The Physical Tendencies of Fasting and Feeding Considered the Cases of Moses and Elijah.
Now, if there has been temerity in our retracing to primordial experiences the reasons for God's having laid, and our duty (for the sake of God) to lay, restrictions upon food, let us consult common conscience. Nature herself will plainly tell with what qualities she is ever wont to find us endowed when she sets us, before taking food and drink, with our saliva still in a virgin state, to the transaction of matters, by the sense especially whereby things divine are handled; whether (it be not) with a mind much more vigorous, with a heart much more alive, than when that whole habitation of our interior man, stuffed with meats, inundated with wines, fermenting for the purpose of excremental secretion, is already being turned into a premeditatory of privies, (a premeditatory) where, plainly, nothing is so proximately supersequent as the savouring of lasciviousness. "The people did eat and drink, and they arose to play." [1032] Understand the modest language of Holy Scripture: "play," unless it had been immodest, it would not have reprehended. On the other hand, how many are there who are mindful of religion, when the seats of the memory are occupied, the limbs of wisdom impeded? No one will suitably, fitly, usefully, remember God at that time when it is customary for a man to forget his own self. All discipline food either slays or else wounds. I am a liar, if the Lord Himself, when upbraiding Israel with forgetfulness, does not impute the cause to "fulness:" "(My) beloved is waxen thick, and fat, and distent, and hath quite forsaken God, who made him, and hath gone away from the Lord his Saviour." [1033] In short, in the self-same Deuteronomy, when bidding precaution to be taken against the self-same cause, He says: "Lest, when thou shalt have eaten, and drunken, and built excellent houses, thy sheep and oxen being multiplied, and (thy) silver and gold, thy heart be elated, and thou be forgetful of the Lord thy God." [1034] To the corrupting power of riches He made the enormity of edacity antecedent, for which riches themselves are the procuring agents. [1035] Through them, to wit, had "the heart of the People been made thick, lest they should see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and understand with a heart" [1036] obstructed by the "fats" of which He had expressly forbidden the eating, [1037] teaching man not to be studious of the stomach. [1038]

On the other hand, he whose "heart" was habitually found "lifted up" [1039] rather than fattened up, who in forty days and as many nights maintained a fast above the power of human nature, while spiritual faith subministered strength (to his body), [1040] both saw with his eyes God's glory, and heard with his ears God's voice, and understood with his heart God's law: while He taught him even then (by experience) that man liveth not upon bread alone, but upon every word of God; in that the People, though fatter than he, could not constantly contemplate even Moses himself, fed as he had been upon God, nor his leanness, sated as it had been with His glory! [1041] Deservedly, therefore, even while in the flesh, did the Lord show Himself to him, the colleague of His own fasts, no less than to Elijah. [1042] For Elijah withal had, by this fact primarily, that he had imprecated a famine, [1043] already sufficiently devoted himself to fasts: "The Lord liveth," he said, "before whom I am standing in His sight, if there shall be dew in these years, and rain-shower." [1044] Subsequently, fleeing from threatening Jezebel, after one single (meal of) food and drink, which he had found on being awakened by an angel, he too himself, in a space of forty days and nights, his belly empty, his mouth dry, arrived at Mount Horeb; where, when he had made a cave his inn, with how familiar a meeting with God was he received! [1045] "What (doest) thou, Elijah, here?" [1046] Much more friendly was this voice than, "Adam, where art thou?" [1047] For the latter voice was uttering a threat to a fed man, the former soothing a fasting one. Such is the prerogative of circumscribed food, that it makes God tent-fellow [1048] with man -- peer, in truth, with peer! For if the eternal God will not hunger, as He testifies through Isaiah, [1049] this will be the time for man to be made equal with God, when he lives without food.


[1032] Comp. 1 1 Corinthians 10:7 with Exodus 32:6.

[1033] See Deuteronomy 32:15.

[1034] See Deuteronomy 8:12-14.

[1035] Comp. Ecclesiastes 6:7; Proverbs 16:26. (The LXX. render the latter quotation very differently from the Eng. ver. or the Vulg.)

[1036] See Isaiah 6:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26, 27.

[1037] See Leviticus 3:17.

[1038] See Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4.

[1039] See Psalm 86:4 (in LXX. lxxxv. 4); Lamentations 3:41 (in LXX. iii. 40).

[1040] Twice over. See Exodus 24:18 and xxxiv. 28; Deuteronomy 9:11, 25.

[1041] See Exodus 33:18, 19, with xxxiv. 4-9, 29-35.

[1042] See Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13; Luke 9:28-36.

[1043] See James 5:17.

[1044] See 1 Kings 17:1 (in LXX. 3 Kings ib.).

[1045] See 1 Kings 19:1-8. But he took two meals: see vers. 6, 7, 8.

[1046] Vers. 9, 13.

[1047] Genesis 3:9 (in LXX.).

[1048] Comp. Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33.

[1049] See Psalm 40:28 in LXX. In E.V., "fainteth not."

chapter v proceeding to the history
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