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known to a Gentile. The institution of sacrifices, revealed to Adam, and the renewal of this revelation to Noah, together with the permission to eat flesh, were absolutely lost out of the knowledge of the Gentile nations. Hence they could perceive no right which they had to the life of a victim, either for sacrifice, or food : for, evidently, such a right can be derived only from the pleasure of the Creator.
From the gross apprehension, that sacrifices were of some valuc to God, arose among the Gentiles the scheme of rendering them more acceptable by increasing the value of the things, which they offered. To this scheme the text strongly alludes. “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams; or ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression ; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ?" Hence were derived the hecatombs of the Gentiles at large; their golden statues ; their oblations of gems, rich vestments, incense, and other things, which were peculiarly expensive.
Hence the Carthaginians, Mexicans, and Peruvians, offered up hundreds and thousands of human victims; the noblest and brightest of their young men; and even their young children. Hence, in a word, human sacrifices were offered throughout the whole Heathen world. The oblation of inanirnate substances was attended with most of the difficulties which have been mentioned above: and that of human victims, while it was accompanied by all these, was also an unnatural and most aggravated sin. Instead, therefore, of rendering the worshipper acceptable to God, they only increased his guilt, and the severity of his condemnation. At the same time they proved, like the anxious inquiries of the text, that those, who presented these oblations, were in their own view sinners against him; and that they were labouring to expiate their sins, to appease his anger, to avert the punishment which they dreaded, and, if possible, to obtain an interest in his favour. Nor did the same things prove in a less decisive manner, that the suppliants, like Balak, knew not how to perform this indispensable service, and were labouring absolutely in vain.
4thly. Another mode of Gentile worship was Ablution. Ablutions were practised throughout a great part of the Gentile world; and, as it would seem, with entire confidence in their
purifying efficacy. For this end some waters were occasionally consecrated: while others were pronounced permanently holy. Such were the Nile, the Kristna, and the Ganges. In the nature of these waters sometimes, and sometimes in the manner of using them, it was supposed, there was a power to cleanse the soul from sin. Probably this dreaming supposition grew out of another, equally visionary, found extensively in the ancient philosophy: that sin was an attribute of matter, and not of mind.
We, who know, that sin is seated only in the affections and volitions of the mind, see what they did not, and could not, see; that ablutions, except when they are intended to be mere symbols, are perfectly unmeaning and useless; and only wonder that any of the human race could ever attribute to them
other character. 5thly. Another act of worship among the Gentiles was Pen
Penance is a voluntary affliction of the body, or of the mind, or of both, which was expected to become an atonement for sin. No service, intended to be religious, was ever more useless. Nothing can be of any value, in the moral sense, which does not make the mind better. But no such melioration was even thought of, much less accomplished, by any penance adopted by the Gentiles. Self-righteousness was increased by it often ; virtue, never. The devotee became more vain and proud of his religious character; and felt satisfied, not only that he was now safe from the punishment of his former sins, but that at every future period he might in the same manner acquire the same safety.
From these observations it is, I think, clearly evident, that the Gentiles, or, in other words, all mankind who are unpossessed of revelation, are absolutely ignorant of any worship, which can be acceptable to God; and equally ignorant whether he will accept any worship.
II. Mankind in these circumstances are ignorant of any means of Expiating sin.
All mankind are sinners. They have broken the law of God, and are condemned by him. By works of law, therefore, no flesh can be justified in his sight. Hence it is certain, that if we are ever accepted by our Maker, it must be on the ground of pardon only.
But the law of God knows nothing of pardon. Its only sentence upon transgressors is that of condemnation. This sentence is wrought in the very nature of law ; not only in the divine law, but in every other, which has been, or can be, made. Every law speaks only to command, and to compel; and its only means of compulsion are its penalties, denounced against transgressors. Without a penalty, therefore, it would cease to be a law; and would become mere advice. But pardon is a remission of this penalty. Should the law pardon the transgressor, without an atonement; the penalty would be remitted without any cause or consideration. Its sanctions would, of course, be unmeaning threats, never designed to be executed ; sounds, without sense ; something in appearance, but in reality nothing.
To these observations it may not improbably be answered, that " repentance is a consideration upon which the law of God may with propriety pardon the transgressor.” This undoubtedly is the great foundation of hope to all men, who expect to escape punishment, without an expiation of their sins. To those, who indulge this hope, the following considerations may with propriety be addressed.
1st. The law specifies no such consideration.
This observation is, I acknowledge, directly applied to those, to whom the law has been cominunicated. Had God intended to accept those who had violated his law, on the condition of repentance; it is incredible, that this most interesting design should not be mentioned, or remotely hinted, in the law itself. That it is not, every person, who reads his Bible, perfectly knows. On the contrary, the law itself says, “ The soul that sinneth, shall die :" and "Cursed is every one, that continueth not in all things, written in the law, to do them.” If any declarations can forbid every hope of salvation, derived from this source; it is forbidden by these.
2dly. If the law announced prrdon on this ground; it would threaten its punishment, not to transgression, but to impenitence. Its language would be, " The soul, that sinneth, shall die: but if it
repent, it shall live." The punishment, therefore, would rest only on the impenitent: and their impenitence would be the only crime, for which they were punished.
3dly. That conduct, which the law originally intends to punish, is in its own view that, which itself considers as the crime.
This, I suppose, will not be denied : for what else does any law punish, beside that, which itself considers as the crime. But in this case the conduct punished is impenitence. This, therefore, is the only thing, which the law, in the case supposed, would consider as the crime. The violations of its precepts would not be considered as crimes, because they were not the things punished.
Athly. That, which the law itself considers as the crime, is the only thing, which those, who are subject to it, are bound to regard in this manner.
No subject is bound to consider any thing as criminal in his own conduct, except that, which his lawful sovereign pronounces to be of this nature. But the only things, of which any intelligent beings can repent, are crimes : that is, such conduct, as the penitent himself apprehends to be criminal. In the physical sense it is impossible, that any thing else should be repented of. In the case supposed, therefore, as the violation of the law is not by itself considered as the crime, because it is not punished, and as the subject cannot regard any thing as a crime, but that, which the law has made such; it is physically impossible, that he should repent of this violation. But it can never be a crime not to do that, which is physically impossible. The impenitence of the transgressor, therefore, cannot in this case be criminal.
5thly. If the repentance is supposed to be perfect; the scheme is cain: for no such repentance was ever found in man.
6thly. If the repentance is not to be followed by additional sins ; the scheme is vain.
There never was a repentance in man, unless it was the last moral act of his life, which was not followed by sin. There never was a period in the life of any man, extended through a single hour, in which he loved God with all the heart, and his neighbour as himself.
7thly. Imperfect repentance is sinful in itself; and can never recommend the penitent to the favour of God; nor become a foundalion for his exemption from punishment.
8thly. If the repentance be followed by sin ; the subject of it will
go to the judgment with sins unrepented of ; and will die, possessed, partially at least, of the character of an impenitent.
What hope can such a man rationally form of acceptance with Him, in whose sight the heavens are unclean, and who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity ?
The supposition, therefore, that mankind will be accepted on the ground of repentance, is a mere presumption, contradicted by all evidence, and unsupported by any.
In Romans iii. 25, 26, St. Paul informs us, that God had set forth Christ to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him, who believed in Jesus. Had Christ, therefore, not been set forth as such a propitiation ; God would not have been just, if he had justified mankind. To this declaration Reason, however reluctantly, subjoins her Amen. If the law of God is, like his character, perfect; he cannot possibly consent, that one jot, or one tittle of it should pass away, whatever may be the sacrifice, until all be fulfilled. To permit this law to be violated would be to yield his character, and his government, to the sins of men. But what are men to him? 66 All nations before him are nothing, and are counted unto him less than nothing, and vanity." He, who made this world with a word, can with a word snake millions more ; and with the same absolute ease. He, who replenished it with inhabitants, can people those millions with other inhabitants, unspeakably wiser and better than men, by a single command. Were this world therefore, and all which it contains, blotted out of existence; the loss to him would be pothing. But the sacrifice of his law would be a sacrifice of his character, and government: and the loss of these could never be redeemed. It would be a loss, which no mind, but his, could comprehend ; and for which the whole universe would be less than the drop of the bucket, and the small dust of the balance. Such a sacrifice cannot, and will not be made.
That the Gentiles were without any means of expiating their sins, is too evident from what has been said to need any further discussion. All the means, within their reach, have been already mentioned. How inadequate these were, how remote even
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