Friday, September 5, 2008

The Natural Religion of Family of Benjamin M. Palmer

More Excerpts from Palmer's Confederate work, describing the great significance of the essential component of the "Natural Religion" of patriocentricity. Note the material that references the husband as "prophet, priest and king" for his family within the system of natural religion that preceded the system of grace. These themes are reiterated in Philip Lancaster's "Family Man, Family Leader" in contemporary language. All of these same key concepts and themes that Lancaster presents were first described by Palmer in 1876. These teachings were not original teachings of Lancaster, yet he does not reference Palmer.

The Family in its Civil and Churchly Aspects: An Essay in Two Parts”

Pg 197 - 209

1. At the very beginning, under a system of natural religion, Adam was constituted the head and organ of a religious Commonwealth.

And by just so much as he was the minister of worship, by so much was this the typical and germinant worship to be rendered by his seed, in all the generations which successively they should be born. It was the joint worship of himself, and of her who was the partner of his being, offered officially by him for her, in the conjugal union form which the Family should spring: an organic worship, in which were represented the countless tribes into which that Family should spread, to the end of time. But the force of his position, as the root and representative of all his offspring, he was constituted the prophet, priest and king of that religious empire. Has he continued steadfast in obedience, until confirmed in holiness at the end of his probation, it had been his high office, as prophet, to teach the doctrines of natural religion to his descendants; as priest, to order the ritual of worship in which they, with him, should engage; as king, to wield a vice-regal scepter over millions, who would recognize his authority the supremacy of the great Lord over all, God blessed for ever. From its origin, the Family, in its idea as it stood before the mind of Jehovah, was the Church, the temple of His worship.

2. Equally so after the fall, the first man becomes, in the Family, the minister of the religion of grace. Brief as the history is, it is full of broad suggestions as to the churchly character of the household…

See how the hints thicken, when, in the next generation, Abel offers the “firstlings of his flock;” whilst the great apostasy from the faith begins in Cain, who reverts to the rites and worship in natural religion, to which a sinner is henceforth competent… But the inference is inevitable, from the institution of sacrifices instantly after the fall, and the mention of animal sacrifice at the very next stage in the history, that the space between the two must have been covered by this form of worship. The swiftness of the passage from one event to the other only places them the closer, side by side; whilst the divine reprobation of Cain’s offering establishes it as a deviation from the appointed and recognized mode of approaching God in homage…

This being admitted, the churchly character of the Family is conclusively proved. It was the only association which then existed, in which alone the collective worship could be rendered that has always been exacted of the creature.

3. Under the patriarchal economy which ensued, the traces of religious service are found still in the bosom of the Family…

It must not be omitted, further, that when the Church came to be more distinctly constituted, with enlarged promises and with new seals, in the days of Abraham, it was founded in the house of the patriarch… The seal of this ecclesiastical covenant was put into the flesh according to the law of natural descent, the servant being admitted to the same privilege, by virtue of their incorporation as the members of the household… Thus visibly was the Church set up in the family of Abraham for a time, even more conspicuous than the Hebrew State which should issue from his loins.

4. Under the institutions of Moses, when the structure of the Church was so greatly enlarged, the time is not severed which connects it with the family… It remained, too, an organic law throughout this entire dispensation, that membership in the church was founded upon the right of birth, just as citizenship in the State. In both, by the operation of a fixed principle, itself grounded in nature, the State and the Church are carried back to the source from which they sprang: and the Family is continually presented as the organic institute from both derive their privileges, together with their being.

5. Under the New Testament economy, where the Church assumes her final form, the Family is again her home. See the Apostolic references to Priscilla and Aquila, and the “church that is in their house;”…all giving evidence that the earliest Christian organizations were formed within the enclosure of the Family, as long before in that of Abraham…. It is difficult to see how this cumulative evidence could be stronger than it is – all the more valuable because of so incidental – that God designed the Family to be the radix of the Church. It holds through all the dispensations, and will continue to the end of time. The case is far stronger as to the Church than as to the State. As to the latter, the Family may be considered as its source; but as to the former, the family is its fundamental idea. The Family many become the State, but it is the Church.

From "The Church Under Natural Religion" chapter

Pg 217 -219:

In discussing further the churchly aspect of the Family, it will be proper to consider its adaptedness to promote the interests of religion under the systems both of NATURE and of GRACE… Natural religion is represented as resting upon that knowledge of God which is acquired from the interpretation of the works of nature, or by the operations of pure reason, independent of any direct communication from God Himself… The difficulty, however, with this discrimination is, that it has never been submitted to experiment, how far the knowledge of God may be acquired through the deductions simply of natural reason. It pleased God to reveal Himself, as the very beginning, to the first man; and as a revelation more or less complete belongs to both systems, it cannot be made the feature by which they are distinguished one from the other. The distinction, therefore, must lie far deeper in the nature of the systems themselves. It will be more accurate to define natural religion as the religion of man in his original condition, as a holy being, created in the image of God; whilst revealed religion is simply the religion of grace, suited to man’s condition as a sinner. The antithesis is, then, perfect and intelligible: natural religion is the religion of the law; revealed religion is that of grace. The distinction does not lie in the mode nor in the degree, of the knowledge enjoyed, but in the opposing states of holiness and sin in which the creature is found, and in the different methods of the worshipper’s approach to God. The religion of nature is the privilege only of beings who are holy; the religion of grace is the refuge of such as are fallen and sinful.

Pg 221 – 223

The reader will perceive, not only the contrast, but also the relation, between the two [the natural religion of family under general revelation and the worship of God within family under grace]. The one precedes the other, and lays the foundation upon which it rests. The entire scheme of grace, as unfolded in the gospel of both Testaments, hinges upon the character and government of God, as exhibited under a previous dispensation of law…

The two forms of religion, therefore, though distinct, are yet bound together by an indissoluble connexion; and it is entirely fitting that the Family should be contemplated, in its religious uses, under both. The question is now submitted, how far the Family is adapted to subserve the ends of Natural religion? Just to that extent it fulfills a function of the Church.

The supremacy of law was put before man to be distinctly recognized, under the first dispensation in the garden of Eden… If this view is correct, it is transparently clear how the fundamental idea of natural religion is carried out in the provisions of the Family. The scarlet thread of authority is woven into the whole constitution of the latter, asserting at every point the essence and soul of natural religion. It vests in the husband, the parent, the master; and requires obedience of the wife, the child and the servant. It searches down through all the constituent relations, from the highest to the lowest, and becomes the guardian of religion, in being the asserter of law. Especially under a dispensation, where worship takes the form of obedience, and where the promise of eternal life hinges upon it, must the Family be calyx in the bosom of which this religion of nature shall find its nourishment and support…

Considered, then, as representing the divine supremacy, of which it is the earthly shadow, how admirably it pictures to the mind the unity of God’s law, and the perfect flexibility with which it bends to all the varieties of human condition! Nay what an emblem it is of that universal government, which comprehends within its grasp all ranks of intelligent beings, whether in heaven above or upon the earth beneath! …If this be the law upon which the religion of nature is founded, then the Family constitution, which so profusely illustrates the one, must equally foster the other. In every form in which the obedience is rendered, there is a corresponding modulation in the worship which is expressed. The difference domestic relations, varying in the intensity of submission, are the separate strings of one harp; whose different notes blend in common harmony, which is at once the obedience of worship, and the worship of obedience…

And what transforms this obedience of theirs into worship, and a dispensation of authority into a system of religion, but the reciprocal love which can see in duty nothing but delight, and in service nothing by a privilege? This is, perhaps, the crowning illustration of the support which the Family lends to natural religion. In the wonderful analogies between the two we may rest the argument, that God “set the one over against the other.” Had man never fallen, the teachings of natural religion might possibly have been conveyed from age to age in the Family, as the only Church which the race required.