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ceflive levity, and especially to use noisy and riotous diversions on that day; though a chearful, rather than an austere manner of spending it, is favourable to its proper use. Our Saviour was far from approving of the rigorous and superstitious manner in which the Pharisees spent their sabbath, and we cannot think that more gloom and rigour becomes the christian than the Jewish institutions. Since all positive ordinances are in their own nature subordinate to duties of moral obligation, it is evident, that the rest of the fabbath should give place to labour, when acts of justice, benevolence, and mercy, must otherwise be neglected
§ 2. Of facrifices.
EFORE I proceed any farther in my ac
count of those scripture precepts, which are not properly of a moral nature, but are subservient to moral purposes, I shall treat briefly of facrifices. Of the origin of sacrifices, consisting either of the presentation of fruits, or the killing and burning of animals, we have no account; but we find that they were permitted, and even expressly appointed by God, on a great variety of occasions.
If, as it is possible, sacrifices were not originally of divine appointinent, we may suppose, that the natural foundation, or original of them, was the
same, in general, with that of prayer, viz. a method which mankind thought of, to express the sense they had of their gratitude and obligation to God for the gifts and protection of his providence, and to procure farther favours from him; and no kind of action was fo proper for this purpose as the devoting to him some part of their substance, and especially such articles as contributed to their daily support.
It is to this day a custom throughout the east, never to approach any superior, or patron without a present. And, in this case, the value of the present is not so much considered, as its being a token of respect and homage. Thus we read, that when a Persian peasant was surprised by the approach of his prince, so that he had nothing at hand to present him with, he ran and fetched a handful of water from a neighbouring brook, rather than accost him without any offering. It is probable, that, in conformity to these general ideas, which are still prevalent in the East, the Israelites were forbidden to appear before the Lord empty.
When mankind thought of giving any thing to God, they would, probably, at first, only leave it in some open place, and abstain from making any farther use of it themselves; but afterwards, observing many things wasted away, or consumed by the heat of the fun, which is the great visible agent of God in this world, and other things suddenly consumed by lightning, which was always considered as more immediately sent by God; they might naturally enough fall into the notion, that consumption by fire, was the manner in which God took, things. They might, therefore, imagine, that burning things, at the same time that it most effectually alienated them from the use of man, would likewise be the most proper, and the most de cent method of devoting them to God; especially, as nothing was left to putrify, and become offensive after burning; and in some cases, as in the burning of incense, little or nothing would remain afterwards.
Considering the very low conceptions which mankind in early ages had of God, we do not wonder to find that they consider him as, in some manner, partaking with them of their sacrifices; and, therefore, that they considered them more especially as an expression of reconciliation and friendship; which idea is naturally, and especially in the East, connected with that of eating and drinking together, and particularly eating the same falt. In this view it is observable, that no facrifice among the Jews was to be made without this ingredient.
This account of sacrifices is, in some measure, illustrated and confirmed by the history of the Greeks and Romans, whose sacrifices, originally, consisted of such things only as were M 3
their customary food. Thus, it is acknowledged, that all their facrifices were at first bloodless, confisting of vegetables only; and that this practice continued till they themselves procured a fufficiency of animal food, upon which they began to facrifie animals. The Greeks also expressly speak of temples as the houses of their Gods, of altars as their iables, and of priests as their fervants.
The fame general ideas we find among the Jews, and the divine being plainly alludes to them when he is represented as saying, Pf. 1.
66 Shall I eat “ the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats ?” Which reproof was not intended to censure or change the general idea which they had annexed to sacrifices (as a transferring of their substance from themselves to God) but to restrain the very gross ideas which some of them might have entertained in pursuance of it, to prevent their laying too much stress upon these ceremonies, and to remind them of the greater importance of things of a moral nature, as being infinitely more plea. sing to God.
There was not, originally, any particular order of men employed in the business of sacrifices, but every man sacrificed, as well as prayed, in person, being priest as well as king in his own family ; and in those primitive patriarchal times, it does not appear
that any part of a sacrifice was eaten by the offerer, but that the whole was devoted to God,
and entirely consumed with fire. But when, un.. der the Mosaic difpenfation, a particular order of men were appointed for the purpose, they were considered as the more immediate servants of God; and there being a manifest propriety, that servants fnould be fed from their master's table, these priests were allowed a certain share in most facrifices. Such, at least, is the opinion of the Jewish Rabbi's with respect to the custom of sacrificing before and under the law.
Sacrifices, being of the nature of a gift, presented as a token of respect or homage, they naturally accompanied every folemn address to the divine be. ing, as the most decent and proper ceremonial in approaching him ; and being likewise considered as a convivial entertainment, at which the divine being himself was present, there was a peculiar propriety in their accompanying petitions for the pare don of fin, as expreffive of reconciliation and friendship. At the same time, the facrifices being provided at the expence of the offending party, they indirectly answer the purpose of mulets, or fines for offences.
Though I have said, that it is poffible that mankind might of themselves have had recourse to fam crifices, as a method of expressing their dependence upon God, &c. yet, when we consider how improbable it is, that mankind should even have attained to any tolerable and useful knowledge of