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hope to excite, yet we must not pass them in silence. The laws of Moses have been divided into three classes, Moral, Typical or Ceremonial, and Political. The first are of
, universal and immutable obligation, originally given to man, and since found impressed on the heart of every creature endued with reason and conscience-but now first delivered in written characters, and on tables of stone, to denote their permanent nature: the second, in shadows too obscure to be fully understood at the time of their prescription, yet sufficiently clear to elicit and sustain the faith of its subjects, indicated the pollution and guilt of every individual, and the one great sacrifice which should procure purification and pardon: the third, in subserviency to that great end, erected a wall of partition between the posterity of Abraham and their Gentile neighbours, and preserved them through all the revolutions of ages, a separate people. Conformity to its precepts was never required of any other people; not even of those who resided
Fanny. I had not supposed that they were so very important-We shall thank you for examples of them : especially of the two last mentioned.
Mrs. M. In the course of our narrative I shall find an opportunity of gratifying you.
The first care of Moses, when he had reared and dedicated the Sanctuary, was to consecrate its ministers. Seven days successively they waited in the outer court; were washed with water, anointed with holy oil, provided for that purpose exclusively, and they offered burnt offerings in the presence of the whole nation. On the eighth day, when the animals which were to be offered as sacrifices were killed, and laid in order on the altar, fire, immedia,
ately from Heaven, descended and consumed them! This was an event unexpected by the people, and they hailed it with loud acclamations of triumph and praise ! No other fire being afterwards permitted to be used in the Tabernacle, it became the duty of the priests to keep this sacred flame continually alive. Two of the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, very soon transgressed the divine command, by putting “ strange fire,” as it is termed, into their censers to burn incense; for which offence they were instantly destroyed by the element which they dared to profane, " Fire came out from the Lord, and devoured them."
Fanny. Were not the people greatly shocked to find their priests, whom they had seen but lately consecrated by so many solemn forms, transgressing a law?
Mrs. M. They had a right to expect the most scrupulous care in the conduct of their ministers, but they would discover their error, if they had imagined that solemn forms would sanctify the heart, and enable them to render perfect obedience. The purification of Aaron and his sons by water, and their sin-offerings so often repeated, were designed to exhibit the holiness of their office-and their own utter unworthiness; but could effect no change in them. The sin of Nadab and Abihu is supposed to have been committed in a state of ebriety, as it was immediately followed by a command to the priests, to “ drink no wine or strong drink when they went into the sanctuary," lest they should die. Their awful punishment was just, and their brethren were forbidden to disfigure themselves by exterior signs of mourning" for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you,"? said Moses. “He will be glorified before all the people," and in the concise and emphatical language of scripture, he adds, 566 and Aaron held his peace.”
Besides the regulations for the personal government of the priests and Levites, the Book of Leviticus, as I have already intimated, prescribes the sacrifices, their manner, and periods of celebration; because those ordinances were to be administered by the Levites. Sacrifices were stated, or occasional: of the latter were such as were offered on special occasions, or by individuals, for propitiation, atonement, or thanksgiving; the former were periodical, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Every day, morning and evening; on the weekly Sabbath, at the new moons, and with extraordinary solemnity on the tenth day of the seventh month annually. This last was termed “ the great day of Atonement,” when the people were enjoined, in an especial manner, to come with contrite hearts, and confess their sins; and sacrifice was made for every soul in the nation. On that day alone the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, within the vail-the whole prefigured the one great atonement which should be made by the Redeemer for the sins of all mankind.
So great a number of sacrifices would necessarily require some variety in their qualifications, and manner of offering. Three particulars invariably observed in every offering for transgression, it is proper to point out to you, because they are expressive emblems in the scheme of salvation by a divine Mediator. Ist. The animal offered must be gentle and innocent in its nature, and perfect in its kind. 2d. The offerer must lay his hand on the head of the victim, to signify the transfer of his guilt to the substitute, who was accepted in his stead. And, 3d. before the victim was burnt, it must be slain, and a part of its blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat, to shew, that without the shedding of blood, pardon could not be obtained.
Sacrifices and oblations were made periodically, on three great national festivals.
The first was the “ Passover, or feast of unleavened bread;" instituted on the night of their departure from Egypt--and perpetuated in commemoration of that deliver
On the fourteenth day of the first month of their Ecclesiastical year, they killed a lamb of the first year, one for each family and ate it on the fifteenth, in the evening, with bitter herbs, and unleavened bread. Seven days the feast was kept, the first and last were holy days, on which no servile work was done. Offerings were made every day, and unleavened bread was eaten the whole time.
Next came the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover, to commemorate the giving of the law from mount Sinai : and last, “ the feast of Tabernacles," a time of great rejoicing in the seventh month. During the week of its celebration, the Israelites left their houses and lived in the fields, in arbours formed of the branches of the wil. low and palm, in grateful recollection of their pilgrimage, when they had no permanent dwelling.
The gladness and triumph with which the “ feast of Tabernacles” was kept, is understood to prefigure a glorious state of the gospel church; and the “ day of atonement,” which occurred ten days before that festival, represents the deep and genuine penitence indispensably necessary to a proper reception of such blessings.
They had also the “ feast of first-fruits,” or in-gathering of their harvest, when they were required to bring an offering of the produce of the earth, before they applied the smallest portion to their own use.
Every seventh year was a “ Sabbatical year," or year
of rest, in which their land must not be cultivated--the sixth harvest always producing sufficient for the supply of three years--and every fiftieth was a Jubilee, or year of liberty. It would, of course, fall on a Sabbatical year, and bring with it the grateful rest of that welcome season, as well as its own peculiar advantages. The morning of the Jubilee was triumphantly announced throughout the whole land, by the sound of silver trumpets,“ proclaiming liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison doors to them that were bound.” Every Hebrew servant and proselyted Gentile was released on that happy day: every debt was remitted; and lands that had been alienated, either from poverty or choice, were restored to their original possessors.
CATHERINE. How could such a restitution be required, without violating the right of a purchaser?
Mrs. M. No purchaser could be ignorant of this condition of sale, because the price of an estate was always in proportion to the number of years that should elapse before the coming of the Jubilee.
CHARLES. Pray what was the object of this law ?
Mrs. M. The immediate reason is given in the words pronounced on mount Sinai, when the statute was enacted -". The land is mine, it shall not be sold for ever,” and ultimately, that of keeping the tribes of Israel distinct. Moreover it had the salutary tendency to preserve a certain degree of equality in a nation of brothers--the branches of one stock; who for the same benevolent reason; were forbidden to exact of one another, exorbitant interest on loans.
Fanny. It is plain, that these festivals could not have been célebrated in the desert.