Imatges de pÓgina

corner-stone of Christianity. Let them look diligently into their own bosoms, and they will be convinced that the continual indisposition to righteousness and proneness to transgression, which they will discover there, can be ascribed to no other cause. Let them behold what passes in the world around them; and they will be satisfied that the prevailing wickedness of mankind can be traced to no other source. They will perceive that in this, as in every other instance, reason and experience unite in bearing testimony to the truth of the word of God.

The natural effects of the fall were soon felt most severely in the family of Adam. Cain, his eldest son, murdered his own brother Abel; murdered him because the holy faith of Abel* procured from Heaven the acceptance of his sacrifice, while the guilt of Cain caused his offering to be rejected by the Lord. The difference in their characters is pointedly marked by St. Jobn, “ Cain was of that wicked one (the Devil), and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.”+ The avenging justice of God immediately drove Cain from the land ; and condemned him to be a wretched vagabond on the face of the earth. Adam had to deplore, in the loss of two sons in one day, his original breach of the Divine command.

By our acquaintance with the laws and the transactions of the Jews, and also with the history of different Pagan nations, we are made so familiar with the practice of sacrifices, that it does not strike our minds as singular. Yet if we regard it as a human invention, scarcely any thing can appear less capable of an easy explanation. How could any man think that to take away the life of an unoffending animal, and to consume its flesh in the fire, would be a deed calculated to procure for him the favour of God ? If it be difficult to answer this question in the case of an heathen, much more difficult is it in the case of Abel. For, as the use of flesh for food was not permitted before the deluge, to slaughter a harmless animal was an act to which Abel would be unaccustomed ; and one which, unless it were commanded by the Almighty, he would probably estimate as a crime. These considerations lead us to believe that sacrifices were of divine institution ; and that they were enjoined on the family of Adam and on his individual descendents, as we know that, by the appointment of God, they were afterwards made a part of the religious worship of the Jewish people, principally with a view to raise their thoughts and expectations habitually to that effectual atonement, which was to be accomplished in the fulness of time by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The use of sacrifices, thus introduced, would gradually extend itself among heathen nations.

* Heb. xi. 4.

+ 1 John, iii. 12.

When the third generation of men had arisen upon earth, we may conclude that iniquity had spread far. and wide; for then the family of Seth, joined in all probability by others of a similar disposition, appear to have been distinguished from the rest of men, on account of their adherence to true religion, by being called “ by the name of the Lord * ;” being styled, according to the Hebrew idiom, the “sons,” that is to say, the followers and servants, “ of God.” + In process of time, however, the general corruption overwhelmed them also. The sons of God took to themselves wives of “ the daughters of men,” of the irreligious division of mankind which had forsaken the worship of the true God; daughters, we may presume, of the unrighteous offspring of Cain. In consequence of these intermarriages the contagion of iniquity became universal. Husband and wife, parent and child, relation, friend, acquaintance, became the victims of " evil communication,” which, from those days to the days of St. Paul, and from the days of St. Paul to the present hour, has corrupted “ and corrupts good manners, good habits, good principles," and seldom more fatally than in the case of persons who unite themselves by marriage with others whose hearts are devoid of true religion. The consequences of these most rash and dangerous connections are emphatically stated in few words by the sacred historian : “ God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth ; and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. — And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from off the face of the earth.” + Yet here again the Divine justice was tempered with mercy. The execution of the sentence was delayed. God declared that the days of man upon earth, the period of trial during which the universal destruction should be postponed, that opportunity might be afforded for repentance, should be one hundred and twenty years. But trial was granted in vain. The fatal period drew to its close. “ God looked

* Gen. iv. 26. “ Then began men to call themselves by the name of the Lord ;" as the verse is rightly translated in the margin of the Bible.

+ Gen. vi. 2.

upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt: for all Aesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah : The end of all flesh is come before me.” Though the Divine wisdom reserves for a future life 1 Cor. xv. 23.

+ Gen. vi. 5—7. # Gen. vi. 12, 13.

the great discriminating distribution of rewards and punishments between the righteous and the wicked, yet it frequently distinguishes even in this world the faithful servant of the Almighty by signal mercies and blessings, while it crushes the workers of iniquity with exemplary vengeance. Thus it was on the approach of the deluge: “ Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” The cause is assigned in the next verse : “ Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” * So likewise when God afterwards said unto Noah, “ Come thou, and all thy house into the ark;" he immediately subjoins the reason of this gracious deliverance: “ for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." + St. Peter speaking of the old world, characterises Noah by the appellation of " a preacher of righteousness." I From that expression we may conclude that he was not only an example of religion in his own private conduct; but that he publicly protested against the abandoned depravity of the human race; strenuously laboured to rouse the sinners to a conviction of their guilt ; and denounced against the unrepenting world the impending judgments of God. For such exertions we may conclude that he was specially commissioned by a Divine command throughout the period during which he was engaged in the construction of the immense fabric of the ark: a work which, while it would unquestionably be the theme of derision among the wicked, and probably to numbers of the assistants whose labour he would employ in the completion of it, would be a decisive testimony in its whole progress of the certainty and the unshaken firmness of the Patriarch's faith. Confiding in the merciful protection of * Gen. vi. 8, 9.

+ Gen. vii. 1. # 2 Pet. ii. 5.

that Power whom he loved and obeyed, he entered the ark with his family, and with those individuals of the animal race which God had brought to him that they might be preserved to replenish the earth : and “ the Lord shut him in.” Then “ were all the fountains of the great deep broken up;" the ocean was heaved out of its bed by convulsions and earthquakes; and “ the windows of heaven were opened :" floods of rain rushed from the sky: “ the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered.” The ark, containing the sole remnants of the human race and of the animated world, floated on the boundless deluge.

This awful testimony of the Divine indignation against sin took place, as the Scriptures expressly affirm, when Noah was six hundred years old ; and, according to the common computation, one thousand six hundred and fifty-seven years after the creation of the world, and two thousand three hundred and fortyseven years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

At the expiration of one hundred and fifty days the waters were so far abated, that the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, in Armenia. At the end of ten weeks more the summits of the mountains appeared above the surface of the flood. At length, on the first day of the succeeding new year, Noah, after having successively sent forth a raven and a dove, that he might judge, accordingly as they should return to him or not, of the state of the ground, removed the covering of the ark; and perceived that the surface of the earth was dried. And on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, after having resided in the ark one year and some days, he and all its inhabitants, by Divine command, descended from the frail fabric, in

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