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To the intent that this subject may the better be understood, and the whole more clearly appear, I will propose what 1 have to say under the following distinct heads.
First, I will view and set before you the command concerning the call and separation of Aaron and his sons to be set apart for the priesthood; and that holy garments were appointed for them, and what they were.
Secondly, I will particularly set forth the peculiar dress and pontifical attire of Aaron, the high priest.
Thirdly, What was signified thereby, and bow he was the figure and representative of our great high priest, Christ Jesus.
I am, in the first place, to view and set before you, the command concerning the call and separation of Aaron and his sons to be set apart for the office and work of the priesthood; and that holy garments were appointed for them, and what they were.
The chapter before us begins with an account of it. The Lord spake unto Moses, and said, verse first, "And take thou unto thee Aaron, thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, JEleazar, and Ithamar, Aaroh's sons." Aaron himself, and then the eldest sons in Aaron's family, were to be high priests in succession; and the rest of his sons, and their posterity, were to be priests, provided they had no blemish in their bodies. The high priest was the greatest person, and his office the highest and most dignified in the old testament, or jewish church; according to his office, he was, in an especial manner, to minister in the service of God, in offering the sacrifices, confessing the sins of the people over the head of the scape goat, carrying the blood of the sacrifices into the holiest of all, sprinkling the blood before the mercyseat, and fuming the incense between the cherubims of glory, putting some of the blood of atonement on the horns of the incense altar, and pronouncing the blessing prescribed in Numb. vi. 23, &c. on the day of atonement. He was also the overseer over the whole worship of God; it belonged to him, and was a part and branch of his office to oversee all the public worship, and to act as judge in all civil as well as religious matters. In the whole of which, he was a type of Christ, as shall be hereafter shewn and declared, under the third general head. The office and work of the common priests were, to offer sacrifices, to burn the daily incense in the holy place, to trim the lamps, and supply them with oil, to pronounce the benediction, and to instruct the people.
When all the tribe and family of Levi were taken into the service of the Lord, and were classed according to their families, under their three distinct heads of Roathites, Gershonites, and Merarites, the Lord appointed them their respective offices and services. And though all the priests were Levites, yet all the Levites were not priests.
The office of the Levites was to wait on the priests, and assist them in killing the sacrifices, flaying them, washing and cutting them up, bringing their parts, and laying them on the altar, and in other servile employments; they did the lower and meaner services of the sanctuary. They were takeu into the service of God instead of all the first-born of Israel, and were sanctified to their office by sprinkling water of purification on them, washing their garments, by the people's laying their hands on them, and by several sacrifices, viz. burnt-offerings and sin-offerings; see Numb. viii. 6 to 16. All the servants of the Lord had a peculiar dress: the high priest's garments are stiled holy garments, because he ministered in them before the Lord, and they were for glory and for beauty, to distinguish him in his office beyond his brethren. The common priests had four priestly garments, viz. first, linen breeches, or trowsers; second, fine linen coats; third, embroidered girdles of fine linen, wrought with blue, purple, and scarlet, like the high priest's; fourth, they had bonnets, or turbans of fine lineu, like the high priest; and their garments served to be an example and shadow of heavenly things. Their fine linen coats, figured the immaculate purity of Christ and his church made white in his blood. Hence when our Lord was seen in a vision by John, he had on his priestly garment, which reached down to the foot, and he was girded about the paps with a golden girdle; and his head was as white as wool, as white as snow. Rev. 1. The fine linen girdle served to bind the coat tight to the body, to help the priest to be expeditious in his work: and Christ was all alacrity in the discharge of his priestly office. The bonnets, or turbans round the head of the priests, were much like the high priest's mitre, and may serve to remind us, that all believers, who are made kings and priests unto God, have on their heads, for an helmet, the hope of salvation. The linen breeches, shew how the Lord requires the utmost decency in his service. Holiness becometh the house and worship, people and ministers for ever. The common Levites also had a linen ephod, or garment, in which they performed their services; but at present I have only to do with the priests and high priest.
Aaron was the principal person, and in the highest office, and for him, in a particular manner, holy garments were appointed. Aaron, the saint of the Lord, his name signifies a teacher, was, in an especial manner, called of God, and appointed to his office. His priestly garments were to add dignity to him; he was never to draw near the Lord, in the services which were to be performed by him, without being clothed with them. These garments, with the ornaments belonging to them, were eight in number, as follows. First, a pair of linen breeches, or trowsers. Second, a coat of fine linen, which he wore next the body, as we do a sbirt. Third, there was the girdle of fine linen, embroidered with blue, and purple, and scarlet; with this girdle, or belt, the coat was girded and confined close to the body. Fourth, he had a robe of all blue, with seventy-two bells of gold, and as many pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, upon the skirts thereof; this robe was put over the fine linen coat and girdle. Fifth, an ephod, or short coat, made of gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, finely and gloriously sculptured with cherubs, like the curtains and veils of the tabernacle; on the shoulder pieces of it were two beryl stones, on which were engraven the names of the twelve tribes of Israel: this ephod was put over the robe, and girded thereto with a curious girdle, made of the same materials with the ephod. Then, as the sixth ornamental garment, or part of the pontifical attire, was the breast plate, which was curiously wrought of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. The breast-plate.