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tation of Moses, and that the appearance of this sacred officer in the splendour of his pontifical garb, might suggest to Moses some of the particulars contained in this blessing, especially the beginning of it? “Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one." " Thy Thummim and thy Urim," that is, being interpreted, “thy perfections and thy lights.” They were niysteries, of which we have spoken in a former Lecture, put into the high priest's breastplate, and were designed apparently to signify the graces and office of the priesthood, which was committed to Aaron and his seed, till Christ came, who should obtain and exercise an everlasting and unchangeable priesthood, after a more excellent order than that of Aaron.
According to the different ideas of the mystery of the Urim and Thummim, and the connexion here established between them, and the temptation at Massah, and the strise at Meribah, various turns and interpretations have been given to the words of Moses.
1. They are supposed to be addressed to God himself, and the sense to run thus, “ Thy Thummim and thy Urim” (O God) be with the man, thy gracious saint, (Aaron and his seed) whom thou temptedst with temptation, or contendedst with (for his sin) at the waters of Meribah, of which we have the history. Numb. xx. " And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel; therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. This is the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel strove with the Lord : and he was sanctified in them."*
Or, 2dly, they may be addressed to the whole tribe, and with this sense, Thy Thummim and thy Urim (O Levi) be with Aaron and his sons! the holy, chosen, anointed one of thy gracious God, whom thou, in common with the rest of Israel, temptedst in Massah and in the stife at Meribah.
Or, 3dly, understanding by the “ holy one,” the Christ of God, this will be the sense, Thy Thummim and thy Urim (O Levi) is with (or belongs to the man thy Holy One, (Messiah, the Christ) the Holy One of God, whom thou temptedst at Massah, and didst strive with at Meribah. In this last interpretation, the weakness, insufficiency, imperfection and transitoriness of the Levitical priesthood are implied : it retained not long the Urim and Thummim, but lost them in the Babylonish captivity, as we find from Ezra, chap. ii. ver. 63. “And the Tirshatha said unto them, That they should not eat of the most holy things till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim." And it does not appear they ever had them more, until by Jesus Christ, our High Priest after the order of Aaron, they were restored in the “ light and truth” of the gospel.
The blessing upon Levi thus proceeds ; “ Who said unto his father, and to his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.”+ This is generally understood to express the devotedness of that tribe to the worship and service of God, which laid them under a necessity of abstractedness from the world, and constrained them, when employed in the order of their course, to suppress all appearance of secular concern, such as mourning for the dead and the like. Thus when “ Nadab and Abihu perished by fire before the Lord," Aaron and his two surviving sons were expressly forbid to shew any signs of sorrow. “Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes, lest ye die.” “ And Aaron held his peace.” The words are by many interpreters supposed particularly to refer to the judgement executed through the zeal of this tribe on their offending brethren in the matter of the golden calf, which is thus described : “ And Moses stood in the gate of the
* Numb. »x. 12, 13.
1 Deut, xxxiii. 9.
camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side ? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses : and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day."* And it may perhaps be intended as a warning to the christian priesthood, that though their profession does not call them wholly to renounce the world, to restrain the workings of natural affection, and cease to be men ; yet it does call them to a higher degree of heavenly-mindedness, to stricter self-government, to a greater superiority to worldly attachments and pursuits, to have no respect of persons in dispensing the bread of life, to “know no man after the flesh," to sit looser than others to the things of time.
The next article of their prophet's parting blessing describes their glorious privileges. “They shall teach Jacob thy judgements, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt-sacrifice upon thine altar." The priest's lips should keep knowledge.
This then is the first duty of their office; to “ teach Jacob the judgements of God, and Israel his law," Theirs was to be the distinguished honour of training up every succeeding generation as it arose, in the knowledge of the God of their fathers, in what he had done for them, and what he required of them; of pointing out and inculcating upon them the connexion between their privileges and their duties, their safety and their obedience, their security and their fidelity. They were still to set before the people “good and evil, the blessing and the curse," the promises which allured to the one, the threatenings which deterred from the other. They were under the necessity, of consequence, of studying the law of God, and the history of his providence themselves, in order to the instruction of others; and to exhibit a decent conformity, in their own deportment, to what was written, as a pattern 10 their fellow citizens. A task at once painful, dangerous and honourable.
The second duty of their station was, “ to put incense before God.” That sacred perfume was emblematical of the prayers, the praises and thanksgiving of Israel; and on Levi was conferred the glorious privilege of standing between God and the people, of conveying from him to them the dictates of his will, the promises of his grace, the assurance of his favour and protection ; and, as the mouth of the people, to reconvey to God the effusions of their gratitude, the acknowledgement of their submission and dependence; their entire confidence in the truth and faithfulness of God, their entire hope in his mercy. These the sons of Levi were to present before the Lord as incense; and with this sacrifice of praise from the people, the incense of their own grateful acknowledgements would naturally mingle and ascend.
Finally, the blessing pronounced on this distinguished tribe, imposed on them the office of offering up " whole burnt sacrifice upon the altar of God." They not only stood between a gracious God and an indebted people ; but a holy and offended God, and a frail, offending people. Hence the necessity of “ burnt sacrifice,” hence the idea of atonement, hence the shedding of blood for the remission of sin, hence the institution of the Levitical priesthood "the shadow of good things to come.” And thus the daily sacrifice, the intercession of the house of Aaron, and the united characters of teacher and priest in the same person, prefigured and pointed out “the Lamb of God,
* Exod. xxxii. 26–29.
who taketh away the sin of the world.”_" The one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” The great Teacher sent from God, " who spake as never man spake.” “God's beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased."
The conclusion of the benediction is prophetic, and descriptive of their reward, their inheritance, and security. “Bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands : smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again."** This is the perfection of creature happiness ; ample provision, and the blessing of the Almighty poured down, and resting upon it-works and labours of love cheerfully performed, and graciously accepted-every foe subdued, and every ground of fear forever removed. Here may we not apply to this tribe in particular, what Moses, in the close, applies to Israel in general ? “ Happy art thou, O Levi: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places.”+
Such were the functions, the privileges, the honours and the emoluments of the the Levitical priesthood. They suggest to the christian ministry, the vigilance, diligence, fidelity and zeal which become those "who must give account"—the necessity laid upon them “ to declare the whole counsel of God”-the assured support on which they may depend, while they conscientiously aim at doing their duty-the glorious “recompense of reward,” which is laid up for " the good and faithful servant,” in that day “ when they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.”! May the power of such motives be felt and understood by all who bear the sacred and important office, that by them they may be rendered “ steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they know that their labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
The farther progress of Moses through the remaining tribes of Israel shall be the subject of the next Lecture.
+ Deut. xxxiii. 29.
* Deut. xxxii. 11.
Dan. xii. 3.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before bis
death. The rich man in hell is represented* as entertaining the fond belief, that the return of one from the dead would certainly be effectual, to the conviction and amendment of a thoughtless and impenitent generation. And men in general are disposed to ascribe an infallible efficacy to means fabricated in their own imagination, while, at the same time, they wilfully neglect to use those which God has appointed, whose operation is undoubted, and of which they are in the entire possession. The man of one talent lays it up in a napkin and buries it, because he cannot, with one, do the work of five or of ten. One man is an infidel, because the miraculous powers which once accompanied the preaching of the gospel, accompany it no more; another affects to despise all external evidence whatever, and looks at Christianity with a suspicious eye, because it called in miracles and prophecy to confirm and support it. The Jews rejected the counsel of God against themselves, saying, “ He casteth out devils, by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”+ The Greeks accounted the doctrine of the cross foolishness, because it belied their vain philosophy, and exposed their worldly spirit.
Were it possible for the human race to assemble in one general council, in order to settle a mode of religion which should suit the whole, they would speedily be constrained to separate, without coming to any specific, decisive agreement on a point so essential: for pride, and selfishness, and the spirit of contradiction, would instantly raise opposition, and the most salutary idea would be rejected by one party, for no better reason than that it was adopted by another. Were the rich man to come from the dead, commissioned “ to tell the secrets of his prison-house ; were Lazarus permitted to leave the bosom of Abraham, in order to display to men the glories of paradise ; what could they say, that has not been repeated a thousand and a thousand times ? The one would be esteemed by a busy, careless, unbelieving world, a poor, moping, melancholy wretch, fit for a place in Bedlam; the other would be called an enthusiastic visionary; and they might, for ought the world cared, return to the places from whence they came, and report that mankind was better employed than to listen to their dreams; that it was election time; that the term was coming on, that a packet was expected, or a fleet arrived.
Men amuse themselves with crying up the advantages of those who saw
* Luke xvi. 27, 28.
+ Math. xii. 24.
Christ going about doing good, “ healing all manner of sickness among the people;" of those who heard Paul preach, and the like; but the faithful and true witness assures us, that Jesus frequently wrouglit miracles, and Paul preached in vain. Capernaum, Bethsaida, Jerusalem, remained full of unbelievers; and apostolic eloquence was called babbling by one, it made another to shake under a temporary fit of trembling, and only “ almost persuaded” a third to be a christian.
The decision of father Abraham then, in the passage already referred to, is founded in truth and experience. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."* Moses spake from the brink of the grave, and was forgotten the moment his voice ceased. God himself thundered from Sinai, “ Thou shalt not make unto thec any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me:’’t and within “a little month” we see all Israel dancing round a golden calf, and saying, “ These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." ; The Son of Man came down from heaven, disclosed the secrets of the eternal mind; descended into the grave, and returned to the earth and shewed himself openly. But did infidelity stop her mouth ? No. “Some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught : and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.''$
The circumstances in which Moses took his last long farewell of his beloved charge, were such, one would think, as to leave a lasting, an indelible impression on the minds of his hearers ; but the sequel shews us, that the impressions of gratitude, sympathy, sorrow and regret, are “as the morning cloud and the early dew, which passeth away.”
-Having finished his course, and the time of his departure drawing nigh, we behold the man of God making his final progress through the camp of Israel; going from tribe to tribe, from standard to standard, saluting every one by his name, and pronouncing over him the cordial benediction of a dying friend. We have accompanied him from Reuben to Judah, and from Judah to Levi, and heard his dying breath confirm the promise of royal dignity to the one, and entail the sacred dignity of the priesthood upon the other. They have heard his last adieu. Their eyes shall behold him no more. He has now arrived at the encampment of Benjamin. Benjamin, the son of his mother's sorrow, the son of his father's right hand; the last of Israel in the course of nature, not the least in the affection of his sole surviving parent, nor in importance as one of the heads of the holy commonwealth. Benjamin, destined of Providence to support the throne of David, when shaken by the revolt of ten tribes. And what is the blessing of Benjamin ? “Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders."||
The course in which Moses proceeded in pronouncing the blessing, is supposed by some to be prophetically governed, according to the geographical description of Canaan, and the order and course in which each portion was
* Lake xvi. 13.
Exod. xx. 4, 5.
Exod. xxxii. 4.
Matt, xxvïi. 11-15.
Deut. xxxiii. 12.