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Chapter 17: A Brief Review

Chapter 17: A BRIEF REVIEW.

The student who has followed us through this little book can now look back and see the Bible as no one can see it who has not pursued a similar course of study. He can plainly see, that there was a long period, that from Adam to Moses, when no part of our Bible was in existence, but when faithful men served God as best they could without a book to guide them. This period is called the Patriarchal Age of the World; and the system of religious faith and practice then in force, the Patriarchal Dispensation of Religion. The only established rites were sacrifice and prayer, until in Abraham's family circumcision was added. Every head of the family acted as a priest for his own household. They were not without such a a knowledge of God's will as justified speaking of his "commandments, his statutes, and his law" (Genesis 26:5). These must have been very simple and elementary compared with the legislation which followed; yet under them were developed such men of faith as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Job, and others. If we wish to know what the Patriarchal religion was, we look for it to the book of Genesis and the book of Job as our chief sources of information; and secondarily to remarks on the subject of that religion to be found here and there in other books; but no one with any knowledge of the Bible would look there to find how to become a Christian and to love the life which Christ now requires.

The reader can see, in the second place, that the form of religion instituted by God through Moses began with that prophet and continued until the public ministry of Christ. Under it many rites and ceremonies were added to the primitive prayer and sacrifice, and a new priesthood was appointed, the privilege of offering sacrifice, except under extraordinary circumstances, being limited to Aaron and his sons, and the places of offering being limited to those in which God would "place his name" {Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 16:2,6,11; Deuteronomy 26:2}, or would appoint as the proper place from time to time. This was the Jewish dispensation, and it intervened between the Patriarchal and the Christian. If, then, one desires to know what religious ordinances characterized the Jewish religion, or what, in any particular, a man had to do to please God under that dispensation, he must go to the law of Moses, and to the examples of good men set forth in other Old Testament books than Job and Genesis. The ideas of God and of duty which regulated the lives of good men then are in the main the same which should regulate ours; but, as we have seen, there were many differences, sentiments and acts that were then thought to be right being known by us to be wrong. We cannot therefore take the teachings and examples of the Old Testament books as our guide, except so far as they agree with what we are taught in the New.

In the third place, the reader can see that the New Testament introduces an order of things in the service of God that is in many respects entirely new. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, which was not required before; and the baptism which it requires, is unknown to the Old Testament. Remission of sins is offered to the penitent in the name of Jesus, churches are organized for worship and instruction, the death of the Lord is commemorated by a new ordinance styled the Lord's supper; preachers are sent out everywhere to bring sinners to repentance and obedience; and a purer system of morals than was ever known on earth before is enjoined on all men. Finally, the hope of heaven and the fear of hell are held out before men in a clear light unknown before. All this is the result of having now a new high priest who has taken the place of Aaron's sons, and a new sacrifice for sins in his death as our atonement. He has been made the head of all things for the church, and the judge of the living and the dead.

If now a man under the present dispensation wishes to know what to believe in order to be saved, and where to find the evidence on which to rest his faith, he must go, not to Genesis, to Leviticus, to the Psalms, or to the Prophets, where he would learn only Patriarchalism or Judaism, but to the four Gospels which were written that we may believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that believing we may obtain life through him (John 21:20,21). After being thus led to believe in Jesus, we must next read the book of Acts, which was written to teach us how believers were brought into the churches, receiving the forgiveness of their sins and a place among the redeemed. Here we find the cases of conversion which were directed by the inspired apostles, and were put on record as models for men in all time to come. Having compiled with the requirements here found, and become disciples of Christ in the full sense of the word, the epistles are next studied that a fuller knowledge may be obtained of the duties and privileges that pertain to a Christian life, and a more profound knowledge of the great principles of the divine government in accordance with which a sinner has attained to a condition so exalted.

During the course of these studies the young disciple will have caught many glimpses of the glory and bliss yet to be revealed in the faithful, and on reading the last book of the Bible he sees broader and grander visions of the heavenly glory than he could have conceived before; and although many of the visions of rapture and of terror which pass before him are but imperfectly understood, he realizes all the more from this that the final fate of the wicked on the one hand, is wretched beyond conception, and that the bliss and glory of the saints rises far above the reach of human thought while in the flesh. Thus ends the book of God; and thus will end the life of every one who patiently learns its heavenly lessons and faithfully follows its infallible guidance.