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three years.” Here then, the men of Israel were required to depend for their subsistence upon the miracle which the word of Jehovah had pledged to work in their behalf. Now, I would ask, in the language of an admirable writer, ‘Is it credible that any legislator would have ventured to propose such a law as this, or any people have submitted to receive it; except in consequence of the fullest conviction on both sides, that a divine authority had dictated the law, and that a peculiar providence would constantly facilitate its execution ? When such a law therefore, was proposed and received, such a conviction must have existed, both in the Jewish lawgiver, and the Jewish people.'' No impostor would have ventured on a pledge so desperate: or if he had, the deception would have been speedily and effectually exposed. Nay more,
possessors of estates acquired by purchase, were called upon to resign them fully and freely in the year of jubilee, to those from whom they had passed. It is, however, impossible to imagine, that the call would have been obeyed, in opposition to the common right, and to the strong pleadings of the love of gain, unless the hosts of Israel had been assured, that God had spoken by the lips of Moses. The inference then, is as clear as moral evidence can make it, that the miracles wrought in attestation of the Mosaic mission were undoubtedly real; and therefore, the mission itself undoubtedly divine.
Dean Graves' Lectures on the Four last Books of the Pentateuch. Vol. I.
In this conclusion however, I trust we are all agreed: and as the history of this very important and significant institution has a practical and spiritual character, applicable to this later age of the church, it is alike our duty and advantage to consider it under such an aspect. Taking this ground, two subjects solicit our regard,
I. THE JUBILEE ITSELF.
I. Every inquiry into the appointments of the Jewish church and people demands our first regard to their immediate and literal purport; although their best significancy, their highest value, their greatest perfection, are derived from reference to Him, in whose offices of salvation they were all accomplished. It must be observed, therefore, that the Jubilee had
(1.) A primary or political design. As every man's inheritance was necessarily to return to him, the moment the trumpet ushered in this season of joy, the poor, the improvident, the unfortunate, could not be always oppressed. The slave could not be kept in continual bondage. The rich could not accumulate all the lands, and establish a permanent monopoly of wealth. Liberty and property were thus secured from entire and enduring loss, in a manner more effectual than was afterwards known, until Christianity shed its peaceful glories over the world, and gave extent and stability to civil liberty, by the mild and merciful sanctions of the law of Christ. The inheritance possessed by every man, in the original division of the promised land, was thus prevented from alienation, beyond the limited period of fifty years. This festival served, in an eminent degree, to verify the prophecies regarding the descent of the Messiah. It obliged the tribes and families, throughout the land of Israel, to preserve their genealogies distinct and clear: because, when the day of Jubilee returned, every man who had alienated his patrimony, and conveyed away the heritage of his fathers, must have been prepared to prove his particular relationship, in order that he might establish his claim, and return in competence or plenty to his own possession, and to his own family!. It was thus eventually and
See Horne’s Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. Vol. III. p. 346.
exactly ascertained, from the public registers and genealogies of the land, that the Saviour of man, the promised Shiloh, the universal ransom of a lost and captive world, should be born of the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David, according to the sure word of prophecy, which went before concerning him.
I am quite aware, that some of these designs contemplated by the Most High, in the recurrence of the year of Jubilee, are not defensible, merely upon those principles of political and economical science, which are now generally recognized. But I am equally certain, that infinite wisdom knew them to be exactly calculated to promote the real happiness and prosperity of this people, under the peculiar circumstances of the time. I am also persuaded, that in the universal revelation of the last day, when the course of Providence will shine distinct and clear, in the brightness that shall issue from the throne of heaven; and when every cloud that concealed the plans and purposes of God from our understanding, in this world of ignorance and gloom, shall be dispersed for ever, the scoffer who arraigns, and the Christian who adores God for his dealing, will own, that in every period of the world, all the ways of the Lord, and all his institutions among the nations of mankind, were guided by a harmony of knowledge and love, in proportion to which the wisest schemes of human benevolence are less than a grain of sand to the universe. It will then be known, that he who did all things, did all things well.
(2.) The secondary or spiritual design of the Jubilee is, however, that, with which we are principally concerned, as men who come to the house of God, not to discuss the fitness of political institutions, but to be made “wise unto salvation, through faith, that is, in Christ Jesus.” That a spiritual design really existed, we have the most ample and satisfactory testimony. The Jubilee is unquestionably alluded to in the rapture of the evangelical prophet, where he hears in spirit the voice of the future Immanuel, crying, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek: he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound ; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Sion; to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of