« PreviousContinue »
men builded.” This is spoken after the manner of men, but is peculiarly expressive of the notice which God took of their audacious undertaking. Let not man presume to contend with his maker. If he dare to do this, let him not say in his heart, “Tush, the Lord doth not see.” “ The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” and the wickedness which his eye beholds, his hand will assuredly punish. The sacred history also marks this building as the work of the children of men, which seems to imply that those of the posterit,
of Noah, who feared God, and still maintained the true religion, took no part with them in this impious design. The project was devised by that portion of maukind, probably by much the larger, which had cast off the worship and service of the Lord, and had become altogether earthlyniinded, intent upon and devoted to earthly objects. Neither would this have been all. Had this attempt been permitted to succeed, their hearts would have imagined, and their hands have executed, acts of yet greater daring. Their numbers, their continuing together, and the closeness of their union and league, would have enboldened them to proceed further in wickedness, and from their speaking a common language, they would have been enabled to act in concert, and thereby more effectually to accomplish their designs. 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.” It was therefore for the prevention of greater crimes, as well as for the punishment of the present offence, that the Lord determined to frustrate their intention, and to scatter their purposes, along with themselves, to the four winds of heaven. The method which he took to put his determination in force, was the removal of that bond of union, a common language, by which they were enabled to dwell and co-operate together. “Go to,” said the Lord, “ let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” The language here, as in the 26th verse of the first chapter, is remarkable, and evidently
implies a plurality of persons in the Godhead, a mystery which is afterwards clearly revealed to us in the doctrine of the divine Trinity in Unity. While these children of men were taking wise measures, as they thought them, on earth, to get themselves a name,
and prevent their being scattered abroad, they thought not of any counteraction of their designs being formed into the counsels of heaven. But soon they experienced the vanity of all schemes that are laid in opposition to God's will. By a single act of his power upon the faculties which he had given them, he maketh these counsels of the wicked to be of none effect. He confounds their language. He causes them to forget the words by which they had hitherto expressed their ideas, and puts others into their mouths. Their own minds perhaps might be so confused as to render them unconscious of the change in themselves, but they could no longer generally understand each other; they heard every man speaking in a language different to that which he had hitherto used : they were no longer able to act in one united body as they had proposed to do: they necessarily began to separate, and to assemble together in as many different parties as found themselves speaking the same language, and so to disperse into various parts of the earth. “So the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all the earth, and they left off to build the city.” “Therefore,” the sacred history adds, “is the name of it called Babel,” that is, Confusion, 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.” Probably however the city had already advanced to considerable magnitude ; for here was established, under Nimrod, a powerful kingdom, which for several ages held many of the surrounding nations in subjection, and was a type of the spiritual Babylon of the church of Rome, which would ever lord it over God's heritage, and rule them with a rod of iron.
Let us now, in application, make a few observations on this extraordinary history.
1. We see that the effects of this punishment remain to the present day. Men are
scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth. How the various parts of it came to be peopled by these first colonists and their posterity we have no exact information : but in the fact we see the fulfilment of the will of God. He taught them the means of passing from one continent to another, and guided their various tribes in their different successive migrations, in unconscious obedience to his command, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Different languages also still prevail ; and vain indeed would be any attempt to establish one
tongue. Confusion remains, and will remain, a standing memorial of the sin at Babel. We feel the
consequences of that sin in the manner in which we are shut out from general intercourse with our species, and in the difficulty which we experience in learning any languages which it may be necessary for us to acquire. But this is little in comparison of the consequences of that unhappy transgression of Adam, whereby he introduced confusion into all the moral feelings and faculties of man, and brought sin and death upon every