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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



T H E   K I N G D O M   O F   H E A V E N.


      The world had its infancy as well as man. Families preceded nations. 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 Patriarchal."

      Family worship was, then, the first social worship; 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 Though other institutions have since been added, this has never been superseded.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the most ancient of all religions and political institutions, and this being founded on nature itself, it never can be superseded.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 warship have always been adapted to the genius of the various revelations of God vouchsafed 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 period which is properly called the Patriarchal Age of the World. So long as the descendants of one man and one woman continued under the paternal roof, or until they became heads of families themselves, they continued under this religious and political administration. And if, after marriage, they did not migrate to a great distance from the patrimonial 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 progeny multiplied, became the paternal prince or chief patriarch of a tribe. [221]

      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 acceptance of that of Abel. That jealousy seems to have been kindled into rage because of the birthright. This is fairly implied in God's address 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."1

      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 instruction, prayer, praise and benediction. With the addition of circumcision in the family of one patriarch, for special purposes, these were the parts of that system which continued for two thousand five hundred 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 Sabbath." 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 flood 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. [222] He gave two days' portion of manna on the sixth day--none on the seventh--and preserved from putrefaction the portion laid up for the Sabbath.2

      Sin-offerings and thank-offerings, on altars both of stone and earth, were presented to the Lord--the former, in faith of the promise concerning 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 redemption, like many deists and natural religionists in our time, did acknowledge the goodness and care of God by a thank-offering; but Abel, by 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 allusions to this part of the patriarchal institution. Immediately after his egress from the Ark, we find Noah rearing his altar upon the baptized earth, and of every clean bird and beast offering to the Lord whole burnt offerings. Thus began Noah, after the deluge, to worship the Lord according to the patriarchal institution. And thus we find Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, and other patriarchs presenting their sacrifices to the Lord, while the family worship 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 institution. "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."3 "And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where God talked with him, even a pillar of stone, and he poured a drink-offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon."4

      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 Eliphaz 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 therefore lived before Moses. Thus we find him also officiating 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 [223] 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."5

      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."6

      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 sacrificial 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 pronounced 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 [224] importunities farther; and for Abimelech, king of Egypt, and his family, he made his requests to God. Of him and his patriarchal character God said, "I know 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."7

      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 purposes 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 in the first age of the world, embraced the observance of the Sabbath, the service of the altar, oral instruction, prayer, intercession, thanksgiving, 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 approved.

      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 washing 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 children 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 conscious 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.

[A. C.]      

      1 Gen. iv. 7.[222]
      2 Ex. xvi. 15-27. [223]
      3 Gen. xxviii. 18. [223]
      4 Gen. xxxv. 14. [223]
      5 Job i. 4, 5. [224]
      6 Job xlii. 8-10. [224]
      7 Gen. xviii. 19. [225]

      Alexander Campbell. "Patriarchal Age of the World." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 5 (August 1834):
      NOTE: With the exception of the "Preface," Alexander Campbell's The Kingdom of Heaven is reprinted in its entirety, from an Extra of The Millennial Harbinger (August 1834, pp. 387-444), as "Book V.--The Kingdom of Heaven" in The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (pp. 219-285).


[MHA1 221-225]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)