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form to the customary religious observances. You may accompany the people of God, as if on your march with them to the heavenly Canaan. When the trumpets of their leaders sound, you may be among the first and most alert to discharge some outward duty. But how is it within ? The heart is what God requires ; its affections, desires, and purposes, to be conformed to his will, and devoted to his services. Does he dwell in your heart? Is it the tabernacle of his presence, and of his also who is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person? Is it your constant prayer that your soul may thus be filled with Christ; and become more and more like him; and move and act always by his impulse ?
Happy are you, if it is so; unspeakably happy! You are on your journey heavenward ; and the Lord will guide you in the way of safety and peace.
The priests and Levites. The first-born. Offerings of
Aaron, and his two surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, were the priests, to minister unto the
Lord in that sacred office. They were employed, in offering up the different sacrifices; consecrating the show-bread; pouring out the libations; burning the incense; sprinkling the blood of the victims; and blessing the people.
Aaron, as high-priest, was at the head of all religious affairs. He alone had the privilege of entering the sanctuary once a year, on the day of solemn expiation, to make atonement for the sins of the whole people. When clad in his appropriate dress, and wearing the urim and thummin, he answered difficult questions of duty; God often giving him explicit directions, and discovering to him secret and future things.
In addition to the duties which have been mentioned, the priests instructed the people, and decided controversies. They distinguished the several sorts of leprosy; and settled questions respecting divorces, vows, and other affairs connected with the injunctions of the law. They had certain, peculiar offices to perform, as we have seen, in the removal of the tabernacle. They sounded the silver trumpets; and, in time of war, carried the ark of the covenant.
It was absolutely necessary that the high-priest and priests should have assistance in the discharge of these various and arduous duties. For this purpose the Lord separated the tribe of Levi from all the other tribes, and gave these directions to Moses :
" Bring the tribe of Levi near and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. And they shall keep his charge,” (act under his direction in his appropriate sphere of duty,) "and the charge of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle."
In the performance of this service, and the discharge of their various duties, the Levites were taken instead of the first-born of the Israelites. “Because," said the Lord, "all the first-born are mine ; for on the day that I smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I hallowed unto me all the first-born in Israel, both man and beast : mine shall they be: I am the Lord.”
Every Levite was thus a constant and striking memorial, before the eyes of the whole people, of their deliverance from bondage by the arm of the Almighty, and of their obligations to him.
Aaron and his sons were of the race of Levi; and the priesthood was confined to them and their descendants. Although Moses was of the same stock, and from the same son of Levi, Kohath, yet his children and descendants had no part in the priesthood, but were only ordinary Levites; another mark of his humble and unambitious spirit, the servant of the Lord, and of his people, and not seeking any earthly distinctions for himself or his family.
At this time an enumeration was also made of the Levites, by the divine direction, including every male from a month old and upward; the whole number of which was twenty-two thousand. A subsequent enumeration of those who were between .the
ages of thirty and fifty, showed that there were eight thousand five hundred and eighty, who were able to take an active part in the peculiar services which that tribe rendered.
Moses was then ordered to number all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel, from a month old and upward. They amounted to two hundred and seventy-three more than the whole number of males among the Levites of the same age. They were hallowed to the Lord. He claimed them as his own, and for his peculiar service. As there were no substitutes for them among the Levites, he directed Moses to have them redeemed by the payment of five shekels for each, so that they might be retained by their parents, and act under their direction. The redemption-money was to be paid to Aaron and his sons, as one of the means of their support. For in this way; and by the tithes; the offerings; their share of the sacrifices, the fleece always belonging to them ; a part of the wool when sheep were shorn, and of animals when killed for use; the right to the first-born of unclean animals, and to the first-fruits of trees and of the earth ; and from a few other sources, the priests and the Levites, with their families, were maintained.
Provision, also, was made by the divine direction, when the Israelites should take possession of the promised land, for the residence of the tribe of Levi, by allowing them forty-eight cities, with a very considerable extent of land around them for their use ; thirteen of which cities were to belong to the priests.
It was indispensable that the priests and Levites should be thus comfortably supported, while discharging their many, laborious duties, for they received no lands of inheritance in Canaan, as all the other tribes did, being separated from them for the peculiar service of the Lord.
Promulgation was made by Moses, at this time, of certain other ordinances, respecting the removal from the camp of unclean and diseased persons ; restitution in case of fraud; offerings of holy things ; the bitter waters of jealousy; the Nazarite and his vow; and the form of blessing the people by Aaron and his sons.
Among these various and important transactions, there was one which must not be passed over in silence. Offerings of great value were presented ' by the princes of Israel, the heads of the house of their fathers, and princes over the different tribes, for the service of the tabernacle, and as sacrifices to the Lord.