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THE ORIGIN OF SACRIFICE
Coeval with the Race
HAT the offering of material things as sacrifices to Deity dates from Adamic days is attested in Genesis 4:3-5, wherein we read that both Cain and Abel made offerings unto the Lord. The Biblical record shows that the practise continued to and beyond the Deluge, and throughout the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations among the Semitic peoples, who were distinguished as Jehovah worshipers. Non-scriptural history is no less definite in making the sacrifice of animals an essential feature of pagan ceremonial, even in the earliest times of which we have account. That Noah, Abraham, Jacob and other patriarchs and prophets builded altars and sacrificed thereon is admitted by all to whom the Holy Bible is authentic; and the Mosaic code regulated the ordinance of sacrifice while silent as to its origin or even its establishment in Israel.
That pagan sacrifices were originally in imitation of the Semitic practise is highly probable, though both may have been derived from a common and, as generally regarded, a prehistoric pattern. This conception is no whit weakened by the corruptions and abominations incident to heathen idolatry, which reached the extreme of atrocity in the immolation of human victims on the altars of defilement and sacrilege; for, without the directing and restraining power of Divine revelation, unauthorized innovations and unholy extremes were inevitable.
Israelitish sacrifices may be conveniently classified as bloody and bloodless, the former comprising all offerings
involving the ceremonial slaughter of animals, and the latter consisting in the offering of vegetables or their manufactured products. The bloody sacrifices were early associated with the idea of expiation, or propitiation for sin, the offerer, whether an individual or the community as a whole, acknowledging guilt and craving propitiation through the death of the animal made to serve as proxy for the human offender.
The animal victim intended for sacrificial death had to be chosen in accordance with specific requirements. Thus, it was to be of the class designated as clean, and within this class only domestic cattle and sheep and certain birdspigeons and turtle-doves-were acceptable. Furthermore, it was essential that the selected animal be without physical defect or blemish; and thus all that were deformed, maimed or diseased were absolutely excluded. Physical defects were held as typical of spiritual blemish, or sin; and "God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance."
These requirements of relative perfection on the part of the victim were in accord with the fact that the slaughter of animals as a priestly rite by Divine direction was in prefigurement of the then future sacrifice of the Christ Himself, whose atoning death would mark the consummation of His ministry in mortality. While the animal victims slain on Israel's altars figuratively bore the sins of the people, who by their observance of the sacrificial rite sought propitiation for their offenses, or reconciliation with God, from whom they had become estranged through transgression, Jesus Christ actually bore the burden of sin and provided a way for a literal reconciliation of sinful man to God. The principal sacrifice in the Mosaic dispensation was that of the Passover; and the superseding of the type by the actual is forcefully expressed by Paul: "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." (1 Cor. 5:7.)
Theologians, Bible scholars generally, and ethnologists as well, admit the absence of all record both in the Bible and in profane history concerning the origin of sacrifice. The writer of the article "Sacrifice" in one of our Bible Dictionaries (Cassell's), which article is in line with other learned commentaries, says, following an array of facts: "On these and other accounts it has been judiciously inferred that sacrifice formed an element in the primeval worship of man; and that its universality is not merely an indirect argument for the unity of the human race, but an illustration and confirmation of the first inspired pages of the world's history. The notion of sacrifice can hardly be viewed as a product of unassisted human nature, and must therefore be traced to a higher source and viewed as a Divine revelation to primitive man."
That "Divine revelation to primitive man" is now before the world; and the much-talked-of historical difficulty as to the origin of sacrificial rites is definitely solved by revelation from God to man in the current age, whereby parts of the ancient Scriptures not contained in the Bible have been restored to human knowledge. As the natural and inevitable consequence of his transgression, Adam forfeited the high privilege of holding direct and personal association with God. In his fallen state the man was commanded by the voice of the Lord to offer in sacrifice the firstlings of his flocks.
"And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and
thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son for evermore." (Pearl of Great Price, p. 20.)
This, then, was the origin of the sacrificial ordinance on earth. Its purport as the prototype of the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be effected approximately four millenniums later, was revealed to Adam, who, through obedience, attained salvation. With the Savior's sacrificial death the significance of animal sacrifices was superseded as part of the Israelitish ritual. The law of sacrifice is still operative however; and the acceptable offering is thus specified in the present age: "Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit." (Doctrine & Covenants 59:8.)
SIMPLICITY OF THE GOSPEL
None Need Err Therein
ALVATION of the soul consists essentially in the attainment of a state of blessedness beyond the grave, and therefore comprises immunity from the penalties incident to condemnation. Both salvation and condemnation involve graded conditions, or degrees, every soul receiving according to his just deserts, based on his works done in the flesh, be they good or evil.
Our individual status in the hereafter, both during the period of disembodiment and in the resurrection from bodily death, will be determined by the record of our earthly life, which will be fully declared by what we actually are. In the judgment of souls conflict of testimony or evidence will be impossible. Every fact bearing upon our condition of
worthiness or guilt, of cleanliness through righteousness or defilement through sin, will be known.
To each of these asseverations the Holy Scriptures of both former and current time bear abundant and unequivocal testimony. The same high and unimpeachable authority, embodying the very words of Divine decree, declares that only by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is salvation in the Kingdom of God possible unto man.
Consider the fundamental rite, which is baptism. The words of the Christ to the timid but truth-seeking rabbi of Jerusalem are as free from ambiguity as language makes possible: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5.)
This solemn affirmation was made to Nicodemus at the time of great excitement and controversy in Judea and neighboring provinces over the activities of John the Baptist, who was boldly preaching the necessity of baptism at his own hands as of one having particular authority, and who was administering baptism by immersion to all repentant applicants. John further declared that the watery baptism in which he officiated would be followed by a higher endowment to be administered by a Mightier One than himself, and this he designated the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Our Lord's declaration to the uninformed "master of Israel" set the seal of an authority higher than John's on the absolute necessity of baptism as conditioning man's attainment of salvation.
The crucified and resurrected Christ left this parting command and commission with the Apostles: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt.