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SECT VIII. As sacrifices, which were never acceptable to God upon their own account.
THE principal, and which first offer themselves to us, are sacrifices; concerning which many Hebrews are of opinion that they first proceeded from the invention of men, before they were commanded by God.590590 Chrysostom xii. concerning statues, speaking of Abel, says, “That he offered sacrifices which he did not learn from any other person, nor did be ever receive any law that established any thing about first fruits; but he had it from himself, and was moved to it by his own conscience only.” In the answer to the orthodox, in the words of Justin, to the eighty-third query; “none of those who sacrificed beasts to God before the law, sacrificed them at the Divine command; though it is evident that God accepted them, and by such acceptance discovered that the sacrifices were well-pleasing to him.”—(This matter is largely handled by dr. Spencer, concerning the Ritual Law of the Jews, book iii. discourse 2. to which I refer you. Le Clerc). Thus much certainly is 192evident, that the Hebrews were desirous of very many Liles; which was a sufficient reason why God should enjoin them such a number, upon this account, lest the memory of their dwelling in Egypt should cause them to return to the worship of false gods.591591 This very reason for the law of sacrifices is alleged by Maimonides, in his Guide to the Doubting, book iii. chap. 32. Tertullian against Marcion, book ii. “Would you have nobody find fault with the labour and burthen of sacrifices, and the busy scrupulousness of oblations, as if God truly desired such things, when Ile so plainly exclaims against them? To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices? And who hath required them at your hands But let such observe the care God has taken, to oblige a people, prone to idolatry and sin, to be religious, by such duties as that superstitious age was most conversant in, that he might call them off from superstition, by commanding those things to be done upon his account, as if be desired it, lest they should fall to making images.” But when their posterity set a greater value upon them than they ought, as if they were acceptable to God upon their own account, and a part of true piety, they are reproved by the prophets: As to sacrifices,592592 This is Grotius’s paraphrase upon Psalm i. not a literal translation; and so are the following. Le Clerc. says God in David’s fiftieth Psalm, according to the Hebrew, I will not speak to you at all concerning them, viz, that you shall slay burnt-offerings, upon burnt-offerings, or that I will accept young bullocks or goats out of thy fold; for all the living creatures which feed in the forests, and wander upon the mountains, are mine; I number both the birds, and the wild beasts; so that if I be hungry, I need not come to declare it to you; for the whole universe, and every thing in it, is 193mine. Do you think I will eat the fat of flesh, and drink the blood of goats? No; sacrifice thanksgiving, and offer thy vows unto God. There are some amongst the Hebrews, who affirm, that this was said, because they who offered these sacrifices were unholy in their hearts and lives. But the words themselves, which we have quoted, tell us the contrary, viz, that the thing was not at all acceptable to God in itself. And if we consider the whole tenour of the Psalm, we shall find that God addresses himself to holy men; for he had before said, Gather my saints together; and afterwards, Hear, O my people. These are the words of a teacher. Then having finished the words before cited, he, turns his discourse as is usual to the wicked: But to the wicked, said God: and in other places, we find the same sense; as Psalm li. To offer sacrifices is not acceptable to thee, neither art thou delighted with burnt-offerings: but the sacrifice which thou truly delightest in is a mind humbled by the sense of its faults; for thou, O God, wilt not despise a broken and contrite heart. The like of which is that of Psalm xl. Sacrifices and oblations thou dost not delight in, but thou securest one to thyself, as if I were bored through the ear;593593 A mark of servitude amongst the Hebrews.thou dost not require burnt-sacrifices, or trespass-offerings; therefore have I answered, Lo, I come; and I am as ready to do thy will, as any covenant can make me; for it is my delight. For thy law is fired in my whole heart; the praises of thy mercy I do not keep close in my thoughts, but I declare thy truth and loving kindness every where; but thy compassion and faithfulness do I particularly celebrate in the great congregation. In chap. i. of Isaiah, God is introduced speaking in this manner: What are so many sacrifices to me? I am filled with the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of feel beasts; I do not love the blood of young bullocks, of lambs, or of goats, that you should appear with it before me: for who hath required this of you, that you should thus pollute my courts? And Jeremiah vii. which is a like place, and may serve to explain this. Thus saith the Lord of angels, the God of Israel; Ye heap up your burnt-offerings with your sacrifices, and yourselves eat the flesh of them. For at the time when I first 194brought your fathers up out of Egypt, I neither required nor commanded them any thing about sacrifices, or burnt-offerings, But that which I earnestly commanded them was, that they should be obedient to me; so would I be their God, and they should be my people; and that they should walk in the way that I should teach them, so should all things succeed prosperously to them. And these are the words of God in Hosea, ch. vi. Loving-kindness towards men is snuck more acceptable to me than sacrifice;594594 So the Chaldee interpreter explains this place. to think aright of God is above all burnt-offerings. And in Micah, when the question was put, how any man should render himself most acceptable to God; by a vast number of rams, by a huge quantity of oil, or by calves of a year old? God answers, I will tell you what is truly, good and acceptable to me; viz. that you render to every man his due, that you do good to others, and that you become humble and lowly before God.595595 Therefore the Jews say, that the six hundred and two precepts of the law are by Isaiah contracted into six, chap. xxxiii. 15. by Micah into three in this place; by Isaiah into two, chap. lvi. 1. by Habakkuk into one, chap. ii. 4. as also by Amos, v. 6. Since, therefore, it appears from these places, that sacrifices are not reckoned amongst those things which are primarily and of themselves acceptable to God; but the people, gradually, as is usual, falling into wicked superstition, placed the principal part of their piety in them, and believed that their sacrifices made a sufficient compensation for their sins: it is not to be wondered at, if God in time abolished a thing in its own nature indifferent, but by use converted into evil; especially when king Hezekiah broke the brazen serpent erected by Moses,596596 2 Kings xviii. 4. because the people began to worship it with religious worship. Nor are there wanting prophecies, which foretold that those sacrifices about which the controversy now is, should cease: which any one will easily understand, who will but consider, that according to the law of Moses, the sacrificing was committed entirely to the posterity of Aaron, and that only in their own country. Now in Psalm cx. according to the Hebrew, a king is promised, whose kingdom should 195be exceeding large, who should begin his reign in Sion, and who should be a king and a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedeck. And Isaiah, chap. xix. saith, that an altar should be seen in Egypt, where not only the Egyptians, but the Assyrians, and also Israelites should worship God; and, chap. lxvi. he saith, that the most distant nations, and people of all languages, as well as the Israelites, should offer gifts unto God, and out of them should be appointed priests and Levites; all which could not be, whilst the law of Moses continued.597597 Add this place of Jeremiah, chap. iii. 16. “In those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, the ark of the covenant of the Lord, neither shall it some into their minds, neither shall they remember it, neither shall they visit it, neither shall that be done any more.”—(Even the Jews themselves could no longer observe their law, after they were so much scattered. For it is impossible that all the males should go up thrice in a year to Jerusalem, according to the law, Exodus xxiii. 17. from all those countries which were inhabited by them. This law could be given to no other than a people not very great, nor much distant from the tabernacle. Le Clerc.). To these we may add that place in Malachi, chap. i.598598 See Chrysostom’s excellent paraphrase upon this place, in his second discourse against the gentiles. where God, foretelling future events, says, that the offerings of the Hebrews would be an abomination to him; that from the east to the west his name should be celebrated among all nations; and that incence and the purest things should be offered him. And Daniel, in chap. ix. relating the prophecy of the angel Gabriel concerning Christ, says, that he shall abolish sacrifices and offerings: and God has sufficiently signified, not only by words, but by the things themselves, that the sacrifices prescribed by Moses are no longer approved by him; since he has suffered the Jews to be above sixteen hundred years without a temple, or altar, or any distinction of families, whence they might know who those are who ought to perform the sacred rites.196
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