« PreviousContinue »
mission can be allowed with regard to the animal sacrifice of Abel. They hold "that no reasonable notions of God could teach men that he could delight in blood, or in the fat of slain beasts"." They speak of "the destruction of innocent and useful creatures as against nature, against reason, and against interest," and condemn it as "an action, than which, nothing could be more, in appearance, ill-fitted to appease the divine wrath, or obtain the divine favour." Censures like these might appear to most men to have been more than enough to mark the sentiments of these divines. But one, still more zealous than the rest, has completed the climax, by, first of all, implying that to take away the lives of innocent and inoffensive creatures, to put them to torture, to spill their blood, and burn their flesh upon the altar of God, is alike contrary to the mercy, and lenity, and compassion of that infinite Being.He then concludes, that thus to torture them, and take away their lives, would, "without God's positive injunction, have been an abominable act, and enough to desecrate all their oblations"." Such is the injudicious language of these divines. I call this language injudicious, because, by asserting in terms so strong and unguarded the absurdity
* Magee on Atonement, vol. II. p. 73. 3d edit.
b Ibid. copied from Delaney, vol. I. p. 128.
Delaney, vol. I. p. 134.
Stackhouse's Hist: of the Bible, vol. I. p. 77. fol.
and inhumanity of animal sacrifices in themselves, and the impossibility of rationally regarding them as atonements for sin, the difficulty of vindicating the Mosaic sacrifices as types of the great sacrifice of the cross, and the sacrifice of the cross as the means of reconciliation to God, is increased to an alarming degree. If "the natural unfitness of the sacrificial rite to obtain the divine favour, and the total incongruity between the killing of God's creatures, and the receiving a pardon for the violation of God's laws"," be so very manifest; if the doctrine of the shedding of blood for the remission of sins, be indeed, not only above, but contrary to reason, then must we admit that there is far more force in the objections of the Socinian and the Deist, than, if it were merely an inexplicable doctrine, we should be at all compelled to allow.
It must be confessed, however, that all the advocates of the positive institution of animal sacrifices after the fall, have not been equally sweeping in their condemnations, and that even the most violent have sometimes taken a less decided tone. In their more sober moments they merely assert, "that no being has any right to the lives of the creatures, but their Creator, or those on whom he confers that right: and that," when Abel
Magee, vol. II. p. 70.
brought the firstlings of his flock, “God had not yet given man a right to the creatures, even for necessary food"." Such are their premises, and the conclusion which they deduce from these premises is this: that as "no permission had yet been given to eat animal food, and no" other "pretext could possibly have presented itself to the mind of man for taking away the life of the creatures of God, it is irreconcileable that, by any deductions of unassisted reason, the mind" of Abel "could have arrived at the conclusion that to destroy a part of the creation could be agreeable to the Creator; much less that it could be viewed as an act of homage"." And if it be impossible to imagine how the faith or understanding of Abel could have led him to an animal sacrifice as a rational or innocent mode of religious worship, it must be equally impossible to suppose that God would have vouchsafed to approve and sanction it as an acceptable service. Since then we know both that Abel offered, and that God had respect unto his animal offering, we must necessarily conclude, that as such an offering could neither have been made nor accepted as the dictate of reason alone, it must have been suggested to him by the positive revelation of God.
Delaney, vol. I. p. 132.
See an " Essay on the Religion of the Indian Tribes of North America," by Dr. Jarvis, inserted in the Investigator, No. 5, July, 1821, p. 75.
Such is the argument when temperately stated and viewed but it is an argument which, however correct its premises, and however powerful when applied to the believer, can have but little influence upon the mind of the sceptic or the infidel; because the divine institution of sacrifices does not necessarily follow from its admission. There are three sources at least from which it is conceivable that the practice of sacrifices of blood may have been derived; reason, revelation, and superstition. Whilst the sceptic, therefore, agrees with these divines in the impossibility of accounting for the origin of animal offerings from the principles of reason alone, the inference which he will deduce from that admission will differ materially from their's. He will only infer that as they did not originate in reason, they must have been the suggestion either of superstition or a divine command; and maintaining that the existence of a divine command for their institution cannot be satisfactorily, or even plausibly proved, he will insist upon superstition as their proper and only parent, and thus gain an advantage in objecting to the whole doctrine of sacrifice for sin, which it would be most unwise, and, I cannot but think, unnecessary to allow him to enjoy.
At once, therefore, to deprive the adversary of the atonement of this advantage, and to dis
prove the assertion of the advocates for the divine
Now it is evident that the whole force of the argument in support of the unreasonableness of animal sacrifices, if not sanctioned by a divine command, rests upon the supposition, first, that