« PreviousContinue »
the greatest part was to be given to the Priests and Levites. The first born of their sons were presented to the LORD a few days after their birth ; but they were allowed to redeem them, by paying a small sum of money ; such heasts as were not fit to eat, but useful for labour, were also redeemed, by offering some other animal in their stead; a lamb for an ass, for instance.
These ceremonies, and others, which it is needless to enumerate, served not only as shadows or types, of the benefits of the Everlasting Covenant, but were useful in distinguishing the Israelites from all other nations, as an holy people, and the visible Church of God; and also to employ them in a variety of outward forms of religion; they would otherwise have been tempted to follow the idolatries and superstitions of the surrounding nations.
As for the political or judicial law of the Israelites, it is sufficient to say, that the LORD God condescended to be their King and Governor, and appointed various kinds of governors under Him, as He thought fit.-The tabernacle may therefore be considered, not only as the residence of their God, but the palace of their King also *. The Court of the tabernacle was the court of the Palace; the Holy of Holies was his Presence chamber; the Mercy-seat was his Throne. The Cherubims represented the Cherubims in heaven, and the priests were His ministers of state as King ; Moses as the mediator, and Aaron as high priest, His primeministers.
The shew-bread, together with such a part of the sacrifices as was given to the priests, represented provision for the LORD's household, &c. Whatever other governors were made from time to time, either captains, judges, or kings, they were but deputies to the LORD God, who put them in, and dismissed them, at his pleasure.
* Dr. Watts's View of Seripture History.
Among their peculiar laws, the Israelites had one which strictly enjoined them to make no peace with the seven nations of Canaan ; every soldier, who in time of war was afraid, might go home.
In respect of their food, they were obliged to abstain from many kinds of meat, but especially from blood; and they were obliged to wash themselves very frequently
In their dress, a distinction was made between the habits of the men and women, and they were required to put fringes on their garments, with a border of blue, that they might look upon it, and remember the commandments of the Lord. Every seventh
their land was to rest from sowing and ploughing, and God promised to give them food enough in the sixth year for two years.
Every fiftieth year, which was called the year of Jubilee, all houses and lands that were sold were to return to their former possessors.
He who stole a man was to die for it; and all cases of real injury, or mischief, life was to pay for life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, &c. And this was the penalty of a false witness, who intended to bring mischief on another.
The usual punishments of criminals among the Israelites were, a fine of money or cattle to be paid, or cutting off from the congregation, scourging or beating (not exceeding forty-nine stripes), the loss of a limb, or the forfeiture of life.
Persons were cut off from the congregation various ways. In case of presumptuous rebellion against the
LORD, LORD, they were sometimes devoted to sudden death, by a signal judgment from Heaven.
In some cases they were put to death by the hands of the magistrate; but in lesser crimes, it only meant being excommunicated, or excluded, for a time, from the privileges of God's people.
The usual way of putting criminals to death was either by stoning them, or hanging them on a tree.
We now see the Israelites, after having been delivered in a most miraculous manner from Egyptian bondage, formed into a nation having the Lord Gov for their King, and a body of laws of Divine institution. In these particulars they were honoured above all the people at that time upon earth. It was not for any merit of their own, that God first separated them to Himself, but for the sake of the oath which He had sworn unto Abraham. They were redeemed from Egyptian bondage by his free mercy; and after they had forfeited His Divine protection, they were saved from destruction, as a nation, by the same mercy, through the mediation of Moses, at whose intercession the LORD God promised to dwell among them, and conduct them to the place of rest, which he had provided for them. The Lord accordingly caused a palace to be built for the habitation of His holiness, and
appointed ministers, &c. He also appointed means whereby atonement might be made for sin, and acceptable services performed. But they were not to depend entirely on ritual observances ; these were appointed as means of grace
and reconciliation ; but it was required, that they should also practice moral virtues, and distinguish themselves from the heathens, by the purity and holiness of their lives and conversations *,
* See Leviticus xix, XX. XXV. xxvá
by a strict adherence to truth, honesty, sincerity, jus. tice, &c.— They were to banish from their minds hatred and revenge, and to cherish brotherly love and charity. If God's kindness produced these effects, they were encouraged to expect farther blessings from Him; but if they were disobedient, and abused His mercies, and exercised cruelties towards their fellow-creatures, they subjected themselves to the severities of His wrath, and could not be restored to His favour without repentance, atonement, and intercession; so that the Jewish constitution was designed of God as a scheme for promoting true religion and virtue, and as a shadow of the divine things *
We may suppose, that the people were very desirous of performing acts of religious worship, as soon as they had a place appointed for it; and it was a great advantage to them to have the mode settled, for it was particularly necessary that their worship should be uniform, and that they should agree in their service, as they were to set an example of piety and holiness to the surrounding nations.
The Mosaic institutions were excellently calculated to express the condition of men, as creatures and sinners, and to awaken the attention of idulaters, and make them desirous of being received into a communion, which bore such evident marks of Divine appointment.
The generality of the Israelites did not understand the spiritual meaning of their own ceremonies in its full extent; for the Mosaic Dispensation was the childish state of the Church of Godt; but as they knew
* See a Key to the Apostolic Writers prefixed to a Paraphrase on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, by John Taylor, fourth edition, published in 1697. + Ga), iv. 1, 2, 3, &c.
as much'as were essential to their salvation; and it is very satisfactory to Christians, to observe the agreement between the Covenant made with God's chosen people Israel, and that which was afterwards sealed by the blood of Christ ; because the fulfilment of the Divine promises under the one, is an earnest of the ful. filment of them under the other. Only let us do our part, and we may be certain God will faithfully per. form his.
THE DEATH OF NADAB AND ABIHU.
From Levit. Chap. x.
AND Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
And there went out fire from the Lord, and de. voured them; and they died before the LORD.
Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.
And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren, from before the sanctuary out of the camp.
So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp: as Moses had said.
And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazer and unto Ithamar his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes ; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole