« ForrigeFortsæt »
were fallen, in order to justify the conduct of God in bringing upon them the flood. For God to destroy the work of his hand, to destroy that part of it which was made after his own image, was a most extraordinary measure in the conduct of providence, which nothing can account for but that extreme corruption which it is affirmed then overspread the world. In what that corruption particularly consisted; whether it involved the apostatizing from God to idols, or only manifested itself in gross acts of immorality; how long it had been accumulating ere it reached its height; and whether it was gradually or by sudden steps introduced; are circumstances of which we are not informed. All that we are expressly told is, that the earth was filled with injustice, rapine, and violence. From what we know of human nature and human affairs, we have reason to conclude that it was gradually superinduced, since great changes in the moral state of the world, whether in the way of improvement or deterioration, require a considerable space of time for their accomplishment. It is, on this account, next to impossible not to suppose, that the extreme degradation of manners under consideration was produced by slow degrees, and was affected by various causes. Some of these causes are, if I mistake not, suggested with tolerable clearness in the chapter out of which my text is taken.
We might with great truth assert, that the general cause of the extreme corruption then prevalent,
was the defection of our first parents, and that consequent loss of true rectitude and holiness which they first sustained in their own persons, and then communicated to their posterity. This tendency to sin in human nature is, indeed, the prolific source of all particular vices, which flow from thence as their fountain. But, as a river, when it overflows its banks, must be swelled by accelerated floods or tributary streams, besides what it derives from its parent spring, so an extraordinary prevalence of vice, at a particular time, necessarily implies the cooperation of other causes, along with the original corruption of human nature. To say there is an inherent sinful bias in human nature, is sufficient to account for the existence of a large portion of corruption at any time, but affords no reason for its prevailing at one time more than another. To account for such an event satisfactorily, some specific and particular reasons must be assigned besides this general one.
The purport of the remaining part of this discourse is to point out what may appear some of the probable reasons, and to deduce a few practical inferences from the whole.
Let me request your attention while I state some of the particular reasons which account for the remarkable and prodigious corruption which prevailed in the lives of men immediately before the flood.
I. It may be partly ascribed, with great probability, to the neglect and abandonment of the
public worship of God. From the fact of Cain and Abel both presenting their offerings to the Lord, and from the acceptance of Abel's offering, because offered with faith, we may infer, that some time after the fall a mode of worshipping God was divinely prescribed, or how could Abel exercise faith in sacrificing; since faith implies, invariably, a divine testimony, or some divine interposition? We are further informed, respecting Cain, that, when the Lord remonstrated with him on the murder of his brother, he sentenced him to be a wanderer and vagabond; and Cain, deploring the severity of his sentence, said, "Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid." It is added, "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden."*
As his going out from the presence of the Lord is immediately followed by the declaration of his dwelling in a strange land, it is natural to suppose that the former expression denotes his quitting that country which God was wont in a peculiar manner to honour with his presence; where he afforded some spiritual manifestation of his power and glory.
It seems, in or near the place where Adam and his sons dwelt, there was placed the shadow, or some bright and visible token, of the divine presence. The same is implied in the acceptance of
* Gen. iv. 14-16.
Abel's sacrifice, and the rejection of Cain's; for how could the former know that his was accepted, or the latter, that his was rejected, without some supernatural sign or token? Cain thus having, by the atrocious crime he committed, forfeited the privilege of approaching the place of divine audience; and going into a remote part where no such symbol of the divine presence was possessed, fell, in all probability, into total neglect of the public worship of God, and abandoned himself entirely to an irreligious and worldly life. Supposing this to be the case, it will readily account for much of that prodigious vice and impiety for when once the worship of God is abandoned, a great restraint upon wickedness is removed out of the way. Conceive only to what a dreadful degeneracy of morals would this nation speedily advance, if no attention were paid to the sabbath, and public worship universally abandoned. The extreme importance of this duty, as a chief preservative of all religion and virtue, may be learnt from one remarkable passage in the writings of Paul: " Forget not the assembling of yourselves together," says he, "as the manner of some is:" "for if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin."* Whence we may infer, that to forsake public worship is either precisely the same thing as absolute apostasy, or is the very next step to it.
*Heb. x. 25, 25.
II. The intermarriages betwixt the "seed of the righteous and the seed of the wicked," were, undoubtedly, another principal cause of the extreme corruption under consideration. "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all that they chose."* To understand the meaning of this passage, which at first sight appears obscure, we must look a little further back in the narrative. We are there informed, that to Seth, the third son of Adam, was born a son, named Enos; it is added, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." The meaning of the inspired writer is, that in the days of Enos, the son of Seth, the first separation was made betwixt the true worshippers of God and the profane descendants of Cain and his associates. Adam, we learn, had sons and daughters born to him after the birth of Seth, but their names are not mentioned, partly because the true religion was preserved in the line of Seth, and partly because from him was continued the succession of patriarchs till Noah. The family of Seth, on account of its adherence to the true religion, were styled "the sons of God;" the descendants of Cain, and the other branches of the family, who united with him in his impiety, "the sons of men," denoting, that they were a carnal, irreligious race. * Gen. vi. 1, 2. † Gen. iv. 26.