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LECTURES ON BIBLICAL HISTORY.
“And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.”—GEN. ix. 24–29.
In pursuing the thread of sacred history, in these lectures, we cannot expatiate largely on every fact that occurs in the inspired narrative. It is our aim to select the most important events, and deduce from them such practical lessons as they seem designed to convey... But every thing connected with the history of Noah, is interesting and instructive. He was six hundred years an inhabitant of the old world—was preserved, with his family, during the space of three hundred and sixtyfive days, on the surface of a boundless ocean, to repeople the new one—and, though far from being a spotless character, he was a man whom God delighted to honour. He had been a witness for the truth, a preacher of righteousness, and an eminent example of faith, to the antediluvians. After the deluge, his religious services were graciously accepted; and with him, as a second progenitor of the human family, the Lord condescended to form that remarkable covenant, sealed by the “bow in the cloud,” which constitutes the world's charter, while the earth remaineth, for seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, day and night, and for its preservation from destruction by the waters of another flood. It will not be amiss for us, therefore, before we take leave of his history, to notice, briefly, two or three things which took place towards the close of his life, and in which he had the principal agency.
We are taught by Moses, that soon after the covenant transaction which formed the subject of our last lecture, Noah began to cultivate the ground; that he planted a vineyard; that, on a certain occasion, he became intoxicated, and that by his indecent appearance while in this state, he drew on himself the mockery and derision of Ham, one of his own sons. In this af. fair, we may read the frailty of human nature. The best of men are liable to be overtaken in a fault; and all have need to pray continually, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.”— Some interpreters of scripture, eager to defend the character of the father of the new world, allege that he must have been ignorant of the inebriating quality of wine; and, had this conjecture but a moderate degree of probability in its favour, we should certainly be disposed to acquiesce in it, as a decisive exculpation of the man of God, from the foul charge of drunkenness. But it seems unlikely that the use and effects of wine were unknown in the world for upwards of sixteen hundred years; especially in a part of the earth so favourable, in point of soil and climate, to the production of the grape. It is observable, also, that the planting of a vineyard was one of the first branches of agriculture to which Noah directed his attention; which shows pretty plainly, that he was not unacquainted with the useful product of the vine, and can hardly be supposed to have been ignorant that the juice of the grape, when taken immoderately, would produce intoxication. These obvious considerations compel us to admit his criminality in this matter. It were equally uncandid and uncharitable to suppose that he was henceforth a habitual drunkard. From his general character and conduct, we are bound to hope that this was the only instance in which he was overcome by that disgraceful and ruinous sin. And those persons who indulge freely in that abominable vice, and appeal to the conduct of righteous Noah, as affording an apology for their base and wicked practice, do but trifle in serious concerns, and sport with their own deceivings. “No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God:” the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it! In the treatment which Noah received from his sons, on this unhappy occasion, children and youth may take a useful hint, in regard to the duty which they owe to parents. The conduct of Ham was infamous; and showed a mind equally wanting in delicacy and filial reverence. A tender regard for the honour and happiness of an earthly parent is a sentiment, which in the scale of moral duty, stands next in order to that of religious reverence for the Great Father of Spirits. A child may see, and lament in secret, the errors of a parent; but to take occasion from his faults to revile him, or to expose him to public scorn, is a crime against nature;— a heinous offence in the eyes of the God of nature, and an unequivocal indication of a bad heart. Shem and Japheth appear in this instance to have been dutiful sons; though there is no reason to conclude that they either approved or connived at a father's sin, they endeavoured, with commendable delicacy, to protect his honour and screen him from popular contempt. Go children and do likewise. You are under obligations to your fathers and mothers, which you can never fully discharge: while you obey their commands, shield them from reproach, and minister to their comfort, without violating any of the divine precepts, you perform a sacred duty, and may hope that God, for Christ's sake, will bless you in your deed. But it may be thought, and has indeed been more than in
sinuated, that Noah on his recovery from the ill effects of his wine, evinced a spirit of revenge and bitterness unworthy of a pious father, in the sentence which he pronounced on his sons and their respective descendants. Let us look dispassionately at this transaction. We are not bound to defend every act of every good man, whose name we find in the Bible; but we are bound to do justly and judge righteously. The Sacred Scriptures, unlike the fictions of ancient poesy, or the senseless dreams of modern romance, present us with no sinless characters, save that of Jesus Christ. We have here a faithful record of human nature, always frail and prone to evil, except when prevented and redeemed by the grace of God.—But, we verily think, Noah was not blameworthy in this matter. It is well known that one of the early modes of predicting the character and destiny of families or nations, was that of a father's valedictory and solemn address to his children; of which, we shall have occasion to notice some instances in the sequel of these lectures. Of this nature, as we think, is the sentence now in question. We are not obliged to believe that Noah, immediately on awaking from a fit of intoxication, proceeded to pronounce on the character and future fortunes of his sons. The sacred history is very concise, and therefore, considerable time may have elapsed between events which seem to follow one another closely in the narrative. The patriarch was now an aged man; his sons were about to leave him, that, in conformity to the divine purpose, they might improve and replenish the earth. He calls them about him, and moved by the Holy Ghost, utters in their hearing a prophecy of a most extended and comprehensive kind, to the fulfilment of which, age after age and century upon century have borne uniform and decisive testimony. “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” The name of Ham is not mentioned in the curse at all. How will you account for the omission, on supposition that the patriarch was influenced by a principle of revenge? Would he pass by the offender, and vent his passion on a grandson, who, so far as we know, took no part in the base conduct of his father? To us, this really appears incredible. It is then a prediction uttered in the name of God; and the event proves that it respects the posterity of Ham, in general, and the family of Canaan, in particular. The Canaanites were subdued or extirpated by the Israelites, the descendants of Shem. And the Phenicians, the Sidonians, and Carthagenians, the posterity of Ham, were oppressed and subjugated by the Greeks and Romans, the children of Japheth. The unhappy sons of Africa are the offspring of Ham; and that they have been for ages subject to the will,—the misrule, the avarice and tyranny of Japheth, the inhabitants of Europe and America, cannot be doubted. The blessing of Shem has been realized, in the fact, that his posterity comprised the church of God for many ages, and of him, “as concerning the flesh, Christ came,”—the glory of Israel, and the light of the Gentiles. God has enlarged Japheth.--To his family, have been assigned an extensive portion, and some of the choicest spots of the habitable globe. Besides several districts in Asia, his children occupy the whole of Europe and both Americas. And by the gracious triumphs of Christianity, first propagated by Jesus and his apostles, of Jewish descent, Japheth has been made to dwell in the tents, and to worship the God of Shem. “There never has been a son of Ham,” says the venerable Mede, “who has shaken a sceptre over the head of Japheth. Shem has subdued Japheth, and Japheth has subdued Shem; but Ham never subdued either.” There may have been some small exceptions; but, in general, Ham has been pretty uniformly the servant of his brethren of the other branches of his father's family. Of the four greatest empires that ever existed, viz. the Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman, it is remarkable, that the first and second belonged to Shem, and the third and fourth to Japheth. And at the present time, while America, Europe, and a part of Asia are free, powerful and independent, Africa is the common mart of the world for slavery and trafficking in human flesh. Noah does not then deal out his curses and benedictions to his sons from passion or spleen. As the Lord's prophet he foretels a state of things in relation to them, which, for wise reasons to be unfolded in due time, shall continue for a season; but it shall not continue always; mercy's remedy is destined to have a wide extension; the grace of our Lord Jesus shall reign through righteousness, where sin has abounded. When the heathen are given to Messiah, for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth, for his possession, Canaan shall cease to be a servant of servants. . Man shall no longer doom his fellow-man to bondage, because he finds him defenceless and guilty of a coloured skin. All shall know the Lord, be free in Christ,-and love as brethren. O come the blessed period! when the millenial light of the Sun of Righteousness shall spread its cheering rays over the whole face .# this great world, so long the abode of sin, and the scene of human wretchedness and crimes! Come, speedily, the bright and the promised day, when all people and kindreds of the earth shall dwell, with sweet accord, in the tents of Shem;-when all flesh shall see the salvation of our God, and triumph in redeeming grace, under the universal reign of Christ, the Lord and King of Zion! But this is a digression from our subject. We are pressing upon the closing scene of the patriarch's life: “And Noah lived, after the flood, three hundred and fifty years: and all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.”
He had lived long, and shared largely in the care and distinguishing bounties of Heaven. He had an antediluvian constitution, and therefore attained to a greater age than any other inhabitant of the new world; which he lived to see extensively peopled, and overrun, a second time, with idolatry and every evil work; for he must have continued till near, if not some years after the time of Abram's birth, in the year of the world two thousand and six. He had experienced enough of the sorrows of this life to make him willing, through grace, to exchange it for another of brighter, holier, and more cheering prospects; and though we have no account of his dying exercises, we may conclude, from his general character, from the tokens of divine favour shown him at sundry times, as also from the divine testimony respecting him, that his latter end was peace. Readers, you and I must die also. Nor can we count upon centuries, or even half-centuries; our days are as an handbreadth, in comparison with Noah's nine hundred and fifty years. The time of our sojourning is calculated by scores, and generally limited to three and a half of these scanty periods. Three little words, “and he died,” will quickly close the history;of the longest liver among us. Good God! on what a brief and precarious term depend the infinite interests of these our deathless souls' “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Readers, this melancholy subject is often pressed upon your serious consideration in the ministry of reconciliation, and in the providence of God, not to diminish or disturb, but to secure your happiness and peace. The magnitude of the subject is a sufficient reason for its frequent recurrence. Happy for you, if after all that you have seen and heard of death, you shall be prepared to die in hope and comfort! Ministers of the word who visit the sick, and often stand about the bed of the dying, have, of all men, the best opportunity of appreciating the importance of being furnished for passing that “bourn whence no traveller returns.” We see persons die in a great variety of circumstances: some stupidly;—some in fear;-some in despair, refusing to be comforted;—others in peace, triumphing in Christ, as the resurrection and the life. The dying often preach to us, and make us feel the duty of preaching to the living. Ah! how many we have heard, with their latest breath, lament their neglect of the great salvation, during their day of grace: but we have never heard any one say, that he had thought too much on the subject, or been too diligent to secure the heavenly prize. It is natural and becoming, therefore, for the pastor who regards rightly the worth of a soul, to feel solicitous that the people of his charge may be ready to give up their account to God, with joy and not with grief. Now, readers, your nature is de
Vol. II.-Presb. Mag. O