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Chapter XV.—Of the Apostle’s Language Concerning Food.

The apostle reprobates likewise such as “bid to abstain from meats; but he does so from the foresight of the Holy Spirit, precondemning already the heretics who would enjoin perpetual abstinence to the extent of destroying and despising the works of the Creator; such as I may find in the person of a Marcion, a Tatian, or a Jupiter, the Pythagorean heretic of to-day; not in the person of the Paraclete.  For how limited is the extent of our “interdiction of meats!”  Two weeks of xerophagies in the year (and not the whole of these,—the Sabbaths, to wit, and the Lord’s days, being excepted) we offer to God; abstaining from things which we do not reject, but defer.  But further:  when writing to the Romans, the apostle now gives you a home-thrust, detractors as you are of this observance:  “Do not for the sake of food,” he says, “undo11011101    Rom. xiv. 20. the work of God.”  What “work?”  That about which he says,11021102    Ver. 21. “It is good not to eat flesh, and not to drink wine:”  “for he who in these points doeth service, is pleasing and propitiable to our God.”  “One believeth that all things may be eaten; but another, being weak, feedeth on vegetables.  Let not him who eateth lightly esteem him who eateth not.  Who art thou, who judgest another’s servant?”  “Both he who eateth, and he who eateth not, giveth God thanks.”  But, since he forbids human choice to be made matter of controversy, how much more Divine!  Thus he knew how to chide certain restricters and interdicters of food, such as abstained from it of contempt, not of duty; but to approve such as did so to the honour, not the insult, of the Creator.  And if he has “delivered you the keys of the meat-market,” permitting the eating of “all things” with a view to establishing the exception of “things offered to idols;” still he has not included the kingdom of God in the meat-market:  “For,” he says, “the kingdom of God is neither meat nor drink;”11031103    Rom. xiv. 17. and, “Food commendeth us not to God”—not that you may think this said about dry diet, but rather about rich and carefully prepared, if, when he subjoins, “Neither, if we shall have eaten, shall we abound; nor, if we shall not have eaten, shall we be deficient,” the ring of his words suits, (as it does), you rather (than us), who think that you do “abound” if you eat, and are “deficient if you eat not; and for this reason disparage these observances.

How unworthy, also, is the way in which you interpret to the favour of your own lust the fact that the Lord “ate and drank” promiscuously!  But I think that He must have likewise “fasted” inasmuch as He has pronounced, not “the full,” but “the hungry and thirsty, blessed:”11041104    Comp. Luke vi. 21 and 25, and Matt. v. 6.  (He) who was wont to profess “food” to be, not that which His disciples had supposed, but “the thorough doing of the Father’s work;”11051105    John iv. 31–34. teaching “to labour for the meat which is permanent unto life eternal;”11061106    John vi. 27. in our ordinary prayer likewise commanding us to request “bread,”11071107    Matt. vi. 11; Luke xi. 3. not the wealth of Attalus11081108    See Hor., Od., i. 1, 12, and Macleane’s note there. therewithal.  Thus, too, Isaiah has not denied that God “hath chosen” a “fast;” but has particularized in detail the kind of fast which He has not chosen:  “for in the days,” he says, “of your fasts your own wills are found (indulged), and all who are subject to you ye stealthily sting; or else ye fast with a view to abuse and strifes, and ye smite with the fists.  Not such a fast have I elected;”11091109    See Isa. lviii. 3, 4, 5, briefly, and more like the LXX. than the Vulg. or the Eng. ver. but such an one as He has subjoined, and by subjoining has not abolished, but confirmed.

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