THE HANGING FOR THE DOOR OF THE TENT
"And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework. And thou shalt make for the hanging five pillars of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold: and thou shalt cast five sockets of brass for them." Exodus XXVI. 36, 37.
" IN my Father's house are many mansions." When we recollect the numerous differences in human character, we cannot but accept with gratitude that utterance of our merciful Lord. The man of little reflection is satisfied with thinking of the great simple distinction of the good and the bad, of heaven and hell. But. those who think more deeply, see, that the Divine Creator has exhibited His infinity in the varieties of the human mind, as well as in the variety of human faces.
Perfection consists not in sameness, but in the harmony of varied yet conforming parts. These make a grand whole, infinitely richer than could possibly exist from a repetition of similar objects. All nature is therefore a graduated scale, ever differing but ever uniting. So in God's grander kingdom of the inner spiritual world, variety must reign. There are three grand degrees, three vast kingdoms in the heavenly world; for Paul says he knew a man who was caught up into the third heaven, who heard unspeakable words (2 Cor. XII. 2-4). There are angels of love, angels of light, and angels of obedience.
We know it is so in the Church,-the Lord's heaven on earth. Its great divisions, and its varying parts are truly likened by the Apostle to a human body, which has three great portions,-the head, the trunk, and the legs. " Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."-l Cor. xu. 27. "If they were all one member where were the body 1 But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; ncr, again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary."-1 Cor. XII. 19-22.
Now, as the Lord of the Church below has so constituted it that variety in harmony makes its glory and perfection, and as here the Church in order is like one grand human body, so in the heavenly world, where all is in order, the vast and innumerable societies must, to the Divine King, whose spirit fills them all with angelic excellence and angelic joy, be as one grand angel.
Thus we can see the reason why the threefold arrangement should exist there, and there should be the heaven of heavens, and why this should be represented in the tabernacle, by the :holy of holies. And thus, too, we may perceive the meaning of 'the holy place, where the candlestick was the most prominent object, and at the entrance to which was the hanging which we have now more particularly to consider.
The holy place represented the spiritual heaven,-the heaven of those to whom spiritual light has been the most glorious object, and who adore the Lord chiefly as the Father of lights. These are pure and blessed, but their states are not so exalted as are those who have humbled themselves to a profounder degree, and have been exalted by the Lord to regions where He is adored more tenderly as the God of unutterable love.
We are informed in the verse before the text, that in the holy place outside of the veil, the candlestick was on the side of the tabernacle towards the south, while the table of shewbread was placed on the north side.
The light was placed on the side most distinguished, the south being the sun's place when he gives his greatest light, at midday. The north, the place for the table of shewbread, -represents dimness, or comparative obscurity. They, therefore, whose states are represented by the holy place, are those who prize truth and goodness, represented by the light and the bread, for all true Christians and all angels must receive both; but those who form the Lord's middle kingdom in the heavens, -regard the splendours of truth as chief; the candlestick is on the south side, the bread of goodness on the north.
Nor is this holy state represented by the holy place one of low attainment. Few, probably, at the present day attain a state so high. The crying defect of Christians at the present day is indifference to the inner truths of religion, the spirit of the Word of God. A very few things continually repeated, form the stock of religious thought both in the pulpit and among the hearers. Adam's transgression, the death on the Cross, and our faith, form nearly all that is known by an immense number of professing Christians. They are diligent about earthly science, particularly whet relates to their worldly prospects. They enter into all the minutiae of their profession or calling, dwell upon it from morning till night, are skilled in its depths and applications, read books upon the subject, and deem no labour or study too great to secure an abundance of knowledge that may be brought to bear upon the success at which they aim. But in religion they assume it must be very simple, they have not much time to attend to it; they take it for granted that the ministers know all about it, and they pay them to attend to it, and for themselves they have no taste except for their earthly possessions, or the desire of becoming great. Anything but a few simple matters from the letter of the Bible they shrink away from as mystical or spiritual; and if it is introduced to them in conversation, as speedily as possible they glide off and begin to talk about the weather, or the state of trade. The things the angels desire to look into have no interest for them. They go to a place of worship perhaps, and conduct themselves properly during service, and notice a very few things of the most palpable character, and so satisfy slightly their religious instincts, and conclude they have done their duty and all is right, What, they think, can anybody want with more?
But this is not" hungering and thirsting after righteousness." This is not being heavenly merchantmen, seeking goodly pearls. This is not tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. This is not laying up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt. This is not labouring, agonising, for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. The treasures of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, are passed by with such minds as hardly worth a care, though they are the very glory of the angels of heaven.
The true disciple of the Lord is first obedient to the divine commands, as given in the letter of the Word. His struggle for a time is to quit sin in word and deed, and exercise true repentance. For a time, he has serious difficulties in this respect: old habits which came upon him like cobwebs, he finds have the strength of chains; but he prays to the Lord, and perseveres. If he fails now and then from weakness, he rises after each fall, and being faithful he finds the truth of the divine promise, " The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighted in his way. Though he fall, he Shall not be utterly cast down : for the Lord upboldeth him with his hand."-Ps. XXXVII. 23, 24. After awhile that which was hard in obedience becomes easy. He can walk in the divine commandments, and he finds that the commandments are not grievous.
The very low state of those who embrace religion simply as commands from an all-powerful God, which they must obey to obtain heaven as a reward, or to a void the pains of everlasting punishment is indicated by their being called hired servants. The penitent prodigal said, " How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare!" and so it is. The Lord bounteously supplies with blessing even the lowest of His servants-the hired servants; but those who have a purer love for heavenly things can receive more, and they enjoy more. " Open thy mouth wide," the Lord says, " and I will fill it." Ps, LXXXI. 10. The truths of heaven are of inestimable value for their own sake. The man who by obedience has found the religion of life become easy to him, has a new state opened within him, He pants after the water-brooks. He delights in truth for truth's sake. The Word becomes unspeakably dear to him. He regards it with wonder and delight. He finds that the-truth makes him free: the truth sanctifies him: the truth fills him with strength, satisfaction, and delight. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."-Is. XL. 31.
The Christian who is little concerned about truth, is always weak in faith, always inclined to complain, always in danger of being led astray. There is a lack of true manhood in the religion of such an one. "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem," said the Lord, " and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a MAN, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the TRUTH; and I will pardon it."--Jer. v. 1. The love of truth grows as our real regeneration proceeds, and instead of needing to guard our outward walk, we feel that that part of the campaign of life has been victoriously ended. We could not sin in open breach of the commandments, the habit of a virtuous religious life has been fully established with us, and we find in doing the divine commandments there is great reward.
Now, however, our delight is in the beauty and harmony of spiritual truth. "O send out Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, o God my God."--Ps. XLIII. 3, 4. We now, with a holier higher meaning than the dying philosopher yearningly exclaim, Light, Lord, more light. "In thy light we shall see light." "With thee is the fountain of light." "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart."
When we have reached this degree of progress, and our spiritual appetites have been fully awaked, we are prepared to feel the inestimable power and worth of TRUTH.
We come to know that by truths, our faith is formed and strengthened. By truths, we come into higher love for our Lord, and fuller regard for our neighbour. By truths, come intelligence and wisdom; and by truths regeneration is effected. By truths, we are prepared for temptations, and we conquer when we are tempted. By truths, we detect what is evil or false in our own minds, and we obtain purification. By truths the Church exists, and by them also heaven exists: "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made." By truths, our minds grow in order, our habits become more thoroughly those which conform to a heavenly standard. By truths, our conscience is awakened and perfected. By truths, our souls are enriched by things of beauty: we exchange the spirit of heaviness for the garments of praise; we obtain the oil of joy for mourning. By truths, the spirit itself becomes more beautiful; the eye gleams with hope, the heart is blest With confidence, and fear gives place to peace. By truths, the Word becomes more dear to us: its spirit and life open like fresh fountains from hill and valley: the birds of heaven sing for us, the powers of paradise bloom, and the little hills rejoice on every side. By truths, death loses its terrors, and is known to be a messenger sent by our Lord to break the shackles which bind us to earth, and while they sink away, we are led by angelic guides to a better, brighter home. By truths, we become familiar with the glories of heaven. To enter into the spiritual state in which these sacred privileges are enjoyed, is to enter into the holy place, the middle apartment of the tabernacle, where the golden candlestick is on the south or right hand, and the altar of shewbread, on the north.
How much is it to be lamented, that to a very large extent Christians are deprived of the blessings, which truths afford! By being told to be content with a simple reliance on mysterious dogmas, which they cannot understand now, but which will be made plain after death. Come to church and worship, say some, and that will be enough. Do not trouble yourself about light, mysterious darkness is better, and so the blind lead the blind and both fall into the ditch.
The same holy place which contained the candlestick, and the altar of shewbread, contained the altar of incense; but the incense never ascended without the candlestick being first lighted. O Lord of the worlds of light, kindle in our hearts an ever-increasing love of thy Truths, which are the light of heaven.
The" Hanging" at the door of the holy place represents the principles by which we may enter into the inner state of heavenly light. The "hanging" was made of similar material to the veil, and of similar colours with one notable exception, there was no golden thread, forming cherubim.
The Holy of holies represents the highest degree of Christianity, and the highest heaven, where love is supreme; the golden thread the symbol of this highest, this celestial love, intersected every part both within and on the veil. But the holy place representing a state and a heaven not so holy, everything else is there, but the cherubim formed of the golden thread are wanting. The fine twined linen, wrought with needlework was there, the blue, the purple and the scarlet, these things in the spiritual sense representing the sacred principles within. They represent the same great essentials of religion which prevail in the highest heaven, but received not so much from the highest love, as from the intellect chiefly, and the heart secondarily.
The blue, beautiful and deep but somewhat cold, represents the things of the spirit of the Word, which like the vast regions of the upper sky are peaceful, lovely, and serene, but lie not near us. They are interior truths. To get them we must pierce through the clouds of the letter and realize the glory beyond. The ephod, the inner robe of the high priest, was blue (Ex. XXXIX. 22).1 The two colours derived from red, the colour of fire, that is, the purple and the scarlet, represent the two essential affections of all religion: love to the Lord, the purple; and love to our neighbour, the scarlet. In a good sense these two colours represent heavenly virtues, in the opposite sense, vices. "Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
The " Hanging," then, was of the three colours, to teach us that the three great principles of religion, faith in the truth, love to the Lord, and love to our neighbour, are essential to all spiritual progress, whether we enter the spiritual or celestial states. In the one, however, we receive them from an intellectual ground, and in the other, with our highest affection.
The" Hanging" was the work of the needle, because the work of the needle represents the labours of the intellect. The subtle operation of intellectual effort, combining truths together and associating them in firm and beautiful order, is spiritual needlework. To collect, and combine, and weave together the lines of heavenly wisdom which have been given us from time to time, and make them into a beautiful system, is a spiritual work of the highest importance. When the Church is described as the king's daughter, all glorious within: with her clothing of wrought gold, it is written, " She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needle-work."-Ps. XLV. 14. The Divine Will is, that the intellect as well as the heart shall be engaged in forming the robe of righteousness. Too many neglect this spiritual weaving, and never get a heavenly robe that will truly adorn and shield them in their journey of spiritual life.
The wicked weave the spider's web (Isa. LIX. 5). They busily form their meshes and oftentimes catch the unwary in their toils. Surely, then, the good should be equally diligent in making their best robes, their wedding garment for heaven, and that curtain also of heavenly truth which manifests in the blue, purple, and scarlet, the solemn religious conviction by which they live. This is to arrange them by needlework, and thus let their spirit and their principles be seen and read of all men.
The Curtain was to "be hung on five pillars, on which it should be hooked with golden hooks. The bases of these pillars were to be formed of brass.
The pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold represent, as we have shewn on other occasions, righteousness from the Lord Jesus Christ, its true and only source. The pillars supporting the Curtain represent the strength of full conviction, supporting what we believe to be right, with firm and steady principle, derived from the Lord. The cedar wood or shittim formed the only wood used in the tabernacle, to teach us that all our righteousness is derived from the Glorified Humanity of our Lord. His Spirit received into us makes the Church in us, and constitutes a heaven within. "If any man has not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his."--Rom. VIII. 9. The pillars were five, because that number is used to denote what is sufficient in relation to truth. The five wise virgins, and five foolish, represented all those of both characters, who had truth sufficient for their spiritual journey. The five barley loaves by which the five thousand were fed by the Lord, had the same spiritual signification. It represented a sufficient supply of instruction and strength.
The last circumstance to which we would draw your attention is that of these pillars resting on bases of brass. We are told that the pillars which supported the veil rested on silver. Here the pillars rest, and terminate, on brass.
The reason of this variety will suggest many instructive lessons if we remember the correspondence or symbolism of the metals.
The gold of celestial love, the fine gold which our Lord desires we should buy of him (Rev. III. 18), suggests and gives rise to the bright lessons of inward truth of which silver is the corresponding figure. But the truth of the spiritual degree of the mind, represented by the holy place and its furniture, suggests and terminates in outward goodness, represented by brass,-the good of being useful to our neighbour. Because of this spiritual use of the metals the Lord said by the prophet, "For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron."-Isa. LX. 17.
Our Redeemer is always seeking to advance us higher, and, to make our states fuller. He takes us upwards that we may receive heavenly gold and silver. When we are thus enriched by being inwardly united to the highest good, He then makes that good, fruitful, and full. To the gold He adjoins silver in the inner regions of the soul, and brass in the lower portion of our minds. This is represented by the bases of silver under the veil, and the bases of brass (or copper) under the Hanging.
Let us, then, in contemplating the divine representation of the Tabernacle, and in this instance of the middle region of it, the holy place, diligently and devoutly seek that a holy place for our Heavenly Father may be formed within us, and may be a fulfilment of that preparation which was symbolized by making the Tabernacle according to the divine pattern, and a realization of the blessed promise: "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."-John XIV. 23.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From From Egypt to Canaan (1867)