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Containing an examination of the fact, Whether God and the offerers of sacrifices, did, or did not, eat together of these sacrifices.
TAM now to examine, whether God and the offerers of sacrifices did, or did not, eat together of these sacrifices; and, consequently, whether their eating together of them, was, or was not, a symbol of friendship betwixt them, and a fœderal rite by which they engaged in, renewed, and kept up friendship with one another.
First. As to God; 'tis clear, that he is a pure, immaterial, and all-perfect spirit, and, as such, incapable of eating and drinking in a literal sense. Nor is there any reason to conceive that he did eat or drink of the sacrifices which were offered to him, in a figurative or symbolical sense; because, though those parts of sacrifices, which he is supposed to have eaten and drank, were consumed upon his altar, yet neither the altar, nor the fire by which they were consumed upon it, were the shechinah, or the symbol of his being and presence. Besides, such a representation of an eating and drinking god, had any such thing been intended, would have had a tendency to efface the notion of the S 3 pure pure spirituality of his nature, in the minds of his worshippers, and to make them conceive of him as a material and corruptible being.
To soften and palliate this, and the other absurdities and ill consequences, with which his notion of the symbolical nature and design of sacrifices is embarrassed, our Author tells us, " That the customs of the world ** had made sacrifice (which he supposes to ** have been the dapes, or epulœ> of which
God and the offerers did eat and drink "together) the ordinary way of addressing
God.—And as this custom of sacrificing ** was spread every where, God, in his wis
dom, would, not abolish this manner "of worship, but laid hold of it to keep "his people a holy people, separate from "the rest of mankind, and free from the "superstitions of the world. And this he ** did in such a manner as would most cer*c tainly have its due effect. The Jews, "therefore, were permitted, in a certain "measure, to use such customs as were uni"versal; and, at the same time, by having '* a peculiar institution, different from their "neighbours, they were kept from their "idolatrys, and were made to serve the great "ends of providence in the world V*
Answ. This account of the origin, and of the reason of the institution of jewish sacrifices, is obnoxious to various objections of great weight: but the only one which I have occasion to take notice of here, is, that had it been the real design of sacrifices to exhibit God and the offerers of them as eating and drinking together, and, consequently, to infuse into the minds of men a wrong and gross notion of the nature of God, as being corporeal and corruptible; 'tis more probable, that God would have entirely abolished that mode of worship, than have continued it, pr permitted the continuance of it, in condescension to those prejudices in its favour, which had sprung from general practice and universal custom. We never find God, in other cases, so extremely complaisant to the prejudices of men and the customs of the world, as to insiitute modes of worship of a bad tendency for the sake of them.— At the time when the law of Moses was given to the Jews, we find, that mankind were as universally accustomed to idol-worship, as to sacrificing: and that the prejudice of the, Jews in favour of this wrong way of worship, was as strong as it possibly could be in favour of the rite of sacrificing: and yet,, because idolatry was a wrong mode of worship, as having a tendency to corrupt and efface men's notion of the unity of deity, God thought fit, in opposition to universal S 4 custom, custom, and the prejudices of the Jews themselves, to abolish idol-worship, and forbid the practice of it. If so; it will be hard to give a reason why he did not, likewise, utterly abolish the way of worshipping by sacrifice, provided that mode of worship had such a direct and natural tendency to eradicate out of the minds of men a just notion of the spirituality and incorruptibility of his own nature, as it must have had, according to our Author's notion of the use
and design of it. Again, at the time of
the introduction of the Gospel-state, the mode of sacrificing was as universal, as it \vas at the time when the law of Moses was given; and men, every where, were as tenacious of it, as mad upon it, and as unwilling to part with it, as ever they had been at any former time: and yet God, instead of paying any manner of regard to this general custom of the world, or to the strong and inveterate prejudices of men in its favour, did utterly abolish that mode of worship, without minding or regarding any inconveniencies or bad consequences which might arise from the abolition of it. And this he did, not because this mode of worship had any thing in its nature that was absurd or irrational; since the Jews, for many ages, had practised it upon the footing of his own injunction and institution: but only because, being a part of a more imperfect scheme, it 1 was
was unfit for being admitted as a part of a more perfect and excellent dispensation of. religion, which he was then erecting under Jesus the Messiah, for the general good and benefit, not of one nation only or chiefly, but of all mankind.—The first of these two instances, shews us, that God is not led. by the customs of the world, and the prejudices of men, to adopt any thing, as a religious institution, that has a tendency to efface just notions of his own nature and attributes: consequently, that he would not have instituted sacrifices as a mode of worship, if the design of that institution had been to make men conceive of him as an eating and drinking God. The second instance makes it equally evident, that no customs of the world, no prejudices of men, how general soever, can induce God to adopt any thing, as a religious institution, but what is fit for answering his own end and intention in that dispensation of religion into which it is taken. And both, taken together, shew us, that God was not induced, merely by the customs of the world and the prejudices of men to adopt sacrifices as modes of religious worship; consequently, that our Author's account of the origin, and of the reason of the institution of Jewishsacrifices, is imaginary, and entirely without foundation.