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1. There was the paramount object of withdrawing and withholding the people from idolatry; an object to be accomplished both by direct prohibition of practices belonging or leading to idol worship, and by regulations tending to break up all social intimacy between them and idolaters, such as should give opportunity for the exertion on them of hurtful personal influence. The fitness of regulations of the former class admits no enforcing. As to the latter, too, it is plain, that intimacies, which would expose the Jews to evil solicitation, could never exist between them and others with whom they could not reciprocate the offices of hospitality. From persons who eat and drink what we have been taught in childhood to abhor, we are likely to feel a strong alienation.
At all events, the man at whose table we may not sit, nor he at ours, will hardly acquire a strong hold on our minds. Nothing more than their difference in this class of practices tends to keep nations apart. * A principle so simple, so easy of application, yet so sure in its results, has not failed to be largely employed in the system, of which we are treating ; and the object had in view is expressly declared.t We read of at least one instance, in which, this separating wall being overleaped, idolatry actually and immediately followed.† And, on the other hand, the prescription of a diet, which, while it admitted of sufficient variety, was yet, within specified limits, the same, and the observance of which was a point of national honor and duty, was one means of binding the Israelites together in a closer union and sympathy.
2. Many of these regulations were to be regarded in a different point of view; that of Health Laws. The care of health is, unquestionably, for the individual, an obligation as near to a religious duty, as any which is not commonly enforced in that character. But, beside the danger of neglecting the duty, it is not every one, with the best intentions, who knows how to take that care; and the legislator, who should wisely and effectively direct the citizen in this respect, would deservedly be accounted a public benefactor. But all welladministered communities have been in the habit of applying their legislation to cases of epidemic and contagious disease; and it is with these, principally, at least, that the code of Moses concerns itself. Further; the situation of the people, whom he was ruling, created a peculiar exigency in this respect. As long as their wanderings in the wilderness lasted, the encampment was not only in the condition of a crowded garrison, but of a garrison without the secure shelter which permanent habitations afford. The most exact care was necessary to escape the unwholesome tendencies of such a situation. A violent epidemic disease, not arrested at its beginning, might prove the extirpation of the race. Nor were such laws merely designed, though they were peculiarly requisite, for immediate security. For, even when settled in Canaan, the Jews were still to be a very compact population, inhabiting a territory so small in proportion to their numbers, that every man's care of what would affect the general health became a matter of extreme interest to the rest.*
* Gen. xliii. 32.
† Lev. xx. 25, 26.
| Numb. xxv. 2, 3.
3. Habits of cleanliness, independently of their relation to physical health, have a very intimate connexion with civilization of manners, and refinement of mind; and herein, I apprehend, we are to remark a very subtile, ,
* I might add, that, if there be any thing in national tendencies, the filth which one sees in the lanes of the Jewish Ghettos in the cities of Europe, is an intimation that the fathers of the race needed to be subjects of a rigid legislation of this kind.
pervading, and efficient influence of the institutions of Moses. He had undertaken the management of a people, who had their self-respect and their mutual respect to learn; a people, who had been slaves longer than the Greeks of our own times; who, from the little that we know of their history, between the time of Jacob and the Exodus, appear to have known servitude under some of its circumstances of bitterest aggravation, and who, from what we see of their conduct, when emancipated, seem to have been broken down to a miserable pusillanimity; a people, who had yet to be taught the spirit and the forms of a generous and beneficial social intercourse. Accordingly, the legislation of Moses condescended to the task of first instituting, (in many particulars,) and then maintaining, the decencies of daily life. It went with the citizen to his labor, and his recreation, and his rest, and told him how to demean himself everywhere, so as to make a fit part of the one well-ordered community. If any reader is offended at the minuteness with which this is done, let him answer, whether first steps are not indispensable steps; whether any other can follow, till these have preceded; whether, if such particulars still remained unregulated, as the promulgation of the laws implies to have so remained, they did not absolutely require regulation.
Further; uniformity of customs is a necessary preliminary to a complete social amalgamation ; to the mutual good understanding, and sympathy, and respect of citizens making a community together. And, accordingly, general laws of the kind of which we are speaking were important to the individual, not only in respect to the formation of suitable personal habits, (which, perhaps, some other like arrangements might form as well,) but as bringing him into resemblance to others. And this leads me to say, that should we find
some of the regulations of this class to be based on what is, in our view, no better than an arbitrary connexion of what they enjoin with essential proprieties of personal observance and deportment, this is no objection whatever to their usefulness. Many such things, no doubt, are merely conventional, in every state of society. But education, and habit, and common consent, have formed a close association between them and delicacy of mind; so that he who neglects them defies and revolts others, and has a sense of grossness on his own part, as real as if, philosophically considered, his act had much more of that character. Refinement implies a degree of deference even to others' known prejudices, when those prejudices are not hurtful; still more, to the exactions of a judgment or taste, which both parties understand (even though it should be erroneously) to have a good foundation. And he who would lead on a community to civilization, can by no means do less than condemn the unnecessary act, whatever it be, which that community is agreed in accounting a violation of decorum.
4. Once more; by force of a system of rules of the kind we are considering, religious obligation was made to be a subject always present to the thoughts. The habit of regarding the divine will in whatever is done, is the distinctive habit of the religious mind. The precept to Christians is given in more general terms, suitable to the more advanced condition of those to whom it was addressed; “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” For the Jew, just emerging into a faint consciousness of his religious nature, much more was necessary than the mere inculcation of an abstract principle; and to him the Law, which followed him with its positive discriminations into all his daily business and enjoyments, was
a constant admonition of the religious relation in which he had been called to stand, and furnished the effectual discipline for the higher exercises of a virtue, which owns God's ever-present inspection and authority, and submits the whole life to his direction.*
From these preliminary remarks, I proceed to some particular statements and observations upon the class of rules under our notice.
The eleventh chapter, which introduces the subject of ritual impurities, specifies the prohibited and the permitted kinds of food. In respect to this distinction, we are carefully to bear in mind, that to declare an animal to be clean or unclean, was merely to pronounce it fit or unfit to be eaten. There was nothing contemptuous in the use of the epithet unclean, in this connexion. The horse and the lion were unclean animals. Man was the most unclean of all creatures, in the contemplation of this code; for no one would violate it in so odious a manner, as a cannibal.
Again; it would be a great mistake to suppose that unclean animals must be avoided. Many domestic animals were of this class ; for instance, the ass and the camel.
A clean animal, I repeat it, was an animal whose flesh an Israelite might lawfully eat; an unclean animal, one which he must not taste. In respect to this distinction, the directions of Moses are extremely precise. As to
* So says Justin Martyr, almost using the Apostle's own expression; Βρωμάτων τινών απέχεσθαι προσέταξεν υμίν, ίνα και εν τω έσθίειν και πίνειν προ οφθαλMür innti tàn Osóv. (Dialogus cum Tryphone, p. 237. Edit. Paris.)
† Aaron having now been inducted into his office, we read that “the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron,” (Lev. xi. 1,) instead of “the Lord spake unto Moses,” simply (iv. 1 ; v. 14; vi. 1, 8, 19, 24, &c.); and this language is sometimes afterwards repeated, where directions are given, which particularly concern the priesthood and its duties. See, e. g., xiii. 1; xv. 1.
# xi. 47.