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Israelites, when the first born of the Egyptians were destroyed.
The Feast of Pentecost, which was also called the Feast of Weeks, was the next : at this they offered the first produce of their wheat harvest, in acknowledgment that they were indebted to God's bounty for the increase of their corn.
The feast of Tabernacles was the third, celebrated when they had gathered in their corn and fruits. The propriety of these institutions is so evident, that there is no need of a comment on them. These probably made a part of the primitive religion of Mankind after the Fall.
Besides these, were the Feast of the New Moons, the Feast of Trumpets, and the great Day of Atonement.
The first was designed to mark to the Israelites the beginning of every month ; and the method of keeping it was by blowing a silver trumpet over their sacrifices, to announce the appearance of the new moon.
The feast of trumpets was observed with peculiar sacrifices, attended with a solemn blowing of trumpets; an holy assembly was kept, it was held at the beginning of the seventh month; this was counted the first month of the year for civil affairs, as that in which the passover was kept was for religious matters.
The great Day of Atonement was the tenth day of the seventh month; it was appointed as a day of general fasting and humiliation, repentance and atonement for all the poople. On this day the high priest, dressed in his richest garments, attended at the door of the tabernacle, and after having made an atonement for him· self and his house, he took for the congregation two kids of the goats, and a ram for a burnt-offering. When he had presented the former at the door of the taber.
nacle, nacle, he cast lots upon them, one for the Lord and the other for the people : that goat which fell to the LORD's lot was killed and offered as a sin-offering, but that for the people was preserved alive. The high priest then took a censer full of fire from the golden altar, and placed it as a symbol of the people's prayers on the mercy-seat, and having sprinkled the mercy.seat with the blood of the bullock, which had been slain as a sinoffering for himself and his house, he went out to kill the goat that was devoted to die, and performed the same ceremony with some of its blood. After this the live goat was brought forth, and the High Priest laid his hands on its head, at the same time making a general confession over it of the people's sins; as soon as this was done the goat was sent away to a land uninhabited, and let loose in a wilderness. This was called the Scape Goat, and he was a lively symbol of the Saviour of the world, bearing the sin of all mankind. On this day of the year alone the High PRIEST entered the Holy of Holies, as a type of the GREAT High Priest, who, after having past the veil of flesh, entered into the Heaven of Heavens, and presented his own blood which had been shed as an atonement for the sins of the whole world *.
On the three great festivals all the males were to appear before the LORD, to assemble together in that place where the ark and the tabernacle were fixed. The Israelites reckoned their sabbaths, feasts, &c. from sunset one evening, till the same time the next. When they appeared before God at the great festivals, they were required to bring the tithe, or tenth part, of their corn, wine, and oil, and the first born of their cattle ; but thay themselves were to partake in eating it, though
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 gover
* Dr. Watts's View of Seripture History.
nors 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.
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 year 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 in 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 beats ing (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, 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