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Richard Baxter, a priest born in 1615, wrote about the sin of gluttony and says the causes are both excess and "Or else it may be an excess in the delicious quantity, when more regard is had to the delight and sweetness than is fit."

January 1, 1673


Directions for Governing the Appetite Or, Directions against Gluttony


I. Gluttony is a voluntary excess in eating, for the pleasing of the appetite, or some other carnal end.

(1.) It is sometimes an excess in quantity, when more is eaten than is fit.

(2.) Or else it may be an excess in the delicious quantity, when more regard is had to the delight and sweetness than is fit.

(3.) Or it may be an excess in the frequency or length of eating; when men eat too often, and sit at it too long.

(4.) It may be an excess in the costliness or price; when men feed themselves at too high rates.

Common gluttony is when it is done for the pleasing of the appetite, with such a pleasure, as is no help to health or duty, but usually a hurt to body or soul; the body being hurt by the excess, the soul is hurt by the inordinate pleasure.

Yes, it is a kind of gluttony and excess, when men will not fast or abstain when they are required, from that which at other times they may use with temperance and without blame. If a man is accustomed to not eat excessively nor deliciously, yet if he will not abstain from his temperate diet, either at a public fast, or when his lust requires him to take down his body, or when his physician would diet him for his health, and his disease else would be increased by what he eats—this is an inordinate eating and excess to that person, at that time. Or if the delight that the appetite has in one sort of food, which is hurtful to the body, prevails against reason and health so with the person that he will not forbear it, it is a degree of gluttony, though for quantity and quality it is in itself but ordinary.

By this you may see:

1. That it is not the same quantity which is an excess in one, which is in another. A laboring man may eat somewhat more than one that does not labor; and a strong and healthful body may eat more than the weak and sick. It must be an excess in quantity, as to that particular person at that time, which is, when to please his appetite he eats more than is profitable to his health or duty.

2. So also the frequency must be considered with the quality of the person; for one person may rationally eat a little and often, for his health; and another may luxuriously eat more often than is profitable to health. Ecclesiastes 10:16, 17, "Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes eat in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes eat in due season, for strength and not for drunkenness."

3. And in point of costliness, the same measure is not to be set to a prince and to a ploughman; that is luxurious excess in one, which may be temperance and frugality in another. But yet, excessive cost, which, all things considered, would do more good another way, is excess in whomever.

4. And in tastiness of diet a difference must be allowed: the happier healthful man need not be so particular as the sick; and the happy ploughman need not be so particular, as state and expectation somewhat require the noble and the rich to be.

5. And for length of time, though unnecessary sitting out time at table is a sin in any, yet the happy poor man is not obliged to spend all out so much this way, as the rich may do.

6. And it is not all delight in food, or pleasing the appetite, that is a sin; but only that which is made men's end, and not referred to a higher end; even when the delight itself does not tend to health, nor alacrity in duty, nor is used to that end, but to please the flesh and tempt unto excess.