Page images

sacrifices were attended with the blowing of the sacred silver trumpets. (Numb. x. 10.)

There was one New Moon, however, distinguished in point of importance, above all the rest. This was the first day of the seventh month, Tishri, and so, of course, the first day of the civil year, which always, as we have seen, commenced with that month. It was more sacred than other New Moons, being especially set apart as a Sabbath or day of rest from all common work; for the law did not forbid such work in the case of the others, although it was considered to have made it, to a certain extent, at least, improper and wrong, as has just been stated, by the religious regard with which it distinguished them, in other respects. The return of this day, which ushered in the ancient year, was required to be announced and proclaimed with a special blowing of trumpets; whence it was called "the day of trumpet blowing," and also "the memorial of blowing of trumpets." It was honoured at the Sanctuary, by peculiar offerings: the law prescribing for it, in addition to the sacrifices presented on other New Moons, a bullock, a ram, and seven lambs, for a burnt offering, and a second goat, as it would seem, for a sin of fering. (Lev. xxiii. 24. Numb. xxix. 1—6.)

Thus, the months and the year were sanctified, as it were, by having the first-fruits of their time still consecrated to the Lord: thus, the Israelite was continually reminded that his days, as well as his cattle and his crop, were all given to him from his Maker, and could not be employed too unreservedly in his service and for his glory. It were well, if the recollection of this fact could be habitually pressed upon the soul, in every age. It were well, if Christians could be brought to feel, as they ought, that they are, in every respect, but stewards for God, under obligations to use all that they have in the way that may be most for his praise, and for the advancement of his kingdom; and, that if they are not themselves their own, but are bound to glorify God with body and with spirit, as altogether his, it must be strangely inconsistent to look upon their property, or their time, as less absolutely sacred for his use, (even if these things were not essentially joined together,) or to waste or misapply them, or to withhold

them from his service, without a feeling of responsibility, or a single serious thought of the reckoning, that is surely to take place with every servant, for the manner in which he shall have improved each single talent given him to occupy-not for himself, but for his Lord. (Matt. xxvi. 14-30.)


These New Moons differed from the Sabbath, in having only a ceremonial sacredness, while that, as we have seen, was, in its original institution, altogether of moral characWith the close of the Jewish dispensation, accordingly, they lost all their distinction in this respect: whereas, the Sabbath, to this day, retains the whole of its essential nature, and the full measure of its earliest authority. (Gal. iv. 10. Col. ii. 16.) Still, there can be no impropriety in setting apart such days, even now, for particular religious employment, as being naturally suited for profitable use in this way, if it be done voluntarily, for the sake of pious improvement, and not through any superstition. And cer tainly a special propriety there is, that the first day of the year should be observed publicly and privately, after such a manner. How much more becoming and rational, thus to recognize the flight of time, so big with awful interest, than to celebrate its memorial with the shout of revelry, the boisterous laugh of folly, or the light extravagance of festivity and mirth!



THREE times every year, all the males of the Jewish na. tion, who were of sufficient age, were required to make their appearance at the Sanctuary, the tabernacle at first, and afterwards the temple, for the solemn worship of God. "Three times in a year," was the commandment, "shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord, empty; every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of

the Lord thy God, which he hath given thee." (Ex. xxiii. 14-17. Deut. xvi. 16, 17.) The feast of weeks lasted only for one day; the feast of unleavened bread continued as many as seven, and that of tabernacles, eight, though only the first and last, in each case, were considered specially sacred, being set apart from all common work, except such as was needed for the preparation of food. (Ex. xii. 16.)

It was on these occasions, that the second sort of first fruits, firstlings, and tythes, noticed in the last chapter, were presented before the Lord, and then converted, according to his direction, into offering-feasts of sacred gratitude and joy. Free-will offerings, also, were presented more abundantly at these times, than through all the year besides, and made use of in the same way; for those who lived at a distance, still kept such offerings, till they were called to attend some one of the festivals, and then brought all their different gifts together to the House of God. Thus, all came furnished with presents, and no one appeared before the Lord empty; so that the most liberal provision was secured for the religious entertainments, with which the feasts were celebrated. These entertainments, it is to be remembered, were required to be widely social, and to be made free, especially to the destitute and the unfortunate. In this way, the people rejoiced together in the presence of their God, acknowledging his wonderful mercies, and showing forth his praise; while, at the same time, they were drawn with kindly regard toward each other, and led to mingle their hearts in general benevolence and friendship, as forming altogether, only a single happy family, and having all a common interest in the kind care of the same bountiful and compassionate Father. During these festivals, also, the public service of the Sanctuary was increased with additional offerings, over and above the daily sacrifices, presented each day, in the name of the whole congregation. Thus, with public and private sacrifices together, the altar found no rest, and the flowing of blood was not stayed from morning to night.


The feast of unleavened bread, was so called, because, while it lasted, no leaven, whatever, was allowed to be made use of, but unleavened bread alone, was eaten by all the people. It was called, also, the Passover, because it was instituted in memory of that night of mercy, when the Lord passed over the families of his people, while he carried the terror of death into every household of Egypt. We have a full account of its original appointment, in Exod. xii. 1-28. In some circumstances, indeed, that first celebration which was required in Egypt, was not imitated in those that were observed afterwards; but in all essential points, the example of it was ever after followed. The festival lasted from the 15th to the 21st of the month Abib or Nisan, the first of the sacred year. It always fell, accordingly, in the time of our month April, though it came in some years several days sooner than it did in others, as we have seen, when considering the Jewish manner of reckoning time. Sometimes, the 14th of the month was termed the first day of unleavened bread, because on that day, before evening, all leaven was carefully removed from the houses, by way of preparation for the festival week.

The principal solemnity of the season, was the sacred supper with which it was introduced; and this, more especially and properly, was that which had the name of the PASSOVER; the rest of the feast being called so from it, on account of its primary importance. This supper was required to be prepared by every family, unless in cases where they were small, when two might join and prepare it together. Nor were any who might be found unconnected with families, allowed to neglect it; such had either to find admission into some domestic society for the occasion, or to form themselves into companies of proper size, and so keep the feast by themselves. Each supper, it was directed, should consist of a whole lamb or kid, a male of the first year, without blemish, roasted whole, (that is without being cut up after it was butchered and dressed,) and served up with unleavened bread, and a salad of bitter herbs. The victims were to be selected on the 10th day of the month, and slain on the evening of the 14th, a short

[ocr errors]





[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »