« PreviousContinue »
lence succeeded and there was nothing to be heard or seen but an universal ocean. This he could not refrain from viewing and contemplating day after day until it entirely subsided and disappeared. Must not such great, solemn, and affecting objects have made deep impressions on the heart of any man, and especially on the heart of such a good man as Noah was ? He was entirely disengaged from all worldly cares, concerns, and interruptions. He had nothing to do but to contemplate on the present, reflect on the past, and anticipate the future. The sparing mercy of God towards him and his family, must have filled his heart with gratitude and his mouth with praise. The awful destruction brought upon the unbelieving, impenitent, ungodly world, must have given him the deepest sense of the nature, malignity and fatal consequences of sin, and of the holiness and justice of God in the everlasting ruin of his incorrigible enemies. These religious instructions and impressions he carried with him, when God allowed him to leave the ark, and resettle the world. Accordingly, we are told, “ Noah immediately builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour ; and the Lord said, in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake ; though the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Neither Noah, nor his family could ever forget the solemn, instructive and affecting scenes through which they had past, nor erase from their minds the deep impressions those scenes had
made upon them. They would naturally relate to their children what they had seen, and heard, and felt, during the awful period of the flood; and they again would relate the same things from one generation to another. While, at the same time, the astonishing effects of the deluge every where to be seen, would continually admonish the rising generations to love and fear the God of their fathers, as the only thing that could seeure his favor, and save them from his future and everlasting wrath. Agreeably to this supposition, we find that religion did continue and flourish in some branches of Noah's family, a long time after he left the ark and resettled the world. He lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood, and had a supreme controul over all the concerns of men, and especially over all their religious concerns. There can be no doubt but that he promoted the cause of true religion, as long as he continued in the world. And there is reason to believe, that Shem and Japheth and their families were friendly to religion after his death. We find that seyeral eminently pious men lived in those days; particularly Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Job, Abimelech, and Jethro. These, and many other individuals probably maintained the true rel gion and the true worship of God several ages after Noah, notwithstanding the general prevalence of idolatry and false religion in the world. There was, however, but a glimmering of true religion among the nations of the earth, from Abraham to Moses, when the children of Israel were formed into a visible church in the land of promise.
2. We learn from the scripture history of mankind, which we have been considering, that infidelity has been the principal source of the wars and fightings that have deluged the world in blood. Nimrod was the first infidel in Noah's family, and the first who began and carried on an unjust and offensive war after the flood. In direct rebellion against God, and without any injury or just provocation from the children of Shem, he waged war against them, and, by force of arms, took possession of the plains of Shinar which God had given them for their inheritance. And after God drove him from his usurped possession, he carried with him his destructive martial spirit, and kindled the flames of war among both the children of Shem and Japheth, and from thence he carried war into Egypt, and afterwards he and his posterity carried war among every nation where they were scattered. These infidel giants were the enemies that Joshua had to combat and conquer in order to put the children of Israel into the possession of the land which God had given them. The religion of Moses forbade the people of God to wage offensive wars against any of the heathen nations, whom God himself had not commanded them to des. troy. The religion of Christ has always had the same peaceful influence upon those, who have professed to embrace it. While the Roman empire remained heathen they carried war and desolation among all the nations, whom they were able to conquer, for the sake o power and plunder.
But after it became christian, and Constantine possessed the supreme government of the empire, they professedly ceased to wage offensive wars. The truth is, that the enemies, and not the friends of true religion, have always been the principal disturbers of the peace of nations, and spread misery and destruction among the inhabitants of the world. Infidels have had the effrontery to charge christians with the guilt of
fomenting wars, and spreading misery and desolation through the earth ; but all history sacred and profane refutes this unjust and malignant reproach. 3. It appears from what has been said, that all false
, religion is only a corruption of the true. The true religion was revealed to Adam. It was preserved and kept alive until the days of Noah. He was a perfect and upright man, while the rest of the world apostatized from God and became totally corrupt. He understood, believed and maintained religion, while in the ark, and after he resettled the world. His sons Shem and Japheth, and their children believed and practised true religion, until the children of Ham renounced the true God and true religion, and became idolators. These gradually spread infidelity and every species of false religion among the other branches of Noah's family. But if true religion had not first been revealed and practised, there is no reason to think, that mankind, who are born like the wild ass's colt, and dead in trespasses and sins, would ever thought of any such thing as any kind of religion. Though they are formed capable of knowing that the world must have been created, that the Creator of it must possess almighty power, perfect wisdom, and universal goodness, and therefore is worthy to be loved, feared and obeyed ; yet they would not have gained this knowledge unless they had been first taught by God himself. This knowledge God taught Adam and the patriarchs, who conveyed it down to their posterity by mere tradition, without a divine written revelation, until the law was given by Moses at Mount Sinai. But this tradition was gradually corrupted, and became the source of all the false religions that were in the world till the law was given. And tho' this was given to the Jews, yet they by their wars and intercourse with surrounding nations, spread some knowledge of God and divine things among them, which prevented the total loss of all knowledge of God and religious worship. And the spread of christian knowledge has had the same tendency to prevent the heathen nations from becoming entirely destitute of all religious notions, and modes, and forms of religious worship. It is, therefore, clearly evident, that all false religion is but a corruption of the true, and had it not been that God, in various ways taught mankind, there would not have been religion of any kind in the world. Deists pretend that they have discovered natural religion, independently of all divine revelation, which is entirely rational, and free from the superstition, enthusiasm, idolatry, and all the errors of both heathens and christians. But all history,
both sacred and profane, refutes their vain and false pretensions. They, as well as all the heathen world, are indebted to divine revelation for all their boasted knowledge of any religion, whether natural or traditional. The heathens are indebted to the Jews, and the deists are indebted to the christians, for all the knowledge they have of either natural, traditional, or revealed religion. All that is true or important in deism, Paganism, Mahomedism, or any false religion, has been derived from the true revealed religion ; which proves that all religious errors are but so many corruptions of religious revealed truth contained in the bible.
4. It appears from what has been said, how much easier it is to spread any false religion in the world, than the true religion. A few bold, wicked, rebell