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Godliness in Eating and Drinking

George Swinnock, typically Puritan, wrote at great length on the godly treatment of holy things. Now he turns his attention to How a Christian may exercise himself to godliness in natural actions, beginning with eating and drinking.


As thy duty is to make religion thy business in religious, so also in natural actions. A good scrivener is not only careful how he makes his first and great letters, his flourishes, but also the smallest letters, nay, his very stops and commas. A scribe instructed for the kingdom of heaven, is heedful not only that the weightiest actions of God’s immediate worship, but also that the meaner passages of his life, be conformable to God’s law. A wise builder will make his kitchen as well as his parlour according to rule. A holy person turns his natural actions into spiritual, and whilst he is serving his body he is serving his God. It is said of a Scotch divine, that he did eat, drink, and sleep eternal life. Luther tells, that though he did not always pray and meditate, but did sometimes eat, and sometimes drink, and sometimes sleep, yet all should further his account; the latter as truly, though not so abundantly, as the former. And indeed it is our privilege that natural actions may be adopted into the family of religion, and we may worship God as really at our tables as in his temple.

Saints must not, like brute beasts, content themselves with a natural use of the creatures, but use them as chariots to mount them nearer, and cords to bind them closer to God. Piety or holiness to the Lord must be written upon their pots, Zech. xiv. 20. ‘Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,’ 1 Cor. x. 31. Philo observeth that the ancient Jews made their feasts after sacrifice in the temple, that the place might mind them of their duty to be pious at them. It is a memorable expression, ‘And Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God,’ Exod. xviii. 12. In which words we have the greatness of their courtesy, and the graciousness of their carriage. For their courtesy, though Jethro were a stranger, and no Israelite, yet the elders honoured him with their company. And Aaron and all the elders came to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law. But mark the graciousness of their carriage, they came to eat bread with him before God ; that is, In gloriam et honorem Dei, to the honour and glory of God, saith Calvin. They received their sustenance, as in God’s sight, and caused their provision to tend to God’s praise.

God takes it ill when we sit down to table and leave him out, Zech. vii. 6, ‘When ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? ‘He sends us in all our food, we live at his cost; and therefore our eating may well be to his credit who is the master of the feast.

—George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:260–261

Posted 2014·09·08 by David Kjos
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Posted in: George Swinnock · Godliness · Soli Deo Gloria · The Christian Man’s Calling · Works of George Swinnock

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