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near ; gave them a deep sense of the Unity of the Godhead, and kept them from the worship of the heavenly luminaries,
Of the seasons of worship, the first was the Sabbath. This was instituted at the close of the creation, and was doubtless observed by the pious both before the flood and after, according to their knowledge and opportunity. In the books of Moses, such observance is not indeed mentioned, nor was there any special occasion for the notice. But expressions exist, implying such observance, and which cannot well be accounted for without it. Time was divided into weeks of seven days* both before the flood and after. Probably the children of Israel were made incessantly to labor in Egypt; but no sooner were they released than they observed the Sabbath, before the promulgation of the law, as a day they felt to be holy.t God, in the fourth commandment, speaks of the Sabbath not in a way which he would if instituted for the first time, but as an old institution, which they were required to remember and keep holy. The Sabbath was now re-instituted with peculiar solemnity, and its observance was placed in the moral code, among the ten commandments. But it is probable that the day of its observance was changed. For the day first marked out for the Jewish Sabbath by the manna's not falling upon it, was the twenty-second of the second month; and counting backward seven days, we find the people performing, by divine direction, a long and wearisome march. The original Sabbath, consecrated by the heathen to the Sun, may have been set aside, and that day made holy on which the Jews came out of Egypt. Of that event, the Sabbath now became a special memorial. He who is Lord of the Sabbath has a right to alter the day of its observance. He did alter it at a subsequent period, to commemorate his own resurrection, And if the Sabbath was then put back one day, as has been computed by some learned men, we have now the original Sabbath and do commemorate both the creation and redemption of man.
As standing memorials of the goodness of Jehovah, and ! the truth of the Mosaic religion, three great Festivals were instituted; the Feast of the Passover, of Pentecost, and of Tabernacles. The first was a memorial of the deliverance from Egypt. It was celebrated for seven days, from the 15th to the 21st of the month Nisan (April.) The second *Gen. xxix. 27. her week. Heb. her seven. Gen. iv. 7. + Exodus xvi. 22–30.
called Pentecost, besause it was celebrated the fiftieth day from the Passover, was the feast of harvest and of the first fruits, and was a solemn acknowledgement of the divine goodness and their dependence and obligations. The third was a solemn thanksgiving for all the bounties of the year; and a memorial of the goodness of God to them when they dwelt in the tabernacles in the wilderness. These festivals were always celebrated at Jerusalem. All who could, attended them. They greatly promoted social affection, and kept the people from intercourse with foreign nations and
idol festivals. i Besides the worship of the Sabbath and these festivals,
the Hebrew ritual prescribed the daily sacrifice, offered morning and evening for the whole congregation;-a reli. gious service consisting of animal and vegetable offerings, on the appearance of the new moon, that the Israelites might be kept from the superstitious worship of that heavenly body; an annual service on the commencement of the seventh month, the beginning of the Jewish civil year;-a Sabbatical year, a rest every seventh year from the cultivation of the earth, which was also a year of unusual attention to religion and of the release of poor debtors from their creditors; and the year of Jubilee, which took place every fiftieth year or after every seven sabbaths of years. This was ushered in by the sound of a trumpet, and restored every native Israelite to his original property and freedom.
To perfect the Jewish worship, God instituted an order of priests. In the patriarchal ages, the father of a family exercised the priestly office. This descended to the first born. The whole tribe of Levi was now set apart to attend upon the service of the sanctuary. Aaron and the first born of every generation descending from him, were consecrated to the high-priesthood; his other sons to be priests. The rest of the Levites performed the inferior services of the temple. All the priests and Levites were solemnly consecrated by purification and atonement, were maintained by the nation, and treated with great respect. The priests had the superintendence of the ceremonies of religion, and presented the victims for sacrifice. The High Priest alone appeared before God on the day of atonement in the Holy of holies, and consulted the divine oracle.
The dress of the High Priest was very splendid. In his breast plate was the Urim and Thummim, i. e. light and justice. This is supposed to have been three precious stones,
on one of which was written Yes, on the other No. The third was without writing. These stones were carried in the lining of the breast plate. When the High Priest would obtain an answer from God, he appeared before the Holy of holies, and proposing his question, took a stone from the breast plate. If he drew out the one with no inscription, no answer was to be given. Never was this oracle to be consulted for any private person, but only for the king or general of the army.
All the instructions and institutions of Moses had an high moral tendency. They led the children of Israel to love the Lord their God with all their heart, and their neighbor as themselves, and trained up many of the greatest ornaments of antiquity. The worship he prescribed was eminently typical of the worship of the New Testament Church; and in the High Priest was beautifully shadowed forth the Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, entered in once into the holy place-into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. During the abode of the Church in the wilderness, Moses wrote the Pentateuch, comprising Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Num. bers and Deuteronomy. It was deposited in the tabernacle, and preserved with the greatest vigilance. It was read every Sabbath day in the Synagogue, and through at the feast of Tabernacles, every Sabbatical year. The Prince was required to copy it, and the people were commanded to teach it to their children, and to wear it as “signs on their hands, and frontlets between their eyes.” It is the only history we have of the creation, the antediluvian nations, the flood, and the re-settlement of the earth. With-! out it the first two thousand years of our race would be entirely hidden from us. It was written in Hebrew in one continued work, by inspiration of God, and was divided into books, probably by Ezra, or at the formation of the Septuagint version.*
* Many are the conjectures of the philosophical and the curious, respecting the antiquity of the art of writing. Some suppose that symbolical representations were first used; then hieroglyphics; then alphabetical writing. But perhaps men were never strangers to letters. Books and writings were common in the time of Moses. Written genealogies were kept in the days of the patriarchs. What was known before the flood would be handed" down through Noah. The Hebrew is generally supposed to have been the origin language, and the root of all other languages.
The generation that came out of Egypt was, as has been remarked, very froward and perverse. They had been corrupted by the idols of Egypt. God was angry with them, and swore they should not enter the promised land. Their carcasses fell in the wilderness—all but Caleb and Joshua. But on their children he poured out his Holy Spirit. They became eminently devoted to God. “I remember thee," says he, in later ages of the Church, “the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness. Israel was holiness to the Lord and the first fruits of his increase.” With them God solemnly renewed his covenant. They stood all of them at Shechem before the Lord their God, the captains of the tribes, their elders, their officers, all the men of Israel; their little ones, their wives, and the stranger that was among them, and entered into covenant with God and into his oath. It was a day of deep and awful solemnity, a day of great glory to the Church.
Moses was born in the 2432d year of the world, and died in the 120th year of his age. “His eye was not dim, nor was his natural force abated.” The place of his death was mount Pisgah; from whence he had a view of the promised land, which he was not permitted to enter because of transgression. His sepulchre was miraculously concealed to prevent idolatrous veneration.
God had endowed him with wonderful wisdom, prudence and integrity, and placed him in a situation where he was enabled to exhibit unparalleled legislation and government. Almost every action of his life we can love and approve, while many traits in his character command our highest admiration. Whether we look at him leaving the court of Pharaoh, choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God; or at the burning bush, sacrificing diffidence to duty; or behold him in the presence of Pharaoh, wielding the most -awful engines of terror; or at the Red Sea, dividing the water; or see him ascending amid the thunders of Sinai, to converse with the Almighty; or trace him through forty years of toil and trial, unmoved by homage, unawed by faction, undaunted by danger, unaltered by distress;—or contemplate him, the great historian, poet, orator, lawgiver, the wonderful deliverer of his nation, the greatest of prophets, who conversed with God face to face, meek and humble beyond all men, we may well believe that he was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people;—we must pronounce
him the most exalted man that ever appeared on this stage of action.
In this period of the history of the Church, we have two remarkable prophecies of Christ. The first was by Balaam, a diviner or magician of great renown; a wicked man, whom God employed for the benefit of his people, “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him but not nigh; there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy (rule over) all the children of Sheth."* In a subordinate sense, David may have been pointed out in this prediction, but it manifestly has its full accomplishment in the exalted kingdom and spiritual victories of Christ, who will destroy the enemies of the Church, and gain dominion from the river to the ends of the earth. From this prophecy a star was the known emblem of the Messiah; and it doubtless prepared the wise men in the East to follow the star which actually appeared at his birth.
The other is a prophecy by Moses; which, in a very particular manner, reveals the prophetic character of Christ. “ The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."| Among all the eminent prophets, who appeared between Moses and Christ, none were like him; none were law-givers to mankind; none conversed with God face to face; none performed such signs and wonders; but in these and other respects, Christ was like Moses, though vastly superior. It is clear, therefore, that if, as some suppose, Moses here predicted Joshua, or a succession of prophets, who should speak to the Church in the name of the Lord, yet this prediction had special reference to our blessed Redeemer.
Before his death, also, Moses most accurately predicted all the great and terrible judgments which God would, in after ages bring upon the Jews for their disobedience; their captivity by the Chaldeans, a nation of fierce countenance; their subsequent or present dispersion, when they should become “an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word among all nations," and şthe calling in of the Gentiles in their stead “provoking them to jealousy by them which are not a
* Numbers xxiv. 17. + Deuteronomy xviii. 15. Deuteronomy xxviii. 9 Deuteronomy xxxii. 21, compared with Rom. x. 19.