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FOR A COMMUNION SABBATH.
MALACHI i. 6, 7..
A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of Hosts unto you, O priests, that despise And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.
AVING endeavored to remove the difficulties
in which the text may seem to be involved, and shewn what we are to understand by polluted bread, by the table of the Lord, and by calling the table of the Lord contemptible, we proceed to institute the twofold parallel proposed.
I. Let us state a parallel between the altar of burnt-offerings, the table of the shew-bread, and the sacramental table of the Lord's supper; the offerings which were presented to God on the first,
and those which we still present to him on the second. The sacramental table of the supper, as the altar of burnt-offerings, and as the table of the shew-bread, is the table of the Lord. The viands, presented on both the one and the other, are the meat of God or the bread of God. And those sacred ceremonies, however they may differ as to certain circumstances, have been, nevertheless, destined to the same end, and represent the same mysteries namely, the intimate union which God wishes to maintain with his church and people.
You will be convinced that this was the destination of the altar of burnt-offerings, and of the table of the shew-bread, if you have formed a just idea of the temple, and of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was considered to be the tent of God, as the Leader and Commander of Israel and the temple was considered as his palace. For this reason it is, that when God gave commandment to construct the tabernacle, he said to Moses: Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell amongst them: Exod. xxi. 8. And when Solomon substituted the temple in room of the tabernacle, he was desirous of conveying the same idea of it: I have surely built thee an house to divell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever. The following are the words of a very sensible Rabbi on this subject: "God, to whom be all
glory inscribed, gave commandment to build for "him an house, similar to the palaces of the kings "of the earth. All these things are to be found in "the palaces of kings: they are surrounded by guards they have servants to prepare their vic"tuals; musicians who sing to them, and play on "instruments. There are likewise chambers of perfumes: a table on which their repasts are serv
ed up a closet into which favorites only are
"admitted. It was the will of God, that all these
things should be found in his house, that in no"thing he might yield to the potentates of the "earth. And all these things are designed to make "the people know, that our King, the Lord of hosts, is in the midst of us."
This general idea of the tabernacle justifies that which we are going to give of the altar of burntofferings, and of the table of the shew-bread.
1. That of the altar of burnt-offerings: it was denominated the table of the Lord, and the viands served up on it were denominated the meat or the bread of Jehovah, because the end of the sacrifices there offered up by his command, was to intimate, that he maintained with his people an intercourse. as familiar as that of two friends, who eat together at the same table. This is the most ancient, and the most usual idea of sacrifice. When alliances were contracted, victims were immolated: the contracting parties made a common repast on their flesh, to express the intimate union which they formed with each other.
This was the reason of all the rites which were observed between God and the people of Israel, in the alliance formed previous to the promulgation of the law. They are recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Exodus. Moses represented God; Aaron, Nadab and Abihu his two sons, and the threescore and ten elders represented the whole congregation of Israel. Altars were reared; sacrifices were offered up; they feasted together on the flesh of the victims. It is expressly related that Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and those other venerable personages whom I have mentioned, went up into the mountain, also they saw God, and did eat and drink: ver. 11. And to make it apparent that the divine presence inter
vened, the history adds, that God vouchsafed to bestow sensible tokens of his presence: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire-stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness, ver. 10. A work paved with stars, resembling a composition of sapphire-stones; a symbol which, perhaps, God preferred to any other, because the sapphire was, among the Egyptians, an emblem of royalty, as may be seen in their hieroglyphics, which the industry of the learned have preserved
The pagans, likewise, had the same ideas of the sacrifices which they offered up. They did eat together the flesh of the victims, and this they called eating or feasting with the gods. They sometimes carried off part of it to their own houses; sometimes sent a portion of it to their friends; sometimes they partook of it in the temples themselves, in which tables were placed for the express purpose of celebrating festivals of this kind. Homer, in the Odyssey, introduces Alcinöus, speaking to this effect: The gods render themselves visible to us, when we immolate hecatombs to them, they eat with us, and place themselves by us at the same table. The same poet, speaking of the solemn festival of the Ethiopians, says that Jupiter had descended among them, to be present at a festival which they had prepared for him, and that he was attended thither by all the gods. In another place he tells us, that Agamemnon sacrificed an ox to Jupiter, and that he invited several of the chieftains of the Grecian army, to eat of the flesh of that animal, He relates something similar respecting Nestor.
Hence it comes to pass, that the phrase, to make a feast, is very frequently employed by sacred and profane authors, to express performing acts of idola
trous worship. In this sense it is that we are to understand it, in that passage of the prophet Ezekiel, where, enumerating the characters of the just man, this is laid down as one, He hath not eaten upon the mountains, chap. xviii. 6; that is, who hath not been a partaker in the sacrifices of the idolatrous. In burnt-offerings, the part of the victim consumed by fire, was considered as the portion of Deity. Of this I shall adduce only a single instance, that I may not load my discourse with too many quotations. Solinus relates, that those who offered up sacrifices to idols on Mount Etna, constructed their altars on the brink of its crater: that they placed bundles of dried sprigs upon those altars, but that they applied no fire to them. They pretended, that when the Divinity, in honor of whom these rites were performed, was pleased to accept these sacrifices, the bundles of sprigs spontaneously caught fire: that the flame approached the persons who were celebrating the sacred festivity that it encompassed them round and round, without doing them any harm; and thus was declared the acceptance of their abolition.
In like manner, in the sacrifices which were of fered upon the altar of burnt-offerings, one part of the victim was for the people, another part for the priest, and another part was consumed by fire : this last was considered as the portion of God: this was particularly denominated the meat or the bread of God; and the whole solemnity was intended, as he had said, to represent the intimate union, and the familiar intercourse, which God wished to maintain between himself and his people.
2. The same was likewise the design of the table of the shew-bread. It was natural that in the tabernacle, which was considered as the tent of Jehovah, and in the temple which was afterwards