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use, in the practice of so unnatural a crime, is hard to conceive. It is true, that this argument will lose somewhat of its force, when we suppose the command was given to a family which were no strangers to human Sacrifices. This is observed purely in reverence to truth; but, be this as it will, it subverts the fancy of the Abrahamic original. For the fact seems to be, that, at the time this Command was given to the Patriarch, the Gentile world was deeply plunged into this diabolic Barathrum: which though the descendants of Esau possibly had not escaped, yet the line of Isaac certainly had.
The Mosaic account of the State of Religion in the Abrahamic times, shews that it was extremely depraved. For though the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full,* yet that of their neighbours, in Sodom and Gomorrah, we know, was. These considerations reasonably induced Philo the Jew, in his Discourse concerning Abraham, to suppose that human Sacrifices were in use before the time of Abraham. And Marsham, one of the best modern Critics concerning ancient times, declares, without hesitation, in favour of this humiliating circumstance; and our admirable Spencer thinks, there is so little reason to ascribe the original of Infanticide to the command to Abraham, that, unless the History of that command be told very lamely and imperfectly, it affords very strong arguments against that inhuman practice. But it is not generally the way of Scripture to reprobate a bad practice before it has been conceived or committed. Hence we may fairly collect, that human Sacrifices were in use before the command to Abraham. But what need we more to prove the fact in question, than this, That, if the account, here given, of the origin and progress of Sacrifice be the true, (as it hath the fairest claim of being so received, since the first use, and all the gradual abuses of it, till it sunk into the horrid Rite in question, may be understood, and understood only on this simple Principle, the uniform workings of our common nature) human Sacrifices must needs have preceded that æra.
What follows, in the learned Writer, as a strong confirmation of his system, is this, that CHILD-SACRIFICE was a type or representation of SOMETHING TO COME. Now, if by Child-Sacrifice he means the command to Abraham, this we allow and even contend for. But, if he means that the specific rite of Child-sacrifice was understood by Sacrificers, either Jewish or Gentile, to be a type or representation of SOMETHING TO COME, I think he speaks without the least proof.-What he adds, one knows not what to make of.— Child-sacrifice (says he) is the only instance of any Sacrifice in the Gentile world which is said to be MYSTICAL.-For if by mystical he means, a type of something to come, this has been answered already. But if by mystical we are to understand what was so called by the Gentiles in their Sacrificial Rites, almost all of them were mystical; that is, had a meaning subjoined, not obvious, nor intended to be obvious to the uninitiated, or the Profane. All their secret Rites, in which Sacrifice bore a principal part, abounded so much in hidden meanings of this sort, that these Rites were called MYSTERIES by way of eminence.
But if, after all, this TEKNOOYEIA or Child-sacrifice had the plain meaning which I have given to it, and not the mystical of the learned Writer, what becomes of his whole hypothesis?-That it had no other meaning, Gen. xv. 16. "Probe novi quamplurimos alia omnia de ritus hujus nefarü fonte sentire, quasi ex Abrahami filium suum offerentis historia corrupta et depravata profluxissent. Huic autem sententiæ fidem adhibere nescio, cum historia illa, nisi planè mutilata, magna præbeat contra morem illum inhumanum argumenta; et verisimile sit multas Gentes liberos suos immolare solitas, de Abrahami exemplo, ne vel fando quicquam audivisse."-De Leg. Hebræorum ritualibus, lib. xi. cap. xiii. sect. 3.
than the plain one, I appeal to the Authority of an inspired Writer. MICAH, without doubt, understood the true Origin, and consequently, the right import of Child-sacrifice; and he delivers my sense of it in these words-Will the Lord be pleased with ten thousands of Rams, or with ten thousands of Rivers of Oil? SHALL I GIVE MY FIRST-BORN FOR MY TRANSGRESSION: THE FRUIT OF MY BODY FOR THE SIN OF MY SOUL?* Here, we see, conformably to what I have delivered concerning Child-sacrifice, that the idea the Gentiles had of it, (for, to the Gentile, not to the Jewish sacrifices, the Prophet here alludes, as will be shewn hereafter) was simply, and solely, this, the very highest atonement that man could make for his transgressions, as it was the offering up what was most dear to the offender. The Prophet, therefore, puts it in the number of expiatory Sacrifices. But had that, which the learned Writer contends for, been the true and ancient notion of the Teкvolvσía, one can hardly think that, at a time when the Prophets were gradually opening the nature of the NEW DISPENSATION, Micah would have let slip so fair an occasion of considering it under that Christian idea.
We may now see, for what reason Child-sacrifice came to be reckoned a MYSTERIOUS WORSHIP; it was done, to withdraw the observation of the People from so horrid a rite, when considered only in its simple use; for nature is rarely so far debauched, as to behold, with indifference, the violation of its most instinctive appetites. So that the enormity was to be covered by some far-fetched invention of superior excellence of virtue, which preferred the rights of the Divinity to all human obligations. Thus, when the Worshippers were apt to revolt at Sacrifices extremely cruel or libidinous, the Priests secured their own credit, and the honour of their God, by the intervention of a spiritual meaning. And human Sacrifices became mysterious for the same reason that the impudent procession of the Phallus, in the corrupted Rites of Bacchus and Osiris, was taught to convey the high matters of REGENERATION, and a new life.
I have been the longer on this question, because, if human Sacrifices should be thought to have had their original from the Command to Abraham, it might seem to give some colour (which was far from the intention of this very learned and worthy man) to the calumny of the Deists, who assert, that HUMAN SACRIFICES MADE A PART OF THE MOSAIC RITUAL. For if the TEKVolvoía prefigured the Sacrifice on the Cross, or, as the learned Writer expresseth it, was a type or representation of something to come, it softens a little this infidel Paradox. The Poet VOLTAIRE hath repeated the calumny over and over, as if the Bible was still shut up, not only from the people in general, but (what, perhaps, would have been attended with less injury to Religion) from THESE POETS in particular.
And now, this more serious question, (in the midst of one less important, viz. the origin and progress of sacrifice in general) will deserve a severe examination.
VOLTAIRE, in a thing he calls, "An Essay on general History," accuses the Law, in these Words-"The Jewish Law seems to permit these [human] Sacrifices. It is said in Leviticus, that none devoted which shall be devoted of men shall be redeemed, but shall surely be put to death. The Jewish Books bear evidence, that when the Israelites over ran the little country of Canaan, they massacred, in most of the villages, men, women, and children, because they had been DEVOTED. On this Law it was that Jephtha sacrificed his daughter."+
• Micah vi. 7. .t Lev. xxvii. 29. "La Loi des Juifs semblait permettre ces Sacrifices. Il est dit dans Levitique; si une ame vivante a été promise à DIEU, on
1. This whole calumny I shall clear away, first of all, by the most express prohibitions of the Law, together with the declarations of the PROPHETS; both of which execrate every species of human Sacrifice.
2. And then examine and explain all those passages of Scripture, which seem to have given a handle to this impious charge.
3. Concluding, in the third place, with a confutation of that censure of inhumanity towards the inhabitants of Canaan urged by Voltaire, to support his main accusation of HUMAN SACRIFICES, and urged as if it were itself in the number of such Sacrifices.
In my entrance on the first head, let me previously observe, that the earliest direction for SANCTIFICATION, that is (in the language of Moses) for SACRIFICE, is of the first-born, expressed in these words,* SANCTIFY unto me all the first-born, whatsoever openeth the womb amongst the Children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is MINE. This is declared to be for a memorial of God's smiting Egypt in favour of his chosen people.—All the first-born of the Children of Israel are MINE, both man and beast: on the day that I smote the first-born in the land of Egypt, I SANCTIFIED them for myself.+
But from this Sanctification or SACRIFICE, Man and unclean animals were excepted, and redeemed. The redemption of the first-born of man is thus settled and explained—“I have taken" (says the text) "the LEVITES for all the FIRST-BORN of the Children of Israel: and I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his Sons, to do the service of the children of Israel, in the tabernacle of the Congregation." The redemption of the first-born of unclean animals, with a repetition of the redemption of Men, is thus expressed :-Every firstling of an ass shalt thou redeem with a Lamb and all the first-born of man, amongst thy Children shalt thou redeem.§ The redemption-money, for both, is given to Aaron and his successors;|| to whom the whole tribe of Levi was assigned for a vicarious (and in lieu of a more general) sanctification of the first-born of man.
This redemption was not on account of personal favour to a chosen people, but in abhorrence of HUMAN SACRIFICES, as appears plainly both from the LAW and the PROPHETS.
Moses, on his delivery of the LAW, thus solemnly forbids all curious enquiry concerning the Pagan rites of Worship, in the Nations round about them; Inquire not after their GODS, saying, how did these nations SERVE their Gods? EVEN SO WILL I DO LIKEWISE. The reason of the prohibition follows, they practised the horrid enormity of Child-sacrifice-For every abomination to the Lord, WHICH HE HATETH, have they done unto their Gods; FOR EVEN THEIR SONS AND THEIR DAUGHTERS HAVE THEY BURNT IN THE FIRE TO THEIR GODS.¶ The dangerous curiosity here restrained, was not on account of the number and nature of the Gods of Canaan. For the striking absurdity of their Theogony or original, and the impiety of their Mythology or history, would have served to attach the Israelites more firmly to the Law. The prohibition only respected an inquiry into the Canaanitish modes of worship, or, as it is better expressed in the text,-How these nations served their Gods. ne pourra la racheter, il faut qu'elle meure. Les Livres des Juifs reportent que quand ils envahirent le petit pais des Cananéens, ils massacrérent dans plusieurs villages, les hommes, les femmes, les enfans-parce qu'ils avoient été devoués. C'est sur cette Loi que furent fondés les serments de Jephthé qui sacrifia sa fille," &c.-Oeuvres de M. de Voltaire, tom. xiii. p. 227, eighth edition, 1756, 8vo.
Exod. xiii. 2. + Num. viii. 17; Exod. xiii. 14, 15. and to the same purpose, iii. 12-—45. Deut. xii. 30, 31.
Exod. xiii. 13.
1 Num. viii. 18, 19,
|| Num. xviii, 15, 16.
And though this inquiry might, at first, arise from nothing else than a wanton curiosity, yet the Legislator intimates that it would end in apostacy from the LORD OF HOSTS—even so will we do likewise; that is, we will use those Pagan rites in the service of the God of Israel; for they were little in danger, so early, to use Canaanitish rites in the service of the Gods of Canaan. Besides, the caution here is not against IDOLATRY but INFANTICIDE. Nor could they be much disposed to forsake the God of Israel for the Gods of Canaan, at the very time they were so successfully marching, under the auspices of Moses, to exterminate that devoted people. He therefore could scarce conceive that, at this time, they needed such a caution. For, the reason he gives for restraining this hurtful inquiry is, lest they should worship their own God with Pagan rites: especially this most abominable of all, INFANTICIDE. And there was the more need of this caution, since the first-born of man and beast, in Israel, were to be sanctified to the Lord; and though the first-born of man was redeemed, while the first-born of the clean beasts were sacrificed, yet the love of corrupt and idolatrous Rites might give some propensity to a fatal mistake, and to slip in Sacrifice instead of sanctification.
Afterwards, when the Israelites became polluted with the infernal stains of Infanticide, the PROPHETS never ceased to proclaim aloud God's abhorrence of this impiety. For, in order to impress upon the paganised or apostate Israelites a due sense of their frequent defections, it was found necessary for these his messengers thoroughly to probe the consciences of such hardened wretches, which had been seared with the fires of Molech.
Sacred History informs us, how severely Ahaz was punished for his multiplied Idolatries; but principally for his "burning his Children in the fire, after the abominations of the Heathen [the Canaanites] whom the Lord had cast out before the Children of Israel."*-They sacrificed (says the Psalmist) their sons and their daughters unto Devils-the Idols of Canaan -and the Land was polluted with blood-insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance †—“ They have built the high places of Baal" (says Jeremiah) "to burn their Sons with fire, for burnt-offerings to Baal." And again— they caused their Sons and their Daughters to pass through the fire, to Molech.§ Ezekiel, likewise, accuseth them of having caused their Sons to pass through the fire to DEVOUR them.|| But further, it would seem, by the following words of Jeremiah, that these impious sacrifices were offered, by the unnatural Jews, to the God of Israel himself." The Children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it, and they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their Sons and their Daughters in the fire, which I commanded them not, neither came it into my head." The concluding words seem to intimate that these Apostates pretended to have received such a command; or with what propriety was it so formally denied? Possibly they might pervert the famous passage in Leviticus;** of which more hereafter. However, the whole of the text informs us clearly, that Childsacrifice sometimes polluted the altars of the Temple. Ezekiel seems to confirm the same thing. "Moreover, this they have done unto me; they have defiled my Sanctuary, in the same day, and have prophaned my Sabbaths. For when they had slain their Children unto their Idols, then they came, the same day, into my Sanctuary to prophane it, and lo! thus have they done in the midst of mine house."++-i. e. "When they had slain Children to their
Idols, they, on the same day, offered the like horrid sacrifice to me."-And we know, it was their usual practice, amidst their defections, to join idolworship, to the worship of the God of Israel.
The sacred Historian is still more express to this purpose; when he thus speaks of the wicked king Manasseh-He built altars in the house of the Lord and he built altars for all the Host of Heaven, in the two Courts of the house of the Lord, and HE MADE HIS SONS TO PASS THROUGH THE FIRE; and observed times, and used enchantments, &c.*
On the whole, the gross IMMORALITY of this horrid Rite, was that to which the abhorrence of God was principally, and often solely, directed. This truth would appear certain (did Scripture afford no other evidence) from the warning given by Moses to his People, on their going to take possession of the Promised Land.
But a decisive passage in Isaiah cuts off the subterfuge of our Philosophers, who are ready to suppose that the declared abhorrence of human Sacrifices, so often repeated in Scripture, is confined to such as were directed to an IDOLATROUS OBJECT; for the Prophet, in the very place referred to, speaking in the name of God, declares the utmost detestation of human Sacrifices when offered to himself: For, speaking to those immoral Israelites, who imagined they could atone for their vices by ritual observances, he tells them, that even legal sacrifices, when offered to him with corrupt dispositions, were as displeasing to him, as those abominable human Sacrifices would be, which the Law of Nature condemns.-He that killeth an ox is as if he had slain a MAN; he that sacrificeth a lamb as if he cut off A DOG'S NECK. Here, we see the ritual worship, commanded by God, is opposed to the Sacrifice of Man, abominated by the Law of Nature; and to the Sacrifice of a Dog, the thing most abhorred by the Law of Moses; in whose ritual this animal was held so totally unclean, that the hire of a whore, and the price of a Dog, are put together, as equally unfit to be brought into the house of the Lord.‡ II.
We now come to those two capital Passages, on which the Enemies of Religion found their impious Charge. The one, they consider as an indispensable COMMAND; the other as an EXAMPLE, adapted to inforce the execution of it.
The pretended Command is in Leviticus, and contained in these words :NONE DEVOTED, WHICH SHALL BE DEVOTED OF MEN, SHALL BE REDEEMED, BUT SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH.§
Here is a Law, which our Philosophers, in their great sagacity, conceived did enjoin something. But being strangers to the subject, and ignorant of the phraseology, with heads likewise full of mischief, they discovered HUMAN SACRIFICES in a place where Moses was speaking of quite another thing.
The Chapter, in which this Law is found, contains directions for the making, and for the performance of Vows; a mode of obligation which had a natural place in a government THEOCRATICAL; where civil matters of obedience were intimately connected with religious.
Now, that capital Command given to the Chosen People, TO EXTERMINATE THE CANAANITES, a command so necessary to be observed, for the preservation both of their civil and religious Systems, needed, above all things, frequent repetitions of the sacred tie of Vows for its more exact performance;
t Isai. lxvi. 30.
Deut. xxiii, 18.
⚫ 2 Kings xxi. 4-6. xxvii. 29.