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Epitomator affirms, it was at the beginning of all governments. However here is no mention of the priesthood which we inquire after.
§ 8. The Mishnical Jews in Massecheth Becaroth Peresh. 8. divide the rights of the primogeniture, in 1 and 2, the inheritance and the priesthood, and thereon make many distinctions concerning them, who may be the first-born, or have the right of primogeniture, as unto the one, but not unto the other. But by the priesthood, they intend only the dedication of the first-born unto God, upon the law of opening the womb. Now this had no relation to the priesthood properly so called. As far as it had its foundation in the law of nature, it was an offering to God of the first fruits of the family, all primitia being due unto him; and hereby was the whole family made sacred and dedicated unto God. For if the "first-fruits be holy, the whole lump is holy also," Rom. xi. 16. The place therefore mentioned in Becaroth, intends not the priesthood; but in Bereshith Rabba, fol. 71. some of them do plainly ascribe the priesthood unto the primogeniture, and so doth Hierome from them, ad Gen. xvii. 27. Epistol. ad Evagr. and elsewhere, as do others also of the ancients. But in the whole law and order of the primogeniture it is plain that God designed to shadow out the Lord Christ in his offices, when by his incarnation he became the first born of the creation as to rule, Col. i. 15, 18. Rev. i. 5. Heb. i. 6.; as to inheritance, Heb. i. 3. Eph. i. 10.; and as to sanctifying the whole family, Heb. ii. 11.
§ 9. Yet all that hath been spoken, or that may farther be pleaded to the same purpose, doth not necessarily conclude that the right unto sacrificing by way of office, was inclosed to the first born before the giving of the law; and afterwards we know how it was disposed of by divine institution. There was therefore in that state of the church no office of priesthood, but every one performed this duty and worship of sacrifice, ex communi jure with respect unto himself. As all were obliged to attend to this worship of God, and express their faith in the promise thereby, so every one who was sui juris, or had the free disposal of himself in all his moral actions, did in his own person attend to his own duty herein. As persons were united into families, and made up one body naturally political by God's appointment; the pater familias had the duty of sacrificing for the whole committed unto him; herein it is probable he had the especial assistance of the first-born of the family, whereby he might be initiated into his future duty. Yet was it not afterwards confined to him. For Abel, who was the youngest son of his father, offered sacrifices for himself in his own person, his father and elder brother being yet alive. I no way doubt but that all the persons on the patriarchal line before the flood, offered sacrifices to God; yet is
it most uncertain whether they were all of them the first-born of their respective parents. Abraham, after the flood, offered sacrifice whilst the eldest son of Noah was yet alive, neither was he himself the first-born of his immediate parents. Afterwards it is probable, that the order and solemnity of public sacrificing, went along in a peculiar manner with the birthright, not that it was a privilege thereof, but that the privilege of the birthright made what they did more extensive and illustrious. But this was continued only whilst a family continued by consent. When it divided, all things returned to their primitive right and practice. So was it when the younger sons of Noah were separated from the elder, they lost not the right of solemnizing the worship of God thereby. And in case the first-born was incapable through sin, idolatry, or apostasy from God, the right of the remainder was not prejudiced thereby, but every one might personally attend to the discharge of his duty herein, which after the giving of the law was not provided for. But this respected men only. Women were afterwards among the heathen admitted unto the office of the priesthood, especially in the idolatries of Juno: But there was no induction towards any such practice, in the light of nature or original tradition. For the "head of the woman is man." And the whole sex generally being supposed under the power of their parents or husbands, nothing remains on record, of their solemnizing sacred worship in their own persons, though some conjectures have been made about Rebekah's inquiry of God, upon her conception of twins.
10. When greater political societies, being the products of the light of nature, acting by choice, and on necessity, were established, it was judged needful, or at least useful, not only that every one should offer sacrifice for himself that would, nor only that the head of each family should discharge that duty in the name of the whole family, which expressed the two first directions of the law of nature; but also that some one or more should offer sacrifice for the whole community, which had the solemn representation of a sacerdotal office. How these persons were originally designed to this work and office, is a matter left much in the dark, and obscure. The ways whereby God erected this office, and constituted any in the possession and enjoyment of it, are plain and evident. For he did it either by an immediate call from himself, as it was with Melchisedec in one manner, and Aaron in another; or by the constitution of a legal succession of priests, as it was with all the posterity of Aaron, concerning both which we shall treat afterwards distinctly. Our present.inquiry is, how or when this order of things came to pass in the world, namely, that some certain persons, under the name of priests, had the administration of sacred things in the behalf of political communities committed unto
them. And these are the ways, that may be pleaded with good probability to this purpose. The first is, That the people or communities, judging the duty of public sacrificing and religious administrations to be their duty, and necessary for them as a community, did choose out from among themselves, either by lot or suffrage, the two original ways of all elections, such as they judged meet for that purpose. So Virgil would have Laocoon designed to be a priest to Neptune by lot.
Laocoon ductus Neptuno sorte sacerdos, Æneid. 2.
And in Statius it was by the choice of the people that Theodamus was made the priest of Apollo in the room of Amphiaraus; so he speaks to them, Thebaid. 1. 10.
-Non hæ nostro de pectore voces ;
And when among the Romans the care of sacred things had been devolved on their king, upon his removal the people by suffrage created priests from among themselves, and one under the name of Rex Sacrorum, that by the countenance of the name therein, the office might not in any thing be missed, the civil power being fully transferred unto the consuls. See Dion. Halicarnass. Lib. 5. So Livy, Rerum deinde divinarum habita cura, et quia, quadam publica sacra per ipsos reges facta erant, nec ubi regum desiderium esset, regem sacrificum creant, Lib. 2. And the king of the Sacra at Athens had the same original, as is manifest in Demosthenes. The Dacians so far improved this power, as that having at first made priests unto their gods, they at length made one of their priests to be their god.
And this I take to be one of the principal ways, whereby in the first coalescencies of human society, the order of priesthood came to be erected among them. Possibly in their elections, they might suppose themselves to have received guidance by some supernatural indication, of which afterwards; but it was consent and choice that gave them their authority and office.
11. Secondly, Those who had by any means obtained the rule of the community, knowing that with their power over it, they had an obligation on them to seek its good, did take upon themselves, the care of sacrificing for it, and performed it in their own persons. And there seems to be a natural traduction of the power and right of this kind of priesthood from the fathers of families, unto the heads of political societies, which have a resemblance to them. And thence the heathen writers do generally grant, that the care of the administration of sacred things accompanied the supreme power, so that the kingdom and the priesthood amongst them for a season went together. So Aris
totle informs us of the kings in the Heroical times, that is such of whom they had tradition, but no history, Kugios nour ans de xara πολέμιον ἡγεμονίας, και των θυσίων όσαι μη ἱεροτικαι, ‘They were rulers of things belonging to the conduct of war, and had the ordering of sacrifices, that were not in an especial manner reserved to the priesthood.' Of the reason of which exception I shall afterwards give an account. And again, στρατηγος ην και δικαστης ὁ βασιλεὺς καὶ TROS TUS Dius nugis. Aristot. Polit. Lib. 3. The king was general, judge, and lord of things sacred. And Cicero, Apud veteres qui rerum potiti erant, iidem auguria tenebant; ut sapere sic divinare regale tenebant, de Legib. Lib. 2. The truth is, the use of sacrificing among the Gentiles, by that time we meet with any probable records of things among them, was much restrained, and principally attended to in and with respect to war, or an apprehension of the approach of public calamities. Hence it came to pass, that they who had the chief command in war, had power of sacrificing also. But if it were so, that not only a right of sacrificing for the community occasionally in the times of danger, belonged unto him who presided therein, but that the supreme power and priesthood went together in any greater societies, as derived from the practice of families; it is evident that they were very quickly separated again and vested in divers persons; yet so as still to reserve to kings and generals in war, the privilege of sacrificing expiatory oblations, which they did sometimes by the death of beasts, sometimes of other persons, and sometimes of themselves. For the first mention we have of priests in the world, is distinct from kings in the same place. This was in Egypt, where we find the Cohanim or priests, an order of men by themselves under the power and care of their kings. How they came by that office originally, if we shall suppose that the right of sacrificing for the community went along with regal power and rule, I know not. It may be said, that kings grew weary of that employment, as their greatness, wealth and empire increased, and so suffered others to be chosen unto it, or designed them thereunto by their own power. Or that ambition and luxury rendering them unfit for the discharge of that office, and negligent in it, the people provided for themselves as they could. Or it may be thought that some such things fell out in those early days of the world, as did in latter ages among the Caliphs of the Saracens; for the world in all its varieties, varieth not from itself. These Caliphs being originally the successors of Mahomet, had all power civil and sacred in their hands. But through the sloth of some of them, military men, who had the power and charge of armies in their hands and disposal, took the civil power from them, and making themselves emperors, left only the pontificate to the Caliphs; the principal
dignity remaining to them, being an allowance to wear those garments and colours, which they did as successors to Mahomet when they had all the power. See Elmalin. Histor. Saracen. Lib. 3. Cap. 2. It might have so fallen out with these priests of Egypt; being originally both princes and priests, they were confined to the sacerdotal function, by some of more heroic spirits who deprived them of rule and government, which alteration might constitute one of those changes in their dynasties, which are so much spoken of. And thence it may be (which Athenæus observes) the priests of Egypt did always wear kingly garments. But these things are only conjectures, and that about matters wrapped up in the greatest obscurity. I rather judge that there was never an ordinary concurrence of both these offices in the same persons; though it sometimes so fell out on extraordinary
Rex Anius, rex idem hominum Phæbique sacerdos.
And the most ancient reports among the heathen, both in the Eastern and Grecian traditions, mention these offices as distinctly exercised by divers persons. Homer hath his priests as well as his kings, though that which then was peculiar to them was divination, and not sacrificing.
§ 11. Thirdly, Priests among the heathen might have their origin from some extraordinary afflatus, real or pretended. It was with respect to their gods that men had thoughts of sacrificing, or of the way of it. And the world was generally now become utterly at a loss, both as to the nature and manner of religious worship, though the light of nature kept them up to a persuasion that the Deity was to be worshipped; and some small remainders of original tradition, that sacrificing was an acceptable mode of religious worship, still continued with them. But how to exert these notions in practice, or how to express their impressions from tradition, they knew not. But yet they still had an apprehension, that the knowledge hereof dwelt with the gods themselves, and that from them they were to expect and receive direction. In this posture of the minds of men and their consciences, it is no wonder if some quickly pretended that they were divinely inspired, and were as easily believed. For men who are utterly destitute of all means of divine and supernatural direction, are given up to as great an excess in facile credulity, as they are to an obstinate unbelief of the most evident truths, by whom such light and direction hath been rejected. And as this latter frame, at this day discourageth wise and sober men in the proposal of sacred truths, upon the highest and most evident warrant, to the sceptical Atheism of rebels against the light; so the former encouraged crafty impostors to impose their pretended inspirations