« PreviousContinue »
the inconsiderate impetuosity of private revenge might often confound the innocent with the guilty. The dreadful activity of personal hatred, instead of awaiting the slow process of minute investigation, would frequently impute motives of malignity to the transgressor, when none existed in his mind. These cities of refuge, therefore, were ordained, and so judiciously distributed, as not to exceed half a day's journey from any part of the promised land. The Jewish writers affirm many particulars, admirably and beautifully illustrative of the wisdom and beneficence, in which the consecration of these cities to the purposes of sanctuary originated. They were placed on eminences, overlooking the surrounding country, and affording a plain direction to the fugitive, as he fled towards them, from the avenger of blood. The brazen serpent, when raised up by Moses, at the command of God among the dying thousands of the congregation, was not more visible throughout the tents and tribes of Israel, than were these gracious institutions of the Most High, in behalf of his people. The roads to the cities of refuge were objects of especial care, and of scrupulous attention. They were, as is generally admitted, about fifty-six feet in breadth; as smooth and even as possible; so that no impediment might delay the man
slayer, as he fled along them for his life. Bridges were erected, where the ways were crossed by a brook, or river. The magistrates of the city inspected them yearly, on a certain day; and repaired them with the utmost diligence. But, as it was very possible that other roads might intersect that, along which the endangered manslayer held his way to the distinct city, distract his attention, and either lead him from the sanctuary, or allow his adversary to overtake and slay him, while he delayed to make inquiry, stones were erected, at every crossroad, with the welcome term, REFUGE, REFUGE, inscribed upon them, in characters so large and plain, that he who ran might read them. The gates of the city stood open night and day. To have closed them, under any circumstances, might have defeated the end for which the appointment was made; and have given up the wretched fugitive to the grasp of the avenger, even when he had escaped to the very walls of the asylum. Once entered within those walls of refuge, the citizens were under the necessity of receiving, and accommodating him. Every thing was provided for his need; he was treated with care, tenderness, and regard; and permitted to know no real want, until the time of his trial came. No weapon was allowed to be made within the city, lest the enemy should
possess himself of arms, and wreak his anger upon the victim, even when sheltered behind the rampart of a divine institution. These distinguished cities were part of the Levite's lot, throughout the land,—the inheritance and portion of the priesthood. They were governed by that body, and unalienably attached to it, under every future circumstance of the Jewish church. They were appointed, equally for the stranger and for the Israelite, without difference, or distinction, or partiality. As any of the dwellers within the land might incur the guilt and danger of unpremeditated bloodshedding, every one had equal right and claim to the comprehensive refuge of the appointed cities. Finally, they formed an essential part of the blessings of the promised inheritance. Nor was it possible, that an Israelite should look toward them, without a memorial in this gracious appointment, "that the lines were fallen to him in a pleasant place, and that he had a goodly heritage."
(2.) If the antitype excel the type-if the inward spiritual grace surpass the outward visible sign-if the substance be more worthy than the shadow, however bright its hues, graceful its form, or imposing its magnificence, then, the rich mercies of salvation, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, prefigured by these appointed
cities, demand our most attentive regard. The gospel redemption is admirably adapted to promote and secure our safety, as transgressors, whom the pursuit of vengeance closely tracks, and whom the hand of justice is uplifted to destroy.
Did the ancient city rear its towers of safety on high, to attract the regard of those who sought its true defence? Raise your eyes, and survey the deliverance effected for you, on the mount of crucifixion. See Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross, as an ensign to the people,—as a standard of safety,-as an impregnable munition of rocks, to the penitent and fear-stricken offender. Direct your view higher still, even to the seat of everlasting dominion in heaven. Is not Jesus Christ "exalted at the right hand of his Father, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins?" The word is not distant. The word is nigh unto all, even the word of eternal salvation, soliciting the guilty to speed their way, and standing, like a city upon a hill, to guide their footsteps rightly in that way. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all them that call upon him faithfully. Eternal life is freely set before you; and he who sees it not, must either close his eyes in wilful darkness, or be so bent and bowed down among the low pur
suits, and poor sensualities of this life, that he cannot elevate his gaze, either to the cross, or to the throne-either to Jesus Christ upon Calvary, or in heaven, as the guide of his endangered soul, into the way of pardon, peace, and everlasting bliss.
Was the road broad, plain, straight, and smooth, so that nothing, except his own breathless haste, might impede the flying man-slayer? And doth face answer to face in a glass with more minuteness, than the highway of salvation, through the crucified Son of God, resembles the smooth, plain, and spacious path to the city of refuge? The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. Even such a way, did the Evangelical prophet proclaim, as he pointed to the salvation of Christ, through the dim vista of coming ages. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed." Survey the path that leads you to the Redeemer. Except your own sins, your worldliness, thoughtlessness, self-righteousness, or security, what other hindrance lies before you? Is not that road to salvation, which God the Father hath provided, in the merits and sa