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A RITE is a solemn outward act of worship. By WORSHIPPING, is meant showing honour and respect ; and by religious worship, is meant endeavouring to show honour and respect to the Almighty Being, to GOD, who made the earth and all things therein, and to whom man looks with the hope and desire that He will cause his never-dying soul to be happy for ever.
The BIBLE is the WORD OF GOD. It tells us about God. It tells us how God was worshipped in former times, and how he is to be worshipped now.
Three times, or periods, are particularly and separately mentioned in the Bible, called dispensations, in each of which it has been God's will that he should be worshipped in a different manner, as to outward rites. The first is the patriarchal dispensation. This includes the period from the time when Adam and Eve left paradise, till the law was given from Mount Sinai. The history of the patriarchal dispensation is to be found in the chapters from the third of Genesis to the twentieth of Exodus. The second is the Mosaic or Levitical dispensation. The account of this occupies the rest of the Old Testament, and also includes the history of the Jews till the coming of Christ. The third is the Christian dispensation. The account of the beginning and early progress of this dispensation is given in the New Testament. It has continued till the present time; nor is there reason to suppose that there will be another dispensation, or another method of worship appointed, before Christ himself comes again to judge the world.
With respect to these dispensations, it is plain that the wisdom of God directs the revelation of such truths, and the giving of such laws, as are best suited from time to time to answer his merciful designs.
Any one who has read the Bible must have remarked, that the principal RITE of Divine worship, under the first two dispensations, was that of sacrifice. Some animal, or some production of the earth, was offered to God upon an altar, by some person whose duty and office it especially was to make the offering. The first particular account recorded of an offering or sacrifice, is in Gen. iv. When the offering was only placed upon the altar it was called an oblation. In a sacrifice, properly so called, the thing offered was destroyed, or something done to it, so as quite to change its state. In every part of the Bible, we find frequent mention of the sacrifices, and of the rites and ceremonies with which they were offered. The book of Psalms, and the writings of the prophets abound with allusions to sacrifices, while the historical and narrative parts of Scripture relate instances of them; and the books of Moses contain full directions about the manner in which they were to be offered under the second, or Levitical dispensation. There are not such full particulars as to the sacrifices of the patriarchs; but enough is said concerning them in the book of Genesis, and in some other places, to give sufficient information both as to their origin and their object. They were memorials of the sin of our first parents, and of the way of mercy provided for Adam and Eve, and their descendants. It is probable that these sacrifices were whole
burnt-offerings, and that there seldom were any others till the giving of the law by Moses.
The sacrifices mentioned in the Bible were generally made by taking beasts or birds of some particular kinds, depriving them of life in a solemn manner, and then burning their bodies on a heap of earth or stones, called an altar. As the sacrifices are mentioned very often, and evidently were matters of great importance, we will here inquire what was meant by them, and what first gave rise to them. Without stating the different opinions which have been given upon the subject, that which appears the only correct one, may at once be mentioned, and given in the words of a very able writer. He says, “It requires but very little acquaintance with Scripture, to know that it everywhere teaches us that man, by disobedience, is fallen under the displeasure of his Maker : that to be reconciled to his favour, and restored so as to be able to obey him in a manner he would accept, a Redeemer was appointed ; and that this Redeemer laid down his life to procure forgiveness and acceptance for repentant sinners. This surrender of life has been called, by the sacred writers, a sacrifice ; and the end attained by it, expiation or atonement.” From several texts, particularly Heb. x. 1. 12, and ix. 9—14, it appears that this sacrifice, or death of Christ, was the real or proper sacrifice to which the sacrifices directed by the law of Moses alluded, or of which they were, as it is called, types and shadows. Since this was so clearly the case as to all sacrifices under the second dispensation, we are warranted in believing the RiTE to have been ordained by God also under the first or patriarchal dispensation, as a type of that one SACRIFICE which was alluded to, or pointed to by all the other sacrifices.
That sacrifices must have been first appointed by God's express command, appears from their nature and design, which has been just stated ; and also from the distinct manner in which we read that God accepted them, when offered by Abel, Noah, and Abraham. In the book of Job, which probably contains the account of events that happened before the time of Abraham, we find that God expressly directed the friends of the patriarch to offer sacri
Archbishop Magee. On a subject of this very great importance, it is necessary to refer to an authority which cannot easily or effectually be disputed, and that able writer will be generally admitted to have been such.
fices, that they might be forgiven, when God was displeased with them because they had not spoken of Him in a right manner, chap. xlii. 8.
The first mention of sacrifice in the Bible, is that of Abel, Gen, iv. 4; and the manner in which the history is related, implies that there was a stated time for the performance of this duty, and that it had been often observed before. We must therefore conclude that Adam offered sacrifices; and it is generally supposed that the skins of beasts, which were given to Adam and Eve for clothes, Gen. iii. 21, were the skins of beasts which had been slain for sacrifices.
As it is declared that the plan of redemption, by the death of the only and beloved Son of God, was determined from the beginning, we learn a very important lesson from this account of the origin of sacrifice, which is applicable to the sacrifices of the heathens, as well as to those of the Jews. For the apostles, in their discourses recorded in the Acts, did not reprove the heathens for offering sacrifice, the RITE which had been derived from the common parents of all mankind, but for offering sacrifice to men of like passions with themselves, or idols,“ vanities,” “gold, silver, and stone, graven by art and man's device," instead of the
living God which made heaven, and earth, and the sea,
and all things that are therein,” Acts xiv. 15; xvii. 29.
The laying on of hands confessed sinfulness in the offerer, and desired that it might be transferred to the victim. The slaying of the animal that was sacrificed, gave an instance or example of that death which had been denounced
consequence of man's disobedience. It exhibited an awful lesson of death, which is the wages of sin, and at the same time represented that death which was actually to be undergone by the Redeemer of mankind. Hereby were shown at once the two great events in the history of man, the FALL and the RECOVERY—the death denounced against sin, and the death appointed for that Holy One, who was to lay down his life to deliver man from the consequences of sin. Thus the appointment of the sacrifice of animals seems to have been a very significant RITE ; it contained in effect all the main facts of religious knowledge. And to adopt this rite with sincere and pious feelings, implied a humble sense of the unworthiness of the person who made the offering ; also it was a confession that the death inflicted on the victim, was deserved by the sin that had proceeded from man's transgression ; it also showed a full reliance upon the promises of deliverance made after the fall.
Doubtless some particulars of the death or sacrifice of Christ, were made known from the time when the Redeemer was promised, Gen iii. 15; but, as this is not expressly stated in the Bible, it is sufficient for us to understand, that the sacrifice of animals was enjoined as a mark, or proof, that the offerer believed in the promised redemption, or way of salvation, although without having a precise knowledge how it was to be accomplished. We
may now proceed to notice what is related as to the offering of Cain and Abel, Gen. iv.—why Abel's offering was accepted, and Cain's rejected. Abel, firmly relying on the promise of God, and obeying the Divine command, sacrificed some of his lambs or kids, which he had been taught was a RITE that expressed his faith in a promised Saviour. Cain, either cared not for this gracious promise, or was unwilling to adopt the method appointed for showing his belief of it. It is right to thank God for the daily mercies we receive. It is our duty and our privilege to bless God for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life ; but above all for his inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ ; for