Verse 34. "Called the altar Ed" - The word d[ ED, which signifies witness or testimony, is not found in the common editions of the Hebrew Bible, and is supplied in Italics by our translators, at least in our modern copies; for in the first edition of this translation it stands in the text without any note of this kind; and it is found in several of Kennicott's and Deuteronomy Rossi's MSS., and also in the Syriac and Arabic. Several also of the early printed editions of the Hebrew Bible have the word d[ , either in the text or in the margin, and it must be allowed to be necessary to complete the sense. It is very probable that an inscription was put on this altar, which pointed out the purposes for which it was erected. FROM the contents of this chapter we learn that the Israelites were dreadfully alarmed at the prospect of a schism in their own body, both as it related to ecclesiastical and civil matters. A few observations on this subject may not be useless. Schism in religion is a dangerous thing, and should be carefully avoided by all who fear God. But this word should be well understood.
scisma, in theology, is generally allowed to signify a rent in, or departure from, the doctrine and practice of the apostles, especially among those who had been previously united in that doctrine and practice. A departure from human institutions in religion is no schism, for this reason that the WORD OF GOD alone is the sufficient rule of the faith and practice of Christians; and as to human institutions, forms, modes, &c., those of one party may be as good as those of another. When the majority of a nation agrees in some particular forms and modes in their religious service; no conscientious man will lightly depart from these; nor depart at all, unless he find that they are not only not authorized by the word of God, but repugnant to it. It is an object greatly to be desired, that a whole people, living under the same laws may, as much as possible, glorify God, not only with one heart, but also with one mouth. But there may be a dissent from established forms without schism; for if that dissent make no rent in the doctrines or practice of Christianity, as laid down in the New Testament, it is an abuse of terms to call it a schism; besides, there may be a dissent among religious people relative to certain points both in creed and practice, which, not affecting the essentials of Christianity, nor having any direct tendency to alienate the affections of Christians from each other, cannot be called a schism; but when professing Christians separate from each other, to set up one needless or non-essential form, &c., in the place of others which they call needless or non-essential, they are highly culpable. This not only produces no good, but tends to much evil; for both parties, in order to make the points of their difference of sufficient consequence to justify their dissension, magnify these non- essential matters beyond all reason, and sometimes beyond conscience itself: and thus mint and cummin are tithed, while the weightier matters of the law-judgment and the love of God-are utterly neglected. If Christians either cannot or will not think alike on all points, surely they can agree to disagree, and let each go to heaven his own way. "But should we take this advice, would it not lead to a total indifference about religion?" Not at all; for in the things which concern the essentials of Christianity, both in doctrine and practice, we should ever feel zealously affected, and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.