De Moor on God's Essential Vindicatory Righteousness: The Testimony of Conscience, Part 4



Not only by mouth, but also by action, did the Gentiles bear witness to this Righteousness of God in the offering of Sacrifices; of which how great the mass was, how religiously they engaged in them, what great labor and expenses they laid out upon them, everyone is abundantly aware. But whence that religion? to what end did all these have regard? Indeed, I would readily concede that the greatest part of this worship ought to be considered as received by tradition; if only it would be granted to me in turn, that the worship of the Gods, the observation of which was exceedingly troublesome, unless some Necessity, binding them to such an exercise of piety, had been added to tradition, would have been abrogated and forgotten long ago. But now, contrariwise, we see that there was no Nation, however uncivilized and barbarous, provided it was acknowledging something of Divinity, that was not offering Sacrifices to their Gods, whence PLINY says concerning them: To such an extent are the nations of the earth in agreement concerning them, although they be altogether different and unknown to each other.[1] That is, they believed that the Gods are provoked to anger by the crimes of men, and that hence they afflict men with various calamities: but they thought that this was the one way to avert the wrath of Deity, if they brought Sacrifices to its altars; which hence were called ἱλαστικὰ/ appeasements, καθαρτικὰ/purgatives, atonements, expiatory offerings, etc., and were thought and said to placate the Gods, to expiate sins, etc.; and in this manner they imagined that they were going obtain impunity for themselves; whenc again PLINY: In primitive times the ancient opinion obtained that they were all purifications, whereby their Consciences were cleansed of evil deeds, and their sins were washed away. And, since they were persuaded that the more precious and dear to themselves were the things that they dedicated as Sacrifices, they more pleasing these things were to the Gods; the offering of a human sacrifice everywhere grew in strength, with not even the most civilized Gentiles altogether excepted. Indeed, it is demonstrated of the Canaanites out of the Sacred Books, that they offered their infants to Molech, causing their innocent children to pass through the fire for his honor. Unto the detestable immitation of this abominable worship they sometimes drew the very Israelites, all too prone to Idolatry: with witnesses, both the examples in the History of the Kings in the first instances,[2] and the frequent complaints of the Prophets;[3] which abundantly prove that this Idolatry was not without reason so severely interdictam, Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 18:10. The Most Illustrious MARCKIUS deserves to be consulted, Exercitationibus Juvenilibus, Disputation XIV, § 2-7, and especially Exercitationibus textualibus, Part I, Exercise VI, in which against Maimonides and others, both Jews and Christians, he solidly asserted that the Israelites were not only cleansing their children by fire for the honor of Molech, but were verily sacrificing and burning them. Whence is also illustrated that saying of the Jewish Church, seeking to make God propitious toward her, Micah 6, but thus showing herself to be uncertain and ignorant of the true manner of placating Him, so that you might judge her to be imbued with the beliefs of the Gentiles, rather than initiated into the Rites of the true God: for she is introduced as thus speaking in verses 6 and 7, Wherewith (having been prepared) shall I come before Jehovah, shall I bow myself (having a sacrifice) before the high God? shall I come before Him with burnt offerings? with calves of a year old? Will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams? with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my Firstborn (for) my transgression? the fruit of my womb (for) the sin of my soul? In which, after having reviewed whatever most excellent Sacrifices, whether of animals, or of the fruits of the earth, finally in the place of these the Jews substitute human sacrifices, even indeed of their own children, as far preferable to all the rest; so that, if they had not been able to obtain favor with God by the former, would He not be moved by this sort of expiatory offering, so that He might come again unto favor with His people? nevertheless, that all these are not sufficient to avert His anger, God shows by His subsequent response: again, the Most Illustrious MARCKIUS in his Commentario on this passage. Likewise, concerning the Gauls CÆSAR relates, book VI de Bello Gallico, chapter XVI, Every tribe of the Gauls is extremely devoted to religious rites; and for that reason those that are troubled with unusually severe diseases, and that are engaged in battles and dangers, either sacrifice men as victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and employ the Druids as the administrators of those sacrifices; because they think that, unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the divinity of the immortal Gods is not able to be placated: and they have sacrifices of that kind ordained for national purposes: upon which place see the Commentary of DIONYSIUS VOSSIUS.[4] The Christian Fathers also frequently reprove the Gentiles for this inhuman rite: see TERTULLIAN’S Apologia, chapter IX; CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA’S Protreptico, page 27, in which you will find mentioned especially parents willingly offering their own children, and the three hundred men offered by Aristomenes the Messenian[5] to the Ithometan Zeus, ἐν οἷς καὶ Θεόπομπος ἦν ὁ Λακεδαιμονίων βασιλεὺς, ἱερεῖον εὐγενὲς, among whom was Theopompos, king of the Lacedemonians, a noble victim. If only Clement were worthy of confidence here, whose authority PAUSANIAS[6] makes somewhat doubtful, acknowledging that Aristomenes, in the Second Messenian War, to the Ithometan Zeus thrice made θυσίαν/sacrifice, ἣν ἑκατομφόνια νομάζουσιν, which they called the offering for the hundred slain, book IV of Description of Greece, chapter XIX, but relating that Theopompos, King of Laconia, took part in the First Messenian War, book IV, chapter VI, in which at the same time he relates that both Myron, a Writer of the First Messenian War,[7] and Rhianus, who committed the Second War to writing,[8] made mention of Aristomenes; and it was related by Myron that that Aristomenes killed Theopompos: which narration, nevertheless, Pausanias convicts of falsehood by consideration of the chronology. Clement, perhaps having been deceived by Myron, casts into the same time things that ought to be referred to diverse times. But since it would take a lot of space to review here the sayings of these, just as also of Lactantius, Minucius Felix, Tatian,[9] Theophilus, and others; it is sufficient to set forth the words of one, even JUSTIN Martyr, which are found in his First Apologia (as it is commonly called, but is actually the Second), written by him on behalf of the Christians, chapter XII, page 50, where he freely upbraids the Romans themselves with this crime: Τίνος γὰρ χάριν οὐχὶ καὶ ταῦτα δημοσίᾳ ὡμολογοῦμεν ἀγαθὰ, καὶ φιλοσοφίαν θείαν αὐτὰ ἀπεδείκνυμεν, φάσκοντες, Κρόνου μὲν μυστήρια τελεῖν ἐν τῷ ἀνδροφονεῖν, καὶ ἐν τῷ αἵματος ἐμπίπλασθαι, ὡς λέγεται, τὰ ἴσα τῷ παρ᾽ ὑμῖν τιμωμένῳ εἰδώλῳ, ᾧ οὐ μόνον ἀλόγων ζώων αἵματα προσραίνεται, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀνθρώπεια, διὰ τοῦ παρ᾽ ὑμῖν ἐπισημοτάτου καὶ εὐγενεστάτου ἀνδρὸς τὴν πρόσχυσιν τοῦ τῶν φονευθέντων αἵματος ποιούμενοι, For why did we not just give our assent publicly that these things are good, and proclaim that they are the divine philosophy, intending to fulfill the mysteries of Saturn in the slaying of a man, and in the drinking of blood, as it is said we do? which things you do before that idol, which is honored by you, and on which is sprinkled the blood, not only of irrational animals, but also of men, making a libation of the blood of those slain by the most illustrious and noble man among you. At this point, I will refrain from adding other things; whoever might desire more, let him thoroughly consult the Most Illustrious WITSIUS, Miscellaneorum Sacrorum, tome 2, Exercitation XX, § 12-18; SCHEDIUS,[10] de Diis Germanis, Syngramma II, chapters XXXI, XXXIII; SELDEN, de Diis Syris, Syntagma I, chapter VI; and the Most Illustrious GROTIUS, who is after the likeness of all at this point, de Satisfactione Christi, chapter X, in which he extensively, and no less learnedly, discourses of the reason for offering Sacrifices among the Gentiles, which we just now related, and ἀνθρωποθυσίας, human sacrifice, according to the custom formerly used among whatever Nations. And thus the Thir Argument has been explained, of which this will be, in my judgment, the legitimate conclusion: Everything that by nature is known of God by all men, that pertains, not to His indifferent will, but His Essence. The Vindicatory Righteousness of God, as it necessarily exerts itself in punishments, by nature is known to all men: which has been amply revealed by the testimony of Conscience, the constant opinion of the Gentiles concerning the inflicting of punishment upon evildoers by the Gods, and the offering of Sacrifices. Therefore, the Vindicatory Righteousness of God and the Necessity of punishing sins through that pertains to the Essence of God, and not to His indifferent will. So that, after this our Argument was set forth, the Most Illustrious VOETIUS added: These things certain appear to indicate something more than the free decree or government of God, the opposite of which was equally able to be.

[1] Natural History, book 30, chapter 4.


[2] For example, 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10.


[3] For example, Jeremiah 32:35.


[4] Dionies Vos (1612-1633), son of Gerardus Vossius, was a Dutch linguist and translator.


[5] Aristomenes was King of Messenia, remembered for his struggle against the Spartans in the Second Messenian War (685-668 BC).


[6] Pausanias was a Greek geographer of the second century AD.


[7] Myron of Priene committed his account of the First Messenian War (eighth century BC) to writing in the third century BC.


[8] Rhianus (third century BC) was a Greek poet and grammarian.


[9] Tatian the Assyrian (c. 120-c. 180) was a Christian theologian and apologist. He is most remembered for his Diatessaron, his harmony of the four gospels, which was used in the Syriac church until the fifth century. In his Oratio ad Græcos, he extols the virtues and antiquity of Christianity, and critiques paganism. Some shadow has been cast over his name by accusations of heresy, by Irenæus and Eusebius.


[10] Elias Schedius (1615-1641) was a German poet.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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