LII. (285) The law says, “A fire shall be kept burning on the altar which shall never be extinguished, but shall be kept burning for Ever.”{39}{#le 6:9.} I think with great reason and propriety; for, since the graces of God are everlasting, and unceasing, and uninterrupted, which we now enjoy day and night, and since the symbol of gratitude is the sacred flame, it is fitting that it should be kindled, and that it should remain unextinguished for ever. (286) And, perhaps, the lawgiver designed by this command to connect the old with the new sacrifices, and to unite the two by the duration and presence of the same fire by which all such sacrifices are consecrated, in order to demonstrate the fact that all perfect sacrifices consisted in thanksgiving, although, according to the diversity of the occasions on which they are offered, more victims are offered at one time and fewer at another. (287) But some are verbal symbols of things appreciable only by the intellect, and the mystical meaning which is concealed beneath them must be investigated by those who are eager for truth in accordance with the rules of allegory. The altar of God is the grateful soul of the wise man, being compounded of perfect numbers undivided and indivisible; for no part of virtue is useless. (288) On this soul the sacred fire is continually kept burning, preserved with care and unextinguishable. But the light of the mind is wisdom; as, on the contrary, the darkness of the soul is folly. For what the light discernible by the outward senses is to the eyes, that is knowledge to reason with a view to the contemplation of incorporeal things discernible only by the intellect, the light of which is continually shining and never extinguished.

LIII. (289) After this the law says, “On every offering you shall add Salt.”{40}{#le 2:13.} By which injunction, as I have said before, he figuratively implies a duration for ever; for salt is calculated to preserve bodies, being placed in the second rank as inferior only to the soul; for as the soul is the cause of bodies not being destroyed, so likewise is salt, which keeps them together in the greatest degree, and to some extent makes them immortal. (290) On which account the law calls the altar thysiasteµrion, giving it a peculiar name of especial honour, from its preserving (diateµreoµ) the sacrifices (tas thysias) in a proper manner, and this too though the flesh is consumed by fire; so as to afford the most evident proof possible that God looks not upon the victims as forming the real sacrifice, but on the mind and willingness of him who offers them, that so the durability and firmness of the altar may be ensured by virtue. (291) Moreover, it also ordains that every sacrifice shall be offered up without any leaven or honey, not thinking it fit that either of these things should be brought to the altar. The honey, perhaps, because the bee which collects it is not a clean animal, inasmuch as it derives its birth, as the story goes, from the putrefaction and corruption of dead oxen, {41}{this refers to the same idea so beautifully expressed by Virgil, Georgie 4.548 (as it is translated by Dryden)–“His mother’s precepts he performs with care; / The temple visits and adores with prayer; / Four altars raises; from his herd he culls, / For slaughter, four the fairest of his bulls; / Four heifers from his female store he took, / All fair and all unknowing of the yoke, / Nine mornings thence with sacrifice and prayers, / The powers atoned, he to the grove repairs. / Behold a prodigy! for from within / The broken vowels and the bloated skin, / A buzzing noise of bees his ears alarms: / Straight issue through the sides assembling swarms, / Dark as a cloud they make a wheeling flight, / Then on a neighbouring tree, descending light: / Like a large cluster of black grapes they show, / And make a large dependance from the bough.”} just as wasps spring from the bodies of horses. (292) Or else this may be forbidden as a figurative declaration that all superfluous pleasure is unholy, making, indeed, the things which are eaten sweet to the taste, but inflicting bitter pains difficult to be cured at a subsequent period, by which the soul must of necessity be agitated and thrown into confusion, not being able to settle on any sure resting place. (293) And leaven is forbidden on account of the rising which it causes; this prohibition again having a figurative meaning, intimating that no one who comes to the altar ought at all to allow himself to be elated, being puffed up by insolence; but that such persons may keep their eyes fixed on the greatness of God, and so obtain a proper conception of the weakness of all created beings, even if they be very prosperous; and that so cherishing correct notions they may correct the arrogant lofiness of their minds, and discard all treacherous self-conceit. (294) But if the Creator and maker of the universe, who has no need of anything which he has created, not looking at the exceeding greatness of his own power and at his own authority, but at your weakness, gives you a share of his own merciful power, supplying the deficiencies with which you are overwhelmed, how do you think it fitting that you should behave towards men who are akin to you by nature, and who are springing from the same elements with yourself, when you have brought nothing into the world, not even yourself? (295) For, my fine fellow, you came naked into the world, and you shall leave it again naked, having received the interval between your birth and death as a loan from God; during which what ought you to do rather than take care to live in communion and harmony with your fellow creatures, studying equality, and humanity, and virtue, repudiating unequal, and unjust, and irreconcilable unsociable wickedness, which makes that animal which is by nature the most gentle of all, namely, man, a cruel and untractable monster?