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of the worshipper, or to give greater solemnity to the service, was pleased to send down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. One of these occurred, when Aaron first sacrificed for himself and the people, at the commencement of his high priest's office. "And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces."*
Similar tokens of divine acceptance were granted at the dedication of Solomon's temple. "Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house."† Also when Elijah made that memorable appeal to the Almighty against the worship of Baal, he built an altar, and dug a trench, and laid the wood and the flesh of the sacrifice in order, and poured water upon them, until the trench was filled with water: "Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the Levit. ix. 23, 24. † 2 Chron. vii. 1.
water that was in the trench."* The Almighty showed his supreme power and dominion by this extraordinary action of the elements, in opposition to their common natures, the fire not only consuming the sacrifice, but the implements, and even feeding on the water, instead of being quenched by it.
This miraculous token of acceptance was not confined to acts of worship of a public nature. Private persons in their retired services were honoured, and their faith confirmed by the same evidence. Perhaps this was the testimony of Abel's acceptance, and the absence of it the declaration of Cain's rejection. The difficulties attending the duty to which Gideon was called, required strong confidence in the promise and presence of him who alone could conduct his servant safely through it. For this purpose he was permitted to offer unto the Lord a sacrifice, and when he had laid the flesh and the unleavened cakes upon the rock, and poured the broth upon it, "Then the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes."† To confirm the faith of Manoah and his wife, they were indulged with * 1 Kings xviii. 38. + Judges vi. 21.
a similar token.* case of an individual, when offering for his own peculiar transgression, receiving this testimony of pardon and restoration to divine favour, occurs in the narrative of David's repentance, after he had sinned in numbering the people. Warned by the prophet Gad, he repaired to the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, and "built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord: and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering."†
But the most remarkable
When the fire thus descended from heaven to consume the sacrifice, the worshipper received the fullest and surest evidence of its acceptance. The miraculous conclusion attested the divine pardon. When this token was not specially granted, the flame preserved from a former occasion when it had been given, and afterwards kept alive for these purposes, most probably furnished the fire used at such solemnities. There is strong evidence of this both in the tabernacle and temple services; and, therefore, we may presume that a similar rule was observed in the times prior to these. The first sacrifice was one of peculiar importance, whether considered in regard to * Judges xiii. 19. +1 Chron. xxi. 26.
Adam and Eve in their individual persons, or as the representative of the whole church here on earth. In the first of these relations, for their own consolation and the assurance of faith to be exercised in a situation peculiarly calculated to try and perplex them, they needed such evidence of the acceptance of the sacrifice, as might powerfully support them under the sad experience of the consequences necessarily following their crime. In their latter relation, the same circumstance was requisite to give solemnity and authority to this sacred institution, both in the eyes of the church which they represented, and with the succeeding members of it, who were to be edified and instructed by their testimony.
The fact of their being naturally unprovided with fire, an element not at all necessary to the supply of the wants of human beings living upon the fruits of the earth, and in a warm climate, yields an additional, though less weighty reason, for our belief, that the first sacrifice was honoured with this proof of its divine acceptance.
In this rite our first parents had a complete epitome of the gospel. The Lamb of God, given to take away the sin of the world, was visibly set before them. Supplied by the bounty of their offended Creator, it proclaimed
not only his readiness to receive repenting sinners, but that he would provide the means of reconciliation. It gave them an invitation to return and experience his mercy, and conveyed a promise that they should not seek his face in vain.
How often this solemnity should be repeated, or whether any particular precept was issued for that purpose, is not recorded. If such were given, they were superseded by the regulations of Moses. Probably none were appointed. They were, to a great degree, discretionary under the Aaronical priesthood, and our Saviour has fixed no determinate period for the recurrence of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; but left it to the church to fix the time, and her individual members to avail themselves of these. So, probably, in the earliest ages, it was left to the worshippers to avail themselves of this sacred rite, whenever they found such an act necessary to strengthen their faith, animate their hope, or give new vigour to those holy affections, the exercise of which forms so important a part of the spiritual consolations of every real Christian. Two particulars we may presume without fear of contradiction; that those who most faithfully observed the sabbath, having their thoughts most frequently and fully detached from earthly