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These are all favourable indications, and ought to inspire our hearts with believing anticipations of the full accomplishment of all the prophecies relative to this extraordinary people.
Providence plainly invites our prayers in behalf of the wandering descendants of Abraham; that the lost sheep of the house of Israel may again be brought into the fold of the great Shepherd, to enjoy the rich pastures he has provided for his flock, and live in safety and happiness under his ever watchful protection. They demand our Christian compassion. Hitherto they have been treated most unkindly and unjustly. They have indeed been obstinate in unbelief; and pursued by the righteous judgments of Heaven; but from neither of these facts can any justification be derived in favour of the contempt and scorn, oppression and cruelty, inhumanity and persecution, they have so often experienced from Christian nations. It is time to redeem the Christian name from this foul stain. It is time for Christians to remember, that they were once the peculiar people of God, and that they are destined to become members of the Christian church. Who will not rejoice in prospect of that blessed day when Jew and Gentile shall be united in the family of Jesus Christ, and live as co-heirs of the same immortal glory? Let us then pray for the coming of that blessed day. Let us pray that the veil of unbelief may be taken from their hearts. Let us pray that the Deliverer may come out of Zion, to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Let us pray that the day of millennial glory may soon break upon the world, when Jews and Gentiles shall, over all the earth, shout the praises of the great Redeemer.
J. J. J.
LECTURES ON BIBLICAL HISTORY.
“ And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou, and all thy house, into the ark: for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female; and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights: and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.”—Gen. vii, 1–6.
That portion of biblical history which is to form the basis of the ensuing lecture, gives us an account of the Deluge, the most awful indication of God's abhorrence of sin that ever was exhibited on this globe. According to the most generally received chronology, this tremendous catastrophe took place one thousand six hundred and fifty-six years after the creation of the world, and in the six hundredth year of Noah's life. In attending to the subject, it will be proper to notice,-first, the excessive wickedness, which rendered so fearful a judgment necessary; secondly, the time afforded to the ungodly for repentance, and the means employed for their reformation; thirdly, the method adopted to preserve a seed to replenish the new world; and, finally, the practical lesson which the whole matter is calculated to impress upon our minds.
When we take into view the great age to which men lived before the flood, we cannot but admit that the population of the world must have increased very rapidly. And, after the apostacy of our race, the growth of wickedness would naturally keep pace with the multiplication of mankind. Adam himself, who lived to the age of nine hundred and thirty years, must have seen a numerous and depraved posterity. The family of Cain, as has been observed in a preceding lecture, were extremely abandoned. Withdrawing from the society of the pious, and neglecting the instituted worship of the true God, they soon became vain in their imagination, licentious in their manners, and, whatever form of religion they maintained, it was no doubt idolatrous. In the descendants of Seth, God had a seed to serve him, a people for his praise, to whom he vouchsafed the oracles of truth, and the influence of his grace. Among these many appear, for a considerable time, to have reproved the works of darkness, and to have maintained a deportment worthy their high vocation. But, alas! how difficult it is, by reason of the depraved bias of our nature, to “keep ourselves unspotted from the world.” The Sethites, called by way of religious distinction “the sons of God,” began, in process of time, to hold converse, and to form intimate connexions with the degenerate offspring of Cain; and, as is uniformly the case, this unwarrantáble intercourse with the wicked led to a participation in their evil deeds. Intermarriages with the ungodly are particularly mentioned by Moses, as one cause of that profligacy of morals which provoked the Almighty to demolish the work of his hand by a deluge. “ The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” Thus the professed worshippers of Jehovah, instead of maintaining a holy singularity, began to lose sight of their sacred character, and to indulge their sensual desires, till at length, dropping one distinction after another, they became conformed to this world. The salt of the earth lost its savour. The hands of the wicked were strengthened; piety declined, and sin triumphed. The offspring of these unlawful marriages would, of course, be still more abandoned than their corrupt parents. Many of them were, no doubt, giants in impiety, as well as in stature. Freed from the salutary restraints of an enlightened and faithful conscience, unawed by parental gravity or religious example, they committed sin with greediness, and ripened apace for destruction.
Let us be thankful, readers, for that measure of Christian influence which prevails in the community where it is our lot to reside. “ Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Let those young persons, therefore, who have been baptized into Christ, and who hope for heaven through his merits, beware of forming ungodly connexions; especially, let them not be “unequally yoked with unbelievers." “ He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” “But what fellowship hath light with darkness, or Christ with Belial?” But we proceed, secondly, to notice the forbearance of Heaven, in affording to the wicked time and space for repentance, even when the measure of their iniquity appeared to be full. When God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth; that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually; that all flesh had corrupted his way, and that the earth was filled with violence; when the divine Majesty was openly insulted, and sin stalked abroad with the most daring effrontery, He who takes no pleasure in the ruin of the wicked, manifested a willingness to wait, and to be gracious. On his announcing the day of vengeance, for the vindication of his authority, he publishes a respite: mercy is mingled with judgment—the warning voice precedes the stroke of justice. “ And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man; for that, he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” During this term of probation, various means were used to bring about a reformation, and ward off the impending storm. Noah, and no doubt other preachers of righteousness, remonstrated; the Spirit strove, and the providence of God gave indubitable signs of approaching judgment. But all to no purpose. Evil men waxed worse and worse; scoffers multiplied; hand joined hand in striving against God; and because sentence against their crimes was not executed speedily, therefore, their hearts were fully set in them to do wickedly. Divine compassion expostulates; the great Lord of heaven and earth, even in taking hold on judgment, for the support of rightful authority, discovers parental pity, and reluctance to punish : “ And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Strictly speaking, it is impossible that God should repent. He is unchangeable alike in his nature and counsels. “ İn him is no variableness or shadow of turning.” His measures are all taken in perfect wisdom, and he is completely selfsufficient; he cannot, therefore, be liable to either grief, or disappointment. The expression before us, therefore, is obvious
ly used, after the manner of man, to indicate God's irreconcilable hatred of sin, and at the same time to show, that he commiserates the sinner whose punishment is demanded by justice.
The term of probation drawing towards a close, the Lord reveals more clearly his determination to display his power in the utter overthrow of those who continued to despise his grace. But that his purpose of mercy towards the human race might stand fast amidst the wreck and ruin of the ungodly, a seed is! to be preserved to replenish the earth, after it shall have been washed by the waters of a flood. The method adopted for this end is the third particular that claims our notice.
“ And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them ; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher-wood : rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch." The ark does not appear to have been formed for travelling, but merely to float on the surface, and afford shelter for its inhabitants, during the prevalence of the waters. By the gopher-wood of which it was composed, is generally understood the cypress, as being the firmest and most suitable, then known, to resist the violence of the weather. Whether it resembled a ship, or was fat-bottomed and rectangular, is altogether undetermined by the sacred historian. But, as it was intended to rise with the gradual rise of the water, and to rest again wherever Divine Providence should see fit, we incline to the latter opinion, as the more probable of the two. Moses gives us its dimensions, as prescribed by God himself. Its length was three hundred cubits; its width fifty, and its height thirty. There were two sorts of cubits in use among the Jews, differing in length about four inches. If we compute the capacity of the ark by the shorter cubit, which was eighteen inches, we shall find it to have been 450 feet long, 75 wide, and 45 high; if by the longer, which was 22 inches, the result would be 547 feet in length, 91 in width, and 54 in height: and its solid contents would be upwards of 2,730,781 feet. The learned and ingenious Dr. Arbuthnot computes it to have been a vessel of eighty-one thousand and sixty-two tons burden. When completed and stored with provisions sufficient for its intended inhabitants, Noah and his family, eight in number, were required to enter it, taking with them of every clean beast, i. e. such as was allowed to be used in sacrifice, by sevens, either seven individuals or seven pair; and of unclean one pair of every kind.
It is scarcely necessary to remark that land animals only would be taken into the ark, as the others would still be in their native element. But was there room in the ark, capacious as it was, for so vast a variety of animals, together with food VOL. II.
enough to serve them for a whole year? This has been questioned, without due consideration, I apprehend, by some who take the liberty of doubting almost every thing contained in the Bible. We are not prepared to speak, with great confidence, in regard to the room which one pair of all kinds of land animals would occupy. As to those that were used in sacrifice, the number of species was so small, that seven pair of each could have taken up but a small share of room. And the others will not be found, on accurate inquiry, half so numerous, or to need near so much room, as at first view we are liable to imagine. A respectable writer of Great Britain, we mean Bishop Wilkins, has investigated this subject with great care and labour, and he, as well as several other writers that might be mentioned, has made it pretty evident that the ark was amply capacious to answer the end for which it was constructed.
ne passage in his “Essay towards a Philosophical Character and Language,” is worthy of special notice: “ The capacity of the ark (says he), which has been made an objection against scripture, ought to be esteemed a confirmation of its divine authority : since in those ruder ages, men, being less versed in arts and philosophy, were more obnoxious to vulgar prejudices than now; so that had it been a human invention, it would have been contrived according to those wild apprehensions which arise from a confused and general view of things, as much too big, as it has been represented too little.” Should any be desirous of knowing how wild and ferocious beasts and birds could be brought within the sacred inclosure of the ark, we would observe, that as notice of the deluge was given more than a century beforehand, Noah may have tamed, or secured them in some way, and had them in readiness, when the time arrived for him and them to be shut in from the general ruin: or, should this be deemed improbable, it will not be denied, that He who gave strength to the lion, fierceness to the tiger, untameable disposition to the bear, and subtlety to the serpent, could with perfect ease incline them to obey his will, and subserve the ends of his holy and all-controlling providence.
It has been made a question whether the deluge was universal, i. e, whether the waters covered the entire surface of the earth. We have no hesitation in taking the affirmative side of the question. The language of Moses is plain and unequivocal on this point. “The waters (says he) prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail, and the mountains were covered; and all flesh died that moved upon the earth; of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing, and every man.” These declarations need no exposition, and they admit of no evasion. In