صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

strange manner, if they had not been required to do so by the declared will of God. But even suppose that the patriarchs had been so presumptuous as to invent or practice such bloody rites, it can never be admitted that God, who has, upon all occasions, testified his displeasure against the inventions of men in his worship, would have smiled upon such self-devised modes of adoration. Instead of testifying of their gifts, and accepting their burnt offerings, as he has done, would he not rather have upbraided them in the words of that well known reproof, "Who hath required these at your hands?" Isa. 1: 12.

9. What has been said to prove the divine authority of sacrifices, is summarily contained in the following extract: Whatever practice hath obtained universally in the world, must have obtained from some dictate of reason, or some demand of nature, or some principle of interest, or else from some powerful influence or injunction of some being of universal authority. Now, the practice of animal sacrifice did not obtain from reason; for no reasonable notions of God could teach men that he could delight in blood, or in the fat of slain beasts. Nor will any man say that we have any natural instinct to gratify in spilling the blood of an innocent creature. Nor could there be any temptation from appetite to do this in those ages when the whole sacrifice Avas consumed by fire; or when, if it was not, yet men wholly abstained from flesh; and consequently this practice did not owe its origin to any principle of interest. Nay, so far from any thing of this, that the destruction of innocent and useful creatures is evidently against nature, against reason, and against interest; and therefore must be founded in an authority whose influence was as powerful as the practice was universal; and that could be none but the authority of God, the Sovereign of the world; or of Adam, the founder of the human race, If it be said of Adam, the question still remains, what motive determined him to the practice? It could not be nature, reason, or interest, as has

been already shown; it must therefore have been the authority of his sovereign; and had Adam enjoined it on his posterity, it is not to be imagined that they would have obeyed him in so extraordinary and expensive a rite, from any other motive than the command of God." Delaney Rev. Exam. Diss. 8. p. 85.

I hope, my dear brother, what has already been stated will convince you that sacrifices are a divine institution, and not a human invention. Allow me, however, to confirm this all-important proposition by one or two more remarks.

§ 10. 1. Let us for a moment consider what is said in sacred writ concerning the sacrifice of Cain and Abel. Moses, our inspired historian, gives us the following account. "And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground, an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering: but unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect." Gen. 4: 2-6. From this brief account it appears that both Cain and Abel brought their offerings unto the Lord; that each offered of that which he had, according to his occupation; and that the sacrifice of Abel was accepted, but that of Cain was rejected. Now, as the actions of both brothers seem to have been the same, why the Lord should have accepted the one and rejected the other, no satisfactory reason can be given by those who deny the divine authority of sacrifices; for, as it has been observed, if sacrifices be considered as gifts, or as federal rites, or as symbolical actions expressing the dispositions and sentiment of the offerer, or in any way that human invention can be conceived to have devised them; the actions of the two brothers appear to stand precisely on the same ground, each bringing an offering of that which he respectively possessed, and each thus manifesting his acknowledgment and worship of the great Author of his possession.

But on the supposition that sacrifices were appointed by God, every difficulty vanishes, and all appears connected and satisfactory. We have already stated that it is more than probable that, immediately at the giving of the promise that "the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent," sacrifices were instituted to represent, by their death, the sufferings and death of the Messiah. Now, Abel, believing the design as well as the divine appointment of the institution, brought an animal sacrifice, which was accepted; but Cain, although performing the same act, but changing the matter and consequently disregarded the design, had his sacrifice rejected.

§ 11. Hence the inspired apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 11: v. 4, informs us that the ground on which Abel's oblation was preferred to that of Cain was, that Abel offered his in faith; and the criterion of this faith also appears to have been, in the opinion of this writer, the animal sacrifice. His words are these, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain," i. e. by faith Abel offered that which was of the true nature of sacrifice. Now, as the same apostle teaches us "that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," Rom, 10: 11, it is evident that Abel must have been acquainted with the nature and design of the institution of sacrifices, for without some assurance held as the object of faith, he could not have exercised this virtue; and without some peculiar mode of sacrifice enjoined, he could not have exemplified that faith by an appropriate offering. In opposition to those who consider sacrifices the effect of natural reason, it has been observed,

[ocr errors]

that the light of natural reason does not generate faith, but science; and when it fails of that, its offspring is absurdity. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,' and comes not by reasoning, but by hearing. What things then were they of which Abel had heard, for which he hoped, and in the faith of which he of fered sacrifice? Undoubtedly it was a restoration to that

immortality which was forfeited by the transgression of his parents. Of such redemption, an obscure intimation. had been given to Adam, in the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent; and it was doubtless to impress upon his mind, in more striking colors, the manner in which this was to be done, that bloody sacrifices were first instituted." Ency. Brit. Art. Sacris.

12. The diversity in the oblations of Cain and Abel, and their different reception, have been finely illustrated by a comparison with the parable in which our Lord represents the different devotions of a Pharisee and Publican, and their different successes. Abel, who, by sacrificing an animal, acknowledged his true character as a sinner, and evinced his faith and hope in the divine mercy by the appointed way of seeking forgiveness,-was accepted: while Cain, who contented himself with a eucharistic offering, and acknowledging his obligations as a creature, but regardless of his condition as a sinner, and neglecting the instituted means of seeking the divine mercy,-was rejected. So the Publican, with his confession of guilt, and supplication for pardon, "went down to his house justified, rather than" the Phari see, with his fastings, and tithes, and thanksgiving.

13. 2. That sacrifices are a divine institution, may be further argued from the distinction of clean and unclean animals being known before the flood. The first time we read of this distinction is in Gen. 7: 2, where God commanded Noah, saying, " of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female; and of beasts that are not clean, by two, the male and his female." Under the Mosaic dispensation there were two kinds of clean and unclean beasts. Some were clean for men to eat, mentioned, Lev. 11: 3, 4, and some were clean for sacrifice to God, Lev. 1: 2, 10, 14. Now, as it appears from Gen. 9: 3, that all beasts without distinction were allowed for food, the distinction mentioned in Gen. 7: 2, must therefore refer to sacrifices. Hence we read, that as soon as Noah came out of the ark he "build

ed an altar unto the Lord, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar, and the Lord smelled a sweet savor;" and as there is nothing in nature that constitutes this distinction, which depends wholly on the pleasure of Jehovah, it must require an express revelation. But in the command given unto Noah (Gen. 7: 2) no characteristics are mentioned to distinguish one from the other; it follows, hence, that he was well acquainted, not only with the duty of sacrificing as a religious rite divinely instituted, but also with their nature, properties, and design.

14. And now, my beloved Benjamin, having thus endeavored to prove that sacrifices are a divine institution, and coeval with the first promise of a Messiah, I shouia row proceed to point out their original design; but as this letter has already exceeded the usual limits, I will close it in the words of that eminent divine whose name has already frequently been mentioned: "It is obvious that the promise made to our first parents conveyed an intimation of some future deliverer, who should overcome the tempter that had drawn man from his innocence, and remove those evils which had been occasioned by the fall. This assurance, without which, or some other ground of hope, it seems difficult to conceive how the principle of religion could have had place among men, became to our first parents the grand object of faith. To perpetuate this fundamental article of religious belief among the descendants of Adam, some strik ing memorial of the fall of man and of the promised de liverance would naturally be appointed. What memorial could be devised more apposite than that of animal sacrifice?-exemplifying, by the slaying of the victim, the death which has been denounced against man's disobedience; thus exhibiting the awful lesson of that death which was the wages of sin, and at the same time representing that death which was actually to be undergone by the Redeemer of mankind; and hereby connecting, in one view, the two great

« السابقةمتابعة »