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tance of their prayers and praises, which went up to heaven, while the fragrant incense arose from the altar; the golden candlestick, with its seven lamps, which were lighted anew at the time of every morning and evening sacrifice, was a striking emblem of that moral light, purity, and ardor, with which the church should daily serve and honor her divine King. The inner room called the most holy place, contained the Ark, which was a chest made of the finest wood, overlaid with gold. The cover of this chest which consisted of pure gold, was denominated the mercy seat, or propitiatory. Under this cover were deposited the two tables of the law; on the ends of it were placed two cherubims, with their faces inclined toward each other and towards the mercy seat, and their wings stretched out, so as to overshadow it. Upon this cover, and between these cherubims, the symbol of the divine presence resided. “Here, says God to Moses, I will meet with thee, and commune with thee." While Israel thus beheld the visible presence of their King residing in the mercy seat, covering the ten commandments, a transcript of the divine rectitude, how forcibly were they taught that justice, covered or tempered by mercy, were the habitation of his throne, or the basis of his government! And while they saw him manifesting his glory and his will between the cherubims with outstretched wings and inclined faces; how naturally did this teach them that the highest orders of finite and tutelar spirits, far from being objects of worship, were but the creatures and humble ministers of Jehovah !
If you ask, what this visible symbol of Deity was? We reply, it was a cloud of glory. When the divine favor was shown, the cloud became shining. Hence those petitions, “thou that dwellest between the cherubims,
shine forth; cause thy face to shine upon us, and give us peace.” The issuing of fire from the cloud, to consume the sacrifice, was also a token of divine acceptance. In this way Jehovah probably shewed his respect to Abel and his offering. At other times fire proceeded from the same divine presence, to destroy presumptuous offenders, as in the case of Nadab and Abiha. Hence we read, “Our God is a consuming fire.” It is worthy of notice, that before the erection of the tabernacle and temple, God usually appeared to his servants in much the same manner. Thus, when he made a covenant with Abraham, he passed before him in “a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp.” When he appeared to Moses in Midian, he exhibited himself in “a flaming fire in the midst of a bush.” When he led Israel from Egypt through the desart, “he went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night.” When he visibly descended on Mount Sinai, and published his law, there were lightnings, and fire, and a thick cloud on the Mount. If you ask, why light and flame were chosen, as the emblem of God’s presence; we modestly answer, because light is the most splendid and beneficent object in nature, and the most fit to represent the knowledge and purity, the diffusive presence, goodness, and glory of Deity. It was therefore natural for the wiser heathens to regard the sun, the visible center of light, as the habitation and throne of God. Besides the reasons assigned above for such a local and splendid symbol of the divinity, on which the mind and feelings of untutored man, might easily fix; it had the further advantage of bringing the divine presence and protection near to the Hebrews; it made them feel that Jehovah was personally among them, to inspect their conduct and circumstances, to guard, direct, and supply them amid a barren and perilous wilderness, to lead them on to ultimate quiet and prosperity, to reward their persevering loyalty to his government, and to punish with prompt severity every wilful transgression. This sensible assurance of the immediate and constant presence of their almighty King was necessary to reconcile and keep them fast to a new and burdensome religion, to animate their courage and efforts against formidable enemies, to subdue internal discord and sedition, to enforce and to sweeten their subjection to the divine administration. We may add, this emblem of God’s presence, though material and confined, had no tendency to encourage superstition and idolatry; for it held up no definite form or similitude, which the spectators could copy; it represented no corporeal, or tutelar deity, like the pagan Jupiter or Osiris, but the only true and universal Divinity; and though it exhibited this divinity under the symbol of light, yet its westerly station in the tabernacle obliged all the worshippers to turn their backs on the rising sun, and to pay their homage to a far different and superior object; and lastly, by requiring the Hebrews to worship one Jehovah, represented by one emblem, fixed in one place, it forcibly inculcated the unity of the godhead, and thus erected an invincible barrier against surround. ing polytheism and its destructive effects.
Appointment of ministers of the Hebrew worship
Their qualifications. Ceremonies, which attended their induction into office; and the duties connected with it.
HE long suspension of this as well as other college exercises, makes it proper to remind you that the ground we have travelled embraces, first the civil and second the religious antiquity of the Jews. Under the second head we have shown not only the general fitness of their antient ritual, but the special expediency of circumcision, the weekly sabbath, the several kinds of levitical sacrifices, their three great annual festivals, and lastly the visible
appearance or symbol of Deity in a luminous or flaming cloud, which statedly resided first in the tabernacle; afterward in the temple.
Our last lecture was employed in illustrating the nature and expediency of those visible appearances, by which God exhibited himself to his antient worshippers. As these appearances may seem to contradict the refined ideas, as well as*the uniform experience of modern times; a close attention to the reasons of them was thought necessary, both to display their wisdom, and to confirm their reality. As the infant state of man needed this sensible mode of instruction ; so the peculiar character and condition of the Hebrews made it indispensable. Figure to yourselves a great and refractory multitude, just emancipated from cruel bondage, plunging into a pathless, and barren wilderness, exposed to incessant danger, fatigue, and famine; behold them in this situation required to embrace and stedfastly to adhere to a
scheme of government and religion novel, burdensome, and extremely opposite to their previous notions and inclinations. What could have reconciled and held them to this new order of things, but the personal and glorious residence of Deity among them? What could have attached their unsuspecting and persevering confidence and submission to the administration of Moses, but the visible presence of God, directing and patronizing his measures? What but this could have produced that harmony, fortitude, and energy, which their situation and destiny required ? We find in fact that this alone repressed their murmurings, dispelled their fears, encouraged their dutiful obedience, and at once gave spirit and success to their arduous enterprises.
If we view the matter in a somewhat different light, the importance of some external symbol of the true God will forcibly strike us. The antient heathens courted and exulted in the immediate presence of their false deities. They allured them to reside among them, by splendid images, temples, and offerings. These images and temples they fondly regarded as the fixed habitations of those gods, for whom they were erected. They esteemed it their greatest privilege and glory to have such divine protectors in the midst of them, to whom they could directly repair on every emergency, and for every blessing. The Hebrews, during their abode in Egypt, and by their subsequent intercourse with heathen nations, had acquired a strong attachment to these visible emblems. Their weak and prejudiced minds needed a similar indulgence in the worship of Jehovah. The learned Buxtorf therefore justly observes, that God, by favoring them with sensible tokens of his presence, accommodated himself to their rudeness and infancy, kept them within due lim