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lot that these should be dispersed at the most commodious distances, over the country; and it was expressly provided that three of them should be on each side the Jordan, in order to facilitate and secure escape at the seasons when that river overflowed its banks, and rendered a passage tedious, difficult or impracticable. In the same view, it has been affirmed, and seems probable, that the roads which led to these cities were formed and maintained at the public expense, and that their breadth was very considerable: that every obstruction was removed out of the way, bridges were thrown over interposing streams, and when roads happened to cross or separate, an index, inscribed with the word Refuge, pointed out the right course. And thus an institution humane in its design, was rendered more so, by the manner in which it was observed. But again—the city was, in the first instance, to serve only as a temporary refuge, and afforded shelter only till inquiry was made into the fact, and judgment was solemnly given between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, upon evidence adduced. If criminal intention was proved, there was no remedy, blood demanded blood, the prisoner must be delivered up to the hands of justice. If otherwise, public protection was granted, and he was restored to his refuge. The ordinance having it in view not to prevent and suppress the truth, but to bring it openly and fully to light. The innocence of the prosecuted party having been made clearly to appear, he was restored indeed to his refuge, but it became, at the same time, his prison. Exiled from his native possession, and from all that rendered it dear; doomed to live among strangers, to subsist on their bounty, perhaps to feel their unkindness or neglect, he must drag out a comfortless existence, to an unknown, uncertain period; or stir abroad under constant apprehension and hazard of his life. And confinement is still confinement, though in a place of safety, a city of refuge: and ignorance and uncer
tainty respecting the termination of our misery, are bitter ingredients in the cup of affliction. “It may outlast life,” sad thought! “ or consume the best and most valuable portion of my days. Unhappy that I am, to have introduced mourning into my neighbour's family, and desolated my own. Though I feel not the pangs of remorse, my heart is torn with those of regret; and blood, though shed without a crime, is a burden too heavy for me to bear.”
The last regulation on record respecting this subject, was a permission to the hapless manslayer to “return into the land of his possession,” on the death of the high-priest. The reason of this ordinance does not appear; but it contains a circumstance very affecting to the prisoner himself, and affecting to all Israel. His release from confinement could be purchased only by death, the death of another; and that not of an Ordinary citizen, but of the most dignified and respectable character in the republic. The weight of blood innocently shed, was at length to be removed; but how? Not by the demise of him who shed it, but of “the high-priest which should be in those days.” And may we not suppose a refugee of sensibility looking forward to this event with the mixed emotions of hope and sorrow? The very cause of his enlargement makes it to partake of the nature of a punishment. He dare hardly wish for liberty, for it involved guilt deeper than what already lay upon his head; deliberately devising the death of his neighbour, and taking pleasure in it.
Now, if guiltless homicide subjected the perpetrator of it to such accumulated danger, anxiety and distress, how attrocious in the sight of God must wilful murder be? And how sacred, in the sight of man, ought to be the life of his brother, and every thing relating to its preservation and comfort, his health, his peace, his reputation? To attack him in any of these respects, is: to level a blow at his head, or, where he feels more sensibly still, at his heart.
Let us review this last of the Mosaic institutions, and mark its reference to a clearer and more explicit dispensation: for it too is evidently “a shadow of good things to come.” -
—The flying “manslayer” is an affecting representation of what every man is by nature and by wicked works; an unhappy creature, who has offended against his brother, violated the laws of society, broken his own peace of mind, and trampled on the divine authority, not only accidentally and unintentionally, but deliberately, presumptuously. His conscience, “like the troubled sea,” cannot rest. What he feels is dreadful, what he fears is infinitely worse. With trembling Cain, he apprehends that every one who meeteth him will slay him; his multiplied crimes cry out of the ground for vengeance upon his head—while eternal, inflexible justice, like “the avenger of blood,” pursues him to the death. To flee from, or endure the wrath of an offended God, is equally impossible. All nature is up in arms against him; he is become a terror to himself; the king of terrors aims his fatal dart, and hellfollows after.
—The “refuge” provided by this statute for the unhappy man who had destroyed his brother, and troubled his own soul, prefigures the remedy prescribed by infinite wisdom for the recovery of a lost, perishing world—that dispensation of divine Providence in which “mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Fear not, guilty creature, there is hope concerning thee: thou shalt not die. The God whom thou hast offended, even he, “hath found out a ransom;” he hath “laid help on One who is mighty to save, even to the uttermost, them who come unto God through him.” Cease from the anxious inquiry, “Who shall ascend into heaven, to bring Christ down from above? Who shall descend into the deep, to bring up Christ again from. the dead?” “The word is nighthee,” and in this word the Lord “brings near his righteousness,” and his salvation. The name of JEHov AH is as a strong tower, whoso runneth into it is safe. Prophets, apostles, evangelists, with one accord, point to the sanctuary, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” “Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope.” Here is “an high way”—“the way-faring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” The Saviour himself proclaims, “Look to me, and be saved.” “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” —The very act of flying from “the avenger of blood,” argued a consciousness of criminality, and an apprehension of danger; and the course directed to a city of refuge, indicated a knowledge of its appointment, and of the privileges pertaining to it. In this we behold the character of the convinced, penitent sinner, condemned of his own conscience, stripped of every plea of self-righteousness, alarmed with the terrors of “the wrath to come,” encouraged by the declarations of the mercy of God in Christ, apprehending “salvation in no other,” perceiving no way to escape but this, he flees “for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before him,” even to “Him who is mighty to save;” to that “blood which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel;” to “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world;” saying, in the words of the Psalmist, “O Lord, thou art my refuge; return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee,” In Jehovah alone have Irighteousness and strength;” “he also is become my salvation.” The safety of the manslayer depended, not on having ho at, but on remaining in the city of his refuge. o leave it prematurely was as fatal as to be overtaken on the way that led to it. The grace of the gospel, in like manner, is extended, not to him who, convinced of sin, and trembling with apprehension of judgment to come, has fled for refuge, to the great Propitiation for sin, but to him who abideth in Christ. As there is a “believing to the saving of the soul,” so there is a “drawing back unto perdition;” and “no man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hence the solemn injunction and warning of Christ himself, “Abide in me, and I in you—if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered: and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” “He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved.” The great Apostle and High-Priest of our profession lives for ever; there is therefore “no more going out.” “In returning and rest shall we be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength.” —The sanctuary provided and opened, equally for the distressed Israelite and “the stranger,” is a happy prefiguration of the indiscriminating mercy, the unlimited extension of the gospel salvation. “In Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” He “came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh; and through him, we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.” The gospel of Christ is “the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” It announces “glory, honour and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” “For there is no respect of persons with God.” Blessed dispensation, which hath abolished all invidious distinctions! “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all!” Who art thou then, O man, who “judgest thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?” WOL. III, k