« PreviousContinue »
the Ammonites; and he was willing also to have kept up the same friendly intercourse with his son, though no man was more zealous against idolatry than that prince, see 2 Sam. x. 2. So far is it from being true which this writer here alleges, that they were to • abjure all friendship and alliances with idolaters, and that they
were not to maintain any peace or amity with any other nation or people, but on condition of submitting to them as their subjects, slaves, and tributaries,' as he affirms, p. 29; and Grotius there observes, that the Maccabees, who were very strict in observing the law of Moses, entered into a league with the Lacedemonians, and with the Romans, for mutual assistance and defence, and that with the consent of the priests and people, and even offered sacrifices for their prosperity, 1 Mac. viii. and xii. As to marriages with idolaters the case is different. This is a much nearer union than what arises from treaties of commerce, or leagues made for mutual defence. It depends more on a person's own choice and inclination, whereas the other may be necessary in certain conjunctures and circumstances for the public safety. The danger of being perverted to idolatry is much greater in this case than in the other, and of having the children and family bred up to idolatry and false worship, which every good man would be desirous to prevent.
And accordingly, even the Christian Institution, which is so kind and benevolent, and every where breathes universal charity and good will towards mankind, yet forbids our entering into a conjugal relation with idolaters and unbelievers; see 2 Cor. vi. 14–16. So that this part of the Mosaic constitution is far from proving what our author produces it for, that it was founded on the principles of persecution, and on a want of benevolence to mankind. It is not indeed to be wondered at that this writer finds fault with this, who commends the Gnosticks not only for marrying with idolaters, but for feasting with them in the idol temples, and joining with them in all the outward acts of their idolatrous worship, which he seems to think not only lawful but commendable, provided they still kept from a mental adoration of the idol, pp. 388, 389. It will be easily granted this never was allowed to the Jews, nor is it to those whom he is pleased to call Jewish Christians, that is, to those that are Christians upon the foot of the New Testament, or the religion taught by Christ and his apostles. And however such a conduct may be consistent with this man's moral philosophy, yet how it can be made to consist with common honesty I cannot see.
The author's pretence that the law of Moses encouraged human sacrifices as the bigbest
acts of religion and devotion when offered not to idols but to the true God. Such sacrifices plainly forbidden in the law to be offered to God. His account of Lev. xxvii. 28, 29, considered. The argument he draws from the law for the redemption of the first-born turned against him. The case of Abraham's offering up his son Isaac considered at large. Not done in conformity to the customs of tbe Canaanites. The true state of the case laid down. Humn sacrifices not encouraged by this instance, but the contrary. Abraham himself had full assurance that this command came from God. Upon what grounds his having had such a command from God is credible and probable to us. It could not be owing to the illusions of an evil spirit: por to the force of his own enthusiasm. The author's pretence that this instance destroys the law of nature, and leaves all to mere arbitrary will and pleasure, examined.
The Moral Philosopher has several other objections against the law of Moses scattered through his book. He would fain have it thought that that law encourages and approves' human sacrifices.' The author of Christianity as old as the Creation,' had laboured this point before him, and what he offers on this head hath received a full answer. * But these gentlemen are never weary of repeating the same objections with as much confidence as if not the least notice had been ever taken of them before. This writer is pleased
. to tell us, that, among the free will offerings offered by the Jews under the law, human sacrifices were looked upon as the most efficacious and acceptable to the Lord. And though they were not exacted by law (though if the interpretation he pretends to give of Lev. 28, 29, be just, they were exacted by law), yet they were encouraged and indulged as the riches and donations, and as the testimony of the most perfect religion, and highest degree of love to God. Indeed, such burnt-offerings of their sons and daughters to idols and false gods were represented as the greatest possible abomination ; and for the same reason such oblations were regarded as the highest possible acts of religion and devotion, when they were intended and given up as sacrifices of atonement to the true God,' pp. 129, 130.
But certainly, since there are such particular directions given in the law relating to sacrifices, appointing what things were to be offered to God, and in what manner; if human sacrifices, or the offering of their sons and daughters, were there designed to be encouraged as the most valuable oblations, and acts of the most perfect religion,' there would have been directions in the law concerning them. And there not being the least direction there given relating to any such sacrifices, when there are such minute and particular directions in every other kind of oblations, is a manifest
See answer to Christianity as old as the Creation, vol. ii. p. 168, et seq.
proof that they were never designed to be encouraged and approved by that law, and indeed is equivalent to an express prohibition of them under that constitution. For they were strictly enjoined to keep close to the law in their sacred ceremonies, and not to add thereto or diminish from it, and particularly were not suffered to offer
any other sacrifices, or in any other manner than was there expressly appointed. But besides this, there is as plain a prohibition of those human sacrifices as can be desired in the law itself, Deut. xii. 30, 31. In that chapter God forbids his people to worship him in the same manner and with the same rites with which the heathens worshipped their idols. In the beginning of that chapter, after having mentioned their worshipping their gods upon the high mountains' and 'hills,' and in the groves,' and with
graven images,' he adds, ver. 4,· Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God; that is, thou shalt not offer sacrifices to him in the high places and groves as they worshipped their idols; but as it follows, ver. 5, 6, Unto the place which the Lord tlıy God shall choose, shall ye come, and thither shall ye bring your burnt-offerings,' &c., and then, ver. 30, 31, he forbids their imitating the heathens in offering up human sacrifices to him as they did unto their gods. Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed before thee, and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, how did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord which he hateth, have they done unto their gods : for even their sons and daughters they have burnt in the fire unto their gods. It is very evident here that God plainly forbids his people, not only to worship their gods, but to imitate them in the manner of their worship. And particularly he mentions their sacrificing of their sons and daughters to their gods, as a thing which was highly abominable in his sight; and that therefore the Israelites should not imitate this detestable practice in his worship. “They should not do so unto the Lord their God. And in the words immediately following in opposition
' to this, he charges them to observe to do whatsoever he commanded them ;' and forbids them to add thereto or diminish from it.' Taking the whole passage together, I think it plainly appears from it, that by the law of Moses God was so far from encouraging the Israelites to offer up human sacrifices to him as the heathens did to their idols, or teaching them to regard it as the highest possible act of devotion when done to the true God, that he could not more strongly express his absolute detestation and abhorrence of it.
There is no necessity, therefore, of examining the author's account of that passage, Lev. xxvii. 28, 29, which cannot admit the interpretation he puts upon it. Indeed the account he gives of it, and of the vows intended in that chapter, is so confused and obscure, that I must confess I do not understand it, and it is of little importance to seek out his meaning. I shall only observe that whereas he speaks of two sorts of vows, general and special;' one
distinction between them he supposes to lie in this, that with regard to the former there was a right of redemption by the law; but in the latter case, whatever portion or thing had been thus especially 'vowed, must be destroyed by fire, and taken off from the use of man as a burnt-offering unto the Lord.' And to this he applies the 28th and 29th verses, which he renders thus : “ Nevertheless nothing separate from the common use, that a man doth separate unto the Lord, of all that he hath, whether it be man or beast, or land of his inheritance, may be sold or redeemed; for every thing separate from the common use is holy unto the Lord :' that is, according to this author's account of it, it must be destroyed by fire, and taken off from the use of man as a burnt-offering unto the Lord.' So that if his interpretation be admitted, the field of a man's possession when thus devoted to the Lord, was to be destroyed by fire, and taken off from the use of man as a burnt-offering unto the Lord. And yet he that here makes the nature of these special vows to consist in this, that what was thus specially vowed to God was not to be redeemed, but of necessity must be destroyed by fire as a burnt-offering unto the Lord;' in a page or two after declares, that the thing devoted to God by this special vow became the absolute property of the priest, who might either sacrifice it, or sell it, as he thought fit; and he thinks that if there were not
as many burnt-offerings of the human kind as there might have been, it was because the priest had good reason for it, not to burn any thing in common cases that would yield money,' p. 141. Thus Our Moral Philosopher, in his eager zeal to expose the priests' mercenariness, doth not reflect that he contradicts and exposes himself as a captious and inconsistent writer.
I shall not enter into a large explication of that passage, Lev. xxvii. 28, 29, which he has so miserably mangled. It is done fully and accurately by the most learned Mr. Selden, lib. 4, de Jure Nat. et Gent. cap. 6–11. I shall only observe briefly, that the former part of that chapter relates to things dedicated or consecrated to God by a simple vow,' whether men or beasts, or houses or lands, which might, after having been thus dedicated or consecrated, be redeemed with money. The 28th verse relates to things devoted to God by a cherem (for that is the word in the original, different from what was used concerning the other vows), that is, by a vow of a peculiar nature, accompanied with a curse (for this is the proper notation of the word); and whatever a man should thus devote unto the Lord of all that he had (that is, of persons or things that were his own property), whether of man or beast, or field of his possession, was to be perpetually employed for the uses to which it was devoted. The man that gave or vowed it could never redeem it. If it was land that was thus devoted, it was absolutely given to the use of the sanctuary; if it was a man or a slave (for this is spoken concerning such men as were their absolute property, and included under that general expression, all that a man hath,' that is, his proper goods), he was to be perpetually employed in the service of the sanctuary, or for the use of
the priests, and never to be redeemed; such probably were the Nethinims, whom David and the princes are said to have appointed for the service of the Levites,' Ezra viii. 20. This, by the unanimous consent of all the Jewish writers is all that is intended in the 28th verse; but the 29th verse, which follows, doth not relate to things which a man should devote to sacred uses out of what he had, that is, of his own possession or property, of which alone the 28th verse is to be understood; but it relates to persons devoted to destruction by a solemn cherem or curse ; as the Canaanites were, by God's own appointment, for their execrable wickedness. An instance of which we have in Jericho, Josh. vii. 17, 18, where this word cherem is several times made use of to signify their being accursed, or devoted to utter destruction. And such of the Israelites as fell into open idolatry, were also, by the appointment of the law itself, to be devoted to destruction. See Exod. xxii. 20 : • He that sacrificeth unto any God save unto the Lord, he shall be utterly destroyed; or he shall be devoted.' For the word there used in the original is precisely the same that is used in the passage we are considering, Lev. xxvii. 29, and is here rendered • devoted. The word cherem is also used, Deut. xiii. 15, to signify the destruction of a city that revolted to idolatry ; it was to be destroyed as execrable and accursed. And accordingly the Septuagint render the original word which we translate destroying it utterly, avaStuarı áva Jeuariere, ye shall curse it with a curse. And none of these persons that were thus devoted to destruction for just causes by a solemn cherem or curse were to be redeemed : no ransom whatsoever was to be accepted for them, but they were sure to be put to death. This is the account the Jews themselves give of this passage, Lev. xxvii. 29, and which renders it perfectly consistent with other passages in the law; but certainly it cannot be understood to relate to human sacrifices, which, as I have shown, are nowhere required in the law, yea, are plainly forbidden there.
As to the instance of Jephthah which he here produces, whether he did indeed sacrifice his daughter unto the Lord, is a question debated amongst the most learned critics, both Jews and Christians, and still like to be so; though this writer, with his usual confidence, very magisterially determines it, without bringing any new light to the question, except by calling the opinion he does not like 'monstrous and ridiculous. But let us suppose that Jephthah did indeed sacrifice his daughter, it only follows that he did wrong in it through a mistaken zeal and scrupulosity; since, as I have shown, the law of Moses nowhere allowed human sacrifices. None of the Jews, ancient or modern, that ever mention this action of Jephthah's, approve his doing it; and if it had been approved and thought fit to be imitated, how comes it that this is the only instance that can be produced, and that we have no account of any of their most zealous great men or heroes ever offering such human oblations, as undoubtedly they would have done, if such oblations had been regarded as the most exalted acts of devotion as this author would have us believe ?