THE LAVER FOR WASHING
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Thou shalt also make a laver of brass and his foot also of brass, to wash withal : and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat. When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the Lord: So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations."-Exodus xxx. 17-21.
" WASH you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil ; learn to do well. Such is the call and the lesson of all true and sincere religion. So has it been in all ages. So will it be for ever. "O Jerusalem, WASH thine heart from wickedness that thou mayest be saved. " -Jer. IV.14. "If I WASH thee not, thou hast no part with me." -John XIII. 8. The germs of evil are in human nature everywhere. That nature has transmitted iniquity from father to child since men began to sin. These tendencies if not purged away by repentance and regeneration will grow and extend their influence over our whole nature and make it fiendish. Hence, the indispensable necessity of being born again of water and the spirit, under the new cresting power of the Lord Jesus.
Truth is the spiritual water, which can alone wash away these defilements of the heart. "Sanctify them through thy TRUTH: thy Word is truth."-John XVII. 17. "Now ye ,are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. John xv. 3. Seeing that ye have purified your souls in obeying the TRUTH through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren."-l Pet. I. 22.
The impure condition of our nature, such as we have it while unregenerated: and the necessity for its change and regeneration by DIVINE TRUTH, are the cardinal points of all true religion. A resistance to this regeneration, openly or covertly, is the essence of all false religion. The natural man dislikes change to a better state, and resists it by a thousand devices. Yet upon this one thing, a change from impurity to the love and practice of what is holy, pure, and good, depends our everlasting bliss. O Lord Jesus, help us to understand and deeply and savingly to meditate upon this solemn fact, until we rise to a full conception of its unspeakable importance, and flee from self to Thee, from sin to purity, from hell to heaven.
The real nature of the unchanged heart is set forth by the Lord Himself in Mark VII. 21, 22. He records thirteen of its products. Let us notice the terrible list.
"For, from within, OUT OF THE HEART of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man."
What the heart, that central potency within us, actually is, as seen by Him who knows all its secret tendencies and inmost character, is abundantly declared by experience.
What is history, but a terrible record of wondrously gifted beings everywhere tainted with folly and sin, everywhere, more or less, miserable from self-inflicted sorrow? What is virtue, but victory over ourselves? What is vice, but the unchecked play of our lusts?
Our childhood and youth are moderated and softened by the good tendencies implanted by the Lord in our nature, by the courtesies of society, and by education. An amiable covering, more or less deep, veils the interior proclivities of our fallen characters from others, and to a great extent from ourselves, but the tendency to disorder and misery is ever there. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Jer. XVII. 9.
Look at that modest boy gentle and graceful, as Nero in youth is said to have been. Is there anything in him that will develop itself in cruelty, debauchery, meanness, and perfidy? Let the after life of Nero answer. Regard that elegant young lady. How lovely she seems! how delicate! how pure-minded! How refined is the grace of her every movement! How sweet a courtesy is expressed in all her words! how sparkling is the playfulness of her wit! How winning her demeanour! how tender her sympathies! Can she have within her the germs of vanity, passion, pollution, spite, malice, and murder? Alas, multiplied experience teaches that the instances are innumerable of the gentle damsel successively becoming the stormy housewife, the keen, bitter and jealous termagant, the sanguinary murderess. Catherine de Medici, bright in youthful innocence in her early days, lived to incite her frantic son to the cruel massacres of St Bartholomew. From the simple purity of the early letters of the unhappy Mary Stuart, who could have predicted the conduct which lowered her to become the adulterous partner of the coarse and brutal Bothwell? Oh yes, the taint is universal. Time brings up in all of us those evils which lay deeply hidden, and which must be subdued and rooted out, or they will deprave and degrade the whole man, making him in affections fiendish, in intellect insane.
Look around and see how universal is SELF. Mark how vanity, pride, self-seeking, greediness, continually meet us in private and public life. Then how widespread is dishonesty. It is lamentably prevalent in its coarse form, where it is met by human law, but what is that to the more subtle forms of fraudulent dealings, adulterations, want of integrity in business, over-reaching, and taking advantage of others in such cases as human law cannot touch.
Then survey the world of impurity. How widespread, and how flagrant are the offences which force themselves upon open notice; offences against that central pillar of society, and of human comfort, the sacred institution of marriage. The pollutions of the heart send out corrupted streams that defile and degrade maidenhood and matron-life alike, and not only lower the tone of society, and desecrate homes, but give rise to crimes which ever and anon make us shudder at the horrid spectacle, and gaze with astonishment and abhorrence.
From time to time arise those human butcheries, those multiplied horrors, whose single name is war. Then come scenes in which suspended law permits villainies which are usually restrained in civilized lands to utter and enact their terrible atrocities unchecked, and all are compelled to own that maddened lusts turn man into a fiend.
These are the things that demonstrate the necessity of that purification upon which the Scriptures everywhere insist in ever-recurrent precept and illustration, throughout their sacred pages. Ye must be born again of water and the spirit, or ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
It was this great truth that was shadowed by the Prophet's lesson to Syrian Naaman," Go and wash in Jordan seven times." It was this that was used in the Psalmist's prayer, " Wash me throughly (often) from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." It was this our Lord symbolized by the washing of His disciples' feet, and the declaration to Peter, "If I wash thee not, THOU HAST NO PART IN ME." It is this same. purification of the soul by obeying the truth that is the means of the Sacrament of Baptism. The washing of the outward rite is the figure of the washing of regeneration without which no matured soul can enter heaven. All the angels in heaven declare that they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, or in other words, the in-flowing truth which descends from the Lord Jesus and renews the soul in which it circulates.
To teach this truth, then, in the court of the Tabernacle, was placed the Laver for Washing. Before the priest could go forward to worship, he must wash. They shall wash with water, that they die not; and it shall be a statute FOREVER to them."
How solemn, and how instructive is this warning! "They shall wash With water that they die not." Life and death hang on these words. Wash and be saved ; wash not and die. Such is the sacred law; such it will ever be; such it must ever be.
Unpurified souls are not happy, ---cannot be happy. While envy and pride are in the heart, there can be no true and lasting happiness in society. The self-seeking, the sneer, the sarcasm, the depreciation of others, the suspicion and the anxiety, the strife and animosity Which are their incessant attendants would poison peace, and make heaven impossible.
It is the same with any evil forbidden by the divine commandments. It is impossible to conceive of a heaven composed of souls in which one unconquered sin prevails. "They shall wash with water that they die not," is the eternal law. You cannot conceive of a heaven of rejecters of God, of blasphemers, of disdainers of worship, of thieves, of the unchaste, of the false, and the covetous. It must needs be that a soul must be purged from sinful acts, and from sinful thoughts and desires, or blessedness and peace are impossible to it, and to its surroundings.
He who conquers sin by power from the Lord Jesus lives; he who does not, dies. The struggle between a man and his sin is a life and death struggle. He must conquer it, or it will conquer him. He must wash, that he die not.
The water within the Laver, like the water of Baptism represents purifying truth. Just as water cleanses the body so truth cleanses the soul. "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth (John XVII. 17), said the Lord Jesus. This is the water He gives us in His word, which is a fountain of living waters. "Whosoever," He says, "drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John IV. 14.
Let us pause and admire for a moment the simplicity and the directness of the divine remedy. The defilement is a sin, the remedy is the truth received with love, living water. Let us suppose the sin to which the soul is most prone, to be dishonesty, and its possessor is brought under the influence of the truth. He sees the Lord, the ruler of the universe, who commands him to do justly; he is assured that he was born for heaven, and he can only prepare for his everlasting inheritance by overcoming his sin. Its heinousness is shewn him in a thousand ways, by reflections on the sacred pages. He learns that his sin allies him to the spheres of hell; only bursting these asunder can unite him to heaven. His fears are aroused, and he feels himself lost and helpless, then that same divine truth assures him of a Saviour, and hope tells him He will be his Saviour. This little light is the star of a new morning. Repentance sets in, and with more or less agony, according to constitution and circumstances, the soul turns to a new life. The sinner feels his weakness. He cries to the Lord, " Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline thine ear unto me, and save me."
Faith at first feeble becomes brighter and brighter, and the joy of the angels over one sinner that repenteth communicates itself to the soul, and ere long in gratitude he cries, "I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart; and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell." This is the beginning of the heavenly life. The man who thus commences is accepted by the Lord Jesus Christ, He has got on the right side, in the right direction. He has much yet to do, but strength will be given him from day to day. As his day is, so shall his strength be. He will have many changes to go through, and many foes to encounter, but he will have angelic guardians to succour, and the Almighty Saviour for his Everlasting Friend. Let him wash then, and fear not.
The Laver was to be of brass (more properly copper). This metal like all others takes its place in the great law of correspondences. It is a metal of the gold class, thus far, it is similar in colour, and not brittle. It corresponds to the love of our neighbour, as gold does to the love of the Lord. By the water being put into a Laver of Brass is signified that we must receive the truth in a disposition to obey it for our neighbour's good. We must shun the evils which do him harm, we must practise the virtues which will contribute to his well-being. We must let our light so shine before men that they will see our good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven. Thus will our water of truth be received into a laver of Brass, and we shall be able to say with the apostle John in his first epistle, "By this we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."-III. 14. This use of brass, as corresponding to the virtue of love to our neighbour, occurs in many other places in the Scriptures. Thus we have in the prophecy announcing our Lord's coming into the world, in Isa. LX. 16, 17, " I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver." The love of their neighbour was the highest love the Jews possessed when the Lord came into the world, and the letter of the Word their highest truth. They might fear, but could not love a God, whose attributes to them had seemed all awful and terrible. But when Immanuel, the manifested God, came, allowing, all-tender, all-forgiving, to seek and to save that which was lost; then they learned to love, where they before had bowed with dread. For brass He brought gold, and for the iron of the letter, the silver of the spirit of the Holy Word. When the likeness of our Lord was seen by John" His feet were like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace" (Rev. I. 15), to show that in Him all brotherly love has its origin as well as all the higher virtues. Of Asher, the type of the man of charity, who is described- when it is said, "Let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil," it is further written, "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be." The shoes are of iron and brass when the precepts of our daily life are the precepts of truth and goodness, adapted to our dally work. Our feet are then shod as Paul Raid "with the preparation of the gospel of peace."---Eph. VI. 15.
To represent this duty, then, the Laver under the dispensation of types, was a Laver of Brass. The water was placed in such a Laver, because the virtue of true and real love to our neighbour is one with the Love of truth. When we have a sincere desire to do our neighbour good, we shall have a sincere regard for the truth that teaches how we may do him good.
Many who have had an earnest regard for the law of charity to others, and sought to do good to all around them, have often been perplexed as to what they are called upon to perform. Shall they give all their goods to feed the poor? Shall they give half? Shall they enter upon strange and extraordinary ways of carrying out their love to their neighbour? Shall they give to everyone in want? Or what is the rule? The answer to these questions is, Do right to your neighbour in your circumstances, and in his.
The Lord has so constituted the universe that to promote the happiness of all it is only needful for each to do his duty. The play of the divine laws is so perfect, that if they are followed, right will be done, and the world will be happy. If the divine laws are broken, then wrong is visited by misery, and the best corrective is applied; so that in either case to do right to all around us is the true law of charity. We should receive, then, the water of purification into the Laver of Brass, and wash from every defilement. Or in other words, receive the truth in the love of our neighbour, and remove from ourselves whatever is contrary to that truth, until our lives are pure in word and work.
While we contemplate this sacred and indispensable duty of cleansing the heart and life, that we die not, the reflection forces itself upon us, that often religion itself is perverted. Ceremonies are substituted by some, and a belief in our Lord's death for us by others, as an all-sufficient substitute for this change and regeneration of the soul.
Where the heart is unchanged, what are ceremonies, what are prayers, but solemn mockeries, but godless hypocrisies! Go not into the tabernacle without washing, that ye die not. Repent first, adore afterwards. Without a life of purity the Lord says, " Bring no more vain oblations, incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and the sabbaths, the calling of assemblies I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting." And what shall we say to those who say that, under the gospel, all we have to do is to believe; and all we have to believe is that Christ died for us. Surely such" make the commandments of God of none effect by their tradition."
Can I be said truly to believe, when (select only a portion of divine truth which promises me every blessing, and set aside those other portions of divine truth which require me in daily life to obey the precepts which prepare me for heaven?
True faith is a hearty confidence in ALL that the Lord teaches. True faith adoringly confesses that our Heavenly Father is infinitely, unspeakably good. He was good as our Creator, good as our Redeemer and Saviour, good as our Provider and Regenerator. "He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." But true faith does not stop there: it says, He is good in what He teaches, and what He commands, and it rejoices in removing what is offensive to Him.
True faith is ever saying, "Lord, what wilt thou have me TO DO?" True faith perceives the spirit and life of Divine Truth to be the blood of the Lamb, which cleanses from inward sin in motive and in thought; and the commandment in the letter of the Word, to be the water which removes all outward sin. True faith inspires its receiver who hears the Divine Giver of living water, saying, "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely," humbly to accept it and to keep it in a Laver of brass, that he may daily wash that he die not.
We must notice the command which specifies the foot of the Laver, as well as the Laver itself. "Thou shalt make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass." The part of the Laver which receives the water, represents the intellect which receives the truth: the intellect is a species of cup or basin to embrace and hold the water, the wine and the milk which flow from Divine Wisdom. When our Lord Jesus commanded us to cleanse first the inside of the cup and the platter, and assured us that the outside would become clean also, he referred to the understanding and the will under these names; for the understanding or intellect is a spiritual vessel for the reception of spiritual drink while the will is a vessel, like the platter, for the reception of spiritual meat. But while we are diligent to obtain a good vesselful of heavenly water, we must be careful to remember" his foot also." The foot denotes THE LIFE in harmony with sound views. Our religion must be practical, as well as true. The thoughts must not only be engaged with the beauty of heavenly lessons, but with their practical import. ""Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? " were the words of the Saviour God. "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock"-Matt. VII. 24.
Let us, then, never forget the foot of our religion. Let us think justly, and act justly. Have the religion of thought, and the religion of life. Use the Laver and his foot. Without the foot, the Laver would fall. Without life, religion falls. " Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. "
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From From Egypt to Canaan (1867)