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The supposition I cannot admit. But what seems to be the fact?
The church, defined in few words, is a number of persons, associated, on the principles of revealed religion, for the worship and service of God. This association gives existence to the church. And the prescribed rites and mode of worship give visibility to her existence. If, therefore, ordinances were appointed, and a form of religious worship prescribed; and if any, in Adam's time, engaged to perform that worship, and celebrate those ordinances publicly, the conclusion is unavoidable, that there was a visible church in the days of Adam.
The origin of the church of God, and the date of her visibility, are here the objects of inquiry.
The Redeemer, all will readily grant, was first revealed to the apostate parents of the human race, in the promise of the woman's seed, before they were driven from the garden of Eden. The history of the first ages of the world is laconic, and on some points, we must draw our conclusions from imperfect premises. We have, I think, more than presumptive evidence that our unhappy first parents repented of their disobedience, were pardoned, and received into forfeited favour, through the promised Saviour.
“ The Lord God made coats of skins, and clothed them.” Gen. iv. 21. Here is evidence, at least, strongly presumptive, that sacrifices were appointed as typical of the sufferings and death of the promised seed, and as a part of religious worship. And the Lord's making coats of skins and clothing our first parents, seems to intimate that they were penitent, and received into favour.
The Lord proposed a new covenant to them, and they consented to its terms. The Lord accepted them, and they engaged to comply with all his requisitions. They became his covenanted people, and thus they constituted the church of God. Here is the origin of the church. Adam undoubtedly offered sacrifices, and performed all the other services required. This gave visibility to the church. Here is the date of her visibility. His example was imitated by his sons. For, “ in process of time,” Cain and Abel brought, each, “ an offering unto the Lord." Gen. iv. 3. These offerings were, unquestionably, brought after the example, and according to the instructions of Adam; and were, we may presume, accompanied with prayer and thanksgiving, as parts of religious worship.
And since the original, translated “ in process of time," does literally signify, " at the end of days," we may conclude that their offerings were brought, regularly, on every returning seventh day, which was the Sabbath. For it cannot be supposed that our first parents, and their children, neglected the observance of the appointed Sabbath. Vol. II.-Presb. Mag.
Cain had a wife, and it is probable that Abel had one likewise. If so, there were at that period three families, all of which performed, at least, some parts of the prescribed worship of God, either separately in their respective families, or all publicly in one assembly. If the former was their practice, then there were three separate local churches. For they all performed some parts of religious worship, and some of them, no doubt, complied with all the requisitions of their Maker. On the supposition of three churches, subsisting in families, we must consider their male heads as their rulers, and officiating priests. God invested Adam with authority to rule over his wife. Gen. iii. 16. And there can be no question but that Cain and Abel had the same authority. Paul said, under the present dispensation of mercy, that “the husband is the head of the wife.” Eph. v. 23.
But though these heads ruled in their families, and Adam and Abel unquestionably worshipped God daily in their families, yet it appears to me that they all united, at some particular time, in public worship. If so, here is as public and visible a church, as any at the present day can be. For this belief, the history itself furnishes my mind with several reasons.
The expression, “in process of time,” or “at the end of days," points to the seventh day, or some particular time, when the Offerings of Cain and Abel were presented unto the Lord. As the seventh day was "blessed and sanctified," as a day of rest, it is reasonable to suppose, that our first parents religiously observed it as the Sabbath. And on this day, I suppose, Cain and Abel brought their offerings unto the Lord. The term brought seems to point to a public assembly.
“ Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof." Gen. iv. 3, 4. The question is, whither did they bring their offerings, if not to a public assembly? Here is one evidence of a visible church.
"God had respect unto Abel and his offering : But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect." Gen. iv. 4, 5. It seems to be the general opinion that God distinguished Abel's sacrifice by some visible token of approbation. But how could Cain know this, if Abel's offering was made privately in his own house? It must have been made in a public assembly. Here is a second evidence of a visible church.
It is natural to suppose that Adam, after his unhappy apostacy, and after his restoration, by free grace, to forfeited favour, would early give his children instructions concerning the promised seed, the nature and obligations of the Sabbath, the design of the sacrifices, and the manner in which they were to be offered to God. And it is natural to suppose, that he would,
at some stated season, collect his children, and their offspring together for public worship, give them public instructions, and admonitions, and remind them of their obligations to their Creator. And what season more proper than the Sabbath day?
After Cain slew Abel, it is said he “ went out from the presence of the Lord.” Gen. iv. 16. This expression also, I apprehend, points to the place of public worship, where God mani. fested, by some visible token, his gracious presence to his true worshippers, assembled in some public place. This place, where the ordinances of public religious worship were observed, Cain abandoned. And instead of presenting, in this public assembly, the appointed offerings, and performing the prescribed worship, he appears to have been wholly engaged, at a distance, in building a city. Gen. iv. 17. Here is a third evidence of a visible church.
The church now consisted of the members of Adam's family, and the remnant of Abel's, which were probably again united in one family, under the government of Adam, and continued in this state till the time of Seth.
In the 130th year of the world, Seth, Adam's third son, was born. And as he was appointed another seed instead of Abel, we may suppose he imitated his righteous brother's example, and had a church in his house; and that he brought a weekly offering unto the Lord, as Abel had done.
In the year of the world 235, Seth had a son, “ and called his name Enos." Gen. iv. 26. By the time Enos arrived at maturity, the human race was considerably augmented in number, and had become much degenerated. Amidst the wickedness which prevailed, “began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” Gen. iv. 26. The pious part of the inhabitants felt the necessity of vigorous, and combined exertions, to support the worship of God, and counteract the contagious influence of the wicked. Hence they “began to call upon the name of the Lord.” From this translation of the original text, it seems evident, that they made a more general and public profession of religion than had been done before, and associated for the more public worship of God. The marginal translation leads us, perhaps, more directly and clearly to the same conclusion. “Then began men to call themselves by the name of the Lord.” They called themselves, I suppose, after the perfections of God,
I which compose his name, such as righteous, or saints, or the worshippers of God in truth and holiness. The ideas of both these translations enter into Paul's description of a Christian church. “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all them that call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.” 1 Cor. i. 2.
Pious men, in the days of Seth, “called upon the name of the Lord,” i. e. prayed to him in public worship, and they called themselves, and one another, “by the name of the Lord.” The same persons are styled the “sons of God.” Gen. vi. 2. And this is the usual scripture phraseology, in describing the visible church of God, as composed of his public worshippers. Bring my sons from far; even every one that is called by my name. Isaiah xliii, 6, 7.
After the Jewish church was completely organized, Moses said to the members, “ Ye are the children of the Lord your God.” Deut. xiv. 1. Said the Lord in reference to the same people, “ Ask me of things to come concerning my sons.” Isaiah xlv. 11. Those persons, therefore, who, in the days of Seth, “ began to call upon the nathe of the Lord,” and who are called “the sons of God,” made a public profession of religion, and associated together for public worship. They constituted the visible church of God. They “ called upon the name of the Lord;” i. e, among other things, they performed the duty of prayer, which is put for all the exercises of public worship. Moses uses the same style, when he records an instance of the public, and solemn worship of Abraham, on a mountain near Bethel. “ He builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.” Gen. xii. 8. He doubtless offered sacrifices, as well as performed the duty of prayer.
There was, therefore, in Seth's time, a visible church so organized as to embrace a number of persons, and, no doubt, a number of families. And the male heads of families officiated as priests and rulers of this church. They, as Cain and Abel had done, brought their offerings unto the Lord. And it continued a visible church till some time after “ the sons of God," or his true worshippers, intermarried with the daughters of men,” or idolatrous inhabitants of the earth. From these marriages the most pernicious consequences resulted. The true “sons of God,” who had called upon his venerable name, and had united in public worship as the visible church, by this time, had been called home. Their degenerate offspring, who still retained the name, were enticed by their wives to neglect the ordinances of religion, which eventuated in a general apostacy, so that the church seems to have been confined chiefly to Noah's family, immediately before the deluge.
Noah was “a preacher of righteousness,” (2 Pet. ii. 5) and no question had a church in his house. Lamech seems to have been a prophet, and was probably a preacher. “Enoch walked with God," and was, perhaps, a preacher also. But these, and other genuine sons of God, had been removed, and the church, as a visible body, had become greatly diminished. The family of Noah, and those of his three sons, formed the principal
congregation, to which, as a preacher, he gave public instructions.
To rescue the church from utter destruction, Noah was commanded to build an ark, which proved her salvation. Noah was the priest and ruler of the church.
Having left the ark, after the flood, he builded an altar unto the Lord; and offered burnt offerings thereon. Gen. viii. 20. And this is conclusive evidence, to my mind, that sacrifices were a part of religious worship from the time of Adam to the deluge. And I see no reason to doubt, that, while in the ark, Noah offered sacrifices unto the Lord every seventh day. That he offered sacrifices after he came out of the ark, we have recorded testimony. As a prophet he delivered the famous predictions concerning his posterity, which have long been, and still are, in the course of exact fulfilment.
(To be continued.)
LECTURES ON BIBLICAL HISTORY.
“Now, the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee : And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing : And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Ilaran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they oame.”—Genesis xii. 145.
The calling of Abram forms an important epoch in the history of the Bible. It took place four hundred and twenty-seven years after the deluge; i. e. in the year of the world two thousand and eighty-three, and before the birth of Christ, one thousand nine hundred and twenty-one. He was a descendant of Shem, at the distance of ten generations. His father's name was Terah; and he had two brothers, viz. Nahor and Haran, both older than himself, and a nephew, named Lot, a son of Haran, and who is associated with him in the subsequent history. The family lived in Chaldea, in a place called “Ur of the Chaldees.” Here it was that Abram received the first intimation that he and his family were to be made the depository of true religion, for the accomplishment of Heaven's merciful designs towards our guilty race. But the purpose of God was not fully revealed to him till some years after this period. The Chaldeans, it seems probable, had now become corrupt in their religion. Dr. Shuckford, and several other learned writers, are