|Faith Strengthened||Chapter 15||Part 1|
Deuteronomy 14:3, "Thou shalt not eat any abomination." The Christians adduce against this passage one from Matthew 15:11, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth;" they consider us, therefore, in the wrong for not eating of unclean animals.
Refutation.—Independent of motives of economy, persons may refuse certain articles of food on different grounds. The food may be too expensive, and therefore, unsuitable to persons of a low condition; or it may be of too inferior a quality, and, therefore, unfit for a man in a high station of life. It is obvious that Christians will not argue, that the food of unclean animals is denied us on account of the luxuriousness of such nourishment, or the unworthiness of the Israelites, for Scripture inculcates the reverse, viz., that certain creatures are unclean, and that the Israelites are to be a holy nation. Hence, if Christians partake of food denominated unclean, they must consider themselves unholy. Our conclusion is borne out by Scripture, for we read in Leviticus 11:8, "they [certain animals] shall be unclean unto you." This implies, that they shall be forbidden to you Israelites, who are a holy nation, but not to you, the Gentiles, who have not been equally distinguished by the Almighty.
Of the same tenor is the admonition in Leviticus 11:43 and 44, "Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them that ye should be defiled thereby. For I am the Lord your God, ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves and ye shall be holy: for I am holy. Neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." See also Leviticus 20:25 and 26, "Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean; and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me; for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine." Also, Deuteronomy 14:1-3, "Ye are children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead, for thou art a holy nation unto the Lord thy God. And the Lord has chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself above all the nations that are upon the earth. Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing." This portion concludes with the words (verse 21), "Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself, thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates that he may eat it, or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God; thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk". These verses afford sufficient evidence, that such creatures, on account of their being unclean, were prohibited food to the Israelites, who are a holy people, designated the "children of the Lord." For unclean food defiles the body of him who eats of it; and a defiled body infects the soul. Now, a soul that is defiled will not be admitted into the sanctuary, that is to say, before the Divine presence, but will be deprived of a glorious future. The declaration of the revealed law, that unclean food defiles the body of the eater, at once overthrows the argument of the Christians, "that things entering the mouth do not defile a man, but only those proceeding from the mouth."
In what way can the opinion of the Gentiles, based on their Gospel, be reconciled with the various precepts regarding certain animals expressed in many parts of our Holy Writ? For instance, "Do not defile yourselves by them." "Ye shall be defiled though them." "Do not defile your souls by the creeping things," etc. All this must bring conviction, that unclean food doth defile both body and soul. Who then will venture to render lawful what God has forbidden, and annul His statutes? Moreover, if the founders of Christianity had considered it lawful for the Gentiles to partake of unclean food, why did they prescribe to them (in Acts 15:20), "to abstain from things strangled and from blood?" It ought also to be kept in mind, that Adam incurred punishment for transgressing a command which had been imparted to him only once. How much greater must the transgression be of those who venture to eat of unclean food which had been so repeatedly prohibited to them? Besides, we find great inconsistencies in this principle contained in the Books of Matthew and Mark ("That not what goeth into the mouth defiles," etc.), for many intoxicating drinks will doubtlessly defile when allowed to go down into the mouth of man in excess, while from the mouth of man come out the words of the living God, praises and thanksgivings to His glorious name, wise and moral maxims, and social converse for the interchange of ideas. All such utterance does not defile man; and he may through his words even deserve to be called a holy man.
As to our sacred Scripture, it gives the assurance, that, in times to come, even the Gentiles will abstain from eating blood and unclean and abominable food. See Zechariah 9:7, "And I shall remove his blood from his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth."