XLIV. (242) And the law orders the priests to feast on what is offered in the sacrifice for many reasons; first of all, that by this command it may do honour to him who has offered the sacrifice, for the dignity of those who eat of the feast is an honour to those who furnish it; secondly, that they may believe the more firmly that those men who feel repentance for their sins do really have God propitious to them, for he would never have invited his servants and ministers to a participation in such a banquet, if his forgiveness of those who provided it had not been complete; and thirdly, because it is not lawful for any one of the priests to bear a part in the sacred ceremonies who is not perfect, for they are rejected for the slightest blemish. (243) And God comforts those who have ceased to travel by the road of wickedness, as if they now, by means of the race of the priesthood, had received a pure purpose of life for the future, and had been sent forth so as to obtain an equal share of honour with the priests. And it is for this reason that the victim sacrificed as a sin-offering is consumed in one day, because men ought to delay to sin, being always slow and reluctant to approach it, but to exert all possible haste and promptness in doing well. (244) But the sacrifices offered up for the sins of the high priest, or for those of the whole nation, are not prepared to be eaten at all, but are burnt to ashes, and the ashes are sacred as has been said; for there is no one who is superior to the high priest or to the whole nation, or who can as such be an intercessor for them, as to the sins which they have committed. (245) Very naturally, therefore, is the meat of this sacrifice ordered to be consumed by fire, in imitation of the whole burnt offerings, and this to the honour of those who offer it; not because the sacred judgments of God are given with reference to the rank of those who come before his tribunal, but because the offences committed by men of pre-eminent virtue and real holiness are accounted of a character nearly akin to the good actions of others; (246) for as a deep and fertile soil, even if it at times yields a bad crop, still bears more and better fruit than one which is naturally unproductive, so in the same manner it happens that the barrenness of virtuous and God-fearing men is more full of excellence than the best actions which ordinary people perform by chance; for these men cannot intentionally endure to do anything blameable.