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“ LET US MAKE US A NAME.” This is a motive which has always had too much influence on man, ever since his apostacy from God. These Babel-builders were more concerned for the honour of their own name, than for that of their Maker. The same unworthy principle has done many foolish things, and produced great mischief, in the world. It has often wrought faction in the state, and schism in the church. It has written volumes of controversy, in politics, morals, and religion. It has erected palaces, mausoleums, and pyramids. It has fought duels, and broken the peace of many families. Bursting asunder the bonds of brotherhood, it has revolutionized nations, and turned the world into a field of blood. The other motive is couched in these words: “ Lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” They wanted a sort of pharos, or beacon, that might be seen at a vast distance, and by which they might regulate their movements, in gradually extending their settlements out from the Metropolis. It may, also, have been intended to answer some useful purpose to the shepherds, in attending their flocks, on distant mountains; and who, by the frequent migrations which they were obliged to make, for the sake of good pasturage, might, otherwise, have been at a loss to find their way to the capital. All this appears, at first view, harmless and laudable enough. But, then, it is to be remembered, that this project of keeping together, and of forming one great and absorbing empire, was in direct opposition to the design and express command of God, that they should disperse, in companies, and replenish the earth. And this design of Providence was evidently wise and good. Thorns and briers were now every where springing up; wild beasts were rapidly increasing; a vast extent of the earth was uncultivated, while one small portion of its surface was overstocked with people; which must soon have given rise to contests about its produce. A dispersion would remedy these evils :-—there was room enough; and extended culture would afford not only a more easy subsistence to the same number of people, but would conduce much to the multiplication of the race, and the peace of the whole. Furthermore, God knows what is in man. He knows that absolute power cannot be safely entrusted to mortal hands. When once acquired, it is liable to be maintained by oppression and cruelty. It seems, therefore, to have been his benevolent purpose, from the beginning of the world, that there should be several distinct kingdoms among men ;—that they should be distributed into different nations, and live under different forms of government. That, instead of a universal monarchy, there should be an opportunity afforded of maintaining a balance of power ;-and that there should never be wanting an asylum for the oppressed, or a retreat for persecuted piety. And who
does not perceive, and admire the wisdom and benignity of divine providence in all this? “ Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.” Ps. cvii. 43.
“ And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded.” This passage, like in the sacred volume, is to be understood as spoken after the manner of man, and in condescension to our inability to comprehend the mode in which a spiritual being operates. The infinite God is every where present, at all times. There is no escaping from his notice,-no fleeing from his spirit. When he is said, therefore, to come specially to any place, or people, the meaning is, that he there manifests his presence and displays his power, in an extraordinary way. From its being said here, that the city and tower were builded by the children of men, some have supposed that Noah, and the few pious of Shem's family, wh were like-minded, took no part in this wild and wicked project. And this is far from being an improbable supposition; for, even before the flood, the ungodly were called the children of men, and the pious were distinguished by the honourable title of the Sons of God. It appears, however, from the next verse, that the measure was generally approved, and helped forward by those present. “And the Lord said, Behold the people is one, and they have all one language.” That is, they are united in design, and their common form of speech, by which they can readily carry on an interchange of ideas, favours the execution of their purpose. “And now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” This expression conveys a reproof, and indicates the necessity of divine interposition. The meaning we take to be as follows: If these people be permitted to go on with this device of ambition and folly, they will take encouragement, from thence, to outrage my authority—to disregard my commands in other matters; and, in following the vain imaginations of their own hearts, they will commit all manner of iniquity, with greediness, and bring upon themselves and their children, swift destruction. “Go to,' therefore, saith the Lord ;'" Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” Here, as in the phraseology used, in regard to the creation of man, we have an intimation of a plurality of persons in the ADORABLE GODHEAD. “Let us go down,” is a phrase which seems to indicate pretty strongly, what is fully and unequivocally taught in the New Testament; viz. that God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is the only proper object of religious homage and adoration. This is indeed a great mystery; but, to our mind, it is not more mysterious or incomprehensible than is the eternity or omnipresence of the DIVINE BE
ING, which, it were blank Atheism, not to believe and acknowledge.
" 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, i. e. confusion, because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth.” Thus we see, the confounding of their language, was the means of arresting the visionary scheme which these men of Shinar were bent on carrying into effect; and, in their dispersion, the purpose of Jehovah triumphed over the evil devices and proud designs of man.
But if it was necessary that these people should be scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, why did God take this method to effect their dispersion? Jehovah does his own work in his own way; "and let all the earth be silent before him." He might have opened his water-spouts upon them, or commissioned the fires of heaven to consume them and their works of vanity; but he is slow to wrath, and delights in mercy. He meant to show that he regards what is done on earth; and, in this measure of his righteous government, he has furnished to future generations, a memento of his power and providence, as touching the affairs of men, in that diversity of languages, which con. tinues till this time, and which will, probably, continue till the end of the world. But would not the dispersion have taken place, in time, without any miraculous influence? Yes; but not, in all probability, without wrangling and bloodshed. How many languages, then, were produced ? No more than were necessary to answer the purpose contemplated. We are not to suppose an entire confusion, so that no two individuals could understand one another. It seems likely that each family, or tribe, had its common form of speech. But whether there were three, sixteen, or seventy-two, we are not informed, and it were idle for us to inquire. The Hebrew continued in the family of Shem, in the line Heber, from whose name the language, probably, took its designation; and his descendants, in the line of Abram, were called Hebrews. But were the people of Shinar driven away from their projected seat of empire, with precipitancy, and in wild disorder? Moses has not said so :-nor is it credible. God is a God of order. Though the tower ceased to rise, time was, doubtless, afforded for an orderly departure from the scene of folly and discomfiture. But we must conclude.
The facts recorded in this portion of Biblical history, are corroborated by several profane and foreign writers. The fable of the giants making an attempt upon the gods, in heathen mythology, doubtless owes its origin to an obscure tradition respecting the tower of Babel. The substance of what the ancient Pagan historians say on this subject, is, “ that a huge
tower was built, by gigantic men, at Babylon—that there was then but one language among mankind-ihat the attempt was offensive to the gods--and that, therefore, they demolished the tower, overwhelmed the workmen, divided their language, and dispersed them over the face of the whole earth.”
One practical lesson is fairly deducible from the theme of this lecture; and that is a lesson of humility and submission to God. The Creator unquestionably governs the world in righteousness. All his commands are just and good. He knows what is best for us. He has taught us our duty, in the lively oracles; and we cannot slight his authority, or despise his grace, with impunity. “Wo to him that striveth with his Maker!" Though hand join hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished. Let us not, therefore, spend our time, or waste our strength, in Babel-building. “He builds too low, who builds beneath the skies.” Lay up treasure in heaven. Secure a place in the house not made with hands. Instead of attempting, like the men of Shinar, to make yourselves a name, be zealous for the honour of God's name, and he will take care of you, as in the life that now is, so also in that which is to come. Renounce the world, the devil, and the flesh. Forsake your sins; -believe in Christ ;-obey his gospel ;-walk as he walked ; -repose your undivided confidence in him; and when the workers of iniquity shall read their folly, by the light of eterni. ty, in the ruins of their Babel-schemes of happiness, you shall be safe, and live to participate in heaven's highest, sweetest, loudest anthem of praise, to Him that sitteth on the throne, and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, who loved us, and washed us from our sins, in his own blood. Amen. W. N.
FOR THE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE.
1 Synopsis of the External State of the Church, from the com
mencement of the Sixteenth Century, to the death of the Emperor Charles the Fifth,
About the thirteenth century, the power of the Roman pontiffs arrived at its meridian. They had usurped the appellation of Christ's vicegerents upon earth; exercised the right of pardoning sins; and arrogated, in consequence of their pretended infallibility, the decision of all theological disputations. They had dethroned monarchs, absolved subjects from their allegiance, and conferred royalty on whom they pleased.
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, however, numerous causes co-operated to accelerate the declension of papal tyranny. Of these the following were the most conspicuous: ---1st, The writings of the celebrated Wickliff. He published
theological tracts, in which were inculcated the doctrines of the Reformation; he exposed the flagitious conduct and irreligious lives of the monks and clergy; he translated the scriptures into the English language, disseminated copies as extensively as circumstances would admit, and exhorted his countrymen, though in direct opposition to the papal mandate, to read the same. 2d, The grand schism of the west. At that period two, and afterwards three popes, each claiming infallibility, and denominating his opponents usurpers, rendered it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the strictest Catholic to ascertain to whom obedience was due. 3d, The revival of literature. 4th, The art of printing. These with other similar causes Jehovah used, to emancipate mankind from worse than Gothic darkness—to produce the Reformation.
About the commencement of the sixteenth century, Cæsar Borgia, of infamous memory, filled the papal chair. His whole life was a tissue of cruelty, debauchery, and licentiousness, Deplorably corrupt must the members of the church have been, when such a character was advanced to be the head: for however attractive her exterior might have been, within was a cage of unclean birds.
Borgia was succeeded in the pontificate by Julius the Second; but, like all his predecessors, his principal object was the aggrandizement of popish domination. Under him the state of the church continued the same, the vilest superstition and grossest ignorance being universally prevalent.
Julius was succeeded by John of Medicis, who, on his accession to the papacy, assumed the appellation of Leo the Tenth. He was generous, affable and benevolent, easy and familiar in his manners, and a patron of the liberal arts. But notwithstanding these accomplishments, “Leo the Tenth,” says Haweis, “appears to have been an infidel, if not an atheist." Be this however as it may, in the whole catalogue of Roman pontiffs, we are unacquainted with the name of a single individual, who was eminent for piety or vital godliness.
Leo, having expended the treasury of the church in rewards to men of learning, in luxury, and profusion, and being then employed in erecting St. Peter's cathedral, had recourse to an expedient, than which none could have been better calculated for supplying his exigencies. This was the sale of Indulgences, a spiritual merchandise which had been invented by Urban the Second, in the eleventh century, as an equivalent to those who enlisted in the expedition for the recovery of the Holy Land. The Roman pontiffs therefore, asserted that for a pecuniary compensation, they could remit the most enormous and atrocious crimes. This prerogative they claimed as being the representatives of St. Peter, and having in their possession the works of supererogation, and the infinite merits of Jesus Christ.