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Chapter XVI.—Instances from Scripture of Divine Judgments Upon the Self-Indulgent; And Appeals to the Practices of Heathens.

For even if He does prefer “the works of righteousness,” still not without a sacrifice, which 113is a soul afflicted with fasts.11101110    See Ps. li. (l. in LXX. and Vulg.) 18, 19; see c. iii. above.  He, at all events, is the God to whom neither a People incontinent of appetite, nor a priest, nor a prophet, was pleasing.  To this day the “monuments of concupiscence” remain, where the People, greedy of “flesh,” till, by devouring without digesting the quails, they brought on cholera, were buried.  Eli breaks his neck before the temple doors,11111111    This seems an oversight; see 1 Sam. (in LXX. and Vulg. 1 Kings) iv. 13. his sons fall in battle, his daughter-in-law expires in child-birth:11121112    1 Sam. iv. 17–21.  for such was the blow which had been deserved at the hand of God by the shameless house, the defrauder of the fleshly sacrifices.11131113    1 Sam. ii. 12–17, 22–25.  Sameas, a “man of God,” after prophesying the issue of the idolatry introduced by King Jeroboam—after the drying up and immediate restoration of that king’s hand—after the rending in twain of the sacrificial altar,—being on account of these signs invited (home) by the king by way of recompense, plainly declined (for he had been prohibited by God) to touch food at all in that place; but having presently afterwards rashly taken food from another old man, who lyingly professed himself a prophet, he was deprived, in accordance with the word of God then and there uttered over the table, of burial in his fathers’ sepulchres.  For he was prostrated by the rushing of a lion upon him in the way, and was buried among strangers; and thus paid the penalty of his breach of fast.11141114    See 1 Kings (in LXX. and Vulg. 3 Kings) xiii.

These will be warnings both to people and to bishops, even spiritual ones, in case they may ever have been guilty of incontinence of appetite.  Nay, even in Hades the admonition has not ceased to speak; where we find in the person of the rich feaster, convivialities tortured; in that of the pauper, fasts refreshed; having—(as convivialities and fasts alike had)—as preceptors “Moses and the prophets.”11151115    Luke xvi. 19–31.  For Joel withal exclaimed:  “Sanctify a fast, and a religious service;”11161116    Joel ii. 15. foreseeing even then that other apostles and prophets would sanction fasts, and would preach observances of special service to God.  Whence it is that even they who court their idols by dressing them, and by adorning them in their sanctuary, and by saluting them at each particular hour, are said to do them service.  But, more than that, the heathens recognise every form of ταπεινοφρόνησις.  When the heaven is rigid and the year arid, barefooted processions are enjoined by public proclamation; the magistrates lay aside their purple, reverse the fasces, utter prayer, offer a victim.  There are, moreover, some colonies where, besides (these extraordinary solemnities, the inhabitants), by an annual rite, clad in sackcloth and besprent with ashes, present a suppliant importunity to their idols, (while) baths and shops are kept shut till the ninth hour.  They have one single fire in public—on the altars; no water even in their platters.  There is, I believe, a Ninevitan suspension of business!  A Jewish fast, at all events, is universally celebrated; while, neglecting the temples, throughout all the shore, in every open place, they continue long to send prayer up to heaven.  And, albeit by the dress and ornamentation of mourning they disgrace the duty, still they do affect a faith in abstinence, and sigh for the arrival of the long-lingering evening star to sanction (their feeding).  But it is enough for me that you, by heaping blasphemies upon our xerophagies, put them on a level with the chastity of an Isis and a Cybele.  I admit the comparison in the way of evidence.  Hence (our xerophagy) will be proved divine, which the devil, the emulator of things divine, imitates.  It is out of truth that falsehood is built; out of religion that superstition is compacted.  Hence you are more irreligious, in proportion as a heathen is more conformable.  He, in short, sacrifices his appetite to an idol-god; you to (the true) God will not.  For to you your belly is god, and your lungs a temple, and your paunch a sacrificial altar, and your cook the priest, and your fragrant smell the Holy Spirit, and your condiments spiritual gifts, and your belching prophecy.


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