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E S S A Y
NATURE, DESIGN, &c.
S a right Notion of the Nature and Design of Sacrifices is of great consequence to the right
Understanding of many passages of Scripture, and the manner of Religious Worship by them appears to have been in use from the earliest Antiquity, and the Reasonableness of such a Worship seems not very clear, it may be worth while to enquire into the Origin and Design of such a Practice.
It seems indeed very strange, that when true Religion consists in the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, a manner of Worship should uni
versally prevail in the world, which conlisted in the Slaughter of Animals, or in consuming the good things which God had given to Mankind, by throwing them into the flames, or otherwise destroying them : And it is as strange to conceive that God himself (who is a Spirit, and should be treated as a Spiricual Being) should enjoin, or institute, or require such a seemingly unnatural manner of worship. Or if it be said that Men invented it, or fell into it thro' Folly, or Superstition, or Ignorance of the nature of God, it is as hard to conceive that God by a Positive Institution should command, or even allow to his own People such a strange Invention of Men. Were Sacrifices deemed the Food of God? Was he thought to take pleasure in the Fumes or Smoak of them? Or were they offered to induce him to lay aside Anger, and become Merciful, Good, and Kind? Whence could fuch a Notion arise? Or what Connexion is there between Burning an Animal, and removing Displeasure, that Blood, in such a particular manner offered, should be conceived a possible means to such an
End? Or is it reasonable to suppose that
Man had finn'd, an innocent Ox, or a Sheep, that never had offended, could be made his Substitute ; or that its Blood would be accepted as an Equivalent; or a Satisfaction for a real Criminal ? Arnobius has urged These, and several other Objections against the Heathen Sacrifices, with a great deal of Wit and Spirit, , with a Beauty and Strength that is very uncommon : But had his Adversaries
apa plied to the Jewish Sacrifices the same Difficulties which he had objected to the Heathen, it does not appear to certain and clear, How He would have removed them, or got rid of what they might have retorted upon Him.
It is certainly true, that the Reason of this
way of Worship has not been so fully considered as it ought. And even where the Command of this Practice is so express, and the Practice it self was so cuftomary, yet the Ground of it is rarely mentioned. Hence perhaps it may be thought impoffible to discover the Reason, or to determine any thing about the Origin of this Mode of Worship: Or perhaps it B 2
upon by some as a mere matter of Curiosity to concern one's self in such Enquiries. But every one must be left to judge for Himself; and as I for my
Part think it a matter of Importance, I shall endeavour to trace it from its Origin : And if one cannot arrive at absolute Certainty in so obscure and difficult a point, we must be content with Probability : or if one cannot be sure of the Ground of a Custom, by: reason of its very remote Antiquity, one ought not to reject the Light one may have, because one has not the Brightness of the Mid-, day Sun.
To begin then with defining what I mean by the word Sacrifice. Whatever is given or offered in a Solemn manner immediately to God, ' so as that Part of it, or the Whole is consumed, is what is meant by the Word Sacrifice. Whether it be upon an Altar, or what is used instead of an Altar ; whether it be by Fire, or in any other manner, is not material: But there must be a Gift, or Oblation of it, whatever the Subject, or Matcer may
and it must be offered to God; and there must be a Consumption of it. If a heap of Stones, or the common Earth, or a private Hearth was used to burn a piece of Flesh on, That makes no difference : Or if a Libation was made, and the Wine, or whatever it was, was poured upon the Earth, or into the Sea : Or if the Entrails of an Animal were cast into the Sea, as an Oblation to the Gods of the Sea, it was a proper Sacrifice, provided the Oblation was consumed in the proper man
Thus when Virgil says, Dii, quibus imperium eft pelagi, quorum
æquora curro, Vobis lætus ego hoc candentem in littore
Taurum Constituan ante aras, voti reus, Extaque
Salfos Porriciam in Auctus, et vina liquentia fundam.
Æn. I. v. 235, &c. l The Sea was the proper place on which the Entrails were given and consumed.