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law of God, according to those corrupt teachers, lost its power to command obedience, when the oath by corban happened to be in opposition. Thus, if a man swore by corban that he would not help or relieve his parents, they taught that he was not bound by the divine law. This is the express doctrine of their talmud. Every one ought to honour his father and his mother, except he has vowed the contrary; and it is well known that the Jews often did, by solemn vows and oaths, bind themselves never to do good to the persons they named. An execration, or conditional curse, was also annexed to their oaths, which was sometimes expressed in this manner : “ If I do not 80, then the Lord do so to me, and more also.” Sometimes the execration is understood, as in the declaration of Abraham to the king of Sodom: “ I have sworn, if I take from a thread to a shoe-latchet;" supply the execration, then let the Lord do so to me, and more also.” The Psalmist uses the same el. liptical phrase; “ If they shall enter into my rest:" that is, “ I have sworn that they shail not enter into my rest.” These remarks enable us to give a clear and satisfactory exposition of that difficult passage in the gospel of Matthew: “But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me." By the oath corban, if thou receive any benefit from me, then let God do so to me, and more also; or more simply, I swear by corban, (the gift of the altar) that thou shalt have no benefit from me. This exposition is equally agreeable to the scope of the passage, and to their form of swearing ; and shews, in a very plain and convincing way, how the Jews made void the law of God by their traditions. The divine command is, “ Honour thy father and thy mother;" help them in their need, relieve them in their want; but the scribes and Pharisees said, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, that asked his assistance, By corban thou shalt receive no gift from me, he was free from the commanding power of the law.
The ancients commonly ratified their federal engagements VOL. II.
by the blood' of a sacrifice; when they cut the victim into two parts, placing each half upon an altar, and causing the contracting parties to pass between the pieces, to intimate that so should they be cut asunder, who violated the agreement.
In this manner was the covenant ratified, which God made with Abram and his family. And he said unto him, “ Take me an heifer of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another, but the birds divided he not And it came to pass that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, be hold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp, that passed between those pieces *.” Such were the awful symbols by which the Supreme Being was graciously pleased to pledge his veracity, for the accomplishment of his promise to the patriarch and his posterity: “ In the same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." The same awful ceremonies were observed by the people of Israel at the renovation of this covenant; for the prophet Jeremiah threatened, in the name of the Lord, “I will give the men who have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof. The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calft." From this rite proceeded the phrase so common in the Old Testament Scriptures, “to cut a covenant.” Several traces of this mode of ratifying a covenant, have been discovered in the customs of different nations, in all probability the remains of that ancient and divinely appointed observance recorded in the history of Abraham. Homer has the expression, of which the reference cannot easily be mistaken, Ορχια πιτα ταμοντες και * Gen, xyi, 9. x. 17. Matth. xv. 5. + Jer, xxxiv. 18. I II. b. 2. 1. 124.
having cut faithful oaths;" which Eustathius explains, by saying, “ They were oaths relating to important matters, and were made by the division of the victim." Virgil alludes to the same practice in these lines :
Jovis ante aras paterasque tenentes Stabant et cæsa jungebant foedera porca.” Æn. 2. l. 640. “ The princes, sheathed in armour, and with the sacred goblets in their hands, stood before the altars of Jove, and having sacrificed a sow, concluded a league." And Agamemnon, to confirm his oath to Achilles, divided a victim in the midst, placed the pieces opposite to each other, and holding his sword reeking with the blood of the victim, passed between the separated pieces *
The orientals were accustomed also to ratify their federal engagements by salt. This substance was, among the ancients, the emblem of friendship and fidelity, and therefore used in all their sacrifices and covenants. An agreement, thus ratified, is called in Scripture, “a covenant of salt." The obligation which this symbol imposes on the mind of an oriental, is well illustrated by the Baron du Tott in the following anecdote: One who was desirous of his acquaintance, promised in a short time to return. The baron had already attended him half way down the staircase, when stopping, and turning briskly to one of his domestics, Bring me directly, said he, some bread and salt. What he requested was brought; when, taking a little salt between his fingers, and putting it with a mysterious air on a bit of bread, he eat it with a devout gravity, assuring du Tott he might now rely on him. The Greeks and Romans uniformly sprinkled the head of the victim which was ready to be offered in sacrifice, with a salt cake, or with bran or meal, mixed with salt. Thus, in Virgil, the crafty Greek harangued the Trojans: “For me the sacred rites were prepared, and the salted cake and fillets to bind about my temples."
* Taylor's Calmet, vol. 3.
6 mihi sacra parari Et salsæ fruges, et circum tempora vittæ.” Æn 2. 1. 133. And when the Greeks, before Troy, sent back the daughter of Chryses with a hecatomb to appease the wrath of Apollo, the ambassadors, immediately after presenting the young lady to her father, placed the splendid sacrifice for the god, arranged in proper order before the altar; and having purified their hands in water, took up the salted cake:
Χερνιψαντο δ' απεισα και ουλοχυσας ανελoντο. Il. 1. l. 449. Another mode of ratification, was by presenting the party with some article of their own dress. The greatest honour which a king of Persia can bestow upon a subject, is to cause himself to be disrobed, and his habit given to the favoured individual. The custom was probably derived from the Jews; for when Jonathan made his covenant with David," he stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments; even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle * similar way, Julus, and the other Trojan chiefs, confirmed their solemn engagements to Nisus and Euryalus: “ Thus weeping over him, he speaks : at the same time divests his shoulders of his gilded sword-On Nisus Mnesthus bestows the skin and spoil of a grim shaggy lion ; trusty Alethes exchanges with him his helmet." This instance proves, that among the ancients, to part with one's girdle was a token of the greatest confidence and affection ; in some cases it was considered as an act of adoption. The savage tribes of North America, that are certainly of Asiatic origin, ratify their covenants and leagues in the same way; in token of perfect reconciliation, they present a belt of wampum.
Written obligations were cancelled in different ways; one was by blotting or drawing a line across them, and another by striking them through with a nail; in both cases the bond was rendered useless, and ceased to be valid. These customs the apostle applies to the death of Christ in his epistle to the con
1 Sam. xviii, 4.
lossians: “ Blotting out the hand writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross *.” A rod was sometimes broken, as a sign that the covenant into which they had entered was nullified. A trace of this ancient custom is still discernible in our own country; the lord steward of England, when he resigns his commission, breaks his wand of office, to denote the termination of his power. Agreeably to this practice, the prophet Zechariah broke the staves of beauty, and bands, thesymbols of God's covenant with ancient Israel, to shew them, that in consequence of their numerous and long continued iniquities, he withdrew his distinguishing favour, and no longer acknow. ledged them as his peculiar people. This is the exposition given by the prophet himself: " And I took my staff, even beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people; and it was broken in that day. Then I cut asunder my other staff, even bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel t."
ILLUSTRATIONS OF SCRIPTURE FROM THE VARIOUS MODES IN
WHICH THE ORIENTALS EXPRESSED THEIR RESPECT FOR
In no quarter of the world, is the difference of ranks in society maintained with more scrupulous exactness than in Asia. The intercourse among the various classes of mankind, which originate in the unequal distributions of creating wisdom,or providential
arrangement, is regulated by laws, which, like those of the Medes and Persians, suffer almost no change from the lapse of time, or the fluctuation of human affairs. To these laws, which
• Col. ii, 14.
of Zech, xi. 7