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with God's all perfect will, till we shall be, in habit, state, and act, conformed to his image and made complete.
Such is the underlying purpose of all religious service. It is all a means of grace. It is instruction and discipline: a spiritual training, by which every thought is brought into subjection to the obedience of God.
The order of worship that God ordained for Israel was given with the Ten Commandments, and most intimately connected with that covenant, though carefully distinguished from it. The Commandments, as we have seen, are the definition of a righteous life; the order of worship was the means by which such life could be attained to. In the nature of the case the definition never changes. It is the end and aim of life. But the means may change, for they must be adapted not only to the end in view, but also to the state and circumstances of the soul that seeks the end; as one may make his journey to some distant country now by means unknown in earlier times.
Yet as the aim of all religious service is the same, we shall surely find the same essential principles involved; and one divinely ordered service will be a revelation of eternal elements that must be present in all true and acceptable worship.
The ritual of worship as ordained at Sinai is so rich in religious truth and occupies so large a place in the history of our redemption that we should take pains to understand it and to catch its spirit. Its profound significance is indicated by care with which each detail is prescribed, and by the solemn injunction "see that ye make all things according to the pattern showed thee in the mount.”
Its worth and excellence is not to be measured by its artistic beauty, but it is significant that so great care is taken that everything pertaining to the service shall body forth, in precious metal, costly stones, and skillful craftmanship, the dignity and value of the sacred offices which these vessels and vestments
were to serve.
In the sacred ceremonies also there was the same punctilious attention to details, that the dignity and solemnity of worship might not be diminished, nor made common by the vulgarity of him who ministered. Nothing was indifferent, but everything, from the precious gems of the high priest's breast-plate to the tongs and snuff dishes of the candlestick, from the embroidery of the curtains to the silver sockets of the boards of the tabernacle, were minutely prescribed : and every movement of the officiating priest most carefully ordained. Aside from the obvious purpose of preserving the awe and deep solemnity which is most meet in our approach to God's majestic presence, there was need that all this ritual should be precise, and scrupulously observed for it was a great scheme of education. Every part of it was a revelation in symbolic acts of the essential truths of all religion. It was a great drama, setting forth in vivid imagery the whole course of the soul's progress from sin to holiness. Its simplicity was suited to the undeveloped state of the people for whom it was ordained ; and its solemn meaning appealed to the religious sense that is given to all men, and its profound revelation of the way to holiness makes it of great permanent value to all ages.
Now notice that in this dramatic ritual the central feature is the Ten Commandments. On these and around them the whole scheme is ordered and arranged. “Thou shalt make an ark”—so the pattern showed in the mount begins—“Thou shalt make an ark of acacia wood and thou shalt overlay it with pure gold and thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee."
“And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold and thou shalt put the mercy seat above the ark, and there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the
The only meeting place of God with man is on the basis of a righteous life. To "commune" with Him man must be free
from transgression. “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart," and he only, may stand in his holy place.
This ark of the testimony with the mercy seat resting on it is then placed in the inner sanctuary, shrouded in mystery, secluded with the veil which none but the high priest might ever penetrate, and he but once a year.
Thus the supreme and sacred importance of holy living was set forth with an impressive emphasis, and the first great principle of religious truth was taught: "Without holiness no man can see God."
In the outer sanctuary were three articles of furniture, each one significant of one essential means of grace, -one step in the progress toward a righteous life; the altar of incense, signifying prayer; the candlestick, standing for enlightenment or religious culture; and the table of show bread, the symbol of good works. These together represent the means of grace, by which in all ages man may cultivate his spiritual and moral powers and approach the ideal state of harmony with God and communion with Him.
Outside the tabernacle, but within the court, were placed the laver, where the priests performed their ceremonial washing as they ministered at the altar and in the tabernacle, and the brazen altar on which the sacrifices were offered.
Such was the order of the plan or pattern of the tabernacle as given of God to Moses.
Thus it was constructed and arranged as the stage set for the sacred drama, in which the essential order of salvation was exhibited.
The drama was enacted thus: the sinner brings his offering to the altar, lays his hands upon its head and confesses his sins, thus signifying that his guilt is transferred to the victim, which thus becomes his substitute, his representative. The victim then is slain, and burned upon the altar, thus taking the sinner's place and making atonement for his sins, and also signifying
the consecration of the worshiper. In his representative he gives himself to God.
Then the ministering priest washes his hands and feet at the laver as the symbol of repentance—the desire to be clean from sin.
Then came the means of grace, “works meet for repentance," the show-bread, the obvious symbol of work; then spiritual culture, or enlightenment, as the lighted candles signify; and prayer, the incense from our hearts.
These three means of grace are grouped together in the sanctuary; they go together; neither is complete without the other, altogether they promote our progress toward perfection of character and conduct.
Thus the fundamentals of religious knowledge were taught in the five acts of this drama: briefly stated they were these,
First Act-Sacrifice, signifying atonement.
Brief and simple as it is, it is complete and perfect. As an outline map may be as perfect in its way as one that shows a thousand details, so this outline of religious truth needs no amendment or correction to bring it into harmony with the fullest revelation of the later ages. We have not outgrown these truths. The teaching of Prophets and Apostles and the sublime revelation given us in the life and words of Jesus Christ have deepened our understanding and heightened our appreciation of all these truths, but not one jot or tittle of this law has passed away or ever shall.
This is the path by which each soul must pass from sin and misery to holiness and communion with God.
Our religion is always a religion of Character, its sole purpose is to restore us to spiritual health, called Holiness, and to
right conduct, called Righteousness; that we may, in state and act and habit, be brought into harmony and fellowship with God and the universe which he created. A holy character and righteous life is the end, the goal, of all religious service, and we reach this goal by the means of grace as indicated by these symbols and this dramatic revelation.
The divine order of a righteous life, the Commandments, is the first thing in the order of importance; the first spoken of in the pattern, but it is the last thing reached in the action of sacred drama. So in our actual experience we come to holiness not by our own righteousness, but we come to righteousness and holiness by various stages, of which the first is the atonement, the sacrifice by which the guilt of sin is purged away, and we are justified; then with an honest desire to be clean of sin, and an earnest purpose to strive for righteousness; we bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and enlighten our minds in the knowledge of God, and seek to bring our souls into harmony with God by prayer; we grow in grace, and are transformed more and more into the image of God.
The Ten Commandments and the Order of Worship for the Tabernacle were the two chief revelations given at Sinai. Other regulations instituted there, and the exposition of the principles of the religious truth which underlies all life and conduct are more conveniently considered as they are presented in the book of Deuteronomy.