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THE SIN AND PUNISHMENT OF NADAB AND ABIHU.
LEVITICUS X. 1-3.
And Nadab, and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.
AMONG the many and powerful evidences furnished by ancient history, to the truth of revelation, may be included the religious rites and ceremonies of heathen nations. Notwithstanding the foul and debasing superstitions with which they are mingled, and the grossness of worship to which they are devoted, we may
very often trace their origin to some command given by the Most High to the Jews, or to some miracle displayed by him in their favour;—as the stream, however vitiated by the soil through which it flows, or the uses to which it is applied, may be traced to the clear fountain whence it issued, and of whose purity it originally partook.
Among an almost endless variety of such instances, may be adduced the sacred fire, which burned continually in many shrines of Persia, Greece, and Rome. The custom was probably borrowed from that miraculous descent of fire upon the altar of burnt-offerings, which consumed the victim, and thus testified the divine acceptance of a vicarious sacrifice. This holy flame was carefully preserved among the Israelites, by a divine command, until the time of Solomon. It was then renewed, and continued burning until the Babylonish captivity.
From this fire, upon the altar of burnt-sacrifice, were taken the live coals to enkindle the incense, daily burned by the priests before the veil that concealed the ark, the mercy-seat, and the shekinah of God. None others were to be used: and every fire not so enkindled was an abomination to the majesty of heaven. Nadab and Abihu transgressed the prohibition, and died for their disobedience.
If the ceremonial institutions of the tabernacle and temple were shadows and sensible representatives of the offices of the Son of God, in the gracious and glorious process of his redeeming work, and of the disposition of his worshippers through every age of the Christian church, the history of Nadab and Abihu has a spiritual, as well as a literal meaning. It teaches us not to sin after the moral similitude of their transgression, lest we be recompensed by the wrath of heaven, after the moral similitude of their judgment. May the Spirit of Him, whose institutions they violated, whose sacrifice they undervalued, whose intercession they neglected, give us wisdom and grace to hear and fear, and do not so wickedly!
The two leading facts which strike us in this brief, but awful history, are,
I. THE OFFENCE of NADAB AND ABIHU.
I. The tabernacle had been finished and dedicated. Aaron, and his four sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, had been consecrated to the priesthood. The victims had been slain: Moses and Aaron had solemnly blessed the congregation: and the requirements of God had been fulfilled. "The glory of the