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of a world. God therefore resolved to deprive the future enemies of his Church of so tremendous an engine. This purpose he executed on beholding them there on the plains of Shinar, combining together and erecting a city and tower which should make them one vast and powerful people. “Go to,” said he, “let us go down and confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” The builders of Babel were thrown into confusion and scattered abroad, and the little Church was left to gather strength, unmolested by so great a weapon.
Another thing, which before the flood, had nearly destroyed the Church, was the great age which the wicked were suffered to attain. Worldly power would not be the portion of God's people. Should the wicked therefore, who ordinarily inherit it, be continued again centuries upon earth, and for centuries persecute the Church, how could she live? She almost expires in particular provinces, even under the tyranny, for a few years, of some merciless persecutor. God, therefore, out of regard to his Church, shortened the lives of men, first to a few centuries; and then to three score and ten years.
Where to look for the Church at this period we know not; but it continued in the family of Noah, and in the line of Shem. Shem lived an hundred and fifty years after the birth of Abraham, and must have been venerated for his piety and age, by all about him; but he seems to have been unknown by the family of that pious patriarch. His descendants, however, we soon find in the regions of Chaldea and Assyria; though, by many able and learned writers, it is thought they had no concern in the building of Babel. They feared God. They maintained among them the true religion. They were the branch from which Christ was to come. God was their God, and Christ their Redeemer; and, if they sometimes partook of the general corruption around them, and “served other gods,” yet the gates of hell were : never suffered to prevail against them.
In the providence of God, the world, which had been in so awful a manner depopulated, was soon filled with inhabitants. Japhet had seven sons. These settled Armenia and Greece, and from them came the present inhabitants of Europe and the United States. Ham had four, whose posterity filled Babylonia and Arabia—Canaan and Egypt. Shem five. From these descended the Assyrians, Persians Jews, Hindoos, and Chinese, and aborigin es of America
These were the sons of Noah, “after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations; and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”
Some will ever affirm that the Negro, the Chinese, the European and the American Indian could not have had a common origịn; but the candid inquirer after the truth will receive the testimony of God, and by this be satisfied that all mankind descended from the patriarch who was preserved in the ark.
Early defection from the true religion. History of Idolatry.
The awful judgment of God upon the old world, did not eradicate de pravity from the human heart. Even Ham, the youngest son of the patriarch Noah, one who had witnessed all the wonders of the flood, soon exhibited an unnatural and depraved spirit, and went out, like Cain, with his posterity, from the presence of the Lord, an ungodly generation. The Cushites, his immediate descendants, were probably the chief families that were concerned in the building of Babel; but neither were they brought back to the Lord by the new and fearful judgment of heaven inflicted upon them. The whole of that country through which they were dispersed, was, in a few centuries, almost entirely idolatrous; so that even the generation of the righteous, drawn in by the general corruption, were accused of serving “ other gods” than Jehovah.
If there were others less vile and ferocious; others, who had a high veneration for Noah, and who would religiously commemorate the deluge and the re-peopling of the earth, still their descendants soon perverted the whole, and canonized and worshipped those memorable incidents. Among all the eastern nations, therefore, we find many allusions, in religious rites, to Noah and his ark, the dove, the olive branch; indeed, almost a complete mythological history of the deluge.
Having once departed from the living God, the nations multiplied to themselves deities with amazing rapidity. As the most striking objects in nature, and the mediate source of all good to men, the heavenly bodies soon attracted veneration.
Renowned men, who had been the benefactors or scourges of their race, were, in great numbers, enthroned on high. But gods were found in every thing. Egypt, settled by Mizraim, the second son of Ham, was the fruitful mother of abominations. There the earth, sea, hills, rivers, animals, fishes, birds, plants and stones received homage. Later nations deified abstract qualities, fame, piety, truth, and even physical evils, evil fortune, and several, the very vices of men. Some of the gods were supposed to be good, and the authors of happiness; others, cruel and malignant, the authors of all misery. Every nation, city and family, in time, had its respective deity; and through complaisance, the heathen nations adopted all gods of which they had any knowledge. The Athenians erected an altar to the Un- ? known God.
The principal Heathen deities mentioned in the history of the Jews, are Baal, or the Sun; Astarte or Ashtaroth, the Moon; several Baalim or Lords; as Baal Peor, a god of the Moabites; Baal Berith, or god of the Covenant, a god of the Schechemites; Baal Zebub, a tutelary deity in the city of Ekron, that protected the people from gnats; Moloch, or the planet Saturn, which was worshipped as a god who devoured his own offspring. The statue of Moloch, erected in the valley of Hinnom, was of brass. Its arms were stretched out; upon these children were placed, and as the arms declined, they rolled off into a furnace of fire, placed below. Dagon, a female deity, the goddess of the Philistines; also Rimmon, an idol of the Assyrians; and Chiun or Saturn, whose tabernacles or small shrines the Israelites carried with them in the wilderness.
Discontented with a pure spiritual worship, men early be. : gan to form images of the true God. The Jews made a calf to represent Jehovah, probably because they had seen the Egyptians worship Apis, a bull, as God. Micah had an image of Jehovah. The Heathen carried imagery to a great extreme. They worshipped nothing without an image. The images were at first rude blocks of wood or stone. These were afterwards carved with care into every form and shape. The Teraphim were images in the human form. Some idols were part man and part beast. Dagon, of the Philistines, had a human body terminating below in a fish. One of the Egyptian deities had the head of a dog; another, the head of a bird. Some of the gods were made of precious metals, or covered with silver or gold, and adorned with the most costly vestments.
As they became precious, slight buildings were erected over them to protect them from the weather. These were soon succeeded by splendid temples. The goddess Diana had a most magnificent temple at Ephesus. Sometimes groves were planted around the temples, especially if the deity was a patron of licentiousness.
The deities it was believed, might be induced to enter the images and grant such favors as were desired, by certain ceremonies, incantations and sacrifices; whence arose a vast multitude of rites and ceremonies; sacrifices; oblations; and an immense priesthood, whose business it was to attend upon them. Their sacrifices were, victims, salt cakes, libations, honey, incense. Almost every distinguished god was honored with some great festival, which was the holiday of thousands, and was observed by sports and solemn processions and great feastings. Sacrifices were accompanied with prayers, followed by loud shouting and leaping, and wounds upon the body. These false deities demanded no morality of their worshippers, and even knew none themselves. Often were they supposed guilty of the grossest vices and abominations. And to please them, an imitation of their wickedness formed part of their worship.
Out of idolatry early arose divination and necromancy. Many pretended to an intimacy with the deities; to the power of working miracles and the knowledge of future events. These wonder-workers were held in high esteem in the time of Moses and Belteshazzar. In later periods Oracles were established, from which it was pretended that the god spoke; answering the inquiries of mortals. Dreams were thought to come from the gods; and all nations, particularly the Romans, gave much heed to omens and prodiyies—such as monsters, comets, eclipses, the flight of birds, and entrails of beasts.
The light of philosophy had, in some measure, opened the eyes of men in civilized Europe to the fooleries of idolatry, when Christ appeared; but it was three centuries before Christianity obtained a triumph over the gods of Rome. But little variation has probably been made in those countries which still remain pagan, from their former state. They have from the days of Nahor, “ served other gods,'* -are “old wastes, the desolations of many generations." India has her three hundred millions deities. Her images * From idol worship the aborigines of America have been remarkably
are brass, wood and stone. Her horrid idol Juggernaut is drawn in a splendid car. Most of the islands of the Pacific have been, until of late, in the same awful bondage. When, O when shall they cast all their gods to the moles and the bats?
Some would charitably suppose that every idolater is a sincere worshipper of his Creator and Benefactor. But Paul assures us that idolatry originated in the depravity of the heart. “Because that when they knew God they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imagination, and their foolish 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.” And the correctness of his declaration is evinced by the moral character of the whole heathen world. Through every generation, in every clime, it has been vile and abominable beyond what language can express. The picture of it in his day, drawn by Paul in the close of the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, is the best ever presented to the world, and is a correct representation of Heathen immorality in every period of time.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, despiteful, haters of God, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful;—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."