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SACRIFICES AND OTHER RELIGIOUS
A SACRIFICE has been defined to be something that is offered immediately to God in such a way as to be consumed or changed into some other form. Thus, animals were sacrificed when they were presented to God by being solemnly killed, and either altogether, or in part, burned upon some sort of altar; and so was wine, when it was offered by being solemnly poured out. The Jewish law prescribed many sacrifices, as well as various other religious offerings.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF SACRED OFFERINGS IN USE AMONG THE JEWS.
SACRED offerings of different kinds were common long before the age of Moses, even from the earliest period of the world. Every one that has ever read the bible, knows that sacrifices were in use directly after the fall, and all along down to the time when the Jewish church was separated from the rest of the world. We read of altars and priests. We have notices of different kinds of sacrifices. (Gen. iv. 3, 4. viii. 20. xxxi. 54.) We read of clean and unclean animals. (Gen. viii. 20.) We read also of firstlings and tythes being consecrated to God. (Gen. iv. 4. xiv. 20. xxviii. 22.) In the establishment of the Jewish economy, however, a more regular and extensive system of sacrifices and religious offerings was instituted. The number of them was increased; the different kinds of them more carefully distinguished; and the whole manner of them prescribed with particular and solemn direction.
Some of the sacrifices appointed by the Jewish law were VOL. II.
bloody, requiring the death of animals: others were not so, consisting of cakes, meal, wine, &c.
The only animals that might be used in sacrifice, were those of the ox-kind, sheep, goats, turtle doves, and young pigeons. They were to be in all respects free from blemish or defect, because God ought to be served with the best offerings that man can bring. If we withhold from him our highest regard, and worship him only with a sort of halfway religion, devoting our chief time, care and thought to the world, while with little or no feeling we content ourselves with just so many outward duties of piety as are needed to keep a sleepy conscience quiet, we do but insult the greatest and best of all beings, and provoke his sore displeasure. "Cursed be the deceiver," saith the Lord of Hosts, "which hath in his flock a male and voweth and sacrifieth unto the Lord a corrupt thing!" (Mal. i. 8, 13, 14.) For one particular class of sacrifices male victims alone were allowed, except in the case of birds, where the distinction was not regarded. Except in the case of birds also, the victims were required to be not less than eight days, nor more than three years, old. The sheep and goats that were sacrificed were commonly a year old; the bullocks three years. Wild beasts were not offered in sacrifice: hence that expression, to intimate that no religious sacredness was to be imagined in the slaying of animals in certain cases; Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten so shalt thou eat them; the clean and the unclean shall eat of them alike. (Deut. xii. 15, 21, 22.)
According to the law of Moses, sacrifices could not be offered upon the altar, except by the priests; nor at any other place than in the Court of God's Sanctuary, the tabernacle first, and afterwards the temple. (Deut. xii. 5-28.)
Animal-sacrifices were of four general kinds : viz. Burnt Offerings, Sin Offerings, Trespass Offerings and Peace Offerings. We have a particular account of these in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. The three kinds first mentioned had an expiatory virtue; that is, they made atonement for those that offered them. The Peace offerings were more particularly sacrifices expressive of gratitude
and praise for mercies received, or of supplication for mercies desired. Burnt offerings, however, were not exclusively expiatory in their character, but had in them also a meaning of thankful and adoring worship presented to the Most high and in the nature of every class on the other hand, we are to suppose that some regard was had to the guilt of sin, which called for the shedding of blood, before man could be accepted with God in any service. Blood poured out in sacrifice of any sort, could have no meaning other than that of atonement. It was solemnly consecrated by the Lord to be an expiation for the soul, and accordingly never flowed about the altar, without a design of calling to remembrance the existence of sin, and symbolically washing away its evil. (Lev. xvii. 10-14.)
1. BURNT OFFERINGS. These are sometimes styled holocausts, that is, offerings wholly burned, because all the flesh of the victims employed in them was consumed by the fire upon the altar. The animals used for them might not be, except in the case of birds, any other than males. The sacrifices that were in use before the time of Moses seem to have been most generally of this sort. They appear to have been expressive of religious worship in its widest nature; so as to be employed in it with equal propriety, when it was exercised in the way of praising God for his past mercies, or in the way of imploring his favour and blessing, or of deprecating his displeasure, for time to come. They were offered to God as the Maker, Preserver, and Governor of the Universe, worthy of all honour and adoration; and were designed to recommend those that presented them to his holy regard, and to make their services of praise or prayer acceptable in his sight, which, by reason of sin they could not be, without the shedding of blood. Such offerings are said in the law to make atonement for the person that presented them; but no particular cases of sin are mentioned for which they are to be brought to the altar. They seem to have had reference, in this respect, to the general sinfulness of heart and life, of which
man ought to be conscious in his own bosom, and for which he should continually feel that he needs to have his soul purged by sacrifice. We have an account of the manner of the burnt offering sacrifice in the first chapter of
Leviticus. There we are informed, how the offerer was required to bring his victim to the front of the Sanctuary, beside the brazen altar, and solemnly to lay his hand upon its head, and then to kill it before the Lord; how the priests were to take the blood in a proper vessel, and sprinkle it round about upon the altar; how all the parts of it, after the skin was taken off, were laid in order upon the wood and fire of the sacred hearth; and how the whole was consumed, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.
2. SIN OFFERINGS. These were altogether expiatory, and were to be presented for particular cases of transgression. We have an account of the manner of them in the fourth chapter of Leviticus. The victims used for them were different, according to the character of the offerer. A bullock was appointed for the purpose, when atonement was to be made for the High-priest or for the people in general; a male goat, when a civil magistrate was the of fender; and a female one or a lamb, when the guilty person was a common individual of the nation. If the person happened to be so poor that he could not furnish a kid or a lamb, he was required to bring to the altar two turtle doves, or two young pigeons; one of which was made a burnt offering, and the other a sin offering. If he was too poor even for this, he was still not excused; but had to present an offering for his sin of mere flour, unaccompanied with oil or incense. The victim was presented and slain in the same manner as in the case of burnt offerings. Its parts, however, were disposed of differently. When it was offered for the High-Priest, or for the whole congregation, the ministering priest was required to carry some of the blood into the Holy Place, there to sprinkle it with his finger seven times solemnly, toward the veil of the Holy of holies, and to stain with it the horns of the golden altar of incense; after which, he returned and poured out all the rest of it at the bottom of the other altar without. Then the fat of the animal only, was consumed in the sacrificial fire, while all its other parts were borne forth without the camp, to an appointed place, and there burned together. But when the sin offering was presented by the ruler, or by one of the common people, the ceremonies were not equally
solemn. The blood then was not carried into the Holy Place; it was enough to stain the horns of the brazen altar with it, before pouring it out. The flesh too, after the fat was consumed, was not carried without the camp and burned, but was given to the priests to be eaten in the Court of the Sanctuary. The eating of it was a religious duty that might not be neglected. What it signified, we learn from Lev. x. 16-20.
3. TRESPASS OFFERINGS. Of these we have account in the fifth and sixth chapters of Leviticus. Like the sin offerings, which they resembled in many particulars, they were altogether expiatory, and might not be offered at any time a man chose of his own free will to bring one, as was allowed and encouraged in the case of burnt offerings and peace offerings, but were to be presented only for particular offences; and when these offences occured, they could not be withheld, without exposing the offender to the punishment of wilful transgression. They were never offered for the whole congregation, as we have seen the sin offerings sometimes were, but merely for single individuals. The common victim used was a ram. The ceremonies of sacrifice were the same with those that were observed in the common cases of sin offerings; only the blood was sprinkled round about upon the altar, and no mention is made of its being put on the horns of it. The flesh was to be caten by the priests.
What was the general distinction between offences that called for sin offerings, and those that called for trespass offerings, has been much disputed among learned men, and seems to be, on the whole, beyond satisfactory determination. Some have thought, that trespass offerings were to be made in cases where there was a suspicion, but not a clear certainty, that an offence had been committed; and sin offerings, in cases where, though at first the offence was unknown, it was afterwards understood. Sins, according to some, were offences of a more serious character; trespasses, such as were of lighter evil. One of the most learned men the world ever produced, has told us, that trespasses in this case were offences of commission, such as violated the law by doing what it forbade to be done; and that sins, on the other hand, were offences of omis