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. THE MEANING, DESIGN, AND EFFICACY OF
12. THESE are the chief sacrificial rites, which we have here any occasion to take notice of. And now, what judgment shall we form concerning them ? Certainly, however they might subserve some political or civil purposes; or contribute to the subsistence of the priesthood, they were of a religious nature; and had a primary and principal respect to God. For,
13. (1.) The tabernacle (afterward the temple) was regarded as the palace and residence of God upon earth; where his pres. ence was signified by the ark, and the shechinah in the holy of holies. This needs no proof. And therefore all approach to that, must be supposed to be an approach to God. And when all the sacrifices are ordered to be brought to this sanctuary, or house of God; all the sacrificial actions to be performed there, and the blood particularly to be partly sprinkled towards the divine presence in the holy of holies, and partly poured out at the foot of the altar, no doubt can
MEANING AND EFFICACY OF SACRIFICES. 15
be made, but those sacrifices had respect unto God; and must have a sense and meaning worthy of him, the great Object and Author of them.
14. (2.) The priests were his servants, and ministered unto him in holy things; and therefore, their solemn actions in the house of God must bear relation to God, · whose ministers they were...
15. (3.) Besides, some sacrifices were, and some were not, accepted of God. Lev. i. 4.—xxii. 21, 23, 25. Mal. i. 8, 10, 13. Which shews, they had respect to God's favour and approbation. Psal. xx. 1, 3. The Lord—remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice.
16. (4.) Again ; they were offered either to obtain a blessing from God; or by way of thanksgiving for favours which he had bestowed; or for the remission of sins, which he alone could pardon ; and therefore, must have respect upto God in very important concernments.
17. (5.) Add to this, that the mind of the offerer was to be well disposed in performing the sacrifice; otherwise, it is frequently declared, That the sacrifice was not pleasing to God. He was always to
lay his hand upon the head of it; and though an act of the mind is but once expressly said to attend that sacrificial rite, viz. upon the day of atonement, when Aaron confessed the sins of the people; yet probably in all piacular sacrifices, the laying on of hands was to be attended with the confession of sin. And it is reasonable to suppose the same action in peace. offerings was attended with prayers for the blessings desired, or thanks for the mercies received. This is favoured by Jon. ï. 9. I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving. By faith Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, Heb. xi. 4. All this makes it evident, that sacrifices were of a religious and moral nature; and had their effects with God to whom, and with the persons by whom, they were offered.
18. First, what significancy and effect had they with respect to God? Were they a gift or present? Was the burning of fat, or flesh a grateful smell to him? Or was he pleased with effusion of blood, and the death of his creatures? The Jewish writings strenuously enter their protest against this, Psal. 1. 8, &c. I will not re
prove thee for, or upon account of, thy sacrifices, which have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goat out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? God, who is a spirit, cannot be thus pleased ; nor is it possible to make any application of material things to his mind or essence, which can no ways be affected with them.
19. In what manner then had sacrifices respect to God? As the levitical law supplies no answer to this question, but sup. poses it was understood, we must seek for it in other parts of Scripture; and consult the sense of prophets and apostles, who had a clear and full knowledge of the nature and ends of divine institutions. Which in such cases is a just and authentic method of discovering and ascertaining the truth. In the institution of circumcision, Gen. xvii, no account is given of the meaning of that religious rite, any further than as it was a token of the covenant God then made with Abraham. But if we look into the prophet
ic and apostolic writings (Deut. x. 16. xxx. 6. Jer. iv. 4. Rom. ii. 29. Col. ii. 11.) we shall find it had relation to the heart ; and signified the retrenching inordinate affections, or the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, in order to dispose the mind to the sincere love and obedience of God. And every considerate person will allow this account to be so far satisfactory. And I doubt not but evidence of the same kind will appear more abundantly full and clear in the case before us, if we attend to the following considerations.
20. The temple, where the sacrificial rites were solemnized, is called the house of prayer, Isa. lvi. 7, and with relation too to the sacrifices and burnt-offerings there offered. For so the Lord speaks; All the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, &c. even them will I bring to my holy mountain, upon which the temple stood, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon my altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer, for all people. Here prayer, or solemn address to God, and sacrifices are terms equipollent. And it is further.