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The origin of human sacrifices — Their use among the Jews, Assyrians, Germans, Goths, the inhabitants of Marseilles, the Normans, the Francs, the Tyrians, the Egyptians, and the ancient Gauls — Testimonies of Cicero and Cæsar that they were used among the Britons and Romans by the Druids — A fiction of Apion concerning the worship in the temple of Jerusalem — The names of some persons sacrificed — The use of human sacrifices among the Gentiles proved from Clemens of Alexandria, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Porphyry, Philo, Eusebius, Tertullian, Euripides — Instances of human sacrifices in the sacred Scriptures — The remarkable obedience of Abraham — What the neighbouring nations might have gathered from that event — Why human sacrifices were not instituted by God — The story of Iphigenia — The history of Jephthah — Whether he put his daughter to death — The cause of the difficulty — The impious sacrifice of the king of Moab — The abominable superstition of the Rugiani — The craftiness of the devil — Vindications of the argument — The same concluded.
But it is strange to think what a stir was made by the ancient enemy of mankind to prevent any ray of light respecting the true sacrifice, that was to be made in the fullness of time, from being communicated to the minds of men through means of this universal ceremony and custom of sacrificing. Hence he influenced the most of the nations to the heinous, horrible, and detestable crime of offering human sacrifices, in order to make atonement for themselves, and render God propitious by such an abominable wickedness.
But as it seems probable that some light may be borrowed from the consideration of these sacrifices, in which mankind, from the presumption of a future judgment, have so closely agreed, perhaps the learned reader will think it not foreign to our purpose to dwell a little on the subject, and to reckon up some examples. This abomination, prohibited by God under the penalty of a total extermination, was divers times committed by the Jews, running headlong into forbidden wickedness, while urged on by the stings of conscience to this infernal remedy. They offered their children as burnt-sacrifices to Moloch, — that is, to the Saturn of the Tyrians; not to the planet of that name, not to the father of the Cretan Jupiter, but to the Saturn of the Tyrians, — that is, to Baal or to the sun; and not by making them to pass between two fires for purification, as some think, but by burning them in the manner of a whole burnt-offering. Ps. cvi. 36–38, “And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.” Almost the whole world, during the times of that ignorance which God winked at, were indebted to the devil.7070 “Were initiated by the devil in the same abomination.” — Ed. Since, then, it is abundantly evident from these sacrifices 526by what a sense of vindicatory justice, horror of punishment, and consciousness of sin, mankind are constrained, we must enlarge a little on the consideration of them.
Tacitus, speaking of the Germans, says, “Of the gods, they chiefly worship Mercury; to whom, on certain days, they hold it as an article of religion and piety to sacrifice human victims. Mars they have always been accustomed to appease by a most cruel worship; for his victims were the deaths of the captives.” Jornandes affirms the same of the Goths. And thus Lucan writes in his siege of Marseilles:— “Here the sacred rites of the gods are barbarous in their manner; altars are built for deadly ceremonies, and every tree is purified by human blood.”
And the same author, in the sixth book, from his Precepts of Magic, has these verses:—
“Vulnere si ventris,” etc.
“If, contrary to nature, the child be extracted through a wound in the belly, to be served up on the hot altars.”
Virgil bears witness that such sacrifices were offered to Phœbus or the Sun, Æneid x.:—
“Next Lycas fell; who, not like others born,
Was from his wretched mother ripp’d and torn:
Sacred, O Phœbus! from his birth to thee.”
But Acosta asserts that infants are sacrificed even at this very time to the Sun, in Cuscum, the capital of Peru.
And thus the Scriptures testify, 2 Kings xvii. 29–31, “Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt. And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.”
Ditmarus, in his first book, testifies “That the Normans and Danes sacrificed yearly, in the month of January, to their gods, ninety-nine human creatures, as many horses, besides dogs and cocks.” But what Procopius, on the Gothic war, writes, is truly astonishing, — namely, “That the Francs made use of human victims in his time, even though they then worshipped Christ.” Alas! for such a kind of Christianity. The practices of the Tyrians,7171 Concerning the Tyrians, see Curtius, book iv.; and concerning the Carthaginians, see Diodorus, book xx.:— Tr. Carthaginians, and Egyptians, in this respect are known to every one. And Theodoret says, “That in Rhodes, some person was sacrificed to Saturn on the sixteenth of the calends of November, which, after 527having been for a long time observed, became a custom; and they used to reserve one of those who had been capitally condemned till the feast of Saturn.”
Porphyry, on “Abstinence from Animals,” relates the customs of the Phœnicians concerning this matter. “The Phœnicians,” says he, “in great disasters, either by wars, or commotions, or droughts, used to sacrifice one of their dearest friends or relations to Saturn, devoted to this fate by the common suffrages.” They were called Phœnicians from the word φοίνιξ, which signifies a red colour. Φοίνιξ, according to Eustathius, is from φόνος, which signifies blood; thence the colour called φοινίκεος, or the purple colour. Hence the learned conjecture that the Phœnicians were the descendants of Esau or Edom, whose name also signifies red; and from whom, also, the Red Sea was named. Edom, then, φοίνιξ, and ἐρυθραῖος, mean the; same, — namely, red. Why may we not, then, conjecture that the Phœnicians, or Idumæans, were first led to this custom from some corrupt tradition concerning the sacrificing of Isaac, the father of Esau, the leader and head of their nation? This, at least, makes for the conjecture, that while ether nations sacrificed enemies or strangers, Porphyry bears witness that they sacrificed one of their dearest friends or relations. But Isaac was not to Abraham one of the dearest, but the only dear one. From such corrupt traditions as these, it is not to be wondered that the consciences of men, struck with a fear of punishment, should have been encouraged to persevere in so cruel and superstitious a worship.
Concerning the ancient Gauls, we have the most credible evidences, — Cicero and Julius Cæsar; the former of whom charges them with the practice of offering human sacrifices, as a horrid crime, and certain evidence of their contempt of Deity. The other, however, commends them on this very account, on the score of a more severe religion. “If at any time, induced by fear, they think it necessary that the gods should be appeased, they defile their altars and temples with human victims, — as if they could not practice religion without first violating it by their wickedness; for who does not know that, even at this day, they retain that savage and barbarous custom of sacrificing human beings, thinking that the immortal gods can be appeased by the blood and wickedness of man?” Cicero pro Fonteio. But Cæsar, the conqueror of the Gauls, gives us a very different account of these kind of sacrifices. “This nation,” says he, “of the Gauls, is most of all devoted to religious observances; and for that reason, those who labour under any grievous distemper, or who are conversant in dangers and battles, either sacrifice human victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and they employ the Druids as the conductors of such sacrifices; for they have an opinion that unless a human life be given for a human life, the heavenly deities cannot 528be appeased.” These last words seem to me to acknowledge a persuasion, that must have arisen from some ancient tradition, about the substitution of the Son of Man in the stead of sinners as a propitiation for sin.
No doubt can be entertained concerning the inhabitants of Britain but that they were guilty of the same practices; for from them came the Druids, the first promoters of that superstition, not only among the Gauls, but even in Italy and in the city of Rome itself. “The doctrine of the Druids,” says Cæsar, “is thought to have been found in Britain, and brought thence into Gaul; and now such as are desirous to examine more particularly into that matter generally go thither for the sake of information,” book vi. of the Wars in Gaul. But Tacitus informs us with what kind of sacrifices they performed their divine services there, in the fourteenth book of his Annals. “When the island of Anglesey was conquered by Paulinus, a guard,” says he, “was placed over the vanquished, and the groves devoted to cruel superstitions were hewn down” (the same was done by Cæsar in the siege of Marseilles, Lucan, book iii.); “for it was an article of their religion to sacrifice their captives on the altars, and to consult their gods by human entrails.”
Hence that verse in Horace:—
“Visam Britannos, hospitibus feros.”
“I will visit the Britons, cruel to strangers.”
At which remote place7272 Namely, Anglesey. — Tr. the Britons used to sacrifice their guests for victims; yea, even in Rome itself, as Plutarch, in his Life of Marcellus, testifies, they buried, by order of the high priests, “a man and woman of Gaul, and a man and woman of Greece,” alive in the cattle market, to avert some calamity by such a fatal sacrifice. Whether this was done yearly, as some think, I am rather inclined to doubt.
Of the same kind was the religion of the Decii, devoting themselves for the safety of the city. Hence a suspicion arose, and was everywhere rumoured, among the Gentiles, concerning the sacred rites of the Jews, with which they were unacquainted, — namely, that they were wont to be solemnized with human sacrifices: for although, after the destruction of the temple, it was manifest that they worshipped the God of heaven only, yet so long as they celebrated the secret mysteries appointed them by God, Josephus against Apion bears witness that they laboured under the infamy of that horrible crime, — namely, of sacrificing human victims, among those who were unacquainted with the Jewish polity; where he also recites, from the same Apion, a most ridiculous fiction about a young Greek captive being delivered by Antiochus, when he impiously spoiled the 529temple, after having been fed there on a sumptuous diet for the space of a year, that he might make the fatter a victim.
A custom that prevailed with some, not unlike this untruth about the young Greek kept in the temple, seems to have given rise to it; for thus Diodorus, in book v., writes of the Druids, “They fix up their malefactors upon poles, after having kept them five years” (it seems they fattened much slower than at Jerusalem), “and sacrifice them to their gods, and, with other first-fruits of the year, offer them on large funeral piles.” Theodoret also mentions something of that kind concerning the Rhodians, in the first book of the “Greek Affections;” the words have been mentioned before.
But that young Greek, destined for sacrifice, in Apion, has no name; that is, there never was any such person.
“But, friend, discover faithful what I crave, —
Artful concealment ill becomes the brave;
Say what thy birth, and what the name you bore,
Imposed by parents in the natal hour.”
But, after having prepared the plot, he ought not to have shunned the task of giving names to the actors. We have the name of a Persian sacrificed even among the Thracians, in Herodotus, book ix. “The Thracians of Apsinthium,” says he, “having seized Eobazus flying into Thrace, sacrificed him, after their custom, to Pleistorus, the god of the country.”
There is still remaining, if I rightly remember, the name of a Spanish soldier, a captive, with other of his companions, among the Mexicans, well-known inhabitants of America, who being sacrificed, on a very high altar, to the gods of the country, when his heart was pulled out (if we can credit Peter Martyr, author of the History of the West Indies), tumbling down upon the sand, exclaimed, “O companions, they have murdered me!” Clemens of Alexandria makes mention of Theopompus, a king of the Lacedæmonians, being sacrificed by Aristomenes the Messenian. His words, which elegantly set forth this custom of all the nations, we shall beg leave to trouble the reader with: “But now, when they had invaded all states and nations as plagues (he is speaking of demons), they demanded cruel sacrifices; and one Aristomenes, a Messenian, slew three hundred in honour of Ithometan Jupiter, thinking that he sacrificed so many hecatombs in due form, and of such a kind. Among these, too, was Theopompus, king of the Lacedemonians, an illustrious victim. But the inhabitants of Mount Taurus, who dwell about the Tauric Chersonese, instantly sacrifice whatever shipwrecked strangers they find 530upon their coasts to Diana of Taurus. Thence, ye inhospitable shores! Euripides again and again bewails in his scenes these your sacrifices,” Clemens’ Exhortations to the Greeks.
But what he says concerning Euripides has a reference to the story of “Iphigenia in Tauris;” where, however, the poet signifies that she detested such kinds of sacrifices, for he introduces Iphigenia, the priestess of Diana, thus bewailing her lot: “They have appointed me priestess in these temples, where Diana, the goddess of the festival, is delighted with such laws, whose name alone is honourable; but I say no more, dreading the goddess. For I sacrifice (and it long hath been a custom of the state) every Grecian that arrives in this country,” Eur. Iph. in Tauris, v. 34.
Thus far Clemens, who also demonstrates the same thing of the Thessalians, Lycians, Lesbians, Phocensians, and Romans, from Monimus, Antoclides, Pythocles, and Demaratus. That deed, too, of Agamemnon, alluded to by Virgil, furnishes another proof:—
“Sanguine placastis ventos, et virgine cæsâ.”
“O Grecians, when the Trojan shores you sought,
Your passage with a virgin’s blood was bought.”
Tertullian also bears witness to this wickedness: “In Africa they openly sacrificed infants to Saturn, even down to the time of the proconsulate of Tiberius; and what is surprising, even in that most religious city of the pious descendants of Æneas, there is a certain Jupiter, whom, at his games, they drench with human blood.”
It is notoriously known, that in the sanguinary games of the Romans, they made atonement to the gods with human blood, — namely, that of captives. But Eusebius Pamphilus (Præp. Evang. lib. iv. cap. 16) enters the most fully of any into this matter; for he shows from Porphyry, Philo, Clemens, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Diodorus Siculus, that this ceremony of offering human sacrifices was practised all over the world. Porphyry, indeed, shows at large who instituted this kind of worship in different places, and who put an end to it. Another very ingenious poet brings an accusation of extreme folly and madness against this rite in these verses. It is a Plebeian addressing Agamemnon:—
“Tu quum pro vitula, statuis dulcem Aulide natam,
Ante aras, spargisque mola caput, improbe, salsa,
Rectum animi servas?”
Hor., lib. ii. sat. iii. v. 199.
“When your own child you to the altar led,
And pour’d the salted meal upon her head;
When you beheld the lovely victim slain,
Unnatural father! were you sound of brain?”
531Agamemnon is introduced thus, apologizing for himself on account of the utility and necessity of the sacrifice:—
“Verum ego, ut hærentes adverso littore naves
Eriperem, prudens placavi sanguine divos.”
“But I, while adverse winds tempestuous roar,
To loose our fated navy from the shore,
Wisely with blood the powers divine adore.”
The Plebeian again charges him with madness:—
“Nempe tuo furiose?”
“What! your own blood, you madman?”
But Philo, in his first book, relates that one Saturn (there were many illustrious persons of that name, as well as of the name of Hercules), when the enemies of his country were oppressing it, sacrificed at the altars his own daughter, named Leüdem; which among them, namely, the Tyrians, means only-begotten.
I have little or no doubt but that this Saturn was Jephthah the Israelite; that their Hercules was Joshua, the celebrated Vossius has clearly proved, book i. of Idol.
But as we have made mention of Jephthah, it will not be foreign to our purpose briefly to treat of those three famous examples of human sacrifices recorded in the sacred writings. The first is contained in that celebrated history concerning the trial of Abraham; an undertaking so wonderful and astonishing that no age hath ever produced or will produce its like. It even exceeds every thing that fabulous Greece hath presumed in story. A most indulgent and affectionate father, weighed down with age,7474 Abraham is said to have been now a hundred and thirty-three years of age; for some are of opinion that Isaac, at the time he was to have been sacrificed, was thirty-three years old. Josephus says twenty-five; the Jews in Seder Olam, thirty-six. Nor is it any objection that he is called naar, for so Benjamin, the father of many children, is called, Gen. xliii. — Tr. is ordered to offer his only son, the pillar of his house and family, the trust of Heaven, a son solemnly promised him by God, the foundation of the future church, in whom, according to the oracles of God, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed; this most innocent and most obedient son he is ordered to offer as a burnt-offering, — a dreadful kind of sacrifice indeed! which required that the victim should be first slain, afterward cut in pieces, and lastly burnt, by the hands of a father! What though the purpose was not accomplished, God having graciously so ordained it, this obedience of the holy man is, notwithstanding, to be had in everlasting remembrance! And forasmuch as he began the task with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, the Holy Spirit bears testimony to him as if he had really offered his son: Heb. xi. 17, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered 532up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten.” The fame of this transaction, no doubt, was spread in ancient times over many of the eastern nations. But that those who were altogether ignorant of the communion and friendship which Abraham cultivated with the Lord, and yet were convinced in their consciences that a more noble sacrifice than all cattle, and a more precious victim, was necessary to be offered to God (for if this persuasion had not been deeply impressed on their minds, the devil could not have induced them to that dreadful worship), assumed the courage of practising the same thing from that event, there is not any room to doubt. And, farther, if any report were spread abroad concerning the divine command and oracle which Abraham received, the eyes of all would be turned upon him as the wisest and holiest of men, and they would be led, perhaps, to conclude, falsely, that God might be propitiated by such kind of victims: for they did not this from any rivalship of Abraham, whom they respected as a wise and just man; but, being deceived by that action of his, and endeavouring at an expiation of their own crimes, they did the same thing that he did, but with a very different end, for the offering up of Isaac was a type of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
But from that right and dominion which God naturally hath over all the creatures, or from that superior excellence and eminence wherewith he is endowed and constituted, he might, without any degree or suspicion of injustice or cruelty, exact victims as a tribute from man. But he hath declared his will to the contrary: Exod. xxxiv. 19, 20, “But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and the first-born of thy sons thou shalt redeem;” — partly, lest human blood, of which he has the highest care, should become of little account; but especially because all mankind in general being polluted with iniquities, a type of his immaculate Son could not be taken from among them.
But this history the falsifying poets of the Greeks have corrupted by that fable of theirs concerning the sacrifice of Iphigenia, begun by her father Agamemnon, but who was liberated by the substitution of a doe.7575 Agamemnon, as the story runs, had killed one of Diana’s stags, and the goddess would be appeased on no other terms than by the sacrifice of his daughter; but after she was laid on the pile, Diana, pitying the virgin, put a doe in her room, and made Iphigenia her priestess. — Tr. Hence, in Euripides, these words are falsely applied to the virgin destined to be sacrificed, which (the proper changes being made) might with more propriety be spoken of Isaac, when acting in obedience to the command of God and of his father.
― ὦ πάτερ πάρειμί σοι, etc.
“O, father, I am here present; and I cheerfully deliver up my body for my country and for all Greece, to be sacrificed at the altar 533of the goddess, by those who now conduct me thither, if the oracle so require,” Euripid. Iphigenia in Aulis, near the end, v. 1552.
It is worth while to notice, by the way, the use of the word ὑπέρ. The virgin to be sacrificed declared that she was willing to appease the anger of the gods, and suffer punishment in behalf of, or instead of, her country and all Greece; and but a little before she is introduced exulting in these words, —
Ἐλίσσετ’ ἀμφὶ ναόν, etc.
“Invoke to her temple, to her altar, Diana, queen Diana, the blessed Diana; for if it shall be necessary, by my blood and sacrifice I will obliterate the oracle,” Ib. v. 1480.
Justly celebrated, too, in the second place, is the history of Jephthah’s sacrificing his only daughter, related by the Holy Spirit in these words: Judg. xi. 30, 31, 34, 39, “And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering.” But when he returned, “his daughter came out to meet him;” and “at the end of two months, he did with her according to his vow.” If any passage ever puzzled both Jewish and Christian interpreters, ancient and modern, as well as all your disputants upon and patchers up of common-place difficulties, this one has. For, on the one hand, here it is supposed that all offering of human sacrifices is detested and abhorred by God; and to ascribe such a thing to a man of piety, and one celebrated by the Holy Spirit for his faith, many will not venture. But again, on the other hand, the words of the history, the circumstances, the grief and lamentation of the father, seem hardly capable of admitting any other meaning. But to me these things are ambiguous.7676 That is, the expressions relating to this subject are capable of more meanings than one, and to ascertain the right one is attended with difficulties. — Tr. [This seems a mistake. It is a Greek word in the original, ἀναμφισβήτητα, and signifies” indisputable,” or “beyond controversy.” Had the word been ἀμφισβήτητα, it might have borne the meaning attached to it by the translator. — Ed]
First, It is evident that a gross ignorance of the law, either in making the vow or in executing it, is by no means to be ascribed to Jephthah, who was, though a military man, a man of piety, a fearer of God, and well acquainted with the sacred writings. Now, then, if he simply made a vow, that a compensation and redemption, according to the valuation of the priests, ought to have been made, could not have escaped him; and therefore there was no reason why he should so much bewail the event of a vow by which he had engaged himself to the Lord, and to which he was bound, for he might 534both keep his faith and free his daughter, according to the words of the law, Lev. xxvii. 1–8.
Or if we should conjecture that he was so grossly mistaken, and entirely unacquainted with divine matters, was there no priest or scribe among all the people, who, during that time which he granted to his daughter, at her own request, to bewail her virginity, could instruct this illustrious leader, who had lately merited so highly of the commonwealth, in the meaning of the law, so that he should neither vex himself, render his family extinct, nor worship God to no purpose, by a vain superstition? I have no doubt, then, but that Jephthah performed his duty in executing his vow, according to the precept of the law, however much he might have erred in his original conception of it.
Nor is it less doubtful, in the second place, that Jephthah did not offer his daughter as a burnt-offering, as the words of the vow imply, according to the ceremony and institution of that kind of sacrifice; for as these sacrifices could be performed by the priest only by killing the victim, cutting it in pieces, and consuming it by fire upon the altar, — offices in which no priest would have ministered or assisted, — so also, such kind of sacrifices are enumerated among the abominations to the Lord, which he hateth: Deut. xii. 31, “Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God; for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters have they burnt in the fire to their gods.”
Thirdly, Nor does it seem probable that Jephthah had dedicated his daughter to God, that she should perpetually remain a virgin; for neither hath God instituted any such kind of worship, nor could the forced virginity of the daughter by any means ever be reckoned to the account of the father, as any valuable consideration, in place of a victim.
As, then, there were two kinds of things devoted to God, the first of which was of the class of those which, as God did not order that they should be offered in sacrifice, it was made a statute that they should be valued by the priest at a fair valuation, and be redeemed, and so return again to common use. The law of these is delivered, Lev. xxvii. 1, 2, etc., “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation, And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary. And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels,” etc. And verse 8: “But if he be poorer than thy estimation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall value him; according to his ability that vowed shall the priest value him.”
535But the second kind of these were called Cherem,7777 A thing or person so devoted as not to be redeemed. — Tr. concerning which it was not a simple vow נֶדֶר, of which there was no redemption or estimation to be made by the priest. The law respecting these is given in the 28th and 29th verses of the same chapter: “Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the Lord of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.”
The question, to which of these two kinds the vow of Jephthah belonged, creates, if I mistake not, the whole difficulty of the passage.
That it belonged not to the first is as clear as the day; because if we suppose that it did, he might easily have extricated himself and family from all grief on that account by paying the estimation made by the priest. It was, then, a cherem which by his vow Jephthah had vowed to the Lord, by no means to be redeemed, but accounted “most holy unto the Lord,” as in verses 28, 29, before mentioned.
But it is doubted whether a rational creature could be made a cherem; but, in fact, there can hardly remain any room for doubt. To the person who considers the text itself it will easily appear. The words are, “Every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.” It is evident from the foregoing verse that the words, “of men,” point not at the efficient cause but the matter7878 That is, pointing not at the persons vowing, but at the object of their vow, or at the thing vowed or devoted by them. — Tr. of the vow; where the same words, in the original, cannot be otherwise rendered than by “of,” or “touching man,” or by “out of,” or “from among mankind or men,” or “of the class of men.” And all those writers interpret the words in this sense (and there are not a few of them, both among Jews and Christians), who are of opinion that the passage ought to be explained as relating to the enemies of God, devoted to universal slaughter and destruction.
As Jephthah, then, had devoted his daughter as a cherem, it seems hardly to admit of a doubt that the cause of his consternation and sorrow at meeting her was because that, according to the law, he had slain her, having devoted her to God in such a manner as not to be redeemed.
It would be foreign to our purpose to agitate this question any farther. We shall only say, then, that after having maturely weighed all the circumstances of the text and of the thing itself, according to the measure of our abilities, we have gone into the opinion of those who maintain that Jephthah gave up his daughter to death, she being devoted to God in such a manner as, according to the law, not 536to be redeemed, that Supreme Being, who has the absolute right and power of life and death, so requiring7979 The author here uses the words, “at least interpretatively,” before, so requiring it;” meaning thereby, as I understand him, that the just and proper interpretation of the passage wherein this history is recorded, and of the others quoted, relating to vows, had clearly determined him to adopt this opinion. — Tr. it. The theologians of both nations8080 That is, both of the Jewish and Christian persuasion. — Tr. who espouse this side of the question are both numerous and renowned. Peter Martyr testifies that almost all the more ancient rabbins agreed in this opinion. Josephus in his Antiquities follows them, although he hath not determined Jephthah to be free of blame. Of the fathers, it is sufficient (for the matter is not to be determined by votes) that Jerome in his epistle to Julian, Ambrose on Virginity, book iii., Augustine on the book of Judges; and of those in later times, Peter Martyr in his commentary on the 11th of Judges, and Ludovicus Cappellus in that excellent treatise of his concerning Jephthah’s vow, have either approved, or at least have not dissented from, this opinion. What Epiphanius8181 Patriarch of Constantinople in the year 520. — Tr. relates concerning the deification of Jephthah’s daughter favours this opinion. “In Sebaste,” says he, “which was formerly called Samaria, having deified the daughter of Jephthah, they yearly celebrate a solemn festival in honour of her.” Yea, more, the most learned agree that the fame of this transaction was so spread among the Gentile nations, that thence Homer, Euripides, and others, seized the occasion of raising that fable about Agamemnon’s sacrificing his daughter, and that there never was any other Iphigenia than Jephthegenia, nor Iphianassa8282 Iphianassa, as the story says, was daughter of Prœtus, king of the Argives, who preferring herself in beauty to Juno, was struck with such a madness as to believe herself to be a cow, but was afterwards cured by Melampus, a famous physician, to whom she was given in marriage. — Tr. than Ἰφθιανασς8383 Or, than the daughter of Jephthah. For Iphigenia, see note on p. 532. or Jephtheanassa.
But this was a kind of human sacrifice by which, as God intended to shadow forth the true sacrifice of his Son, so the enemy of the human race, aping the Almighty, and taking advantage of and insulting the blindness of mankind and the horror of their troubled consciences, arising from a sense of the guilt of sin, influenced and compelled them to the performance of ceremonies of a similar kind.
There is no need that we should dwell on the third instance of this kind of sacrifices that occurs in the sacred writings, — namely, that of the king of Moab, during the siege of his city, offering up either his own son or the king of Edom’s upon the wall, as he was a heathen and a worshipper of Saturn, according to the custom of the Phœnicians. Despairing of his situation, when it seemed to him that the city could no longer be defended, and when he had no hope of breaking through or of escaping, he offered his own son, in my 537opinion (for the king of Edom had no first-born to succeed him in the government, being himself only a deputy king), as a sacrifice to the gods of his country, to procure a deliverance. The three kings then departed from the city which they were besieging, God so directing it, either having entered into an agreement to that purpose, or because of the war not being successfully ended (for the conjectures on this point are by no means satisfactory), some indignation having broke out among the troops of the Israelites, who also themselves were idolaters.8484 Dr Gill agrees with our author that the king of Moab sacrificed his own son, and thinks that he might be induced to offer him thus publicly on the wall, that it might be seen by the camp of Israel, and move their compassion; but rather that he did it as a religious action, to appease the Deity by a human sacrifice; and that it was offered either to the true God, in imitation of Abraham, or to his idol Chemosh, the sun. It was usual with the heathens, particularly the Phœnicians, when in calamity and distress, to.offer up what was most dear and valuable to them. See p. 527. Dr Gill seems of opinion that the cause why the three kings broke up the siege was, that after this barbarous and shocking sacrifice the Moabites became quite desperate, and that the kings, seeing them resolved to sell their lives so dear, and to hold out to the last man, thought fit to raise the siege; a very natural explication of these words, “And there was great indignation against Israel,” if the indignation be understood as applicable only to the Moabites. But the concluding sentence of our author on this subject seems to imply it to be his opinion, that there were also dissensions and indignation in the allied army; perhaps between the Edomites, the idolatrous Israelites, and the worshippers of the true God, arising from the horrid spectacle they had witnessed. This is only ventured as a conjecture, that may better account for the sudden departure of the kings. — Tr. See 2 Kings iii. 26, 27.
We shall conclude this train of testimonies with that noted account of the Rugiani, certain inhabitants of an island of Sclavonia, related by Albertus Crantzius, from which we may learn the dreadful judgment of God against a late superstition of Christians.
“Some preachers of the gospel of Christ” (who and what they were the historian shows) “converted the whole island of the Rugiani to the faith. Then they built an oratory in honour of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and in memory of St Vitus, patron of Corveia. But after, by divine permission, matters were changed, and the Rugiani fell off from the faith, having instantly expelled the priests and Christians, they converted their religion into superstition;8585 Their religion at best had been contaminated with the superstitions of the church of Rome. — Tr. for they worship St Vitus, whom we acknowledge as a martyr and servant of Christ, as God. Nor is there any barbarous people under heaven that more dread Christians and priests; whence also, in peculiar honour of St Vitus, they have been accustomed to sacrifice yearly any Christian that may accidentally fall into their hands.” A more horrible issue of Christianity sinking into superstition would, perhaps, be difficult to be found. But we are now tired of dwelling on such horrid rites and abominable sacrifices. Forasmuch, then, as we ourselves are the offspring of those who were wholly polluted with such sacrifices, and by nature not better or wiser than they, but only, through the rich, free, and unspeakable mercy of God, have been 538translated from the power of darkness, and the kingdom of Satan, into his marvellous light, it is most evident that, by every tie, we are bound to offer and devote ourselves wholly to Christ, our Deliverer and most glorious Saviour, “who hath loved us, and who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Thus the prophecies concerning the oblation of Christ being but badly understood, mankind were seduced, through the instigation of the devil, to pollute themselves with these inhuman and accursed sacrifices. Perhaps, too, that most artful seducer had it in view, by such sacrifices, to prejudice the more acute and intelligent part of mankind against that life-giving sacrifice that was to be destructive of his kingdom; for such now hold these atrocious sacrifices and detestable rites in abhorrence. However, to keep the minds of men in suspense and in subjection to himself, he did not fail, from another quarter, by words dubious, to spread abroad and send forth ambiguous oracles, as if such rites and sacrifices were of no avail for the expiation of sins. Thence these verses in Cato’s Distichs:—
“Cum sis ipse nocens, moritur cur victima pro te?
Stultitia est morte alterius sperare salutem.”
“Since it is thyself that art guilty, why need any victim die for thee? It is madness to expect salvation from the death of another.”
I have no doubt but that this last verse is a diabolical oracle.
By such deceitful practices, the old serpent, inflamed with envy, and being himself for ever lost, because he could not eradicate every sense of avenging justice (which is as a curb to restrain the fury of the wicked) from the minds of men, wished to lead them into mazes, that he might still keep them the slaves of sin, and subject to his own dominion.
There have been, and still are, some of mankind, I confess it, who, from indulging their vices, are seared in their consciences, and whose minds are become callous by the practice of iniquity; who, flattering themselves to their own destruction, have falsely conceived either that God does not trouble himself about such things, or that he can be easily appeased, and without any trouble. Hence that profane wretch introduced by Erasmus, after having settled matters with the Dominican commissaries, to a jolly companion of his own, when he asked him, “Whether God would ratify the bargain?” answers, “I fear rather lest the devil should not ratify it, for God by nature is easy to be appeased.” It is from the same idea that many of the barbarous natives of America, idly fancying that there are two gods, one good and another evil, say that there is no need to offer sacrifices to the good one, because, being naturally good, he is not disposed to hurt or injure any one. But they use all possible care, both by words, and actions, and every kind of horrible sacrifice, to please the evil one. Likewise those who are called by Mersennus 539Deists, exclaim, “That the bigots, or superstitiously religious, who believe in infernal punishments, are worse than Atheists, who deny that there is a God.” So, too, some new masters among our own countrymen talk of nothing in their discourses but of the goodness of God. His supreme right, dominion, and vindicatory justice are of no account with them. But he himself knows how to preserve his glory and his truth pure and entire, in spite of the abilities, and without regard to the delicacy, of these fashionable and dainty gentlemen.
But Rutherford on Providence answers, “That the Gentiles formerly borrowed their purgations and lustrations8686 That is, their acts or ceremonies of cleansing or purifying themselves from guilt by sacrifice, or otherwise; the latter word more particularly means the operation of cleansing by water. — Tr. from the Jews, and not from the light of nature.” But he must be a mere novice in the knowledge of these matters into whose mind even the slightest thought of that kind could enter; for I believe there is no one who doubts the custom and ceremony of sacrificing among the Gentile nations to be much more ancient than the Mosaic institutions. Nor can any one imagine that this universal custom among all nations, tribes, and people, civilized and barbarous, unknown to one another, differently situated and scattered all over the world, could have first arisen and proceeded from the institutions of the Jews.
“But,” says he, “the light is dark, that a sinful creature could dream of being able to perform a satisfaction, and make propitiatory expiation, to an infinite God incensed, and such, too, as would be satisfactory for sin.” Yea, I say, that a sinful creature could perform this is false, and a presumption only, arising from that darkness which we are in by nature. But, notwithstanding, it is true that God must be appeased by a propitiatory sacrifice, if we would that our sins should be forgiven us; and this much he hath pointed out to all mankind by that light of nature, obscure indeed, but not dark. Nor is it necessary, in order to prove this, that we should have recourse to the fabulous antiquities of the Egyptians, the very modest writer of which, Manetho, the high priest of Heliopolis, who lived in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and took his history from the Seriadic hieroglyphical8787 Hieroglyphics are emblems or pictures that were used in the first method of writing; but after characters were introduced, they became generally unintelligible, and contributed much to promote idolatry. They were used by the Egyptian priests to conceal the mysteries of their religion from the vulgar, and were thence called hieroglyphics; that is, sacred engravings or carvings. They were originally engraven or carved on walls and obelisks. — Tr. [It is hardly needful to advert to modern discoveries, from Champollion to Wilkinson, according to which it appears that, instead of being subservient merely to the purpose of concealment, these mystic characters, now that the key to them has been discovered, contain a rich treasury of information in regard both to the history and customs of ancient Egypt. — Ed.] obelisks, writes, that the Egyptian empire had endured to the time of Alexander the Great, through thirty-one dynasties,8888 A dynasty in history means a succession of kings in the same line. — Tr. containing a period of five thousand three hundred and fifty-three 540years. This is the sum of the years according to that writer, as Scaliger collects it, to which Vossius has added two years. But other Egyptians have been by no means satisfied with this period of time; for “from Osiris and Isis, to the reign of Alexander, who built a city of his own name in Egypt, they reckon more than ten thousand years, and, as some write, little less than twenty-three thousand years,” says Diodorus: during which period of time they say that the sun had four times changed his course, for that he had twice risen in the west and set in the east; which things, though they may seem the dreams of madmen, strictly and properly understood, yet some very learned men entertain a hope, by means of the distinction of the years which the Egyptians used, and the description of their festivals, of reconciling them with the truth of the holy Scriptures.
But passing over these things, it can hardly be doubted that Jupiter-ammon, among the Egyptians, was no other than Ham, the son of Noah, and Bacchus Noah himself; and that Vulcan, among other nations, was Tubal-cain: to all whom, and to others, sacrifices were offered before the birth of Moses. What, too, do they say to this, that Job, among the Gentiles, offered burnt-offerings before the institution of the Mosaic ceremonies? See chap. i. 5, xlii. 8. And Jethro, the priest of Midian, offered a burnt-offering and sacrifices to God even in the very camp of the Israelites in the wilderness, Exod. xviii. 12. Either, then, the sacrifice of Cain and Abel, or that of Adam himself and Eve, consisting of those beasts of whose skins coats were made to them by God,8989 Gen. iii. 21, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” — Tr. and by whose blood the covenant was ratified, which could not have been made with them after their fall without shedding of blood, gave the first occasion to mankind of discharging that persuasion concerning the necessity of appeasing the offended Deity, which hath arisen from the light of nature, through this channel of sacrificing. Yea, it is evident that this innate notion concerning vindicatory justice, and the observation of its exercise and egress, have given rise to all divine worship. Hence that expression, “Primus in orbe deos fecit timor,” “Fear first created gods.” And hence these verses in Virgil, spoken by king Evander:—
“― Non hæc solennia nobis,” etc.
Æn, viii. 185.
“These rites, these altars, and this feast, O king!
From no vain fears or superstition spring,
Or blind devotion, or from blinder chance,
Or heady zeal, or brutal ignorance;
But saved from danger, with a grateful sense,
The labours of a god we recompense.”
But I do not mention these things as if it were my opinion that sacrifices are prescribed by the law of nature. The most of the Romish clergy maintain this opinion, that so they may pave the 541way for establishing the blasphemous sacrifice of the mass. Thus Lessius on “Justice and Right,” book ii. Suarez, however, is of a different opinion; “for,” says he, “there is no natural precept from which it can be sufficiently gathered that a determination to that particular mode of worship is at all necessary to good morals,” in p. 3 of his Theol. on quest. 8, distinct. 71, sect. 8. But from the agreement of mankind in the ceremony of sacrificing, I maintain that they have possessed a constant sense of sin and vindicatory justice, discovering to them more and more of this rite, from its first commencement, by means of tradition.
But to return from this digression: it appears that such a presumption of corrective justice is implanted in all by nature, that it cannot by any means be eradicated. But since these universal conceptions by no means relate to what may belong or not belong to God at his free pleasure, it follows that sin-avenging justice is natural to God; the point that was to be proved.
I shall only add, in one word, that an argument from the consent of all is by consent of all allowed to be very strong: for thus says the philosopher, “What is admitted by all, we also admit; but he who would destroy such faith can himself advance nothing more credible,” Aristotle, Nicom. iii.
And Hesiod says, “That sentiment cannot be altogether groundless which many people agree in publishing.” And, “When we discourse of the eternity of the soul,” says Seneca, “the consent of mankind is considered as a weighty argument; I content myself with this public persuasion,” Seneca, Ep. 117.
And again, Aristotle says, “It is a very strong proof, if all shall agree in what we shall say.” And in that observation another author concurs: “The things that are commonly agreed on are worthy of credit.” And here endeth the second argument
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