[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      In this age of improvement in divine institutions, we read and hear much of "two dispensations of the covenant of grace;" thus making the Jewish and the Christian institutions dispensations of one "covenant of grace." Why not make the patriarchal, (still more venerable for its antiquity and which continued a thousand years longer than the Jewish,) also a dispensation of the covenant of grace, and then we should have had three dispensations of one covenant! This is but "a show of wisdom." The Holy Spirit calls them "two covenants," or "two institutions," and not two modifications of one covenant; and it speaks of each as established upon promises. The Jewish was established upon temporal and earthly promises, contained in the first promise made to Abraham; but the new, says Paul, "is established upon better promises," growing out of that concerning the blessing of the nations in the promised seed.1

      The Jewish institution commenced and continued about 1,500 years before the Reign of Heaven began. It was not substituted for the family worship, but added to it; affecting, however, the patriarchal institution in some respects, as far as concerned the single family of Abraham. The individual families of the nation of the Jews, as such, had still their family worship--still the worship of God was heard in the dwellings of the righteous; and, like Joshua, every good Israelite said, "As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord."

      In four hundred years the family of Abraham had, in the line of Isaac and Jacob, in fulfillment of the first promise, grown up into millions. Not less than two millions2 came up out of Egypt under the conduct, of Moses. The heavenly Father, in progressive development of his plan of blessing all nations, leaves all the world under the family worship institution, and erects the whole progeny of Abraham that came up out of Egypt into one great national institution. He condescends to appear in the character of King of the Jews, and to make them a kingdom of God, as preparatory to the appearance of his Son, who is predestined to be the King of the whole earth, and to have a kingdom which shall ultimately embrace all the nations of the world.

      The twelve tribes were brought into the form of one great worshiping family, presenting through one common High Priest their united worship to God. This gave rise to the erection of one public house consecrated to the Lord, as the place of meeting in their social and national character. A constitution, political, moral, and religious, was submitted to the people; and on their adoption of it, they became a [230] covenanted people of God. This constitutional kingdom was built upon precepts and promises; and its worship when fully developed was little more than the extension of the family worship to one great national family. They had one king, one high priest, one national altar, one national house of God, one morning and evening sacrifice, one great national sacrifice, and one great annual atonement. The nation was a family of families, and whatever pertained to a single family in its family worship was extended and accommodated to this great confederate family.

      Various mystic and significant institutions distinguished this nation from all others; for it was one principal object of its institution to keep its subjects separate and distinct from all other people till Messiah (the promised seed) should come. Another object was, to figure out in appropriate types the spiritual worship of the kingdom of heaven, and to exhibit the great doctrine of faith, repentance, remission, adoption, and inheritance, by picturesque images, ingeniously devised to figure out the whole doctrine of reconciliation and sanctification to God.

      The Jewish institution is not to be regarded only in its political, moral and religious aspect, but especially in its figurative and prospective character. God so wisely and benevolently contrived it from its origin to its close, that its whole history--the fates and fortunes of its subjects from their descent into Egypt, their travels thence to Canaan and settlement in the land of promise--their fortunes in that land to their final catastrophe, should exactly and impressively shadow forth the new institution with the fates and fortunes of the subjects of this new and more glorious order of things. "All these things happened to them for types," (examples,) says, Paul, "and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come." The same great commentator on this institution not only presents the history of its subjects as instructive to the citizens of the new institution, but of the tabernacle he says, "It was a figurative representation for the time then present," the furniture thereof "the pattern of things in the heavens." "The law," he adds, "contained only a shadow of the good things to come." A shadow, indeed, proceeding from a man, a house, a tree, is not, and can not be, an exact image or representation of them; yet, when explained by a verbal description, it greatly facilitates an easy and correct conception of them.

      So full of the doctrine of the new institution was the old, that we find all the Apostles and Christian writers unceremoniously applying everything they quote from the law, the prophets, and the psalms, to the Messiah, his kingdom, and the fortunes of his people; as if the Jewish writings had no other object than to unfold the kingdom of heaven. Jesus begins with Abraham seeing his day on Mount Moriah [231] in the typical resurrection of Isaac. Paul regards Hagar, Ishmael, Sarah, Isaac, as the best illustration of the two institutions; and John ends with the description of the descent of Jerusalem from heaven.

      Every one, then, who would accurately understand the Christian institution must approach it through the Mosaic; and he that would be a proficient in the Jewish, must make Paul his commentator. While the mere politician, moralist, or religionist contemplates the one without the other, though he may find much to admire in both, he will never understand either. A veil, thick as that which concealed the glory of the face of Moses from the Israelites, will hide the glory of the Jewish and Christian institution from his view.

      Not only did the tabernacle, the temple, their furniture, the service of both, the priests, the sacrifices, the festivals, the convocations, and all the ordinances of that Ritual, together with the history of that people, assume the picturesque and figurative character, but almost all the illustrious and highly distinguished personages of that institution were made prophetic or typical of the Messiah, or of the great incidents of his life, sufferings, and triumphs, and the leading affairs of his government. Amongst persons in the patriarchal and Jewish ages, who, in one or more prominent characters or incidents, or in their general history adumbrated the Messiah, and his reign, the following group occupy a lofty eminence:--Adam, Abel, Noah, Melchisedeck, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samson, David, Jonah. Of things of this class, as well as persons highly figurative and instructive, are the vision of Jacob's ladder--the burning bush--the pillar of cloud and fire--the manna--the rock Horeb, a fountain of living water in the wilderness--the veil of Moses--the brazen serpent--the victory over the nations of Canaan, and the land of Canaan itself. And of ordinances, the passover, the scapegoat, the red heifer, the year of jubilee, the law of the leper, the kinsman redeemer, the cities of refuge; together with all the sacrifices, washings, anointings, and consecrations of the holy nation.

      But a third object of the Jewish institution, of paramount importance to the world, was the furnishings of a new alphabet and language (the elements of heavenly science,) without which it would appear to have been almost, if not altogether, impossible to learn the spiritual things, or to make any proficiency in the knowledge of those relations which Christianity unfolds. The language of the new institution is therefore explained by that of the old. No one can understand the dialect of the kingdom of heaven who has not studied the dialect of the antecedent administrations of heaven over the patriarchs and Jews. The most striking and characteristic attribute of the sacred dialect is, that the elements of it are composed of the incidents of history, or what we call remarkable providences. [232]

      I can not explain myself better, nor render my readers a more essential service, than by illustrating by an actual detail of sacred history the following proposition, viz.: That sacred history or the remarkable incidents of God's providences to the Jews and Patriarchs are the foundation of the sacred dialect of the new institution. Or, if the reader will understand it better, it may be thus expressed--All the leading words and phrases of the New Testament are to be explained and understood by the history of the Jewish nation and God's government of them. Take the following as a mere specimen:--

      God called Abram out of Ur, and changed his name into Abraham; and the name of his wife Sarai into Sarah. He promised Isaac as the person in whom his seed should be called. God did tempt Abraham, commanding him to offer Isaac for a burnt-offering--Isaac had two sons--Esau the elder, and Jacob the younger. Esau despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob. Jacob wrestled with God, and prevailed; he obtained a blessing, and was therefore called Israel. He had twelve sons: of these Joseph was his favorite. His brethren envied him, and sold him for twenty pieces of silver. Joseph found grace in the sight of his master. The Lord was with Joseph. He was cast into prison; and from thence was elevated to be the governor of Egypt under Pharaoh. A famine in Canaan compelled Jacob and his sons into Egypt for bread, and Joseph was made known to his brethren. Joseph died in Egypt and left his father's house in that land. They multiplied exceedingly, and the Egyptians greatly afflicted and oppressed the Israelites. Moses was born and exposed: Pharaoh's daughter found him and adopted him for a son. Moses fled into Midian, and married the daughter of the priest or prince of Midian, and kept his father-in-law's flock in the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush. The bush burned and was not consumed. Moses drew near, and then first stood on holy ground. God sent him to Egypt to lead his people out of bondage.

      God bade him say to the children of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you. Gather the elders of Israel, and say to them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham," etc., "has sent me to you. I will smite Egypt with my wonders, and bring you up out of the afflictions of Egypt. Tell Pharaoh, Israel is my son--my first born. Take Aaron with thee, and thou shalt put words into his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth and with his mouth: he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. Take thy rod in thy hand. The Lord sent Aaron to Moses: he met him in the mount and kissed him. And the Lord visited his people. And the people believed when they heard that the Lord had looked upon their affliction. Pharaoh oppressed them still more. The Lord said with a strong [233] hand shall he let them go. I will redeem them with a stretched out arm and with great judgments. I will give you Canaan for a heritage: I will take you to me for a people. I will be your God."

      Moses said, I am a man of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken to me? I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy prophet. I will multiply my signs, and bring out my people, and harden Pharaoh's heart. When he says, "Show me a miracle," cast your rod before him, and it shall become a serpent. Still Pharaoh refused, and hardened his heart. The magicians, overcome with the signs, said, This is the finger of God. The God of the Hebrews said, Let my people go. I have roused thee up (as a lion) to show in you my power and to make my name known through all the earth. The Lord slew all the first born of Egypt after he had plagued them exceedingly. Pharaoh commanded them to depart; but he pursued them to the Red Sea. Israel fainted at the sight before and behind them. Moses said, Stand still, and see the salvation of God. The sea was divided. Covered with a cloud, Israel marched through as on dry ground. The waters stood on either side as a wall. Pharaoh pursued with his chariots and horsemen, but the waters returned and they were drowned. Thus the Lord redeemed, saved, delivered, and brought Israel out of bondage.

      After this deliverance Moses and the children of Israel sang, "The Lord is become my salvation; he is my God. Thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee. Thou hast led forth thy people whom thou hast redeemed. Thou hast guided them in thy strength to thy holy habitation. The inhabitants of Canaan shall be still as a stone till thy people pass over, O Lord! the people thou hast purchased. Thou shalt plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance--in the sanctuary which thy hands have established.

      They came into the wilderness of Sin. They cried for bread, and God rained bread from heaven upon them, that he might prove them whether or no they would walk in his law: and they did eat manna forty years, till they came to the borders of Canaan.

      They complained for water, and tempted God. And Moses smote the rock in Horeb, and water gushed out. But Moses was wroth, and smote the rock twice; and he and Aaron thus rebelled against God, and fell in the wilderness. The Lord made a covenant with the whole " nation at Sinai, and made them a peculiar treasure above all people--a kingdom of priests, a holy nation; and God spake all the words of the law written on two tables of stone; and spake to Israel from heaven.

      The Lord by Moses gave them directions for rearing a tabernacle, and a pattern for all its furniture. And as a ransom for his soul, every man, rich and poor, was to pay half a shekel as an offering to [234] the Lord, to make an atonement for his soul; and it was given for the service of the tabernacle. When the tabernacle was reared and finished, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle and the cloud covered it. And when the cloud was taken up they journeyed; but until it was taken up they journeyed not. The cloud was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all Israel throughout all their journeys.

      And before Moses died he laid his hands upon Joshua, and gave him a charge as the Lord commanded; and thus put honor upon him, that the children of Israel might be obedient to him as their savior. "As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee," saith God; "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

      Could we thus proceed with the history of this people, and add to their history the observances of their religious institutions, we should find out the true meaning of the sacred style of the New Testament with more accuracy and certainty, than from all the commentators of ancient and modern times. This, as a sample, must suffice for our present purpose.

      From the premises now before us, the specifications of the outlines of the Sinaitic and national institution, and the terms and phrases found in the history of this people, we may discover in what relation they stood to God, and what favors he bestowed upon them in that relation.

      They were called and chosen, or the elect of God as a nation. As such, they were delivered, saved, bought, or purchased, and redeemed. God is said to have created, made, formed, and begotten them. As such he is called their Father, their God, their Redeemer, their King, their Saviour, their Salvation; and they are called his children, sons, and daughters, born to him, his house, people, inheritance, family, servants.

      As a chartered and congregated people, they are called the city, the holy city, the city of the Lord, Jerusalem, Zion, Mount Zion, the city of David. Other nations, in contrast with them, are called, not a people, aliens, strangers, enemies, far off, unclean.

      Various similitudes expressive of the kind relation in which they stood to God are also found on the pages of the ancient institution--such as husband and wife, shepherd and flock, vine and vineyard, mother and children. They are said to be written or enrolled in the book of God; to be planted, washed, sanctified, clean, separated to God; they are called the house, building, sanctuary, dwelling place of God; a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a peculiar people, saints, etc., etc.

      Those who are curious to trace these phrases descriptive of the relation and privileges of the ancient kingdom of God, had better (in addition to the passages quoted in their history from Egypt to the [235] Jordan) examine the following passages:--Ex. xiv. 30; xv. 16; xix. 6: Deut. iv. 37; vii. 6; x. 15; xiv. 1; i. 31; vii. 5; xxxii. 6, 18, 19; xviii. 7; iii. 18, 20; xii. 9; I. Kings iii. 8; Ps. cv. 6; xxxiii. 12; cv. 43; cvi. 5, 21; lxxiv. 2; cxlix. 2; Isa. xli. 8, 9; xliii. 1, 3, 5, 7; li. 2,4; lxi. 5; lxiii. 16; i. 2; lxii. 1, 6, 7; xxviii.; Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and the Psalms of David throughout, etc., etc.

[A. C.]      

      1 Jer. xxxi. 31. [230]
      2 Men fit for war are never more than the third or fourth of any population. There were six hundred thousand men of this class when they came to Mount Sinai. [230]

      Alexander Campbell. "The Jewish Institution." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 5 (August 1834): 395-400.


[MHA1 230-238]

[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)