« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
and the fowls, as well as their lordly master, owed their existence, is plainly recorded. 6. 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, 1–13.7 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
+ 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 them: ” 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 heathen 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 cleanses 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 hill, 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, " 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, so was it afterwards maintained, and perpetually kept in the recollection of the people, by the frequently recurring obser
vance of the same rite, which, 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 former) 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. 2-4. 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
ple, which appear to have been purchased by the amount of half-shekels, annually contributed by the Israelites, as a som” for their “ souls:" Exod. xxx, 11-16.
And, again, with regard to the peace-offerings, their expiatory character is sufficiently marked by three circumstances, which uniformly accompanied them, in common with the other legal sacrifices. The first was the prescribed absence of every kind of blemish or uncleanness in the victim-a circumstance which was, probably, always connected with the notion that, in order to escape the merited penalty of his own death, the sinner was bound to offer a perfect substitute : Lev. iii, 1. The second was the imposition of hands on the head of the animal, by which expressive ceremony the offerer was supposed to transfer his transgressions to the victim offered: Lev. iii, 13. The third was the sprinkling of the blood, by the priest, upon and around the altar (Lev. iii, 2 :)—a rite notoriously significant of expiation for sin : Lev. xvii, 10, 11. The blood which Moses sprinkled on the altar, the book, and the people, for the ratification of the whole covenant of the law, was indeed the blood of burnt, and of peace-offerings : Exod. xxiv, 4–8.
of the sin- or trespass-offerings, no portion was permitted to be eaten by the offerers : the sacrifice was considered “most holy;” (Lev. vi, 29 ;) part of it was burnt on the altar; and the rest was given as food to the priest, who was himself required to be clean, and without blemish. In some instances, however, the victim, when the hands of the transgressor had been laid upon its head, was deemed to be polluted, and accordingly, after having been offered on the altar, it was conveyed to a place without the camp, or without the gates of Jerusalem, and there entirely consumed by fire : Lev. iv, 12. 21; xvi, 27.
This last class of sacrifices was appointed for a great variety of occasions. On days of stated and solemn festival, and at many intermediate seasons, the sin-offerings (as well as the burnt-offerings) were to stain with their blood the altar of Jehovah ; (Lev. xvi, xxiii ;) and they were to be offered, as circumstances required, by the priests, by the rulers, by the whole congregation, and by individuals among the people : Lev. iv. Now, on whatsoever occasion, or by whatsoever parties, these sacrifices were to be made, they were uniformly, expressly, and exclusively, piacular. Whether the Israelite was polluted by merely ceremonial impurity, or by the sins of error and ignorance, or by the minor, though wilful, breaches of the moral law, the trespass-offering was still prescribed as