« PreviousContinue »
the brute Creation, it will be a grand reproach to us if we are unmindful of its natural use. Reason and Religion require, that the creatures of God, éspecially those appropriated to the service of man, should be treated with discretion and tenderness. The Mercy of God is over all his works: his Providence extends to brutes as well as to men: he feedeth the young rarens that call upon him; and even the Lions, roaring after their prey, do seek their Meat from God. All the creatures in the Earth, the Air, and the Sea, wait upon his bounty, and he giveth them their meat in due season. The proper office of man therefore, as the Vicegerent of God in the government of the animal kingdom, is to imitate the goodness of God; to take delight in providing for the wants of such creatures as are dependent upon him, and in applying them, with moderation, mercy, and gratitude, to the uses appointed by the wisdom of our common Creator. Kings, who rule over men, are ordained ministers of good to those who are committed to their charge. The safety of the people is the supreme law of their conduct; and no divine authority will give a sanction to the wanton destruction, or even the unnecessary oppression of their subjects. In like manner, God hath made man the Lord of inferior creatures, but not their Tyrant. There are many ways of abusing them; but to insist upon these at large, would be quite foreign to the nature of this disquisition. The practice of dissecting animals alive to satisfy an unprofitable curiosity, is horrible to reflect upon. Indignation must be excited in any benevolent mind, when it presents to itself an helpless dog, stretched upon a table, crying and fainting under the knife of a philosophical butcher, who affects to enlighten the world with his wonderful discoveries; as if science were like to re
ceive some elegant improvements from a man who has no feeling.
It is a consideration not less offensive, and, I fear, we have much to answer for upon this account, that horses, which contribute so much to our health, comfort, and convenience, should be hurried out of their lives, with galled breasts and battered knees, to save the precious time of impatient people, some of whom never employed any moments of their life to the glory of God or the good of their country. This is now become a national offence: and though the devotees to pleasure, together with the drudges of Mammon, may be too much in haste to listen to the voice of a speculative Monitor: yet certainly God, who hath lent his creatures to us, will not think it beneath his notice to enquire how they have been treated.
Cruelty to dumb animals is one of the distinguishing vices of the lowest and basest of the people. Wherever it is found, it is a certain mark of ignorance and meanness; an intrinsic mark, which all the external advantages of wealth, splendor, and nobility cannot obliterate. It will consist neither with true learning nor true civility; and Religion disclaims and detests it as an insult upon the majesty and the goodness of God; who, having made the instincts of brute beasts minister to the improvement of the mind as well as to the convenience of the body, hath furnished us with a motive to mercy and compassion toward them very strong and powerful, but too refined to have any influence on the illiterate or irreligious.
I. To shew that I am not singular in ascribing a moral signification to the corporeal marks by which the clean animals were distinguished, I have referred to some ancient writers, as their sense is exhibited by Pierius in his Hieroglyphics, See p. 18. of the foregoing Disquisition. But it is not necessary to go so far backward. I have followed, without knowing it, the sense of a modern divine; whose compositions shew him to have been one of the best writers this Church can boast of; I mean Dr. Young, Father to the celebrated author of the Night Thoughts. In his Sermon called; the Holy Contemplative, we find these words: Among the ceremonial Laws of Moses "(whereof the allegorical was the most proper and principal interpretation, and according to which "sense they were chiefly to be observed) this was
one-that no beast should be accounted clean, but "such as had these two qualities, cleaving of the hoof, "and chewing of the cud. And these two qualities "in the beast were only symbols of these two acts in men, which I am now treating of. Dividing the "hoof was a symbol of the act of discerning between
good and evil, that is contemplative knowledge: "and chewing the Cud was symbolical of the act of "applying what we know to practice; and both "these are necessary to make a man clean." Young's Sermons, vol. ii. p. 178, 179.
II. At p. 22. some notice is taken of the impure sacrifices of the heathens, and particularly of their horrible practice of offering human victims, which is confirmed by a passage or two in the margin. The ανθρωποθυσια and τεκνοθυσια of the heathens have been treated more at large by a very able hand, Mr. Bryant, in his Observations and Enquiry relating to ancient History, which every learned Reader, who is fond of such researches, will consult with pleasure and advantage; the author having discovered a more than ordinary degree of skill in Biblical as well as Grecian Antiquity, together with great judgment and ingenuity in the application of Etymological Criticism. He has shewn by a multitude of authorities, that human victims were offered to the heathen Deities, in Egypt, Arabia, all the states of Greece, Italy, Germany and Gaul, Iceland, Africa, and America. In a word, that where Idolatry prevailed, it was ever attended with this unmerciful superstition of shedding human blood, with every possible circumstance of barbarity. The whole account taken together affords us a frightful picture of the abominations of Paganism, and is even a disgrace to human nature: for it does not appear that the practice was ever censured to purpose by any of the heathens, till the previous publication of the Gospel had occasioned some of the more learned and rational among them to alter their tone; the Christians in their writings and discourses having severely exposed the impurity, absurdity, and cruelty of the heathen Superstition.
From what original this general practice of offering human victims could be derived, is a question of importance. Mr. Bryant deduces it from a tradition common to the most remote antiquity, which in process of time was miserably depraved: and his curious
observations on the Mystical Sacrifice of the Phanicians render it more than probable. See p. 286. For this, and other offerings like to it under the names of paguano and xalaguala, were not devoted upon any apparent principle of cruelty, as might be supposed when captives taken in war were butchered before an Idol; but for the purposes of expiation and atonement; to compensate for the offences of the people, to avert the anger of heaven, or invite its protection on occasion of any public danger or calamity.
III. In the second Part of the Disquisition (II— VII) it has been shewn, that clean and unclean animals are applied in the subsequent parts of the Scripture in such a manner as is agreeable to our sense of the Mosaic distinction. But it has been objected, that the Scripture seems not to be uniform in such an application. To which it must be replied, that as clean and unclean animals are not realities of good and evil, but only figures; nothing hinders, but that, like other figures, they should signify differently, when under some different acceptation: as the same object, according to every new direction of the Light that falls upon it, will project a different shadow.
My meaning will be best explained by some examples borrowed from the style of the holy Scripture. Water, as a medium of purification, is a fit image of the Spirit of Regeneration in baptism, which washes away Sin but, in its capacity of overflowing bodies with its waves, it becomes a figure of affliction, destruction, and even death itself. The same water which bore up the ark of Noah in safety, and exhibited a pattern of the Salvation of the Christian Church, destroyed the world of the ungodly. The Light of the Sun is beneficial to the whole creation,