« PreviousContinue »
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 same plan. And the earlier christian churches preserved something of a resem. blance to it. For they consisted, first, of a spacious porch, where the penitents who implored the prayers of the faithful, the catechumens, the Gentiles, the Jews, and the heretics, were stopped short. The second compartment was the Næus, the nave, or body of the temple, where the faithful assembled, and performed their devotions; and the third was the Bepo, or choir, into which ecclesiastics 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 style of architecture, from the perfect Hebrew models de'scribed in the sacred volume; that it was transmitted by them to the Romans; from whoin 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 seems to be something more than human invention and art, that through the lapse of so many ages, so many revolutions of empire, so many changes of taste and opinion, the same arrangement and proportions should excite universal admiration, and yield universal delight; and that the slightest deviation from the principles of that noble art should instantly be observed, and universally offend the eye. Does it not seem 'as if he who formed the eye, had also deigned to design the model of what would fill and please 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, whose length was double its breadth, being an hundred cubits, by fifty, that is, according to the most approved calculation, an hundred and fifty feet by seventy-five. It
was encompassed on all sides by curtains of fine twined linen, fixed to fifty-six pillars of Shittim, that is, as the seventy interpret it, incorruptible wood, filleted with silver, of the height of five cubits, or seven feet and a half. The gate or passage into the court was a hanging of twenty cubits, curiously embroidered, and supported by four pillars of the same materials and workmanship. On all which particulars, I shall detain you to make this only remark: when we see the great God condescending to give directions concerning the formation and use of the niost minute implements pertaining to sanctuary service, of pins, rings, loops and hooks, man is taught to consider nothing as beneath his notice which can affect his own credit, usefulness 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 inconsistent with his higher occupations, to attend to small matters. It is the glory of the living and true God, the Maker and Preserver of all things, it is the excellency of his ad. ministration, the beauty of his providence, that “the hairs of our head are numbered of him.” “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father,” Matt. x. 29.
On entering the court, the objects which first presented 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 instruments of divine worship, have offered to the learned and ingenious, many curious subjects of speculation, some of which might perhaps amuse, but could not greatly edify you. As the whole service of the tabernacle was typical, and presented the “shadow of good things to come,” it will not I trust be deemed a mere flight of imagination to suppose, that by the altar of burnt-offerings, and the use to which it was devoted,
the great atonement, the means of pardon and acceptance with God were shadowed forth; and that by the laver and its use, on the other hand, was represented 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. Justification freely by the grace
of God, “ through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;” and sanctification by the Spirit of God, whereby we are prepared to be “partakers of the inheritance of saints in light.” An altar without a laver were to encourage the offender to continue in sin, because grace abounds;" a laver without an altar would be to inspire a vain confidence in an external and imperfect righteousness, to the neglect of that which is of God by faith, and which purifieth the heart. In conjunction, they represent man's happiest state and highest glory, sin forgiven, and nature renewed.
“The holy place,” which was properly the tabernacle, presented itself at the upper end of the court. Its dimensions are not laid down by Moses. Those who take it for granted that the tabernacle was a miniature representation of the temple, from the measurement of that great edifice as described 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 separated 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. Josephus affirms, that when the priests ministered in the holy place, the separating 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 passage in the gospel according to Luke, that the priest who officiated in the holy place of the second temple, was out of the sight of the people; for it is said of Zacha. rias, when he was offering incense in the holy place, “ the whole multitude was praying without;" that they waited for him, and “marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple,” Luke i. 10, 21; and they discovered not the cause of it till he made it known to them by signs.
Though we are not informed of the exact dimensions 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 size, 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 brass. These again were covered with rams' skins dyed red; and over all there was a covering of badgers' skins, 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 represent the impenetrable recesses of the Eternal Mind: to check the folly and sinfulness of an over curious inquiry into mysteries which are intentionally concealed; and to teach men to make a wise and temperate use of known and revealed truth? Was it not sufficient to every pious Israelite, that the altar of burnt-offering and the laver of purification were under the open canopy of heaven, seen of all, accessible to all? And by this circumstance, did not even the law teach the open and unlimited extent of salvation by the great Atonement? Religion forbad, and the structure prevented, the body of the people from entering within the veil, or penetrating into the mysteries concealed under such a covering; one fold past, another, and another, in almost endless succession, opposed itself. Wo be to him who makes a mystery of what God has graciously disclosed; and wo be to him who presumes to pry into what God has intentionally hid from his eyes. Thus sublimely sings the enraptured British Psalmist
Chain'd to his throne a volume lies,
With all the fates of men;
Drawn by th' eternal pen.
His Providence unfolds the book,
And makes his counsels shine:
Fulfils some deep design.
Here he exalts neglected worms
and a crown;
And treads the monarch down.
Not Gabriel asks the reason why,
Nor God the reason gives;
Between the folded leaves. *
The furniture of the holy place is minutely described, and its meaning and use are not obscurely pointed out in many places of the sacred writings. It consisted of three articles, the golden candlestick with seven lamps; the golden altar of incense; and the table of shew bread. Each of which might easily furnish matter for a separate discourse; but we confine ourselves to general ideas, and practical observations.
The first piece of furniture in the holy place was “the golden candlestick to give light;” all whose appurtenances were of pure beaten gold. placed on the south side, that is, on the left hand as you enter the tabernacle, directly opposite to the table of shew bread. It was a talent in weight: which is about one thousand five hundred ounces, or one hundred and twenty-five Roman pounds, whose value, according to the calculation of the learned bishop of Peterborough, was five thousand and seventy-five pounds fifteen shillings and a fraction, of our money. It is the most generally received opinion, that all, or some of these seven lamps in the candlestick, were
*Watts, Horæ Lyricæ,