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think he would be unwise, who, without any very urgent reason should quit a situation in which he possesses advantages for this most important of all objects, such as he probably could not soon meet with elsewhere.
I am, dear Sir,
RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT OF ISRAEL.
It is generally admitted by all parties, in controversies about establishments, that the religion of the Old Testament, or rather the religion of Israel under the Mosaic dispensation, was an establishment, whatever conclusions they may attempt to deduce from the acknowledged fact. It may, however, be worth while to inquire, in what sense this was really the case.
The circumstance, indeed, that from Adam to Moses (above 2500 years) true religion was found on earth, without an establishment, or any thing resembling one; and yet that at the end of that period God himself formed an establishment; shews that true piety may subsist either without an establishment or under one; that an external change in the situation of those who profess true religion may render an establishment highly expedient and beneficial, when before that change it could hardly have been admissible; and that the case of the Old Testament church, from the first promise to the coming of the Messiah, was not in this respect totally dissimilar to that of the New
Testament church in the primitive times, and since the days of Constantine to the present age. While no nation, as such, professed to worship JEHOVAH alone, and no rulers or kings were found among his worshippers, no traces are met with of an establishment in the Old Testament any more than in the New, or in the New Testament church in similar circumstances. But when the descendents of Abraham were grown up into a nation, professing the worship of Jehovah, and living under rulers of the same religion, then an establishment was formed; in what way, and of what kind, remains to be investigated. The law of Moses, indeed, established the worship of JEHOVAH, the Creator of the world, and the Lord of all things, to the entire exclusion of all other names or beings, which either then were, or ever could be, supposed to be gods, or lords, or objects of adoration; and expressly forbad the use of all images or likenesses, whether of God or of creatures, in religious worship. Death also was denounced, as the punishment to be inflicted by the people, or rulers, on every detected idolater in Israel; and utter destruction upon every city in Israel which turned aside to idolatry.'
The worship also to be conducted, first at the tabernacle, and afterwards at the temple built in the place which the "Lord should choose to place "his name there," was regulated in a very circumstantial manner by the ceremonial law; while very many of its requirements were obligatory on all Israelites, in every part of the land or of the
earth. Yet no penalty, to be inflicted by the rulers, was appointed, except, perhaps, for offering sacrifices elsewhere than at the altar, in the court of the tabernacle. 1
The descendents of Levi likewise were appointed to be the ministers of religion to the other tribes; the family of Aaron to be the priests, to sacrifice and burn incense before the Lord; and the high priest was constituted their head, or principal, especially to inquire of the Lord by urim and thummim, and to perform the services of the great day of atonement: and an ample provision was allotted to them out of the estates and cities of the other tribes.
It is, moreover, evident, that the priests and Levites were the divinely appointed regular instructors of the people in religion, and stationed for that purpose in cities in every part of the land. 2
Nor can it be reasonably doubted, that some of them at least, in every age, understood this, and diligently endeavoured to instruct the people. It may therefore be supposed that, besides the stated worship at the sanctuary, social or public worship, by prayers and thanksgivings, and public instructions, were given, under the inspection or superintendence of the more conscientious priests and Levites while at their own homes: at least this ought to have been done. Yet there were no regulations given respecting these devotions and in
1 Lev. xvii. 1-9. 7-10. Xxx. 22. Xxxv. 3. Mic. iii. 11. Mal. ii. 7.
2 Deut. xxxiii. 10.
2 Chron. xvii. Neh. viii. 7.
structions; no prescribed forms or methods of worship; nothing, in the modern sense, like an establishment.
The priests and Levites were also the ordinary judges or magistrates in their several districts; and the high priest, with those chief priests who more statedly resided at or near the sanctuary, seems to have been appointed as a supreme court, to which appeals lay from all parts of the land. 1 Yet still, as Joshua succeeded Moses, and gave directions and commands to the priests, 2 so it was intimated that there would generally be judges, or rulers, distinct from the priests; and that an union, or alliance, or mutual cooperation was intended to subsist between them. Yet, from the days of Joshua to those of Samuel or David, this union is scarcely noticed. When the other tribes marched against those tribes who had their inheritance to the east of Jordan, and who were supposed to have forsaken the appointed worship at the tabernacle, by building another altar, 3 Joshua is not once mentioned: Phinehas was indeed one of the ambassadors sent on the occasion; but the elders, or heads of the tribes, seem to have conducted the whole business, without much consulting him.
In the book of Judges, neither high priest, nor priests, nor Levites are mentioned in any public transaction, except as Phinehas consulted the Lord for the tribes of Israel, in the almost extirpating war against Benjamin. Sacrifices were offered by