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sacrifice of praise for the divine deliverance. His faith in preparing the ark was accompanied with fear: His faith in leaving the ark was attended with thanksgiving. The essence of thanksgiving consists in that faith, by which we realize our dependence on God, recognize his mercies, feel our obligations to him, and are excited to obey his will and imitate his goodness. "He that offereth praise glorifieth God, and to him, who ordereth his conversation aright, God will shew his salvation." The external form of thanksgiving is no farther valuable, than it is a mean to promote, and a token to express our inward faith and gratitude. It was not in the smoke of the burning sacrifice, but in the piety and gratitude of Noah's heart rising with the sacrifice, that God smelled a sweet savour.
God's acceptance of Noah's thank offering was expressed in the promises immediately subjoined, "that the ground should not any more be cursed for man's sake, and that the regular succession of the seasons should not in future be interrupted."
Though it was only a single family, which united in this thanksgiving, yet it was as general as it could be made; for this single family contained all who were left of the human race. The blessings here promised were intended not merely for the family then existing, but for all the families of the earth in succeeding ages. Our public and social devotions may often be rewarded with extensive and lasting favors to mankind. It is agreeable to the constitution of God's government to bestow benefits on many in the present state, for the faith, piety and virtue of a few. Thus he encourages our devotion to him, and our benevolence to our own species.
One promise, which God here makes, is the future exemption of the earth from the ancient curse. "I will not again curse the ground any more for
man's sake, though the imagination of his heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite every living thing, as I have done."
Here is a security against a future deluge. "God hath sworn, that the waters of Noah shall not again. go over the earth." National. corruptions will be punished with national judgments; but a general extinction of the human race and the brutal tribes will no more be executed, until that time shall come, when the frame of nature is to be dissolved.
The promise also imports, that the curse denounced on the ground, at the time of the apostacy, should in future be removed, or at least greatly mitigated.
One part of the sentence on Adam was in these words:"Cursed be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy lifethorns and thistles shall it bring forth, and thou shalt eat of the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the ground." To comfort Adam under this melancho ly curse, assurance was given him, that, in some future time, "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpents head;" or should relieve mankind from the curse brought on them by the influence of the serpent. This promise ultimately respected the great salvation to be procured by the death of Jesus Christ. But to keep alive men's hopes concerning an event then remote, God was pleased to grant some partial fulfilments and anticipations of his promise in the earlier ages of the world.
The removal of the curse from the ground seems to have been the expectation of mankind in the time of Lamech. He, when his son Noah was born, foretold, "This same shall comfort us concerning the labor and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed." Of this prediction the promise in the text seems to be a verifi
cation. God now declares, "I will no more curse the ground for man's sake." From this promise we have reason to believe, that, after the flood, the earth was more fertile, the seasons more favorable, and human industry more successful, and subject to fewer disappointments, than they had been before. Accordingly we find, that the blessing granted to Adam before the fall, was, after the flood, renewed to Noah completely and in every circumstance, with the additional grant of liberty to eat flesh. "God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth; and the fear of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon all that moveth on the earth. Into your hands are they delivered. Every living thing shall be meat for you. Even as the green herb have I given you all things."
Whatever might be the state of the antediluvian world, we now find the earth sufficiently fertile, under the hands of industry, to supply the wants of man. Labor is indeed necessary to the support of life; and necessary it would have been, even if Adam had never revolted. He was put into the garden not to riot in sloth and indolence on the luxury of spontaneous fruits; but to dress the garden and to keep it. Whether greater industry may not be necessary now, than in the time of innocence, it is not material to inquire. Certainly no more is necessary, than what conduces to human virtue, health and comfort. If the earth was more productive, men might live with less labor; but they would not enjoy more happiness. The earth will not spontaneously gratify all our foolish and fantastic desires; but, under proper cultivation, it bountifully supplies our real and natural wants. This is as much as would ultimately prove a blessing.
It is farther added, "While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease."
These words are by some understood to signify, that there should never be another year, like the past, in which there was neither sowing nor reaping, nor a regular distinction of seasons, and in which the heavens, covered with thick clouds, confounded day and night.
But, I think, here is an intimation also, that the seasons, in future should be more favorable to the husbandry, than they had formerly been. The curse on the earth, in the antediluvian age, seems to have been the effect of unkind and irregular seasons. Excessive rains and severe droughts, untimely frosts and intense heats, often frustrated the labor of man, and sometimes introduced famine and distress. This seems to be implied in the promise, that sced time and harvest, cold and heat, in time to come, should not cease. The foregoing part of the promise, "that the ground should no more be cursed for man's sake," certainly alludes to the curse pronounced on the earth at the fall: By analogy then we must suppose, that the promise of future regularity in the seasons alludes to a different state of things in preceding ages.
This promise we see, from year to year, made good. Nature proceeds in a steady course, and brings us seed time and harvest in their appointed weeks. If the seasons were deranged, and their succession often interrupted, human prudence would be nonplussed, and industry disconcerted; for who could judge what line of business to mark out, or in what manner to pursue the line which he had marked? Who could tell, when his seed must be sown, or when a harvest might be expected-how long he should enjoy the smiles of summer, and what provi
sion he ought to make for the demands of winter? In such a state of uncertainty, the wisdom and the labor of man must be suspended. But as the system of God's government is uniform, or subject only to small and occasional variations, we can order our business with discretion, and prosecute it with
Though seed time and harvest fail not, yet they are not always equally favorable. There is then such a variety, as teaches us the supremacy of the divine government, and our continual dependence. If the course of nature was invariable, unthankful man would forget, that there is a God. Changes are designed to awaken us from our indolence and ingratitude, and direct our thoughts to him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.
Particular countries have, at times, felt the distresses of famine. But these have oftener been caused by the ravages of war, or the monopoly of greedy oppressors, than by the unkind disposition of the seasons. There may, in one year, be a real scarcity, compared with the plenty of common years, and still there may remain a competency for human want; or the deficiency in one place may be supplied by the abundance in another; so that distress will be prevented. Industry in the culture of the earth, charity in the distribution of its fruits, and frugality in the use of divine bounties, will ever be sufficient to secure us from the dangers of famine. There has never been known such a general failure of seed time and harvest, as can justly weaken our confidence in God's ancient promise.
The remarks which we have made on the words of our text will naturally suggest to us a useful improvement.
1. Our subject leads us to view the world as mutable and uncertain.