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Besides, the law which Moses received in writing on Sinai, was not less the law of other nations and times, though given to Moses for Israel. The whole economy of which he was the legislator, notwithstanding its minor peculiarities, was but another gracious interposition of God, to preserve entire the knowledge of himself and his will, in a world from which man would, if possible, have excluded both.
When, therefore, Jehovah said, “ for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children,” he intimated at once what He had been, what he was, and would be in all successive generations. As for the ages past, was it a new thing in the earth for him to act in the spirit and letter of these words? Who, then, were these people to whom this law was proclaimed, and where were they going? Were they not the posterity of Shem, now on their way to punish the posterity of Ham ? A question which at once carries us back to the infancy of a second world, immediately after the Deluge, and turns the mysterious journey of Moses and his brethren, into a commentary on these very words. When Noah knew what his younger son Ham had done unto him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan (the son of Ham); 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.” Now, does not this descending curse of the Almighty, pronounced by Noah, as a prophet, on his own posterity, stand in perfect conforinity with this, the law given on Sinai; and from the Deluge until now, had not Jehovah, as a jealous God, watched over its accomplishment ? Surely this conspicuous prophecy, and its fulfilment reaching through so many generations, may suffice instead of many illustrations. Several questions, however, I am aware, rise out of the brief narrative in Genesis. Why should Noah take occasion to denounce
the conduct of his son, with such solemn severity, and that too in the person of his grandchild, the first-born of Ham? Had Canaan, as it has been conjectured, first given occasion to his father's irreverence and impiety? So it should seem from the terms employed—“Ham, the father of Canaan:" but, at all events, Ham is represented as having sinned, and to such extent as to deserve this awful threatening. Tinctured, it should seem, with the maxims of Cain and his posterity, and supposing, it may be, that the promise of the Messiah was either frustrated in the death of Abel, or altogether false, he made his father the subject of his mockery.
Now, who was this man Noah ? In Scripture, no extenuation of his guilt in being overcome by wine is to be found ; and he lived long after this to read his own sin in the punishment which he was now inspired to pronounce: but did not Ham know the meaning of the very name given to his father by Lamech? " He called his name Noah (consolation), saying this same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” Noah, too, had done honor to his name ; was a just man, and had so walked with God, that He had said, “ Thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” For more than a century did his son know him to have been a preacher of righteousness; and, moved by fear, he had seen him preparing the ark for the salvation of his household. His father's piety had ensured to him a secure abode, and he had thus outlived a storm in which the world was ingulphed. After this, too, it should be remembered that Jehovah had spoken to “ Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold I establish my covenant with you, and your seed after you.”
When, therefore, Ham, who had been so singularly saved from a deluge which had swept away every father
except his own; when he, though one of only eight souls, and these the members of one family; when he, who had so escaped, in consequence of the faith and pious fear of his own parent, presumed to mock, not the virtue, but the sin of this, his father; for his combined impiety and filial disobedience, the displeasure of God is pronounced over him and his posterity, by the lips, too, of this very
No doubt different interpretations of the cause of this curse, from the lips of Noah, may be assigned; but a cause there
was, and descend it did, in solemn illustration of this serious and instituted connection between parent and child, so that both Ham and his posterity were involved in this lowering prophecy. Accordingly, long afterwards, many of them perished miserably in Sodom and Gomorrah, for crimes which seem to have also originated in the neglect of family-government. Nay, about eight hundred and fifty, or, according to Hales, above fifteen hundred years after Noah's prophetic denunciation, Egypt, which was “the land of Ham,” suffered awfully in the Exodus, while Shem's posterity are now on the way from Egypt, commissioned to expel the posterity of Canaan. The remnant who survive and remain, are to be “servants to their brethren;" and so were employed in servile work by Solomon and his successors.
On the other hand, an illustration equally striking of the blessing now announced in the decalogue, is furnished by a reference to Shem and his posterity.
Shem had acted differently, and he is blessed indeed. Noah, too, shall live long enough to see his prophecy of blessing also fulfilled, though he died before Abraham was born. As for Shem, on whom the blessing was pronounced, he shall live to enjoy it; and so the gradual
* For the cause why a curse so severe was pronounced on Ham and his posterity, see the Reflections of Allix, Part I. Chap. 13.
than 40 years
abbreviation of human existence, from Noah to Abraham, was rendered subservient to the most gracious of ends. Thus, when Isaac, the child of promise, was married, Shem was yet alive, and in him he saw his posterity of the tenth generation; even in Abraham the ninth, and Isaac the tenth, in lineal descent, he might see his posterity receiving the promise of the future Saviour with faith and joy ; Abraham being above 140, and Isaac more
age before he expired! Nor did Shem alone survive ; Arphaxad, his son, as well as Reu of the fifth generation, Serug of the sixth, and Terah of the eighth, were all alive in the time of Abraham ; nay, two other descendants, Salah and Eber, were living as well as Shem, in the days of Isaac; and the last of these, Eber, the great grandson of Shem, though born 2281 B. C., having reached the age of 464, survived the death of Abraham several years. Never was there such a familygroup capable of being assembled as this; and although separated from each other, in consequence of Abraham's removal to Canaan, with each other's existence, and prospects, and blessings, they must have been acquainted. The journey of Eleazar of Damascus into Mesopotamia, to procure Rebekah for Isaac, would convert all mere report and conjecture into certainty.
Thus, if Adam himself survived to be both tried in the death of Abel, and blessed in the piety of Seth and Enos; so Noah, at the beginning of a new world, continued to live and pass through the same course. Long, too, as the period may seem, from the Creation to the time of Moses, all difficulty as to the mind of God, on any subject, being distinctly known, and certainly handed down, will vanish at once, when the ages of the antediluvians, and the gradual abbreviation of human existence, from Noah to : Moscs, are observed. Yes, although the world had gone on for above two thousand five hundred years before this
law thus promulgated from Sinai, it should be remembered that all the patriarchs before Noah, were born before Adam died, and the chain of communication even from Adam to Moses, will be found to have contained little more than four links! From Adam to Noah there was but one man, Methuselah, who joined hands with both; from Noah to Abraham there was only this one individual, Shem, who, for 450 years, was familiar with Noah, and lived till Abraham was nearly 150 years
d; from Abraham to Joseph there was only one individual, Isaac; and from Joseph, a fourth individual, viz. Amram, the father of Moses, who must have long and frequently seen Joseph.
All these calculations are made, it is granted, according to the chronology noted on the margin of the Bible, which as yet is most generally followed; but should the reader have consulted the able and interesting chronology of Hales, and feel partial to it; then, extended though the period seem, he will find, that still there was from Adam even to Noah only one individual, viz. Mahalaleel. Indeed, though the whole period, from Adam to Moses, be thus extended to above 3700 years, still the chain of communication does not embrace above six, or, at most, seven individuals.
In addition to what has been said, I notice one peculiarity of these times, which must have had a most powerful influence in perpetuating the knowledge of divine truth When these aged med lay on their deathbed, it seems to have been their practice to record, in the ear of their posterity now standing around, the most important and fundamental principles of their faith ; a practice which must have been attended to with the greatest solemnity by their children, from the circumstance that, occasionally at least, as if to gild their dying hour, the aged parent was indulged with some peculiar man