« PreviousContinue »
The tabernacle confifted of three feveral apartments one within another-The court, the holy place, and the most holy place, or the holy of holies. The temple of Solomon was built upon the fame plan. And the earlier chriftian churches preferved fomething of a refemblance to it. For they confifted, first, of a fpacious porch, where the penitents who implored the prayers of the faithful, the catechumens, the Gentiles, the Jews, and the heretics, were stopped fhort. The fecond compartment was the Neus, the nave, or body of the temple, where the faithful affembled, and performed their devotions; and the third was the B, or choir, into which ecclefiaftics only were admitted, and in which were placed the altar, the throne of the bishop, and the stalls of the clergy.
Some learned men have given it as their opinion, that the Grecians borrowed their noble and beautiful ftyle of architecture, from the perfect Hebrew models defcribed in the facred volume; that it was tranfmitted by them to the Romans; from whom it has descended to all the provinces of their great empire, and continues to be the ornament and the glory of the modern world. Indeed it feems to be fomething more than human invention and art, that, through the lapse of fo many ages, fo many revolutions of empire, fo many changes of tafte and opinion, the fame arrangement and proportions fhould excite univerfal admiration, and yield univerfal delight; and that the flighteft deviation from the principles of that noble art fhould instantly be obferved, and univerfally offend the eye. Does it not feem as if he who formed the eye, had alfo deigned to defign the model of what would fill and pleafe it?
The court, then, was rather the large space of ground in which the tabernacle was erected, than any part of the tabernacle. Its form was an oblong, whofe length was double its breadth, being an hundred cubits by fifty, that is, according to the moft approved calculation, an hundred and fifty feet by feventy-five. It
was encompaffed on all fides by curtains of fine twined linen, fixed to fifty-fix pillars of Shittim, that is, as the feventy interpret it, incorruptible wood, filleted with filver, of the height of five cubits, or seven feet and a half. The gate or paffage into the court was a hanging of twenty cubits, curiously embroidered, and fupported by four pillars of the fame materials and workmanship. On all which particulars, I fhall detain you to make this only remark; when we see the great God condefcending to give directions concerning the formation and ufe of the moft minute implements pertaining to fanctuary service, of pins, rings, loops and hooks, man is taught to confider nothing as beneath his notice which can affect his own credit, ufefulness and comfort, or the fame, virtue and happiness of his neighbour. "Let all things be done by us decently and in order." Be it the glory of a fabulous Jupiter, that it is beneath his dignity, and inconfiftent with his higher occupations, to attend to fmall matters. It is the glory of the living and true God, the Maker and Preferver of all things, it is the excellency of his administration, the beauty of his providence, that "the hairs of our head are numbered of him." "Are not two fparrows fold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father."*
On entering the court, the objects which first prefented themselves were, on the one hand the altar of burnt-offering, and on the other, the laver for the priests to wash in. The materials and form of these two inftruments of divine worship, have afforded to the learned and ingenious, many curious fubjects of fpeculation, fome of which might perhaps amufe, but could not greatly edify you. As the whole fervice of the tabernacle was typical, and prefented the "fhadow of good things to come," it will not I trust be deemed a mere flight of imagination to fuppofe, that by the altar of burnt-offerings, and the ufe to which it was devoted
* Matth. x. 29.
ed, the great atonement, the means of pardon and acceptance with God were fhadowed forth; and that by the laver and its ufe, on the other hand, was reprefented the purity which becomes all who approach to a pure and holy God. In their nearness to, and union with each other, they exhibit that which brings the guilty near unto God, and that which fits them for communion with God. Juftification freely by the grace of God, "through the redemption that is in Chrift Jefus ;" and fanctification by the Spirit of God, whereby we are prepared to be "partakers of the inheritance of faints in light." An altar without a laver were to encourage the offender to "continue in fin, because grace abounds;" a laver without an altar would be to inspire a vain confidence in an external and imperfect righteoufnefs, to the neglect of that which is of God by faith, and which purifieth the heart. In conjunction, they represent man's happiest ftate and highest glory, fin forgiven, and nature re
"The holy place," which was properly the tabernacle, presented itself at the upper end of the court. Its dimenfions are not laid down by Mofes. Those who take it for granted that the tabernacle was a miniature representation of the temple, from the measurement of that great edifice as defcribed in the first book of Kings, make the length of the holy place of the tabernacle to be twenty cubits or thirty feet. It was feparated from the court by a curtain, within which none but the priests were permitted to enter, and where they officiated at the altar of the Lord, in the order of their course. Jofephus affirms, that when the priests ministered in the holy place, the feparating veil was drawn up, so that they could be seen of the people. Philo, with greater appearance of truth, maintains the contrary opinion. It is clear from a paffage in the gofpel according to Luke, that the priest who officiated in the holy place of the fecond temple, was out of the fight of the people; for it is faid of Zacha
rias, when he was offering incenfe in the holy place, "the whole multitude was praying without ;" that they waited for him, and "marvelled that he tarried fo long in the temple,"* and they difcovered not the cause of it till he made it known to them by figns.
Though we are not informed of the exact dimenfions of the holy place," we know that it was a covered tent, with one fold of various materials upon another. First, ten curtains of equal fize, of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen; embroidered with cherubims; and coupled together with loops of blue and taches of gold. Above these were extended eleven curtains of goats hair, hung together by taches of brafs. Thefe again were covered with rams fkins dyed red; and over all there was a covering of badgers fkins, probably as a protection from the injuries of the air and weather. The intention and meaning of this multiplied and variegated ceiling we pretend not to explain. Was it intended to reprefent the impenetrable receffes of the Eternal Mind; to check the folly and finfulness of an over curious inquiry into myfteries which are intentionally concealed; and to teach men to make a wife and temperate use of known and revealed truth? Was it not fufficient to every pious Ifraelite, that the altar of burnt-offering and the laver of purification were under the open canopy of heaven, feen of all, acceffible to all? And by this circumftance, did not even the law teach the open and unlimited extent of falvation by the great Atonement? Religion forbad, and the ftructure prevented, the body of the people from entering within the veil, or penetrating into the myfteries concealed under fuch a covering; one fold past, another, and another, in almost endless fucceffion, oppofed itself. Woe be to him who makes a mystery of what God has graciously disclosed; and woe be to him who prefumes to pry into what God has intentionally
*Luke i. 10, 21.
hid from his eyes. Thus fublimely fings the enraptured British Pfalmist.
Chain'd to his throne a volume lies,
His Providence unfolds the book,
Here he exalts neglected worms
Not Gabriel alks the reason why,
The furniture of the holy place is minutely described, and its meaning and ufe are not obfcurely pointed out in many places of the facred writings. It confifted of three articles, the golden candlestick with feven lamps; the golden altar of incenfe; and the table of fhew bread. Each of which might easily furnish matter for a feparate difcourfe; but we confine ourfelves to general ideas, and practical obfervations.
The first piece of furniture in the holy place was "the golden candlestick to give light;" all whose appurtenances were of pure beaten gold. It was placed on the fouth fide, that is on the left hand as you enter the tabernacle, directly oppofite to the table of fhew bread. It was a talent in weight; which is about one thoufand five hundred ounces, or one hundred and twenty-five Roman pounds, whofe value, according
* WATTS. Hora Lyricæ.