Imágenes de páginas

stance of human victims sometimes being immolated upon their altars,) is a practice to which it is not likely they would have had recourse, without some other and more important end in view than simply maintaining friendship; on the contrary, the probability is that this would strike the mind as the most likely thing to increase that very guilt it was sought to remove. Admitting, however, that this was the case with those who were idolaters, it will not apply to the worshippers of the true God; for the revelation of the Divine mind and will with which they were favoured, would prevent their adopting any such notion of the Creator of the universe : yet amongst them the blood of sacrifices was shed still more profusely than by the heathen themselves. But it is clear that sacrifices were divinely appointed; for, omitting to mention the clothing with which the Almighty covered our first parents, which is supposed to have been of the skins of beasts which were presented by them, Abel is expressly said to have offered his sacrifice by faith.* That faith must have had some ground on which to take its stand ; but what could its foundation be, except a direction from God: nor would any service have been acceptable to him, though even performed by faith, except it had been regulated by a rule given by himself, and understood by those on whom it was binding. As it respects the other early sacrifices, of which an account is contained in the book of Genesis, though they may not have been expressly commanded, yet the very circumstance of their

• Heb. xi. 4.

being accepted and approved by the Deity is sufficient to show their accordance with his Divine mind and will: nor should it be for. gotten, that most of the sacrifices, prior to the time of Moses, were such that the whole of them was consumed upon the altar.

Some have thought that sacrifices (admitting that they were of Divine appointment) were intended to take away the natural reluctance of our first parents to partake of animal food, and to familiarize them to this practice which was afterwards to prevail. Since, however, that practice had its origin in the fall, or was connected with it, to have appointed them for that end would have been something like a connivance at sin, if not rewarding the offender for it. It is plain, however, that this could not have been the case, for the partaking of animal food was not allowed until after the flood; whereas it is evident that sacrificing was a practice as ancient as the beginning of time; and as we have no account of those who presented them partaking of the creatures which they offered, all being consumed upon the altar, it is not likely that such was the design for which they were offered. *

That the ancient sacrifices which God appointed were not designed by him as atonements is evident from the fact, that they did not possess in themselves any intrinsic value. . Man had sinned. The human soul had become obnoxious to the Divine displeasure ; and from man in his more noble part the satisfaction to Divine justice was demanded. To have put to

• Dr. Smith, “On the Priesthood of Christ.”

suffering as an expiation an innocent creature, which could give no assent of its own, and as a direct punishment for guilt in which it had had no interest, would have been incompatible with the Divine equity; nor was it possible that the moral law could obtain satisfaction from any such offering. This would not have been a ransom equal to its demands: there was nothing here that it could grasp. In fact, it would have increased the disorder in the moral world, and in the government of God, which it was the design of the Almighty to remedy.

Neither could such an offering have been rendered equal to the demands of infinite justice by Divine appointment. That the sovereignty of God is to be viewed in the great scheme of human redemption is a truth too much lost sight of: it is this that has decided on the plan by which we are saved, and determined to receive the sufferings of Christ instead of those of the sinner himself. Without this arrangement, whatever the Saviour's character might be, it would have been impossible that any virtue of his could have benefited us. But stiil the sacrifice presented must possess intrinsic value in itself, or the debt could no have been paid; for though Divine justice is not like a tyrant who insists upon the sufferings of the offender in himself, and will take no other-notwithstanding that it is quite consistent with its character and nature to receive a substitute in his place; yet that substitute must possess a merit in itself equal to the demands that are made, or one of the Divine attributes is dishonoured to promote the glory


of another. No exercise of the Divine prerogative can endow anything with a moral virtue or excellency which it does not possess,--and that the ancient sacrifices did not possess any such merit, either by the Divine appointment or in themselves, is very evident from the declaration of the apostle concerning them : “ Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first that he may establish the second." **

If then those sacrifices were divinely appointed, there must have been a design in the appointment, and such a design as was worthy of the Being from whom they emanated; and if we cannot see anything in them, or in what immediately followed from them that amounted to a fulfilment of that design, nor at any subsequent period prior to the incarnation of the Son of God; it follows that their true intention was realised in Christ, the great sacrifice, who, in allusion to these ancient offerings, is called the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;t and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. I

SECTION II. The rites and ceremonies of the Patriarchal and Mosaic Dispensation typical in their character.

What has been said of the ancient sacrifices will apply with equal propriety to the rites and

* Heb. x. 5, 6, 9. † John i. 29. Rev. xiii. 8.

ceremonies of the Patriarchal, and especially of the Mosaic, dispensation. That some of them were of human origin must be admitted; but that human caprice, or contrivance, was the cause of any very great number of them appears improbable, from the circumstance that no reasonable account can be given of them apart from the authority of heaven. Many rites and ceremonies, particularly under the Mosaic dispensation, were exceedingly burdensome and expensive; and on that account the people of God would not have adopted them from other nations without a more powerful inducement than was supplied by their nature or use simply considered; nor would Moses himself, with all his influence, have been able to introduce them, had they not been well satisfied as to the authority under which he acted; besides which, the Jews were expressly prohibited from imitating other nations in their religious services; and punishment for their conduct in instances in which they disregarded the injunctions of God in this respect, constituted a great part of the sufferings to which they were subject. Had their use been seldom, and formed an exception to their general observances, there would have been more reason to doubt their claim to a Divine origin; but being found as they are to pervade the whole of the Old Testament dispensation, it is impossible to deny to them the honour of inspired institutions. What shows, however, that they could not have been imitations of the practices of the heathen, is the fact that, with very few exceptions, these rites were never practised by any of

« AnteriorContinuar »