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been clearly marked. How far this distinction was observed, and for how long, we cannot tell; but there came a time when it was broken down and the “sons of God—” the godly-attracted by the beauty of the daughters of the unbelievers began to intermarry with them. This seems to mark an epoch in history, and to have led to lower and more worldy ideals and to serious degeneration. The children of these intermarriages became warriors,—"mighty men” and violence increased on the earth. "The earth is filled with violence."
The specific charge of "violence" is only an item in the general change of deep and universal wickedness. The condition of man has become intolerable. In the forceful figure of the narrative, God repented that he had made man, for his corruption grieved him at his heart.
Man left to himself was hopeless. His condition is described in the most emphatic terms. "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." wholly bad; every imagination of the thoughts of his heart thoroughly bad and continually bad. What could be done? was the problem of government. God rules in justice, but in mercy also. In justice he decrees the destruction of the wicked, that generations yet to come may be saved from utter degredation. But, that the race may have another chance, he saves the best there was, that by them a new and better start may be made. God's mercy is here as always the extraordinary fact. Justice is a necessity; Mercy is a gift.
So St. Peter speaks of Noah and his house being saved, "by water". not from water, as we are apt to think, but rather saved from the more terrible deluge of utter corruption, by the cleansing flood of righteous judgment.
The important lesson of the story of the flood is but little
dependent on the detailed interpretation of this narrative. Whether the flood was universal, or confined to a comparatively small region; how many species of animals were taken into the ark; the exact length of the time they were confined in the ark, are questions of interest to the geologist and archaeologist rather than to the student of the history of redemption. The great lesson of the incident is that which St. Peter drew from it. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly from temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment.” As in the phrase of the prophet, He mercifully cares that “a remnant” be left, that hope may not perish from the earth.
It is from this side that the story of the flood must be regarded. Thus we see how God holds to his purpose not to give man up to his evil tendencies.
He is grieved at heart by our wickedness, by the misery and degradation wrought by sin, and in his tender mercy stretches forth his helping hand and sets our feet upon a rock and establishes our going.
To Noah God renewed his covenant, spoke words of kind encouragement and ordained the rainbow on the cloud to be the symbol of that covenant that is forever between Him and all mankind.
THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH
“His holy covenant: the oath which He sware to Abraham our father."
HE call of Abraham was the greatest event in the history of our redemption from the time of Noah to the coming of Jesus Christ. It was the beginning
of the dispensation of grace under which we live; not a new purpose, for the purpose of His grace is from the beginning; but in Abraham was initiated a new method, a new scheme of ordinances, by which His gracious will is revealed and executed.
From the days of Noah to the time of Abraham was a period of vast, but unknown length, unlighted by any recorded revelation. We can hardly suppose that all those ages were left in utter darkness. No doubt the righteousness of Noah and his family persisted for a time, and indeed it may be that righteousness flourished for many generations. This is probable because the world seems to have made good progress in the arts and social order, and such progress is not made when men are morally corrupt. The periods of growth in civilization have always been times of high morality, though the attainments of such periods may be retained long after men have become corrupt, for God is slow to wrath.
The time of Abraham falls within the range of what we call the light of history, a rather dim light to be sure, but in the recently discovered records of that ancient land of Chaldea we have the evidences of a civilization well developed, highly complex, and, in some respects, as brilliant as that of our own day. In the arts of war and peace, in material welfare and
political organization, the age had attained to a high degree of culture. The primitive man that figures so largely in the theories of sociology, if he ever existed anywhere, had disappeared from Chaldea ages and ages before the time of Abraham.
Once for all, let it be clearly understood that from the tinie of Abraham, whatever may have been before, we have nothing whatever to do with “primitive man,” or the tottering footsteps of an infant race. In the story of Abraham we have to do with a very ancient and highly developed civilization. Chaldea and Egypt were then as highly organized, as far from primitive, as any part of Europe is today, and probably the Hittite Empire, on whose border Abraham dwelt, was not far behind in its development.
While Abraham's own interests were chiefly in his flocks and herds and wells of water, he had the traditions of a great people, and was in actual touch with all three of the nations we have named.
The common assumption that Abraham's point of view was that of the primitive and unsophisticated barbarian is utterly false and fatally misleading. The whole story of his life portrays a man of dignity and poise, simple and direct in thought and speech because of firm and intelligent convictions, and the calm assurance of a conscience void of offense. Not a single word or deed recorded of him reveals an uncouth or barbarian trait. Abraham was a gentleman of such quality as is not easily matched in any age, nor surpassed by the ideals of any civilization.
The significance of these facts is important in the study of the religious faith and forms of worship revealed through him. He builded his altar wherever he pitched his tent; he offered sacrifice and praise and communed with God in the manner of one who was well assured of the propriety of such a service.
The God of Abraham was certainly no Sun Myth nor per
sonified natural force but "the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth," a personal God of infinite worth and majesty, but who might be spoken with and supplicated and adored.
There is, in short, no vestige, hint, or shadow of a fact on which to base the theory that the conception known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was evolved in the mind of the Jewish race and perfected only by the philosophers and theologians of the seventh and eighth centuries.-B. C.
We do not know how much of Abraham's knowledge of God was given by special inspiration, and how much of it was due to the traditions from the days of Noah and the common heritage of his race. But we do know, both from the old Chaldean records, and the page of Scripture, that the religion of his time had become perverted and hopelessly corrupt. The incident of Melchizedec, "a priest of the most high God," who was reverenced by Abraham, seems to indicate that the knowledge of the true God was not entirely obscured. It would seem rather that a faithful remnant still remained to witness the truth to the world, and that of this remnant God called Abraham to begin a new dispensation, that the knowledge of God's gracious purpose might not perish from the earth.
The call of Abraham was not unlike the call of Noah. It was a special act of Providence to save the world from ruin and the race of man from death. In Noah's case, the separation of the good from the evil—at least the better from the worse—was final and complete. In Abraham's call the separation was not so absolute, nor the judgment on the evil so terrible. No overwhelming flood of righteous wrath, but the tender voice of divine compassion called Abraham to separate himself from the evil associations of his home and country, that he might lay foundations for that institution by which the scheme of our redemption was wrought out. He was chosen to found a nation which should be the priest nation of the world, the mediator of the world's salvation, the custodian of