Meat’s Offered to Idols, George Gillespie, Disputation Against the English Popish Ceremonies, 1645

I decided to repost Gillespie’s discourse on Meat’s Offered to Idols by itself. It is one of the best treatments on the Meat’s Offered to Idol portion of Apostle Paul’s writings… This portion of Scripture has been abused for WAY too long….

On Meats Offered to Idols Discourse

Pgs. 68 – 71

“The proposition thus explained is confirmed by these five proofs: 1. God’s own precept, – “Ye shall defile also the covering of they graven images of silver, and the ornaments of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth, thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence,” Isa. Xxx. 22. The covering of the idol here spoken of, Gasper Sanctus rightly understandth to be that, quo aut induebantur simulaera Gentilico ritu, aut bracteuas quibus lignece imaginea integantur, aut quo homines idolis sacrificaturi amiciebantur; so that the least appurtenances of idols are to be avoided. When the apostle Jude would have us to hate garments spotted with the flesh, his meaning is, detestandam esscvel superficiem ipsaus mali sive peccati, quam tuniece appellatione subiumuere videtur, as our own. Rolloke hath observed, If the very covering of an idol be forbidden, what shall be thought of other things which are not only spotted, but irrecoverably polluted with idols? Many such precepts were given to Israel, as “Ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves,” Exod. Xxxiv. 13, “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver nor gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein; for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God,” Deut. Vii. 25, 26. Read to the same purpose, Num. Xxxiii. 53; Deut. Vii. 5; xii. 2, 3.

Secondly, God hath not only by his precepts commanded us to abolish all the relics of idolatry, but by his promises also manifested unto us how acceptable service this should be to him. There is a command “That the Israelites should destroy the Canaanites,” Num. Xxxiii. 52, evertantque res omens idololatricas ipsorum eui mandato, saith Junius, subjicitur sua promissio, namely, that the Lord would give them the promised land, and they should dispossess the inhabitants thereof, ver. 53; yeah, there is a promise of remission and reconciliation to this work: “By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged and this is all the fruit to take away his sin when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalk-stones that are beaten asunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.” Isa. Xxvii. 9.

Thirdly, the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira are reproved for suffering the use of idolothies, Rev. ii. 14-20, where the eating of things sacrifices to idols is condemned as idolatry and spiritual adultery, as Perkins noteth. Paybody, therefore, is greatly mistaken when he thinks that meats sacrifices to idols, being the good creatures of God, were allowed by the Lord, out of the case of scandal, notwithstanding of idolatrous pollution; for the eating of things sacrificed to idols is reproved as idolatry, Rev. ii; and the eating of such things is condemned as a fellowship with devils, 1 Cor. x. 20. Now idolatry and fellowship with devils, I suppose, are unlawful, though no scandal should follow upon them. And whereas he thinks meats sacrificed to idols to be lawful enough out of the case of scandal, for this reason, because they are the good creatures of God, he should have considered better the Apostle’s mind conerning such Idolothites; which Zanehius seteth down thus: Verum est, per se haec nihil sunt, sed, respectu eoerum quibus immolantur aliquid sunt; quia per haecillis quibus immolantur, nos consoeiamur. Qui isti? Daemones. For our better understanding of this matter, we must distinguish two sorts of idolothites, both which we find, 1. Cor. x. Of the one, the Apostle speaks from the 14th verse of that chapter to the 23d; of the other, from the 23d verse to the end. This is Beza’s distinction in his Annotations on that chapter. Of the first sort, he delivers the Apostle’s mind thus: That as Christians have their holy banquets, which hare badges of their communion both of Christ and among themselves; and as the Israelites, by their sacrifices, did seal their copulation in the same religion, so also idolaters, cum suisidolis aut potius daemonibus, solemnibusillis epulis copulantur. So that this sort of idolothites were eaten in temples, and public solemn lanquets, which were dedicated to the honour of idols, 1 Cor. Viii. 10. Cartwright showeth that the Apostle is comparing the table of the Lord with the table of idolaters; whereupon it followeth, that as we use the Lord’s table religiously, so that table of idolaters of which the Apostle speaketh, had stat in the idolatrous worship like that feast, Num. Xxv.3; quod in honorem falsorum Deorum celebrabatur, saith Calvin

This first sort of idolothities Pareus calls the sacrifices of idols; and from such, he saith, the Apostle dissuadeth by this argument, Partcipare epulis idolorum, est idololatria. Of the second sort of Idolothites, the Apostle begins to speak in ver. 23. The Corinthians moved a question, Whether they might lawfully eat things sacrificed to idols? In privatis conviviis, saith Pareus. The Apostle resolves them that domi in primvato convictu, they might eat them, except it were in the case of scandal; thus Beza. The first sort of idolothites are meant of Rev. ii., as Beza there noteth; and of this sort must we understand Augustine to mean whilst he saith, that it were better mori fame, quam idolothites vesci. These sorts are simply and in themselves unlawful, then much more such things and rites as have not only been sacrificed and destinated to the honour of idols (for this is but one kind of idolatrous abuse), but also of a long time publicly and solemnly employed in the worshipping of idols, and deeply defiled with idolatry, much more, I say, are they unlawful to be applied to God’s most pure and holy worship, and therein used by us publicly and solemnly, so that the world may see us conforming and joining ourselves unto idolaters.

Fourthly, I fortify my proposition by approved examples; and, first, we find that Jacob, Gen. Xxxv. 4, did not only abolish out of his house the idols, but their ear-rings also, because they were superstitionis insignia, as Calvin; res ad idolatriam pertinentes, as Junius; monilia idolis consecrata, as Pareus calleth them; all writing upon that place. We have also the example of Elijah, 1 Kings xviii. 30: he would by no means offer upon Baal’s altar, but would needs repair the Lord’s altar, though this should hold the people longer in expectation. This he did, in P. Martyr’s judgment, because he thought it a great indignity to offer sacrifice to the Lord upon the altar of Baal; whereupon Martyr reprehendeth those who, in administering the true supper of the Lord, uti velint Papisticis vestibus et instrumentis. Further, we have the example of Jehu, who is commended for the destroying of Baal out of Israel, with his image, his house, and his very vestments, 2 Kings x. 22-28. And what example more considerable than that of Hezekiah, who not only abolished such monuments of idolatry as at their first institution were but men’s invention, but break down also the brazen serpent (though originally set up at God’s own command), when once he saw it abused to idolatry? 2 Kings xvii. 4. This deed of Hezekiah Pope Steven doth greatly praise, and professeth that it is set before us for our imitation, that when our predecessors have wrought some things which might have been without fault in their time, and afterward they are converted into error and superstition, they may be quickly destroyed by us who come after them. Farellus saith, that princes and magistrates should learn by this example of Hezekiah what they should do with those significant rites of men’s devising which have turned to superstition. Yea, the Bishop of Winchester acknowledgeth, that whatsoever is taken up at the injunction of men, when it is drawn to superstition, cometh under the compass of the brazen serpent, and is to be abolished; and he excepteth nothing from this example but only things of God’s own prescribing. Moreover, we have example of good Josiah, 2 Kings xxiii., for he did not only destroy the houses, and the high places of Baal, but his vessels also, and his grove, and his altars; yeaj, the horses and chariots which had been given o the sun. The example also of penitent Manasseh, who not only overthrew the strange gods, but their altars too, 2 Chron. Xxxiii. 15. And of Moses, the man of God, who was not content to execute vengeance on the idolatrous Israelites, except he should also utterly destroy the monuments of their idolatry, Exod. Xxxii. 17-20. Lastly, we have the example of Daniel, who would not defile himself with a portion of the king’s meat, Dan. I. 8; because saith Junius, it was converted in usum idololatricum; for at the banquets of the Babylonians and other Gentiles, erant proaemessa sive praemissa, quae diis praemittebantur, they used to consecreate their meat and drink to idols upon the same, so that their meat and drink fell under the prohibition of idolothites. This is the reason which is given by the most of the interpreters for Daniel’s fearing to pollute himself with the king’s meat and wine; and it is hath also approbation of a Papist.

Fifthly, Our proposition is backed with a twofold reason, for things which have been notoriously abused to idolatry should be abolished: 1. Quia Monent. Quia movent. First then, they are monitory, and preserve the memory of idols; monumentum in good things is both moniumentum and munimentum; but monumentum in evil things (such as idolatry) is only moniumentum, which monet mentem, to remember upon such things as ought not to be once named among saints, but should lie buried in the eternal darkness of silent oblivion. Those relics therefore of idolatry, quibus quasi monumentis posteritas admoneatur (as Wolphius rightly saith), are to be quite defaced and destroyed, because they serve to honour the memory of cursed idols. God would not have so much as the name of an idol to be remembered among his people, but commanded to destroy their names as well as themselves, Exod. Xxiii. 13; Deut. Xii. 3; Josh. Xxiii. 7; whereby we are admonished, as Calvin saith, how destestable idolatry is before God, cujus memoriam vult penitus deleri, he posthac ullum ejus vestigium appareat: yeah, he requreth, corum omnium memoriam deleri, quae semeldieata sunt idolis. If Morecai would not give his countenance, Esth.. iii. 2, nor do any reverence to a living monument of that nation whose name God had ordained to be blotted out from under the heaven, much less should we give connivance, and far less countenance, but least of all reverence, Deut. Xxv. 19, to the head and dumb monuments of those idols which God hath devoted to utter destruction, with all their naughty appurtenances, so that he will not have their names to be once mentioned or remembered again. But, secondly, movent too; such idolothous remainders move us to turn back to idolatry. For usu compertum habemus, superstitiones etiam postquam explosae essent, si qua relicta fuissent earum monumenta, cum memoriam sui ipsarum apud homines, tum id tandem ut revocerantur obtinuisse, saith Wolphius, who hereupon thinkgs it behoveful to destroy funditus such vestiges of superstition for this cause, if there were no more: ut et aspirantibus ad revocandam idololatriam spes frangatur, et res novas molientibus ansa pariter ac materia praeripiatur. God would have Israel to overthrow all idolatrous monuments, lest thereby they should be snared, Deut. Vii. 25; xii. 30. And if the law command to cover a pit, lest an ox or an ass should fall therein, Exod. Xxi. 23, shall we suffer a pit to be open wherein the precious souls of men and women, which all the world cannot ransom, are likely to fall? Did God command to make a battlement for the roof of a house, and that for the safety of men’s bodies, Deut. Xxii. 8, and shall we not only not put up a battlement, or object some bar for the safety of men’s souls, but also leave the way slippery and full of snares? Read we not that the Lord, who knew what was in man, and saw how propense he was to idolatry, did not only remove out of his people’s way all such things as might any allure or entice them to idolatry (even to the cutting off the names of the idols out of the land, Zech. Xiii. 2), but also hedge up their way with thorns that they might not find their paths, nor overtake their idol gods when they should seek after them? Hos. Ii, 6, 7. And shall we by the very contrary course not only hedge up the way of idolatry with thorns, which may stop and stay such as have an inclination aiming forward, but also lay before them inciting and enticing occasions which add to their own propension, such delectation as spurreth forward with a swift facility?

Thus, having both explained and confirmed the proposition of our present argument, …”

Extended Portion George Gillespie’s Treatise on ‘Meat’s Offered to Idols’, Disputation Against the English Poplish Ceremonies, 1645


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