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And besides; if we so far countenance the necessity and inherent efficacy of this ordinance to salvation, as to administer it to any on a dying bed; how shall we prevent the mischief of this superstition gaining ground in the minds of thousands, and, at length, tempting many to depend on the ordinance itself, instead of cleansing by the blood of Him who instituted it? The moment we open a door to that which is in itself wrong; although the mischief of the first act, and of a few successive similar acts, may be but small; yet we know not where will be the end, or how to calculate the ultimate mischief. Therefore, though I could easily state a case, in which I might suffer myself to be prevailed on to take a few friends to the house of a dying believer, and administer the communion, to a sort of “church in his house,” assembled for that special occasion; yet I never have, in fact, met with a case which I thought warranted me in departing from my general and fixed rule on this subject. I do not blame those who have thought and acted otherwise; but have no doubt that this is the most scriptural and safe course. “The beginning of evil, is like the letting out of water.” The Lord's Supper continued to be administered in both #inds, i. e. the wine as well as the bread, until after the rise of transubstantiation. When men became blind and perverse enough to adopt the gross error, that these symbols were, by the prayers of the officiating priest, changed into the real body and blood of the Saviour—many allied errors naturally followed in its train. If the consecrated bread were really and literally the body of Christ, it was not bad reasoning to conclude, that, as every body contains that portion of blood which is appropriated to it; so the bread alone must include the body and blood; that is, the sacrament is complete in the bread only. Accordingly they did reason and conclude thus. Many corrupt ecclesiastics began to withhold the cup from ordinary communicants, nearly two hundred years before the Council of Constance, which met in the early part of the 15th century. They endeavoured gradually to reconcile the public mind to this mutilation of the ordinance. But it was not until the meeting of that Council, that so daring and impious an innovation received the sanction of the whole Church, accompanied with an anathema against all who opposed it. It is as instructive as it is curious, to notice the reasons assigned by the members of the Council of Constance for withholding the cup in this ordinance from the laity. One is, that in carrying the consecrated cup, to the sick and dying, in places remote from the priest's residence, through forests, and over hills, there would be great danger of spilling the blood of Christ. Another is, that if the wine were kept by the individuals who received it, for weeks or months together, as the bread was, it would turn sour. A third was, that those who wore long beards would find it difficult, if not impossible, to drink out of any cup, without some of the contents lodging on the beard, and being lost. A fourth was, that some could not drink wine, and that such, if the cup were necessary to the sacrament, would, of course, hazard their salvation. A fifth was, that when great numbers communed together, it would be necessary to have very large vessels for the wine, in which case, it would be difficult to lift them, especially by old and paralytic men. A sixth was, that in a time of epidemic sickness, it would be peculiarly dangerous for large numbers of people to drink out of the same cup. But the most important of all was, that if the common people should communicate in both kinds, they would think that the body and blood of Christ is not entire in the species of bread; which would give occasion to great heresy. Thus, when men cease to be guided by the scriptures, they are “in endless mazes lost.”—Let us be thankful that the great Head of the Church has cast our lot in an age, and a land in which the pure light of the gospel steadily shines; and in which we have been preserved from some of those gross errors, which operate, with peculiar force, to enthral and darken the human mind. Let us carefully study to make the scriptures “the man of our counsels,” on this, as well as all other subjects pertaining to gospel faith and practice. Whenever we depart from what is known and acknowledged to have been the apostolical model, it is impossible to foresee the mischief which may eventually result from the deviation. Those who first countenance it may be pious men; nay, the evil may gather strength, and proceed to a considerable extent, before it becomes wholly incompatible with piety: but as errors, as well as truths are connected, it may finally lead to evils of which no one can estimate the injury, or see the end. It is not a sufficient justification of any such departure from the primitive model, to say that no harm is intended; that the motive is pure; that there is no design to countenance the abuses and corruptions into which others have fallen. When this plea is made sincerely, it may show that the guilt of those who make it, is not so great as that of some others; but it by no means exculpates them. To depart, knowingly, from the infallible rule of faith and practice, with the hope of benefiting either ourselves or others, by so doing, is to fall into that miserable, and solemnly proscribed error, of doing evil that good may come. When the pious fathers of the church, under the notion of conciliating the enemies of the truth, and drawing them into the family of Christ, adopted what they thought the innocent customs, both of Jews and Pagans, they little thought what mischief they were doing. They, in some measure, gained their primary object; but it was at the expense of loading the Church with errors, and with uncommanded rites and ceremonies, under which she has groaned from that time to the present. A Friend to Gospel Simplicity.
LECTURES ON BIBLICAL his TORY.
“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth. And the Lord came down to see the city, and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”—GEN. xi. 1–9.
The precise time when the events related, in this portion of sacred history took place, cannot be ascertained; but it is highly probable, that they occurred within two hundred years after the deluge, and during the lifetime of Noah. Peleg, the son of Heber, and great grandson of Shem, was born about one hundred years after the flood; and we are told, that in his days the earth was divided; and, to commemorate that event, he received the name Peleg, which signifies division. But this name may have been given to him, prophetically, as was the name of Noah, and several others, before the event occurred, which it was designed to commemorate. And, as he lived two hundred and thirty-nine years, we may fix the date of the dispersion, which is said to have taken place “in his days,” any where within the limits of his lifetime. It is generally fixed about one hundred and fifty years after the flood. At this period mankind must, on the most moderate computation, have increased, to several thousands; so that there was no want of hands to undertake the building of a city and tower, as has been suggested by certain writers, who affect to know more than Moses, about the early history of the world.
Several things, in the passage before us, are worthy of special notice. In our remarks, we shall pursue the order of the inspired historian.
Vol. II.-Presb. Mag. U
In the first place, we are informed that, at this time, “the whole earth,” i.e. all mankind, used one common language, and were of one speech. Every fact, related in the Bible, is consistent with the whole, and, when considered seriously, tends to confirm our faith in the entire volume, as an inestimable treasure of revealed truth. Admitting that mankind, except a single family, were swept from the earth by a universal deluge, as Moses teaches us, in the preceding pages of his history, it is perfectly natural, at the distance of a hundred and fifty years from that catastrophe, to find this favoured family, and their descendants, using one common form of speech. Whereas, on the opposite supposition, that men had lived many generations in different states of society, and in distant parts of the world, it would be difficult to believe that there was but one language in use among all nations; for it is undeniable that the lapse of time, different forms of civil government, the influence of climate on the organs of speech, and other causes, will produce great changes, both in the matter and form of language. But whatever diversities of this kind may have obtained in the antediluvian world, it is reasonable to suppose that Noah and his offspring, living, as they did, in much the same habits, and in the same quarter of the globe, would, at least for three or four generations, be all of the same language, and use, essentially, the same forms of speech. But what particular language was it, that was now in universal use : On this question there is a diversity of opinion; and, like many other unimportant inquiries, it is difficult to solve, with any degree of certainty. Our limits will not allow us to notice the pretensions that have been advanced for several of the oriental tongues. The claims of the Hebrew appear to deserve the preference. This was the language in which Moses wrote;—and, from the significant import of most of the proper names, in the Pentateuch, or first five books, in the Old Testament, it seems probable that this was the tongue spoken by Adam, and in which he gave names to the inferior animals, when they were brought to him, for that purpose, at the creation. And, as men lived to a great age before the flood, language would not, then, be liable to such rapid changes as take lace in modern times. There were but little more than a hundred years between the death of Adam and the birth of Noah; which makes it highly probable, that if the Hebrew was the language of the old world, it was also the only one in use, by Noah and his family, till the confusion effected, by divine interposition, on the plains of Shinar. From the mountains of Armenia, where the ark rested, at the termination of the deluge, the people seem to have moved towards the south-east; and, as the land of Shinar lay southward from Mount Ararat, somewhere within the limits of the country afterwards called Chaldea, they must, in approaching it, have “journeyed from the east,” as Moses states. On those once beautiful and fertile plains, watered by the river Euphrates, they resolved to found a city, adorned with a magnificent tower, which should be the seat of empire, the centre of their extending settlements, and the emporium of wealth. The materials used for constructing these mighty works, were brick, instead of stone, and a sort of slime, called bitumen, which abounded in the place, and which served as cement. Their design, in building a city, is sufficiently obvious. Heretofore, they had been kept together by the ties of fraternity, as also by motives of self-defence from the encroachments of wild beasts, and by the use of one common language. But, on finding their numbers increase rapidly, it was natural for them to think of erecting a METRoPolis, or point of UNIon, whence they might extend their settlements, and to which they might return, as occasion required, for the purposes of trade, and the adjustment of any disputes which might arise, in relation to their property.— But their object in constructing a tower, whose top should reach to heaven, or as the expression imports, to an extraordinary height, is not so easily determined. Some writers suppose it was intended to be a refuge, in case of a second deluge, or extensive inundation. Three considerations render this conjecture improbable: First; had this been their design, they would have chosen, as the site of their tower, not a valley, or plain, but a mountain. Mount Ararat, or some other neighbouring eminence, would have placed them more out of the way of destructive floods, than the low banks of the Euphrates. Secondly; they had received express assurance, by covenant, from God himself, that the earth should not, again, be destroyed by water;—and that too, within so short a period, that it could not have been forgotten; especially as the memorial of it was repeatedly brought to their view by the bow in the cloud. And, thirdly; the expedient was inadequate. A pile of brick and slime could not long stand the violence of the waters of a flood; and, even if it did, it would afford a retreat for but a small proportion of their number. Nor is it likely, that this tower was intended, either for idolatrous purposes, or for making astronomical observations; though, we believe, it was converted to these uses, in after ages; when, with some modification, it became the temple of Belus, and served as a philosophical observatory. In the consultation which they held, on the subject, two motives are suggested, for undertaking this stupendous work;The first is, the proud ambition of rendering themselves famous —of leaving behind them a memorial of their wealth and power.