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men never dream of repose from the righteous judgment of God, whatever they may have already endured, till they have forsaken their sins, and fled for refuge in the divine mercy.
It is now worth while to consider the notice given to God's own people of this approaching evil, and the means which were appointed and employed to secure them from being involved in the general ruin. The event so destructive to Egypt, was intended to be the era of their liberty, and the means of their deliverance. They had hitherto reckoned the beginning of their year from the month Tisri, which answers to our September; which, as they supposed, was the time when the creation was begun and completed; but they are now positively enjoined to begin to reckon from the month Abib or Nisan, that is March, in memory of a new creation; whereby their condition was totally changed, from servitude of the most abject kind, into freedom the most exalted and perfect, even the glorious liberty of the sons of God. They are distinctly informed of the stroke which Providence was meditating against Egypt, and of the precise time when the blow was to be struck. They are accordingly directed to two things; First, to provide for their own safety; and Secondly, to hold themselves in perfect readiness to take advantage of the permission to depart, which the panic occasioned by the death of the first-born should extort from Pharaoh. For the former of these purposes, every particular family, or the two adjoining, in proportion to their numbers, the lowest, according to the Jewish writers, being not under ten, nor the highest above twenty, were commanded to choose out, and to set apart, every household, a male lamb, or kid, of a particular description, on the tenth day of the month, and to kill it on the evening of the fourteenth. The flesh of the victim was commanded to be eaten by every several houschold apart, roasted with fire. They were all enjoined carefully to keep within their houses.
And the blood of the sacrifice was to be taken and sprinkled on the two side-posts, and the upper doorposts of every house where it was eaten. This sprinkling of the blood was to be the token of God's covenant, and a protection to the families so distinguished, from the sword of the avenging angel.
But, a positive institution so immediately from Heaven, an institution so full of meaning and instruction, of such celebrity in the history of the world, and connected so closely with an ordinance of still greater no. toriety, and of much more extensive influence, an ordinance of much longer duration, and which commemorates an event of infinitely greater importance, surely demands the most minute attention, and the most serious inquiry. We pretend not to comprehend, and therefore undertake not to explain every particular circumstance of this solemn, divine institution: but the moral and religious design is, in general, so obvious, that a reader of ordinary capacity has but to run over with a common degree of seriousness and attention, in order to understand what the spirit of God is saying in it, for the edification of mankind.
And first, God was about to distinguish Israel by special marks of his favour. In order to this, they must carefully distinguish themselves by a punctual observance of his command. Is more expected of an Israelite than of an Egyptian? Undoubtedly. The blessings which come down from above, from the Father of lights, are not mere arbitrary and capricious effusions of liberality, falling upon one spot, and passing by another, without reason or design. No, they are the wise and gracious recompense of an intelligent, observing and discriminating Parent, to faithful, affectionate and obedient children. Israel had been fore. warned of the ensuing danger to no purpose, had one iota or tittle relating to the ordinance of the paschal lamb been neglected. Calamity is to be avoided, not by foreknowing that it draws nigh, but by running to
a place of safety. Salvation by Christ consists, not merely in head-knowledge of his person, doctrine and work; but in a cordial receiving and resting upon him alone for salvation, as he is freely offered to us in the gospel, for “wisdom, righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” The careful selection, then, of a proper victim, and the exact application of it, according to the commandment, have a plain and an instructive meaning
Secondly, As Israel was to depart in haste, the Spirit of God was pleased to enjoin a memorial of that haste, in the quality of the bread which they were to use, during the celebration of this festival. When liberty, dear liberty is in view, who so silly as to care whether the taste be gratified or not, for a few days, with a less palatable kind of food? Our most perfect enjoyments in this world, and our highest attainments, have a mixture of bitterness or of insipidity attending them: like the flesh of lambs eaten with bitter herbs, and unfermented bread. The Jews, we know, were singularly diligent and curious, in searching out and removing from their houses every thing leavened, during this sacred season. With superstitious scrupulousness, they prepared unleavened bread for them. selves, and the poor, for months before the solemn day arrived. A few days previous to the feast they cleansed all their vessels and furniture. What could stand the fire, they purified with fire; what could not, they dipped in or rinsed with water. Their marble mortars they had brallowed anew. The night preceding the day of unleavened bread, they lighted wax tapers, and prepared for a general search after every remainder of leaven. The master of the family began the ceremony with this solemn address to God; 6 blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast commanded us to put away all that is leavened out of our houses." All the males of the household; master, children, dovestics, assisted in searching the whole house over, and examined into the most secret corners, lest peradventure some lurking particle of leavened bread, or fermented dough, might have been overlooked, in order to its being destroyed. As if this had not been sufficient, that the family might be purged of at least all intentional violation of the commandment, the father of it concluded the search with this solemn execration: “Let all the leaven that is in my house, and which I have not been able to find out or to remove, be scattered, and become like the smallest dust of the earth.” An inspired apostle is our interpreter of this part of the paschal observance; so that we can be at no loss about the meaning of the Spirit in its institu. tion, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven; neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth," 1 Cor. v. 7, 8. The scrupulous exactness of the Jews, in their literal obedience to the commandment, is a severe and just reproof of many, too many professing christians, who rush to the celebration of the gospel passover with little preparation or seriousness; and some, alas! deliberately hoarding up in their hearts, and secretly, greedi. ly feeding upon “the old leaven of malice and wicked. ness.
Thirdly, the victim itself claims our most serious attention. “A male lamb, of the first year,"_" without blemish,” to be taken, on the tenth day of the month, from his dam, kept apart for four days, and then killed! These are all tender and touching consi. derations. " A lamb;" The most innocent and gentle of animals, in the idea and the language of all ages and nations, another name for gentleness, harmlessness and simplicity; removed early from its only comfort and protection, its fond mother's side; deprived of liberty, and destined to bleed by the sacrificing knife.
Who can think of his plaintive bleatings, during the days of separation, without being melted? What Israelitish heart so insensible, as not to yearn at the thought, that his own life, and the comfort of his family, were to be preserved, at the expense of the life of that inoffensive little creature, whom he had shut up for the slaughter, and which, in unsuspicious confidence, licked the hand lifted up to shed its blood?
We have not long to search for the spirit and substance of this part of the institution: for all scripture presses upon our notice, the “LAMB of God, who taketh away the sins of the world;" slain, “ in the eternal purpose, from and before the foundation of the world; holy, harmless, and undefiled;” “ delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God,” Acts ii. 23-suffering “ the just for the unjust, that ïi
, he might bring us to God.” “Who was wounded for our transgressions, who was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed:” the Lord laying on him “ the iniquity of us all;" withdrawn, separated from the bosom of his Father-delivered into the hands of men-pouring out his soul unto death.
It was to be “ a lamb of the first year,” eight days old at the least; a year at the most. Not less than eight days, say the Jews, that there might intervene one sabbath from the birth of the victim, and that so the sacredness of this holy festival might render it worthy of being offered unto God. More probably, because that, till then, the animal was considered as too near a state of imperfection or impurity. It was not to exceed one year; because to that age it retains its lamblike barmlessness and simplicity. Superstition, which is ever sinking the spirit in the letter, has asserted, that a single hour beyond the year vitiated the victim, and rendered it profane.
But the figure, without straining for a resemblance, presents unto us JESUS, “a Son born, and a Saviour