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Testament church in the primitive times, and since the days of Constantine to the present age. While no nation, as such, professed to worship Jehovah alone, and no rulers or kings were found among his worshippers, no traces are met with of an establishment in the Old Testament any more than in the New, or in the New Testament church in similar circumstances. But when the descendents of Abraham were grown up into a nation, professing the worship of Jehovah, and living under rulers of the same religion, then an establishment was formed; in what way, and of what kind, remains to be investigated. The law of Moses, indeed, established the worship of JEHOVAH, the Creator of the world, and the Lord of all things, to the entire exclusion of all other names or beings, which either then were, or ever could be, supposed to be gods, or lords, or objects of adoration; and expressly forbad the use of all images or likenesses, whether of God or of creatures, in religious worship. Death also was denounced, as the punishment to be inflicted by the people, or rulers, on every detected idolater in Israel; and utter destruction upon every city in Israel which turned aside to idolatry. 1
The worship also to be conducted, first at the tabernacle, and afterwards at the temple built in the place which the “ Lord should choose to place “ his name there,” was regulated in a very circumstantial manner by the ceremonial law; while very many of its requirements were obligatory on all Israelites, in every part of the land or of the
earth. Yet no penalty, to be inflicted by the rulers, was appointed, except, perhaps, for offering sacrifices elsewhere than at the altar, in the court of the tabernacle.?
The descendents of Levi likewise were appointed to be the ministers of religion to the other tribes; the family of Aaron to be the priests, to sacrifice and burn incense before the Lord; and the high priest was constituted their head, or principal, especially to inquire of the Lord by urim and thummim, and to perform the services of the great day of atonement : and an ample provision was allotted to them out of the estates and cities of the other tribes.
It is, moreover, evident, that the priests and Levites were the divinely appointed regular instructors of the people in religion, and stationed for that purpose in cities in every part of the land. 2
Nor can it be reasonably doubted, that some of them at least, in every age, understood this, and diligently endeavoured to instruct the people. It may therefore be supposed that, besides the stated worship at the sanctuary, social or public worship, by prayers and thanksgivings, and public instructions, were given, under the inspection or superintendence of the more conscientious priests and Levites while at their own homes : at least this ought to have been done. Yet there were no regulations given respecting these devotions and instructions; no prescribed forms or methods of worship; nothing, in the modern sense, like an establishment.
1 Lev. xvii. 1-9. 7-10. xxx. 22.
XXXV. 3. Mic. iii. 11. Mal. ii. 7.
? Deut, xxxiii. 10. 2 Chron. xvii. Ezra. vi. 10–25. h. viii, 7. 2 Josh. ii. 6.
The priests and Levites were also the ordinary judges or magistrates in their several districts; and the high priest, with those chief priests who more statedly resided at or near the sanctuary, seems to have been appointed as a supreme court, to which appeals lay from all parts of the land. 1 Yet still, as Joshua succeeded Moses, and gave directions and commands to the priests, 2 so it was intimated that there would generally be judges, or rulers, distinct from the priests; and that an union, or 'alliance, or mutual cooperation was intended to subsist between them. Yet, from the days of Joshua to those of Samuel or David, this union is scarcely noticed. When the other tribes marched against those tribes who had their inheritance to the east of Jordan, and who were supposed to have forsaken the appointed worship at the tabernacle, by building another altar, 3 Joshua is not once mentioned : Phinehas was indeed one of the ambassadors sent on the occasion ; but the elders, or heads of the tribes, seem to have conducted the whole business, without much consulting him.
In the book of Judges, neither high priest, nor priests, nor Levites are mentioned in any public transaction, except as Phinehas consulted the Lord for the tribes of Israel, in the almost extirpating war against Benjamin. Sacrifices were offered by men of other tribes, by Gideon a Manassite, and Manoah a Danite ; and these were accepted by the Lord. Eli, indeed, was both judge and high priest; but his authority was not duly exercised. Whereas Samuel, an ordinary Levite, became a prophet and judge; yet it does not appear that he attended at the tabernacle worship, but offered sacrifices acceptably at other places. 2
· Deut. xvii. 8--13. iv. 16. vi. 6.
No command is given in the law of Moses as to the form of government of the nation in subsequent ages, whether it was to be that of a king, or not. In the prophetical blessings pronounced on his sons by Israel when dying, it was intimated that Judah would be the ruling tribe. “The
sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law
giver from between his feet, till Shiloh come; “ and to him shall the gathering of the people “ be.” 3 Yet Moses himself, the lawgiver of the nation, was a Levite, and Joshua, his successor, an Ephraimite: the first who took the title of king in Israel, was Abimelech, a Manassite ;4 and the first king whom God appointed over them was Saul the Benjamite.
Some directions, indeed, were given in the law, in case the people should ever choose to have a king over them, from a desire to be like the nations that were round about them. 5 And, if the kings who were afterwards appointed over the nation had observed the directions or injunctions there given to them, the most happy conse
Judg. vi. 23 --28. xiji, 19–22. 2 1 Sam. vi. 9. ix. 12. x. 8. xi. 15. xvi. 2. 3 Gen. xlix. 10. * Judg. ix. 6, 8, 12.
- Deut. xvii. 1420.
quences would have ensued : especially in this command, “When he sitteth on the throne of his
kingdom, he shall write him a copy of this law “in a book, out of that which is before the priests “ and Levites; and it shall be with him, and he “shall read therein all the days of his life; that “he may
learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep “ all the words of this law, and these statutes, to “ do them; that his heart be not lifted up above “ his brethren, and that he turn not aside from “ the commandment to the right hand or to the “ left.” It does not appear from the history that any of the kings literally observed this injunction. David was, indeed, remarkably well acquainted with “ the law of the Lord;" yet, in one instance, his zeal in religion was not regulated according to it, and he met with a discouraging rebuke for his error: which he having discovered and rectified, his endeavours were accepted and succeeded. I It was the peculiar commendation of Hezekiah in his reformation, that “the commandment of the “king and of his princes” was “ by the word of “the Lord.” 2 And when Josiah began his reformation, not having the law of the Lord before him, he proceeded, as it were, in uncertainty and obscurity; but, when the book of the law was found and brought to him, he regulated every thing according to it, and was accepted and prospered. The case was similar in the efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah. " To the law and to the testimony.” Now, so far as Christian princes do, or
2 Sam. vi. 1 Chr. xiii. 15. 2 Chr. xxx. 12. xxxi. 20, 21.