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The Holy Festivals
Their social, political, and commercial benefits—Their value in a religious aspect—Congregational worship—The Passover—The Feast of Unleavened Bread—The first sheaf of Barley harvest—The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, and the two loaves of Wheat harvest—The corners and the gleanings—The Feast of Trumpets, or Gospel call—The Feast of Tabernacles—The Sabbath.
This chapter treats of times and seasons—of sacred days, festivals, and solemn convocations—such as the Sabbath, the Passover, the feast of Pentecost, the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the feast of Tabernacles. These solemnities were not all now first instituted, but are here brought together under one view, that their relations to each other, and their general significance, might be the more clearly perceived.
There are three general aspects in which these remarkable festivals may be considered. They had important relations to the peace and prosperity of the Jews as a nation; they embodied a great religious idea; and they presented a chronological prefiguration of the great facts of our redemption. Without undertaking at all to exhaust the subject, I have something to say of it in each of these relations. May the Lord direct us in our meditations!
I. Commentators generally, on this part of Hebrew Law, have remarked upon the social, political, and commercial benefits resulting to the Jewish people from these national festivals and convocations.
They served to unite the nation, cemented them together as one people, and prevented the tendency to the formation of separate cliques and conflicting clans or states. Three times a-year did these feasts bring vast multitudes together from all sections of the country to meet each other on a common religious ground, requiring of them the acknowledgment of descent from a common father, of consecration to the same God, of heirship to the same promises, and of subjection to the same theocratic system. Persona of different tribes and distant locakities thus met on terms of brotherhood and fellowship, fostering old and creating ever new relationships, and familiarizing all with each other. They were thus strengthened in unity of faith and interest against internal ruptures, division, and idolatry.
If hostility had sprung up between any of the tribes, the occurrence of these holy assemblies required of them to lay down their arms, and come together as brethren around the same altar of their common God, to offer the same sacrifices, sing the same grand songs, and bow down with each other before the same almighty Jehovah. It was impossible for a people to obey such regulations and become disunited. The actual split of the ten tribes from Judah, under Rehoboam and Jeroboam, could and did not become very serious until they set aside that part of the law relating to these national festivals.
These convocations also had great effect upon the internal commerce of the Hebrew people. They furnished facilities for mutual exchanges, and opened the ways of trade and business between the various sections. Such festivals have always been attended with this effect. The famous old fair near Hebron, arose from the congregating of pilgrims to the terebinth tree of Abraham. The yearly fairs of the Germans are said to have had a similar origin. And so the annual pilgrimage of the Mohammedans to Mecca, in spite of many adverse circumstances, has given birth to one of the greatest markets in the eastern world. And thus, perhaps, more of the wealth of the Jews, and of the greatness and glory of Jerusalem, is to be traced to the simple laws of (his one chapter, than to all the wisdom and power of either or all their kings.
We can thus perceive a wisdom and sagacity in these laws, even apart from their religious and typical significance, which every thoughtful man must be surprised to find among a race of semi-barbarbous people, nomadic in their habits, and the immediate descendants of slaves. Such political foresight, under such circumstances, can, with no show of reason, be referred to the mere ingenuity of man. Such masterly arrangements, so many-sided, and on all so complete and admirable, originating with such a people, must have come from a wisdom higher than earth—from a hand more skilful than the hand of mortal. These laws everywhere bear the impress of a divine original; and he who disputes it, calls upon us to exercise a credulity much greater than is agreeable to sober reason. Skepticism may vaunt and boast as it pleases, but it embraces more absurdities than it has ever imputed to the faith of believers. And before the infidel undertakes, on that score, to extract the mote from the Christian’s eye, it would be well for him first to remove the beam from his own. "Physician, heal thyself," is about answer enough to all the arguments and ridicule of unbelief and atheism.
II. But there was also a direct religious value and forethought in the appointment of these festivals.
They prescribed public consociation in worship. Man is a worshipping being. It is not only his duty, but his nature and native instinct to worship. His very position in the universe, as a creature, dependent, needy, and the recipient of so much good, calls for it. Hence, the best and the great majority of men, in all ages, have given their sanction and example to it. Even before
To hew the shaft, or lay the architrave,
And spread the roof above them—ere he framed
The lofty vault, to gather and roll back
The sound of anthems; in the darkling wood,
Amidst the cool and silence, he knelt down,
And offered to the Mightiest solemn thanks
But mere isolated worship, without association in common set services, soon dwindles, flags, degenerates, and corrupts. Neither does it ever reach that majesty and intense inspiration which comes from open congregation in the same great acts of devotion. "As iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." And just as the multitude of these mutual sharpeners is increased, will their common devotion be deepened and augmented. There is sublimity in numbers. There is something in a great congregation to impress, move, and invigorate. And when it pulsates with one thought, one feeling, one aim, and that in the direction of the infinite and divine, the impulse is like that of the gathered strength of the waves of the sea, profound, majestic, overwhelming. I know of nothing earthly that is more beautiful, more impressive, more soothing to the inmost soul, and more kindly in its effects, than a devout assembly, convened for the worship of their common God and Father. The mere congregation of such a number of precious souls, filled with holy reverence, their differences all forgotten, the hearts of all classes mingled into one, and all their diversities of station and office melted away before the majesty of the Maker of them all, causes a heavenly awe to steal upon the spirit, and a kindliness to distil upon the soul, which far exceeds all that such services ever cost. It is like a great home gathering of children to receive the benedictions of a gracious Father. It is a drawing together by holy ties to a board where Deity ministers most perceptibly to man. The Spirit of the Almighty One is there. He who died on Calvary walks unseen among the waiting ones, and lays his hand upon the heads of the contrite, and whispers quiet consolation to them that mourn. Loving angels move there with hearts fall of sympathy for their young brethren in the flesh. Burning thoughts and holy aspirations take wings there, and soar in poetic numbers and blending sounds of linked sweetness to mingle with the songs of seraphim. Truth there sends forth its rays right from its everlasting Source to warm, and melt, and cheer, and animate, and bless. Earth there rises into neighborhood and fellowship with heaven. And in the deep, still intervals of those solemn transactions, the mellowed soul may feel the soft and gentle beatings of the pulse of immortality. Even the silent atmosphere seems to whisper—"God is here." And who, indeed, has ever seen or felt anything of the hallowing inspirations of these sacred assemblies, but is ready to exclaim with Israel’s royal bard—"How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!" The highest hopes of the world linger about our sanctuaries. Heaven looks to them as its grammar schools. They are the inlets of grace and salvation to the soul. Yea, to close them, would well nigh "shut the gates of mercy on mankind."
For the sake of religion, therefore, as well as for politics and commerce, it was a wise and benignant arrangement which called the tribes of Israel together three times a year in sublime congregation, to acknowledge their common Lord, to wait before him in the services of his temple, and to adore, praise and worship him who made them. From those festivals there went forth a religious life, which was felt to the utmost extremities of the land, and which made the great Lord love the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
III. But I propose to speak more particularly of the typical relations of these holy feasts and seasons. They have an interest and value far above that of their immediate uses and effects. They were prophecies and portraitures of good things to come. We have in them a system of types, chronologically arranged, to set forth the true Course of Time—to prefigure the whole history of redemption, in its leading outlines, from the commencement to the close. In this light, then, let us briefly review them.
The first in the list of these holy convocations was the Passover. This was a sacramental observance, first instituted in Egypt, and first kept on that dreadful night when the destroying angel went through the land slaying the first-born of every house which had not been sprinkled with the blood of the slain lamb. It was a sort of perpetual commemoration of their deliverance from the oppressor and from death—a standing testimonial that their salvation was by the blood of the Lamb. It was the key-note of the Christian system sounding in the dim depths of remote antiquity. That bondage in Egypt referred to a still deeper and more degrading slavery of the spirit. That redemption was the foreshadow of a far greater deliverance. And that slain lamb and its sprinkled blood, pointed to a meeker, purer, and higher victim, whose body was broken and blood shed for us and for many for the remission of sins. It was only another form of setting forth "Christ and him crucified." It was the clear prefiguration of "Christ our passover sacrificed for us." As God found Israel in bondage, so he finds all men in the slavery and degradation of sin. As he begun Israel’s redemption by holding up to them the slaughtered lamb, so the spirit and essence of all his gracious communications to our fallen race has been, to point out "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." The sprinkled blood of the lamb saved Israel from the dreadful destruction which overwhelmed their enemies; and thus are we "justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood." The passover feast occurred but once in a complete period of time—once a year—so "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." In all time there shall be no repetition of his sacrifice. The passover was a feast for the whole nation, of which all were called to partake; so "Jesus, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man." "He died for all, that we which live might not henceforth live unto ourselves, but unto him that loved us and gave himself for us." The paschal lamb was to be eaten as food by those who kept the feast; so Christ’s flesh is meat indeed. He is "the living bread which came down from heaven, of which, if any man eat he shall live for ever." And this Passover was the first of the feasts ordained for Israel. Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The first utterance of grace to sinful man held forth this glorious deliverer. The first altar we read of exhibited the slain lamb. The first deed of the new dispensation was the pointing out of "the Lamb of God" and his offering for the sins of the world. The first cry that reaches the sinner’s heart is, "Behold the Lamb!" His first experiences of real spiritual bliss lie in his partaking of Christ our Passover sacrificed for us. And the first visions of the glory to be revealed in the heavenly sanctuary, disclose the same "Lamb that was slain," loved, adored, ruling, and reigning, with all the inhabitants of bliss looking on with worshipful thankfulness and delight. The Passover is the primary feast.
The next in the list was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a sort of continuation of the Passover, and followed right after it on the next day. In both Matthew and Mark, these two festivals are reckoned as one; the Passover being regarded as the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread. The one refers to what Christ does and is to the believer, and the other refers to what the true believer does in return. The one refers to our redemption by blood and our deliverance from condemnation; the other to our repentance and consecration to a new life of obedience, separated from the leaven of unrighteousness. It is therefore plain why both were thus joined together as one. Redemption is nothing to us if it does not lead us to a purification of ourselves from the filthy ways and associations of the wicked. In vain do we eat of the paschal lamb or sprinkle its blood, if it be not immediately followed with the purging out of the old leaven to keep the feast of unleavened bread. Our salvation only begins in Christ’s sufferings and death; it then remains to be practically wrought out in a new life of consecration to God. The Passover must be succeeded by the feast of unleavened bread. Christ’s sacrifice is to serve to put us in a position, and to furnish us with motives and opportunities to march forth out of the land of bondage to go to the holy land. A redeemed man must needs be a holy man. We can only effectually keep the Gospel feast by purging out the old leaven of malice and wickedness.
Seven days was this feast of unleavened bread to be kept—a full period of time. We are to "serve God in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life." Our work is not done until the week of our stay in this world ends. We must be faithful until death.
Joined with the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread, was the additional service of presenting before God the first sheaf of the barley-harvest. The Jew was not allowed to touch his crop until he had first gathered a sheaf, and presented it, along with the usual burnt and meat-offerings, as a gift to the Lord. "This," says Cumming, "was a beautiful institution, to teach the Israelites that it was not the soil, nor the rain-drops, nor the sunbeams, nor the dews, nor the skill of their agriculturalists, that they had to thank for their bounteous produce; but that they must rise above the sower and reaper, and see God, the giver of the golden harvest, and make his praise the key-note to their harvest-home." It was all this, hut it had also a deeper and more beautiful meaning. The broad field, sowed with good seed, with its golden ears ripening for the harvest, is Christ’s own chosen figure of his kingdom upon earth, and the congregation of his believing children maturing for the garners of eternal life. In that field, the chief sheaf is Jesus Christ himself; for he was in all respects "made like unto his brethren. He is "the first fruits." He was gathered first, and received into the treasure-house of heaven. It was the Passover time when he came to perfect ripeness. It was during these solemnities that he was "cut off." And when the Spirit of God lifted him from the sepulchre, and the heavens opened to receive him, then did the waving of the sheaf of first fruits have its truest and highest fulfilment. Until this sheaf was thus offered along with the blood of atonement, there could be no harvest for us. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." It is as our representative and forerunner that he has been thus lifted up before God. There is, therefore, a harvest for man—a gathering into the garner of heaven. "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the harvest is the end of the age." And when that "end" arrives, a voice shall come forth from the eternal temple, "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." And then upon every Christian’s grave shall be set up a sheaf, glad and glorious, beautiful and full of blessing, to be gathered, amid the shouts of angels, into the everlasting store-house of the Father. But, as yet, we are no further than the waving of the first fruits of barley-harvest—the lifting up of Christ as the pledge and pattern of our own resurrection.
There was another harvest, and another festival service connected with its opening, fifty days later than the barley harvest. This was the wheat harvest, at which was celebrated the Feast of Weeks, otherwise called Pentecost. The modern Jews make this festival celebrate the giving of the Law from Sinai; though there is nothing in the Mosaic record to give it such a connection. It was properly a harvest festival, at which the Jews were to render their thank-offerings for the bounties of the field, along with the first fruits of the same, previous to the commencement of the general reaping. They were required to baptize all their blessings in the fountain of life before using them, that they might never forget whence they came, and to whose honor they were to be employed. There was a wide difference, however, between the offering of the first fruits of this, and those of the barley harvest. In the one case the sheaf was to be presented; in the Feast of Weeks two loaves of bread, prepared with leaven, were to be waved before the Lord. The fact of there being two, and those made up with leaven, i. e. more or less mingled with corruption, precludes the typical application of this to Christ in his own proper person, as in the other case. He is one; and nothing corrupting ever attached to him. The key to the true explanation, is found in a hint given in the twelfth of John. Christ there likens himself to "a corn or grain of wheat," and his death to the planting of that grain, and the fruits of his death and passion to the products growing from that planted grain. Here then comes in a wheat harvest—the product of Christ’s planting in, and rising from the grave—which is redemption let forth to mankind. But the fruit of wheat was to be presented at this feast, not in its natural condition, but in the form of loaves made up with leaven. The reference, therefore, is plainly to redeeming grace, as wrought up into believers, in which state there is still much corruption mingled with it. The Passover shows us Christ crucified. The sheaf of first fruits shows us Christ raised from the dead and lifted up to heaven as our forerunner. And the Pentecostal feast, with its two leavened loaves, shows us Christ in the gracious influences of his Spirit wrought into the hearts and lives of those who constitute his earthly Church.
This spiritual kneading took its highest and most active form on that memorable Pentecost; when the disciples "were all with one accord in one place," and the Holy Spirit came down upon them with gifts of mighty power. Three thousand souls were that day added to the Church. It was a glad and glorious day for Christianity. It was the first fruits of wheat harvest brought with joyous thanksgiving unto God. But it was only the first fruits—the earnest of a vast and plenteous harvest of the same kind ripening on the same fields. Thenceforward the world was to be filled with glad reapers gathering in the sheaves, and with laborers kneading the contents of those sheaves into loaves for God. Leaven there needs is in those loaves; but, presented along with the blood of the chief of the flock and herd, they still become acceptable to Him who ordained the service. And this same reaping and kneading is to go on, until God shall say, "It is enough. The mystery is finished. Come, ye priests, and feast upon the labors of your hands."
There was a peculiar requirement connected with these laws for the wheat harvest, well worthy of special attention. The corners of the fields and the gleanings were to be left. God said, "When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corner of the field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of the harvest; thou shalt leave them unto the poor and the stranger." This was a beautiful feature in these arrangements. It presents a good lesson, of which we ought never to lose sight. But it was also a type. Of what, I have not seen satisfactorily explained, though the application seems easy. If the wheat harvest refers to the gathering of men from sin to Christianity, and from subjects of Satan to subjects of grace, then the plain indication of this provision is, that the entire world, under this present dispensation, shall not be completely converted to God. I believe that the time will come, and that it is largely and fully predicted in the Scriptures, when "all shall know the Lord from the least unto the greatest"—when there will not be a single sinner left upon the earth. But, that time will not come until a new dispensation, with new instrumentalities, shall have been introduced. Some are looking for the ingathering of the whole race to Christ and the Gospel, simply by the appliances of grace as we now have them. I find no authority for this in Scripture, or in reason. My learning of this subject is, that, with all that we can do, though the world should continue ten thousand years, there will still be outskirts and corners unreapt, and gleanings left all over the field, which must be gathered, if gathered at all, by other ministers and other hands, under another order of things. For eighteen hundred years has the Gospel now been operating in our world. Fully fifty generations have successively passed under its administrations. Much of the mightiest energy and eloquence on the earth, in every generation, has been expended in its favor. And yet, in all this accumulation of centuries, there never has been a nation, or state, or city, or neighborhood, or village, under heaven, in which every individual of the population was a true member of Christ. There is not a spot on the surface of the world of which it ever could be said, "All the dwellers here are sons of God and heirs of heaven." Even in the hands of inspired apostles, whose very words were miracles, yea, even in the hands of the adorable Savior himself, the Gospel has not converted all to whom it was brought. And "the thing that hath been, is that which shall be." With all the efforts of the Church, there will still be unconverted and unholy people in the world—corners and gleanings which have not been turned to any good account—which strangers to us must gather, and which only another economy shall reach. Even down to the time when the Son of Man cometh, the world will be "as it was in the days of Noah."
Some will say that this presents a sad and gloomy prospect. I answer, no; it consoles rather than discourages me. It keeps me from that despondency which would otherwise weigh upon my spirit. I look at the history and doings of the Church. I see faithful men everywhere laying themselves, body and soul, as living sacrifices on God’s altar. And yet I find multitudes whom their efforts cannot move—their own brothers, friends and relatives continuing in unrighteousness, and dying impenitent. What am I to think of this upon the supposition that the Gospel is omnipotently endowed over all antagonism of resistance and rebellion? Am I not driven to suspect that there has been some miscalculation of its power, or that, in part at least, it has been a failure, and hence not what it professes to be? The inference seems harsh, bewildering, and vastly depressing to a confiding faith; and yet, I know not how to escape it upon the common theory. But when, in God’s pictures of futurity, he shows me corners unreapt and gleanings still ungathered after the present gatherers have done their work, the perplexity is met, and the depressing doubt is removed. I see then that the present are not God’s ultimate arrangements—that there is to be another economy and other agencies—and so I can labor on without discouragement at the limited success which attends upon Christian efforts. It is enough that the Gospel, as it now is, is able to gather up a people for the Lord, to be the kings and priests of "the world to come." In this I find motive and glory enough to work diligently, though there be corners which cannot be reached, and gleanings which cannot be gathered.
The next in this list of festivals, was the Feast of Trumpets. This was held on the first day of the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year, which was the same as the first month of the civil year. It was therefore a new-year festival, and at the same time the feast of introduction to the sabbatic month. Its chief peculiarity was, the continual sounding of trumpets from morning till evening. It was the grand type of the preaching of the Gospel. Christ having been sacrificed and raised again, as shown in the Passover and its connected services, and the organization of grace having been completed, as prefigured in the Feast of Weeks, the next great step was, to let the world hear of it, and to call the people to come and rejoice in it. And this call is what the Feast of Trumpets foreshadowed. In one respect, it began a new year;—it introduced a new dispensation. From the day of the Pentecostal outpouring, there went forth a joyful sound—the voice of trumpets—in every direction, over hills and valleys, mountains and seas. It was the glad peal of Gospel tidings, announcing the arrival of the holy month, and proclaiming rest to the weary world. It was not only at this feast that the trumpets were sounded. They were more or less used in every holy convocation. But it was only at this particular feast that they were heard in all their mightiness. Some thing of the Gospel has been heard in every age. Its first notes were sounded in Eden, and their echo was heard through the centuries before the flood. At every great feast God has provided in the history of time, its sound was more or less mingled with the festivities. But, not until after the glorious season of Pentecost did its combined trumpet tones break forth upon the ears of men. Then first did it utter itself in that fulness which has startled empires, thrilled ages, and still holds millions of immortal minds trilling to its vibrations. The Feast of Trumpets was, to a great extent, a preliminary of the great Day of Atonement. We have already considered the peculiarities of this solemn day. Its leading thought is contained in its name—at-one-ment; that is, agreement, reconciliation, harmony, and peace with God. The Feast of Trumpets was a call to this at-one-ment. The Gospel is an appeal to men to he reconciled to God. One of its great objects is to urge sinners to afflict their souls—to repent of their sins—to accept contritely of the forgiveness found in the blood of Jesus. "Now, then," says Paul, "we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God." Every Gospel minister is thus a trumpeter, to call men to the holy services of expiation. And if people will but listen, and be admonished, and come to the solemn feast, and afflict their souls with real penitence, God is at peace with them, their sins are remembered no more, condemnation is gone, and the pledge of eternal life is theirs.
My friends, through the whole day of our lives thus far, the silver trumpets have been sounding in our ears. And still they sound. From the battlements of the heavenly Jerusalem their clarion tidings of salvation ring o’er land and sea, saying, "Hear, O careless sinner; bestir thee; rouse from thy stupor; come to the feast of pardon; afflict thy haughty spirit, and bow down thy pride, and enter in those everlasting gates which now stand open to receive thee!"—"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Immediately succeeding the great solemnity on the fifteenth day of the month, began another remarkable festival, called the Feast of Tabernacles. This was the most joyous of the Jewish annual feasts. Its leading peculiarity was, that the people left their dwellings and made themselves tents, or temporary shelters, in which they remained seven days, rejoicing in the great things which God had done for them. It was to commemorate the forty years of tent life which their fathers led in the wilderness, and pointed, the same as that which it commemorated, to that period of the Christian’s career which lies between his deliverance from bondage and his entrance into rest,—that is, between his reconciliation to God and his final inheritance of the promises. It celebrates the state of the believer while he yet remains in this present life.
This world is not our dwelling place. We are pilgrims and strangers here, tarrying for a little season in tents and booths, which we must soon vacate and leave to decay. "The earthly house of this tabernacle" must "be dissolved." The places that know us now, shall soon know us no more. "Seven days"—a full period—were the people of Israel to remain in these temporary tabernacles. And thus shall we be at the inconvenience of a tent-life for the full period of our earthly stay. But it was only once in a year that Israel kept the Feast of Tabernacles. And so, when we once leave the flesh, we shall never return to it again. Our future bodies shall be glorified, celestial, spiritual bodies. "When the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." "In this tabernacle we do groan, being burdened, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." Nevertheless, if we be the people of God—if we have listened to the call of the trumpets, and kept the day of atonement by a godly affliction of soul for our sins,—even our stay in these poor shelters is a joyous and a blessed estate. It is a continuous feast upon forgiveness and blessed hope. Christianity gives wings to the soul by which we may mount up as eagles. It introduces light into the darkest houses, and joy into the frailest and poorest tent. It gives a sacred buoyancy to the elastic steps of youth, and it is a rod and staff to the tottering feebleness of age. It adds a gilding to the saddest lot, and a lining of silver to the blackest clouds. It may turn us all into pilgrims, but pilgrims ransomed from the power of tyranny, and on our way to the land of rest. It may separate as from much that vain men think good and precious, but it joins us to the assembly of those whose peace flows like a river, and whose songs shall never, never cease.
It is also a precious thought connected with this subject, that when the Jews left their tents at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles, it was the Sabbath morning. This frail tent-life is after all to be rounded off with the calm quiet of a consecrated day that has no night, and to merge into a rest that is never more to end.
The Sabbath is the most sacred of the days. It is as old as man. It has come down with him from the days of his innocence. It is a part of that moral code delivered on Sinai, and written on the granite rock to last as long as the world. It is a sweet remembrancer of God and his great works of power and goodness. It tells of that joyous time
When the radiant morn of creation broke,
And the world in the smile of its God awoke
It carries back our thoughts to the period when the whole earth was sinless, and man in his innocence was blessed. It now celebrates the Savior’s triumph over death—the bursting forth from Joseph’s tomb of the germ of another creation brighter than the first—the bringing of life and immortality to light. It tells of rest that was, and of rest that is to be. I love this holy day—this solemn pause amid our earthiness—this breathing-space for man—this "halt of toil’s exhausted caravan"—this weekly drop of heavenly sweetness in the bitter cup of life. I bail it as the channel and the prophecy of heaven’s sublimest gifts to man. God makes this whole round of sacred festivals both begin and end with it. It was the first feast which God appointed for man, and it is to be kept when all other feasts have passed. It was given before sin had touched or soiled our noble nature, and it is to be the crown of that redemption which removes those stains again. It was the inheritance of man in his innocence at the beginning; and when we leave these earthly tabernacles, it shall meet us with a soothing calm on every breeze, and a heavenly sweetness and quiet on every ray, transcending all that ever attached to it before. The Saturday of life’s weary week brings after it an everlasting Sabbath in the skies. Whatever, then, may be the sorrows, disabilities, and weaknesses of earth, our consolation is, that "there remaineth a Sabbath for the people of God."
There is an hour of peaceful rest,
To mourning wand’rers giv’n;
There is a joy for souls distressed,
A balm for every wounded breast—
’Tis found above—in heav’n.
There is a soft, a downy bed,
As fair as breath of ev’n;
A couch for weary mortals spread,
Where they may rest the aching head,
And find repose in heav’n.
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Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Leviticus 23". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14