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The Legal Worship of the Hebrews was Offering; – not prayer, said or chanted, nor instrumental music, nor any like form of devotion, - but the presenting to the Deity of articles of food and drink. And the fundamental directions respecting this ritual are given in the passage now before us.
It is certain, that the institution of this kind of worship did not originate with Moses. From the earliest times, Offerings have made the prevailing form, in which the spirit of devotion has endeavoured to express itself. That the practice was well known to Moses as having existed in ages anterior to his own, is evident from not a few passages of his first book.* And the first directions of his Law concerning Offerings are introduced in a way, which indicates, that he was not propounding a new form of devotion, but regulating the ritual of one already understood and used. “When any man of you,” says he, “shall bring an offering to the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd and of the flock."
The question, formerly much moved, whether the Worship of Offerings was originally of human or Divine institution, is one, which, in the absence of sufficient historical data, it seems impossible peremptorily to decide ; though the burden of proof may be thought to lie on those who maintain the latter view.t It is not a
abode. Compare xxix. 42. — The fact of his thus receiving successive directions to publish laws, (i. 1; iv. 1; vi. 1, 8 et seq.,) is in no sort inconsistent with the view, above presented, of his having received authority respecting those laws at a previous time. On Mount Sinai he had been instructed concerning them; from the Tabernacle he was told how, in due order, to make them public.
* E. g. Gen. iv. 3-5; viii. 20; xii. 7; xiii. 4; xv. 9-11 ; xxii, 13.
f I cannot argue against the latter view, as some have done, from such texts as Psalm xl. 6, 1. 8-14, li. 16, Is. i. 11, Jer. vi. 20, vii. 22, Amos vi. 20, Hos. vi. 6, Mal. i. 10. They appear to me only to declare the worthlessness of outward observances, when compared with internal purity.
question to be settled by authority; else such authorities as those of Maimonides, Ben Gerson, and Abarbanel, among the Jews; Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Cyril,* among the ancient fathers of the church; and Grotius, Spencer, and Warburton, among modern Christian writers, all of whom have maintained the human origin of the observance, would certainly be entitled to great consideration. Nor can the very extensive, not to say, universal prevalence of the custom from the first, be interpreted as proof of its having had its foundation in some early divine precept, provided one can show that it may naturally have had its rise in some essential tendency, or universal habit, of the human mind.
Accordingly, those who hold to the human origin of this form of worship, insist that the problem of its prevalence is fully solved by well-known tendencies of universal human thought and feeling. It is the most natural expression, say they, to an unenlightened mind, of those sentiments of devotion to which it would give body and utterance. Touched with a sense of blessings received, it would make a present to its deity to evince its gratitude. Oppressed with remorse or fear, what it would first think of would be, to propitiate him by a gift. Anxious to obtain a good in prospect, it would urge its suit by an act manifesting its attachment and reverence. To these ends, the worshipper would give what he had to give. In a primitive state of society, property would chiefly consist in the flocks and herds which its possessor had tended, or the fruits which his culture had produced ; and these he would present by sequestering them from common use, and leaving them exposed where he would think his deity might find them; or he would send them up, on a column of flame, to the upper region of the air, which his deity was understood to inhabit. The more ample and costly were such offerings, the greater, of course, the evidence they would afford of self-renunciation, of submission, of strong emotion and earnest desire of whatever kind; and hence holocausts and hecatombs. In its highest excitement, coupled with conceptions of the Divinity as being sanguinary and vindictive, the feeling would lead, as it actually did, to the enormity of human sacrifices, and even to the selection of victims the most dear to the state, or the individual, who offered them.*
* For particular references to these writers, see Spencer “ De Legibus Hebræorum,” lib. 3, diss. 2, cap. 1, § 2.
Though, to my mind, these views sufficiently explain the origin of the practice, rendering unnecessary the hypothesis of a Divine precept prescribing it, still I cannot urge this conclusion, as at present of great importance in any view. On the contrary, I must own, that the question appears to me to have been agitated with a warmth, altogether disproportioned to any intrinsic interest which it possesses. If of human institution, the usage was prompted by such feelings as have been described. If of Divine institution, it had reference to such feelings, being designed by him who “ considereth our frame," as a suitable means, which it would be, under proper regulations, for their gratification and ex
Some writers, who hold to the human origin of sacrifices, as Mede (Works, book 2, chap. 7), Cudworth (Discourse on the Lord's Supper), and Sykes, give a different account of their origin, regarding them as what they call a “ federal rite.” This expression is explained by the last-named writer, (Essay on Sacrifices, p. 73,) where he says, that the origin of sacrifices may be accounted for on the ground, that “eating and drinking together were the known ordinary symbols of friendship, and were the usual rites of engaging in covenants and leagues.” Dr. Magee (On the Atonement, Vol. ii. p. 22,) well objects to this theory, that at most it accounts only for those sacrifices called "peace-offerings,” of which the offerer took a share, and not at all for those which consisted, as did many in use among idolaters, of animals not used for food.
pression. The fittest forms of worship, at any given time, are undoubtedly those, which most appropriately indicate, and most effectually cherish, the devout feelings of the worshipper. What these will be, at any time, will depend on the worshipper's mental habits; on the degree of his intellectual cultivation, and of the correctness and liveliness of his apprehensions of God. For the same reason, then, that God calls on us Christians to address him in words of prayer, which in our state of culture make the natural and approved expression of internal feelings of devotion, he might be expected, with a like adaptation to a less advanced state of the worshippers' minds in earlier ages, to call on them to address him with the offering of that service, with which all their religious feelings would be naturally associated.*
Whether its remote origin, then, were in human or Divine arrangement, the presenting of offerings was, at the time of the delivery of the Jewish Law, the accustomed and established form of the expression of devout emotions. Assuredly it would have been no wisdom to condemn to disuse those outward acts, which made up, for
every man, the habit of devotion ;— those acts, which, through the infallible power of permanent associations between acts and feelings, (a power which makes itself felt, even when such associations are accidental and arbitrary in their origin,) kindled, as they were performed, a devout fervor of the spirit. It was wisdom, to take up these observances, with all their holy and profitable influences, and make them do for the worshipper, in all respects, the work which his religious improvement required, by
* The better ancient critics understood this. Says Chrysostom; osas ου τρέπεται, ου μεταβάλλεται, ουδε αφ' επίρας εις ετέραν μετατίθεται γνώμην. Ού ποτί μεν τούτο δοκιμάζει, ποτέ δε έτερον. 'Αλλ' αυτός μεν ών άτρεπτος, και αναλλοίωτος, αρμόζεται προς την ασθένειαν την ανθρωπίνην. Λαλεί ο θεός, και νομοθετεί πολλάκις, ουχ ως αυτός δύναται, αλλ' ως ημείς ακούειν δυνάμεθα. Ηomil. in Psal. 95. (Opera, Tom. I. p. 917, Eton Edit.) Compare Ez. xx. 25; Mat. xix. 8.
regulating them in such a manner as to deprive them of
power to mislead into error, and to invest them with power to suggest truth and awaken a sense of duty; and to lead the thoughtful mind away from the mere outward observance, to the sense and feeling it was designed to imbody and excite, by giving them, in their several definite forms, a substantial and affecting use and meaning.
These, and other similar objects, relating to individual improvement, and to the national well-being, the laws of Moses respecting worship were actually adapted to promote. The spirit and intent of these laws is in many respects sufficiently manifest ; and, in not a few, we find occasion to admire the fitness of an arrangement to accomplish, along with some great leading object, a variety of others, not only subordinate, but distinct. In considering others, it is no wonder if we are sometimes at a loss in respect to the end contemplated. Under the circumstances, it could not fail to be so. For the regulation had in view the correction, and (in order to be effectual) often the indirect correction, of errors of a state of society, which has not only long since passed away, but which has left no record, except in these very laws of which we are seeking the interpretation.
In treating of the Mosaic ritual in respect to offerings, it may be well to consider severally ; 1. Their materials. 2. Their manner and object, which are so connected that they are most conveniently treated together. 3. Their place.
1. Their materials. These are to be classed under two general divisions; the bloody, or animal offerings; and the bloodless, or vegetable.
Animal offerings were either of beasts, or of birds. There is no instance, or intimation, of any kind of fish being used for the purpose. The birds appointed for