« AnteriorContinuar »
and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed. From what has been here adduced, we maj. safely conclude, not only that the arrtediluvians were favoured with a divine revelation, but that in this, the doctrine of a Messiah formed a prominent feature.
Two remarkable passages, in the first epistle of Peter, which have occasioned much controversy between the Catholic and Protestant churches ; comect the history of Christ, with that of the contemporaries of Noah. In the third chapter, 18, 19, and 20. verses it is said, For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit : By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison ; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. To the same subject, probably, refers the sixth verse of the succeeding chapter, which we give with its connection. Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to nien in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand: be ye, therefore, sober, and watch unto prayer. With these, we will compare the third verse of the sixth chapter of Genesis. And the Lord said, my spirit shall not atways strive with man, for that he also is flesh, yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. The spirit of God maintained the contest with the evil inclinations of men, by means of the preaching of Noah and other faithful: men; and since the word was with God and was God, and enlighteneth every Inan that cometh into the world; we may consider this preaching also, as being the preaching of Christ by his holy influence. The ancient sinners who perished in the flood, were dead in the days of Peter, and their spirits were confined in that dismal prison, which is appointed for the wicked : but had they received the instruction with which they were favoured, they would have been able to give a good account at the day of resurrection ; and during the long interval between death and judgment, their souls would have enjoyed complete felicity, in the presence of God.
In the prophetical description which Noah gave of the future condition of his posterity, he speaks thus concerning Shem. 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. Here is supposed to be a reference to the piety that should distinguish the Jewish nation, as well as to the Messiah, who should come of the family of Shem.
Scarcely had the earth resumed its wonted fertility, after having been delivered from the waters of the deluge ; than mankind, beginning to multiply with great rapidity, thought of imitating the ill examples of the antediluvians, and indulging themselves in the perpetration of a variety of crimes. This depravation of manners was followed by the introduction of heathenish superstition. As this evil still continues to operate; and has been productive of innumerable fatal consequences ; it may be useful to trace it from its sources, and briefly to describe the different stages of its progress.' The principal sources were three : an excessive veneration for the works of nature, a dark traditional history, and a fallacious mystical philosophy.
The most distinguished place, among natural objects, is unquestionably to be given to the sun ; whether we contemplate the splendor of his appearance, or the benefits which are scattered round wherever his rays are directed. It was therefore easy for this illustrious orb, first, to be honoured as the symbol, afterwards, as the dwelling place of the deity ; and lastly, to receive adoration as a deity itself. The next step y as to the worship of the moon, the planets, and the fixed stars : or, as they are des
nominated in scripture, the host of heaven. This kind of impiety, which has received the name of Sabæanism, was practised in the days of Job. *If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness ; And my heart hath been secretly enticed, ..or my mouth hath kissed my hand : This also were an iniquity, to be punished by the judge ; for I should have denied the God that is above. To à similar cause, may, probably, be ascribed, some of that idolatrous respect with which certain animals have been treated, though brute worship was chiefly derived from a mistaken philosophy."
Traditional history has formed a large proportion of the materials of pagan mythology. The fabulous descriptions of night and of chaos, and of the egg which contained heaven and earth; appear," when divested of poetical embellishment, to have been derived from accounts of the creation similar to that given by Moses. The fall of our first pårents was commémorated by the worship of serpents. The deluge of Noah is the probable ground-work of the histories of Deucalion and Bacchus, with several others. The patriarch Ham was adored in Egypt, Greece, and Italy, by the name of Jupiter Hammon. We have not time to enumerate the many hunters, conquerors, legislators, leaders of colonies, founders of cities, and inventors of arts, who have, in this way, been preserved from total oblivion.
Among these systems of philosophy, which were serviceable to the cause of Polytheism ; the Pythagorean, which has subsisted under various names in the ancient world, and is still prevalent in the south-east of Asia, occasioned brute animals to be considered as objects of religious veneration, by pointing them out as actuated by the souls of our ancestors. The doctrine of the two principles, opposite to each other, and nearly independant, filled the world with demons and genii, who were supposed to preside over the most important events of life; while astrologers, by consigning the world to the government of the celestial bodies, caused them to be considered as possessed of a variety of good and evil qualities, and to be propitiated by such sacrifices as were most suitable to their respective characters. The mystical language, in which the ancient philosophers delivered their instructions, though the last mentioned, was not the least productive source of idolatrous worship; to which it contributed, by its comparative descriptions of the divine perfections, and by the personification of virtues and of vices, and of what were formerly stiled, the elements of nature.
But in whatever ways the human mind has strayed to the practices of heathen impiety, the great primary cause was the love of sin, and the consequent dislike to retain God in the memory: To this purpose Paul speaks in the first chapter of the Romans, 18..25, and 28..32 versés, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness : Because that which may be known of God is inanifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto thein. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead ; so that they are without excuse : Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful : but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolisht heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools ; And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave theni up to uncleaness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, Anen. And even as they . tid not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to: those things which are not convenient. Being filled withi all unrighteousness, for
nication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness ; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, , malignity; whispereroit to a biters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventora of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, uninerciful : Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. ..
Instead of punishing the growing depravity of mankind by some second universal catastrophe, more dreadful than the preceding deluge; Providence was pleased to make choice of a particular family, among whom was to be preserved that spirit of piéty, which was declining and dying in the rest of the world. Terah, the father of Abram, , had resided in Ur of the Chaldees ; but left that place with his family, and removed tv Haran, the same city which was afterwards denominated Charræ; and under that name execrated by the Romans, on account of the destruction of the army of Crassus. After the death of Terah, the Lord said to Abram, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and froin thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless thens that bless thee, and curse then that curse thee; and in thee shall all fumilies of the earth be blessed. The wandering life of the patriarchs had a tendency w preserve them from the infection of idolatry, to carry the light of religion into several countries, and to shew to succeeding generations, an edifying example of the power of faith,
À very extraordinary personage next demands our attention, whom some commentators have supposed to be an angel, and others no less than our Saviour himself. As he has been the occasion of so much controversy, we shall first collect the several passages in which he is mentioned, and then subjoin a few plain observations. In Genesis xiv.; after describing the defeat of Chedorlaomer, the great Persian conqueror, by the small force of Abram and his allies, he says, verses 18, 19, 20, And Melchisedec, king of Salen, brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth ; And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand, and he gave him tithes of all. The 110th Psalm is evidently descriptive of the kingdom and priesthood of the Messiah. It is here said in the 4th verse, The Lord hath sworn and will not repent ; Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec: This is quoted in the fifth chapter of Hebrews, 6 and 10 verses, which are unnecessary to be transcribed, as they do little more than repeat what before had been said by the Psalmist ; but connecting the end of the sixth chapter of that epistle with the beginning of the seventh, we have the following comment, Whither the forcrunner is for us entered, even Jesus made an high-priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God; who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him ; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being, by interpretation, king of righteousness, and after that also, king of Salem, which is, king of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life : But made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandinent to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he, whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes of Abraham, and blessed hini that had the promises. Further mention of Melchisedec is made in the. 10, 11, 15, & 21 verses of the same chapter, but they
contain little additional information on the subject. Here we remark, first, that Melchisedec is said to be made like unto the Son of God, which proves, we conceive, that he could not be the Christ, as, in that case, he would be asserted to be made like unto himself. Second. If we believe Melchisedec to have been an angel, we must suppose that a celestial spirit became really incarnate, lived a considerable length of time on earth, governed a city, and exercised the office of priesthood; an opinion unsupported by any other part of scripture. Third. To affirm that he was Shem, or that he is mentioned under any other name, to give an account of his father or mother, or even from what stock he derived his origin, is only seeking to be wise beyond what is written. Fourth. The most probable conclusion, therefore, is, that he was a human prince, whether Canaanitish or not we cannot say, who reigned over a certain city denominated Salem, was distinguished for piety, and officiated, with great acceptance, as a priest of the most high God. When it is said that he was first king of righteousness and then king of peace; the inspired author of the epistle to the Hebrews, appears only to trace in the interpretation of Melchisedec's name and title, a typical representation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was without father, mother, or descent, without beginning of life or end of days, in this sense ; that none of these particulars are recorded by Moses, and that he had no successor in his holy office.
As Abraham, previously to the destruction of Sodom, was visited by three angels ; as Lot, on that occasion, received only iwo of these heavenly messengers ; and as Abraham, after the departure of the angels, immediately entered into conversation with the Lord: it is believed, that the third angel was no less person than the Son of God. However, this we may safely conclude, that a mere angel was never called Jehovah, and reverenced as the judge of all the earth, who must do right.
Concerning that part of the life of Lot, which elapsed after the destruction of Sodom, we are possessed of but scanty memorials; yet we hope that he was recovered from his fall, though his descendants, the Moabites and Ammonites, were idolatrous nations, and enemics of the children of Israel.
The illustrious patriarch Abraham, appears equally distinguished by his ready obedience to God on the most trying and distressing occasions, and ķy the comprehensive nature of that covenant, which the Lord did him the honour to make with himi, When he had been prevented from offering up his only son Isaac, The angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By inyself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not with-held thy son, thine only son ; That in blessing I will bless thee, in anultiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore,; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enenties : And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. These promises were fulfilled by the amazing increase of the posterity of Abraham, whether derived from Ishmael, Keturah, Esau, or Jacob; the establishment of the children of Israel in the land of Palestine ; and lastly, by the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, who eommanded his gospel to be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. The rite of circumcision, which is characterized by Paul as the seal of the righteousness by faith, was intended to teach, that they who professed to be heirs of the promises, should be careful to depart from all iniquity.
Isaac was a faithful follower of his father Abraham, but his faith was subjected to less severe trials. The sufferings of Jacob, on the contrary, were so many and great, that he told Pharaoh that the days of his life had been form and evil. The prophecy which Jacob delivered, when he blessed his son Judah, was very remarkable. julati, #100 art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be in the neck of thinue che
pries, thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up ; he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion who shall rouse him up? The sceptre; (the rod of the tribe) shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver fron between his feet, until Shiloh come ; and. unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his asses colt unto the choiee vine ; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.. His cyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth. white with milk. Here are, undoubtedly, references to different instances of the prosperity of the tribe of Judah; to the fertility of the soil, which it should fall to their lot to cultivate ; to the dignity they should receive, by the advancement of David and his family to the throne ; to the victories of David ; and finally, to the loss of their independence, about the time of the coming of Jesus Christ, who is here denominated Shiloh. To the name Shiloh, many different etymologies have been assigned ; but it has been generally admitted by the Jewish, to have been the Messiah.
The last who might be denominated a patriarch was Job, concerning whom it is uncertain, whether he was a descendant of Abraham; but it is agreed, on all sides, that he was not a Jew. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he was sincerely devoted to the worship of the true God, and proved the purity of his religious principles by the benevolence and integrity of his conduct towards men. In him we discover all that is amiable in the character of the modern Arabians, unmixed with their implacable resentment and love of depredation. Hear the earnest and uncontradicted appeal, which he makes to his friends, in the hour of his most bitter calamity. If I did despise the cause of my manscrvant, or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; What then shall I do when God riseth up.? and, when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made ine in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb ? If I have with-held the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail ; Or have eaten my morsel. myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb ;) If I have seen any perish for want of clothing; or any poor without covering'; If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate : Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder-klade, and mine arm be broken froin the bone. For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure. If. I. rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him ; Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin, by wishing a curse to his soul. If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh ! that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied. The stranger did not lodge in the street, but I opened my doors to the traveller. If I covered my transgressions as Adam, (or as a man] by hiding mine iniquity in iny boson. Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door? If my land cry against- nie, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain ; If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life; Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cocklc instead of barley.
“ The book of Job," says Dr. Blair, " is known to be extremely antient ; generally reputed the most antient of all the poetical books; the author uncertain. It is remarkable, that this book has no connexion with the affairs or manners of the Jews or Hebrews. The scene is laid in the land of Uz, or Idumea, which is a part of Arabia ;, and the. imagery employed, is generally of a different kind from what I before shewed to be peculiar to the Hebrew poets. We meet with no allusions to the great events of Saered Ilistory, to the religious rites of the Jews, to Lebanon, or. to Carmel, or any of