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to speak with him, that is, to consult him, then he heard the voice of one speaking to him from off the mercy seat. The same form of expression is used on the same occasion in after ages.
From all which it appears, that this part of the Jewish constitution gave to the high priest no dangerous authority over the people or their rulers. For he was to ask counsel, not at his own pleasure, nor for his own interest, but under the direction of the magistrate, and on such questions only as respected the public, and were previously determined by common consent. Nor could he consult and give answers even on these subjects in a private or clandestine manner, but he did it in the presence of those, who propounded the questions; and the answers, being uttered in a distinct, audible voice, from within the veil, were, in all probability, directly heard, not only by the priest, but by the person, for whom he consulted. The priest therefore on this occasion was merely a public servant or messenger, through whom the people corresponded with Jehovah, their political King. In this view he may be compared to a messenger of the American congress, carrying ụp to the president some public bill or question for his signature, and reporting his
Would it not be absurd to say that such messenger could fabricate and impose upon the nation any answer or law, which he pleased, to promote his own views ? We accordingly find no instance in the whole Jewish history, of a high priest attempting thus to prostitute his office to sinister purposes,
The preceding observations not only vindicate, but highly recommend the antient Hebrew oracle, as a most needful and beneficent part of their civil, as well as religious constitution. We grant that this institution was
singular and extraordinary. It has no parallel in the political history or experience of any other nation. But this is no just objection either to its reality or excellence. We have formerly shown that it was most worthy of God to take the Jewish people under his immediate government, for the purpose of preserving true religion and morality in the midst of prevailing idolatry and wickedness. To secure this great object, it was necessary that the Deity should sensibly reside among them by some striking representation of his gracious presence.
The human mind in those early ages, being in a state of infancy, could not ascend to abstract and realizing conceptioris of an infinite, omnipresent Spirit. Besides, the Jews had been familiarly conversant with nations, who gloried in the visible presence and protection of their idol gods. The genius, education, and circumstances of the Israelites at that period made it necessary that their invisible Sovereign should in some sense become embodied among them ; that he should statedly appear to and for them in a manner so splendid, as might fully establish their faith, and engage their confidence, veneration, and obedience. Nothing but this could wean them from the pompous and alluring idolatries of the heathen, and reconcile them to a system of belief, and of worship and practice so singular, so pure, and so burdensome, as their law prescribed. Nothing but some constant and impressive symbol of Jehovah's presence could have animated them to conquer, to settle, and defend the promised Canaan amid the most formidable enemies and dangers ; and nothing short of this could have kept them in awful and regular subjection to the divine government. The standing visible appearance of Deity in the Hebrew tabernacle and temple ; the pillar of fire or cloud of glory,
which resided over the mercy. seat ; and that audible declaration of the divine will, which frequently issued from it, these sensible manifestations of Jehovah, which the Bible so often mentions, are so far from being incredible, that sound reason and philosophy compel us to admit both their expediency and their truth. They were necessary for the moral and religious education of mankind during their age of minority. They were suitable and condescending methods employed by infinite goodness to bring forward the human mind to that mature and more perfect state, which it now enjoys. To pour contempt therefore on these extraordinary appearances, as absurd or romantic fables, would be as unphilosophical and ungrateful, as for a child, when arrived at manhood, to censure and despise those condescending methods, by which parental wisdom and love moulded and carried forward his childhood. Dr. Robertson in his history of America justly remarks," that man in his rudest state confines his feeble mental exertions to a few necessary objects; that he forms no abstract original ideas; and that in this situation he is incapable of rising by his own energies from visible nature to the knowledge of an invisible Creator and Governor." How proper, how needful for man in such a state were those manifestations of Deity, which the Jewish history records ! They had the same necessary use in religion and morals, which pictures and hieroglyphics then answered for the mutual communication of thought. But as these have long since been superseded by the invention of alphabets ; so the former have equally given place to the more refined dispensa: tion and views of religion, which distinguish the manly and christian age of the world. .
The commencement and operation of the Hebrew constitution. Cor.
rupt and degenerate state of the Jewish people after the death of Moses and Joshua. A temporary state of anarchy. Introducu tian of judges and kings ; their duties prescribed and their power limited by the express commands and prohibitions of Jehovah.
AVING surveyed the great features of the Hebrew government according to its original model, we will close this branch of Jewish Antiquities with a brief history of the several modifications and revolutions of this government, from its first establishment to its final dissolution,
This constitution commenced its being and operation in the wilderness of Arabia, during the migration of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan. During this period Jehovah, as their political Sovereign, conducted them in their various marches and battles, by the symbol of a pillar or cloud of glory. From this circumstance the heathen poets probably derived the fabulous stories of their deities appearing in a cloud, illumined with extraor. dinary brightness. As God thus condescended to appear and act as the king of the Hebrews, so he constituted Moses his viceroy, or lieutenant, in whom the su. preme power, under himself, was vested.
On this account Moses is called king in Jeshurun or Israel. For though the government by kings was not yet erected in that nation, yet the title was in ancient times given to persons of high rank and authority, though they never wore a crown, or appeared in royal state. Agreeably, in after times the Roman dictators are sometimes styled
kings both by the Latin and Greek historians. While Moses thus exercised the supreme magistracy under God, the king of Israel ; the priests and levites, who statedly attended on the royal presence in the tabernacle or temple, and who were intrusted in many cases, not only with the explanation, but with the execution of the laws, were properly ministers of state, as well as of religion. Indeed the worship of the true God was so interwoven with the civil polity, as its grand basis and end, that the public functions of both would in many cases properly and even necessarily meet in the same offices. Hence,
way, the sacrifices, which the priests offered, and a part of which fell to their share, as a perquisite of their office, were intended not only for a religious use, but for the support of the civil list, or the necessary officers of government. On this ground we may, I think, fairly justify an action of St. Paul recorded in the twenty first chapter of the Acts ; I mean his consenting to offer sacrifice in the temple, in order to conciliate the superstitious Jews, though he knew and taught that their peculiar rites were superseded and abolished by the death of Christ. But if we reflect that the Jewish sacrifices were a part of their civil as well as religious establishment, and that their civil polity continued forty years after our Saviour's death, that is, until their temple and city were destroyed by Titus ; we may justly infer both the right and duty of good citizens to support the government while it lasted, by paying the legal and customary tribute. Of this kind I conceive was the offering presented by Paul. This peculiar complexion of the Hebrew government also points out in what sense the levitical sacrifices could make atonement for sin. They might be a proper fine, or an equitable compensation for political offences, or