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But in fault of "going on to perfection,” the soul becomes busied about many circumstantials, which the Spirit characterises as “rudiments of the world,” and instead of enjoying and living in the power of heavenly realities, has need to be taught what be “the first principles of the oracles of God.”
Such, alas, is the fascinating power of "rudiments of the world,” that at the present moment it appears the peculiar danger of the church. Wherever they are introduced, it is truly sorrowful to witness in those who are really Christ's, the manifest decline of spirituality. Such expressions as, " Beware lest any man spoil you,”—“Let
“ no man beguile you,” become pregnant with meaning. The real point at issue is now, as it ever has been, whether the world civilised, or even Christianised, or Christ himself is the object of our hearts. Are we content with perfection in Christ? or do we seek something besides what we are, and what we have in Him? The arduous ministry of the apostle was to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” by not allowing any foreign element, which, pretending to embellish, would in reality obscure the dignity of the believer in Christ. If we are desirous of attainment, and 0 that it may be so! may it be according to the tenor of the apostle's prayer, “ That we might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good word, and increasing in the knowledge of God."
Note, page 179. Hebrews xiii. 8.“ Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever:”—How blessed a contrast is this to “ All things are vanity,” as to every man - LXX. Ps. xxxix. 5, on which Bythner thus remarks:
Every man is all vanity;" as all is vanity, so the vanity and misery which are scattered piecemeal among other creatures, seem in man alone to be collected together. And thus man stands forth as the compendium of all the vanities, which exist in creatures. With inanimate, he is subject to change-corruption; with animate, to alteration-death; with those which have feelings, to joy and grief; with angels (who kept not their first estate, but leit their own habitation), to inconstancy, etc.; and thus he rushes into the
The Book of Leviticus contains the revelation of God sitting upon the throne, where He places Himself that He may be approached by the people— that of the priesthood brought into proximity to the throne, as far as men could have access to it; and then, the promulgation of the commandments relative to these two great facts, in that which concerned the generality of the
people. In Numbers, we have the service and walk of the people, consequently, that which relates to the Levites and the journey through the wilderness. Now, as Leviticus ended with regulations and warnings respecting the possession of the land, and that with regard to the rights of God, and consequently to the rights of His people, the book of Numbers brings us to the entrance of the people into the land at the end of the wilderness journey, and speaks of that grace, the effect of which was to justify the people, notwithstanding all their unfaithfulnesses.
The first thing to be noticed is, that God numbers His people exactly, and arranges them, once thus recognised, around His tabernacle: sweet thought, to be thus recognised and placed around God Himself!
Three tribes on each side of the court kept the tabernacle of the Lord. Levi alone was excepted in order to be consecrated to the service of God: therefore the tribe of Levi encamped according to their families directly round the court. Moses, Aaron and the priests were placed opposite the entrance whereby God was approached. The least things in the word deserve to be noticed. Ps. lxxx. is entirely opened by the position of the tribes. The spirit of the Psalmist asks, in the last days of the desolation of Israel, for God to lead them and to manifest His power as He did when He led them through the wilderness; he asks for the power of His
2 This has been perused by the Author since being translated and printed. ED.
presence on the ark of testimony, as God manifested it when it was said, at the moment when Israel set forward, “Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scat
Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh were the three tribes nearest the ark in the camp of Israel; that is why it is said, in the second verse of the Psalm, “ before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh."
In the setting forward of the camp, the order given was, that the tabernacle surrounded by the Levites, should be in the midst of the tribes, as it was when the camp was at rest.
In chap. ii. we find that another arrangement took place as a matter of fact.
In chap. iii. we have the Levites set apart, according to the thoughts of God, for service. They are a figure of the Church, or rather of the members of the Church in their service, even as the priests are the figure of the Church drawing near to the throne of God.
The Levites were first-fruits offered to God, for they were instead of the first-born in whom God had taken Israel to Himself, when he smote the first-born of the Egyptians. Thus it is, that the Church is as the first-fruits of the world, holy to the Lord. The number of the first-born being greater than that of the Levites, those
over were redeemed, as a sign that they belonged to God, and the Levites became God's possession for His service (ver. 12, 13). It is the same with regard to the Church: it belongs wholly to God to serve Him down here. But, besides, the Levites were entirely given to Aaron the high-priest; for the service of the Church or of its members is wholly dependent on Christ in the presence of God, and has no other object but that which concerns Him, and that which is connected with the service which He Himself renders to God in the true tabernacle. The service of the Church has no value (on the contrary, it is sin), except so far as it is united to the priesthood. Consequently our service is absolutely good for nothing, if it be not linked, in its details, with our communion with the Lord and with the priesthood of Christ. Christ is “a Son over His own house"; "there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.” The Holy Ghost gives the capacity and the gift for service; but, in the exercise of this capacity and of this gift, we are the servants of Christ. Thus, as regards our service, we have these three princiciples:-1. We are redeemed, delivered from the judgments, under which are the enemies of God, being taken from the midst of those enemies;2. As a consequence of this first fact, we belong absolutely to God; bought with a price, we are no longer our own, but God's to glorify Him in our bodies and in our spirits which are His; -3. We are entirely given to Christ, who is the head of the house of God, the priest for the service of His tabernacle. Blessed bondage, happy self-renunciation, true deliverance from a world of sin! Service is rendered under the dependence of Christ and in the communion of the Lord: it is linked to the priesthood.
Service appears to be limited to the tabernacle, that is, to be exercised within the Church. The preaching of the Gospel made no part of the Jewish system, which was the shadow, but not the perfect image of the present state of things. The institution of the Levites is here presented to us in principle; we shall find further on, their purification and their consecration to God.
We may remark, on this occasion, with regard to that which is most elevated in the calling of the Church, that she is one. The priests, the high-priest excepted, accomplished all equally, or together, the service of the offerings to God. And so it is with the Church; all its members equally draw near unto God, and are with Him in the same relationship. (A priest acting for another Israelite who brought an offering or who had sinned, rather represented Christ Himself.)
The order of the service of the Levites was according to the sovereignty of God, who put each one in his place. Thus, in the service of the Church, the greatest differences are found, and each one has his own place assigned him. The same thing will likewise, I believe, take place in the glory (comp. Eph. iv. and i Cor. xii.). We are all brethren having only one Master. But the Master gives grace to each one according to his own will, according to the counsels of God the Father. He who denies brotherly unity, denies the sole authority of the Master. He who denies the diversity of services, equally denies the authority of the Master who disposes of His servants as He pleases and chooses them according to His wisdom and His divine rights.
Next in order come the arrangements prescribed for the carrying of the things which the tabernacle contained, as well as their coverings, when the camp journeyed in the wilderness. I shall point out what appears to be the typical meaning of these prescribed ordinances. This is of the utmost importance.
After the instructions intended to teach us howit is given us to draw near God, the connexion between the manifestations of God in Christ and our walk here below are, for us, what is most essential. Now, this last subject is the one treated of in type, in the arrangements made for the carriage of the chief utensils destined for the service of God. When they were in their place, while the camp rested, they were uncovered. Those which were shut up within the tabernacle, had reference to heaven; the altar and the laver were outside, before coming to it.
In the wilderness, they put on certain characters, one especially; but others also, in certain cases. I consider them therefore as the manifestation of certain relations existing between the walk of the Christian and various manifestations of God in Christb.
The ark of the covenant represented the throne of God in heaven, the holiness and the justice which are
• I say the walk of the Christian, applying it to our consciences; but the expression is imperfect, for the subject seems to me to embrace the life of Christ himself upon earth, and even, in some respects, His life in the time to come, but always upon earth. They are the relations between the manifestation of life here below, the forms and the characters it assumes, and the sources of life in the manifestation of God in Christ: a subject of the deepest interest. The badgers’-skins and the circumstances with which this book is occupied, still suppose the walk to be in the wilder
It is only when we abstract, as to these circumstances, that we see the manifestation of things to come. Thus faith, that of the thief on the cross for example, saw, in Christ suffering, the King, though all was hidden. I have, therefore alluded to it without fear. I only present the idea contained in the type, without unfolding all the consequences of it.