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were transparent glass ?” Believest thou in this new Jerusalem, the temple of the Spirit of God, the bride, the Lamb's wife, the spouse of Him who is I AM; having the glory of God, her light, “like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal ?” Believest thou that she is? Dost thou know her as the city in which it is thy joy to dwell? Dost thou see her by the eye of faith continually, looking forth “ as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners ?"* Art thou willing to throw thyself into her, although she is ever on fire, sharing her lot whatever that lot may be, and making light of all her persecutions ?
Knowest thou God thus, Father, Son, Spirit? Knowest thou the Father, I AM, the vast, the distant, the immeasurable? The Son, I AM, in man's flesh, the God who made Thee, yet level with the creature whom He made? The Spirit, I AM, on earth now, inhabiting the Church which is His home, and filling it with light and glory? Knowest thou this? Believest thou ? If thou knowest not this I know not what I must tell thee: for the tale is too terrible which I should have to tell. But if thou dost know it, then thou hast seen this great sight which great Moses saw first. Nor hast thou only seen it. Thou art part of that sight which thou hast
Thou art thyself a portion of that burning bush, and God Himself is in thee, filling thee with fire and light. The fire which is flaming round thee is the glory of the Father. And if it gives thee light on earth, how bright, how surpassing, how unspeakably transcendant shall be thy lustre, “by the mercy and good-will of Him who dwelt within the bush,” in that place of light where all is glory.
THE SCHISM OF KORAH.
NUMBERS xvi, 1–3.
“Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi,
and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Pelieth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Mosses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing that all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Wherefore then lift ye yourselves above the congregation of the Lord ?”
THE judgment with which Korah, Dathan, and
Abiram were visited by God, as we read this morning in the first lesson, is among the most remarkable of all the warnings which are recorded for us in the word of God. I might, perhaps, have said the most remarkable, without at all qualifying the statement; for in no other instance, so far as
I aware, did God at once so evidently, so directly, and so terribly vindicate His own authority, as on that occasion when the earth opened to swallow those guilty rebels, and fire came out from heaven to consume those impious men.
The hand of God is no less plainly than severely visible in the chastisement which fell upon these unquiet Israelites. And as there is certainly a close connection between the gospel for to-day and the first lesson, our time may be fitly spent in considering the judgment, and reflecting on the warnings which it gives to men of the present day, no less than to the Jewish people.
Let us first endeavour to understand the case. It was this : Korah, a Levite, and also a cousin of Moses and Aaron, and Dathan and Abiram, men of considerable importance in the tribe of Reuben, supported by a number of persons who were in high position, and by a large body of the people, disputed the authority of Moses and rose in rebellion against him. The ground of their rebellion was the position in which Aaron and his suns were placed, in being set as priests over the Jewish people. Up to this period there had been no priestly family or tribe. The head of each family had heen the family priest. But a new state of things was now in the course of introduction. God was about to found a Church. No longer was He to be the God of separate and single families only.
He was to be the God of a whole people, which was also to be a Church. This involved a change in the nature and character of the priesthood. When every family was in itself a Church, the head of the family might be the priest. But, when all these many families were to be tied together in the bonds of a national and religious unity, this larger family must have its proper ministry, constituted after a new manner, to suit its own peculiar needs. Accordingly, God chose Aaron to be the Chief Priest of the Jewish people, with the members of his family as priests of a second and inferior order, and the whole tribe of Levi as assistants to the priesthood; these last being not allowed to sacrifice, or perform the higher and more sacred functions of the ministry, but having a tertiary degree of dignity, and a subordinate, though honourable place. Later, when the Church of Christ was founded, there was a further modification of the ministry of God. A tribe and a family might supply a single nation with its priesthood, but a Catholic Church, embracing all nations, must choose its priesthood in a freer and more catholic way. Now, therefore, the men of any family are eligible for the Christian priesthood. But Aaron and Levi were the possessors of an exclusive privilege, which none but they might then enjoy.
Such was the new ministry, appointed and introduced by Moses as the Civil Ruler, at the command of the Most High. And there were many persons who objected to this new ordinance of God. Korah, who was a Levite, did not like that tertiary office which Moses had assigned to him. To be a Levite only, did not satisfy his heart. It seemed to him but “ a small thing" to be separated from the congregation, and to be brought near to God in doing the service of the tabernacle, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them. Korah aimed at more than this. He wanted something greater. He was ambitious, and sought the priesthood also. He coveted a place among the second order of the ministry, or even to be the first. And other Levites were actuated by the same ambition. But it was not only from the tribe of Levi that rebels issued to contest the claims of Aaron and his sons. Dathan and Abiram, sons of Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob, concurred with Korah in his rebellion; considering, as is probable, that their legitimate claims had been neglected, and thinking, we may believe, that the privileges of Aaron were theirs by right of seniority, so that an honour such as this, if limited at all and confined to any, should in all justice have been reserved for them.
However, not to dwell on this further, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who were the ringleaders in this daring act of schism and insurrection, accompanied by men who are called princes, that is to say, chief men among the people, to the number of two hundred and fifty, and supported by a very general feeling which was diffused throughout the tribes generally, came to Moses, and addressed him thus : “ Ye take too much upon you.” And why? “Seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Wherefore, then, lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord ?" You perceive the spirit which animated them. You see the thoughts which rose within their hearts. They disputed the right of Moses and Aaron to those positions of authority in which God had placed them.. And they stated their reasons openly. 66 All the congregation are holy, every one." We, that is, are just as good as you. We belong to God as much as you. All the people are holy. All belong to God equally.
Wherefore this exclusiveness? Why should we be shut out? Why are you to be set above us? Why should Aaron and his sons be brought more near to God than other Levites, or than any member of any tribe ? Aaron and his sons have no more right to act as priests than other persons. There is no difference between us and them. So they spake substantially. On the ground that every member of the Jewish Church belonged to God, as a part of the holy people, they denied that any man should arrogate to himself the honour of being priest,