Page images

works. But where do we find any such representation in regard to glorified saints? They are indeed the servants of God, in the sense of rendering him a devoted obedience; but where are they represented as bearing God's messages from world to world; as the executors of his will in different and distant parts of the universe ; as sustaining even the throne itself, and bearing on their swift wings, and rolling on their burning wheels, the symbols of the incumbent Deity? The similarity of the office of the cherubim to that of the angels, and its dissimilarity to that of glorified saints, clearly indicates that they are the representatives of the former, and not of the latter.

But there are other Scriptures which go to identify still more conclusively the angels and the cherubim. It is often represented in Scripture that the angels were present on Mount Sinai, at the giving, of the law, and had some agency or office in that great event. Thus it is said, that the Israelites "received the law through the disposition of angels ;or, as it might be rendered, " through ranks of angels,” Acts 7 : 53. The law is also represented as “the word spoken by angels ;” and as ordained by angels in the hands of a Mediator,?' Heb. 2: 2; Gal. 3, 19. But it appears from a passage in the Psalms that these angels were cherubim. “ The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place,” Ps. 68: 17. That the beings bere spoken of are cherubim, is evident from three considerations :1. Like the cherubim, they are called chariots : “The chariots of God are twenty thousand ;” compare 1 Chron. 28: 18. 2. The Hebrew word here rendered angels literally signifies double ones, in allusion to the bi-form or quadruple form of the cherubim, having in some instances two faces, in others four. 3. “The Lord is among them, as in the holy place,” the Sanctuary. Here is a manifest reference to the cherubim in the inost holy place of the tabernacle and temple, standing around the glorious Shekinah. The beings spoken of in the 68th Psalm are, therefore, cherubim. But they are also angels--the same that were on Sinai at the giving of the law. • The Lord is among them, as on Sinai."

The foregoing observations seem to me to prove, as fully as the nature of the case admits, that the “ cherubim of glory," as they are called in the Epistle to the Hebrews, were the representatives of angels, and not of glorified saints. And I know of but one passage in the Bible which seems to conflict with this

idea. The four living creatures (inproperly rendered beasts) which John saw in heaven, in the opening of the apocalyptic visions, are represented as distinct from the angels, and as uniting with the four-and-twenty elders in singing the song of redeeming love: “ Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation," Rev. 5: 8–12. But it will be borne in inind that these living creatures are never called cherubim; nor are they of the same appearance as the cherubim of Ezekiel. Ezekiel's living creatures, or cherubim, had each of them four faces and four wings; whereas the living creatures of John had each one face and six wings. The living creatures of Ezekiel were furnished with wheels; of which we hear nothing in the description of John. Nor can the appearances in the two cases be identified, from the fact that they are both called living creatures, as this was the most general term by which they could be called, and seems to have been applied to them by the two prophets because they knew not what else to call them. Ezekiel afterwards understood that the living creatures which he saw were cherubim ; but those which John saw called by this name. The most that can be said of them is, they are like the cherubim ; just as it is said of glorified saints, that they shall be like the angels, and equal to the angels.*

The four living creatures of John, in connection with the fourand-twenty elders, undoubtedly represent the redeemed church in heaven; but as these living creatures are never called cherubim, and can only be said to be like the cherubim, the passage does not conflict with the idea, that cherubim are properly the representatives of angels.

Without dwelling longer on the exegetical part of this subject, I proceed to deduce from it some important doctrinal and practical reflections.

1. We learn from it the value of the Old Testament Scriptures. There are those calling themselves Christians, who utterly reject the Old Testament, and will not acknowledge it as any part of Divine revelation. The God of the Old Testament, they say, is a ferocious God; delighting in war, and blood, and vengeance, and altogether a different being from that God of love

are never

* See Mark 12: 25; Luke 20: 36.

which is revealed to us in the gospel. The religion of the Old Testament is held up in strong contrast with that of the New, as though there could be no affinity or harmony between them.

It is enough to say of views such as these, that they are essentially infidel. It is impossible to separate the two Testaments, and retain the latter; for this is grafted directly on the former. It is connected with it by a thousand ligaments; so that if the Old Testament is given up, the New cannot possibly be retained, and regarded as the truth of God.

But there are Christians, who have no thought of discarding the Old Testament, by whom, as it has seemed to me, this part of the Bible is greatly undervalued. They consider a large portion of it as the worthless record of an old legal dispensation, which is forever done away, and which, of course, is now coinparatively useless. "Consequently, they neglect it, as scarcely deserving their attention.

But such were not the views entertained of the Old Testament by our blessed Saviour and bis Apostles. How often did they quote it; and with what respect and reverence did they uniformly treat it! They spoke of it as the word of God, and constantly appealed to it as the standard by which to judge of their doctrines and practice. It was the Old Testament of which Peter said, “ We have a more sure word of prophecy, to which we do well to take heed, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts." It was the Old Testament of which the Saviour said, “ Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they that testify of me."

A large portion of the Old Testament is obviously of the highest importance. Its history has instructed and benefited the church in all ages. Its prophecies have confirmed the faith of thousands, and attested the inspiration of the whole sacred volume. Its poetical parts have been a constant means of warming the hearts and elevating the hopes of believers. Will the church ever cease to listen with admiration to the harp of David, and to join with rapture in the devotions of the sweet Psalmist of Israel? And that we so generally neglect the ritual parts of the Old Testament is owing to our own dulness and ignorance, and not to any want of interest in the subject itself. The ritual institutions of the Israelites were to them, I have no doubt, the richest part of their Scriptures. They were emphatically their gospel. It was through these types and rites, that the pious in Israel discovered the foundation of their hopes. And could we learn to look at these rites with the eye of one of the ancient prophets, and behold through the symbolic veil their high spiritual bearing and import, we should see that they covered the same religion which is professed by us, and that they poured a flood of light on many subjects in which we, as Christians, are deeply interested.

In the preceding pages, we have considered the single subject of the ark of the testimony; its structure, its contents, its covering, its appendages. We have seen enough already to know (and we shall know more about it as we proceed) that this is a highly instructive subject. It teaches many important lessons, which Gentiles, as well as Jews, are slow to learn. Nor is this the only instructive symbol of the Mosaic ritual. Whether we understand it or not, the whole is instructive. The whole is included in the book of God, and not only demands, but deserves the prayerful attention of the Christian student. What lessons of interest did Paul draw forth from the Mosaic ritual, in writing his Epistle to the Hebrews ? By tracing, in a variety of particulars, the connexion between shadow and substance, type and antitype, he has unlocked the mystery which might otherwise have hung over the ritual institutions, and instructed Christians, in all ages, to draw living water from these wells of salvation.

There is yet another standard by which to test the value of the Old Testament Scriptures, and to which, before dismissing the topic, I must for a moment advert : I mean the spiritual attainments of those who were trained and instructed under them. Where is the believer in modern times, who has more faith than Abraham ; or more meekness than Moses; or more patience than Job; or more fervor than David ; or more spiritual understanding than Solomon; or more tender, benevolent affection than Jeremiah ; or more firmness in the cause of God and truth than Daniel and his three friends? But how, I ask, was the piety of these eminent saints nurtured? Where is the holy truth, the sincere milk of the word, by means of which they grew to such commanding stature, if not in the Old Testament? Is it not evident, from the consideration here adduced, that this portion of Scripture is—what Paul represents it to be

profitable, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruetion in righteousness” ?

2. But to come more directly to the ark. In this sacred symbol, with its appendages, contents, and place of deposit, God is

teaching us, and impressing upon us, the high regard which he has for his holy law. In illustration of this, let me call attention, for a moment, to the structure of the ancient temple, and to the place of deposit for the ark.

The temple, with its several courts, was surrounded with a high wall, 750 feet square, including more than twelve acres. Immediately within this exterior wall, was what was called the court of the Gentiles. Passing through this, you came to another wall, inclosing the outer court of the temple. Passing through this, and the outer court, you came to a third wall, inclosing the inner court of the temple. Passing through this, and the inner court, you came to the gate of the temple itself. Passing through this, you first entered what was called the sanctuary. Here stood the great altar of burnt-offering, surrounded by the priests, engaged in presenting the sacrifices of the people. Passing through this apartment, you next entered the holy place. Here stood the candlestick, the table of shew-bread, and the altar of incense, on which was offered the morning and evening sacrifice. Passing through this, you entered, at last, the holy of holies, or the most holy place. In the temple, this was a spacious room, thirty feet square, and overlaid with pure gold. It was situated in the deep recesses of the temple, and protected by its sacred, successive inclosures. It was open to none, except the high priest

, and to him only once in a year. And what did this splendid, awful apartment contain ? Not an individual thing, except the ark of the covenant and the cherubim covering it. And what did the ark of the covenant contain ? Nothing (originally) except the tables of stone, on which was inscribed the moral law. And now, in this whole, wonderful, awful structure —this vast institution-what a high and sacred regard did God manifest for his holy law! How could he have manifested for it a higher regard, or put upon it a greater honor? He laid it down (where it still lies) at the foundation of the whole scheme of mercy. He laid it down in the most sacred recess of the temple, and at the foundation of the entire service of his church. Here rested the tables of the law, covered and protected by the wings of mighty cherubim. Here they rested-overshadowed by a visible manifestation of the Divine presence and glory-to be approached by no foot but that of the high priest, and by him only once in a year. How could the great Sovereign of the world have said, in more intelligible language,“ This law is holy, and must be maintained. It has been transgressed, but

« PreviousContinue »