THE THIRD BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED
THIS book contains the actions of about one month. It is chiefly employed in describing the sacrifices and services of the tabernacle, to be performed by Aaron the Levite, as he is called, Exodus 4:14, and by his sons, who alone had the office of priesthood in the tribe of Levi, and is therefore termed by the Greek and Latin translators LEVITICUS: and that part of the Jewish religion which is ceremonial, is fitly denominated the Levitical law. These ceremonial services are reducible to the following heads: — I. Sacrifices. These, (from the constant and early use of them, recorded in the book of Genesis,) there is reason to think, were appointed by God himself, immediately upon the fall of man, as a temporary expedient, prefiguring that great sacrifice of his Son, whereby he had determined in his counsel to expiate the sins of the world. We find there were principally two kinds of sacrifices: the one expiatory, or atoning for sins, whereby the Saviour of the world, by whose blood alone we have remission of sins and reconciliation with God, was signified; the other eucharistical, or those which were offered by way of thanksgiving, in return for blessings and mercies received. These sacrifices had, too, a relation to spiritual worship, and pointed out several moral duties; while the whole was a typical scheme, and fit introduction to the more perfect dispensation of the Messiah, by whom both they and we were to receive our full atonement and reconciliation with God. II. Purifications from various kinds of legal uncleanness; which, though they cannot be denied to have been a troublesome branch of the Jewish religion, and one of those circumstances which denominated it an elementary institution, and a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were well able to bear, were not, however, intended to terminate in mere ritual observance. They were most apt significations of inward and substantial holiness; such as devotedness to God, and purity of heart and life. III. The solemn festivals; the observance whereof was so far from being a needless institution, that they appear to have been exceeding proper for preserving the whole nation in the practice of true, and from the corruptions of false religion. They were thankful commemorations of signal national mercies. And by their constant attendance upon these joyful solemnities, at so many stated times of the year, and at the one fixed place of national worship, they went through those courses of divine service, and such acts of kindness, generosity, and charity to each other, as tended to confirm them in the true religion, and in the love of that happy constitution. IV. As to the civil and judicial laws here prescribed, they cannot but seem to any reasonable man to be far the best body of rules that are to be found in the records of any nation; as making the surest provision for the honour of magistracy and government, and for securing the rights and properties of the people: and not only so, but for advancing that benevolence and mutual love, as well as common justice to each other, which are the strongest cements of society. V. The historical parts of this book are few, but very instructive: chiefly for creating in men a just veneration for all persons and things consecrated to the special service of God.