The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Latimer on food and drink

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When Hugh Latimer spoke, he spoke forcefully. His sermons cover many topics, not all of them connected to the text that he takes, but almost invariably full of good matter. What follows is taken from his “sixth sermon, preached on the first Sunday in Advent, 1552” on Romans 13.8-9 (“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”). In the course of the sermon he touches on Romans 14.17, and begins to deal with the matter of gluttony, and deals a little tangentially with the matter of “eating and drinking,” offering to his congregation some “hedges” to put about their consumption, some guides and guards to prevent sin in eating and drinking. Firstly, he says, we should not eat raw and/or human flesh; secondly, we should only eat what belongs to us (it must not be stolen food).

When I hit the third hedge, I was struck in my own conscience, as well as with regard to the attitude of the society to which I belong. I read yesterday that one in four people in the UK is considered to be obese (not sure what the measure is), and that the proportion is expected to rise to one in two within a generation or so. Whether or not those figures and projections are accurate, I think it fair to say that the modern West is not exactly exemplary with regard to self-control and righteous moderation in the matter of food and drink. Latimer offers a pretty straightforward corrective:

Now then ye will say, “So it be my own, then I may eat of it as much as I will.” No, not so; there is another hedge. I may not commit gluttony with my own meat; for so it is written, Attendite vobia a crapula et ebrietate, “Take heed of gluttony and drunkenness.” Here is a hedge; we may not eat too much; for when we do, we displease God highly. So ye see that we may not eat of our own meat as much as we would, but rather we must keep a measure; for it is a great sin to abuse or waste the gifts of God, and to play the glutton with it. When one man consumeth as much as would serve three or four, that is an abominable thing before God; for God giveth us his creatures, not to abuse them, but to use them to our necessity and need. Let every one, therefore, have a measure, and let no man abuse the gifts of God. One man sometimes eateth more than another; we are not all alike: but for all that we ought to keep us within this hedge; that is, to take no more than sufficeth our nature; for they that abuse the gifts of God, no doubt they greatly displease God by so doing. For it is an ill-favoured thing, when a man eateth or drinketh too much at a time. Sometimes, indeed, it happeneth that a man drinketh too much; but every good and godly man will take heed to himself; when he once hath taken too much he will beware afterward. We read in scripture of Noah, that good man, which was the first that planted vineyards after the flood; he was once drunken, before he knew the strength and the nature of wine, and so lay in the tent uncovered. Now one of his sons, whose name was Cham, seeing his father lying naked, went and told his brethren of it, and so made a mocking-stock of his father. Therefore Noah, when he arose and had digested his wine, and knowing what his son had done unto him, cursed him: but we read not that Noah was drunken afterward at any time more. Therefore if ye have been drunken at any time, take heed henceforward, and leave off; abuse not the good creatures of God.

There are always opportunities for us to over-indulge, and the season of feasting is almost upon us, whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas. Let us heed Latimer’s counsel. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 28 October 2011 at 11:00

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