Scripture Imagery: 86. Israel's Diet, the Swine, the Hare

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It appears somewhat strange that Keshub Chunder Sen's religion of Yoga has not been more successful than at present seems to be the case, for it has in it every element of popularity. The only way of accounting for its failure is in recognizing the truth of what Talleyrand cynically said to the founder of Theophilanthropy, when the latter was bewailing the poor reception which the public were giving to his invention. It is very hard indeed to make a new religion popular. If one however could perpetually preach it, deny oneself all rest and comfort, be put to death and rise again to establish it, it might eventually succeed; but otherwise 'tis poor work. The fact is that people—with the exception of a few, like the hare-brained Athenians, always looking for some new thing, and a few professional skeptics (who have generally credulity enough to believe almost anything, have we not lately seen a leading atheistic teacher become a believer in Madame Blavatsky's Theosophic “miracles”?) — the fact is that the bulk of people are very reluctant to accept a new Faith: otherwise Chunder Sen's Yoga1 would have had a world-wide acceptance, for it fits human nature to perfection. It consists in selecting the fancy bits out of the other religious systems (rejecting the rest), and joining them neatly together, for all the world like a patch-work quilt, though perhaps hardly so useful.
Now these remarks apply to such passages as the eleventh chapter of Leviticus, where certain prohibitions and restraints are announced to the Israelites as to diet and other matters. For we see round us those who take portions of the Jewish religion, who put themselves nominally under the Jewish law, keep the Jewish feasts, and ceremonials, and appropriate the Jewish promises: but do we ever see a single person abstaining from the meats forbidden to the Jews, or submitting to those restraints which are inconvenient?
For instance we ask, “Why do you follow the lines of worship ordained for the Jews, and appropriate the Jewish feasts, ceremonies, and promises?”
“ Because it is thus commanded in the Scriptures.”
“ Commanded to the Jews, yes. They are also commanded to offer animals in sacrifice, not to eat pork, nor to light fires on the Sabbath. Do you also obey these commands? “
“ No, all that is different.”
“ Ah, that is different. You think then that you are at liberty to take what you like and leave what you don't like. So did Chunder Sen. Yoga? I am afraid that will not do.”
These directions respecting food were given to the Jews, firstly, in order to make a distinction between them and all other peoples, for at that period God had an object in secluding His own people that they might have a fair trial by being kept from mingling with other nations and their contaminations. Now, however, the people of God are sent out amongst the peoples of the world to disseminate their principles and are to be distinguished not by outward actions or garb, but by what is inward and spiritual. Therefore what was physical with the Jews becomes typical to the Christians.
Now there is perhaps nothing that has so much effect for good or bad on human beings as what they consume for the nourishment of the body, and appropriate for the nourishment of the soul. A foul-eating people will be in most ways physically foul, and a foul-thinking man will be in most ways spiritually unclean. Consequently all that the Jews took into the body by eating, must be cleanly, and all that the Christian takes into the soul should be pure. Some think it strange that the Hebrews' God should concern Himself about the details of their diet. It would be still stranger if He did not; if He allowed those whom He called His peculiar people to eat such loathsome food as was then common, or even such as so civilized a people as the Chinese now esteem delicacies, rats, birds' nests, dogs, and lizards; whilst others eat infinitely worse.
Appetite is a matter primarily of inherent tendency and though, to be sure, it may be trained by custom and restrained by such directions as these before us, yet the great principle that develops itself in the passage before us is this, —the difference in the natures of beings: where there is any being with an unclean nature, it forever remains so unless it have a new nature. In the Hindoo fable the dove flies down to the marsh and seeks to enchant the crane, which is eating snails, by recounting the beauties of paradise. At length the crane draws its beak out of the mud and inquires whether there are any snails there. The dove is afraid there are not. At least has never noticed them. Whereat the crane buries again its beak in the mud with an air that implies that the conversation is irrelevant and intrusive. Heaven itself were hell to the crane without snails.
As to Israel, almost the whole natural realm— I the earth, the air, the sea—was at their disposal for food, but there were certain restrictions. The forbidden things were in general things unwholesome or unsafe for that climate: that is natural and very obvious. But all these things were given to them for ensamples and are typical in many ways. For instance, taking them as types of natures or characters, to be clean an animal required the foot divided—that is, the principle of separation in the “walk” or general conduct, for there is evil in the earth, the foot must not sink into it. But this feature by itself a swine may have, and this principle without the chewing of the cud only produces the ascetic or pharisee—a hard, rigid, uncomfortable, God-forsaken, religiousness, whose highest reach of piety consists in, “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men.” On the other hand, the camel or hare, which chews the cud but does not divide the hoof, is equally to be rejected, though perhaps it is not entirely so objectionable. This indicates a nature that eats spiritual food—that which is unseen is spiritual—and food that has been dead but is now alive again in resurrection (i.e., grass or grain, whereas the carnivora only feed on what is dead), but at the same time a nature which has no principle of stability and separation in its walk.
Such natures as these can charm with their apprehension of the highest spiritual themes while their lives are low and unworthy. Balaam was such an one. How lofty the flight of his spiritual emotions; how base his cunning and avaricious. life. The pathos of Lawrence Sterne over the caged bird and the dead donkey has drawn tears from thousands who perhaps would have been touched only with contempt did they know of the cruelty with which the writer neglected his own wife and home; yet his sermon on conscience is one of the finest things I ever read. In Bunyan, Christian and Faithful are met by “a tall man more comely at a distance than at hand.” This man is extremely fluent on spiritual matters and quite charms Faithful with his fine discourse. Christian however is not so much enamored. He says that the man's name is Talkative, and that “notwithstanding his fine tongue he is but a sorry fellow.” Faithful replies, “Well, he seems to be a very pretty man;” whereon Christian says, “That is to them that have not a thorough acquaintance with him, for he is best abroad; near home he is ugly enough... all he hath lieth in his tongue.” Faithful then says this reminds him of Lev. 11 and Deut. 14. “The hare cheweth the cud, but yet is unclean, because he parteth not the hoof.” And this truly resembleth Talkative: he cheweth the cud, he seeketh knowledge; he cheweth upon the word, but he divideth not the hoof. He parteth not with the way of sinners.” “You have spoken,” says Christian, “for aught I know, the true gospel sense of those texts.”
And for aught I know, too.