« PreviousContinue »
before him with their homage and tribute. In this view, the priests also were royal servants attending upon the monarch, and composing his court; and all the furniture of the sacred tent had relation to the idea of a princely house, in which it is common to find full and rich provision made for comfort and convenience in every way. Thus it was lighted in brilliant and expensive style, as befitted a palace, and furnished with a table supplied with its various utensils, and continually spread with provision. This idea, however, if it be not utterly without reason or truth, enters only secondarily, and, as it were, accidentally, into the original design of the tabernacle. The analogy imagined between its arrangement and service, and the manner of an earthly royal court, is slight in every case, and in most particulars fails altogether; so that it is evident its whole constitution and order had regard, in the divine plan, to something entirely different. Its great purpose was to present a symbolical picture of the glorious reality which the gospel unfolds-the mystery of mercy into which angels desire to look, whereby God can be just, while he justifies the sinner, renews his intercourse of friendship and love with a fallen rebel race, and out of the deep pollution of guilt and the abyss of infinite ruin, raises a multitude which no man can number, to mingle in spotless purity with the great family of Heaven, where in his presence there is fulness of joy and pleasure for
It signified, that a fearful separation has taken place between God and the human race. It represented God as seated upon a throne of holiness, and jealous of the honour of his perfect laws; a being in whose sight iniquity can never stand, and whose righteousness will by no means clear the guilty. It represented man to be under the condemnation of sin-polluted, ignorant, helpless, and lost. It was intimated, accordingly, that communion, direct, free, and happy, with his Maker, such as is granted to pure and unfallen spirits, was, in his case, forfeited completely; that sin had created a hindrance in the way of it, which no power of his was sufficient ever to remove; that he was shut out from the favour of God; that his prayer could have no regard in Heaven; that the presence of the Al
mighty, if he were brought into it, could be to him only a consuming fire, full of terror and death. The way into the Holiest of all was barred against approach with awful solemnity.
At the same time, it was signified, that God had, with amazing goodness, provided a remedy for the dreadful evil, and devised means to remove entirely the hindrance so terrific, that rose to shut the sinner for ever from his favour. Indeed, the nature and extent of the evil were displayed only in the representation of the remedy; the picture itself was, in all respects, a picture of mercy; of mercy triumphant over sin and death: and it was in the exhibition of the victory alone, that the terribleness of the difficulty which it had to overcome was brought into view. God was represented as seated upon the throne of grace as well as of holiness and justice: the ark, while it guarded the tables of the eternal law, was covered with the mercy-seat. Righteousness and mercy, it was intimated, were met together in mysterious union, such as infinite wisdom alone could contrive, and only infinite power could accomplish; such as fills all Heaven with adoration and wonder, and causes angels to bend forward, as it were, with the most earnest interest, to contemplate its unspeakable glory. (1 Pet. i. 12. Rev. v. 11-13.) Communication was represented to be restored between the Holy One and the ruined sinner. God could regard the prayer of man, pardon his guilt, remove his impurity, extend to him the richest blessings of his grace, and in the end receive him into his own presence in glory, as if he had never offended. But all this is secured only through a most extraordinary array of means, and with expense beyond all parallel. The way to the throne is open, but not for the guilty to rush before it in his own person: his desires may be presented there and answered, but only as they come recommended by the mediation of another: that mediation is all-prevailing, but only as it is founded in full and complete atonement, equal to the utmost demand of a broken law. Thus, in the service of the tabernacle, there was provided a priesthood, to stand between the Most High and the tribes of his chosen people; and so before the Most Holy Place there was erected an altar of perpetual
intercession; and without, in front of the entrance of the sanctuary, an altar of continual atonement. By blood, and by water, and by incense, God was to be approached. In the church of Jesus Christ, we find the great realities themselves which were thus represented in shadowy type. The Son of God is the glorious Mediator, who makes reconciliation for iniquity, by whom sinners may draw near to Jehovah, and by whom the grace of Heaven finds its way in overflowing streams to their dark and polluted souls. He is able to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him, because he ever lives to make intercession for them; and his intercession cannot fail to be prevalent, because it is founded upon an atonement of infinite value-he has appeared on earth to take away sin by one amazing and sufficient sacrifice, THE SACRIFICE OF HIMSELF. (Heb. vii. 25. ix. 26.) In the church, there is thus secured every thing that is needful for man, in order to restore him to fellowship with his Maker here on earth, to create him anew in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after the image in which he was originally made, and to introduce him at last without moral spot or blemish into the full happiness of heaven.
We have now surveyed the whole of the ancient tabernacle. Every person must be struck with the exceedingly expensive style in which it was made. What an amount of labour, what an expense of the most skilful and curious workmanship, what an astonishing worth of the most rare and precious materials, were joined in the erection of a single tent! Hercby it was signified, as it was also in every part of the worship connected with the sanctuary, that God is to be honoured with the most perfect service which men have it in their power to render; and that we can never do too much for the honour of God, or become extravagant in the measure of our zeal and activity for His glory. This costliness and magnificence, however, had also its typical meaning in correspondence with the great design of the whole building. As the whole was an emblematic representation of the great mystery of redeeming grace displayed in the church, it was fit that it should be clothed in every part with the greatest degree of worldly splendour and value, to signify the transcendent glory and
preciousness of this mystery, and the moral magnificence of that church in which it is found.
After the work was all finished, it was set apart for the service of God by a solemn ceremony of consecration.Moses was commanded to set all up in proper order, and to anoint the whole with holy anointing oil. This oil was compounded with particular care, according to the direction of God himself, and, like the sacred incense already noticed, might never be employed for any other purpose than that for which it was ordered to be made, nor imitated at all by any composition for common use: thus it became holy, and sanctified the things and persons that were anointed with it; that is, separated them from common worldly service and dedicated them with solemn appropriation to God. (Ex. xxx. 23-33. xl. 9-11. Lev. viii. 10, 11.) We are informed, moreover, that both the tabernacle and all the vessels of its ministry were sprinkled with blood. (Heb. ix. 21.) Thus they were purified and prepared for their holy use.
In the wilderness the tabernacle always stood, whereever the Israelites stopped, in the midst of the camp. Immediately around its court were pitched the tents of the priests and Levites; the priests having their place to the east before the entrance, the family of Gershom to the west, that of Cohath to the south, and that of Merari to the north. Outside of these, at some distance, the other tribes encamped in four great divisions, each consisting of three tribes. Each of these divisions had its separate standard and principal tribe by whose name it was distinguished. On the east was the camp of Judah, including the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon: on the south side, the camp of Reuben, including the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad; on the west, the camp of Ephraim, including the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin; on the north, the camp of Dan, including the tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali. When the signal was given to march, the tabernacle was taken down, and all its parts committed to the care of the Levites, to be carried to the next place of encampment. Each of the three families of the Levites had its particular charge in this service assigned to it by the Lord. The care of the most holy things-the sacred fur
niture of the tabernacle and its court, were intrusted to the sons of Kohath; and they were required to carry the whole upon their shoulders. For convenient carriage, the ark, the table, and both the altars were furnished with rings, through which staves or poles, prepared for the purpose, were made to pass, by means of which they might be lifted and borne. The staves which belonged to the ark were never taken out of their rings, but remained there when the tabernacle was set up; those which belonged to the table and the altars were put into their rings only when they were to be used. In marching, the camp of Judah moved forward first; then followed the camp of Reuben; next came the Levites with the several parts of the tabernacle ; immediately after them the camp of Ephraim set forward; the camp of Dan brought up the rear. (Num. ii. 1-34. iii. 17-38. iv. 1-33.) Bearing in mind the order both of encampment and march, in which the camp of the children of Joseph had its place always directly behind the tabernacle, we may understand that introduction of the Psalmist's prayer," Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel! Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock, Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth! Before Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up thy strength, and come and save us." (Ps. lxx. 1, 2.)
Every encampment and removal was determined by divine direction. On the day the tabernacle was reared up, in testimony of God's presence and approbation, a CLOUD— the marvellous manifestation of the divine presence which had before led them out of Egypt-overshadowed it, and it was filled with the glory of the Lord. By this cloud they were afterwards, continually, in all their journeyings, admonished when to rest, and when and whither to proceed. While it rested over the tent, the Israelites journeyed not, whether it was for a shorter or longer time. But when it was taken up, by day or by night, at once the whole camp was in motion: the tabernacle was taken down; every necessary preparation was instantly made for marching; and onward, in whatever course the cloud conducted, the tribes, in their appointed order, began to move. Again, when the cloud stood still, and not before, they stopped, erected the tabernacle where it hovered on high