« السابقةمتابعة »
the divine approbation of Abel's sacrifice was displayed by the breaking forth of a miraculous fire, which consumed the accepted victim ; for it is evident, from the subsequent account of Cain, that the preference of his brother's offering to his own was indicated by some intelligible sign ; and, from various passages in the history of the Old Testament, we learn that this was the sign by which Jehovah usually condescended to “ testify'' of the “gifts” of his servants : see Gen. xv, 17: Lev. ix, 24 : Jud. xiii, 19, &c.: comp. Heb. xi, 4. If this is true, so admirable a mark of divine favor, while it excited the jca. lousy of Cain, must have amply confirmed the conviction of Abel, that, in shedding the blood of an innocent lamb, (notwithstanding all the strangeness of the action*) he had been fulfilling a religious duty, and had been acting in strict conformity to the will of bis Creator.
The next sacrifice, mentioned in Scripture, is that offered by Noah. After he had come forth from the ark, with his sons, and his sons' wives with him, we read, that he “builded an altar unto the Lord, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar.” Now, that this sacrifice also was acceptable to that Being, to whom the beasts
him, “ If thou doest well, shalt thou not have the excellency? and if thou doest not well, a sacrifice for sin lieth even at thy door; (that is, to atone for thy sin) and his desire (or deference) shall still be towards thee, and thou shalt rule over him."
Cain and Abel are described as presenting their offerings “ in process of time," or rather " at the end of days,” which is the literal meaning of the Hebrew, dipyypp. The expression appears to denote some fixed recurring period, at which it was ordained that sacrifice should be of. fered. Both their offerings are called anau Mincha, a term which, under the law, usually described the meat-offering of flour. But, here the word has evidently its more general sense of an offering or sacrifice -donum, oblatio : vide Simonis ler. in voc. This passage is ably discussed in Magee's “ Discourses and Dissertations on the Atonement,” 3rd ed. vol. ii, p. 235.
* The sacrifice of a harmless beast must have appeared the more strange in the view of Abel, because there is reason to believe that, before the flood, animals were not permitted to be slain for the sustenance of man. The green herb and the fruits of the trees were given to Adam and his posterity for their food. Behold," said Jehovah, "I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat :” Gen, i, 29. And that vegetable food alone was, at that time, allowed to our species, is evident from the reference made to this original grant of the green herb, when, after the flood, another grant was added to birds, beasts, and fishes Every moving that liveth shall be meat for you: even as the green herb, have I given you all things:" Gen. ix, 3.
and the fowls, as well as their lordly master, owed their existence, is plainly recorded. " And the Lord smelled a sweet savor, (or a savor of rest),” says the sacred historian ; " and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake :" Gen. viii, 20, 21. When Abraham returned from Egypt, and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, he there built an altar, (i. e. literally a place to slay victims on*) to the Lord : Gen. xiii, 18. This was an evidence that the rite of animal sacrifice was continued among those descendants of Noah who constituted, at that early period, the visible church of God; and it was in obedience to the direct command of Jehovah (as every reader of the Bible must remember) that, on a subsequent occasion, Abraham bound his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, and was about to sacrifice him there, when the Angel of the covenant stayed his hand, and provided him with a ram caught in the thicket for a burnt-offering to the Lord, instead of his child : Gen. xxii, 1–13.f No doubt, it was on the same general principle, and in compliance with the same original institution, that animals were slain in sacrifice, by Jacob, by Moses and the Israelites, by Jethro, and by Balaam : see Gen, xlvi, 1: Exod. x, 25; xviii, 12 : Numb. xxiii, 1.
But, of the sacrifices which were offered by the servants of the one God, independently of the Jewish law, I know of none which cast a clearer light on our present subject than those which are recorded in the history of Job, who probably lived in Arabia at a period anterior to the promulgation of that law. We read that, after Job's sons and daughters had been entertaining one another in their houses, “ Job sent, and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all ; for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually :” Job i, 5. Again, at the close of the book, we find the Almighty himself commanding a similar sacrifice.“ The Lord said to Eliphas the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends ; for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right as my servant Job hath. Therefore, take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for your
+ That Abraham, and those with whom he lived, were accustomed to the rite of animal sacrifice, more especially appears from the question addressed by Isaac to his Father, while they were on the way to Mount Moriah, “Behold,” said Isaac, “ the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering ?" Gen. xxii, 7.
selves a burnt-offering, and my servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept ; lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. So Eliphas the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, went and did according as the Lord commanded thera: " xlii, 7--9.
The sacrifices which were offered in the church of God, before the law, appear to have been all of one description. They were burnt-offerings ; and this appellation was given to them because every part of the victim, after its blood had been poured forth, and except the skin and its appurtenances, was consumed with fire upon the altar. Now, that these sacrifices were in their nature expiatory, and not, as some persons have imagined, merely eucharistical, may be concluded, for various reasons. For, in the first place, the slaughter of the animal was probably significant of the death merited by the transgressions of the offerer. Secondly, the sacrifices of the beathen nations of antiquity (which may be regarded as a corrupt imitation of these original burnt-offerings) were, for the most part, notoriously rites of deprecation or atonement. Thirdly, the same character attached (as we shall presently find occasion to observe to the burnt-offerings enjoined by the Mosaic law; and, lastly, in the sacrifice of Noah, which was apparently intended to deprecate a repetition of the divine vengeance, and in the offerings of Job and his friends, which were expressly directed to the purpose of expiation, we have examples, which, in the total absence of all opposite testimony, may be considered as casting a clear light on the true signification of these rites in general.
But, while it would be unreasonable to deny the expiatory character of these sacrifices, the doctrine of Scripture ought never to be forgotten, that “the blood of bulls and of goats” cannot "take away sin :" Heb. x, 4. And when, with these historical accounts of the burnt-offerings of Abel, of Noah, of Abraham, of Jacob, and of Job, we compare the doctrine of the New Testament, that the blood of Jesus Christ alone cleanseš man from iniquity, we must surely allow that all these sacrifices did but typify the foreordained sacrifice of the Holy One of Israel ; and that whatever they possessed of piacular virtue is to be traced exclusively to that great reality of which they were the shadows.
Now, the doctrine which rests on these powerful probabilities, as it relates to the offerings of the servants of God, before the Mosaic institution, may be regarded as fixed and ascer
tained, with respect to the sacrificial ordinances of the Jewish ceremonial law.
Of that law, sacrifice was, indeed, the distinguishing feature; and, while the variety, particularity, and strictness, of the edicts delivered on the subject, served the purpose cupying the attention, and of correcting the idolatrous tendencies, of a carnal people, the whole system was fraught with allusion to the Christian doctrine of atonement.
Immediately after the delivery of the law, from Mount Sinai, “ Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the bill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins : and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you, concerning all these words :" Exod. xxiv, 4-8.
Thus it appears, that at the time of the promulgation of the Mosaic law, a solemn compact was made between God and his people. They contracted to obey his commandments in all things, and he graciously promised, on this reasonable condition, to be their guide, their protector, and their God: and this compact was ratified by the blood of immaculate victims, which were freely offered by Moses and the people on the Lord's holy altar. The death of these victims plainly denoted the penal consequences merited by the sins of the offerers; and the Lord's gracious acceptance of the vicarious sacrifice was, on his part, a sure pledge of his mercy towards his willing, though erring children. And here it is of importance, once for all, to observe, that the atoning virtue is represented as being in the blood of the victim, because the blood was the life of it, and the shedding of its blood was the destruction of its life. “ The life of the flesh,” said Jehovah to the Israelites, 6 is in the blood : and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls : for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul :" Lev. xvii, 11.
Now, as the covenant between God and the Israelites was thus originally ratified by the shedding and sprinkling of blood, -80 was it afterwards maintained, and perpetually kept in the recollection of the people, by the frequently recurring obser
vance of the same rite, wbich, under the Mosaic institution, was practised on a multitude of occasions, and under a considerable variety of forms. The sacrifices enjoined by the law were divided into three classes-burnt-offerings, peace-offerings, and sin-offerings ; and these classes were distinguished from one another, not so much by any radical difference in the principles on which they were offered, as by the variation of ceremony under which they were administered. The burntofferings were distinguished chiefly by the circumstance already mentioned, that the whole of the animal, except the skin, was consumed on the altar. Like the sacrifices of the ancient patriarchs, these offerings, under the law, were, in general, voluntary-the prescribed indications of the free-will piety and devotion of the Lord's servants : Levit. i. Yet, on various stated occasions, the burnt-offering was required by express commandment-an observation which more particularly applies to the morning and evening sacrifice-the daily burntoffering of two spotless male lambs of a year old, on the altar, first of the tabernacle, and afterwards of the temple at Jerusalem : Exod. xxix, 38.
The peace-offerings were freely presented to the Lord by his people, whenever they were prompted to it by their feeling of piety and devotion : and the lamb, the goat, or the bullock, thus offered, might be of any age, and of either sex. The flesh of the victim was eaten partly by the officiating priests, and partly by the offerers themselves : see Lev. iii : Calmet's Dictionary, “ Sacrifice."
Now, although the peace-offerings were uniformly voluntary, and the burnt-offerings frequently so, and thus assumed the peculiar character of gifts; and although, on these grounds, we may consider them (especially the foriner) to have been the acceptable signs of gratitude towards the Supreme Being, it is unquestionable that they were also directed to the great and leading purpose of atonement. With respect to the burnt-offerings, this fact is expressly stated: “If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt-sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish : he shall offer it of his own voluntary will, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering ; and it shall be accepted for him, to make atonement for him :" Lev. i. 24. Nor can it be doubted that to make an atonement for the sins of the people (in a subordinate and figurative sense) was the true purpose of the daily burnt-offerings in the tem