Page images
PDF
EPUB

heresies respecting the Word of God which are to be rejected with great earnestness and vigor. On the one hand, there are wandering stars in the firmament whose centrifugal tendencies have become predominant, so that they have ceased to be obedient to the central forces of the system, while, on the other hand, there is much dead orthodoxy which knows only the centripetal forces, and has ceased to have motion or efficiency. But, touching the central doctrines of religion, there is much that cannot adequately be stated in single sentences, while the qualifying phrases introduced for explanation are likely to be understood differently by different persons. It is our purpose in a general way to utter and emphasize a caution against harsh judgments of one another for accepting or rejecting certain concise statements of doctrine which it requires a volume to unfold. The Bible is not such a concise statement, but a large book. One's belief is not so well determined by his acceptance or rejection of some creed of another's or even of his own manufacture, as by his larger attitude of mind as revealed in his broader and more general discussions. It is doubtful if assent even to the manifesto of the Presbyterian General Assembly at Portland in 1892 upon the inerrancy of the Bible would determine very definitely some people's views upon the question which is now most troubling the churches. With the definition which different persons might give to the terms used, the folds of that manifesto would seem ample to cover broad divergences of opinion. Of what avail is it for a man to say that he “holds that the inspired word as it came from God is without error," when he may reject a good part of the canon, and say that it did _not come from God, and regard even that which remains as hopelessly corrupt in text? And what does it avail to say the Word is without error, when it is not known upon what principles he interprets the Word to find out its intent and meaning, and judge of its truth or error?

We have been deeply impressed recently with the extent

to which seeming differences of opinion are diminished by careful attention to the qualifying terms of each disputant, in noting the discussions of half a century ago between Dr. Charles Hodge and President Finney concerning the doctrine of original sin. On the one hand, Finney and what were then called the New School party stoutly insisted, that, although children are born without any actual guilt, they are still burdened with a physical depravity which makes it certain that their first moral act will uniformly be sinful; while Dr. Hodge and the Old School party insisted, that, “in virtue of the union, representative and natural, between Adam and his posterity, his sin is the ground of their (man's] condemnation, that is, of their subjection to penal evils,”? but, Dr. Hodge makes haste to add, that “the sin of Adam is no ground to us of remorse," and that there is no transfer of the moral turpitude of this sin to his descendants." To this Old School doctrine as so qualified, it would seem that the other party could have had little reason to object, for a sin which calls for no remorse, and to which no moral turpitude attaches, is scarcely to be distinguished from what the other party calls physical depravity.

The instances in which, as here, the qualifying word changes the meaning of the principal word are frequent. It is like the transformation of a noxious chemical element into an innocuous compound by the addition of another element. Original sin is not ordinary sin. So numerous are such instances that it is necessary to proceed with much caution before imputing great folly to a conservative's creed or attributing rank heresy to a liberal who declines to sign it. More attention to the infirmities of human reason and to the difficulties of making statements in human language so exact that the meaning cannot be misunderstood will enable the true Israel to draw closer together, and cause Ephraim and Judah to envy and vex each other less than they now do.

1 Commentary on the Epistles to the Romans (Philadelphia, 1864), p.279.

VOL, LII, NO. 205.

2

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

PERHAPS on no part of Deuteronomy as exhibiting assumed discrepancies with the laws of Leviticus or Numbers, where they touch the same subject-matter, has greater stress been laid than on those relating to the position, functions, and provision directed for the “priest Levites," and the assignment of the tithes in particular which it contains. The principal passages on the subject are chaps. x. 8, 9; xii. 6 foll., 17; xiv. 22–29; xviii. 1-8; xxvi. 12 foll., omitting the specially judicial portion of their duties. There can hardly be a more startling contrast than that between the first superficial sense of discrepancy, and the deeper conviction of harmony and wholeness between the three books Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which a closer examination is apt to produce. I limit myself in this article to the subject of priestly dues, including tithes, oblations of all kinds, and their contingent perquisites.

From Deuteronomy, if that were our sole guide, we should never infer that tithes were ranked among such dues. The only precise appointment there seems to allot them to be consumed by the owners of the soil on occasions of festive rejoicing to which “the Levite" is specially to be a party, but only amongst other partakers (see Deut. xii. 6 foll., 17; xiv. 22–29; xxvi. 12 foll.). From Num. xviii. 20, 21 some critics have derived a totally different inference. There Jehovah declares himself the "inheritance" of Levi, represented in the tithe, but subject (ver. 26) to a deduction of one-tenth-the tithe of the tithe-due "to Aaron” (ver. 28), i. e. to the priestly house par excellence. But the seeming conflict vanishes on a closer inspection. In Deut. xviii. 1, 2, the fireofferings of Jehovah, and his inheritance are there made the portion of the priests the Levites, the whole tribe of Levi," with a further iterative stress on the latter term in verse 2; and similarly in Deut. x. 9 we read, Jehovah is his (Levi's) inheritance, as Jehovah Elohim promised. The entire elucidation hinges on this term, which is at once explained by turning, as aforesaid, to Num. xviii. 20-21, where Jehovah says to Aaron: “Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land.

. . I am thy part and thine inheritance among the b'ne Israel. And, behold, I have given the b'ne Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance." Unless Numbers is here read into Deuteronomy the latter remains an enigma; take this passage of the “Priestly Code” (so-called) with us, and it becomes clear and coherent. Then the obscure word “inheritance," which we otherwise stumble over in the dark, or regard as merely the encumbrance of an antiquated style of iteration, is seen to be the key-word of the whole sentence. Num. xviii. 26-28 then pursues the subject into detail as regards the relations of the tithe shares of priest and Levite inter se, into which, however, Deuteronomy does not follow it. It was not needed for the more popular purpose of the latter book, although a differentiation of a higher and a lower office of ministers is apparent in it (as I hope to find further occasion to show). It remains, then, that the words already cited relative to " Levi," on the first Deuteronomic mention of that tribe (Deut. x. 8, 9), “Jehovah is his inheritance, as Jehovah Elohim promised," are an effective reference, repeated in xviii. 1, to the declaration also cited from Num. xviii. We

1 But here notice that Jehovah speaks not "to Aaron,” but “to Moses' (ver. 25), as the executive head of the nation, and guardian of sacred and civil rights.

1

have here, then, another vinculum of living continuity between Deuteronomy and the "middle Pentateuch." "Inheritance" in Deuteronomy means in effect tithe property, but from Deuteronomy alone we should never know it; it could be at most only a conjecture of the critic. Only in Num. xviii, do we find it established beyond the region of guesswork. On the "fire-offerings" of Deut. xviii. 1, I will further comment anon. I proceed to the statements of Deuteronomy, as referred to above, in regard to tithes. Several references to tithes occur in chapter xii.; viz., in verses 6, 11, 17, and are to be understood in the total of "holy things(qodashim) summed up in verse 26. The purport of all these precepts is: (1) To ensure the due rendering of these qodashim at the central sanctuary; (2) to unite them there with a solemn festive banquet customarily held; (3) to provide for their being duly shared by the persons entitled to that privilege.?

It seems, for a reason to be mentioned later, very doubtful whether the rendering tithes at the central sanctuary or place “chosen by Jehovah to place his name there" applies to all tithes of whatever kind. But all writers on Jewish tithe from Josephus and even earlier, from the author of Tobit downward, recognize a “second tithe,"—probably spoken of specially in xii. 17 and in xiv. 23, as limited to vegetable products, and classed there with "firstlings of herds and flocks," and in xii. 6, it this is probably alone referred to, not that due under Num. xviii. 20, 21. In Deut. xxvi. 12 a

1 The godashim are enumerated (ver. 6, 11, 17) as "burnt-offerings, sacrifices, tithes, firstlings, heave-offerings, freewill offerings, and vows (i. e. things vowed)--not always in the same completeness or order, but amounting to these when all named are included. They will be noticed further in the text.

2 These are enumerated (ver. 12, 18) as “sons, daughters, men-servants, maid-servants [i. e. of the tithe payer], and the Levite within thy gates.” In the third year's tithing, which has some exceptional features (see the text below), “the Levite, the stranger, orphan, and widow" are specially named as the participants (xiv. 28, 29; xxvi. 12, 13). Thus "the Levite" appears in both,

« PreviousContinue »