Vile Affections

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
~ Romans 1:25-26

Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
~ 2 Timothy 3:4

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
~ 1 John 2:15-16

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
~ Romans 8:13

Directions against Sinful Love of Creatures, by Richard Baxter. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “A Christian Directory, Christian Ethics”.

Title 2. Directions against Sinful Love of Creatures.

Love is the master passion of the soul, because it hath the chiefest object, even goodness which is the object of the will; and simple love is nothing but complacency, which is nothing but the simple volition of good; and it is a passionate volition or complacency which we call the passion of love. When this is good and when it is sinful I showed before; but yet because the one half of the cure here lieth in the conviction, and it is so hard a thing to make any lover perceive a sinfulness in his love, I shall first help you in the trial of your love, to show the sinfulness of it; when I have first named the objects of it.

Any creature which seemeth good to us, may possibly be the object of sinful love; as honour, greatness, authority, praises, money, houses, lands, cattle, meat, drink, sleep, apparel, sports, friends, relations, and life itself. As for lustful love, I shall speak of it anon.
Helps for discovering of sinful Love.

Direct. I. Make God’s interest and his word the standard to judge of all affections by. That which is against the love of God, and would abate or hinder it, yea, which doth not directly or indirectly tend to further it, is certainly a sinful love; and so is all that is against his word. For the love of God is our final act upon our ultimate end, and therefore all that tends not to it, is a sin against our very end, and so against our nature and the use of our faculties.

Direct. II. Therefore whatever creature is loved ultimately for itself, and not for a higher end, even for God, his service, his honour, his relation to it, or his excellency appearing in it, is sinfully loved. For it is made our god when it is loved ultimately for itself.

Direct. III. Suspect all love to creatures which is very strong and violent, and easily kindled, and hardly moderated or quieted. Though you might think it is for some spiritual end or excellency, that you love any person or any thing, yet suspect it if it be so easy and strong; because that which is truly and purely spiritual is against corrupted nature, and comes from grace which is but weak: we find no such easiness to love God, and Scripture, and prayer, and holiness; nor are our affections so violent to these. It is well if all the fuel and blowing we can use will keep them alive. It is two to one that the flesh and the devil have put in some of their fuel or gunpowder, if it be fierce.

Direct. IV. Suspect all that love which selfishness and fleshly interest have a hand in. Is it some bodily pleasure and delight that you love so much? Or is it a good book or other help for your soul? We are so much apter to exceed and sin in carnal, fleshly-mindedness, than in loving what is good for our souls, that there we should be much more suspicious. If it be violent and for the body, it is ten to one there is sin in it.

Direct. V. Suspect all that love to creatures which your reason can give no good account of, nor show you a justifiable cause. If you love one place or person much more than others, and know not why, but love them because you cannot choose, this is much to be suspected: though God may sometimes kindle a secret love between friends, from an unexpressible unity or similitude of minds, beyond what reason will undertake to justify, yet this is rare, and commonly fancy, or folly, or carnality is the cause: however, it is more to be suspected and tried, than rational love.

Direct. VI. Suspect all that fervent love to any creature which is hasty before sufficient trial; for commonly both persons and things have the best side outward, and seem better at the first appearance than they prove. Not but that a moderate love may be taken up upon the first appearance of any excellency, especially spiritual; but so as to allow for a possibility of being deceived, and finding more faultiness upon a fuller trial than we at first perceive. Have you dwelt in the house with the persons whom you so much admire? and have you tried them in their conversations? and seen them tried by crosses, losses, injuries, adversity, prosperity, or the offers of preferment or plenty in the world? you would little think what lurketh undiscovered in the hearts of many, that have excellent parts, till trial manifest it!

Direct. VII. Try your affections in prayer before God, whether they be such as you dare boldly pray God either to increase or continue and bless; and whether they be such as conscience hath no quarrel against. If they endure not this trial, be the more suspicious, and search more narrowly: the name and presence of God in prayer, doth much dispel the frauds of carnal reasonings. Yet persons who by melancholy are cast into diseased fears and scrupulosities, are uncapable of this way of trial.

Direct. VIII. Consult with wise, impartial persons; and open your case to them without deceit, before affections have gone so far as to blind you, or leave you uncapable of help. In this case, if in any case, the judgment of a stander-by that is faithful and impartial is usually to be preferred before your own. For we are too near ourselves; and judgment will be bribed and biassed even in the best and wisest persons.

Direct. IX. Yet cast not away all because you discover much excess or carnality in your affections; for frequently there is mixture both in the cause of love, and in the love itself of good and evil. And when you have but taken out all that was selfish, and carnal, and erroneous in the cause, the carnal, violent love will cease; but not all love: for still there will and must remain the moderate, rational, and holy love, which is proportioned to the creature’s worth and merit, and is terminated ultimately on God: the separation being made, this part must be preserved.

Direct. X. Mere natural appetite in itself is neither morally good nor evil; but as it is well placed and ordered it is good, and as unruled or ill-ruled it is evil.
Helps to mortify sinful Love.

Direct. I. The greatest of all means to cast out all sinful love, is to keep the soul in the love of God, Jude 21, wholly taken up in admiring him, serving him, praising him, and rejoicing in him: of which see chap. iii. direct. xi. We see that they that are taken up in the love and service of one person, are not apt to be taken much with any other. But it is not only by diversion, nor only by prepossessing and employing all our love, that the love of God doth cure sinful love; but besides these there is also a majesty in his objective presence which aweth the soul, and commandeth all things else to keep their distance; and there is an unspeakable splendour and excellency in him, which obscureth and annihilateth all things else (though they are more near, and clearly seen and known). And there is a celestial kind of sweetness in his love, which puts the soul that hath tasted it out of relish with transitory, inferior good. As he that hath conversed with wise and learned men, will no more admire the wit of fools. And as he that hath been employed in the government of a kingdom or the sublimest studies, will be no more in love with children’s games, and paddling in the dirt.

Direct. II. The next help is to see that the creature deceived you not; and therefore that you be not rash and hasty; but stay while you come nearer it, and see it unclothed of borrowed or affected ornaments: and see it not only in the dress in which it appeareth abroad, which often covereth great deformities, but in its homely habit and night attire. Bring it to the light; and, if it may be, also see it when it hath endured the fire, which hath taken off the paint and removed the dress. Most of your inordinate love to creatures is by mistake and rashness. The devil tricks them up and paints them, that you may fall in love with them; or else he showeth you only the outside of some common good, and hideth the emptiness or rottenness within. Come nearer therefore, and stay longer, and prevent your shame and disappointments. Is it not a shame to see you dote on that place, or office, or thing this year, which you are weary of before the next? Or to see two persons impatiently fond of each other till they are married, and then to live in strife as weary of each other? How few persons or things have been too violently loved, that were but sufficiently first tried!

Direct. III. The next great help is to destroy self-love (as carnal and inordinate); for this is the parent, life, and root of all other sinful love whatever. Why doth the worldling over-love his wealth, and the proud man his greatness and repute, and the sensualist his pleasures, but because they first over-love that flesh and self which all these are but the provision for. Why doth a dividing sectary overvalue and over-love all the party or sect that are of his own opinion, but because he first over-valueth and over-loveth himself? Why do you love those above their worth who think highly of you, and are on your side, and use to praise you behind your back, or that do you a good turn, but because you first over-love yourselves? Why doth lustful love inflame you, or the love of meat, and drink, and sport, and bravery, carry you into such a gulf of sin, but that first you over-love your fleshly pleasure? What insnareth you in fondness to any person, but that you think they love you, or are suitable to your carnal end. See therefore that you mortify the flesh.

Direct. IV. Still remember how jealous God is of your love, and how much he is wronged when any creature encroacheth upon his right. 1. You are his own by creation; and did he give you love to lay out on others, and deny it to himself? 2. He daily and hourly maintaineth you; he giveth you every breath, and bit, and mercy that you live upon; and will you love the creature with his part of your love? 3. How dearly hath he bought your love in your redemption! 4. He hath adopted you, and brought you into the nearest relation to him, that you may love him. 5. He hath pardoned all your sins, and saved you from hell, (if you are his own,) that you may love him. 6. He hath promised you eternal glory with himself that you may love him. 7. His excellency best deserveth your love. 8. His creatures have nothing but from him, and were purposely sent to bespeak your love for him rather than for themselves. And yet after all this shall they encroach upon his part? If you say, it is not God’s part that you give them, but their own; I tell you, all that love which you give the creature above its due, you take from God. But if it be such a love to the creature as exceedeth not its worth, and is intended ultimately for God, and maketh you not love him the less but the more, it is not it that I am speaking against, or persuading you to mortify.

Direct. V. Look on the worst of the creature with the best, and foresee what it will be when it withereth, and what it will appear to you at the last. I have applied this against worldliness before, chap. iv. part vi. and I shall afterwards apply it to the lustful love. Bring your beloved creature to the grave, and see it as it will appear at last, and much of the folly of your love will vanish.

Direct. VI. Understand well the most that it will do for you, and how short a time you must enjoy it, and flatter not yourselves with the hopes of a longer possession than you have reason to expect. If men considered for how short a time they must possess what they dote upon, it would somewhat cool their fond affections.

Direct. VII. Remember that too much love hath the present trouble of too much care, and the future trouble of too much grief, when you come to part with what you love. Nothing more createth care and grief to us, than inordinate love. You foreknow that you must part with it; and will you now be so glued to it that then it may tear your flesh and heart. Remember you caused all that yourselves.

Direct. VIII. Remember that you provoke God to deprive you of what you over-love, or to suffer it to grow unlovely to you. Many a man’s horse that he over-loved hath broke his neck: and many a man’s child that he over-loved hath died quickly, or lived to be his scourge and sorrow: and many a husband or wife that was over-loved, has been quickly snatched away, or proved a thorn, or a continual grief and misery.

Direct. IX. If there be no other means left, prudently and moderately imbitter to thyself the creature which thou art fond of: which may be done many ways, according to the nature of it. By the seldomer or more abstemious use of it: or by using it more to benefit than delight; or by mixing some mortifying, humbling exercises; or mixing some self-denying acts, and minding more the good of others, &c.

Direct. X. In the practice of all directions of this nature, there must abundance of difference be made between a carnal, voluptuous heart, that is hardly taken off from sensual love, and a mortified, melancholy, or over-scrupulous person, who is running into the contrary extreme, and is afraid of every bit they eat, or of all they possess, or wear, or use, and sometimes of their very children and relations, and ready to overrun their mercies, or neglect their duties, suspecting that all is too much loved. And it is a very hard thing for us so to write or preach to one party, but the other will misapply it to themselves, and make an ill use of it. All that we can write or say is too little to mortify the fleshly man’s affections: and yet speak as cautelously as we can, the troubled soul will turn it into gall, to the increase of his trouble: and what we speak to his peace and settlement, though it prove too little and uneffectual, yet will be effectual to harden the misapplying sensualist in the sinful affections and liberty which he useth. Therefore it is best in such cases to have still a wise, experienced, faithful guide, to help you in the application in cases of difficulty and weight.