Page images

tends to promote mutual love, and all the social virtues.

The fabbath, among the Jews (and, for the same reason, it should apply to the Lord's day among the christians) is expresily ordered to be a day of rest for the.. cattle, as well as for man. It must be exceedingly wrong, therefore, to make the labouring cattle work on that day; and in this view it is a most reasonable and merciful institution.

[ocr errors]

As the most important use of a weekly day of rest (on which the attention of the mind is withdrawn from the usual cares of life) is serious and useful reflection, in order to the moral culture of the mind, it must be wrong, as evidently interfering with this end of the institution, to give way to exceffive 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 Vol. II.

Y .


the Pharisees fpent their fabbath, and we cannot think that more gloom and rigour becomes the christian than the Jewish institution. Since all positive ordinances are in their own nature subordinate to duties of moral obligation, it is evident, that the rest of the sabbath should give place to labour, when acts of justice, benevolence, and mercy, must otherwise be neglected.

[blocks in formation]

BEFORE I proceed any farther in niy

account of those scripture precepts, which are not properly of a moral nature, but are subfervient to moral purposes, I Thall 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.

[ocr errors][merged small]

If, as it is possible, facrifices were not originally of divine appointment, we may suppose, that the natural foundation, or original of them, was the fame, 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 so 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 fo 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 to him, he ran and fetched a handful of water from a neighbouring brook, rather than accost him with

Y 2


out 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 effcctually alienated them from the use of man, would likewise be the most proper, and the most decent method of devoting them to God; especially, as nothing was left to putrefy, and become offensive after burning; and in some cases, as in the burn

ing 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 considered him as, in some manner, partaking with them of their facrifices; and, therefore, that they considered them more especially as an expression of reconciliation and friendShip; which idea is naturally, and especially in the East, connefied with that of eating and drinking together, and particularly eating the same falt. In this view it is obfervable, 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 ficrifices; originally, consisted of such things only as were their customary food. Thus, it is acknowledged, that all their facrifices were at first bloodless, consisting of vegetables only; and that this practice continued till they themselves procured a sufficiency of


Y 3

« PreviousContinue »