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The world had its infancy as well as man. Families preceded nsr
tioDS. Family worship was, therefore, the first religious institution.

At the head of this institution naturally stood the Father of every
Family. From necessity, and from choice, he was the prophet, the
priest, and the king of his household. As a prophet, he instructed his
household in the knowledge of God and in the history of man. As a
priest, he officiated at the family altar, interceded for those under his
care, and pronounced benedictions upon his children. As a lawgiver
and king, he commanded his children and servants, and rewarded
them according to merit. By a divine ordinance the first fathers of
mankind were thus constituted prophets, priests, and kings. Hence
the first religious and political institution is properly called '"the Pa-

Family worship was, then, the first social icorship; and, during the
first ages of the world (for at least 2,500 years) it was the only social
worship of divine authority. Though other institutions have since
been added, this has never been superseded. Having its foundation
in the matrimonial compact, the most ancient of all religions and
political institutions, and this being founded on nature itself, it never
can be superseded. While the forms of this worship have always
been adapted to the genius of the various revelations of God vouch-
safed to mankind, it has continued through all the changes of six
thousand years, and will continue till the day when men, like the
angels of God, shall neither marry nor give in marriage.

Family worship, so long as it continued the only social worship,
underwent no material change; and this is the peripd which is prop-
erly called the Patriarchal Age of the World. So long as the de-
scendants of one man and one woman continued under the paternal
roof, or until they became heads of families themselves, they contin-
ued under this religious and political administration. And if, after
marriage, they did not migrate to a great distance from the patrimo-
nial inheritance, the paternal authority was still acknowledged and
acquiesced in. Thus, in process of time, he who at first was only
the head of a single family, if his days were prolonged and his prog-
eny multiplied, became the paternal prince or chief patriarch of a



In the youth of time and freshness of human nature families soon
became large; and as the father and head could not be always present
while he lived, and as he might die before all his children could have
become heads of families, it became necessary that a substitute
in his absence, and a successor in case of his premature death,
should be appointed to fill his place and administer the affairs of the
family. Nature and reason alike pointed to his first-born son, and
religion consecrated him his vicegerent. Hence the privileges and
honors of the first-born son were both religious and political; and
thus the duties devolving upon him gave him a right to a double
portion of the inheritance. Esau was, therefore, both prodigal and
profane in selling his birthright for a meal of pottage.

The antiquity of this arrangement appears from the envy and
jealousy of Cain, roused at the rejection of his offering and the accept-
ance of that of Abel. That jealousy seems to have been kindled into
rage because of the birthright. This is fairly implied in God's ad-
dress to Cain, when that address is fairly translated and understood.
"If you do well, shall you not have the excellency; and if you do not
well, sin precludes you (from the excellency). And (Abel shall be
subject to you) to you shall be his desire, and you shall rule over
him." *

The moral and religious institutions of the patriarchal or family
worship, which continued from the fall of Adam to the covenant of
circumcision, were the Sabbath, the service of the altar, oral instruc-
tion, prayer, praise and benediction. With the addition of circum-
cision in the family of one patriarch, for special purposes, these were
the pai'ts of that system which continued for two thousand five hun-
dred years.

The religious observance of weeks or Sabbaths in commemoration
of Creation, and prospective of an eternal rest, to arise out of the
sacrificial and typical institution, was religiously observed to the
giving of the law, or the erection of the Jewish institution. Thus the
law of the Sabbath commences with the words, "Remember the Sab-
bath." The righteous always remembered the weeks, and regarded the
conclusion of the week as holy to the Lord. Hence even after the
Apostacy, which issued in the neglect of family worship, in consequence
of the sons of God intermarrying with the daughters of men, and which
brought a fiood of water upon the world of the ungodly — we find Noah
religiously counting his weeks even while incarcerated in the Ark.
In the wilderness of Sin, before the giving of the law, we also find the
Jews observing the Sabbath. And to facilitate the observance of it
God wrought three special miracles during the peregrinations of Israel,

♦ Gen. iv. 7.


He gave two days' portion of nianua on the sixth day — none on the
seventh — and preserved from putrefaction the portion laid up for the

Sin-offerings and thank offerings, on altars both of stone and earth,
were presented to the Lord — the former, in faith of the promise con-
cerning the bruising of the Serpent's head by the offspring of woman
— the latter, in grateful acknowledgment of the goodness of God in
creation and providence. Cain, without faith in the promised redemp-
tion, like many deists and natural religionists in our time, did acknowl-
edge the goodness and care of God by a thank-offering; but Abel, hy
faith in that promise, not only offered his thank-offering, but a lamb
as a sin-offering: therefore, while God respected not Cain's oblation
without faith in that promise, he testified in favor of the gifts of
Abel — he accepted his sin-offering and his thank-offering.

In the very brief and general outlines of almost two thousand five
hundred years given us in the book of Genesis, we find sundry allu-
sions to this part of the patriarchal institution. Immediately after
his egress from the Ark, we find Noah rearing his altar upon the bap-
tized earth, and of every clean bird and beast offering to the Lord
whole burnt offerings. Thus began Noah, after the deluge, to worship
the T.,ord according to the patriarchal institution. And thus we find
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, and other patriarchs presenting their sac-
rifices to the Lord, while the family woi-^hip was the only religious
institution in the world.

Even libations, drink-offerings, and anointing as tokens of gratitude
and consecration, are found in this most ancient and venerable insti-
tution. "Jacob rose up early in the morning, took the stone which he
had put for his pillow, set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the
top of it."t "And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where God talked
with him, even a pillar of stone, and he poured a drink-offerinti; thereon,
and he poured oil thereon. "$

A beautiful and instructive instance of ancient family worship, and
of the sacerdotal functions, as exercised by the patriarchs in reference
to the Altar, we have in that most ancient of books, supposed by many
to have been written by Moses, while in the land of Midian; but,
according to others, by Job himself, who was certainly contemporary
with ElipJiaz the Temanite. Eliphaz was the son of Teman, who was
the son of Eliphaz, who was the first son of Esau, the son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham. He thereforo lived before Moses. Thus we find
him also oflficiating at the altar. We are told that "his sons went and
feasted in each other's houses, every one his day, and sent and called
for their sisters to eat and drink with them. And it was so, that

•Ex. xvi. 1.1-2". +(;cn. xxviii. IS. t<J<'"- xxxv. M.


when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and
sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning and offered burnt
offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be
that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Thus acted
Job continually." *

The same Job, by divine appointment, acted as priest or intercessor
in behalf of his three friends, princes of Edom: for having spoken
amiss, they were commanded to take seven bullocks and seven rams,
and go to Job the servant of God, and to offer them up for themselves;
and "Job my servant shall pray for you." "Job prayed for them, and
the Lord accepted his prayer, and forgave Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar."
"The Lord also accepted and blessed Job after he had prayed for these
his friends, and the Lord turned again the captivity of Job."t

During this period of the world there was but one high or general
priest, specially called and sent by God. "He was King of Salem and
Priest of the Most High God." To him the patriarch Abraham paid
tithes or gave the tenth of the spoils taken in war, and Melchisedeck
blessed him. He was of an order sui generis: He had no predecessor,
successor, nor equal in the age of family worship.

From all these facts and documents we learn that the service of
the altar belonged first to the father of the family — next, to his eldest
son; — that it consisted in presenting sin-offerings and thank-offerings
of various sorts in behalf of himself or family — that all pious sons
and individuals might for themselves erect altars, offer sacrifices, and
pour out libations and thank-offerings to the Lord; — that these sacri-
ficial observances were generally, if not always, accompanied with
prayer, intercession, and thanksgivings; — and that intercession in
behalf of those under the care of any father or patriarch was a part of
the first institution.

Benediction also was one of the duties of this office. Fathers pro-
nounced blessings on their children. Superiors in age and standing
blessed their inferiors. Melchisedeck blessed Abraham, Isaac blessed
Jacob, and Jacob blessed the twelve patriarchs. The invocation of
blessings and the imposition of hands upon the head, were parts of
the family worship institution.

Concerning prayer and praise, as we can not imagine a religion
without them, it is unnecessary to speak particularly of them as parts
of the patriarchal institution. Jubal soon taught men to handle the
harp and the organ, and piety soon consecrated them to the praise of
God. The melodies of nature soon taught man to tune his voice to
God. Isaac went out into the fields at eventide for secret prayer.
Abraham interceded for Sodom until he was ashamed to push his

•;- Job xlii. 8-10.


importunities farther; and lor Abimelech, king of Egypt, and his
family, he made his requests to God. Of him and his patriarchal char-
acter God said, "I Itnow Abraham that he will command his children,
and his household after him, and they shall keep the ways of the Lord,
to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham
that which he has spoken of him." *

Prophets of a public character were occasionally raised up to bring
men back to the primitive simplicity of the patriarchal institution, as
well as to lead them forward to the future developments of God's pur-
poses in reference to the work of redemption. Amongst these the most
conspicuous were Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. To all these
were given new visions of the future, and thus they were all preachers
of righteousness and reformers in their respective generations.

From these gleanings from the book of Genesis, one may learn that
the family worship institution, which was divinely instituted ;n the
first age of the world, embraced the observance of the Sabbath, the
service of the altar, oral instruction, prayer, intercession, thanksgiv-
ing, and benediction. It contemplated no other bond of union than
the marriage covenant and the relations springing out of it. Doing
justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God, were enforced in
all its maxims, and in the examples of those whom God honored and

There was, during the long period of this family institution, no
community separated from the world larger than a single household —
no public altars — no temples — no established order of public teachers;
therefore, there were no initiating or separating institutions. There
was no circumcision for the infant, nor icashing of regeneration for
the instructed. These institutions of later times had respect to public
professing communities; and, therefore, for two thousand years there
was no initiating rite or ordinance amongst men.

Wherever the family curtains were spread and a tent erected, the
devout father built his own altar to the Lord, gathered his own chil-
dren and domestics around him, instructed them in the knowledge of
God the creator and preserver of all; and in the history of man, his
origin and destiny, as far as revealed to them. They offered their
thank-offerings, acknowledgments of favors received; and when con-
scious of sin, they presented their sin-offering, with confessions, and
in faith of God's promise, supplicated pardon. Such are the essential
attributes of the patriarchal institution, and of the family worship, as
learned from the writings of Moses.

But as the root of all the subsequent dispensations of God's mercy
and favor to man was planted in the patriarchal institution, it is neces-

•(ion. xviii. 1!(.


sary to our plan, before we advance farther, to pay some attention
to one of these patriarchs, whose fame is eternal, on whom God
bestowed an honor above all earthly honor, and who stands enrolled
in the annals of time as the friend of God. The intelligent reader
needs not to be informed that we now call his attention specially to


Reader, attend! "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and
the God of Jacob: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial
to all generations." And shall not the name, the calling, the blessing,
and the history of Abraham always occupy a large space in the records
of God's government of man, and in all the details of his redemption!

Because of his unprecedented faith in God's promises and exalted
piety, he was constituted the father of all believers; and his whole
life is made a model for all the children of God, as far as walking by
faith in God's promises is an ornament to human character.

Sufficient then to our present purpose, we observe, that during the
family worship institution, a little after the commencement of the
third Millennium, about the 75th year of his life, God appeared to
Abraham while he yet lived in Ur of Chaldea, and commanded him to
depart out of that country, and that he would do for him certain things.
Abraham obeyed. God gratuitously tendered to him two promises,
not only interesting and valuable to Abraham himself, but to all the
human race.

These two promises were intended to be the basis of a two-fold
relation to God, and the foundation of two distinct religious institu-
tions called "the Old Testament and the New," "the Old Covenant and
the New," "the Two Covenants," and "the Covenants of Promise."
There was contemplated in them the constitution for a temporal and
a spiritual kingdom of God — a kingdom of God of this world, and a
kingdom of God not of this world. Be it, however, always remem-
bered, when we attempt to form correct and comprehensive views of
the whole economy of God's redemption, that these two promises were
made while the patriarchal institution was yet standing and several
centuries before its close. What, then, it will be asked, are these


We find them in their most simple form in the beginning of the

twelfth chapter of Genesis. The first —

"7 will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make

thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. I wili bless them that

bless thee, and curse him that curses thee."

The second — "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
These promises when fully developed contained numerous blessings.

They are, however, in all their details separate and distinct from each

Tilt: miljj:.\m.\j. harbinger abridged. 227

other. Abraham's family alone are personally concerned in the first —
all families of the earth in the second. Temporal and earthly are the
blessings of the former — spiritual and eternal are the blessings of the
latter. Paul calls tho second, "The gospel preached to Abraham, ' and
"The covenant confirmed by God in reference to the Messiah, four
hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law." The Jewish
kingdom in all its glory was but the development of the first — the
Christian kingdom in its present and future blessings is the consum-
mation of the second.


In pursuance of the first promise, and in order to its exact and
literal accomplishment, about twenty-four years after its promulga-
tion the "Covenant of Circumcision" was established. This "covenant
in the fiesh" marked out and defined the natural descendants of Abra-
ham, and gave to the world a full proof of the faithfulness of God.
putting it in the power of every one to ascertain how God keeps his
covenants of promise with all people. This gave to the descendants
of Abraham the title of "TJie Circumcision," and beautifully repre-
sented the separation of God's people from the children of this world.

The land of Canaan, as tJie inheritance of this nation, is repeatedly
promised to Abraham; and as soon as Isaac, the child of promise, is
born and circumcised, the promise of the "seed," in which all nations
were to be blessed, is confined to him. Not in Ishmael, but "in Isaac
shall thy seed be called."*

After the death of Abraham and towards the close of the life of
Isaac, his father's God give him a second edition of these two prom-
ises. The first is considerably amplified in its details, while the second
is repeated almost in the same words. That which was first to be
accomplished is first developed, and its provisions pointed out. "I will
be with thee and will bles? thee; for unto thee and to thy seed I
will give all these countries, and I will perform all the oath which I
sware to Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply
as the stars of heaven, and will give to thy seed all these countries;
and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: because
Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my
statutes, and my laws."t

The same two promises are repeated in almost the same words to
Jacob the son of Isaac at the time he had the vision of the ladder
reaching from earth to heaven, while in obedience to a command given
him by his parents, he was on his way to Padan-aram in quest of a
wife. On these three great occasions — to Abraham — to Issac — to Jacob

•Goii. xxi. lU. +(;<"n. xx\i. :'...'■>.


— these two promises are solemnly pronounced; always standing in
the same order — never confounded; but as distinct as earth and heaven
— as time and eternity.

Four hundred and thirty years after the first solemn declaration of
these promises, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in virtue
of the first promise, were redeemed out of bondage in Egypt, and saved
from the tyranny and cruelty of Pharaoh. Then, in order to the full
completion of its stipulations, God, by the hand of Moses, proposed a
covenant with all Israel at Sinai; in which he guarantees to do all for
them contemplated in the promise, confirmed by an oath to Abraham,
in being a God to his seed after him. This


constituted them a kingdom of God, a holy nation, a peculiar people.
All the blessings comprehended in the first promise to Abraham, or
that could grow out of the relation to God which it contemplated, were
in full detail carried out into this transaction, and secured to the whole
nation. The relation was, however, temporal, and its blessings temporal
and earthly. The second promise made no part of the Jewish institu-
tion or covenant at Sinai, more than it did of the patriarchal or ante-
cedent institution. The typical or figurative part of the family wor-
and earthly. The second promise made no part of the Jewish institu-
tion and made a part of it; and whatever spiritual privilege was
enjoyed by the Jew, was enjoyed upon the same principle with the
patriarch — by faith in the second promise, and by an intelligent and
believing attendance upon all the appointed means which either pre-
figured the coming redemption, or realized the blessings which were
to be derived through the promised seed.

The SEED in which all the families of the earth were to be blessed,
was in the nation, but in no other sense than as it was in the people
while in Egypt, or in the patriarchs before they went down into Egypt.
It was in the nation, but no element of the national institution. They
had the second promise made to their fathers, and all the faithful atid
approved among them believed that promise, and acted conformably to
it. Thus amongst the Jews, even before the coming of the Messiah,
there were


The natural and the spiritual children of Abraham. The whole nation
were his literal and natural children; and such of them as believed
the second promise and understood it, were not only his natural chil-
dren, but his children in the same sense in which all believing Gentiles
are by virtue of the second promise constituted the children of Abra-
ham: for these two promises raised up two seeds to Abraham. The


first, like Ishmael, were born according to the flesh — the fleshly seed
of Abraham; the second, like Isaac, were the children of faith in the
promise: and thus Abraham is the constituted father of all who believe
in that promise, whether of his flesh or not.

But the second promise was not fulfilled for nearly one thousand
five hundred years after the first, or after the national institution was
confirmed at Sinai; and therefore


Which was to come on the nations through his seed, through faith in
the accomplished promise, was to be the basis and the substance of
a new institution. This "blessing of Abraham" includes all the spirit-
ual and eternal blessings which were laid up in his seed, who is the
ark of this new constitution, in whom all the promises of God are
verified, and in whom they are deposited for the comfort and salvation
of all the children of God. Whatever concerned the family of Abra-
ham coming through the first promise, descended upon the family prin-
ciple, which is only flesh; but whatever concerns all saints of all
nations, descends upon the new principle of faith. "They who are of
faith," says Paul, "are blessed with believing Abraham." And "If you
be Christ's, then," and only then, "are you Abraham's seed and heirs
according to the promise."

The blessing of Abraham was then promised in the patriarchal age
antecedent to the Jewish national institution, and independent of ft;
therefore, that institution can not affect, much less disannul, the bless-
ings promised in the covenant, confirmed before by God, respecting Uie
Messiah, in the time of family worship, and four hundred and thirty
years before the Jewish institution began.

In calling Abraham, and in making him the father of many nations,
and the depository of still more precious promises and revelations, God
did not supersede the family worship. He only added to the stock
of religious knowledge, strengthened the faith, and enlarged the hopes
of that single family. The family Institution continued without the
slightest change, except in one particular specified in the covenant of
circumcision, as respected the single family of Abraham, for four
hundred and thirty years after the charter concerning his seed and
that concerning the Messiah was secured to this renowned patriarch.
Thus we have traced the continuance of the family religion, or patri-
archal economy, for two thousand five hundred years, and are now-
prepared to make a few remarks on the Jewish national institution,
though we have already anticipated almost all that is necessary to
our present object. Still, however, we shall make it the subject of a
distinct notice.


Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 70)