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Mrs. M. Many of them could not, though others might have been kept there. The Passover was celebrated, and other sacrifices were offered; but their abode in the wilderness was a state of probation-a seminary of education. The scheme of their government was promulgated in the desert, but could be completely brought into exercise, only in their settled habitation. Without reference to that, many of their laws would have been but nugatory. They neither planted nor reaped there : consequently, had no first fruits to bring to the altar; nor was it necessary to prohibit certain articles of food, and allow others to be eaten, which was done at this time, where such articles might not be found to exist.
CHARLES. What possible good could be promoted by regulations concerning food ?
Mrs. M. Every divine precept, my son, must be founded in wisdom and goodness. Some articles of food, not unwholesome in their nature, might possibly become so, in a particular climate, hot and arid, like certain parts of Canaan, and were therefore forbidden,
But the prohibition was principally designed amongst other regulations, expressly for that purpose, to discourage the Israelites from associating with their heathen neighbours, who ate of the food denied to them. And yet another moral lesson, was figuratively suggested by the instincts of the selected animals. The useful the cleanly--the docile, intimated the purity and obedience required in themselves; whilst the contrary manners were condemned by the prohibition of all such as were fierce or filthy in their natures.
FANNY. How was the expense of a system so costly to be supported ?
Mrs. M. It was indeed very costly. The feast of Tabernacles alone, was held at the expense of a hundred and ninety-two animals, besides flour and oil. A sacred treasury was formed of contributions, collected both from the community and individuals. The firstlings of all their flocks and herds were required for the service of the sanctuary, and the support of the priests, and made a principal share of the stock.
The sacrifices for individuals were furnished, though not offered as heretofore, by themselves; but delivered to the priests, who alone could perform that service.
CHARLEs. I do not understand, how Aaron and his two sons could perform so extensive a service.
Mrs. M. They would have been wholly inadequate. The Levites, a numerous body of inferior priests, assisted them. The first-born male of every family in Israel, was required for the duties of the sanctuary, in grateful acknowledgment of that mercy which had spared them, when the heir of every house in Egypt expired. But this claim was commuted by the substitution of the whole tribe of Levi, to which Moses and Aaron also belonged.
FANNY. You spoke just now of an ecclesiastical yearpray what did you mean by that term ?
MRS, M. In the organization of the Jewish Theocracy, two sorts of years were used. A civil or solar year, in common with other nations--which began and ended at the autumnal equinox; and a religious or ecclesiastical year-denominated also “the year of new things," commencing with the vernal equinox-because that was the season in which they departed from Egypt, and became an independent people.
CHARLES. My dear mother, you have again used a
term as new to my sisters, perhaps, as I confess, it is to me. What is a Theocracy?
Mrs. M. A little recollection would enable you to answer yourself; as the word is derived from the language you are now studying. A Theocracy is a form of government of which God is himself the Legislator.
But this whole system—the scanty outline of which I have given you, so costly, so burdensome, was but the shadow of a substance, “the scaffolding to the building," to be wholly abolished when that should be erected.
FANNY. Did the people who lived under the Mosiac dispensation, consider it in that light?
Mrs. M. They did certainly look beyond the emblems exhibited to their senses, for something more substantial. Every hour beheld their infractions of the moral law-the perfect and imperishable rule of their obedience,—the frequent repetition of their expiatory sacrifices, would teach them that their guilt and pollution still remained-and we find a writer of their own nation, appealing to their common understanding against the possibility of a remission of sin, by the blood of an animal.* Yet we cannot suppose them to have discerned the way of salvation, with the clearness and certainty afforded to us, who have seen the accomplishment of prophecy—and the verification of signs-in Jesus Christ, the glorious antitype; the one, only, and efficient, expiation of our offences.
* Hebrews, x. 4.
Mrs. M. No longer compelled to encounter the terri. ble ensigns of justice on the burning summit of Sinai, the will of the Sovereign Disposer was now declared to Moses from the seat of Mercy. Thence he was commanded, in the second month of the second year after they had come out of Egypt, to Number the children of Israel ; or, as we should now say, to make a census of the population. Accordingly upon an enumeration of every male of twenty years old and upwards, the result was found to be “ six bundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty men, able to go to war,” excluding the Levites. That tribe, being wholly devoted to the service of the altar, in stead of the first-born of every house, was reckoned from one month old and upward, and the amount was twentytwo thousand. The sum of the first-born then being taken, exceeded the number of the Levites by two hundred and seventy-three. An equivalent in money was accepted for this excess, and the price of their redemption was paid into the sacred treasury. The Levites were not to be admitted into the ministry under thirty years of age; nor was their service protracted beyond that of fifty.
In the beginning of this second year, on its appointed anniversary, the passover was regularly celebrated ; and on the twentieth day of the second month, the bright
cloud, the signal of their movements, was taken up from the tabernacle; the silver trumpets were sounded, and the congregation proceeded on their journey. The tabernacle, and all its appurtenances, borne in order by the Levites, went first, and the tribes, in their respective ranks, preceded each by its appropriate standard, followed. Three days they pursued the path of their heavenly guide, and in the wilderness of Paran, obeying its silent mandate, they again encamped. (B. C. 1489.)
At this station, néar a place called Kadesb-Barnea, they remained a considerable time, and occasioned great trouble to Moses by their turbulent conduct, which seems to have been originally excited by the strangers, “a mixed mula titude," who had followed them out of Egypt.
FANNY. I am surprised to hear of strangers in the camp of Israel - I thought that the rigid laws of Moses excluded all such from their community.
Mrs. M. Very different, indeed, was the benevolent system of the Hebrew legislator. Not one of his laws bears an inhospitable aspect; on the contrary, a variety of provisions ensured kindness and justice to the stranger who should either live in their cities or become proselytes to their religion." Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger-nor of the fatherlessnor take the widow's raiment to pledge. When thou cuttest down thy harvest; and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it—when thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward- it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and the widow,"-was the compassionate language in which they were commanded to consider the stranger as one of themselves; and we hear Moses affectionately entreating his brother-in-law, Hobab, when he visited him at Kadesh, to remain with them, to