« PreviousContinue »
On the Opinions entertained with respect to
Atonement for Sin, and the Propriety of
There seems to be nothing in which the traditions and opinions of the Heathens bear stronger testimony to the doctrines of Scripture, than the general conviction which prevailed of the necessity of an atonement for sin, and of the intervention of a Divine Mediator.
The revelation imparted by Moses disclosed the curse of God against our first parents, and the entailed consequences on their descendants; it opened the promise of reconciliation, it pointed to the Messiah, and it instituted preparatory rites and services,
Much of the religious worship of Heathen antiquity was founded on the conviction of the necessity of some mediatorial atonement, The belief indeed of an entailed guilt affecting the descendants of wicked men, was very commonly entertained among åncient nations *, particularly among the Grecians.
Prayer, which was a propitiatory service, early and universally established, had sometimes a reference to this persuasion of transmitted guilt. It was offered up by all nations with a view to deprecate wrath, as well for entailed sins as for present offences, and to avert the punishment of them. It was sometimes, however, disregarded in the wantonness of speculative opinion by philosophers of eminence t..
The institution of sacrifice may be supposed to have taken its rise from a desire of averting the effects of the fall. It is probable that the skins with which God clothed our first parents were obtained from beasts sacrificed, since flesh was not eaten, it should seem, till after the flood I. The appointment, at least, appears to have been respected in the religious offering of Abel, for while the defect in the service of Cain consisted probably in its not including any acknowledgment of sin, inasmuch as it was merely a tribute to God of “ the fruits of the earth,” that of Abel, which was of the “ firstlings of “ the flock," seemed to offer “ a more excellent “ sacrifice *,” an oblation for sin, prefigurative, possibly, “ of the lamb slain from the “ foundation of the world,” and including a confession of guilt, being accompanied by the effusion of blood, “ without the shedding “ of which there was no remission.”
* See in the account of Glaucus from Herodotus in the preceding chapter, and Exod. xx. 5. Horace Car. lib. i. Ode 28. 1. 30, 31. and lib.iii. odc 6. 1. 1.
If the original design of sacrifice was too often forgotten among the Jews, the prophets were instructed to remind them of it, and to reprove them for bringing their unavailing gifts without right impressions and just sentiments of..
These inspired men explained the spiritual import of ritual ordinances, and pointed to Christ as to the true Paschal Lamb, de
* Magee, vol. i. p. 81. 1. 212. vol. ii. 3d edit. and Heb. xi. 4.
+ Stanhope's Sermons, xiii. and Boyle's Lectures, vol. i. p. 79. 794. Kennicol's Dissert. p. 224, as quoted by Magee, disc. and dissert. vol. ii. p. 78. 1 Sam. xv. 22. Ephes. ii. 5.
claring that the “ chastisement of our peace " should be upon him, and that by his stripes " we should be healed *."
Among the Heathens also, though in the popular notion, men regarded beasts and hecatombs as having an intrinsic worth, and believed that the incense ascended in acceptable fragrance to the gods, so that we find Xerxes and others offering up thousands of animals at the same time of; yet a more philosophical notion regarded them as expressive merely of guilt and propitiatory in their nature ..
Parkburst, as Magee has observed, remarks, that it is known to every one who is acquainted with the mythology of the Heathens, how strongly and generally they retained the tradition of an atonement $, evidence of which may be adduced from Hesiod and Homer ll. Plutarch states, that no city was to be found in which there were not sa
* Isaiah liji. 5, see also 1 Pet. ii. 24. 2 Cor. v. 21. Gal. iii. 13. i Pet. ii. 10. + Herod. lib. i. c. 50.
Dion. Halicar. lib. i. Plin. xxviii. 30, 31. Cicero, i. Plutarch par Mon. Fonteu. Middleton's Life of Cicero, p. 307. Lactant de Vit. Bcat. lib. vii. c. 8.
s Eeya xao muep, 1. 538, and Magee on the preval. of Heathen Sacrif. p. 124. 128, and Horat. lib. i. Od. 2. 1. 29.
di Iliad, lib. i. 1. 65. lib. ii. 1. 550.
crifices to procure good and avert evil, and in the nature of the sacrifices, as well as in the forms and circumstances observed by the Heathens in their sacrifices, we often meet with a resemblance between sacred and Heathen rites *.
It appears also, that the Heathens, by some traditionary knowledge, entertained a conviction of the efficacy of the shedding of blood, and believed that propitiatory sacrifices, accompanied with sorrow and good resolutions, might reasonably be tendered, and would be accepted by the Supreme Being. The fire which was kindled in this spirit on the Heathen altars was stolen as it were from heaven. Pausanius relates, that Phæstus directed the Sicyonians to pay divine honours to Hercules as to a God, who was before worshipped only as a Hero. In consequence of which they offered a lamb in the time of Pausanius, and burned the members upon the al
tar, eating a part and offering up the other f. . In referring to these dawnings of Divine light which opened upon an Heathen world, it is not meant that there existed any clear
* Acts vii. 42. Isaiah xxx. 29. Tertull. Apol. c. % + Corinth. c. X. p. 193. Ed. Lips. 1696.