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this misconduct, by the example of what a son owes to his father, and a servant to his master. He employs this image, because the priests were, in an appropriate sense, considered as belonging unto God; in conformity to what God himself says in chap. viii. of the book of Numbers: "Thou shalt separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine: . . . . for they are wholly given unto me, from among the children of Israel. . . . instead of the first-born of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me: on the day that I smote every first-born in the land of Egypt, I sanctified them for myself." It is to you, O. ye priests, says he to them, that I address myself; "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, the table of the Lord is contemptible."
If any difficulty still remain, respecting the general sense of the passage, it can be of no considerable importance, as it prevents not our discerning the principal aim and design of the Holy Spirit. It is not perhaps easy, I admit, to determine with exact precision, what we are to understand by "the table of the Lord," by that contempt which was expressed for it, and by the "polluted bread" which those unworthy ministers offered upon it. There are two opinions on this subject, but which both issue in the idea we have suggested to you, of our prophet's sentiment.
It is the opinion of some commentators, that by the table, of which Malachi speaks, is to be understood the table which corresponded to that placed by Moses, by the command of God, in the part of the tabernacle denominated the "holy place." The law enjoined that there should always be upon that table twelve loaves, or cakes, which we denominate the "show-bread," otherwise called "the bread of faces," not because these cakes were moulded into several sides, or raised into small protuberances, according to the opinion of certain Jewish doctors, but because they were continually exposed in the presence of Jehovah, who was considered as residing in the holy place. The law which enjoined the offering of them, had likewise prescribed the rites which, were to be observed in presenting that offering. They were to be placed on the holy table, to the number of twelve: they were to be composed of fine flour kneaded into a paste: each cake was to contain an omer of flour. The Jews tell us, that it must have passed eleven times through the searse; and if St. Jerome is to be credited, it belonged to the priests to sow, to reap, and to grind the corn, of which the cakes were made, and to knead the dough. Whatever may be the truth as to some of these particulars, to treat the table of the Lord as comtemptible, to offer unto God "polluted bread,"
is, conformably to the sentiment which I have detailed, to violate some of the rites which were to be observed in the offering of the cakes, placed, by divine command, on the table which was in the holy place.
The generality of interpreters have adopted another opinion, which we have no difficulty in following. By "the table of the Lord," they here understand the altar of burnt-offerings. It is denominated "the table of the Lord," in some other passages of Scripture; particularly in chap. xli. of the prophecies of Ezekiel. There, after a description of the altar of burnt-offerings, it is added, "This is the table that is before the Lord," ver. 22. On this altar were offered cakes of fine flour, as we see in various passages, particularly in the first verses of chap. ii. of the book of Leviticus. These cakes are represented as if they were the bread of God. The same name was given to every thing offered to Deity on that altar. All was called "the bread of God," or "the meat of God;" for reasons which will be better understood in the sequel. I shall, at present, satisfy myself with quoting a single passage in justification of this remark. It is in chap. xxi. of the book of Leviticus, the 6th verse. Moses, after having laid down the duties of the priests, adds these words: "they shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God; for the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and the bread of their God do they offer; therefore they shall be holy." You see that in the Levitical style, they denominated "the meat of God," or "the bread of God," not only the cakes which were offered upon the altar, not only the loaves of the show-bread which were presented on the table in the holy place, but all the victims which were consumed by fire on the altar of burntoffering.
Now, the manner in which those offerings were to be presented, had likewise been laid down with singular precision. There was a general law respecting this point, which you will find in chap. iv. of Leviticus: it enjoined that the victim should be "without blemish;" and if you wish for a more particular detail on this subject, you may farther consult chap. xxii. of the same book. There we have enumerated ten imperfections, which rendered a victim unworthy of being offered unto God. Some* place in this class, not only bodily but mental imperfections, if this last epithet may be applied to brutes. For example, they durst not have presented unto God animals of an obstinate, petulant, capricious disposition, and the like. Scruples, by the way, which the pagans themselves, and particularly the Egyptians entertained, respecting the victims which they offered to their gods. They set apart for them the choicest of the flock and of the herd. Herodotus informs us, that in Egypt, there were persons specially appointed to the office of examining the victims.
Let us no longer deviate from the principal object of our text. If by "the table of the Lord," we are to understand, as it is presumable we ought, the altar of burnt-offerings, "to
*See Bochart Hieroz, Part I. Book II. chap. 46. p. 522. + In Euterpe, cap. xxxviii. p. 104. Edit. Francof.
offer unto God polluted bread," in the style of Malachi, to say, "the table of the Lord is contemptible," is to violate some of the rites prescribed, respecting the offerings which were presented unto God upon that altar. More especially, it is to consecrate to Deity, victims which had some of the blemishes that rendered them unworthy of his acceptance.
But was it indeed, then, altogether worthy of God to enter into details so minute? But of what importance could it be to the Lord of the universe, whether the victims presented to him were fat or lean, and whether the bread consecrated to him were of wheat or of barley, of fine or of coarse flour? And though the Jews were subjected to minuteness of this kind, what interest can we have in them, we who live in ages more enlightened; we who are called to serve God only "in spirit and in truth," John iv. 24, and to render him none but a reasonable service," Rom. xii. 1. We shall devote the remainder of the time, at present permitted to us, to the elucidation of these questions; we shall endeavour to unfold the great aim and object of our text, and apply it more particularly to the use of our hearers. For this purpose it will be necessary to institute a twofold parallel.
I. We shall institute a parallel between the altar of burnt-offerings, or the table of the show-bread, and the table of the Eucharist: and shall endeavour to unfold the mystical views of both the one and the other.
II. The second parallel shall be, between the profanation of the altar, or the table of the show-bread, and the profanation of the Christian sacramental table: we shall indicate what is implied, with respect to the Jews, and with respect to Christians, in offering to God "polluted bread," and in looking on "the table of the Lord as contemptible;" and we will endeavour to make you sensible of the keenness of the reproach conveyed by the mouth of the prophet: "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, the table of the Lord is contemptible."
FOR A COMMUNION SABBATH. PART II.
MALACHI i. 6, 7.
A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.
HAVING endeavoured to remove the difficulties in which the text may seem to be involved, VOL. II.-25
and shown what we are to understand by "polluted bread," by " the table of the Lord," and by calling "the table of the Lord contemptible," we proceed to institute the twofold parallel proposed.
I. Let us state a parallel between the altar of burnt-offerings, the table of the show-bread, and the sacramental table of the Lord's Supper; the offerings which were presented to God on the first, and those which we still present to him on the second. The sacramental table of the supper, as the altar of burnt-offerings, and as the table of the show-bread, is "the table of the Lord." The viands, presented on both the one and the other, are, "the meat of God," or "the bread of God." And those sacred ceremonies, however they may differ as to certain circumstances, have been, nevertheless, destined to the same end, and represent the same mysteries: namely, the intimate union which God wishes to maintain with his church and people.
You will be convinced that this was the destination of the altar of burnt-offerings, and of the table of the show-bread, if you have formed a just idea of the temple, and of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was considered to be the tent of God, as the Leader and Commander of Israel, and the temple was considered as his palace. For this reason it is, that when God gave commandment to construct the tabernacle, he said to Moses, "Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell amongst them," Exod. xxi. 8. And when Solomon substituted the temple in room of the tabernacle, he was desirous of conveying the same idea of it: " "I have surely built thee a house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever." The following are the words of a very sensible Rabbi on this subject:* "God, to whom be all glory inscribed, gave commandment to build for him a house, similar to the palaces of the kings of the earth. All these things are to be found in the palaces of kings; they are surrounded by guards; they have servants to prepare their victuals; musicians who sing to them, and play on instruments. There are likewise chambers of perfumes; a table on which their repasts are served up; a closet into which favourites only are admitted. It was the will of God, that all these things should be found in his house, that in nothing he might yield to the potentates of the earth. And all these things are designed to make the people know, that our ⚫ King, the Lord of hosts, is in the midst of us."
This general idea of the tabernacle justifies that which we are going to give of the altar of burnt-offerings, and of the table of the showbread.
1. That of the altar of burnt-offering: it was denominated "the table of the Lord," and the viands served upon it were denominated "the meat" or "the bread of Jehovah," because the end of the sacrifices there offered up by his command, was to intimate, that he maintained with his people an intercourse as familiar as that of two friends, who eat together at the same table. This is the most ancient, and the most usual idea of sacrifice. When alliances
* Rabbi Schem Job Comment. in Mere Nevoch. Part III. cap. xliv. fol. 171. Venet. 5211,
were contracted, victims were immolated: and the contracting parties made a common repast on their flesh, to express the intimate union which they formed with each other.
has not been a partaker in the sacrifices of the idolatrous. In burnt-offerings, the part of the victim consumed by fire, was considered as the portion of Deity. Of this I shall adduce only This was the reason of all the rites which a single instance, that I may not load my diswere served between God and the people of course with too many quotations. Solinus reIsrael, in the alliance formed previous to the lates,* that those who offered up sacrifices to promulgation of the law. They are recorded idols on Mount Etna, constructed their altars in the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of on the brink of its crater: that they placed Exodus. Moses represented God; Aaron, Na- bundles of dried sprigs upon those altars, but dab and Abihu his two sons, and the three- that they applied no fire to them. They prescore and ten elders represented the whole con- tended, that when the Divinity, in honour of gregation of Israel. Altars were reared; sacri- whom these rites were performed, was pleased fices were offered up; they feasted together on to accept the sacrifice, the bundles of sprigs the flesh of the victims. It is expressly related spontaneously caught fire; that the flame apthat Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and those other proached the persons who were celebrating this venerable personages whom I have mentioned, | sacred festivity; that it encompassed them went up into the mountain, "also they saw round and round, without doing them any God, and did eat and drink," ver. 11. And to harm; and thus was declared the acceptance make it apparent that the divine presence in- of their oblation. tervened, the history adds, that God vouchsafed to bestow sensible tokens of his presence: "And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire-stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness," ver. 10. A work paved with stars, resembling a composition of sapphire-nated the meat or the bread of God; and the stones: a symbol which, perhaps, God preferred to any other, because the sapphire was, among the Egyptians, the emblem of royalty, as may be seen in their hieroglyphics, which the industry of the learned have preserved to us.
In like manner, in the sacrifices which were offered upon the altar of burnt-offerings, one part of the victim was for the people, another part for the priests, and another part was consumed by fire; this last was considered as the portion of God; this was particularly denomi
whole solemnity was intended, as has been said, to represent the intimate union, and the familiar intercourse, which God wished to maintain between himself and his people.
2. The same was likewise the design of the The pagans, likewise, had the same ideas of table of the show bread. It was natural that the sacrifices which they offered up. They did in the tabernacle, which was considered as the eat together the flesh of the victims, and this tent of Jehovah, and in the temple which was they called eating or feasting with the gods.* afterwards considered as his palace, there should They sometimes carried off part of it to their be a table replenished with provision for himhouses; sometimes sent a portion of it to their self and for his ministers. It was the comfriends; sometimes they partook of it in the mand of God, that twelve of those cakes temples themselves, in which tables were should be exhibited continually on the table of placed for the express purpose of celebrating the sanctuary, to denote the twelve tribes of festivals of this kind. Homer, in the Odyssey, Israel. This same number was kept up even introduces Alcinous, speaking to this effect: after the revolt of the ten tribes; because there "The gods render themselves visible to us, were always worshippers of the true God, when we immolate hecatombs to them; they scattered over the whole twelve tribes. These eat with us, and place themselves by us at the cakes, exposed continually in the presence of same table." The same poet, speaking of a Jehovah, were an invitation given to the resolemn festival of the Ethiopians, says, that volted tribes, to maintain his worship, and to Jupiter had descended among them, to be pre-serve him conformably to the rites, which he sent at a festival which they had prepared for him, and that he was attended thither by all the gods." In another place§ he tells us, that Agamemnon sacrificed an ox to Jupiter, and that he invited several of the chieftains of the Grecian army, to eat the flesh of that victim. He relates something similar respecting Nestor.||
Hence it comes to pass that the phrase to make a feast, is very frequently employed both by sacred and profane authors, to express performing acts of idolatrous worship. In this sense it is that we are to understand it, in that passage of the prophet Ezekiel, where, enumerating the characters of the just man, this is laid down as one, "He hath not eaten upon the mountains," chap. xviii. 6; that is, who
himself had been pleased to prescribe by the hand of Moses. This was likewise the grand motive urged by Abijah, king of Judah, to bring back the Israelites to their allegiance," 2 Chron. xiii. 9, &c.
In this same sense is the table of the Eucharist, likewise, the table of the Lord. In this same sense, we consider as the meat of God, or as the bread of God, these august symbols which are presented to us in the holy sacrament of the supper. These two solemn ceremonies have exactly one and the same end in view. The end proposed by the table of the Eucharist, as by that of the altar of burnt-offerings, or by the table of the show bread, is to form, and to maintain between God and us, an intercourse of familiar friendship; it is to form between God and us the most intimate union which it is possible to conceive as subsisting between two beings so very different as are the Creator and the creature. What proofs of love can be
*Polyh. cap. v. p. 15. Edit. Traject. 1689.
FOR A COMMUNION SABBATH.
SER. LXXVI.] interchanged by two friends united in the ten- | derest bonds, which God and the believer do not mutually give and receive at the Eucharistical table.
"Greater love hath no
Two friends intimately united, however well
says to his Redeemer, "I am crucified with
Two friends intimately united, become perfectly reconciled to each other, when some interposing cloud had dimmed the lustre of friendship, and they repair, by warmer returns of affection, the violence which love had suffered under that fatal eclipse. This is what we experience at the table of the holy sacrament. of the Lord. There the soul of the believer That august ceremony is a mystery of reconciliation between the penitent sinner and the God of mercy. On the one part, the penitent sinner presents unto God "a broken and contrite heart," Ps. li. 17, for grief of having of fended him: he pours into the bosom of his God the tears of repentance; he protests that if the love which he has for his God has undergone a temporary suspension, it never was entirely broken asunder; and if the flame of that affection has been occasionally smothered under the ashes, yet it was never entirely extinguished: he says to him with Thomas, recovered from his paroxysm of incredulity, "My Lord and my God; my Lord and my God," John xx. 28, and with Peter, restored to favour after he had denied his Master, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee," John xxi. 17. And on the other part, the God of mercy extends his bowels of compassion towards the believer; he gives him assurance that his repentance is accepted, and speaks peace inwardly to his conscience, saying, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee," Matt. ix. 2.
Two friends intimately united, lose sight, in some sense, of the difference which there may be between their respective conditions. This too, is what the believer experiences at the Lord's table. On the one part, though there must ever be an immeasurable abyss between God and us, we go to him as to our brother, as to our friend; shall I presume to add, as to our equal? And on the other part, God is pleased to lay aside, in condescension to our weakness, if the expression be lawful, the rays of his divine majesty, with which the eyes of mortals would be dazzled into blindness. Jesus Christ clothes himself with our flesh and blood: and of that community of nature makes up a title of familiarity with us; according to those words of the apostle; "both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren," Heb. ii. 11, 12.
Two friends intimately united, blend their goods and fortune, in blending their condition. This likewise the believer experiences in the holy sacrament of the supper. On the one hand, we devote to God all that we are; we promise him that there is no band so tender but what we shall be ready to break asunder; no passion so dear, but that we are determined to sacrifice it; no possession so precious but that we are cheerfully disposed to resign, whenever his glory requires it at our hands. And on the other hand, God draws nigh to us with his grace, with his aid, and to say all in one word, he comes to us with his son: he gives us this Son, as the Son gives himself to us, "God so
Thus it is, my brethren, that the altar of
Having thus stated the first parallel propos-
love, and holy fervour, when God discloses to them, at his table, all the treasures of felicity and glory. Three heads of comparison between the priests of Malachi's days, and many who bear the Christian name among ourselves. Three touchstones furnished to assist you in the examination of your own consciences. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name: and ye say, wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon my altar: and ye say, wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, the table of the Lord is contemptible."
1. Want of illumination. The priests of Malachi's days did not form ideas sufficiently just of the end which Jehovah promised to himself, when he enjoined the presenting of offerings, on the altar of burnt offerings, and on the table of the show bread. Expressly set apart for teaching those great truths to others, they remained themselves in a state of ignorance. They had no other qualification to be the ministers of religion, except the tribe from which they descended, and the habit which they wore. Our prophet upbraids them with this gross and criminal ignorance: "The priests' lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts: but ye are departed out of the way: ye have caused many to stumble at the law," chap. ii. 7, S. They had not only conceived false ideas of religion themselves, but they communicated these to the people. The prophet does not indicate precisely respecting what points the ignorance of those unworthy ministers was most conspicuous: but if we may form a judgment of the case from the character of their successors, it was impossible to entertain ideas of religion more false than those which they propagated. How wretched was the doctrine of the Rabbins who were contemporary with our blessed Lord, and of those of modern times! Miserable conceits; insipid allegories; imaginary mysteries; puerile relations. These constituted the great body of the Rabbinical theology. Would to God that such whims were to be found only among Rabbins! But we must not pursue this reflection. Nothing more is wanting, many a time, but a single ignorant, prejudiced pastor, to perpetuate ignorance, and transmit prejudice, for ages together in a church. This was evidently the case in the times of our prophet: and this it was which dictated these keen reproaches: "ye are departed out of the way: ye have caused many to stumble at the law: ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts," chap. ii. 8.
Want of illumination: the first head of comparison between the criminality of the priests of Malachi's day, who said, the table of the Lord is contemptible, and the criminality of professing Christians, who profane the sacramental table. To profane the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, is to partake of the symbols there presented, without having maturely considered the great truths which they represent. To profane the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, is to communicate, without having any other ideas of the mysteries of the incarnation of the Son of God, which are there unfolded, than those which we had of them in the days of our
childhood. To profane the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, is to believe, on the faith of a man's pastor, or of his ancestors, that God sent his Son into the world, to redeem the human race, and to take no pains to be informed on what principles that doctrine is established.
To present "polluted bread on the altar of God;" to say, "the table of the Lord is contemptible:" it is the crime of that young man, who would account himself degraded by applying to the study of his catechism, by acquir ing more perfect knowledge of his religion; who would rather continue to grovel in ignorance, than employ the means necessary to the attainment of instruction. It is the crime of that head of a family, who is so far from being in a condition to communicate religious instruction to his children, that he himself is a stranger to it. It is the crime of that magistrate, who, under pretence of a load of public business, will not take time seriously to examine, whether there be a God in heaven, and whether the Scriptures are of divine origin and authority. It is the crime of that female, who, under pretence of the weakness of her sex, debases the dignity of her nature, and devotes her whole attention to the management of her domestic concerns. Look well to it, examine yourselves carefully. Is there no one among you who can discern his own resemblance in any of these characters? Is it a knowledge of the truth, or the power of prejudice, or compliance with custom, which induces you to assume the livery of Christianity? Is it the decision of a learned divine, and the authority of your fathers; or is it the fruit of serious study, and an enlightened persuasion? Want of illumination; this is the first article of comparison between the profane priests of Malachi's days, and profane Christians of our own times: " 'you offer polluted bread upon mine altar: ye say the table of the Lord is contemptible."
2. The priests of Malachi's days profaned the table of the Lord, in refusing to fulfil the moral engagements which the ceremonial observance imposed, in the symbols of a sacred union with Deity. While they were professedly uniting themselves to the Holy one of Israel, they entertained sentiments the most criminal, and were chargeable with practices the most irregular and impure. They participated in the table of the Lord, while their hands were defiled with the accursed thing; and they presumed, by offering to God a part of what they had forcibly or fraudulently taken away from their neighbours, to make in some measure, an accomplice in their injustice and rapacity. With this they are reproached in the 12th and 13th verses of the chapter from which our text is taken: ye have polluted my table, in presenting on it that which is torn or stolen. They were partakers of the table of the Lord, at the very time when they were avowedly living in forbidden wedlock with pagan women. With this they are upbraided in the second chapter of this prophecy, at the eleventh verse: "Judah had dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the