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* Exod. iv. 22.
ISRAE SRAEL is my son, even my first-born, saith the Lord.* He was chosen and adopted from among the nations of the world to bear this character and to enjoy its privileges. † And great were those privileges and high this character, though primarily of a temporal and figurative kind. But to declare together with other important truths, to the faithful among them and among us, that all were not even then of Israel, who were called Israel; God ordained that all the first-born only of these outwardly favoured people, should be sanctified to himself, as his own. These, or the substitutes which redeemed them, and the first-born of their clean cattle, or the redemption of the first-born of their unclean cattle, and the first-fruits of their land, were so peculiarly the Lord's as to be incapable of any other application. If, again, any thing were devoted to the Lord, its designation could not be changed: it became unalterably his. The word put upon this most holy thing, as it is called, is on [LXX, avadμa] which implies a person or thing so separated or mortified, as to insure or draw the ban of divine vengeance upon him, who should presume to break in upon it.§
+ Deut. vii. 6. &c.
§ Lev. xxvii. 28.
But, in order still farther to show, that the privileges of grace and redemption come, not by right of nature or by right of birth, but by God's own selection; a certain set of men were chosen and appointed, instead of the first-born, to be the Lord's, to be joined to his High-Priest, to attend upon his service, and to keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation. These were the Levites; and they received their name, as well as their progenitor, † from the intention of their being joined to the Lord and to each other in love and unity, for one divine service and calling.
These Levites, being thus representatives of the Jewish first-born of God throughout the world, were henceforth neither considered nor numbered as men of the earth, for they had no particular region allotted to them, but as a scattered race (such as God's true first-born, whom they represented, ever have been) among other tribes and people. They were given, figuratively, to Christ out of the world (John xvii. 6.); as his true redeemed are. The Urim and Thummim were with the head of their brotherhood and among them only. They were the fewest in number of any of the tribes, as Israel in general was of the surrounding nations. They were not, in the cause of God, to know any man, not the nearest and dearest, after the flesh, as we may read in Exod. xxxii, 26. Deut. xxxiii. 9. Their charge was the outward services of the tabernacle and temple; and this occupied the prime of
Deut. xxi. 5. Numb. iii. 12. Redemption and substitution, in types, were the ground-work of the law; as redemption and substitution, in truth and reality, are the foundation of the gospel. ↑ Gen. xxix. 34,
their life, from twenty-five to fifty. "Age or time only disqualified them from service; not corporal defects or infirmities; whereas bodily defects alone disqualified priests; but not age or time."*
A lively picture this of God's spiritual Levites, or first-born, who are God's favoured ones in Christ, and are therefore styled Don, graciously dear, and through his own benignity precious. The light and knowledge of God is with them in the person of Christ. They are few indeed compared with the world at large; and yet, few as they are, to them the kingdom is given. Luke xii. 32. They are to judge of persons and things not according to the flesh; but to live and act for God in . the world. They are seen to be his servants by their conversation and conduct. Their service, however, is but for a time when the jubilee of their days arrives upon earth, that is, when the space appointed them below is accomplished, all their labours cease in the flesh; and they enter upon a more exalted station. In a word, they are Levites in this world, with respect to their powers of action; but priests unto God, by faith now for another world, and hereafter perfectly in that other. The infirmities of their bodies do not prevent their present office and duty, but only the present time: soon, they shall be holy and immaculate priests, beyond all limitation of infirmity or age.
By faith only are they the Lord's priests, as well as kings, below; and so by faith only they can enter while here into the secret place of the Most High, and commune with him within his tabernacle or ordinances: but,
in a little period, they shall follow their great Leader into the holiest of all, and see eye to eye concerning those things and beings, which their highest thoughts cannot so much as apprehend or aspire to, while the veil of flesh is upon them and obstructs the clear view of their final destination.
It is to be, however, remarked, that both Levites and priests were of the same devoted tribe, and stood for the Lord's own peculiar treasure, his dear and inseparable first born. The distinction only served for the time, in order to explain, that, as there was a difference of degree among men of the same flesh and blood in their approaches to God, so there is a further exaltation of state for the redeemed. In the kingdom above, there is no inferiority of Levites; but all are kings and priests unto God and the Father; all are joined by one Spirit to their Lord; all are united by the same Spirit, in an indissoluble bond, to each other.
The Lord's spiritual Levites are not taken from one tribe of men only, or one nation, but (as it is represented in the Revelation) are chosen out of every tribe and every nation, and irreversibly sealed. They are re
As the Levites were attached, in subordination, to the priests, by the law of Moses; so the Nethinims were those Gibeonites and their descendants, who served under the Levites, and were stationed as "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of God." Correspondent with these, in another œconomy, are those who are given to the service of God, and labour in his great vocation, either by defending the out-works of religion, or by ministering to those who are brought into it, while they themselves are not the Lord's freed men, and really enjoy not those precious things to which they serve. See Josh. ix. 23.
† Rev. vii. 5. &c.
deemed to God by the blood of the Lamb, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people,* composing altogether a multitude, which no man could number. But God can and doth reckon every one, for he telleth the number of these stars, and calleth them all by their names. The book of life records them every one; and there they have been written from the foundation of the world.
The name, then, and character of true believers are well expressed by Levites, because they are united as one stock to each other, and to their chief or Lord. They are joined to the Lord, and are one spirit † with him. Like the bride to her husband, or the members to their head, they are one with Christ, and Christ with them; God dwelleth in them, and they in God; they are all one in Christ, as the Father and Christ are one; and they shall partake of all the glories, which the human nature of their Redeemer partakes, and for which it was begotten into the world to procure. Like the precious stones in the breast-plate, they receive Christ the true light inwardly, and reflect him outwardly, to his glory. They in Christ, and Christ in them, are brought into an unutterable union and communion with the glorious Godhead or Jehovah, and shall possess all the bliss and dignity of that exalted state for ever.
The service of the Levites was also called a warfare; and they themselves prefigured all the faithful soldiers of Christ Jesus. Thus the apostle; I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course. He alludes to the spiritual service of the true Levites and Priests, which it was his privilege to perform, under the idea of the cere