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By the progress of the gospel God hath wonderfully accomplished what he long before said he would perform. Zeph. ii. 11, "The Lord will be terrible unto them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth. And men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen."
2. And from blood.
This I take to be a prohibition to drink or eat the blood of brute animals alone, or mixed with other things, raw, or dressed and prepared.
It may be of use to us to observe here some of those places in the Old Testament, where the eating of blood is prohibited.
Gen. ix. 3, 4, "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh, with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."
Lev. xvii. 10-14," And whatsoever man there is of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will set my face against that man that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood. And I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls. For it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul; therefore I said unto the children of Israel, no soul of you shall eat blood; neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. And whatever man there is of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, who hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust; for it is the life of all flesh. The blood of it is for the life thereof. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh. For the life of all flesh is the blood thereof. Whosoever eateth it, shall be cut off."
That law in Leviticus, and the like elsewhere, are given to the house of Israel, and likewise to the strangers that joined themselves to them: for no others could offer sacrifices; nor could any others be cut off for transgressing these laws, but such as were of that people. The reason here assigned, that the blood was appointed to make atonement upon the altar, can affect none but Jews, and other men circumcised after the manner of Moses.
Eating blood cannot be reckoned an immorality. And, if it is not, this prohibition, in the decree, cannot be bind
ing upon all men in all times; but only at some seasons, when the circumstances of things render the forbearing it expedient.
All wholesome food is lawful in itself, and under the gospel-dispensation. As St. Paul says, Rom. xiv. 14, 15, "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died." And ver. 19, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." See also what there follows, and 1 Cor. viii. 11-13.
However, I must add, that blood appears to me very unwholesome. Indeed I esteem it filthy, and highly disagreeable; so that I cannot bear the thought of eating it. If it ever comes to me in food, it is more than I know. And I suppose it is never brought, neither alone nor mixed with other things, to the tables of polite people.
There seem to me to be two reasons for this prohibition, even in the law of Moses. One reason is that above mentioned, that it was to make atonement for them, that is, for offences against the law. The other reason is thus expressed: "It is the life of all flesh. The blood of it is for the life thereof." That is, it is the nourishment of the animal, and not fit for your nourishment. And because it was not fit for food, and was useless and offensive; therefore it was to be poured out upon the earth, or covered with dust, that is, buried in the earth: which order is frequently repeated. So in ver. 13, of the fore-cited seventeenth chapter of Leviticus, and Deut. xii. 16, " Only ye shall not eat the blood. Ye shall pour it upon the earth as water." And again, ver. 24, and ch. xv. 23.
The prohibition of blood was like the prohibition of fat. Lev. iii. 15-17, " And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them-it shall be taken away. And the priest shall burn them upon the altar. It is the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savour. All the fat is the Lord's. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood." And ch. vii. 25, "For whosoever eateth the fat of the beast, of which men offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord, shall be cut off from his people." That is the reason which is expressed, and for which the penalty is so great.
But another reason may be implied, which is, that the fat cleaving to the kidneys of animals is not wholesome.
Those ordinances answered two ends and purposes. They kept the Jewish people separate from other nations, and also promoted their bodily health and vigour. And for all their labour and self-denial, they had a present reward.
In the frequent washings and purifications appointed the Jewish people, I suppose their health was consulted; as it was likewise in the directions concerning creatures clean and unclean.
Lev. xi. 3, "Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat." See also Deut. xiv. 4-8. And it must be allowed, that such beasts as have both those properties, are preferable for food to others; as the ox, the sheep, the goat, and the deer of every kind. And though we do eat some animals which have but one of those properties, as the coney, the hare, the swine; we never eat those which have neither of those properties; that is, which neither chew the cud, nor divide the hoof. Nor do we use for food any of the birds, or fowls, forbidden in that long list, Lev. xi. 13-20, and Deut. xiv. 12-20.
In ancient times there were among all people two sorts of creatures, clean and unclean. This distinction obtained and was general before the flood. Noah, therefore, "was commanded to take with him into the ark of every clean beast by sevens, the male and the female; and of the beasts that are not clean, by two, the male and the female," Gen. vii. 1-3.
This distinction related as much to food as to sacrifice. For the worshipper, as well as the priest, partook of the altar, excepting in the case of whole burnt-offerings. Every living creature therefore, which was clean for sacrifice, was also clean for food.
This article was inserted in the epistle, out of regard to the Jewish believers; that the Gentile converts might not give them offence. As there are now no Jewish believers, to take offence at our eating of blood, we may do as we see good. We may avoid it, if we please, for the sake of health; but are not obliged to forbear it upon a religious account, which would be no better than superstition.
3. And from things strangled, that is, from the flesh of
And when they killed any of these, or other clean creatures, for their food at home, still they were to forbear to eat the suet; partly out of reverence to God, whose portion it was at the altar; and partly, because it was heavy, and too strong a food, as Maimonides takes it. Patrick upon Levit. iii. 16.
animals, that have not been fairly killed, so as that the blood might be all drained out of them whilst warm.
Upon this our learned author says, p. 175, This is omit'ted by many of the ancient fathers, and therefore by some ' esteemed a gloss.' But that is said rather too hastily, and without ground; as may appear by what was said formerly. This article is as genuine and authentic as the rest. It is in all Greek manuscripts in general, and is quoted by the most ancient writers of the church. But near the end of the fourth century, and afterwards, the Latin christians paid little regard to those regulations. And for that reason the apostolic decree is not always quoted exactly by writers in that language.
This regulation, like the preceding, must be understood to have been inserted, that the Gentile converts might not offend the Jewish believers. We, now, are at liberty to act as we see fit. We are under no obligation to forbear things strangled upon a religious account.
4. And from fornication.
I suppose it to have been already shown by general, but unanswerable reasons, that this epistle is not concerned about things of a moral nature: consequently, what we now generally mean by this word is not here intended: that being an immorality, and in itself unreasonable. But the true meaning is not certain: nor ought it to be thought strange, that it is not.
Beza's interpretation may be seen in his Annotations upon Acts xv. 20. He is clear, that things of a moral nature have no part in these regulations, but only such things as are in themselves indifferent, recommended for peace' sake, and out of regard to weak brethren. Therefore this word is not here to be understood in its common acceptation. He applies it to some things mentioned by St. Paul in the eighth and tenth chapters of the first epistle to the Corinthians, particularly," sitting at meat in an idol's temple," 1 Cor. viii. 9.
But I apprehend, that what St. Paul there speaks of must rather relate to the first prohibition in this epistle, "The pollution of idols, or thing's offered to idols."
To me it appears probable, that hereby are forbidden some alliances with heathens; which, though not absolutely unlawful, had better be avoided by christians, lest they should prove dangerous temptations to apostasy. So the apostle writes, Heb. xii. 16, "Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold • See Vol. iii. P 23-30.
his birthright." I suppose, that both these characters are given of Esau. He was not a lewd profligate, or fornicator, in our sense of the word; but he married Canaanitish women, "which were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah," Gen. xxvi. 34, 35. Which Jacob carefully avoided, ch. xxviii. 6-9. 'Theodoret mentions the interpretation which I have given of that text. I am indebted to Beausobres for the reference.
I am confirmed in this interpretation by observing the earnestness with which St. Paul dissuades christians from marrying with heathens, though such marriages were not unlawful. 1 Cor. vii. 39, "The wife is bound by the law, as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord." 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15, " Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel ?"
The Jews were forbidden by the law of Moses to marry with idolaters. Deut. vii. 3, 4. And see Malachi ii. 11. Ezra obliged many, who had married such women, to put them away, though they had children by them, ch. ix. and x. Nehemiah severely reproves such persons, and gives a reason against such marriages, which would be of some weight in the early times of the gospel, ch. xiii. 23-27. Remarkable are the words of Ex. xxxiv. 15, 16, "Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods; and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; and thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and they make thy sons go a whoring after their gods."
St. Paul has wisely determined the point; that christians should not marry with idolaters, as before seen. Nor should a person converted to christianity dissolve by separation a marriage, contracted whilst he was an idolater, and before his conversion to christianity. But, if the unbelieving relative went off, then the christian would be at liberty. So I understand what he says, 1 Cor. vii. 12-16," If any brother has a wife, that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell
f Μη τις πορνος, η βεβηλός, ὡς Ησαυ.] Πορνειαν τε Ησαυ την γατριμαργιαν εκαλεσε-Ουκ αν δε τις ἁμαρτοι, πορνειαν αυτε καλεσας και τον παρονομον γαμον αλλοφύλες γαρ γυναίκας ηγάγετο. Τheod. in Heb. xii. 16. Τ. III. p. 456.
8 See him on Heb. xii. 16.