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there be an infidel in such a land, or a sinner against God and his own soul, with such proofs before his eyes of God and his attributes, as one sabbatical year afforded ?
The “solemnity of the year of release” was marked at its conclusion by the public reading of the law, from a kind
of pulpit in the court of the women, during the feast of tabernacles. The Jewish traditions relate the ceremonial with which this was accompanied; and that, in the later times, the whole law was not read by the ruler, but the following portions, Deut. i. to vi. 4: xi. 13—22; xiv. 22; xxix. 2. Seven prayers were then recited. It is related, that when Agrippa read the passage, Deut. xvii. 15, forbidding the setting a stranger as king over the people, his eyes were filled with tears on remembering that he was of Gentile extraction, but the people comforted him, calling out that he was their brother.
The year of jubilee was connected with the sabbatical year. It was celebrated every fiftieth
and was to be observed by letting the land rest in that year also ; consequently, at the jubilee there would be two years following, in which the people would depend for support upon the especial provision promised by Divine Providence, Lev. xxv. 20-22. The only passage of Scripture which is supposed to refer to this provision, is 2 Kings xix. 29.
The year of jubilee began on the day of expiation, and was notified by the solemn sounding of trumpets throughout the land; whence some suppose the name of jubilee is derived; others consider that the word denotes, “ to bring back," or, “liberty." The Jews on the coast of Malabar told Buchanan, that when their fathers settled in that land, after the destruction of the second temple, they brought with them the two silver trumpets used at the jubilee. There were two such trumpets kept in most of the considerable towns of Judæa. In this year all lands or houses, in the country, which had been sold or alienated, were to be returned to the families that originally possessed them :
a provision evidently intended to preserve that middle state, as to property, which is most conducive to human happiness. Ezekiel xlvi. 16–18, extends this to royal grants. In this year, also, all the poor Israelites, who, although not sold as slaves, had engaged themselves and their families as servants, returned into the possession of their paternal inheritance. Never was there any people so secured as the Israelites, both as to their property and as to their personal liberty.
It has been well observed, that no lawgiver would have ventured to propose such laws, had there not been the fullest conviction, on his own part and that of the people, that a peculiar Providence would facilitate its execution. And it was the want of faith in that peculiar Providence, which led to the neglect of this solemn observance, and consequently to further ruinous evils.
We may imagine the joy which would re-echo through the land, when, on the evening of the solemn day of atonement, the sound of the silver trumpet was heard in every town, announcing the commencement of this auspicious period. How beautiful is the following sketch, of one of the families liberated at the jubilee, returning to their paternal home!
“ The freedom-freighted blast through all the land
At once in every city, echoing rings :-
GRAHAME. Shall not we consider this a lively emblem of the gospel declaring to all the acceptable year of the Lord? Isa. Ixi. 1, 2. It is to be regretted that the poet just quoted has
not noticed how the joy of a believing Israelite set free by the jubilee, would be heightened by the remembrance that his liberation was introduced by the day of expiation or atonement, in which freedom from spiritual bondage was both sought and commemorated.
“ Jesus, our great High Priest,
Hath full atonement made;
Ye mournful souls, be glad.
Hales considers that Luke iv. 18, 19, as an evidence that our Lord began his public ministry in a year of jubilee.
It has been noticed, that the sabbatical year, and the year of jubilee, were especially institutions of mercy to the poorer Israelites; and we must again remark, how much consideration towards them was manifested in every part of the Mosaic law. This is no slight proof of its Divine origin. Let any one read these enactments, or only refer to the passages, Lev. xiv. 21; xix. 10, 15; xxv. 25–47: Deut. xv. 7—18, and say whether the Divine law is not infinitely superior to every code of heathen laws, and to all the counsels of pagan philosophers. Deut. xv. 11, is a very remarkable passage. All the provisions of the Mosaic law were calculated to maintain the people at large in a happy state, being neither exalted by riches, nor ground down by poverty ; yet we read the positive declaration, that “ the poor shall never cease out of the land,” accompanied with the plain precept, “ Therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Is it not evident, that the constant occasions that exist for the exercise of charity to the poor, are designed that our hearts should not grow cold, nor be hardened to any of our Christian affections and duties? The text, Prov. xiv. 31, contains a striking warning : “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker : but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”
For particulars concerning the festival of the new moon, and of the feast of trumpets, see pp. 284—286.
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ON THE MORAL LAWS.
THE moral laws were declared in the ten commandments, which were solemnly delivered from Mount Sinai, as recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, under the circumstances there mentioned, and which are noticed in the “ Journeys of the Children of Israel.” These laws were given in a clear and permanent form ; not only declared aloud, as with the voice of the trumpet, but twice written by the finger of God on tables of stone, which were carefully preserved in the ark. How different this from the vagueness and uncertainty of tradition ! Surely then these commandments must contain a summary of all our duties to God and man! Accordingly we shall find that the other moral enactments may all be referred to one or other of these ten commandments, and are quite consistent with them ; not like the writings of the Jewish rabbins, often contradictory, and always superfluous.