Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the ark of “his strength;” the ark“ whose name is called by the name of the God of Israel.” We shall pass by those circumstances which were in common to it, with the other implements of the worldly sanctuary, the holy places made with hands; and point out a few of those which were peculiar to itself. It was a close chest of two cubits and a half long, one and a half broad, and one and a half in height: of the self-same materials with the rest. The covering was denominated the mercy-seat; from the two ends of which arose two figures of cherubims, of beaten or solid gold with their faces turned, and their wings extended towards each other; looking down together towards the mercyseat, and concealing it from the eye. For any one to touch this with so much as a finger, or to presume to look into it, except those who were divinely appointed for the purpose, was instant and certain death, as the dreadful punishment of Uzzah and of the men of Bethshemesh awfully evinced. Its contents were the two tables of testimony, the golden pot with manna, the memorial of Israel's miraculous supply in the wilderness, and Aaron's rod that budded. Its principal use was to point out a way in the pathless wilderness for Israel to march in. From between the two cherubims the divine oracles were delivered, at first to Moses by a voice; for God conversed with him as a man with his friend; and afterwards to the high priest, who consulted by Urim and Thummim, which is supposed to have been a supernatural declaration of the divine will, by means of rays of glory darted from the most holy place, upon the breast plate which was studded with twelve gems. But the nature and manner of this consultation and res. ponse, now are, and likely to remain so, a secret to mankind.

Besides marking out the way, and directing the several encampments in the wilderness, we shall meet in the course of this history with a special interposition of it in many noted particular cases. By it the waters VOL. 11.

2 z

of Jordan were divided asunder, and opened a passage for Israel into the promised land. Before it the proud walls of Jericho were levelled with the ground, after having been encompassed by it for seven days: its presence confounded Dagon, and plagued the Philistines. Treated with respect, or approached carelessly and presumptuously, it became a protection and a source of blessing to one family; a terror and a curse to another. The king of Israel reckoned it the glory of his house, and the protection of his kingdom; and had it conveyed with all suitable solemnity to the place prepared for it. And, finally, it completed the splendour and magnificence of the sacred edifice on Mount Zion, the joy and wonder of the whole earth. And the divine presence, of which it was the symbol, constitutes the safety, strength and happiness of every living temple which the Holy Ghost hath reared. Let my heart, O God, be an altar, from whence the sweet incense of gratitude, love and praise may continually ascend. “ Arise, O Lord, into this thy rest; thou and the ark of thy strength. Let thy priest be clothed with righteousness; let me with all thy saints shout for joy. Turn not away the face of thine anointed.”

The conjectures of the learned on the subject of the cherubim, are various, many of them fanciful, and for the most part unsatisfactory. The most obvious and most generally received opinion is, that they were emblematical representations of the angelic or heavenly host: and the attributes here assigned to them, their attitude, and their employment in the tabernacle service, correspond exactly to the idea given us in other parts of scripture of those flaming ministers who stand continually before God, execute his pleasure, adore his divine perfections, minister to the heirs of salvation.

The ark may be considered as the throne of God. The cherubim encompassed that throne, as the atten. dants in earthly courts surround the throne and person of their prince. This is the precise idea suggested by the prophet Isaiah, of the nature and office of these blessed spirits, in the sixth chapter of his prophecy. “In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory,” Verse 1-3. Thus also Daniel represents the same glorious object; “The Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him," Chap. vii. 9, 10. Micah saw in vision - the Eternal sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing before him, and on the right hand and the left.” “ The chariots of God,” says the Psalmist, , “are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place,” Psal. Ixviii. 17. And in several other passages he addresses the Deity as sitting, and dwelling among the cherubim, Psal. Ixxx. 1-Psal. xcix. 1.

The cherubim had their faces turned one toward another. This might be intended to represent the perfect union of sentiment and co-operation which subsists among these sons of light. . In other places of scripture, we hear their voices in concert, raising one song of praise, as in the passage just now quoted from Isaiah, and Revelations, chapter fourth: “ They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy

, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come,” Verse 8. " Thou art worthy, O Lord, to re

ceive glory, and honour, and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created,” Rev. iv. 11. These glorious beings, differing in degree, infinite in number, have nevertheless but one heart, one desire, one will, one aim—to praise and serve Him who is the author of their being, and the source of all their happiness.

The cherubim are represented as furnished with wings. This denotes the alacrity, promptitude and instantaneousness with which angels obey the divine will. Thus, the angel who appeared to Zacharias at the hour of incense, “ I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God:” and hence, elsewhere, in scripture, the activity of angels is compared to the velocity of the wind, and the rapid and irresistible force of fire. “He rode upon a cherub, and did fly; yea he did fly upon the wings of the wind." "He maketh his

” angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire.”

« Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; yé ministers of his, that do his pleasure,” Psal. ciii. 20, 21.

Once more; the faces of the cherubim were not only turned one to another, but bended together toward the mercy-seat, and their looks were attentively fixed upon the ark. This expresses the holy admiration, with which angels are filled, of those mysteries of redemption which the ark prefigured. To this remarkable circumstance the apostle Peter alludes in his first epistle, when speaking of salvation through “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow,” he adds, " which things the angels desire to look into.” The words literally translated import,

. “which things, angels stoop down to contemplate. It conveys a beautiful and striking idea of the gospel dispensation. Angels are exalted to the height of glory and felicity. They behold God face to face, and drink of the river of pleasure, at its very source, They see his uncreated splendour shining before their eyes. They see his goodness in the blessings which they enjoy. They see his justice in the punishment of angels which left their first estate.” They see his wisdom in the government of this vast universe. In a word, every thing that is capable of filling the enlarged comprehension, of satisfying the inquiring spirit, is set be. fore these pure and exalted intelligences. Nevertheless, amidst so many objects of wonder and delight, in the midst of all this felicity and glory, angels desire to be more and more acquainted with the things which belong to our peace.” They discover a God rich in mercy to men upon earth, as wonderful, as incomprehensible as a God abundant in loving kindness to angels in hea. ven: and forgetting, if it be lawful to say so, the lustre and happiness of the church triumphant, descend and mingle with the church militant, and find fuel to divine love, find materials for pleasing, advancing, endless investigation, in the work of redemption by Jesus Christ. « These things the angels,” from the heights of heaven, “bend down” with humble earnestness, with holy desire to look into."

I conclude with quoting a passage of the Rabbi Maimonides* on the subject. “God commanded Moses,” says he, "to make two cherubim, in order to impress upon the human mind the doctrine of the ex- . istence of angels. Had there been but one cherub placed over the, the Israelites might have fallen into a grievous error, they might have imagined, with idolatrous nations, that it was the image of God himself, which they were required to worship under that form. Or they might have been led to believe, on the other hand, that there was but one angel. But the command given to make two cherubim, joined to this declaration, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Jehovah, settles both articles beyond the power of disputation. It proves that there is an angelic order, and

[ocr errors]

*More Nevoch. part 111. chap. xlv.

« PreviousContinue »