« PreviousContinue »
Ezra, chap. ii. ver. 63, "And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things till there stood, up a priest with Urim and with Thummim." And it does not appear they ever had them more, until by Jesus Christ, our High-Priest after the order of Aaron, they were restored in the light and truth" of the gospel.
The blessing upon Levi thus proceeds; "Who said unto his father, and to his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant," Deut. xxxiii. 9. This is generally understood to express the devotedness of that tribe to the worship and service of God, which laid them under a necessity of abstractedness from the world, and contrained them, when employed in the order of their course, to suppress all appearance of secular concern, such as mourning for the dead, and the like. Thus when "Nadab and Abibu perished by fire before the Lord," Aaron and his two surviving sons were expressly forbid to shew any signs of sorrow. ` "Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes, lest ye die." "And Aaron held his peace." The words are by many interpreters supposed particularly to refer to the judgment executed through the zeal of this tribe on their offending brethren in the matter of the golden calf, which is thus described: "And Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men, For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to-day 19
the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day," Exod. xxxii, 26...29. And it And it may perhaps be intended as a warning to the christian priesthood, that though their profession does not call them wholly to renounce the world, to restrain the workings of natural affection, and cease to be men; yet it does call them to a higher degree of heavenly-mindedness, to stricter self-government, to a greater superiority to worldly attachments and pursuits, to have no respect of persons in dispensing the bread of life, to "know no man after the flesh," to sit looser than others to the things of time.
The next article of their prophet's parting blessing describes their glorious privileges. "They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt-sacrifice upon thine altar." The priest's lips should keep knowledge.
This then is the first duty of their office; to "teach Jacob the judgments of God, and Israel his law." Theirs was to be the distinguished honor of training up every succeeding generation as it arose, in the knowledge of the God of their fathers, in what he had done for them, and what he required of them; of pointing out and inculcating upon them the connexion between their privileges and their duties, their safety and their obedience, their security and their fidelity. They were still to set before the people "good and evil, the blessing and the curse," the promises which allured to the one, the threatenings which deterred from the other. They were under the necessity, of consequence, of studying the law of God, and the history of his providence themselves, in order to the instruction of others; and to exhibit a decent conformity, in their own deportment, to what was written, as a pattern to their fellow-citizens. A task at once painful, dangerous and honorable.
The second duty of their station was, "to put incense before God." That sacred perfume was emble
matical of the prayers, the praises and thanksgiving of Israel; and on Levi was conferred the glorious privilege of standing between God and the people, of conveying from him to them the dictates of his will, the promises of his grace, the assurance of his favor and protection; and, as the mouth of the people, to re-convey to God, the effusions of their gratitude, the acknowledgment of their submission and dependence; their entire confidence in the truth and faithfulness of God, their entire hope in his mercy. These the sons of Levi were to present before the Lord as incense; and with this sacrifice of praise from the people, the incense of their own grateful acknowledgments would naturally mingle and ascend.
Finally, the blessing pronounced on this distinguished tribe, imposed on them the office of offering up "whole burnt sacrifice upon the altar of God." They not only stood between a gracious God and an indebted people; but a holy and offended God, and a frail, offending people. Hence the necessity of "burnt sacrifice," hence the idea of atonement, hence the shedding of blood for the remission of sin, hence the institution of the Levitical priesthood...." the shadow of good things to come." And thus the daily sacrifice, the intercession of the house of Aaron, and the united characters of teacher and priest in the same person, prefigured and pointed out "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world."...." The one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." The great Teacher sent from God, "who spake as never man spake.” "God's beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased."
The conclusion of the benediction is prophetic, and descriptive of their reward, their inheritance, and security."Bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again," Deut. xxxiii. 11. This is the
perfection of creature happiness; ample provision, and the blessing of the Almighty poured down, and resting upon it.... works and labors of love cheerfully performed, and graciously accepted....every foe subdued, and every ground of fear forever removed. Here may we not apply to this tribe in particular, what Moses, in the close, applies to Israel in general?
Happy art thou O Levi: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places," Deut. xxxiii. 29.
Such were the functions, the privileges, the honors. and the emoluments of the Levitical priesthood. They suggest to the christian ministry, the vigilance, diligence, fidelity and zeal which become those "who must give account"....the necessity laid upon them "to declare the whole counsel of God"....the assured support on which they may depend, while they conscientiously aim at doing their duty....the glorious "recompense of reward" which is laid up for "the good and faithful servant," in that day "when they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament ; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever," Dan. xii. 3. May the power of such motives be felt and understood by all who bear the sacred and important office, that by them they may be rendered" stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they know that their labor is not in vain in the Lord."
The farther progress of Moses through the remaining tribes of Israel shall be the subject of the next
HISTORY OF MOSES.
And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.... DEUT. XXXI. 1.
THE rich man in hell is represented, Luke xví. 27,
28, as entertaining the fond belief, that the return of one from the dead would certainly be effectual, to the conviction and amendment of a thoughtless and impenitent generation. And men in general are disposed to ascribe an infallible efficacy to means fabricated in their own imagination, while, at the same time, they wilfully neglect to use those which God has appointed, whose operation is undoubted, and of which they are in the entire possession. The man of one talent lays it up in a napkin and buries it, because he cannot, with one, do the work of five or of ten. One man is an infidel, because the miraculous powers which once accompanied the preaching of the gospel, accompany it no more another affects to despise all external evidence whatever, and looks at Christianity with a suspicious eye, because it called in miracles and prophecy to confirm and support it. The Jews rejected the counsel of God against themselves, saying, "He casteth out devils, by Beelzebub the prince of the devils,” Matt. xii. 24. The Greeks accounted the doctrine of the cross foolishness, because it belied their vain philosophy, and exposed their worldly spirit.