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Ideas for the most part ridiculous; but as the old proverb says, ' 'Tis but reasonable that they should wear the fetters which themselves have forged.' Hence the guilty trembling mob is imposed upon, and cheated by impostors : by vagrant fortune-tellers and astrologers. If any illiterate juggler shall have foretold a year of darkness, alluding, viz. to the night-season of the year, the consternation is as great, as if Hannibal were at the gates of the city. The stings of conscience vex and goad them, and their minds have such presentiments of divine justice, that they look upon every new prodigy as final, or portentous of the final consummation. I pass over observing, at present, that, if once a con. viction of the guilt of any sin be carried home to the mind, this solemn tribunal cannot thoroughly be dislodged from any man's bosom, either by dismal solitude, or by frequent company; by affluence of delicacies, or by habits of wickedness and impiety; nor, in fine, by any endeavours after the practice of innocence. The apostle in his Epistle to the Romans, chap. ii. enters more fully into this subject. Two things, then, are to be concluded from what has been said that mankind are guilty, and that they acknowledge.
First. That God hates sin, as contrary to himself, and that therefore it is impossible for a sinner, with safety to appear before him. But if God hate sin, he does it either from his nature, or because he so wills it; but it cannot be because he wills it, for in that case he might not will it: a supposition most absurd. And indeed, that assertion of Socinus, is every way barbarous, abominable, and most unworthy of God, wherein he says, “I maintain that our damnation derives its origin, not from any justice of God, but from the free-will of God.' Socinus of the Saviour;' chap. 8. p. 3. But if God hate sin by nature, then by nature he is just, and vindicatory justice is natural to him.
Secondly. That our sins are debts, and therefore we shun the sight of our creditor. But I mean such a debt, as with relation to God's supreme dominion, implies in it a perpetual right of punishment; and such is the second proof of the minor proposition of the second argument. The third remains.
The public consent of all nations furnishes the third proof of this truth, There are writers indeed who have affirmed, a thing by no means credible, that some nations have been so given up to a reprobate mind, that they acknowledge no Deity. Socinus hath written, that a certain Dominican friar, a worthy honest man, had related this much to himself of the Brasilians, and other natives of America. But who can assure us that this friar has not falsified, according to the usual custom of travellers, or that Socinus himself has not invented this story (for he had a genius fertile in falsehoods), to answer his own ends; but let this matter rest on the credit of Socinus, who was but little better than an infidel. But nobody, even by report, hath heard that there exist any who have acknowledged the being of a God, and who have not, at the same time, declared him to be just, to be displeased with sinners and sin, and that it is the duty of mankind to propitiate him, if they would enjoy his favour.
But a respectable writer objects, viz. Rutherford on Providence, chap. 22. p. 355. That this argument, that, that which men know of God by the natural power of conscience, must be naturally inherent in God, is of no weight; 'for,' says he, ‘by the natural power of conscience, men know that God does many good things freely, without himself; as for instance, that he has created the world ; that the sun rises and gives light; and yet in these operations God does not act from any necessity of nature.'
But this learned man blunders miserably here, as often elsewhere, in his apprehension of the design and meaning of his opponents; for they do not use this argument to prove that the egresses of divine justice are necessary, but that justice itself is necessary to God, which Socinians deny. What is his answer to these arguments? Mankind acknowledge many things, says he, which God does freely. To be sure they do, when he exhibits them before their eyes : but what follows from that? so too they acknowledge that God punishes sin, when he punishes it. But because all mankind, from the works of God, and from the natural power of conscience, acknowledge God to be good and bountiful, we may, without hesitation, conclude goodness and bounty to be essential attributes of God; so likewise, because from the natural power of conscience, and the consideration of God's works of Providence, they conclude and agree that God is just: we contend, that justice is natural to God.
But as mankind have testified this consent by other methods, so they have especially done it by sacrifices : concerning which, Pliny says, “That all the world have agreed in them, although enemies or strangers to one another.' But since these are plainly of a divine origin, and instituted to prefigure (so to speak) the true atonement by the blood of Christ, in which he hath been the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ; that is, from the promise made of the seed of the woman, and from the sacrifice of Abel which followed, the use of them descended to all the postérity of Adam; therefore, though afterward the whole plan and purpose of the institution was lost, among by far the greatest part of mankind, and even the true God himself, to whom alone they were due, was unknown; and though no traces of the thing signified, namely, the promised seed remained, yet still the thing itself, and the general notion of appeasing the Deity by sacrifices, hath survived all the darkness, impieties, dreadful wickedness, punishments, migrations of nations, downfalls, and destructions of cities, states, and people, in which the world for these many ages hath been involved. For a consciousness of sin, and a sense of divine and avenging justice, have taken deeper root in the heart of man, than that they can by any means be eradicated.
There were four kinds of sacrifices among the Gentiles. First, the propitiatory or peace-making sacrifices; for by those, they thought they could render the gods propitious, or appease them; or avert the anger of the gods, and obtain peace with them: hence these verses on that undertaking of the Greeks in the exordium of Homer.
But let some prophet, or some sacred sage,
And Phæbus dart his burning shafts no more.-Pope's Homer. They were desirous of appeasing Apollo by sacrifices, who had inflicted on them a lamentable mortality. To the same purpose is that passage of Virgil,
The propheta first with sacrifice adores
Hence too that lamentation of the person in the Penalus of Plautus, who could not make satisfaction to his gods.
Unhappy man that I am,' says he, “to-day I have sacrificed six lambs to my much-incensed gods, and yet I have not been able to render Venus propitious to me: and as I could not appease her, I came instantly off.'
And Suetonius, speaking of Otho, says, 'he endeavours, by all kinds of piaculary sacrifices, to propitiate the manes of Galba, by whom he had seen himself thrust down and expelled.' And the same author affirms of Nero, 'that he had been instructed that kings were wont to expiate the heavenly prodigies by the slaughter of some illustrious victim, and to turn them from themselves upon the heads of their nobles.' Though this perhaps rather belongs to the second kind. But innumerable expressions to this purpose are extant, both among the Greek and Latin authors.
The second kind were the expiatory or purifying sacrifices, by which sins were said to be atoned, expiated, and cleansed, and sinners purified, purged, and made desirous of peace, and the anger of the gods turned aside and averted, . It would be tedious, and perhaps superfluous, to produce examples : the learned can easily trace them in great abundance. The other kinds were the eucharistical and prophétical, which have no relation to our present purpose.
In this way of appeasing the Deity, mankind, I say, formerly agreed : whence it is evident, that an innate conception of this sin-avenging justice is natural to all ; and, therefore, that that justice is to be reckoned among the essential attributes of the divine nature, concerning which only, and not concerning the free acts of his will, mankind universally agree.
The origin of human sacrifices. Their use among the Jews, Assyrians,
Germans, Goths, the inhabitants of Marseilles, the Normans, the Francs, the Tyrians, the Egyptians, and the ancient Gauls. Testimonies of Cicero and Cæsar, that they were used among the Britons and Romans by the Druids. A fiction of Appio concerning the worship in the temple of Jerusalem. The names of some persons sacrificed. The use of human sacrifices among the Gentiles, proved from Clemens of Alexandria, Dionysius of Halicarnassia, Porphyry, Philo, Eusebius, Tertullian, Euripides. Instances of human sacrifices in the sacred Scriptures. The remarkable obedience of Abraham. What the neighbouring nations might have gathered from that event. Why human sacrifices were not instituted by God. The story of Iphigenia. The history of Jephtha. Whether he put his daughter to death. The cause of the difficulty. The impious sacrifice of the king of Moab. The abominable superstition of the Rugiani. The craftiness of the devil. Vindications of the argument. The same concluded.
But it is strange to think what a stir was made, by the ancient enemy of mankind, to prevent any ray of light respecting the true sacrifice, that was to be made in the fulness of time, from being communicated to the minds of men through means of this universal ceremony and custom of sacrificing. Hence, he influenced the most of the nations to the heinous, horrible, and detestable crime of offering human sacrifices, in order to make atonement for themselves, and render God propitious by such an abominable wickedness.
But as it seems probable, that some light may be borrowed from the consideration of these sacrifices, in which, mankind, from the presumption of a future judgment, have so closely agreed, perhaps the learned reader will think it not foreign to our purpose to dwell a little on the subject, and to reckon up some examples. This abomination, prohibited by God, under the penalty of a total extermination, was divers times committed by the Jews, running headlong into forbidden wickedness, while urged on by the stings of conscience to this infernal remedy. They offered their children as burnt-sacrifices to Moloch, that is, to the Saturn of the Tyrians; not to the planet of that name; not to the Father of the Cretan Jupiter ; but to the Saturn of the Tyrians, that is, to Baal, or to the sun; and not by making