they despise the poor man's table. Fortune and art give delicacies, nature gives meat and drink; and what nature gives fortune cannot take away, whilst every change can take away what is only given by fortune. Moreover, he that feasts every day, feasts no day; and however a man treats himself, he will sometimes need to be refreshed beyond it. A perpetual fulness will make you glad to beg pleasure from emptiness and variety from humble fare.
3. Intemperance is the nurse of vice, and no man dare pray to God for a pure soul in a chaste body, if he lives intemperately, "making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." For in this case he will find "that which enters him shall defile him," more than he can be cleansed by vain prayers that come from his tongue and not from his heart.
4. Intemperance is the destruction of wisdom. "A full gorged belly never produced a sprightly mind." The heavy and foul state of an intemperate person may be compared to the sun, clouded with fogs and vapours, when it has drawn too freely from the moisture of nature. But temperance is reason's girdle and passion's bridle, the strength of the soul and the foundation of virtue.
5. Intemperance is a dishonour to the nature, person, and manners of a man. But naturally men are ashamed of it, and night is generally a veil to their gluttony and drunkenness.
III. SOME RULES AND MEASURES OF TEMPERANCE.
1. Our natural needs. Hunger, thirst, and cold, are the natural diseases of the body; food and raiment are their remedies, and therefore the measures. But in this there are two cautions —
(1) These are only to be extinguished when they are violent or troublesome, and not to the utmost extent and possibilities of nature.
(2) These must be natural, not artificial and provoked: for many men make necessities to themselves, and then think they are bound to provide for them.
2. Reason. Eating and drinking so as to make the reason useless or troubled is intemperate. Reason is the limit beyond which temperance never wanders. Intemperate men are so stripped of the use of reason that they are not only useless as wise counsels, but have not reason enough to avoid inflicting evils upon themselves.
3. The fitness of the body for useful service. Overloaded with food or drink, the mind cannot think, nor the body work with any sprightliness.
Parallel VersesKJV: If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.