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lu vetero Testamento novum latet, et in novo vetus patet 







v. 2. 





The Dispensation with and under the Law, ... 1 

CHAP. I. The Divine Truths embodied in the Historical Transac 
tions connected with the Redemption from Egypt, 
viewed as preliminary to the Symbolical Institutions 
brought in by Moses, . . . . 1 

SECT. I. The Bondage, ..... 1 

... II. The Deliverer and his Commission, . . 24 

... III. The Deliverance, .... 35 

... IV. The March through the Wilderness Manna 
Water from the Rock The Pillar of Cloud 
and Fire, ..... 59 

... II. The direct instruction given to the Israelites before the 
erection of the Tabernacle, and the Institution of its 
Symbolical Services the Law, ... 89 

SECT. I. What properly, and in the strictest sense, 
termed the Law, viz., the Decalogue its per 
fection and completeness both as to the order 
and substance of its precepts, . . 89 

... II. The Law continued apparent exceptions to 
its perfection and completeness as the Per 
manent and Universal Standard of Religious 
and Moral Obligation its references to the 
special circumstances of the Israelites, and 
representation of God as jealous, . . 115 



SECT. III. The Law continued further exceptions the 

Weekly Sabbath, . . . . 134 

... IV. What the Law could not do the Covenant 
standing and privileges of Israel before it 
was given, . . . . . 152 

V. The purposes for which the Law was given, 
and the mutual interconnection betwixt it 
and the Symbolical Institutions, . . 166 

VI. The relation of Believers under the New Tes 
tament to the Law in what sense they are 
free from it and why it is no longer proper 
to keep the Symbolical Institutions con 
nected with it, .... 184 

CHAP. III. The Eeligious Truths and Principles embodied in the 
Symbolical Institutions and Services of the Mosaic 
Dispensation, and viewed in their Typical reference 
to the better things to come, . . . 203 

SECT. I. Introductory On the question why Moses was 
instructed in the Wisdom of the Egyptians, 
and what influence this might be expected to 
exercise on his future Legislation, . . 203 

... II. The Tabernacle in its general structure and 


III. The Ministers of the Tabernacle the Priests 

and Levites, . . 255 

IV. The Tabernacle in its several Divisions 1. The 

Fore -court, with its two articles, the Laver 
and the Altar of Burnt-offering Sacrifice by 
Blood in its fundamental Idea and ritual Ac 
companiments (Choice of the Victims, Impo 
sition of Hands, and Sprinkling of the 
Blood), . ... 289 



V. The different kinds of Offerings connected with 
the Brazen Altar in the Court of the Taber 
nacle Sin-offerings Trespass-offerings 
Burnt-offerings Peace or Thank-offerings 
Meat-offerings, . . . . 317 

... VI. 2. The Holy Place The Altar of Incense the 

Table of Shew-Bread the Candlestick, . 358 

... VII. 3. The Most Holy Place, with its Furniture, and 
the Great Annual Service connected with it 
on the Day of Atonement, . . . 374 

.. VIII. Special Rites and Institutions chiefly connected 
with Sacrifice the Ratification of the Cove 
nant the Trial and Offering of Jealousy 
Purgation from an uncertain Murder Ordi 
nance of the Red Heifer the Leprosy and 
its Treatment Defilements and Purifications 
connected with Corporeal Issues and Child 
birth the Nazarite and his Offerings Dis 
tinctions of Clean and Unclean Food, . 393 

... IX. Stated Solemnities or Feasts the Weekly 
Sabbath the Feast of the Passover of Pen 
tecost of Trumpets and New Moons the Day 
of Atonement the Feast of Tabernacles 
the Sabbatical Year, and Year of Jubilee, 429 

CHAP. IV. Historical Developments, 461 

SECT. I. The Conquest of Canaan, . 461 

II. The Theory, Working, and Development of the 

Jewish Theocracy, . 472 

APPENDIX A. Views of the Reformers regarding the Sabbath, . 507 

B. The Altar of Burnt-offering (with illustration), 524 

C. Supplementary Remarks on the Subject of Sacrifice 

by Blood, . . 524 

D. On the term Azazel, . . 534 








THE history of what is called the Patriarchal religion may be 
said to terminate with the descent of the children of Israel into 
Egypt, or at least with the prosperous circumstances which 
attended the earlier period of their sojourn there ; for the things 
which afterwards befell them in that land, rather belong to the 
dispensation of Moses. They tended, in various respects, to 
prepare the way for this new dispensation, more especially by 
furnishing the facts in which its fundamental ideas were to be 
embodied, and on which its institutions were to be basrd. Thr 
true religion, as formerly noticed, has ever distinguished itself 
from impostures, by being founded on great facts, which, by 



bringing prominently out the character of God s purposes and 
government, provide the essential elements of the religion He 
prescribes to His people. This characteristic of the true religion, 
like every other, received its highest manifestation in the Gospel 
of Christ, where every distinctive element of truth and duty is 
made to grow out of the facts of His eventful history. The 
same characteristic, however, belongs, though in a less perfect 
form, to the Patriarchal religion, which was based upon the 
transactions connected with man s fall, his expulsion from the 
garden of Eden, and the promise then given of a future De 
liverer ; these formed, in a manner, the ground-floor of the 
symbolical and typical religion under which the earlier inhabit 
ants of the world were placed. Nor was it otherwise with the 
religious dispensation which stood midway between the Patri 
archal and the Christian the dispensation of Moses. For here 
also the groundwork was laid in the facts of Israel s history, 
which were so arranged by the controlling hand of God, as 
clearly to disclose the leading truths and principles that were to 
pervade the entire dispensation, arid that gave to its religious 
institutions their peculiar form and character. 

When we speak of fundamental truths and principles in 
reference to the Mosaic religion, it will be readily understood 
that these necessarily required to be somewhat more full and 
comprehensive than those which constitute the foundation of the 
first and simplest form of religion. The Mosaic religion did 
not start into being as something original and independent ; it 
grew out of the Patriarchal, and was just, indeed, the Patriarchal 
religion in a farther state of progress and development. So 
much was this the case, that the mission of Moses avowedly 
begins where the communications of God to the patriarchs end ; 
and, resuming what had been for a time suspended, takes for its 
immediate object the fulfilment of the purpose which the Lord 
had, ages before, pledged His word to accomplish. 1 Its real 
starting-point is the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob, with an especial reference to that part of it which con 
cerned the occupation of the land of Canaan. And as the one 
dispensation thus commenced with the express design of carry 
ing out and completing what the other had left unfinished, the 
1 Ex. iii. 7-17. 


latter of the two must be understood to have recognised and 
adopted as its own all the truths and principles of the first. 
What might now be regarded as fundamental, and required as 
such to be interwoven with the historical transactions by which 
the dispensation of Moses was brought in, must have been, to a 
considerable extent, super-additional, including those, indeed, 
wliii-h belonged to the Patriarchal religion, but coupling with 
them such others as were fitted to constitute the elements of a 
more advanced state of religious knowledge and attainment. 

We are not to imagine, however, that the additional religious 
truths and principles which were to be historically brought out 
at the commencement of the Mosaic dispensation, must have 
appeared there by themselves, distinct and apart from those 
which descended from Patriarchal times. We might rather 
expect, from the common ground on which the true religion 
always erects itself, and the common end it aims at, that the 
New would be intermingled with the Old ; and that the ideas 
on which the first religion was based, must reappear and stand 
prominently forth in the next, and indeed in every religious 
dispensation. The Patriarchal religion began with the loss of 
man s original inheritance, and pointed, in all its institutions of 
worship and providential dealings, to the recovery of what was 
lost. It was the merciful provision of Heaven to light the way 
and direct the steps of Adam s fallen family to a paradise 
restored. The religion brought in by the ministry- of Moses 
began with an inheritance, not lost, indeed, but standing at an 
apparently hopeless distance, though conferred in free grant, 
and secured by covenant promise for a settled possession. As 
an expression of the good-will of God to men, and the object of 
hope to His people, the place originally held by the garden of 
Eden, with the way barred to the tree of life, but ready to be 
opened whenever the righteousness should be brought in for 
whirh the Church was taught to wait and strive, was now sub 
stantially occupied by that land flowing with milk and honey, 
which had become the destined inheritance of the heirs of pro 
mise. It was the immediate design and object of the mission 
>t Moses to conduct the Church, as called to cherish this new 
form of hope, into the actual possession of its promised blessings ; 
and to do this, not simply with the view of having the hope 


turned into reality, but so as at the same time, and in accordance 
with God s general plan, to unfold the great principles of His 
character and government, and raise His people to a higher 
position in all religious knowledge and experience. In a word, 
God s object, then, was, as it has ever been, not merely to bring 
His Church to the possession of a promised good, but to furnish 
by His method of doing it the elements of a religion corre 
sponding in its nature and effects to the inheritance possessed 
or hoped for, and thus to render the whole subservient to the 
highest purposes of His moral government. 

When we speak, however, of the inheritance of Canaan 
being in the time of Moses the great object of hope to Israel, 
and the boon which his mission was specially designed to realize, 
we must take into account what, we trust, was satisfactorily 
established concerning it, in the earlier part of our investiga 
tions. 1 1. The earthly Canaan was never designed by God, 
nor could it from the first have been understood by His people, 
to be the iiltimate and proper inheritance which they were to 
occupy ; things having been spoken and hoped for concerning 
it, which plainly could not be realized within the bounds of 
Canaan, nor on the earth at all, as at present constituted. 2. 
The inheritance, in its full and proper sense, was one which 
could be enjoyed only by those who had become children of the 
resurrection, themselves fully redeemed in soul and body from 
the effects and consequences of sin. 3. The occupation of the 
earthly Canaan by the natural seed of Abraham, in its grand 
and ultimate design, was a type of the occupation by a redeemed 
Church of her destined inheritance of glory. Hence everything 
concerning the entrance of Israel on that temporary possession 
had necessarily to be ordered, so as fitly to represent and fore 
shadow the things which belong to the Church s establishment 
in her final and permanent possession. The matter may thus 
be briefly stated : God selected a portion for the special ends 
in view, the fairest portion of the earth, 2 which He challenged 
as His own in a peculiar sense, that He might convert it into 
a suitable habitation and inheritance for the people whom He 

1 Vol. i., see section on the hope of the inheritance. 

2 Ezek. xx. 6 : u A land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk 
and honey, which is the glory of all lauds." 


had already chosen to be peculiarly His own. On this people, 
settled in this possession, He purposed to bestow the highest 
earthly tokens of His gracious presence and blessing. But 
what He was going to do for them in temporal and earthly 
things, was only a representation and a pledge of what, from 
before the birth of time, He had purposed to do in heavenly 
things, when the period should come for gathering into one His 
universal Church, and planting her in His everlasting inherit 
ance of life and glory. There is, therefore, a twofold object 
to be kept in view, while we investigate this part of the Divine 
procedure and arrangements, as in these also there was a two 
fold design. The whole that took place between the giving of 
the hope to the patriarchs, and its realization in their posterity, 
we must, in the first instance, view as demonstrating on what 
principles God could, consistently with His character and govern 
ment, bestow upon them such an inheritance, or keep them in 
possession of its blessings. But we must, at the same time, in 
another point of view, regard the whole as the shadow of higher 
and better things to come. We must take it as a glass, in which 
to see mirrored the form and pattern of God s everlasting king 
dom, and that with an especial reference to the grand principles 
on which the heirs of salvation were to be brought to the enjoy 
ment of its future and imperishable glories. 

We are furnished at the very outset with no doubtful indi 
cation of the propriety of keeping in view this twofold bearing, 
in the condition of the heirs of promise. These, when the 
promise was first given, and for two generations afterwards, were 
kept in the region of the inheritance ; and if the purposes of 
God respecting them had simply been directed to their occupa 
tion of it as a temporal and earthly good, the natural, and in 
every respect the easiest plan, would manifestly have been, to 
give them a settled place in it at the first, and gradually to have 
opened the way to their complete possession of the promised 
territory. But instead of this, they were absolutely prohibited 
from having then any fixed habitation within its borders ; and 
by God s special direction and overruling providence, were 
carried altogether away from the land, and planted in Egypt. 
There they found a settled home and dwelling-place, which they 
were not only permitted, but obliged, to keep for generations, 


before they were allowed to possess any interest in the promised 
inheritance. And it was precisely their long-continued sojourn 
in that foreign country, the relations into which it brought 
them, the feelings and associations which there grew upon them, 
and the interests with which they became connected, that so 
greatly embarrassed the mission of Moses, and rendered the 
work given him to do so peculiarly difficult and complicated. 
Had nothing more been contemplated by their settlement in 
Canaan than their simply being brought to the possession of a 
pleasant and desirable inheritance, after the manner of this 
world, nothing could have been more unfortunate and adverse 
than such a deep and protracted entanglement with the affairs 
of Egypt. Considered merely in that point of view, there is 
much in the Divine procedure, which could neither be vindicated 
as wise, nor approved as good ; and the whole plan would mani 
festly lie open to the most serious objections. But matters pre 
sent themselves in a different light, when we understand that 
everything connected with the earthly and temporal inheritance 
was ordered so as to develop the principles on which alone God 
could righteously confer upon men even that inferior token of 
His regard ; and this, again, as the type or pattern according to 
which He should afterwards proceed in regulating the concerns 
of His everlasting kingdom. Viewed thus, as the whole ought 
to be, it will be found in every part consistent with the highest 
reason, and, indeed, could not have been materially different, 
without begetting erroneous impressions of the inind and char 
acter of God. So that, in proceeding to read what belongs to 
the work and handwriting of Moses, we must never lose sight 
of the fact, that we are tracing the footsteps of One whose ways 
on earth have ever been mainly designed to disclose the path to 
heaven, and whose procedure in the past was carefully planned 
to prepare the way for the events and issues of " the world to 

The first point to which our attention is naturally turned, 
is the one already alluded to, respecting the condition of the 
Israelites, the heirs of promise, when this new stage of God s 
proceedings began to take its course. We find them not only 
in a distant country, but labouring there under the most grievous 
hardship and oppression. When this adverse position of affairs 


took its commencement, or how, we arc not further told, than in 
the statement that "a new king arose up over Egypt, who knew 
not Joseph," a statement which has not unfrequently been 
thought to indicate a change of dynasty in the reigning family 
of Egypt. This ignorance, it would seem, soon grew into 
estrangement, and that again into jealousy and hatred ; for, 
afraid lest the Israelites, who were increasing with great ra 
pidity in numbers and influence, should become too powerful, 
and should usurp dominion over the country, or, at least, in 
time of war prove a formidable enemy within the camp, the 
then reigning Pharaoh took counsel to afflict them with heavy 
burdens, and to keep them down by means of oppression. 

It is quite possible there may have been peculiar circum 
stances connected with the civil affairs of Egypt, which tended 
to foster and strengthen this rising enmity, and seemed to justify 
the harsh and oppressive policy in which it showed itself. But 
we have quite enough to account for it, in the character which 
belonged to the family of Jacob, when they entered Egypt, 
coupled with the extraordinary increase and prosperity which 
attended them there. It was as a company of shepherds they 
were presented before Pharaoh, and the land of Goshen was 
assigned them for a dwelling-place, expressly on account of its 
rich pasturage. 1 But " every shepherd," it is said, " was an 
abomination to the Egyptians;" and with such a strong feeling 
against them in the national mind, nothing but an overpowering 

1 Gen. xlvii. 11 : " And Joseph gave them a possession in the land of 
Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses." " The land of 
Goshen," says Robinson, in his Biblical Researches, " was the best of the 
land ; and such, too, the province of Esh-Shfirkiyeh has ever been, down to 
the present time. In the remarkable Arabic document translated by De 
Sacy, containing a valuation of all the provinces and villages of Egypt in 
the year 1376, this province comprises 383 towns and villages, and is valued 
at 1,411,875 dinars, a larger sum than is put on any other province, with 
one exception. During my stay in Cairo, I made many inquiries respecting 
this district ; to which the uniform reply was, that it was considered the 

best province in Egypt There are here more flocks and herds than 

anywhere else in Egypt, and also more fishermen." Wilkinson also states, 
that " no soil is better suited to many kinds of produce than the irrigated 
edge of the desert (where Goshen lay), even before it is covered by the fer 
tilizing deposit of the inundation." Manners and Customs of the Aitfimt 
Egyptians, i., p. 222. How such a rich and fertile region should have been 


sense of the obligation under which the Egyptians lay to the 
Israelites, could have induced them to grant to this shepherd 
race such a settlement within their borders. Nor can it be 
wondered at, that when the remembrance of the obligation 
ceased to be felt, another kind of treatment should have been 
experienced by the family of Jacob than what they at first 
received, and that the native, deep-seated repugnance to those 
who followed their mode of life should begin to break forth. 
That there was such a repugnance, is a well-ascertained fact, 
apart altogether from the testimony of Scripture. The monu 
ments of Egypt furnish ample evidence of it, as they constantly 
present shepherds in an inferior or despicable aspect, sometimes 
even as the extreme of coarseness and barbarity, and the objects 
of unmingled contempt. 1 We cannot suppose this hatred towards 
shepherds to have arisen simply from their possessing flocks and 
herds ; for we have the clearest evidence in the Pentateuch that 
Pharaoh possessed these, and that they existed in considerable 
numbers throughout the land. 2 It seems rather to have been 
occasioned by the general character and habits of the nomade or 
shepherd tribes, 3 who have ever been averse to the arts of culti 
vation and civilised life, and most unscrupulous in seizing, when 
they had the opportunity, the fruits that have been raised by 
the industry and toil of others. From the earliest times the rich 
and fertile country of Egypt has suffered much from these 
marauding hordes of the desert, to whose incursions it lies open 
both on the east and on the west. And as the land of Goshen 
skirted the deserts of Arabia, where especially the Bedouin or 
wandering tribes, from time immemorial, have been accustomed 
to dwell, we can easily conceive how the native Egyptians would 
watch with jealousy and dread the rising power and importance 

so little occupied at the time of Jacob s descent into Egypt, as to afford 
room for his family settling in it, and enlarging themselves as they did, need 
occasion no anxiety, as the fact itself is indisputable. And Robinson states, 
that even at present there are many villages wholly deserted, and that the 
province is capable of sustaining another million. 

1 Rosselliiii, vol. i., p. 178; Wilkinson, vol. ii., p. 16; also Heeren s 
Africa, ii., p. 146, Trans. 

2 Gen. xlvii. 16, 17 ; Ex. ix. 3, etc. 

3 See Heeren s Africa, ii., p. 157 ; Rosselliiii, Mou. dell Eg., i., p. 177, 
etc. ; Hengstenberg, Beitr., ii., p. 437. 


of the Israelites. By descent they were themselves .allied with 
those slu-phm! tribes ; and, by the advantage of their position, 
they held the key on an exposed side to the heart of the king 
dom ; so that, if they became strong enough, and chose to act 
in concert with their Arab neighbours, they might have over- 
spread the land with desolation. Indeed, it is a historical fact, 
that " the Bedouin Arabs settled in Egypt have always made 
common cause with the Arabs (of the Desert) against the 
communities that possessed the land. They fought against the 
Saracen dynasty in Egypt ; against the Turkomans, as soon as 
they had acquired the ascendancy ; against the Mamlook sultans, 
who were the successors of the Turkomans ; and they have been 
at war with the Osmanlis without intermission, since they first 
set foot upon Egypt more than 300 years ago." 1 

Hence, when the Israelites appeared so remarkably to flourish 
and multiply in their new abode, it was no unnatural policy for 
the Egyptians to subject them to hard labour and vexatious bur 
dens. They would thus expect to repress their increase, and 
break their spirit ; and, by destroying what remained of their 
pastoral habits, and training them to the arts and institutions of 
civilised life, as these existed in Egypt, to lessen at once their 
desire and their opportunities of leaguing for any hostile pur 
pose with the tribes of the desert. At the same time, while such 
reasons might sufficiently account for the commencement of a 
hard and oppressive policy, there were evidently other reasons 
connected at least with the severer form, which it ultimately 
reached, and such as argued some acquaintance with the peculiar 
prospects of Israel. It was only one ground of Pharaoh s anxiety 
respecting them, that they might possibly join hands with an 

1 Prokesch, Errinneruugen aus Eg., as quoted by Hengstenberg in his 
Eg. and the books of Moses, p. 78. If Egypt had previously been overrun, 
ami for some generations held in bondage, by one of these nomnde tribes of 
Asia, there would have been a still stronger ground for exercising toward 
tlu family of Jacob the jealous antipathy in question. Of the fact of such 
an invasion and possession of Egypt by a shepherd race, later investigations 
into the antiquities of Egypt have left little room to doubt ; but the period 
of its occurrence, as connei-U-d with the history of the Israelites, is still ;i 
matter of uncertainty. A full review of the opinions and probabilities 
roim,.cted with the subject, may be seen in Kurtz, Geschichto des Alten 
Bund, ii., p. 178, sq. 


enemy and fight against Egypt ; another fear was, that they 
" might get them up out of the land." 1 This seems to bespeak 
a knowledge of the fact, that some other region than Goshen be 
longed to the Israelites as their proper home, for which they were 
disposed, at a fitting time, to leave their habitations in Egypt. 
Nor, indeed, would it be difficult for the king of Egypt to obtain 
such knowledge, as, in the earlier period of their sojourn, the 
Israelites had no motive to hold it in concealment. Then, the 
announcement of Jacob s dying command to carry up his remains 
to the land of Canaan, of which the whole court of Pharaoh 
was apprized, and afterwards the formal withdrawal of Joseph 
and his family from the court of Pharaoh, to identify themselves 
with the state and prospects of their kindred, were more than 
sufficient to excite the suspicion of a jealous and unfriendly 
government, that they did not expect to remain always connected 
with the land and fortunes of Egypt. " It is clear that Pharaoh 
knew of a home for these stranger-Israelites, while he could 
on no account bear to think of it; and also that though his 
forefather had treated them to a possession in the land of 
Egypt, he now considered them as his servants, whom he was 
determined not to lose. It is precisely because he would know 
nothing of freedom and a home for Israel, that the increase of 
Israel was so great an annoyance to him. The seed of Abraham 
were, according to the promise, to be a blessing to all nations, 
and should, therefore, have been greeted with joy by the king of 
Egypt. But, since the reverse was the case, we can easily see, 
at this first aspect of Israel s affairs, that the further fulfilment 
of the promise could not develop itself by the straightest and 
most direct road, but would have to force its way through im 
pediments of great strength and difficulty." 2 

The kinds of service which were imposed with so much rigour 
upon the Israelites, though they would doubtless comprehend 
the various trades and employments which were exercised in the 
land, consisted chiefly, as might be expected in such a country, 
in the several departments of field labour. It was especially " in 
mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field, 
that their lives were made bitter with hard bondage." 3 The 

1 Ex. i. 10. 

- Baumgarten, Theol. Com., i., p. 393. 3 Ex. i. 14; v. 6-19. 

THE BONDA(!i:. 11 

making of bricks formed of clay and straw appears, during the 
later period of the bondage, to have been the only servile occu 
pation in which they were largely engaged, and, of course, along 
with that, the erection of the buildings for which the bricks were 
made. As the hard and rigorous service to which they were 
subjected in this department of labour did not seem to answer 
the end intended, but the more they were afflicted the more they 
multiplied and grew, the gloom and distress that hung around 
their condition were fearfully deepened by the issuing of a cruel 
edict, commanding that their male children should be killed as 
soon as they were born. This was too atrocious an edict even 
for the despot of a heathen land to enforce, and he could not 
find instruments at his command wicked enough to carry it into 
execution. In all probability it was soon recalled, or allowed 
gradually to fall into abeyance ; for though it was in force at 
the birth of Moses, we hear nothing of it afterwards ; and its 
only marked effect, so far as we are informed, was to furnish 
the occasion of opening a way for that future deliverer into the 
temples and palaces of Egypt. So marvellously did God, by 
His overruling providence, baffle the design of the enemy, and 
compel " the eater to give forth meat !" The only evil in their 
condition which seems to have become general and permanent, 
was the hard service in brick-making and collateral kinds of 
servile labour, and which, so far from suffering relaxation by 
length of time, was rather, on slight pretexts, increased and 
aggravated. It became at last so excessive, that one universal 
cry of misery and distress arose from the once happy land of 
Goshen, a cry which entered into the ear of the God of Abra 
ham, and which would no longer permit Him to remain an inac 
tive spectator of a controversy which, if continued, must have 
made void His covenant with the father of the faithful. 1 

So much for the condition itself of hard bondage and oppres 
sive labour to which the heirs of the inheritance were reduced, 

1 A modern rationalist (Von Boblcn,Einleitungznr Genesis) has at tempted 
to throw discredit 011 the above account of the hard service of the Israelites, 
by alleging that the making of bricks at that early period belonged only to 
the region of Babylonia, and that the curl} K^yjitians were accustomed to 
build with hewn stone. " We can scarcely trust our own eyes," says Heng- 
steuberg, "when we read such things," and justly, as all well-informed 


before the time came for their being actually put in possession 
of its blessings. And situated as they were within the bounds 
of a foreign kingdom, at first naturally jealous, and then openly 
hostile towards them, it is not difficult to account for the kind of 
treatment inflicted on them, viewing the position they occupied 
merely in its worldly relations and interests. But what account 
can we give of it in its religious aspect as an arrangement 
settled and ordained on the part of God? Why should He have 
ordered such a state of matters concerning His chosen seed? 
For the Egyptians "though their hearts thought not so"- 

\vriters concerning ancient Egypt, whether of earlier or of later times, have 
concurred in testifying that building with brick was very common there 
so common, indeed, that private edifices were generally of that material. 
Herodotus mentions a pyramid of brick, which is thought to be one of those 
still standing (ii. 136). Modern inquirers, such as Champollion, Rossellini, 
and Wilkinson, speak of tombs, ruins of great buildings, lofty walls, and 
pyramids, being formed of bricks, and found in all parts of Egypt. (See 
the quotations in Hengstenberg s Eg. and books of Moses, p. 2, 80.) Wil 
kinson says (Ancient Egyptians, ii., p. 96), " The use of crude brick, baked 
in the sun, was universal in Upper and Lower Egypt, both for public and 
private buildings; and the brick-field gave abundant occupation to nume 
rous labourers throughout the country Inclosures of gardens, or 

granaries, sacred circuits encompassing the courts of temples, walls of 
fortifications and towns, dwelling-houses, and tombs, in short, all but the 
temples themselves, were of crude brick ; and so great was the demand, that 
the Egyptian government, observing the profit which would accrue from a 
monopoly of them, undertook to supply the public at a moderate price, thus 
preventing all unauthorized persons from engaging in the manufacture. 
And in order the more effectually to obtain this end, the seal of the king, 
or of some privileged person, was stamped upon the bricks at the time they 
were made." He says, farther, " It is worthy of remark, that more bricks 
bearing the name of Thothmcs II. (whom I suppose to have been king of 
Egypt at the time of the Exodus) have been discovered than of any other 
period." And not only have multitudes of bricks been thus identified with 
the period of Israel s bondage, and these sometimes made of clay mingled 
with chopped straw, but a picture has been discovered in a tomb at Thebes, 
which so exactly corresponds with the delineation given by Moses of the 
hard service of the Israelites, some digging and mixing the clay, others 
fetching water for it ; others, again, adjusting the clay to the moulds, or 
placing the bricks in rows ; the labourers, too, being of Asiatic, not Egyptian 
aspect, but amongst them four Egyptians, two of whom carry sticks in their 
hands, taskmasters, that Rossellini did not hesitate to call it, whether cor 
rectly or not, " a picture representing the Hebrews as they were engaged 
in making brick." 


were but instruments in His hands, to bring to pass what the 
Lord had long before announced to Abraham as certainly to 
takc> place, viz., " that his seed should be strangers in a land that 
was not theirs, and should serve them, and be afflicted by them 
four hundred years." (Gen. xv. 13.) 

1. Considered in this higher point of view, the first light in 
which it naturally presents itself is that of a doom or punish 
ment, from which, as interested in the mercy of God, they 
needed redemption. For the aspect of intense suffering, which 
it latterly assumed, could only be regarded as an act of retribu 
tion for their past unfaithfulness and sins. We should be per 
fectly warranted to infer this, even without any express infor 
mation on the subject, from the general connection in the Divine 
government between sin and suffering. And when placed by 
the special appointment of Heaven in circumstances so peculiarly 
marked by what was painful and afflicting to nature, the 
Israelites should then, no doubt, have read in their marred con 
dition, what their posterity were, in like circumstances, taught 
to read by the prophet " that it was their own wickedness 
which corrected them, and their blackslidings which reproved 
them." But we are not simply warranted to draw this as an 
inference. It is matter of historical certainty, brought out in 
the course of the Mosaic narrative by many and painful indica 
tions, that the Israelites were not long in Egypt till they became 
partakers in Egypt s sins ; and that the longer their stay was 
protracted there, they only sunk the deeper into the mire of 
Egyptian idolatry and corruption, and became the more 
thoroughly alienated from the true knowledge and worship of 
God. Not only had they, as a people, completely lost sight of 
the great temporal promise of the covenant, the inheritance of 
the land of Canaan, but God himself had become to them as a 
strange God ; so that Moses had to inquire for the name by 
which he should reveal Him to their now dark and besotted 
minds. 1 The very same language is used concerning their con 
nection with the abominations of Egyptian idolatry, while they 
sojourned among them, as is afterwards used of their connection 
with those of Canaan: "they served other gods," "went u 
whoring after them;" and even long after they had left the 
1 Ex. iii. 13. 


region, would not " forsake the idols of Egypt," but still carried 
its abominations with them, and in their hearts turned back to 
it. 1 Of the truth of these charges they gave too many affecting 
proofs in the wilderness ; and especially by their setting up, so 
recently after the awful demonstrations of God s presence and 
glory on Sinai, and their own covenant engagements, the wor 
ship of the golden calf, with its bacchanalian accompaniments. 
Their conduct on that occasion was plainly a return to the 
idolatrous practices of Egypt in their most common form. 2 
And, indeed, if their bondage and oppression in its earlier stages 
did not, as a timely chastisement from the hand of God, check 
their tendency to imitate the manners and corruptions of Egypt, 
as it does not appear to have done, it could scarcely fail to be 
productive of a growing conformity to the evil. For it destroyed 
that freedom and elevation of spirit, without which genuine 
religion can never prosper. It robbed them of the leisure they 

1 Josh. xxiv. 14 ; Lev. xvii. 7 ; Ezek. xxiii. 3, xx. 8 ; Amos v. 25, 26 ; 
Acts vii. 39. 

2 It is admitted on all hands, that the worship of the gods under sym 
bolical images of irrational creatures had its origin in Egypt, and was 
especially cultivated there in connection with the cow, or bovine form. It 
was noticed by Strabo, 1, xvii., as singular, that " no image formed after 
the human figure was to be found in the temples of Egypt, but only that of 
some beasts" (ruv d hoyuv uuv -rivo;). And no images seem to have been 
so generally used as those of the calf or cow, though authors differ as to 
the particular deity represented by it. It would rather seem that there 
were several deities worshipped under this symbol. Most of the available 
learning on the subject has been brought together by Bochart, Hieroz. Lib. 
ii., ch. 34 ; to which Hengstenberg has made some addition in his Beit., ii., 
p. 155-163. The latter would connect the worship of the golden calf in the 
desert with the worship of Apis ; Wilkinson connects it with that of Mnevis 
(Manners of Ancient Eg., 2d series, ii., p. 96) ; and Jerome had already 
given it as his opinion, that Jeroboam set up the two golden calfs in Dan 
and Bethel, in imitation of the Apis and Mnevis of Egypt. (Com. on Hos., 
iv. 15.) But however that may be, there can be no doubt, that if the 
Israelites were disposed to Egyptize in their worship, the most likely and 
natural method for them to do so, was by forming to themselves the image 
of a golden cow or calf, and then by engaging in its worship with noisy and 
festive rites. For it is admitted by those (for example, Creuzer, Symbol., i., 
p. 448) who are little in the habit of making any concessions in favour of a 
passage of Scripture, that the rites of the Egyptians partook much of the 
nature of orgies, and that a very prominent feature in their religion was 
its bacchanalian character. 


required for the worship of God and the cultivation of their 
minds (their Sabbaths seem altogether to have perished), and it 
brought them into such close contact with the proper possessors 
of Egypt, as was naturally calculated to infect them with the 
grovelling and licentious spirit of Egyptian idolatry. So that 
probably true religion was never at a lower ebb, in the family 
of Abraham, than toward the close of their sojourn in Egypt ; 
and the swelling waves of affliction, which at last overwhelmed 
them, only marked the excessive strength and prevalence of that 
deep under-current of corruption which had carried them away. 
Now this condition of the heirs of promise, viewed in refer 
ence to its highest bearing, its connection with the inheritance, 
was made subservient to the manifestation of certain great prin 
ciples, necessarily involved in this part of the Divine procedure, 
in respect to which it could not properly have been dispensed 
with. (1.) It first of all clearly demonstrated, that, apart from 
the covenant of God, the state and prospects of those heirs of 
promise were in no respect better than those of other men in 
some respects it seemed to be worse with them. They were 
equally far off from the inheritance, being in a state of hopeless 
alienation from it ; they had drunk into the foul and abominable 
pollutions of the land of their present sojourn, which were utterly 
at variance with an interest in the promised blessing; and they 
bore upon them the yoke of a galling bondage, at once the 
consequence and the sign of their spiritual degradation. They 
differed for the better only in having a part in the covenant of 
God. (2.) Therefore, secondly, whatever this covenant secured 
for them of promised good, they must have owed entirely to 
Divine grace. In their own condition and behaviour, they could 
see no ground of preference ; they saw, indeed, the very reverse 
of any title to the blessing, which must hence descend upon them 
as Heaven s free and undeserved gift. This they were after 
wards admonished by Moses to keep carefully in remembrance: 
" Speak not thou in thy heart, saying, For my righteousness 
the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land. Not for thy 
righteousness or for the uprightness of thine heart dost thou go 
to possess the land, but that the Lord may perform the word 
which He sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." 1 
1 Dent. ix. 4-6. 


(3.) Hence, finally, the promise of the inheritance could be made 
good in their experience only by the special kindness and inter 
position of God, vindicating the truth of His own faithful word, 
and in order to this, executing in their behalf a work of redemp 
tion. While the inheritance was sure, because the title to it 
stood in the mercy and faithfulness of God, they had of necessity 
to be redeemed before they could actually possess it. Having 
become the victims of corruption, they were also the children of 
wrath ; sin had brought them into bondage ; and before they 
could escape to the land of freedom and rest, the snare must be 
broken. But the hand of Omnipotence alone could do it. If 
nature had been left to itself, the progress would only have been 
to a fouler corruption and a deeper ruin. It was simply as the 
Lord s chosen people that they held the promise of the inherit 
ance, and they could enter on its possession no otherwise than 
as a people ransomed by His power and goodness. So that the 
great principles of their degenerate and lost condition, of their 
absolutely free election and calling to the promised good, of re 
demption by the grace and power of God in order to obtain it, 
were interwoven as essential elements with this portion of their 
history, and imprinted as indelible lines upon the very founda 
tions of their national existence. 

The parallel here, in each particular, between the earthly 
and the spiritual, or, as we more commonly term it, between the 
type arid the antitype, must so readily present itself to all who 
are conversant with New Testament Scripture, that we need do 
nothing more than indicate the agreement. It is most expressly 
declared, and indeed is implied in the whole plan of redemption 
unfolded in the Gospel, that those who become heirs of salvation 
are in their natural state no better than other men, they are 
members of the same fallen family, the same elements of cor 
ruption work in them, they are children of wrath even as 
others. 1 When, therefore, the question is put, who makes them 
to differ, so that while others perish in their sins, they obtain 
the blessed hope of everlasting life? the only answer that can 
be returned is, the distinguishing goodness and mercy of God. 
The confession of Paul for himself, " By the grace of God I 
am what I am," is equally suited to the whole company of the 

1 Eph. ii. 1-3 ; Rom. iii. 9-20, vii. ; Matt. ix. 13 ; Luke xiii. 3, etc. 

Till: BONDAGE. 17 

redeemed ; nor is there anything in the present, or the future 
heritage of blessing, which it shall be given them to experience, 
that can be traced, in the history of any of them, to another 
source than the one foundation of Divine goodness and compas 
sion. 1 And as the everlasting inheritance, to the hope of which 
they are begotten, is entirely the gift of God, so the way which 
leads to it can be that only which His own outstretched arm has 
laid open to them ; and if as God s elect they are called to the 
inheritance, it is as His redeemed that they go to possess it. 2 

2. We have as yet, however, mentioned only one ultimate 
reason for the oppressed and suffering condition of the Israelites 
in Egypt, though in that one were involved various principles 
bearing upon their relation to the inheritance. But there was 
another also of great importance it formed an essential part of 
the preparation which they needed for occupying the inheritance. 
This preparation, in its full and proper sense, must, of course, 
have included qualities of a religious and moral kind ; and of 
these we shall have occasion to speak at large afterwards. But 
apart from these, there was needed what might be called a natu 
ral preparation ; and that especially consisting of two parts, a 
sufficient desire after the inheritance, and a fitness in temper 
and habit for the position which, in connection with it, they were 
destined to occupy. 

(1.) It was necessary by some means to have a desire awak 
ened in their bosoms towards Canaan, for the pleasantness of 
their habitation had become a snare to them. The fulness of its 
natural delights by degrees took off their thoughts from their 
high calling and destiny as the chosen of God ; and the more 
they became assimilated to the corrupt and sensual manners of 
Egypt, the more would they naturally be disposed to content 
themselves with their present comforts. To such an extent had 
this feeling grown upon them, that they could scarcely be kept 
afterwards from returning back, notwithstanding the hard service 
and cruel inflictions with which they had latterly been made to 
groan in anguish of spirit. What must have been their state if 

1 1 Cor. iv. 7, xv. 10 ; Eph. i. 4 ; John iii. 27, vi. 44 ; Matt. xi. 25 ; Phil, 
i. 29, etc. 

Eph. i. 6, 7, 18, 19 ; Col. i. 12-14 ; 2 Tim. i, 9, 10 ;*Heb. ii. 14, 15 ; 
1 Pet. i. 3-5, etc. 



no such troubles had been experienced, and all had continued to 
go well with them in Egypt ? How vain would have been the 
attempt to inspire them with the love of Canaan, and especially 
to make good their way to it through formidable difficulties and 
appalling dangers ! 

The affliction of Israel in Egypt is a testimony to the truth, 
common to all times, that the kingdom of God must be entered 
through tribulation. The tribulation may be ever so varied in 
its character and circumstances ; but in some form it must be 
experienced, in order to prevent the mind from becoming wedded 
to temporal enjoyments, and to kindle in it a sincere desire for 
the better part, which is reserved in heaven for the heirs of salva 
tion. Hence it is so peculiarly hard for those who are living in 
the midst of fulness and prosperity to enter into the kingdom of 
God. And hence, also, must so many trying dispensations be 
sent even to those who have entered the kingdom, to wean them 
from earthly things, and constrain them to seek for their home 
and portion in heaven. 

(2.) But if we look once more to the Israelites, we shall see 
that something besides longing desire for Canaan was needed to 
prepare them for what was in prospect. For that land, though 
presented to their hopes as a land flowing with milk and honey, 
was not to be by any means a region of inactive repose, where 
everything was to be done for them, and they had only to take 
their rest, and feast themselves with the abundance of peace. 
The natural imagination delights to riot in the thought of such 
an untaxed existence, and such a luxurious home. But He who 
made man, and knows what is best suited to the powers and capa 
cities of his nature, never destined him for such a state of being. 
Even the garden of Eden, replenished as it was with the tokens 
of Divine beneficence, was to some extent a field of active exer 
tion : the blissful region had to be kept and dressed by its posses 
sor as the condition of his partaking of its fruitfulness. And 
now, when Canaan took for a time the place of Eden, and the 
covenant people were directed to look thither for their present 
home and inheritance, while they were warranted to expect there 
the largest amount of earthly blessing, they were by no means 
entitled to look for a state of lazy inaction and uninterrupted 
rest. There was much to be done, as well as much to be en- 


joyed ; and they could neither have fulfilled, in regard to other 
nations, the elevated destiny to which they were appointed, as 
the lamp and witness of heaven, nor reaped in their own experi 
ence the large measure of good which was laid up in store for 
themselves, unless they had been prepared by a peculiar training 
of vigorous action, and even compulsive labour, to make the proper 
use of all their advantages. Now, in this point of view, the 
period of Israel s childhood as a nation in Egypt might be re 
garded as, to some extent, a season of preparation for their future 
manhood. It would not have done for them to go and take 
possession of Canaan as a horde of ignorant barbarians, or as a 
company of undisciplined and roving shepherds. It was fit and 
proper that they should carry with them a taste for the arts and 
manners of civilised life, and habits of active labour, suited to the 
scenes of usefulness and glory which awaited them in the land of 
their proper inheritance. But how were such tastes and habits 
to become theirs ? They did not naturally possess them, nor, 
if suffered to live at ease, would they probably ever have attained to 
any personal acquaintance with them. They must be brought, in 
the first instance, under the bands of a strong necessity ; so that 
it might be no doubtful contingence, but a sure and determinate 
result, that they left Egypt with all the learning, the knowledge 
of art and manufacture, the capacity for active business and 
useful employment, which it was possible for them there to 
acquire. And thus they went forth abundantly furnished with 
the natural gifts, which were necessary to render them, not only 
an independent nation, but also fit instruments of God for His 
work and service in the new and not less honourable than ardu 
ous position they were destined to occupy. 1 

1 The view given in the text may be said to strike a middle course between 
that of Kitto, in his History of Palestine, vol. i., p. 150, etc., and that of 
Hengsteuberg, in his Authen., i., p. 431, etc. (We mention these two 
writers, chiefly as being among the last who have held respectively the 
views in question, not as if there was anything substantially new in either. 
Deyling has a clear and, in the main, well-conducted argumentation for the 
view adopted by Hengstenberg, and against the opposite, at the end of P. I. 
of his Obs. Sac.) The former regards the Israelites, at the period of their 
descent into Egypt, as distinguished by all the characteristics of the wander 
ing and barbarous shepherd tribes, and not improbably giving occasion at 
first, by some overt acts of plunder, to the Egyptian government to adopt 


The correspondence here between the type and the antitype 
has been too much overlooked, and even the more direct inti 
mations of New Testament Scripture, respecting the state :md 
employment of saints in glory, have too seldom been admitted 
to their full extent, and followed out to their legitimate practical 
results, as regards the condition of believers on earth. The 
truth in this respect, however, has been so happily developed 
by a well-known writer, that we must take leave to present it in 

harsh measures toward them. Most German writers of the rationalist school 
not only go to the full length of maintaining this, but, apparently forgetting 
the discipline to which the Israelites were subjected in Egypt, consider it to 
.have been their condition also when they left the country ; and object to the 
account given of the erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness, as implying 
too much skill in various kinds of arts and manufactures for a simple shep 
herd race. So, in particular, Winer and Vatke. Hengstenberg, on the other 
hand, maintains that the roughness and barbarity properly distinguishing 
the shepherd tribes never belonged to the Hebrews that their possessing 
the character of shepherds at all, arose chiefly from the circumstances in 
which they were placed during their early sojourn in Canaan that they 
were glad to abandon their wandering life and dwell in settled habitations, 
whenever an opportunity afforded that, set down, as they afterwards were, 
in one of the most fertile and cultivated regions of Egypt, which they held 
from the first as a settled possession (Gen. xlvii. 11, 27), their manner of 
life was throughout different from the nomadic, was distinguished by posses 
sions in lands and houses, and by the various employments and comforts 
peculiar to Egyptian society. This view must be adopted with some modi 
fication as to the earlier periods of their history ; for, though the Israelites 
never entered fully into the habits of the nomade tribes, yet they were mani 
festly tending more and more in that direction toward the time of their 
descent into Egypt. The tendency was there gradually checked, and the 
opposite extreme at last reached as it appears, that at the time of the 
Exodus they had all houses with door-posts (Ex. xii. 4, 7, etc.), lived to a 
considerable extent intermingled with the Egyptians in their cities (Ex. iii. 
20-22, xi. 1-3, xii. 35, 36), were accustomed to the agricultural occupa 
tions peculiar to the country (Deut. xi. 10), took part even in its finest 
manufactures, such as were prepared for the king (1 Chron. iv. 21-23), and 
enjoyed the best productions both of the river and the land (Num. xi. 5, 
xx. 5). It is but natural to suppose, however, that some compulsion was 
requisite to bring them to this state of civilisation and refinement; and as it 
was a state necessary to fit them for setting up the tabernacle and occu 
pying aright the land of Canaan, we see the overruling hand of God in tho 
very compulsion that was exercised. For an example of a modern Arab 
tribe settling down to agricultural occupations in the same region, see 
Robinson s Researches, i., p. 77. 


his own words : " Heaven, the ultimate and perfected condition 
of human nature, is thought of, amidst the toils of life, as an 
elysiurn of quiescent bliss, exempt, if not from action, at least 
from the necessity of action. Meanwhile, every one feels that 
the ruling tendency and the uniform intention of all the arrange 
ments of the present state, and almost all its casualties, is to 
generate and to cherish habits of strenuous exertion. Inertness, 
not less than vice, is a seal of perdition. The whole course of 
nature, and all the institutions of society, and the ordinary course 
of events, and the explicit will of God declared in His word, 
concur in opposing that propensity to rest which belongs to the 
human mind; and combine to necessitate submission to the hard 
yet salutary conditions under which alone the most extreme evils 
may be held in abeyance, and any degree of happiness enjoyed. 
A task and duty is to be fulfilled, in discharging which the want 
of energy is punished even more immediately and more severely 
than the want of virtuous motives." 

He proceeds to show that the notices we have of the heavenly 
world imply the existence there of intelligent and vigorous 
agents : 

" But if there be a real and necessary, not merely a shadowy, 
agency in heaven as well as on earth ; and if human nature is 
destined to act its part in such an economy, then its constitution, 
and the severe training it undergoes, are at once explained ; and 
then also the removal of individuals in the very prime of their 
fitness for useful labour, ceases to be impenetrably mysterious. 
This excellent mechanism of matter and mind, which, beyond 
any other of His works, declares the wisdom of the Creator, 
and which, under His guidance, is now passing the season of its 
first preparation, shall stand up anew from the dust of dissolu 
tion, and then, with freshened powers, and with a store of hard- 
earned and practical wisdom for its guidance, shall essay new 
labours in the service of God, who by such instruments chooses 
to accomplish His designs of beneficence. That so prodigious a 
of the highest qualities should take place, as is implied in 
the notions which inanv Christians entertain of the future state, 
is indeed hard to imagine. The mind of man, formed as it is to 
be more tenacious of its active habits than even of its moral 
dispositions, is, in the present state, trained, often at an immense 


cost of suffering, to the exercise of skill, of forethought, of 
courage, of patience; and ought it not to be inferred, unless 
positive evidence contradicts the supposition, that this system of 
education bears some relation of fitness to the state for which it 
is an initiation? Shall not the very same qualities which here 
are so sedulously fashioned and finished, be actually needed and 
used in that future world of perfection ? Surely the idea is in 
admissible, that an instrument wrought up at so much expense 
to a polished fitness for service, is destined to be suspended for 
ever on the palace-walls of heaven, as a glittering bauble, no 
more to make proof of its temper ? 

" Perhaps a pious but needless jealousy, lest the honour due 
to Him, l who worketh all in all, should be in any degree com 
promised, has had influence in concealing from the eyes of 
Christians the importance attributed in the Scriptures to sub 
ordinate agency ; and thus, by a natural consequence, has im 
poverished and enfeebled our ideas of the heavenly state. But, 
assuredly, it is only while encompassed by the dimness and 
errors of the present life, that there can be any danger of at 
tributing to the creature the glory due to the Creator. When 
once with open eye that excellent glory has been contemplated, 
then shall it be understood that the Divine wisdom is incom 
parably more honoured by the skilful and faithful performances, 
and by the cheerful toils of agents who have been fashioned and 
fitted for service, than it could be by the bare exertions of irre 
sistible power ; and then, when the absolute dependence of 
creatures is thoroughly felt, may the beautiful orders of the 
heavenly hierarchy, rising and still rising toward perfection, be 
seen and admired, without hazard of forgetting Him who alone 
is absolutely perfect, and who is the only fountain and first 
cause of whatever is excellent." 1 

It is only further to be noticed here, that, as preparation of 
this kind is necessary for the future occupations and destinies 
of God s people, so in their case now, as in that of the Israelites 
in Egypt, a method of dealing may in this respect also require 
to be taken with them very different from what they themselves 
desire, and such as no present considerations can satisfactorily 
explain. The way by which they are led, often appears more en- 
1 Natural History of Enthusiasm, p. 150-154. 


compassed with hardship and difficulty than they are able to 
understand ; hut it docs so, only because they cannot trace with 
sufficient clearness the many threads of connection between the 
present and the future between the course of preparation in 
time, and the condition awaiting them in eternity. Let them 
trust the paternal guidance and sure foresight of Him who can 
trace it with unerring certainty, and they shall doubtless find at 
the last, that everything in their lot has been arranged with 
infinite skill to adapt them to the state, the employments, and 
services of heaven. 



THE condition to which the heirs of promise were reduced in the 
land of Egypt, we have seen, called for a deliverance, and this 
again for a deliverer. Both were to be pre-eminently of God 
the work itself, and the main instrument of accomplishing it. 
In the execution of the one here was not more need for the 
display of Divine power, than for the exercise of Divine wisdom 
in the selection and preparation of the other. It is peculiar to 
God s instruments, that, though however to man s view they may 
appear unsuited for the service, they are found on trial to possess 
the highest qualifications. " Wisdom is justified of all her 
children," and especially of those who are appointed to the most 
arduous and important undertakings. 

But in the extremity of Israel s distress, where was a deliverer 
to be found with the requisite qualifications ? From a family of 
bondsmen, crushed and broken in spirit by their miserable ser 
vitude, who was to have the boldness to undertake their deliver 
ance, or the wisdom, if he should succeed in delivering them, to 
make suitable arrangements for their future guidance and disci 
pline? If such a person was anywhere to be found, he must 
evidently have been one who had enjoyed advantages very superior 
to those which entered into the common lot of his brethren 
one who had found time and opportunity for the meditation of 
high thoughts, and the acquirement of such varied gifts as would 
fit him to transact, in behalf of his oppressed countrymen, with 
the court of the proud and the learned Pharaohs, and amidst the 
greatest difficulties and discouragements to lay the foundation of 
a system which should nurture and develop through coming ages 
the religious life of God s covenant people. Such a deliverer 
was needed for this peculiar emergency in the affairs of God s 
kingdom ; and the very troubles which seemed, from their long 


continuance and crushing severity, to preclude the possibility of 
obtaining what was needed, were made to work toward its ac 

It is not the least interesting and instructive point in the 
history of Moses, the future hope of the Church, that his first 
appearance on the stage of this troubled scene was in the dark 
est hour of affliction, when the adversary was driving things to 
the uttermost. His first breath was drawn under a doom of 
death, and the very preservation of his life was a miracle of 
Divine mercy. But God here also "made the wrath of man 
to praise Him ;" and the bloody decree which, by destroying the 
male children as they were born, was designed by Pharaoh to 
inflict the death-blow oil-Israel s hopes of honour and enlargement, 
was rendered subservient, in the case of Moses, to prepare and 
fashion the living instrument through whom these hopes were 
soon to be carried forth into victory and fruition. Forced by the 
very urgency of the danger on the notice of Pharaoh s daughter, 
and thereafter received, under her care and patronage, into 
Pharaoh s house, the child Moses possessed, in the highest degree, 
the opportunity of becoming " learned in all the wisdom of the 
Egyptians," and grew up to manhood in the familiar use of every 
advantage which it was possible for the world at that time to 
confer. Bat with such extraordinary means of advancement for 
the natural life, with what an atmosphere of danger was he there 
encompassed for the spiritual ! lie was exposed to the seductive 
and pernicious influence of a palace, where not only the world 
was met with in its greatest pomp and splendour, but where also 
superstition reigned, and a policy was pursued directly opposed 
to the interests of God s kingdom. How he was enabled to with 
stand such dangerous influences, and escape the contamination 
of so unwholesome a region, we are not informed ; nor even how 
he first became acquainted with the fact of his Hebrew origin, 
and the better prospects which still remained to cheer and ani 
mate the hearts of his countrymen. But the result shows, that 
somehow he was preserved from the one, and brought to the 
knowledge of the other ; for when about forty years of age, we 
are told, he went forth to visit his brethren, and that with a faith 
already so fully formed, that he was not only prepared to sym 
pathize with them in their distress, but to ha/ard all for their 


deliverance. 1 And, indeed, when he once understood and be 
lieved that his brethren were the covenant people of God, who 
held in promise the inheritance of the land of Canaan, and whose 
period of oppression he might also have learned was drawing near 
its termination, it would hardly require any special revelation, 
besides what might be gathered from the singular providences 
attending his earlier history, to conclude that he was destined 
by God to be the chosen instrument for effecting the deliverance. 
But it is often less difficult to get the principle of faith, than 
to exercise the patience necessary in waiting God s time for its 
proper and seasonable exercise. Moses showed he possessed the 
one, but seems yet to have wanted the other, when he slew the 
Egyptian whom he found smiting the Hebrew. For though the 
motive was good, being intended to express his brotherly sym 
pathy with the suffering Israelites, and to serve as a kind of 
signal for a general rising against their oppressors, yet the action 
itself appears to have been wrong. He had no warrant to take 
the execution of vengeance into his own hand ; and that it was 
with this view, rather than for any purpose of defence, that 
Moses went so far as to slay the Egyptian, seems not obscurely 
implied in the original narrative, and is more distinctly indicated 
in the assertion of Stephen, who assigns this as the reason of the 
deed, "for he supposed they would have understood, how that 
God by his hand would deliver them." The consequence was, 
that by anticipating the purpose of God, and attempting to ac 
complish it in an improper manner, he only involved himself in 
danger and difficulty ; his own brethren misunderstood his con 
duct, and Pharaoh threatened to take away his life. On this 
occasion, therefore, we cannot but regard him as acting unad 
visedly with his hand, as on a memorable one in the future he 
spake unadvisedly with his lips. It was the hasty and irregular 
impulse of the flesh, not the enlightened and heavenly guidance 
of the Spirit, which prompted him to take the course he did ; 
and without contributing in the least to improve the condition of 
his countrymen, he was himself made to reap the fruit of his 
misconduct in a long and dreary exile. 2 

1 Kx-. ii. 11-15 ; Acts vii. 23 ; Heb. xi. 24. 

2 We can scarcely have a better specimen of the characteristic difference 
between the stern impartiality of ancient inspired history, and the falsely 


We cannot, therefore, justify Moses in the deed lie com- 
mitted, far less say of liim with Buddcus (Hist. Eccles. Vet. 
Test., i., ]>. ! .>-), Patrick, and others, that he was stirred up to it 
by a Divine impulse, nor regard the impulse of any other kind 
than that which prompted David s men to counsel him to slay 
Saul, when an occasion for doing so presented itself (1 Sam. 
xxiv.), an impulse of the flesh presuming upon and misapply 
ing a word of God. The time for deliverance was not yet come. 
The Israelites, as a whole, were not sufficiently prepared for it ; 
and Moses himself also was far from being ready for his peculiar 
task. Before he was qualified to take the government of such a 
people, and be a fit instrument for executing the manifold and 
arduous part he had to discharge in connection with them, he 
needed to have trial of a kind of life altogether different from 
what he had been accustomed to in the palaces of Egypt, to 
feel himself at home amid the desolation and solitudes of the 
desert, and there to become habituated to solemn converse with 
his God, and formed to the requisite gravity, meekness, patience, 
and subduedness of spirit. Thus God overruled his too rash 

coloured partiality of what is merely human, than in the accounts preserved 
of the first part of Moses life in the Bible and Josephus respectively. All 
is plain, unadorned narrative in the one, a faithful record of facts as they 
took place ; while in the other, everything appears enveloped in the wonder 
ful and miraculous. A prediction goes before the birth of Moses to announce 
how much was to depend upon it a Divine vision is also given concerning 
it to Amrarn the mother is spared the usual pains of labour the child, 
when discovered by Pharaoh s daughter, refuses to suck any breast but that 
of its mother when grown a little, he became so beautiful that strangers 
must needs turn back and look after him, etc. But with all these unwar 
ranted additions, in the true spirit of Jewish, or rather human partiality, not 
a word is said of his killing the Egyptian ; he is obliged to flee, indeed, but 
only because of the envy of the Egyptians for his having delivered them 
from the Ethiopians (Antiq., ii., 9, 10, 11). In Scripture his act in killing 
the Egyptian is not expressly condemned as sinful ; but, as often happens 
tluTc, this is clearly enough indicated by the results in providence growing 
out of it. Many commentators justify Moses in smiting the Egyptian, on 
the ground of his being moved to it by a Divine impulse. There can be no 
doubt that he * /////>, </ himself to have had such an impulse, but that is a 
different thing from his actually having it ; and Augustine judged rightly, 
when lie thought Moses could not be altogether justified, "quia nullam 
adhuc legitimatn potestatem gerebat, nee acceptam divinitus, nee humaii;i 
societate ordinatam." Quaest. in Exodum, ii. 


and hasty interference with the affairs of his kindred, to the 
proper completion of his own preparatory training, and provided 
for him the advantage of as long a sojourn in the wilderness to 
learn Divine wisdom, as he had already spent in learning human 
wisdom in Egypt. We have no direct information of the man 
ner in which his spirit was exercised during this period of exile, 
yet the names he gave to his children show that it did not pass 
unimproved. The first he called Gershom, " because he was a 
stranger in a strange land," implying that he felt in the in 
most depths of his soul the sadness of being cut off from the 
society of his kindred, and perhaps also at being disappointed of 
his hope in regard to the promised inheritance. The second he 
named Eliezer, saying, " The God of my father is my help, 
betokening his clear, realizing faith in the invisible Jehovah, 
the God of his fathers, to whom his soul had now learnt more 
thoroughly and confidingly to turn itself, since he had been 
compelled so painfully to look away from the world. And 
now having passed through the school of God in its two grand 
departments, and in both extremes of life obtained ample oppor 
tunities for acquiring the wisdom which was peculiarly needed 
for Israel s deliverer and lawgiver, the set time for God was 
come, and He appeared to Moses at the bush for the special pur 
pose of investing him with a Divine commission for the task. 

But here a new and unlooked-for difficulty presented itself, 
in his own reluctance to accept the commission. We know how 
apt, in great enterprises, which concern the welfare of many, 
while one has to take the lead, a rash and unsuccessful attempt 
to accomplish the desired end, is to beget a spirit of excessive 
caution and timidity a sort of shyness and chagrin especially 
if the failure has seemed in any measure attributable to a want 
of sympathy and support on the part of those whose co-opera 
tion was most confidently relied on. Something not unlike this 
appears to have grown upon Moses in the desert. Kemembering 
how his precipitate attempt to avenge the wrongs of his kindred, 
and rouse them to a combined effort to regain their freedom, 
had not only provoked the displeasure of Pharaoh, but was met 
by insult and reproach from his kindred themselves, he could 
not but feel that the work of their deliverance was likely to 
prove both a heartless and a perilous task, a work that would 


need to bo wrought out, not only against the determined oppo 
sition of the mightiest kingdom in the world, but also under the 
most trying discouragements, arising from the now degraded and 
<l;i-t;mlly spirit of the people. This feeling, of which Moses 
could scarcely fail to be conscious even at the time of his flight 
from Egypt, may easily be conceived to have increased in no 
ordinary degree amid the deep solitudes and quiet occupations 
of a shepherd s life, in which he was permitted to live till he 
had the weight of fourscore years upon his head. So that we 
cannot wonder at the disposition he manifested to start objections 
to the proposal made to him to undertake the work of deliver 
ance ; we are only surprised at the unreasonable and daring 
length to which, in spite of every consideration and remon 
strance on the part of God, he persisted in urging them. 

The symbol in which the Lord then appeared to Moses, the 
bush burning but not consumed, was well fitted on reflection to 
inspire him with encouragement and hope. It pointed, Moses 
could not fail to remember, when he came to meditate on what 
he had seen and heard, to " the smoking furnace and the burning 
lamp," which had passed in vision before the eye of Abraham, 
when he was told of the future sufferings of his posterity in the 
land that was not theirs. (Gen. xv. 17.) Such a furnace now 
again visibly presented itself ; but the little thorn-bush, emblem 
of the covenant people, the tree of God s planting, stood un 
injured in the midst of the flame, because the covenant God 
Himself was there. Why, then, should Moses despond on 
account of the afflictions of his people, or shrink from the ardu 
ous task now committed to him ? especially when the distinct 
assurance was given to him of all needful powers and gifts to 
furnish him aright for the undertaking, and the word of God 
was solemnly pledged to conduct it to a successful issue. 

It is clear from the whole interview at which Moses received 
his commission, that the difficulties and discouragements which 
pressed most upon his mind were those connected with the sunk 
and degenerate condition of the covenant people themselves, who 
appeared to have lost heart in regard to the promise of the cove 
nant, and even to have become deeply estranged from the God 
of the covenant. His concern on the latter point led him to ask 
what he should say to them when they inquired for the name of 


the God of their fathers, under whose authority he should go to 
them? His question was met witli the sublime reply, " I AM THAT 
I AM : thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, I AM hath 
sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus 
shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, JEHOVAH, the God 
of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the 
God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is My name for ever, 
and this is My memorial unto all generations." In this striking 
revelation we have to look, not merely to the name assumed by 
God, but to the historical setting that on each side is given to it, 
whereby it is linked equally to the past and the future, and be 
comes in a great measure self-explanatory. He who describes 
Himself as the " I AM THAT I AM," and turns the description into 
the distinctive name of JEHOVAH, does so for the express purpose 
of enabling Israel to recognise Him as the God of their fathers 
the God who, in the past, had covenanted with Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob, and who now, in the immediate future, was 
going to make good for their posterity what He had promised to 
them. Obviously, therefore, we have here to do, not with the 
metaphysical and the abstract, not with being simply in the sense 
of pure absolute existence, an idea unsuitable alike to the cir 
cumstances and the connection ; nor can we think of a manifes 
tation of the attributes of being with respect alone to the future 
as if God would represent Himself in relation only to what 
was to come the God pre-eminently and emphatically of the 
coming age (" I. will be what I will be "). For this were to narrow 
men s ideas of the Godhead, and limit the distinctive name to 
but one sphere of the Divine agency making it properly expres 
sive of what was to be, in God s manifestations, not as connected 
with, but as contradistinguished from, what had been therefore 
separating, in some sense, the God of the offspring from the 
God of the fathers. If, looking to the derivation of the word 
Jehovah (from the substantive verb to be), we must hold fast to 
simple being as the root of the idea ; yet, seeing how this is im 
bedded in the historical relations of the past and the future, we 
must understand it of being in the practical sense : independent 
and unalterable existence in respect to principles of character 
and consistency of working. As the Jehovah, He would show 
that He is the God who changeth not (Mai. iii. G), the God 


who, having inadi- with the patriarchs an everlasting covenant, 
continued to abide in the relations it established, and who could 
no more resile from its engagements than He could cease to be 
what IK- was. Nothing, therefore, could be better suited to the 
urgencies of the occasion, as well as to the stage generally that 
had been reached in the Divine dispensations, than the revela 
tion here made to Israel through Moses, summed up and ratified 
by the signature of the peculiar covenant name of God. The 
people were thus assured, that however matters might have 
changed to the worse with them, and temporary darkness have 
come over their prospects, the God of their fathers remained 
without variableness or shadow of turning the God of the pre 
sent and the future, as well as of the past. And so, in the deve 
lopment now to be given to what already existed in germ and 
promise, they might justly expect a higher manifestation than 
had yet appeared of Divine faithfulness and love, and a deeper 
insight into the manifold perfections of the Divine nature. 1 

With such strong encouragements and exalted prospects, was 
Moses sent forth to execute in the name of God the commission 
given to him. And as a pledge that nothing would fail of what 
had been promised, he was met at the very outset of his arduous 
course by Aaron his brother, who came from Egypt at God s 

1 The view given above substantially accords with what appears now, after 
not a little controversy, and the exhibition of extremes on both sides, to be 
the prevailing belief among the learned on the name Jehovah, as brought out 
in Ex. iii. 14, 1 5, and vi. 3-8. A summary of the different views may be 
seen in the article Jehovah, by CEhler, in Hertzog s Enclycopaxlia. The 
name itself has been much disputed : Ewald maintaining that the proper 
form can be nothing but Jahve, Caspari and Delitzsch with equal confidence 
aflirming we can only choose between Jahaveh and Jahavah ; while CEhler 
thinks it may be read either Jahveh or Javah. It is admitted to be derived 
from the imperfect, or from the future used as the imperfect, of the sub 
stantive verl>, after its older form (nin). As to the meaning, had it been 
viewed more with reference to the occasion and the context, there would have 
probably been less disputation ; but the result comes virtually to the same 
thing. " God," says (Klder, " is Jehovah, in so far as for the sake of men 
He has entered intu an hi.>u>nr;il relationship, and in this constantly proves 
Himself to lie that which He is. and, indeed, is \\lio He is." According to 
him, it comprises t\\<> fundamental ideas God s absolute independence (not 
as arbitrariness, or as free grace, but generally) in his historical procedure, 
and this absolute continuity or UTK han^ealilciiess remaining ever inessential 
ment with Himself in all He does and says. In this absolute inde- 


instigation, to concert with him measures for the deliverance of 
their kindred from the now intolerable load of oppression under 
which they groaned. 

The personal history of the deliverer and his commission, 
viewed in reference to the higher dispensation of the Gospel, 
exhibits the following principles, on which it will be unnecessary 
to offer any lengthened illustration : 1. The time for the 
deliverer appearing and entering on the mighty work given him 
to do, as it should be the one fittest for the purpose, so it must 
be the one chosen and fixed by God. It might seem long in 
coming to many, whose hearts groaned beneath the yoke of the 
adversary ; and they might sometimes have been disposed, if they 
had been able, to hasten forward its arrival. But the Lord 
knew best when it should take place, and with unerring precision 
determined it beforehand. Hence we read of Christ s appear 
ance having occurred " in due time," or " in the fulness of 
time." There were many lines then meeting in the state of the 
Church and the world, which rendered that particular period 
above all others suitable for the manifestation of the Son of 
God. Then for the first time were all things ready for the 
execution of Heaven s grand purpose, and the vast issues that 
were to grow out of it. 

pendence or self -existence of God, lies, of course, His eternity (which the 
Jewish interpreters chiefly exhibit), in so far as He is thereby conditioned 
in His procedure by nothing temporal, or as He is Himself, the first and 
the last (Isa. xliv. 6, xlviii. 12). But the idea of unchangeableness, as 
through all vicissitudes remaining and showing Himself to be one and the 
same, is ((Ehler admits) the element in the name most frequently made pro 
minent in Scripture (Mai. iii. 6 ; Deut. xxxii. 40 ; Isa. xli. 3, xliii. 13, etc.). 
Much the same also Keil (on Genesis, 1861), only with a somewhat closer 
reference to the historical connection: "Jehovah is God of the history of 
salvation." But this signification, he admits, limiting it to the history of 
salvation, does not lie in the etymology of the word ; it is gathered only from 
the historical evolution of the name Jehovah. From the very import of the 
name as thus explained, it is evident that the patriarchs could not know 
it in anything like its full significance ; they could not know it as it be 
came known even to their posterity in the wilderness of Canaan ; and this 
is all that can fairly be understood by what is said in Ex. vi. 3. It is alto 
gether improbable, as (Khler states, that Moses, when bringing to his people 
a revelation from the God of their fathers, should have done so under a 
name never heard of by them before. Only, therefore, a relative ignorance 
is to be understood as predicated of the patriarchs. 


2. The Deliverer, when II came, must arise within the 
Church itself. He must be, in the strictest sense, the brother 
of those whom He came to redeem; bone of their bone, and 
flesh of their flesh ; partaker not merely of their nature, but also 
of their infirmities, their dangers, and their sufferings. Though 
lie had to come from the highest heavens to accomplish the 
work, still it was not as clad with the armoury and sparkling 
with the glory of the upper sanctuary that He must enter on it, 
but as the seed of the vanquished woman, the child of promise 
in the family of God, and Himself having experience of the 
lowest depths of sorrow and abasement which sin had brought 
upon them. He must, however, make His appearance in the 
bosom of that family ; for the Church, though ever so depressed 
and afflicted in her condition, cannot be indebted to the world 
for a deliverer ; the world must be indebted to her. With her 
is the covenant of God ; and she alone is the mother of the 
victorious seed, that destroys the destroyer. 

3. Yet the deliverance, even in its earlier stages, when exist 
ing only in the personal history of the deliverer, is not altogether 
independent of the world. The blessing of Israel was interwoven 
with acts of kindness derived from the heathen ; and the child 
M-i-es, with whom their very existence as a nation and all its 
coming glory was bound up, owed his preservation to a member 
of Pharaoh s house, and in that house found a fit asylum and 
nursing-place. Thus the earth " helped the woman," as it has 
often done since. The Captain of our salvation had in like 
manner to be helped; for, though born of the tribe of Judah, 
He had to seek elsewhere the safety and protection which " His 
own" denied Him, and partly not because absolutely necessary 
to verify the type, but to render its fulfilment more striking and 
palpable -was indebted for his preservation to that very Egypt 
which had sheltered the infancy of Moses. So that in the case 
even of the Author and Finisher of our faith, the history of 
redemption Hides itself closely to the history of the world. 

4. Still the deliverer, as to his person, his preparation, his 
gifts and calling, is peculiarly of God. That such a person 
as Moses was provided for the Church in the hour of her 
extremity, was entirely the result of God s covenant with 
Abraham: and the whole circumstances connected with his 
. VOL. II. C 


preparation for the work, as well as the commission given him 
to undertake it, and the supernatural endowments fitting him 
for its execution, manifestly bespoke the special and gracious 
interposition of Heaven. But the same holds true in each par 
ticular, and is still more illustriously displayed in Christ. In 
His person, mysteriously knitting together heaven and earth ; 
in His office as Mediator, called and appointed by the Father ; 
prepared also for entering on it, first by familiar converse with 
the world, and then by a season of wilderness-seclusion and 
trial ; replenished directly from above with gifts adequate to 
the work, even to His being filled with the whole fulness of 
the Godhead ; everything, in short, to beget the impression, 
that while the Church is honoured as the channel through 
which the Deliverer comes, yet the Deliverer Himself is in all 
respects the peculiar gift of God, and that here especially it 
may be said, " Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all 



WF, have now come to the actual accomplishment of Israel s 
deliverance from the house of bondage. One can easily ima 
gine that various methods might have been devised to bring it 
about. And had the Israelites been an ordinary race of men, 
and had the question simply been, how to get them most easily 
and quickly released from their state of oppression, a method 
would probably have been adopted very different from the one 
that was actually pursued. It is by viewing the matter thus, 
that shallow and superficial minds so often form an erroneous 
judgment concerning it. They see nothing peculiar in the case, 
and form their estimate of the whole transactions as if only 
common relations were concerned, and nothing more than 
worldly ends were in view. Hence, because the plan from the 
first savoured so much of judgment, because, instead of seek 
ing to have the work accomplished in the most peaceful and 
conciliatory manner, the Lord rather selected a course that was 
likely to produce bloodshed, nay, is even represented as hard 
ening the heart of Pharaoh, that an occasion might be found 
for pouring a long series of troubles and desolations on the 
land, because the plan actually chosen was of such a kind, 
many have not scrupled to denounce it as unworthy of God, 
and more befitting a cruel and malignant than a wise and 
beneficent being. 

Now, in rising above this merely secular view, and the 
erroneous conclusions that naturally spring from it, it is first of 
all to be borne in mind that higher relations were here concerned, 
and more important objects at stake, than those of this world. 
The Israelites were the chosen people of God, standing in a 
covenant relation to Him. However far most of them had 
been living beneath their obligations and their calling, they still 
occupied a position which was held by no other family on earth. 


With them was identified, in a peculiar sense, the honour of 
God and the cause of heaven ; and the power that oppressed 
and afflicted them, was trampling at every step on rights which 
God had conferred, and provoking the execution of a curse 
which He had solemnly denounced. If the cause and blessing 
of Heaven were bound up with the Israelites, then Pharaoh, in 
acting toward them as an enemy and oppressor, must of neces 
sity have espoused the interest and become liable to the doom 
of Satan. 

Besides, it must be carefully borne in mind, that here espe 
cially, where God had immediately to work, His dealings and 
dispensations were of a preparatory nature. They were planned 
and executed in anticipation of the grand work of redemption, 
which was afterwards to be accomplished by Christ, and were 
consequently directed in such a manner as to embody on the 
comparatively small scale of their earthly transactions and in 
terests, the truths and principles which were afterwards to be 
developed in the affairs of a divine and everlasting kingdom. 1 
This being the case, the deliverance of Israel from the land of 
Egypt must have been distinguished at least by the following 
features : 1. It must, in the first instance, have appeared to be 
a work of peculiar difficulty, requiring to be accomplished in 
the face of very great and powerful obstacles, rescuing the 
people from the strong grasp of an enemy, who, though a cruel 
tyrant and usurper, yet, on account of their sin, had acquired 
over them a lordly dominion, and by means of terror kept them 
subject to bondage. 2. Then, from this being the case, the 
deliverance must necessarily have been effected by the execu 
tion of judgment upon the adversary ; so that, as the work of 
judgment proceeded on the one hand, the work of deliverance 
would proceed on the other, and the freedom of the covenant 
people be completely achieved only when the principalities and 
powers which held them in bondage were utterly spoiled and 
vanquished. 3. Finally, this twofold process of salvation with 
destruction, must have been of a kind fitted to call forth the 
peculiar powers and perfections of Godhead ; so that all who 
witnessed it, or to whom the knowledge of it should come, 
might be constrained to own and admire the wonder-working 
1 Vol. i., Book I., <-. ft. 


hand of God, and instinctively, as it wore, exclaim, "Behold 
what Ciod hath wrought! It is His doing, and marvellous in 
-iir eyes." We say, all this mn*t have been on the supposition 
of the scriptural account of the work being taken; and, except 
ing on that supposition, we cannot be in a fit position to judge 
of the things which concerned it. 

On this scriptural ground we take our stand, when proceed 
ing to examine the affairs connected with this method of deli 
verance ; and we assert them not only to be capable of a satis 
factory vindication, but to have been incapable of serving the 
purposes which they were designed to accomplish, if they had 
not been ordered substantially as they were. It is manifestly 
impotable that here, any more than in what afterwards befell 
Christ, the order of events should have been left to any law 
less power, working as it pleased, but that all must have been 
arranged "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of 
God," and arranged precisely as they occurred. The out 
stretching of the Divine arm to inflict the most desolating 
judgments on the land of Egypt, the slaying of the first-born, 
and the overthrow of Pharaoh and his host, were essential parts 
of the Divine plan. But since these appear as the result of the 
hardening of Pharaoh s heart, this also must have formed an 
essential element in the plan ; and was therefore announced to 
Moses from the first as an event that might certainly be ex 
pected, and which would give a peculiar direction to the whole 
series of transactions. 1 For this hardening of the heart of 
Pharaoh was the very hinge, in a sense, on which the Divine 
plan turned, and could least of all be left to chance or uncer 
tainty. It presents itself not simply as an obstacle to be re 
moved, but as a circumstance to be employed for securing a 
more illustrious display of the glorious attributes of God, and 
effecting the redemption of His people in the way most consis 
tent with His righteous purposes. It could not, therefore, be 
allowed to hang merely upon the will of Pharaoh; somehow 
the hand of (Jod iniixt have been in the matter, as it belongs to 
Him to settle and arrange all that concerns the redemption of 
His people and the manifestation of His own glory. Nor, 
otherwise, could there have been any security for the Divine 
1 Ex. iii. 19, iv. 21. 


plan proceeding to its accomplishment, or for its possessing such 
features as might render it a fitting preparation for the greater 
redemption that was to come. 

It seems to us impossible to look at the hardening of Pharaoh s 
heart in the connection which it thus holds with the entire plan 
of God, or to consider the marked and distinct manner in which 
it is ascribed to His agency, and yet to speak of Pharaoh being 
simply allowed to harden his own heart, as presenting a sufficient 
explanation of the case. It is true, he is often affirmed also to 
have himself hardened his heart ; and in the very first announce 
ment of it (ch. iii. 19, "I am sure, or rather, I know, that the 
king of Egypt will not let you go"), as acutely remarked by 
Baumgarten, " the Lord characterizes the resistance of Pharaoh 
as an act of freedom, existing apart from the Lord Himself ; for 
I know that which objectively stands out and apart from me." 1 
At the same time, it is justly noticed by Hengstenberg, that as 
the hardening is ascribed to God, both in the announcement of 
it beforehand, and in the subsequent recapitulation (Ex. iv. 21, 
vii. 3, xi. 10), " Pharaoh s hardening appears to be enclosed within 
that of God s, and to be dependent on it. It seems also to be 
intentional, that the hardening is chiefly ascribed to Pharaoh at 
the beginning of the plagues, and to God toward the end. The 
higher the plagues rise, the more does Pharaoh s hardening assume 
a supernatural character, and the reference was the more likely 
to be made to its supernatural cause." 2 

The conclusion, indeed, is inevitable. It is impossible, by 
any fair interpretation of Scripture, or on any profound view of 
the transactions referred to, to get rid of the Divine agency in 

1 Commentary on Ex. iii. 19, 20. 

2 Authentic, ii., p. 462. Some stress is laid by Hengstenberg on the 
hardening being ascribed seven times to Pharaoh, and the same number of 
times to God, as indicating that it has respect to the covenant of God, of 
which seven is the sign. Baumgarten also lays some stress on the numbers, 
but finds each to be ten times repeated, the sign of completeness. Both 
have to deal arbitrarily with the sacred text to make out their respective 
numbers (for example, Hengstenberg leaves out the three hardenings of God 
in ch. xiv. ; and Baumgarten treats ch. vii. 13 and 14, as if they spoke of 
two distinct hardenings). It is also against the simplicity of the Scripture 
narrative to draw from the incidental form of its historical statements such 
hidden meanings. 


the matter. Even Tholuck says, " That the hardening of the 
Egyptian was, on one side, ordained l>y God, no disciple of 
Christian theology can deny. It is an essential doctrine of the 
Bible, that God would not permit evil, unless He were Lord 
over it : and that lie permits it, because it cannot act as a check 
upon His plan of the world, but must be equally subservient to 
Him as good the only difference being, that the former is so 
compulsorily, the latter optionally." 1 That God had no hand in 
the sin, which mingles itself with evil, is clearly implied in the 
general doctrine of Scripture ; since He everywhere appears 
there as the avenger of sin, and hence cannot possibly be in 
any sense its author. In so far, therefore, as the hardening of 
Pharaoh s heart partook of sin, it must have been altogether his 
own ; his conduct, considered as a course of heady and high- 
minded opposition to the Divine will, was pursued in the free 
though unrighteous exercise of His own judgment. This, how 
ever, is noway inconsistent with the idea of there being a positive 
agency of God in the matter, to the effect of limiting both the 
manner and extent of the opposition. " It is in the power of 
the wicked to sin," says Augustine, " but that in sinning they do 
this or that by their wickedness, is not in their own power, but in 
God s, who divides and arranges the darkness." 2 A later autho 
rity justly discriminates thus : " God s providence extendeth 
itself to all sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare 
permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and 
powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing them, 
in a manifold dispensation, unto His own holy ends ; yet so as 
the sin fulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and 
not from God." 3 It is wholly chargeable on man himself, if 
there is a sinful disposition at work in his bosom ; but that dis 
position existing there, and resisting the means which God 
employs to subdue it, the man has no longer any control over 

1 On Rom. ix. 19, note furnished to English translation, Bib. Cab., xii., 
p. L lO. Bush, however, in his notes on Exodus, still speaks of the mere 
permission as sufficient : " God is said to have done it, because He permitted 
it to be done." His criticism on the words does not in the least contribute 
to help this meaning. Dean Graves, as Arminian writers generally, hold 
the same view. (Works, vol. iii., p. 321, etc.) 

2 Liber, de Prae lestinatione Sanctorum, $ : >:!. 
Westminster Confession, ch. v. 


the course and issue of events. This is entirely in the hands of 
God, to be directed by Him in the way, and turned into the 
form and channel, which is best adapted to promote the ends of 
His righteous government. " He places the sinner in such 
situations, that precisely this or that temptation shall assail him 
links the thoughts to certain determinate objects of sinful 
desire, and secures their remaining attached to these, and not 
starting off to others. The hatred in the heart belonged to 
Shimei himself ; but it was God s work that this hatred should 
settle so peculiarly upon David, and should show itself in 
exactly the manner it did. It was David s own fault that he 
became elated with pride ; the course of action which this pride 
was to take was accidental, so far as he was concerned ; it 
belonged to God, who turns the hearts of kings like the rivers 
of waters. Hence it is said, 2 Sam. xxiv. 1, The anger of the 
Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against 
them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. Yet w r as he not 
thereby in the least justified, and therefore, ver. 10, he confesses 
that he had greatly sinned, and prays the Lord to take away his 
iniquity." 1 

Now, applying these views to the case of Pharaoh, it was 
certainly his own proud and wicked heart which prompted him 
to refuse the command of God to let Israel go. But he might 
have retained that disposition in all its force, and yet have acted 
differently from what he did. Mere selfishness, or considerations 
of policy, might have induced him to restrain it, as from like 
motives, not from any proper change of heart, his magicians 
first, and afterwards his counsellors, appear to have wished. 
(Ex. viii. 19, x. 7.) But the hand of God exerted such control 
over him, so bounded and hedged him in, that while he clung to 
the evil principle, he must pursue his infatuated and foolhardy 
course : this one path lay open to him. And for his doing so, 
two things were necessary, and in these the action of Omnipo- 

1 Authentie, ii., p. 4GG. See also Calvin s Institutes, B. I., c. 18, and 
B. II., c. 4, for the proof, rather than the explanation, of the fact, that 
" bare permission is too weak to stand, and that it is the merest trifling to 
substitute a bare permission for the providence of God, as if He sat in a 
watch-tower, waiting for fortuitous events, His judgments meanwhile de 
pending on the will of man." 


ten cc was displayed: 1. First, the strong and courageous dis 
position capable of standing fast under formidable dangers and 
grapplingwith gigantic difficulties a natural endowment which 
could only have been derived from God. That such a disposition 
should have been possessed in so eminent a degree by the Pharaoh 
who then occupied the throne of Egypt, was the result of God s 
agency, though Pharaoh alone was responsible for its abuse. 
2. But, besides, there was needed such a disposal of circum 
stances as might tend to prompt and stimulate to the utmost this 
disposition of Pharaoh ; for otherwise it might have lain compa 
ratively dormant, or, at least, might have been far from running 
such a singularly perverse and infatuated course. Here also 
the hand of God manifested its working. It was He who, in 
the language of Tholuck, " brought about those circumstances 
which made the heart disposed to evil still harder." Many writers, 
who substantially admit this, limit the circumstances tending to 
produce the result in question to the lenity and forbearance of 
God, in so readily and frequently releasing Pharaoh from the 
execution of judgment. There can be no doubt that this was 
one of the circumstances which, on such a mind as his, would 
be fitted to produce a hardening effect ; but it was not the only 
nor the chief one : there were others, which must have had a still 
more powerful tendency in the same direction, and which were 
also more properly judicial in their character. Such, in the first 
instance, and most evidently, was the particular kind of miracles 
which Moses was instructed to work at the commencement of his 
operations the transforming of his rod into a serpent, and back 
again to a rod ; for this was precisely the field on which Pharaoh 
might be tempted to think he could successfully compete with 
Mo-es, and might rival at least, if not outdo, the pretended 
messengers of Heaven. However inexplicable the fact may be, 
of the fact itself there can be no question, that from time im 
memorial the art of working extraordinary, and to all appear 
ance supernatural, effects on serpents, has been practised by a 
particular class of persons in Egypt the Psylli. Many of the 
ancients have written of the wonderful exploits of those persons, 
and celebrated their magical power, both to charm serpents at 
their will, and to resi>t unharmed the bites of the most venomous 
species. And it would seem, by the accounts of some of the 


most recent inquirers, that descendants of the ancient brother 
hood still exist in Egypt, forming an association by themselves, 
and able to handle without fear or injury the most noxious 
serpents, to walk abroad with numbers of them coiling around 
their necks and arms, and to make certainly one species of them 
rigid like a rod, and feign themselves dead. 1 It is also certain, 
that when they do these wonders, they are in a sort of phrenzied 
or ecstatical condition, and are believed by the multitude to be 
under divine influence. That this charming influence was, at 
least in its origin and earlier stages, the offspring to some extent 
of demoniacal power, is not inconsistent with what Scripture 
testifies concerning the workings of that power generally, and is 
most naturally implied in the particular statements made respect 
ing the magicians when contending with Moses. For although 
we might, without much violence to the interpretation of the text, 
suppose it to represent that as being done which to all appearance 
was done, without being understood positively to affirm that the 
effect was actually produced ; yet the language used of their 
changing the rods into serpents, and on a small scale also turn 
ing water into blood, and producing frogs, does in its proper 
import indicate something supernatural corresponding, as we 
conceive, to the wonders of the demoniacal possessions of our 
Lord s time, and still more closely perhaps to " the working of 
Satan with all power, and signs, and lying wonders," which is 
made to characterize the coming of Antichrist. (Matt. xxiv. 24 ; 
2 Thess. ii. 9 ; Rev. xiii. 13.) But even without pressing this, 
the mere fact of there being then a class of persons in the service 
of Pharaoh, who themselves pretended, and were generally be 
lieved, to be possessed of a divine power to work the wonders in 
question, must evidently have acted as a temptation with Pha 
raoh to resist the demands of Moses, being confident of his ability 
to contend with him on this peculiar field of prodigies. And 

1 See the quotations from the ancients in Bochart, Hieroz., ii., p. 393 and 
4 ; and for the account of the moderns, Hengstenberg s Egypt and Books 
of Moses, p. 98-103. See also Mr Lane s account of the modern serpent- 
charmers (Modern Eg., c. 20), who represents them as certainly doing extra 
ordinary feats, but states it as an ascertained fact, that they do not carry 
serpents of a venomous nature about their persons till they have extnu U ii 
the poisonous teeth. It is to be inferred that the ancient Psylli did tin; 
same, though they professed differently. 

Till: DKL1VERANCK. 1- . 

having fairly ventured on the arena of conflict, we can easily un 
derstand how, with a proud and heaven-defying temper like his, 
he would scorn to own himself vanquished; even though the 
miraculous working of Moses clearly established its superiority 
to any act or power possessed by the magicians, and they them- 
M-lves were at last compelled to retire from the field, owning the 
victory to be Jehovah s. 

This, however, was only one class of the circumstances which 
wen- arranged by God, and fitted to harden the heart of Pharaoh. 
To the same account we must also place the progressive nature 
of the demands made upon him, in beginning first with a request 
for leave of three days absence to worship God ; then, when this 
was granted for all who were properly capable of taking part in 
the service, insisting on the same liberty being extended to the 
wives and children ; and again, when even this was conceded, 
claiming to take with them also their flocks and herds : so that it 
became evident an entire escape from the land was meditated. 
There was no deceit, as the adversaries of revelation have some 
times alleged, in this gradual opening of the Divine plan ; nor, 
when the last and largest demand was made, was more asked than 
Pharaoh should from the first have voluntarily granted. But so 
little was sought at the beginning to make the unreasonableness 
of his conduct more distinctly apparent, and the gradual and 
successive enlargement of the demand was intended to act as a 
temptation, to prove him, and bring out the real temper of his 

Finally, of the same character also was the last movement of 
Heaven in this marvellous chain of providences the leading of 
the children of Israel, as into a net, between the Red Sea and 
the mountains of the wilderness, fitted, as it so manifestly was, to 
suggest the thought to Pharaoh, when he had recovered a little 
from his consternation, and felt the humiliation of his defeat, that 
now an opportunity presented itself of retrieving his lost honour, 
and with one stroke avenging himself on his enemies. He was 
thus tempted, in the confident hope of victory, to renew the con 
flict, and, when apparently sure of his prey, was led, by the open 
ing of the sea for the escape of the Israelites, and the removal of 
the Divine cloud to the rear, so as to cover their flight, into tin- 
fatal snare which involved him in destruction. In the whole, we 


see the directing and controlling agency of God, not in the least 
interfering with the liberty of Pharaoh, or obliging him to sin, 
but still, in judgment for his sinful oppression of the Church 
of God, and unjust resistance to the claims of Heaven, placing 
him in situations which, though fitted to influence aright a well- 
constituted mind, were also fitted, when working on such a 
temperament as his, to draw him into the extraordinary course 
he took, and to render the series of transactions, as they actually 
occurred, a matter of moral certainty. 

13ut to return to the wonders which Moses was commissioned 
to perform : it is to be borne in mind, that the humiliation of 
Pharaoh was not their only design, nor even the redemption of 
Israel their sole end. The manifestation of God s own glory 
was here, as in all His works, the highest object in view ; and 
this required that the powers of Egyptian idolatry, with which 
the interest of Satan was at that time peculiarly identified, should 
be brought into the conflict, and manifestly confounded. For 
this reason, also, it was that the first wonders wrought had such 
distinct reference to the exploits of the magicians or serpent- 
charmers, who were the wonder-workers connected with that 
gigantic system of idolatry, and the main instruments of its 
support and credit in the world. They were thus naturally 
drawn, as well as Pharaoh, into the contest, and became, along 
with him, the visible heads and representatives of the " spiritual 
wickednesses" of Egypt. And since they refused to own the 
supremacy and accede to the demands of Jehovah, on witness 
ing that first and, as it may be called, harmless triumph of His 
power over theirs ; since they resolved, as the adversaries of God s 
and the instruments of Satan s interest in the world, to prolong 
the contest, there remained no alternative but to visit the hind 
with a series of judgments, such as might clearly prove the 
utter impotence of its fancied deities to protect their votaries 
from the might and vengeance of the living God. It is when 
considered in this point of view, that we see the agreement in 
principle between the wonders proceeding from the instrumen 
tality of Moses, and those wrought by the hand of Christ. They 
seem at first sight to be entirely opposite in their character the 
one being severe and desolating plagues; the other, miracles of 
mercy and healing. This seeming contrariety arises from their 


having been wrought on enthvlv different fields of V 
on mi avowedlv hostile territory, tliose of Christ on a land and 
amoni^ a people that were peculiarly His own. But as in both 
cases alike there was a mighty adversary, whose power and 
dominion were to he brought clown, so the display given in each 
of miraenlons working, told with the same effect on his interest, 
though somewhat less conspicuously in the one case than in the 
other. While Christ s works were, in the highest sense, miracles 
of mercy, supernatural acts of beneficence towards " His own," 
they were, at the same time, triumphant displays of Divine over 
satanic agency. " The Son of God was manifested to destroy 
the works of the devil." As often as His hand was stretched 
out to heal, it dealt a blow to the cause of the adversary ; and 
the crowning part of the Redeemer s work on earth, His dying 
the accursed deatli of the cross, was that which at once perfected 
the plan of mercy for the faithful, and judged and spoiled the 
prince of darkness. In like manner we see mercy and judgment 
going hand in hand in the wonders that were done by the in 
strumentality of Moses on the " field of Zoan;" only, from that 
being the field of the adversary, and the wonders being done 
directly upon him, the judgment comes more prominently into 
view. It was essentially a religious contest between the God of 
heaven on the one side, and the powers of Egyptian idolatry on 
the other, as represented by Pharaoh and his host ; and as one 
stroke after another was inflicted by the arm of Omnipotence, 
there was discovered the nothingness of the divinities whose cause 
Pharaoh maintained, and in whose power he trusted, while " the 
God of Israel triumphed gloriously, and in mercy led forth the 
people whom He had redeemed, to His holy habitation." 

It is not necessary that we should show, by a minute exami 
nation of each of the plagues, how thoroughly they were fitted 
to expose the futility of Egyptian idolatry, and to show how 
completely everything there was at the disposal of the God of 
Israel, whether for good or evil. The total number of the 
plagues was ten, indicating their completeness for the purposes 
intended by their infliction. The first nine were but prepara 
tory, like the mirarnlons works which Christ performed during 
His active ministry; the last was the ureat act of judgment, 
which was to earrv with it the complete prostration of the ad- 


versary, and the deliverance of the covenant people. It was 
therefore, from the first, announced as the grand means to be 
employed for the accomplishment of Israel s redemption. (Ex. 
iv. 22, 23.) But the preceding miracles were by no means 
unnecessary, as they tended to disclose the absolute sovereignty 
of Jehovah over the whole province of nature, as well as over 
the lives of men (which came out in the last plague), and His 
power to turn whatever was known of natural good in Egypt 
into an instrument of evil, and to aggravate the evil into tenfold 
severity. This was manifestly the general design ; and it is not 
necessary to prove, either that these plagues were quite different 
in their nature from anything commonly known in Egypt, or 
that each one of them struck upon some precise feature of the 
existing idolatry. In reference to the first of these points, we 
bv no means think, with Ilengstenberg, that in the natural 
phenomena of Egypt there was a corresponding evil to each one 
of the plagues, and that the plague only consisted in the super 
natural degree to which the common evil was carried ; nor can 
any proof be adduced in support of this at all satisfactory. But 
as the evil principle (Typhon) was worshipped in Egypt not less 
than the good, and worshipped, doubtless, because of his sup 
posed power over the hurtful influences of nature, 1 we might 
certainly expect that some at least of the plagues would appear 
to be only an aggravation of the natural evils to which that land 
was peculiarly exposed : so that these, as well as its genial and 
beneficent properties, might be seen to be under the control of 
Jehovah. Of this kind unquestionably was the third plague 
(that of lice, or, as is now generally agreed, of the gnats, with 
which Egypt peculiarly abounds, and which all travellers, from 
Herodotus to those of the present day, concur in representing as 
a source of great trouble and annoyance in that country). 1 Of 
the same kind, also, was the plague of flies, which swarm in 
Egypt, and that also of the locusts ; 3 to which we may add the 

1 Plutarch, de Iside et Osiride, p. 362, 380. See also the note of Mosheim 
to Cudworth s Intellectual System, vol. i., p. 353. Tegg s ed., and Bochart, 
llieroz. Lib. ii., c. 34. 

2 See the note in the Pictorial Bible on Ex. viii. 17. Also Hengsteu- 
berg s Eg. and Books of Moses, for quotations from various authorities. 

3 Ibid. 


plague of boils, which Scripture itself mentions as possessing :i 
peculiarly Egyptian character. (Deut. xxviii. 27.) But while 
wr can easily account for the production, on a gigantic scale, of 
the-M- natural evils, the same object viz., the executing of judg 
ment upon the gods of Egypt would also lead us to expect other 
plagues of an entirely different kind, in which the natural good 
was restrained, and even converted into a source of evil. For in 
this way alone could confusion be poured upon the worship of 
the good principle, and which, there as elsewhere, took the form 
of a deification of the genial and productive powers of nature. 
Some of these belonged to Egypt in a quite extraordinary de 
gree, and were regarded as constituting its peculiar glory. Such 
especially was the Nile, which was looked upon as identical with 
Osiris, the highest god, and to which Pharaoh himself is evi 
dently represented as paying divine honours, in Ex. vii. 15, viii. 
20. 1 Such, also, are its almost cloudless sky and ever-brilliant 
sun, rendering the climate so singularly clear and settled, that a 
shade is seldom to be seen ; and not only the more violent tem 
pests, but even the gentlest showers of rain, are a rarity. Hence 
of the earlier plagues, the two first those of the turning of the 
water into blood, and the frogs took the form of a judgment 
upon the Nile, converting it from being the most beneficial and 
delightful, into the most noxious and loathsome, of terrestrial 
objects ; while in the two later plagues of the tempest and the 
thick darkness, the Egyptians saw their crystal atmosphere and 
resplendent heavens suddenly compelled to wear an aspect of 
indescribable terror and appalling gloom. So that whether 
nature were worshipped there in respect to her benignant or her 
hurtful influences, the plagues actually inflicted were equally 
adapted to confound the gods of Egypt in the one case by chang 
ing the natural good into its opposite evil, and in the other by 
imparting to the natural evil a supernatural force and intensity." 
Faking this general and comprehensive view of the prelimi- 

1 Hengstenborg, p. 109, where the authorities are given. Also Yossius, 
<le Ori^ine et Prog. Molatrise, L. ii., c. 74, 75. 

- W, ;ire surprised that Heoglteaberg (also Kurtz) did not see the neces 
sity of the one class of wonders as well as of the other, for the object in view. 
He has hi iire. laboured to find a corresponding natural evil to all the plagues, 
and in sonic of the cases has most palpably laboured in vain. lie is at paius 


nary plagues, it will easily be seen that there is no need for our 
seeking to find in each of them a special reference to some 
individual feature of Egyptian idolatry. If they struck at the 
root of that system in what might be called its leading principles, 
there was obviously no necessity for dealing a separate and 
successive blow against its manifold shades and peculiarities of 
false worship. For this an immensely greater number than nine 
or ten would have been required. And as it is, in attempting 
to connect even these ten with the minutiae of Egyptian idolatry, 
much that is fanciful and arbitrary must be resorted to. So 
long as we keep to the general features and design, the bearing 
of the wonders wrought can be made plain enough ; but those 
who would lead us more into detail, take for granted what is 
not certain, and sometimes even affirm what is manifestly absurd. 
To say, for example, that the plague of flies had any peculiar 
reference to the worship of Baal-zebub, the Fly-god, assumes a 
god to have been worshipped there who is not known for certain 
to have had a place in the mythology of Egypt. It is equally 
arbitrary to connect the plague of locusts with the worship of 
Serapis. And it is surely to draw pretty largely on one s 
credulity, to speak of the miracle on the serpents as intended to 
destroy these, on account of their being the objects of worship ; 
or to set forth the plague on cattle as aimed at the destruction 
of the entire system of brute worship, as if no cattle were killed 
in Egypt, because the Deity was there worshipped under that 
symbol I 1 The general argument is weakened by being coupled 

to prove, that the Nile, when swollen, has somewhat of a reddish colour, and 
that it is not without frogs the wonder, indeed, would be, if it were other 
wise in either respect ; but he has not produced even the shadow of proof 
that these things belonged to it to such an extent as to render it nauseous 
or unwholesome, or so much as to suggest the idea of a plague. On the 
contrary, the redness of the water is rather a sign of its becoming again fit 
for use. (See Pictorial Bible on Ex. vii. 17.) Resort is had by Kurt/, and 
some others, for a natural basis, to a lately discovered fact, that a sli^htly 
red tinge is occasionally given to the waters of the Nile by certain micro 
scopical fungi or infusoria. But microscopical observations in such . 
are entirely out of the question, so long as the people know nothing of it as 
a practical evil. The same virtually may be said of storms and thunder, 
which are all but unknown in Egypt. 

1 The contrary needs no proof, as every one knows who is in the least 
acquainted with ancient Egypt, that " oxen generally were used both for 


with such puerilities; and the solemn impression also, which the 
wonders were designed to produce, would have been frittered 
down and impaired, rather than deepened, by so many allusions 
to the mere details of the system. 

But now, when God had by the first nine plagues vindicated 
1 1 is j lower over all that was naturally good or evil in Egypt, and 
had thus smitten with judgment their nature-worship in both of 
its leading characteristics, the adversary being still determined 
to maintain his opposition, it was time to inflict that last and 
greatest judgment, the execution of which was from the first 
designed to be the death-blow of the adversary, and the signal 
of Israel s deliverance. This was the slaying of the first-born, 
in which the Lord manifested His dominion over the highest 
region of life. Indeed, in this respect, there is clearly discernible, 
as was already noticed by Aben-ezra and other Jewish writers, 1 
a gradual ascent in the plagues from the lower to the higher 
provinces of nature, which also tends to confirm the view we 
have presented of their character and design. The first two 
come from beneath from the waters, which may be said to be 
under the earth (the Nile-blood and the frogs) ; the next two 
from the ground or surface of the earth (the lice and the flies) ; 
the murrain of beasts and the boils on men belong to the lower 
atmosphere, as the tempest, the showers of locusts, and the 
darkness, to the higher ; so that one only remains, that which is 
occupied by the life of man, and which stands in immediate 
connection with the Divine power and glory. And as in the 
earlier plagues God separated between the land of Goshen and 
the rest of Egypt, to show that He was not only the Supreme 
Jehovah, but also the covenant God of Israel, so in this last and 
Towning act of judgment it was especially necessary, that while 
the stroke of death fell upon every dwelling of Egypt, the habi 
tations of Israel should be preserved in perfect peace and safety. 

food and sacrifice" (Heercn, Af., ii., p. 147) ; and evidence has even been 
found amony the ancient documents, of a company of curriers, or leather- 
dressers. (Ib.. p. 137.) Bryant, in his book on the plagues, led the way to 
those weak and frivolous opinions, and he has been followed by many with 
out examination. See. for example, the Philosophy of the Plan of Salva 
tion, chapter iii. 

1 See in Baumgarten s Commentary, i., p. 459. 
VOL. II. I) 


But two questions naturally arise here : Why in this judgment 
upon the life of man should precisely the first-born have been 
slain ? and if the judgment was for the overthrow of the adver 
sary and the redemption of Israel, why should a special provision 
have been required to save Israel also from the plague ? 

1. In regard to the first of these points, there can be no 
doubt that the slaying of the first-born of Egypt had respect to 
the relation of Israel to Jehovah : " Israel," said God, " is My 
son, My first-born : if thou refuse to let him go, I will slay thy 
son, thy first-born." (Ex. iv. 22, 23.) But in what sense 
could Israel be called God s first-born son ? Something more 
is plainly indicated by the expression, though no more is very 
commonly found in it, than that Israel was peculiarly dear to 
God, had a sort of first-born s interest in His regard. It implies 
this, no doubt, but it also goes deeper, and points to the divine 
origin of Israel as the seed of promise ; in their birth the off 
spring of grace, as contradistinguished from nature. Such 
pre-eminently was Isaac, the first-born of the family, the type 
of all that was to follow ; and such now were the whole family, 
when grown into a people, as contradistinguished from the 
other nations of the earth. They were not the whole that were 
to occupy this high and distinctive relation ; they were but the 
beginning of the holy seed, the first-born of Jehovah, the first- 
fruits of a redeemed world, which in the fulness was to compre 
hend " all kindreds, peoples, and tongues." Hence the promise 
to Abraham was, that he should be the father, not of one, but 
" of many nations." But these first-fruits represent the whole, 
and, themselves alone existing as yet, might now be said to 
comprehend the whole. If they were to be destroyed, the rest 
cannot come into existence, for a redeemed Israel was the only 
seed-corn of a redeemed world ; while if they should be saved, 
their salvation would be the pledge and type of the salvation of 
all. And, therefore, to make it clearly manifest that God was 
here acting upon the principle which connects the first-fruits 
with the whole lump, acting not for that one family merely, and 
that moment of time then present, but for His people of every 
kindred and of every age, He takes that principle for the very 
ground of His great judgment on the enemy, and the redemp 
tion thence accruing to His people. As the first-born in God s 


elect family is to be spared and rescued, so the first-born in the 
house of the enemy, tin* beginning of his increase, and the heir 
of his substance, must be destroyed : the one a proof that the 
whole family were appointed to life and blessing; the other, in 
like manner, a proof that all who were aliens from God s cove 
nant of grace, equally deserved, and should certainly in due 
time inherit, the evils of perdition. 

2. In regard to the other question which concerns Israel s 
liability to the judgment which fell upon Egypt, this arose 
from Israel s natural relation to the world, just as their redemp 
tion was secured by their spiritual relation to God. For, 
whether viewed in their individual or in their collective capa 
city, they were in themselves of Egypt : collectively, a part of 
the nation, without any separate and independent existence of 
their own, vassals of the enemy, and inhabitants of his doomed 
territory ; individually, also, partakers of the guilt and corrup 
tion of Egypt. It is the mercy and grace alone of God s 
covenant which makes them to differ from those around them ; 
and, therefore, to show that while, as children of the covenant, 
the plague should not come nigh them, not a hair of their head 
should perish, they still were in themselves no better than 
others, and had nothing whereof to boast, it was, at the same 
time, provided that their exemption from judgment should be 
secured only by the blood of atonement. This blood of the 
lamb, slain and sprinkled upon their door-posts, was a sign 
between them and God : the sign on His part, that, according 
to the purport of His covenant, He accepted a ransom in their 
behalf, in respect to which He would spare them, " as a man 
spareth his son;" and the sign on their part, that they owned 
the God of Abraham as their God, and claimed a share in the 
privileges which He so freely vouchsafed to them. Thus, in 
their case, " mercy rejoiced against judgment ;" yet so as 
clearly to manifest, that had they been dealt with according to 
their desert, and with respect merely to what they were in 
themselves, they too must have perished under the rebuke of 

It was in consideration of the perfectly gratuitous nature of 
this salvation, and to give due prominence and perpetuity to the 
principle on which the judgment and the mercy alike proceeded. 


that the Lord now claimed the first-born of Israel as peculiarly 
His own. (Ex. xiii.) The Israelites in their collective capa 
city were His first-born, and as such were saved from death, 
the just desert and doom of sin which others inherited ; but 
within that election there was henceforth to be another election, 
a first-born among these first-born, who, as having been the 
immediate subjects of the Divine deliverance, were to be pecu 
liarly devoted to Him. They were to be set apart, or literally, 
" to be made to pass over to God" (Ex. xiii. 12), leaving 
what might be called the more common ground of duty and 
service, and connecting themselves with that which belonged 
exclusively to Himself. It implied that they had in a sense 
derived a new life from God lived, in a sense, out of death, 
and consequently were bound to show that they did so, by 
living after a new manner, in a course of holy consecration to 
the Lord. This was strikingly taught in the ordinance regard 
ing the first-born of cattle and beasts, afterwards introduced, of 
which the clean were to be presented as an offering to the Lord, 
that is, wholly given up to Him by death (Ex. xxii. 29, 30 ; 
xxxiv. 19, 20); while in the case of the unclean, such as the ass, 
a lamb was to be sacrificed in its stead. The meaning evidently 
was, that the kind of consecration to Himself which the Lord 
sought from the first-born, as it sprung from an act of redemp 
tion, saving them from guilt and death, so it was to be made 
good by a separation, on the one hand, from what was morally 
unclean, and, on the other, by a self-dedication to all holy and 
spiritual services. But then, as the redemption in which they 
had primarily participated was accorded to them in their cha 
racter as the first-fruits, the representatives of their respective 
households, and all the households equally shared with them in 
the deliverance achieved, so it was manifestly the mind of God 
that their state and calling should be regarded as substantially 
belonging to all, and that in them were only to be seen the 
more eminent and distinguished examples of what should cha 
racterize the people as a whole. Hence they were in one 
mass presently addressed as " a kingdom of priests and an 
holy nation" (Ex. xix. <>) ; they were called to be generally 
what the first-born were called to be pre-eminently and pecu 
liarly. In short, as these first-born had been as to their re- 


drmption the proxies, in :i manner, of the whole, so were they 
in their subsequent consecration to be the symbolical lights and 
patterns of the whole. Nor was any change in this respect 
made by the substitution of the tribe of Levi in their room. 
(Num. iii. U.) For this, as will appear in its proper place, was 
only the supplanting of a less by a more perfect arrangement, 
which was also done in such a way as to render most distinctly 
manifest the representative character of the tribe, which entered 
into the place of the first-born ; so that we see here, at the 
very outset, what was God s aim in the redemption of His 
people, and how it involved not simply their release from the 
thraldom and the oppression of Egypt, but also their standing 
in a peculiar relation to Himself, and their call to show forth 
His glory. We perceive in this act of redemption the kernel 
of all that was afterwards developed, as to duty and privilege, 
by the revelations of law and the institutions of worship. And 
we see also what a depth of meaning there is in the expression 
used in Ileb. xii. 23, where it is represented as the ennobling 
distinction of Christians, that they have "come to the Church 
of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven." To 
designate the Church as that of the first-born, is to present it 
to our view in its highest character as being in a state of most 
blessed nearness to God, having a peculiar interest in His 
favour, and a singular destination to promote the ends of His 
righteous government ; it is the calling and destination of those 
who have been ransomed from the yoke of servitude, to live 
henceforth to His glory, and minister and serve before Him. 1 

1 It is singular how frequently commentators have missed the proper 
force of this passage in Hebrews. The first-born to which Christians are 
come, says TVhitby, are the apostles, who have received the first-fruits of 
the Spirit. But it is of the New Testament Church generally, of which the 
apostles were a part, that the declaration is made ; and the explanation 
amounts simply to this: Ye who have the first-fruits of the Spirit are 
come to those who have the first-fruits of the Spirit ! Macknight is no 
better : " The first-born of man and beast being reckoned more excellent 
than tin- sul.s. ijtinit births, wnv appropriated to God. Hence the Israel 
ites had the name of God s Jirat-ln>rn given them, to show that they be 
longed to God, and were more oxo-lh-nt than the mst of the nations." A 
poor distinction, surely, on which, as a basis, to raise the peculiar pri\ 
and hopes of the rede 


When we come to consider the commemorative institution of 
the Passover, we shall see how admirably its services were 
adapted to bring out and exhibit to the eye of the Church the 
great principles of truth and duty, which were involved in the 
memorable event in providence we have now been reviewing. 
But before we leave the consideration of it as an act of provi 
dence, there is another point connected with it, at which we 
would briefly glance, and one in which the Egyptians and 
Israelites were both concerned. We refer to what has been 
not less unscripturally than unhappily called " the borrowing of 
jewels " from the Egyptians by the Israelites on the eve of their 
departure. 1 That the sacred text in the original gives no 
countenance to this false view of the transaction, we have ex 
plained in the note below ; and, indeed, the whole circumstances 
of the case render it quite incredible that there should have 
been a borrowing and lending in the proper sense of the term. 
It is not conceivable that now, when Moses had refused to 
move, unless they were allowed to take with them all their flocks 
and herds, any thought should have been entertained of their 
return. Nor could this, at such a time, have been wished by 

1 The sense of borrowing was, by a mistranslation of the Septuagint on 
ch. xii. 35, first given to the Hebrew word. This misled the fathers, who 
were generally unacquainted with Hebrew ; and even Jerome adopted that 
meaning, though possessed of learning sufficient to detect the error. The 
Hebrew word is tatJ>, which simply means to ask or demand : " Speak now 
to the ears of the people, and let every man ask of his neighbour jewels 
(rather, articles) of gold," etc. (ch. xi. 1-3). It is the same word that is 
used in xii. 36, and which has there so commonly obtained the sense of 
lending. Here it is in the Hiphil or causeform, and strictly means, " to cause 
another to ask," = give, or present. Rendered literally, the first part of the 
verse would stand, " And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of 
the Egyptians, and they made them to ask or desire." This can only mean, 
that the Lord produced such an impression upon the minds of the Egyptians 
in favour of the Israelites, that, so far from needing to be cozened or con 
strained to part with the articles of gold, silver, and apparel, they rather 
invited the Israelites to ask them : take what you will, we are willing to 
give all. Even Ewald, though the narrative is merely a tradition in his 
account, which he handles after his own fashion, yet affirms it to be the 
self-evident import of the account, that the plundering was no act of theft, 
that only Pharaoh s subsequent breach of promise rendered the restoration 
of the goods impracticable, and that the turn matters took was to be re 
garded as a kind of Divine recompense. (Gesch., ii., p. 87.) 


any ; for after the land had been smitten by so many plagues 
on account of them, and when, especially by the last awful 
judgment, CVCTV heart was paralyzed with fear and trembling, 
the desire of the Egyptians must have run entirely in the op 
posite direction. Such, we are expressly told, was the case ; for 
" the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might 
send them out of the land in haste : for they said, We be all 
dead men." Besides, what possible use could they have had for 
articles of gold, silver, and apparel, if they were only to be 
absent for a few days ? The very request must have betrayed 
the intention, and the utmost credulity on the part of the 
Egyptians could not have induced them to give on such a sup 
position. It is farther evident that this must have been the 
general understanding in Egypt, from the numbers "the mixed 
multitude," as they are called who went along with the Israel 
ites, and who must have gone with them under the impression 
that the Israelites were taking a final leave of Egypt. Hence 
the reasoning of Calvin and other commentators who, under 
the idea of its being a proper borrowing and lending, endeavour 
to justify the transaction by resting on the absolute authority of 
God, who has a right to command what lie pleases falls of 
itself to the ground. 

Now, that this giving on the part of the Egyptians, and 
receiving on the part of the Israelites, was intimately connected 
with God s great work of judgment on the one, and mercy to 
the other, is manifest from the place it holds in the Divine 
record. It was already foretold to Abraham, that his posterity 
should come forth from the land of their oppression with much 
substance. That the prediction should be fulfilled in this par 
ticular way, was declared to Moses in God s first interview with 
him (Ex. iii. 21, 22.) And both then, and immediately before 
it took place, and still again when it did take place, the Lord 
constantly spoke of it as His own doing a result accomplished 
by the might of His outstretched arm upon the Egyptians. We 
can never imagine that so much account would have been made 
of it, if the whole end to be served had simply been to provide 
the Israelites with a certain supply of goods and apparel. A 
much higher object was unquestionably aimed at. As regards 
the Egyptians, it was a part of the judgment which God was 


now visiting upon them for their past misdeeds, and which here, 
as not ^infrequently happened, was made to take a form analogous 
to the sin it was designed to chastise. Thus, in another age, 
when the Israelites themselves became the objects of chastise 
ment, they said, " We will flee upon horses ; therefore (said 
God) ye shall flee, and they that pursue you shall be swift." 
(Isa. xxx. 16.) And again, in Jeremiah, " Like as ye have for 
saken Me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye 
serve strangers in a land that is not yours." (Ch. v. 19.) In 
like manner here, the Egyptians had been long acting the part 
of oppressors of God s people, seeking by the most harsh and 
tyrannical measures to weaken and impoverish them. And 
now, when God comes down to avenge their cause, He con 
strains Egypt to furnish them with a rich supply of her treasures 
and goods. No art or violence was needed on their part to ac 
complish this ; the thing was in a manner done to their hand. 
The enemies themselves became at last so awed and moved by 
the strong hand of God upon them, that they would do anything 
to hasten forward His purpose. Their proud and stubborn 
hearts bow beneath His arm, like tender willows before the 
blast ; and they feel impelled by an irresistible power to send 
forth, with honour and great substance, the very people they 
had so long been unjustly trampling under foot. What a 
triumphant display of the sovereign might and dominion of 
God over the adversaries of His cause ! What a striking mani 
festation of the truth, that He can not only turn their counsels 
into foolishness, but also render them unconscious instruments of 
promoting His glory in the world ! And what a convincing 
proof of the folly of those who would enrich themselves at the 
expense of God s interest, or would enviously prevent His 
people from obtaining what they absolutely need of worldly 
means to accomplish the service lie expects at their hands ! 

Yet, palpable as these lessons were, and affectingly brought 
home to the bosoms of the Egyptians, they proved insufficient 
to disarm their hostility. The pride of their monarch was only 
for the moment quelled, not thoroughly subdued ; and as soon 
as he had recovered from the recoil of feeling which the sti oke 
of God s judgment had produced, he summoned all his might to 
avenge on Israel the defeat he had sustained ; but only with the 


effect of leaving, in his example, a more memorable type of the 
final destruction that is certain to overtake the adversaries of 
God. In a few days more the shores of the Red Sea resounded 
with the triumphant song of Moses : " I will sing unto the Lord, 
for lie hath triumphed gloriously : the horse and his rider hath 

lie thrown into the sea The Lord is a man of war : the 

Lord is His name. Pharaoh s chariots and his host hath He 
cast into the sea : his chosen captains also are drowned in the 
Red Sea. Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power : 
Thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. And 
in the greatness of Thine excellency Thou hast overthrown them 
that rose up against Thee : Thou sentest forth Thy wrath, which 
consumed them as stubble. And with the blast of Thy nostrils 
the waters were gathered together," etc. Of this song, " com 
posed on the instant of deliverance, and chanted to the music of 
the timbrel," Milman justly says : " What is the Roman arch of 
triumph, or the pillar crowded with sculpture, compared, as a 
memorial, to the Hebrew song of victory ; which, having sur 
vived so many ages, is still fresh and vivid as ever, and excites 
the same emotions of awe and piety in every human breast sus 
ceptible of such feelings, which it did so many ages past in those 
of the triumphant children of Israel ? " ! How closely also the 
act of victorious judgment this ode celebrates stands related to 
future acts of a like kind, how, especially, it was intended to 
foreshadow the final putting down of all power and authority 
that exalts itself against the kingdom of Christ, is manifest from 
Rev. xv. 3, where the glorious company above are represented 
as singing at once the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in the 
immediate prospect of the last judgments of God, and of all 
nations being thereby led to come and worship before Him. It 
is also in language entirely similar, and indeed manifestly bor 
rowed from that song of Moses, that the Apostle, in 2 Thess. ii. 8, 
di -scribes the sure destruction of Antichrist, " whom the Lord 
shall consume with the spirit (or breath) of His mouth, and shall 
destroy with the brightness of His coming." Overlooking the 
scriptural connection between the earlier and the later here in 
God s dealings, between the type and the antitype, overlooking, 
too, the rise that has taken place in the position of the Church, 
1 History of the Jews, third ed., vol. i., p. 95. 


and its relations to the world, by the introduction of Christianity, 
not a few writers have sought to fasten upon those prophetic 
passages of the New Testament an interpretation which is too 
grossly literal even for the original passage in the Old, as if 
nothing would fulfil their import but a corporeally present 
Saviour, inflicting corporeal and overwhelming judgments on 
adversaries in the flesh. The work of judgment celebrated in 
the song of Moses is ascribed entirely to the Lord : it is He who 
throws the host of Pharaoh into the sea, and by the strength of 
His arm lays the enemy low. But did He do so by being cor 
poreally present ? or did He work without any inferior instru 
mentality ? Was there literally a stretching out of his own 
arm ? or did He actually send forth a blast from His nostrils ? 
But if no one would affirm such things in regard to the over 
throw of Pharaoh, how much less should it be affirmed in regard 
to the destruction of Antichrist, with his ungodly retainers ! Here 
the Church has to do, not with a single individual, an actual 
king and his warlike host, as in the case of Pharaoh, but with 
an antichristian system and its wide-spread adherents ; and the 
real victory must be won, not by acts of violence and bloodshed, 
but by the spiritual weapons which shall undermine the strong 
holds of error and diffuse the light of Divine truth. Whenever 
the Lord gives power to those weapons to overcome, He substan 
tially repeats anew the judgments of the Red Sea ; and when 
all that exalteth itself against the knowledge of Christ shall be 
put down by the victorious energy of the truth, then shall be 
the time to sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb. 



THE children of Israel are now in the condition of a ransomed 
people, delivered from the yoke of the oppressor, and per 
sonally in a state of freedom and enlargement. They have been 
redeemed for the inheritance, but still the inheritance is not 
theirs ; they are separated from it by a great and terrible wilder 
ness, where many trials and difficulties must certainly be encoun 
tered, and nature, if left to itself, will inevitably perish. They 
were not long in feeling this. To the outward eye, the prospect 
which lay immediately before them, when they marched from 
the shores of the Red Sea, was peculiarly dark and dishearten 
ing. The country they had left behind, with all the hardships 
and oppressions it had latterly contained for them, was still a 
rich and cultivated region. It presented to the eye luxuriant 
fields, and teemed with the best of nature s productions ; they 
had there the most delicious water to drink, and were fed with 
flesh and bread to the full. But now, even after the most extra 
ordinary wonders had been wrought in their behalf, and the 
power that oppressed them had been laid low, everything assumes 
the most dismal and discouraging aspect : little to be seen but a 
boundless waste of burning sand and lifeless stones ; and a tedious 
march before them, through trackless and inhospitable deserts, 
where it seemed impossible to find for such an immense host 
even the commonest necessaries of life. What advantage was it 
to them in such a case, to have been brought out with a high 
hand from the house of bondage ? They had escaped, indeed, 
from the yoke of the oppressor, but only to be placed in more 
appalling circumstances, and exposed to calamities less easy t> 
be borne. And as death seemed inevitable anyhow, it might 
have been as well, at least, to have let them meet it amid the 
comparative comforts they enjoyed in Egypt, as to have it now 


coining upon them through scenes of desolation and the linger 
ing horrors of want. 

Such were the feelings expressed by the Israelites shortly 
after their entrance on the wilderness, and more than once ex 
pressed again as they became sensible of the troubles and perils 
of their new position. 1 If they had rightly interpreted the 
Lord s doings, and reposed due confidence in His declared pur 
poses concerning them, they would have felt differently. They 
would have understood, that it was in the nature of things im 
possible for God to have redeemed them for the inheritance, and 
yet to suffer any inferior difficulties by the way to prevent them 
from coming to the possession of it. That redemption carried 
in its bosom a pledge of other needful manifestations of Divine 
love and faithfulness. For, being in itself the greatest, it im 
plied that the less should not be withheld ; and being also the 
manifestation of a God who, in character as in being, is the 
same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, it bespoke His readiness to 
give, in the future, similar manifestations of Himself, in so far 
as such might be required. 

The Israelites, however, who were still enveloped in much of 
the darkness and corruption of Egypt, though they were out 
wardly delivered from its thraldom, understood as yet compara 
tively little of this. They knew not how much they had to 
expect from God, as the JEHOVAH, the self-existent and un 
changeable, who, as such, could not leave the people whom Pie 
had redeemed to want and desolation, but must assuredly carry 
on and perfect what He had so gloriously begun. They readily 
gave way, therefore, to fears and doubts, and even broke out 
into open murmuring and discontent. But this only showed 
how much they had still to learn in the school of God. They 
had yet to obtain a clearer insight into God s character, and a 
deeper consciousness of their covenant relation to Him. And 
they could not possibly be in a better position for getting this, 
than in that solitary desert where the fascinating objects of the 
world no longer came between them and God. There they 
were in a manner forced into intimate dealings with God ; being 
constantly impelled by their necessities, on the one hand, to 
throw themselves upon His care, and drawn, on the other, by 
1 Hx. xv. 24, xvi. 2, xvii. 2, 3 ; Num. xi., xx. 

TIIK M.\i;rii Tintorcii TIII: WII.DKKXESS. 61 

Hi- /niciuu-* interpositions in their bclialf, into a closer acquaint 
ance- \\ith His character and goodness. By the things they 
suffered, not less than those they heard, they were made to learn 
obedience, and were brought through a fitting preparation for 
the calling and destiny that was before them. Even with all 
the advantages which their course of wilderness-training pos 
sessed for this purpose, it proved insufficient for the generation 
that left Egypt with Moses ; and the promise of God required 
to be suspended till another generation had sprung up, in whom 
that training, by being longer continued, was to prove more 
thoroughly effectual. So again, in later times, when their pos 
terity had fallen from their high calling, the Lord had again to 
put them through a discipline so entirely similar to the one now 
undergone, that it is spoken of as a simple repetition of what 
took place after the deliverance from Egypt. 1 And is it not 
substantially so still with the sincere believer in Christ ? Spiri 
tually he enters upon a desert the moment he takes up his 
Master s cross and begins to die to the world, and never alto 
gether leaves it till he enters the rest which remains for the 
people of God. But what life to him here may be, will neces 
sarily depend to a large extent on the use he makes of his privi 
leges as a believer, and the manner in which he prosecutes his 
calling in the Saviour. If his soul prospers, he may, as to other 
things, be in health and prosperity, and his present condition 
may approach nearer and nearer to that which awaits him here 

In regard to the Lord s manifestations and dealings toward 
Israel during this peculiar portion of their history, the general 
principle unfolded is, that while He finds it needful to prescribe 
to His ransomed people a course of difficulty, trial, and clanger, 
before putting them in possession of the inheritance, He gives 
them meanwhile all that is required for their support and well- 
being, and brings to them discoveries of His gracious nearness 

1 See Kzek. xx. 35, ;! >, an.l tin- I want if ul passage, Hos. ii. 14-23, which 
describe the course to be adopted for restoring a degenerate Church, and 
God s future dealings with her, as if the whole were to bo a re-enacting of 
the transactions which occurred at the beginning of her history. The same 
mode of procedure was to be adopted now which had been pursued then, 
though the actual scenes and operations were to be widely different. 


to them, and unfailing love, such as they could not otherwise 
have experienced. 

I. This appeared, first of all, in the supply of food provided 
for them, and especially in the giving of manna, which the Lord 
sent them in the place of bread. It is true that the manna 
might not necessarily form, nor can scarcely be supposed to have 
actually formed, their only means of subsistence during the latter 
and longer period of their sojourn in the wilderness ; for, to 
say nothing of the quails, of which at first in kindness, and again 
in anger, a temporary supply was furnished them (Ex. xvi. ; 
Num. xi.), there were within reach of the Israelites not a few 
resources of a common kind. The regions which they traversed, 
though commonly designated by the name of desert, are by no 
means uniform in their character, and contain in many places 
pasturage for sheep and cattle. Hence considerable tribes have 
found it possible, from the most distant times, to subsist in them 
such as the Ishmaelites, Midianites, Amalekites. That the 
Israelites afterwards availed themselves of the means of support 
which the wilderness afforded them, in common with these tribes 
of the desert, is clear from what is mentioned of their flocks and 
herds. They are expressly said to have left Egypt with large 
property in these (Ex. xii. 38) ; and that they were enabled to 
preserve, and even perhaps to increase, these possessions, we may 
gather from the notices subsequently given concerning them, 
especially from the mention made of the cattle, when they 
sought liberty to pass through the territory of Edom (Num. 
xx. 19) ; and from the very large accumulation of flocks and 
herds by Gad and Reuben, which led to their obtaining a por 
tion beyond the bounds of what was properly the promised 
land. (Num. xxxii.) The Israelites thus had within themselves 
considerable resources as to the supply of food ; and the sale of 
the skins and wool, and what they could spare from the yearly 
increase of their possessions, would enable them to purchase 
again from others. Besides, the treasure which they brought 
with them from Egypt, and the traffic which they might carry 
on in the fruit, spices, and other native productions of the 
desert, would furnish them with the means of obtaining provi 
sions in the way of commerce. Nor have we any reason to 


think that the Israelites neglected these natural opportunities, 
but rather the reverse ; for Moses retained his father-in-law 
with tin-in, that, from his greater experience of the wilderness- 
life, he might be serviceable to them in their journeyings and 
abodes (Num. x. 31); and it would seem that during the 
thirty-eight years of their sojourn, appointed in punishment for 
tln-ir unbelief, their encampment was in the neighbourhood of 
Mount Seir, where they had considerable advantages, both for 
trade and pasturage. So that the period of their sojourn in the 
wilderness may have been, and most probably was, far from being 
characterized by the inactivity and destitution which is commonly 
supposed ; for Moses not only speaks of their buying provisions, 
but also of the Lord having " blessed them in all the ivorks of 
their hands, and suffered them to lack nothing." (Deut. ii. 6, 7.) 1 

1 The view given in the text was maintained by several writers long be 
fore the controversies which have recently sprung up respecting the nuin- 
I>er8 of Israel in the wilderness, and the difficulties connected with their 
support. See, for example, Vitringa, Obs. Sac., Lib. v., c. 15 ; Hengstenberg a 
Bileam, p. 280. A distinction must be made between the case of the 
people themselves, and that of their flocks and herds. The exact numbers 
of the latter are not stated, though such epithets as great and very much 
are applied to them ; but no mention is made of any miraculous supply of 
food for them ; and we are led to infer, that ordinarily sufficient pasturage 
was found for them in the desert. Two considerations are here to be taken 
into account, by way of explanation. One is, that in point of fact large 
tracts of good pasture land exist in what goes generally by the name of 
desert. The desert of Suez, in which before the Exodus, and partly perhaps 
even after it, the Israelites, pastured their flocks, is u full of rich pasture 
and pools of water during winter and spring." So says Burckhardt (Syria 
and Palestine, ii., p. 462), confirmed by later authorities. In the neigh 
bourhood of Sinai itself, in the El Tyh ridge of mountains, which form 
the northern boundary, Burckhardt testifies that they are peculiarly " the 
l>;Lsturing-places of the Sinai Bedouins," and that these " are richer in camels 
and flocks than any other of the Towara tribes (p. 481). Again and again 
he speaks of falling in with wadys (Wady Genne, Feiran, Kyd, etc.), which 
were covered with pasturage, sometimes even presenting an appearance of 
Kvp verdure. Lcake, who edited the travels of Burckhardt, in his preface 
i his as tin- result of B. s testimony: "The upper region of Sinai, 
\vliu h forms an irregular circle of thirty or forty miles in diameter, possess 
ing numerous sources of water, a temperate climate, and a soil capable of 
supporting animal and vegetable nature, was the part of the peninsula best 
adapted to the residence of near a year, during which the Israelites were 
numbered and received their laws" (p. xiii.). But another important con- 


It is clear, however, that these natural resources could not 
well become available to the Israelites till they had lived for 
some time in the desert, and had come to be in a manner 
naturalized to it. To whatever extent they may have luvn 
indebted to such means of subsistence, it must have been chiefly 
during those thirty-eight years that they were doomed by the 
judgment of God to make the wilderness their home. And as 
that period formed an arrest in their progress, a sort of moral 
blank in their history, during which, as we shall see at the close 
of this chapter, the covenant and its more distinctive ordinances 

sideration is, that there is good reason to believe changes to the -worse have 
passed over the region in question some of them even at no very distant 
date which have rendered it greatly less fertile than it once was. Burck- 
hardt and other travellers have found large tracts, which not long previous 
had been well wooded and clothed with pasture, from various causes reduced 
to a state of desolation. Ewald admits the fact as incontrovertible, that the 
peninsula could at the time of the Exodus " support more human beings 
(of course also more flocks and herds) than at present." So also Stanley 
(Sinai and Pales., p. 24), who reckons it as certain that " the vegetation of 
the wadys has considerably decreased," and mentions various circumstances 
to account for it. There is nothing, therefore, to argue the improbability 
of this part of the scriptural narrative, when due allowance is made for all 
the circumstances of the case ; and if anything more might be required, we 
cannot reasonably doubt, that, as the Psalmist suggests, the extraordinary 
nature of the occasion called forth from above special showers of refresh 
ment (Ps. Ixviii. 9). As regards the people themselves, their numbers are 
more specifically given ; and if the numbers are correct, the whole, young 
and old, cannot be estimated at less than two millions. Nor, after all the 
conjectures and modes of solution that have been tried on the one side and 
the other, does it seem probable that the number is exaggerated, or that a 
body materially smaller could have sufficed for the extensive work of con 
quest and possession afterwards accomplished by it. That considerable por 
tions of them would often be at some distance from the main body the camp 
is extremely probable, and would hence more readily find a measure of 
support from natural sources. But still, that for such a body large supplies 
of a supernatural kind would be required, is certain, and is admitted in the 
sacred narrative. The growth of Jacob s family into such a host seems to 
imply both the existence of very special influences favouring it (plainly in 
dicated also in Ex. i. 7-12), and a longer residence in Egypt (so, at least, 
I believe) than is assigned it in the common chronology. I think the state 
ment in Ex. xii. 40, of 430 years sojourn, should be taken in the strictest 
sense, and that the genealogies, which seem to conflict with this, should be 
regarded as abbreviated a practice well known to have been in frequent 


wi-tv raspendsd, we need not wonder if the things properly 
tyjiii-al in tln-ir condition should also have suffered a measure of 
derangement. It is to these things, as they happened to them 
during their march through the wilderness and encampment 
around Sinai, that we are to look for the types (in their stricter 
sense) of Gospel realities. And there can be no doubt that, 
with reference to this period, the entire people were dependent 
upon manna for the chief part of their daily support. With a 
considerable proportion of the people, those who were in humbler 
circumstances, it must, indeed, have been so to the last. There 
fore the nocturnal supply could not cease, though it may have 
varied in amount, till the people actually entered tjie territory of 
Canaan. It was the peculiar provision of Heaven for the 
necessities of the wilderness. 1 

In regard to the manna itself, which formed the chief part 
of this extraordinary provision, the description given is, that it 
fell round about the camp by night with the dew ; that it con 
sisted of small whitish particles, compared to hoar-frost, coriander- 
seed, and pearls (for so fvia in Num. xi. 7 should be rendered, 
not bdellium ; see Bochart, Hieroz., P. ii., p. 675-7) ; that it 
melted when exposed to the heat of the sun, and tasted like 
wafers made with honey, or like fresh oil. Now it seems that 
in certain parts of Arabia, and especially in that part which lies 
around Mount Sinai, a substance has been always found very 
much resembling this manna, and also bearing its name the 
juice or gum of a kind of tamarisk tree, which grows in that 
region, called tarfa, oozing out chiefly by night in the month of 

1 In Ex. xvi. 35, the supply of manna is spoken of as continuing till the 
people " came to a land inhabited," or to their reaching " the borders of 
Canaan." In Josh. v. 12, its actual cessation is said to have taken place 
only when they had entered Canaan, and ate the corn of the land. Heng- 
stenberg s explanation of the matter does not seem to us quite satisfactory. 
But why might not the first passage, written in anticipation of the future, 
indicate generally the period during which the manna was given, viz., the 
exclusion of the people from a land in such a sense inhabited, that ttu ;- 
still dependent on miraculous supplies of food ? Then the passage in Joshua 
is the fact, that this dependence actually ceased only when they had 
crossed the Jordan, and lay before Jericho ; so that we may conclude their 
conquests to the east of Jordan, though in lands inhabited, had not sufficed 
till the period in question to furnish an adequate supply to their wants. 

VOL. ii. i: 


June, and collected before sunrise by the natives. Such a fact 
was deemed perfectly sufficient to entitle modern rationalists to 
conclude that there was no miracle in the matter, and that the 
Israelites merely collected and used a natural production of the 
region where they sojourned for a period. But even supposing 
the substance called manna to have been in both cases precisely 
the same, there was still ample room for the exertion of miracu 
lous power in regard to the quantity ; for the entire produce of 
the manna found in the Arabian peninsula, even in the most 
fruitful years, does not exceed 700 pounds, which, on the most 
moderate calculation, could not have furnished even the thou 
sandth part necessary for one day s supply to the host of Israel ! 
Besides the enormous disproportion, however, in regard to 
quantity, there w r ere other things belonging to the manna of 
Scripture which clearly distinguished it from that found by 
naturalists especially its falling with the dew, and on the 
ground as well as on plants ; its consistence, rendering it capable 
of being used for bread, while the natural is rather a substitute 
for honey ; its corrupting, if kept beyond a day ; and its coming 
in double quantities on the sixth day, and not falling at all on 
the seventh. If these properties, along with the immense abun 
dance in which it was given, be not sufficient to constitute the 
manna of Scripture a miracle, and that of the first magnitude, 
it will be difficult to say where anything really miraculous is to 
be found. 

But this by no means proves the absence of all resemblance 
between the natural and the supernatural productions in ques 
tion ; and so far from there being aught in that resemblance to 
disturb our ideas regarding the truth and reality of the miracle, 
we should rather see in it something to confirm them. For 
though not always, yet there very commonly is a natural basis 
for the supernatural, or, at least, an easily recognised connection 
between the two. Thus, when our Lord proceeded to administer 
a miraculous supply of food to the hungry multitudes around 
Him, He did not call into being articles of food unknown in 
Judea, but availed Himself of the few loaves and fishes that 
were furnished to His hand. In like manner, when Jehovah 
was going to provide in the desert a substitute for the corn of 
cultivated lands, was it not befitting that lie should take some 


natural production of the desert, and increase or otherwise 
modify it, in adaptation to the end for which it was required? 
It is in accordance with all reason and analogy, that this corn of 
the desert should, to some extent, have savoured of the region 
with which it was connected ; and the few striking resemblances 
it is found to bear to the produce of the Arabian tamarisk are 
the stamp of verisimilitude, and not of suspicion ; the indication 
of such an affinity between the two as might justly be expected, 
from their being the common production of the same Divine 
hand, only working miraculously in the one case, and naturally 
in the other. 1 

It is obvious that this miraculous supply of food for the desert 
was in itself a provision for the bodily, and not for the spiritual 
nature of the Israelites. Hence it is called by our Lord, " not 
the true bread that cometh down from heaven," because the life 
it was given to support was the fleshly one, which terminates in 
death : " Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are 
dead." (John vi. 32, 49, 50.) And even in this point of view 
the things connected with it have a use for us, apart altogether 
from any higher, typical, or prospective reference they might also 
bear to Gospel things. Lessons may be drawn from the giving 

1 There has been a considerable controversy among the learned, whether 
the manna of Scripture is to be held as formally the same with that of the 
shrub in question, or essentially different (see Kurtz s Hist, of Cor., vol. iii., 
s. .3, Trans.). The two main points of difference urged by Kurtz viz., that 
the food ate by the Israelites for forty years was not produced by the tarfa 
shrubs of the desert, and that the one had nutritive qualities which the other 
has not must be allowed to constitute most material differences between the 
two. But still it is important not to overlook the agreements, for these were 
evidently designed as well as the other. They may be of service also in 
exposing the fanciful and merely superficial nature of many of the resem 
blances specified by typical writers between the manna and Christ : for 
example, the roundness of the manna, which was held to signify His eternal 
nature ; its whiteness, which was viewed as emblematic of His holiness ; and 
its sweetness, of the delight the participation of Him affords to believen. 
These qualities the manna had simply as manna, as possessing to a certain 
t \tnit tin; properties of that production of the desert. In such things there 
was nothing peculiar or supernatural ; and it is as unwarrantable to search 
for spiritual mysteries in them, as it would be for a like purpose to aualy/." 
the qualities and appearance of tin- watt r which issued from the rock, and 
which, so applied, would convey in some respects a directly opposite instruc 


and receiving of manna in regard to the interests and transactions 
of our present temporal life properly and justly drawn ; only 
we must not confound these, as is too commonly done, with the 
lessons of another and higher kind, which it was intended, as 
part of a preparatory dispensation, to teach regarding the food 
and nourishment of the soul. For example, the use made of it 
by the Apostle in the second Epistle to the Corinthians (viii. 15), 
to enforce on the rich a charitable distribution of their means to 
the needy, so that there might be provided for all a sufficiency of 
these temporal goods, such as was found by the children of Israel 
on gathering the manna : this has no respect to any typical bear 
ing in the transaction, as in both cases alike it is the bodily and 
temporal life alone that is contemplated. In like manner, we 
should regard it, not in a typical, but only in a common or his 
torical point of view, if we should apply the fact of their being 
obliged to rise betimes and gather it with their own hands, to 
teach the duty of a diligent industry in our worldly callings ; or 
the other fact of its breeding worms when unnecessarily hoarded 
and kept beyond the appointed time, to show the folly of men 
labouring to heap up possessions which they cannot profitably 
use, and which must be found only a source of trouble and 
annoyance. Such applications of the historical details regarding 
the manna, are in themselves perfectly legitimate and proper, 
but are quite out of place when put, as they often are, among 
its typical bearings ; as may be seen even by those who do so, 
when they come to certain of the details to the double portion, 
for example, on the last day of the week, that there might be an 
unbroken day of rest on the Sabbath ; for, if considered, as in 
the examples given above, with reference merely to what is to 
be done or enjoyed on earth, the instruction would be false the 
day of rest being the season above all others on which, in a 
spiritual point of view, men should gather and lay up for their 
souls. They are here, therefore, under the necessity of mixing 
up the present with the future, making the six days represent 
time, during which salvation is to be sought, and the seventh 
eternity, during which it is to be enjoyed. Yet there is an im 
portant use of this part also of the arrangement regarding the 
manna, in reference to the present life, apart altogether from 
the typical bearing. For when the Lord sent that double 


portion on the last day of the week, and none on the next, it 
was as much as to say, that in His providential arrangements for 
this world, lie had given only six days out of the seven for 
worldly labour, and that if men readily concurred in this plan 
they should find it to their advantage : they should find, that in 
the long run they got as much by their six days labour as they 
either needed or could profitably use, and should have, besides, 
their weekly day of rest of spiritual refreshment and bodily re 
pose. Nor can we regard this lesson of small moment in the eye 
of Heaven, when we see no fewer than three miracles wrought 
every week for forty years to enforce it, viz, a double portion of 
manna on the sixth day, none on the seventh, and the preserva 
tion of the portion for the seventh from corrupting when kept 
beyond the usual time. 

When we come, however, to consider the Divine gift of 
manna in its typical aspect, as representative of the higher and 
better things of the Gospel, we must remember that there are 
two distinct classes of relations corresponding, indeed, yet still 
distinct, since the one has immediate respect only to the seen 
and the temporal, and the other to the unseen and the eternal. 
In both cases alike there is a redeemed people, travelling through 
a wilderness to the inheritance promised to them, and prepared 
for them, and receiving as they proceed the peculiar provision 
they require for the support of life, from the immediate hand of 
God. But in the one case it is the descendants of Abraham 
according to the flesh, redeemed from the outward bondage and 
oppression of Egypt, at the most from bodily death ; in the other, 
the spiritual members of an elect Church redeemed from the 
curse and condemnation of sin : in the one, the literal wilderness 
of Arabia, lying between Egypt and Palestine ; in the other, the 
figurative wilderness of a present world : in the one, manna ; in 
the other, Christ. That we are warranted to connect the two 
together in this manner, and to see the one, as it were, in the 
other, is not simply to be inferred from some occasional passages 
of Scripture, but is rather to be grounded on the general nature of 
the Old Testament dispensation, as intended to prepare the way, 
by means of its visible and earthly relations, for the spiritual and 
Divine realities of the Gospel. Whatever is implied in this 
general connection, however, is in the case of the manna not 


obscurely intimated by our Lord in the sixth chapter of St 
John s Gospel, where He represents Himself, with evident 
reference to it, as "the bread which cometh down from heaven;" 
and is clearly taken for granted by the Apostle Paul, when he 
calls it " the spiritual meat " of which the Israelites did all eat. 
(1 Cor. x. 3.) Not as if, in eating that, they of necessity 
found nourishment to their souls ; but such meat being God s 
special provision for a redeemed people, had an ordained con 
nection with the mysteries of God s kingdom, and, as such, con 
tained a pledge that He who consulted so graciously for the life 
of the body, would prove Himself equally ready to administer to 
the necessities of the soul, as He did in a measure even then, 
and does now more fully in Christ. The following may be pre 
sented as the chief points of instruction which in this respect 
are conveyed by the history of the manna : 

(1.) It was given in consideration of a great and urgent 
necessity. A like necessity lies at the foundation of God s gift 
of His Son to the world ; it was not possible in the nature of 
things for any other resource to be found ; and the actual be- 
stowment of the o;ift was delayed, till the fullest demonstration 
had been given in the history of the Church and the world that 
such a provision was indispensable. 

(2.) The manna was peculiarly the gift of God, coming freely 
and directly from His hand. It fell by night with the dew 
(Num. xi. 9), which is itself the gift of heaven, sent to fertilize 
the earth, and enable it to yield increase for the food of man 
and beast. But in the wilderness, where, as there is no sowing, 
there can be no increase, if bread still comes with the dew, 
it must be, in a sense quite peculiar, the produce of heaven 
hence called " the corn," or " bread of heaven." (Ps. Ixxviii. 
24, cv. 40.) How striking a representation in this respect of 
Christ, who, both as to His person and to the purchased blessings 
of His redemption, is always presented to our view as the free 
gift and offer of Divine love ! 

(3.) But plentiful as well as free ; the whole fulness of the 
Godhead is in Jesus, so that all may receive as their necessities 
require ; no one needs to grudge his neighbour s portion, but all 
rather mav rejoice together in the ample beneficence of Heaven. 
So was it also with the manna ; for when distribution was made, 


there was enough for all, and even he who had gathered least 
hud no lack. 

(4.) Then, falling as it did round about the camp, it was 
near enough to be within the reach of all ; if any should perisli 
for want, it could be from no outward necessity or hardship, for 
the means of supply were brought almost to their very hand. 
Nor is it otherwise in regard to Christ, who, in the Gospel of 
His grace, is laid, in a manner, at the door of every sinner : the 
word is nigh him ; and if lie should still perish, he must be with 
out excuse he perishes in sight of the bread of life. 

(5.) The supply of manna came daily, and faith had to be 
exercised on the providence of God, that each day would bring 
its appointed provision ; if they attempted to hoard for the mor 
row, their store became a mass of corruption. In like manner 
must the child of God pray for his soul every morning as it 
dawns, " Give me this day my daily bread." He can lay up no 
stock of grace which is to save him from the necessity of con 
stantly repairing to the treasury of Christ ; and if he begins to 
live upon former experiences, or to feel as if he already stood so 
high in the life of God, that, like Peter, he can of himself confi 
dently reckon on his superiority to temptation, his very mercies 
become fraught with trouble, and he is the worse rather than 
the better for the fulness imparted to him. His soul can be in 
health and prosperity only while he is every day " living by the 
faith of the Son of God, who loved him, and gave Himself for 

(6.) Finally, as the manna had to be gathered in the morning 
of each day, and a double portion provided on the sixth day, that 
the seventh might be hallowed as a day of sacred rest ; so Christ 
and the things of His salvation must be sought with diligence 
and regularity, but only in the appointed way, and through the 
divinely-provided channels. There must be no neglect of season 
able opportunities on the one hand, nor, on the other, any over 
valuing of one ordinance to the neglect of another. We cannot 
prosper in our course, unless it is pursued as God Himself 
authorizes and appoints. 

There is nothing uncertain or fanciful in such analogies ; for 
they have not only the correspondence between Israel s temporal 
and the Church s spiritual condition to rest upon, but the elui- 


racter also of an unchangeable God. His principles of dealing 
with His Church are the same for all ages. When transacting 
with His people now directly for the support of the spiritual 
life, He must substantially re-enact what He did of old, when 
transacting with them directly for the support of their bodily 
life. And as even then there was an under current of spiritual 
meaning and instruction running through all that was done, so 
the faith of the Christian now has a most legitimate and profit 
able exercise, when it learns from that memorable transaction 
in the desert the fulness of its privilege, and the extent of its 
obligations in regard to the higher provision presented to it in 
the Gospel. 

II. But Israel in the wilderness required something more 
than manna to preserve them in safety and vigour for the inherit 
ance ; they needed refreshment as well as support " a stay of 
water," not less than " a staff of bread." And the account given 
respecting this is contained in the chapter immediately following 
that which records the appointment of God respecting the manna. 
(Ex. xvii.) Here also the gift was preceded by a murmuring 
and discontent on the part of the Israelites. So little had they 
yet learned from the past manifestations of Divine power and 
faithfulness, and so much had sight the ascendancy over faith 
in their character, that they even spoke as if certain destruction 
were before them, and caused Moses to tremble for his life. But 
however improperly they demeaned themselves, as there was a 
real necessity in their condition, which nothing but an imme 
diate and extraordinary exertion of Divine power could relieve, 
Moses received the command from God, after supplicating His 
interposition, to go with the elders of Israel and smite the rock 
in Horeb with his rod, under the assurance, which was speedily 
verified, that water in abundance would stream forth. 1 

1 This occurrence must not be confounded with another considerably 
similar, of which an account is given in Num. xx. This latter occurrence 
took place at Kadesh, and not till the beginning of the fortieth year of the 
sojourn in the wilderness, when the period of their abode there was draw 
ing to a close. (Comp. ch. xx. with ch. xxxiii. 36-39.) On account of the 
rebellious conduct of the people, Moses called the rock smitten, in both cases, 
by the name of Meribah, or Strife. But as the occasions were far separate, 
both as to space and time, the last was also unhappily distinguished from 


The Apostle says of this rock, that it followed the Israelites. 
(1 Cor. x. 4.) And some of the Jewish Kabbis have fabled 
that it actually moved from its place in Horeb and accompanied 
them through the wilderness ; so that the rock, which nearly 
forty years after was smitten in Kadesh, was the identical rock 
which had been originally smitten in Horeb. We need scarcely 
say that such was not the meaning of the Apostle. 1 But as the 
rock at Horeb comes into view, not as something by itself, but 
simply as connected with the water which Divine power con 
strained it to yield, it might justly be spoken of as following 
them, if the waters flowing from it pursued for a time the same 
course. That this, to some extent, was actually the case, may 
the first, in that Moses and Aaron so far transgressed as to forfeit their right 
to enter the promised land. Aaron was coupled with Moses both in the sin 
and the punishment ; but it is the case of Moses which is most particularly 
noticed. His sin is characterized in ch. xx. 12 by his " not believing God," 
and in ver. 24, and ch. xxvii. 14, as a " rebelling against the word of God." 
Again, in Deut. i. 37, iii. 26, iv. 21, the punishment is said to have been laid 
on Moses " for their sakes," or, as it should rather be, u because of their 
words." The proper account of the matter seems to be this : Moses, through 
their chiding, lost command of himself, and did the work appointed not as 
God s messenger, in a spirit of faith and holiness, but in a state of carnal and 
])assionate excitement, under the influence of that wrath which worketh not 
the righteousness of God. The punishment he received, it may seem, was 
peculiarly severe for such an offence ; but it was designed to produce a salu 
tary impression upon the people, in regard to the evil of sin : for when they 
saw that their misconduct had so far prevailed over their venerable leader as 
to prevent even him from entering Canaan, how powerfully was the circum 
stance fitted to operate as a check upon their waywardness in the time to 
come ! And then, as Moses and Aaron were in the position of greatest 
nearness to God, and had it as their especial charge to represent God s holi 
ness to the people, even a comparatively small backsliding in them was of a 
serious nature, and required to be marked with some impressive token of the 
Lord s displeasure. 

1 Yet the charge has been made, and is still kept up (for example, by 
De Wette, Rlickert, Meyer), that the Apostle does here fall in with the 
Jewish legends, and uses them for a purpose. We utterly disavow this; but 
we cannot, with Tholuck (Das Alte Test, im neue, p. 39), deny the exist 
ence of the Jewish Ic^nids, and hold that the passages usually referred to 
on the subject, speak only of the water of the well dug by Moses and the 
princes out of the earth. Some of them certainly do, but not all. Those 
produced by Schottgen on 1 Cor. x. 4, clearly show it to have been a Jew 
ish opinion, that, not the water indeed by itself, but the rock ready to give 
forth ita supplies of water, did somehow follow the Israelites. 


be inferred from the great profusion with which they are de 
clared to have been given " gushing out/ it is said, " like 
overflowing streams," " and running like a river in the dry 
places." (Ps. Ixxviii. 20, cv. 41 ; Isa. xlviii. 21). It is also 
the nearly unanimous opinion of interpreters, both ancient and 
modern, and the words of the Apostle so manifestly imply this, 
that we can scarcely call it anything but a conceit in St Chry- 
sostom (who is followed, however, by Horsley, on Ex. xvii.), to 
regard the Apostle there as speaking of Christ personally. But 
we are not thereby warranted in supposing, with some Jewish 
writers, that the waters flowing from the rock in Horeb so 
closely and necessarily connected themselves with the march of 
the Israelites, that the stream rose with them to the tops of 
mountains, as well as descended into the valleys. 1 Considering 
how nearly related the Lord s miraculous working in regard to 
the manna stood to His operations in nature, and how He re 
quired the care and instrumentality of His people to concur with 
His gift in making that miraculous provision effectual to the 
supply of their wants, we might rather conceive that their course 
was directed so as to admit of the water easily following them, 
though not, perhaps, without the application of some labour on 
their part to open for it a passage, and provide suitable reser 
voirs. Nor are we to imagine that they would require this 
water, any more than the manna, always in the same quantities 
during the whole period of their sojourn in the wilderness. 
They might even be sometimes wholly independent of it ; as 
we know for certain it had failed them when they reached 
the neighbourhood of Kadesh, and were on their way to the 
country of the Moabites. (Num. xx. and xxi.) It was God s 
special provision for the desert for the land of drought ; and 
did not need to be given in any quantities, or directed into any 
channel, but such as their necessities when traversing that land 
might require. 2 

Understanding this, however, to be the sense in which the 

1 Lightfoot on 1 Cor. x. 4. 

2 The exact route pursued by the Israelites from Sinai to Canaan is 
still a matter of uncertainty. At some of the places where they are sup 
posed to have rested, there are considerable supplies of water. (See Bib. 
Cyclop., Art. Wandering.) It is, however, certain that the region of 


rock followed the Israelites, what does the Apostle farther mean 
by saying, that "that rock was Christ?" Does he wish us to 
understand that the rock typically represented Christ? and 
so represented Him, that in drinking of the water which flowed 
from it, they at the same time received Christ? Was the drink 
furnished to the Israelites in such a sense spiritual, that it con 
veyed Christ to them? In that case the flowing forth and 
drinking of the water must have had in it the nature of a 
sacrament, and answered to our spiritually eating and drinking 
of Christ in the Supper. This, unquestionably, is the view 
adopted by the ablest and soundest divines ; although there are 
certain limitations which must be understood. The Apostle is 
evidently drawing a parallel between the case of the Church in 
the wilderness and that of the Church under the Gospel, with 
an especial reference to the sacraments of Baptism and the 
Lord s Sapper. The passage of the Israelites through the Red 
Sea, under the guidance and direction of Moses, he represents 
as a sort of baptism to him ; because in the same manner in 
which Christian baptism seals spiritually the believer s death to 
sin, his separation from the world, and his calling of God to sit 
in heavenly places with Christ, in the very same, outwardly, did 
the passage through the Red Sea seal the death of Israel to the 
bondage of Pharaoh, their separation from Egypt, and their ex 
pectation of the inheritance promised them by Moses. In what 
he says regarding the manna and the rock, he does not expressly 
name the ordinance of the Supper ; but there can be no doubt 
that he has its sacred symbols in view, when he calls the manna 
the spiritual food of which the Israelites ate, and the water from 
the rock the spiritual drink of which they drank, and even 
gives to the rock the name of Christ. Such language, however, 
cannot have been meant to imply that the manna and the water 
directly and properly symbolized Christ, in the same sense that 
this is done by the bread and wine of the Supper ; for the gift 
of the manna and the water had immediate respect to the supply 
of the people s bodily necessities. For this alone they were 

Sinai is very elevated, and that toot only are the mountain ridges im- 

mcn.M Iy higher than the suuth uf Palestine, but the ^n> in<l .-lopes from tin- 
base to a considerable distance all round, so that the water would naturally 
How so far with the Israelites ; but how far can in \ ined. 


directly and ostensibly given ; and hence our Lord, speaking of 
what the manna was in itself, depreciates its value in respect to 
men s higher natures, and declares to the Jews it was not the 
true bread of heaven, as was evident alone from the fact that 
the life it was sent more immediately to nourish, actually per 
ished in the wilderness. Not, therefore, directly and palpably, 
but only in a remote, concealed, typical sense, could the Apostle 
intend his expressions of spiritual food and drink to be under 
stood. Still less could he mean, that all who partook of these, 
did consciously and believingly receive Christ through them to 
salvation. The facts he presently mentions regarding so many 
of them being smitten down in the wilderness by the judgments 
of God for their sins, too clearly proved the reverse of that. 
The very purpose, indeed, for which he there introduces their 
case to the notice of the Corinthian Church, is to warn the dis 
ciples to beware lest they should fall after the same example of 
unbelief; lest, after enjoying the privileges of the Christian 
Church, they should, by carnal indulgence, lose their interest in 
the heavenly inheritance, as so many had done in regard to the 
earthly inheritance, notwithstanding that they had partaken of 
the corresponding privileges of the ancient economy. But as 
the bread and wine in the Supper might still be called spiritual 
food and drink, might even be called by the name of Christ, 
who is both the living bread and the living water, which they re 
present, although many partake of them unworthily, and perish 
in their sins ; so manifestly might the manna and the water of 
the desert be so called, since Christ was typically represented 
in them, though thousands were altogether ignorant of any 
reference they might have to Him, and lived and died as far 
estranged from salvation as the wretched idolaters of Egypt. 

In perceiving the higher things typically represented by the 
water flowing from the rock, the Israelites stood at an immense 
disadvantage compared with believers under the Gospel ; and 
how far any did perceive them, it is impossible for us to deter 
mine. In regard to the great mass, who both now and on so 
many other occasions showed themselves incapable of putting 
forth even the lowest exercises of faith, it is but too evident that 
they did not descry there the faintest glimpse of Christ. But, 
for such as really were children of faith, we may easily under- 


stand how they might go a certain way at least, in rising 
through the provisions then administered, to the expectation of 
better tilings to come. They must, then, have discerned in the 
inheritance which they were travelling to inherit, not the ulti 
mate good itself which God had destined for His chosen, but 
only its terrestrial type and pledge something which would be 
for the present life, what, in the resurrection, the other would 
be for the spiritual and immortal life. But, discerning this, it 
could not be difficult for them to proceed one step farther, and 
apprehend, that what God was now doing to them on their way 
to the temporal inheritance, by those outward, material provi 
sions for the bodily life, He did not for that alone, but also as a 
sign and pledge, that such provision as He had made for the 
lower necessities of their nature, Pie must assuredly have made, 
and would in His own time fully disclose, for the higher. And 
thus, while receiving from the hand of their redeeming God the 
food and refreshment required for those bodily natures which 
were to enjoy the pleasant mountains and valleys of Canaan, 
they might at the same time be growing in clearness of view 
and strength of assurance, as regarded their interest in the 
imperishable treasures which belonged to the future kingdom 
of God, and their relation to Him who was to be pre-eminently 
the seed of blessing, and the author of eternal life to a dying 

But, whether or not those for whom the rock poured out its 
refreshing streams may have attained to any such discernment 
of the better things to come, for us who can look back upon the 
past from the high vantage-ground of Gospel light, there may 
certainly be derived not a little of clear and definite instruction. 
In seeking for this, however, we must be careful to look to the 
real and essential lines of agreement, and pay no regard to 
such as are merely incidental. It is not the rock properly that 
we have to do with, or to any of its distinctive qualities, as is 
commonly imagined, but the supply of water issuing from it, to 
supply the thirst and refresh the natures of the famishing 
Israelites. No doubt, the Apostle, when referring to the trans 
action, speaks of the rock itself, and of its following them, but 
plainly meaning by this, as we have stated, tin- water that flowed 
from it. No doubt, also, Christ is often in Scripture represented 


as a rock ; but when He is so, it is always with respect to the 
qualities properly belonging to a rock its strength, its dura 
bility, or the protection it is capable of affording from the heat 
of a scorching sun. These natural qualities of the rock, how 
ever, do not come into consideration here ; they did not render 
it in the least degree fitted for administering the good actually 
derived from it, but rather the reverse. There was not only no 
seeming, but also no real aptitude in the rock to yield the water ; 
while in Christ, though He appeared to have no form or comeli 
ness, there still was everything that was required to constitute 
Him a fountain-head of life and blessing. Then, the smiting of 
the rock by Moses with the rod, could not suggest the idea of 
anything like violence done to it; nor was the action itself done 
by Moses as the lawgiver, but as the mediator between God and 
the people ; while the smiting of Christ, which is commonly held 
to correspond with this, consisted in the bruising of His soul 
with the suffering of death, and that not inflicted, but borne by 
Him as Mediator. There is no real correspondence in these 
respects between the type and the antitype ; and the manner in 
which it is commonly made out, is nothing more than a specious 
accommodation of the language of the transaction, to ideas 
which the transaction itself could never have suggested. 1 
The points of instruction are chiefly the following : 
(1.) Christ ministers to His people abundance of spiritual 
refreshment, while they are on their way to the heavenly 
inheritance. They need this to carry them onward through the 

1 This has been done most strikingly by Toplady, in the beautiful hymn, 
" Rock of Ages cleft for me," which derives its imagery in part from this 
transaction in the wilderness. Considered, however, in a critical point of 
view, or with reference to the real meaning of the transaction, it is liable 
to the objections stated in the text ; it confounds things which essentially 
differ. Ainsworth produces a Jewish comment, which seems to justify the 
interpretation usually put on it : " The turning of the rock into water, was 
the turning of the property of judgment, signified by the rock, into the 
property of mercy, signified by the water." But Jewish comments on this, 
as well as other subjects, require to be applied with discrimination, as there 
is scarcely either an unsound or a sound view, for confirmation of which 
something may not be derived from them. Water may as well symbolize 
judgment as mercy, and was indeed the instrument employed to inflict the 
greatest act of judgment that has ever taken place in the world the 


trials and dillicnlties that lie in their way ; and lie is ever ready 
to impart it. " If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and 
drink." What IK- then did in the sphere of the bodily life, lie 
cannot but be disposed to do over again in the higher sphere of 
the spiritual life ; for there the necessity is equally great, and 
the interests involved are unspeakably greater. Let the be 
liever, when parched in spirit, and feeling in heaviness through 
manifold temptations, throw himself back upon this portion of 
Israel s history, and he will see written, as with a sunbeam, the 
assurance that the Saviour of Israel, who fainteth not, nor is 
weary, will satisfy the longing soul, and pour living water upon 
him that is thirsty. 

(2.) In providing and ministering this refreshment, lie will 
break through the greatest hindrances and impediments. If 
His people but thirst, nothing can prevent them from being 
partakers of the blessing. " He makes for them rivers in the 
desert ;" the very rock turns into a flowing stream ; and the 
valley of Baca (weeping) is found to contain its pools of 
refreshment, at which the travellers to Zion revive their flagging 
spirits, and go from strength to strength. How often have the 
darkest providences, events that seemed beforehand pregnant 
only with evil, become, through the gracious presence of the 
Mediator, the source of deepest joy and consolation ! 

(3.) " The rock by its water accompanied the Israelites so 
Christ by His Spirit goes with His disciples even to the end of 
the world." (Grotius.) The refreshments of His grace are 
confined to no region, and last through all ages. Wlierever the 
genuine believer is, there they also are. And more highly 
favoured than even Israel in the wilderness, he has them in his 
own bosom he has there " a well of water springing up unto 
life everlasting," so that " out of his belly can flow rivers of living 

III. The only other point apart from the giving of the law, 
occurring in the march through the wilderness, and calling for 
notice here, was the pillar of fire and cloud, in which from tin- 
first the Lord accompanied and led the people. The appearamv 
of this symbol of the Divine Presence was various, but it is uni 
formly spoken of as itself one a lofty column rising toward 


heaven. By day it would seem to have expanded as it rose, and 
formed itself into a kind of shade or curtain between the Israel 
ites and the sun, as the Lord is said by means of it to have 
" spread a cloud for a covering" (Ps. cv. 39), while by night it 
exchanged the cloudy for the illuminated form, and diffused 
throughout the camp a pleasant light. At first it went before 
the army, pointing the way ; but after the tabernacle was made, 
it became more immediately connected with this, though some 
times appearing to rest more closely on it, and sometimes to rise 
higher aloft. 1 The lucid or fiery form seems to have been the 
prevailing one, or rather, to have always essentially belonged to 
it (hence called, not only " pillar of fire," but " light of fire," 
E>S ">w ? i.e., lucid matter presenting the appearance of fire), only 
during the day the circumambient cloud usually prevented the 
light from being seen. Sometimes, however, as when a mani 
festation of Divine glory needed to be given to overawe and 
check the insolence of the people, or when some special revela 
tion was to be given to Moses, the fire discovered itself through 
the cloud. So that it may be described as a column of fire 
surrounded by a cloud, the one or the other appearance be 
coming predominant, according as the Divine purpose required, 
but that of fire being more peculiarly identified with the glory 
of God. (Num. xvi. 42.) 

(1.) Now, as the Lord chose this for the visible symbol, in 
which He would appear as the Head and Leader of His people 
when conducting them through the wilderness, there must have 
been, first of all, in the symbol itself, something fitted to display 
His character and glory. There must have been a propriety 
and significance in selecting this, rather than something else, as 
the seat in which Jehovah, or the angel of His presence, ap 
peared, and the form in which He manifested His glory. But 
fire, or a shining flame enveloped by a cloud, is one of the fittest 

1 Ex. xiii. 21, 22, xiv. 19, xl. 34-38 ; Num. ix. 15-23. This subject has 
been carefully investigated by Vitringa in his Obs. Sac., L. v., c. 14-17, to 
which we must refer for more details than can be given here. What is stated 
in the text claims to be little more than an abstract of his observations. 
Those who wish to see the attempts of German rationalists to bring down 
the miraculous appearance to ordinary caravan -fires, may consult Kurtz, 
Geschichte des Alien Bundes, p. 149, sq. 


and most natural symbols of the true God, as dwelling, not 
simply in light, but " in light that is inaccessible and full of 
glory," light and glory within the cloud. The fire, however, 
was itself not uniform in its appearance, but, according to the 
threefold distinction of Isaiah (ch. iv. 5), sometimes appeared as 
light, sometimes as a radiant splendour or glory, and sometimes 
again as flaming or bnrnino fire. In each of these respects it 
pointed to a corresponding feature in the Divine character. As 
light, it represented God as the fountain of all truth and purity. 
(Isa. Ix. 1, 19 ; 1 John i. 5 ; Rev. xxi. 23, xxii. 5.) As splen 
dour, it indicated the glory of His character, which consists in 
the manifestation of His infinite perfections, and especially in 
the display of His surpassing goodness as connected with the 
redemption of His people ; on which account the " showing of 
His glory" is explained by " making His goodness pass before 
Moses." (Ex. xxxiii. 18, 19 ; comp. also Isa. xl. 5.) For as 
nothing appears to the natural eye more brilliant than the shin 
ing brightness of fire, so nothing to the spiritual eye can be 
compared with these manifestations of the gracious attributes of 
God. And as nothing in nature is so awfully commanding and 
intensely powerful in consuming as the burning flame of fire, so 
in this respect again it imaged forth the terrible power and 
majesty of His holiness, which makes Him jealous of His own 
glory, and a consuming fire to the workers of iniquity. Hence 
the cloud assumed this aspect pre-eminently on Mount Sinai, 
when the Lord came down to give that fundamental revelation 
of His holiness, the law of the ten commandments. (Ex. xxiv. 
17; Deut. iv. 24; Isa. xxxiii. 14, 15; Heb. xii. 29.) Still, 
whatever the Lord discovered of Himself in these respects to 
His ancient people,, it was with much reserve and imperfection : 
they saw Him, indeed, but only through a veil ; and therefore 
the glory shone forth through a cloud of thick darkness. 

This, it is true, is the case to a great extent still. God even 
yet has His dwelling in unapproachable light; and with all the 
discoveries of the Gospel, He is only seen " as through a glass 
darkly." This feature, however, of the Divine manifestations 
falls more into the background in the Gospel; since Qod has 
now in very deed dwelt with men mi the earth, and given such 
revehtions of Himself l.y Christ, that " he who hath seen Him," 



may be said to " have seen the Father." It seems now, com 
paring the revelations of God in the New with those of the Old 
Testament, as if the pillar of cloud were in a measure removed, 
and the pillar of light and fire alone remained. And in each of 
the aspects which this pillar assumed, we find the corresponding 
feature most fully verified in Christ. He is the light of men. 
The glory of the Father shines forth in Him as full of grace 
and truth. lie alone has revealed the Father, and can give the 
spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. 
Therefore He is the Word or revelation of God, and the efful 
gence of His glory. And while merciful and compassionate in 
the last degree to sinners the very personification of love He 
yet has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet as of burning 
brass ; and He walks amid the golden candlesticks, as He did 
in the camp of Israel, to bring to light the hidden works of 
darkness, and cause His indignation to smoke against the 
hypocrites. 1 

(2.) But besides being a symbol of the Lord s revealed cha 
racter, the pillar of fire and cloud had certain offices to perform 
to the Israelites. These were for guidance and protection. It 
was by this that the Lord directed their course through the 
dreary and trackless waste which lay between Egypt and 
Canaan, showing them when to set forth, in what direction to 
proceed, where to abide, and also affording light to their steps 
when the journey was by night. For this purpose, when the 
course was doubtful, the ark of the covenant with its attendant 
symbol went foremost (Num. x. 33) ; but when there was no 
doubt regarding the direction that was to be taken, it appears 
rather to have occupied the centre (Num. x. 17, 21), in either 
case alike appearing in the place that was most suitable, as con 
nected with the symbol of the Lord s presence. In addition to 
these important benefits, the pillar also served as a shade from 
the heat of a scorching sun ; and on one occasion at least, when 
the Israelites were closely pursued by the Egyptians, it stood as 
a wall of defence between them and their enemies. 

That in all this the pillar of fire and cloud performed exter 
nally and visibly the part which is now discharged by Christ 

1 John i. 4, 5, 11, viii. 12, ix. 5; Matt. xi. 21 ; Kj-h. i. 17 ; Heb. i. 3 ; 
Kev. i. 14, 15, ii., iii., etc. 


toward His people in the spiritual and divine life, is too evident 
to require any illustration. He reveals Himself to them as the 
Captain of salvation, by whom they are conducted through the 
wilderness of life, and brings them in safety to His Father s 
house. He leaves them not alone, but is ever present with His 
word and Spirit, to lead them into all the truth, to refresh their 
souls in the time of trouble, and minister siipport to them in the 
midst of manifold temptations. He presents Himself to their 
view as having gone before them in the way, and appoints them 
to no field of trial or conflict with evil, through which He has 
not already passed as their forerunner. Whatever wisdom is 
needed to direct, whatever grace to overcome, He encourages 
them to expect it from His hand ; and " when the blast of the 
terrible ones comes as a storm against the wall," they have in 
Him a "refuge from the storm, and a shadow from the heat." 
Does it seem too much to expect so great things from Him ? Or 
does faith, struggling with the infirmities of the flesh and the 
temptations of the world, find it hard at times to lay hold of the 
spiritual reality ? It will do well in such a case to revive its 
fainting spirit by recurring to the visible manifestations of God 
in the wilderness. Let it mark there the goings of the Divine 
Shepherd with His people ; and rest in the assurance, that as 
lie cannot change or deny Himself, but is the same yesterday, 
to-day, and for ever, so what He then did amid the visible reali 
ties of sense and time, He cannot but be ready to perform anew 
in the spiritual experience of His believing people to the end of 
time. The record of what was done in the one case, stands 
now, and for all time, as a ground for faith and hope in respect 
to the other. 

The whole of what has been said regarding the sojourn in 
the wilderness, has reference more immediately to the compara 
tively brief period during which properly the Israelites should 
have been there. The frequent outbreakings of a rebellious 
spirit, and especially the dreadful revolt which arose on tin- 
return of the spie> from searehing the land of Canaan, so mani 
festly proved them to be unfit for the proper occupation of the 
promised land, that the Lord determined to retain them in the 
wilderness till the older portion those- who were above twenty 


years when they left Egypt had all perished. It was some 
time in the second year after their departure, that this decree of 
judgment was passed ; and the period fixed in the decree being, 
in round numbers, forty years, a year for every day the spies 
had been employed in searching the land, including, however, 
what had been already spent, there remained the long term of 
upwards of thirty-eight years, during which the promise of God 
was suffered to fall into abeyance. Of what passed during the 
greater part of this unfortunate period scarcely anything is re 
corded. The only circumstances noticed respecting it, till near 
the close, are those connected with the case of the Sabbath- 
breaker, and the rebellion of Korah and his company. How 
far the miraculous provision for the desert was affected by the 
change in question, we are not told, though we may naturally 
infer it to have been to some extent to such an extent as might 
render it proper, if not necessary, to bring into play all the 
available resources naturally belonging to the region. It was a 
time of judgment, and the very silence of Scripture regarding it 
is ominous. That their state during its continuance was to be 
viewed as alike sad and anomalous, may be inferred alone from 
what is recorded at the close of the period in Josh. v. 2-9, where 
we are told, that from the period of their coming under the 
judgment of the Lord up till that time, they had not been cir 
cumcised ; the reason of which, though not very explicitly 
stated, is yet distinctly connected with the people s detention in 
the wilderness, as a punishment for their having " not obeyed 
the voice of the Lord." And now, when the circumcision was 
renewed, and the whole company became a circumcised people, 
" the Lord said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the 
reproach of Egypt from off you." 

What is meant here by the reproach of Egypt, is not the 
reproach or shame of the sin they had contracted in Egypt, as 
if now at length that impure state had come to an end, and had 
been publicly purged away : this were too remote 1 an allusion to 
have been connected with such an occasion. The thing meant 
is the reproach which the people of Egypt were all this time 
casting upon them for the unhappy circumstances in which they 
were placed ; the genitive in such cases always denoting the party 
from whom the reproach comes. (Isa. li. 7 ; E/ek. xvi. 57 ; 

I ill: LONG SOJOUUN IX Till-: \VILl)Ki:XESS. *" 

Xi l>h. ii. 8.) It w;is that reproach which Moses so much dreaded 
on a former occasion, when lie prayed the Lord not to pour out 
His indignation on the people to consume them: "For wherefore 
(says he) should the Egyptians say, For mischief did lie bring 
them out to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them 
from the face of the earth?" (Ex. xxxii. 12.) And this re 
proach was again the first thought that presented itself to the 
mind of Moses, when, on the occasion of the return of the spies, 
the Lord threatened to consume the mass of the people, and 
raise a new seed from Moses himself : " Then the Egyptians 
shall hear it (for Thou broughtest up this people in Thy might 
from among them), and they will tell it to the inhabitants of 
this land," etc. (Num. xiv. 13-16.) The ground and occasion 
of the reproach was, that the Lord had not fulfilled in their 
behalf the great promise of the covenant, for the realization of 
which they had left Egypt with such high hopes and such a 
halo of glory. So far from having obtained what was pro 
mised, they had been made to wander like forlorn outcasts 
through the wilds and wildernesses of Arabia, where their car 
cases were continually falling into a dishonoured grave. The 
covenant, in short, was for a time suspended the people were 
lying under the ban of Heaven ; and it was fitting that the ordi 
nance of circumcision, the sacrament of the covenant, should be 
suspended too. But now that they were again received through 
circumcision into the full standing and privileges of a covenant 
condition, it was a proof that the judgment of God had expired 
that their proper relation to Him was again restored that He 
was ready to carry into execution the promise on which He had 
caused them to hope ; and that, consequently, the ground of 
Egypt s reproach, as would presently be seen, was entirely rolled 
away. 1 

1 See Hengstenberg s Authentic, ii., p. 17 ; also Keil on the passage. It 
is scarcely necessary to notice the various opinions which have been enter 
tained ivspccting the reproach that was removed the Egyptian state of 
bondage (Theodoret), the state of uucircumcision itself, which was eyed with 
disfavour or contempt in Egypt (Spencer, Clericus, etc.), unfitness for war 
(Maurer): all fanciful, and unsuitcd to the circumstances. Kurtz (Ges- 
chichte desalt. Bundes, ii., p. 414 ; Eng. Trans., iii.. p. :;_ : .) lays stress simply 
upon the expression in Josh. v. 7, which states, that those who had com.- 
o .it of Egypt "were not circumcised by the way." and views the omission 


It would seem, as might also have naturally been expected, 
on the supposition of this view of the case being correct, that 
the celebration of what might now be called the other sacrament 
of the covenant, the Passover, was suspended during the same 
period. We read of its having been celebrated at the beginning 
of the second year after their departure from Egypt (Num. ix.), 
but never again till the renewal of circumcision on the borders 
of Canaan. (Josh. v. 10.) The same cause which brought a 
suspension of the one ordinance, naturally led to a disuse of the 
other, since the circumcised alone could partake of it. The 
more so, indeed, as it was the children who were more directly 
concerned in the ceasing of circumcision, while the non-celebra 
tion of the passover directly touched the parents themselves. 
Even in regard to the ordinance of circumcision, the parents 
could not but conclude, that as that rite had ceased to be per 
formed, which was the peculiar sign of the covenant, their cir 
cumcision had become in a manner uncircumcision. On their 
account, the flow of the Divine goodness toward the congrega 
tion had meanwhile received a check as to its outward manifes 
tation ; and even what was promised and in reserve for their 
children, must for the present lie over, till the revival of a better 
spirit opened the way for the possession of a more privileged 

But the question will naturally occur, Did the whole of that 
generation, which came out of Egypt as full-grown men, 
actually perish without an interest in the mercy of God ? Did 
they really live and die under the solemn ban of Heaven, aliens 
from His commonwealth, and strangers to His covenant of 
promise ? Was not Aaron, was not Moses himself, among 
those who bore in this respect the punishment of iniquity, and 
died while the covenant was without its sacraments ? Un- 

of the rite in the wilderness as a matter merely of convenience. But in 
that case no explanation is given of the rolling away of the reproach of 
Egypt by the performance of the rite, nor of the express reference to the 
judgment of God in keeping them in the wilderness, at ver. 6. Bi .i l"s. 
during the forty years how many opportunities must they have had of per 
forming the rite, if it had seemed in itself a suitable thing to be done at 
the time ! The circumstance of their being by the way might account for 
the suspension of the rite during the first period, when they really were 
on their way to Canaan, but not for the delay afterwards. 


doubtedly, :ind this alone may suffice to show that there was 
mercy mingled \\-ith the judgment. The Lord did not cease to 
be the gracious God, long-suffering, and plenteous in goodness 
to those who truly sought Him. His grace was still there, as it 
is in every judgment He executes on those who have come near 
to him in privilege ; but it was grace in a disguise grace as 
breaking through an impending cloud, rather than as shining 
forth from a clear and serene sky. Hence, while the two 
greatest ordinances of the covenant were suspended, others were 
still left to encourage their hope in the Lord s mercy : there was 
the pillar of fire and cloud, the tabernacle of testimony, the altar 
of sacrifice, not to mention others of inferior note. So that, to 
use the words of Calvin, who had a far better discernment of 
the anomalous state of things which then existed than the great 
majority of commentators since : " In one part only were the 
people excommunicated ; there still were means of support to 
bear them up, that (the truly penitent) might not sink into de 
spair. As if a father should lift up his hand to drive from him 
a disobedient son, and yet with the other should hold him back 
at once terrifying him with frowns and chastisements, and 
still unwilling that he should go into exile." 

The feelings to which this verv peculiar state of Israel gave 
rise are beautifully expressed in the 90th Psalm, whether actu 
ally written by Moses or not, which breathes throughout the 
mournful language of a people suffering under the judgment of 
God, and yet exercising hope in His mercy. We need have no 
doubt, therefore, that subjects of grace died in the wilderness, 
just as afterwards, when the covenant with most of its ordinances 
was again suspended, subjects of grace, even pre-eminent grace, 
were carried to Babylon and died in exile. Yet there is much 
reason to fear, in regard to the Israelites in the wilderness, that 
the number of such was comparatively small, both on account 
of the nature of the judgment itself, and also from the testi 
monies of the prophets (especially Ez. xx. and Amos v. 25, 20), 
concerning the extent to which the leaven of Egypt still wrought 
in the midst of them. 

This ivmurkahle portion of God s dealings brings strikingly 
out a few important truths, which are of equal moment for all 
times. 1. The tendency of sin to root itself in the soul : seeing 


that, when once fairly dominant within, it can resist all that 
is wonderful in mercy and terrible in judgment. For what 
astonishing sights had not those men witnessed ! what awful 
displays of God s justice ! what glorious exhibitions of His 
goodness ! Yet, with the vast majority, all proved to be in vain. 

2. The honour God puts upon His ordinances, especially the 
sacraments of His covenant. These are for the true children 
of the covenant ; and when those who profess to belong to it have 
flagrantly departed from its obligations and aims, they thereby 
cease to be the proper subjects of its more peculiar ordinances. 

3. The inseparable connection between the promise of God s 
covenant and the holiness of His people. The inheritance 
cannot be entered into and possessed but by a believing, spiritual, 
and holy seed. God must have such a people, and will rather 
let His inheritance lie waste than have persons of another stamp 
to possess it, who could only abuse it to their sinful ends. 
Hence lie waits so long now, as of old He waited for the fit 
occupants of Canaan. The kingdom is for those who are of 
clean hands and a pure heart ; and till the destined number of 
such is prepared and ready, it must be known only as an " in 
heritance reserved in heaven." 4. Finally, how heavy a guilt 
attaches to a backsliding and unfaithful community ! It stays 
the fountain of God s mercy ; it brings reproach on His name 
and cause, and compels Him, in a manner, to visit evil upon 
those whom He would rather how much rather ! encompass 
with his favour, and with the blessings of His well-ordered 





THE historical transactions connected with the redemption of 
Israel from the land of Egypt, were not immediately succeeded 
by the introduction of that complicated form of symbolical wor 
ship which peculiarly distinguishes the dispensation of Moses. 
There was an intermediate space occupied by revelations which 
were in themselves of the greatest moment, and which also 
stood in a relation of closest intimacy with the symbolical re 
ligion that followed. The period we refer to is that to which 
belongs the giving of the law. And it is impossible to under 
stand aright the nature of the tabernacle and its worship, or the 
purposes they were designed to accomplish, without first obtain 
ing a clear insight into the prior revelation of law, and the 
place it was intended to hold in the dispensation brought in by 

AY hut precisely formed this revelation of law, and what was 
the nature of its requirements? This must be our first subject 
of inquiry ; and by a careful investigation of the points con- 
nected with it, we hope to avoid some prolific sources of con 
fusion and error, and prepare the way for a correct understand- 


ing of the dispensation as a whole, and the proper adjustment of 
its several parts. 

I. There can be no doubt that the word law is used both in 
the Old and the New Testament Scriptures with some latitude, 
and that what is meant by " the law " in one place, is sometimes 
considerably different from what is meant by it in another. It 
is used to designate indifferently precepts and appointed observ 
ances of any kind, as well as the books in which they are en 
joined. This only implies, however, that the things commanded 
by Moses had so much in common, that they might be all com 
prehended in one general term. It does not prevent that the 
law of the ten commandments may have been properly and 
distinctively the law to Israel, and on that account might have a 
peculiar and pre-eminent place assigned it in the dispensation. 
We are convinced that such in reality was the case, and present 
the following considerations in support of it. 

1. The very manner in which these commandments were 
delivered is sufficient to vindicate for them a place peculiarly 
their own. For these alone, of all the precepts which form the 
Mosaic code, were spoken immediately by the voice of God ; 
while the rest were privately communicated to Moses, and by 
him delivered to the people. Nor was the mode of revelation 
merely peculiar, but it was attended also by demonstrations of 
Divine majesty such as were never witnessed on any other 
occasion. So awfully grand and magnificent was the scene, and 
so overwhelming the impression produced by it, that the people, 
we are told, could not endure the sight, and Moses himself ex 
ceedingly feared and quaked. That this unparalleled displav 
of the infinite majesty and greatness of Jehovah should have 
been made to accompany the deliverance of only these ten com 
mandments, seems to have been intended to invest them with a 
very peculiar character and bearing. 

2. The same also may be inferred from their number ten, 
the symbol of completeness. It indicates that they formed by 
themselves an entire whole, made up of the necessary, and no 
more than the necessary, complement of parts. A good deal of 
what, if not altogether fanciful, is at least incapable of any solid 
proof, has recently been propounded, especially by I mlir and 

Till: DKCALOCJl K. 91 

Elengstenberg, regarding the symbolical import of numbers. 
But there aiv certain points which may be considered to have 
been thoroughly established respecting them ; and none more so 
than the symbolical import of ten, as indicating completeness. 
The ascribing of such an import to this number appears to have 
been of very ancient origin ; for traces are to be found of it in 
the earliest and most distant nations ; and even Spencer, who 
never admits a symbol where he can possibly avoid it, is con 
strained to allow a symbolical import here. 1 "The ten," to use 
the words of Biihr, 2 " by virtue of the general laws of thought, 
shuts up the series of primary numbers, and comprehends all 
in itself. Now, since the whole numeral system consists of so 
many decades (tens), and the first decade is the type of this end 
lessly repeating series, the nature of number in general is in this 
last fully developed, and the entire course comprised in its idea. 
Hence the first decade, and of course also the number ten, is 
the representative of the whole numeral system. And as number 
is employed to symbolize being in general, ten must denote the 
complete perfect being, that is, a number of particulars neces 
sarily connected together, and combined into one whole. So 
that ten is the natural symbol of perfection and completeness 
itself a definite whole, to which nothing is wanting." It is on 
account of this symbolical import of the number ten that, the 
plagues of Egypt were precisely of that number forming as 
such a complete round of judgments ; and it was for the same 
reason that the transgressions of the people in the wilderness 
were allowed to proceed till the same number had been reached 
when they had " sinned ten times," they had filled up the 
measure of their iniquities. (Num. xiv. 22.) Hence also the 
consecration of the tenths or tithes, which had grown into an 
established usage so early as the days of Abraham. (Gen. xiv. 
20.) The whole increase was represented by ten, and one of 

1 De Leg. Heb. iii. Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. in Matt. xxv. 1 : Xumero 
dciiario gavisji jilurimum est gens Judaiea et in sacris et in civilibus. But 
see the proof fully given in Biihr, Symb. i., p. 175 ss. Among other ancient 
authorities he produces the following : Etymol. Mgn., s. v. Ime 

i otvTy vcivret doi^u-ov. Cyrill. in Hos. iii.: <n/^/3oXo Bt rf^nornro; 6 
iffTiv oioKJpo;, ir*i,Tf*fto; uv. llonn. Trisin.-^. Poemand. 13 : w met; ov 
Xo yov TJV 0:x.o.0 ^f/ x.otl ) oir.ot; rr t v iuotCtx.. 

8 Syrabolik, i.. p. 175. 


these was set apart to the Lord, in token of all being derived 
from Him and held of Him. So this revelation of law from 
Sinai, which was to serve for all coming ages as the grand 
expression of God s holiness, and the summation of man s duty, 
was comprised in the number ten, to indicate its perfection as 
one complete and comprehensive whole " the all that a divinely 
called people, as well as a single individual, should and should 
not do in reference to God and their neighbour." 1 

3. It perfectly accords with this view of the ten command 
ments, and is a farther confirmation of it, that they were written 
by the finger of God on two tables of stone written on both 
sides, so as to cover the entire surface, and not leave room for 
future additions, as if what was already given might admit of 
improvements ; and written on durable tables of stone, while the 
rest of the law was written only on parchment or paper. It 
was for no lack of writing materials, as Hengstenberg has fully 
shown, 2 that in this and other cases the engraving of letters 
upon stones was used in that remote period ; for materials in 
great abundance existed in Egypt and its neighbourhood, and 
are known to have been used from the earliest times, in the pa 
pyrus, the byssus-manufacture, and the skins of beasts. " The 
stone," he justly remarks, " points to the perpetuity which be 
longs to the law, as an expression of the Divine will, originating 
in the Divine nature. It was an image of the truth uttered by 
our. Lord, i Verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, 
one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all 
be fulfilled. " 

4. Then these ten words, as they are called, had the singular 
honour conferred on them of being properly the terms of the 
covenant formed at Sinai. Thus Moses, when rehearsing what 
had taken place, says, Deut. iv. 13, " And He declared to you 
His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even ten 

1 Sack s Apologetik, p. 180. As further examples of the scriptural 
import of ten, we might have mentioned the ten men in Zechariali laying 
hold of the skirt of a Jew, ch. viii. 23, the parable of the ten virgins, and 
the ten horns or kingdoms in Revelation. 

- Authentic, i., p. 481 ss. So Buddeus, Hist. Eccl., i., p. 606 : Argu- 
mento vero id etiam erat, perennem istam legem e?3c atque pcrpetuaui, etc., 
and Calvinistic divines generally. 

Tin: DKCALOCI i:. 93 

commandments; ami He wrote them upon two tables of stone." 
Again, in cli. ix. .>, 11, he calls these tables of stone "the tables 
of the covenant." So also in Ex. xxxiv. 28, "the words written 
upon the tables, the ten commandments," are expressly called 
"the words of the covenant." To mark more distinctly the 
covenant nature of these words, it is to be observed (as re 
marked by Devling, Obs. Sac., L. ii., obs. 47), that the Scripture 
never once uses the expression, "the tables of the law," but 
always simply the tables, or the testimony, or, conjoining the 
two, the tables of the testimony, or tables of the covenant. It is 
true, some other commands are coupled with the ten, when, in 
Ex. xxxiv. 27, the Lord said to Moses, that " after the tenor of 
(at the month of, according to) these words he had made a 
covenant with Israel." It is true, also, that at the formal rati 
fication of the covenant, Ex. xxiv., we read of tie book of the 
covenant, which comprehended not only the ten commandments, 
but also the precepts contained in ch. xxi.-xxiii.; for it is clear 
that this book comprised all that the Lord had then said, either 
directly or by the instrumentality of Moses, and to which the 
people answered, " We will do it." But it is carefully to be 
observed, that a marked distinction is still put between the ten 
commandments and the other precepts ; for the former are 
called emphatically " the words of the Lord," while the addi 
tional words given through Moses are called " the judgments " 
(ver. 3). They are, indeed, peculiarly rights or judgments, hav 
ing respect, for the most part, to what should be done from one 
man to another, and what, in the event of violations of the law 
being committed, ought to be enforced judicially, with the view 
of rectifying or checking the evil. Their chief object was to 
secure, through the instrumentality of the magistrate, that if 
the proper lore should fail to influence the hearts and lives of 
the people, still the right should be maintained. Yet while 
these form the great body of the additional words communicated 
to Moses and written in the book of the covenant, the symboli 
cal institutions had also a certain place assigned them ; for both 
in ch. xxiii., and again in ch. xxiv., the three yearly feasts, and 
one or two other points of this description, are noticed. But 
still tins;- directions and judgments formed no proper addition 
to the matter of the ten commandments, considered as God s 


revelation of law to His people. The terms of the covenant 
still properly stood, as we are expressly and repeatedly told, in 
the ten commandments; and what, besides, was added before 
the ratification of the covenant, cannot justly be regarded as 
having had any other object in view, in so far as they partook 
of the nature of laws, than as subsidiary directions and restraints 
to aid in protecting the covenant, and securing its better ob 
servance. The feast-laws, in particular, so far from forming 
any proper addition to the terms of the covenant, had respect 
primarily to the people s profession of adherence to it, and con 
tained directions concerning the sacramental observances of the 
Jewish Church. 

5. What has been said in regard to the ten commandments, 
as alone properly constituting the terms of the covenant, is fully 
established, and the singular importance of these command 
ments further manifested, by the place afterwards assigned 
them in the tabernacle. The most sacred portion of this, that 
which formed the very heart and centre of all the services con 
nected with it, was the ark of the covenant. It was the pecu 
liar symbol of the Lord s covenant presence and faithfulness, 
and immediately above it was the throne on which He sat as 
King in Jeshurun. But that ark was made on purpose to con 
tain the two tables of the law, and was called " the ark of the 
covenant," simply because it contained " the tables of the cove 
nant." The book of the law was afterwards placed by Moses 
at the side of the ark (Deut. xxxi. 26), that it might serve as a 
check upon the Levites, who were the proper guardians and 
keepers of the book ; it was a wise precaution lest they should 
prove unfaithful to their charge. But the tables on which the 
ten commandments were written alone kept possession of the 
ark, and were thus plainly recognised as containing in them 
selves the sum and substance of what in righteousness was held 
to be strictly required by the covenant. 

6. Finally, our Lord and His apostles always point to the 
revelation of law engraven upon these stones as holding a pre 
eminent place, and, indeed, as comprising all that in the strict 
and proper sense was to be esteemed as law. The Scribes and 
Pharisees of that age had completely inverted the order of 
things. Their carnality and self-righteousness had led them to 


exalt the precepts respecting ceremonial observances to the 
highest place, and to throw the duties inculcated in the ten 
commandment! comparatively into the background, thus treat 
ing the mere appendages of the covenant as of more account 
than its very ground and basis. Hence, when seeking to expose 
the insufficient and hollow nature of " the righteousness of the 
Scribes and Pharisees," our Lord made His appeal to the testi 
mony engraved on the two tables, and most commonly, indeed, 
though not exclusively, to the precepts of the second table, 
because lie had to do more especially with hypocrites, whose 
defects and shortcomings might most readily be exposed by a 
reference to the duties of the second table. (Matt. xix. 16 ; 
Luke x. 25, xviii. 18, etc.) The object of our Lord naturally 
led Him to give prominence to those things by which a man 
approves himself to be just, or the reverse. Those parts of duty 
which more immediately relate to God in their proper observance, 
have to do so peculiarly with the heart, that it is comparatively 
easy, on the one hand, for hypocrites to feign compliance with 
them, and difficult, on the other, to make a direct exposure of 
their pretensions. For the same reason, Christ s Sermon on the 
Mount, which was chiefly intended to be an exposition of the 
real nature and far-reaching import of the ten commandments, 
bears most respect to those commandments which belonged to 
the second table, and which had suffered most from the corrup 
tion of the times. But the prophets of the Old Testament had 
done precisely the same thing in reproving the ungodliness 
prevalent in their day. They were continually striving to recall 
men from the mere outward observances which the most worth 
less hypocrites could perform, to the sincere piety toward God, 
and deeds of substantial kindness toward man, required by the 
law of the two tables ; so that the prophets, as well as the law, 
were truly said to hang upon one and the same commandment 
of love. 1 In like manner, the Apostle Paul, after Christ, as the 

1 See especially Fs. xv., xxiv., which describe the righteousness required 
mulcr the covenant, by obedience to the ten commandments, and more 
particularly to those of the second table; specially indited, no doubt, to 
meet the tendency which the more attractive and orderly celebration then 
introduced into the ritual service was fitted to awaken, tfee also I s. xl., 1.. 
li. ; Isa. i., Ivii., etc. ; Micah vi. 


prophets before, when discoursing in regard to the law, what it 
was or was not, what it could or could not do, always has in view 
pre-eminently the law of the two tables. Without an exception, 
his examples are taken from the very words of these, or what 
they clearly prohibited and required. (Rom. ii. 17-23, iii. 10-18, 
vii. 7, xiii. 9, 10; 1 Tim. i. 7-10.) This could not, of course, 
be expected in the argument maintained in the Epistles to the 
Galatians and Colossians, where the error met and opposed 
consisted in an undue exaltation of the ceremonial institutions 
by themselves, as if the observance of these by the Christian 
Church were essential to salvation. In this case he could not 
possibly avoid referring chiefly to precepts of a cei emonial 
nature, and discussing them with respect to the light in which 
they were improperly viewed by certain parties in the apostolic 
Church. But when the question was, what the law in its strict 
and proper sense really required, and what were the ends it was 
fitted to serve, he never fails to manifest his concurrence with the 
other inspired writers, in taking the ten words as the law and the 
testimony, by which everything was to be judged and determined. 
We should despair of proving anything respecting the Old 
Testament dispensation, if these considerations do not prove that 
the law of the ten commandments stood out from all the other 
precepts enjoined under the ministration of Moses, and were 
intended to form a full and comprehensive exhibition of the 
righteousness of the. law, in its strict and proper sense. No 
doubt, many of the other precepts teach substantiallv what these 
commandments did, or contain statements and regulations bearing 
some way upon their violation or observance. But this was not 
done with the view of supplying any new or additional matter of 
obligation ; it was merely intended to explain their real import, 
or to give instructions how to adapt to them what might be 
called the jurisprudence of the state. We cannot but regard it 
as an unhappy circumstance, tending to perpetuate much mis 
understanding and confusion regarding the legislation of Moses, 
that the distinction has been practically overlooked, which it so 
manifestly assigns to the ten commandments, and that they have- 
so frequently been regarded by the more learned theologians a> 
the kind of quintessence of the whole Mosaic code, as the frw 
general or representative heads under which all the rest are to 

Till: DECALOGUE. 97 

he ranged. Thus Calvin, while he held the ten commandments 
to he a perfect rule of righteousness, and gave for the most part 
a correct a^ we-11 as admirahle exposition of their tenor and 
design, yet failed to bring out distinctly their singular and pro 
minent place in the Mosaic economy, and in his commentary 
reduces all the ceremonial institutions to one or other of these 
ten commandments. They were therefore regarded by him as 
standing to the entire legislation of Moses in the relation of 
general summaries or compends. And in that case there must 
have been, as he partially admits there was, something shadowy 
in the one as well as in the other. But what was chiefly a 
defect of arrangement in Calvin and many subsequent writers, 
has in Biihr assumed the form of a guiding principle, and is laid 
as the foundation of his view of the whole Mosaic system. 
Agreeing substantially with Spencer, whom he here quotes with 
approbation, and who considered the decalogue as a brief com- 
pend or tabular exhibition of the several classes of precepts in 
the law, he says : " The decalogue is representative of the whole 
law ; it contains religious and political, not less than moral, pre 
cepts. The first command is a purely religious one ; as is also 
the fourth, which belongs to the ceremonial law ; and indeed, 
generally, by reason of the theocratic constitution, all civil com 
mands were at the same time religious and moral ones, and 
inversely ; so that the old division into moral, ceremonial, and 
political, or judicial, appears quite untenable." 1 There is an 
element of truth in this. The theocracy, doubtless, stamped all 

1 Symbolik, i., p. 384. He elsewhere, p. 181, seeks to justify this view 
from the number ten, in which the law was contained ; and which number 
he considers to have been employed in the promulgation of this law, because 
u it was the fundamental law of Israel, in a religious and political respect 
the representative of the whole Israelitish constitution." It certainly might 
be called the fundamental law of Israel, but that is a different thing from 
its being also the representative of the whole Israelitish constitution. In 
this case the ten must have been individually and conjunctly comprehensive 
of the whole, and that in their distinctive character as component elements 
of the Israelitish constitution. But what has any of them in that sense to 
do, for example, with sacrifice for sin? or with thankofferings for mercies? 
or with distinctions in meat and drink ? If the whole law had been com- 
l>ri-. -I in ten groups, and the decalogue had consisted of one from i-acli 
group, we could then, but only then, have seen the force and justice of the 



with a religious impress, and brought the ceremonial and political 
into close connection with the moral. But it by no means 
follows that these were all indiscriminately fused together; 
otherwise, they must also have been retained, or have fallen 
together. The view overlooks distinctions which arc both real 
and important, as will appear in the course of our remarks upon 
some parts of the decalogue itself, and also afterwards, when 
unfolding the relation of the decalogue to the ceremonial insti 
tutions. It is such an error as confounds the means of salvation 
with the great principles of religious and moral obligation, and 
leaves, if followed out, no solid basis for the doctrine of a vicari 
ous atonement to rest on. With perfect consistence, Ba hr 
constructs his system without the help of such an atonement ; 
sacrifice in all its forms was but an expression of pious feeling 
on the part of the worshipper, and consequently fell under one 
or other of the duties man owed to his Maker. 

II. We proceed now to consider the excellence of this law of 
the ten commandments, and to show, by an examination of its 
method and substance, how justly it was regarded as a complete 
and perfect summary of religious and moral duty. 

It is scarcely possible, even at this stage of the world s his 
tory, to consider with any care the precepts of the decalogue, 
without in some measure apprehending its high character as a 
standard of rectitude. And could we throw ourselves back to 
the time when it was first promulgated instead of looking at 
it, as we now do, from the eminence of a fuller and more per 
fect revelation could we distinctly contemplate it, as given 
seventeen centuries before the Christian era, and received as 
the summary of all that is morally right and dutiful by a people 
who had just left the polluted atmosphere of Egypt, we could 
not fail to discern, in the very existence of such a law, one of 
the most striking proofs of the Divine character of the Mosaic 
legislation. We should be much more disposed to exclaim here, 
than in regard to the outward prodigy which first called forth 
the declaration, " This is the finger of God." 

A remarkable testimony was given to the general excellence 
of the decalogue, and its vast superiority, as a code of morality, 
to anything found among the native superstitions of the East, 


in tlu- language of those Indians referred to by Dr Claudius 
Buchanan : " If you send us a missionary, send us one who has 
learned your ten commandments." 1 If modern idolaters were 
thus taken \\ith tin: Divine beauty and singular preciousness 
of these commandments, we know those could have no less 
reason to be so to whom they were first delivered ; for the 
land of Egypt, out of which they had recently escaped, was 
as remarkable for the grossness of its superstition as for the 
superiority of its learning and civilisation. As far back as our 
information respecting it carries us, at a period certainly more 
remote than that in which Israel sojourned within its borders, 
the Egyptians appear to have been immersed in the deepest 
rnire of idolatry and its kindred abominations ; and on them, in 
an especial sense, was chargeable the guilt and folly of " having 
changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made 
like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and 
creeping things." " The innermost sanctuary of their temples," 
says Clement of Alexandria, u is overhung with gilded tapestry; 
but let the priest remove the covering, and there appeal s a cat or 
a crocodile, or a domesticated serpent, wrapt in purple." Wor 
shipping the Deity thus under the image of even the lower crea 
ture-forms, the religion of Egypt must have been of an essentially 
grovelling tendency, and could scarcely fail to have carried along 
with it many foul excesses and pollutions. There are not want 
ing indications of this in Herodotus, and several allusions are 
also made to it in the Books of Moses. But some of the most 
profound inquirers into the religion of the ancients have recently 
shown, on evidence the most complete, that the worship of ancient 
Egypt was essentially of a bacchanalian character, full of lust 
and revelry ; that its most frequented rites were accompanied 
with scenes of wantonness and impure indulgence ; and that it 
sometimes gave rise to enormities not fit to be mentioned. 2 

Such was the atmosphere in which the Israelites had lived 
during their abode in Egypt ; and it was when fresh from such 
a region that the law of the ten commandments was proclaimed 
in their hearing, and given to be enshrined in the innermost re- 

1 Essay on the Estab. of an Episcopal Church in India, p. 61. 

2 Creuzer, Symbolik, i., p. 448, SB. ; cotnp. also, llengsteaberg, Authen 
tic, i., p. 118, ss. ; Egypt and Books of Moses, p. 203, ss. 


cess of their sacred structure, a law which unfolds the clearest 
views of God s character and service which denounces every 
form and species of idolatry as inconsistent with the spirituality 
of the Divine nature which enjoins the purest worship and the 
highest morality, and in its very form is a model of perfection 
and completeness. Wisdom of this kind Moses could least of all 
have learned from the Egyptians ; nor could it have been his, 
unless it had descended to him from above. 1 

1. This revelation of law is equally remarkable for the 
order and arrangement of its several parts, and for the round 
ness and completeness of its summary of moral obligation ; in 
both respects a certain perfection belongs to it. As regards 
the former, there are general features which strike one at the 
first glance, and about which there can be no difference of 
opinion. This is the case especially with the relative place 
assigned in it to those things which have more immediate respect 
to God, and those which concern the rights and interests of one s 
fellow-men. However the line of demarcation may be drawn 
between the two, there can be no doubt for it stands upon the 
surface of the code that the forms and manifestations of love 
to God occupy the first and most prominent place, while those 
which are expressive of love to man take a secondary and, in a 
sense, dependent rank. Religion was made the basis of morality 
piety toward God the living root of good-will and integrity 
toward men; and on this great principle, that unless there were 
maintained a dutiful and proper regard to the great Head of the 
human family, it could not reasonably be expected that men 
would feel and act aright to the different members of the family. 
We have here, therefore, the true knowledge and love of God 
virtually proclaimed to be, what was so happily expressed by 
Augustine, the parent, in a sense, and guardian of all the virtues 
(mater quodammodo omnium custosque virtutum) ; or, as it is 

1 See the subject again referred to at B. iii., c. 5. It is one of the few 
correct things which Tacitus states concerning the religion of the Jews, that 
they counted it profanity to make images in the likeness of man, and that 
they worshipped only one supreme, eternal, unchangeable, and everlasting 
God. (Hist., v. 5.) It would be difficult, however, to throw together a 
larger amount of ignorance and error in the same space, than is expressed 
in this and the preceding chapter, by Tacitus, respecting the religious cus 
toms and rites of the Jews. 


put by Josephus, " religion was not made a part of virtue, but 
other virtiK-s were ordained to be parts of religion." (Apion., 
ii. 17.) 

There may, no doubt, be a measure of love and fair dealing 
between man and man, where there is no spiritual acquaintance 
with God, and no principle of dutiful allegiance to Him. Were 
it not so, indeed, society in countries where the true religion is 
unknown would fall to pieces. But in such cases, the love is 
destitute of what might give it either the requisite stability or the 
proper spirit ; it is not sustained by adequate views of men s rela 
tionship to God, nor animated by the motives which are supplied 
by a consideration of their higher calling and destiny : hence it 
is necessarily defective, partial, irregular, in its manifestations. 
It was, therefore, in accordance with the truest wisdom, that the 
things which belong to God were, in this condensed summary of 
Divine requirement, exalted to the first place ; and in farther 
attestation of their pre-eminent rank and importance, it is to the 
commands connected with this branch of duty chiefly, if not 
exclusively, that special reasons have been attached enforcing 
the obedience required. In all the later precepts there is a 
simple enunciation of the command. 

So far all are agreed ; but in regard to the manner of 
making out the division between what is called the first and 
the second tables of the law, there is not the same general 
unanimity among theologians. Scripture itself gives no explicit 
deliverance on the subject. It frequently enough affirms the 
law to have been written on two tables ; but it never intimates 
how many of the ten words were inscribed on the one, how 
many on the other ; and while it more than once comprises the 
ten in two still more fundamental and comprehensive precepts 
to love the Lord with all the heart, and one s neighbour as one s 
self (Deut. vi. 5 ; Lev. xix. 18 ; Matt. xix. 37) it leaves alto- 
gether undecided the question, how much of the decalogue is 
embraced in the one, and how much in the other. We cannot 
but think that there is a profound design in this reserve of 
Scripture, which it had been good for Christian divines to )iave 
inquired into, rather than to have insisted on sharply distin 
guishing, some in one way, some in another, what perhaps is 
incapable of a complete and formal separation. Fur iu this 


revelation of law, while there is a diversity of parts, there is a 
pervading unity of principle; and, branching out, as it does, the 
whole sphere of obligation into two great lines of duty, it would 
yet have us to regard these as cognate and affiliated, rather than 
absolutely diverse the one merging into the other, and both to 
a certain extent mutually overlapping each other. Thus, the 
command enjoining the sacred observance of the weekly Sabbath, 
in its most obvious and direct aspect, bears on the duty one owes 
to God, and is in consequence, by all classes of theologians, 
associated with the first table of the law ; while yet the rest to 
which it calls is inseparably bound up with the best interests 
of mankind ; and the violation of it by the rich was sternly 
denounced by the prophets among other acts of hardship and op 
pression. (Deut. v. 15 ; Isa. Iviii. 13 ; Jer. xvii. 20-22.) In His 
exposition of the sixth commandment, our Lord has given a strik 
ing illustration of the manner in which the love it demands toward 
a fellow-creature intertwines itself with the love which is due to 
God, and the service He requires of man. (Matt. v. 23, 24.) 
So also the command to honour father and mother has points of 
affinity with both departments of duty, according as parents are 
contemplated in the light of Heaven s representatives, clothed 
with a measure of supernal authority, or as standing merely in 
the highest rank of earthly relations. Philo, in his treatise on 
the decalogue, draws attention to this peculiarity, and repre 
sents the command as having its place on the confines of the 
two tables, because of the parental relationship appearing to 
partake partly of the Divine and partly of the human element. 
Formally, however, he assigns it to the first table ; and makes 
the division of the ten to consist of two fives the first terminat 
ing with the command to honour father and mother. Josephus 
follows exactly the same method, throwing the whole into two 
equal halves, and making the command to honour parents the 
closing member of the first five. (Ant., iii., c. 6, 6.) 

There can be no reasonable doubt that these ancient Jewish 
writers expressed in this matter the common belief of their coun 
trymen ; and the division of the decalogue into two fives, with 
an acknowledgment that the boundary line was not very broadly 
marked, or altogether free from dubiety, is the one which has 
the highest claim to antiquity. It has also the advantage of 


being the most natural and simple; for as the whole law is 
comprehended in ten, the number of completeness, and from its 
very nature falls into two grand divisions, we naturally think of 
two fives each by itself the symbol of incompleteness, but, as 
related to each other, the component parts of a perfect whole 
for the proper distribution of the commands. Other considera 
tions come in aid of this conclusion : in particular, the circum 
stance that the fifth command is, like those preceding it, enforced 
by a reason which places it in immediate connection with the 
great ends of the covenant ; and the sacredness attached by the 
Apostle Paul to the discharge of the duties enjoined in it, as 
being, on the part of the young, the showing of piety at home 
(1 Tim. v. 4), a spirit characteristically different from that of 
brotherly love. And, indeed, the relation of a child to a parent 
is not strictly that of neighbour to neighbour. " It is through 
the parents that the creative power of God, on which all life 
depends, is communicated to the children ; so that God, as the 
Creator of life, appears to the children primarily in the parents 
the earthly divinities (diis terrestribus)^ as Grotius calls them. 
But since the relation between parents and children is the basis 
of all the divinely-constituted relations of human society, which 
involve stations of superiority and inferiority, since the names 
also of father and mother have been made to stretch over the 
whole natural circle (Gen. xlv. 8 ; Judg. v. 7) [and even the 
name of God, it might have been added, is sometimes given to 
the judges, who represented Him, Ex. xxii. 8, 28 ; Ps. Ixxxii. f>] 
it is certainly in the spirit of the law to explain this com 
mand, with Luther, in reference to the sphere of the civil life " 
(Baumgarten). Hence, also, we may most easily explain why 
this should be called the first commandment with promise (Eph. 
vi. 2), because it is the one in respect to which we have first 
to do with the authority of God, as appearing in those earthly 
representative! ; and on which the greater stress is justly laid, 
since in them that authority is associated with so much of a 
winning and attractive nature, that if it fails to elicit from those 
placed under it a reverential and pbedient spirit, much more may 
the same failure be expected when account has to be made only 
of the mysterious and dread majesty of Heaven. 

These considerations, it seems to vis, aiv sufficient to esta- 


blish the propriety of this ancient division of the ten command 
ments into two halves ; one which was acquiesced in by the two 
most learned of the fathers, Origen (in his 8th Homily on 
Genesis), and Jerome (on Eph. vi. 2), and became also the 
received opinion in the Greek Church. It is preferable to 
that which has so generally prevailed in the Reformed Church, 
and which so far concurs with the earlier view as to hold the 
command respecting parents to be the fifth in order, but differs in 
laying the chief stress upon the human element in the parental 
relation, and consequently assigning the fifth command to the 
second table of the law. The division then falls into four and 
six, and thereby loses sight of the significance of number in the 
two divisions, though making account of it in the totality, 
and, at the same time, overlooks the more distinctive peculi 
arities of the precept respecting the honouring of parents. But 
if, in comparison of this view, the other seems deserving of 
preference (though the difference between them, it must be 
owned, is not very material), much more is it so when compared 
with another view which received the sanction of Augustine, 
and from him has descended to the Romish, and in great part 
also to the Lutheran Church. According to it, the division falls 
into three and seven the three, however, terminating with the 
fourth command, while the first and second are thrown into one ; 
and the seven is made out by splitting the tenth into two, and 
placing the coveting of a man s wife in a different category 
from the coveting of his house and other possessions. Augus 
tine expressed his preference for this distribution primarily on 
the ground, that in the three directly pertaining to God he saw 
an indication of the mystery of the Trinity. (Quast. in Ex., 
71.) This was evidently the consideration that chiefly weighed 
with him, although he also thought there was ground for 
coupling the prohibition against idol-worship with that against 
the acknowledgment of another God than Jehovah, and for 
distinguishing between concupiscence toward a neighbour s wife, 
and concupiscence in respect to material possessions. Kurtz, 
along with not a few Lutherans of the present day, still adheres 
to this view, and very much also from regard to the sacred 
three and seven, which is thereby obtained. (Hist, of Old Cov., 
ii., sec. 47, 3.) But in a grand objective revelation, any 

Till-; DECALOGUE. 105 

to numbers, except such as is quite natural and simple, 
would be entirely out of place ; and the recondite considera 
tions which are required here to discover and elevate into sig 
nificance a three and a seven, betray the character of their 
origin : they might do for the speculations of the closet, but 
were greatly too far to seek for what was required in the fun 
damental document of a popular religion. Besides, the ac 
knowledgment of one God is not by any means inconsistent 
with the worship of that God by idols as, indeed, the history 
of the Old Testament renders manifest by the marked distinc 
tion it draws between the sin of Jeroboam, who corrupted the 
worship of Jehovah by idols, and the much greater sin of Ahab, 
who introduced the worship of strange gods : therefore, what 
are usually called the first and second commandments, are not 
to be identified ; the one has respect to the object, the other to 
the mode, of worship. On the other hand, the concupiscence 
condemned in the tenth commandment is substantially one, 
whatever possession or property of a neighbour s may be its 
more immediate object : to regard it when directed towards his 
wife as specifically different from what it is when directed to 
other objects, were virtually to identify it with what is forbidden 
in the seventh commandment. And then there is this fatal 
objection to the rending of the tenth into two, that it obliges 
us to discard the form of the precept as given in Exodus, and 
substitute that in Deut. v. 21 as the more correct : for in this 
last alone does the wife, as an object of prohibition, stand first ; 
while in Ex. xx. 17, first the house is forbidden to be coveted, 
then the wife, afterwards man-servant, and whatever may 
belong to one s neighbour. A theory which requires for its 
support either a corruption in the text of Exodus, of which 
there is no evidence, or the assertion of a higher claim in 
respect to originality for the form of the decalogue given in 
Deuteronomy as compared with that in Exodus, has manifestly 
but a poor foundation to stand upon. 1 

1 It seems strange that any one should view the passage in Deut. v. 
r>-21 in any other light than as a free rehearsal of the commands given as 
originally uttered in Ex. xx. The account itself professes to be nothing 
else than such a rehearsal ; and, in connection with one of the commands, 
gives explicit intimation of this : " Honour thy father and thy mother, an 


Holding then by the generally received view in the Re 
formed Church, that, in making out the ten commands of the 
law, the prohibition against idol-worship ranks independently 
of the first, and that the prohibition against concupiscence is 
not diverse, but one ; holding, farther, that the simplest and 
most natural, as it is also the oldest, division of the whole, is 
into two fives, though the division is not to be understood as 
very sharply drawn, or as involving anything like an abrupt 
and formal separation of the one portion from the other, there 
is found in this summary of moral and religious obligation a 
beautiful order and progression in the precepts which compose 
it. In that part which has more immediate reference to God, 
it demands for Him the supreme love and homage of mankind 
(1) in respect to His being, as the one living God ; (2) to His 
worship, as, like Himself, spiritual, and abhorrent to the rites of 
idolatry ; (3) to His name ; (4) to His day of holy rest ; (5) to 
His earthly representatives. Then, as the two last commands 
have already brought the duties of God s service into contact 
with the interests of one s fellow-men and the relations of social 
life, the Divine revelation now passes formally over to the 
things which directly concern the well-being of our neighbour, 
claiming for him what is due successively in regard to his life, his 
domestic happiness, his property, his good name in the world, his 
place in the feelings and affections of our heart. Nothing could 
be more orderly, and at the same time more compact. 

2. But it is of more importance to note the character of the 
decalogue in regard to the revelation of duty contained in it, 
or the substance of its precepts. Does it prove itself here, on 
examination, to be indeed a comprehensive summary of all 
moral and religious duty ; and that with reference to the heart 
as well as the outward behaviour? 

An extremely low estimate, in this respect, is formed of the 
ten commandments by Spencer and his school, as well as of the 

the Lord thy God commanded thee." The addition, also, at ver. 15, in con 
nection with the fourth commandment, where the people are, as by a sepa 
rate word of exhortation, called upon to re-member that they had been 
bondmen in Egypt, and had been redeemed by the Lord, has all the ap 
pearance of an after-thought, thrown in at a later period, when Israel was 
farther removed from the era of redemption. 

Tin: DECALOGUE. 107 

other portions of the law of Moses. Spencer himself smiles at 
the idea <>f all religious and moral obligation being contained 
here in its fundamental principles, and affirms that snch an 
extent of im-aning can be brought out of it only by forcing on 
its worth an import quite foreign to their proper sense. He 
can find nothing more in it than a few plain and disconnected 
precepts, aimed at the prohibition of idolatry and its natural 
effects. 1 " In the Mosaic covenant," says one, who here trod in 
the footsteps of Spencer, " God appeared chiefly as a temporal 
prince, and therefore gave laws intended rather to direct the 
outward conduct than to regulate the actings of the heart. A 
temporal monarch claims from his subjects only outward honour 
and obedience. God, therefore, acting in the Sinai covenant as^ 
King of the Jews, demanded from them no more." 2 What! 
the holy and righteous God stoop to form a mock covenant 
like this, and resort to such a wretched expedient to uphold 
His honour and authority ! Could it possibly become Him to 
descend from heaven amid the awful manifestations of Divine 
power and glory, in order to proclaim and settle the terms of a 
covenant, the only aim of which was to draw around Him a set 
of formal attendants and crouching hypocrites men of show 
and parade the mere ghosts and shadows of obedient children ! 
It is the worst part of an earthly monarch s lot to be so often 
surrounded with creatures of this description ; but to suppose 
that the living God, who from the spirituality of His nature 
must ever look mainly on the heart, and so far from seeking, 
must indignantly reject, any profession of obedience which does 
not flow from the wellspring of a loving spirit to suppose that 
He should have been at pains to establish a covenant of blood 
for the purpose of securing such a worthless display, betrays 
an astonishing misapprehension of the character of God, or the 
most shallow and unsatisfactory view of the whole transactions 
connected with the revelation of Moses. 3 

1 De Legibus Heb., I,, i., c. 2. 

2 Tlieol. Dissertations by Dr John Erskine, p. 5, 37. 

3 It is strange that this notion, so unworthy of God, and so obviously 
inconsistent with the nature <>t tin- la\v itself, and the recorded facta of 
Israelit i>h history, still holds its ground among us. The shades of Spencer 
and \Varburtou still rest even upon many minds of vigorous thought. The 


Indeed, if no more had been required by God in His law 
than what these divines imagine, the commendations bestowed 
on it, and the injunctions given to study and weigh its precepts, 
as a masterpiece of Divine wisdom, could only be regarded as 
extravagant and bombastical. What, on such a supposition, 
could we make of the command laid upon Joshua to meditate 
in it day and night (Josh. i. 8) ; or of the celebration of its 
matchless excellence and worth by the Psalmist, as better than 
thousands of gold and silver (Ps. cxix. 72) ; or of his prayer, that 
his eyes might be opened to behold the wondrous things con 
tained in it ? (Ps. cxix. 18.) Such things clearly imply a latent 
depth of meaning, and a large compass of requirement in the 
law of Moses, more especially in that part of it which formed 
the very heart and centre of the whole the decalogue. Nor 
would the low and shallow views respecting it, on which we 
have animadverted, ever have been propounded, if, as Calvin 
suggests, 1 men properly considered the Lawgiver, by whose 
character that of the law must also be determined. An earthly 
monarch who is capable of taking cognisance only of the out 
ward actions, must prescribe laws which have respect simply to 

covenant of law is with the utmost confidence, and with the tone of one 
who had made a sort of discovery in the matter, represented by Mr John- 
stone, in his Israel after the Flesh, as a simply national covenant, having no 
other object than to maintain the national recognition of God, and no 
respect whatever to individuals. (Ch. i.) Mr Litton, in his Bampton 
Lecture, has, however, taken a more correct view, and brought out dis 
tinctly the spiritual element in the law. See especially Lect. III. The ten 
commandments express the spirit and essence of the whole economy, and 
only the first of them refers to the national acknowledgment of God. If 
that had been all they required, how could the Israelites in the wilderness 
have been treated as guilty of a breach of the covenant for simply failing 
to exercise faith in a particular word of God ? Or how could our Lord 
charge the Scribes and Pharisees of His time with being condemned by 
their law, while they rigidly adhered to the acknowledgment of God? 
Besides, the law is not now, and never was intended, to be viewed as 
standing by itself. It was a mere appendage to the covenant of Abraham, 
and the revelations therewith connected. And if these were express on any 
point, it was, as we have shown in vol. 1st, on the necessity of personal 
faith and heart-holiness, to fulfil the calling of a son of Abraham. If the 
law did not require spiritual service, it must have been a retrogression, not 
an advance, in the revelation of God s character. 
1 Institutes, B. ii., c. 8, G. 


these. But, for a like reason, the King of heaven, who is Him 
self a Spirit, and a Spirit of infinite and unchanging holiness, 
can nev<-r pivsrnlu- :i law but such as is in accordance with His 
own Divine nature; one, therefore, which pre-eminently aims at 
the regulation of the heart, and takes cognisance of the outward 
behaviour only in so far as this may be expressive of what is felt 
within. And it is justly inferred by Biihr from this view of 
God s character even in regard to the ceremonial part of the law 
of Moses, that the outward observances of worship it imposed 
could not possibly be in themselves an end ; that they must have 
been intended to be only an image and representation of internal 
and spiritual relations ; and that the command not to make any 
likeness or graven image, is of itself an incontestable proof of 
the symbolical character of the Mosaic religion. 1 

Perhaps nothing has tended more to prevent the right per 
ception of the spirituality and extent of the law of the ten 
commandments, than a mistaken view of the generally negative 
aspect they assume, as if their aim were more to impose 
restraints on the doing of what is evil, than to enforce the prac 
tice of what is pure and good. If this, however, were the right 
view of the matter, there manifestly would have been no excep 
tion to the negative form of the precepts ; they would one and 
all have possessed the character simply of prohibitions. But the 
fourth and fifth have been made to run in the positive form ; and 
one of these the fourth combines both together, as if on pur 
pose to show, that along with the prohibition of the specified sins, 
each precept was to be understood as requiring the correspond 
ing duties. In truth, this predominantly negative character is 
rather a testimony to their deep spiritual import, as confronting 
at every point the depravity and sinfulness of the human heart. 
The Israelites then, as professing believers now, admitted by 
divine grace into a covenant relation to God, and made heirs of 
His blessed inheritance, should have been disposed of them 
selves to love and serve God ; they should not even have needed 
the stringent precepts and binding obligations of law to do so. 
But as a solemn proof and testimony how much the reverse was 
the case, the law was thrown chiefly into the prohibitory form : 
" Thou shalt not do this or that ;" as much as to say, Thou art 
1 Symbolik, i., p. 14. 


of thyself ready to do it this is the native bent of thy incli 
nation but it must be restrained, and things of a contrary 
nature sought after and performed. 

It is perhaps too much to say, with Hengstenberg, that the 
law was called the testimony (Ex. xxv. 16, xxx. 6, etc.), and the 
tables on which it was written, the tables of the testimony (Ex. 
xxxi. 18, xxxiv. 29), simply on account of the revelation therein 
made of God s judgment against man s sin (Pent., ii., p. 600) ; 
for this was rather an incidental result, than the direct object 
of the law : yet it was a result which so inevitably took place, 
that the name could scarcely have been imposed without some 
reference to it. In one passage we even find the idea distinctly 
exhibited, though with reference to the book generally of the law, 
when Moses was commanded to have a copy of it placed beside 
the ark of the covenant, that it might be for a witness against 
Israel. (Deut. xxxi. 26.) The same, undoubtedly, was done in 
a pre-eminent degree by the two tables, which, as containing the 
essence of the whole legislation, were put within the ark. And 
their position there directly under the mercy-seat, where the 
blood of atonement was perpetually sprinkled, could signify 
nothing else than that the accusation which was virtually borne 
against Israel by the law of the covenant, required to be covered 
from the eye of Heaven by the propitiatory above it. In itself, 
however, the law was simply the revelation of God s holiness, 
with its circle of demands upon the faith, love, and obedience of 
His people : it testified of what was in His heart as the invisible 
Head of the kingdom, in respect to the character and conduct 
of those who should be its members. But the testimony it thus 
delivered for Him necessarily involved a testimony against them, 
because of the innate tendency to corruption which existed in 
their bosoms. And this incidental testimony against the sinful- 
ness of the people, which is, at the same time, an evidence of 
the law s inherent spirituality and goodnesss, has its reflection 
in the very form of the precepts in which it is contained. 

The more closely we examine these precepts themselves, the 
more clearly do we perceive their spiritual and comprehensive 
character. That they recognise love as the root of all obedience, 
and hatred as inseparable from transgression, is plainly intimated 
in the description given of the doers and transgressors of the 

mi: DECALOGUE. ill 

l;i\v in the second commandment ; the latter being characterized 
as " those that hate God," and the former as " those that love 
Him ami keep His commandments." And that the love required 
was no slight and superficial feeling, such as might readily give 
manifestation of itself in a few external acts of homage, 
that, on the contrary, it embraced the entire field of man s spiri 
tual agency, and bore respect alike to his thoughts, words, and 
deeds, is manifest from the following analysis and explanation 
of the second table, given by Hengstenberg: 1 " Thou shalt not 
injure thy neighbour 1. In deed, and that (1) not in regard to 
his life, (2) not in regard to his dearest property, his wife, (3) 
not in regard to his property generally [in other words, in regard 
to his person, his family, or his property]. 2. In word ( Thou 
shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour ). 3. In 
thought ( Thou shalt not covet ). While it may be admitted, 
however, that the prohibition of lust or covetousness has an in 
ternal character, it may still with some plausibility be maintained, 
that on this very account the preceding commands are to be 
taken externally that we are not in them to go beyond the 
word and deed that the mere outward acts, for example, of 
murder and adultery, are prohibited, so that the four first 
precepts of the second table may be satisfied without any in 
ward feeling of holiness, this being required only in the last. 
There is certainly some degree of truth in this remark. That 
a special prohibition of sinful lust should follow the rest, shows 
that what had been said in reference to word and deed primarily 
has respect to these. Still it must not be overlooked, on the 
other hand, that precisely through the succession of deed, word, 
and thought, the deed and word are stript of their merely out 
ward character, and referred back to their root in the mind, are 
marked simply as the end of a process, the commencement of 
which is to be sought in the heart. If this is duly considered, 
it will appear, that what primarily refers only to word and deed, 
carried at the same time an indirect reference to the emotions 
of the heart. Thus, the only way to fulfil the command, Thou 
shalt not kill, is to have the root extirpated from the heart, out 

1 Authentic, ii., p. 600. Substantially the same analysis was ma-It- by 
Thoinas Aquinas, in a short but very clear quotation given by Hengstenberg 
from the Sumuui, i. i , q. 100, 6. 


of which murder springs. Where that is not done, the command 
is not fully complied with, even though no outward murder is 
committed. For this must then be dependent upon circum 
stances which lie beyond the circle of man s proper agency." 

There is no less depth and comprehensiveness in the first 
table, as the same learned writer has remarked ; and a similar 
regard is had in it to thought, word, and deed, only in the reverse 
order, and lying somewhat less upon the surface. The fourth 
and fifth precepts demand the due honouring of God in deed ; 
the third in word ; and the two first, pointing to His sole God 
head and absolute spirituality, require for Himself personally, 
and for His worship, that place in the heart to which they are 
entitled. Very striking in this respect is the announcement in 
the second commandment, of a visitation of evil upon those that 
hate God, and an extension of mercy to thousands that love Him. 
As much as to say, It is the heart of love I require ; and if ever 
My worship is corrupted by the introduction of images, it is only 
to be accounted for by the working of hatred instead of love in 
the heart. So that the heart may truly be called the alpha and 
the omega of this wonderful revelation of law : it stands promi 
nently forth at both ends ; and had no inspired commentary 
been given on the full import of the ten words, looking merely 
to these words themselves, we cannot but perceive that they 
stretch their demands over the whole range of man s active 
operations, and can only be fulfilled by the constant and unin 
terrupted exercise of love to God and man, in the various regions 
of the heart, the conversation, and the conduct. 

We have commentaries, however, both in the Old and the 
New Testament Scriptures, upon the law of the ten command 
ments, and such as plainly confirm what has been said of its 
perfection and completeness as a rule of duty. With manifest 
reference to the second table, and with the view of expressing in 
one brief sentence the essence of its meaning, Moses had said, 
" Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Lev. xix. 18) ; and 
in like manner regarding the first table, " Thou shalt love the 
Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with 
all thy might." (Deut. vi. 5.) It is against all reason to sup 
pose, that these precepts should require more than what was 
required in those which formed the very groundwork and heart 


if the whole Mosaic legislation ; and we have the express 
authority of our Lord for holding, that the whole law, as well 
as the prophets, hung upon them. (Matt. xxii. 40.) Nor only 
so, but, as already noticed, in the Sermon on the Mount, He 
has Himself given us an insight into the wide reach and deep 
spiritual iiK juiing of the ten commandments, clearing them from 
the false and superficial glosses of the carnal Pharisees. That 
this is the true character and design of that portion of our Lord s 
discourse, that it was intended to bring distinctly out the full 
import of the old, and not to introduce any new and higher legis 
lation, is now generally admitted by at least the sounder portion 
of exegetical writers. 1 And, to mention no more, the Apostle 
Paul, referring to the law of the ten commandments, calls it 
" spiritual," " holy, just, and good," represents it as the grand 
instrument in the hands of the Spirit for convincing of sin, 
and declares the only fulfilment of it to be perfect love. (Rom. 
vii. 7-14, xiii. 10.) 

We trust enough has been said to establish the claim of the 
law of the ten commandments to be regarded in the light in 
which it has commonly been viewed by evangelical divines of 
this country, as a brief but comprehensive summary of all reli 
gious and moral duty. And, as a necessary consequence, the 
two grand rules with which they have been wont to enter on 
the exposition of the decalogue are fully justified. These rules 
are 1. That the same precept which forbids the external acts of 
sin, forbids likewise the inward desires and motions of sin in the 
heart ; as also, that the precept which commands the external 
acts of duty, requires at the same time the inward feelings and 
principles of holiness, of which the external acts could only be 
the fitting expression. 2. That the negative commands include 
in them the injunction of the contrary duties, and the positive 
commands the prohibition of the contrary sins, so that in each 
there is something required as well as forbidden. Nor is the 

1 Tholuck. imlre.l. as usual on such points, holds a sort of middle opinion 
lu-re in hia Comm. on the Sermon on the Mount, although he is substantially 
of the opinion expressed above, and opposed to the view of Catholic, So- 
finian. and Anninian writers. See, however, Baum.u arten, Doc. Christi de 
I^oge Mosaica in Oratione Mon., with whom also Hengstenberg concurs, 

/.-. rit. 



language too strong, if rightly understood, which has often been 
applied to this law, that it is a kind of transcript of God s own 
pure and righteous character, i.e., a faithful and exact repre 
sentation of that spiritual excellence which eternally belongs to 
Himself, and which He must eternally require of His account 
able creatures. The idea which such language conveys is 
undoubtedly correct, if understood in reference to the great 
principles of truth and holiness embodied in the precepts, though 
it can be but partially true if regard is had to the formal acts in 
which those principles were to find their prescribed manifesta 
tion ; for the actual operation of the principles had of necessity 
to be ordered in suitable adaptation to men s condition upon 
earth, to which, as there belong relations, so also there are rela 
tive duties, not only different from anything with which God 
Himself has properly to do, but different even from what His 
people shall have to discharge in a coming eternity. There, such 
precepts as the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, or the eighth, as to 
the formal acts they prohibit or require, shall manifestly have 
lost their adaptation. And of the whole law we may affirm, 
that the precise form it has assumed, or the mould into which it 
has been cast, is such as fitly suits it only to the circumstances 
of the present life. But the love to God and man, which con 
stitutes its all-pervading element, and for which the several 
precepts only indicate the particular ways and channels wherein 
it should flow this love man is indispensably bound in all times 
and circumstances to cherish in his heart, and manifest in his 
conduct. For the God in whom he lives, and moves, and has 
his being, is love ; and as the duty and perfection of the creature 
is to bear the image of the Creator, so to love as He loves 
Himself first and supremely, and His offspring in Him and for 
Him must ever be the bounden obligation and highest end of 
those whom He calls His children. 



IT is necessary to pause here for a little, and enter into some 
examination of the objections which have been raised out of the 
ten commandments themselves, against the character of perfec 
tion and completeness which we have sought to establish for 
them. For if any doubt should remain on this point, it will most 
materially interfere with and mar the line of argument we mean 
afterwards to pursue, and the views we have to propound in 
connection with this revelation of law to Israel. 

By a certain class of writers, we are met at the very thres 
hold with a species of objection which they seem to regard as 
perfectly conclusive against its general completeness and univer 
sal obligation. For it contains special and distinct references 
to the Israelites as a people. The whole is prefaced with the 
declaration, " I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out 
of the land of Egypt," while the fifth commandment embodies 
in it the promise of the land of Canaan as their peculiar inherit 
ance. And this, we are told, makes it clear as noon-day, that 
the decalogue was not given as a revelation of God s will to 
mankind at large, but was simply and exclusively intended for 
the Israelites binding, indeed, on them so long as the peculiar 
polity lasted under which they were placed, but also ceasing as 
an obligatory rule of conduct when that was abolished. 1 But, 

1 Bialloblotzky, de LegisMos. abrogatione, p. 131. Archb. Whatelyalso 
repeats the same objection, in his Essay on the Abolition of the Law, p. 1st!. 
(Second Series of Essays.) The view of both these authors, which is radi 
cally the same, regarding the abolition of the law under the Christian M0< 


on this ground, the Gospel itself will be found scarcely less im 
perfect, and we might almost at every step question the fitness 
or obligation of its precepts in respect to men in general. For 
it carries throughout a reference to existing circumstances ; and 
by much the fullest development of its principles and duties, 
that, namely, contained in the epistles, was given directly and 
avowedly to particular persons and churches, with the primary 
design of instructing them as to the things they were respec 
tively to believe or do. So that, if the specialties found in the 
law of the two tables were sufficient to exempt men now from 
its obligation, or to deprive it at any time of an ecumenical 
value, most of the revelations of the Gospel might, for the same 
reason, be shorn of their virtue ; and in both alike, men would 
be entitled to pick and choose for themselves, what they were to 
regard as of temporary moment, and what of perpetual obligation. 
But were not this egregious trifling? The objection over 
looks one of the most distinctive features and, indeed, one of 
the greatest excellences of God s revelation, which at no period 
was given in the form of abstract delineations of truth and duty, 
but has ever developed itself in immediate connection with the 
circumstances of individuals and the leadings of Providence. 
From first to last it comes forth entwined with the characters 
and events of history. Not a little of it is written in the trans 
actions themselves of past time, which are expressly declared to 
have been " written for our learning." And it is equally true 
of the law and the Gospel, that the historical lines with which 
they are interwoven, while serving to increase their interest and 
enhance their didactic value, by no means detract from their 
general bearing, or interfere with their binding obligation. The 
ground of this lies in the unchangeableness of God s character, 
which may be said to generalize all that is particular in His 
revelation, and impart a lasting efficacy to what was but occa- 

nomy, we shall have occasion to notice afterwards. The affirmation of the 
Archbishop, at p. 191, that " the Gospel requires a morality in many respects 
higher and more perfect in itself than the law, and places morality on higher 
grounds," has already been met in the preceding section. We admit, of 
course, that the Gospel contains far higher exemplifications of the morality 
enjoined in the law than are to be found in the Old Testament, and presents 
far higher motives for exercising it ; but that is a different thing from main 
taining that this morality itself is higher, or essentially more perfect. 


sioual in its origin. Without variableness or shadow of turning 
in Himself, Pie cannot have a word for one, and a different 
word for another. And unless the things spoken and required 
were so manifestly peculiar as to be applicable only to the indi 
viduals to whom they were first addressed, or from their very 
nature possessed a merely temporary significance, we must hold 
them to be the revelation of God s mind and will for all persons 
and all times. 

That the Lord uttered this law to Israel in the character 
of their Redeemer, and imposed it on them as the heirs of His 
inheritance, made no alteration in its own inherent nature ; 
neither contracted nor enlarged the range of its obligation; only 
established its claim on their observance by considerations pecu 
liarly fitted to move and influence their minds. Christ s en 
forcing upon His disciples the lesson of humility, by His own 
condescension in stooping to wash their feet, or St Paul s en 
treating his Gentile converts to walk worthy of their vocation, 
by the thought of his being, for their sakes, the prisoner of the 
Lord, are not materially different. The special considerations, 
coupled in either case alike with the precept enjoined, leave 
perfectly untouched the ground of the obligation or the rule 
of duty. Their proper and legitimate effect was only to win 
obedience, or, failing that, to aggravate transgression. And 
when the things required are such as those enjoined in the ten 
commandments, things growing out of the settled relations in 
which men stand to God and to each other, the obligation to 
obey is universal and pennanent, whether or not there be any 
considerations of the kind in question tending to render obe 
dience more imperative, or transgression more heinous. 

But what if some of the considerations employed to enforce 
the observance of the duties enjoined, involve views of the 
Divine character and government partial and defective, at 
variance with the principles of the Gospel, and repulsive even 
t<> enlightened reason? Can that really have been meant to be 
of standing force and efficacy as a revelation of duty, which 
embodies in it such elements of imperfection 1 Such is the form 
the objection takes in the hands of another large class of ob 
jectors, who think they find matter of the kind referred to in 
the declarations attached to the second commandment. The- 


view there given of God as a jealous being, and of the manner 
in which His jealousy was to appear, has by some been repre 
sented as so peculiarly Jewish, by others as so flagrantly ob 
noxious to right principle, that they cannot tolerate the idea 
of the decalogue being considered as a perfect revelation of 
the mind and will of God. The subject has long afforded a 
favourite ground of railing accusation to avowed infidels and 
rationalist divines ; and Spinosa could not think of anything 
in Scripture more clearly and manifestly repugnant to reason, 
than that the attribute of jealousy was ascribed to God in the 
decalogue itself. 

The treatment which this article in the decalogue has met 
with, is quite a specimen of the shallow and superficial character 
of infidelity. It proceeds on the supposition that jealousy, when 
ascribed to God, must carry precisely the same meaning, and be 
understood to indicate the same affections, as when spoken of 
men. Considered as a disposition in man, it is commonly in 
dicative of something sickly and distempered. But as every 
affection of the human mind must, when referred to God, be 
understood with such limitations as the infinite disparity between 
the Divine and human natures renders necessary, it might be no 
difficult matter to modify the common notion of jealousy, so far 
as to render it perfectly compatible with the other representa 
tions given of God as absolutely pure and good. But even this 
is scarcely necessary ; for every scholar knows that the word in 
the original is by no means restricted to what is distinctively 
meant by jealousy, and that the radical and proper idea, unless 
otherwise determined by the context, has respect merely to the 
zeal or ardour with which any one is disposed to vindicate his 
own rights. Applied to God, it simply presents Him to our 
view as the one Supreme Jehovah, who as such claims cannot 
indeed but claim He were not the One, Eternal God, but an 
idol, if He did not claim the undivided love and homage of His 
creatures, and who, consequently, must resist with holy zeal and 
indignation every attempt to deprive Him of what is so pecu 
liarly His own. It is only to give vividness to this idea, In- 
investing it with the properties of an earthly relation, that the 
Divine affection is so often presented under the special form of 
jealousy. It arises, as Calvin has remarked, from God s conde- 


Bcendiog t<> assume toward His people the character of a husband, 
in which iv>]>rrt He cannot bear a partner. " As lie performs 
to us all the offices of a true and faithful husband, so He stipu 
lates for love and conjugal chastity from us. Hence, when He 
rebukes the Jews for their apostasy, He complains that they have 
cast off chastity, and polluted themselves with adultery. There 
fore, as the purer and chaster the husband is, the more griev 
ously is he offended when he sees his wife inclining to a rival ; 
so the Lord, who has betrothed us to Himself in truth, declares 
that He burns with the hottest jealousy, whenever, neglecting 
the purity of His holy marriage, we defile ourselves with abomi 
nable lusts ; and especially when the worship of His Deity, 
which ought to have been most carefully kept unimpaired, is 
transferred to another, or adulterated with some superstition ; 
since, in this way, we not only violate our plighted troth, but 
defile the nuptial couch, by giving access to adulterers." 1 

Allowing, however, that the notion of jealousy, when thus 
explained, is a righteous and necessary attribute of Jehovah, does 
not the objection hold, at least in regard to the particular form of 
its manifestation mentioned in the second commandment ? If it 
becomes God to be jealous, yet is it not to make His jealousy 
interfere with His justice, when He declares His purpose to visit 
the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and 
fourth generation ? So one might judge, if looking not merely 
to the attacks of infidels, but to the feeble and unsatisfactory 
attempts which have too often been made to explain the decla 
ration by Christian divines. Grotius, for example, resolves it 
simply into the absolute sovereignty of God, who has a right 
to do what He will with His own. 2 Warburton represents it 
as a temporary expedient to supply the lack of a future state 
of reward and punishment under the law ; and in his usual 
way, contends that no otherwise could the principle be vindi 
cated, and the several Scriptures referring to it harmonized. 3 
Michaclis, 1 I alcy, 5 and a host besides, while they also regard 
it as, to a great extent, a temporary arrangement, rest their de 
fence of it mainly on the ground of its having to do only with 

1 Inst., B. ii., c. 8, 18. 2 De Jure Belli et Pacis, ii., p. 593. 

3 Divine Legation, B. v., sec. 5. 4 I^aws of Moan. 

5 Sermons. 


temporal evils, and in no respect reaching to men s spiritual and 
eternal interests. It is fatal to all these attempts at explana 
tion, that none of them fairly grapples with the visitation of evil 
threatened as a punishment ; for, viewed in this light, which 
is unquestionably the scriptural one, such attempts are mani 
festly nothing more than mere shifts and evasions of the point 
at issue. When resolved into the sovereignty of God, it still 
remains to be asked, whether such an exercise of His sovereignty 
is consistent with those ideas of immutable justice which are 
implanted in the human breast. When viewed as a temporary 
expedient to supply a want which, to say the least, might, if 
real, have admitted of a very simple remedy, the question still 
waits for solution, whether the expedient itself was in proper 
accordance with the righteous principles which should regulate 
every government, whether human or divine. And when it is 
affirmed, that the penalties denounced in the threatening were 
only temporal, the reply surely is competent, Why might not 
God do in eternity what He does in time ? Or, if the principle 
on which the punishment proceeds be not in all respects justi 
fiable, how could it be acted on by God temporarily, any more 
than eternally ? Is it consistent with the notion of a God of 
infinite rectitude, that He should do on a small scale what it 
would be impious to conceive Him doing on a large one *? 

The fundamental error in the false explanations referred to, 
lies in the supposition of the children, who are to suffer, being 
in a different state morally from that of their parents innocent 
children bearing the chastisement due to the transgressions of 
their wicked parents. But the words of the threatening pur 
posely guard against such an idea, by describing the third and 
fourth generation, on whom the visitation of evil was to fall, as 
of those that hate God ; just as, on the other hand, the mercy 
which was pledged to thousands was promised as the dowry of 
those that love Him. Such children alone are here concerned, 
who, in the language of Calvin, " imitate the impiety of their 
progenitors!" Indeed, Augustine has substantially expressed the 
right principle of interpretation on the subject, though he has 
.sometimes failed in making the proper application of it, as when 
he says : " But the carnal generation also of the people of God 
belonging to the Old Testament, binds the sons to the sins of 


their parents ; but the spiritual generation, as it has changed 
the inlicritamv, so also the threatenings of punishment, and the 
promises of reward." 1 And still more distinctly in his commen 
tary on Ps. cix. 14, where he explains the visiting of the 
" iniquities of the fathers upon them that hate Me," by saying, 
" that is, as their parents hated Me ; so that, just as the imitation 
of the good secures that even one s own sins are blotted out, so 
the imitation of the bad renders one obnoxious to the deserved 
punishment, not only of one s own sins, but also of the sins of 
those whose ways have been followed." In short, the Lord con 
templates the existence among His professing worshippers of two 
entirely different kinds of generations : the one haters of God, 
and manifesting their hatred by depraving His worship, and 
pursuing courses of transgression ; the other lovers of God, and 
manifesting their love by stedfastly adhering in all dutiful 
obedience to the way of His holy commandments. To these 
last, though they should extend to thousands of generations, He 
would show His mercy, causing it to flow on from age to age in 
a perennial stream of blessing. But as He is the righteous God, 
to whom vengeance as well as mercy belongs, the free outpour 
ing of His beneficence upon these, could not prevent or preju 
dice the execution of His justice upon that other class, who were 
entirely of a different spirit, and merited quite opposite treat 
ment. It is an unwelcome subject, indeed ; the merciful and 
gracious God has no delight in anticipating the day of evil, 
even for His must erring and wayward children. lie shrinks, 
as it were, from contemplating the possibility of thousands being 
in this condition, and will not suffer Himself to make mention 
of more than a third or a fourth generation rendering themselves 
the objects of His just displeasure. But still the wholesome 
truth must be declared, and the seasonable warning uttered. If 
men were determined to rebel against His authority, He could 
not leave Himself without a witness, not even in regard to the 
first race of transgressors, that He hated their iniquities, and 
must take vengeance of their inventions. But if, notwithstand 
ing, the children embraced the sinfulness of their parents, with 
the manifest seal of Heaven s displeasure on it, as their iniquity 
would be more aggravated, so its punishment should become 
1 Contra Julianum Polagianutu, Lib. vi.. 


more severe ; the descending and entailed curse would deepen 
as it flowed on, increasing with every increase of depravity and 
corruption, till, the measure of iniquity being filled up, the wrath 
should fall on them to the uttermost. 

That this is the aspect of the Divine character and govern 
ment which the declaration in the second commandment was 
meant to exhibit, is evident alone from the glowing delineations 
of mercy and goodness with which the visitation of evil upon 
the children of disobedient parents is here and in other places 
coupled. 1 But it is confirmed beyond all doubt by two distinct 
lines of reflection, and, first, by the facts of Israelitish history. 
These fully confirm the principle of God s government as now 
expounded, but give no countenance to the idea of a punishment 
being inflicted on the innocent for the guilty. However sinful 
one individual or one generation might be, yet if the next in 
descent heartily turned to the Lord, they were sure of being 
received to pardon and blessing. We are furnished with a strik 
ing instance of this in the 14th chapter of Numbers, where we 
find Moses pleading for the pardon of Israel s transgressions on 
the very ground of that revelation of the Divine name or cha 
racter in Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7, which precisely, as in the second com 
mandment, combines the most touching representation of the 
Divine mercy with the threat to visit the iniquity of the fathers 
upon the children. It never occurred to Moses that this threat 
stood at all in the way of their obtaining a complete forgiveness. 
He found, indeed, that the Lord had determined to visit upon 
that generation their iniquities, so far as to exclude them from 
the land of Canaan, but without in the least marring the better 
prospects of their children, who had learned to hate the deeds of 
their fathers. And when, indeed, was it otherwise ? Is it not 
one of the most striking features in the whole history of ancient 
Israel, that, so far from suffering for the sins of former genera 
tions, they did not suffer even for their own when they truly 
repented, but were immediately visited with favour and bless 
ing? And, on the other hand, how constantly do we find the 
Divine judgments increasing in severity when successive gene 
rations hardened themselves in their evil courses ? Nor did it 
rarely happen that the series of retributions reached their last 
1 Compare besides Ex. xxxiv. 5, C; Num. xiv. 18: Ps. ciii. 8, J. 

(it )D AS JKALOrs. 123 

issues by the third or fourth generation. It was so in particular 
with those who were put upon a course of special dealing such 
as the house of Jeroboam, of Jehu, of Eli, etc. 

Another source of confirmation to the view now presented 
we find in the explanations given concerning it in the prophecies 
of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These prophets lived at the time 
when the descending curse had utterly failed, so far as it had 
gone, to turn the children from the sinful courses of their 
fathers, and was fast running to a fatal termination. But the 
infatuated people being not less distinguished for self-righteous 
pride than for their obstinate perseverance in wickedness, they 
were constantly complaining, as stroke after stroke fell upon 
them, that they were made unjustly to bear the sins of their 
fathers. Anticipating our modern infidels, they charged God 
with injustice and inequality in His ways of dealing, instead of 
turning their eye inward, as they should have done, upon their 
own unrighteousness, and forsaking it for the way of peace. 
The 18th chapter of Ezekiel contains a lengthened expostula 
tion with these stout-hearted offenders, in the course of which 
he utterly disclaims the interpretation they put upon the word 
and providence of God, and assures them, that if they would 
only turn from their evil doings, they should not have to suffer 
either for their own or their fathers guilt. And Jeremiah, in 
his 31st chapter, speaking of the new covenant, and of the 
blessed renovation it would accomplish on those who should be 
partakers of its grace, foretells that there would be an end of 
such foolish and wicked charges upon God for the inequality of 
His ways of dealing ; for such an increased measure of the Spirit 
would be given, such an inward conformity to His laws would 
be produced, that His dealing with transgressors would in a 
manner cease His ways would be all acquiesced in as holy, 
just, and good. 



OBJECTIONS have been raised against the decalogue as a com 
plete and permanent summary of duty, from the nature of its 
requirements, as well as from the incidental considerations by 
which it is enforced. It is only, however, in reference to the 
fourth commandment, the law of the Sabbath, that any objec 
tion in this respect is made. The character of universal and 
permanent obligation, it is argued, which we would ascribe to 
the decalogue, cannot properly belong to it, since one of its pre 
cepts enjoins the observance of a merely ceremonial institution 
an institution strictly and rigorously binding on the Jews, 
but, like other ceremonial and shadowy institutions, done away 
in Christ. It would be impossible to enumerate the authors, 
ancient and modern, who in one form or another have adopted 
this view. There can be no question that they embrace a very 
large proportion of the more learned and eminent divines of the 
Christian Church, from the fathers to the present time. Much 
diversity of opinion, however, prevails among those who agree 
in the same general view, as to the extent to which the law of 
the Sabbath was ceremonial, and in what sense the obligation 
to observe it lies upon the followers of Jesus. In the judgment 
of some, the distinction of days is entirely abolished as a Divine 
arrangement, and is no further obligatory upon the conscience, 
than as it may be sanctioned by competent ecclesiastical autho 
rity for the purposes of social order and religious improvement. 
By others, the obligation is held to involve the duty of setting 
apart an adequate portion of time for the due celebration of 
Divine worship, the greater part leaving that portion of time 
quite indefinite, while some would insist upon its being at least 
i-qtial to what was appointed under the law, or possibly even 

Till: Wi.F.KI.Y SAI5I5ATII. 125 

more. Finally, there are still others, who consider the ceremo 
nial and shadowy part of the institution to have more peculiarly 
stood in the observance of precisely the seventh day of the week 
as a day of sacred rest, and who conceive the obligation still in 
force, as requiring another whole day to be consecrated to reli 
gious exercises. 

It would require a separate treatise, rather than a single 
chapter, to take up separately such manifold subdivisions of 
opinion, and investigate the grounds of each. We must for the 
present view the subject in its general bearings, and endeavour 
to have some leading principles ascertained and fixed. In doing 
this, we might press at the outset the consideration of this law 
being one of those engraved upon tables of stone, as a proof that 
it, equally with the rest, possessed a peculiarly important and dur 
able character. For the argument is by no means disposed of, 
as we formerly remarked, by the supposition of Ba hr and others, 
that the ceremonial as well as the other precepts of the law 
were represented in the ten commandments ; and still less by 
the assertion of Paley, that little regard was practically paid in 
the books of Moses to the distinction between matters of a cere 
monial and moral, of a temporary and perpetual kind. It is 
easy to multiply assertions and suppositions of such a nature ; 
but the fact is still to be accounted for, why the law of the Sab 
bath should have been deemed of such paramount importance, 
as to have found a place among those which were " written as 
with a pen in the rock for ever ?" Or why, if in reality nothing 
more than a ceremonial and shadowy institute, this, in particular, 
should have been chosen to represent all of a like kind ? Why 
not rather, as the whole genius of the economy might have led 
us in such a case to expect, should the precept have been one 
respecting the observance of the great annual feasts, or a faith 
ful compliance with the sacrificial services ? l It is impossible 
to answer these questions satisfactorily, or to show any valid 
reason for the introduction of the Sabbath into the law of the 
two tabK-s, on the supposition of its possessing only a ceremonial 

1 Tin- lioman Catholics have felt the force of this in reference n> tin-M 
own Church, which, like the Jewish, deals so much in ceremonies, au<l there- 
fore have sometimes in their o:itirhi>m presented the fourth commandment 
thus : Remember the festivals, to keep them holy. 


character. But we shall not press this argument more fully, 
or endeavour to explain the futility of the reasons by which it 
is met, as in itself it is rather a strong presumption than a 
conclusive evidence of the permanent obligation of the fourth 

It deserves more notice, however, than it usually receives in 
this point of view, and should alone be almost held conclusive, 
that the ground on which the obligation to keep the Sabbath is 
based in the command, is the most universal in its bearing that 
could possibly be conceived. " Thou shalt remember the Sab 
bath-day, to keep it holy ; for in six days the Lord made heaven 
and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the 
seventh day." There is manifestly nothing Jewish here ; no 
thing connected with individual interests or even national his 
tory. The grand fact out of which the precept is made to grow, 
is of equal significance to the whole world ; and why should not 
the precept be the same, of which it forms the basis ? God s 
method of procedure in creating the visible heavens and earth, 
produced as the formal reason for instituting a distinctive, tem 
porary Jewish ordinance ! Could it be possible to conceive a 
more " lame and impotent conclusion ?" And this, too, in the 
most compact piece of legislation in existence ! It seems, indeed, 
as if God, in the appointment of this law, had taken special pre 
cautions against the attempts which He foresaw would be made 
to get rid of the institution, and that on this account He laid its 
foundations first in the original framework and constitution of 
nature. The law as a whole, and certain also of its precepts, 
He was pleased to enforce by considerations drawn from His 
dealings toward Israel, and the peculiar relations which He now 
held to them. But when He comes to impose the obligation 
of the Sabbath, He rises far beyond any consideration of a 
special kind, or any passing event of history. He ascends to 
primeval time, and, standing as on the platform of the newly 
created world, dates from thence the commencement and the 
ordination of a perpetually recurring day of rest. Since the 
Lord has thus honoured the fourth commandment above the 
others, by laying for it a foundation so singularly broad and 
deep, is it yet to be held in its obligation and import the nar 
rowest of them all ? Shall this, strange to think, be the only 


one which did nut utter a voice for all times and all generations I 
How much more reasonable is the conclusion of Calvin, who in 
this expressed substantially the opinion of all the more eminent 
reformers : " Unquestionably God assumed to Himself the 
seventh day, and consecrated it when He finished the creation 
of the world, that lie might keep His worshippers entirely free 
from all other cares, while they were employed in meditating on 
the beauty, excellence, and splendour of His works. It is not 
proper, indeed, to allow any period to elapse, without our atten 
tively considering the wisdom, power, justice, and goodness of 
God, as displayed in the admirable workmanship and govern 
ment of the world. But because our minds are unstable, and 
are thence liable to wander and be distracted, God in His own 
mercy, consulting our infirmities, sets apart one day from the 
rest, and commands it to be kept free from all earthly cares and 
employments, lest anything should interrupt that holy exercise. 
... In this respect the necessity of a Sabbath is common to us 
with the people of old, that we may be free on one day (of the 
week), and so may be better prepared both for learning and for 
giving testimony to our faith." 1 

But then it is argued, that whatever may have been the 
reason for admitting the law of the Sabbath into the ten com 
mandments, and engraving it on the tables of stone, it still is in 

1 Comm. on Ex. xx. 11. The same view is taken in his notes on Gen. 
ii. 3 : " God, therefore, first rested, then He blessed that rest, that it might 
be sacred among men through all coming ages. He consecrated each seventh 
day to rest, that His own example might continually serve as a rule," etc. 
To the same effect, Luther on that passage, who holds, that u if Adam had 
continued in innocence, he would yet have kept the seventh day sacred ;" 
and concludes, " Therefore the Sabbath was, from the beginning of the 
world, appointed to the worship of God." We have already treated of this 
branch of the subject in vol. i., and need not go farther into it at present. 
It is proper to state, however, that the leading divines of the Reformation, 
and the immediately subsequent period, were of one mind regarding the 
appointment of a primeval Sabbath. The idea, that the Sabbath was first 
given to the Israelites in the wilderness, and that the words in Gen. ii. only 
proleptically refer to that future circumstance, is an after-thought, origi 
nating in the fond conceit of some .Jewish Kabbins, who sought thereby 
to magnify their nation, and was adopted only by such Christian divines 
as had already made up their minds on the temporary obligation of the 



its own nature different from all the rest. They are moral, and 
because moral, of universal force and obligation ; while this is 
ceremonial, owing its existence to positive enactment, and there- 
fore binding only so far as the enactment itself might be ex 
tended. The duties enjoined in the former are founded in the 
nature of things, and the essential relations in which men stand 
to God or to their fellow-men : hence they do not depend on 
any positive enactment, but are co-extensive in their obligation 
with reason and conscience. But the law of the Sabbath, pre 
scribing one day in seven to be a day of sacred rest, has its 
foundation simply in the authoritative appointment of God, and 
hence, unlike the rest, is not fixed and universal, but special 
and mutable. 

There is unquestionably an element of truth in this, but the 
application made of it in the present instance is unwarranted 
and fallacious. It is true that the Sabbath is a positive institu 
tion, though intimately connected with God s work in creation ; 
and apart from His high command, it could not have been ascer 
tained by the light of reason, that one entire day should at regu 
lar intervals be consecrated for bodily and spiritual rest, and 
especially that one in seven was the proper period to be fixed 
upon. In this respect we can easily recognise a distinction 
between the law of the Sabbath, and the laws which prohibit 
such crimes as lying, theft, or murder. But it does not there 
fore follow, that the Sabbath is in such a sense a positive, as to 
be a merely partial, temporary, ceremonial institution, and, like 
others of this description, done away in Christ. For a law may 
be positive in its origin, and yet neither local nor transitory in its 
destination ; it may be positive in its origin, and yet equally 
needed and designed for all nations and ages of the world. 

For of what nature, we ask, is the institution of marriage ? 
The seventh commandment bears respect to that institution, and 
is thrown as a sacred fence around its sanctity. But is not mar 
riage in its origin a positive institution ? Has it any other foun 
dation than the original act of God in making one man and one 
woman, and positively ordaining that the man should cleave to 
the woman, and the two be one flesh? 1 Wherever this is not 

1 Gen. ii. 23, 24. This has a great deal more the look of a proleptical 
statement than what is written at the beginning of the chapter about the 


recognised, as it is not, in part at least, in Mahommedan and 
heathen lands, and by certain infidels of the baser sort in Chris 
tendom, tin-re also the moral and binding obligation of the ordi 
nance is disowned. But can any humble Christian disown it? 
Would he not indignantly reject the thought of its being only a 
temporary ordinance, because standing, as to its immediate origin, 
in God s method of creation, and the natural obligations growing 
out of it ? Or does he feel himself warranted to assume, that 
because, after Christ s appearing, the marriage-union was treated 
as an emblem of Christ s union to the Church, the literal ordi 
nance is thereby changed or impaired? Assuredly not. And 
why should another course be taken with the Sabbath ? This 
too, in its origin, is a positive institution, and was also, it may 
be, from the first designed to serve as an emblem of spiritual 
things an emblem of the blessed rest which man was called 
to enjoy in God. But in both respects it stands most nearly on 
a footing with the ordinance of marriage : both alike owed their 
institution to the original act and appointment of God ; both 
also took their commencement at the birth of time in a world 
unfallen, when, as there was no need for the antitypes of re 
demption, so no ceremonial types or shadows of these could 
properly have a place ; and both are destined to last till the 
songs of the redeemed shall have ushered in the glories of a 
world restored. 

The distinction, we apprehend, is often too broadly drawn, in 
discussions on this subject, between the positive and the moral ; 
as if the two belonged to entirely different regions, and but inci 
dentally touched upon each other ; as if also the strictly moral 
part of the world s machinery were in itself so complete and in 
dependent, that its movements might proceed of themselves, in a 
course of lofty isolation from all positive enactments and insti 
tutions. This was not the case even in paradise, and much less 
could it be so afterwards. A certain amount of what is positive 
in appointment, is absolutely necessary to settle the relations in 
connection with which the moral sentiments are to work and 

S;il)l>uth, for it speaks of leaving father and mother, while still Adam and 
Eve alone existed. Yet our Lord regards it as a statement fairly and natu 
rally drawn from the facts of creation, and as applicable to the earlier as to 
the later periods of the world s history. (Matt. xix. 4, 5.) 



develop themselves. The banks which confine and regulate the 
current of a river, are not less essential to its existence than the 
waters that flow within them ; for the one mark out and fix the 
channel which keeps the other in their course. And, in like 
manner, the moral feelings and affections of our nature must 
have something outward and positive, determining the kind of 
landmarks which they are to observe, and the channels through 
which they are to flow. There may, no doubt, be many things 
of this nature at different times appointed by God that are vari 
able and temporary, to suit the present condition of His Church 
and the immediate ends He has in view. But there may also be 
some coeval with the existence of the world, founded in the very 
nature and constitution of things, so essential and necessary, that 
the love which is the fulfilment of all obligation cannot operate 
stedfastly or beneficially without them. 

The real question, then, in regard to the Sabbath, is, whether 
such love can exist in the heart, without disposing it to observe 
the rest there enjoined? Is not the present constitution of nature 
such as to render this necessary for securing the purposes which 
God contemplated in creation ? Could mankind, as one great 
family, properly thrive and prosper even in their lower interests, 
as we may suppose their beneficent Creator intended, without 
such a day of rest perpetually coming round to refresh their 
wearied natures ? Could they otherwise command sufficient 
time, amid the busy cares and occupations of life, to mind the 
higher interests of themselves and their households ? Without 
such a salutary monitor ever and anon returning, and bringing 
with it time and opportunity for all to attend to its admonitions, 
would not the spiritual and eternal be lost sight of amid the seen 
and temporal ? Or, to mount higher still, how, without this 
ordinance, could any proper and adequate testimony be kept up 
throughout the world in honour of the God that made it? Must 
not reason herself own it to be a suitable and becoming homage 
rendered to His sole and supreme lordship of creation, for men 
on every returning seventh day to cease from their own works, 
and take a breathing-time to realize their dependence upon Him, 
and give a more special application to the things which concern 
His glory ? In short, abolish this wise and blessed institution, 
and must not love both to God and man be deprived of one of 


its best safeguards and most appropriate methods of working ? 
Must not God Himself become practically dishonoured and for 
gotten, and His creature be worn down with deadening and 
oppressive toil . 

Experience has but one answer to give to these questions. 
Hence, where the true religion has been unknown, it lias always 
been found necessary to appoint, by some constituted authority, 
a certain number of holidays, which have often, even in heathen 
countries, exceeded, rarely anywhere have fallen short of, the 
number of God s instituted Sabbaths. The animal and mental, 
the bodily and spiritual nature of man, alike demand them. 
Even Plato deemed the appointment of such days of so benign 
and gracious a tendency, that he ascribed them to that pity 
which " the gods have for mankind, born to painful labour, 
that they might have an ease and cessation from their toils." 1 
And what is this but an experimental testimony to the wisdom 
and goodness of God s having ordered His work of creation with 
a view to the appointment of such an institution in providence ? 
It is manifest, besides, that while men may of themselves provide 
substitutes to a certain extent for the Sabbath, yet these never 
can secure more than a portion of the ends for which it has been 
appointed, nor could anything short of the clear sanction and 
authority of the living God command for it general respect and 
attention. The inferior benefits which it carries in its train are 
not sufficient, as experience has also too amply testified, to main 
tain its observance, if it loses its hold upon men s minds in a re 
ligious point of view. So that there can scarcely be a plainer 
departure from the duty of love we owe alike to God and man, 
than to attempt to weaken the foundations of such an ordinance, 
or to encourage its habitual neglect. 

If the broad and general view of the subject which has now 
been given were fairly entertained, the other and minuter ob 
jections which are commonly urged in support of the strictly 
.Jewish character of the Sabbatical institution would be easily 
disposed of. Even taken apart, there is none of them which, if 
due account is made of special circumstances, may not be satis 
factorily removed. 

1. No notice is taken of the institution during the antedi- 
1 De Leg., ii., p. 787. 


luvian and earlier patriarchal periods of sacred history; the 
profanation of it is not mentioned among the crimes for which 
the flood was sent, or fire and brimstone rained upon Sodom and 
Gomorrah ; it never rises distinctly into view as a Divine insti 
tution till the time of Moses ; whence it is inferred, it only then 
took its commencement. But how many duties of undoubtedly 
perpetual and universal obligation might be cut off on similar 
grounds? And how few comparatively of the sins which we 
may infer with the utmost certainty to have been practised, are 
noticed in those brief records of the world s history ! It is rather, 
as we might have expected, the general principles that were 
acted upon ; or, in regard to heinous transgressors, the more 
flagrant misdeeds into which their extreme depravity ran out, 
that find a place in the earliest portions of sacred history. 
Besides, even in the later and fuller accounts, it is usual, 
through very long periods of time, to omit any reference to 
institutions which were known to have had a settled existence. 
There is no notice, for example, of circumcision from the time 
of Joshua to the Babylonish exile ; but how fallacious would 
be the conclusion from such silence, that the rite itself was not 
observed ! Even the Sabbath, notwithstanding the prominent 
place it holds in the decalogue and the institutions of Moses, 
is never mentioned again till the days of Elisha (nearly seven 
hundred years later), when we meet with an incidental and 
passing allusion to it. (2 Kings iv. 23.) Need we wonder 
then, that in such peculiarly brief compends of history as are 
given of antediluvian and patriarchal times, there should be a 
similar silence ? 

And yet it can by no means be affirmed that they are without 
manifest indications of the existence of a seventh day of sacred 
rest. The record of its appointment at the close of the creation 
period, as we have already noticed, is of the most explicit kind, 
and is afterwards confirmed by the not less explicit reference in 
the fourth commandment, of its origin and commencement to 
the same period. Nor can any reason be assigned one-half so 
natural and probable as this, for the sacredness attached from 
the earliest times to the number seven, and for the division of 
time into weeks of seven days, which meets us in the history of 
Noah and the later patriarchal times, and of which also very 


early traces occur in profane history. 1 Then, finally, the manner 
in which it first presents itself on the field of Israelitish history, 
as an existing ordinance which God Himself respected, in the 
giving of the manna, before the law had been promulgated 
(Ex. xvi.), is a clear proof of its prior institution. True, indeed, 
the Israelites themselves seem then to have been in a great 
measure ignorant of such an institution ; not perhaps altogether 
ignorant, as is too commonly taken for granted, but ignorant of 
its proper observance, so far as to wonder that God should have 
bestowed a double provision on the sixth day, to relieve them 
from any labour in gathering and preparing it on the seventh. 
Habituated as they had become to the manners, and bowed 
down by the oppression, of Egypt, it had been strange indeed 
if any other result should have occurred. Hence it is mentioned 
by Moses and by Nehemiah, as a distinguishing token of the 
Lord s goodness to them, that in consequence of bringing them 
out of Egypt, He made them to know or gave them His Sab 
baths. (Ex. xvi. 29; Deut. v. 15; Neh. ix. 14.) 

2. But the institution of the Sabbath was declared to be a 
sign between God and the Israelites, that they might know that 

1 Gen. viii. 10, 12, xxix. 27. A large portion of the Jewish writers 
hold that the Sabbath was instituted at the creation, and was observed by 
the patriarchs, although some thought differently. References to various 
of their more eminent writers are given in Meyer, De Temporibus Sacris et 
Festis Diebus Hebrseorum, P. ii., c. 9. Selden (Ue Jure Nat. et Gent., L. 
iii. 12) has endeavoured to prove that the elder Jewish writers all held the 
first institution of the Sabbath to have been in the wilderness, though by 
special revelation made known previously to Abraham, and that the notice 
taken of the subject at the creation is by prolepsis. This, however, does 
not appear to have been the general opinion among them certainly not that 
of some of their leading writers ; and, as Meyer remarks, it by no means 
follows from their having sometimes held the proleptical reference in Genesis 
to the institution of the Sabbath in the wilderness, that they therefore 
denied its prior institution in paradise. See also Owen s Preliminary 
Dissertations to his Com. on Heb. Ex. 36 ; where, further, the notices are 
gathered which are to be found in ancient heathen sources regarding the 
primitive division of time into sevens, and the sacrednese of the seventh 
day. As to the ancient nations of the world not observing it, or not being 
specially charged with neglecting it, the same may be said in reference to 
the third commandment, the fifth, many of the sins of the seventh, eighth, 
and ninth. Besides, when they forsook God Himself, of how little import 
ance was it how they spent His Sabbaths? 


He was the Lord who sanctified them. (Ex. xxxi. 13.) And 
if a sign or token of God s covenant with Israel, then it must 
have been a new and positive institution, and one which they 
alone were bound to observe, since it must separate between 
them and others. So Warburton, 1 and many besides. We say 
nothing against its having been, as to its formal institution, of 
a positive nature ; for there, we think, many defenders of the 
Sabbath have lost themselves. 2 But its being constituted a sign 
between God and Israel, neither inferred its entire novelty, nor 
its special and exclusive obligation upon them. Warburton 
himself has contended, that the bow in the cloud was not 
rendered less fit for being a sign of the covenant with Noah, 
that it had existed in the antediluvian period. And still less 
might the Sabbath s being a primeval institution have rendered 
it unfit to stand as a sign of the Israelitish covenant, as this had 
respect not so much to its appointment on the part of God, as 
to its observance on the part of the people. He wished them 
simply to regard it as one of the chosen means by which He 
intended them to become, not only a comfortable and blessed, 
but also an holy nation. Nor could its being destined for such 
an use among them, in the least interfere with its obligation or 
its observance among others. Circumcision was thus also made 
the sign of the Abrahamic covenant, although it had been 
observed from time immemorial by various surrounding tribes 
and nations, from whom still the members of the covenant were 
to keep themselves separate. For it was not the merely external 
rite or custom which God regarded, but its spiritual meaning 
and design. When connected with His covenant, or embodied 
in His law, it was stamped as a religious institution ; it acquired 
a strictly religious use ; and only in so far as it was observed 
with a reference to this, could it fitly serve as a sign of God s 

1 Divine Leg., B. iv., Note R. R. R. R. 

2 It has been called a moral-positive command, partly moral and partly 
positive ; in itself a positive enactment, but with moral grounds to recom 
mend or enforce it. See, for example, Ridgeley s Body of Divinity, ii., p. 
267, who expresses the view of almost ah 1 evangelical divines of the same 
period in this country. The distinction, however, is not happy, as the same 
substantially may be said of all the ceremonial institutions. Moral reasons 
were connected with them all, and yet they are abolished. 


Indeed, a conclusion exactly the reverse of the one just re 
ferred to, should rather be drawn from the circumstance of the 
Sabbath having been taken for a sign that God sanctified Israel. 
There can be no question that holiness in heart and conduct 
was the grand sign of their being His chosen people. In so far 
as they fulfilled the exhortation, " Be ye holy, for I am holy," 
they possessed the mark of His children. And the proper 
observance of the Sabbatical rest being so specially designated 
a sign in this respect, was a proof of its singular importance to 
the interests of religion and morality. These, it was virtually 
said, would thrive and flourish if the Sabbath was duly observed, 
but would languish and die if it fell into desuetude. Hence, at 
the close of a long expostulation with the people regarding their 
sins, and such especially as indicated only a hypocritical love to 
God, and a palpable hatred or indifference to their fellow-men, 
the prophet Isaiah presses the due observance of the Sabbath as 
in itself a sufficient remedy for the evil : " If thou turn away 
thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy 
day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, 
honourable ; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, 
nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words : 
then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord ; and I will cause thee 
to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with 
the heritage of Jacob thy father : for the mouth of the Lord 
hath spoken it." (Isa. Iviii. 13, 14.) 

This passage may fitly be regarded as an explanation of the 
sense in which the Lord meant them to regard the Sabbath as 
a sign between them and Him. And it is clear, on a moment s 
reflection, that the prophet could never have attached the im 
portance he did to the Sabbath, nor so peculiarly connected it 
with the blessing of the covenant, if the mere outward rest had 
been all that the institution contemplated. This is what the 
objectors we now argue with seem uniformly to take for granted ; 
as if the people were really sanctified when they simply rested 
every Sabbath-day from their labours. The command had a far 
deeper import, and much more was involved in such a com 
pliance with it, as should prove a sign between them and God. 
It was designed at once to carry tin- heart up in holy affection 
to its Creator, and outwards in acts of good-will and kindness to 


men on earth. Hence its proper observance is so often put, 
botli in the law and the prophets, for the sum of religion. This 
is frankly admitted by some who urge the objection (for ex 
ample, Barrow), while they still hold it to have been a ceremonial 
institution. But we would ask, if any other ceremonial institu 
tion can be pointed to as having been thus honoured ? Are they 
not often rather comparatively dishonoured, by being placed in a 
relation of inferiority to the weightier matters of the law ? And 
we might also ask, if precisely the same practical value is not 
attached to the strict religious observance of the Lord s day now, 
by all writers of piety, and even by those who, with strange 
perversion or inconsistency, labour to establish the freedom of 
Christians from the obligation of the Sabbath ? It is one of 
the burdens, says Barrow, which the law of liberty has taken off 
from us ; and yet he has no sooner said it, than he tells us, in 
regard to the very highest and most spiritual duties of this law, 
that we are much more obliged to discharge them than the Jews 
could be. 1 Paley, too, presently after he has endeavoured to 
relax the binding obligation of the Sabbath, proceeds to show 
the necessity of dedicating the Sunday to religious exercises, to 
the exclusion of all ordinary works and recreations ; and still 
more expressly in his first sermon, written at a more advanced 
stage of life, when he knew more personally of the power of 
religion, he speaks of " keeping holy the Lord s day regularly 
and most particularly," as an essential mark of a Christian. 2 
The leading Reformers were unanimous on this point, holding it 
to be the duty of all sound Christians to use the Lord s day as 
one of holy rest to Him, and that by withdrawing themselves 
not only from sin and vanity, but also from those worldly em 
ployments and recreations which belong only to a present life, 
and by yielding themselves wholly to the public exercises of 
God s worship, and to the private duties of devotion, excepting 
only in cases of necessity or mercy. The learned liivet, also, 
who unhappily argued (in his work on the decalogue) against 
the obligation of keeping the Sabbath as imposed in the fourth 
commandment, yet deplored the prevailing disregard of the 

1 Works, v., p. 565, 568. 

2 Moral and Polit. Philosophy, B. v., c. 7 and 8, conip. with 1st of the 
Sermons on several subjects. 


Lord s day as one of the crying evils of the times ; and Vitringa 
raised the same lamentation in his day (on Isa. Iviii. 13). 

What, then, should induce such men to contend against the 
strict and literal obligation of the fourth command 1 They 
must be influenced by one of two reasons : either they dislike 
the spirit of holiness that breathes in it, or, relishing this, they 
somehow mistake the real nature of the obligation there imposed. 
There can be no doubt that the former is the cause which 
prompts those who are mere formalists in religion to decry this 
obligation ; and as little doubt, we think, in regard to the lie- 
formers and pious divines of later times, that the latter considera 
tion was what influenced them. This we shall find occasion to 
explain under the next form of objection. 

3. It is objected that the Sabbath, as imposed on the Jews, 
had a rigour and severity in it quite incompatible with the genius 
of the Gospel : the person who violated its sacredness, by doing 
ordinary work on that day, was to be punished with death ; and 
so far was the cessation from work carried, that even the kind 
ling of a fire or going out of one s place was interdicted. (Ex. 
xvi. 29, xxxv. 3.) It looks as if men were determined to get rid 
of the Sabbath by any means, when the capital punishment in 
flicted on the violators of it in the Jewish state is held up as a 
proof of its transitory and merely national character. For there 
is nothing of this in the fourth commandment itself ; and it was 
afterwards added to this, in common with many other statutes, 
as a check on the presumptuous violation of what God wished 
them to regard as the fundamental laws of the kingdom. A 
similar violation of the first, the second, the third, the fifth, the 
sixth, the seventh commandments, had the same punishment 
annexed to it ; but who would thence argue, that the obligation 
to practise the duties they required, was binding only during the 
Old Testament dispensation ? 

The other part of the objection demands a longer answer ; 
in which we must first distinctly mark what is the exact point 
to be determined. The real question is, Did the fourth com 
mandment oblige the Jews to anything which the people of I Jod 
are under no obligation now to perform ? Did it simply enjoin 
a rigid cessation from all ordinary labour, every seventh day, and 
did such cessation constitute the kind of sanctification it re- 


quired? Such unquestionably was the opinion entertained by 
Calvin and most of the Reformers ; who consequently held the 
Sabbath exacted of the Israelites under this precept to be chiefly 
of a ceremonial nature, foreshadowing through its outward 
repose the state of peaceful and blessed rest which believers 
were to enjoy in Christ, and like other shadows, vanishing when 
He appeared. There is certainly a measure of truth in this 
idea, as we shall have occasion to notice under the next objec 
tion, but not in the sense understood by such persons. Their 
opinion of what the Jewish Sabbath should have been, almost 
entirely coincided with what it actually was, after a cold and 
dead formalism had taken the place of a living piety. But so 
far from being justified by the law itself, it is the very notion 
which our Lord sought repeatedly to expose, bv showing the 
practical impossibility of carrying it out under the former dis 
pensation itself. Parents performed on the Sabbath the ope 
ration of circumcising their children ; priests did the work 
connected with the temple service ; persons of all sorts went 
through the labours necessary to preserve or sustain life in 
themselves or their cattle; and yet they were blameless the 
command stood unimpaired, notwithstanding the performance 
of such works on the seventh day, for they were not inconsistent 
with its real design. In regard to all such cases, Christ an 
nounced the maxim, " The Sabbath was made for man, not 
man for the Sabbath," meaning, of course, the Sabbath in its 
original purport and existing obligation not under any change 
or modification now to be introduced ; for had there been any 
intention of that sort, it would manifestly have been out of place 
then to speak of it but the Sabbath as imposed in the fourth 
commandment upon the Israelites : this Sabbath was made for 
man, as a means to promote his real interests and well-being, 
and not as a remorseless idol, to which these were to be sacri 
ficed. " To work in the way of doing good to a fellow-creature 
(such was the import of Christ s declaration), or entering into 
the employments of God s worship, is not now, nor ever was, any 
interference with the proper duties of the Sabbath, but rather 
a fulfilment of them. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also 
of the Sabbath, He who is Lord of man must needs also be 
Lord of that which was made for man s good but its Lord, not 


to turn it to any other purpose than that for which it was origi 
nally given no, merely to use it Myself, and teach you how to 
use it for the same. You do therefore grievously err in sup 
posing it possible for Me to do anything inconsistent with the 
design of this institution ; for though, as the Father worketh 
hitherto, I also must work on this day (John v. 17), so far as 
the ends of the Divine government may require, yet nothing is 
or can be done by Me, which is not in the strictest sense a 
Divine work, and as such suitable to the day of God." 1 

It is to wrest our Lord s words quite beside the purpose for 
which they were spoken, to represent Him in those declarations 
He made respecting the Sabbath, as intending to relax the exist 
ing law, and bring in some new modification of it. His discourse 
was clearly aimed at convincing the Jews that this law did not, 
as they erroneously conceived, absolutely prohibit all work, but 
work only in so far as the higher ends of God s glory and man s 
best interests might render needful. Precisely as in the second 
commandment, the prohibition regarding the making of any 
graven image or similitude was not intended simply to denounce 
all pictures and statues both, in fact, had a place in the temple 
itself but to interdict their employment in the worship of 
God, so that His worshippers might be free to serve Him in 
spirit and in truth. And as men might have abstained from 
using these, while still far from yielding the spiritual wor 
ship which the second command really required, so they might 
equally have ceased from ordinary labour on the seventh day, 

1 No texts have been more perverted from their obvious meaning, by 
the opponents of the Sabbath, than those referred to in Mark ii. 27, 28, 
about the Son of Man being Ix>rd of the Sabbath, and the Sabbath being 
made for man, as if the Lord had been there bringing in something new, 
instead of explaining what was old. The latter is also held "as manifestly 
implying that the observance of the Sabbath was not a duty of an essential 
and unchangeable nature, such as those for which man is especially consti 
tuted and ordained." (Bib. Cyclop., Art. Sabbath.) But the same may be 
siid of marriage it was made for man, and not man for it; and seeing, if 
there be no marriage, there can be no adultery, is therefore the seventh 
command only of temporary obligation ? Or, since where there is no pro 
perty there can be no theft, and man was not made for property, is the eighth 
command also out of date? The main point is, Were they not all alike 
coeval with man s introduction into his present state, and needful to abide 
with him till its close? 


and yet been far from sanctifying it according to the fourth 

This was distinctly enough perceived by some of the more 
thinking portion of the Jews themselves. Hence, not only does 
Philo speak of " the custom of philosophizing," as he calls it, on 
the seventh day, but we find Abenezra expressly stating, that 
" the Sabbath was given to man, that he might consider the 
works of God, and meditate in His law." To the same effect 
Abarbanel : " The seventh day has been sequestered for learn 
ing the Divine law, and for remembering well the explanations 
and inquiries regarding it. As is taught in Gemara Hierosol. : 
( Sabbaths and holidays were only appointed for meditating on 
the law of God ; and therefore it is said, in Medrash Schamoth 
Kabba, that the Sabbath is to be prized as the whole law. " 
Another of their leading authorities, 11. Menasse Ben Isr., even 
characterizes it as " a notable error to imagine the Sabbath to 
have been instituted for idleness ; for as idleness is the mother 
of all vice, it would then have been the occasion of more evil 
than good." 1 

These comments, wonderfully good to come from such a 
quarter, are in perfect accordance with the import of the fourth 
commandment ; that is, if this commandment is to be subjected 
to the same mode of interpretation which is made to rule the 
meaning of the rest if it is to be regarded simply as prohibit 
ing one kind of works, that those of an opposite kind may be 
performed. Yet, in strange oversight of this, perhaps also un 
wittingly influenced by the mistaken views and absurd practices 
of the Jews, such men even as Calvin and Vitringa held, that 
in the Jewish law of the Sabbath there was only inculcated a 
cessation from bodily labour, and that the observance of this 
cessation formed the substance of Sabbatical duty. 2 Their hold 
ing this, however, did not, we must remember, lead them to 
deny the fact of God s having set apart, and men s being in all 
ages bound to observe, one day in every seven to be specially 
devoted to the worship and service of God. This with one 

1 See Meyer de Temp. Sacris et Festis diebus Hub., p. 197-199, where 
the authorities are given at length. 

2 Calvin, Inst., ii., c. 8. Vitringa Synagog. vet., ii., c. 2, and Com. in 
Isa., c. Ivi. 


voice tlicy held : but they conceived the primeval and lasting 
institution of the Sabbath to have been so far accommodated to 
the ceremonial character of the Jewish religion, as to demand 
almost nothing from the Jews but a day of bodily rest. And 
this rest thcv farther conceived to have been required, not as 
valuable in itself, but as the legal shadow of better tilings to 
come in Christ: so that they might at once affirm the Jewish 
Sabbath to be abolished, and yet hold the obligation binding 
upon Christians to keep, by another mode of observance, one 
day in seven sacred to the Lord. This is simply what they did. 
And therefore Gualter, in his summary of the views of the 
divines of the Reformation upon this subject, has brought dis 
tinctly out these two features in their opinions what they 
parted with, and what they retained : " The Sabbath properly 
signifies rest and leisure from servile work, and at the same time 
is used to denote the seventh day, which God at the beginning 
of the world consecrated to holy rest, and afterwards in the 
law confirmed by a special precept. And although the primi 
tive Church abrogated the Sabbath, in so far as it was a legal 
shadow, lest it should savour of Judaism ; yet it did not abolish 
that sacred rest and repose, but transferred the keeping of it to 
the following day, which was called the Lord s day, because on 
it Christ rose from the dead. The use of this day, therefore, 
is the same with what the Sabbath formerly was among the 
true worshippers of God." Only, the particular way, or kind 
of service, in which it is now to be turned to this sacred use, is 
different from what it was in Judaism ; and he goes on to de 
scribe how the Reformers thought the day should be spent, 
viz., in a total withdrawing from worldly cares and pleasures, 
as far as practicable, and employing the time in the public and 
private exercises of worship. 1 

1 I liavo entered so fully into the views of the Reformers, because their 
sentiments on this subject are almost universally misunderstood, even by 
theologians, and thc-ir names have often been and still are abused, to support 
views which they would themselves have most strongly reprobated. The 
ground of tin: whole error lay in their not rightly understanding what, in 
deed, is only now coming to be properly understood the symbolical cha 
racter of the Jewish worship. Tli< y virwrd it too exclusively in a typical 
aspect, in its reference to Gospel things, and saw but very dimly and im 
perfectly its design and fitness to give a present expression to the faith and 


It presents no real contrariety to the interpretation we have 
given of the fourth commandment, as affecting the Jews, that 
Moses on one occasion enjoined the people not to go out of their 
place or tents on the Sabbath-day. For that manifestly had 
respect to the gathering of manna, and was simply a prohibition 
against their going out, as on other days, to obtain food. 
Neither is the order against kindling a fire on the Sabbath any 
argument for an opposite view ; for it was not less evidently a 
temporary appointment, suitable to their condition in a wilder 
ness of burning sand necessary there, perhaps, to ensure even a 

holiness of the worshipper. Hence, positive institutions were considered as 
altogether the same with ceremonial, and the services connected with them 
as all of necessity bodily, typical, shadowy therefore done away in Christ. 
In this way superficial readers, who glance only at occasional passages in 
their writings, and do not take these in connection with the whole state of 
theological opinion then prevalent regarding the Old and New dispensations, 
find no difficulty in exhibiting the Reformers as against all Sabbatical obser 
vances ; while, if it suited their purpose to look a little farther, another set 
of passages might be found which seem to establish the very reverse. Arch 
bishop Whately says (Second Series of Essays, p. 206) that the English 
Reformers were almost unanimous in disconnecting the obligation regarding 
the keeping of the Lord s day among Christians from the fourth command 
ment, and resting it simply on the practice of the apostles and the early 
Church thus making the Christian Lord s day an essentially different insti 
tution from the Jewish Sabbath. We don t need to investigate the subject 
separately as it affects them ; for their opinions, as the Archbishop indeed 
asserts, agreed with those of the Continental Reformers. But we affirm 
that the Reformers, as a body, did hold the Divine authority and binding 
obligation of the fourth command, as requiring one day in seven to be em 
ployed in the worship and service of God, admitting only of works of neces 
sity and of mercy to the-poor and afflicted. The release from legal bondage, 
of which they speak, included simply the obligation to keep precisely the 
seventh day of the week, and the external rest, which they conceived to be 
so rigorously binding on the Jews, that even the doing of charitable works 
was a breach of it the very mistake of the Pharisees. In its results, how 
ever, the doctrinal error regarding the fourth commandment has been very 
disastrous even in England, but still more so on the Continent. However 
strict the Reformers were personally, as to the practical observance of the 
lord s day so strict, especially in Geneva, that they were charged by some 
with Judaizing the separation they made here between the law and the 
Gospel soon wrought most injuriously upon the life of religion ; and the 
saying of Owen was lamentably verified : " Take this day off from the basis 
whereon God hath fixed it, and all human substitutions of anything in the 
like kind will quickly discover their own vanity." See Appendix A. 


decent conformity to the rest of the Sabbath, but palpably un 
suitable to the general condition of the people, when settled in 
a land which is subject to great vicissitudes, and much diversity 
as to heat and cold. It was, in fact, plainly impracticable as a 
national regulation ; and was not considered by the people 
at large binding on them in their settled state, as may be in 
ferred from Josephus noticing it as a peculiarity of the Essenes, 
that they would not kindle a fire on the Sabbath. (Wars, ii., 
c. 8, 9.) Indeed, it is no part of the fourth commandment, 
fairly interpreted, to prohibit ordinary labour, excepting in so 
far as it tends to interfere with the proper sanctih cation of the 
time to God ; and this in most cases would rather be promoted 
than hindered by the kindling of a fire for purposes of comfort 
and refreshment. So we judge, for example, in regard to the 
sixth commandment, which, being intended to guard and pro 
tect the sacredness of man s life, does not absolutely prevent all 
manner of killing, nay, may sometimes rather be said to require 
this, that life may be preserved. In like manner, it was not 
work in the abstract that was forbidden in the fourth command 
ment, but work only in so far as it interfered with the sanctified 
use of the day, as was already indicated in the Sabbath of the 
Passover, which, while prohibiting ordinary work from being 
done, expressly excepted what was necessary for the preparation 
of food. (Ex. vii. 16.) And the endless restrictions and limita 
tions of the Jews, in our Lord s time and since, about the Sab 
bath-day s journey, and the particular acts that were or were 
not lawful on that day, are only to be regarded as the wretched 
puerilities of men in whose hands the spirit of the precept had 
already evaporated, and for whom nothing more remained than 
to dispute about the bounds and lineaments of its dead body. 

4. But then there is an express abolition of Sabbath-days in 
the Gospel, as the mere shadows of higher realities ; and the 
Apostle expressly discharges believers from judging one another 
regarding their observance, and even mourns over the Galatians, 
as bringing their Christian condition into doubt by observing 
days and months and years. We shall not waste time by con 
sidering the unsatisfactory attempts which have frequently been 
made to account for such statements, by many who hold the 
still abiding obligation of the fourth commandment. But sup- 


posing this commandment simply to require, as we have en 
deavoured to show it does, the withdrawal of men s miuds from 
worldly cares and occupations, that they might be free to give 
themselves to the spiritual service of God, is it conceivable, 
from all we know of the Apostle s feelings, that he would have 
warned the disciples against such a practice as a dangerous 
snare to their souls, or raised a note of lamentation over those 
who had adopted it, as if all were nearly gone with them ? Is 
there a single unbiassed reader of his epistles, who would not 
rather have expected him to rejoice in the thought of such 
a practical ascendancy being won for spiritual and eternal 
things over the temporal and earthly ? It is the less possible 
for any one to doubt this, when it is so manifest from his his 
tory, that he did make a distinction of days in this sense, by 
everywhere establishing the practice of religious meetings on 
the first day of the week, and exhorting the disciples to observe 
them aright. When he, therefore, writes against the observing 
of days, it must plainly be something of a different kind he has 
in view. And what could that be but the lazy, corporeal, outward 
observance of them, which the Jews had now come to regard as 
composing much of the very substance of religion, and by which 
they largely fed their self-righteous pride ? Sabbath-days in this 
sense it is certainly no part of the Gospel to enforce ; but neither 
was it any part of the law to do so : Moses, had he been alive, 
would have denounced them, as well as the ambassador of Christ. 
But this, it may perhaps be thought, scarcely reaches the 
point at issue ; for the Apostle discharges Christians from the 
observance of Sabbath-days, not in a false and improper sense, 
but in that very sense in which they were shadows of good 
things to come, placing them on a footing in this respect with 
distinctions of meat and drink. It is needless to say here, that 
certain feast-days of the Jews, being withdrawn from a common 
to a sacred use, were called Sabbaths, and that the Apostle 
alludes exclusively to these. 1 There can be no doubt, indeed, 

1 This is Haldane s explanation in his Appendix to his Com. on Romans, 
as it had also been Ridgeley s and others in former times. But if that 
explanation were right if the Apostle really intended to except what the 
world at large pre-eminently understood by Sabbath-days it would be 
impossible to acquit him of using language almost sure to be misunderstood. 

Till; WF.KKI.Y SABBATH. 1 !." 

that they were so called, and arc also included here; but not to 
the exclusion of the seventh-day Sabbath, which, from the very 
nature of the ca^-c, was the one most likely to be thought of by 
the Colossians. Unless it had been expressly excepted, we 
must in fairness suppose it to have been at least equally in 
tended with the others. But the truth is simply this : what the 
observance of the seventh-day Sabbath was not necessarily, or 
in itself, it came to acquire in the general apprehension, from 
the connection it had so long held with the symbolical services 
of .Judaism. In its original institution there was nothing in it 
properly shadowy or typical of redemption ; for it commenced 
before sin had entered, and while yet there was no need for a 
Redeemer. Nor was there anything properly typical in the 
observance of it imposed in the fourth commandment ; for this 
was a substantial re-enforcement of the primary institution, 
only with a reference in the letter of the precept to the circum 
stances of Israel, as the destined possessors of Canaan. But, 
becoming then associated with a symbolical religion, in which 
spiritual and divine things were constantly represented and 
taught by means of outward and bodily transactions, the bodily 
rest enjoined in it came to partake of the common typical 
character of all their symbolical services. The same thing 
happened here as with circumcision, which was the sign and 
seal of the Abrahamic covenant of grace, and had no immediate 
connection with the law of Moses ; while yet it became so iden 
tified with this law, that it required to be supplanted by another 
ordinance of nearly similar import, when the seed of blessing 
arrived, which the Abrahamic covenant chiefly respected. So 
great was the necessity for the abolition of the one ordinance 
and the introduction of the other, that the Apostle virtual! v 
declares it to have been indispensable, when he affirms those 
who would still be circumcised to be debtors to do the whole 
la\\. At the same time, the original design and spiritual import 
of circumcision he testifies to have been one and the same with 
baptism speaks of baptized believers, indeed, as the circum 
cision of Christ (Col. ii. 11) and consequently, apart from the 
peculiar circumstances arising out of the general character of 
the Jewish religion, the one ordinance might have served the 
purpose contemplated as well as the other. 



So with the Sabbath. Having been engrafted into a religion 
so peculiarly symbolical as the Mosaic, it was unavoidable that 
the bodily rest enjoined in it should acquire, like all the other 
outward things belonging to the religion, a symbolical and 
typical value. For that rest, though by no means the whole 
duty required, was yet the substratum and groundwork of the 
whole; the heart, when properly imbued with the religious 
spirit, feeling in this very rest a call to go forth and employ 
itself on God. To aid it in doing so, suitable exercises of 
various kinds would doubtless be commonly resorted to; 1 but 
not as a matter of distinct obligation, rather as a supplementary 
help to that quiet rest in God, and imitation of His doings, to 
which the day itself invited. This end is the same also which 
the Gospel has in view, but which it seeks to accomplish by 
means of more active services and direct instruction. The end 
under both dispensations was substantially the same, with a cha 
racteristic difference as to the manner of attaining it, corre 
sponding to the genius of the respective dispensations the one 
making more of the outward, the other addressing itself directly 
to the inward man ; the one also having more of a natural, the 
other more of a spiritual, redemptive basis. Hence the mere 
outward bodily rest of the Sabbath came, by a kind of un 
avoidable necessity, to acquire of itself a sacred character, 
although ultimately carried to an improper and unjustifiable 
excess by the carnality of the Jewish mind. And hence, too, 
Avhen another state of things was introduced, it became neces 
sary to assign to such Sabbaths the Jewish seventh day of rest 
a place among the things that were done away, and so far to 
change the ordinance itself as to transfer it to a different day, 
and even call it by a new name. But as baptism in the Spirit 
is Christ s circumcision, so the Lord s day is His Sabbath ; and 
to be in the Spirit on that day, worshipping and serving Him in 
the truth of His Gospel, is to take up the yoke of the fourth 

5. This touches on, and partly answers, another objection 

1 2 Kings iv. 23, where the Shunammite woman s husband expressed his 
wonder that she should go to the prophet when it was neither new moon 
nor Sabbath, implie-s that it was customary to meet for social exercises on 
these days. 


tlie only one of any moment that still remains to be adverted to 
that derived from the change of day, from the last to the first 
day of the week. This was necessary, not merely, as Horsely 
states, 1 to distinguish Christian from Jew, but also to distinguish 
Sabbath from Sabbath a Sabbath growing up amid symbolical 
institutions, which insensibly imparted to it a spirit of outward 
ritualism, and a Sabbath not less marked, indeed, by a with 
drawal from the cares and occupations of worldly business, but 
much more distinguished by spiritual employment and active 
energy, both in doing and receiving good. Such a change in its 
character was clearly indicated by our Lord in those miracles of 
healing which He purposely performed on the Sabbath, that 
His followers might now see their calling, to use the oppor 
tunities presented to them on the day of bodily rest, to minister 
to the temporal or the spiritual necessities of those around them. 
And in fitting correspondence with this, the day chosen for the 
Christian Sabbath was the first day of the week the day on 
which Christ rose from the dead, that He might enter into the 
rest of God, after having finished the glorious work of redemp 
tion. But that rest, how to be employed ? Not in vacant re 
pose, but in an incessant, holy activity, in directing the affairs of 
His mediatorial kingdom, and diffusing the inestimable blessings 
He had purchased for men. A new era then dawned upon the 
world, which was to give an impulse hitherto unknown to all the 
springs of benevolent and holy working ; and it was meet that 
this should communicate its impress to the day through which 
the Gospel was specially to develop its peculiar genius and 
proper tendency. But pre-eminent as this Gospel stands above 
all earlier revelations of God, for the ascendancy it gives to the 
unseen and eternal over the seen and temporal, it would surely 
be a palpable contrariety to the whole spirit it breathes, and the 
ends it has in view, if now, on the Lord s day, the things of the 
world were to have more, and the things of God less, of men s 
regard than formerly on the Jewish Sabbath. Least of all could 
any change have been intended in this direction ; and the only 
variation in the manner of its observance, which the Gospel itself 

1 Works, vol. i., p. 35G. The greater part of his three Sermons is excel- 
Iriit, though he docs not altogether avoid, we think, s-niie of the 
heiiMons re-ferret! to above. 


warrants us to think of, is the greater amount of spiritual 
activity to be put forth on it, flowing out in suitable exercises 
of love to God, and acts of kindness and blessing towards our 

What though the Gospel does not expressly enact this 
change of day, and in so many words enjoin the disciples to 
hallow the ordinance after the manner now described? It 
affords ample materials to all for discovering the mind of God 
in this respect, who are really anxious to learn it ; and what 
more is done in regard to the ordinances of worship generally, 
or to anything in God s service connected with external arrange 
ments ? It is the characteristic of the Gospel to unfold great 
truths and principles, and only briefly to indicate the proper 
manner of their development and exercise in the world. But 
can any one in reality have imbibed these, without cordially 
embracing, and to the utmost of his power improving, the ad 
vantages of such a wise and beneficent institution ? Or does 
the Christian world now not need its help, as much as the 
Jewish did of old ? Even Tholuck, though he still does not see 
how to give the Christian Sabbath the right hold upon the con 
science, yet deplores the prevailing neglect of it as destructive to 
the life of piety, and proclaims the necessity of a stricter obser 
vance. " Spirit, spirit ! we cry out : but should the prophets of 
God come again, as they came of old, and should they look upon 
our works Flesh, flesh ! they would cry out in reponse. Of a 
truth, the most spiritual among us cannot dispense with a rule, 
a prescribed form, in his morality and piety, without allowing 
the flesh to resume its predominance. The sway of the Spirit of 
God in your minds is weak; carry, then, holy ordinances into 
your life." 1 

It is not unimportant to state farther, in regard to the change 
of day from the last to the first day of the week, that while 

1 Sermons, Bib. Cab., vol. xxviii., p. L i. The absolute necessity of a 
strict observance of the Lord s day to the life of religion, is well noted in a 
comparison between Scotland and (Jlerniaiiy, by a shrewd and intelligent 
observer Mr Laing, in his Notes on the Pilgrimage to Treves, ch. x. He 
does not profess to state the theological view of the subject, and even admits 
there may be some truth in what is sometimes pleaded for a looser ob.>er- 
vance of the day, especially in regard to those situated in large towns : but 
still holds the necessity of a well -spent Sabbath to produce and maintain a 


strong reasons existed for it in the mighty change that liad been 
introduced by the perfected redemption of Christ, no special 
stress appears, even in the Old Testament Scripture, to have 
been laid on the precise day. Manifestly the succession of six 
days of worldly occupation, and one of sacred rest, is the point 
chiefly contemplated there. So little depended upon the exact 
day, that on the occasion of renewing the Sabbatical institution 
in the wilderness, the Lord seems to have made the weekly series 
run from the first giving of the manna. His example, therefore, 
in the work of creation, was intended merely to fix the relative 
proportion between the days of ordinary labour and those of 
sacred rest and with that view is appealed to in the law. Nay, 
even there the correspondence is closer than is generally con 
sidered between the Old and the New ; for while the original 
Sabbath was the seventh day in regard to God s work of creation, 
it was man s first. He began his course of weekly service upon 
earth by holding Sabbath with his Creator; much as the Church 
was called to begin her service to Christ on His finishing the 
work of the new creation. Nor, since redemption is to man a 
still more important work than creation, can it seem otherwise 
than befitting to a sanctified mind, that some slight alteration 
should have taken place in the relative position of the days, as 
might serve for a perpetual memorial that this work also was 
now finished. By the resurrection of Christ, as the Apostle 
shows, in 1 Cor. xv. 20, sq., a far higher dignity has been won 
for humanity than was given to it by the creation of Adam ; 
and one hence feels, as Sartorius has remarked (Cultus, p. 154), 
that it would be alike unnatural and untrue, if the Church now 
should keep the creation-Sabbath of the Old, and not the resur 
rection-Sabbath of the New if she should honour, as her holy- 
day, that day on which Christ was buried, and not rather the one 
on which He rose again from the dead. It was on the eve of 

due sense of religion, and attributes the low state of religion in Germany 
very much to their neglect of the Sabbath. He justly says, the strict ob 
servance of Sunday " is the application of principle to practice by a whole 
people ; it is the working of their religious sense and knowledge upon thrir 
Imbit.s ; it is the sacrifice of pleasures, in themselves innocent and these 
are the most difficult to be sacrificed to a higher principle than sc-lf-in- 
dulgence. Such a population stands on a much higher moral and intellectual 
stop than the population of the Continent," etc. 


the resurrection-day that lie appeared to the company of the 
disciples, announced to them the completion of His work, gave 
them His peace, and authorized and commissioned them to 
preach salvation and dispense forgiveness to all nations in His 
name. (Luke xxiv.) So that, if Adam s Sabbath was great by 
the Divine blessing and sanctification, Christ s Sabbath was still 
greater through the Divine blessing of peace, grace, and salva 
tion, which He sheds forth upon a lost world, in order to re 
establish the Divine image in men s souls, in a higher even than 
its original form, and bring in a better paradise than that which 
has been lost. 

In conclusion, we deem the law of the Sabbath, as inter 
preted in this section, to have been fully entitled to a place in 
the standing revelation of God s will concerning man s duty, 
and to have formed no exception to the perfection and complete 
ness of the law : 

(1.) Because, first, there is in such an institution, when 
properly observed, a sublime act of holiness. The whole 
rational creation standing still, as it were, on every seventh day 
as it returns, and looking up to its God what could more 
strikingly proclaim in all men s ears, that they have a common 
Lord and Master in heaven ! It reminds the rich that what 
they have is not properly their own that they hold all of a 
Superior a Superior who demands that on this day the mean 
est slave shall be as his master nay, that the very beast of the 
field shall be released from its yoke of service, and stand free to 
its Creator. No wonder that proud man, who loves to do what 
he will with his own, and that the busy world, w r hich is bent on 
prosecuting with restless activity the concerns of time, would 
fain break asunder the bands of this holy institution ; for it 
speaks aloud of the overruling dominion and rightful supremacy 
of God, which they would willingly cast behind their backs. 
But the heart that is really imbued with the principles of the 
Gospel, how can it fail to call such a day the holy of the Lord, 
and honourable I Loving God, it cannot but love what gives 
it the opportunity of holding undisturbed communion with Him. 

(2.) Secondly, because it is an institution of mercy. In 
perfect harmony with the Gospel, it breathes good-will and 
kindness to men. It brings, as Coleridge well expressed it, 


fifty-two spring-days every year to this toilsome world ; and 
may justly be regarded as a sweet remnant of paradise, miti 
gating the now inevitable burdens of life, and connecting the 
region of bliss that has been lost with the still brighter glory 
that is to come. As in the former aspect there is love to God, 
so here there is love to man. 

(3.) Lastly, we uphold its title to a place in the permanent 
revelation of God s will to man, because of its eminent use and 
absolute necessity to promote men s higher interests. Religion 
cannot properly exist without it, and is always found to thrive 
as the spiritual duties of the day of God are attended to and 
discharged. It is, when duly improved, the parent and the 
guardian of every virtue. In this practical aspect of it, all men 
of serious piety substantially concur ; and as a specimen of 
thousands which might be produced, we conclude with simply 
giving the impressive testimony of Owen : " For my part, I 
must not only say, but plead, whilst I live in this world, and 
leave this testimony to the present and future ages, that if ever 
I have seen anything of the ways and worship of God, wherein 
the power of religion or godliness hath been expressed any 
thing that hath represented the holiness of the Gospel and the 
Author of it anything that looked like a prelude to the ever 
lasting Sabbath and rest with God, which we aim, through 
grace, to come unto, it hath been there, and with them, where, 
and among whom, the Lord s day hath been held in highest 
esteem, and a strict observation of it attended to, as an ordi 
nance of our Lord Jesus Christ. The remembrance of their 
ministry, their walk and conversation, their faith and love, who 
in this nation have most zealously pleaded for, and have been 
in their persons, families, parishes or churches, the most strict 
observers of this day, will be precious to them that fear the 
Lord, whilst the sun and moon endure. Let these things be 
despised by those who are otherwise minded ; to me they are of 
great weight and importance." (On Heb., vol. i., 726, Tegg s 



HAVING now considered what the law, properly so called, was 
in itself, we proceed to inquire into the ends and purposes for 
which it was given, and the precise place which it was designed 
to hold in the ancient economy. Any misapprehension enter 
tained, or even any obscurity allowed to hang upon these points, 
would, it is plain, materially affect the result of our future 
investigations. And there is the more need to be careful and 
discriminating in our inquiries here, as, from the general and 
deep-rooted carnality of the Jewish people, the effect which the 
law actually produced upon the character of their religion was, 
to a considerable extent, different from what it ought to have 
been. This error on their part has also mainly contributed to 
the first rise and still continued existence of some mistaken 
views regarding the law among many Christian divines. 

There can be no doubt that the law held relatively a diffe 
rent place under the Old dispensation from what it does under 
the New. The most superficial acquaintance with the state 
ments of New Testament Scripture on the subject, is enough to 
satisfy us of this. " The law came by Moses, but grace and 
truth came by Jesus Christ." There is, however, one point 
the first that properly meets us in this department of our sub 
ject in regard to which both dispensations are entirely on a 
footing. This point has respect to the condition of those to 
whom the law was given, and which, being already possessed, 
the law could not possibly have been intended to bring. So 
that an inquiry into the nature of that condition, of necessity 
carries along with it the consideration of what the law could 
not do. 

Now, as the historical element is here of importance, when 
was it, we ask, that this revelation of law was given to Israel V 
Somewhere, we are told, about the beginning of the third month 


after their departure from the land of Egypt. 1 Hence, from 
the very period of its introduction, the law could not come as a 
redeemer from evil, or a bestower of life and blessing. Its 
object could not possibly be to propose anything which should 
have the effect of shielding from death, rescuing from bondage, 
or founding a title to the favour and blessing of Heaven for 
all that had been already obtained. By God s outstretched 
arm, working with sovereign freedom and almighty power in 
behalf of the Israelites, they had been brought into a state of 
l ivedom and enlargement, and under the banner of Divine pro 
tection were travelling to the laud settled on them as an inherit 
ance, before one word had been spoken to them of the law in 
the proper sense of the term. And whatever purposes the law 
might have been intended to serve, it could not have been for 
any of those already accomplished or provided for. 

It is of great importance to keep distinctly in view this 
negative side of the law ; what it neither could, nor was ever 
designed to do. For if we raise it to a position which it was 
not meant to occupy, and expect from it benefits which it was 
not fitted to yield, we must be altogether at fault in our reckon 
ing, and can have no clear knowledge of the dispensation to 
which it belonged. It is in reference to this that the Apostle 
speaks in Gal. iii. 17, 18: "And this I say, that the covenant, 
which was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which 
was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that 
it should make the promise of none effect. For if the- inherit 
ance be of the law, it is no more of promise : but God gave it to 
Abraham by promise." The Jews had come in the Apostle s 
time, and most of them, indeed, long before, to look to their 
deeds of law as constituting their title to the inheritance ; and 
the same leaven of self-righteousness was now beginning to 
work among the Galatian converts. To check this tendency in 
them, and convince them of the fundamental error on which it 
proceeded, he presses on their consideration the nature and 
design of God s covenant with Abraham, which he represents 
as having been "confirmed before of God in Chart," became 
in making promise of a seed of blessing it had respect pre-emi 
nently to Christ, and might justly be regarded, in its leading 
1 i;.x. xix. 1. 


objects and provisions, as only an earlier and imperfect exhibi 
tion of the Christian covenant of redemption. But that cove 
nant expressly conferred on Abraham s posterity, as Heaven s 
free gift, the inheritance of the land of Canaan ; and it must 
also have secured their redemption from the house of bondage, 
and their safe conduct through the wilderness, since these were 
necessary to their entering on the possession of the inheritance. 
Hence, as the Apostle argues, their title to these things could 
not possibly need to be acquired over again by deeds of law 
afterwards performed ; for this would manifestly have been to 
give to the law the power of disannulling the covenant of pro 
mise, and would have made one revelation of God overthrow 
the foundation already laid by another. 

But that God never meant the law to interfere with the gifts 
and promises of the covenant, is clear from what He said to the 
children of the covenant immediately before the law was given : 
" Ye have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare 
you on eagles wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now 
therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My cove 
nant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all 
people ; for all the earth is Mine. And ye shall be unto Me a 
kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." (Ex. xix. 5.) Here 
God addresses them as already standing in such a relation of 
nearness to Him, as secured for them an interest in His faithful 
ness and love. He appeals to the proofs which He had given of 
this, as amply sufficient to dispel every doubt from their mind, 
and to warrant them in expecting whatever might still be needed 
to complete their felicity. " Now therefore, if ye will obey My 
voice " not because ye have obeyed it, have the great things 
which have just been accomplished in your experience taken 
place ; but these have been done, that you might feel your call 
ing to obey, and by obeying fulfil the high destiny to which you 
are appointed. In this call to obedience we already have the 
whole law, so far as concerns the ground of its obligation and 
the germ of its requirements. And when the Lord came down 
upon Mount Sinai to proclaim the words of the law, He is 
simply to be regarded as giving utterance to that voice which 
they were to obey. Hence, also, in prefacing the words then 
spoken by the declaration, " I am the Lord thy God, which 


brought tlice out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bond- 
ago," He rests his claim to their obedience on precisely the same 
ground as here : He resumes what Pie had previously said in 
regard to the peculiar relation in which lie stood to them, as 
proved by the grand deliverance He had achieved in their behalf, 
and on that founds His special claim to the return of dutiful 
obedience which He justly expected at their hands. And when 
it was proclaimed as the result of this obedience, that they should 
be to God " a peculiar people, a kingdom of priests, and an holy 
nation," they were given to understand, that thus alone could 
they continue to occupy the singular place they now held in the 
regard of Heaven, enjoy intimate fellowship with God, and be 
fitting instruments in His hand for carrying out the wise and 
holy purposes of His Divine government. This, however, 
belongs to another part of the subject, and has respect to what 
the law ivas given to do. 

We see, then, from the very time and manner in which the 
law was introduced, that it could not have been designed to 
interfere with the covenant of promise ; and as all that pertained 
to redemption, the inheritance, and the means of life and bless 
ing, came by that covenant, the law was manifestly given to 
provide none of them. Nor could it make any alteration on the 
law in this respect, that it was made to assume the form of a 
covenant. Why this was done, we shall inquire in the sequel. 
But looking at the matter still in a merely negative point of view, 
it is obvious that the law s coming to possess the character of a 
covenant could give it no power to make void the provisions of 
that earlier covenant, which secured for the seed of Abraham, as 
Heaven s free gift, the inheritance, and everything properly 
belonging to it. And if the Israelites should at any time come 
to regard the covenant of law as having been made for the pur 
pose of founding a title to what the covenant with Abraham had 
previously bestowed, they would evidently misinterpret the mean 
ing of God, and confound the proper relations of things. This, 
however, is what they actually did on a large scale, the grievous 
error and pernicious consequences of which are pointed out in 
Gal. iv. 21-31 : " Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law. 
do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had 
two sons ; the one by a bond maid, the other by a five woman. 


But he who was of the bond woman was born after the flesh ; 
but he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are 
an allegory : for these arc the two covenants ; the one from the 
Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. For 
this Ilagar is (i.e., corresponds to) Mount Sinai in Arabia, and 
answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with 
her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is 
the mother of us all. For it is written (Isa. liv. 1), Rejoice, 
thou barren that bearest not ; break forth and cry, thou that 
travailest not : for the desolate hath many more children than 
she that hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are 
the children of promise," etc. 

Here the proper wife of Abraham, Sarah, and his bond maid 
Hagar, are viewed as the representatives of the two covenants 
respectively ; and the children of the two mothers as, in like 
manner, representatives of the kind of worshippers whom the 
covenants were fitted to produce. Sarah, the only proper spouse 
of Abraham, stands for the heavenly Jerusalem ; that is, the 
true Church of God, in which He perpetually resides, and begets 
children to Himself. Whoever belong to it are born from above, 
" not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of 
man, but of God." And that Sarah s son might be the fit repre 
sentative of all such, his birth was delayed till she had attained 
an advanced age. Born as Isaac was, it was impossible to over 
look the immediate and supernatural operation of God s hand in 
his birth ; and if ever mother had reason to say, " I have gotten 
a man from the Lord," it was Sarah, when she brought forth 
Isaac. But what was true of Isaac s natural birth, is equally 
true of the spiritual birth of God s people in every age. The 
Church, as a heavenly society, is their mother. But that Church 
is so, simply because she is the habitation of God, and the 
channel through which His grace, flowing into the dead heart 
of nature, quickens it into newness of life. And the covenant 
in the hand of this Church, by which she is empowered to bring 
forth such children to God, must be substantially the same in 
every age viz., the covenant of grace, which began to be dis 
closed in part on the very scene of the fall which was again 
more distinctly revealed to Abraham, when he received the pro 
mises of a seed of blessing, and an inheritance everlasting, and 


which has been clearly brought to light and finally confirmed 
in Christ for the whole elect family of God. This unquestion 
ably is the covenant which answers to Sarah, and belongs to the 
heavenlx . Jerusalem : to this covenant all the real children of 
God m\v their birth, their privileges, and their hopes; those 
who are born of it, in whatever age of the Church, are born in 
freedom, and heirs of the inheritance. 

Ir is this Church, standing in and growing out of this cove 
nant, that the prophet Isaiah addresses, in the passage quoted 
by the Apostle, as a "barren woman, a widow, and desolate," 
and whom he comforts with the promise of a numerous offspring. 
He does not expressly name Sarah, but he evidently has her in 
his eye, and draws his delineation both of the present and the 
future in language suggested by her history. For, as in her 
case, so the seed of the true Church was long in coming, and 
slow of increase, compared with those born after the flesh. It 
seemed often, especially in such times of backsliding and deso 
lation as those contemplated by the prophet, as if the spouse 
were absolutely forsaken, or utterly incapable of being a mother ; 
and she appeared all the more in need of consolation, as her 
carnal rival even then possessed a large and numerous offspring. 
But the prophet cheers her with the prospect of better days to 
come ; and gives her the assurance, that in the long run her 
spiritual seed would greatly outnumber the fleshly seed of the 
other. This prospect began (as the Apostle intimates, ver. 31) 
to be more especially realized when the kingdom opened the 
door of salvation to the Gentiles. 

The other covenant, which answers to Hagar, was the cove 
nant of law, ratified at Sinai ; but that by no means correspond 
ing, as is often represented, to the Old Testament dispensation as 
a whole. For, viewed in the light of mothers, the two covenants 
are spoken of as directly opposite in their nature, tendency, 
mid effects, while the Old and New Testament dispensations 
present no such contrast to each other. They are rather to 
be regarded as in all essential respects the same. They differ, 
not as Ishmael differed from Isaac, but only as the heir when 
a elald differs from the heir when arrived at maturiu. Of all 
the true members of both Churches, Abraham is the common 
parent and head; and whether outwardly descended from his 


loins or not, they constitute properly but one people. They are 
all the children of faithful Abraham, possessing his covenant 
relation to God, and his interest in the promises of good things 
to come. (Rom. iv. 11-13 ; Gal. iii. 29.) But the seed that 
came by Hagar, which was born, not properly of God, but of 
the will of the flesh, was entirely of another kind, and repre 
sented no part of the true Church in any age : it represented 
only the carnal portion of the professing Church the unregene- 
rate, idolatrous, or self-righteous Israelites of former times, who 
deemed it quite enough that they were able to trace their descent 
from Abraham ; and the merely nominal believers now, who 
satisfy themselves with an outward standing among the followers 
of Jesus, and a formal attendance on some of the ordinances 
of His appointment. These are they " who say they are Jews, 
but are not ;" they no more belonged to the seed of God under 
the Old Testament, than they do under the New ; they are 
Ishmaelites, not Israelites a spurious fleshly offspring, that 
should never have been born, and when born, without any title 
to the inheritance and the blessing. 

It was the prevailing delusion of the Jews in our Lord s time, 
as it had been also of many in former times, not to perceive this 
failing to understand, what yet God had taken especial pains 
to teach them, that the subjects of His love and blessing were 
always an elect seed. From the time of Abraham, they had 
chiefly belonged to his stock, but never had they at any period 
embraced all his offspring : not the sons of Ilagar and Keturah, 
but only the son of Sarah ; not both the sons of Isaac, but only 
Jacob ; not all the sons of Jacob, but only such as possessed his 
faith, and were, like him, princes with God. The principle, " not 
all Israel who are of Israel," runs through the entire history; and 
too often also do the facts of history afford ground for the conclu 
sion, that those who were simply of Israel had greatly the prepon 
derance in numbers and influence over such as truly were Israel. 

But how did such children come to exist at all ? How did 
they get a being within the bosom of the Church of God? 
They also had a mother, represented by Ilagar, and that mother, 
as well as the other, a covenant of God the covenant of Sinai. 
But why should it have produced such children ? In one wny 
alone could it possibly have done so ; viz., by being elevated 

WHAT ill!. LAW COULD NOT DO. 1 "> .> 

out of its proper place, and turned to an illegitimate use. God 
never designed it to be a mother ; no more than Hagar, respect 
ing whom Abraham sinned when he turned aside to her, and 
took her for a mother of children : her proper place was that 
only of an handmaid to Sarah. And it was, in like manner, to 
pervert the covenant of law from Sinai to an improper purpose, 
to look to it as a parent of life and blessing ; nor could any 
better result come from the error. " It gendereth unto bond 
age," says the Apostle ; that is, in so far as it gave birth to any 
children, these were not true children of God, free, spiritual, 
with hearts of filial confidence and devoted love ; but miserable 
bondmen, selfish, carnal, full of mistrust and fear. Of these 
children of the Sinaitic covenant we are furnished with the most 
perfect exemplar in the Scribes and Pharisees of our Lord s 
time men who were chiefly remarkable for the full and ripened 
development of a spirit of bondage in religion who were com 
plete in all the garniture of a sanctified demeanour, while they 
were full within of ravening and wickedness worshipping a 
God, whom they eyed only as the taskmaster of a laborious ritual, 
by the punctual observance of which they counted themselves 
secure of His favour and blessing crouching like slaves beneath 
their yoke of bondage, and loving the very bonds that lay on 
them, because nothing better than the abject and hireling spirit 
of slavery breathed in their hearts. Such were the children 
whom the covenant of law produced, as its natural and proper 
offspring. But did God ever seek such children ? Could lie 
own them as members of His kingdom ? Could He bestow 
on them an interest in its promised blessings ? Assuredly not ; 
and therefore it was entirely against His mind, when His pro 
fessing people looked in that direction for life and blessing. If 
really His people, they already had these by another and earlier 
covenant which could give them ; and those who still looked for 
them to the covenant of law, only got a serpent for bread 
instead of a blessing, a curse. 1 

1 On this negativ,- side of the law, may be consulted Bell on the Cove 
nants, which, though full of repetition, is clear and satisfactory on this part 
of tin- subject ; it forms a sort of expand.-d, thuii-h eertainly rather tedious, 
illustration of Yitringa s Com. on Isa. liv. 1. On the positive side of the 
law, or what it was designed to do, the work is by no means so successful. 


It seems very strange that so many Christian divines, espe 
cially of such as hold evangelical principles, should here have 
fallen into substantially the Jewish error, representing tin- 
Israelites as being in such a sense under the covenant of law, 
that by obedience to it they had to establish their title to the 
inheritance. Not only does Warburton call the dispensation 
under which they were placed, roundly " a dispensation of 
works," 1 but we find Dr John Erskine, an evangelical writer, 
among many similar things, writing thus : " He who yielded 
an external obedience to the law of Moses, was termed rtyhteow, 
and had a claim in virtue of his obedience to the land of Canaan, 
so that doing these things he lived by them. Plence Moses says, 
Deut. vi. 25, It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do 
all these commandments before the Lord our God ; i.e., it shall 
be the cause and matter of our justification it shall found our 
title to covenant blessings. But to spiritual and heavenly bless 
ings, we are entitled by the obedience of the Son of God, not by 
our own." 2 It was very necessary, when the learned author 
made obedience to the covenant of Sinai the ground of a title to 
the inheritance of Canaan, that he should bring down its terms 
as low as possible ; for had these not been of a superficial and 
formal nature, it would manifestly have been a mockery to make 
the people s obedience the ground of their title. But what, then, 
becomes of the covenant of Abraham, if the inheritance, which 
it gave freely in promise to his seed, had to be acquired over 
again by deeds of law ? And what, indeed, becomes of the 
spiritual and unchangeable character of God, if, in one age 
of the Church, He should appear to have imposed duties of an 
external kind, as the ground of a title to His blessing, while 
in another all is given of grace, and the duties required are 
pre-eminently inward and spiritual ? In such a case, there not 
only could have been no proper correspondence between the 
earlier and the later dispensations, but the revealed character 
of God must have undergone an essential change: He could 
not be " the Jehovah, that changeth not." The confusion ari^e- 
from assigning to the covenant of law a wrong place, and ascrib 
ing to it what it was never intended to do or give. " God 
did never make a new promulgation of the law by revelation to 
1 Div. Leg., B. v., Note C. - Theological Dissertations, p. 41. 


sinful men, in order to keep them under mere law, without set 
ting before them, :it the same time, the promise and grace of the 
new covenant, by which they might escape from the curse which 
the law denounced. The legal and evangelical dispensations 
have been but different dispensations of the same covenant of 
grace, and of the blessings thereof. Though there is now a 
greater degree of light, consolation, and liberty, yet if Chris 
tians are now under a kingdom of grace, where there is pardon 
upon repentance, the Lord s people under the Old Testament 
were (as to the reality and substance of things) also under a 
kingdom of grace." 1 So that it is quite wrong, as the judicious 
author states, to represent those " who were under the pedagogy 
of the law, as if they had been under a proper and strict cove 
nant of works." 

Biihr, who rises immeasurably above all who, have imbibed 
their notions of the legal dispensation in the school of Spencer 
and Warburton, and who everywhere exhibits a due appreciation 
of the moral and religious element in Judaism, still so far coin 
cides with them, that he elevates the law to a place not properly 
its own. After investigating the descriptions given of the deca 
logue, he draws the conclusion, that " for Israel this formed the 
foundation of its whole existence as a people, the root of its reli 
gious and political life, the highest, best, most precious thing the 
people had their one and all." 2 So also again, when speaking 
of the covenant and the law being entirely the same, he says to 
the like effect : " This covenant first properly gave Israel as a 
people its being; it was the root and basis of the life of Israel as 
a people." 3 No doubt understanding, as he does, by the law or 
covenant all the precepts and institutions of Moses, which he 
holds to have been represented in the decalogue, the idea here 
expressed is not quite so wide of the truth as it might otherwise 
appear. But still the statement is by no means correct; it is 
utterly at variance with the facts of Israel s history, and calcu 
lated to give a false impression of the whole nature and design 
of the Mosaic legislation. It presents this to our view simply as 
a dispensation of works, having law for the root of life, and con 
sequently the deeds of law for the only ground of blessing. In 

1 Fraser on Sanctification ; Kxplic. of Rom. vii. s. 

- Symbolik, i., 386, 387. :ubolik, ii., ]>. 

VOL. II. I. 


plain contrariety to the assertion of the Apostle, 1 it virtually says 
that a law was given which brought life, and that righteousness 
was by the law. Finally, it gives such a place to the mere re 
quirements and operations of law, that nothing remained for 
grace to do, but merely to pardon the shortcomings and trans 
gressions of which men might be guilty, as subject to law : all 
else was earned by the obedience performed; even forgiveness 
itself in a manner was thus earned, because obtained as the 
result of services rendered in compliance with the terms and 
prescriptions of law. 

This glorification of law, however, has not been confined to 
the Old Testament Church. There are not a few Christian 
divines who are so enamoured of law, that the Gospel of the 
grace of God has become in their hands only a kind of modified 
covenant of works ; and they can only account for faith holding 
the peculiar place assigned to it in the work of salvation, because 
in their view it comprises all other graces and virtues in its bosom. 
Salvation appears not directly and properly as the free gift of 
Divine grace in Christ, but rather as the acquired result of man s 
evangelical righteousness, or, as it is generally termed, his sincere 
though imperfect obedience. The title to heaven must still be 
earned, only the satisfaction of Christ has secured its being done 
on much easier conditions. There is no need for our entering 
into any exposure of this New Testament legalism, as we have 
seen that its prototype under the Old Testament, though it had 
more seemingly to countenance it, was still without any proper 
foundation. But we may briefly advert to the statements of 
another class of theologians, who, while they admit that the Old 
as well as the New Testament Church was under a dispensation 
of grace, to which it owed all its privileges, blessings, and hopes, 
at the same time regard the covenant of Sinai as in itself pro 
perly the covenant of works, by obedience to which, if faithfully 
and fully rendered, men would have founded a title to life and 
blessing. They justly regard it as in substance a republication 
of the law of holiness originally impressed upon the soul of 
Adam ; but fall into perplexity and confusion by adopting a 
somewhat erroneous view of the primary design and object of 
that law. The righteousness there required they are accustomed 
1 Gal. iii. iM. 

WHAT Till-: L-UV COl M) .NOT DO. 163 

to represent as that " by the doing of which man was to found 
his right to promised blessings;" 1 or, to use the language of 
another, " in virtue of which he might thereon plead and de 
mand the reward of eternal life." 2 Then, viewing such a law 
or covenant of works in reference to men as sinful, the works 
required in it are necessarily considered as " the condition of 
a sinner s justification and acceptance with God," " a law to 
be done that he might be saved." 3 

But was a law ever given, or a covenant ever made with 
man, with any such professed design ? Was it even propounded 
thus to Adam in paradise ? Had he not received as a free gift 
from the hand of God, before anything was exacted of him in 
the way of obedience, both the principle of a divine life and an 
inheritance of blessing 1 So far from needing to found by deeds 
of righteousness a title to these, he came forth at the very first 
fully fraught with them ; and the question with him was, not 
how to obtain what he had not, but how to continue in the 
enjoyment of what he already possessed. This he could no 
otherwise do than by fulfilling the righteous ends for which he 
had been created. To direct him towards these, therefore, must 
have been, if not the sole, at least the direct and ostensible 
object of whatever law was outwardly proposed to him, or in 
wardly impressed upon his conscience. If the word to him 
might be said to be, "Do this and live," it could only be in 
the sense of his thereby continuing in the life, in the possession 
and blessedness of which he was created. And it was the fond 
conceit of the Pharisaical Jews, that their law was given for 
purposes higher even than those for which any law was given 
to man in innocence ; that they might, by obedience to law, 
work out a righteousness, and acquire a title to life and glory, 
which did not naturally belong to them. It is simply against 
this groundless and perverse notion, which had come latterly to 
diffuse its leaven through the whole Jewish mind, that our Lord 
and His apostles are to be understood as speaking, when in a 
manifold variety of ways they endeavour to withdraw men s 

1 Bell on Covenants, p. 198. 

ii s Notes on Marrow of Modern Divinity, p. 1, Introd. 
; 11)., 1 . 1, c. 1, and the Marrow itself there; also Fraser on Rom. vii. 4, 

and Chalmers Works, vol. x., p. :M7. 


regards from the law as a source of life, and point them to the 
riches of Divine grace. 1 

It is, then, carefully to be remembered, in regard to the Old 
Testament Church, that she had two covenants connected with 
her constitution a covenant of grace as well as of law ; and 
that the covenant of law, as it came last, so it took for granted 
the provisions of the elder covenant of grace. It was grafted 
upon this, and grew out of it. Hence, in revealing the terms 
of the legal covenant, the Lord spake to the Israelites as already 
their God, from whom they had received life and freedom (Ex. 
xx. 2), proclaimed Himself as the God of mercy as well as of 
holiness (vers. 5, 6), recognised their title to the inheritance as 
His own sovereign gift to them (ver. 12), thus making it clear 
to all, that the covenant of law raised itself on the ground of the 
previous covenant of grace, and sought to carry out this to its 
legitimate consequences and proper fruits. 2 

That this also is the order of God s procedure with men 

1 Rom. iii., vii. ; 2 Cor. iii. 6, 7; Gal. iii. 11, 21 ; Phil. iii. 8, 9; Eph. 
i. 3-7 ; Tit. iii. 4-7 ; 1 John i., v. 11 ; also of our Lord s discourses, Luke 
xv., xix. 1-10; John iii. 16-18, vi. 51. When He directed the lawyer, 
who tempted Him with the question, " Master, what shall I do to inherit 
eternal life ? " to the commandments of the law, and in reference to the 
perfect love there required to God and man, said, " This do and thou shalt 
live," it is clear He merely met the inquirer on his own ground, and aimed 
at sending him away with an impression of the impossibility of obtaining 
life by perfecting himself in the law s requirements. So, also, such expres 
sions as that in Rom. vii. 10, of " the commandment being ordained to life" 
(lit., which was for, or unto life), cannot mean that it was given to confer 
life, or to show the way of obtaining it, for this is denied of any law that 
ever could have been given to sinful men (Gal. iii. 21). It simply means, 
that the law was given to subserve or promote the purposes of God in respect 
to life. 

2 The relation between the two covenants is briefly but correctly stated 
by Sack in his Apologetik, p. 179 : " The matter of the law is altogether 
grounded upon the covenant of promise made with Abraham. . . . The 
law neither eould nor would withdraw the exercise of faith from the cove 
nant of promise, or render that s-ujierfluous, but merely formed an inter 
mediate provision until the fulfilment came." The relation is seldom 
correctly made out by writers of the class last referred to. For example, 
Boston would have the two covenants to have been revealed simultaneously 
from Sinai, making the Sinaitic covenant as much a covenant of grace as of 
law (on the Marrow, p. 1, c. 2). Burgess (on Mural Law and Covenants, 
p. 224) represents it as properly a covenant of grace. 


under the Gospel, nothing but the most prejudiced mind can 
fail to perceive. Everywhere does God there present Himself 
to His people as in the first instance a giver of life and blessing, 
and only ftenmdfl as an exacter of obedience to His commands. 
Their obedience, so far from entitling to salvation, can never 
be acceptably rendered till they have become partakers of the 
blessings of salvation. These blessings arc altogether of grace, 
and are therefore received through faith. For what is faith, 
but the acceptance of Heaven s grant of salvation, or a trusting 
in the record in which the grant is conveyed ? So that, in the 
order of each man s experience, there must be, as is fully 
brought out in the Epistle to the Romans, first a participation in 
the mercies of God, and then growing out of this a felt and 
constraining obligation to run the way of God s commandments. 
1 low can it, indeed, be otherwise ? How were it possible for 
men, laden with sin, and underlying the condemnation of 
Heaven, to earn anything at God s hands, or do what might 
seem good in His sight, till they become partakers of grace? 
Can they work up to a certain point against the stream of His 
displeasure, and prosecute of themselves the process of recovery, 
only requiring His supernatural aid to perfect it? To imagine 
the possibility of this, were to betray an utter ignorance of the 
character of God in reference to His dealings with the guilty. 
He can, for His Son s sake, bestow eternal life and blessing on 
the most unworthy, but He cannot stoop to treat and bargain 
with men about their acquiring a title to it through their own 
imperfect services. They must first receive the gift through 
the channel of His own providing ; and only when they have 
done this, are they in a condition to please and honour Him. 
Not more certainly is faith without works dead, than all works 
are dead which do not spring from the living root of faith al 
ready implanted in the heart. 



WE proceed now to advance a step farther, and to consider 
what the law was designed to do for Israel. That it did not come 
with a hostile intent, we have already seen. Its object was not 
to disannul the covenant of promise, or to found a new title to 
gifts and blessings already conferred. It was given rather as an 
handmaid to the covenant, to minister, in an inferior but still 
necessary place, to the higher ends and purposes which the cove 
nant itself had in view. And hence, when considered as stand 
ing in that its proper place, it is fitly regarded as an additional 
proof of the goodness of God towards His people : "He made 
known His ways unto Moses, His statutes and His judgments 
unto Israel ; He hath not dealt so with any people." 

1. The first and immediate purpose for which the law was 
given to Israel, was that it might serve as a revelation of the 
righteousness which God expected from them as His covenant 
people in the land of their inheritance. It was for this inherit 
ance they had been redeemed. They were God s own peculiar 
people, His children and heirs, proceeding, under the banner of 
His covenant, to occupy His land. And that they might know 
the high ends for which they were to be planted there, and how 
these ends were to be secured, the Lord took them aside by the 
way, and gave them this revelation of His righteousness. As 
the land of their inheritance was emphatically God s land, so 
the law which was to reign paramount there must of necessity 
be His law, and that law itself the manifestation of His right 
eousness. With no other view could God have stretched out 
His hand to redeem a people to Himself, and with no other 
testimony set them as His witnesses before the eye of the world, 
on a territory peculiarly His own. For His glory, viewed in 


respect to His moral government, is essentially bound up with 
the interests of righteousness ; and those whom He destined to be 
the chosen instruments for showing forth that glory in the 
region prepared for them, must go thither with the revelation of 
His righteousness in their hand, as the law which they were to 
carry out into all the relations of public and private life. 

The same thing might be said in this respect of the land as 
a whole, which the Psalmist declares in reference to its spiritual 
centre the place on which the tabernacle was pitched : " Lord, 
who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy 
holy hill ? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteous 
ness, and speaketh the truth in his heart." (Ps. xv.) And 
again in Psalm xxiv.: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the 
Lord ? and who shall stand in His holy place ? He that hath 
clean hands, and a pure heart ; who hath not lifted up his soul 
to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully." There can be no doubt that 
the character here meant to be delineated is that of the true 
servants of God as contradistinguished from hypocrites of the 
real denizens of His kingdom, whose high distinction it was to 
be dwellers and sojourners with Him. The going up to the 
hill of God, standing in His holy place, or abiding in His taber 
nacle, is merely an image to express this spiritual idea. The 
land as a whole being God s land, the people as a whole should 
also have been found dwelling as guests, or sojourning with 
Him. (Lev. xxv. 23.) But this they could only be in reality, 
the Psalmist means to say, if they possessed the righteous 
character he delineates. In both of the delineations he gives, 
it is impossible to overlook a reference to the precepts of the 
decalogue. And that such delineations should have been given 
at a time when the tabernacle service was in the course of being 
set up anew with increased splendour, was plainly designed to 
sound a warning in the ears of the people, that whatever regard 
should be paid to the solemnities of worship, it was still the 
righteousness in thought, word, and deed, as required in the 
precepts of the decalogue, which God pre-eminently sought. 
This was what peculiarly fitted them for the place they occu 
pied, and the destiny they had to fill. Hence, not only the 
righteousness of the decalogue in general, but that especially 
of the second table, is made prominent in the description, be- 


cause hypocrites have so many ways of counterfeiting the works 
of the first table. 1 

It makes no essential alteration on the law in this point of 
view, that it was made to assume the form of a covenant. For 
what sort of covenant was it ? And with what object ratified ? 
Not as an independent and separate revelation ; but only, as 
already stated, an handmaid to the previously existing covenant 
of promise. On this last, as the divine root of all life and bless 
ing, it was grafted; and rising from the ground which that 
former covenant provided, it proceeded to develop the require 
ments of righteousness, which the members of the covenant 
ought to have fulfilled. It was merely to impart greater solem 
nity to this revelation of righteousness to give to its calls of 
duty a deeper impression and firmer hold upon the conscience 
to render it clear and palpable, that the things required in it 
were not of loose and uncertain, but of most sure and indispens 
able obligation, it was for such reasons alone that the law, 
after being proclaimed from Sinai, was solemnly ratified as a 
covenant. By this most sacred of religious transactions the 
Israelites were taken bound as a people to aim continually at 
the fulfilment of its precepts. But its having been turned into 
a covenant did not confer on it a different character from that 
which belonged to it as a rule of life and conduct, or materially 
affect the results that sprung either from obedience or disobe 
dience to its demands ; nor was any effect contemplated beyond 
that of adding to its moral weight and deepening its hold upon 
the conscience. And the very circumstance of its being ratified 
as a covenant, having God in the relation of a Redeemer for 
one of the contracting parties, was fraught with comfort and 
encouragement; since an assurance was thus virtually given, 
that what God in the one covenant of law required His people 
to do, He stood pledged in the other covenant of promise \\ith 
His Divine help to aid them in performing. The blood of the 
covenant as much involved a Divine obligation to confer the 
grace to obey, as it bound them to render the obedience. So 
that, while there was in this transaction something fitted to 
lighten rather than to aggravate the burden of the law s yoke, 
there was, at the same time, what involved the necessity of com- 
1 See Hengstenberg and Calvin on Ps. xv. 2. 


pliance with tin- tenor of its requirements, and took away all 
excuse from the wilfully disobedient. 

The sum of the matter, then, was this : The seed of Abra 
ham, as God s acknowledged children and heirs, were going to 
receive for their possession the land which He claimed as more 
peculiarly His own. But they must go and abide there par 
takers also of His character of holiness, for thus alone could 
they either glorify His name or enjoy His blessing. And so, 
bringing them as He did from the region of pollution, He would 
not suffer them to plant their foot within its sacred precincts, 
until He had disclosed to them the great lines of religious and 
moral duty, in which the resemblance most essentially stands to 
His character of holiness, and taken them bound by the most 
solemn engagement to have the pattern of excellence set before 
them, as far as possible, realized in practice, through all the 
dwellings of Canaan. Had they been but faithful to their 
engagement had they as a people striven in earnest through 
the grace offered them in the one covenant to exemplify the 
character of the righteous man exhibited in the other, " delight 
ing in the law of the Lord, and meditating therein day and 
night," then in their condition they should assuredly have been 
" like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth 
his fruit in his season, whose leaf doth not wither, and whatso 
ever he doth prospereth." Canaan would then, indeed, have 
verified the description of a land flowing with milk and honey. 

We thus see, in the immediate purposes of God respecting 
Israel, a sufficient reason for the introduction of the law, and 
for the prominent place assigned to it in the Divine dispensa 
tion. But if we connect the immediate with the ultimate design 
of God in this portion of His dealings, we see the absolute 
necessity of what was done, in order to make the past a faithful 
representation of the future. Canaan stood to the eye of faith 
the type of heaven ; and the character and condition of its 
inhabitants should have presented the image of what theirs shall 
be, who have entered on the kingdom prepared for them before 
the foundation of the world. The condition of such, we are 
well assured, shall be all blessedness and glory. The region of 
their inheritance shall be Immamiers land, where the vicissi 
tudes of evil and the pangs of suffering shall be alike unknown, 


where everything shall reflect the effulgent glory of its 
Divine Author, and streams of purest delight shall be ever 
flowing to satisfy the souls of the redeemed. But it is never to 
be forgotten, that their condition shall be thus replenished with 
all that is attractive and good, because their character shall first 
have become perfect in holiness. No otherwise than as con 
formed to Christ s image can they share with Him in His in 
heritance ; for the kingdom of which they ai e the destined heirs 
is one which the unrighteous cannot inherit, nor shall corrup 
tion in any form or degree be permitted to dwell in it. " Its 
people shall be till righteous " that is their first characteristic ; 
and the second, depending upon this, and growing out of it as 
its proper result, is, that they shall be all filled with the goodness 
and glory of the Lord. 

Hence, in addition to the moral ends of a direct and imme 
diate kind which required to be accomplished, it was necessary 
also, in this point of view, to make the experience of God s 
ancient people, in connection with the land of promise, turn 
upon their relation to the law. As He could not permit them 
to enter the inheritance without first placing them under the 
discipline of the law, so neither could He permit them after 
wards to enjoy the good of the land, while they lived in neglect 
of the righteousness the law required. In both respects, the 
type became sadly marred in the event ; and the image it pre 
sented of the coming realities of heaven, was to be seen only in 
occasional lines and broken fragments. The people were so far 
from being all righteous, that the greater part were ever harden 
ing their hearts in sin. On their part, a false representation was 
given of the moral perfection of the future world ; and it was 
in the highest degree impossible that God on His part should 
countenance their backsliding so as notwithstanding to render 
their state a full representation of its perfection in outward bliss. 
He must of necessity trouble the condition and change the lot 
of His people, in proportion as sin obtained a footing among 
them. The less there was of heaven s righteousness in their 
character, the less always must there be of its blessedness and 
glory in their condition ; until at last the Lord was constrained 
to say : " Because they have forsaken My law which I set 
before them, and have not obeyed My voice, neither walked 


therein ; but have walked after the imagination of their own 
heart : therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of 
Israel ; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and give 
them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among 
the heathen, and will send a sword after them, till I have 
consumed them." 1 Such were the imperfections of the type; 
let us rejoice that in the antitype similar imperfections can have 
no place. All there stands firm and secure in the unchanging 
faithfulness of Jehovah ; and it will be as impossible for sin as 
for adversity and trouble to have a place in the heavenly Canaan. 
The view now presented as to the primary reason for the 
giving of the law, is in perfect accordance with what is stated 
by the Apostle in Gal. iii. 19: "Wherefore, then, serveth the 
law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed 
should come to whom the promise was made." The meaning 
is, it was added to the provisions and blessings secured in the 
earlier covenant of promise, because of the disposition in the 
hearts of the people to transgress the obligations under which 
they stood, and fall in with the corruptions of the world. To 
check this disposition to keep their minds under the discipline 
of a severe and holy restraint and circumscribe and limit their 
way, so that no excuse or liberty should be left them to turn 
aside from the right path for this reason the law was added to 
the covenant. But for that inherent proneness to sin, now 
sufficiently made manifest, there should have been no need for 
such an addition. Had the members of the covenant thoroughly 
imbibed its spirit, and responded as they should have done to the 
love God had manifested toward them in making good its pro 
visions, they would of themselves have been inclined to do the 
things which were contained in the law. This, however, they 
were not ; and hence the law came, presupposing and building 
upon the moral aim of the covenant, and more stringently bind 
ing upon their consciences the demands of righteousness, in 
order to stem the current of their sinful inclinations. It was to 
these inclinations alone that the law carried a hostile and frown 
ing aspect : in respect to the people themselves, it came as a 
minister of good, and not of evil; and so far from being op 
posed to the promises of the covenant, it was rather to be viewed 
1 Jer. ix. 13-16. 


{is a friendly monitor and guide, directing the people how to 
continue in the blessing of the covenant, and fulfil the ends for 
which it was established. 

2. There was, however, another great reason for the law 
being given, which is also perhaps alluded to by the Apostle in 
the passage just noticed, when he limits the use of the law, in 
reference to transgressions, to the period before Christ s appear 
ance. Christ was to be pre-eminently the seed of promise, 
through whom the blessings of the covenant were to be secured; 
and when He should come, as a more perfect state of things 
would then be introduced, the law would no longer be required 
as it was before. While, therefore, it had an immediate and 
direct purpose to serve in restraining the innate tendency to 
transgression, it might be said to have had the further end in 
view of preparing the minds of men for that coining seed. And 
this it was fitted to do precisely through the same property 
which rendered it suitable for accomplishing the primary design, 
viz., the perfect revelation it gave of the righteousness of Heaven. 
It brought the people into contact with the moral character of 
God, and bound them by covenant sanctions and engagements 
to make that the standard after which they should endeavour to 
regulate their conduct. But conscience, enlightened and aroused 
by the lofty ideal of truth and duty thus presented to it, became 
but the more sensible of transgressions committed against the 
righteousness required. Instead of being a witness to which 
men could appeal in proof of their having fulfilled the high ends 
for which they had been chosen and redeemed by God, the law 
rather did the part of an accuser, testifying against them of 
broken vows and violated obligations. And thus keeping per 
petually alive upon the conscience a sense of guilt, it served to 
awaken in the hearts of those who really understood its spiritual 
meaning, a feeling of the need, and a longing expectation of 
the coming, of Him who was to bring in the more perfect state 
of things, and take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 

The certainty of this effect both having been from the first 
designed, and also to some extent produced, by the law, will 
always appear the more obvious, the more clearly we perceive 
the connection between the law and the ritual of worship, and 
see how inadequately the violations of the one seemed to have 

PURPOSES FOi; winni TIM: \..\\\ WAS GIVEN. 173 

been met by the provisions of the other. We shall have occasion 
to refer to this more fully under the next division. But in 
some of the confessions of the Old Testament saints, we have 
undoubted indications of the feeling that the law, which they 
stood bound to obey, contained a breadth of spiritual require 
ment which they were far from having reached, and brought 
against them charges of guilt from which they could obtain no 
satisfactory deliverance by any means of expiation then provided. 
The dread which God s manifested presence inspired, even in 
such seraphic bosoms as Isaiah s, " Wo is me, for I am undone, 
because I am a man of unclean lips, and mine eyes have seen 
the King, the Lord of Hosts," is itself a proof of this ; for it 
betokened a conscience much more alive to impressions of guilt 
than to the blessings of forgiveness and peace. It showed that 
the law of righteousness had written its convictions of sin too 
deeply on the tablet of the heart for the ceremonial institutions 
thoroughly to supplant them by the full sense of reconciliation. 
But a still more decided testimony to the same effect was given 
by the Psalmist, when, in compositions designed for the public 
service of God, and of course expressing the sentiments of all 
sincere worshippers, he at once celebrated the law of God as 
everv way excellent and precious, and at the same time spake of 
it as "exceeding broad," felt that it accused him of iniquities 
"more in number than the hairs of his head;" so that if "the 
Lord were strict to mark them, none should be able to stand 
before Him" nay, sometimes found himself in such a sense a 
sinner, that no sacrifice or offering could be accepted, and his 
soul was left without any ostensible means of atonement and 
cleansing, with nothing indeed to rest upon, but an uncondi 
tional forgiveness on God s part, and renewed surrender on its 
own. (Ps. li.) 

It was this tendency of the law to beget deep convictions of 
sin, and to leave upon the mind such a felt want of satisfaction, 
which truly disposed enlightened consciences to give a favourable 
hearing to the doctrines of the Gospel, and to rejoice in the 
consolation brought in by Christ. It was this which gave in 
their minds such emphasis to the contrast, "The law came by 
Muses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," and which 
led St Paul to hold it out as an especial ground of comfort to 


believers in Christ, that " by Him they might be justified from 
all things from which they could not be justified by the law of 
Moses." It was this feature also of the law which the same 
Apostle had more particularly in his eye, when he described it 
as a " schoolmaster to lead men to Christ," shutting them up, 
by its stern requirements and wholesome discipline, to the faith 
which was afterwards to be revealed. And the contrast which 
he draws in the third chapter of the second Epistle to the 
Corinthians, between the law and the Gospel, proceeds entirely 
upon the same ground in reference to the law; that is, it is 
viewed simply as by itself, in the matter of its precepts, a re 
velation of the perfect righteousness of God, and, apart from 
the covenant of promise, with which it was connected, fitted 
only to inspire fear and trembling, or to bring condemnation 
and death. He therefore calls it the ministration of condemna 
tion, a letter that killeth, as in Rom. vii. 10 he testifies of having 
found it in his own experience to be unto death. The Apostle 
does not mean to say that this was properly the object for which 
the law was given, for then it had come directly to oppose and 
subvert the covenant of promise ; but that it was an inseparable 
effect attending it, arising from the perfection of its character 
as a rule of righteousness, compared with the manifold imper 
fections and sins ever discovering themselves among men. And 
hence it only required spiritual minds, such as would enter 
thoroughly into the perception of the law s character, first to 
make them deeply sensible of their own guilt, and then to 
awaken in them the desire of something higher and better than 
was then provided for the true consolation of Israel. 

An important connection thus arises between the law and 
the Gospel, and both are seen to hold respectively their proper 
places in the order of the Divine dispensations. " It is true," 
as Tholuck has remarked with sound discrimination, " that the 
New Testament speaks more of grace than of sin ; but did it 
not on this very account presuppose the existence of the Old 
Covenant with the law, and a God who is an holy and jealous 
God, that will not pass by transgression and sin? The Old 
Covenant was framed for the conviction of sin, the New for the 
forgiveness of sin. The moral law, which God has written in 
indelible lines upon the heart of every man, was once also pro- 


claimed with much solemnity from Sinai, that it might be clear 
that God, who appc i :uvd in liiv and flame as the revealer of His 
holy law, is the same who has imprinted the image of holiness 
deep in the secret chambers of the bosom. Is not Israel, inces 
santly resisting with his stiff neck the God of love, until he 
has always again been reduced to subjection by the God of fiery 
indignation, an image of proud humanity in its constant war 
fare against God, who seeks to conquer them by anger and 
love ?" 1 Hence the order of God s dispensations is substantially 
also the order of each man s experience. The sinner must be 
humbled and bruised by the law that is, through the manifesta 
tion of God s righteousness, he must have his conscience aroused 
to a sense of sin before he can be brought heartily to acquiesce 
in the Gospel method of salvation. Therefore, not only had the 
way of Christ to be prepared by one who with a voice of terror 
preached anew the law s righteousness and threatenings, but 
Christ Himself also needed to enter on the blessed work of the 
world s evangelization, by unfolding the wide extent and deep 
spirituality of the law s requirements. For how large a portion 
of the Sermon on the Mount is taken up in giving a clear and 
searching exposition of the law s righteousness, and rescuing it 
from the false and extenuating glosses under which it had been 
buried ! Nay, Christ, during His personal ministry, could pro 
ceed but a small way in openly revealing the grace of the Gos 
pel, because, after all, the work of the law was so imperfectly 
done in the hearts even of His own disciples. And so still in 
the experience of men at large ; it is because the sense and 
condemnation of sin are so seldom felt, that the benefits of sal 
vation are so little known. 2 

3. The necessary connection that subsisted between the law 
and the ceremonial institutions of the Old Testament, may be 

1 From a work, Die Lehre von der Sunde und von Vereohner, as quoted 
by Bialloblotzky, De Abrogatione Legis, p. 82, 83. 

2 The use of the law now described, though properly but its secondary 
design, is very commonly given by popular writers of this country as its 
chief, or almost only, use to the Israelites. Thus Bell, on Cov., p. 1 li . 
speaking of God s design in giving the law from Sinai, says, u God gave it 
in subserviency to the promise, to show unto sinners tin ir transgression and 
their guilt, and of consequence to drive them unto it." So another still 


given as a still further reason of its revelation and enactment ; 
although, when properly understood, this was not so much a 
distinct and separate end, as a combination of the two already 
specified. This law, perfect in its character and perpetual in 
its obligation, formed the groundwork of all the symbolical 
services afterwards imposed ; as was distinctly implied in the 
place chosen for its permanent position. For as the centre of 
all Judaism was the tabernacle, so the centre of this again was 
the law the ark, which stood enshrined in the Most Holy Place, 
being made for the sole purpose of keeping the two tables of 
the covenant. So that the reflection could hardly fail to force 
itself on all considerate and intelligent worshippers, that the 
observance of this law was the great end of the religion then 
established. Nor could any other use be imagined, of the 
strictly religious rites and institutions which so manifestly 
pointed to this law as their common ground and centre, than 
either to assist as means in preserving alive the knowledge of 
its principles, and promoting their observance, or as remedies 
to provide against the evils naturally arising from its neglect 
and violation. 

These two objects plainly harmonize with the reasons already 
assigned for the giving of the law, and present the ceremonial 
services and institutions to our view as partly subservient to the 
righteousness it enjoined, and partly conducive to its ulterior 
end of drawing men to Christ. It will be our endeavour in the 
next Book to bring fully out and illustrate this relation between 
the law of the two tables and the symbols of Judaism ; but 
at present we must content ourselves with briefly indicating its 
general nature. 

(1.) In so far as those symbols had in view the first of the 
objects just mentioned, they are to be regarded in the same 

more strongly : " God made it (viz., the covenant of law, which is regarded 
by the author as the same with the covenant of works) with the Israelites 
for no other end than that man, being thereby convinced of his weakness, 
might flee unto Christ." (Marrow of Modern Div., P. i., c. 2.) Their put 
ting this design first, and making it in a manner all, arose from their 
viewing the religion of the Old Covenant too exclusively in a typical aspect, 
as if the things belonging to it had not also had another and more direct 


general light as the means and ordinances of grace under the 
New Testament. It is through these that the knowledge of the 
Gospel is diffused, its divine principles implanted in the hearts 
of men, and a suitable channel also provided for expressing the 
thoughts and feelings which the reception of the Gospel tends to 
awaken. Such also was one great design of the law s sym 
bolical institutions, though with a characteristic difference suited 
to the time of their appointment. They were formal, precise, 
imperative, as for persons in comparative childhood, who re 
quired to be kept under the bonds of a rigid discipline, and a 
discipline that should chiefly work from without inwards, so as 
to form the soul to right thoughts and feelings, while, at the 
same time, it provided appropriate services for the exercise of 
such when formed. Appointed for these ends, the institutions 
could not be of an arbitrary nature, as if the authoritative com 
mand of God were the only reason that could be assigned for 
their appointment, or as if the external service were required 
simply on its own account. They stood to the law in the stricter 
sense the law of the ten commandments in the relation of 
expressive signs and faithful monitors, perpetually urging upon 
men s consciences, and impressing, as it were, upon their senses, 
the essential distinctions between right and wrong, which the 
law plainly revealed and established. The symbolical ordinances 
did not create these distinctions ; they did not of themselves 
even indicate wherein the distinctions stood ; and in this partly 
appeared their secondary and subservient position as compared 
with the law of the two tables. The ordinance, for example, 
respecting clean and unclean in food, pointed to a distinction in 
the moral sphere to one class of things to be avoided as evil, 
and another to be sought after as good ; but it gave no intima 
tion as to what the one or the other actually was : for this, it 
pointed to the two tables of the covenant. Or, to look to another 
ordinance, why should the touch of the dead have defiled? The 
touch might come by accident, or even in the discharge of 
domestic duty ; yet defilement was not the less its result; and 
only after a series of lustrations could the subjects of it return 
to the freedom and privileges of God s covenant. The reason 
was, that as the children of the living God, they should have 
been conscious only of righteousness and life : neither sin nor 


death (which is the wages of sin) should have been found within 
their borders. And so, to constitute the visitation of death, or 
even the touch of a dead man s bone, into a ground of defilement, 
was virtually to admonish them of the accursed nature of sin, 
and of their still abiding connection with the region where sin 
was working. In short, it ought to be held as a most certain 
principle, that in the ceremonialism of the Old Covenant nothing 
was simply ceremonial : the spirit of the whole was the spirit of 
the ten commandments. 

Such being the connection between the moral law in the 
legislation of Moses, and the symbolical rites and services an 
nexed to it, it was plainly necessary that the latter required to 
be wisely arranged, both in kind and number, so as fitly to pro 
mote the ends of their appointment. They were not outward 
rites and services of any sort. The outward came into existence 
merely for the sake of the religious and moral elements embodied 
in it, for the spiritual lessons it conveyed, or the sentiments of 
godly fear and brotherly love it was fitted to awaken. And 
that such ordinances should not only exist, but also be spread 
out into a vast multiplicity of forms, was a matter of necessity ; 
as the dispensation then set up admitted so veiy sparingly of 
direct instruction, and was comparatively straitened in its sup 
plies of inward grace. Imperfect as those outward ordinances 
were, so imperfect, that they were at last done away as unpro 
fitable, the members of the Old Covenant were still chiefly de 
pendent upon them for having the character of the Divine law- 
exhibited to their minds, and its demands kept fresh upon the 
conscience. It was therefore fit that they should not only per 
vade the strictly religious territory, but should even be carried 
beyond it, embracing all the more important relations of life, 
that the Israelite might thus find something in what he ordi 
narily saw and did, in the very food he ate, and the garments 
he wore, to remind him of the law of his God, and stimulate 
him to the cultivation of that righteousness which it was his 
paramount duty to cherish and exemplify. 

AVere these things duly considered, another and worthier 
reason would easily be discovered for the occasional interming 
ling of the moral and the ceremonial parts of the Mosaic legis 
lation, than what is very commonly assigned. This did not 


arise from a confounding of the positive and moral, the shadowy 
and tin- abiding, as if they stood upon the same level, and no 
distinction \\i-n- recognised betwixt them. The position of the 
law of the ten commandments in the ark of the covenant, as we 
have already stated, to say nothing of the other marks of dis 
tinction belonging to it, stood as a perpetual sign before the 
eyes of the people, that the things there enjoined held im 
measurably the highest rank. It is, in truth, the most sublime 
exaltation of the moral above all material symbols of revelation, 
<>r ceremonial forms of worship, to be found in the religious annals 
of antiquity. In heathendom there is nothing to be compared 
with it, nor in the after-history of the covenant people is there 
anything that can justly be placed above it. The elevated 
moral teaching of the prophets is but the reflection, or specific 
and varied application, of what stood embodied before them in 
the lofty pattern exhibited in the handwriting of Moses, wherein 
the ceremonial was appointed only for the sake of the moral, 
and in a relation of subservience to it. 

From the views now unfolded, an important conclusion fol 
lows of a practical kind : for, since the symbolical institutions 
of Judaism continually bore respect to the moral law, and in a 
manner re-echoed its testimony, it is plain that God never could 
be satisfied with a mere outward conformity to the letter of the 
Mosaic ritual. Support has often been sought in Scripture 
itself for such an idea, especially in regard to the sacrifices ; and 
the prophets have not unfrequently been represented as by their 
teaching serving to correct the tendency of the law in this 
respect, and going far in advance of it. The prophets, however, 
only comparatively depreciated the ceremonial institutions of 
the law (for at fitting times they also zealously enjoined their 
observance, Ps. li. 19, cxviii. 27 ; Isa. xliii. 23, 24, Ivi. 7 ; Mai. 
i. 11, iii. 9, iv. 4, etc.), and for the purpose of meeting a corrupt 
tendency among the people, to lay undue stress on merely out- 
ward rites and services. But, in reality, the law itself, when pro 
perly understood, did tin- saim-. No one who looked into it with 
a considerate spirit could avoid the impression, that " to obey was 
In -Her than sacrifice ;" and that they who made the outward cere 
monies of one part a substitute for the spiritual reqoiremetitl of 
another, were taking counsel of their own hearts, rather than 


sitting at the feet of Moses, llengstenberg justly remarks, 
that " there cannot be produced out of the whole Old Testa 
ment one single passage, in which the notion that sacrifices of 
themselves, and apart from the state of mind in the offerers, are 
well-pleasing to God, is noticed, except for the purpose of vigo 
rously opposing it. When, for example, in Lev. xxvi. 31, it is 
said in reference to the ungodly, I will not smell the savour of 
your sweet odours ; and when, in Gen. iv. 4, 5, we find that, 
along with an outward similarity, the offerings of Cain and 
Abel met with such a different reception from God, and that 
this difference is represented as being based on something per 
sonal to the individuals, it is all but expressly asserted, that 
sacrifices were regarded only as expressive of the inner senti 
ment." 1 And again: "That the law, with all its appearance 
of outwardness, still possessed throughout a religious-moral, an 
internal, spiritual character, is manifest from the fact, that the 
two internal commands of love to God and one s neighbour 
are in the law itself represented as those in which all the rest 
lie enclosed, the fulfilment of which carried along with it the 
fulfilment of all individual precepts, and without which no obe 
dience was practicable : ( And now, Israel, what does the Lord 
thy God require of thee, etc. (Deut. x. 12, vi. 5, xi. 1, 13, 
xiii. 3, xxx. 15, 20; Lev. xix. 18.) If everything in the law is 
made to turn upon love, it is self-evident that a dead bodily 
service could not be what was properly required. Besides, in 
Lev. xxvi. 41, the violation of the law is represented as the 
necessary product of an uncircumcised heart; and in Deut. x. 
10 we find the remarkable words: And ye shall circumcise 
the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked, which 
condemn all Pharisaism, that is ever expecting good fruit from 
bad trees, and would gather grapes from thorns, and figs from 
thistles." 2 What is called the ceremonial law, therefore, was, in 
its more immediate and primary aspect, an exhibition by means 
of symbolical rites and institutions of the righteousness enjoined 
in the decalogue, and a discipline through which the heart 
might be wrought into some conformity to the righteousness 

(2.) But the more fully the ceremonial parts of the Mosaic 
1 Introduc. to Ps. xxxii. 2 Authentic, ii., p. 611, 612. 


legislation were fitted to accomplish this end, they must so much 
the more liavi- traded to help forward the other end of the law, 
viz., to produce conviction of sin, and prepare the heart for 
Christ. " r>\ tin- law is the knowledge of sin" the sense of 
shortcomings and transgressions is in exact proportion to the 
insight that has been obtained into its true spiritual meaning. 
And the manifold restrictions and services of a bodily kind 
which were imposed upon the Israelites, as they all spoke of 
holiness and sin, so, where their voice was honestly listened to, 
it must have been with the effect of begetting impressions of 
guilt. They were perpetually uttering without the sanctuary 
the cry of transgression, which was rising within, under the 
throne of God, from the two tables of testimony. They might 
even be said to do more ; for of them more peculiarly does it 
hold, "They entered that the offence might abound," since, 
while calling upon men to abstain from sin, they at the same 
time multiplied the occasions of offence. The strict limitations 
and numerous requirements of service, through which they did 
the one, render it unavoidable that they should also do the 
other ; as they thus necessarily made many things to be sin 
which were not so before, or in their own nature, and conse 
quently increased both the number of transgressions, and their 
burden upon the conscience. How comparatively difficult must 
it have been to apprehend through so many occasions and wit 
nesses of guilt the light of God s reconciliation and love ! How 
often must the truly spiritual heart have felt as heavy laden 
with its yoke, and scarcely able to bear it ! And how glad 
should have been to all the members of the covenant the tidings 
of that " liberty with which Christ makes His people free !" 

This, however, was not the whole. Had the ceremonial 
institutions and services simply co-operated with the decalogue 
in producing upon men s minds a conviction of guilt, and shut 
ting them up to the necessity of salvation, the yoke of bondage 
would have been altogether intolerable, and despair rather than 
the hope of salvation must have been the consequence. They so 
far differed, however, from the precepts of the law, that they pro 
vided ;i pivsL-nt atonement for the sin which the law mudi-mnrd 
met the conscious defect of righteousness which the law pro 
duced, with vicarious sacrifices and bodily lustrations. But 


these, as formerly noticed, were so manifestly inadequate to the 
end in view, that though they might, from being God s own 
appointed remedies, restore the troubled conscience to a state of 
peace, they could not thoroughly satisfy it. First of all, they 
betrayed their own insufficiency, by allowing certain fearful 
gaps in the list of transgressions to stand unprovided for. Be 
sides, the comparatively small distinction that was made, as 
regards purification, between mere bodily defilements and moral 
pollution, and the absolute necessity of resorting anew to the 
blood of atonement, as often as the sense of guilt again returned, 
were plain indications that such services " could not make the 
comers thereunto perfect as pertaining to the conscience." To 
the thoughtful mind it must have seemed as if a struggle was 
continually proceeding between God s holiness and the sin of 
His creatures, in which the former found only a most imperfect 
vindication. For what just comparison could be made between 
the forfeited life of an accountable being and the blood of an 
irrational victim ? Or between the defilements of a polluted con 
science and the external washings of the outward man ? Surely 
considerate and pious minds must have felt the need of some 
thing greatly more valuable to compensate for the evil done 
by sin, and must have seen, in the existing means of purifica 
tion, only the temporary substitutes of better things to come. 
Such, at least, was the ultimate design of God ; and whatever 
may have been the extent or clearness of view in those who 
lived among the shadows of the law, regarding the coming 
realities of the Gospel, it is impossible that they should have 
entered into the spirit of the former dispensation without being 
prepared to hail a suffering Messiah as the only true consolation 
of Israel ; and prepared also to join in the song of the redeemed, 
" Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and 
riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and 
blessing." 1 

At the same time, there can be no doubt that here peculiarly 

1 It is assumed here, that the sacrifices appointed under the law were 
intended to meet the sense of guilt produced by the law, and provide for it 
a present relief the one, therefore, having to do with moral considerations 
as well as the other. But see this point formally discussed in connection 
with the sin-offeriny, Ch. III., sec. 7. 


lay the danger of the members of the Old Covenant a danger, 
which the issue too clearly proved, that but a small proportion 
of them were able properly to surmount. Not seeing to the 
end of the things amid which they were placed, and wanting 
the incalculable advantage of the awful revelation of God s 
righteousness in Christ, the law failed to teach them effectually 
of the nature of that righteousness, or to convince them of sin, 
or to prepare them for the reception of the Saviour. But fail 
ing in these grand points, the law became a stumbling-block 
and a hindrance in their path. For now men s consciences 
adjusted themselves to the imperfect appearances of things, and 
acted much in the spirit of those in present times, who, as a 
sensible and pious writer expresses it, " try to bring up the 
power of free-will to holiness, by bringing holiness down to the 
power of free-will." 1 The dead letter, consequently, became 
everything with them ; they saw nothing beneath the outward 
shell, nor felt any need for other and higher realities than those 
with which they had immediately to do. Self-righteousness was 
the inevitable result ; and that, rooting itself the more deeply, 
and raising more proudly aloft its pretensions, that it had to 
travel the round of so complicated a system of laws and ordi 
nances. For, great as the demand was which the observance of 
these made upon the obedience, still, as viewed by the carnal eye, 
it was something that could be measured and done not so huge 
but that the mind could grapple with its accomplishment ; and 
hence, instead of undermining the pride of nature, only supply 
ing it with a greater mass of materials for erecting its claims on 
the favour of Heaven. The spirit of self-righteousness was the 
prevailing tendency of the carnal mind under the Old Dispensa 
tion, as an unconcern about personal righteousness is under the 
New. How many were snared by it ! and how fatally bound ! 
Of all "the spirits in prison" to whom the word of the Gospel 
came with its offers of deliverance, those proved to be the most 
hopelessly incarcerated in the strongholds of error, who trusted 
in themselves that they were righteous, and stumbled at the 
rock of a free salvation. 

1 Fraser ou Sanctification, p. 298. 



THE relation of believers under the New Testament to the law 
has been a fruitful subject of controversy among divines. This 
has arisen chiefly from the apparently contradictory statements 
made respecting it in New Testament Scripture ; and this, 
again, partly from the change introduced by the setting up of 
the more spiritual machinery of the Gospel dispensation, and 
partly also in consequence of the mistaken views entertained 
regarding the law by those to whom the Gospel first came, 
which required to be corrected by strong representations of an 
opposite description. Thus, on the one hand, we find our Lord 
saying, " Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the 
prophets : I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I 
say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle 
shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whoso 
ever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, 
and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the king 
dom of heaven : but whosoever shall do and teach them, the 
same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." 1 Stronger 
language could not possibly be employed to assert the abiding 
force and obligation of the law s requirements under the New 
Testament dispensation ; for that this is specially meant by 
" the kingdom of heaven," is too obvious to require any proof. 
In perfect conformity with this statement of our Lord, we find 
the apostles everywhere enforcing the duties enjoined in the 
law ; as when St James describes the genuine Christian by 
" his looking into the perfect law of liberty, and continuing 
therein," and exhorts the disciples " not to speak evil of the 
1 Matt. v. 17-19. 


law, or to judge it, but to fulfil it;" 1 or when the Apostle 
Paul not only speaks of himself as " being under the law to 
Christ," 2 but presses on the disciples at Koine and Galatia the 
constant exercise of love on the ground of its being " the ful 
filling of the law;" 3 and in answer to the question, "Do we 
then make void the law through faith ?" he replies, u God for 
bid : yea, we establish the law." 4 

But, on the other hand, when we turn to a different class of 
passages, we meet with statements that seem to run in the pre 
cisely opposite direction, especially in the writings of St Paul. 
There alone, indeed, do we meet with them in the form of dog 
matical assertions, although in a practical fonn the same ele 
ment of thought occurs in the other epistles. In the first Epistle 
to Timothy he lays this down as a certain position, that " the 
law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and 
disobedient." 6 And in the Epistle to the Romans he indicates 
a certain contrast between the present state of believers in this 
respect with what it was under the former dispensation, and 
asserts that the law no longer occupies the place it once did : 
" Now we are delivered from the law, being dead to that 
wherein we were held ; that we should serve in newness of spirit, 
and not in the oldness of the letter." 6 And again : " Sin shall 
not have dominion over you : for ye are not under the law, but 
under grace." 7 

That in all these passages the law, in the strict and proper 
sense, is meant, the law of the ten commandments, the sum of 
whose precepts is perfect love to God and man, we may here 
take for granted, after what has been said regarding it in the 
first section of this chapter. It seems perfectly unaccountable, 
on any grounds of criticism at least, that so many English 
writers should have thought of solving the difficulty arising from 
the use of such language, by alleging the Apostle to have had 
in view simply the ceremonial law, as contradistinguished from 
the moral. This view, we should imagine, is now nearly ex 
ploded among the better-informed students of Scripture ; for 

1 -his. i. 25, ii. 8-12. 3 1 Cor. ix. I l. 

8 Rom. xiii. 10 ; Gal. v. 14. 4 Rom. iii. 31. 

5 1 Tim. i. 9. 6 Rom. vii. 6. 

" Rom. vi. 14. 


not only does the Apostle, as Archbishop Whately states, speak 
of the freedom of Christians from the law, " without limiting or 
qualifying the assertion, without even hinting at any distinction 
between moral and ceremonial or civil precepts," but there can 
be no doubt that it is what is commonly understood by the moral 
part of the Mosaic legislation the decalogue that he has spe 
cially and properly in view. 1 

In what respect, then, can it be said of Christians, that they 
are freed from this law, or are not under it ? We must first 
answer the question in a general way ; after which only can we 
be prepared for pointing out distinctly wherein the relation of 
the members of the New Covenant to the law differs from that 
of those who lived under the Old. 

1. Believers in Christ are not under the law as to the ground 
of their condemnation or justification before God. It is not the 
law, but Christ, that they are indebted to for pardon and life ; 
and receiving these from Him as His gift of grace, they cannot 
be brought by the law into condemnation and death. The 
reason is, that Christ has, by His own pure and spotless obe 
dience, done what the law, in the hands of fallen humanity, 
could not do He has brought in the everlasting righteousness, 
which, by its infinite worth, has merited eternal life for as 
many as believe upon Him. " There is therefore now no con 
demnation to them that are in Christ Jesus ; " " Whosoever 
believeth upon Him is justified from all things ; " or, in the still 
stronger and more comprehensive language of Christ Himself, 
" He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, 
hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but 
hath passed from death to life." 2 

This, it will be perceived, is what is commonly understood 
by deliverance from the law as a covenant. But it is proper to 
remark, that though the idea expressed in such language is 

1 The work of Fraser on Sanctification, which has been less known in 
England than it should have been, ia perfectly conclusive against Locke, 
Hammond, Whitby, and others, that the Apostle in Romans had in view 
the moral rather than the ceremonial law. It is impossible, indeed, that 
such a notion could ever have been entertained by such men except through 
strong doctrinal prejudices. 

2 Rom. viii. 1 ; Acts xiii. 39 ; John. v. 24. 


scriptural, the language itself is not so, and is rather fitted to 
mislead; for it appears to imply that, as the law certainly 
formed the basis of a covenant with the Old Testament Church, 
its being so tunned made it something else than a rule of life, 
and warranted the Israelites to look to it, in the first instance at 
least, for life and blessing. This, we have already shown, was 
not the purpose for which the law was either given or established 
as a covenant among them ; and deliverance from it in the sense 
mentioned above, marks no essential distinction between the case 
of believers under the Old and that of those under the New 
Testament dispensation. The standing of the one as well as 
the other was in grace ; and when the law came, it came not 
for the purpose of subverting or changing that constitution, but 
only to direct and oblige men to carry out the important ends 
for which they had been made partakers of grace and blessing. 
Strictly speaking, therefore, the Church never was under the 
law as a covenant, in the sense commonly understood by the 
term ; it was only the mistake of the carnal portion of her 
members to suppose themselves to have been so. But as God 
Himself is unchangeable in holiness, the demands of His law, 
as revealed to men in grace, must be substantially the same as 
those which they are bound in nature to comply with under 
pain of His everlasting displeasure. In this respect all may be 
said, by the very constitution of their being, to be naturally 
under law to God, and, as transgressors of law, liable to punish 
ment. But through the grace of God we have ceased to be so 
under it, if we have become true believers in Christ. We have 
pardon and acceptance through faith in His blood; and even 
though "in many things offending, and in all coming short," 
yet, while faith abides in us, we cannot come into condemna 
tion. To this belong all such passages as treat of justification, 
and declare it to be granted without the law, or the deeds of the 
law, to the ungodly, and as God s gift of grace in Christ. 

2. But this is not the only respect in which the Apostle 
aiiinns believers now to be free from the law, nor the respect at 
all which lie has in view in the sixth and seventh chapters of 
his Epistle to the Romans ; for the subject he is there handling 
is not justification, but sanctification. The question lie is dis 
cussing is not how, as condemned and sinful creatures, we may 


be accepted as righteous before God ; but how, being already 
pardoned and accepted in the Beloved, we ought to live. In 
this respect, also, he affirms that we are dead to the law, and are 
not under it, but under grace the grace, that is, of God s in 
dwelling Spirit, whose quickening energy and pulse of life takes 
the place of the law s outward prescriptions and magisterial 
authority. And if it were not already clear, from the order of 
the Apostle s thoughts, and the stage at which he has arrived in the 
discussion, that it is in this point of view he is now considering 
the law, the purpose for which he asserts our freedom to have been 
obtained would put it beyond all reasonable doubt, viz., " that 
sin might not have dominion over us" (ch. vi. 14), or, " that the 
righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." (Ch. viii. 4.) 1 

According to the doctrine of the Apostle, then, believers are 
not under the law as to their walk and conduct ; or, as he says 
elsewhere, " the law is not for the righteous :" believers " have 
the Spirit of the Lord ; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there 
is liberty." But is not this dangerous doctrine ? For where now 
is the safeguard against sin 1 May not each one do as he lists, 
oblivious of any distinction between holiness and sin, or even de 
nying its existence, as regards the children of God, on the ground 
that where no law is, there is no transgression? To such questions 
the Apostle s reply is, " God forbid," so far from it, that the 
freedom he asserts from the law has for its sole aim a deliverance 
from sin s dominion, and a fruitfulness in all well-doing to God. 

The truth more fully stated is simply this : When the be 
liever receives Christ as the Lord his righteousness, he is not 
only justified by grace, but he comes into a state of grace, or 

1 It seems very strange, considering bow plain and explicit the Apostle s 
meaning is, that the late Professor Lee of Cambridge should still say: "The 
main question, I think, here discussed (viz., in ch. vii.) by the Apostle is, 
How is a man to be justified with God?" (Dissertations, i., sec. 10.) 
Haldane, also, in his Commentary, maintains the same obviously untenable 
view. Fraser (Sanctification, on Rom. vii. 4) justly remarks, that though 
the similitude of marriage used by the Apostle in ch. vii. " might be ex 
plained to show that the sinner cannot attain justification or any of its 
comfortable consequences by the law," yet that it is another consequence of 
the marriage covenant and relation that he hath in his eye," viz., "the 
bringing forth of fruit unto God; " in other words, the maintaining of such 
holy lives as constitute our sanctification. 


gets grace into his heart as a living, reigning, governing prin 
ciple of life. What, however, is this grace but the Spirit of life 
in Christ Jesus? And this Spirit is emphatically the Holy 
Spirit ; holiness is the very element of His being, and the 
essential law of His working ; every desire He breathes, every 
feeling He awakens, every action lie disposes and enables us to 
perform, is according to godliness. And if only we are suffi 
ciently possessed of this Spirit, and yield ourselves to His 
direction and control, we no longer need the restraint and dis 
cipline of the law ; we are free from it, because we are superior 
to it. Quickened and led by the Spirit, we of ourselves love 
and do the things which the law requires. 

Does not nature itself teach substantially the same lesson in 
its line of things ? The child, so long as he is a child, must be 
subject to the law of his parents ; his safety and well-being 
depend on his being so ; he must on every side be hemmed in, 
checked, and stimulated by that law of his parents, otherwise 
mischief and destruction will infallibly overtake him. But as he 
ripens toward manhood he becomes freed from this law, because 
he no longer needs such external discipline and restraint. He is 
a law to himself, putting away childish things, and of his own 
accord acting as the parental authority, had he still been subject 
to it, would have required and enforced him to do. In a word, 
the mind has become his from which the parental law proceeded, 
and he has consequently become independent of its outward pre 
scriptions. And what is it to be under the grace of God s Spirit, 
but to have the mind of God? the mind of Him who gave the 
law simply as a revelation of what was in His heart respecting 
the holiness of His people. So that the more they have of the 
one, the less obviously they need of the other ; and if only they 
were complete in the grace of the Spirit, they should be wholly 
independent of the bonds and restrictions of the law. 

Or let us bring into comparison the relation in which a good 
man stands to the laws of his country. In one sense, indeed, he 
is under them ; but in another and higher sense he is alum- 
them, and moves along his course with conscious freedom, as if 
he scarcely knew of their existence. For what is the object of 
such laws but to prevent, under severe penalties, the commission 
of crime 1 Crime, however, is already the object of his abhor- 


rence ; he needs no penalties to keep him from it. He would 
never harm the person or property of a neighbour, though there 
were not a single enactment in the statute-book on the subject. 
His own love of good and hatred of evil keep him in the path 
of rectitude, not the fines, imprisonments, or tortures which the 
law hangs around the path of the criminal. The law was not 
made for him. 

It is not otherwise with one who has become a partaker of 
grace. The law, considered as an outward discipline placing him 
under a yoke of manifold commands and prohibitions, has for 
him ceased to exist. But it has ceased in that respect only by 
taking possession of him in another. It is now within his heart. 
It is the law of the Spirit of life in his inner man ; emphatically, 
therefore, " the law of liberty:" his delight is to do it; and it 
were better for him not to live, than to live otherwise than the 
tenor of the law requires. We see in Jesus, the holy child of 
God, the perfect exemplar of this free-will service to Heaven : 
for while He was made under the law, He was so replenished 
with the Spirit, that He fulfilled it as if He fulfilled it not ; it 
was His very meat to do the will of Him that sent Him ; and 
not more certainly did the law enjoin, than He in His inmost 
soul loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Such also, in a 
measure, will ever be the case with the devout believer in Jesus 
in the same measure in which he has received of his Master s 
Spirit. Does the law command him to bear no false witness 
against his neighbour ? He is already so renewed in the spirit 
of his mind, as to speak the truth in his heart, and be ready to 
swear to his own hurt. Does the law demand, through all its 
precepts, supreme love to God, and brotherly love to men V 
Why should this need to be demanded as matter of law from 
him who has the Eternal Spirit of love bearing sway within, who 
therefore may be said to live and breathe in an atmosphere of 
love ? Like Paul, he can say with king-like freedom, " I can 
do all things through Christ strengthening me ;" even in chains 
I am free ; I choose what God chooses for me : His will in 
doing or suffering I embrace as my own ; for I have Him work 
ing in me both to will and to do of His good pleasure. 

Now it is here that the difference properly comes in between 
the Old and the New Testament dispensations, a difference. 


however, it must be carefully marked, of degree only, and not 
of kind. Tin- saving is here especially applicable, "On the 
outside of things look for differences, on the inside for like- 
ncsses." l In correspondence with the change that has taken 
place in the character of the Divine administration, the relative 
position of believers to the law and the Spirit has changed ; but 
under both covenants alike, an indispensable place belongs to 
each of them. In the former dispensation the law stood more 
prominently out, and was the more peculiar means for leading 
men to holiness supplying, as by a sort of artificial stimulant 
and support, the still necessary defect in the inward gift of the 
Spirit s grace. We say the necessary defect ; for the proper 
materials of the Spirit s working, not yet being provided or 
openly revealed, the Spirit could not be fully given, nor could 
His work be carried on otherwise than in a mystery. It was so 
carried on, however ; every true member of the covenant was a 
partaker of the Spirit, because he stood in grace at the same 
time that he stood under the law. But his relation to the Spirit 
was of a more hidden and secret, to the law of a more ostensible 
and manifest, character. In the New Testament dispensation 
this relation is exactly reversed, although in each respect it still 
exists. The work of Christ, which furnishes the proper materials 
of the Spirit s operations, having been accomplished, and Him 
self glorified, the Spirit is now fully and unreservedly given. 
Through the power of His grace, in connection with the word 
of the Gospel, the Divine kingdom avowedly purposes to effect 
its spiritual designs, and bring forth its fruits of righteousness 
to God. This, therefore, it is to which the believer now stands 
immediately and ostensibly related, as the agency through which 
he is to f ultil the high ends of his calling ; while the law retires 
into the background, or should be known only as existing 
within, impressed in all its essential lines of truth and duty 
upon the tablet of the heart, and manifesting itself in the deeds 
of a righteous life. But whether the law or the Spirit stand 
more prominently forward, the end is the same namely, right 
eousness. The only difference that exists, is as to the means of 
securing this end more outward in the one case, more inward 
in the other ; yet in each a measure of both required, and one 
1 Ihir/s iluussea after Truth, ii., p. 3. 


and the same point aimed at. Hence the words of the Apostle : 
" Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one 
that believeth," i.e., both alike are for righteousness this is the 
one great end which Christ and the law have equally in view. 
But in Christ it is secured in a far higher way than it could 
possibly be through the law, since He has not only perfected 
Himself as the Divine Head and Surety of His people in the 
righteousness which the law requires, but also endows them with 
the plentiful grace of His Spirit, "that the righteousness of 
the law might be fulfilled in them, walking not after the flesh, 
but after the Spirit." 

With these distinctions clearly perceived, we shall easily 
understand what is said in the New Testament Scriptures of 
the difference, in a practical point of view, as to the condition 
of believers under the past and the present dispensations respec 
tively. This is spoken of as a state of comparative freedom, that 
of a certain species of restraint or bondage not the bondage, 
indeed, of slaves and mercenaries, which belonged only to the 
carnal, as opposed to the believing portion of the Church but 
the bondage of those who, though free-born children, arc still 
in nonage, and must be kept under the restraint and discipline 
of an external law. This, however, could in no case be the 
whole of the agency with which the believer was plied, for then 
his yoke must have been literally the galling bondage of the 
slave. He must have had more or less the Spirit of life within, 
begetting and prompting him to do the things which the law 
outwardly enjoined making the pulse of life in the heart beat 
in harmony with the rule of life prescribed in the law ; so that, 
while he still felt as under tutors and governors, it was not as 
one needing to be " held in with bit and bridle/ but rather as 
one disposed readily and cheerfully to keep to the appointed 
course. This would be the case with him always the more, the 
more diligently he employed the measure of grace within his 
reach ; and if in a spirit of faith he could indeed " lift the latch 
and force his way" onwards to the end of those things which 
were then established, he might even have become insensible to 
the bonds and trammels of his childhood-condition, and attained 
to the free and joyful spirit of the perfect man. So it unques 
tionably was with the Psalmist, and doubtless might have been 


with all, if thrv h:ul but used, as he did, the privileges granted 
them. For such, the law was not a mere outward yoke, nor in 
any proper sense a burden : it was " within their heart ;" they 
delighted in its precepts, and meditated therein day and night ; 
to listen to its instructions was sweeter to them than honey, 
and to obey its dictates was better than thousands of gold and 
silver. 1 

It is only, therefore, in a comparative sense, that we are to 
understand the passages in the New Testament Scripture 
formerly referred to ; and in the same sense, also, that similar 
passages are to be interpreted in Old Testament Scripture, 
such, for example, as Jer. xxxi. 31-34 : " Behold, the days come, 
saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house 
of Israel, and with the house of Judah ; not according to the 
covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took 
them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt . . . 
but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house 
of Israel ; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law 
in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be 
their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach 
no more every man his neighbour," etc. (Comp. Ezek. xxxvi. 
25-27, which differs only in particularizing the agency by which 
the better state of things was to be introduced the larger gift 
of the Spirit.) " The discourse here cannot be of a new and 
more complete revelation of the law of God, for this is common 
to both economies : no jot or tittle of it can be lost under the New 
Testament, nor can a jot or tittle be added to it ; God s law 
rests on His nature, and this is eternally immutable. (Mai. iii. 
6.) Just as little can the discourse be of the introduction of an 
entirely new relation, which by no means has the former for its 
groundwork. In this respect Kimchi rightly remarks : Non 
erit foederis novitas, sed stabilimeutum ejus (not a change, but 
an establishing of the covenant). The covenant with Israel is 
eternal ; Jehovah would not be Jehovah, if an absolutely new 
lu ^iniiing could take place. (Rom. xv. 8.) When, therefore, 
tin- subject of discourse is here the antithesis of an Old and :i 
New covenant, the former must designate, not the relation of 
( Jod to Israel in itself, and in all its extent, but rather only the 
1 Sir especially 1 s. i., xv., xxiv., xl.. cxix. 

M)L. II. N 


former manifestation of this relation that through which the 
Lord, until the time of the prophet, had made Himself known 
as the God of Israel." 1 And in regard to the difference indi 
cated by the prophet, as to the believer s connection with the 
law under the two covenants, the learned author, expressing his 
concurrence in particular with Calvin and Buddeus, goes on to 
show that this also is not absolute, but only relative. He justly 
states that the idea of a purely outward giving of the law is 
inconceivable, as God would then have done for Israel nothing 
farther than He did for the traitor Judas, in whose conscience 
He proclaimed His holy law, without giving him any power to 
repent that the terms in which the law is spoken of by the 
Psalmist, in the name of the Old Testament saints, -shows it to 
have been in their experience no longer a law that worketh 
wrath, but a law in connection with the Spirit, whose commands 
are not grievous ; and that the antithesis between the Old and 
the New state of things, though in itself but relative, was ex 
pressed in the absolute form, merely because the gift of the 
Old Testament appeared, when compared with the infinitely 
more important and richer blessing of the New, as so small, that 
it vanished out of sight. 

Tint something else than that should also vanish from our 
sigiu. For if we enter as we should into these views, the idea 
of the law s abrogation or abolition under the New Testament, 
in whatever form proposed, will be repudiated as equally dan 
gerous and ungrounded. The law is in no proper sense abolished 
by the revelations of the Gospel ; nor does the Apostle in any 
fair construction of his language say that it is. He merely says, 
that through grace we are not under it, and in a conjugal respect 
are dead to it. In a certain qualified sense, believers in Old 
Testament times might be said to have been married to it, or to 
have been under it ; only, however, in a qualified sense, for God 
Himself the God of grace as well as of law was properly 
their husband (Jer. xxxi. 32), and they stood under the cove 
nant of grace before they came under the covenant of law. But 
though, even in that qualified sense, believers are not now under 
the law, or married to it, the righteousness required is as much 
binding upon their consciences, and expected at their hands, as 
1 Hengstenberg s Christology on Jer. xxxi. 31. 


it ever was at any former period of the Church s history. More 
so, indeed ; for the very reason, as the Apostle tells us, why they 
are placed less directly under the law, and more under the 
Spirit, is, that the- end of the law might be more certainly at 
tained, and a richer harvest yielded of its fruits of righteous 
ness. Therefore it is, that in the same epistle in which those 
expressions are used, conformity to the law s requirements is 
still held out, and inculcated as the very perfection of Christian 
excellence. (Rom. xiii. 8-10.) For it is not as if these two, 
the law and the Spirit, were contending authorities, or forces 
drawing in two distinct and separate lines. On the contrary, 
they are essentially and thoroughly agreed alike emanations 
of the unchanging holiness of Godhead the one its outward 
form and character in which it was to appear, the other its 
inward spring and pulse of life. What the one teaches, the 
other wills what the one requires, the other prompts and 
qualifies to perform ; and as the law at first came as an hand 
maid to the previously existing covenant of grace, so does it still 
remain in the hand of the Spirit to aid Him, amid the work 
ings of the flesh and the imperfections of grace, in carrying 
out the objects for which He condescends to dwell and act in 
the bosoms of men. 

Hence appears the monstrous absurdity and error of Antino- 
mianism, which proceeds on the supposition of the law and the 
Spirit being two distinct, possibly contending, authorities a doc 
trine not so much opposed to any particular portion of Scripture, 
as the common antithesis of all its revelations, and the subversion 
of all its principles. But let it once be understood that the law 
and the Spirit have but one end in view, and one path, in a sense, 
to reach it that the motions of the Spirit within, invariably, 
and by the highest of all necessities, take the direction prescribed 
by the law withqut let this be understood, and Antinomianism 
wants even the shadow of a ground to stand upon. It is not 
merely the Antinomians, however, who contend for the abroga 
tion of the law ; the same thing is substantially done by many 
divines who belong to an entirely different class. For example, 
Archbishop Whately, in his Essay 011 the Abolition of the Law, 
maintains this position : " The simplest and clearest way then of 
.stating the case, is to lay down, on the one hand, that the Mosaic 


law was limited both to the nation of the Israelites, and to the 
period before the Gospel; but, on the other hand, that the natural 
principles of morality which, among other things, it inculcates, 
are, from their own character of universal obligation, and that 
Christians are bound to obey the moral commandments it con 
tained, not because they are commandments of the Mosaic law, 
but because they are moral." This view, which puts the deca 
logue on a footing with the laws of Solon or Mahomet, in so far 
as any obligation on the conscience is concerned, is that also 
maintained, and with a considerable show of learning supported, 
by Bialloblotzky, in his work De Abrogatione Legis. The form 
into which the learned author throws his statement is, that the 
nomothetical authority of the Mosaic law is abolished, but its 
didactical authority remains ; in other words, it has no binding 
force as a law upon the conscience, but may still be profitably 
used for direction in the way of duty, due allowance of course 
being made for all that belonged to it of temporary appointment 
and ceremonial observance, which is no longer even a matter of 
duty. His chief arguments in supporting this view are, that in 
some things, especially in regard to the Sabbath, marriage, the 
symbolical rites (for all are thrown, as we observed before, into 
one mass), Christ and His apostles have corrected the law, 
and that they oppose the authority of the Spirit to the external 
tyranny of the law (as if these were two contending masters; and 
we actually have the passage, " No man can serve two masters," 
produced in proof of the argument, p. 63). Such views have 
been substantially met already ; and we simply remark farther, 
that they necessarily open the widest door for Antinomians and 
^Rationalists : for if, as possessors of the Spirit, we must first 
judge what part of the law is moral or didactic, and even when 
we have ascertained this, still are permitted to hold that we are 
not connected with it as a matter of binding and authoritative 
obligation, it is easy to see what slight convictions of sin will be 
felt, what loose notions of duty entertained, how feeble a barrier 
left against either the carnal or the fanatical spirit ridding itself 
of the plainest obligations. It is quite possible, no doubt, to 
produce unguarded statements, easily susceptible of an improper 
meaning, and partly, indeed, expressing such, from Luther s 
works on the law. But his real views, when carefully and doc- 


triually, not controversially expressed, were substantially correct, 
as will appear t ruiii a quotation to be given presently, or from 
Melancthoif s works, which Luther is well known to have held to 
be better expositions than his own of their doctrinal views. For 
example, after speaking (vol. i., p. 309) of the Mosaic law as not 
availing to justification, and in its civil and ceremonial parts done 
away, Melancthon adds : " But the moral law, since it is the 
wisdom of God and His eternal rule of righteousness, and has 
been revealed that man should be like God, cannot be abolished, 
but remains perpetually (Rom. iii. 31, viii. 4)." 

The question, however, naturally arises, Of what use is the law 
to those who really are under the Spirit I We answer, it would 
be of none, if the work of spiritual renovation, which His grace 
is given to effect, were perfected in us. But since this is far 
from being the case since imperfection still cleaves to the child 
of God, and the flesh, in a greater or less degree, still wars 
against the Spirit, the outward discipline of the law can never 
be safely dispensed with. Even St Paul was obliged to confess 
that he found the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and that 
though he was ever following after, he was conscious of not 
having yet attained to the full measure of grace and excellence 
in Christ. Therefore, for his own quickening and direction, as 
well as for that of others, he felt it needful to press the demands 
of law, and to look to the exceeding breadth of its requirements. 
Luther also, and his fellow-labourers, although their views were 
not always correct as to the relation in which Israel stood to the 
law, nor by any means clear regarding the precise nature of the 
change introduced by the Gospel, yet were sound enough on 
this point. Thus they say in one of their symbolical books : 
" Although the law was not made for the righteous (as the 
Apostle testifies, 1 Tim. i. 9), yet this is not to be understood as 
if the righteous might live without law ; for the Divine law is 
written upon their hearts. The true and genuine meaning, 
therefore, of Paul s words is, that the law cannot bring those 
who have been reconciled to God through Christ under its 
curse, and that its restraint cannot be irksome to the renewed, 
since they delight in the law of God after the inner man. . . . 
But believers are not completely and perfectly renewed in this 
life ; and though their sins are covered by the absolutely per- 


feet obedience of Christ, so as not to be imputed to believers to 
their condemnation, and though the mortification of the old 
Adam and the renovation in the spirit of their mind has been 
begun by the Holy Spirit, yet the old Adam still remains in 
nature s powers and affections," etc. 1 

There are three different respects in which we still need the 
law of God, and which it will be enough briefly to indicate : 
1. To keep us under grace, as the source of all our security and 
blessing. This we are ever apt, through the pride and self- 
confidence of the flesh, to forget, even though we have already 
in some measure known it. Therefore the law must be our 
schoolmaster, not only to bring us to Christ at the beginning of 
a Christian life, but also afterwards to keep us there, and force 
continually back upon us the conviction, that we must be in all 
respects the debtors of grace. For when we see what a spiritu 
ality and breadth is in the law of God, how it extends to the 
thoughts and affections of the heart as well as to our words and 
actions, and demands, in regard to all, the exercise of an un 
swerving devoted love, then we are made to feel that the law, if 
trusted in as a ground of confidence, must still work wrath, and 
that, convinced by it as transgressors, we must betake for all 
peace and consolation to the grace of Christ. Here alone, in 
His atonement, can we find satisfaction to our consciences ; and 
here alone also, in the strengthening aid of His Spirit, the ability 
to do the things which the law requires. 2. The law, again, is 
needed to restrain and hold us back from those sins which we 
might otherwise be inclined to commit. It is true, that in one 
who is really a subject of grace, there can be no habitual incli 
nation to live in sin ; for he is God s workmanship in Christ 
Jesus, created in Him unto good works. But the temptations of 
the world, and the devices of the spiritual adversary, may often 
be too much for any measure of grace he has already received, 
successfully to resist: he may want in certain circumstances tin- 
willing and faithful mind either to withstand evil or to prosecute 
as he should the path of righteousness ; and therefore the law 
is still placed before him by the Spirit, with its stem prohibitions 
and awful threatenings to move with fear, whenever love fails 
to prompt and influence the heart. Thus the Apostle : " I am 
1 De Abrog. Legis.. p. 7i\ 78. 


determined to know nothing among you but Christ and Him 
crucified" it is my delight, my very life, to preach the doctrines 
of His salvation ; but if the flesh should recoil from the work, 
and render the spirit unwilling, " a dispensation is committed to 
me, yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel." Thus the 
discipline of the law comes in to supply the imperfections of the 
Spirit, and curb the still remaining tendencies of sin. 3. And 
it is yet farther needed to present continually before the eye 
of the mind a clear representation of the righteousness which, 
through the grace of the Spirit, believers should be ever striving 
to attain. While that grace is still imperfect, they are neces 
sarily in danger of entertaining low and defective views of duty; 
nay, in times of peculiar temptation or undue excitement, they 
might even mistake the motions of the flesh for the promptings 
of the Spirit, and under the guise of truth embrace the way of 
error. But the law stands before them, with its revelation of 
righteousness, as a faithful and resplendent mirror, in which 
they may behold, without any danger of delusion or mistake, 
the perfect image of that excellence which they should be 
ever yielding to God. "We are free we have the Spirit, 
and are not. subject to bondage." True, but free only to act as 
servants of Christ, and not to throw around you a cloak of 
maliciousness. Believers are free, not to introduce what they 
please into the service of God, for He is a jealous God, and will 
not allow His glory to be associated with the vain imaginations 
of men ; they are free to worship Him only in spirit and in 
truth. Shall any one say he is free to give or withhold, as seems 
good to him, what may be needed to advance the cause of God 
in the world to employ or not for holy ends the means and 
opportunities he enjoys ! How impossible ! seeing that if he is 
really filled with the Spirit, the love of God must have been 
breathed into his soul, so as of necessity to v make it his delight 
to do what he can for the Divine glory, and to engage in the 
M-rvices which bring him into nearest fellowship with Heaven. 
Thus the freedom of the Spirit is a freedom only within the 
bounds and limits of the law ; and the law itself must stand, 
lest the flesh, taking advantage of the weakness of the Spirit s 
grai-e, should in its wantonness break forth into courses which 
are displeasing to the mind of God. 


So much for the law in the strict and proper sense, the law 
of the ten commandments, the freedom from which enjoyed 
by the Christian is not absolute, but relative only ; just as the 
Israelites want of the Spirit was also of a simply relative de 
scription. But in regard to what is called the ceremonial law, 
the freedom is absolute ; and to keep up the observance of its 
symbolical institutions and services after the new dispensation 
entered, was not only to retain a yoke that might be dispensed 
with, but also an incongruity to be avoided, and even a danger 
to be shunned. For, viewed simply as teaching ordinances, 
intended to represent and inculcate the great principles of truth 
and duty, they were superseded at the introduction of the 
Gospel by the appointment of other means, more suitable as 
instruments in the hand of the Spirit for ministering instruction 
to the minds of men. The change then brought into the divine 
administration was characterized throughout by a more imme 
diate and direct handling of the things of God. They were 
now things no longer hid under a veil, but openly disclosed to 
the eye of the mind. And ordinances which were adapted to a 
state of the Church when neither the Spirit was fully given, 
nor the things of God were clearly revealed, could not possibly 
be such as were adapted to the Church of the New Testament. 
The grand ordinance here must be the free and open manifesta 
tion of the truth written first in the word of inspiration, and 
thenceforth continually proclaimed anew by the preaching of 
the Gospel ; and such symbolical institutions as might yet be 
needed, must be founded upon the clear revelations of this 
word not like those of the former dispensation, spreading a veil 
over the truth, or affording only a dim shadow of better things 
to come. Hence the old ritual of service should have fallen 
into desuetude whenever the new state of things entered ; and 
the tenacity with which the Judaizing Christians clung to it, 
was the indication of an imperfect enlightenment and a per 
verted taste. Had they known aright the new wine, they would 
straightway have forsaken the old. So long as they could ^vt 
the kernel only through the shell, it was thc ir duty to take the 
one for the sake of the other. But now, when the kernel itself 
was presented to them in naked simplicity, still to insist upon 
having the shell along with it, was the clear sign of a disordered 


condition, an undoubted proof that tliey had not yet come to 
the full knowledge and appreciation of Gospel truth, and were 
disposed to rest unduly in mere outward observances. The 
Apostle, therefore, on this ground alone, justly denounces such 
Judaizers as carnal, in spiritual things acting the part of per 
sons who, though of full age, have not put away childish things, 
but continue in a willing " bondage to the elements of the world." 
This, however, was by no means the whole of the misappre 
hension which such conduct betrayed. For while those ordi 
nances of the former dispensation were in one point of view 
means of instruction and grace, in another they were signs and 
acknowledgments of debt. Calling, as they did, continually for 
acts of atonement and cleansing, and yet presenting nothing 
that could satisfactorily purge the conscience, they were, even 
when rigorously performed, testimonies that the heavy reckon 
ing for guilt was not yet properly met bonds of obligation for 
the time relieved, but standing over to some future period for 
their full and adequate discharge. This discharge in full was 
given by Christ when He suffered on the cross, and brought in 
complete satisfaction for all the demands of the violated law. He 
is therefore said to have " blotted out the handwriting of ordi 
nances that was against us, and took it out of the way, nailing 
it to His cross." The charges of guilt and condemnation which 
that handwriting had been perpetually making against men as 
transgressors, w r ere now laid in one mass upon the body of the 
crucified Redeemer, and with its death were for ever abolished. 
So that those ceremonies being, as Calvin justly terms them, 
u attestations of men s guilt, and instruments witnessing their 
liability," " Paul with good reason warned the Colossians how 
seriously they would relapse, if they allowed a yoke in that way 
to be imposed upon them. By so doing, they at the same time 
deprived themselves of all benefit from Christ, who, by His 
eternal sacrifice once offered, had abolished those daily sacri 
fices, which were indeed powerful to attest sin, but could do 
nothing to destroy it." 1 It was in effect to say, that they did 
not regard the death of Christ as in itself a perfect satisfaction 
for the guilt of their sins, but required the purifications of the 
law to make it complete at once dishonouring Christ, and 
1 Inst., B. ii., c. 7, 17. 


showing that they took the Old Testament ceremonies for some 
thing else than they really were. 

It has sometimes been alleged, that in the case of the Jewish 
helievers there was still a sort of propriety, or even of obliga 
tion, in continuing to observe the ceremonies of Moses until, 
at least, the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, formally dis 
charging them from all further attendance upon such services. 
But there is no real foundation for such an opinion. It is true 
that no express and authoritative injunction was given at first 
for the discontinuance of those services ; but this arose simply 
out of accommodation to their religious prejudices, which might 
have received too great a shock, and among their unbelieving 
neighbours excited too outrageous an opposition, if the change 
had at once been introduced. But so far as obligation and 
duty were concerned, they should have required no explicit an 
nouncement on the subject different from what had already 
been given in the facts of Gospel history. When the veil was 
rent in twain, abolishing the distinction at the centre, all others 
of an outward kind of necessity gave way. When the great 
High Priest had fulfilled His work, no work remained to be 
done by any other priest. The Gospel of shadows was conclu 
sively gone, the Gospel of realities come. And the compliances 
which the apostles generally, and Paul himself latterly, made 
(Acts xxi.) to humour the prejudices and silence the senseless 
clamours of the Jews, though necessary at first, were yet car 
ried to an undue and dangerous length. They palpably failed, 
in Paul s case, to accomplish the end in view ; and, in the 
case of the Jewish Christians themselves, were attended with 
jealousies, self-righteous bigotry, growing feebleness, and ulti 
mate decay. " Before Messiah s coming, the ceremonies were 
as the swaddling bands in which He was wrapt ; but after it, 
they resembled the linen clothes which He left in the grave. 
Christ was in the one, not in the other. And using them as 
the Galatians did, or as the Jews do at this day, they and their 
language are a lie ; for they say He is still to come who is come 
already. They are now beggarly elements, having nothing of 
Christ, the true riches, in them." 1 

1 BellonCov., p. 140. 





THE learning of Moses was briefly adverted to in an earlier 
part of our investigations. 1 But this is the proper place for a 
more formal discussion of it, when we are entering on the ex 
planation of the Mosaic symbols of worship and service. That 
an acquaintance with Egyptian learning was advantageous to 
Moses, to the extent formerly stated, no one will be disposed to 
question. Whatever might be its peculiar character, it would 
at least serve the purpose of expanding and ripening the faculties 
of his mind, would render him acquainted with the general 
principles and methods of political government, would furnish 
him with an insight into the religious and moral system of the 
most intelligent and civilised nation of heathen antiquity, and 
so would not only increase his fitness, in an intellectual point of 
view, for holding the high commission that was to be entrusted 
to him, but would also lend to the commission itself, when 
bestowed, the recommendation which superior rank or learning 
ever yields, when devoted to a sacred use. 

Such advantages, it is obvious, Moses might derive from 
1 Vul. ii., Chap. I., s. i . 


liis Egyptian education, irrespective altogether of the precise 
quality of the wisdom with which he thus became acquainted. 
It is another question, how far he might be indebted to that 
wisdom itself, as an essential element in his preparation, or to 
what extent the things belonging to it might be allowed to 
mould and regulate the institutions which he was commissioned 
to impose on Israel. Scripture throws no direct light upon this 
question ; it affords materials only for general inferences and 
probable conclusions. And yet the view we actually entertain 
on the subject cannot fail to exert a considerable influence on 
the spirit in which we investigate the whole Mosaic system, and 
give a distinctive colouring to our interpretations of many of its 

1. The opinion was undoubtedly very prevalent among the 
Christian fathers, that no small portion of the institutions of 
Moses were borrowed from those of Egypt, and were adopted as 
Divine ordinances only in accommodation to the low and carnal 
state of the Israelites, who had become inveterately attached to 
the manners of Egypt. With the view, it was supposed, of wean 
ing them more easily from the errors and corruptions which had 
grown upon them there, the Lord indulged them with the reten 
tion of many of the customs of Egypt, though in themselves 
indifferent or even somewhat objectionable, and gave a place in 
His own worship to what they had hitherto seen associated with 
the service of idols. They rarely enter into particulars, and 
never, so far as we remember, formally discuss the grounds of 
their opinion ; but very commonly think it enough to refer, in 
support of it, to Ez. xx. 25, where the Lord is said to have 
given Israel " statutes that were not good, and judgments where 
by they should not live." This passage is also much pressed by 
Spencer, and, indeed, is the main authority of a scriptural kind 
to which both he, and after him, Warburton (Div. Legation, 
B. iv., c. 6), appeal in confirmation of their general view of the 
Mosaic ritual. By an arbitrary interpretation of the passage 
referred to, they regard the decalogue as the statutes in them 
selves really and properly good, for breaking which in the wilder 
ness, others namely, the ceremonial observances were imposed 
on them : " Because they had violated my first system of laws, 
the decalogue, I added to them my second system, the ritual 

ffl i-riAN i.r.AKMM: or MOSES. 205 

law, very pttydUMCtaned (\vln-n set in opposition to the moral 
law) by statutes tliat wnv not good, and by judgments whereby 
they should not live." (Warburton.) A quite groundless dis 
tinction in the circumstances ; for certainly they could least of 
all have lived by the moral law, which, as the Apostle testifies, 
brings the knowledge of sin, and the judgment of death ; and 
through whatever channel the life they possessed might come, 
it could by no possibility come from such a source. Besides, 
Moses had got all the instruction regarding the tabernacle and 
its ordinances before the revolt with the golden calf took place ; 
so that the tabernacle-worship went before this, and was no 
after-thought, resorted to in consequence of the revolt. But it 
is quite beside the purpose of the prophet to compare one part 
of the law with another : " it is impossible that he could, espe 
cially after his own declarations regarding the law, designate it 
by such terms ; the laws not good, bringing death and destruc 
tion, are opposed to those of God ; they are the heathen obser 
vances which were arbitrarily put in the room of the other." 
(Ilavernick.) So also Calvin, Vitringa, Obs. Sacra?, L. ii., c. 1, 
sec. 17. Indeed, Jerome, though he hesitates as to the proper 
meaning, has correctly enough expressed it in these words : 
" Hoc est, dimisit eos cogitationibus, et desideriis suis, ut face- 
rent qua3 non conveniunt." Parallel is Ps. Ixxxi. 12, " So I 
gave them up to their own hearts lusts, and they walked in their 
own counsels;" Acts vii. 42, " He gave them up to worship the 
host of heaven ;" Rom. i. 24 ; 2 Thess. ii. II. 1 

Spencer, supporting himself on the authority of the fathers, 
and by a distorted interpretation of one or two passages of 

1 The references to the fathers may be found in Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. 
1, c. 1. Deyling has an acute dissertation on this passage (Obs. Sac., P. ii., 
ch. i :5), in which he very successfully refutes the interpretation of the 
fathers, Spencer, and those of later times, who substantially adopt his view, 
but also objects to the view given of it here, and contends, that the statutes 
not good, and the laws by which they could not live, were God s chastise 
ments, punishing them for their violations of His good and life-giving ordi 
nances. We have no doubt that these chastisements were in the eye of tin- 
prophet, but not to the exclusion of tlic other: God gave them up to foolish 
counsels ami a reprobate mind, that they mi-lit manifestly apjiear to be un 
deserving of His care, and be left to inherit the recompense that wa> 
for their perversity. 


Scripture, has, with great learning and industry (in his work 
De Legibus Ilebroeorum), endeavoured to make good the propo 
sition, that the immediate and proper design of the Mosaic law 
was to abolish idolatry, and preserve the Israelites in the worship 
of the one true God ; and that, for the better effecting of this 
puqoose, the Lord introduced many heathenish, chiefly Egyptian, 
customs into His service, and so changed or rectified others, as 
to convert them into a bulwark against idolatry. He coupled 
with this, no doubt, a secondary design, " the mystic and typical 
reason," as he calls it that, namely, of adumbrating the better 
things of the Gospel. But this occupies such an inferior and 
subordinate place, and is occasionally spoken of in such dis 
paraging terms, that one cannot avoid the conviction of his 
having held it in very small estimation. He even represents 
this mystical reference to higher things than those immediately 
concerned, as done partly in accommodation to the early bent 
given to the mind of Moses. 1 And of course, when he comes to 
particulars, it is only in regard to a few things of greater promi 
nence, such as the tabernacle, the ark, and the more important 
institutions, that he can deem it advisable to search for any 
mystical meaning whatever. To go more minutely to work, he 
characterizes as a kind of " sporting with sacred things;" and 
declares his concurrence in a sentiment of Chrysostom, that " all 
such things were but venerable and illustrious memorials of 
Jewish ignorance and stupidity." 2 

It is not so much, however, in this depreciation of the sym 
bolical and typical import of the Mosaic ritual, that the work of 
Spencer was fitted to give a false impression of its real character 
and object, as in the connection he necessarily sought to esta 
blish, while endeavouring to prove his main proposition, between 
the institutions of Moses and the rites of heathenism. Though 
charged with a Divine commission, Moses appears, in point of 
fact, only as an improved Egyptian, and his whole religious 
system is nothing more than a refinement on the customs and 
polity of Egypt. Not a few of the rites introduced were useless 
(legibus et ritibus inutilibus, p. 26), some were viewed as only 
tolerable fooleries (quos ineptias nonit esse tolerabiles, p. 640), 
and would never have found a place in the institutions of 
1 De Leg. Heb., p. 210. - Ibid., p. 215. 


Moses, but for tin- eunvney they luul already obtained in Egypt, 
and the liking the Israelites liad there acquired for them. But 
on such a view, it is impossible to conceive how to worship God 
according to the ritual of Moses could have been an acceptable 
service, and the very imposition of such a ritual in the name of 
God must have been a kind of pious fraud. " God," to use the 
language of Biihr, " appears as a Jesuit, who makes use of bad 
means to accomplish a good end. Spencer, for example, con 
siders sacrifice as an invention of religious barbarity an evi 
dence of superstitious views of the Divine nature. Now, when 
God by Moses not only confirmed for ever the offerings already 
in common use, but also extended and enlarged the sacrificial 
code, instead of thereby extirpating the mistaken views, He 
would really have sanctioned and most strongly enforced them. 
. . . Besides, the relation of Israel to the Egyptians, and that 
in particular of Moses, as represented in the Pentateuch at 
the time of the Exodus, would lead us to expect an intentional 
shunning of everything Egyptian, especially in religious matters, 
rather than an imitating and borrowing. The deliverance of 
Israel from Egypt is set forth as the special token of Divine 
love and power, as the greatest salvation wrought for Israel, as 
the peculiar pledge of the covenant with Jehovah ; and a sepa 
rate feast was devoted to the commemoration of this Divine 
goodness. It is unquestionable that there was here every- in 
ducement for Moses making the separation of Israel from Egypt 
as broad as possible. For this, however, it was indispensably 
necessary to brand everything properly Egyptian, and extirpate 
by all means the very remembrance of it. But by adopting the 
Egyptian ritual, Moses would have directly sanctioned what was 
Egyptian, and would have perpetuated the remembrance of the 
land of darkness and servitude." 1 

Indeed, the objectionable character of Spencer s views could 
scarcely be better exposed than in the words of Lord Boling- 
broke, when railing in his usual style against the current 

1 Symbolik, B. i., s. 41, 42. The later part is stated rather too compre 
hensively, as we shall show by and by. The circumstances were such as to 
have led Moses rather to avoid than to seek an imitation of what was Egyp- 
tian, but it was impossible altogether to exclude it, or precisely to brand 
c vt-iything properly Egyptian. 


theology of his day : "In order to preserve the purity of His 
worship, God prescribes to them a multitude of rites and cere 
monies, founded on the superstitions of Egypt, from which they 
were to be weaned, or in some analogy to them. They were 
never weaned entirely from all the superstitions ; and the great 
merit of the law of Moses was teaching the people to adore one 
God, much as the idolatrous nations adored several. This may 
be called sanctifying pagan rites and ceremonies in theological 
language, but it is profaning the pure worship of God in the 
language of common sense." 1 

But while Spencer s views lay open to such formidable ob 
jections, and were opposed to the more serious theology of the 
age, they gradually made way both in this country and on the 
Continent ; and the influence of his work may be traced through 
a very large portion of the theological literature connected with 
the Old Testament down even to a recent period. The work 
owed this extraordinary success to the immense pains that had 
been bestowed upon it its exact method, comprehensive plan, 
and lucid expression and also to the great skill which the 
author displayed in availing himself of all the learning then 
accessible upon the subject, and bringing it to bear upon the 
general argument. His views were eagerly embraced on the 
Continent by Le Clerc, and (in his work on the Pentateuch) 
pushed to consequences from which Spencer himself would have 
shrunk. Then Michaelis came with his masculine intellect, his 
stores of oriental learning, but low and worldly sense, discovering 
so many sanatory, medicinal, political, and, in short, all kinds of 

1 Philosophical Works, vol. v., p. 377. It is remarked by Archbishop 
Magee, that Spencer s work "has always been resorted to by infidel writers, 
in order to wing their shafts more effectively against the Mosaic revelation." 
See note 60 to his work on the Atonement, where also are to be found some 
good remarks on such views generally, although, in resting upon the ground 
of Witsius, he does not place the opposition to them on its proper basis. He 
speaks of Tillotson as having been beforehand with Spencer in propound) HL: 
the general view regarding the nature of the Mosaic ritual ; and certainly 
Barrow (in his Sermon on the Imperfection of the Jewish Religion) exhibits 
to the full as low a view of the legislation of Moses as Spencer himself did 
shortly afterwards. We have no doubt that the view itself %vas an offshoot 
of the semi-deistical philosophy which sprang up at that period in England 
as a kind of reaction from Puritanism, and almost simultaneously insinuated 
itself into various productions of the more learned theologians. 


reasons but moral and religious ones, for the laws and institu 
tions of Moses, that if the .Jewish lawgiver was in some measure 
vindicated from the charge of accommodating his policy to 
heathenish notions and customs, it was only to establish for him 
the equally questionable reputation of a well-skilled Egyptian 
sage, or an accomplished worldly legislator. In this case, as 
well as in the other, it was impossible to avoid the conviction, 
that it was somewhat out of character to claim for Moses a 
properly divine commission, and quite incredible that signs and 
wonders should have been wrought by Heaven to confirm and 
establish it. After such pioneers, the way was open for the 
subtle explanations of rationalism, and the rude assaults of 
avowed infidelity. 1 

In Britain the influence of Spencer s work has also been 
very marked, though, from the character of the national mind, 
and other counteracting influences, the results were not so di 
rectly and extensively pernicious. The more learned works 
that have since issued from the press, connected with the inter 
pretation of the Books of Moses, have for the most part borne 
no unequivocal indications of the weight of Spencer s name ; 
while the better convictions and the more practical aim of the 
authors, generally kept them from embracing his views in all 
their grossness, and carrying them out to their legitimate con 
clusions. Even Warburton, who espouses in its full extent 
Spencer s view regarding the primary and immediate design of 
the Mosaic institutions, as being intended to " preserve the doc 
trine of the unity by means of institutions partly in compliance 
to their Egyptian prejudices, and partly in opposition to those 
and the like superstitions," 2 yet gives a decidedly higher place 
to the typical bearing of the Mosaic ritual, and comes much 
nearer the truth in representing both its religious use under the 
Old Testament dispensation, and its prospective reference to 
the New. 3 Such writers as Lowman 4 and Shaw 5 gave only a 

1 Michaelis did not himself positively avow his disbelief of the miraculous 
in the history of Moses, but he plainly betrayed his anxiety to get rid of it 
as far as possible, by his questions to Niebuhr in regard to the passage 
through the lied Sea. 

- Divine Leg., B. iv., s. 6, and v., s. 1. 3 Ibid., B. vi., s. 5 and 6. 

4 Rational of the Ritual of the Hebrew Worship. 

5 Philosophy of Judaism. 



partial and reluctant assent to some of Spencer s positions ; and 
chiefly, it would seem, because they did not see how to dispose 
of his proofs and authorities. The latter, in particular, though 
he afterwards substantially grants what Spencer contended 
for, yet expresses his dissatisfaction with the general aim of 
Spencer s work, by saying, that " upon the whole he was still 
apt to imagine, that however it might have been one part of the 
Divine purpose to guard Israel against a corruption from the 
Egyptian idolatry, by the institution of the Mosaic economy, 
this was not the principal design of it." It would have been 
strange, indeed, if such had been its principal design. And 
strange it certainly was, that men, not to say of penetration and 
learning, but with their eyes open, could ever have imagined 
that it was so. For what do we not see, when we direct our 
view to the latter days of the Jewish commonwealth ? We see 
this end most completely attained. A people never existed that 
were more firmly established in the doctrine of the unity, and 
more thoroughly alienated from the superstitions of heathenism ; 
and yet never were a people less intelligently and properly 
acquainted with the true knowledge of God, and more hostile 
to the claims of Heaven. So that, in adopting the hypothesis 
in question, one must be prepared to maintain the monstrous 
proposition, that the principal and primary design of that reli 
gious economy might have been accomplished, while still the 
persons subject to it were neither true worshippers of the living 
God, nor fitted to enter into the kingdom of His Son. 

The same considerations hold in regard to the other reason 
commonly assigned by this class of writers for the rites of 
Judaism the separation of the people from the other nations 
of the earth. Indeed, from the very nature of things, that 
could not have been more than an incidental and temporary 
end. The covenant, out of which all Judaism grew, containing 
the promise that in the seed of Abraham all the families of the 
earth should be blessed, it could never be the direct intention 
and design of the ordinances connected with it, to place them in 
formal antagonism to other nations. This effect was no farther 
to have been produced than by the Israelites becoming too holy 
for intercourse with their Gentile neighbours. In so far as this 
distinction did not exist, both were virtually alike : the Israelites 


also were uncircumcised, virtually heathen; and the circum 
stance of their being placed under such sanctifying ordinances, 
was chiefly designed to have a salutary influence on the sur 
rounding nations, and induce them to seek for light and blessing 
from Israel. Hence, Deut. xxxii. 43, "Rejoice, O ye nations, 
with His people;" and Isa. Ivi. 7, " Mine house shall be called 
an house of prayer for all people." 

2. A widely different, and in many respects entirely opposite, 
view of the institutions of Moses, has also been maintained. Its 
chief expounder and advocate, as opposed to Spencer, was 
Witsius, whose yEgyptiaca was published with the express de 
sign of meeting the arguments and counteracting the influence 
of the work of Spencer. 1 In this production, Witsius admits at 
the outset that there is a striking similarity between the rites of 
the Mosaic law and those of other ancient nations, in particular 
of the Egyptians ; and he even quotes with approbation a passage 
from Kircher, in which this similarity is asserted to have been 
so manifest, that " either the Egyptians must have Hebraized, or 
the Hebrews must have Egyptized." Nor does he think it im 
probable that this may have been the reason why the Egyptian 
and Jewish rites were so often classed together at Home, and 
enactments made for restraining them as alike pernicious. 2 
But he contends, at the same time, that some of the things in 
which this resemblance stood were not peculiar to the Egyp 
tians, but common to them with other nations of heathen anti 
quity ; and especially, that in so far as there might be any 

1 Spencer s work called forth many other opponents, but Witeius con 
tinued to hold the highest place. The J^gyptiaca was followed by a respect 
able work of Meyer, De Temporibus et Festis diebus Hebraeorum the first 
part against Sir John M:\rsham, the second against Spencer, taking up sub 
stantially the same ground as Witsius. Vitringa also opposes the leading 
views of Spencer, in various parts of his Obs. Sacra, as is done by Deyling 
also, in his Obs. Sac. In this country, Shuckford in the first vol. of his Con 
nection of Sacred and Profane History, and Graves in his Lectures on the 
Pentateuch (he has only one lecture on the subject, P. ii., Lee. v.), with 
various other writers of inferior note, have opposed Spencer, on the ground 
of Wit.-ius, but without adding to its strength. Uaubeny s Connection 
between the Old and the New Testament, though praised by Magee in his 
notes on this subject, does not touch on the controversy, and, in a critical 
point of view, is an inferior work. 

2 Lib. i., c. -2. 


borrowing in the case, it was more likely the Egyptians bor 
rowed from the Hebrews than the Hebrews from the Egyptians. 
His positions were generally acquiesced in by the more orthodox 
and evangelical divines of Britain ; and it is a somewhat singular 
fact, that the commencement of a false theology in regard to 
the Old Testament had its rise in this country, and this country 
itself derived the chief corrective against the evil from abroad. 
In two important respects, however, the argument of Witsius 
was not satisfactory, and failed to provide a sufficient antidote 
to the work of Spencer. 1. He failed in proving, or even in 
rendering it probable, that the Egyptians borrowed from the 
Israelites the rites and ceremonies in which the customs of the 
two nations resembled each other. Warburton is quite success 
ful here in meeting the positions of Witsius and his followers, 
both on account of the unquestionable antiquity of the Egyptian 
institutions, and the want of any such connection between the 
two nations as to render a borrowing on the part of the Egyp 
tians from the Israelites in the least degree likely. And the 
more recent investigations which have been made into the his 
tory and condition of ancient Egypt, and the better knowledge 
that has been obtained of its religious rites and ceremonies, have 
given such confirmation to the views of Warburton in this re 
spect, that they may now be regarded as conclusively established. 
It is not only against probability, but we may even say against 
the well-authenticated facts of history, to allege that the Egyp 
tians had to any extent borrowed from the Israelites. 2. If in 
this respect the argument of Witsius was erroneous, in another 
it was defective ; it made no attempt to supply what had partly 
occasioned the work of Spencer, and certainly contributed much 
to its success a more solid and better grounded system of 
typology. This still remained as arbitrary and capricious in its 
expositions of Old Testament events and institutions as it had 
been before like a nose of wax, as Spencer somewhere sneer- 
ingly, though not without reason, terms it, which might be bent 
any way one pleased. ( )rthodox divines should, as Hengsten- 
berg remarks, "have directed all their powers to a fundamental 
and profitable investigation into the symbolical and typical 
meaning of the ceremonial institutions." 1 But not having done 
1 Authentie, i., p. 8. 


this, though they succeeded in weakening some of Spencer s 
statements, and proving the connection between the Jewish and 
Egyptian customs to In- less in certain cases than he imagined, 
yet his system, as u whole, had the advantage of an apparently 
settled and consistent groundwork, while theirs seemed to swim 
only in doubt and uncertainty. 

3. In recent times, considerable advances have been made 
toward the supplying of this deficiency on the part of Witsius 
and his followers. Much praise is due especially to Biihr, for 
having laid the foundation of a more profound and systematic- 
explanation of the symbols of the Mosaic dispensation, although, 
from some radical defects in his doctrinal views, the meaning he 
brings out is often far from being satisfactory. On the particular 
point now under consideration, he substantially agrees with Wit 
sius, holding the institutions of Moses to have been in no respect 
derived from Egypt ; but differing so far, that he conceives the 
Egyptians to have been as little indebted to the Israelites, as the 
Israelites to the Egyptians. He maintains, that whatever simi 
larity existed between their respective institutions, arose from 
the necessity of employing like symbols to express like ideas, 
which rendered a certain degree of similarity in all symbolical 
religions unavoidable. " Even if we should grant," he says, " a 
direct borrowing in particular cases, why should not the lawgiver 
have adopted that which appeared formally suitable to him? The 
natural and the sensible is by no means in itself heathenish, and 
the sensible things of which the heathens availed themselves, to 
represent religious ideas, did not become in the least heathenish 
from having been applied to such a use. The main inquiry still 
is, what was indicated by these signs, and that not merely in the 
particulars, but pre-eminently in their combination into one 
entire system. Besides, no case is known to us, in which any 
such borrowing can with certainty be proved." 1 "The investi 
gations," he again says, " recently prosecuted in such a variety 
of ways into the religions of the eastern nations show, that what 
was formerly regarded as peculiarly Egyptian in the religion of 
Moses, is also to be found among other nations of the East, 
especially amongst the Indians, and yet nobody would maintain 
that Moses borrowed his ceremonial institutions from India." J 
1 Symbolik, i., p. 34. 2 Ibid., 42. 


Unquestionably not ; but there may still be sufficient ground for 
holding that, without travelling to India to see what was there, 
he took what suited his purpose near at hand. Besides, Heng- 
stenberg, in his Egypt and the Books of Moses, has endeavoured 
to prove and in some cases we think has successfully proved 
that there are distinct traces to be found in the Mosaic legisla 
tion of Egyptian usages, and that Biihr is not borne out by his 
authorities in alleging the same usages to have existed else 
where. We are disposed, therefore, to regard Biihr s position 
as somewhat extreme; and on the whole subject of the Egyptian 
education of Moses, and the influence this might warrantably 
be supposed to exert upon the institutions he was afterwards 
honoured to introduce, a subject not formally discussed by 
either of these authors, we submit the following propositions, 
as at once grounded in reason, and borne out by the analogy 
of the Divine procedure. 

(1.) It is, in the first instance, to be held as a sacred principle, 
that whatever might be the acquaintance Moses possessed with 
the customs and learning of Egypt, this could in no case be the 
direct and formal reason of his imposing anything as an obliga 
tion on the Israelites. For the whole and every part of his work 
he had a commission from above ; and nothing was admitted into 
his institutions which did not first approve itself to Divine wis 
dom, and carry with it the sanction of Divine authority. " When 
the Lord was going to found a new commonwealth, as it was 
really new, He wished it also to appear such to the Israelites. 
Hence its form or appearance, not as fabricated from the rub 
bish of Canaanite or Egyptian superstitions, but as let down 
from heaven, was first shown to Moses 011 the sacred mount, 
that everything in Israel might be ordered and settled after that 
pattern. Nor did He wish liberty to be granted to the people, 
to determine by their own judgment even the smallest points in 
religion. He determined all things Himself, even to the minutest 
circumstances ; so that, on pain of instant death, they were for 
bidden either to omit or to change anything. Thus, it became 
the majesty of the supreme God to subdue His people to Him 
self, not by the wiles of a tortuous and crooked policy, but by a 
royal path the simple exercise of His own authority ; and so 
to accustom them from the first to lay aside all carnal considera- 


tions, and to take the will alone of their King and Lord as their 
common rule in all things." 1 The passage in Deut. xii. 30-32 
is alone sufficient to establish the truth of this : " Take heed that 
thou inquire not after their gods (viz., of the nations of Canaan), 
saying, How did these nations serve their gods "? even so will I 
do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God : for 
every abomination to the Lord which lie hateth have they done 
unto their gods. What thing soever I command you,.observe to 
do it : thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." 

That, in point of fact, there was a marked difference between 
the religious customs and sacrificial system of the Israelites and 
those of other nations, sufficient to stamp theirs as peculiarly their 
own, even heathen writers have in the strongest terms affirmed. 2 
That it would be so, was implied in the declaration of Moses to 
Pharaoh, when he insisted upon being allowed to leave the land 
of Egypt, lest " they should sacrifice the abomination of the 
Egyptians." In whatever respects this might be the case, 
whether in the kind of victims offered, or in the manner of 
offering them, the statement at least indicates a strong con 
trariety between the worship to be instituted among them, and 
that already established among the Egyptians. And in the 
further statement of Moses, " We shall sacrifice to the Lord 
our God as He shall command us" (Ex. viii. 27), he grounds 
their entire worship, whether it might in some respects resemble 
or differ from that of the Egyptians, on the sole and absolute 
authority of God. 

(2.) But as the laws and institutions which God prescribes 
to His people in any particular age, must be wisely adapted to 
the times and circumstances in which they live, so it is impos 
sible but that the fact of the lawgiver of the Jewish people 
having been instructed in all the wisdom of the most civilised 
nation of antiquity, must have to some extent modified both the 
civil and religious polity of which he was instrumentally the 
author. No man legislates in the abstract : there must be in 
eu-ry code of laws an adaptation to the existing state and aspect 

Witeius, ^Egyptiaca, L. iii., c. 14, 3. 

2 Moses, quo sibi in posterum geiitem firmarct, novos ritus, contrariosque 
caeteris mortalibus, iiidi Jit. Profana illic omuia, quae apud noa sacra, etc. 
Tacitus, Hist., L. v. 4 ; also Plin. II. N. xiii. 4. 


of society ; and this always the more, the higher the skill and 
wisdom of the legislator. Moses, it must be remembered, did 
not stand alone in his connection with what was counted wise 
and polished among the Egyptians ; he only possessed in a 
more eminent degree what belonged also in some degree to his 
brethren. And that the people for whom he was to legislate 
had grown up in a civilised country and an artificial state of 
society, familiar, at least, with the results of Egyptian learning, 
if but little initiated into the learning itself, naturally called 
for a corresponding advancement in the whole structure of his 
religious polity ; for what was needed to develop and express 
either the civil or the religious life of a people so reared, would 
in many respects differ from what might have suited a rude and 
uncultivated horde. So that a certain regard to the state of 
things in Egypt was absolutely necessary in the Hebrew polity, 
if it was to possess a suitable adaptation to the real progress of 
society in the arts and manners of civilised life. To instance 
only in one particular the knowledge of the art of writing 
must alone have exercised a most material influence on the code 
of laws prescribed to this new people. Where such an art is 
unknown, the laws must necessarily be few, the institutions 
natural and simple, and the degree of instruction connected with 
them of the most elementary nature such as oral tradition 
might be sufficient to preserve, or the verses of some popular 
bards to teach. But if, on the other hand, the legislation is for 
a people among whom writing is known and familiarlv used, it 
will naturally embrace a much wider range, and branch itself 
out into a far greater variety of particulars. Nor can we doubt 
that, for this reason among others, the Israelites were associated 
with the manners of Egypt, and Moses was from his youth 
instructed in all its learning. For, whatever mystery hangs 
over the first invention of letters, there can no longer be any 
doubt that Egypt was the country where the art of writing 
was first brought into general practice, and that at a period long 
prior to the birth of Moses. But, without an intimate and 
familiar acquaintance with this art, Moses could not have de 
livered such a system of law r s as constituted the framework of 
his dispensation which, from their multiplicity, it had been 
impossible to have accurately preserved, and from their pre- 


vailing character, as opposed to the corrupt tendencies of the 
people, the people themselves were but too willing to forget. 
It was therefore necessary that they should all be written, 
and that what was pre-eminently the law should even be 
engraved, for the sake of greater durability, upon tables of 
stone. All this implies a certain amount of learning on the 
part of the lawgiver, as requisite to fit him for being instru- 
mentally the author of such a dispensation, and a certain in 
fluence necessarily exerted by his learning on his legislation. 
It implies also a considerable degree of civilisation on the part 
of the people, whose circumstances were such as to admit of 
and call for such a legislator. 1 

(3.) We can very easily, however, advance a step farther, and 

1 We have already spoken, toward the close of Chap. I., s. 1, of the con 
nection between the civilisation of the Israelites, and the ultimate purposes 
of God in respect to them. The particular point more especially noticed in 
the text here the existence and familiar use of the art of writing in Egypt, 
at the time of Israel s sojourn there has given rise to a good deal of con 
troversy, but is now virtually settled, so far as our immediate purpose is 
concerned. How alphabetical writing was invented, or by whom, or whether 
it was not transmitted from the ages before the flood, and might conse 
quently be claimed by each of the more eminent races or nations that after 
wards arose as their own, these are still unexplored mysteries, and likely to 
remain such. The opinion is now very prevalent, that the invention belongs 
to Egypt, and grew out of a gradual improvement of the original hieroglyphic 
or picture writing. So especially Warburton, Div. Leg., B. iv., s. 4, and 
many of the recent writers on hieroglyphics. But this opinion is by no 
means universal, and it stands connected with such difficulties, that some 
of those who have devoted most attention to the subject, hold the order of 
things to have been precisely the reverse. They conceive that the most 
complicated was also the last that out of the alphabetical writing came 
the phonetic hieroglyphic, and this again gave rise to the ideographic and 
figurative. So, in part at least, Zoega, also Klaproth, 1,-atronne, and 
Ilrn-rstenberg, who remarks, in confirmation of this view, that " the hiero 
glyphic writing was exclusively a sacred one, and hence conveys the im 
pression, that it was intended to darken what already existed in a simple 
form ; if we seek in hieroglyphic writing the commencement of writing in 
general, we can scarcely comprehend how it should from the first have been 
xiMii.siu-ly .mi loyi-d by the priests." (Authentic, des Pent., i., p. 4-1-1 r,. 
win-re also see quotations from the other writers mentioned as holding this 
view.) But, however this may be, it is certain that the knowledge and use of 
writing by letters reaches back to a period beyond all authentic profane his 
tory, and dates from the very infancy < f the human race. Hence, by most 


perceive how a still more direct and intimate connection might 
in some respects be legitimately, and even advantageously, estab 
lished, between the state of matters in Egypt, and that intro 
duced by Moses among the Israelites. In things, for example, 
required for the maintenance of a due order and discipline 
among the people, or for the becoming support of the ministers 
and ordinances of religion, things which human nature is dis 
posed, if not altogether to shun, at least improperly to curtail 
and limit, it might have been the part of the highest wisdom 
to adopt substantially the arrangements which already existed 
in Egypt ; for as these must, from their very nature, have im 
posed a species of burden upon the Israelites, the thought that 
the same had been borne even by the depraved and idolatrous 

early nations, the invention of it was ascribed to one of their gods by the 
Phoenicians to Thaaut, by the Egyptians to Thot or Hermes, etc. The fact, 
also, that a person, whether personally designated, or characterized by the 
name of Cadmus, a supposed contemporary of Moses, brought letters from 
Phoenicia to Greece, is a sufficient proof that letter-writing was then iu 
current use in the East. Even "Winer (Real Wort., art. Screib-Kunst) ad 
mits that Moses might possibly have become acquainted with it in Egypt. 
The Greek writers, Diodorus (Hi., c. 3), Plato (De Leg., L. vii.), speak of it 
as customary in Egypt for the multitude learning letters ; and the name 
given by Herodotus to the alphabetic kind of writing, demotic (popular), 
and by Clemens and Porphyry, epistolic, implies it to have been generally 
known and used. " In Egypt," says Wilkinson, " nothing was done with 
out writing. Scribes were employed on all occasions, whether to settle 
public or private questions, and no bargain of any consequence was made 
without the voucher of a written document." (Vol. i., p. 183.) He tells 
us also, that papyri of the most remote Pharaonic period have been found 
with the same mode of writing as that of the age of Cheops. (Vol. iii., p. 
150.) Rosselini says, that " they probably wrote more in ancient Egypt, 
and on more ordinary occasions than among us" that " the steward of the 
house kept a written register" that "their names used to be inscribed 
upon their implements and garments" that " in levying soldiers, persons 
wrote down their names as the commanders brought the men up," etc. 
(Vol. ii., p. 241, ss.) That this accords with the representations given in 
the Pentateuch, and that the Israelites partook in the privilege, is evident 
from the name given to their officers both in Egypt and Canaan, slioterim, 
or scribes (Ex. v. 15 ; Deut. xx. 5), and also from the very frequent refer 
ences to writing in the books of Moses, for example, Ex. xxxii. 16 ; Deut. 
vi. 9, xi. 20, xxvii., where they were enjoined to have the whole law written 
upon stones covered with chalk or plaster (according to a practice common 
in Egypt, Wilkinson, iii., p. 300), that all might see it and read it. 


people from whom they were now separated, would the more 
easily reconcile them to its obligations. This is a principle 
which we find recognised and acted on in Gospel times. There 
must be self-denial, and a readiness to undergo labour and 
fatigue, in the Christian ; and this the Apostle enforces by a 
reference to the toils of the husbandman, the hardships of the 
soldier, and even the painstaking laborious diligence of the com 
batant in the Grecian games. (2 Tim. ii. 3-6 ; 1 Cor. ix. 24.) 
There must be a decent maintenance provided for those who 
devote their time and talents to the spiritual work of the mini 
stry ; and the reasonableness and propriety of this, he in part 
grounds on what was usually done amongst men in the com 
monest occupations of life, as well as the custom, prevalent alike 
among Jews and Gentiles, for those who ministered at the altar 
to live of the altar. (1 Cor. ix. 7-14, x. 21.) It was absolutely 
necessary, however distasteful it might be to men of corrupt 
minds, that proper means should be employed in the Church for 
the preservation of order, and the enforcement of a wholesome 
discipline ; and the state of things among the Gentiles is appealed 
to as in itself constituting a call to attend to this, sufficient even 
to shame the churches into its observance. (1 Cor. v., xi. 1-16.) 
Not only so, but the officers appointed in the Christian Church 
to take charge of its internal administration, and preside over its 
worship and discipline, it is well known, were derived, even to 
their very names, from those of the Jewish synagogue, which 
was not immediately of Divine origin, but gradually arose out of 
the exigencies of the times : the Holy Spirit choosing, in this 
respect, to make use of what was known and familiar to the 
minds of the disciples, rather than to invent an entirely new 
order of things. 1 

We should not, therefore, be surprised to find the applica- 

1 Abrogate templt liturgia et cultu, utpote ceremoniali, cultum atque 
publicam Dei adorationera in Synagogis, quse quidem moralis erat, Deus in 
ecclesiam transplantavit Christianani, publicum scilicet ministerium, etc. 
Hinc ipsissima nomina ministrorum evangi lii, Angelus ecclesise, atque Ejiis- 
copus, quae ministrorum in Synagogis, etc., Lightfooti, Op. ii., p. L>79. But 
the full and satisfactory proof is to be found only in Vitringa, De Synagoga 
Vet., in the third part of which it is demonstrated, that the form of govern 
ment and ministry belonging to the synagogues was in a great measure 
transferred to the Christian Church. 


tion of this principle in the Mosaic dispensation to find that 
some things there, especially of the kind supposed, bore a sub 
stantial conformity to those of Egypt. The officers, or shoterim, 
mentioned in Deut. xx., were evidently of this class. And such 
also were some of the arrangements respecting the apportion 
ment of the land, and the support ministered from its produce 
to those who were regarded more especially as the representa 
tives of God. In these respects there was the closest resem 
blance between the Egyptian and Jewish polities, and in the 
points in which they agreed they differed from all the other 
nations of antiquity with which we are acquainted. It is an 
ascertained fact, confirmed by the reports of the Greek historians, 
that the king was regarded as sole proprietor of the land in 
Egypt, with the exception of what belonged to the priests, and 
that the cultivators were properly fanners under the king. Dio- 
dorus, indeed (L. i. 73), represents the military caste as having 
also a share in the land ; and Wilkinson (vol. i., p. 263) says, 
that kings, priests, and the military order, these, but these only, 
appear to have been landowners. Herodotus, however, explains 
this apparent contradiction in regard to the military order, by 
stating (B. ii., sec. 141) that their land properly belonged to the 
king ; that they differed from the common cultivators only in 
holding it free of rent, and in lieu of wages ; that hence, while 
it had been given them by one king, it had been taken away by 
another. He also mentions, that not only had the priests pro 
perty in land connected with the temples in which they served, 
but also that they had allowances furnished them out of the 
public or royal treasures, .and along with the soldiers received a 
salary from the king (ii. 37, 168). These are very striking 
peculiarities, and, as Hengstenberg justly remarks, 1 imply, at 
least in regard to the king s proprietorship in the land, a histo 
rical fact through which it was brought about. We have such 
a fact in the history of Joseph (Gen. xlvii.), when he bought 
the land for Pharaoh, but rented it out again to the people, on 
condition of their paying a fifth of the produce, with the excep 
tion, however, of the land of the priests, whose land Pharaoh 
had no opportunity indeed of purchasing, because they had a 
stated allowance from his stores. 

1 Egypt and Books of Moses, p. 62, Trans. 

U:AI;MN<; OF MOSES. 221 

It is perhaps not too much to say, that one of the reasons why 
this singular state of things was introduced into Egypt by the 
instrumentality of Joseph, was, that a similar arrangement in 
regard to the land of Canaan might the more readily be gone 
into on the part of the Israelites. The similarity is too striking 
to have been the result of anything but an intentional copying 
from the Egyptian constitution. For in the Jewish common 
wealth God is represented as King, to whom the whole land 
belonged, and the people were as tenants under Him obliged 
also, by the tenure on which they held it, to yield two-tenths, or 
a fifth, of the yearly produce unto God, who again provided out 
of this fifth for the support of the priests and Levites, the widow 
and the orphan, His peculiar representatives. 1 This large con 
tribution from the regular increase of the land was necessary 
for the proper administration of Divine ordinances, and the 
beneficent support of those who, according to the plan adopted, 
had no other resources to trust to for their comfortable main 
tenance. But it implied too entire a dependence upon God, and 
exacted too much at their hands, to meet with a ready com 
pliance. And it was not only compatible, but we should rather 
say in perfect accordance with the highest wisdom, to adopt an 
arrangement for securing it, which was thus grounded in the 
history and constitution of Egypt, rather than to contrive one 
altogether new : for it thus came to them, on its first proposal, 
recommended and sanctioned by ancient usage. And the thought 
was obvious, that if the citizens even of a heathen empire, in 
consideration of a great act of kindness in the time of famine, 
gave so much to their earthly sovereign, and held so depend- 
ently of him, it was meet that they should willingly yield the 
same to the God who had redeemed them, and freely bestowed 
upon them everything they possessed. 

In these, and probably some other matters of a similar kind, 
wt can easily understand how the Egyptian learning of Moses, 
without the slightest derogation to his Divine commission, might 
be turned to valuable account in executing the work given him 
to do. Nor have we any reason to suppose that the Divine 
direction and counsel imparted to him superseded the light he 

1 Deut. xviii. ; Lev. xxv. ; comp. also Michaelis I^aws of Moses, vol. ii., 
p. 258, and Hengstenbt-rg s Authentic, ii.. p. ; 


had obtained, or the benefit he had derived by his opportunities 
of becoming acquainted with the internal affairs of Egypt. 

(4.) But there is a still farther point of connection between 
the Egyptian learning of Moses, coupled with the Egyptian 
training of the people, and what might justly be expected in 
the institutions under which they were to be placed, and one 
still more directly bearing on the religious aspect of the dis 
pensation. For the handwriting of ordinances brought in by 
Moses was predominantly of a symbolical nature. But a 
symbol is a kind of language, and can no more than ordinary 
speech be framed arbitrarily ; it must grow up and form itself 
out of the elements which are furnished by the field of nature 
or art, and be gathered from it by daily observation and expe 
rience. The language which we use as the common vehicle of 
our thoughts, and which forms the medium of our most hal 
lowed intercourse with heaven, is constructed from the world of 
sin and sorrow around us, and, if viewed as to its origin, savours 
of things common and unclean. But in its use simply as a 
vehicle of thought or a medium of intercourse, it is not the less 
fitted to utter the sentiments of our heart, and convey even our 
loftiest aspirations to heaven. Why should it be thought to 
have been otherwise with the language of symbol ? This too 
must have its foundation to a great extent in nature and 
custom, in observation and experience ; for as it is addressed to 
the eye, it must, to be intelligible, employ the signs which, by 
previous use, the eye is able to read and understand. Plow 
should I imagine that white, as a symbol, represents purity, or 
crimson guilt, unless something in my past history or observa 
tion had taught me to regard the one as a fit emblem of the 
other ? It would not in the least mar the natural import of the 
symbol, or destroy its aptitude to express, even on the most 
solemn occasions, the idea with which it has become associated 
in my mind, if I should have learned its meaning amid employ 
ments not properly sacred, or the practices of a forbidden super 
stition. No matter how acquired, the bond of connection exists 
in my mind between the external symbol and the spiritual idea ; 
and to reject its religious use because I may have seen it 
abused to purposes of superstition, would not be more reason 
able than to have proscribed every epithet in the language of 


Greece or l\uim>, which had been anyhow connected with the 
worship and service of idolatry. 

Now, it so happened in the providence of God, that the 
children of Israel were brought into contact with the religious 
rites and usages of a people deeply imbued, no doubt, with a 
spirit of depravity and superstition, but abounding, at the same 
time, with symbolical arts and ordinances. And it was in the 
nature of things impossible that another religion abounding 
with the same could be framed, without adopting to a large 
extent the signs with which, from the accident of their position, 
they had become familiar. The religion introduced might 
differ in point of fact, it did differ from that already estab 
lished, as far as light from darkness, in regard to the spirit 
they respectively breathed and the great ends they aimed at. 
But being alike symbolical, the one must avail itself of the 
signs which the other had already seized upon as fitted to 
express to the eye certain ideas. This had become, so to speak, 
the current language, which might to some extent be modified 
and improved, but could not be arbitrarily set aside. And as 
such language consists for the most part of a figurative use of 
the sensible things of nature, the assertion of Biihr is undoubt 
edly correct, that a very large proportion of the symbols so em 
ployed must be common to all religions of a like nature. Yet 
as each nation also has its peculiarities of thought, of custom, of 
scenery, of art and commerce, it can scarcely fail to have some 
corresponding peculiarities of symbolical expression. And it 
should by no means surprise us it is rather in accordance with 
just and rational expectation, if, since the Egyptians were in 
various respects so peculiar a people, and the Israelites in gene 
ral, and Moses in particular, had been brought into such close 
and intimate connection with their entire system, the symbols of 
the Jewish worship should in some points bear a resemblance to 
those of Egypt, which cannot be traced in those of any other 
nation of heathen antiquity. 

Such in reality is the case, as will afterwards appear ; and 

we perceive in it a mark, not of suspicion, but of credibility 

;ind truth. It bears somewhat of the same relation to the 

authenticity of the Books of Moses, and the original genuine- 

of the revelation contained in them, that the language of 


the New Testament Scripture, the peculiar type of the period 
to which it belonged, does in reference to the truths and state 
ments contained in them. Though certain critics, of more zeal 
than discretion, have thought it would be a great achievement 
for the literature of the New Testament, if they could establish 
its claim to be ranked in point of purity with the best of the 
Greek classics, no individual of sound judgment will dispute, 
that if they had succeeded in this, the loss would have been 
immensely greater than the gain ; that one most important 
proof of the genuineness and authenticity of the New Testa 
ment record would have perished, and that the language itself 
would have become less pliant and expressive as a medium for 
communicating the spiritual ideas of the Gospel. In like 
manner, it is no discredit to the religion of Moses, that its 
symbols can so generally be identified with those currently 
employed at the period when it arose ; and the peculiar resem 
blance borne by some of them to the customs and usages of 
Egypt, is like a stamp of veritableness impressed upon its very 
structure, testifying of its having originated in the time and 
circumstances mentioned in the original record. Nor can we 
fail to see in this the marvellous wisdom of the Divine working, 
in connection with the history of the undertaking of Moses, 
that while he was to be commissioned to set up a symbolical 
religion among the Israelites, the reverse in all its great features 
of that prevalent in Egypt, he should yet have been thoroughly 
qualified by his original training to serve himself of whatever 
suitable materials were furnished by the land of his birth. 
These were in a sense part of the spoils taken from the enemy, 
out of which the tabernacle of the wilderness was reared 
though still all things there were made after the Divine pattern 
shown to Moses in the mount ; and in the truths it symboli/ed, 
and the purposes for which it was erected, it was an embodi 
ment, not of the things pertaining to a corrupt nature-worship, 
but of those which reveal the character of a righteous God, and 
the duty of service which His redeemed owe to Him. 

It is not certainly for the purpose of finding any continua 
tion in a theological point of view, to the argument maintained 
in the preceding pages, but only to show the foundation in 
nature, or the scientific basis which it also has to rest upon, that 


we produce the following quotation from C. O. Miiller. The 
quotation is farther valuable, as it exhibits the view of a pro 
found thinker, and one who has made himself intimately con 
versant with the thoughts and customs of remote antiquity, in 
regard to the meaning treasured up in the symbols of ancient 
worship, and the aptitude of the people to understand them. It 
is possible, that in the work from which we give the extract he 
carries his views to an extreme, as we certainly think he does, in 
often making too much of particular transactions, and also in 
making the instruction by myths and symbols not only inde 
pendent of, but in some sort inconsistent with, direct instruction 
in doctrine. The general soundness, however, of his view re 
garding the significance of those ancient forms of instruction, 
especially of symbol, there are few men of learning or judgment 
who will now be disposed to call in question. "That this 
connection of the idea with the sign when it took place, was 
natural and necessary to the ancient world ; that it occurred in 
voluntarily; and that the essence of the symbol consists in this 
supposed real connection of the sign with the thing signified, 
I here assume. Now, symbols in this sense are evidently 
coeval with the human race ; they result from the union of 
the soul with the body in man ; nature has implanted the feel 
ing for them in the human heart. How is it that we under 
stand what the endless diversities of human expression and 
gesture signify ? How comes it, that every physiognomy 
expresses to us spiritual peculiarities, without any conscious 
ness on our part of the cause ? Here experience alone cannot 
be our guide ; for without having ever seen a countenance like 
that of Jupiter Olympus, we should yet, when we saw it, im 
mediately understand its features. An earlier race of mankind, 
who lived still more in sensible impressions, must have had a 
still stronger feeling for them. It may be said that all nature 
wore to them a physiognomical aspect. Now, the worship 
which represented the feelings of the Divine in visible external 
actions, was in its nature thoroughly symbolical. No one can 
seriously doubt that prostration at prayer is a symbolic act; 
for corporeal abasement very evidently denotes spiritual sub 
ordination: so evidently, that language cannot even describe 
the spiritual, except by means of a material relation. But it is 



equally certain that sacrifice also is symbolical ; for bow would 
the feeling of acknowledgment, that it is a God who supplies us 
with food and drink, display itself in action, but by withdraw 
ing a portion of them from the use of man, and setting it apart 
in honour of the Deity ? But precisely because the symbolical 
has its essence in the idea of an actual connection between the 
sign and the thing signified, was an inlet left for the super 
stitious error, that something palatable was really offered to the 
gods that they tasted it. But it will scarcely do to derive the 
usage from this superstition ; in other words, to assign the 
intention of raising a savoury steam as the original foundation 
of all sacrifice. It would then be necessary to suppose, that at 
the ceremony of libation the wine was poured on the earth, in 
order that the gods might lick it up ! I have here only brought 
into view one side of the idea, which forms the basis of sacrifice, 
and which the other, certainly not less ancient, always accom 
panied, namely, the idea of atonement by sacrifice ; which was 
from the earliest times expressed in numberless usages and 
legends, and which could only spring from the strongest and 
most intense religious feeling : We are deserving of death ; we 
offer as a substitute the blood of the animal. " l He states a 
little further on, that we must not always presuppose that a 
particular symbol corresponds exactly to a particular idea, such 
as we may be accustomed to conceive of it ; that the symbols 
will partly, indeed, remain the same as long as external nature 
continues unchanged, but that their signification will vary with 
the different national modes of intuition and other circum 
stances; so that a moral and religious economy, like that of 
Judaism, might be engrafted on the nature-worship of Egypt, 
meaning thereby, we suppose, that while many of the sym 
bols were retained, a new and higher meaning would be imparted 
to them. 2 

Having given the sentiments of one high authority, bearing 
on the external resemblance in some points between Judaism 
and the religions of heathen antiquity, we shall give the senti 
ments of another as to the radical difference in spirit and cha 
racter which distinguished the true from the false, an authority 

1 M tiller s Introd. to Scientific System of Mythology, p. 196, Eng. 
Trans. 2 Ibid., 219, 222. 


\\ hose defective views on some vital points of doctrine only render 
his opinion here the less liable to suspicion. "Heathenism," 
says Biihr, " as is now no longer disputed, was in all its parts a 
nature-religion ; that is, the deification of nature in its entire 
compass. That mode of contemplation which was wont to per 
ceive the ideal in the real, proceeded in heathenism a step 
farther ; it saw in the world and nature not merely a manifes 
tation of Godhead, but the very essence and being of nature 
were regarded in it as identical with the essence and being of 
( iodhead, and as such thrown together : the ultimate foundation 
of all heathenism is pantheism. Hence the idea of the oneness 
of the Divine Being was not absolutely lost ; but this oneness 
was not at all that of a personal existence, possessing self-con 
sciousness and self-determination, but an impersonal One, the 
great 7f, a neuter abstract, the product of mere speculation, 
which is at once everything and nothing. Wherever the Deity 
appeared as a person, it ceased to be one, and resolved itself into 
an infinite multiplicity. But all these gods were mere personi 
fications of the different powers of nature. From a religion 
which was so physical in its fundamental character, there could 
only be developed an ethics which should bear the hue and form 
of the physical. Above all that is moral rose natural necessity 
fate, to which gods and men were alike subject ; the highest 
moral aim for man was to yield an absolute submission to this 
necessity, and generally to transfuse himself into nature as 
being identified with Deity, to represent in himself its life, and 
especially that characteristic of it, perfect harmony, conformity 
to law and rule. The Mosaic religion, on the other hand, has 
for its first principle the oneness and absolute spirituality of 
God. The Godhead is no neuter abstract, no It, but I ; 
Jehovah is altogether a personal God. The whole world, with 
everything it contains, is His work, the offspring of His own free 
:ut, I Ii^ creation. Viewed as by itself, this world is nothing; 
llr alone is absolute being. He is in it, indeed, but not as 
property one with it; lie is infinitely above it, and can clothe 
Himself with it as with a garment, or fold it up and lay it aside 
;i> Hi- PRIM S. Now this God, who reveals and manifests Him 
self through all creation, in carrying into execution His pur 
pose to save and bless all the families of the earth, revealed and 


manifested Himself in an especial manner to one race and 
people. The centre of this revelation is the word which He 
spoke to Israel ; but this word is His law, the expression of His 
perfect holy will. The essential character, therefore, of the 
special revelation of God is holiness. Its substance is, " Be ye 
holy, for I am holy." So that the Mosaic religion is through 
out ethical ; it always addresses itself to the will of man, and 
deals with him as a moral being. Everything that God did for 
Israel, in the manifestations He gave of Himself, aims at this as 
its final end, that Israel should sanctify the name of Jehovah, 
and thereby be himself sanctified." 1 

There can be no doubt that this view of the being and 
character of God, unfolded in the books of Moses, entered as a 
pervading element into the religion of the Old Covenant, and 
gave a tone altogether peculiar to everything connected with it. 
Even where the form of Egyptian laws and institutions was 
retained, these became informed with another spirit, and directed 
to a nobler aim. Religious worship itself assumed a new cha 
racter ; it ceased to be, as in heathenism, an abject prostration 
of spirit before powers known only as working in nature, and 
subject to it, powers that might be worshipped with cringing 
homage or dread, but could not be properly loved or adored, 
and became a free and elevated communion with the Great 
Parent of the universe, Himself the lofty ideal of all that is 
pure and good. From his relation to such a Being, each indi 
vidual was raised to a higher sphere of life and action. It was 
a kind of sacrilege now to view him as the simple property of 
his fellow-men, the creature of circumstances, or the tool of 
arbitrary sway ; he had become the subject and servant of 
Jehovah, in whose covenant he stood, and whose image he bore. 
All the relations, too, which he filled, domestic, social, and 
public, were brought under the influence of the same hallowed 
and elevated spirit ; and the object he was called to realize in 
the midst of them was, not a mere conformity to external order 
or hereditary custom, the common aim of heathenism, but 
the cultivation, the exercise, of that moral excellence and purity 
which was seen in the character and law of his God. 

1 Symbolik, i., p. 35-37, where also confirmatory testimonies are pro 
duced from Creuzer, Gorres, Hegel, Schlegel. 



BY the establisliment of the Sinaitic covenant the relation be 
tween God and Israel had been brought into a state of formal 
completeness. The covenant of promise, which pledged the 
Divine faithfulness to bestow upon them every essential blessing, 
was now properly supplemented by the covenant of law, which 
took them bound to yield the dutiful return of obedience He 
justly expected from them. The foundation was thus outwardly 
laid for a near relationship subsisting, and a blessed intercourse 
developing itself between the God of Abraham on the one hand, 
and the seed of Abraham on the other. And it was primarily 
with the design of securing and furthering this end, that the 
ratification of the covenant of Sinai was so immediately followed 
up by the adoption of measures for the erection of the tabernacle. 

I. The command is first of all given for the children of Israel 
bringing the necessary materials : " And let them make Me," it 
is added, " a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." (Ex. 
xxv. 8.) The different parts are then minutely described, after 
which the general design is again indicated thus : " And I will 
dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And 
they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought 
them out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them : 
I am the Lord their God." (Ex. xxix. 45, 46.) With this 
representation of its general design, the names or designations 
applied to it perfectly correspond. 

(1.) Most commonly, when a single name is used, it is that 
which answers to our word dwelling or habitation, 1 although the 
word generally employed in our translation is tabernacle. Some 
times we find the more definite term house, 2 the house of God, 
or the Lord s house (Ex. xxiii. 19 ; Deut. xxiii. 18 ; Josh. ix. 


23; Judg. xviii. 31), or tent. 1 (Ex. xxvi. 11.) The dwelling 
in its original form was a tent, because the people among whom 
God came to reside and hold converse were then dwelling in 
tents, and had not yet come to their settled habitation. But 
afterwards this tent was supplanted by the temple in Jerusalem, 
which bore the same relation to the ceiled houses in the land of 
Israel, that the original tabernacle held to the tents in the wil 
derness. And coming, as the temple thus did, in the room of 
the tabernacle, and holding the same relative position, it was 
sometimes spoken of as the tent of God (Ez. xli. 1), though 
more commonly it received the appellation of the house of God, 
or His habitation. 

(2.) Besides these names, certain descriptive epithets were 
applied to the tabernacle. It was called the tent of meeting* 
for which our version has unhappily substituted the tent of the 
congregation. The expression is intended to designate this tent 
or dwelling as the place in which God was to meet and converse 
with His people ; not, as is too commonly supposed, the place 
where the children of Israel were to assemble, and in which 
they had a common interest. It was this certainly ; but merely 
because it was another and higher thing because it formed for 
all of them the one point of contact and channel of intercourse 
between heaven and earth. This is clearly brought out in Ex. 
xxix. 42, 43, where the Lord Himself gives an explanation of 
the " tabernacle of meeting," and says concerning it, " Where I 
will meet with you, to speak there unto thee ; and there I will 
meet with the children of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by 
My glory." 

(3.) The tabernacle is again described as the tabernacle of 
the testimony, or tent of ivitness. 3 (Ex. xxxviii. 21 ; Num. ix. 15, 
xvii. 7, xviii. 2.) It received this designation from the law of 
the two tables, which were placed in the ark or chest that stood 
in the innermost sanctuary. These tables were called "the 
testimony" (Ex. xxxi. 18, xxxiv. 29), and the ark which con 
tained them "the ark of the testimony" (Ex. xxv. 21, 22); 
whence, also, the whole tabernacle was called the tabernacle or 
tent of the testimony. For God dwells in His law, which makes 




known what lie Himself is, and on what terms He will hold 
fellowship with men. The witnessing, as previously noticed 
(Ch. II., sec. 1), had respect more immediately to the holiness of 
God, but by necessary implication also to the sinfulness of the 
people. While the tables expressed the righteous demands of 
the former, they necessarily witnessed in a condemnatory manner 
respecting the latter. So that the meeting which God s people 
were to have with Him in His habitation, was not simply for 
receiving the knowledge of the Divine will, or holding fellow 
ship with God in general : it was for that, indeed, more directly ; 
but it also bore a prominent respect to the sins on their part, 
against which the law was ever testifying, and the means of 
their restoration to His favour and blessing. 

Viewing the tabernacle, then (or the temple), in this general 
aspect, we may state its immediate object and design to have 
been the bringing of God near to the Israelites in His true 
character, and keeping up an intercourse between Him and 
them. It was intended to satisfy the desire so feelingly ex 
pressed by Job, " O that I knew where I might find Hi in, 
that I might come even to His seat;" and to provide, by means 
of a local habitation, with its appropriate services, for the at 
tainment of a livelier apprehension of God s character, and the 
maintenance of a closer and more assured fellowship with Him. 
To some extent this end might have been reached without the 
intervention of such an apparatus ; for in itself it is a spiritual 
thing, and properly consists in the exercise of suitable thoughts 
and affections towards God, calling forth in return gracious 
manifestations of His love and blessing. But, under a dispensa 
tion so imperfect as to the measure of light it imparted, the 
Israelites would certainly, without such outward and visible help 
a> was afforded by a worldly sanctuary, have either sunk into 
practical ignorance and forgetfulness of God, or betaken them 
selves to some wrong methods of bringing divine tilings more 
distinctly within the grasp and comprehension of their minds. 
It was thus that idol-worship arose, and was with such difficulty 
repressed in the chosen family itself. Till God was made mani 
fest in flesh, in the person of Christ, even the pious mind 
anxiously sought to lay hold of some visible link of communion 
with the higher region of glory. So Jacob, after he had seen 


the heavenly vision on the plains of Bethel, could not refrain 
from anointing the stone on which his head was laid, and calling 
it " the house of God." He felt as if that stone now formed a 
peculiar point of contact with heaven ; and had his mind been 
less enlightened in the knowledge of God, he would assuredly 
have converted it in the days of his future prosperity into an 
idol, and erected on the spot a fane where it might be enshrined 
and worshipped. 

It was therefore with the view of meeting this natural ten 
dency, or of assisting the natural weakness of men in dealing 
with divine and spiritual things, that God condescended to pro 
vide for Himself a local habitation among His people. His 
doing so was an act of great kindness and grace to them. At 
the same time, it manifestly bespoke an imperfect state of things, 
and was merely an adaptation or expedient to meet the existing 
deficiencies of their religious condition, till a more perfect dis 
pensation should come. Had they been able to look, as with 
open eye, on the realities of the heavenly world, they would 
have been raised above the necessity of any such external ladder 
to place them in apposition with its affairs ; they would have 
found every place alike suitable for communing with God. 
And hence, when the intercourse between Him and His re 
deemed shall be brought to absolute perfection when " the 
tabernacle of God shall be with men, and He shall dwell with 
them," no temple shall any longer be seen; 1 for the fleshly 
weakness, which at one time required this, shall have finally 
disappeared : everywhere the presence of God will be realized, 
and direct communion with him maintained. But it was other 
wise amid the dim shadows of the earthly inheritance. There a 
visible pattern of divine things was required to help out in men s 
minds the imperfection of the spiritual idea ; a habitation was 
needed for the more peculiar manifestations of God s presence, 
such as could be scanned and measured by the bodily eye, and 
by serving itself of which the eye of the mind might rise to a 
clearer apprehension both of His abiding nearness to His people, 
and of the more essential attributes of His character and glory. 

II. But that this material dwelling-place of God might be 
i Rev. xxi. 3, 22. 


a safe guide and real assistance in promoting fellowship with 
Heaven that it might convey only right impressions of divine 
things, and form a suitable channel of communication between 
God and man, it must evidently be throughout of God s, and 
not of man s devising. Hence there was presented to Moses 
on the mount, the pattern form after which it was in every par 
ticular to be constructed (Ex. xxv. 40) ; and though it was to 
be a tabernacle built with men s hands, yet these from Moses, 
who was charged with the faithful execution of the whole, to 
the artificers who were to be employed in the preparation of the 
materials must all be guided by the Spirit of God, supplying 
" wisdom, and understanding, and knowledge " for the occasion. 
This plainly indicates the high importance which was attached 
in the mind of God to the proper construction of this Divine 
habitation, and what a plenitude of meaning was designed to be 
expressed by it. Yet here, also, there is a middle path which is 
the right one; and it is possible, in searching for the truths 
embodied in those patterns of heavenly things, to err by excess 
as well as by defect. Due regard must be had to the connection 
and order of the parts one with another their combination so 
as to form one harmonious whole the circumstances in which, 
and the purposes for which, that whole was constructed. And 
it is no more than we might expect beforehand, that in this 
sacred structure, as in erections of an ordinary kind, some things 
may have been ordered as they were from convenience, others 
from necessity, others again from the general effect they were 
fitted to produce, rather than from any peculiar significance 
belonging to them in other respects. Such, we think, will 
appear to be the case in regard to the only two points we are 
called to consider in the present section the materials of which 
the tabernacle was formed, and its general structure and appear 

(1.) In regard to the materials, one thing is common to them 
all that they were to be furnished by the people, and presented 
as an offering, most of them also as a free-will offering, to the 
Lord: " Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me 
an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart 
ye shall take My offering." (Ex. xxv. 2.) That the materials 
were to be brought by the people as an offering, implied that 


the structure for which they were given was altogether of a 
sacred character, being made of things consecrated to the Lord. 
And that the offering should have been of a free-will descrip 
tion, implied that there was to be no constraint in anything 
connected with it, and that, as in the erection of the dwelling, 
so in the carrying out of the purposes for which it was erected, 
there must be the ready concurrence of man s sanctified will 
with the grace and condescension of God. And the people, 
who had recently experienced the Lord s pardoning mercy, after 
their shameful violation of the covenant, gave expression to their 
grateful feelings by the readiness and abundance of their con 
tributions. Other ideas have sometimes been sought in connec 
tion with the source from which the materials were derived, but 
without any warrant from Scripture. For example, much has 
frequently been made of the circumstance that these materials 
formed a portion of the spoils of Egypt. There can be no doubt 
that they were, to a considerable extent at least, of that descrip 
tion ; but the text is silent upon the subject, and at the time 
when they were brought in free-will offering by the people they 
were their own property, and simply as such (not as having been 
in any particular manner obtained) were the people called upon 
to give them. Again, a portion of the materials the whole of 
the silver, it would seem, which was employed in the erection 
was formed of the half-shekel of redemption money, which 
Moses was ordered to levy from eX ery male in the congregation ; 
and as this was chiefly used in making the sockets of the sanc 
tuary, special meanings have been derived from the circum 
stance. But that nothing peculiar was designed to be intimated 
by that, is clear from the twofold consideration, that a part of 
this silver was applied to a quite different use, to the making of 
hooks and ornaments for the pillars, and that all the sockets 
were not made of it ; for those of the door or entrance were 
formed of the free-will offerings of brass. (Ex. xxxviii. 25-28.) 
The materials themselves were of various sorts, according to 
the uses for which they were required : Precious stones, of 
several kinds ; gold, silver, and brass ; shittim-wood ; linen or 
cotton fabrics of blue, purple, and scarlet, and skins for external 
coverings. Separate and distinct meaning have been found in 
each of these, derived either from their inherent qualities or 


from their colours, and by none with so much learning and 
ingenuity as Biihr; but still without any solid foundation. 
That tin- wood, for example, should have been that of the 
shittah-tree, or the acacia, as it is now generally supposed to 
have been, had a sufficient reason in the circumstance, which 
Biihr himself admits, 1 that it is the tree chiefly found in that 
part of Arabia where the tabernacle was constructed, and the 
only one of such dimensions as to yield boards suitable for the 
purpose. It was not, therefore, as if a choice lay between this 
and some other kinds of trees, and this in particular fixed upon 
on account of some inherent qualities peculiar to itself. Besides, 
in the temple, which for all essential purposes was one with the 
tabernacle, the wood employed was not the acacia, but the cedar ; 
and that, no doubt, for the same reason as the other had been, 
being the best and most suitable for the purpose which the 
region afforded. The lightness of the acacia wood, and its 
being less liable to corrupt than some other species, 2 were inci 
dental advantages peculiarly fitting it for the use it was here 
applied to. But we have no reason to suppose that anything 
further, or more recondite, depended on them ; according to the 
just remark of Ilengstenberg, that in so far as things in the 
tabernacle differed from those in the temple, they must have 
been of an adventitious and external nature. 3 

In regard to the other articles used, it does not appear that 
any higher reason can be assigned for their selection, than that 
they were the best and fittest of their several kinds. They con 
sisted of the most precious metals, of the finest stuffs in linen 
manufacture, with embroidered workmanship, the richest and 
most gorgeous colours, and the most beautiful and costly gems. 
It was absolutely necessary, by means of some external appa 
ratus, to bring out the idea of the surpassing glory and mag- 

1 Symbolik, i., p. 262. 

8 That it was absolutely incorruptible, is not of course to be imagined, 
though the language of JosephuB, l*hilo, and some heathen writers, would 
seem to imply as much. It is called j/Xoj/ Bayx-rov by the LXX., and 
Joseph us affirms it could not "suffer corruption." For other authorities, 
i B;ihr, i., p. 262. The simple truth seems to have been, that it was 
light, and stood the water well ; hence was much used by the Egyptians in 
in.-ikiiiy boats, and was loosely talked of as incorrupt iW 1 . 

3 Authentic, ii.. p. 639. 


nificence of Jehovah as the King of Israel, and of the singular 
honour which was enjoyed by those who were admitted to 
minister and serve before Him. But this could only be done 
by the rich and costly nature of the materials which were em 
ployed in the construction of the tabernacle, and of the official 
garments of those who were appointed to serve in its courts. 
It is expressly said of the high priest s garments, that they were 
to be made "for glory (or ornament) and for beauty" (Ex. 
xxviii. 2) ; for which purpose they were to consist of the fine 
byss or linen cloth of Egypt (Gen. xli. 42 ; Luke xvi. 19), em 
broidered with needlework done in blue, purple, and scarlet, the 
most brilliant colours. And if means were thus taken for pro 
ducing effect in respect to the garments of those who ministered 
in the tabernacle, it is but reasonable to infer that the same 
would be done in regard to the tabernacle itself. Hence we 
read of the temple, the more perfect form of the habitation, that 
it was to be made " so exceeding magnifical as to be of fame 
and glory throughout all countries" (1 Chron. xxii. 5), and that 
among other things employed by Solomon for this purpose, 
" the house was garnished with precious stones for beauty." 
(2 Chron. iii. 6.) Such materials, therefore, were used in the 
construction of the tabernacle, as were best fitted for conveying 
suitable impressions of the greatness and glory of the Being for 
whose peculiar habitation it was erected. And as in this we 
are furnished with a sufficient reason for their employment, to 
search for others were only to wander into the regions of un 
certainty and conjecture. 

We therefore discard (with Hengstenberg, Baumgarten, and 
others) the meanings derived by Biihr, as well as those of the 
elder theologians, from the intrinsic qualities of the metals, and 
the distinctive colours employed in the several fabrics. They 
are here out of place. The question is not, whether such things 
might not have been used so as to convey certain ideas of a 
moral and religious nature, but whether they actually were so 
employed here ; and neither the occasion of their employment, 
nor the manner in which this was done, in our opinion, gives 
the least warrant for the supposition. So far as the metals 
were concerned, we see no ground in Scripture for any sym 
bolical meaning being attached to them, separate from that sug- 


gested by their costliness and ordinary uses. That brass should 
have been tin- Jin-vailing metal in the fittings and furniture of 
the outer court, where the people at large could come with their 
offering, and in the sanctuary itself silver and gold, might 
undoubtedly be regarded as imaging the advance that is made 
in the discovery of the Divine excellence and glory, the more 
one gets into the secret of His presence and is prepared for be 
holding His beauty. A symbolical use of certain colours we 
undoubtedly find, such as of white, in expressing the idea of 
purity, or of red, in expressing that of guilt ; but when so used, 
the particular colour must be rendered prominent, and connected 
also with an occasion plainly calling for such a symbol. This 
was not the case in either respect with the colours in the taber 
nacle. The colours there, for the most part, appeared in u 
combined form ; and if it had been possible to single them out, 
and give to each a distinctive value, there was nothing to indi 
cate how the ideas symbolized were to be viewed, whether in 
reference to God or to His worshippers. Indeed, the very 
search would necessarily have led to endless subtleties, and pre 
vented the mind from receiving the one direct and palpable 
impression which we have seen was intended to be conveyed. 
As examples of the arbitrariness necessarily connected with 
such meanings, Ba hr makes the red significant, in its purple 
shade, of the majesty, in its scarlet, of the life-giving property 
of God ; while Neumann, after fresh investigations into the 
properties of light and colour, sees in the red the expression of 
God s love, inclining as purple to the mercy of grace, as scarlet 
to the jealousy of judgment. With Ba hr, the blue is the symbol 
of the skyey majesty whence God manifests His glory ; with 
Neumann, it points to the depth of ocean, and is the symbol 
of God s substance, which dwells in light inaccessible, and lays 
in the stability of the Creator the foundation of the covenant. 
Such diverse and arbitrary meanings, rivalling the caprice of the 
elder typologists, show the fancifulness of the ground on which 
they are raised. And interwoven as the colours were in works of 
embroidery, not standing each apart in some place of its own, we 
have in i reason to imagine they had any other purpose to serve 
than similar works of art in the high priest s dress, viz., for 
ornament and beaut v. 


The total value of the materials used in the construction of 
the tabernacle must have been very great. Estimated according 
to the present commercial value, the twenty-nine talents of gold 
alone would be equal to about L.I 73,000 ; and Dr Kitto s aggre 
gate sum of L.2 50,000 might probably come near the mark of 
the entire cost. But there can be no doubt that the precious 
metals and stones were much more common, consequently of 
much less comparative value, in remote antiquity than they are 
now. In some of the ancient temples, as well as treasure-houses 
of kings, we read, on good authority, of almost incredible stores 
of them. For example, in the temple of Belus at Babylon, there 
was a single statue of Belus, with a throne and table, weighing 
together 800 talents of gold ; and in the temple altogether about 
7170 talents. . Still, even this was greatly outdone by the amount 
of treasure which, on the most moderate calculation, we have 
reason to think was expended on the temple at Jerusalem. In 
such vast expenditure, whether on the tabernacle or the temple, 
it is not necessary to think of an accommodation to heathen 
prejudices, nor of anything but an intention to represent sym 
bolically the greatness and glory of the Divine Inhabitant. 

(2.) Looking now to the general structure and appearance of 
the tabernacle, we might certainly expect the following charac 
teristics : that, being a tent, or moveable habitation, it would be 
constructed in such a manner as to present somewhat of the 
general aspect of such tenements, and be adapted for removals 
from place to place ; and that, being the tent of God, it would 
be fashioned within and without so as to manifest the peculiar 
sacredness and grandeur of its destination. This is precisely 
what we find to have been the case. Like tents generally, it 
was longer than broad thirty cubits long by ten broad ; and 
while on three of the sides possessing wooden walls, which as 
similated it in a measure to a house, yet these were composed 
of separate gilded boards or planks, rising perpendicularly 
from silver sockets, kept together by means of golden rings, 
through which transverse bars were passed, and hence easily 
taken asunder when a removal was made. So also the larger 
articles of furniture belonging to the tabernacle, the ark, the 
table, and the altars of incense and burnt-offering, were each 
furnished with rings and staves, for the greater facility of trans- 


portation. But neither within nor without must the wooden 
walls be seen, otherwise the appearance of a tent would not be 
preserved. Hence a series of curtains was provided, the inner 
most of which was formed of fine linen ten breadths, five of 
which were joined together to make each one curtain, and the 
two curtains were again united together by means of fifty loops. 
This innermost curtain or covering was not only made of the 
finest material, but was also variegated with diverse colours and 
cherubic figures inwrought. Hence it is probably to be regarded 
as the tent in its interior aspect, consequently not merely form 
ing the roof (where there were no wooden boards), but also 
attached by some means to the pillars (like the veil in ver. 33) so 
as to hang down inside to near the floor of the dwelling. In this 
way at least, one can more easily understand why it should be 
called simply the tabernacle or dwelling (mishkan) both at Ex. 
xxvi. 1, where the direction is given for making the curtains, 
and again at ver. 8, where, when joined together, they are 
represented as forming one dwelling (mishkan). Then over 
this another set of curtains, made of goats hair, was thrown, 
certainly forming an external covering, and, being two cubits 
longer than the other, reaching to well-nigh the bottom of the 
boards. To this day, the usual texture of Arabian tents is of 
goats hair; and this being the tent proper as to its external 
aspect, it was designated the tent (Ohel, Ex. xxvi. 11), as the 
other, which appeared from within, was called the habitation or 
dwelling. And above both these sets of curtains a double 
coating of skins was thrown, but merely for the purpose of pro 
tection from the elements the first consisting of rams skins 
dyed red, the other and outermost of skins of tachash, which 
have often been rendered, as in our version, badgers skins, but 
which are now more commonly understood to be those of the 
seal, or, perhaps, some kind of deer. 1 

1 WL- have purposely confined our description to the leading features, for 
the minute questions about the thickness of the planks, the setting of the 
pillars, etc., which are still agitated, would be here out of place. The chief 
point of dispute in regard to what is stated, has respect to the innermost 
set of curtains, whether, after covering the top, they hung over outsMc: 
or, as we are rather inclined still to believe, though stating it only as a 
probability, were made to fall inside, and cover to within a cubit or so of 
the bottom the interior of the boards. This latter view was given by Biihr, 


These parts and properties, or things somewhat similar, were 
essential to this sacred erection as a tent ; it could not have pos 
sessed its tent-like appearance without them, or been adapted 
for moving from place to place. Therefore, to seek for some 
deeper and spiritual reasons for such things as the boards and 
bars, the rings and staves, the different sorts of coverings, the 
loops and taches, etc., is to go entirely into the region of con 
jecture, and give unbounded scope to the exercise of fancy. A 
plain and palpable reason existed for them in the very nature 
and design of the erection ; and why should this not suffice ? 
Or, if licence be granted for the introduction of other reasons, 
who shall determine, since it must ever remain doubtful, which 
ought to be preferred ? It is enough to account for the things 
referred to, that as God s house was made in the fashion of a 
tent, these, or others somewhat similar, were absolutely neces 
sary : they as properly belonged to it in that character, as the 
members of our Lord s body and the garments He wore be 
longed to His humanity; and it is as much beside the purpose to 
search for an independent and separate instruction in the one, as 
for an independent and separate use in the other. Hence, when 
the house of God exchanged the tent for the temple form, it 
dropt the parts and properties in question, as being no longer 
necessary or suitable ; which alone was sufficient to prove them 
to have been only outward and incidental. 

But other things, again, were necessary, on account of the 
tabernacle being not simply a tent, but the tent of the Most 

(Symbolik, i., p. 222, 223), and is concurred in by Neuman (Die Stiftshiitte, 
p. G5), also by Keil, Kurtz, Torneil, etc. ; while the opposite is held by 
Lund, Ewald, Friedrich, Umbreit, and latterly with some keenness by Rig- 
genbach (Die Mosaische Stiftshiitte, p. 12 sq., 1862). Upon the whole, the 
former seems the more natural view, as it both affords an easy explanation 
of the designations employed for the two sets of coverings, and shows how 
the tent-form of the erection would still be preserved. Indeed, the boards 
in the original description appear only as a sort of accessory, and are not 
referred to till after the two sets of curtains which properly formed the tent 
are described. (Ex. xxvi. 18, sq.) They were merely instead of the usual 
poles for bearing up the curtains, and the curtains hence occupy the chief 
prominence in the description, and are spoken of in their relation to each 
other as if the boards were not regarded. The view has also in its support 
the analogy of the temple, all the interior walls of which were ornamented 
by carved figures of cherubiins. 


High God, for purposes of fellowship between Him and His 
people, Mich as tin- ornamental work on the tapestry, the divi 
sion of the tabernacle into more than one apartment, and the 
encompassing it with a fore-court by means of an enclosure of 
fine liiu ii, which in a manner proclaimed to the approaching 
worshippers, Procul profani! That the apartments should have 
consisted of no more than an outer and inner sanctuary, or that 
the figures wrought into the tapestry should have been precisely 
those of the cherubim, in these we may well feel ourselves jus 
tified in searching for some more special instruction ; for they 
might obviously have been ordered otherwise, and were doubt 
less ordered thus for important purposes. On which account, 
both characteristics reappear in the temple as being of essential 
and abiding significance. The square form of the erection 
itself, and of the court also, the predominant regard to certain 
numbers in the several parts, especially to five, ten, seven, and 
twelve, could not be without some reason for the preference, 
of which occasion will afterwards be found to speak. But 
considered in a general point of view, the external form, the 
embroidery, the separate apartments, and the surrounding en 
closure, may all be regarded as having the reason of their ap 
pointment in the sacred character of the tabernacle itself, and 
the high ends for which it was erected. Such things became it 
as the tent which God took for His habitation. 

III. This habitation of God, whether existing in the form 
of a tent or of a temple, was at once the holiest and the great 
est thing in Israel, and therefore required not only to be con 
structed of such materials and in such a manner as have now 
been described, but also to be set apart by a special act of con 
secration. For it was the seat and symbol of the Divine kingdom 
on earth. The one seat and symbol ; because Jehovah, the God 
of Israel, being the one living God, and though filling heaven 
and earth with His presence, yet condescending to exhibit, in 
an outward, material form, the things concerning His character 
and glory, behoved to guard with especial care against the idea 
so apt to intrude from other quarters, of a divided personality. 
In heathen lands generally, and particularly in Canaan, every 
hill and grove had its separate deity, and its peculiar solemnities 


of worship. (Deut. xii.) God therefore sought to check this 
corruption in its fountain-head, by presenting Himself to His 
people as so essentially and absolutely one, that He could have 
but one proper habitation, and one throne of government. 
Here alone must they come to transact with God in the things 
that concerned their covenant relation to Him. To present 
elsewhere the sacrifices and services which became II is house, 
was a violation of the order and solemnities of His kingdom ; 1 
while, on the other hand, to have free access to this chosen 
residence of Deity, was justly prized by the wise among the 
people as their highest privilege. Exclusion from this was like 
banishment from God s presence, and excision from His cove 
nant. And, as appears from the experience of the Psalmist, 
pious Israelites, in the more nourishing periods of the Theo 
cracy, counted it among the most dark and trying dispensations 
of Providence, when events occurred to compel their separation 
from this appointed channel of communion with the Highest. 

Still enlightened worshippers understood that the enjoyment 
of God s presence and blessing was by no means confined to 
that outward habitation, and that while it was the seat, it was 
also the symbol, of the kingdom of God. They perceived in it 
the image of His character and administration in general, and 
understood that the relations there unfolded were proper to the 
whole Church of God. Hence the Psalmist represents it as 
the common privilege of an Israelite to dwell in the house of 
God,, and abide in His tabernacle (Ps. xv., xxiv.), though in the 
literal sense not even the priests could be said to do so. Of 
himself he speaks as desiring to dwell in the house of the Lord 
all the days of his life (Ps. xxvii.), by which he could only 
mean, that he earnestly wished continually to realize and abide in 
that connection and fellowship with God which he saw so clearly 
symbolized in the form and services of the tabernacle. And, 
indeed, this symbolical import of the tabernacle was plainly 
indicated by the Lord Himself to Moses, in the words, " And I 

1 Hence sacrificing in the high places, though occasionally done by true 
worshippers, always appears as an imperfection. In times of war or great 
internal disorder, such as those of Samuel, when the ark was separated 
from the tabernacle, and the stated ordinances suffered a kind of suspen 
sion, sacrifices in different places became necessary. 


will set My tabernacle among you, and I will walk among you, 
and will be your God, and ye shall be My people." (Lev. 
xxvi. 11, 12.) The least in spiritual discernment could scarcely 
fail to learn here, that what was outwardly exhibited in the 
tabernacle of God s nearness and familiarity with His people, 
was designed to be the image of what should always and every 
where be realizing itself among the members of His covenant ; 
that the tabernacle, in short, was the visible symbol of the 
church or kingdom of God. 

No\v, to fit it for this high destination and use, a special act 
of consecration was necessary. It was not enough that the 
materials of which it was built were all costly, and so far pos 
sessing a sacred character that they had been all dedicated by 
the people to God s service ; nor that the pattern after which 
the whole was constructed, was received by direct communica 
tion from above. After it had been thus constructed, and 
before it could be used as the Lord s tabernacle, it had to be 
consecrated by the application to all its parts and furniture of 
the holy anointing oil, for the preparation of which special 
instructions were given. (Ex. xxx. 22, sq.) 1 "And thou shalt 
sanctify them," was the word to Moses regarding this anointing 
oil, " that they may be most holy ; whatsoever toucheth them 
shall be holy." 

Old Testament Scripture itself provides us with abundant 
materials for explaining the import of this action. It expressly 
connects it with the communication of the Spirit of God ; as in 
the history of Saul s consecration to the kingly office, to whom 
it was said by Samuel, after having poured the vial of oil upon 
his head, "And the Spirit of the Lord shall come upon thee." 
(1 Sam. x. 6.) And still more explicitly in the case of David 
is the sign coupled with the thing signified : " Then Samuel 
took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his 
brethren : and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from 
that day forward. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from 
Saul." (xvi. 13, 14.) The gift, symbolized by the anointing, 
having been conferred upon the one, it was necessarily with- 

1 It consisted of olive-oil, mixed with the four best kinds of spices, 
myrrh, sweet ciim;imon, calamus, aud cassia, producing, when compounded 
together, the moat fragrant suielL 


drawn from the other. More emphatically, however, than even 
here, is the connection between the outward rite and the inward 
gift, marked in the prophecy of Isaiah, Ixi. 1 : " The Spirit of 
the Lord God is upon me, because He hath anointed me to 
preach good things," etc. 

This passage may fitly be regarded as the connecting link 
between the Old and the New Testament usage in the matter. 
It designated the Saviour as the Christ, or Anointed One, and 
because anointed, filled without measure by the Spirit, that in 
the plenitude of spiritual grace and blessing He might proceed 
to the accomplishment of our redemption. In His case, however, 
we know there was no literal anointing. The symbolical rite 
was omitted as no longer needed, since the direct action of the 
Spirit s descent in an outward form gave assurance of the reality.. 
He was hence said by Peter to have been " anointed with the 
Holy Ghost and with power." (Acts x. 38.) And because 
believers are spiritually united to Christ, and what He has with 
out measure is also in a measure theirs, they too are said to be 
" anointed by God," or " to have the unction (xpia/j,a) of the 
Holy One, which teacheth them all things." (2 Cor. i. 21 ; 1 
John ii. 20.) Even under the dispensation of the New Testa 
ment, in regard to its earlier and more outward, its miraculous 
operations, we find the external symbol still retained : " The 
apostles anointed many sick persons with oil, and made them 
whole in the name of the Lord" (Mark vi. 13) ; and James even 
couples this anointing with prayer, as means proper to be em 
ployed by the elders of the Church for drawing down the healing 
power of God (v. 14). But the external rite could now only 
be regarded as appropriate in such operations of the Spirit as 
those referred to, in which the natural and symbolical use of oil 
ran, in a manner, into each other. 

This sacred use of oil, however foreign to our apprehensions, 
grew quite naturally out of its common use in the East, especi 
ally in Egypt, Arabia, and Palestine. There it has from the 
earliest times been regarded as singularly conducive to bodily 
health and comfort, and the custom has descended to modern 
times. Niebuhr tells us that the inhabitants of Yemen always 
anoint their bodies when the intense heat comes in, because it 
serves to protect them from excessive perspiration and other 


enervating effects of the climate. The inhabitants of Africa do 
the same, and find in it a sort of light clothing both for sun 
and shade. (Livingstone s Travels, p. 246.) Even in Greece, 
where the heat is less enervating, the bodies of the combatants 
in the public games, it is well known, were always copiously 
rubbed and suppled with oil. And when mixed with perfumes, 
as the oil appears generally to have been, the copious application 
of it to the body, partly from usage, and partly also from physi 
cal causes, produced the most agreeable and invigorating sensa 
tions. So much, indeed, was this the case, especially in respect 
to the head, that the Psalmist even mentions his "being anointed 
with oil" among the tokens of kindness he had received from the 
hand of God ; and in entertainments, it was so customary to 
administer this species of refreshment to the guests, that our 
Lord charges the omission of it by Simon the Pharisee as an 
evident mark of disrespect (Luke vii. 46); and in ancient Egypt 
" it was customary for a servant to attend every guest as he 
seated himself, and to anoint his head." 1 

As the body, therefore, which was anointed with such oil, 
felt itself enlivened and refreshed, and became expert and agile 
for the performance of any active labour, it was an apt and 
becoming symbol of the Spirit-replenished soul, which is thus 
endowed with such a plenitude of grace, as disposes and enables 
it to engage heartily in the Divine service, and to run the way of 
God s commandments. So that, in the language of Vitringa, 
" the anointed man was he who, being chosen and set apart by 
God for accomplishing something connected with God s glory, 
was furnished for it by His good hand with necessary gifts. 
And the more noble the office to which any one was anointed, 
the greater was the supply of the Spirit s grace which the 
anointing brought him." 2 Understood thus in reference to 
persons, to whom the outward symbol was both most naturally 
ami most commonly applied, we can have no difficulty in appre 
hending its import when applied to the tabernacle and its furni 
ture. This being a symbol of the true Church as the peculiarly 
consecrated, God-inhabited region, the anointing of it with the 
sacred oil was a sensible representation of the effusion of the 

1 Wilkinson, Manners, etc., of Eg., ii. 213. 

2 Com. in LSI., vul. ii., p. -ll l ; cuinp. also i., p. 289. 


Holy Spirit, whose part it is to sanctify the unclean, and draw 
them within the sphere of God s habitation, as well as to fit 
them for occupying it. And as the anointing not only rendered 
the tabernacle and its vessels holy, but made them also the im- 
parters of holiness to others, " whatsoever toucheth them shall 
be holy," the important lesson was thereby taught, that while 
all beyond is a region of pollution and death, they who really 
come into a living connection with the Church or kingdom of 
God are brought into communion with His spiritual nature, 
and made partakers of His holiness. It is only within the 
sphere of that kingdom that true purification and righteousness 
proceed. 1 

IV. In turning now to Gospel times for the spiritual and 
heavenly things which answer to the pattern exhibited in that 
worldly sanctuary, we are not, of course, to think of outward 
and material buildings, which, however necessary for the due 

1 In connecting the spiritual with the natural use of this symbol, Bahr 
does not appear to us to be happy. He throws together the two properties 
of oil, as does more recently Neumann (Symbolique, p. 149), its capacity 
for giving light, and for imparting vigour and refreshment, and holds the 
anointing symbolical of the Spirit s gift, as the source of spiritual light and 
life in general ; or rather (for he evidently does not hold the personality of 
the Spirit), as symbolical of the principle of light and life, or, in one word, 
of the holiness which was derived from the knowledge of God s law. (ii., p. 
173.) But to say nothing of the doctrinal errors here involved, why should 
those two quite distinct properties of oil be confounded together? The quali 
ties and uses of oil as an ointment had nothing to do with those which belong 
to it as a source of light, and should no more be conjoined symbolically than 
they are naturally. Oil as an ointment does not give light, and it is of no 
moment whether it were capable of doing so or not. When used as an oint 
ment, it was also usually mixed with spices, which still more took off men s 
thoughts from its light-giving property ; and especially was this the case in 
regard to its symbolical application in the tabernacle. When oil began to 
be applied symbolically for consecrating persons and things, ia unknown. It 
was so used by Jacob on the plains of Bethel, and there is undoubted proof 
of its having been used in consecrating kings and priests in Egypt.- (\\\\- 
kinson, v. 279, ss.) But the spirit of the action in Egypt, it must be re 
membered, was very different from what it was in Canaan, inasmuch as 
consecrating or setting apart to a heathen god or temple bespoke nothing 
of that separation from sin, that high and holy calling, which consecration 
to Jehovah necessarily carried along with it. The oil was the symbol of 
sacredness, indeed, but not of moral purity. 


celebration of Divine worship, must occupy an entirely different 
place from that anciently possessed by the Jewish tabernacle or 
temple. "What is true of the Divine kingdom generally, must 
especially hold in respect to the heart and centre of its admini 
stration, viz., that everything about it rose, when the antitypes 
appeared, to a higher and more elevated stage ; and that the 
ideas which were formerly symbolized by means of outward and 
temporary materials are now seen embodied in great and abid 
ing realities. Of what, then, was the tabernacle a type ? Plainly 
of Christ, as God manifest in the flesh, for the redemption of 
His people, and their participation in the life and blessing of 
God. This is Heaven s grand and permanent provision for 
securing what the tabernacle, as a temporary substitute, aimed 
at accomplishing. In Christ personally the idea began, in the 
first instance, to be realized when, as the Divine Word, " He 
became flesh, and dwelt (e<r/a/z/<uo"ei>, tabernacled) among us." 
For the flesh of Jesus, though literally flesh of our flesh, yet, 
being sanctified in the w r omb of the Virgin by the power of the 
Holy Ghost, possessed in it " the whole fulness of the Godhead 
bodily " (awfjiariKa)^ in a bodily receptacle or habitation) ; and 
held such pre-eminence over other flesh, as the tent of God had 
formerly done over the tents of Israel. But this was still merely 
the first stage in the development of the great mystery of godli 
ness ; only as in the seed-corri was the indwelling of God with 
men seen in the person of the incarnate Word. For Christ s 
flesh was the representative and root of all flesh as redeemed ; 
in Him the whole of an elect humanity stands as its living 
Head, and therein finds the bond of its connection with God 
the channel of a real and blessed fellowship with Heaven. So 
that, as the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, He again 
dwells in the Church of true believers as His fulness ; and the 
idea symbolized in the tabernacle is properly realized, not in 
Christ personally and apart, but in Him as the Head of a 
redeemed offspring, vitally connected with Him, and through 
Him having access even into the Holiest. Consequently the 
idea, as to its realization, is still in progress; and it shall have 
readied its perfect consummation only when the number of the 
redeemed has been made iip, and all are set down with Jesus 
amid the light and glories of the New Jerusalem. 


Every reader of New Testament Scripture is aware how 
prominently the truths involved in this representation are brought 
out there, and how much the language it employs of divine 
things bears respect to them. The transition from the outward 
and shadowy to the final and abiding state of things, is first 
marked by our Lord in the words, " Destroy this temple, and in 
three days I will raise it up" (John ii. 19), by which He plainly 
wished it to be understood that His body had now become what 
the temple had hitherto been or rather, that the great idea 
symbolized in the temple was now actually embodied in His 
person, in which Godhead had really and properly taken up its 
dwelling, that men might draw near and have fellowship with 
it. As there could be but one such place and medium of inter 
course, Christ s saying this of His body, of necessity implied 
that the outward temple, built with men s hands, had served its 
purpose, and was among the things ready to vanish away. But 
the peculiar expression he uses implies somewhat more than 
this. For when He speaks of the destroying of the temple, and 
the raising of it up again in three days, He so identified His 
body with the temple, as in a manner to declare that the de 
struction of the one would carry along with it the destruction 
of the other ; that that alone should henceforth be the proper 
dwelling-place of Deity, which, from being instinct with the 
principle of an immortal life, could be destroyed only for a 
season, and should presently be raised up again to be the per 
petual seat and centre of God s kingdom. From that time, 
therefore, the other must necessarily lose its significance and 
use, and had, indeed, as our Lord intimated, become as a house 
left desolate. (Matt, xxiii. 38.) 

But this inhabitation of God in the man Christ Jesus, being 
not for Himself alone, but only as the medium of intercourse 
and communion between God and the Church, we find the idea 
extended so as to embrace both each individual believer and the 
entire company of believers as one body. The Church is " the 
house of God," or "His habitation through the Spirit" (1 Tim. 
iii. 15; Eph. ii. 21, 22); and as the Church universal of be 
lievers is only an aggregate of individuals, who must each be in 
part what the whole is, so they also are designated "a building 
of God," and more especially "the temple of the living God;" 


or, as St Piter de-cribes them, " lively stones built up on Christ 
the living ^tone, into a spiritual house." (1 Cor. iii. 9, vi. 19; 
Eph. iii. 17; 1 1 et. ii. 5, 6.) In this apparent complexity of 
meaning tin-re is still a radical oneness; and it is by no means 
as if tin- tabernacle or temple idea were applied to so many 
objects properly distinct and apart. There is an essential unity 
in the diversity, arising from the vital connection subsisting 
between Christ and His people ; for all redeemed humanity is 
linked with Ilis, as His is linked with the Godhead, so that 
what belongs to the one is the common property and distinction 
of the whole. This was unfolded in the sublime words of Christ 
Himself, which describe the ultimate realization of what was 
typified in the temple : "And the glory which Thou gavest Me 
1 have given them ; that they may be one, even as We are one : 
I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in 
one ; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and 
hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." (John xvii. 22, 23.) 
And as everything in the original tabernacle required to be 
sprinkled with the holy anointing oil to fit it for its sacred desti 
nation and use, so in these higher and ultimate realities of the 
Divine kingdom all is pervaded and consecrated by the living 
Spirit of God. It is as replenished with His fulness that Jesus 
accomplished in His own person the work of reconciliation, and 
placed on a secure foundation the intercommunion between God 
and man. It is, again, as having received from the Father the 
promise of the Spirit, and shedding forth His regenerating grace 
upon the members of the kingdom, that it becomes a hallowed 
region, consecrating whatever really comes within its borders, 
and that every one whom a living faith brings into contact with 
Christ, is made partaker of His holiness. It is thus, indeed, 
that all becomes instinct with life and blessing. The ordinances 
of the Church are made fruitful of good because they are the 
ordained channels of the Spirit s communications. lie who has 
become really united to the one spiritual body, has done so by 
bring bapti/cd into it by the one Spirit. (1 Cor. xii. 13.) He 
who, through the word of the Gospel, has been convinced of sin, 
righteousness, and judgment, is a monument in what he has 
experienced of the powerful and blessed agency of that Spirit. 
(John xvi. 8, 14.) And of wry grace lie exhibits, and every 


work of acceptable service he performs, it may be said, that the 
will and the power to perform it have been wrought by the self 
same Spirit. 

In the preceding remarks we have made no allusion to the 
views of other writers respecting the tabernacle, but have simply 
unfolded what we conceive to be the true idea of it, and its rela 
tion to Christ and His kingdom. It may be proper, however, to 
give here a brief outline of other views, noticing, as we proceed, 
what is mainly erroneous or defective in them. 

1. By Philo, the tabernacle was taken for a pattern of the 
universe : to the two sanctuaries belonged ra vorjTa, and to the 
open fore-court ra dia-QrjTa ; the linen, blue, purple, and scarlet, 
were the four elements ; the seven-branched candlestick repre 
sented the seven planets, the light in the centre, however, at 
the same time representing the sun ; the table with the twelve 
loaves pointed to the twelve signs of the zodiac and months of 
the year, etc. Josephus adopts the same view, only differing in 
some of the details ; as do also many of the fathers, in par 
ticular, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Chrysostom, and Theo- 
doret. Several of the Jewish Rabbis also concur in regarding 
the erection as an image of creation both in heaven and earth, 
references to whom, as well as the others, are given by Biihr, i., 
p. 104, 105. The view proceeds on an entire misapprehension 
of the true spirit of the Old Testament worship, and would 
place its symbols substantially on a footing with those of hea 
thenism ; both alike would have been employed in the service of 
a mere nature-worship. Not only would the peculiar ideas and 
principles of the true religion have been excluded from the one 
sanctuary and centre of all its services, but religious symbols of 
a precisely opposite kind must have occupied their place. This 
was plainly impossible. 

2. But Biihr s own view so far coincides with the one just 
mentioned, that he also holds the tabernacle to have been a 
representation of the creation of God, which he endeavours to 
show is frequently exhibited in Scripture as the house or build 
ing of God ; not, however, in the heathen sense not as if the 
Deity and creation were identified, but in the sense of creation 
being the workmanship and manifestation of God the outgoing 


and witness of IIi> glorious perfections. In like manner, the 
tabernacle was the place and structure through which God 
gave to Israel a. testimony or manifestation of Himself ; and, 
therefore, it must contain in miniature a representation of the 
universe the habitation, in i-ts two compartments, representing 
heaven, God s peculiar dwelling-place, and the fore-court the 
earth, which lie has given to the sons of men. 

It may be regarded as alone fatal to this view, that amid the 
many allusions in Scripture to the tabernacle, and express ex 
planations of the things belonging to it, no idea of the kind is 
ever once distinctly brought out. And as a great deal is found 
there in direct confirmation of the view we have presented, we 
are fully entitled to consider it as involving a substantial re 
pudiation of the other. No doubt heaven and earth are often 
represented in Scripture as a building of God ; but, as Heng- 
stenberg justly remarks, 1 " there is not to be found in all Scrip 
ture a single passage in which the universe is described as the 
building or dwelling-place of God ; so that the view of Biihr 
fails in its very foundation." He further remarks, that it pro 
vides no proper ground for explaining the separation between the 
Holy and the Most Holy Place, and that Biihr has hence been 
obliged to put a false interpretation upon the furniture belong 
ing to the Holy Place. As for the confirmation which the 
learned author seeks for the basis of his view, in the opinion of 
Philo and Josephus, as if that were the originally Jewish mode 
of contemplating the tabernacle, no one unbiassed by theory 
can regard it in any other light than as the fruit of that anxiety, 
which these writers constantly display, to bring the Jewish 
Scriptures and religion into some degree of conformity with the 
heathen philosophy. It is proper to note, however, that in his 
later treatise on the temple of Solomon (1848), Biihr has con 
siderably modified his original view, and represents the sanctuary 
as a symbol of the covenant relation of God to Israel, for holy 
aims and purposes ; so that in the outer court there was a kind 
of concentrated covenant land, as in the sanctuary a like con 
centrated dwelling of Jehovah. In this later work also he 
recognised an organic connection between the Old and tin- 
New, rendering the one strictly typical of the other. 
1 Authentic, ii., p. 639. 


3. The work of Biihr has called forth a laboured defence of 
another view, equally unsupported in Scripture, and still more 
arbitrary according to which the tabernacle was made in 
imitation of man as the image of God. This view had been 
briefly indicated by Luther, not as a formal explanation of the 
proper design and purpose of the tabernacle, but rather by way 
of illustration and similitude, when expounding the words of 
Mary s song : " My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit 
rejoiceth in God my Saviour." There, after mentioning the 
different divisions of the tabernacle, he says : " In this figure 
there is represented a Christian man ; his spirit is the Holy of 
Holies, God s dwelling, in dark faith without light ; for he be 
lieves what he sees not. His soul is the Holy Place, where are 
the seven lights, that is, all sorts of understanding, discernment, 
knowledge, and perception of corporeal and visible things. His 
body is the fore-court which is open to all, so that every one can 
see what it does, and how it lives." Biihr had justly said of 
this, that it was only an allegorical explanation, and intimated 
that he conceived it impossible to carry out such a view into the 
particulars. But a zealous Lutheran, Ferdinand Friederich, 
offended at the slight thus put upon " the words of the blessed 
Luther," has undertaken a vindication of the view, in a volume 
of considerable size, and accompanied bv twenty-three plates. 
The work contains some good remarks on the more objectionable 
parts of Biihr s system, yet adopts a number of its errors, displays 
throughout, indeed, the want of a sound discrimination, and 
utterly fails to establish the main point at issue. The objections 
given above to Biihr s view apply with increased force to this. 

4. The view of what are distinctively called the typical 
writers, errs primarily and fundamentally in considering the 
tabernacle as too exclusively typical, in seeking for the adum 
bration of Christ and His salvation as the only reason of the 
things belonging to it. Hence no proper ground or basis was 
laid for the work of interpretation ; and unless where Scripture 
itself had furnished the explanation, the most arbitrary and even 
puerile meanings were often resorted to, without the possibility 
of applying, on that system, any proper check to them. Not 
keeping in view the complex idea or design of the tabernacle, 
everything for the most part was understood personally of Christ ; 


and oven where ;i measure of discretion was observed in abstain 
ing from too great minutix, and keeping in view the larger 
features of the Christian system, as in Witsius (Miscellanea 
Sacra), still all swims in a kind of uncertainty, because no care 
was taken to investigate the meaning of the symbols before 
they were interpreted as types. 

5. The only remaining view requiring a separate notice is 
what is commonly regarded as the Spencerian, although Spencer 
did not originate it, but found its leading principles already laid 
down by Maimonides. 1 It proceeds on the ground of an ac 
commodation in the grossest sense to the heathenish tendencies 
and dispositions of the people. The Egyptians and other nations 
had dwellings for their gods ; it was not convenient or practic 
able at once to abolish the custom ; and God must, therefore, 
to prevent His people from lapsing into heathenism, suit Himself 
to this state of things, and have a tabernacle for His dwelling, 
with its appropriate furniture and ministering servants. We 
have already, in the introductory chapter, substantially met this 
view ; as it rests upon the same false principles which pervade 
the whole system of Spencer. According to it, God accommo 
dates Himself not merely to what is weak and imperfect in His 
creatures, but to what is positively wrong ; and lowers and 
adjusts His requirements to suit their depraved tastes and incli 
nations. Consequently the views of God which such a structure 
was fitted to impart, and the services connected with it, must 
have been quite opposed to the spiritual nature of God, and an 

1 He is substantially followed by many of the Later Rabbis, who represent 
the tabernacle and temple as constructed with the view of imitating, and 
at the same time outdoing, the palaces of earthly monarchs. Various quota 
tions may be seen in Outram. That from R. Shem Tob is the most distinct 
and trraphic, and is held in great account by Spencer: " God, to whom be 
praise, commanded a house to be built for Himself, such as a royal house is 
wont to be. In a royal house all these things are to be found of which we 
have spoken : namely, there are some to guard the palace ; others, whose 
part it is to do things belonging to the royal dignity, to prepare banquets, and 
do other things necessary for the monarch. There are others, besides, who 
serve with vocal and instrumental music. There is a place also for making 
ready victuals ; a place for burning perfumes ; a table also for the king, and 
an apartment appropriated to himself, where none are permitted to en tor, 
excepting his prime minister, and those who are specially favoured by him. 
In like manner God," etc. 


obstruction, rather than a help, to pious Israelites in their en 
deavours to worship and serve Him aright. It was not a tem 
porary and fitting expedient to aid men s conceptions of divine 
things, and to render the divine service more intelligible and 
attractive ; but a sop put into the mouth of a rude and heathenish 
people, to keep them away from the grosser pollutions of idolatry. 
God s house could never be reared on such a foundation. Some 
of the elder typical writers, such as Outram (De Sac., L. i. 3), 
trod too closely upon this view of the tabernacle, as regards its 
primary intention for Israel ; and so also, we regret to say, does 
Dr Kitto among recent writers (Hist, of Palestine, i. 245-6). 



THE general divisions of the tabernacle, and even its particular 
parts and services, were so peculiarly connected with the per 
sons who were appointed to tread its courts, that it is necessary, 
before proceeding farther, to understand distinctly the place 
which these held in the Mosaic dispensation, and especially 
how they stood related to God on the one hand, and to the 
people on the other. This section must therefore be devoted to 
the consideration of the Levitical priesthood. 

I. It is somewhat singular, that the earliest notices we have 
of a priesthood in Scripture, refer to other branches of the 
human family than that of the line of Abraham. The first 
person with whom the name of priest is there associated, is 
1 Melchizedek, who is described as " king of Salem, and priest of 
the Most High God." To him Abraham, though the head of 
the whole chosen family, paid tithes of all, and thus virtually 
confessed himself to be no priest as compared with Melchizedek. 
Then, in the days of Joseph, we meet with Potipherah, priest 
of On, or Heliopolis in Egypt, and of the priests generally, as a 
distinct and highly privileged order in that country (Gen. xli. 
45, xlvii. 22) ; and a few generations later still, mention is 
made of Jethro, the priest of Midian. Not till the children of 
Israel left the land of Egypt, and were placed under that 
peculiar polity which was set up among them by the hand of 
Moses, do we hear of any individual, or class of individuals, 
holding the office of the priesthood as a distinct and exclusive 
prerogative. IIo\v, then, did they make their approach to God 
and present their oblations ? Did each worshipper transact for 
himself with God? Or did the father of a family act as priest 
for the members of his household ? Or was the priestly func- 


tion among the privileges of the first-born ? This last position 
has been maintained by many of the leading Jewish authorities 
(Jonathan, Onkelos, Saadias, Jarchi, Aben-ezra, etc.), and also 
by some men of great learning in Christian times (Grotius, Sel- 
den, Bochart, etc.). They have chiefly grounded their opinion 
on the circumstance of Moses having employed certain young 
men to offer the sacrifices, by the blood of which the covenant 
was ratified (Ex. xxiv. 5), connecting this fact, on the one hand, 
with the profaneness of Esau in having despised his birthright, 
which is thought to have been a slighting of the priesthood, 
and, on the other, with God s special consecration of the first 
born after their redemption in Egypt. This opinion, however, 
may now be regarded as almost universally abandoned. The 
consecration of the first-born on the eve of Israel s departure 
from Egypt did not, as we shall see, include their appointment 
to the priestly office ; nor was this reckoned among the rights 
of primogeniture. These rights Scripture itself has plainly 
restricted to pre-eminence in authority among the brethren, and 
the possession of a double portion in the inheritance. (1 Chron. 
v. 1-4.) And it would appear, from the scattered notices of 
patriarchal history, that there was no bar then in the way of 
any one drawing near and presenting oblations to God, who 
might feel himself called to do so. So long, however, as the 
patriarchal constitution prevailed, it was by common consent 
felt due to the head of the family, as the highest in honour, and 
the proper representative of the whole, that he should be the 
medium of their communications with God in sacrificial offer 
ings. By degrees, as families grew into communities, and the 
patriarchal became merged in more general and public authori 
ties, the sacerdotal office also naturally came to be vested, at 
least on all great and special occasions, in the persons of those 
who occupied the rank of heads in their respective communities, 
or of others, who, being regarded as peculiarly qualified for 
exercising the priestly function, were expressly chosen and dele 
gated to discharge it. So in particular with the chosen family. 
In earlier times each patriarch did the work of a sacrifice!- ; but 
when they had become a numerous people, and were going as a 
people to offer sacrifice to God, while they were primarily repre 
sented by Moses, whom God had raised up for their head, and 


who, therefore, alone properly did the part of a priest at the 
ratification of the covenant, by sprinkling the blood, they 
appear, as was natural, to have appointed certain of their 
number, pre-eminent in rank, in comeliness of person, or quali 
ties of mind, to assist in priestly offices. These, no doubt, were 
the persons from whom Moses selected a few to furnish him 
with the blood of sprinkling on the occasion referred to, and 
who had previously been spoken of as a body under the name 
of priests. (Ex. xix. 22.) 1 

Indeed, so far from wondering that there was no distinct 
class invested with the office of priesthood during the patriarchal 

1 Vitringa, Obs. Sac., i., De Pracrogativis Primogenitorum in Eccl. Vet. 
This subject, and the closely related one of the consecration of the Levites 
in the room of the first-born, is so ably and satisfactorily discussed there, 
that little has been left for subsequent inquirers. Of the general practice 
in appointing persons to exercise priestly functions, where no separate 
order existed for the purpose, and which prevailed in common with God s 
more ancient worshippers and many heathen nations, he says, " Nothing is 
more certain, than that the ancients required sacrifices to be performed, 
either by princes and heads of families, or by persons singularly gifted in 
body and mind, as being deemed more deserving than others of the Divine 
fellowship." This holds especially of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Of 
the former, C. O. Miiller says, that " the worship of a deity peculiar to any 
tribe was, from the beginning, common to all the members of the tribe ; 
that those who governed the people in the other concerns of life, naturally 
presided over their religious observances, the heads of families in private, 
and the rulers in the community ; and that it might be said with just as 
much truth, that the kings were priests, as that the priests were kings." 
And so much was it the practice in the properly historical periods of 

-, to have priestly offices performed by means of public magistrates, 
or persons delegated by the community, that he does not think " there ever 
was in Greece a priesthood, strictly speaking, in contradistinction to the 
laity." (Introd. to Mythology, p. 187, 188, Trans.) Livy testifies that, 
among the early Romans, the care of the sacred things devolved upon their 
kings, and that after the expulsion of these, an officer was appointed for 
the purpose, with the name of Rex Sacrorum. (L. ii. 2.) It was still 
customary, however, as is well known, for private families to perform tln-ir 
own peculiar sacrifices and libations to the gods. On special occasions, 
besides, persons were temporarily appointed for the performance of sacred 
oliiivs, as on the occasion of the taking of Veise, thus related by Livy, v. fc 
_:. : " Delwti <-x oinui exm-itu juvenes, pure lotis corporibus, Candida 

luibus deportanda Romam Regina Juno assignata er;it, \vncnibuudi 
templum iniore, priino religiose aduioventes manus ; quod id signum more 

VOL. ii. u 


period of sacred history, it should rather have been matter of 
surprise if any had appeared. For, in those times, everything 
in religion among the true worshippers of God was characterized 
by the greatest simplicity and freedom. They possessed as yet 
no temple, nor even any select consecrated place in which their 
offerings were to be presented, and their vows paid. Wherever 
they happened to dwell, in the open field, or under the shade of 
a spreading tree, they built an altar and called upon the name 
of God. And it would have been a sort of anomaly, an insti 
tution at variance with the character of the worship and the 
general condition of society, if there had been so artificial an 

Etrusco, nisi certae gentis sacerdos, attrectare non esset solitus." In Virgil, 
we find : " Rex Anius, rex idem hominum Phcebique sacerdos" (yEn., iii. 
80), on which Servius remarks : " Sane majorum hsec erat consuetude, ut 
rex etiam esset sacerdos vel pontifex, unde hodieque Imperatores pontifices 
dicimus." So also Aristotle, speaking of the heroic times, says : <rrpotTv*/6f 
yiip vj x.ett 0<*<mjf o /3ovXi>, xetl tu vpo; rot)? 6eov$ x.i>pio;. (Pol. iii. 14.) 
There was nothing peculiar, therefore, in the fact of Melchizedek having 
been at once a king and a priest. The only remarkable thing was, that 
among such a people he should have been a priest of " the Most High God," 
and so certainly called of God to the office, that even Abraham recognised 
his title to the honour. It is impossible with any certainty to trace the 
transition from this to that other state of things which prevailed in some 
ancient countries, and in which the priests existed as an entirely separate 
class a distinct caste. Yet, in regard especially to Egypt, the country 
where such a state of things probably originated, the transition may have 
implied no very great change, and may have been quite easily effected. 
For it is now understood that the earlier kings there were priest-kings, 
either belonging to the priest caste, or held in great dependence by that 
body ; that the land was originally peopled by a kind of priest colonies, 
who either appointed one of their number to rule in the name of a certain 
god, or at least formed, in connection with the ruler, the reigning portion 
of the community. The members of this caste consequently were the first 
proprietors of lands in each district. Even by the account of Herodotus, 
they appear still in his day to have been the principal landed proprietors ; 
each temple in a particular district had extensive estates, as well as a staff 
of priests connected with it, which formed the original territory of the set 
tlement, and were subsequently farmed out for the good of the whole : so 
that " the families of priests were the first, the highest, and the richest in 
the country ; they had exclusively the transacting of all state affairs, and 
carried on many of the most profitable branches of business (judges, phy 
sicians, architects, etc.), and were to a certain extent a lii;/ltly privileged 
nobility." (Heeren. Af., i., p. 368, ii., p. 122-12 J ; Wilkinson, i. 245, etc.) 


arrangement MS :i distinct order of persons appointed exclusively 
to minister in holy things. 

Hut this la-ing the case, does it not seem like a travelling in 
the wrong direction, to institute at last an order of priests for 
that purpose ? Was not this to mar the simplicity of God s 
worship, and throw a new restraint around the freedom of access 
to Him ? In one sense unquestionably it was ; and separating, 
as it did, between the offering and him in whose behalf it was 
presented, it introduced into the worship of God an element of 
imperfection which cleaves to all the sacrifices under the law. 
In this respect, it was a more perfect state of things which per 
mitted the offerer himself to bring near his offering to God, and 
one that has, therefore, been restored under the Gospel dispen 
sation. But, in other respects, the worship of God made a 
great advance under the ministration of Moses, and an advance 
of such a nature as imperatively to require the institution of a 
separate priesthood. So that what was in itself an imperfection 
became relatively an advantage, and an important handmaid to 
something better. The patriarchal religion, while it was cer 
tainly characterized by simplicity, was at the same time vague 
and general in its nature. The ideas it imparted concerning 
Divine things were few, and the impressions it produced upon 
the minds of the worshippers must, from the very character of 
the worship, have been somewhat faint and indefinite. By the 
time of Moses, however, the world had already gone so far in 
the pomps and ceremonies of a false worship, that on that 
ground alone it became necessary to institute a much more 
varied and complicated service ; and the Lord, taking advantage 
of the evil to accomplish a higher good, ordered the religion lie 
now set up in such a manner as to bring out far more fully His 
own principles of government, and prepare the way more effec 
tually for the work and kingdom of Christ. The groundwork 
of this new form of religion stood in the ei ection of the taber 
nacle, which God chose for His peculiar dwelling-place, and 
through which He meant to keep up a close and lively inter 
course with His people. But this intercourse would inevitiibly 
have grown on their part into too great familiarity, and would 
thus have failed to produce proper and salutary impressions 
upon the minds of the worshippers, unless something of a 


counteracting tendency had been introduced, fitted to beget 
feelings of profound and reverential awe toward the God 
who condescended to come so near to them. This could no 
otherwise be effectually done, than by the institution of a sepa 
rate priesthood, whose prerogative alone it should be to enter 
within the sacred precincts of God s house, and perform the 
ministrations of His worship. And so wisely was everything 
arranged concerning the work and service of this priesthood, 
that an awful sense of the holiness and majesty of the Divine 
Being could hardly fail to be awakened in the most unthinking 
bosom, while still there was given to the spiritual worshipper a 
visible representation of his near relationship to God, and his 
calling to intimate communion with Him. 

For the Levitical priesthood was not made to stand, as the 
priesthood of Egypt certainly stood, in a kind of antagonism to 
the people, or in such a state of absolute independence and ex 
clusive isolation as gave them the appearance of a class entirely 
by themselves. On the contrary, this priesthood in its office 
was the representative of the whole people in its divine calling 
as God s seed of blessing ; it was a priesthood formed out of a 
kingdom of priests ; and, consequently, the persons in whom it 
was vested could only be regarded as having, in the higher and 
more peculiar sense, what essentially belonged to the entire 
community. In them were concentrated and manifestly dis 
played the spiritual privileges and dignity of all true Israelites. 
And as these were represented in the priesthood generally, 
so especially in the person of the high priest, in whom again 
everything belonging to the priesthood gathered itself up and 
reached its culmination. " This high priest," to use the words of 
Vitringa, 1 "represented the whole people. All Israelites were 
reckoned as being in him. The prerogative held by him be 
longed to the whole of them, but on this account was transferred 
to him, because it was impossible that all Israelites should keep 
themselves holy, as became the priests of Jehovah. But that 
the Jewish high priest did indeed personify the whole body of 
the Israelites, not only appears from this, that he bore the name s 
of all the tribes on his breast and his shoulders, which unques 
tionably imported that he drew near to God in the name and 
1 Obs. Sac., i., p. 292. 


of all, but also from the circumstance that when he com 
mitted any heinous sin, his guilt was imputed to the people. 
Tims, in Lev. iv. 3, * If the priest that is anointed sin to the 
trespass or guilt of the people (improperly rendered in the 
English version, according to the sin of the people ). The 
anointed priest was the high priest. But when he sinned, the 
people sinned. Wherefore ? Because he represented the whole 
people. And on this account it was that the sacrifice for a sin 
committed by him had to be offered as the public sacrifices were 
which were presented for sin committed by the people at large : 
the blood must be brought into the Holy Place, and the body 
burnt without the camp." 

There was even more than what is here mentioned to impress 
the idea, that the priesthood possessed only transferred rights : 
for as the sins of the high priest were regarded as the people s, 
so theirs also were regarded as his ; and on the great day of 
atonement, when the most peculiar part of his work came to be 
discharged, he had, in their name and stead, to enter into the 
Most Holy Place with the blood of sprinkling, and thereafter 
confess all their sins and iniquities over the head of the live 
goat. On other occasions, also, we find this impersonation of 
Israel by the high priest coming distinctly out, as in Judges xx. 
27, 28, where, not the people (as the construction in our version 
might seem to imply), but Phinehas, in the name of the people, 
asks, " Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children 
of Benjamin, my brother ? " and receives the answer, " Go up, 
for to-morrow I will deliver them into thine hand." Besides, in 
one most important respect, the priestly function was still allowed 
to remain in the hands of the people, even after the consecration 
of Aaron and his family. The paschal lamb, which might justly 
IK- regarded as in a peculiar sense the sacrifice of the covenant, 
was by the covenant people themselves presented to the Lord, 
and its flesh eaten ; which was manifestly designed to keep up a 
pi-rpetual testimony to the truth of their being a kingdom of 
priests. So Philo plainly understood it, when he describes it as 
the custom at the passover, " not that the laity should bring the 
sacrificial animals to the altar, and the priests offer them, but the 
whole people," says he, " according to the prescription of the 
law, exercise priestly functions, since each one, for his own part, 


presents the appointed sacrifices." 1 And as thus the priestly 
functions of the people were plainly not intended to be destroyed 
by the institution of the Aaronic priesthood, but were only, at 
the most, transferred to that body, and represented in them, we 
can easily understand how pious Israelites, like the Psalmist, 
could read their own privileges in those of the priests, and speak 
of " coming into the house of God," and even of " dwelling in 
it all the days of their life." 2 Betokening, however, as the insti 
tution of such a priesthood did, a relative degree of imperfection 
on the part of the people, we can also easily understand how the 
spirit of prophecy, when pointing to a higher and more perfect 
dispensation, should have intimated the purpose of God to make 
the priestly order again to cease, by the unreserved communica 
tion to the people of its distinctive privileges : " Ye shall be 
named the priests of the Lord, men shall call you the ministers 
of our God." 3 This purpose began to be realized from the time 
that, through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, believers were 
constituted a " royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices 
to God," and is destined to be realized in the fullest sense in the 
future kingdom of glory, when the redeemed shall be able with 
one voice to say, " Thou hast made us kings and priests unto 
our God." 

The relation, then, in which the Levitical priesthood stood to 
the people, still consisted with the preservation, to a considerable 
extent, of their spiritual privileges. Even through such an insti 
tution they could see the dignity of their standing before God, 
and their right to hold near fellowship with Him. But if, in 
this part of the arrangement, care was taken to keep up a sense 
of the grace and condescension of God toward the whole cove 
nant people, care was also taken, on the other hand, by means 
of the priesthood s peculiar relation to God, to keep up a sense 
of His adorable majesty and untainted righteousness ; for how 
ever the people were warranted to regard themselves as admitted 
by representation into the dwelling-place of God, they were yet 
obliged personally to stand at an awful distance. One tribe alone 

1 Vita Mosis. iii., p. 686. 2 Ps. v. 7, xxvii. 4, etc. 

3 Isa. Ixi. 6, Ixvi. 21 ; Jer. xxxiii. 22 ; on which last see Hengstenberg s 
Christol. ; as also on Zech. iii. 1, for some good remarks on the subject now 
under discussion. 


was selected and set apart to the office of handling the things 
that concerned it. But not even the whole of this tribe was 
permittr 1 to enter the sacred precincts of God s house, and mini 
ster in IN appropriate services. That honour was reserved for 
one family of the tribe the family of Aaron ; and even the 
members of that family could not be allowed to discharge the 
duties of their priestly office without the most solemn rites of 
consecration ; nor, when consecrated, could they all alike traverse 
with freedom the courts of the tabernacle : one individual of 
thrm alone could pass the veil into its innermost region, the pre 
sence-chamber of God, and he only in such a manner as must 
have impressed his soul with the intense sanctity of the place, 
and made him enter with trembling step. Guarded by so many 
restrictions, and rising through so many gradations, how high 
must have seemed the dignity, how sublime and sacred the privi 
lege, of standing in the presence of the Holy One of Israel, and 
ministering before Him ! And as regards the people generally, 
how clearly did all show, that while God dwelt among them, He 
was yet at some distance from them ! At once a manifested and 
a concealed God ! in whose courts the darkness still intermingled 
with light, and fear alternated with love. 

II. But we must now inquire into the leading characteristics 
of this priestly office : what peculiarly distinguished those who 
exercised it from the nation at large ? Nothing for certain can 
here be learned from the name (jnb, colien\ the derivation of 
which is differently given by the learned, and the original import 
of which cannot now be correctly ascertained. But looking at 
their position and office in a general light, we cannot fail to 
reir.-ird them as occupying somewhat of the place of God s friends 
and familiars. 1 Their part was not to do much in the way of 
active and laborious service, but rather to receive and present 
to God, as His nearest friends and associates, what properly 

1 Yitringa (Obs. Sac., i., p. 272) gives this even as the radical significa 
tion of the name coltcn, " familiarioris accessionis amicuin," appealing for 
proof to Isa. Ixi. 10. In this he followed Cocceius, who makes the funda 
mental idea of the verb to be that of drawing near to a superior. Many, 
after Kinichi, understand it of the performing of honourable and dignified 
service ; while many again in recent times resort to the Arabic, and find 


belonged to Him. And on this account also was a great pro 
portion of the sacrifices divided between God and them ; and the 
shew-bread, as well as other meat-offerings, were consumed by 
them, there being such a close relationship and intimacy between 
them and God, that it might be regarded as immaterial whether 
anything were appropriated by them or consumed on the altar 
of God. But there were evidently three elements entering into 
this general view of their position and office, which together 
made up the characteristics of the priestly calling, and which are 
distinctly brought out as such in the description given by Moses 
on the occasion of Koran s rebellion : " And he spake unto 
Korah, and unto all his company, saying, To-morrow the Lord 
will show who is His, and who is holy ; and whom He makes to 
draw near to Him : and him whom He chooses will He make 
to draw near to Himself." (Num. xvi. 5.) There can be no 
doubt, from the connection in which this stands, that it was 
intended to be a description of the properties or personal cha 
racteristics of a Divine calling to the priesthood ; for it was 
intended to meet the assumption of Korah and his company, 
that as the whole congregation was holy, they had an equal 
right with Aaron to enter into the tabernacle of God, and mini 
ster in holy things. The person to whom such a right belonged, 
must be in a peculiar sense the choice or property of God must 
be a possessor of holiness, and have the privilege of drawing near 
to God ; and these qualities it was declared belonged to the family 
of Aaron as to no other. It could only be, however, as having 
these things in a peculiar sense that the Aaronic priesthood were 
here meant to be characterized ; for they were also the charac 
teristics of the congregation generally as a kingdom of priests, 
and are mentioned as such in the 19th of Exodus. The people 
are there described as having been " brought unto God," as 
being chosen for " a peculiar treasure to Him," and as " an holy 
nation." So that everything was affirmed to be theirs, which was 

the sense of discovering secret things, prophesying, which they consider as 
the original one. (Pye Smith on Priesthood of Christ, p. 82.) There can 
he no doubt, however, that, whether from usage or from original meaning, 
the word came to convey the idea of something like a familiar or chosen 
friend and counsellor. Hence, David s sons being priests (2 Sam. viii. 18), 
is explained in 1 Chron. xviii. 17 by their being at the hand of the king. 


peculiarly to distinguish the family of Aaron. And there can 
be no doubt, that it was on the ground of this passage which 
had m;ulf a divp impression upon all the people, that the rebel 
lion of Korah was raised. The differences were those of degree, 
not of kind ; but still, as matters now stood, they were differ 
ences on the side of the family of Aaron. 

(1.) They were in a peculiar sense God s property, or the 
objects of His election for these two expressions properly in 
volve but one idea. The choice of God, as well in respect to the 
priesthood as to the people at large, exercised itself in selecting 
a particular portion from the general property of God, to be His 
peculiar possession. As thus chosen and set apart for God, 
Israel was His heritage among the nations ; and as similarly 
chosen and set apart for the special work of the priesthood, the 
family of Aaron was his heritage in Israel. The privilege was 
to be theirs of drawing peculiarly near to God, and their first 
qualification for using it was that they were the objects of His 
choice. Their designation and appointment must be from above 
not assumed as of their own authority, or derived from the 
choice of their fellow-men " for no man taketh this honour 
unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." 
(Heb. v. 4.) Referring to this, and recognising in it the essen 
tial distinction of every true Israelite, the Psalmist says, "Blessed 
is the man whom Tliou choosest, and causest to approach unto 
Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts." (Ps. Ixv. 4.) The 
grounds of the Divine choice in the case of Aaron are nowhere 
given ; nor even when Korah contested with him the right to 
the office, did the Lord condescend to assign any reason for 
having selected that family in preference to the other families of 
Israel. He wished His own election to be regarded as the ulti 
mate ground of the distinction ; and by making the office heredi 
tary in the family of Aaron, He kept the appointment for all 
coming time, as it were, in His own hands. This does not, 
however, preclude the possibility of such ostensible grounds of 
preference existing in Aaron and his family, as might have been 
sufficient to commend the Divine choice to the people ; such as 
his distinguished rank as the first-born of the house to which 
Moses belonged, the services he had already rendered to the cause 
of Israel, or his personal fitness for the office. But there is no 


authority for holding, with Philo, Maimonides, and other Jewish 
writers, that the priesthood was conferred on this family as ;i 
reward for their zeal and devotedness to the service of God. 
So far from this y at the very time when the appointment of 
Aaron was intimated to Moses, he was going along with the 
people in the worship of the golden calf. 1 

(2.) The second element in the distinctive properties of the 
priesthood, was the possession of holiness. Expressly on the 
ground of holiness being the general characteristic of the people, 
did the company of Korah assert their claim to the prerogatives 
of the priesthood ; and on this point especially was the trial by 
means of the twelve rods laid up before the Lord designed to 
bear a decisive testimony. The rod of the house of Aaron alone 
being made to bud, and blossom, and yield almonds, was a visible 
miraculous sign from heaven, of a holiness belonging to the 
family of Aaron, which did not belong to the congregation at 
large. For what is holiness but spiritual life and fruitfulness ? 
And of this there could not be a more natural emblem than a rod 
flourishing and yielding fruit after its kind. Such singular and 
pre-eminent holiness became those who were to be known as the 
immediate attendants and familiars of Jehovah, who revealed 
Himself as " the Holy One of Israel." Hence, not only is it said 
in the general, that " holiness becometh God s house," that is, 
those who dwell and minister in its courts, but Aaron is called 
by way of distinction " the saint of the Lord ;" and the law en 
joins with special emphasis respecting the priests as a body, that 
they should be " holy unto their God :" " for," it is added, " I 
the Lord, that sanctify you, am holy." (Ps. xciii. 5, cvi. 16 ; 
Lev. xxi. 8.) Hence also, as holiness in the priesthood derived 
the necessity of its existence from the holiness of the Being 
whose attendants they were, it must have been holiness of the 
same character and description as His ; the law of the ten com 
mandments, which was the grand expression of the one, must 
undoubtedly have been intended to form the fixed standard of 
the other. It was an excellence which, however it might be 

1 Spencer, De Leg., L. i., c. 8, concurs with the Jewish writers in the 
reason they assign, and quotes Philo with approbation : naturally enough, 
as his grand reason for the institution of the priesthood was simply the pre 
vention of idolatry ! 


symbolized by outward things, could not possibly be formed of 
these, but iiui-t h.ivc been a real and personal distinction. This 
is forcibly brought out in the description given of the cha 
racter of those who were originally appointed to fill the sacred 
functions of the priesthood in Mai. ii. 1-7; and it is also clearly 
implii-d in the threatenings uttered against the house of Eli, 
and their ultimate degradation and ruin, on account of the 
moral impurities into which they fell. Their wicked course 
of life disqualified them from holding the sacred office, which 
must therefore have indispensably required purity in heart and 

(3.) The last distinction belonging to the priesthood, was 
their right to draw near to God, a right which grew out of 
their election of God, and their eminent holiness, as the end and 
consummation to which these pointed. The question in the rebel 
lion of Korali was, Who were in such a sense chosen by God, and 
holy, as to be privileged to draw near to Him ? And the decision 
of God was given on the two former, with a special respect to 
this latter prerogative : " And him whom He chooses will He 
make to draw near to Himself." Hence, " those who draw near 
to Jehovah," is not uncommonly given as a description of the 
priests (Ex. xix. 22 ; Lev. xxi. 17 ; Ez. xlii. 13, xliv. 13) ; and 
the distinctive priestly act in all sacrificial services is called " the 
bringing near" (nnpn) ; as also the thing sacrificed is called, in 
its most general designation, corban (pip) the thing brought 
near, offering. On this account, what is mentioned in one place 
as " an offering of burnt-offerings," is described in another as a 
"bringing near" of them. (2 Sam. vi. 17 ; 1 Chron. xvi. 1.) 
But this right of the priesthood to come into the immediate 
presence of God, and submit to His acceptance the gifts and 
offerings of the congregation, of necessity involved the idea of 
their occupying an intermediate position between God and the 
people, and gave to their entire work the character of a media 
tion. " They were ordained for men in things pertaining to 
God," charged to a certain extent with the interests of both 
parties, but having especially to transact with God in the behalf of 
those whom sin had removed to a distance from Him. Through 
them the families of Israel were blessed, as through Israel thr 
kingdom of priests all the families of the earth were to be 


blessed. In the high priest alone, however, was this function 
fully realized, as was plainly indicated by the outward distinc 
tions held by him above the other priests, as well as above the 
people at large. " For to the outward of the high priest it be 
longed : First, that while the people, remaining at a greater or 
less distance from the sanctuary, approached to it only at befit 
ting times, the high priest, on the contrary, was always in the 
midst so that though his functions were few, and confined 
to certain times, yet his whole existence appeared consecrated ; 
and secondly, that though the people presented their offerings 
to God by the collective priesthood, still the sacrifice of the 
great day of atonement was necessary as an universal com 
pletion of the rest ; and this the high priest alone could present. 
The idea, therefore, of his office seems to be, that while to the 
Jewish people their national life appeared as an alternation of 
drawing near to God, and withdrawing again from Him, the 
high priest was the individual whose life, compared with these 
vacillating movements, was in perpetual equipoise ; and as the 
people were always in a state of impurity, he was the only per 
son who could present himself as pure before God." 1 

III. It was not, however, the sole end of the appointment 
of the priesthood, to represent the people in the sanctuary, and 
mediate between them and God and holy things. It belonged 
also to their office to secure the diffusion among the people of 
sound knowledge and instruction ; so that there might be a 
right understanding among the people of the nature of God s 
service, and a fitness for entering in spirit into its duties, while 
the priests were personally employed in discharging them. A 
certain amount of such knowledge was necessary, in order that 
the people might be disposed to bring their gifts and offerings 
at suitable times ; and a still greater, that, in the presentation 
of these by the hand of the priests, they might be blessed as 
acceptable worshippers. With the oversight of this, therefore, 
so nearly connected with their sacred employments about the 
tabernacle, the priesthood were charged : " And that ye may 
teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord 

1 Schleierraacher s Glaubenslehre, as quoted by Tholuck, iu Diss. ii., in 
Com. on Ep. to Hebr., Bib. Cabinet, xxxix., p. 265. 


hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses." (Lev. x. 11.) 
So again in Dent, xxxiii. 10, "They shall teach Jacob Thy 
judgments, and Israel Thy law." The words of Malachi also 
are express on this point : " For the priest s lips should keep 
knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth ; for 
he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts." (ii. 7.) As a 
teacher, he had a divine mission to accomplish ; and it was 
hence justly charged against the priesthood of his day by the 
prophet, as an entire subversion of the great end of their 
appointment, that instead of teaching others the law, " they 
caused many to stumble at it." The prophet Hosea even 
ascribes the general ruin to their neglect of this part of their 
functions : " My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge : 
because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, 
that thou shalt be no priest to Me." (iv. 6.) 

The office of the priesthood thus necessarily involved some 
what of a prophetical or teaching character ; and in after times, 
when those destined lights of Israel became themselves sources 
of darkness and corruption, prophets were raised up, and 
generally from among the priesthood, for the express purpose 
of correcting the evil, and supplying the information which 
the others had failed to impart. It is plain, however, that even 
if the priests had been faithful to this part of their calling, they 
were quite inadequate, from their limited number, to be per 
sonally in any proper sense the teachers of all Israel. It is 
true, they enjoyed peculiar advantages for this in the frequent 
recurrence of the stated feasts, which caused the people to 
assemble in one place thrice every year, and kept them on each 
returning solemnity for a week at the very centre of priestly 
influence. But much beside what could then be accomplished 
would require to be done, to diffuse a sufficient acquaintance 
with the law of God, and give instruction from time to time 
concerning numberless cases of doubt or difficulty, which in 
daily life would be certain to arise. On this account, moiv 
particularly, were the Levites associated with the priesthood, 
and planted at proper distances in certain cities throughout the 
tribes of Israel. They were "given to Aaron and his sons," to 
minister unto him in subordinate and preparatory offices, wliik- 
he was doing the service of the tabernacle, and generally " to 


execute the service of the Lord." (Num. iii. 5-10, viii. II.) 1 
In fulfilling this appointment, it fell to them to keep the taber 
nacle and its instruments in a proper state for the divine service, 
to bear its different parts when removing from place to place, 
to occupy in later times the post of door-keepers in the temple, 
to take part in the musical arrangements connected with the 
public service, to assist at the larger feasts in the killing and 
flaying of victims, etc. (1 Chron. xxiii. 28-32 ; 2 Chron. xxxv. 
6, 11.) But separated as the Levites were from secular employ 
ments, without lands to cultivate, and " wholly given to the 
service of the Lord," it was obviously but a small number of 
them who could be regularly occupied with such ministrations 
about the sanctuary ; and as both their abundant leisure and 
their dispersion through the land gave them many opportunities 
of acting as the spiritual instructors of the people, it must have 
been chiefly through their instrumentality that the priests were 
to keep the people acquainted with the statutes and judgments 
of the Lord. This is clearly implied, indeed, in those passages 
which speak most distinctly of the obligation laid upon the 
priesthood to diffuse the knowledge of the law, and which refer 
equally to the priests and the Levites. Thus their common 
calling to "teach Jacob God s judgments and Israel His law," 
is announced in the blessing of Moses upon the whole tribe (Deut. 
xxxiii. 8-11) ; and in Malachi the failure of the priesthood to 
instruct the people in divine knowledge, and their guilt in 
causing many to err from the law, is called a " corruption of 
the covenant of Levi." 

Common discretion and self-interest, concurring with the 
principles of piety, must have enforced upon them this obliga 
tion, and dictated the employment of active measures for the 
diffusion of divine knowledge by the instrumentality of the 

1 They were given to Aaron, the Lord s familiar, as a sacrifice offered up 
and consecrated to the Ixml in the room of the first-born. The first-born, 
at the deliverance from Egypt, had represented all the people, in them, all 
the people were redeemed; so now the people, when substituting the 
Levites in their place, had to lay their hands on their heads, and Aaron 
waved them before the Lord as an offering ; and as originally God accepted 
the blood of the lamb for the blood of the first-born, so now He accepted a 
burnt-offering and a sin-offering for the Levites, on which they had to 
place their hands. (Num. iii. and viii.) 


Lcvitcs. If these possessed the spirit of their office as men 
dedicated to the Lord s service, in subordination to the priest 
hood, they must have felt it their duty to prepare the minds of 
the people for the solemnities of the tabernacle-worship, much 
more than to prepare the instruments of the tabernacle itself for 
the same. A moment s reflection must have taught them, that 
their services, as ministering helps, to promote the ends of the 
priesthood, were greatly more necessary for the one purpose 
than the other. But if higher considerations should fail to 
influence them in the matter, they were still urged to exert 
themselves in this direction from a regard to their own com 
fortable maintenance, which was made principally to depend 
upon the tithes and offerings of the people. The chief source of 
revenue was the tithe, which belonged to the tribe of Levi, from 
their being more peculiarly the Lord s ; the whole property 
being represented by the number ten, and one of these being 
constantly taken as a tribute-money or pledge, that the whole 
was held in fief or dependence upon Him. Then, out of this 
tithe accruing to the entire tribe, another tithe was taken and 
devoted to the family of Aaron, as the peculiarly sacred portion 
of the tribe. But for the actual payment of these tithes and the 
other offerings of the people in which they had a share, the 
priests and Levites were dependent on the enlightened and 
faithful consciences of the people. The rendering of what was 
due, was simply a matter of religious obligation ; and where this 
failed, the claim could not be enforced by any constraint of law. 
It consequently became indispensable to the very existence of 
the sacred tribe, that they should be at pains to preserve and 
elevate the religious sense of the community, as with this their 
own respect and comfort were inseparably connected. And 
when they proved unfaithful to their charge, as the representa 
tives of God s interest, and the expounders of His law among 
the people (as they appear to have done in the age of Malachi), 
their sin was visited upon them, in just retribution, by a with 
drawal on the part of the people of the appointed offerings. So 
that, although nothing was said as to the particular means proper 
to be employed for the purpose (the Church being left then, a> 
in New Testament times, to discharge the obligation laid upon 
it by suitable arrangements), there can be no doubt that the 


obligation was imposed upon the priesthood to be partly them 
selves, and still more through their ministers the Levites, the 
teachers of the people in divine knowledge. The proper dis 
charge of the priestly, presupposed and required a certain 
discharge of the prophetical function ; and prophets, as extra 
ordinary messengers, after having been occasionally sent to 
chastise their unfaithfulness and rouse them from their lethargy, 
were at last instituted as a distinct and separate order, only to 
supply what was found to be a lack of service on the part of 
those regular instructors. Indeed, as the members of the pro 
phetical order seem generally to have been taken from the tribe 
of Levi, the institution of that order may be regarded as a 
perfecting of the Levitical office in one of its departments of 
duty. 1 

1 Vitr. Synag. Vet., L. i., P. 2, c. 8, where also see various Jewish au 
thorities in proof of the calling of the Levites to be teachers and expounders 
of the law, and especially one from Baal Hattarim, which expressly assigns 
this as the reason of the dispersion of the Levites among the Israelites (dis- 
pergentur per omnes Israelitas ad docendam legem). See also Mover s 
Kronik, p. 300, and Graves on Pent., ii., Lee. 4. Michaelis (Com. on Laws 
of Moses, i., art. 35, 52) has asserted, that a great many civil and literary 
offices belonged to the priests and Levites that they were not only mini 
sters of religion, but physicians, judges, scribes, mathematicians, etc., holding 
the same place in Israelitish that the Egyptian priesthood did in Egyptian 
society and that on this account alone were such large revenues assigned 
them. This view has been too often followed by divines, especially by the 
rationalist portion of them, and is still too much countenanced in the Bib. 
Cyclop., art. Priest, and even by Mr Taylor in his Spiritual Despotism, p. 
99. It is entirely, however, without foundation, and has been thoroughly 
disproved by Biihr (Symbolik, ii., p. 34, 53), and by Hengstenberg, who has 
shown that the Levites, as well as the priests, were set apart only for re 
ligious purposes, and that in particular the civil constitution as to judges, 
as settled by Moses, was merely the revival and improvement of that 
patriarchal government which had never been altogether destroyed in 
Egypt. (Authentic, ii., p. 260, 341, 654, etc.) There can be no doubt 
that the Egyptian and Indian priests held many of the offices referred to ; 
that their political went hand in hand with their religious influence ; and 
that, especially in Egypt, the most fertile lands belonged to them, with 
many other lucrative privileges. It was very different with the Levitical 
priesthood no lands worth naming a dependence upon the offerings of the 
people for their livelihood ; so that they are commended to the care of the 
people as objects of kindness with the widow and orphan (Deut. xii, 12, xvi. 
11, 14), and were often, from the low state of religion, in comparative want. 


IV. Now, the outward and bodily prescriptions which were 
given respecting the priesthood, were merely intended to serve, 
by their observance, as symbolical expressions of the ideas we 
have seen to be involved in the nature of their calling and 
office. It is not necessary for us to enter into any minute detail 
concerning them ; and we shall content ourselves with briefly 
noticing some of the leading points. 

(1.) There were, first, personal marks and distinctions of a 
bodily kind, the possession of which was necessary to qualify 
any one for the priesthood, and the absence of which was to 
prove an utter disqualification. These, therefore, being mani 
festly given or withheld by God, bore upon the question of a 
person s election ; and when not possessed, bespoke the individual 
not to be chosen by God in the peculiar sense required for the 
priestly office. Such were all kinds of bodily defects ; it was 
declared a profanation of the altar or the sanctuary, for any one 
to draw near in whom they appeared. (Lev. xxi. 16-24.) Not 
that the Lord cared for the bodily appearance in itself, but 
through the body sought to convey suitable impressions regard 
ing the soul. For completeness of bodily parts is to the body 
what, in the true religion, holiness is to the soul. To the re 
quirement or the production of this holiness, as the perfection 
of man s spiritual nature, the whole of the Mosaic institutions 
were bent. And as signs and witnesses to Israel concerning it, 
those who occupied the high position of being at once God s 
and the people s representatives, must bear upon their persons 
that external symbol of the spiritual perfection required of them. 
The choice of God had to be verified by their possessing the 
outward symbol of true holiness. 1 The age prescribed for the 

1 The Greeks and Romans, it is well known, were very particalar in 
i vL, r :inl to the corporeal soundness and even beauty of their priests. Among 
the former, every one underwent a careful examination as to his bodily 
frame before he entered on the priestly office ; and among the Romans there 
arc instances of persons resigning the office on receiving some corporeal 
blemish such as M. Sergius, who lost his hand in the defence of his country. 
Rut holiness was not the perfection aimed at in those religions ; and such 
ivLranl was j>ai<l to bodily completeness merely because it was thought a 
token of Divine favour, and an omen of good success. Hence Seneca, Con- 
trov. iv. 2 : Sacerdos non iutegri corporis quasi mali omiuis res vitanda est. 
See Bahr, ii., p. 59. 

VOL. II. 3 


Levites (which would probably be regarded as the usual rule 
also for the priests) entering upon their office, and again ceasing 
from active service, carried substantially the same meaning. It 
comprehended the period of the natural life s greatest vigour 
and completeness, and, as such, indicated that the spiritual life 
should be in a corresponding state. The age of entry is stated 
in Num. iv. at thirty, while in chap. viii. twenty-five is given ; 
but the former has respect simply to the work of the Levites 
about (not at or in) the tabernacle, in transporting it from place 
to place ; the latter speaks of the period of their entering on their 
duties generally; and it would seem that the practice latterly 
made it even so early as twenty. (1 Chron. xxiii. 27 ; 2 Chron. 
xxxi. 17.) 1 

(2.) Then, certain restrictions of an external kind were laid 
upon the priests, as to avoiding occasions of bodily defilement ; 
such as contact with the dead, excepting in cases of nearest 
relationship ; cutting and disfiguring the hair of the beard, as in 
times of mourning ; marrying a person of bad fame, or one that 
had been divorced. And the high priest, as being in his own 
person the most sacred, was still farther restricted, so that he 
was not to defile himself even for his father or mother, and 
should marry only a virgin. These observances were enjoined 
as palpable symbols of the holiness, in walk and conduct, which 
became those who stood so near to the Holy One of Israel. 
Occupying the blessed region of life and purity, they must exhibit, 
in their external relations and deportment, the care and jealousy 
with which it behoves every one to watch against all occasions 
of sin, who would live in fellowship with the righteous Jehovah. 

(3.) The garments appointed to be worn by the priesthood 
in their sacred ministrations were also, in some respects, strik 
ingly expressive of the holiness required in their personal state, 
while in certain parts of the high priest s dress other ideas be 
sides were symbolized. The stuff of all of them was linen, and, 
with the exception of the more ornamental parts of the high 
priest s dress, must be understood to have been white. They 
are not expressly so called in the Pentateuch, but arc incidentally 
described as white in 2 Chron. v. 12 ; and such also was known 

1 Hengstenberg, Authentic, ii., p. 393 ; Relandi, Antiq., ii., 6, 3 ; Light- 
foot, Op., ii., p. 691. 


to be the usual colour of the linen of Egypt, as worn by the 
priests. The coolness and comparative freedom from perspira 
tion attending the use of linen garments, had led men to associate 
with them, especially in the burning clime of Egypt, the idea of 
cleanliness. Their symbolical use, therefore, in an ethical re 
ligion like the Mosaic, must have been expressive of inward 
purity ; and hence, in the symbolical language of Revelation, 
we read so often of the white and clean garments of the heavenly 
inhabitants, which are expressly declared to mean " the righteous 
ness of saints." (Rev. xix. 8, iv. 4, vi. 11, etc.) Hence also, 
on the day of atonement, the plain white linen garments which 
the high priest was to wear, are called " garments of holiness "- 
evidently implying that holiness was the idea more peculiarly 
imaged by clothing of that description. It was this idea, too, 
that was emblazoned in the plate of gold which was attached to 
the front of the high priest s bonnet or mitre, by the engraving 
on it of the words, " Holiness to the Lord." This became the 
more necessary in his case, on account of the rich embroidery 
and manifold ornaments which belonged to other parts of his 
dress, and which were fitted to lessen the impression of holiness, 
that the fine white linen of some of them might otherwise have 
been sufficient to convey. The representative character of the 
high priest was symbolized by the breast-plate of the Ephod, 
which in twelve precious stones bore the names of the tribes of 
the children of Israel, indicating that in their name and behalf 
he appeared in the presence of God. The Urim and Thummim 
(lights and perfections) connected with the breast-plate, if not 
identical with it, and through which, in cases of emergency, he 
obtained unerring responses from heaven, bespoke the spirit of 
wisdom and revelation in the mind and will of God, with which 
he should be endowed to fit him for giving a clear direction to 
the people in the things of God, and the perfect rectitude of the 
decisions he would consequently pronounce respecting them. 
The girdle with which his flowing garments were bound together, 
denoted the high and honourable service in which he was en- 
gaged ; and tin.- la lls and pomegranates, which were wrought 
upon the lower edge of the tunic below the Ephod, bespoke the 
distinct utterances he was to give of the Divine word, and the 
fruitfulness in righteousness of which this should be productive. 


Finally, the fine quality of the stuff of which all the garments 
of the priests were made, and the gold, and diversified colours, 
and rich embroidery appearing in the ordinary garments of the 
priesthood, expressly said to have been for ornament and beauty, 
(Ex. xxviii. 40), were manifestly designed to express the elevated 
rank and dignity of those who are recognised by God as sons in 
His house, permitted to draw near with confidence to His pre 
sence, and to go in and out before Him. 1 

(4.) Lastly, the rites of consecration proclaimed the neces 
sity of holiness a holiness not their own, but imputed to them 
by the grace of God ; and following upon this, and flowing from 
the same source, a plentiful endowment of gifts for their sacred 
office, with the manifest seal of Heaven s fellowship and approval. 
They were first brought to the door of the tabernacle and 
washed as in themselves impure, and requiring the application 
of water the simplest and commonest element of cleansing. 
Then, the body being thus purified, the pontifical garments 
were put on ; and on the high priest first, afterwards on the other 
priests, was poured the holy anointing oil, which ran down upon 
their garments. (Ex. xxviii. 21, xxx. 30, etc.) And in the 
case of the sons the anointing is declared to have constituted 

1 We have not specified in detail the different parts of the priest s gar 
ments ; they consisted, in the case of the priesthood generally, of breeches 
or drawers of linen, a coat or tunic reaching from the neck to the ankles 
and wrists, an embroidered girdle, and a mitre or turban (the usual parts, 
in fact, of an Oriental dress). But in the case of the high priest, there were, 
beside these, a mantle or robe of blue, worn over the inner coat or tunic, 
and immediately under the ephod ; then the ephod itself, a sort of short coat, 
very richly embroidered and ornamented, with its corresponding girdle and 
breast-plate, with the Urim and Thummim, which was regarded as the 
peculiar and distinctive garment of the high priest, who is thence often 
described as he " who wore the ephod." (Common linen ephods, however, 
were worn by the priests generally, and sometimes even by laymen.) That 
there was much in these garments peculiar to the Israelites, and differing 
from what existed in Egypt, we think Biihr has sufficiently established. 
For example, the tunics of the Egyptian priests appear to have reached only 
from the haunch to the feet, leaving the upper part naked ; the mitres were 
of a different shape, and fell back upon the neck ; the girdle seems not to 
have been used, but they wore shoes, and on great occasions leopard skins, 
which the Israelitish priests did not. (Symbolik, ii., p. 92.) It is clear, 
therefore, there could be no slavish imitation, as Spencer and others have 
laboured to show. Yet this by no means proves that there might not have 


them "an ovi-Hasting priesthood through all their generations" 
(Ex. xl. 1 .")) meaning, apparently, and as has been commonly 
understood, that the act did not need to be renewed in respect 
to the ordinary members of the priesthood. This was the 
peculiar act of consecration, and symbolized the bestowal upon 
those who received it, of the Spirit s grace, so as to make them 
Ht and active instruments in discharging the duties of God s 
service. As such anointing had already stamped the tabernacle 
as God s hallowed abode, so now did it hallow them to be His 
proper agents and servitors within its courts (p. 243). But, 
different from the senseless materials of the tabernacle, these 
anointed priests have consciences defiled with the pollution and 
laden with the guilt of sin. And how, then, can they stand in 
the presence of Him who is a consuming fire to sinners, and 
minister before Him ? The more they partook of the unction 
of the Holy One, the more must they have felt the necessity of 
another kind of cleansing than they had yet received, and raised 
in their souls a cry for the blood of atonement and reconciliation. 
This, therefore, was what was next provided, and through an 
entire series of sacrifices and offerings they were conducted, as 
from the depths of guilt and condemnation, to what indicated 

been in some leading particulars the same symbols employed to represent 
substantially the same ideas. That this was the case in regard to the white 
linen garments, seems indisputable ; Spencer s proofs there, as Heugsten- 
bcrg remarks against Biihr (Egypt and Books of Moses, p. 146), are quite 
conclusive. Such dresses were peculiar only to the priests of Egypt and 
Palestine as symbolic of cleanliness or purity ; hence the former were called 
by Juvenal " grex liniger," by Ovid u linigera turba," by Martial u linigeri 
calvi," by Seneca u liiiteali senes." (Spencer, de Leg., L. iii., c. 5, s. 2.) 
Tin. iv does seem also to have been a reference in the Urim and Thummim to 
the practice in Egypt of suspending the image of the goddess Thmei, who 
was honoured under the twofold character of truth and justice, from the neck 
of the chief judge. (See Hengstenberg as above, p. 150, with the quotations 
there, espeeudly from Wilkinson.) Still there was a very characteristic dif- 
feivnee, in that the high priest did not act properly as a judge, but as a 
spiritual servant of God, and was only represented as having a sure revela- 
tion if ho faithfully waited u] on (lod, and sought in earnest to guide the 
people into the ri^ht knowledge of <Iod, and a true judgment of matters as 
between them and (ind. For direct consultation with (Jod, the Trim and 
Thummim seems only to have been used in cases of emergency, when ordi 
nary resources failed. And what it was precisely, or how responses were 
obtained by it, cannot now be ascertained. 


their possession of a state of blessed peace and most friendly 
intercourse with God. Even Jewish writers did not fail to mark 
the gradation in the order of the sacrifices. " For first of all," 
says one of them, " there was presented for the expiation of sin 
the bullock of sin-offering, of which nothing save a little fat was 
offered (on the altar) to God (the flesh being burned without 
the camp) ; because the offerers were not yet worthy to have 
any gift or offering accepted by God. But after they had been 
so far purged, they slew the burnt-offering to God, which was 
wholly laid upon the altar. And after this came a sacrifice like 
a peace-offering (which was wont to be divided between God, 
the priests, and the offerers), showing they were now so far re 
ceived into favour with God, that they might eat at His table." ! 
This last offering is called the " ram of consecration," or of 
" filling," because the portions of it to be consumed upon the 
altar, with its accompanying meat-offering, were put into Aaron s 
hands, that he might present and wave them before the Lord. 
Being counted worthy to have his hands filled with these, the 
representatives of what he was to be constantly presenting and 
eating before the Lord, he was thereby, in a manner, installed 
in his office. But first he had to be sprinkled with the blood of 
the victim the blood in which the life is, and which, after 
being sprinkled on the altar, and so uniting him to God, was 
applied to his body, signifying the conveyance of a new life to 
him, a life out of death from God, and in union with God. Nor 
was Aaron s body in the general only sprinkled with this holy 
life-giving blood, but also particular members apart : his right 
ear, to sanctify it to a ready and attentive listening to the law 
of God, according to which all His service must be regulated ; 
his right hand, and his right foot, that the one might be hallowed 
for the presentation of sacred gifts to God, and the other for 
treading His courts and running the way of His commandments. 
And now, to complete the ceremony, he receives on his person 
and his garments a second anointing not simply with the oil, 
but with the oil and this blood of consecration mingled together 
symbolizing the new life of God, in which he is henceforth 
to move and have his being, in conjunction with the Spirit, 
on whose softening, penetrating, invigorating influence all the 
1 R. Levi Ben Gerson, as quoted by Outram, De Sac., p. 56. 


powers and movements of that divine life depend. So that the 
Levitical priesthood appeared emphatically as one coming "by 
water and by blood." It spoke aloud, in all its rites of con 
secration, of sin on man s part, and holiness on God s. The 
memorials of human guilt, and the emblems of divine sanctity, 
must at once meet on the persons of those who exercised it. 
Theirs must be clean hands and a pure heart, sanctified natures, 
a heaven-derived and heaven-sustained life, such as betokened a 
real connection with God, and a personal interest in the benefits 
of His redemption. 

The full meaning, however, of the offerings connected with 
the consecration of the priests will only appear when we have 
considered the various kinds of sacrifices employed on the 
occasion. It is enough at present to have given the general 
import. The whole was repeated seven times, on as many suc 
cessive days because seven was the symbol of the oath or 
covenant, and indicated here that the consecration to the priestly 
office was a strictly covenant transaction. That it was done, 
not merely seven times, but on seven successive days, might also 
be intended to indicate its completeness a week of days being 
the shortest complete revolution of time. That the parts of the 
peace and the bread-offering, which were put into Aaron s hand, 
and which were to be his for ever, were burnt on the altar, and 
not eaten by Moses (who here acted, by virtue of his special 
commission, as priest), may have simply arisen from Moses not 
being able to eat the whole ; he had to eat the wave bread, 
which might be enough ; hence also what remained over of the 
parts given to Aaron to be eaten, were to be burnt. (Ex. xxix. 
34.) We see nothing, therefore, in that arrangement to be 
regarded as a difficulty, though Kurtz has noted it as one. 
(Mosaische Opfer, p. 249.) The action of the second anointing 
we have explained substantially with Baumgarten, and not 
differing very materially from Bahr. (Symb., ii., 424, etc.) 
We cannot, with Mr Bonar (Comm. on Lev., p. 160), regard the 
first anointing as the consecration of the man, and the second as 
that of tlie priest; for at the first as well as the second, Aaron 
had on the priest s garments, and nothing could more distinctly 
intimate, that what was afterwards done had respect to him as 
priest. The fire which came out from before the Lord and 


consumed the burnt-offering on the altar, the first which Aaron 
presented for the people (Lev. ix. 24), was the solemn seal and 
recognition of Heaven to the office and work of the high priest. 
It inaugurated not Aaron merely, but the priesthood generally 
of the covenant, as the elect of God. The rites of consecration 
differ materially from those used in Egypt. In particular, the 
shaving of the whole body, which was practised in Egypt every 
three days (Herod., ii. 37), and kept the head as well as the body 
generally bald, was entirely omitted here. It was done at first, 
but only then, with the Levites (Xum. viii.) as an act of cleans 
ing, along with the sprinkling of water and washing of the 
clothes. It hence appears to have been regarded as a symbol of 
an inferior kind, as the consecration of the Levites was much 
less solemn than that of the priests. 

V. In applying now what was ordained respecting the Levi- 
tical priesthood to the higher things of Christ s kingdom, we 
find, indeed, everywhere a shadow of these, but " not the very 
image" of them. The resemblances were such as imperfect, 
earthly materials, and an instrumentality of sinful beings, could 
present to the heavenly and divine inevitably presenting, 
therefore, some important and palpable differences. Thus, 
from the high priest being taken from among men, he neces 
sarily partook of their sinfulness, and required to be himself 
cleansed by rites and offerings, to be invested with what might 
be denominated an artificial, imputed holiness, in order that he 
might mediate between the holy God and his sinful fellow-men. 
And then, that he might go through such a process of purifica 
tion as should raise him to a proper religious elevation above his 
brethren, there were meanwhile needed the ministrations of one 
standing between him and God. The mediator of the covenant, 
who consecrated, had of necessity to be different from, and 
higher than, the person who was consecrated for high priest. 
These were obvious though unavoidable imperfections, even as 
regarded the preparatory dispensation itself ; and it must have 
suggested itself as manifestly a more perfect arrangement, could 
it have been obtained, if the high priest had been possessor of 
the nature, without being partaker of the guilt of his brethren, 
and by his inherent qualities had united in his own person what 


fitted him to be at once mediator and high priest over the house 
of God. 

Now, this is precisely what first meets us in the Gospel 
constitution of the kingdom ; and the defects and imperfections 
which gave a sort of anomalous and arbitrary character to the 
arrangements under the Old Testament, have no place whatever 
here. He who is the Mediator, is also the High Priest of His 
people; and while partaker of flesh and blood like the brethren, 
yet being "without sin," "holy, harmless, and undefiled," He 
needed no offerings and ablutions to consecrate Him to the office 
of priesthood. At once very God and true man, the Eternal 
Son in personal union with real though spotless humanity, He 
was thoroughly qualified to act the part of the day s-man be 
tween the Father and His sinful children, being able to " lay His 
hand upon them both." Who could appear as He the friend and 
familiar of God ? He, who was in the bosom of the Father, and 
who could say in the fullest sense, " I and the Father are one ? " 
who even as the Son of Man, appearing in the likeness of 
sinful flesh, yet Himself had no fellowship with the accursed 
thing, but ever shunned and abhorred it ? With the divine and 
human thus meeting all purely in His person, He has every 
thing that could be desired to render Him the proper Head and 
High Priest of His people. The arrangement for reconciling 
heaven and earth, and re-establishing the intercourse between 
lost man and his Creator, is absolutely perfect, and leaves 
nothing to be desired. On the one side, as the Beloved Son of 
God, in whom the Father is well pleased, lie has at all times 
free access to the presence of the Father, and in whatever He 
asks must also have power as a prince to prevail. On the other, 
as the representative of His people, and one in nature with 
themselves, they can at all times make known with confidence 
to Him the sins and sorrows of their condition, and, recognising 
what is His as also theirs, can rise with filial boldness to realize 
their near relationship to God, and their full participation in 
the favour and blessing of Heaven. 

It is impossible, surely, to contemplate the God-man as the 
head of iv>ti>ivd humanity, and the pattern after which all 
believers shall be formed, without feeling constrained to >.iv, 
not only how admirable is the arrangement, but also how amaz- 


ing the condescension ! How wonderful, that the Most High 
should thus accommodate Himself to man s nature and neces 
sities ! And how wonderful, on the other hand, that He should 
elevate this nature into such near and personal union with Him 
self, and, for the sake of establishing a fit medium of commu 
nication and intercourse between the creature and the Creator, 
should make it His own eternal habitation and instrument of 
working! It is this pre-eminently which crowns our nature 
with dignity and honour, and tells to what a peerless height our 
humanity is destined. We know not what we shall be, but we 
know that we shall be like Him in whom our nature is linked in 
closest union with the Godhead ; and to have our lot and destiny 
bound up with His, is to be assured of all that it is possible for 
us to enjoy of blessing and glory. 

In accomplishing this great work of mediation, however, the 
High Priest of our profession, like the earthly type, " must have 
somewhat to offer." And here, again, where the very heart and 
centre of His work is concerned, such differences appear as 
betoken the one to have been only the imperfect shadow, not 
the exact image, of the other. For, under the Old Testament 
priesthood, the offerer was different, not only from the thing 
offered, but also, for the most part, from the person on whose 
behalf the offering was presented. And so impossible was it, 
amid the imperfections of the shadow, to combine these properly 
together, that on the great day of atonement it was found neces 
sary to cause the high priest to offer first for himself apart, and 
then for the people apart. But now that the perfect things of 
God s kingdom have come, this imperfection also has disap 
peared. The one grand offering, through which Christ has 
finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in the 
everlasting righteousness, was at once furnished by Himself, 
and offered by Himself. He gave Himself to death as thus 
laden with their guilt, an offering of a sweet-smelling savour to 
God, and rose again for their justification, as one fully able of 
Himself to provide and to do everything that was needed to 
close up the breach which sin had made between man and God. 

Yet, while there were such imperfections as we have noted, 
rendering the Levitical priesthood but a defective representation 
of the Christian, there were, at the same time, many striking 


resemblances, and the fundamental principles connected with 
the priesthood of Christ were as fully embodied there as it was 
possible for them to be in a single institution. For, 

(1.) The Levitical priesthood was for Israel the one medium 
of acceptable approach to God. Aaron and his sons were called, 
and alone called, to the office of presenting all the offerings of 
the people at the house of God, and securing for them the 
blessing. And the attempt made on one occasion to supersede 
the appointment, and dispense with their ministrations, only led 
to the discomfitiire and perdition of those who impiously at 
tempted it. What else can be the result of any similar attempt 
under the Gospel ? A far higher necessity, indeed, reigns here, 
and any dishonour done to Jesus in His priestly function must 
be revenged with a much sorer condemnation. The one Medi 
ator between God and man, no one can come to the Father but 
by Him ; and they only who are redeemed by His blood, and 
presented by Him to the Father as His own ransomed and elect 
Church, can be accepted to blessing and glory. Therefore it is 
the Father s will that all men should honour the Son, even as 
they honour the Father ; and salvation by any other name than 
that of Jesus is absolutely unattainable. 

(2.) The personal holiness of Christ in His priesthood was 
also strikingly typified in the consecrations and garments of the 
Levitical priesthood, and especially in the purifications by water 
and blood. In His case, however, the holiness was not acquired, 
but original, inherent, and complete, manifesting itself in the 
fulfilment of all righteousness, and magnifying the law of God 
to the fearful extent of bearing the penalty it had denounced 
against numberless transgressions. His obedience was such as 
left no demand of righteousness unsatisfied, and His blood was 
that of the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish blood of 
infinite value. If God accepted the services and heard the 
intercessions of the priesthood of old, all lame and imperfect as 
their righteousness was, how much more may His people now 
count on the blessing, if they approach in humble reliance on 
the worth and sufficiency of Christ ? 

(3.) Then we see the representative character of His priest 
hood, and all its functions, imaged in that of the high priest, 
possessing as he did the names of the twelve tribes upon his 


breast when he entered the tabernacle, and having their cause 
and interest ever before him. Christ, in like manner, does 
nothing for Himself, but only as the Shepherd and Saviour 
of His people. " For their sakes He sanctified Himself," by 
laying down His life to purchase their redemption. And none 
of them escapes His regard. " He knows His sheep." All the 
real Israel whom the Father has given to Him, are borne upon 
His bosom within the veil, and shall assuredly reap the fruits of 
His successful mediation. 

(4.) Farther, his thorough insight into the mind of God, and 
capacity to give forth clear revelations and unerring judgments 
of His will, was prefigured in the Urim and Thummim of the 
Jewish high priest, through which the priesthood gave oracular 
decisions in regard to the things of God, and in the authority 
generally committed to the priesthood of declaring the Divine 
will. " No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to 
whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." Himself the Divine 
Word, through whom Godhead, as it were, speaks and makes 
itself known to the creatures, it is His part in all His operations, 
but especially in the discharge of His priestly functions, to de 
clare the Father. In Him, as fulfilling the work connected 
with these, is seen, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord ; and 
while He conducts His people to an interest in what He has 
done for their redemption, it is as the truth that He manifests 
Himself to them. He has even promised to lead them into all 
the truth, and to fill them with the treasures of wisdom and 

(5.) Once more, in the anointing of the high priest, we 
plainly read the connection between the work of Christ and the 
agency of the Holy Spirit. As the oil there sanctified all, so 
the Spirit here seals and works in all. By the power of the 
Spirit was the flesh of Christ conceived ; with the fulness of the 
Spirit was He endowed at His baptism: all His works w*re 
wrought in the Spirit, and by the Spirit He at last offered Him 
self without spot to God. The Father had given the Spirit not 
by measure to Him ; and as the oil that was poured on the head 
of Aaron flowed down upon his garments, so is this Spirit ever 
ready to descend from Christ upon all who are members of His 


The priesthood of Aaron was certainly highly honoured in 
being made to represent beforehand, in so many points, the 
eternal priesthood of Christ. But in one respect a manifest 
blank presents itself, which required to be met by a special cor 
rective. As seen in the Old Testament institution, the priestly 
bore a distinct and easily recognised connection with the pro 
phetical or teaching office ; but none, or at least a very distant 
and obscure one, with the kingly. This of necessity arose from 
God Himself being King in Israel when the priesthood was 
instituted ; so that no nearer approximation to the ruling autho 
rity could be allowed to the members of the priesthood, than 
that of being expounders and revealers of the law of the Divine- 
King. Something more than this, however, was required to 
bring out the true character of the Eternal priesthood, especially 
after the time that an earthly head of the kingly function was 
appointed, and the priesthood became still less immediately con 
nected with an authority to rule in the house of God. Hence, 
no doubt, it was that the Spirit of prophecy, in directing the 
expectations of the Church to the coming Messiah, began then 
so peculiarly to supply what was lacking in the intimations of 
the existing type, and to make promise of Him as " a priest 
after the order of Melchizedek." (Ps. ex.) There were in 
reality far more points of similitude to Christ s office in the 
priesthood of Aaron than in that of Melchizedek ; but in one 
very important and prominent respect the one supplied what the 
other absolutely wanted Melchizedek being at once a king and 
a priest, a priest upon the throne. And it was more especially 
to teach that Messiah should be the same, and in this should 
differ from the Aaronic priesthood, that such a prediction was 
then given. It was virtually an assurance to the Church, that 
the sacerdotal and regal functions, then obviously dissevered, 
should be united in the person of Him who was to come ; and 
that as the power and splendour of royalty was, in His hands, 
to be tempered by the tenderness and compassion of the priest, 
the coming of His kingdom should on that account be looked 
for with eager expectation. The prediction was again renewal, 
though without any specific reference to Melchizedek, by Zecha- 
riah after the restoration. (Ch. vi. 13.) But while this was tin- 
main reason and design of the reference, when the Jews of 


our Lord s time not only overlooked the leading point of the 
prediction, but entirely misconceived also the relation that the 
Levitical priesthood bore to Christ s work and kingdom, the 
author of the Epistle to the Hebrews took occasion to bring out 
various other and subordinate points of instruction from the 
prophecy in the 110th Psalm, which it was also fitted to convey. 
These were mainly directed to the purpose of establishing the 
conclusion, that the priesthood of our Lord must, by that re 
ference to Melchizedek, have been designed to supersede the 
priesthood of Aaron, and to be constituted after a higher model ; 
that both in His person and His office lie was to stand pre 
eminent above the most honoured of the sons of Abraham, 
as Melchizedek appears in the history rising above Abraham 

It only remains to notice, that in virtue of the law in Christ s 
kingdom, by which all His people are vitally united to Him, and 
partake, to some extent, in every gift and distinction which belongs 
to Himself, sincere believers are priests after His order and pat 
tern. Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, conse 
crated by the sprinkling of His blood on their consciences, and 
the unction of His Spirit, and brought near to God, they are " an 
holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God 
by Jesus Christ." It is their privilege to go nigh through Him 
even unto the holiest of all, and minister and serve before Him 
as sons and daughters in His kingdom. And as in their Great 
Head, so in them the priestly calling bears relation to the pro 
phetical office on the one hand, and to the kingly on the other. 
As those who are privileged to stand so high and come so near 
to God, they obtain the " unction which teaches them all things" 
" leads them into all the truth," makes them " children of 
light," and constitutes them " lights of the world." And along 
with this spirit of wisdom and revelation, there also rests on 
them the spirit of power, which renders them a " royal priest 
hood." Even now, in a measure, they reign as kings over the 
evil in their natures, and in the world around them ; and when 
Christ s work in them is brought to its proper consummation, 
they shall, as kings and priests, share with Him in the glories 
of His everlasting kingdom. 

Hence, in the Christian priesthood as well as in the Jewish, 


everything in the first instance depends upon the condition of 
the person. It is not the offering that makes the priest, but the 
priest that makes the offering. He only who has attained to a 
state of peace and fellowship with God, who has been regene 
rated by Divine grace, and brought to a personal interest in the 
blessings of Christ s salvation, is in a fit condition for presenting 
to God the spiritual sacrifices of the New Testament. For 
what are these sacrifices? They are the fruits of grace, yielded 
by a soul that has become truly alive to God ; and simply con 
sist in the willing and active consecration of the person himself, 
through the varied exercises of love to God and his fellow-men. 
It is only, therefore, in so far as he is already a subject of grace 
standing on the ground of Christ s perfected redemption, and 
replenished with the life-giving influences of the Holy Spirit, 
that his good deeds possess the character of sacrifices, acceptable 
to God. They are, otherwise, but dead works, of no account in 
the sight of Heaven, because presented by unclean hands, and 
coining from those who are unsanctified ; and even though 
formally ri<jht, they must rank among the things of which God 
declares that He has not required them at men s hands. (Isa. 
i. 12 ; Hag. ii. 10-13.) 

But those, on the other hand, who are in the spiritual condi 
tion now described, have freedom of access for themselves and 
their offerings to God ; and let no man spoil them of their 
privilege. Chosen as they are in Christ, and constituted in Him 
a royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, to interpose 
any others as priests between them and Christ, were to traverse 
the order of God, and subvert the arrangements of His house. 
It were to block up anew the path into the Holiest, which 
Christ has laid fully open. It were to degrade those whom He 
has called through glory and virtue nay, to disparage Christ 
Himself, the living root out of which His people grow, in whose 
life they live, and in whose acceptance they are accepted. A 
priesthood, in the strict and proper sense, apart from what be 
longs to believers as such, can have no place in the Church of 
the New Testament ; and the institution of a distinct priestly 
order, such as exists in the Greek and Roman communities, is 
an unlawful usurpation, proceeding from the spirit of error and 
of antichrist. In such a kingdom as Christ s, where everv real 


member is a priest, there can be room only for ministerial func 
tions necessary for the maintenance of order and the general 
good. But as regards fellowship with Heaven, there can be no 
essential difference, since all have access to God by faith, through 
the grace wherein they stand, and rejoice in the hope of the 
glory of God. 



IN the preceding chapters we have contemplated the tabernacle 
and its officiating priesthood in a somewhat general light, 
with reference simply to the great design of the one, and the 
distinctive character and privileges of the other. It is necessary 
now to descend to particulars, and look at the several compart 
ments into which it fell, with their respective furniture and 
services, so as to apprehend with some distinctness the religious 
ideas more particularly associated with each, the relation in 
which they stood one to another, and the regulated system of 
worship, both in its primary and in its typical character, which 
found here its common centre and development. The divisions 
of the tabernacle will form in this part of our inquiry the most 
appropriate divisions of the subject. 

The tabernacle proper had merely a twofold division, an 
outer and an inner compartment a Holy and a Most Holy 
Place, or, as they are sometimes called, the Sanctuary and the 
Holy of Holies. The innermost of the two was the smallest in 
compass, but the most perfect in its proportions, being an exact 
cube of ten cubits the length, height, and breadth being all 
equal. It is scarcely possible to doubt that the number ten here 
WMS symbolic, as well as in the number of commandments 
written upon the two tables, which belonged to this compart 
ment ; for in both cases alike it stood quite prominently out, 
and, from the modes of thought prevalent in ancient times 
respecting number, would quite readily convey the idea of com 
pleteness. The cube form alone, with whatever nuiiil>i>r 


dated, might have suggested this as in the case of the New 
Jerusalem seen in the apocalyptic vision, where attention is 
specially called to the circumstance that " the length, and the 
breadth, and the height were equal" (Rev. xxi. 16); but the cube 
being formed of ten, itself a symbol of perfection, would natu 
rally serve to strengthen the impression. This region of inner 
most sacredness and perfection was separated from the other 
part of the tabernacle by a curtain or veil, which was formed of 
the same kind of material, and inwrought with the same figures 
as the curtain which formed the interior of the roof, and, most 
probably, also of the walls of the structure. The curtain was 
suspended from four pillars, overlaid with gold. Then from 
this to the door of the tabernacle was a space of twenty cubits 
in length by ten in breadth and height the proportions, though 
larger, being manifestly less perfect ; while also the curtain 
which hung over the doorway or entrance was without the 
cherubic figures inwoven, though otherwise resembling the in 
terior curtain, and was suspended by golden hooks upon five 
pillars. Here there were evidently certain marks of incomplete 
ness, which seemed to denote this as relatively the inferior place, 
and standing at some remove from the region of absolute per 
fection. But there was a sacred region without, as well as these 
two hallowed compartments within, the tabernacle ; an outer 
court, surrounding the tabernacle on every side, and consisting 
of 100 cubits long and 50 cubits broad. This court was en 
closed by a screen of linen, of fine quality, but not embroidered, 
five cubits in height, and was supported by 60 pillars, 20 on 
each side, and 10 at each end, to which the linen was attached 
by hooks and fillets of silver, while the pillars themselves rested 
in sockets of brass. The veil, or curtain, however, which hung 
at the doorway, of 20 cubits broad, was made after the pattern 
of the outer veil of the tabernacle, and similarly embroidered. 
The exact position of the tabernacle within this court is not 
given, though we naturally suppose it to have been such as to 
leave more space at the entrance than tit the further end, as 
there more room was required for the laver, which stood imme 
diately in front, and the altar of burnt-offering in front of that 
again. But in the prevalence of the number five, in the use of 
silver where before there was gold, and of brass where there 


was silver, in the employment also of plain instead of embroi 
dered linen, and the unprotected openness of the court above, 
one descries still farther signs of relative imperfection. 

The tabernacle, it may be added, with its surrounding court, 
was appointed to stand with the entrance fronting the east; so 
that the two sides looked the one toward the north, the other 
towards the south, and the end, containing the Most Holy Place, 
toward the west. That in the general position a respect was 
had to the four quarters of the earth, as emblems of universality, 
may readily be conceived : the sacred structure, however limited 
in dimensions, was still the habitation of Him to whom the earth 
and all his fulness belongs, and whose kingdom, spiritually as 
well as naturally, must rule over all. But why the more pecu 
liarly sacred region should have looked towards the west, no 
certain reason has been discovered. Some have supposed it was 
with reference to the site of paradise, as understood to lie in a 
somewhat westerly direction. But more commonly the reason 
has been sought in the relation which was thereby secured for 
the entrance towards the east that the tabernacle might catch 
the earliest rays of morn, or that in worshipping men might 
have their backs towards the sun and their faces towards God, 
the real source of light and blessing ; and such like. It is, 
however, better to confess ignorance than to multiply reasons of 
this description, which are mere conjectures, and can yield no 
real satisfaction. 

Not attempting to explain all the adjustments in this sacred 
erection, or to go into the minute details in which many of the 
more learned expositors have lost themselves, there still are 
connected with the great outlines of the matter certain easily 
recognised principles, both of agreement and diversity, in the 
revelation God made of Himself to Israel, and the extent to 
which this might be entered into, and appropriated by, the 
people. Being collectively, at least by profession, a kingdom 
of priests to Jehovah, or members and subjects of the theocracy 
1 Ie established among them, they, one and all, stood in a definite 
relation to the whole and every part of the tabernacle, which lie 
constituted the seat of the kingdom. There could be no inoiv 
than relative differences between one part and another, as also 
among the people themselves the distinction subsequently intro- 


duced of priesthood and laity was only relative, not absolute ; 
and hence, isolated and withdrawn as the Most Holy Place 
seemed to be, there was yet a point of contact between it and 
the remotest article in the outer court : for it was with blood 
taken from the altar of burnt-offering that the mercy-seat, 
under the very throne of God, was propitiated in the one yearly 
service connected with it, and that, too, a service in which the 
entire community were formally represented. In the furniture, 
therefore, and service of the Most Holy Place, as well as in 
those of the sanctuary and the outer court, the covenant people 
as a body had a representation of what, on the one side, Jehovah 
was to them, and what, on the other, they should be and do to 
Jehovah : in the whole, they were to read their privileges, their 
calling, their obligations. But seeing that, in point of fact, they 
were only allowed directly to enter the outer court, and even 
there had to transact with God through the mediation of the 
priesthood, this plainly spoke of imperfection in their actual 
condition ; ordinarily, and as a whole, they were not able to be 
very close in their relation and very intimate in their walk 
with God. A higher stage, however, they might reach, if they 
distinctly realized their calling, and pressed anxiously forward 
in the course it set before them : they might in spirit do what 
was visibly done by a representative priesthood, when daily 
entering into the sanctuary and performing the service of God. 
Nay, higher still, if they but rose to the nobler exercises of faith 
and love which lay within their reach, they might even approach 
as near to God, and be as close in their communings with Him 
as the high priest, when, with the cloud of incense and the blood 
of sprinkling, he went to the footstool of the Divine Majestv, 
and stood in the presence of His manifested glory. That this 
action could be done so seldom by the high priest too clearly 
indicated that, as matters then stood, such spiritual elevation 
was one that should be but rarely reached by the children of 
the covenant. And yet, what less is it than this, that we see 
so strenuously aimed at, and in a measure also realized, by the 
Psalmist, when he speaks of abiding in God s tabernacle see 
ing God s glory in the sanctuary, nay, making it, in a manner, 
the one desire of his soul to dwell in the house of God, that 
he might there behold His beauty, and inquire in His temple ? 


(Ps. xv. 1, xxvii. 4, Ixiii. 2). This, surely, savoured of priestly, 
even of high-priestly privilege and service ; not the less, we may 
rather say the more, that it was experienced and done in the 
Spirit; and la-ing l>y him represented as so done, it but told 
distinctly out to all Israel, what, in the silent yet expressive 
language of symbol, the structure and services of the tabernacle 
were continually witnessing before them. While, therefore, we 
are ready to admit with Kurtz (Sac., Worship of Old Test., B. 
i., c. 2), that the court of the tabernacle imaged the stage of 
Israel, in so far as Israel generally attained, the sanctuary with 
its priestly freedom and service before God that of the Christian 
Church, and the Most Holy Place that of the beatific vision, we 
hold it not less clear and certain, that in respect to each of the 
successive stages, a measure of attainment lay open also for 
Israel, and that nothing represented in any of the divisions of 
the tabernacle was absolutely peculiar to any one class, or to 
any particular age of the Church of God. 

Again, looking simply to the general aspect of things, and 
considering how, in the tabernacle proper, while all bore the 
name of God s dwelling and served as His meeting-place with 
Israel, still the Most Holy Place was the apartment which He 
most peculiarly identified with Himself : tliere was His throne, 
His law, the symbol of His glory the region, in short, of His 
immediate presence ; and it is, consequently, in connection with 
the furniture and services of this place of pre-eminent sacred- 
ness that we may expect to find the things which most expressly 
revealed Jehovah, and showed what He, as King of Zion, should 
be toward His people, and how His purposes in their behalf 
should proceed. The other division, or the sanctuary, being 
that into which the priesthood, as representatives of the people, 
could enter daily and perform certain ministrations, had obvi 
ously somewhat of the same relation to them that the other had 
to God ; and though everything here also bore on it the name 
ami impress of God s character, yet it was through its furniture 
:uul si-rvices that one might chiefly expect to see imaged what 
should be ever appearing in their walk before Him. In neither 
iv-juvt arc we to be understood as indicating an absolute and 
unqualified distinction, but merely such general and predomi 
nant characteliaticfl as were reflected in the formal aspect and 


appearance of things. And in the examination of the particu 
lars, we shall find everything in accordance with the impres 
sions which the relative adjustment and bearing of the parts are 
fitted to produce. 


What is meant by the fore-court was that part of the enclo 
sure surrounding the tabernacle which stood directly in front 
of the erection. It probably occupied a space of about 50 
cubits (or eight yards) square, and was the only part of the 
entire area to which the people had access. In this spot, how 
ever, by far the greater number of the actions connected with 
the tabernacle-worship proceeded ; and though in one respect it 
might be said to represent the lowest stage of religious privilege 
and communion, in another it stood associated with whatever 
was most fundamental and important in the religious state and 
prospects of Israel. This relative importance it derived from 
the two pieces of sacred furniture belonging to it the laver, 
and the altar of burnt-offering but especially from the latter, 
which was the proper centre of the whole sacrificial system. 

1. The laver. This utensil is nowhere very exactly de 
scribed; but it was a sort of wash-pot or basin, usually sup 
posed to have been of a roundish shape, and placed on a foot or 
basement. (Ex. xxx. 17-21.) Both were of brass (more strictly, 
indeed, of bronze, as what is now known by the name of brass, 
a composition of copper and zinc, was not known to the ancients), 
and the material in this case was derived from a specific source. 
Moses, we are told (Ex. xxxviii. 8), " made the laver of brass, 
and the foot of it of brass, of the looking-glasses of the women 
assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of 
the congregation ;" or, as it should rather be, " of the serving- 
women who served at the door of the tabernacle of meeting." 
The expression in the original (fcov) is the term commonly 
applied to designate military service ; but it is also used of the 
stated services of the priests in their sacred vocation (Num. iv. 
23, 35, 49, viii. 25), and is here transferred to a class of females 
who appear from early times to have devoted themselves to 
regular attendance on the worship of God, for the purpose of 

COURT OF Tin: T.\r,i:i;N.\ru:. 295 

performing such services as they might be capable of rendering. 
In process of time, :i distinct place was assigned them some 
where in the precincts of the tabernacle. Latterly, and pro 
bably not till the post-Babylonian times, the service of the 
women in question appears to have consisted much in exercises 
of fasting and prayer. Hence the Septuagint, interpreting rather 
than translating, renders, "the looking-glasses of the fasting- 
women who fasted." And Aben-ezra, as quoted by Lightfoot 
(vol. ix., p. 419, Pitman s ed.), thus explains: "It is the custom 
of all women to behold their face every morning in a mirror, 
that they may be able to dress their hair ; but To ! there were 
women in Israel that served the Lord, who abandoned this 
worldly delight, and gave away their glasses as a free-will 
offering, for they had no more use of them ; but they came every 
day to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation to pray, 
and hear the words of the commandments." Such a woman in 
the Gospel age was Anna (Luke ii. 37), and it is interesting to 
know that she had her representatives at the very commencement 
of the tabernacle-worship, in the women who, whatever other 
service they might be in the habit of rendering, gave a becom 
ing example of devotedness, in the consecration of their metallic 
mirrors to the higher ends of God s worship. There can be no 
reasonable doubt that it was of or from the metal of these 
glasses that the laver was formed ; for the sense put upon the 
passage by Biihr, that the laver was " furnished with mirrors of 
the women" (i., p. 485), or by Knobel, " with forms, likenesses 
of women," is both in itself unsuitable and grammatically un 
tenable. The same construction again occurs in ver. 30, where 
tin- preposition (3) is used of the material of which certain 
articles were made, as also generally of all the materials em 
ployed in the construction of the tabernacle at ch. xxxi. 4 ; and 
here it can with no propriety be understood in any other sense. 
So also the ancient translators all understood it. 

The laver thus made was placed between the door of the 
tahmiarle and the altar of bnnit-offering, in the most convenient 
position for the ministering priests, who were always to wash at 
it their hands and their feet, before either serving at the altar or 
going into the tabernacle, lest they should die. (Ex. xxx. 20, 
1M.) That merely the hands and the feet were to be washed at 


the laver, arose simply from these being the organs immediately 
employed in the service ; the hands being engaged in presenting 
the sacred oblations, and the feet in treading ground that was 
hallowed. The action, in accordance with the whole spirit of 
the Mosaic institutions, was symbolical of inward purity; it 
bespoke the freedom from pollution which should characterize 
those who would present an acceptable service to Jehovah. As 
the sanctification or holiness of Israel was the common end 
aimed at in all the institutions under which they were placed, 
it was indispensable that they who ministered for them in holy 
things should be in this respect their exemplars, and in the 
daily service of the sanctuary should have a perpetual admoni 
tion of the nature of their calling. The Psalmist clearly indi 
cates the meaning of the rite, and shows also how, according to 
the spirit of the ordinance, he held it to be not less applicable 
to himself than to the priests, when he says, " I will wash mine 
hands in innocency: so will I compass Thine altar, O Lord" 
(xxvi. 6). And that he spoke of no corporeal ablution, but of 
the state of his heart and conduct, is evident from the whole 
tenor of the Psalm, which is throughout moral in its import, 
protesting his separation from the ways of "evil-doers" and 
" dissemblers," and even praying God to " try his reins and his 
heart." In like manner, when describing the true worshipper 
in Ps. xxiv., in answer to the question, " Who shall ascend into 
the hill of God, or who shall stand in His holy place?" lie 
replies, " He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." As 
much as to say, such an one is the true priest in God s house, 
whether he have the outward calling of a priest or not ; he 
alone serves Him in spirit and in truth. 

The symbol here employed is of so natural a kind, and so 
fitly adapted for purposes of spiritual instruction, that it has 
been in a sense retained, and raised to still higher .significance 
in the Christian Church. For in the rite of baptism, whatever 
may be the precise mode of administration adopted, there can be 
no doubt that the cleansing nature of the element is the natural 
basis of the ordinance, and that from which it derives its appro 
priate character, as the formal initiation into a Christian state. 
Symbolically, it conveys the salutary instruction, that he who 
becomes Christ s, and through Christ would dedicate himself to 


the work and service of God, must be purified from the guilt 
and pollution of sin must be regenerated unto holiness of life. 
Genuine believers are therefore described as " having their 
bodies washed with pure water" (Ileb. x. 22), as if the outward 
ness of the old economy were still in force, though it is unques 
tionably the real sanctification of the person that is meant. Or 
they are said to have undergone " the washing of regeneration" 
(Tit. iii. 5), where the internal nature of the work is distinctly 
intimated, as it is also presently afterwards coupled with the 
efficient cause in the mention that is made of " the renewal of the 
Holy Ghost." Or, still again, the entire body of the redeemed 
Church is represented as brought into its present condition by 
having been " sanctified and cleansed by the washing of water 
by the word" (Eph. v. 26), where the same result is exhibited, 
but the instrumental cause in connection with it made promi 
nent. However represented, both the initiatory rite of baptism, 
and the general language of New Testament Scripture, proclaim 
the fact, that they only who have been cleansed from the defile 
ments of sin, and made partakers of a new nature, can be recog 
nised as the true servants of Christ, and heirs of His salvation. 
Or, as our Lord himself put it, after the symbolical service He 
had performed in the circle of His disciples, " If I wash thee not, 
thou hast no part with Me." (John xiii. 8.) 

2. The Altar of Burnt-offering. This formed, as to its posi 
tion, the outermost of all the sacred furniture of the tabernacle, 
having its place immediately before the door of the court, while 
still it was on many accounts the most important article con 
nected with the whole apparatus of worship. Nothing, in a 
manner, could be done without it neither in the more common 
rites of sacrifice and oblation, which were every day proceeding, 
nor in the more peculiar services of the great religious festivals. 
In its construction it was of the most simple and unpretending 
character ; indeed, the general direction given for the formation 
of altars Mvinrd scarcely to leave room for any exercise of art : 
a sort of rude mound, rather than a regular structure, was the 
ideal presented. " An altar of earth shalt thou make unto Me, 
and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings," etc.; "in all places 
where I record My name I will come unto thee and bless tluv." 
It was added, that if they would employ stones instead of earth, 


the stones should at least be unhewn ; for should a tool be lifted 
upon it, the altar would be polluted. (Ex. xx. 24, 25.) This, 
at first sight, appears somewhat strange, especially when viewed 
in connection with the many costly materials and elaborate 
workmanship which were expended on the tabernacle itself and 
its internal furnishings. The repudiation of human skill and 
outward pomp here could have arisen from no abstract dislike 
to these, but must have had its reason in the leading object and 
design of the erection itself. What was this altar? It was 
emphatically the meeting-place between God and men the one 
as infinitely holy and good, the other as sinful that they might 
transact together respecting sin and salvation, that the fallen 
might be again restored, or if already restored, might be enabled 
to grow in the fellowship and blessing of Heaven. That such a 
meeting-place should be somewhat raised above the common 
level of the ground, and carry in its very form a heavenward 
aspect, could not but seem natural to the feelings of the wor 
shipper. Hence this is the idea which was embodied in the 
names most generally adopted in antiquity for the designation 
of altar. 1 But in the true religion this idea required to be tem 
pered by another, derived from the unworthiness of those who 
might come there to present the worship, as compared with the 
surpassing greatness and glory of Him who was the object of it 
something to image the wonderful condescension which ap 
peared in His appointing any place in this sinful world, where 
He would record His name and meet with men. Naturally, 
His curse rests upon the ground for man s sake, and man him 
self cannot remove it. By no art or elaboration on his part can 
the natural relation of things be changed : these would but serve 
to disguise its real character, or dispose men to forget it ; and 
only in the condescension of God, stooping in His rich grace to 
meet the necessities of His fallen creature, and by a kind of new 
creation to renovate the face of nature, can the evil be properly 
dealt with and overcome. This, therefore, is what must espe 
cially express itself in His chosen meeting-place with men as 
sinful : it must be of God s workmanship rather than man s 
1 The Hcb. HC3, bamah, high place ; Gr., /3<u^o ,-, primarily an elevation 
of any sort, then a sacred elevation for worship ; Latin, altare, from //.-, 
high, or ara, cognate with the Gr. <j, I raise, or lift up. 

TIN-: ALTAI; or r.ruNT-oiTKRixG. 299 

naked, simple, unadorned, such as might convey the impression 
of a direct contact between the God of heaven and the earth 
which Himself had made. 

The prominent idea thus intended to be impressed on the 
form of the altar, was also confirmed and deepened by the name 
specially appropriated to it. For here we meet in Scripture 
with a departure from the common usage of antiquity, and one 
that brings vividly out the humbling element on man s side, and 
the condescension and grace on God s. The distinctive name 
for it was misbeach (from rat, to kill or slaughter), the slaughter 
ing-place, or the place where slaughtered victims were to be 
brought and laid, as it were, on the table of God. This denoted 
how pre-eminently the communion between God and sinful men 
must be through an avenue of blood, and the sentence of death 
must ever be found lying across the threshold of life. In such 
a case, pomp and ornament, such as man himself could have 
furnished, had been altogether out of place. Materials directly 
fashioned by the hand of God were alone suitable, and these 
not of the more rare and costly description, but the simple earth 
formed originally for man s support and nourishment, but now 
the witness of his sin, the drinker-in of the blood of his forfeited 
life, the theatre and home of death. 

Contemplating a stationary provision for the offerings of 
God s people in the altar before the sanctuary, it was necessary 
so far to depart from this simple erection of earth as might be 
required to secure for it a regular form and consistence. Hence 
directions were given for the construction of a kind of case, 
made, like all otlier wooden portions of the tabernacle, of the 
shittim or acacia tree, and overlaid, not with gold, but with 
brass whence it not unusually got the name of the brazen 
altar. Of the same material were made the several instruments 
attached to it pans, shovels, flesh-hooks, etc. The boards that 
formed the external walls of the altar, were a square of five 
cubits (somewhere about eight feet), and in height three (or from 
four and a half to five feet). No stress, perhaps, is here to be 
laid on the five and the three, as they were probably adopted 
more from their convenient and suitable proportions than any 
thing else; the rather as iu the altar subsequently erected at 
the temple, not only are the dimensions greatly enlarged, but 


the ratio is also different twenty being now the number for the 
length and breadth, and ten for the height which were again 
changed, as we learn from Joseph us (Wars, v. 5, 6), in the 
Herodian temple into fifty cubits for the length and breadth, 
and fifteen for the height. In the altar connected with the 
ideal temple of Ezekiel, the dimensions correspond with none 
of these (Ez. xliii. 13-1G) ; but as in all the square-form was 
retained, we can scarcely err in imputing to this a symbolic 
meaning, indicating the relative order and perfection which 
must ever characterize the institutions of God s kingdom. In 
respect to the boards, however, it must be remembered they 
formed only the exterior case or shell of the altar ; the interior 
part, and what more properly constituted the altar as the place 
of sacrifice, M ould undoubtedly be composed, according to the 
original prescription, of earth or stones, and so we find Jewish 
writers interpreting the matter. 1 " Hollow with boards shalt 
thou make it," that is, with a vacant or hollow space to be 
partially filled up and adjusted, so as to adapt it to the various 
purposes of sacrifice. But this is naturally left to be under 
stood ; and almost the only other part of the description which 
requires explanation is what is said of a kind of lattice-work 
connected with it. " Thou shalt make for it," we read in Ex. 
xxvii. 4, " a trellis, network, of brass . . . and thou shalt put it 
under the compass (23"!?, karkob, environment) of the altar from 
beneath, arid the net shall be unto the half of the altar." Such 
is the literal rendering, and it points, not, as used commonly to 
be supposed, to an internal grating (Lightfoot, " a grate of 
brass hanging within it for the fire and sacrifice to lie upon "), 
but to an external framework, reaching from the ground to 
the middle of the altar, and compassing it outside. The karkob 
was a kind of projecting bank or ledge, and under it, and sup 
porting it, was the network of brass, surrounding the altar on 
all sides. " It formed," says Fr. von Meyer," who has the 
merit of bringing distinctly out this part of the structure, 
"along with the encompassing bank or karkob, a projecting 

1 Altare terreum est hoc ipsum seneum altare, cujus concavura terra 
implebatur. Jarchi, on Ex. xxvii. 5. Cavitas vero altaris terra replebatur , 
quo tempore castra ponebunt. Bechai, in ibid. 

- BibcUeutungeii, p. 206. 


shelf, by menus of which the lower half of the altar appeared 
broader than the upper. Upon this bank or ledge the priest 
stood when he offered sacrifice, laid down wood, or performed 
anything about the altar." This can only be rendered quite 
plain by a pictorial representation. 1 But as the altar was fur 
nished with the projecting ledge and its supporting network 
for the convenience of priestly ministrations, it was also fur 
nished with projecting horns at each corner, which were to have 
the appearance of coming out of it. (Ex. xxvii. 2.) These 
horns were undoubtedly to be regarded as shaped like those of 
oxen (Jos., as above, Keparoei&els irpoav^wv 7&>z/ta<?, jutting up 
horn-like corners), and, according to the emblematic sense ever 
ascribed to these in Scripture, were intended to symbolize that 
divine strength which necessarily distinguishes the place of 
God s manifested grace and love, and which forms, in a manner, 
its crowning elevation. Hence, to lay hold of the horns of the 
altar, if only it were warrantably done, was to grasp the almighty 
and protecting arm of Jehovah. (1 Kings i. 50, ii. 28.) 

Such, briefly, was the altar of burnt-offering, the peculiarly 
chosen and consecrated place where Jehovah condescended to 
reveal His grace to sinners, and accept the offerings they 
brought in token of their self-dedication to Him. These offer 
ings were to be consumed there, in part by His appointed repre 
sentatives, and in part by fire. This fire, once at least issuing 
directly from the clouds of glory in the tabernacle (Lev. ix. 
24), was the visible symbol of Jehovah s acceptance of the 
offerings ; but it did so then, as appears, onlv for the purpose of 
giving a visible seal to Aaron and his sons in their official mini 
strations. The altar had been for several days before that the 
scene of sacrificial action, in which fire must have been em 
ployed ; and on the particular occasion referred to, the light 
ning-Hash which came out from the Most Holy Place and 
consumed the burnt-offering and the fat of Aaron s sacrifice, is 
not said to have left any permanent flame behind. It was a 
sign, however, to testify that the acceptance then openly given 
to Aaron s offering, as the consecrated head of the priestly onK-r, 
would be equally given to the sacrifices which in time coming 
might be offered through him or his successors at that altar. 
1 See Appendix B. 


Consumed there by fire under the hand of God s accredited 
priesthood, they were owned to be in accordance with God s 
holiness (which the fire symbolized), and, if not marred by sin, 
stamped with His approval. Hence the expression so com 
monly used of those offerings by fire, that they were a sweet- 
smelling savour, or a savour of rest for Jehovah, ascending up, 
as it were, to the region of His presence like a grateful and 
refreshing odour. 1 

3. Sacrifice by Blood in its fundamental idea, and Ritual 
Accompaniments. From what has been said respecting the 
altar of burnt-offering, the conclusion forces itself upon us, 
that the great object of its appointment, and the essential 
ground of its importance in the Old Testament worship, arose 
from the connection in which it stood with the presentation 
before God of the blood of slain victims. And we have now 
to inquire into the truths involved in this fundamental part of 
the tabernacle service, with the view of ascertaining distinctly 
both its direct and its prospective bearing. In doing so, we 
shall present in as brief a manner as possible what appears to us 
the correct account of the institution and its related service; 
and throw into an appendix the discussion of some of the points 
which have been made matter of special controversy. 2 

The grand reason of the singular place which, in the hand 
writing of Moses, is assigned to sacrifice by blood, is that ex 
pressed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it is said, that 
" without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins," con 
sequently no peace or fellowship with God for the sinner. The 
principle was still more fully brought out, however, in a declara 
tion of Moses himself, which in this connection is entitled to the 
most careful consideration. The passage is in Lev. xvii. 11, 
which, according to the correct rendering, runs thus : " For the 
soul (t?Bj) of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to 
you upon the altar, to atone for your souls, for the blood atones 

1 There appears to be no need for contemplating the action of fire in 
sacrifice in any other light than that here presented. The express and 
authoritative sanction of God for it was enough. And the traditionary 
belief, that it was first kindled from heaven, then perpetually piv.-erved by 
the priesthood, has no distinct warrant in Scripture. It is more, indeed, a 
heathenish than a scriptural notion. 

2 See Appendix C. 


through the soul" (t 333). It is scarcely possible to mistake the 
general souse of this important passage; but its precise and 
definite meaning has been often obscured, by not perceiving 
that the soul at the close of the verse refers back to the soul at 
the beginning, and expresses the principle or seat of life, not in 
him who is to be atoned for, but in the creature by which the 
atonement is made for him. And the full and correct import 
of the passage is to the following effect : " You must not eat the 
blood, because God has appointed it as the means of atonement 
for your sins. But it is the means of atonement, as the bearer 
of the soul. It is not, therefore, the matter of the blood that 
atones, but the soul or life which resides in it ; so that the soul 
of the offered victim atones for the soul of the man who offers 
it." The passage, indeed, is intended simply to provide an 
answer to two questions : Why they should not eat blood ? viz., 
because the blood was appointed by God for making atonement. 
And, why should blood have been appointed for this purpose ? 
viz., because the soul or life is there, and hence is most suitably 
taken for the soul or life of man forfeited by sin. This is also 
the only sense of the passage that can be grammatically justi 
fied ; for the particular preposition (a) here used after the verb 
to atone ("IM), invariably denotes that by which the atonement 
is made ; while as invariably the person or object for ichich it is 
made is denoted by another preposition (*? or *}y). And the 
general form of expression upon the subject is, that suclr a person 
is atoned for concerning his sin, or he is covered upon in respect 
to that which needed to be put out of sight. (Lev. iv. 35, v. 
13; Ex. xxx. 15; Lev. xvi. 11, etc.) 

The ground upon which this merciful arrangement plainly 
proceeds, is the doomed condition of men as sinners, and the 
purpose of God to save them from its infliction. Their soul or 
life has, through sin, been forfeited to God, and, as a debt din- 
to His justice, it should in right be rendered back again to 
Him who gave it. The enforcement of this claim, of cour>e. 
inevitably involves the death of transgressors, according to the 
sentence from the very first hung over the commission of sin, 
denouncing its penalty to be death. l>nt as God appears in 
the institution of sacrifice providing a way of r.M-ape from this 
deserved doom, lie mercifully appoints a substitute the soul 


or life of a beast, for the soul or life of the transgressor ; and 
as the seat of life is in the blood, so the blood of the beast, its 
life-blood, was given to be shed in death, and served up on the 
altar of God, in the room of that other and higher but guilty 
life, which had become due to Divine justice. When this was 
done, when the blood of the slain victim was poured out or 
sprinkled upon the altar, and thereby given up to God, the 
sinner s guilt was atoned (covered) ; a screen, as it were, was 
thrown between the eye of God and his guilt, or between his 
own soul and the penalty due to his transgression. In other 
words, a life that had not been forfeited was accepted in the 
room of the sinner s that was forfeited ; and this was yielded 
back to him as now again a life in peace and fellowship with 
God a life out of death. 

It is clear, however, that while in one respect the life or soul 
of the sacrifice was a suitable offering or atonement for that of 
the sinner, as being unstained by guilt, innocent ; in another it 
was entirely the reverse, and could not in any proper and satis 
factory sense take away sin. This imperfection or inadequacy 
arose from the vast disproportion between the two the one soul 
being that of a rational and accountable creature, free to think 
and act, to determine and choose for itself ; the other that of an 
irrational creature, destitute of independent thought and moral 
feeling, and so incapable alike of sin or of holiness. It is there 
fore only in a negative sense that the sacrificed victim could be 
regarded even as innocent ; for, strictly speaking, the question 
of guilt or innocence belongs to a higher region than that which, 
by the very law of its being, it was appointed to occupy. And 
being thus so inferior in nature, how far was it from possessing 
what yet the slightest reflection could easily discern to be neces 
sary to constitute a real and valid atonement or covering for the 
sinner s deficiency, viz., an equivalent for his life ! The life- 
blood, then, which God gave for this purpose upon the altar, 
must obviously have been but a temporary expedient ; His 
offended holiness could not rest in that, nor could He have in 
tended more by the appointment than the keeping up of a pre 
sent testimony to the higher satisfaction which justice demanded 
for the sinner s guilt, and a symbolical representation of it. 
Then, out of these radical defects there inevitably arose others. 


which still further marked with imperfection and inadequacy 
the sacrifices of irrational victims. For here there was neces 
sarily wanting that oneness of nature between the sinner and 
his substitute, and in the latter that consent of will to the 
mutual interchange of parts, which are indispensably requisite 
to the idea of a perfect sacrifice. Nor could the sacrifice itself 
which was a still more palpable incongruity be, like the sin 
for which it was offered in atonement, a voluntary and personal 
act : the priest and the sacrifice were of necessity divided, and 
the work of atonement was done, not by the victim in willing 
self-dedication, but upon it, all unconsciously, by the hand of 

Such defects and imperfections inhering in the very nature 
of ancient sacrifice, it could not possibly have been introduced 
or sanctioned by God as a satisfactory and ultimate arrange 
ment. Nor could He have adopted it even as a temporary one, 
so far as to warrant the Israelitish worshipper to look for pardon 
and acceptance by complying with its enactments, unless there 
had already been provided in His eternal counsels, to be in due 
time manifested to the world, a real and adequate sacrifice for 
human guilt. Such a sacrifice, we need scarcely add, is to be 
found in Christ ; who is therefore called emphatically " the 
Lamb of God" "fore-ordained before the foundation of the 
world" and of whose precious blood it is written, that "it 
cleanseth from all sin." 

How far, however, the Jewish worshippers themselves were 
alive to the necessity of this alone adequate provision, and real 
ized the certainty of its future exhibition, can only be matter 
of probable conjecture or reasonable inference. As the light 
of the Church, generally, differed at different times and in 
different individuals, so undoubtedly would the apprehension of 
this portion of Divine truth have its diversities of comparative 
clearness and obscurity in the Jewish mind. If there were faith 
only to the extent of embracing and acting upon the existing 
arrangements, faith to present the appointed sacrifices for sin, 
and to believe in humble confidence, that imperfect and defec 
tive as these manifestly were, they would still be accepted for 
an atonement, and that God Himself would know how to supply 
what His own provision needed to complete its efficacy, if only 


such faith existed, we have no reason to say it was insufficient 
for salvation ; it might be faith very much in the dark, hut still 
it was faith in a revealed word of God, implicitly following the 
path which that word prescribed. It was the child relying on a 
father s goodness, and committing itself to the guidance of a 
father s wisdom, while still unable to see the end and reason of 
the course by which it was led. 

But it was scarcely possible for thoughtful and reflective 
minds, for any length of time at least, to stand simply at this 
point. The felt imperfection and deficiency in the appointed 
sacrifices could not fail in such minds to connect itself with the 
Messiah, with whose coming there was always associated the 
introduction of a state of order and perfection. Some even of 
the Rabbinical writers speak as expressly upon this point as the 
New Testament itself does. 1 And " when the conscience of the 
Israelite (to use the words of Kurtz, Mos. Opfer, p. 43, 44) was 
fairly awakened to the insufficiency of the blood of irrational 
creatures to effect a real atonement for sin, there was no other 
way for him to obtain satisfaction than in the supposition that 
a perfect, ever available sacrifice lay in the future. This sup 
position was the more natural to him, and must have readily 
suggested itself, as the Israelite, according to his constitutional 
temperament, was " a man of desire," and was farther stimulated 

1 Schcettgen (Hor. Heb. et Tal., ii., p. 612) produces from Jewish autho 
rities the following plain declarations : " In the times of the Messiah all 
sacrifices will cease, but the sacrifice of praise will not cease." u When the 
Israelites were in the holy land, they took away all diseases and punish 
ments from the world, through the acts of worship and the sacrifices 
which they performed ; but now Messiah takes these away from the sons of 
men." One quoted by Bahr from Eisenmenger (Entdectes Judenthum, 
ii., p. 720) goes so far as to say, " that He would pour out His soul unto 
death, and that His blood would make atonement for the people of God." 
It is right to state, however, that the value of such testimonies is greatly 
diminished by the multitude of directly opposite ones, which are also to be 
found in the Rabbinical writings. In the very next page, Schoettgeu has 
passages affirming that the day of expiation should never cease, and the 
mass of the Jews in our Lord s time certainly believed in the perpetuity of 
the law of Moses. The utmost that can be fairly deduced from the quota 
tions noticed above is, that there were minds among them seeking relief 
from felt Avants and deficiencies, in the expectation of that more perfect 
state of things which was to be brought in by Christ. 


and encouraged by the whole genius and tendency of his religion 
to look forward to the future. Besides, his entire life and his 
tory, his ancestors, his land, his people, his law, all bore a typical 
character, which his own spiritual tendency prompted him to 
search for, and which antecedent Divine revelations instructed 
him to find. . . . And had not Moses himself given some indica 
tion of the typical character of the whole ritual introduced by 
him, when he testified that the Eternal Archetype of it was 
shown him upon the holy mount ? How natural was it, more 
over, to bring the heart and centre of the entire worship into 
connection with the promises respecting the seed of the woman 
and of the patriarchs, and possibly with still other elements 
in the earlier revelations or devout breathings ! How natural 
to connect together the centre of his expectations with the centre 
of his worship to descry a secret though still perhaps incom 
prehensible connection between them, and in that to seek the 
explication of the sacred mystery !" 

The ritual directions given respecting the sacrificial blood, 
as well before as after its being shed in death, tend in every 
respect to confirm the views now exhibited of its vicarious im 
port. They relate chiefly to the selection of the victim the 
imposition of the offerer s hands on its head and the action with 
(the sprinkling of) the blood. 

(1.) The selection of the victim. This was limited to " the 
herd and the flocks" (oxen, sheep, and goats), and to individuals 
of these without any manifest blemish. Why animals from 
such classes alone were to be taken, was briefly but correctly 
answered even by Witsius, 1 when treating of the connection 
between the restriction as to clean animals for food, and the 
appointment of the same for sacrifice upon the altar : " God 
wished (says he) these two to be joined together, partly that 
man might thereby exhibit the more clearly his gratitude to 
God, in offering what had been given him for the support of his 
own life, and partly that the substitution of the sacrifice in his 
stead might be rendered the more palpable. For man offering 
the support of his own life, appeared to offer that life itself." 
This last thought, we have no doubt, indicates what may be 
called the primary reason, and brings the selection of the victim 
l. Sac., Lib. ii., Diss. 2, 14. 


into closest contact with the essential nature of the sacrifice. 
It was not permitted to offer in sacrifice human victims, be 
cause none such could be found free from guilt, and so they 
were utterly unfit for being presented as a substitution for sinful 
men. But to make the gap as small as possible between the 
offerer and the victim to secure that at least the animal natures 
of the two should stand in the nearest relation, the offerer was 
obliged to select his representative from the tame domestic ani 
mals of his own property and of his own rearing, the most 
human in their natural disposition and mode of life; and not 
only that, but such also as might in a certain sense be regarded as 
of one flesh with himself so far homogeneous, that the flesh of 
the one was fit nutriment for the flesh of the other. The fact, 
however, that the animal was the representative of the offerer, 
and on that account alone was either desired or accepted by God, 
is a vitally important one in this connection. God did not, and 
as a spiritual Being could not, care for material offerings, con 
sidered simply by themselves ; and in Scripture He often re 
pudiates in the strongest terms the offerings of those who so 
presented them. What He sought was the worshipper himself, 
and pre-eminently the heart of the worshipper : the offerings 
laid upon His altar were acceptable only in so far as they repre 
sented and embodied this. Then they became in a sense His 
food, and yielded Him holy delight. (See next section.) But 
as regards the principle which lay at the bottom of the selection 
of victims for the altar, like every other in the ancient economy, 
it is seen rising to its perfect form and highest manifestation in 
Christ, who, while the eternal Son of God, and as such infinitely 
exalted above man, yet brought Himself down to man s sphere, 
became literally flesh of man s flesh, and, sin alone excepted, was 
found in all things like to man, that He might be a suitable 
offering, as well as High Priest, for the heirs of His salvation. 1 

1 The reasons often given for the choice of the victims being confined to 
the flock and the herd, such as that these were the more valuable, were more 
accessible, ever at hand, horned (emblematical of power and dignity), and 
such like, fall away of themselves, when the subject is viewed in its proper 
connection and bearings. It is, of course, quite easy to find many analo 
gies in such respects between the victims and Christ ; but they are rather 
beside the purpose, and tend to lead away the mind from the main idea. 
The thought also of the animal being, as a living creature, dear to the offerer, 


It was for a reason very closely related to the one noticed, 
that the particular animal offered in sacrifice was to be always 
perfect in its kind. In the region of the animal life it was to 
be a fitting representative of what man should be what his real 
and proper representative must be, in the region of the moral 
and spiritual life. Any palpable defect or blemish, rendering 
it an imperfect specimen of the natural species it belonged to, 
would have visibly marred the image it was intended to present 
of the holy beauty which was sought by God first in man, and 
now in man s substitute and ransom. For the reality we are 
again pointed by the inspired writers of the New Testament to 
Christ, whose blood is described as that "of a lamb without 
blemish and without spot," and who is declared to have been 
such an High Priest as became us, because "holy, harmless, 
undefiled, and separate from sinners." 

In cases of extreme poverty, when the worshipper could not 
afford a proper sacrifice, the law permitted him to bring pigeons 
or turtle-doves, the blood of which was to be brought to the 
altar as that of the animal victim. That these rather than 
poultry are specified, the domestic fowls of modern times, arose 
from the manners prevalent among the ancient Israelites. These 
doves were, in fact, with them the tame, domesticated fowls, 
and in the feathered tribe corresponded to sheep and oxen among 
animals. No mention whatever is made of home-bred fowls or 
chickens in Old Testament Scripture. 

(2.) The second leading prescription regarding the victim, 
viz., that before having its blood shed in death, the offerer 
should lay his hand or hands upon its head, was still more 
essentially connected with the great idea of sacrifice. This im 
position of hands was common to all the bloody sacrifices, and 
is given as a general direction before each of the several kinds 
of them, except the trespass-offering (Lev. i. 4, iii. 2, iv. 4-15, 
xvi. 21 ; 2 Chron. xxix. 23), and was no doubt omitted in regard 
as a part of his domestic establishment, on which some, among others 
Kurtz, -would lay stress, is rather fanciful than solid. The offerer might 
gel his ox or sheep anywhere only it required to be his own propi-ny, 
that lie might be free to use it for such a purpose as this. But to make its 
special fitness or worth sacrificially depend on its value qua property, as 
llofmanu and many more do, is another thing, and one which has no 
warrant iu Scripture. 


to it on account of its being so much of the same nature with 
the sin-offering, that the regulation would naturally be under 
stood to be applicable to both. There can be no question that 
the Jewish writers held the necessity of the imposition of hands 
in all the animal sacrifices except the passover. 1 What the rite 
really imported would be easily determined, if the explanation 
were sought merely from the materials furnished by Scripture 
itself. There the custom, viewed generally, appears as a sym 
bolical action, bespeaking the communication of something in 
the person who imposes his hands, to the person or being on 
whom they are imposed. Hence it was used on such occasions 
as the bestowal of blessing (Gen. xlviii. 14; Matt. xix. 15); 
and the communication of the Holy Spirit, whether to heal 
bodily disease (Matt. ix. 18 ; Mark vi. 5; Acts ix. 12-17, etc.), 
or to endow with supernatural gifts (Acts xix. 6), or to designate 
or qualify for a sacred office. (Num. xxvii. 18 ; Acts vi. 6 ; 
1 Tim. v. 22.) In all such cases there was plainly a conveyance 
to one who wanted from another who possessed ; and the hand, 
the usual instrument of communication in the matter of gifts, 
simply denoted, when laid upon the head of the recipient, the 
fact of the conveyance being actually made. What, then, in 
the case of the bloody sacrifices, did the offerer possess which 
did not belong to the victim f What had the one to convey to 
the other "? Primarily, and indeed always, guilt. This, as we 
have already shown, was the grand and fundamental distinction 
between the offerer and his victim. It was especially as being 
the representative of him in his state of guilt and condemnation, 
that its blood required to be shed in death, to pay the wages of 
his sin. And as God had given it to be used for such a pur 
pose, so the offerer s laying his hands upon its head, indicated 
that he willingly devoted it to the same, and made over to it as 
innocent the burden of guilt with which he felt himself to be 
charged. Besides this, however, other things in the offerer 
might also be symbolically transferred to the sacrifice, according 

1 Omnibus victimis, quae a quopiam privato offerebantur, sive ex prse- 
cepto, sive ex arbitrio offerentur, oportebat ipsum impouere man us dum 
vivebant adhuc, exceptis tantum primitiis, decimis, et agno paschali. Mai- 
mon. Hilc. Korbanoth 3. See also Outram, De Sac., L. i., c. 15 ; Ains- 
worth, on Lev. i. 4, xvi. 6, 11. Magee on Atonement, Note 39. 


to the more special design and object of the sacrifice. As his 
substitute, presented to God in his room and stead, it might be 
made to embody and express whatever feelings toward God had 
a place in his bosom not merely convictions of sin and desires 
of forgiveness, but also such feelings as gratitude for benefits 
received, or humble confidence in the Divine mercy and loving- 
kindness. And when the law entered with its more complete 
sacrificial arrangements, appointing sin and trespass-offerings 
as a distinct species of sacrifice, there can be no doubt that in 
these would more especially be represented the sense of guilt on 
the part of the offerer, while in the peace or thank-offerings it 
would be the other class of feelings, those of gratitude or trust, 
which were more particularly expressed. But still not to the 
exclusion of the other. In whatever circumstances, and with 
whatever special design, man may approach God, he must come 
as a sinner, conscious of his unworthiness and his guilt. Nor, if 
he comprehends aright the relation in which he naturally stands 
to God, will anything tend more readily to awaken in his bosom 
this humble and contrite feeling, than a sensible participation 
of the mercies of God ; for he will regard them as tokens of 
Divine goodness, of which his sinfulness has made him altogether 
unworthy. So that the nearer God may have come to him in 
the riches of His grace, the more will he always be inclined to 
say with Jacob, " I am not worthy of all the mercies and the 
truth which Thou hast shown unto Thy servant;" or with the 
Psalmist, " Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him ? 
or the son of man, that Thou visitest him 1 ?" It was there 
fore of necessity that there should have been even in such 
offerings a sense of guilt and unworthiness on the part of the 
worshipper, and hence the stress laid in all the animal sacrifices 
under the law on the shedding and sprinkling of the blood, a 
peculiarity quite unknown to heathenism. Even in the thank- 
offerings, the atoning property of the blood was kept promi 
nently in view. 

It is impossible, then, we conceive, to separate in any case 
the imposition of hands on the head of the victim from the 
expression and conveyance of guilt; because the worshipper 
could never approach God in any other character than that of 
a sinner, consequently in no other way than through the shed- 


ding of blood. The specific service the blood had to render in 
all the sacrifices, was to be an atonement for the sinner s guilt 
upon the altar ; and in reference to that part of the victim 
always the most essential part the imposition of the offerer s 
hands was the expression of his desire to find deliverance 
through the offering from his burden of iniquity, and acceptance 
with God. In those offerings especially such as sin and tres 
pass-offerings in which the feeling of sin was peculiarly pro 
minent in the sinner s bosom, the outward ceremony would 
naturally be used with more of this respect to the imputation of 
guilt ; the whole desire of the offerer would concentrate itself 
here. And in perfect accordance with what has been said, we 
learn from Jewish sources that the imposition of hands was 
always accompanied with confession of sin, but this varying, 
as to the particular form it assumed, according to the nature 
of the sacrifice presented. And in the only explanation which 
Moses himself has given of the meaning of the rite, namely, as 
connected with the services of the day of atonement, it is repre 
sented as being accompanied not only with confession of sin, 
but also with the sin s conveyance to the body of the victim : 
"Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, 
and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, 
and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon 
the head of the goat" l 

The principle involved in this transaction is equally applicable 
to New Testament times, and, stripped of its external form, is 
simply this, that the atonement of Jesus becomes available to 
the salvation of the sinner only when he comes to it with heart- 

1 Lev. xvi. 21. The Jewish authorities referred to may be seen in 
Outram, L. i., c. 15, 10, 11 ; Ainsworth, on Lev. i. 4; Magee, Note 39. 
Upon the sin-offering the offerer confessed the iniquity of sin, upon the 
trespass-offering the iniquity of trespass, upon the burnt-offeriug the ini 
quity of doing what he should not have done, and not doing what he ought, 
etc. Outram gives several forms of confession, of which we select merely 
the one for a private individual, when confessing with his hands on his sin- 
offering : "I beseech Thee, Lord, I have sinned, I have done perversely, 
I have rebelled, I have done so and so (mentioning the particular trans 
gression) ; but now I repent, and let this victim be my expiation." So 
closely was imposition of hands associated in Jewish minds with confession 
of sins, that it passed with them for a maxim, " Where there is no confession 


felt convictions of sin, and with mingled sorrow and confidence 
disburdens himself there of the whole accumulation of his guilt. 
Repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ 
must grow and work together, like twin sisters, in the experience 
of his soul. And assuredly, if there be no genuine sense of sin, 
showing itself in a readiness to make full confession of the short 
comings and transgressions in which it has appeared, and an 
earnest desire to turn from it and be delivered from its just con 
demnation through the blood of sprinkling, as there is then no 
real preparedness of heart to receive, so there can be no actual 
participation in, the benefits of Christ s redemption. 

(3.) The only remaining direction of a general kind, ap 
plicable to all the sacrifices of blood, was the killing of the victim, 
and the action with the blood after it was shed. The killing is 
merely ordered to be done by the offerer, and on the north side 
of the altar (Lev. i. 11), at least in the case of sheep, but is 
understood also to have been the same with oxen. Why on 
that side, however, rather than on any other of the altar, has 
never been distinctly ascertained. And perhaps nothing more 
can be gathered from it, than that the killing also was matter of 
specific arrangement, ordered by God as the necessary conse 
quence and result of the destination of the animal to bear the 
burden and doom of sin. The blood was collected by the priest, 
and by him was sprinkled on ordinary occasions upon the 
altar round about ; but on the day of atonement, also upon the 
mercy-seat in the inner, and the altar of incense in the outer 
apartment of the tabernacle. For the present we confine our 
attention to the ordinary use of it. "This sprinkling of the 

of sins there is no imposition of hands ; " and they also held it equally cer 
tain, that the design of this imposition of hands " was to remove the sins 
from the imliviilual and transfer them to the animal. 1 (Outram, L. i., c. 
xv. 8, xxii. 5.) The circumstance of the hearers of blasphemy being ap 
pointed to lay their Lands on the head of the blasphemer before he was 
stoned (Lev. xxiv. 14), is no contradiction to what has been said, but 
rather a confirmation ; for till the guilt was punished, it was looked upon 
as belonging to the congregation at large (comp. Josh, vii.; - Sain, xxi.), 
and by this rite it was devolved entirely upon himself, that he might bear 
the punishment. Bahr finds nothing in the rite but a symbolical declara 
tion, that the victim was the offerer s own property, and that he was ready 
to devote it to death. 


blood," Outram remarks, "was by much the most sacred part of 
the entire service, since it was that by which the life and soul 
of the victim were considered to be given to God as supreme 
Lord of life and death ; for what was placed upon the altar 
of God was supposed, according to the religion of the Old 
Testament, to be rendered to him." 1 But in what relation 
did the blood stand, when thus rendered to God ? Was it as 
still charged with the guilt of the offerer, and underlying the 
sentence of God s righteous condemnation ? So the language 
just quoted would seem to import. But how then shall we meet 
the objection, which naturally arises on such a supposition, that 
a polluted thing was laid upon the altar of God ? And how 
could the blood with propriety be regarded as so holy when 
sprinkled on the altar, that it sanctified whatever it touched ? 
We present the following as in our judgment the true repre 
sentation of the matter : By the offerer s bringing his victim, 
and with imposition of hands confessing over it his sins, it 
became symbolically a personation of sin, and hence must 
forthwith bear the penalty of sin death. When this was done, 
the offerer was himself free alike from sin and from its penalty. 
But was the transaction by which this was effected owned by 
God ? And was the offerer again restored, as one possessed of 
pure and blessed life, to the favour and fellowship of God 1 It 
was to testify of these things the most important in the whole 
transaction that the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar took 
place. Having with his own hands executed the deserved 
penalty on the victim, the offerer gave the blood to the priest, 
as God s representative. But that blood had already paid, in 
death, the penalty of sin, and was no longer laden with guilt 
and pollution. The justice of God was (symbolically) satisfied 
concerning it ; and by the hands of His own representative He 
could with perfect consistence receive it as a pure and spotless 
thing, the very image of His own holiness, upon His table or 
altar. In being received there, however, it still represented the 
blood or soul of the offerer, who thus saw himself, through the 
action with the blood of his victim, re-established in communion 
with God, and solemnly recognised as possessing life, holy and 
blessed, as it is in God Himself. His soul had been accepted as 
1 De Sac., L. i., c. 16, 4. 


a holy thing on the place where God most peculiarly recorded 
His name, and he could now go forth as one received under the 
shadow of the Almighty. (Ps. xci. 1.) 

How exactly this representation accords with what is written 
of Christ, must be obvious on the slightest reflection. When 
dying as man s substitute and representative, He appeared laden 
with the guilt of innumerable sins, as one who, though He knew 
no sin, yet had " been made sin," bearing in His person the con 
centrated mass of His people s pollution ; and on this account 
He received upon His head the curse due to sin, and sank under 
the stroke of death, as an outcast from heaven. But the moment 
He gave up the ghost, an end was made of sin. With the pour 
ing out of His soul unto death, its guilt and curse were exhausted 
for all who should be heirs of salvation. Godhead was com 
pletely glorified concerning it ; and when the life laid down in 
ignominy and shame was again resumed in honour and triumph, 
and this, or the blood in which it resided, was presented before 
the Father in the heavenly places, it bespoke His people s accept 
ance in Him to the possession of a life out of death, to nearest 
fellowship with God, and the perpetual enjoyment of the Divine 
favour ; so that they are even said to " sit with Him in heavenly 
places," and to have " their life hid with Him in God." Hence 
also the peculiar force and significancy of the expression in 1 
Pet. i. 2, formerly explained (vol. i., p. 220 sq.), " unto," not 
only obedience, but also " sprinkling of the blood of Jesus ;" in 
other words, unto the participation of His risen, divine, heavenly 
life a life that is replete with the favour and partakes of the 
blessedness of God. It is there spoken of as the end and con 
summation of a Christian calling. Not as if such a calling 
could really be entered upon without a participation in Christ s 
risen life ; but there must be a growing participation ; and the 
spiritual life of a child of God approaches to perfection, accord 
ing as he becomes " complete in Jesus," and is through Him 
" filled into the fulness of God." 

But it is unnecessary here to enter into a full exhibition of 
the truth, as it will again occur, especially in connection with 
the sen-ice of the day of atonement. When formerly explain 
ing the passage in First Peter, the sprinkling was viewed with a 
more special reference to the service at the ratification of the 


covenant, when the blood was partly sprinkled on the altar and 
partly on the people, to denote more distinctly their participation 
and fellowship in what belonged to it. In the case of ordinary 
sacrifices, however, this was not done ; nor could it be said to be 
necessary to complete the symbolical action. The offerer, after 
having brought his victim to the altar, laid his hands on its head 
with confession of sin, and having solemnly given it up for his 
expiation, could have no difficulty in realizing his connection 
with the blood, and his interest in its future application. The 
difficulty rather stood in his realizing God s acceptance of such 
blood in his behalf, and on its account restoring him to life and 
blessing. Now, however, the difficulty is entirely on the other 
side, and stands in realizing not the acceptance of Christ s soul 
or blood by the Father, but our personal interest in it, in appre 
hending ourselves to be really and truly represented in the pour 
ing out of His soul for sin, and its presentation for acceptance 
and blessing in the heavenly places. Hence, while respect is 
also had to the former in the New Testament, yet, in the prac 
tical application of the doctrine of redemption, the latter is 
commonly made more prominent, viz., " the sprinkling of the 
believer s heart," or " the purging of his conscience" with the 
blood of Jesus. This is done, however, simply out of respect to 
the difficulty referred to ; and stript of their symbolical colour 
ing, the essential and radical idea in all such representations is, 
God s owning in the behalf of His people, and receiving into 
fellowship with Himself, as pure and holy, that life which has 
borne in death the curse and penalty of sin ; so that the recom 
pense of blessing and glory due to it becomes also their heritage 
of good. This owning and receiving on the part of God, is 
what is meant by Christ s sprinkling with His blood the heavenly 
places. And to realize on solid grounds the fact of its having 
been done for us, is on our part to come to the blood of sprink 
ling, and enter into the participation of its divine life. 1 

1 See further in Appendix C. 



WE here take for granted what has been unfolded in the preced 
ing section, and the appendix attached to it, respecting the proper 
nature and design of sacrifice by blood, and the symbolical actions 
therewith associated. It was common, as we have seen, to all 
sacrifices of that description, that there should be in them, on the 
part of the offerer, a remembrance of sin, and, on the part of 
God, a provision made for his reconciliation and pardon. The 
death of the animal represented the desert due to him for sin, 
the wages of which is death. God s appointing the life-blood of 
His own guiltless creature to be shed for such a purpose, and 
afterwards sprinkled on His altar, denoted that He accepted this 
symbolically as an atonement or substitution for the life of the 
guilty offerer, and typically implied that He would in due time 
provide and accept a real atonement or substitution in Christ. 
In so far as the ancient believer might present the blood of his 
sacrifice according to the manner prescribed, and in so far as the 
believer now appropriates by faith the atoning blood of Christ, 
in each case alike the blessed result is He is justified from sin, 
and has peace with God. 

But it is evident on a moment s consideration, that while the 
things now mentioned form what must have been the fundamen 
tal and most essential part of every sacrifice, various other things, 
of a collateral and supplementary kind, were necessarily required 
to bring out the whole truth connected with the sinner s reconcili 
ation and restored fellowship with God, as also to give suitable 
expression to the diversified feelings and affections which it be 
came him at different times to embody in his acts of worship. If 
anything like a complete representation was to be given, by means 


of sacrifice, of the sinner s relation to God, there must, at least, 
have been something in the appointed rites to indicate the diffe 
rent degrees of guilt, the sense entertained by the sinner, not only 
of his own sinfulness, but also of his obligations to the mercy 
of God for restored peace, his several states of comparative dis 
tance from God and nearness to Him, and the manifold conse 
quences, both in respect to his condition and his character, 
growing out of his acceptable approach to God. This could not 
otherwise be done than by the institution of a complicated ritual 
of sacrifice, suited to the ever varying circumstances of the 
worshipper, prescribing for particular states and occasions the 
kinds of victims to be employed, the application that should be 
made with the blood, the specific destination of the several parts 
of the offering, or the supplementary services with which the 
main act of sacrifice should be accompanied. In these respects, 
opportunity was afforded for the symbolical expression of a very 
considerable variety of states and feelings. And it was more 
particularly by its minute prescriptions and diversified arrange 
ments for this purpose, that the Mosaic ritual formed so decided 
an improvement on the sacrificial worship of the ancient world. 
Before the time of Moses, this species of worship was compara 
tively vague and indefinite in its character. There appear to 
have been at most but two distinct forms of sacrifice, and these 
probably but slightly varied the burnt-offering and the peace- 
offering. That such distinctions did exist, as to constitute two 
kinds of sacrifice under these respective appellations, seems un 
questionable, from mention being made of both at the ratifica 
tion of the covenant (Ex. xxiv. 5), prior to the introduction of 
the peculiar distinctions of the Mosaic ritual ; and also from the 
indications that exist in earlier times of a feast in connection 
with certain sacrifices, while it was always the characteristic of 
the burnt-offering that the whole was consumed by fire. (Gen. 
xxxi. 54.) But the line of demarcation between the two was 
probably restricted to the participation or non-partiripation on 
the part of the offerers of a portion of the sacrifice, leaving 
whatever else might require to be signified respecting the state 
or feeling of the worshipper, to be either expressed in words, or 
to exist only in the silent consciousness of his own mind. 

It is, no doubt, partly on account of this greater antiquity, 


especially of the burnt-offering and of its more comprehensive 
character, that the precedence was given to it in the sacrificial 
ritual. (Lev. i.) Yet only partly on that account ; for as this 
kind of offering is the only one that had no special occasions 
connected with it, and was that also which every morning and 
every evening was presented for all Israel, it was plainly intended 
to be viewed as the normal sacrifice of the covenant people, 
embodying the thoughts and feelings which should habitually 
prevail in the bosom and regulate the life of a pious Israelite. 
Hence, also, the altar of sacrifice bore the name of the altar 
of burnt-offering. As they who really were children of the 
covenant stood already in an accepted condition before God, 
the idea of expiation could manifestly not hold the most 
prominent place in the sacrifice ; this place rather belonged 
to the sense of entire dependence on God, and devoted sur 
render to His service, which Israel was called as God s redeemed 
heritage to profess and manifest. Yet, with this as the more 
predominant idea in the burnt-offering, there could not fail also 
to be associated with it thoughts of sin and atonement : for the 
proper idea of their calling was never fully realized by even the 
better portion of Israel ; and with every day s expression of devout 
acknowledgment of God s goodness, and renewed surrender to 
His service, there behoved to be also such consciousness of sin 
and umvorthiness as called for fresh application to the blood of 
atonement. In the burnt-offering both of these were provided 
in that general form which was suited to a people who were 
presumed to be in a state of reconciliation with God ; while, 
for the more explicit confession of sin, and the blotting out 
of its guilt, the yearly service of the great day of atonement 
was specially appropriated for Israel as a whole, and the occa 
sional sin and trespass-offerings for those who had been guilty 
of particular offences, which seemed to call for more immediate 
personal dealing with God. But while the considerations now 
mentioned enable us to explain why, in the ritual for the dif 
ferent kinds of offering (Lev. i.-vii.), they stand in the order 
there exhibited, if respect be had to the natural order and 
succession of ideas connected with sacrifice, especially after the 
introduction of the law, the offerings which made most distinct 
recognition of sin properly took rank before the others. By 


the law is the knowledge of sin. It did not, indeed, originate 
that knowledge, but it contributed botli to impart much clearer 
views and awaken a deeper consciousness of sin than generally 
existed before its promulgation. And as, with fallen man, the 
consciousness of sin must ever be regarded as the starting-point 
of all acceptable worship, those offerings which, in a sacrificial 
system, that had specially to do with sin and forgiveness, could 
not fail to be regarded as being of a more fundamental cha 
racter than the others. It was to them that resort was naturally 
first made by those who had not yet attained to a covenant 
standing, or had by transgression fallen from it. Accordingly, 
on those occasions which called for a complete round of sacri 
ficial offerings, in order to express every kind and gradation of 
feeling appropriate to the worship of God, the offerings for sin 
invariably come first (Ex. xxix. ; Lev. viii., ix., xvi.) : the order 
was, sin-offering or trespass-offering (occasionally even both), 
burnt-offering, peace-offering, the two latter supplemented with 
a meat-offering. Such, also, will be the most appropriate order 
in which to take them here, where they must be chiefly viewed 
with respect to the religious ideas and feelings expressed in them. 
It is proper, however, to draw attention before entering on 
the several kinds of sacrifice to the general name by which they 
are designated in the law namely, offerings (corbanini). This 
is the more deserving of notice, as the term was a more general 
one even than sacrifice, and included whole classes of things 
which were not for presentation at the altar, while yet the com 
mon name sufficiently indicated that in some fundamental point 
they coincided. The word corban (|3"?P), signifying literally a 
gift (Mark vii. 11), everything which was solemnly dedicated 
or presented for holy uses, might be called generally a gift or an 
offering to God. The free-will contributions which were made 
by the people for the erection of the tabernacle were so called 
(Ex. xxv. 2, etc.), though consisting of all sorts of materials ; 
and what was afterwards required for the maintenance of the 
daily service, bore the same character : in particular, the half- 
shekel, which was first levied of all i^rown males at the institu 
tion of the tabernacle, and called their ransom-money this, 
though originally applied to the construction of the tabernacle 
(Ex. xxxviii. 25-31), was afterwards, according to the manifest 


design of the ordinance, regularly levied, and was the memorial- 
offering from the children of Israel, " to make atonement for 
their souls," that, namely, which served as a connecting link 
between the members of the congregation and the atonement 
services of the sanctuary. (Ex. xxx. 16 ; Neh. x. 32 ; Matt. xvii. 
24.) Through this, which ministered the supplies, they gave 
formal expression to their desire to have an interest in all the 
expiatory rites of the daily service ; and there were also occasional 
offerings which had the same end in view. (Num. vii. 3, xxxi. 
50.) Beside these, however, which stood in close proximity to 
the sacrificial institution, though they did not strictly belong to 
it, there were the contributions which went to support the mini 
sters of the sanctuary, but which, in their proper nature and 
design, were offerings of a religious kind tithes, first-fruits, and 
free-will offerings. These bore in common the name of cor- 
lanini) or offerings, because solemnly dedicated to a sacred use 
(Ex. xxiii. 15; Num. xviii. 15-18; Deut. xvi. 16, 17); and, 
along with the others mentioned before, were required by God 
from His people to maintain in due consideration and regard the 
house which for their advantage and honour He condescended 
to set up among them. But it was of His own they gave to 
Him ; they took a select portion for tribute-offerings, in token of 
their holding all of Him as the supreme Lord of the land which 
they had received for a possession, and in the hope that they might 
obtain His blessing on what remained. It was really this feel 
ing of dependence, coupled with spiritual desire and expectation 
of the Divine favour, which the Lord sought in the offerings, 
and without which they could be of no avail in His sight. On 
the other hand, where these feelings were actually experienced, 
the heart could not rest satisfied with an inward consciousness 
of them, but would seek, and with an earnestness proportioned 
to their strength, to have them embodied in outward manifesta 
tions, such as the nature of God s service required. " While 
the people," as happily expressed by CEhler (Hertzog, x., p. 625), 
" in appearing before God, did not come before Him empty, but 
brought Him gifts of the increase they had gained in their ordi 
nary calling, they not only gave a practical testimony that all their 
gain, all the fruits of their labour, were from the Divine blessing, 
but they at the same time consecrated their worldly activity, 


and along therewith their life itself, with all its powers, to the 
Lord, who had taken them for His peculiar treasure." 

But still more would such feelings prevail in regard to another 
class of offerings those which pertained to the altar of God, 
which consequently were rendered directly to Him. It was on 
that altar most especially and peculiarly that He gave promise of 
meeting with them to bless them. There, in a manner, was His 
table ; and in return for the offerings which His people laid on 
it, if they only did so in a right spirit, presenting their offer 
ings as the expression of what they themselves thought and felt, 
He came near and visited them with such favour as He bore 
to His own. The altar-offerings were hence called in a more 
peculiar sense the bread of Jehovah, a fire-offering of sweet 
savour to Jehovah. (Lev. i. 9, viii. 21, xxiv. 9.) If this should 
appear to infringe on the propitiatory character of sacrifice, by 
presenting it simply in the light of a gift rendered, or a homage 
paid, by man to God, it must be remembered that here also the 
gifts were not primarily man s : they had been received from the 
hand of God, that they might be applied to the purposes for 
which they were intended ; and, in particular, the blood or soul 
of the victims was expressly given by God, that it might be 
employed as the medium of atonement. (Lev. xvii. 11.) As all 
life is of God, so it belonged only to Him to make such a desti 
nation of it, even in the lower sphere of the animal creation, and 
for the ends of a symbolical worship. And the principle has its 
noblest exemplification in the higher sphere of the New Cove 
nant ; for the infinitely precious life, by the surrender of which 
the real atonement was accomplished, is made known as pre 
eminently the Father s gift to a perishing world. Yet in each 
case alike the divine must reach its end through the instrumen 
tality of a human agency : the altar of God must be furnished 
by the offerings and ministrations of those who are warranted to 
approach it from among men ; and not as a matter thrust on the 
Church by arbitrary appointment, but thankfully appropriated, 
and by a living devoted faith rendered back to God from a soul 
respondent to the will of Heaven, must the work of sacrifice and 
atonement equally in the lower and the higher sphere proceed. 
The place of this could no otherwise be the one where God 
recorded His name to come unto His people and bless them (Ex. 

TIIK SI\-nlTi;i;iN<;. 323 

xx. 24), or the propitiatory where heaven and earth meet in 
loving accord. (Rom. iii. 25, 26.) 


The offering so called was that which had specially to do 
with the consciousness of sin and its atonement ; and on this 
account, being so identified with sin, it came to receive its 
distinctive name the same word (riN^n) denoting both. In the 
great majority of cases, perhaps, it was offered on special occa 
sions, when some particular act of sin had interrupted the 
covenant relationship, and called for a specific atonement to re 
establish the offender s position. But to impress upon Israel the 
conviction that such sins were always proceeding, even though 
they might not be distinctly brought home to the people s con 
sciousness, and made the subject of individual confession and for 
giveness, the service of the day of yearly atonement was appointed, 
which derived its peculiar character from the regard that was to 
be had in it to all the sins and transgressions of Israel, and the 
purging of them away by a grand sin-offering. In this case, of 
course, the sins of the people were contemplated in their totality, 
and not with reference to particular kinds or occasions. And 
the same was the case when there was the introduction to a new 
sphere of covenant relationship, as at the consecration of Aaron 
and his sons, or at the joint consecration of priesthood and 
people in their relation one to another (Lev. viii. 9) ; in such 
services we find the sin-offering taking precedence of all others, 
not because of any formal acts of sin committed, but because 
the transaction proceeded on the idea of a new stage or develop 
ment going to be reached of covenant standing, and it was fit 
that the sin and unworthiness of the parties concerned should be 
brought to remembrance and purged away. Although no ex- 
pivss instances are on record, yet it will be understood of itself 
the analogy of the preceding cases clearly involves it that when 
persons for the first time sought to be admitted into the bond 
of the covenant, it would need to be done, among other servk-es, 
with confession of sin and the presentation of a sin-offering. 
And as sins generally had to be thought of in connection with 
those greatrr occasions which called for the sin-offering, it 


plainly unwarrantable to limit its application, as necessarily and 
in its own nature referring only to sins of a subordinate or 
inferior kind. 

It is true, when we turn to the ritual of the sin-offering as 
prescribed for special occasions, there is a certain limitation, not 
so properly in the kind of sins to be atoned, as in the mode of 
their commission. The sins themselves are characterized quite 
generally, " If a soul shall sin against any of the command 
ments of the Lord" (Lev. iv. 2) ; this is the common description 
which is afterwards in succession applied to priest, congregation 
as a body, ruler, private individual, in almost the same words, 
and in each case varied by the explanatory statement of some 
thing having been done which should not be done. But the 
doing is qualified by the term bishgagah (njJtJa), not strictly in 
ignorance, as the English Bible puts it, but l>y erring, by mistake, 
or oversight. The expression is partly explained by an additional 
clause, as at ch. iv. 13, where the thing said to have been done 
bishgagah is represented as " hid from the eyes of the congrega 
tion," and only afterwards becomes known to them ; and again, 
at vers. 23, 28, where the discovery of the sin is spoken of as the 
occasion of offering the sacrifice. Some light is thrown on it 
tlso by being used in one place of the manslayer (Num. xxxv. 
11), as compared with the later description, which distinguishes 
him from the murderer by his having done the deed " without 
knowing" (nj?"T v23), and " not hating him in times past." 
(Deut. iv. 42.) Then, finally, we have sins of this description 
further distinguished by being contrasted with sins of presump 
tion, literally "sins with a high hand" (Num. xv. 28-30), 
that is, sins committed in deliberate and open defiance of the 
authority of Heaven, and as with a wilful determination to contest 
with Him the supremacy. For sins of this description no sin-offer 
ing was to be allowed, while it should be accepted for the others. 1 

1 There was undoubtedly a rigour in the Old Testament regarding pre 
sumptuous sins, which is not found in the New. The greater manifestation 
of grace in the latter called for a difference, though still it is a difference 
only in degree ; for here also there is a hardened impenitence which is prac 
tically beyond the reach of mercy a phase of sin for which there is no for 
giveness, as the following passages show : Matt. xii. 31 ; Heb. x. 26-29 ; 1 
Tim. i. 20 ; 1 John v. 16, etc. Nov,\ however, the range and compass of 
mercy has become greater. 


It is quite plain, by putting together these comparative and 
explanatory statements, what are to be understood by the sins 
under consideration. If one might say, with Kurtz, that from 
the stress laid on the sins being at first hid from the guilty party, 
and only afterwards becoming known, unconscious and unin 
tentional sins were those primarily meant the normal sins, in a 
manner, of this class yet it is impossible to think only of such ; 
and Kurtz himself (Sacred Offerings, 90) has latterly found 
it needful to include many that were done knowingly and inten 
tionally sins of infirmity, committed in the violence of passion, 
under some powerful temptation, or from some motive appealing 
to the weaker part of the soul, as contradistinguished from de 
liberate and settled malice. Some of the cases specified at the 
beginning of ch. v., as among those for which sin-offerings 
might be presented, 1 put it beyond a doubt that sins of that de 
scription were to be understood. For while we have there such 
things mentioned as touching, even unwittingly, the carcase of 
an unclean beast, or the person of a man who at the time hap 
pened to be in a state of uncleanness, there is also the case of 
one who, when solemnly called upon to give evidence regarding a 
matter of which he had been cognizant, yet, for some selfish reason 
operating on him at the time, withheld the testimony he should 
have given (ver. 1), and the case of one who had pronounced 
a rash vow or oath, committing himself to do what should 
either not at all or not in the circumstances have been under 
taken (ver. 4). These were plainly things which could not have 
happened without knowledge or consciousness on the part of the 
transgressor ; but they betrayed hastiness of spirit, or the moral 

1 There is an unfortunate division and heading of chapters here ; for the 
law of the sin-offering should include all ch. iv., and also ch. v. of Leviticus 
to the end of ver. 13. It is only at ver. 14, where a new section opens with, 
" And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying," that the law of the trespass- 
offering begins, while there is no such formal introduction of a new subject 
.it the commencement of the chapter. With the exception of Bahr and 
llofmann, most commentators of note are now agreed on this as the proper 
division. That the word trespass sometimes occurs in the earlier part of 
I ll, v., merely aro>efroin tin- two kinds of otYerinj, having much in common, 
though still the proper sueriiiee here is once and again called a sin-oiY 
(vers. (i, 7, 9, 11, 12), and the victims appointed are also those of the 


weakness which could not resist a present temptation. Viewed 
in this light, too, they cannot be regarded otherwise than ;i^ 
specimens of a class ; for no one could possibly imagine, that 
moral weakness displaying itself in the matter of rash swearing, 
or in a cowardly refusal to give faithful testimony on fitting 
occasions, was different in kind from such weakness when taking 
many other directions. On this account, and also on account of 
the close connection between the sin and trespass-offering (which 
differed only, as will appear, in subordinate points), we are cer 
tainly warranted to include the sins mentioned in Lev. vi. 1-5, 
as belonging to the class now under consideration ; and among 
these are lying, deceit, betrayal of trust, false swearing, fraudu 
lent behaviour. In farther proof of the same thing, we find 
even adultery mentioned elsewhere (Lev. xix. 20), if committed 
with a bondmaid, as an offence which might be expiated by this 
class of offerings. 

From this induction of particulars several important con 
clusions follow, in respect to the nature and design of the 
offerings for sin and trespass, as indeed of the sacrificial worship 
generally of the Old Covenant, which, if duly considered, should 
put an end to certain partial and mistaken views, that occa 
sionally appear in quarters and obtain a countenance they are 
not entitled to. (1.) One of these is, that sin-offerings availed 
only for special acts of sin, or sins committed on special 
occasions, a view that we are surprised to see Kurtz still 
adhering to. Undoubtedly special sins formed appropriate 
occasions and, indeed, the greater number of occasions on 
which such offerings were expected to be presented ; but not 
by any means the whole. The grand sin-offering of every 
year was alone conclusive proof against such an idea, since in 
it a remembrance was made of sins without distinction, and the 
object was to cleanse the people from all their impurities. The 
sin-offerings at the consecration of Aaron, and the formal 
entrance of the people on the tabernacle-worship, constitute 
another proof. Coupling with such things the specific instruc 
tions given for the presentation of a sin-offering, as often as 
conviction of some particular sin bore in upon their souls, con 
scientious and thoughtful Israelites must have felt, that when 
ever a sense of sin troubled their conscience, and made them 


afraid of (J<><l s ivlmkc, it was through an offering of this de 
scription that ivlief should be sought. 

(2.) Another and greatly more common, though equally 
ungrounded notion, is, that offerings for sin, or, as it is some 
times put, all offerings under the Old Covenant, availed only 
for the atonement of ceremonial transgression, or the removal 
of ceremonial uncleanness. Biihr has exhibited this view of the 
sin-offering, holding it to have contemplated only theocratical 
sins, but not such as were in the stricter sense moral, though he 
has in this met with little support from the abler theologians of his 
own country, as in his view of sacrifice by blood generally. But 
there has ever been a tendency on the part of Unitarian writers, 
or such as are opposed to the doctrine of a vicarious atonement, 
to restrict the object of the sin-offerings to merely ceremonial 
and slighter offences. So zealously was the idea advocated by 
them about the close of last century, that Magee found it ne 
cessary to give the subject a measure of consideration. (On 
Atonement, Note 27.) Since then, however, it has occasion 
ally appeared in the writings of evangelical divines, who hold 
entirely orthodox views on the person and the work of Christ, 
and who would explain the connection between the Old and the 
New as to sin and sacrifice, by all being outward and ceremonial 
in the one, inward and real in the other. According to them, 
the sins atoned, not merely by the special sin-offerings, but also 
on the day of yearly atonenent, are to be regarded as mere 
"breaches of legal order and ceremonial etiquette, involving 
neither moral guilt nor even bodily soil or stain." As a neces 
sary consequence, the purification effected was entirely of the 
same kind : it rectified the worshipper s relation merely in an 
outward respect to the camp of God s people, or the courts of 
1 1 is house, secured for him a right of access to these, and to the 
external privileges therewith connected; but left all the sins 
which really wounded his conscience and disturbed his spiritual 
relation to God untouched, except in so far as he could descry 
through the outward and ceremonial services the type and 
a urance of a higher redemption. 1 There can be no doubt 
that the essentials of Christian doctrine can in this way be set 

1 See, for one of the latest exhibitions of this view, Dr Candlish s work 
on tlu- Atonement, ch. v. 


forth and maintained, and also that the connection between 
type and antitype can be formally preserved; but it seems 
scarcely less certain, that the character of the Old Testament 
religion, and the organic relation which especially its sacrificial 
institute held to the work of Christ, would suffer material 
damage, and be virtually undermined. For what could we 
seriously think of a religion which took specially to do with the 
moral and religious training of a people, gave them the purest 
law, and, in connection therewith, often charged them with the 
gravest sins, which yet in its most solemn services contemplated 
nothing higher than points of religious etiquette matters simply 
of conventional propriety, and lying outside the strictly moral 
sphere ? Could the means, in such a case, seem to have been 
in fitting correspondence with the aim ostensibly pursued ? 
And the punctilios of Pharisaism, instead of being the improvable 
follies and perversions of men who had lost sight of the spirit 
and design of the institutions under which they lived, should 
they not have been the native tendency and proper develop 
ment of the system ? If the most solemn parts of their religion 
spoke only of religious etiquette and outward decorum, it had 
surely been hard to blame them if they made this their chief con 
cern : they but took the impress of the economy they lived under. 
And yet this economy, strange to think, was set up by the God 
of the Bible, which is throughout so predominently ethical in its 
tone, and sets so little by the outward where the outward alone 
was to be found ! The whole, on such a view, appears full of in 
consistencies and practical contradictions. Nor can the objections 
thus raised be met by pointing to the higher things typified by 
those ceremonial expiations ; for this typical element had no 
formal place in the system : it existed no otherwise than as 
something underlying or implied in the great principles and 
relations on which the system was constructed ; and how, even 
after such a fashion, could it exist, if the moral element was 
wanting in the typical ? In the antitypical things of Christ s 
redemption the moral is the one and all; and if the ritual of 
Old Testament sacrifice had carried no proper respect to it, either 
as to guilt or purification, then the most vital link of connec 
tion between the two systems was missing. But when we look 
to the sacrificial institute itself, we find the view we contend 

Till; SIN-OFFERING. 329 

against destitute of foundation in fact. Ilengstenberg, in his 
treatise on the sacred offerings, has justly said, in opposition to 
liiihr, that " such a separation between the moral and the cere 
monial law was quite foreign to the spirit of the Old Testa 
ment ; and it can only be upheld with any appearance of truth 
by those who utterly misconceive the symbolical character of the 
ceremonial law." 1 Indeed, as we have shown in an earlier part 
of this volume (Ch. II., sec. 5), there was nothing merely cere 
monial in the Old Covenant : the moral element pervaded the 
whole, and every part of it ; and neither an exclusion nor a pri 
vilege was rightly understood, till it was seen in a moral light. 
Besides, in the ritual prescriptions concerning offerings for sin 
and trespass, breaches of the moral law (as we have seen) not only 
are included, but even occupy by much the largest place ; and 
both in that ritual and in the service of the day of atonement, "all 
transgressions," or sins against " any of the commandments of 
God, in doing what should not be done," are expressly mentioned. 
(3.) A still further though closely related form of error, 
regarding this part of the ancient sacrificial system, consists in 
distinguishing, not between moral and ceremonial (for this is 
held by the parties concerned chiefly, though not exclusively, 
of the school of Spencer to be untenable), but between external 
and internal, or sin as a political and social misdemeanour, and 
sin as a spiritual evil and disease of the heart. The law of Moses 
generally, it is alleged, and its prescriptions especially respecting 
offerings for sin, had to do with transgressions only in the one 
aspect, but not in the other. The code which regulated penalties 
and atonements among the Jews, was " a mere system of exter 
nal control, exactly parallel to the penal codes of other nations, 
except so far as it was modified by its recognising no sovereign 
but God Himself." This exception, however, was an all-im 
portant one ; for as the Sovereign, so of necessity His law ; the 
one being holy, holy in the sense of spiritual, inward, requiring 
truth in the heart, the other could not be different^ And yet 
the theory in question proceeds on the supposition that they 

1 See also Keil, .1 /// ,r ., // ( , i , p. jf-jo, who repeats the same senti 
ments; ami Kurt/, in his Sacred Offerings, 92. Both hold the division 
iHJtween positively religious or ceremoniiil ami mural laws, to have uo exist- 
i the Mosaic economy as to sacrifice. 


were different. It acknowledges that, from the state being a 
theocracy, sins were necessarily regarded as crimes, and vice 
versa ; but holds overt acts only to have possessed this character. 
These alone exposed to excision ; and it being the object of ex 
piatory sacrifice to prevent excision, its atoning value went no 
further. AVhat the worshipper gained by his offerings for sin, 
was simply to have the overt acts covered which violated its 
code of external jurisprudence ; but sin as a defilement of the 
conscience, or a moral depravity, was alike beyond legal punish 
ment and legal sacrifice. How, then, on such a view, shall we 
reconcile the Lawgiver with His law ? They stand in ill agree 
ment with each other ; for, by the supposition, the spiritual and 
holy Jehovah legislated much like an earthly sovereign, and 
dealt with things rather than with persons. Now, the law of 
the sin-offering, as the law of sacrifice in general, was based 
upon the exactly opposite principle : it had respect to persons, and 
to these as related to a God of righteousness and truth, in the 
proper sense of the terms ; and to the offerings only in so far as 
they represented what belonged to the persons, not to anything 
they might or could be by themselves. Their object, conse 
quently, was not alone to prevent excision from the theocracy, 
but rather to secure continuance therein with the favour and 
blessing of Him who presided over its interests, without which, 
to the true Israelite, the theocracy was but a shell without a 
kernel. Such an one knew perfectly that the God with whom 
He had to do, tried the reins and the hearts; that, however 
blameless outwardly, still if he regarded iniquity in his heart, 
God would not hear or bless him ; and so, when called to think 
of having atonement made for whatever he had done against 
any of the commandments of God, and which should cleanse 
him from all his transgressions, it was inevitable that the in 
ward as well as the outward, the moral as well as the political, 
defections, should have risen into view. It mattered not that 
the theocracy itself had a local habitation and a temporal his 
tory, and that its penalties partook of the same local and tem 
poral character ; for not the less on that account did they bear 
on them the impress of God s will and character, and it was 
this with which all the laws and services of the religion of the 
Israelite were designed to bring him into harmony. The higher 


and future worlds wen- comparatively veiled to his view: with 
the present alone lie had directly and ostensibly to do; but with 
this as subject to the oversight and control of One who, in His 
method of dealing, could not but show that He loved righteous 
ness and hated iniquity. And the sprinkling of the blood of atone 
ment, whether on the horns of the altar (as in the private sin-offer 
ings) or on the mercy-seat (as in the day of atonement), could not 
have properly met His case, if it had not furnished him with a pre 
sent deliverance from any burden of guilt under which he groaned. 
It is not, in truth, so much a consideration of the passages 
of Old Testament Scripture which treat of the sacrificial offer 
ings for sin, that has given rise to the views we have been con 
troverting, as certain passages in the New Testament, which 
appear to deny to those ancient sacrifices any validity as to the 
purifying of the soul. Thus it is said by Paul, " that by Christ 
all who believe are justified from all things, from which they 
could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts xiii. 39.) 
And still more strongly and expressly in Hebrews, it is declared, 
that the gifts and sacrifices of the law " could not make him that 
did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience" (ix. 9) ; 
that it was " not possible the blood of bulls and of goats could 
take away sins" (x. 4) ; and that such blood, as the ashes also 
of the heifer sprinkling the unclean, could but avail to the 
purifying of the flesh, while the blood of Christ, and this alone, 
can purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living 
God (ix. 13, 14). If such passages were to be taken absolutely, 
they would certainly deny any spiritual benefit whatever to the 
Old Testament worshipper from his legal sacrifices. But that 
they cannot be so taken, is evident alone from this, that even 
when viewed as offerings for such offences as affected the out 
ward and theocratical position of an Israelite, and satisfying for 
these, they did not, and could not, stand altogether apart from 
his conscience ; to a certain extent, at least, conscience had been 
aggrieved by what was done, and must have been purged by the 
atonement presented. But in all the passages the Apostle is 
speaking of what, in the proper sense, and in the estimation of 
God, or of a soul fully enlightened by His truth, can afford a 
real and valid satisfaction for the guilt of sin, not of what might 
or might not provide for it a present and accepted though in- 


adequate atonement. The matter stood thus : A certain visible 
relationship was established under the old economy between 
Israel and God admitting of being re-established, as often as 
it was interrupted by sin, through a system of animal sacrifices 
and corporeal ablutions. But all was, from the nature of the 
case, imperfect. The sanctuary itself, in connection with which 
the relationship was maintained, was a worldly one the mere 
image of the heavenly or true. And even that was in its inner 
glory veiled to the worshipper : God hid at the very time He 
revealed Himself kept Himself at some distance, even when He 
came nearest, so that manifestly the root of the evil w r as not yet 
reached : the conscience was not in such a sense purged as to 
be made perfect, or capable of feeling thoroughly at its ease in 
the presence of the Holy One ; for that another and higher, 
medium of purification was needed, and should be looked for. 
At the same time, there was such a purification administered 
as secured for those who experienced it a certain measure of 
access to God s fellowship and sense of His favour ; it sanctified 
their flesh, so as to admit of their personal approach to the place 
where God recorded His name, and met with His people to bless 
them. The flesli of the worshipper, in such a connection, 
becomes the correlative to the worldly sanctuary, on the part of 
God ; not as if these were actually the whole, though ostensibly 
they were such; and while atonements mediated between the 
two, removing from time to time the barrier which sin was ever 
tending to raise, yet it was by so imperfect a medium, and with 
results so transitory, that the conscience of the worshipper could 
not feel as if the proper and efficient remedy had yet been found. 
Hence, as elsewhere it is said of the difference between the Old 
and the New in God s dispensations, " The law came by Moses, 
but grace and truth by Jesus Christ," or, "The darkness is 
past, the clear light now shineth" not as if there had been no 
light, no grace and truth before, but merely none worthy to be 
compared with what now appeared ; so in the passages under 
consideration, the measure of relief and purification to guilty 
consciences which were afforded l.y the provisional institutions of 
the tabernacle, because of their inadequate character, and the 
imperfect means employed in their accomplishment, are for 
the occasion overlooked or placed out of sight, in order to bring 


prominently out the real, the ultimate, and perfect salvation that 
had been at length brought in by Christ. 

With these explanations in regard to the general nature of 
the sin-offering, and the objects for which it was presented, we 
turn now to the ritual concerning the offering itself. And first 
in respect to the choice of victims : where we meet with a strik 
ing diversity, according to the position of the party for whom 
the offering was to be made. When the sin was that merely of a 
private member of the congregation, the offering was to consist 
of a female kid of the goat or lamb (Lev. iv. 28, v. 6) so also 
at the discharge of the Nazarite, and the purification of the 
leper (Num. vi. 14 ; Lev. xiv. 10) or, in cases of poverty, two 
turtle-doves or two young pigeons, but merely as a substitute 
for the normal offering ; and when even such would have proved 
too heavy a tax on the circumstances of the offerer, a little flour 
was allowed to be used, though without oil or frankincense. 
When the offender was a ruler in the congregation, the offer 
ing was to be a male kid, when it was the congregation or the 
high priest, on ordinary occasions, a young bullock ; while on 
the day of atonement the offering for the congregation consisted 
of two goats, and that for the high priest was a bullock ; because 
not only in his official capacity did he represent the congrega 
tion, but, from his standing in a relation of peculiar nearness to 
God, sinfulness in him assumed a more offensive and aggravated 
character. There was thus, by means of a graduated scale in the 
offerings, brought out the important lesson, that while all sin is 
offensive in the sight of God, so as by whomsoever committed 
to deserve a penalty, which can only be averted by the blood of 
atonement, it grows in offensiveness with the position and num 
ber of transgressors ; and the higher in privileges, the nearer to 
( Jod, so much greater also is the guilt to be atoned. Hence, in 
Ezekiel s vision of judgment, the words, " Slay utterly young and 
<>ld, and li ijin (d my sanctuary" (ix. 6) where, namely, the sin 
was most aggravated. 

But the chief and most distinctive peculiarity in this species 
of sacrifice, was the action with the Hood, which, though varir 
ously employed, was always used so as to give a relatively 
strong and intense expression to the ideas of sin and atonement. 


When the offering had respect to a single individual, a ruler or 
a private member of the congregation, the blood was not simply 
to be poured round about the altar, but some of it also to be 
sprinkled upon the horns of the altar its prominent points, its 
insignia, as they may be called, of honour and dignity. When 
the offering was of an inferior kind, and consisted only of doves, 
as in the case of very poor persons, this latter action was not 
prescribed. (Lev. v. 9.) But if it was for the sin of the high 
priest (" the priest that is anointed," Lev. iv. 3, meaning, how 
ever, the high priest, because he had the anointing in a pre 
eminent sense ; comp. Lev. xvi. 32 ; Ps. cxxxiii. 2), or of the 
congregation at large, besides these actions in the outer court, 
a portion of the blood was to be carried into the Sanctuary, 
where the priest was to sprinkle with his finger seven times 
before the inner veil, and again upon the horns of the altar of 
incense. It was to be done in the Holy Place before the veil, 
because that was the symbolical dwelling-place of the high 
priest, or of the congregation as represented by him ; and upon 
the altar of incense in particular, because that was the most 
important article of furniture there, and one also that stood in 
a near relation to the altar of burnt-offering. A still higher 
expression, and the last, the highest expression which could be 
given of the ideas in question by means of the blood, was pre 
sented when the high priest, on the day of atonement, went 
with the blood of his own and the people s sin-offering into the 
Most Holy Place, and sprinkled the mercy-seat the very place 
of Jehovah s throne. In this action the sin appeared, on the one 
hand, rising to its most dreadful form of a condemning witness 
in the presence-chamber of God, and, on the other, the atonement 
assumed the appearance of so perfect and complete a satisfaction, 
that the sinner could come nigh to the seat of God, and return 
again not only unscathed, but with a commission from Him to 
banish the entire mass of guilt into the gulph of utter oblivion. 
It is from the peculiar character of the sin-offering as God s 
special provision for removing the guilt of sin, from what might 
be called the intensely atoning power of its blood, that the other 
arrangements, especially in regard to the flesh, were ordered. 
The blood was so sacred, that if any portion of it should by 
accident have come upon the garments of the persons officiating, 

Till: SIN-OFFERING. 335 

the garment "whereon it was sprinkled was to be washed in 
the Holy Place" (Lev. vi. 27) ; it must not be carried out 
beyond the proper region of consecrated things. The flesh was 
not consume! upon the altar the fat alone was burned, as 
standing in near connection with the more vital parts, and the 
indication of life in its greater healthfulness and vigour (but 
see under Peace-offering, in which the burning of the fat formed 
a more distinguishing feature) ; and though the kidneys and the 
caul above -the liver, or rather, the greater lobe of the liver, 
which had the caul attached to it, are also mentioned as parts to 
be burnt, yet it was simply from their being so closely connected 
with the fat, that they were regarded as in a manner one with 
it (whence, in Lev. iii. 16, vii. 30, 31, all the parts actually 
burnt are called simply the fat). These portions, as specially set 
apart for Jehovah, were burnt upon the altar, in token of His 
acceptance of the offering, and were declared to be " a sweet 
savour" to Him (Lev. iv. 31) so completely had the guilt been 
abolished by the blood of expiation. But while the flesh itself 
was not consumed upon the altar, it was declared to be most 
holy (literally, " a holy of holies "), and could be eaten by none 
but the officiating priests, not even by their families, and by 
themselves only within the sacred precincts of the tabernacle. 
And if the vessel in which it was prepared was earthen, receiv 
ing as it must then have done a portion of the substance, it was 
required to be broken, as too sacred to be henceforth applied to 
a common use ; or if of brass, it was ordered to be scoured and 
rinsed in water, that not even the smallest fragment of flesh so 
holy might come in contact with common things, or be carried 
beyond the bounds of the sanctuary. (Lev. vi. 25-29, vii. 6.) 

In connection with this eating of the flesh of the sin-offering 
by the priesthood, there is a passage which has given rise to a good 
deal of controversy ; it is that in which Moses said to Aaron of 
this offering, " It is most holy, and it is given you to bear the 
iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before 
tin- Lord." (Lev. x. 17.) This cannot mean that the flesh of 
the sin-offering still had the iniquities of the people, as it were, 
inhering in it, and that the priests, by devouring the one, made 
finally ;i\\;iy with the other. In that case, the flesh must rather 
have been ivgarded as most polluted, instead of being most holy. 


And it seems strange that Hengstenberg should still adhere to 
that view, which was adopted by some of the older commen 
tators. But the atonement, in the strict and proper sense, was 
made when, after the imposition of hands, the penalty of death 
\vas inflicted on the victim, and its blood sprinkled on the altar 
of God. This denoted that its life-blood was not only given, 
but also accepted by God, in the room of the sinful ; which was 
further exhibited by the burning of the fatty parts as a sweet 
savour. And the eating of the flesh by the priests, as at once 
God s familiars and the people s representatives, could only be 
intended to give a symbolical representation of the completeness 
of the reconciliation to show by their incorporation with the 
sacrifice, how entirely through it the guilt had been removed, 
and the means of removing it converted even into the suste 
nance of the holiest life. The "bearing of the iniquity," if 
viewed in reference to the eating of the flesh by the priesthood, 
could only be viewed as a still farther exhibition of the same 
idea completing the transaction by the surrender of the Lord s 
portion to His chosen servants for their enjoyment, and thereby 
showing the perfected result of the atonement. But it is not 
necessary to connect what is said in the passage referred to 
specifically with the eating of the flesh : the view of Hofmann, 
adopted by Kurtz and several others, seems the more correct, 
viz., that it is of the sin-offering itself, not of the eating of its 
flesh, that God had given it to the priesthood to take away the 
iniquity of the congregation ; and this is mentioned for the pur 
pose of showing why it should be regarded by them as a most 
holy thing, and therefore fit to be eaten. When, however, 
Kurtz says (Sac. Offerings, 118), that "the eating of the 
flesh by the priests had no other signification than to set forth 
the idea that the priests, as the servants of God and the mem 
bers of His household, were supplied from the table of God," 
this seems to carry the matter somewhat too far on the other 
side ; for it was surely a most natural inference to draw from 
such eating, that God intended thereby to set before the offerer 
how completely his sin had been taken away, and his restoration 
to the favour of Heaven had been effected. 1 

1 The elder, and indeed mcst also of the recent typologists, completely 
misunderstood this eating of the flesh of the sin-offering, regarding it as a 

Till-: SIN-OFFEKING. 337 

But it was only in the case of sin-offerings for the private 
member, or the single ruler in the congregation, that the flesh 
was to be eaten by the priesthood : in those cases in which the 
blood was carried within the sanctuary, that is, when the offer 
ing had respect to a sin of the high priest, or of the congrega 
tion at large with whom, as the public representative, he was 
nearly identified then the flesh was appointed to be carried 
without the camp, and burnt in a clean place. (Ch. iv. 12, 21, 
vi. 30.) These being sacrifices of a higher value, and bearing 
on them a stamp of still greater sacredness than those whose 
flesh was eaten by the priesthood, the injunction not to eat of 
it here, but to carry it without the camp and burn it, could not, 
as Biihr remarks (ii., p. 397), have arisen from any impurity 
supposed to reside in the flesh. It is true that all impure things 
were ordered to be carried out of the camp, but it does not fol 
low from this, that everything taken without the camp was 
impure ; and in this case it was expressly provided, that the 

kind of eating of the sin, and so bearing it, or making it their own. See, for 
example, Gill on Lev. x. 17 ; Bush on ibid, and ch. vi. 30 ; also Deyling, 
Obs. Sac., i., sect. 65, 2. It was thought in this way to afford the best 
adumbration of Christ, whom the priests typified, being made a sin for His 
people, or taking their guilt upon His own person and bearing it away. 
But it proceeds upon a wrong foundation, and utterly confounds the proper 
relation of things ; the flesh as most holy, and appointed to be eaten, must 
have represented the acceptableness or completeness of the sacrifice, not the 
sinfulness of the sin atoned. Keil s statement in support of the other view, 
that the priests, by virtue of their office, and as the holy ones, who them 
selves needed no atonement, took the sins of the people on themselves and 
consumed them, would place the atoning power in the priesthood rather 
than in the sacrifice, and would also regard the flesh as being still charged 
with sin, after it had become most holy. Philo, De Viet., 13, as quoted by 
< Kliler, who takes the view we advocate, gave the sense correctly when he 
said, God would not have allowed His priests to partake of such a meal, if 
full forgiveness of sin had not entered. By this view also the correspond 
ence is best preserved between the sin-offering and Christ. For, as soon 
as He completed His offering by bearing the penalty of death, the relative 
impurity was gone; He was immediately treated as the Holy One and the 
His Spirit passed into glory, and even His body was preserved as a 

1 thing and treated with honour, providentially kept from violence. 
sought for and received by the rich among the people, and committed to 
the tomb with the usages of an honourable burial. Christ s work of humi 
liation was consummated in His death, and from that moment began to 

,r the precursors of His exaltation to glory. 


place to which the flesh was brought should be clean, implying 
that it was itself pure. The arrangement both as to the not 
eating, and the burning without the camp, seems to have arisen 
from the nature and object of the offering. In the cases re 
ferred to, the high priest was himself concerned, directly or 
indirectly, in the atonement, and could not properly partake 
of the flesh of the victim, as this would have given it the cha 
racter of a peace-offering. The flesh, as well as the blood, must 
therefore be given to the Lord. But it could not be burnt on 
the altar, for this would have given it the character of a burnt- 
offering ; neither could there in that case have been so clear an 
expression of the ideas which were here to be rendered promi 
nent, viz., first, the identification of the offering with the sinner s 
guilt, then the completeness of the satisfaction, and the entire 
removal of the iniquity. These ends were best served as in 
private cases by the priest eating the flesh so here, by the 
carrying of the carcase to a clean place without the camp, and 
consuming it there as a holy of holies to the Lord ; for as all 
in the camp had to do with it, it was thus taken apart from them 
all, and out of sight of all devoted by fire to the Lord. 1 

The only additional regulation regarding the sin-offering 
was, that of no meat or drink-offering accompanying it; and 

1 The same fundamental error here also pervades most of the typical 
interpretations, which generally proceed on the supposition of the flesh 
being still charged with sin, and very commonly regard the consuming of 
it with fire as representing either the intense suffering of Christ, or the 
personal sufferings of the lost hereafter. Besides going on a wrong supposi 
tion, this notion is still further objectionable on account of its deriving the 
idea of suffering from what was absolutely incapable of feeling it. The 
dead carcase was unconscious alike both of pain and pleasure ; and then, 
as it was entirely consumed, if referring to Christ, it must have signified 
His absolutely perishing under the curse if to the lost sinner, His annihila 
tion by the sufferings. The reference made in Heb. xiii. 11, to the burning 
of the carcase of the sin-offerings without the camp, is in perfect accordance 
with the explanation given above : " For the bodies of those beasts, whose 
blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin (i.e., the sin- 
offerings), are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He 
might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 
Let us, therefore," etc. It is rather an allusion to the rite than an explicit 
and proper interpretation of it. The real city, to which God s people belong, 
and out of which Christ suffered, is heaven, as the inspired writer, indeed, 

1 Hi: SIN-OFFERING. 339 

in those cases of extreme poverty, in which an offering of flour 
was allowed to be presented, instead of the pigeons or the goat, 
no oil or frankincense was to be put on it, " for it is a sin-offer 
ing." (Ch. v. 11.) The meaning of this is correctly given by 
Kurtz : " Oil and incense symbolized the Spirit of God and the 
prayer of the faithful ; the meat-offering, always good works ; 
but these are then only good works and acceptable to God, when 
they proceed from the soil of a heart truly sanctified, when they 
are yielded and matured by the Spirit of God, and when, farther, 
they are presented to God as His own work in man, accompanied 
on the part of the latter with the humble and grateful acknow 
ledgment that the works are the offspring, not of his own good 
ness, but of the grace of God. The sin-offering, however, was 
pre-eminently the atonement-offering ; the idea of atonement 
came so prominently out, that no room was left for the others. 
The consecration of the person, and the presentation of his good 
works to the Lord, had to be reserved for another stage in the 
sacrificial institute." 1 

[The occasions on which the private and personal sin-offer 
ings were presented, beside those mentioned in Lev. iv. and v., 
were : when a Nazarite had touched a dead corpse, or when the 
time of his vow was completed (Num. vi. 10-14) ; at the purifi- 

intimates in ver. 14. But the overruling providence of God so ordered 
matters, that there should be an image of this in the place of Christ s suffer 
ings as compared with the earthly Jerusalem. In His case it was designed 
to be a mark of infamy, to make Him suffer without the gate a sign that 
He could not be the Messiah. But viewed in reference to the ancient type, 
it proved rather the reverse, as, in addition to all the proper and essential 
marks of agreement between the two, it served to provide even a formal 
and external resemblance. Though the bodies of those sin-offerings were 
burnt without the camp, they were still a holy of holies to the Ixmi : they 
did not on that account become a polluted thing ; and Christ s having, in 
like manner, suffered without the gate, though certainly designed by men 
t<> exlubit Him as an object of ignominy and shame, did not render Him 
the less the holy child of God, whose blood could fitly be taken into the 
highest heavens. But if He satined Himself to l>e cast out, that He might 
bear our doom, it surely would ill become us to be unwilling to go out and 
bear His re| roaeh. This is the general idea; but the passage is rather of 
the hortatory than the explanatory kind, and passes so rapidly from one 
point to another, that to press each particular closely would be to make it 
yield a false and inconsistent meaning. 
1 Mosau-ehe Opfer, p. I .i J. 


cation of the leper (Lev. xiv. 19-31), and of women after lon<^- 
continuetl haemorrhage or after child-birth (Lev. xii. 6-8, xv. 
25-30), pointing to the corruption not only indicated by the 
bodily disease, but also strictly connected with the powers and 
processes of generation the fountain-head, as they might be 
called, of human depravity. This also accounts for the case men 
tioned in Lev. xv. 2, 14, being an occasion for presenting a sin- 
offering ; as it does also for the relative impurity connected in 
so many ways with the same, even where an atonement was not 
actually required, but washing only enjoined.] 


That the trespass, or, as it should rather be called, the guilt 
or debt-offering (Q^ N, asham\ stood in a very near relation to 
the sin-offering, and to a great extent was identified with it in 
nature, is evident from the description given of the trespass- 
offering in Lev. v. 14-vi. 7, and in particular from the declara 
tion in ch. vii. 7, " as the sin-offering is, so is the trespass-offer 
ing : there is one law for them." But great difficulty has been 
found in drawing precisely the line of demarcation between the 
two kinds of offerings, and in pointing out, regarding the tres 
pass-offering, what constituted the specific difference between 
it and the sin-offering. The difficulty, if not altogether caused, 
has been very much increased, by the mistake adverted to in a 
preceding note, of supposing the directions regarding the tres 
pass-offering to begin with ch. v., whereas they really commence 
with the new section at ver. 14, where, as usual, the new subject 
is introduced with the words : " The Lord spake unto Moses, 
saying." These words do not occur at the beginning of the 
chapter itself; the section to the end of the 13th verse was 
added to the preceding chapter regarding the sin-offering, with 
the view of specifying certain occasions on which it should be 
presented, and making provision for a cheaper sort of sacrifice 
to persons in destitute circumstances. But in each case the 
sacrifice itself, without exception, is called a sin-offering, vers. 6, 
7, 8, 9, 11, 12. In one verse, indeed (the 6th), it is said in our 
version, "And he shall bring his trespass-offering;" but this 
is a mere mistranslation, and should have been rendered, as it 

Till-: TKF.Sl ASS-UFFKKIN*;. 341 

is in tlu- very next verse, where the ezpVeMion in the original 
is the same, "And he shall bring for (or as) his trespass." 
Throughout the section the sin is denominated an asJtam, that 
is, a matter of guilt or debt ; and all sin is such, viewed in re 
ference to the law of God, so that every sin-offering might also 
be called an asham, as well as a hattah, or sin-offering. The 
same mode of expression is used in respect to what was unques 
tionably the sin-offering (see ch. iv. 3, 13, etc.). But what 
were distinctively called by the name of as/mm, were offerings 
for sins in which the offence given, or the debt incurred by the 
misdeed, admitted of some sort of estimation and recompense ; 
so that, in addition to the atonement required for the iniquity, 
in the one point of view, there might also, in the other, be the 
exaction and the payment of a restitution. 

That this is the real import of the as/taw, as distinguished 
from the hattah or sin, is clear from the passage Num. v. 5-8, 
where the former is marked as a consequence of the latter, and 
such a consequence as admitted and demanded a material re 
compense : " When a man or woman shall commit any sin that 
men commit, to do a trespass (or deal fraudulently) against the 
Lord, and that person be guilty (noti X) ; then they shall con 
fess their sin which they have done : and he shall recompense 
his asham with the principal thereof, and add to it the fifth part 
thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed 
(literally, to whom he has become guilty). But if the man have 
no kinsman to recompense the asham unto, let the asham be re 
compensed unto the Lord, to the priest, besides the ram of the 
atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him." 
The Lord, in this latter case, as being the original proprietor of 
the land, slept into the room of the deceased person who had sus 
tained the injury, and received, through His representative, the 
priest, the earthly restitution, while the sacrifice was also given 
to the Lord for the offence committed against His authority. 
In the primary law on the subject in Leviticus, there are two 
sections, each beginning with the formula, "And the Lord 
spake to Moses," ch. v. 14-17, vi. 1-7, and each including a 
distinct class of cases for trespass-offerings. The relation of the 
two to each other has been matter of much controversy of late ; 
but the order and succession of topics may be briefly stated, and 


in a perfectly clear and natural manner. In the first section 
are mentioned in the front rank sins committed against the holy 
things of God, i.e., anything devoted or vowed to Him, tithes, 
first-fruits, etc., a want of faithfulness in respect to these, and 
done in ignorance or oversight; then, besides these, in vers. 
17-19, all sins whatever against the commandments of the Lord 
are included, if done in a similar manner, unconsciously, or from 
want of due consideration. In the other section, beginning with 
the next chapter, a different class of cases is introduced, and 
one in which there must have been a perfect consciousness on 
the part of the person offending, viz., violation of a pledge or 
trust committed to any one, swearing falsely regarding it, or 
regarding lost property which had been found, and generally 
acting in a deceitful and fraudulent way concerning the pro 
perty of another. It is impossible but that there must here 
have been a clear perception of the nature of the things done, 
and a sense of their wrongness ; while yet, if no reconciliation 
and atonement had been allowed for the offender, the law would 
have proved too rigorous for human frailty and imperfection. 
This, consequently, was allowed. But in all such cases a debt 
was manifestly incurred ; and, indeed, a twofold debt : a debt, 
first of all, to the Lord as the only supreme Head of the com 
monwealth whose laws had been transgressed, and a debt also 
to a party on earth whose constitutional rights had been invaded. 
In both respects alike the priest was to make an estimate of the 
wrong done ; and in the first respect, the debt (whatever might 
be the valuation) was discharged by the presentation of a ram 
for the asham or trespass-offering, ver. 15 ; while in the other, 
the actual sum was to be paid to the party wronged, with an 
additional fifth. 

The same limitations as to the manner of committing the 
sins in question, were evidently intended to apply here, as in 
respect to those for which the sin-offering was presented. They 
were such as had been done in ignorance, unawares, through 
the influence of passion or temptation ; and it is plain, that 
those most distinctly specified could not possibly have been com 
mitted without a consciousness of sin at the very time of their 
being done. But the precise aspect under which the sins wciv 
considered, was taken from a somewhat lower point of view than 


in the case of the sin-offering. It was a reckoning for sin with 
a predominant respect to the social and economical evils growing 
out of it, or to the violation of rights involved in its commission ; 
the higher and primary relations not being, indeed, overlooked, 
for every violation of duty is also a sin against God, but only 
less prominently exhibited. Hence, while, to mark the amount 
of evil done, a ram from the flock was always to be the offering, 
the manner of dealing with it, when presented, was such as to 
indicate that a relatively inferior place belonged to it as compared 
with the sin-offering ; the blood was only poured around the 
altar, not sprinkled on the horns, nor carried within the sanctu 
ary ; and on those more public and solemn occasions on which a 
whole series of offerings was to be presented, we never find the 
trespass-offering taking the place of the sin-offering, or occur 
ring in addition to it. (Ex. xxix.; Lev. xvi.; Num. vii., xxviii., 
xxix.) So that the trespass-offering may justly be regarded as 
a kind of sin-offering of the second rank, intended for such 
cases as were peculiarly fitted for enforcing upon the sinner s 
conscience the moral debt he had incurred by his transgression, 
in the reckoning of God, and the necessity of his at once ren 
dering satisfaction to the Divine justice he had offended, and 
making restitution in regard to the brotherly relations he had 
violated. 1 

There can be little doubt that this more restricted and in 
ferior character of the trespass-offering is the reason why, in 
New Testament Scripture, the one great sacrifice of Christ is 
never spoken of with special reference to it, while so often pre 
sented under the aspect of a sin-offering. We find there, how 
ever, mentfon frequently enough made of sin as a debt incurred 
toward God, rendering the sinner liable to the exaction of a 
suitable recompense to the offended justice of Heaven. This 
satisfaction it is possible for him to pay only in the person of 
his substitute, the Lamb of God, whose blood is so infinitely 
precious, that it is amply sufficient to cancel, in behalf of every 

1 This view of the trespass-offering is now generally concurred in. ;il><> 
by Hengstenberg iu his last treatise, Mos. Op., p. 21, as well as by Bahr, 
Kurt/., and others. For the reason of a trespass-offering being required in 
the purification of a leper, and also of a Nazarite who had broken his vow, 
tee what is said in connection with the two cases. 


believer, the guilt of numberless transgressions. But while this 
one ransom alone can satisfy for man s guilt the injured claims 
of God s law of holiness ; wherever the sin committed assumes 
the form of a wrong done to a fellow-creature, God justly 
demands, as an indispensable condition of His granting an 
acquittal in respect to the higher province of righteousness, that 
the sinner show his readiness to make reparation in this lower 
province, which lies within his reach. He who refuses to put 
himself on right terms with an injured fellow-mortal, can never 
be received into terms of peace and blessing with an offended 
God. And if he should even proceed so far as to bring his gift 
to the altar, while he there remembers that his brother has 
somewhat against him, he must not presume to offer it, as he 
should then offer it in vain, but go and render due satisfaction 
to his brother, and then come and offer the gift. (Matt. v. 23,24.) 


The name commonly given in Scripture to this species of 
sacrifice is olah ( n o>), an ascension, so called from the whole being 
consumed and going up in a flame to the Lord. It also received 
the name kalil (/^), the whole, with reference also to the entire 
consumption, and possibly not without respect to its general and 
comprehensive character. 

For in this respect it was distinguished from all the other 
sacrifices, and raised above them. The sin and trespass-offerings 
were presented with the view sjmply of making atonement for 
sin, very commonly particular sins, and had for their object the- 
restoring of the offerer to a state of peace and fellowship with 
God, which had been interrupted by the commission of iniquity. 
But the burnt-offering was for those who were already standing 
within the bonds of the covenant, and without any such sense 
of guilt lying upon their conscience as exposed them to excision 
from the covenant. We are not, however, to suppose on this 
account, that there was to be no conscience of sin in the offerer 
when he presented this sacrifice ; for he was required to lay his 
hand on the head of the victim (with which confession of sin 
was always accompanied), and it was expressly said "to be ac 
cepted for him, to make atonement for him; (Lev. i. 4, and 

11 1 K BURNT-OFFERL\< i . 345 

also cli. xvi. 24.) But the guilt for which atonement here re 
quired to be made, was not that properly of special and formal 
acts of transgression, but rather of those shortcomings and 
imperfections which perpetually cleave to the servant of God, 
and mingle even with his best services. Along, however, with 
this sense of unworthiness and sin, which enters as an abiding 
element into the state of his mind, there is invariably coupled, 
especially in his exercises of devotion, a surrender and consecra 
tion of his person and powers to the service of God. While he 
is conscious of, and laments the deficiencies of the past, he can 
not but desire to manifest a spirit of more complete devotedness 
in the time to come. And it was to express this complicated 
state of feeling, to which the whole and every individual of the 
covenant people should have been continually exercising them 
selves, that the service of the burnt-offering was appointed. 

Hence this offering, combining in itself to a considerable 
extent what belonged to the other sacrifices, might be regarded 
as embodying the general idea of sacrifice, and as in a sense 
representing the whole sacrificial institute. So it appears in 
Deut. xxxiii. 10, where the office of the priesthood in the pre 
sentation of offerings is described simply with a reference to 
this species of sacrifice : " They shall put incense before Thee, 
and whole burnt-sacrifice upon Thy altar." On the same ac 
count, it was the kind of offering which was to be presented 
morning and evening in behalf of the whole covenant people, 
and which, especially during the night, when the altar was 
required for no other use, was to be so slowly consumed that it 
might last till the morning. (Ex. xxix. 38-46 ; Num. xxviii. 3 ; 
Lev. vi. 9.) So that it was the daily and nightly, in a sense the 
perpetual sacrifice the symbolical expression of what Israel 
should have been ever receiving from Jehovah as the God of 
the covenant, and what they, as children of the covenant, should 
ever have yielded to Him in return. And on account of its hav 
ing such a position in the sacrificial institute, as formerly noticed, 
the altar of sacrifice came to be familiarly called "the altar of 

All the more special directions regarding particular burnt- 
offerings agree with the view now exhibited. In conformity 
with its general and comprehensive character, or its connection 


with the abiding and habitual state of the worshipper, much was 
left to his own discretion, both as to the kind of victim to be 
presented, the greater or less amount of the sacrifice (which on 
very joyful occasions rose to an immense height, 1 Kings iii. 4, 
etc.), and the particular times for presenting it. It might be 
chosen either from the herd or the flock, but in each case must 
be a male without blemish, the best and most perfect of its kind ; 
or he might even go to the genus of fowls, and choose a turtle 
dove or young pigeon. The blood of the victim was simply 
poured around the altar, the most general form of the atoning 
action ; and, with the exception of the skin, which was all that 
could be given to the priests without detracting from the com 
pleteness of the offering, the whole carcase, after being cut into 
suitable pieces, and the filth that might adhere to any of them 
washed off, was laid upon the altar and burnt. (In the case of 
the pigeons, the crop was first removed, as but imperfectly be 
longing to the bird, not properly a part of its flesh and blood.) 
In that consumption of the whole, after the outpouring of the 
blood, for his acceptance, the offerer, if he entered into the spirit 
of the service, saw expressed his own dedication of himself, soul 
and body, to the service of God self-dedication following upon, 
and growing out of, pardon and acceptance with God. And as 
such consecration of the person to God must again appear, and 
express itself in the fruits of a holy life, the burnt-offering was 
always accompanied with a meat and drink-offering, through 
which the worshipper pledged himself to the diligent perform 
ance of the deeds of righteousness. (Num. xv. 3-11, xxviii. 
7-15.) For the thankful consecration of the person to the Lord 
must show itself in a life and conduct conformed to the Divine 
will, responding to the word of Christ, " Ye are My friends, if 
ye do whatsoever I command you." 

That Christ was here also the end of the law, and realized 
to the full what the burnt-offering thus symbolized, will rent lily 
be understood. In so far as it contained the blood of atone 
ment, ever in the course of being presented for the covenant 
people, it shadowed forth Christ as the one and all for His 
people, in regard to deliverance from the guilt of sin the foun 
tain to which they must daily and hourly repair, to be washed 
from their uncleanness. And in so far as it expressed, through 


the consumption of the victim and the accompaniment of food, 
the dedication of the offerer to God for all holy working and 
fruitf ulness in well-doing, the symbol met with unspeakably its 
highest realization in Him who came not to do His own will, 
but the will of the Father that sent Him ; who sought not His 
own glory, but the glory of His Father ; who said, even in the 
last extremities, and in reference to the most appalling trials, 
" Not My will, but Thine, be done. I have glorified Thee on 
earth : I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do. 
And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with 
the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." 

But in this the blessed Redeemer did not stand alone ; here 
it could no longer be said, " Of the people there was none with 
Him." As bearing the doom and penalty of sin, He is infinitely 
exalted above the highest and holiest of His brethren. None of 
them can share with Him either in the burden or the glory of 
the work given Him to do. These are exclusively His own, and 
it is for them simply to receive from His hand, as the debtors of 
His grace, and enter into the spoils of His dear-bought victory. 
But in the spirit of self-dedication and holy obedience, which 
animated Him throughout the whole of His undertaking, He 
was the forerunner of His people, and the same spirit must 
breathe and operate in them. As He yielded Himself to the 
Father, so they must yield themselves to Him, drawn by the 
constraint of His love and the mercies of His redemption to 
present themselves in Him as living sacrifices, that they may 
prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. 
And the more always they realize their interest in His blood for 
the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, the more will they 
be disposed to yield themselves to the Lord for a ready submis 
sion to His righteous will, and to say with the Psalmist, " O 
Lord, truly I am Thy servant ; I am Thy servant, the son of 
Thine handmaid : Thou hast loosed my bonds." 


The general name for this species of offering is xlu lnmim 
(DVpto): it comes from a root which signifies to make up, to 
supply what is wanting or deficient, to pay or recompense ; and 


hence it very naturally came to express a state in which, all 
misunderstandings having been removed and good experienced, 
there was room for friendship, joy, and thankfulness. 1 And 
the sacrifice which went by this name, might be employed in 
reference to any occasion on which such ideas became strikingly 

The peace-offerings appear under three divisions the sacri 
fice of thanksgivings or praise ( n "^ n )> of a vow (T!?.)> an( l of 
free-will ("^"li). The last of these is marked as being somewhat 
inferior, by the circumstance that an animal with something 
lacking or superfluous in its parts might be offered (Lev. xxii. 
23), while in both the other sorts the rule, of being without 
blemish, was strictly enforced (ver. 21). And again a difference 
is marked, a measure of inferiority in both of the two last as 
compared with the first, in that they are treated conjointly, as 
coming under the same general laws (Lev. vii. 16-21), while 
the first has a section for itself (vers. 11-15) ; and also that the 
flesh of those two might be eaten, either on the first or the 
second day, while the flesh of the thank-offering required to be 
eaten on the first, or else burnt with fire. These are certainly 
rather slight distinctions ; but they are quite sufficient to indi 
cate degrees of excellence or worth in the respective offerings, 
in which the sacrifice of praise holds the highest, and that of 
free-will the lowest place. While also the free-will and the 
votive peace-offering had much in common, and are made to 
stand under one general law as to the service connected with 
them, they are not unfrequently presented as in a kind of con 
trast to each other. (Lev. vii. 16, xxii. 21, 23, etc.) This. 
however, merely arose from the different circumstances in which 
they were usually presented. Persons, who received some striking 
interpositions of Providence at a time when they could not make 
any suitable outward return, or, more commonly, persons who 
were involved in danger or distress, and greatly desired the 
interposition of the Divine hand to bring deliverance, were ac 
customed to vow certain offerings to the Lord in respect to the 

1 Some recent commentators would derive the terra from the Piel of the 
verb (D&EOj "which means to compensate or repay ; and hence the idea of 
thankfulness comes more distinctly out. Thank-offerings, rather than 
peace-offerings, they regard as the proper appellation. 

Tin: rK.UT.-ni-TKKiNC. 349 

goodness cither actually vouchsafed or fervently sought. From 
the moment that the vow was made, they lay under an express 
obligation to perform what was specified ; their sacrifice as to its 
obligation ceased to be a voluntary service; and if some time 
elapsed between the promise and the performance, there was con 
siderable danger of the feeling that dictated the vow suffering 
abatement, and the worshipper either failing to make good his 
obligation, or doing so under a constraint. Jacob himself, the 
father of the covenant people, formed a memorable example of 
this ; having failed in the strict and proper sense to pay the vow 
he made at Bethel, after he returned to Canaan, until, reproved 
by judgments in his family, and warned by God, he repaired 
to the place. (Gen. xxxv. 1-7). Hence not only the sort of 
contrast sometimes indicated between the votive and the free 
will offerings, but also the pointed allusions to the necessity of 
fulfilling such vows after they were made, and the care which 
pious men took to maintain in this respect a good conscience. 
(Ps. xxii. 25, Ixvi. 13, Ixxvi. 11 ; Prov. xx. 25 ; Eccl. v. 4, 5, 
etc.) When actually presented, such votive offerings must have 
partaken chiefly of the nature of thanksgivings, as in the mode 
of their origination they possessed somewhat of the character of 
a prayer. In ordinary circumstances, however, and when the 
worshipper was in a condition to give outward and immediate 
expression to his feelings in an act of worship, it would seem 
that the free-will peace-offering was the embodied prayer, as 
we find peace-offerings presented in circumstances which natu 
rally called for supplication, and which preclude the thought 
of any other free-will offerings. (Judg. xx. 26, xxi. 4 ; 1 Sam. 
xiii. 9 ; 2 Sam. xxiv. 25.) And the relation of the three kinds 
to each other, with their respective gradations, may be indicated 
with probable correctness as follows: The thank or praise-offer 
ing was the expression of the worshipper s feelings of adoring 
gratitude on account of having received some spontaneous tokens 
of the Lord s goodness this was the highest form, as here tin- 
grace of God shone prominently forth. The vow-sacrifice was 
the expression of like feelings for benefits received from the 
Divine beneficence, but which were partly conferred in con 
sideration of a vow made by the worshipper this was of a lower 
grade, baying something of man connected with it. And the 


free-will offering, which was presented without any constraint of 
necessity, and either without respect to any special acts of mercy 
experienced, or with a view to the obtaining of such, occupied a 
still lower ground, as the worshipper here took the initiative, and 
appeared in the attitude of one seeking after God. 1 

In regard to the offerings themselves, they were all to be 
accompanied with imposition of hands and the sprinkling of the 
blood round about the altar, which implied that they had, to some 
extent, to do with sin, and, like all the other offerings of blood, 
brought this to remembrance. The occasion of their presenta 
tion being some manifestation of God, of His mercy and good 
ness, whether desired or obtained, it fitly served to remind the 
worshipper of his unworthiness of the boon, and his unfitness in 
himself to stand before God in peace when God should be draw 
ing near. It was this feeling which gave rise to the sentiment, 
that no one could see God s face and live, and which so often 
found vent for itself in the ancient worshipper, even when the 
manifestation actually given of God was of the most gracious 
kind. This is well brought out by Biihr in reference to the 
matter now under discussion, however his defective views have 
led him to misapply the statement, or to overlook the plain infer 
ences deducible from it : " The reference to sin and atonement 
discovers itself in the most striking and decided manner, pre 
cisely in regard to that species of peace-offerings which was the 
most important and customary, and which might seem at first 
sight to have least to do with such a reference, viz., in the praise- 
offering. The word ( n *^ n ) comes from a verb, which signifies 
as well to confess to Jehovah sin, guilt, misconduct, as to ascribe 
adoration and praise to His name. (Comp. Ps. xxxii. 4. ; 1 Kings 
viii. 33 ; also Josh. vii. 19.) The confession of sin can only be 
made in the light of God s holiness ; hence, when man confesses 
his sin before God, he at the same time confesses the holiness of 
God. But as holiness is the expression of the highest name of 
Jehovah, the confession of sin with Israel carries along with it 

1 Kurtz, Mosaische Opfer, p. 138-9. The view given above is substan 
tially the same also with that of Scholl, Hengstenberg, Baumgarteu, (Ehler 
(in Hertzog), and in its leading features was already given by Outnim. 
i. 11, 1. Biihr differs on some points, and is far, indeed, from being a 
safe guide in regard to any of the sacrifices. 


the confession of the name of Jehovah ; and every confession of 
this name, as the front and centre of all Divine manifestations, 
is at the same time glory and praise to God. Accordingly, the 
Hebrews necessarily thought in their praise-offerings of the con 
fession of sin, ;in<l with this coupled the idea of an atonement ; 
so that an atoning virtue was properly regarded as essentially 
belonging to this sacrifice." 1 

It was not peculiar to the peace-offerings (for the same also 
had place in the ordinary sin-offerings), but it was a more marked 
and pervading characteristic in them, that the fat, with the parts 
on which it chiefly lay (the kidneys and the greater lobe of the 
liver), had to be burnt on the altar. In such offerings this was 
the one part reserved for consumption by fire ; and the reason 
undoubtedly was, that the fat stood nearest to the blood as the 
representative of life. It was in a manner " the efflorescence of 
the animal life " the sign of its full healthf ulness and vigour ; 
and hence, in well-fed animals, found clustering in greatest ful 
ness around the more inward and vital parts of the system ; 
though in the sheep also growing into a lump on the tail. On 
this account the term fat was commonly applied to everything 
that was best and most excellent of its kind (Gen. xlv. 18 ; 
Deut. xxxii. 14, etc.) ; and the fat of the offering, as the richest 
portion of the flesh, was fitly set apart for Jehovah. It was, how 
ever, peculiar to the peace-offerings that certain parts of the 
flesh were, by a special act of consecration, waving and heaving, 
set apart for the priests, and given them as their portion. These 
parts were the breast and the right shoulder. Why such in parti 
cular were chosen is nowhere stated ; but it probablv arose from 
their being somehow considered the more excellent parts. And 
in regard to the ceremony of consecration, according to Jewish 
tradition, it was performed by laying the parts on the hands of 
the offerer, and the priest putting his hands again underneath, 
then moving them in a horizontal direction for the waving, ami 
in a vertical one for the heaving. It would appear that the 
ivivmony was commonly divided, that one part of it alone was 
usually performed at a time, and that in regard to the peace- 
offerings the waving was peculiarly connected with the breast, 
which is thence called the wave-breast, Lev. vii. 30, 32, 34, and 
1 Syrabolik, ii., p. 379, 380. 


the heaving with the shoulder, for this reason called the heave- 
shoulder. There can be little doubt that the rite was intended 
to be a sort of presentation of the parts to God, as the supreme 
Ruler in all the regions of this lower world and in the higher 
regions above : the more suitable in connection with the peace- 
offerings, as these were acknowledgments of the Lord s power 
and goodness in all the departments of Providence, and in the 
blessings which come down from above. When those parts were 
thus presented and set apart to the priesthood, the Lord s fami 
liars, the rest of the flesh, it was implied, was given up to the 
offerer, to be partaken of by himself and those he might call to 
share and rejoice with him. Among these he was instructed to 
invite, beside his own friends, the Levite, the widow, and the 
fatherless. (Deut. xii. 18, xvi. 11.) 

This participation by the offerer and his friends, this family 
feast upon the sacrifice, may be regarded as the most distinctive 
characteristic of the peace-offerings. It denoted that the offerer 
was admitted to a state of near fellowship and enjoyment with 
God, shared part and part with Jehovah and His priests, had a 
standing in His house, and a seat at His table. It was there 
fore the symbol of established friendship with God, and near 
communion with Him in the blessings of His kingdom ; and was 
associated in the minds of the worshippers with feelings of pecu 
liar joy and gladness, but these always of a sacred character. 
The feast and the rejoicing were still to be " before the Lord," 
in the place where He put His name, and in company with those 
who were ceremonially pure. And with the view of marking 
how far all impurity and corruption must be put away from such 
entertainments, the flesh had to be eaten on the first, or at farthest 
the second day, after which, as being no longer in a fresh state, 
it became an abomination. 

Turning our view to Christian times, we find the ideas sym 
bolized in the peace-offering reappearing, and obtaining their 
adequate expression, both in Christ Himself and in His people. 
What it indicated in regard to the presenting of an atonement, 
could of course find its antitype only in Christ, as all the blood 
shed in ancient sacrifice pointed to that blood of His which 
alone cleanseth from sin. And inasmuch as all the blessing 
which Christ obtained for His Church were received in answer 


to intercessory prayer, ami when received, formed the occasion 
also on His part of giving praise and glory to the Father, so here 
also we see the grand ivali/ation of the peace-offering in Him 
who, in the name and the behalf of His redeemed, could say, 
" My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation : I will 
pay My vows before them that fear Him." (Ps. xxii. 25.) 

Viewed, however, as a representation of the state and feel 
ings of the worshipper, the service of the peace-offering bears 
respect more directly and properly to the people of Christ than 
to Christ Himself. And so viewed, it exhibits throughout an 
elevated and faithful pattern of their spiritual condition, and the 
righteous principles and feelings by which that is pervaded. 
In the feast upon the sacrifice, the feeding at the Lord s own 
table, and on the provisions of His house, we see the blessed 
state of honour and dignity to which the child of God is raised ; 
his nearness to the Father, and freedom of access to the best 
things in His kingdom ; so that he can rejoice in the goodness 
and mercy which are made to pass before him, and can say, " I 
have all, and abound." But let it be remembered, that the very 
place where the feast was held "before the Lord" and the 
careful exclusion of all putrid appearances, give solemn warning 
that such a high dignity and blessed satisfaction can be held only 
by the sanctified mind, and the spiritual delight which is reaped 
cannot possibly consist with the love and practice of sin. Nay, in 
the prayers, the vows, the thanksgivings and praises with which 
those peace-offerings were accompanied, and of which they were 
but the outward expression, let it be perceived how much the 
possessors of this elevated condition should be exercised to the 
work of communion with Heaven, and especially how sweet 
should be te them " the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of the lips !" 
(Ileb. xiii. 15.) And then, in the way by which the wor 
shipper attained to a fitness for enjoying the privilege referred to, 
namely, through the life-blood of atonement, how impressive 
a testimony was borne to the necessity of seeking the road to all 
dignity and blessing in the kingdom of God through faith in a 
crucified Kedeemer ! By Him has the provision been made, and 
the door opened, and the invitation issued to go in and partake. 
Such only as have been covered upon by His atoning blood can 
be admitted to taste, or be prepared to relish, the feast of fat 



things He sets before them ; for through Him, as the grand 
medium of reconciliation and acceptance, must their persons be 
brought nigh, their devotions presented, and their souls prepared 
for communion and fellowship with God. The unsanctified by 
the blood of Christ must of necessity be aliens from God s house 
hold, and strangers at His table. 


The proper and distinctive name for what is called the meat 
offering, was mincha (i" 1 *?), although the word is sometimes used 
in a more extended sense, as a general name for offerings or 
things presented to the Lord. It is not expressly said that this 
kind of offering was only to be an addition to the two last species 
of bloody sacrifices (the burnt-offering and peace-offering), and 
that it could never be presented as something separate and inde 
pendent. But the whole character of the Mosaic institutions, 
and the analogy of particular parts of them, certainly warrants 
the inference, that it was not the intention of God that the meat 
offering should ever be presented alone ; as there was here no 
confession of sin and no expiation of guilt. And accordingly, 
when the children of Israel were enjoined to bring, on two sepa 
rate occasions, special offerings of this kind, the sheaf of first- 
fruits, and the two loaves (Lev. xxiii. 10-12, 17-20), on both 
occasions alike the offering had to be accompanied with the 
sacrifice of slain victims. The ordinary employment of the 
meat-offering was in connection with the burnt and peace-offer 
ings, which were always to have it as a necessary and proper 
supplement. (Num. xv. 1-13.) 

The meat-offering, as to its materials, consisted principally of 
a certain portion of flour or cakes, with which, it would seem, 
there was always connected a suitable quantity of wine for a 
drink-offering. The latter is not mentioned in Lev. ii., which 
expressly treats of the meat-offering, but is elsewhere spoken of 
as a usual accompaniment (Ex. xxix. 40 ; Lev. xxiii. 13 ; Num. 
xv. 5, 10, etc.), and was probably omitted in the second chapter 
of Leviticus for the same reason that it is also noticed only by 
implication with the show-bread, viz., that it formed quite a 
subordinate part of the offering, and was merely a sort of acces- 


sory. Being of the same nature with the show-bread, which 
will be treated of in next section, we need not enter here on any 
investigation into the design of the offering ; but may simply 
mention, in respect to this generally, that it was appended to the 
two kinds of offerings specified, to show that the object of such 
offerings was the sanctification of the people by fruitfulness in 
well-doing, and that without this the end aimed at never could 
be attained. 

This meat-offering was not to be prepared with leaven or 
honey, but always with salt, oil, and frankincense. Leaven is a 
piece of dough in a state of putrefaction, the atoms of which are 
in a continual motion ; hence it very naturally became an image 
of moral corruption. Plutarch assigns as the reason why the 
priest of Jupiter was not allowed to touch leaven, that " it comes 
out of corruption, and corrupts that with which it is mingled." 
This, however, has been thought by some to be too recondite a 
reason for the prohibition, especially as there can be no doubt 
that leavened bread was used in ordinary life by the covenant 
people, without apparently suggesting any idea of corruption. 
It is thought to be more natural, and altogether more in accord 
ance with the original prohibition of leaven, to understand by it 
simply the old, that which savoured of the state of things to be 
done away, whereas the unleavened was the new, the fresh, the 
unmixed, consequently pure. (Ewald, Keil, Baur, Legrer, etc.) 
Such, certainly, may have been the original ground on which 
leaven was forbidden, though in this way also it came to be 
viewed as a symbol of corruption corruption as a penetrating 
and pervading power. The New Testament usage leaves no 
room to doubt, that while leaven might be viewed simply with 
reference to its penetrating and expansive qualities (Matt. xiii. 
33), it was commonly understood to symbolize malice and wick 
edness whatever tends to mar the simplicity and corrupt the 
purity of the people of God from which, therefore, the symbo 
lical offerings that represented the good works and holy lives of 
the worshipper must be kept separate. (Matt. xvi. 6 ; Luke xii. 
1 ; 1 Cor. v. 6-8 ; Gal. v. 9.) The prohibition of honey is 
variously understood ; and is very commonly regarded as inter 
dicted for the same reason Mibstantially which excluded leaven, 
1 Qu. Norn. ii. 289. 


as being both in itself, and as an article of diet, when taken in 
any quantity, liable to become sour and corrupt. So Winer, 
Biihr, Baurngarten, and many others. But this seems rather 
far-fetched, and has little to countenance it in the references 
made to honey in the Old Testament. There it almost uniformly 
appears as of all things in nature the most sweet and gratifying 
to the natural taste the fitting representative, therefore, of 
whatever is most pleasing to the flesh. Hence, as Jarclii says, 
" All sweet fruit was called honey ;" and another Jewish autho 
rity, connecting the natural with the spiritual here, testifies that 
" the reason why honey was forbidden, was because evil concu 
piscence is sweet to a man as honey." (See Ainsworth on Lev. 
ii. 11.) As, therefore, the corrupting element of leaven was 
forbidden, to indicate the contrariety of everything spiritually 
corrupt to the pure worship and service of God, so here the most 
luscious production of nature was also prohibited, to indicate that 
what is peculiarly pleasing to the flesh is distasteful to God, and 
must be renounced by His faithful servants. 1 

In regard to the ingredients with which the meat-offering 
was to be accompanied, there is scarcely any room for diversity 
of opinion. Salt is the great preservative of animal nature, 
opposing the tendency to putrefaction and decay. It was there 
fore well fitted to serve as a symbol of that moral and religious 
purity which is essential to the true worship of God, and on 
which all stability and order ultimately depend. Hence, also, 
it is called " the salt of the covenant of God," being an emblem 
at once of the perpetuity of this, and of the principles of holy 
rectitude, the true elements of incormption, for the maintenance 
of which it was established. When our Lord said to His 
disciples, " Ye are the salt of the earth," He wished them to 
know that it was their part to exercise in a moral respect the 
same sanatory, healthful, purifying, and preservative influence 
which salt did in the things of nature. And Avhen again assert- 

1 The prohibition of leaven and honey was only for the usual meat-offer 
ing, and did uot apply to the first-fruits, as the first-fruits of everything had 
to be presented to the Lord ; hence the wave-loaves were leavened, Lev. 
xxiii. 17, and honey is mentioned among the first-fruits presented in 2 Chron. 
xxxi. 5. These, however, did not come upon the altar, but were only pre 
sented to the Lord, and given to the priests. 



ing that everyone should have "salt in themselves, and that 
every sacrifice must be salted with salt" (Mark ix. 49, 50), He 
intimates that the property which enters into the lives of God s 
people, and renders them a sort of spiritual salt, must be within, 
consisting in the possession of a good conscience toward God. 
The oil, symbol of the grace of God s Spirit, with which the 
meat-offering was to be intermingled, implied that every good 
work, capable of being presented to God, must be inwrought by 
the Spirit of God. And that frankincense was to be put upon 
it, bespoke the connection between good works and prayer, and 
that all righteous action should be presented to God in the spirit 
of devotion. So that " the good works of the faithful are re 
presented by the oil, as prompted, quickened, and matured by 
the Holy Spirit by the frankincense, as made acceptable and 
borne heavenwards in prayer and by the salt, as incorruptible, 
perpetually abiding signs and fruits of God s covenant of 
grace." 1 

1 Kurtz, Mos. Opfer, p. 102. Compare also what is said on the shew- 
bread in next section. 



As the court of the Tabernacle was the place where the body 
of the covenant people could have access to God, so the Sanc 
tuary or Holy Place was the more hallowed ground, where they 
could only appear by representation. Into this apartment the 
priests, in their behalf, went every day to accomplish the service 
of God, having freedom at all times to go in and out. It might 
therefore be justly regarded as their proper habitation ; and the 
furniture and services belonging to it might as naturally be 
made to express their relation to God, as those of the Most Holy 
Place the relation of God to them. We shall find this fully 
borne out by a consideration of the several particulars. The 
first of these is 


Its position appears to have been the nearest to the veil, 
which formed the entrance into the Most Holy Place, and, 
indeed, immediately in front of it. " Thou shalt put it before 
the veil, that is, by the ark of the testimony ; before the mercy- 
seat, that is, over the testimony, where I will meet with thee." 
(Ex. xxx. 6.) The meaning of the direction obviously is, that 
this altar was to be placed directly before the veil, in close rela 
tionship to it, and in the middle of the apartment ; and this for 
the reason that, being so placed, it might the more readily be 
viewed as standing in a kind of juxtaposition to the mercy-seat. 
Hence also, in Lev.xvi. 18, it is called "the altar that is before 
the Lord," being as near to His throne as the daily service to be 
performed at it admitted. In regard to its form and structure, 
it was a square-like box, on the top one cubit each way, and 
two cubits in height (i.e., about 3^ feet high, and 21 inches 


square on the top) ; made of sliittim-woocl overlaid with gold, 
with jutting points or corners called horns, and a crown or 
ornamented edge of gold. The name of misbeach (sacrificing 
place), commonly rendered altar, was applied to it, not from 
there being any sacrifices, in the strict sense, or slain victims 
presented on it, for it served merely as a stand for the pot of 
incense which was placed on it, but probably from the intimate 
connection in which it stood to the altar of burnt-offering. It 
was with live coals taken from this altar that the incense daily 
offered in the sanctuary was to be kindled ; so that the one 
altar might be regarded as a kind of appanage to the other, 
serving to carry forward the intercourse with God, which it had 
begun. In its position nearer to the peculiar dwelling-place of 
Jehovah, this altar of incense bespoke intercourse with Him of 
a more advanced and intimate kind ; and what we naturally 
expect to find in connection with it is a symbolical expression of 
the innermost desires and feelings of a devout spirit. On this 
account, also, it probably was, that of all the articles belonging 
to the Holy Place, the altar of incense alone was sprinkled with 
blood on the day of atonement, as being the highest in order of 
them all, and the one that held a peculiarly intimate relation to 
the mercy-seat ; hence most fitly taken to represent them all. 

The incense, for the presentation of which before the Lord 
this altar was erected, was a composition formed of four kinds 
of sweet spices, stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense 
of which the latter alone is known with certainty. The com 
position was made, we have eveiy reason to think, with the view 
of yielding the most fragrant and refreshing odour. The people 
were expressly forbidden to use it on any ordinary occasion, and 
the priests restricted to it alone for burning on the altar that 
there might be associated with it a feeling of the deepest sacred- 
ness. It possessed the threefold characteristic of " salted (not 
tempered together, as first in the LXX., and from that trans 
ferred into our version, Ex. xxx. 35 ; see Ainsworth there, and 
Plihr, i., p. 424), pure, holy;" that is, having in it a mixture of 
salt, the symbol of uncorruptness, but otherwise unmixed 01 
unadulterated, and set apart from a common to a sacred use. 
And the ordinance connected with it was, that when the otlu-iat- 
ing priest went in to light the lamps in the evening, and again 


when he dressed the lamps in the morning, he was to place on 
this golden altar a pot of the prescribed incense with live coals 
taken from the altar without, that there might be " a perpetual 
incense " ascending before the Lord in this apartment of PL s 
house. (Ex. xxx. 8.) 

The meaning of the symbol is indicated with sufficient plain 
ness even in Old Testament Scripture, and in perfect accordance 
with what might have been conjectured from the nature and 
position of the altar. Thus the Psalmist says, " Let my prayer 
be set before Thee as the incense" (cxli. 2), literally, Let my 
prayer, incense, be set in order before Thee, implying that 
prayer was in the reality what incense was in the symbol. The 
action also in Isa. vi. 3, 4, where the voice of adoration is 
immediately followed by the filling of the temple with smoke, 
proceeds on the same ground ; as by the smoke w r e are doubtless 
to understand the smoke of the incense, the only thing of that 
description commonly found there, and which, as an appropriate 
symbol, appeared to accompany the ascription of praise by the 
seraphim. Passing to New Testament Scripture, though still 
only to that portion which refers to Old Testament times, we 
are told of the people without being engaged in prayer, while 
Zacharias was offering incense within the sanctuary (Luke i. 
10) ; they were in spirit going along with the priestly service. 
And in the book of Revelation the prayers of saints are once 
and again identified with the offering of incense on the golden 
altar before the throne. (Rev. v. 8, viii. 3, 4.) 1 

That the devotional exercises, the prayers of God s believing 
people, should have been symbolized by this offering of incense, 
may appear to some in our age and country to carry a somewhat 
fanciful appearance. Yet there is a very natural connection 
between the two, which persons accustomed to the rites of a 
symbolical worship could have had no difficulty in apprehending. 

1 Iu tbe last of these passages the incense is said to have been offered 
" with the prayers of saints," whence some have inferred that the two were 
different that the incense symbolized only Christ s intercession, and not the 
prayers of saints. But in ch. v. 8 the incense is expressly called "the 
prayers of saints." And it is the usual style of the Apocalypse to couple the 
symbol with the reality, as, besides the instance before us, the golden 
candlesticks and the churches, the white linen and the righteousness of the 
saints, etc. 


For what arc the odours of plants and flowers, but a kind of 
sweet breath, which they arc perpetually exhaling? It is the 
free and genial outpouring of that spirit of fragrance which is 
in them. And taking prayer in its largest sense, which we 
certainly ought to do here, as consisting in the exercise of all 
devout feeling and spiritual desire towards God in the due 
celebration of His adorable perfections in thanksgiving for the 
rich and innumerable mercies received from His bountiful hand 
in humble supplications for His favour and blessing, if we 
understand prayer in this wide and comprehensive sense, how 
can -it be more suitably regarded than as the breath of the 
Divine life in the soul ? Here especially there is the pouring 
out before God of the best and holiest affections of the renewed 
heart. There is the earnest reaching forth of the soul to unite 
itself in appropriate actings with the great centre of Being, and 
to consecrate its best energies to Him. Of such spiritual sacrifices 
it is saying little, that the presentation of them at fitting times is 
a homage due to God from His redeemed offspring. The per 
mission to offer them is, on their part, a high and ennobling 
privilege, in the exercise of w r hich they rise to sit in heavenly 
places with Christ, and occupy the lofty position of princes with 
God. Nor, when done in sincerity and truth, can it ever fail, on 
God s part, to meet with His cordial reception and most favour 
able regard. In such breathings of childlike confidence and 
holy affection He takes especial delight ; and hence chose for 
a symbol of these the incense of sweet spices, that by the grate 
fulness of the one to the bodily sense, might be understood the 
spiritual satisfaction yielded by the other. 

But it ought ever to be considered what kind of devotions it 
is that rise with such acceptance to the sanctuary above. That 
the altar of incense stood before the Lord, under His imme 
diate I M-, intimates that the adorations and prayers lie regards 
must be no formal service, in which the lip rather than the 
heart is employed; but a felt approach to the presence of the 
living God, and a real transaction between the soul and Him. 
That this altar, from its very position, stood in a close relation 
to the mercy-scat or propitiatory, on the one hand, and by its 
character and the live coals that ever burned in its golden vials, 
stood in an equally close relation to the altar of burnt-offering, 


on the other, tells us, that all acceptable prayer must have its 
foundation in the manifested grace of a redeeming God, must 
draw its breath of life, in a manner, from that work of propitia 
tion which He has in His own person accomplished for the sinful. 
And since it was ordained that a " perpetual incense before the 
Lord" should be ever ascending from the altar since injunc 
tions so strict were given for having the earthly sanctuary made 
peculiarly and constantly to bear the character of a house of 
prayer, most culpably deaf must we be to the voice of instruc 
tion that issues from it, if we do not hear enforced on all who 
belong to the spiritual temple of an elect Church, such a lesson 
as this Pray without ceasing ; the spirit of devotion is the very 
element of your being, the indispensable condition of health and 
fruitfulness ; all, from first to last, must be sanctified by prayer ; 
and if this be neglected, neither can you fitly be named a house 
of God, nor have you any ground to expect the blessing of 
Heaven on your means of grace and works of well-doing. 


This table was made of the same materials as the other 
articles in the tabernacle of the same height as the ark of the 
covenant, but half a cubit narrower in breadth ; and as the 
table was for a service of food, a provision-board, it had con 
nected with it w r hat, in our version, are called " dishes, spoons, 
covers, and bowls," the usual accompaniments of such a table 
among men. It is proper to notice, however, that these names 
scarcely suggest what is understood to have been the exact 
nature and design of the articles in question. What on such a 
table could be the use of spoons or covers, it is impossible to 
understand. The rendering, accordingly, of these parts of the 
description may with good reason be inferred to be erroneous, 
and in regard to the latter of them most certainly was so. Of 
the four subsidiary articles mentioned (Ex. xxv. 29), the first 
(niiyp) were probably a sort of platters for carrying the bread to 
and from the table, on which also it might stand there ; the 
second (niSQ, from sp, the hollow of the hand), some sort of 
hollow cups, or vessels, possibly for the frankincense (the L X X . 
have expressly censers} ; the third and the fourth, (nit"P) and 


, with the latter of which in Ex. xxv. 29, and with the 
former in Num. iv. 7, there is coupled the additional ex 
pression, " to pour withal " (not " to cover withal," as in our 
version), were most likely the vessels appropriated for the wine, 
and are probably rendered with substantial correctness by the 
LXX. by words corresponding to " bowls and cups." That we 
cannot fix more definitely the form and use of these inferior 
utensils, is of little moment ; as we can have no doubt that 
they were simply such as were required for the provisions and 
services connected with the table itself. The vessels were all of 
pure gold. 

Turning, therefore, to the provisions here mentioned, the 
main part, we find, consisted of twelve cakes, which, when 
placed on the table, were formed into two rows or piles. The 
twelve, the signature of the covenant people, evidently bore 
respect to the twelve tribes of Israel, and implied, that in the 
symbolical design of these cakes the whole covenant people 
w r ere equally interested and called to take a part. These cakes, 
as a whole, were called the " show-bread," literally " bread of 
faces or presence." The meaning of the expression may, 
without difficulty, be gathered from Ex. xxv. 30, where the 
Lord Himself names it " show-bread before Me always ; " it 
was to be continually in His presence, or exhibited before His 
face, and was hence appropriately designated " show-bread," or 
" bread of presence." The table was never to be without it ; 
and on the return of every Sabbath morning, the old materials 
were to be withdrawn, and a new supply furnished. Why pre 
cisely on the Sabbath, will be explained when we come to 
speak of the Moadeem, or stated feast-days. 

It has been thought that something more must have been 
intended by the peculiar designation " bread of presence," than 
we have now mentioned, since, if this were all, the altar of 
incense and the golden candlestick might, with equal propriety, 
have been called the altar and candlestick of presence which, 
however, they never an- (Biihr). But a special reason can 
easily be discovered for the peculiar appropriation of this epithet 
to the bread, viz., to prevent the Israelites from supposing, 
what they might otherwise, perhaps, in their carnality, have 
done, that this bread was, like bread in general, simply for 


being eaten ; to instruct them, on the contrary, that it was 
rather for being seen and looked on with complacency by the 
holy and ever-watchful eye of God. They would thus more 
easily rise from the natural to the spiritual use, from the symbol 
to the reality. The bread, no doubt, was eaten by the officiat 
ing priests each Sabbath ; not on the table, however, but only 
after having been removed from it, and simply because, being 
most holy, it might not be turned to a profane use, but must be 
consumed by God s representatives in His own house. As con 
nected with the table, its design was served by being exhibited 
and seen, for the well-pleased satisfaction and favourable regard 
of a righteous God ; so that it is not possible to conceive a fitter 
designation than the one given to it, of shew-bread, or bread of 

But in what character precisely was this bread laid upon 
the table ? We are furnished with the answer in Lev. xxiv. 8, 
where it is described as " an offering from the children of Israel 
by a perpetual covenant ;" a portion, therefore, of their sub 
stance, and consecrated to the honour of God. It w r as, conse 
quently, a kind of sacrifice ; and as the altar of God was, in a 
sense, His table, so this table of His in turn possessed somewhat 
of the nature of an altar : l the provision laid on it had the 
character of an offering. Hence, also, there was placed upon 
the top of each of the two rows a vessel with pure frankincense 
(Lev. xxiv. 7), which was manifestly designed to connect the 
offering on the table with the offering on the altar of incense, 
and to show that they not only possessed the same general 
character of offerings presented by the people to the Lord, but 
also that there existed a near internal relationship between the 
two : " Thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row for 
the bread, for a memorial (a calling to remembrance, viz., of the 
covenant people before the Lord), an offering of fire unto the 
Lord." Now, the offering of incense was simply, as we have 
seen, an embodied prayer ; and the placing of a vessel of in 
cense upon this bread was like sending it up to God on tin- 
wings of devotion. It implied that the spiritual offering sym 
bolized by the bread was to be ever presented with supplication, 

1 Sicut enim ara mensa Dei, ita mensa Dei ara quae lam erat, 
plane vicera przestabat. (Outrain. Do Sac., L. i., c. 8, 7.) 


and only when so presented could it meet with the favour and 
blessing of Heaven. Thus hallowed and thus presented, the 
bread became a most sacred thing, and could only be eaten by 
the priests in the sanctuary : " for it is most holy (a holy of 
holies) unto him, of the offerings of the Lord, made by fire by 
a perpetual statute." 

It is also to be borne in mind, with the view of helping us 
to understand the symbolical import of the show-bread, that 
there was not only frankincense set upon each row, but also a 
vessel, or possibly two vessels, of wine placed beside them. This 
is not, indeed, stated in so many words, but is clearly implied in 
the mention made of bowls or vessels for " pouring out withal," 
or making libation with them to God. Wine is well known to 
have been the kind of drink constantly used for the purpose ; 
and the simple mention of such vessels, for such a purpose, 
must have been perfectly sufficient to indicate to the priesthood 
what was meant by this part of the provisions. Still, from the 
table deriving its name from the bread placed on it, and from 
the bread alone being expressly noticed, we are certainly en 
titled to regard it as by much the more important of the two, 
the main part of the provisions, and the wine only as a kind of 
accessory, or fitting accompaniment. But these two, bread or 
corn and wine, were always regarded in the ancient world as 
the primary and leading articles of bodily nourishment, and 
were most commonly put as the representatives of the whole 
means of life. (Gen. xxvii. 28, 37 ; Judges xix. 19 ; Ps. iv. 
7 ; Hag. ii. 12 ; Luke vii. 33, xxii. 19, 20, etc.) And from 
the two being placed together on this table,. with precisely such 
a prominence to the bread as properly belongs to it in the field 
of nature, it is impossible to doubt that something must have 
been symbolized here which bore a respect to the Divine life, 
similar to what these did in the natural. 

But the things presented here, we have already stated, pos 
sessed the character of an offering to the Lord : if spiritual 
food was symbolized, it must have been so in respect to Him. 
And how, it will naturally be asked, could His people present 
anything to Him that might with propriety be regarded as 
ministering nourishment or support to the all-sufficient God? 
Not certainly as if lie needed anything from their hands, or 


could derive actual refreshment from whatever they might be 
capable of yielding in His service. But we must remember the 
relation in which Israel stood to God, and He again to Israel, 
their relation first in respect to what was visible and outward, 
and then we shall have no difficulty in perceiving how fitly 
what was here presented in that lower region shadowed forth 
what was due in respect to things spiritual and divine. The 
children of the covenant were sojourners with God in that land 
which was peculiarly His, and on which His blessing, if they 
only remained faithful to the covenant, was perpetually to rest. 
On their part, they were to obtain bread and wine in abundance 
for the comfortable support of their bodily natures, as the fruit 
of their labours in the cultivated fields and luxuriant vineyards 
of Canaan. And even in this point of view they owed a return 
of tribute-money to God, as the absolute Lord and Sovereign of 
the land, in token of their holding all in fief of Him, and de 
riving their increase from the riches of His bounty. This they 
were called to render in their tithes, and first-fruits, and free 
will offerings. But as the table of shew-bread was part of the 
furniture of God s house, where all bore a religious and moral 
character, it is with the spiritual alone we have here to do, and 
with the outward and natural only as the symbol of the other. 
The children of the covenant, as God s royal priesthood, had a 
spiritual relation to fill ; they had a spiritual work to do for the 
interests of God s kingdom, and in the doing of which they had 
also from His hand the promise of fruitfulness and blessing. 
How was such a result to appear ? What here corresponds to 
the bread and wine obtained in the province of nature ? It can 
only be the fruits of righteousness, for which the spiritual mind 
ever hungers and thirsts, and which, the more it grows in the 
Divine life, the more must it desire to have realized. But as 
the Divine life exists in its perfection with God, He must also 
supremely desire the same : a becoming return of righteousness 
from His people cannot be otherwise than a refreshment to His 
nature; and with such a spiritual increase, they must never 
leave His house unfurnished. Had they been the subjects of 
an earthly king, it would have been their part to keep his table 
replenished with provisions of a material kind, suited to the wants 
of a present life. But since God is a Spirit, infinitely exalted 

Tin: TABLE OF sn I:\V-MREAD. 367 

above the pressure of outward necessities, and seeking what is 
good only from His love to the interests of righteousness, it is 
their fruitful obedience to His commandments, their abounding 
in whatsoever things are just, honest, pure, lovely, and of good 
report, on which, as the very end of all the privileges He had 
conferred, His soul ever was, as it still is, supremely set. These 
are the provisions which, as labourers in His kingdom, they 
must be ever presenting before Him ; and on these His eye 
ever rests with holy satisfaction, when sent up with the incense 
of true devotion from the humble and pious worshipper. 
Hence, while in Ps. 1. 13, 14, he repudiates the idea of His 
requiring such gross materials of refreshment as the blood and 
flesh of slain victims, He earnestly desires (vers. 14, 23) the 
spiritual gifts of a pure and holy life. Sacrifices of any kind 
were acceptable only in so far as they expressed the feelings 
and desires of a righteous soul. 

If the community of Israel at large had entered aright into 
the mind of God, they would, in the ordinance of the shew- 
brcad, have seen this to be their calling, and laboured with 
unfeigned earnestness to fulfil it. It was in reality done only 
by the spiritual members of the seed, who too frequently formed 
but a small portion of the whole. To such, however, Cornelius 
is plainly represented as belonging, even though he had not yet 
been admitted to an outward standing in the community of the 
faithful, when, in the language of this ordinance, it is said of 
him, that "his alms-deeds and his prayers came up for a memo 
rial before God" for a memorial or bringing to remembrance 
of the worshipper for his good ; the very description given of 
the design of the shew-bread with its pot of incense. For God 
never calls His people to serve Him for nought. He seeks from 
them the fruits of righteousness, only that He may send them 
in return abundant recompenses of blessing. And every act of 
uraoe or deed of righteousness that proceeds from their hands, 
does for them in the upper sanctuary the part of a remem 
brancer, putting their heavenly Father, as it were, in mind of 
His promises of love and kindness. What encouragement to 
be faithful! IIow does God strew the path of obedience with 
allurements to tin- practice of every good and pious work ! And 
in proportion to His anxiety in securing these happy results of 


righteousness and blessing, so must be His disappointment and 
indignation when scenes of an opposite kind present themselves 
to His view. Of this a striking representation was given by tin- 
symbolical action of our Lord in blasting the fig-tree, on which 
He went to seek fruit but found none (Matt. xxi. 19), and in 
the parables of the barren fig-tree in the vineyard, and of the 
wicked husbandman to whom a certain householder let out his 
vineyard. (Luke xiii. 6-9 ; Matt. xxi. 33-43 ; comp. also Isa. 
v. 1-7.) 

It is scarcely necessary to add, that the lesson taught in the 
ordinance of the shew-bread speaks with a still louder voice to 
the Christian than it could possibly do to the Jewish believer ; 
as the gifts of grace conferred now are much larger than for 
merly, and the revenue of glory which God justly expects to 
accrue from them should also be proportionally increased. We 
accordingly find in New Testament Scripture the strongest calls 
addressed to believers, urging them to fruitfulness in all well 
doing ; and every doctrine, as well as every privilege of grace, 
is employed as a motive for inciting them to run the way of 
God s commandments. So much is this the characteristic of 
the Gospel, that its highest demands on the obedience of men 
come always in connection with its fullest exhibitions of grace 
to their souls ; and nothing can be more certain than that, 
according as they become subject to its influence, they are effec 
tually taught to " deny themselves to all ungodliness and worldly 
lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world." l 


This is the only remaining article of sacred furniture in the 
Holy Place of the Tabernacle. Its position was to be on the 
south side, opposite the table of shew-bread, the altar of incense 
being in the middle, and somewhat nearer to the veil of separa 
tion. It was not so properly a candlestick, as a stand or support 
for lamps. It was ordered to be made with one erect stem in 
the centre, and on each side three branches rising out of the 

1 The provisions of the table of shew-bread were but another and higher 
mode of exhibiting what was constantly being presented directly by the 
people in the outer court by means of the meat and drink-offerings. 


main stem in regular gradation, and each having at the top a 
place fitted for holding a lamp, on the same level and of the 
same construction with the one in the centre. The material 
was of solid gold, and of a talent in weight; so that it must 
have been one of the costliest articles in the tabernacle. 

In the description given of the candlestick, nothing is said 
of its height, or of the proportions of its several parts. Both in 
the stem, however, and in the branches, there was to be a three 
fold ornament wrought into the structure, called " bowls, knops, 
and flowers." The bowls or cups appear to have been fashioned 
so as to present some resemblance to the almond-tree (Ex. xxv. 
33), as, in the passage referred to, they are called " almond- 
shaped cups." The knops or globes are supposed by Josephus 
to have been pomegranates, and by the ancient Jewish writers 
generally to have been apples ; but the word used in the original 
is not that elsewhere employed for apples or pomegranates, and 
there is no certain ground for holding such to be the mean 
ing of the term here. That they were some sort of rounded 
figures, is all we can certainly know of them. And from the 
relative position of the three, according to which the flowers 
come last, it seems out of place to find in the candlestick a re 
presentation of a fruit-bearing tree, with a trunk, and on each 
side three flowering and fruitful branches. We should at least 
proceed on fanciful ground, did we make anything depend for 
the interpretation of the symbol on this notion ; and for aught 
we can see to the contrary, the figures in question may have 
been designed simply as graceful and appropriate ornaments. 
Its being of solid gold denoted the excellency of that which it 
symbolized ; and the light it diffused being sevenfold (seven 
being the signature of the holy covenant, hence of sanctificution, 
holiness) denoted that all was of an essentially pure and sacred 

In the lamps on this candlestick Aaron was ordered to burn 
pure olive oil ; but only, it would seem, during the night. For 
in Ex. xxvii. 21 he is commanded to cause the lamps to burn 
"from i-viMiing to morning before the Lonl;" and in ch. xxx. 
7, 8, his " dressing the lamps in the morning " is set in oppo 
sition to his " lighting them in the evening." The same order 
is again repeated in Lev. xxiv. 3. And in accordance with this 
VOL. n. 2 A 


we read in 1 Sam. iii. 3 of the Lord s appearing to Samuel 
" before the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord " 
which can only mean early in the morning, before sunrise. 
Josephus, indeed, mentions that the custom was to keep the 
lamps burning night and day; but this only shows that the 
arrangement in the second temple varied from the original con 
stitution. The candlestick appears to have been designed in its 
immediate use to form a substitute for the natural light of the 
sun ; and it must hence have been intended that the outer veil 
should be drawn up at break of day, as in ordinary tents, so far 
as might be needed to give light for any ministrations that 
should be performed in the sanctuary. 

This symbol has received such repeated illustration in other 
parts of Scripture, that there is scarcely any room for difference 
of opinion as to its fundamental import and main idea. In the 
first chapter of Revelation, the image occurs in its original form, 
" the seven golden lamps " (not candlesticks, as in our version, 
but the seven lamps on the one candlestick), which are explained 
to mean " the seven churches." These churches, however, are 
to be understood not merely as so many organized communities, 
but as replenished by the Spirit of God, and full of Divine 
light and power ; and hence in the 4th chapter of the same 
book we again meet with seven lamps of fire before the throne 
of God, which are said to be " the seven spirits of God" either 
the One Spirit of God in His varieties of holy and spiritual 
working, or seven presiding spirits of light fitted by that Spirit 
for the ministrations referred to in the heavenly vision. Through 
out Scripture as we have already seen in ch. iii. of this part 
oil is uniformly taken for a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is so 
not less with respect to its light-giving property than to its qua 
lities for anointing and refreshment ; and hence the prophet 
Zechariah, ch. iv., represents the exercise of the Spirit s gracious 
working and victorious energy in behalf of the Church, under 
the image of two olive trees pouring oil into the golden candle 
stick the Church being manifestly imaged in the candlestick, 
and the Spirit s assisting grace in the perpetual current of oil 
with which it was supplied. Clearly, therefore, what we see in 
the candlestick of the tabernacle is the Church s relation to God 
as the possessor and reflector of the holy light that is in Him, 


which she is privileged to receive, and bound again to give forth 
to others, so that where she is there must be no darkness, even 
though all around should be enveloped in the shades of night. 
It is her high distinction to dwell in a region of light, and to act 
under God as the bountiful dispenser of its grace and truth. 

But what exactly is meant by darkness and light in this rela 
tion ? Darkness, in a moral sense, is the element of error, of 
corruption and sin ; the rulers of darkness are the heads and 
instigators of all malice and wickedness ; and the works of dark 
ness are the manifold fruits of unrighteous principle. Light, on 
the other hand, is the element of moral rectitude, of sound know 
ledge or truth in the understanding, and of holiness in the heart 
and conduct. The children of light are those who, through the 
influence of the Spirit of Truth, have been brought to love and 
practise the principles of righteousness ; and the deeds of light 
are such as may stand the examination and receive the approval 
of God. When of God Himself it is said, that " He is light, 
and in Him is no darkness at all," it implies not only that He is 
possessed of all spiritual discernment so as to be able to distin 
guish with unerring precision between the evil and the good, but 
also that this good itself, in all its principles of truth and forms 
of manifestation, alone bears sway in His character and govern 
ment. And so, when the Apostle writes to believers (Eph. v. 8), 
" Ye are light in the Lord, walk as children of the light," he 
immediately adds, with the view at once of explaining and of 
enforcing the statement, " for the fruit of the Spirit (or of light, 
as it is now generally read) is in all goodness, and righteousness, 
and truth :" these are the signs and manifestations of spiritual 
light ; and only in so far as your life is distinguished by these, 
do you prove and verify your title to the name of children of 

The ordinance, therefore, of the golden candlestick, with its 
sevenfold light, told the Church of that age tells the Church, 
indeed, df every age that she must bear the image of God, by 
walking in the light of His truth, and shining forth in the gar- 
incuts of righteousness for the instruction and edification of 
others. Our Lord virtually gives a voice to the ordinance, when 
Hi ityi t<> His disciples, " Ye are the light of the world: let 
your light so shine before men, that they seeing your good works 


may glorify your Father in heaven." Or it may be heard in the 
stirring address of Isaiah, pointing to Christian times : " Arise, 
shine ; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord has arisen 
upon thee." As much as to say, Now, since the true light has 
shone, since He has come who is Himself the life and the light 
of men, it is day with thee ; therefore, not a time to slumber and 
take thy rest, but to be up and doing in thy Master s service. 
Self-pleasing inaction, or unhallowed enjoyment, is no privilege 
in God s kingdom. He has brought to thy hand the richest 
talents of grace, not that they may be wrapt up in a napkin, but 
faithfully laid out for the glory of Him who conferred them. 
Arise, therefore, and shine ; reflect the light which has shone 
from heaven upon thy soul ; give forth, in the acts of a consist 
ent and godly life, becoming manifestations of that glory which 
the Spirit of Glory has poured around thy spiritual condition. 

In the preceding discussions regarding the Holy Place, we 
have avoided referring to the interpretations of the elder typolo- 
gists, or the views of commentators. It would have taken too 
long to notice every diversity, and it seemed better to notice none 
till we had unfolded what we conceive to be the correct view of 
the several parts. And this, we trust, has appeared so natural, 
and is so fully borne out by the language of Scripture, that the 
contrary opinions may be left without special consideration. 
Indeed, little more is needed than to look at them, to see how 
uncertain and unsatisfactory they commonly are, even to those 
who propound them. Biihr, indeed, speaks dogmatically enough, 
although his fundamental error regarding the general design of 
the tabernacle, formerly referred to, carried him here also for the 
most part in the wrong direction. But take, for example, what 
Scott says in his commentary regarding the shevv-bread, which 
may be paralleled by many similar explanations : " They (the 
cakes) might typify Christ as the bread of life and the continual 
food of the souls of His people, having offered Himself unto God 
for them ; or they may denote the services of believers, presented 
before God through Him, and accepted for His sake ; or, the 
whole may mean the communion betwixt our reconciled Father 
and His adopted children in Christ Jesus, who, as it were, feast 


at the same table," etc. What can any one make of this diver 
sity of meaning ? When the mind is treated to so many and 
sucli different notions under one symbol, it necessarily takes in 
none distinctly ; they become merely so many perhapses ; and 
instead of multiplying the benefit and instruction of the ordi 
nance, we only leave it without any clear or definite import. The 
ground of most of the erroneous interpretations on the furniture 
and services of the Holy Place, lay in understanding all directly 
and peculiarly of Christ. And this, again, arose from not 
perceiving that the Tabernacle was intended to symbolize what 
concerned the people as dwelling with God, not less than what 
concerned God s dwelling with them. It is not to be forgotten, 
however, that when Christ is contemplated, not as the substitute, 
but as the Head, the Pattern, and Forerunner of His people, 
everything that was here shadowed forth concerning them is 
true in a pre-eminent sense of Him. His prayers, His work of 
righteousness, and His exhibition of the light of Divine truth 
and holiness, take precedence of all that in a like kind ever has 
been, or ever may be, presented by the members of His body. 
But as Christ s whole undertaking is something stii generis, and 
chiefly to be viewed as the means of securing salvation and 
peace, provided by God for His people as under this view it 
is more especially symbolized in the furniture and services of the 
Most Holy Place, it is better, and more agreeable to the design 
of the tabernacle, to consider the things belonging to the Holy 
Place as having immediate respect to the calling and services of 
Christ s people. 



THOUGH the tabernacle, as a whole, was God s house or dwell 
ing-place among His people, yet the innermost of its two apart 
ments alone was appropriated for His peculiar place of abode 
the seat and throne of His kingdom. It was there, in that hal 
lowed recess, where the awful symbol of His presence appeared, 
or possibly had its fixed abode, and from which, as from His 
very presence-chamber, the high priest was to receive the com 
munications of His grace and will, to be through Him made 
known to others. The things, therefore, which concern it, most 
immediately and directly respect God : we have here, in symbol, 
the more special revelation of what God Himself is in relation 
to His people. 

I. The apartment itself was a perfect cube of ten cubits, 
thus bearing on all its dimensions the symbol of completeness 
an image of the all-perfect character of the Being who conde 
scended to occupy it as the region of His manifested presence 
and glory. The ark of the covenant, with the tables of the 
testimony, and the mercy-seat, with the two cherubims at each 
end, formed origiitally and properly its whole furniture. The 
ark or chest, which was simply made as a depository for holding 
the two tables of the law, the tables of the covenant, was formed 
of boards of shittim-wood, overlaid with gold, two and a half 
cubits long by one and a half broad, with a crown, or raised 
and ornamented border of gold, around the top. This latter it 
had in common with the table of shew-bread and the altar of 
incense ; so that it could not have been meant to denote any 
thing connected with the peculiar design of the ark, and in all 
the cases, indeed, it seems merely to have been added for the 
purpose of forming a suitable and becoming ornament. 


The mercy-seat, as it is called in our version, was a piece of 
solid gold, of precisely the same dimensions in length and 
breadth as the ark, and ordered to be placed above, on the top 
of it, probably so as to go within the crown of gold, and fit 
closely in with it. The Hebrew name is capporeth, or covering ; 
but not exactly in the sense of being a mere lid or covering for the 
ark of the covenant. This might be said rather to suggest than 
to express the real meaning of the term, as used in the present 
connection. For the capporeth is never mentioned as precisely 
the lid of the ark, or as simply designed to cover and conceal 
what lay within. It rather appears as occupying a place of its 
own, though connected with and attached to the ark, yet by no 
means a mere appendage to it ; and hence, both in the descrip 
tions and the enumerations given of the holy things in the 
tabernacle, it is mentioned separately. (Ex. xxv. 17, xxvi. 34, 
xxxv. 12, xxxix. 35, xl. 20.) It sometimes even appears to stand 
more prominently out than the ark itself, and to have been 
peculiarly that for which the Most Holy Place was set apart ; 
as in Lev. xvi. 2, where this Place is described by its being 
"within the veil before the mercy-seat," and in 1 Chron. xxviii. 
11, where it is simply designated "the house of the capporeth," 
or mercy-seat. 

What, then, was the precise object and design of this por 
tion of the sacred furniture? It was for a covering, indeed, 
but for that only in the sense of atonement. The word is never 
used for a covering in the ordinary sense ; wherever it occurs, it 
is always as the name of this one article a name which it derived 
from being peculiarly and pre-eminently the place where cover 
ing or atonement was made for the sins of the people. There 
was here, therefore, in the very name, an indication of the real 
meaning of the symbol, as the kind of covering expressed by it 
is covering only in the spiritual sense atonement. Hence the 
rendering of the LXX. was made with the evident design of 
bringing out this : i\aa-Ti)piov eTrlOepa (a propitiatory covering). 
Yet, while the name properlv conveys this meaning, it was not 
given without some respect also to the external position of the 
article in question, which was immediately above and upon, not 
the ark merely, but also the tables of the testimony within : 
" And thou shalt put the mercy-seat upon the ark of the testi- 


mony " (Ex. xxvi. 34) ; " the mercy-scat that is over the testi 
mony" (xxx. G) ; "that the cloud of incense may cover the 
mercy-seat that is upon the testimony." (Lev. xvi. 13.) The 
tables of the covenant, as formerly explained (p. 110), contained 
God s testimony, primarily indeed for what, in His character of 
holiness, He required of Plis people, but not without regard to 
the counter tendency which existed in them ; so that inciden 
tally it became also a testimony against them on account of sin ; 
and as they could not stand before it when thundered with 
terrific majesty in their ears from Mount Sinai, neither could 
they spiritually stand before the accusations it was constantly 
raising against them in the presence of God, in the Most Holy 
Place. A covering was therefore needed for them between it, 
on the one hand, and God on the other but an atonement- 
covering. A mere external covering would not do; for the 
searching, all-seeing eye of Jehovah was there, from which 
nothing outward can conceal; and the law itself also, from 
which the covering was needed, is spiritual, reaching to the 
inmost thoughts of the heart, as well as to every action of the 
life. That the mercy-seat stood over the testimony, and shut it 
out from the bodily eye, was a kind of shadow of the provision 
required ; but still, even under that dispensation, no more than 
the shadow, and fitted not properly to be, but only to suggest, 
what was really required, viz., a covering in the sense of an 
atonement. The covering required must be a propitiatory, a 
place on which the holy eye of God may ever see the blood of 
reconciliation ; and the Most Holy Place, as designated from it, 
and deriving thence its most essential characteristic, might fitly 
be called " the house of the propitiatory," or the " atonement- 
house." (1 Chron. xxviii. 11.) 

At the two ends of this mercy-seat, and rising, as it were, 
out of it a part of the same piece, and constantly adhering to 
it there were two cherubim, made of beaten gold, with out 
stretched wings overarching the mercy-seat, and looking inwards 
towards each other, and towards the mercy-seat, with an appear 
ance of holy wonder and veneration. The symbolical import 
of these ideal figures has already been fully investigated, 1 and 
nothing more is necessary here than a brief indication of their 
1 Vol. i., B. ii., s. 3. 


design as connected with the mercy-seat. Placed as they were 
with their outstretched wings rising aloft and overshadowing the 
mercy-seat, they gave to this the appearance of a glorious seat 
or throne, suited for the occupation or residence of God in the 
symbolic cloud as the King of Israel. That forms of created 
beings were made to surround this throne of Deity, and impart 
to it an appearance of becoming grandeur and majesty this was 
simply an outward embodiment of the fact, that God ever makes 
Himself known as the God of the living, of whom not only 
have countless myriads been formed by His hand, but attendant 
hosts also continually minister around Him and celebrate His 
praise. And that the particular forms here used were compound 
figures, representations of ideal beings, and beings whose com 
ponent parts consisted of the highest kinds of life on earth in 
its different spheres, man first and chiefly, and with him the 
ox, the lion, and the eagle, this, again, denoted that the forms 
and manifestations of creature-life, among whom and for whom 
God there revealed Himself, were not of heaven, but of earth 
chiefly, indeed, and pre-eminently man, who, when the work 
of redemptio n is complete, and he is fitted to dwell in the most 
excellent glory of the Divine presence, shall be invested with 
the properties of what is still to Him but an ideal perfection, and 
be made possessor of a yet higher nature, and stand in yet 
nearer fellowship with God than he did in the paradise that 
was lost. But these new hopes of fallen humanity all centre in 
the work of reconciliation and love shadowed forth upon the 
mercy-seat : thither, therefore, must the faces of these ideal 
heirs of salvation ever look, and with outstretched wing hang 
around the glorious scene, as in wondering expectation of the 
tilings now proceeding in connection with it, and hereafter to 
be revealed. So that God sitting between the cherubim is God 
revealing Himself as on a throne of grace, in mingled majesty 
and love, for the recovery of His fallen family on earth, and 
their final elevation to the highest region of life, and blessedness, 
and glory. This explanation applies substantially to the cur 
tains, which appear to have formed the whole interior of the 
tabernacle, and which were throughout inwrought with figures 
of cherubim. Not the throne merely, but the entire dwelling 
of God, was in the midst of these representatives (as we con- 


ceive them to have chiefly been) of redeemed and glorified 

The articles now described formed properly the whole furni 
ture of the Most Holy Place, being all that was required to give 
a suitable representation of the character and purposes of God 
in relation to His people. But three other things were after 
wards added, and placed, as it is said, before the Lord, or before 
the testimony the pot of manna, the rod of Aaron, and the 
entire book of the law. These were all lodged there in the 
immediate presence of God, as in a safe and appropriate deposi 
tory lodged partly as memorials of the past, and partly as signs 
and witnesses for the future. The manna testified of God s 
power and willingness to give food for the life of His people 
even in the most destitute circumstances to sustain life in 
parched lands and was ready to witness against them in all 
time coming, if they should distrust His goodness or repair to 
other sources for life and blessing. The rod of Aaron, which in 
itself was as dry and lifeless as the rods of the other tribes, but 
which, through the peculiar grace and miraculous power of 
God, " brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded 
almonds," testified of the appointment of Aaron to the priestly 
office of him alone, though not, as some wickedly affirmed, to 
the detriment and death of the congregation, but rather for their 
life and fruitfulness in all that is pure and good. It was there 
fore well fitted to serve as a witness in every age against those 
who might turn aside from God s appointed channel of grace, 
and choose to themselves other modes of access to Him than 
such as He had Himself chosen and ordained. Finally, the book 
of the law, which contained all the statutes and ordinances, the 
precepts and judgments, the threatenings and promises, delivered 
by the hand of Moses, and which it was the part of the priests 
and Levites to teach continually, and on the seventh or sabba 
tical year to read throughout in the audience of the people, this 
being put beside, or in the ark of the covenant, testified God s 
care to provide His people with a full revelation of His will, and 
stood there as a perpetual witness before God against His mini 
stering servants, in case they should prove unfaithful to their 
charge. (Deut. xxxi. 2G.) But these things were rather acces 
sories to the furniture of the Most Holy Place, than essential 


parts of it. The ark of the covenant, with the tables of testimony 
within, and the mercy-seat with the cherubim of glory above, upon 
the testimony, these alone were the sacred things, for the recep 
tion of which that interior sanctuary was properly reserved and set 
apart. It is only with these, therefore, that we have now to do. 

II. Now, considered in themselves, and without respect to 
any service connected with them, what a clear and striking repre 
sentation did they present to the Israelite of the spiritual and 
holy nature of God ! How much was here to be learned of His 
perfections and character ! It is true, as certain writers have 
been at pains to tell us, there was nothing absolutely original in 
the plan of a sacred building or structure having an inner sanc 
tuary, with a chest or shrine of the Deity deposited there, in 
whose honour the house was erected. But what then ? Does 
this general similarity account for what we have here, or place 
the one upon a level with the other ? Far from it. For what 
do we perceive, when we look into those shrines that stood in the 
innermost recesses, more especially of Egyptian temples ? Some 
paltry or hideous idol, formed after the similitude of a beast, 
sacredly preserved and worshipped as a representative of the 
Deity, and this only as a substitute for the living creatures them 
selves, which appear to have been kept in the larger temples. 
" Living animals (says Jablonsky, Pan. Proll., p. 86), such as 
were worshipped for images or statues, and treated with all 
Divine honours, were to be found only in temples solemnly con 
secrated to the gods, and indeed only in certain of these. But 
effigies of these animals were to be seen in many other temples 
tl in nigh the whole of Egypt, and are still discovered among their 
ruins; And another says, " Some of the sacred boats or arks 
contained the emblems of life and stability, which, when the 
veil was drawn a>ide, were partially seen ; and others presented 
the xinvd beetle of the sun, overshadowed by the wings of two 
iigiuvs of tin- goddess Thmei or Truth." 1 But what, on the 
other hand, do we perceive, when we turn from these instruments 

1 Wilkinson, v., p. 265, last ed. We should doubt if in any case emblems 
<if life and stability formed the only or even the chief figures, since beast- 
worship was the leading characteristic of Egyptian idolatry. But even in 
external form, none of the articles referred to present any proper reseni- 


of a debasing and abominable superstition, to look into the inner 
most sanctuary of the tabernacle ? No outward similitude of any 
kind that might be taken for an emblem or an image of God ; 
nor any representation of Him but what was to be found in 
that revelation of law which unfolds what He is in Himself, by 
disclosing what He requires of moral and religious duty from 
His people, a law which, the more reason is enlightened, the 
more does it consent to as " holy, just, and good," and which, 
therefore, reveals a God infinitely worthy of the adoration and 
love of His creatures. We here discern an immeasurable gulph 
between the religion of Moses and that of the nations of heathen 
antiquity ; and see also how the Israelites were taught, in the 
most central arrangements of their worship, the necessity of serv 
ing God in spirit, and of rendering all their worship subservient 
to the cultivation of the. great principles of holiness and truth. 

But, considered farther, with reference to the professed object 
and design of the whole, what correct and elevated views were 
here presented of the fellowship between God and men ! Had 
God only appeared as represented by the law of perfect holiness, 
who then could stand before Him ? Or if without law, as a 
God of mercy and compassion, stooping to hold converse with 
sinful men, and receiving them back to His favour, what security 
should have been taken for guarding the rectitude of His govern 
ment ? But here, with the ark and the mercy-seat together, we 
behold Him, in perfect adaptation to the circumstances of men, 
appearing at once as the just God and the Saviour keeping in 
His innermost sanctuary, nay, placing underneath His throne, as 
the very foundation on which it rested, the revelation of His 
pure and holy law, and, at the same time, providing for the 
transgressions of His people a covering of mercy, that they might 
still draw near to Him and live. It is already in principle the 
mystery of redemption the manifestation of a God essentially 
just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly of a God whose throne 
is alike the dwelling-place of righteousness and mercy right- 

blance of the ark of God. They always possess the ship or boat form, with 
something like an altar in the midst ; they have nothing corresponding to 
the mercy-seat ; and the chief purpose for which they appear to have been 
used, was to preserve an image of the creature that was worshipped as em 
blematical of the god. 


cousness upholding the claims of law, mercy stretching out the 
sceptre of grace to the penitent : both, even then, continually 
exercised, but rising at length to unspeakably their grandest dis 
play on the cross of Calvary, where justice is seen rigidly exact 
ing of the Lamb of God the penalty due to transgression, and 
mercy providing, at an infinite cost, a way for the guilty to 
peace and blessing. 

Since the ark of the covenant and the mercy-scat contained 
sucli a complete revelation of what God was in Himself and 
toward His people, we can easily understand why the symbol of 
His presence, the overshadowing cloud of glory, should have 
been immediately in connection with that, and why the life and 
soul of the whole Jewish theocracy should have been contem 
plated as residing there. There peculiarly was " the place of 
the Lord s throne, and the place of the soles of His feet, where 
He had His dwelling among the children of Israel." (Ez. 
xliii. 7.) Hence it was called emphatically " the glory of the 
Lord ;" and on their possession or loss of this sacred treasure, 
the people of God felt that all which properly constituted their 
glory depended. (Ps. Ixxviii. 61 ; 1 Sam. iv. 21, 22.) It was 
before this, as containing the symbol of a present God, that 
they came to worship (Josh. vii. 6 ; 2 Chron. v. 6) ; and from 
a passage in the life of David (2 Sam. xv. 32), where it is said, 
according to the proper rendering, " And it came to pass that 
when David was come to the top (of the Mount of Olives, 
where the last look could be obtained of the sacred abode), 
where it is wont to do homage to God," it would appear, that 
as soon as they came in sight of the place of the ark, or ob- 
taiiu-d their last view of it, they were in the habit of prostrating 
themselves in adoration. Happy, if they had but sufficiently 
remembered that .Jehovah, being in Himself, and even there 
ivpivsenting Himself, as a spiritual and holy God, while He 
condescended to make the ark Ilis resting-place, and to connect 
with it the symbol of Ilis glory (Lev. xvi. 2, " for I will 
appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat"), yet could not so 
indissolubly bind His presence and His glory to it, as if the one 
might not be separated from the other ! By terrible things in 
righteousness the Israelites were once and again made to learn 
this salutary lesson, when, rather than appear their patron and 


guardian in sin, the Lord showed that He would, in a manner, 
leave His throne empty, and surrender His glory into the 
enemy s hands. The cloud of glory was still but a symbol, 
which must disappear when the glorious Being who resided in 
it could no longer righteously manifest His goodness, and the 
ark itself, and the tabernacle that contained it, became as a 
common thing. Nor is it otherwise now, whenever men come 
to hold the truth of God in unrighteousness. The partial 
extent to which they exercise belief in the truth utterly fails to 
secure for them any real tokens of His regard. Even while 
they handle the symbols of His presence, He is to them an 
absent God ; and when the hour of trial comes, they find them 
selves forsaken and desolate. 

III. But it is only when viewed in connection with the 
sen-ice of the day of atonement, the one day on which the 
Most Holy Place was entered by the high priest, that W T C can 
fully perceive either the symbolical import or the typical bear 
ing of its sacred furniture. We therefore notice this service 
here, in connection with the place which it chiefly respected, 
rather than postpone the consideration of it to the time when it 
was performed. That not only no Israelite, but that no conse 
crated priest, not even the high priest himself, was permitted at 
all times to enter within the veil, that even he was limited in 
the exercise of this high privilege to one day in the year, "lest 
he should die," this most impressively bespoke the difficulties 
which stood in the way of a sinner s approach to the righteous 
God, and how imperfectly these could be removed by the mini 
strations of the earthly tabernacle, and the blood of slain beasts. 
It indicated that the holiness which reigned in the presence of 
God, required on the part of men a work of righteousness to lay 
open the way of access, such as could not then be brought in, 
and that while the Church should gladly avail itself of the tem 
porary and imperfect means of reconciliation then placed within 
her reach, she should be ever looking forward to a brighter 
period, when eveiy obstruction being removed, her members 
would be able to go with freedom into the presence of God, and 
with open face behold the manifestations of His glory. 

1. In considering more closely the service in question, we 


have first to notice the leading character of the day s solemni 
ties. The day, which was the tenth of the seventh month, and 
usually happened about the beginning of our October, was to 
be " a Sabbath of rest" (Lev. xvi. 31), yet not, like other Sab 
baths, a day of repose and satisfaction, but a day on which 
" they should afflict their souls." It is not expressly said they 
were to fast (nor is fasting as an ordinance ever prescribed in 
the Pentateuch), but it would very naturally come to be observed 
in that way, and in later times was familiarly styled the fast. 
(Acts xxvii. 9.) This striking peculiarity in the mode of its 
observance arose from the nature of the service peculiar to it ; 
it was the day of atonement, or, literally, of atonements (Lev. 
xxiii. 27), not a day so much for one act of atonement, as for 
atonement in general for the whole work of propitiation. The 
main part of the Mosaic worship consisted in the presentation 
of sacrifice, as the guilt of sin was perpetually calling for new 
acts of purification ; but on this one day the idea of atonement 
by sacrifice rose to its highest expression, and became concen 
trated in one grand comprehensive series of actions. In suitable 
correspondence to this design, the sense of sin was in like manner 
to be deepened to its utmost intensity in the national mind, and 
exhibited in appropriate forms of penitential grief. It was a 
day of humiliation and godly sorrow working unto repentance. 
But why all this peculiarity on the day of entrance into the 
Most Holy Place ? Was it not a good and joyful occasion for 
men personally, or through their representative, to be admitted 
into such near fellowship with God ? Doubtless it was ; but 
that dwelling-place of God is a region of absolute holiness : the 
fiery law is there which reveals the purity of heaven, and is 
ready to flame forth in indignation and wrath against all un 
righteousness of men. And so the day of nearest approach to 
God, as it was on His part the day of atonement, must be on 
the part of His people a day for the remembrance of sin, and 
for the exercise of that godly sorrow and contrition which it 
ought to awaken. For to the penitent alone is there forgive 
ness ; not simply to men as sinners, but to men convinced of 
sin, and humbling themselves before God on account of it. 
" If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive 
them ;" but without confession there can be no forgiveness, no 


atonement, as we have not yet entered into God s mind respect 
ing the character and desert of sin. 

2. But if the remembrance of iniquity which was made on 
this day, gave to it a character of depression and gloom, the 
purpose and design of its services could not fail to render it in 
the result a season of blessed rest and consolation. For atone 
ment was then made for all sin and transgression. It was 
virtually implied, that the acts of expiation which were ever 
taking place throughout the year, but imperfectly satisfied for 
the iniquities of the people, since the people were still kept out 
wardly at some distance from the immediate dwelling-place of 
God, and could not even through their consecrated head be 
allowed to go within the veil. So that when a service was 
instituted with the view of giving a representation of complete 
admission to God s presence and fellowship, the mass of sin 
must again be brought into consideration, that it might be 
blotted out by a more perfect atonement. And not only so, 
but as God s dwelling and the instruments of His worship were 
ever contracting defilement, from " remaining among men in 
the midst of their uncleanness," so these also required to be 
annually purified on this day by the more perfect atonement, 
which was then made in the presence of God. Not that these 
things were in themselves capable of contracting guilt ; they 
were so viewed merely in respect to the sins of the people, 
which were ever proceeding around them, and, in a sense, in the 
very midst of them. For the structure and arrangements of 
the tabernacle proceeded on the idea, that the people there 
dwelt (symbolically) with God, as God with them ; and conse 
quently the sins of the people in all their families and habita 
tions were viewed as coming up into the sanctuary, and defiling 
by their pollutions the holy things it contained. No separate 
offering, therefore, was presented for these holy things, but 
they were sprinkled with the blood that was shed for the sins of 
the land, as these properly were what defiled the sanctuary. 
And that no remnant of guilt, or of its effects, might appear to 
be left behind, the atonement was to be made and accepted 
for sin in all its bearings for the high priest and his house, for 
the people in all their families, for the tabernacle and all its 


3. In this service, then, which contained the quintessence of 
all sacrifice, and gave the most exact representation the ancient 
worship could afford of the all-perfect atonement of Christ, 
there was evervthing in the manner of accomplishing it to mark 
its singular importance and solemnity. The high priest alone 
had here to transact with God ; and as the representative of the 
entire spiritual community, he entered with their sins as well as 
his own, into the immediate presence of God. After the usual 
morning oblations, at which, if he had personally officiated, he 
had to strip himself of the rich and beautiful garments with 
which he was wont to be attired, as unsuitable for the services 
of a day which was fitted to stain the glory of all flesh ; and 
after having washed himself, he put on the plain garments, 
which, from the stuff (linen) and from the colour (white), were 
denominated " garments of holiness" (Lev. xvi. 4), and were 
peculiarly appropriated for the work of this day. Then, when 
thus prepared, he had first of all to take a bullock for a sin- 
offering for himself and his house, that is, the whole sacerdotal 
family, and go with the blood of this offering within the veil. 
Yet not with this alone, but also it is said with a censer full of 
burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord (viz., 
the altar of incense, though the coals for it had to be obtained 
from the altar of burnt-offering) ; and to this he was to apply 
handfuls of incense, that there might arise a cloud of fragrant 
odours as he entered the Most Holy Place the emblem of 
acceptable prayer. The meaning was, that with all the pains 
he had taken to purify himself, and with the blood, too, of 
atonement in his hand, he must still go as a suppliant into that 
region of holiness, as one who had no right to demand admit 
tance, but humbly imploring it from the hand of a gracious 
God. Having thus entered within, he had to sprinkle with the 
blood upon the mercy-seat, and again before the mercy-seat 
seven times : the seven the number of the oath or the covenant ; 
and the double act of atonement, first, apparently, having re 
spect to the persons interested, and then to the apartments and 
furniture of the sanctuary, as defiled by their uncleanness. 

When this more personal act of expiation was completed, 
that for the sins of the people commenced. Two goats were 
presented at the door of the tabernacle, which, though two, are 

VOL. II. 2 B 


still expressly named one victim (ver. 5, " two kids of the goats 
for a sin-offering"), so that the sacrifice consisted of two, merely 
from the natural impossibility of otherwise giving a full repre 
sentation of what was to be done ; the one being designed more 
especially to exhibit the means, the other the effect, of the atone 
ment. And this circumstance, that the two goats were properly 
but one sacrifice, and also that they were together presented 
by the high priest before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle 
(ver. 7), indisputably stamped the sacrifice as the Lord s. Nor 
was the same obscurely intimated in the action which there took 
place respecting them, viz., the casting of lots upon them ; for 
this was wont to be done only with what peculiarly belonged to 
God, and for the purpose of ascertaining what might be His 
mind in the matter. The point to be determined respecting the 
two, was not, which God might claim for Himself, and which 
might belong to another, but simply to what particular destina 
tion He appointed the two parts of a sacrifice, which was wholly 
and exclusively His own. And, indeed, the destination itself of 
each as thus determined could not be materially different ; it 
could not have been an entirely diverse or heterogeneous destina 
tion, since it appeared in itself an immaterial thing which should 
take the one place arid which the other, and was only to be de 
termined by the casting of the lot. 1 

Of these lots, it is said that the one was to be for the Lord, 
and the other for the scape-goat, as in our version, but literally 
for Azazel. The one on which the Lord s lot fell was forthwith 
to be slain as a sin-offering for the sins and transgressions of 
the people ; and with its blood, as with that of the bullock pre 
viously, the high priest again entered the Most Holy Place, and 
sprinkled, as before, the mercy-seat first, and then before it 
seven times ; making atonement for the guilt of the congrega 
tion, both as regarded their persons and the furniture of the 
tabernacle. After which, having come out from the Most Holy 
into the Holy Place, he sprinkled the altar of incense seven 
times with the blood both of the bullock and of the goat, " to 
cleanse and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of 
Israel." (ver. 19, comp. with Ex. xxx. 10.) 

It was now, after the completion of the atonement by blood, 
1 See Bahr, Symbolik, ii., p. 678. 


that the high priest confessed over the live goat still standing at 
the door of the tabernacle, " all the iniquities of the children of 
Israel, and all their transgressions," and thereafter sent him away, 
laden with his awful burden, by a fit person into the wilderness, 
into a land of separation, where no man dwelt. It is expressly 
said, ver. 22, that this was done with the goat that he might bear 
all their iniquities thither ; but these iniquities, as already atoned 
by the blood of the other goat the other half, so to speak, of 
the sacrifice for as, on the one hand, without shedding of blood 
there could be no remission of sin by the law of Moses, so, on 
the other hand, where blood was duly shed, in the way and 
manner the law required, remission followed as a matter of 
course. The action with this second goat, therefore, is by no 
means to be dissevered from the action with the first ; but rather 
to be regarded as the continuation of the latter, and its proper 
complement. Hence the second or live goat is represented as 
standing at the door of the tabernacle, ver. 10, while atonement 
was being made with the blood of the first, as being himself 
interested in the work that was proceeding, and in a sense the 
object of it. He was presented there, not to have atonement 
made with him, as is incorrectly expressed in our version, but as 
the people s substitute in a process of absolution. And it is only 
after this process of absolution or atonement is accomplished that 
the high priest returns to him, and, as from God, lays on him the 
now atoned for iniquities, that he might carry them away into a 
desert place. So that the part he has to do in the transaction, is 
simply to bear them off and bury them out of sight, as things 
concerning which the justice of God had been satisfied, no more 
to be brought into account fit tenants of a land of separation 
and forgetfulness. 1 

1 That tho sense here given to the expression in ver. 10 respecting the 
live goat, V;>y "IM^i * cov er upon him, or to make atonement for him, is 
the correct and only well-grounded one, may now be regarded as con 
clusively established. Bochart, Witsius, Stiel, also Kurtz and some others, 
would render it, as in our version, to make atonement with him. But 
Cocceius already stated that he could find no case in whu-h the expres 
sion was used, u excepting for the persons in whose behalf the expiation was 
made, or of the sacred utensils," when spoken of as expurgated, ll.ilir 
expressly affirms that the means of atonement is never marked by ^>y, but 
always by 3, and that the former regularly marks the object of the atone- 


Thus, from the circumstances of the transaction, when cor 
rectly put together and carefully considered, we can have no 
difficulty in ascertaining the main object and intent of the action 
with the live goat without determining anything as to the 
exact import of the term Azazel. We shall give in the Ap 
pendix a brief summary of the views which have been enter 
tained regarding it, and state the one which we -are inclined to 
adopt. 1 But for the right interpretation of this part of the 
service, nothing material, we conceive, depends on it. What 
took place with the live goat was merely intended to unfold, and 
render palpably evident to the bodily eye, the effect of the great 
work of atonement. The atonement itself was made in secret, 
while the high priest alone was in the sanctuary ; and yet, as all 
in a manner depended on its success, it was of the utmost im 
portance that there should be a visible transaction, like that of 
the dismissal of the scape-goat, embodying in a sensible form 
the results of the service. Nor is it of any moment what be 
came of the goat after being conducted into the wilderness. It 
was enough that he was led into the region of drought and deso 
lation, where, as a matter of course, he should never more be 
seen or heard of. With such a destination, he was obviously 
as much a doomed victim as the one whose life-blood had 
already been shed and brought within the veil : he went where 
"all death lives and all life dies;" and so exhibited a most 
striking image of the everlasting oblivion into which the sins of 
God s people are thrown, when once they are covered with the 
blood of an acceptable atonement. 

The remaining parts of the service were as follows : The 
high priest put off the plain linen garments in which, as alone 

ment. (Symbolik, ii., p. 683.) Hengstenberg also concurs in this view 
(Egypt and Books of Moses, p. 165), who further remarks, that by the live 
goat being said to be atoned for, " he was thereby identified with the first, 
and the nature of the dead was transferred to the living ; so that the two 
goats stand here in a relation entirely similar to that of the two birds in the 
purification of the leper, of which the one let go was first dipped in the 
blood of the one slain." The minute special objections plied against this view 
by Kurtz (Sac. Offerings, 209), seem to me an exemplification of that hair 
splitting tendency, which, in seairliing for an overstrained exactness, is apt 
to overlook the more natural and obvious aspect of things. (See App. C.) 
1 See Appendix D. 


appropriate for such a service, the whole of it had been per 
formed, and laid them up in the sanctuary till the next day of 
atonement should come round. Then, having washed himself 
with water which he had to do at the beginning and end of 
every religious service and having put on his usual garments, 
he came forth and offered a burnt-offering for himself, and 
another for the people ; by the blood of which, atonement was 
again made for sin (implying that sin mingled itself even in these 
holiest services), as by the action with the other parts there was 
expressed anew the dedication of their persons and services to 
the Lord. The fat of the sin-offering also as in cases of sin- 
offering generally the high priest burnt upon the altar ; while 
the bodies of the victims were as in the case of sin-offerings 
generally for the congregation, or the high priest as its head, 
Lev. iv. 1-21 carried without the camp into a clean place, and 
burned there. The import of these rites has already been ex 
plained in connection with sin-offerings as a class, and need 
not be repeated here. Finally, the person employed in burning 
them, as also the person who had conducted the scape-goat into 
the wilderness, were, on their return to the congregation, to wash 
themselves, as being relatively impure : not in the strict and 
proper sense ; for if they had really contracted guilt, an atone 
ment would have had to be offered for them ; and the relative 
impurity could only have arisen from their having been en 
gaged in handling what, though in itself not unclean, but rather 
the reverse, yet in its meaning and design carried a respect to 
the sins of the people. 

IV. It is the less necessary that we should enlarge on the 
correspondence between this most important service of the Old 
Testament dispensation, and the work of Christ under the New, 
since it is the part of the Mosaic ritual which of all others has 
received the most explicit application from the pen of inspira 
tion. It is to this that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews 
most especially and frequently refers when pointing to Christ 
for the great realities which were darkly revealed under the 
ancient shadows. He tells us that through the flesh of Christ, 
given unto death for the sins of the world, a new and living 
way has been provided into the Holiest, as through a veil, no 


longer concealing and excluding from the presence of God, but 
opening to receive every penitent transgressor ; of which, indeed, 
the literal rending of the veil at Christ s death (Matt, xxvii. 51) 
was a matter-of-fact announcement ; that through the blood of 
Jesus we can enter not only with safety, but even with bold 
ness, into the region of God s manifested presence ; that this 
arises from Christ Himself having gone with His own blood 
into the heavens, that is, presenting Himself there as the per 
fected Redeemer of His people, who had borne for them the 
curse of sin, and for ever satisfied the justice of God concerning 
it : and that the sacrifice by which all this has been accom 
plished, being that of one infinitely worthy, is attended with 
none of the imperfections belonging to the Old Testament ser 
vice, but is adequate to meet the necessities of a guilty conscience, 
and to present the sinner, soul and body, with acceptance before 
God. (Heb. ix. x.) 1 This is the substance of the information 
given us respecting the things of Christ s kingdom, in so far as 
these were foreshadowed by the services of the day of atone 
ment; in which, it will be observed, our attention is chiefly 
drawn to a correspondence in the two cases of essential relations 
and ideas. We find no countenance given to the merely out- 

1 The only part of the statement, perhaps, which calls for a little expla 
nation is what is said of the veil : " the veil, that is to say, His flesh" (ch. 
x. 20), identifying apparently our Lord s body with the veil which separated 
between the Holy and the Most Holy Place. It is clear that this is only 
meant to be taken in a kind of figurative or popular sense ; for the veil had 
already been referred to as, in spiritual things, forming the ideal boundary 
line between the state of believers here and their prospective condition in 
glory (ver. 19). Yet one can easily perceive certain points of resemblance, 
on account of which Christ s flesh might in that general way be identified 
with the veil. For the use of this was, first to conceal the Most Holy Place 
from common view, and second to provide at proper times the way of 
entrance. So the flesh or humanity of Christ, so long as it existed in the 
life of His humiliation, concealed the most excellent glory of the Godhead 
nay, by its very holiness seemed to put this at a greater distance from man 
kind ; but when given to death for their sin, and received in their behalf to 
glory, it then laid open the way for the guilty. The rent veil was therefore 
the proper symbol of the access opened through Christ s death into the very 
presence of God. But as it was the atoning value of Christ s death which 
gave it this power, while in the veil, considered by itself, there was nothing 
similar, it is obvious the analogy cannot be carried very far, and must 
necessarily be understood with some license. 


ward anil superficial resemblances, which have so often been 
arbitrarily, and sometimes even with palpable incorrectness, 
drawn by Christian writers; such as, that in the high priest s 
putting on and again laying aside the white linen garments, was 
typified Christ s assuming, and then, when His work on earth 
was finMiecl, renouncing, the likeness of sinful flesh; in the two 
goats, His twofold nature ; in their being taken from the con 
gregation, His being purchased with the public money ; in the 
slain goat a dying, in the live goat a risen Saviour ; or, in the 
former Christ, in the latter Barabbas, or, as the elder Cocceians 
more commonly have it, the Jewish people sent into the desert 
of the wide world, with God s curse upon them. This last notion 
has been revived by Professor Bush in the Biblical Repository 
for July 1842, and in his notes on Leviticus, who gravely states, 
that the live goat made an atonement simply by being let go 
into the desert, and that the Jewish people made propitiation for 
their sins by being judicially subjected to the wrath of Heaven ! 
\Ve inevitably run into such erroneous and puerile conceits, 
or move at least amid shifting uncertainties, so long as we isolate 
the different parts of the outward transaction, and seek a dis 
tinct and separate meaning in each of them singly, apart from 
the grand idea and relations with which they are connected. 
But, rising above this defective and arbitrary mode of interpre 
tation, fixing our view on the real and essential elements in the 
respective cases, we then find all that is required to satisfy the 
just conditions of type and antitype, as well as much to confirm 
and establish the hearts of believers in the faith. For what do 
we not behold? On the one side the high priest, the head 
and representative of a visible community, all stricken with the 
sense of sin, going under the felt load of innumerable transgres 
sions into the awful presence of Jehovah, as connected with the 
outward symbols of an earthly sanctuary ; permitted to stand 
there in peace and safety, because entering with the incense of 
devout supplication and the blood of an acceptable sacrifice ; 
and in token that all sin was forgiven, and all defilement purged 
away, sending the mighty mass of atoned guilt into the waste 
howling wilderness, to remain for ever buried and forgotten. 
On the other side, corresponding to this, we behold Christ, the 
head and representative of a spiritual and invisible Church, 


charging Himself with all their iniquities, and, having poured 
out His soul unto death for them, thereafter ascending into the 
presence of the Father, as with His own life-blood shed in their 
behalf ; so that they also, sprinkled with this blood, or spiritually 
interested in this work of atonement and intercession, can now 
personally draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, having 
their sins blotted out from the book of God s remembrance, and 
shall in due time be admitted to dwell amid the bright effulgence 
of His most excellent glory. Does faith stagger while it con 
templates so free an absolution, ventures on so near an approach, 
or cherishes so elevating a prospect ? Or, having once appre 
hended, is it apt to lose the clearness of its view and the firmness 
of its grasp, from having to do with things which lie so much 
within the territory of the unseen and eternal? Let it throw 
itself back upon the plain and palpable transactions of the type, 
which on this account also are written for our learning and 
assured consolation. And if truly conscious of the burden of 
sin, and turning from it with unfeigned sorrow to that Lamb of 
God who has been set forth as a propitiation to take away its 
guilt, then, with what satisfaction Israel of old beheld the high 
priest, when the work of reconciliation was accomplished, send 
their iniquities away into a land of forgetfulness, and with what 
joy they then rejoiced, let not the humble believer doubt that 
the same may also, with yet more propriety, be his ; since in 
what was then transacted there were but the imperfect adum 
brations of the symbol, while now he has to do with the grand 
and abiding realities of the substance. 



THE subjects which we bring together in this section are of a 
somewhat peculiar and miscellaneous nature, though they have 
also certain points in common. We mean to introduce, respect 
ing them, only so much as may be necessary for the explanation 
of what more particularly belongs to each, as the more general 
principles they embodied and illustrated have already been fully 
considered. The remarks to be submitted must, therefore, be 
taken in connection with what goes before respecting the greater 
and more important sacrificial institutions, and presupposes an 
acquaintance with it. 


The account given of this solemn transaction is referred to 
in the Epistle to the Hebrews (ch. ix. 18-22), with an especial 
respect to the use then made of the sacrificial blood, and for the 
purpose of proving, that as the inferior and temporary covenant 
thru ratified required the shedding of animal blood, blood of a 
fur higher and more precious kind must have been required to 
seal the everlasting covenant brought in by Christ. The whole 
ceremony stood thus : Moses had on the previous day read the 
law of the ten commandments, " the words of the Lord," in the 
audience of the people, with the few precepts and judgments 


that had been privately communicated to him after their pro 
mulgation. Then, on the following morning, he caused an altar 
to be built under the hill, and twelve stones erected beside it, 
to represent the twelve tribes of the congregation ; certain young 
men, appointed as helps to the mediator to do priestly service 
for the occasion, were next sent to kill oxen for burnt-offerings 
and peace-offerings ; and the blood of these slain victims being 
received in basins, Moses divided it into two parts the one of 
which he sprinkled on the altar, thereby making atonement for 
their sins, and so rendering them ceremonially fit for being 
taken into a covenant of peace with God ; and with the other 
half after having again read the terms of the covenant, and 
obtained anew from the people a promise of obedience he 
sprinkled the people themselves, and said, " Behold the blood of 
the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning 
all these words." (Ex. xxiv. 5-8.) It is added in the Epistle 
to the Hebrews, that the book of the covenant was also sprinkled ; 
which, we presume, must have been done with the first half of 
the blood, and with somewhat of the same meaning and design 
with which the, that was afterwards placed over the 
tables of the covenant, was annually sprinkled in the Most Holy 

The grand peculiarity in this service was manifestly the 
division of the blood between Jehovah and the people, and the 
sprinkling of the latter with the portion appropriated to them. 
We found something similar in the consecration of Aaron, whose 
extremities were touched with the blood of the ram of consecra 
tion. But the action here differed in various respects from the 
other, and was directed to the special purpose of giving a 
palpable exhibition of the oneness that now subsisted between 
the two parties of the covenant. Naturally they stood quite 
apart from each other. Sin had formed an awful gulph between 
them. But God having first accepted in their behalf the blood 
of atonement, by that portion which was sprinkled on the altar, 
they were brought into a capacity of union and fellowship with 
Him ; and then, when they had solemnly declared their adher 
ence to the terms on which this agreement was to be maintained, 
as declared in the tables of the covenant and the judgments 
therewith connected, the agreement was formally cemented by 


the sprinkling of the other part of the blood upon them. Thus 
they shared part, and part with God : the pure and innocent life 
lie provided and accepted in their behalf became (symbolically) 
theirs ; a vital and hallowed bond united the two into one ; 
God s life was their life ; God s table their table ; and as a 
farther sign of this conjunction of feeling and interest, they 
partook of the meat of the peace-offerings, which formed the 
second kind of sacrifices presented. 

There were, of course, obvious imperfections marring the 
completeness of this service ; and in Christ alone and His king 
dom is a reality to be found, such as the necessities of the case 
and the demands of God s righteousness properly required. 
Here, too, the parties are naturally far asunder, the members 
of the covenant being all by nature the children of wrath, even 
as others. And that the covenant of reconciliation and peace 
might be established on a solid, satisfactory, and permanent 
basis, it was necessary not only that there should be the shed 
ding of blood, but also that it should be blood having a common 
relation to both the contracting parties, and as such, fit to be 
come the blood of reconciliation. Such, in the strictest sense, 
was the blood of Jesus ; and in it, therefore, we discern the real 
bond and only sure foundation of a covenant of peace between 
man and God. lie whose conscience is sprinkled with this, is 
thereby made partaker of a Divine nature ; he is received into 
the participation of the life of God, and is consecrated for ever 
more to live at once in the enjoyment of God s favour and for 
the interests of His kingdom. 

Bat a question may here, perhaps, suggest itself in respect to 
the covenant itself, which was ratified between God and Israel 
in the manner we have noticed. For if the terms of that cove 
nant were, as we formerly endeavoured to show, specially and 
peculiarly the law of the ten commandments, and if this law is 
equally binding on the Church now as a permanent rule of duty, 
how should it have been taken as the distinctive covenant or 
bond of agreement with Israel? Was not this, after all, to 
place Israel simply on a footing with men universally ? And 
does it not appear something like an incongruity, to ratify such 
a covenant by such symbolical and shadowy services ? There 
would undoubtedly be room for such questions, if this covenant 


were entirely isolated from what went before and came after 
if it were not viewed in connection with the circumstances out 
of which it grew, and with the ordinances and institutions by 
which it was presently followed up. On the one hand, the 
covenant was prescribed by God as having redeemed His people 
from a state of bondage and conferred on them a title to an in 
heritance of blessing, thereby pledging Himself to give whatever 
was essentially needed, to aid them in striving after conformity 
to its requirements of duty. But while these requirements of 
necessity pointed to the great lines of religious and moral duty 
binding on the Church in every age for God s own character 
of holiness being perpetually the same, He could not then take 
His people bound to live according to other principles of duty 
than are always obligatory while, therefore, they necessarily 
possessed that broad and general character, still, in the peculiar 
circumstances in which Israel stood, many things were needed to 
go along with what properly constituted the terms of the cove 
nant, which were of a merely national, shadowy, and temporary 
kind. The redemption they had obtained was itself but a shadow 
of a greater one to come, and so also was the inheritance to 
which they were appointed. No adequate provision was yet 
made for the higher wants of their nature ; and though, even in 
that lower territory, on which God was avowedly acting for 
them, and openly revealing Himself to them, He could not but 
exact from them a faithful endeavour after conformity to His 
law of holiness, as the condition of their abiding fellowship with 
Him, yet the ostensible provision for securing this was also mani 
festly inadequate, and could only be regarded as temporary. So 
that the covenant on every hand stood related to the symbolical 
and typical, though itself neither the one nor the other. As it 
grew out of relations having a typical bearing, so it of necessity 
brought with it ordinances and institutions which had a typical 
character ; " it had (appended to it, or bound up with it) ordi 
nances of Divine service, and a worldly sanctuary." (Heb. ix. 
1.) These could not be dispensed with during the continuance 
of that covenant ; and the members of the covenant were bound 
to observe them, so long as the covenant itself in that temporary 
form lasted. The new covenant, however, can dispense with 
them, because it brings directly into view the things that belong 


to salvation in its higher interests and ultimate realities. The 
inheritance now held out in prospect is the final portion of the 
redeemed, and the redemption that provides for their entrance 
into it is replete with all that their necessities require. It is, 
therefore, a better covenant, both because established upon 
better promises, and furnished with ampler resources for carry 
ing its objects to a successful accomplishment. Yet, in respect 
to fundamental principles and leading aims, both covenants are 
at one : a people established in friendly union with God, and 
bound up to holiness that they may experience the blessedness 
of such a union this is the paramount object of the one cove 
nant as well as of the other. 


The prescribed ritual upon this subject, recorded in Num. v. 
11-31, is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable in the Mosaic 
code ; and we introduce it here because it can only be rightly 
understood when it is viewed in relation to the covenant engage 
ment between God and Israel. The national covenant had its 
parallel in every family of Israel, in the marriage-tie that bound 
together man and wife. This relation, so important generally 
for the welfare of individuals and the prosperity of states, was 
chosen as an expressive image of that in which the whole people 
stood to God ; and on the understood connection between the 
two, Moses represents in another place (Num. xv. 39), as the 
later prophets constantly do, the people s unfaithfulness to the 
covenant as a committing of whoredom toward God. It was, 
therefore, in accordance with the whole spirit of the Mosaic 
legislation, that the strongest enactments should be made re 
specting this domestic relation, that the behaviour of man and 
wife to each other throughout the families of Israel might pre 
sent a faithful image of the behaviour Israel should maintain 
toward God; or if otherwise, that exemplary judgment might 
be- inflicted. This was the more appropriate under the Mosaic 
dispensation, as it was in connection with the propagation of a 
pure and holy seed that the covenant was to reach its great end 
of blessing the world. So that to bring corruption and defile 
ment into the marriage-bed, was to pollute the very channel of 


covenant blessing, and in the most offensive manner violate the 
obligation to purity imposed in the fundamental ordinance of 
circumcision. Adultery, therefore, if fully ascertained, must be 
punished with death (Lev. xx. 10), as a practice subversive of 
the whole design of the theocratic constitution. And not onlv 
must ascertained guilt in this respect be so dealt with, but even 
strong suspicions of guilt must be furnished with an opportunity 
of bringing the matter by solemn appeal to God, since guilt of 
this description, more than any other, is apt to escape detection 
by arts of concealment, and particularly in the case of the 
woman has many facilities of doing so. It is also on the 
woman that most depends for the preservation of the honour 
and integrity of families, and hence of greater moment that in 
cipient tendencies in the wrong direction should in her case be 
met by wholesome checks. 

It was on this account that the ritual respecting the trial 
and offering of jealousy was prescribed. The terms of the ritual 
itself imply, and the understanding of the Jews we know actu 
ally was, that the rite was to be put in force only when very 
strong grounds of suspicion existed in regard to the fidelity of 
the wife. But when suspicion of such a kind arose, the man 
was ordained to go with his wife to the sanctuary, and appear 
before the priest. They were to take with them, as a corban or 
meat-offering, the tenth part of an ephah of barley-meal, but 
without the usual accompaniments of oil and frankincense. 
The priest was then to take holy water whence derived, it is 
not said, but most probably water from the laver is meant, and 
so the Chaldee paraphrast expressly renders it. This water the 
priest was to put into an earthen vessel, and mingle it with some 
particles of dust from the floor of the sanctuary. He was then 
to uncover the woman s head, and administer a solemn oath to 
her she meanwhile holding in her hand the corban, and he in 
his the vessel of water, which is now called " the bitter water 
thatcauseth the curse." The oath was to run thus: "If no man 
have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside unto un- 
cleanness under thy husband (so it should be rendered, meaning, 
while under the law and authority of thy husband), be thou free 
from this bitter water that causeth the curse. But if thou hast 
gone aside under thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some 


man have lain with thee, while under thy husband, the Lord 
maki- thce a curse and an oath among thy people, by the Lord 
making thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell ; and this water 
that causeth the curse, shall go into thy bowels, to make thy 
belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot." To this the woman was to 
say, Amen, amen ; and the priest, proceeding meanwhile on the 
supposition of the woman s innocence, was then to blot out the 
words of the curse with the bitter water, and afterwards to wave 
the offering of barley-flour before the Lord, burning a portion 
of it on the altar ; which done, he was to close the ceremony 
by giving the woman the remainder of the water to drink. 

The most important part of the rite, undoubtedly, was the 
oath of purification. The spirit of the whole may be said to 
concentrate itself there. And, in accordance with the character 
generally of the Mosaic economy, a character that attached 
to the little as well as the great, to the individual as well as 
the general things belonging to it, the oath took the form of 
the lex talionis ; on the one side announcing exemption from 
punishment, if there was freedom from guilt ; and on the other 
denouncing and imprecating, when guilt had been incurred, a 
visitation of evil corresponding to the iniquity committed viz., 
corruption and unfruitfulness in those parts of the body which 
had been prostituted to purposes of impurity. The draught of 
water was added merely for the purpose of giving increased 
force and solemnity to the curse, and supplying a kind of repre 
sentative agency for certifying its execution. It was called 
bitter, partly because the very subjection to such a humiliating 
service rendered it a bitter draught, and also because it was to 
be regarded as (representatively) the bearer of the Lord s righte 
ous jealousy against sin, and His purpose to avenge Himself of 
it. Hence, also, the water itself was to be holy water, the more 
plainly to denote its connection with God; and to be mingled 
with dust, the dust of God s sanctuary, in token of its being em 
ployed by God with reference to a curse, and to show that the 
person who really deserved it was justly doomed to share in the 
original curse of the serpent. (Gen. iii. 14 ; comp. Ps. Ixxii. 9 ; 
Micah vii. 17.) Of course, the actual infliction of the curse de 
pended upon the will and power of God, whose interference was 
at the time so solemnly invoked; and the action proceeded on the 


belief of a particular providence extending to individual cases, 
such as would truly distinguish between the righteous and the 
wicked. But the whole Mosaic economy was founded upon 
this assumption, and justly since that God, without whom a 
sparrow falleth not to the ground, could not fail to make His 
presence and His power felt among the people upon whom He 
more peculiarly put His name ; nor refuse to make His ap 
pointed ordinances of vital efficacy, when they were employed 
in the way and for the purposes to which He had destined them. 
From not being acquainted with the whole of the circumstances, 
the principle might often appear to men involved in difficulty as 
regarded its uniform application. But that it was, especially 
then, and, with certain modifications, is still, a principle in the 
Divine government, no believer in Scripture can reasonably 

The other and subordinate things in the ceremonial such 
as the use of an earthen vessel to contain the water, the appoint 
ment of barley-meal for an offering, without oil or incense, and 
the uncovering of the woman s head admit of an easy explana 
tion. The two former, being the cheapest things of their 
respective kinds, were marks of abasement, and were intended 
to convey the impression, that every woman should regard her 
self as humbled, on whose account they had to be employed. 
The impression was deepened by the absence of oil, the symbol 
of the Spirit, and of incense, the symbol of acceptable prayer. 
By the uncovering of the head, this was still more strikingly 
signified, as it deprived the woman of the distinctive sign of 
her chastity, and reduced her to the condition of one who 
had either to confess her guilt, or to be put on trial for her 
innocence. The only parts of the transaction that are attended 
with real difficulty, are those which concern the praentation of 
the corban of barley-meal. Many both defective and erroneous 
views have been given of what relates to these ; but without 
referring more particularly to them, we simply state our con 
currence generally with the view of Kurtz (Mosaische Opfer, p. 
326), who has placed the matter, we think, in its proper light. 
This offering, which in ver. 25 is called "the jealousy offering," 
is also in ver. 15 called expressly the woman s offering. And 
that it is to be identified with her rather than with the man, is 


plain also from the circumstance, that she was appointed, during 
the administration of the oath, to hold this in her hands. Nor 
can we justly understand more by the direction in ver. 15, to 
the man to bring it, than that, as the whole property of the 
familv belonged to him, he should be required to furnish out of 
his means what was necessary for the occasion. And as the 
woman was obliged to go with him to the sanctuary for this 
service, whenever the spirit of jealousy so far took possession of 
his mind, the offering, though more properly hers, might with 
perfect propriety be also called the offering of jealousy, being 
itself the offspring of the spirit of jealousy in the husband. The 
woman, as was stated, during the more important part of the 
ceremony, held the offering in her hands, while the priest held 
in his the water of the curse. The priest then appears, not as 
the representative and advocate of the man who holds his wife 
guilty (for there, we think, Kurtz has slightly deviated from the 
natural view), but as the minister of Jehovah, whose it was to 
see the right vindicated, and, as such, fitly places himself before 
her with the symbol and pledge of the curse. The woman, on 
the other hand, maintaining her innocence, as fitly stands before 
him with the symbol of her innocence, the meat-offering, which 
was an image of good works, and which could only be rendered 
by those who were in a full state of acceptance with God. As 
soon as the curse was pronounced, and the woman had responded 
her double Amen, then the articles changed hands. The priest 
received from the woman her meat-offering, waved and pre 
sented it to God, the heart-searching and righteous ; so that, if 
lie found it a true symbol of her innocence, lie might give her 
to know in her experience, that " the curse causeless should not 
come." The woman, on her part, received from the priest the 
water of the curse, and drank it ; so that, if it were a true sym 
bol of her guilt, it might be like the pouring out of the Lord s 
indignation in her innermost parts. Thus the matter was left 
in the hands of Him who is the searcher of hearts. If there 
was guilt before Him, then the offering was a remembrancer of 
iniquity ; but if not, it would be a memorial of innocence, and 
a call to defend the just from false accusations of guilt. The 
whole service, viewed in respect to individuals, was fitted to 
convey a deep impression of the jealous care with which the 
VOL. II. 2 C 


holy eye of God watched over even the most secret violations 
of the marriage vow, and the certainty with which lie would 
avenge them. And viewed more generally, as an image of things 
pertaining to the entire commonwealth of Israel, it proclaimed 
in the ears of all the necessity of an unswerving and faithful 
adherence to covenant engagements with God, otherwise the 
curse of indelible shame, degradation, and misery would inevit 
ably befall them. 


The rite appointed to be observed in this case so far re 
sembles the preceding one, that they both alike had respect, not 
to the actual, but only to the possible, guilt of the persons con 
cerned. They differed, however, in the probable estimate that 
was formed of the relation of the parties to the hypothetical 
charge. The presumption in the last case was against the 
accused, here it is rather in their favour ; and so the rite in the 
one seemed more especially framed for bringing home the charge 
of iniquity, and in the other for purging it away. The rite in 
this case, however, should not be termed, as it is in the heading 
of our English Bibles, and as it is also very commonly treated 
by divines, the expiation of an uncertain murder ; for there is no 
proper atonement prescribed. The law is given in Deut. xxi. 
1-9, and is shortly this : When a dead body was found in the 
field, in circumstances fitted to give rise to the suspicion of the 
person having come to a violent end, while yet no trace could 
be discovered of the murderer, it was then to be presumed that 
the guilt attached to the nearest city, either by the murdcivr 
having come from it, or from his having found concealment in 
it. That city, therefore, had a certain indefinite charge of guilt 
lying upon it indefinite as to the parties really concerned in 
the charge, but most definite and particular as regards the great 
ness of the crime involved in it, and the treatment due to the 
perpetrator. For deliberate murder the law provided no expia 
tion. Even for the infliction of death, not deliberately, but by 
some fortuitous and unintentional stroke, it did not appoint any 
rite of expiation, but only a way of escape by means of a partial 
exile. Here, therefore, where the question is respecting a umr- 


dor, the prescribed ritual cannot contemplate a work of expiation. 
Nor is the language employed such as to convey that idea. The 
elders of the city were enjoined to go down into a valley with a 
stream in it, bringing with them a heifer which had never been 
yoked, and there strike off its head by the neck. Then in pre 
sence of the priests, the representatives and ministers of God, 
they were to wash their hands over the carcase of the slain 
heifer in token of their innocence, and to say, " Our hands have 
not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Be merciful, 
O Lord, unto Thy people Israel, whom Thou hast redeemed, 
and lay not innocent blood unto Thy people of Israel s charge. 
And (it is added) the blood shall be forgiven them." 

The forgiveness here meant was evidently forgiveness in the 
more general sense ; the guilt in question would not be laid to 
the charge of the elders of the city, nor would the punishment 
due on account of it be inflicted on them. They were personally 
cleared from the guilt, but the guilt itself was not atoned ; there 
was a purgation, but not an expiation. And, accordingly, none 
of the usual sacrificial terms are applied to the transaction with 
the heifer. It is not called an oblation, a sacrifice, a sin or tres 
pass-offering ; nor was there any sprinkling of its blood upon 
the altar ; and even the mode of killing it was different from 
that followed in all the proper sacrifices not by the shedding 
of the blood, but by the lopping off of the head. Indeed, the 
process was merely a symbolical action of judgment and acquit 
tal before the priests, not as ministers of worship, but as officers 
of justice. The heifer, young and unaccustomed to the yoke, 
in the full flush and beauty of life, was yet subjected to a 
violent death a palpable representative of the case of the per 
son whose life had been wantonly and murderously taken away. 
The carcase of this slain heifer is placed before the elders, and 
over it, as if it were the very carcase of the slain man, they wash 
their hands, and solemnly declare their innocence respecting the 
violent death that had been inflicted on him. The priests, sit 
ting as judges, receive the declaration as satisfactory, and hold 
the city absolved of guilt. The washing of the hands in water 
was merely to give additional solemnity to this declaration, and 
exhibited symbolically what was presently afterwards announced 
in words. Hence, among other allusions to this part of the rite, 


the declaration of the Psalmist, "I will wash mine hands in 
innocence " (Ps. xxvi. C) ; and the action of Pilate, when wish 
ing to establish his innocence respecting the death of Jesus, 
though it cannot be considered as done with any allusion to the 
part here performed by the elders over the body of the heifer, 
yet serves to show how natural it was in the circumstances, 
according to the customs of antiquity. The leading object of 
the rite was to impress upon the people a sense of God s hatred 
of deeds of violence and blood, and make known the certainty 
with which He would make inquisition concerning such deeds, 
if they were allowed to proceed in the land. It was one of the 
fences thrown around the second table of the law ; and if per 
formed on all suitable occasions, must have powerfully tended 
to cherish sentiments of humanity in the minds of the covenant 
people, and promote feelings of love between man and man. 


The ordinance regarding the Red Heifer (described in Num. 
xix.) had respect to actual defilements, though only of a parti 
cular kind, and to the means of purification from them. The 
defilements in question were such as arose from personal con 
tact with the dead, such as the touching of a dead body, or 
dwelling in a tent where death had entered, or lighting on 
the bone of a dead man, or having to do with a grave in which 
a corpse had been deposited. In such cases a bodily unclean- 
ness was contracted, which lasted seven days, and even then 
could not be removed but by a very peculiar element of cleans 
ing, viz., the application of the ashes, mixed with water, of the 
body of a heifer, red-coloured, without blemish, unaccustomed 
to the yoke, burnt without the camp, and with cedar-wood, 
hyssop, and scarlet cast into the midst of the burning. 

In regard, first, to the occasion of this very peculiar service, 
it will readily be understood that, in accordance with the general 
nature of the symbolical institutions, the body stands as the 
representative and image of the soul, and its defilement ami 
cleansing for actual guilt and spiritual purification. This, in 
deed, was clearly indicated in the ordinance being called " a 
purification for sin " (ver. 9). But it is the soul, not the body, 


which is properly chargeable with sin ; and the whole, therefore, 
of what is here described, was evidently intended to serve as the 
mere shell and representation of inward and spiritual realities. 
Divine truths and lessons were embodied in it for all times and 
ages. For what, according to the uniform language of Scrip 
ture, is death? It is the direful wages of sin the visible earthly 
recompense with which God visits transgression ; and being in 
itself the end and consummation of all natural evils, the state 
from which flesh naturally and most of all shrinks with abhor 
rence, it is the proper image of sin, both as regards its universal 
prevalence and its inherent loathsomeness. This may be said of 
death merely in the aspect it carries to men s natural state and 
feelings, but much more does such language become applicable 
to it when viewed in relation to the Most High. For it belongs 
to Him to have life in Himself, yea, to stand in such close con 
nection with the powers and blessings of life, that no corruption 
can dwell in His presence. But death is the very climax of cor 
ruption ; it is therefore most abhorrent to His nature, and has 
been appointed as the proper doom of sin, the awful seal and 
testimony of His displeasure on account of it. Hence, the 
priests who had to minister before Him were forbidden to come 
into contact with the dead, except in the case of their nearest 
relatives (Lev. xxi. 1-4), and the high priest even in the case 
of his father or mother (ver. 11). 

This is the painful truth which lies at the foundation of 
the whole of the rite respecting the Red Heifer. It is a rite 
which presents in bol