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The words rendered, "then began men to call upon the name of the Lord," may with equal propriety be rendered, "then began men to be called by the name of the Lord." Those, then, were the persons whom the sacred writer denominates "the sons of God;" a race of men descended from Seth, who kept themselves apart, and refused affinity or connexion with the apostates from the religious worship of God. Among them was found the true church; the holy seed, whence the New World was to spring up after the flood; the sacred stock, out of which Christ himself was to arise.
While they kept themselves apart, and declined to unite with the apostate stock, religion continued in its purity, the overflowings of vice were restrained, and they were as "the salt of the earth." In process of time they yielded to the suggestions of carnal appetite, broke through the restraints of piety and prudence, and joined in affinity with the descendants of Cain and the other branches of the family, who followed his apostasy. Tracing the almost necessary effects of such a proceeding, the children of Israel at a subsequent period were strictly forbidden to contract marriages with the Canaanitish and surrounding nations. "Take heed to thyself lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:and thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their
gods."* In the same spirit, and for the same reason, the apostle enjoins upon christians the avoiding of such unequal marriages: "Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath Christ with Belial? or what communion hath light with darkness? or what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel ?"†
III. The pride arising from the possession of great bodily strength, and great mental acquisitions and endowments, may be assigned as another cause of the remarkable corruption of men's manners in the times immediately preceding the flood. "There were giants in those days," says the sacred text; "and, moreover, when the sons of God, allying themselves to the daughters of men, had children born unto them, the same became mighty men, even men of renown." The consciousness of superior or supernatural strength, in persons who are not tinctured with the fear of God, naturally disposes to a degree of violence and oppression; and that those giants, of whom Moses spoke, abused their prodigious strength to those purposes, is evidently [implied] in the sacred story. The strong oppressed the weak, and made the superiority of bodily force an instrument for establishing unjust domination and tyranny, until the whole earth became a scene of rapine, cruelty, and injustice.
But, besides these, it is evident, from the narrative, that the descendants of Cain distinguished * Exod. xxxiv. 12, 16. 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. + Gen. vi. 4.
themselves very early by the discovery and cultivation of arts and sciences; both these took their first rise among that godless race. Tubal Cain instructed in every artifice of iron and brass, and, probably, was the first inventor of warlike instruments. Jubal was the inventor of musical instruments, or, to speak in the language of scripture, "the father of all them that handled the harp and the organ." Naamah, from the manner in which she is introduced, was, probably, the inventress of some of the more exquisite kinds of needle-work. The first thing we are informed of respecting Cain, after the murder of his brother, is, his building a city, which he called Enoch, after the name of his son. From the whole narrative it may be confidently inferred that the descendants of Cain were endowed with a superior genius, and were the first who made themselves celebrated by the discovery and improvements of arts and sciences. Superior genius, united with extraordinary attainments, are, in themselves, valuable gifts; but when they are dissevered from the fear of God, nothing tends more powerfully to intoxicate and corrupt the heart. These envenom it with pride, these supply the sophistry which supports impiety, and extend the means and enlarge the capacity of doing mischief. They have a peculiar tendency to produce that confidence in human reason, that reliance on arms of flesh, which indisposes man to seek after God. "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance,
will not seek after God."
From the history
of modern times, we have abundant evidence, that great improvements in arts and sciences have not only no harmonizing or beneficial influence on irreligious minds, but that they have often just the contrary. Whenever God is not made the final end of all knowledge and of all talent, they lead the possessor further and further from him, and are the mere instruments and embellishments of vice, and serve merely to paint and adorn the sepulchre where virtue lies entombed. The descendants of Cain, like too many in the present day, were, indeed, men of renown; but, seeking this as the supreme good, and despising the honour that comes from above, they could possess no solid worth, and whatever there was that might bear the appearance of it amongst them, was hollow and insincere.
IV. I add, in the last place, their extraordinary longevity as another reason of the prodigious depravity which prevailed at that time. The lives of many of them, we learn, extended to nearly a thousand years. This remarkable circumstance, cooperating with the causes I have already mentioned, contributed greatly to the excessive corruption asserted in the text. It must have acted powerfully in several ways.
1. He who can indulge a reasonable expectation of living for a very long period in the world, considers himself as possessing a large estate.
* Psalm x. 4.
The value of any earthly possession rises, partly in proportion to the satisfaction it is capable of affording, and partly from its duration. Man, being naturally a prospective being, a being who looks forward to futurity, is, necessarily, more attached to every species of good, in proportion to its real or imagined permanence. How powerfully, then, must sensible and visible objects have attracted the heart of those who had a reasonable prospect of enjoying them for a thousand years! The possessions which attach us to the present world must have operated, in such circumstances, with a prodigious force.
2. Corrupt habits must, through such a long track of years, have had opportunity to fix themselves more thoroughly, to strike their roots more deeply, than during the contracted space of present existence.
3. The longevity of the antediluvians removed eternity to a greater apparent distance, and, therefore, naturally weakened its effects. If men put off the thoughts of death and eternity when they have such a short space to live as they have at present, how difficult would it be to impress [them] with a serious or alarming apprehension of it at the distance of a thousand years!