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by walking with him as a child walks with a father; not as a slave with a tyrant master before whom he cringes, or as a maniac with his keeper of whom he is constantly afraid; but as a child with a parent, in whose face he sees sunshine, and in whose footfall he hears the most welcome music, as Enoch walked. Thus walking, and thus believing, we please God, and are accepted of him, through Christ Jesus, the only Saviour of this illustrious member of the Antediluvian Church, and of all who believe, till the end of time.
CHAPTE R xv III.
THE BABEL BUILDERS ; OR, UNSANCTIFIED JUDGMENTs.
“Nor deem the irrevocable past
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LoRD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And 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. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LoRD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.”— GEN. xi. 4–8.
I HAVE presented elsewhere in explanatory remarks those geographical, and, if I may use the word, ethnographical criticisms, which cast some light upon the mere history of the chapter which I have now read. But it is important that we should look at God's word, not only in the light of history and of science, but also in that light which shall make it practically improving to our own hearts, and lives, and consciences. Therefore, I proceed to draw from the whole of the historical statement we have read, those interesting and important spiritual lessons with which all Scripture is charged, and which it needs only patient and prayerful investigation to educe for our comfort, edification, and progress. How true is God's portrait of humanity after the Flood! how true was his portrait of humanity before it! Before he sent that overwhelming judgment, he, who could not be mistaken, said, “Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is evil, and that continually;” and after the Flood had swept the earth, and punished the guilty, and saved by a special miracle them that loved him, God, looking still to man's heart, said, “Though the imagination of the thoughts of man's heart be still evil continually, yet I will not send another Flood to destroy the whole earth.” You have humanity sketched before the Flood, and the crimes that then prevailed are thre evidence how truly God spake. You have humanity sketched after the Flood, and the daring and impious experiment described in the eleventh chapter of Genesis, is the evidence how true that portrait was. We see from all this that the visible church and the true spiritual church are not coextensive. It was only the visible church that was saved in the ark, they were not all members of the true spiritual church. Noah, and his wives and children, were the selected group saved by God's special providence, and by a specific miracle, from the desolating judgments that overwhelmed the rest of the world; but in that little group there were some who were saved temporarily, but not spiritually and eternally; for no sooner do they escape from the ark, than, forgetful of all past mercies, despising all existent signs, they start again an experiment of impiety and wickedness only equalled by the folly in which they were permitted to conceive it. So is it still. In the smallest church all are not truly converted men. All that pass through baptismal water are not regenerated, just as all that were saved by the Flood were not saved by the Holy Spirit of God. He is not a Jew who is one out
wardly; he is not a Christian who is one only baptized. There needs an inner work to make us members of the inner church, just as the outer rite can make us members of the outer ecclesiastical community. A very important lesson is taught here, — mere judgments are unequal to sanctify the heart, wicked men do not become better by the judgments that befall them. In short, the visitation that overtakes a person, has its fruits according to the prior character and heart of that person. In the case of God's people, all afflictions are chastisements, sweetened and sanctified to them. In the case of those who are not God's people, afflictions have only a hardening effect. It is the inner state of the individual prior to the affliction, that determines and surely predicts what shall be the practical moral effect of that affliction. There is nothing in suffering, however severe, or however long, that is essentially sanctifying, otherwise the penalties of the lost would end in the purification of the lost. There is nothing in any suffering that can root out the fibres of the old heart, or neutralize its inherent poison. The Spirit of God only can do so. Affliction to the believer is mercy; affliction to the unbeliever is penal, and not paternal in any respect. We see this in the case of those who escaped in the ark; what they had lost—for they had all lost friends and relatives— had no sanctifying effect upon them. In looking at this historical fact, it is worthy of remark, there was no sin in building the tower—that was not the sin — there was no more sin in building the Tower of Babel, than there was in building the Pyramids, or any of the steeples of London. The outer act was not in itself sinful; the construction of a city was rather a desirable thing; it is the seat of refinement, and of human progress. In the outer act itself there could have been nothing that was sinful. Wherein then did the sin lie? The same outward act may differ in moral character in different circumstances. It is the heart behind the hand that decides the nature and the character of its work; it is the aim, the motive, the end, that indicates moral character. One man may build a church, and yet there may be no piety in the act; another man may build a playhouse, and there may be no impiety in it. It is when the work is in itself neutral, that you are to determine its moral character by the prior moral feelings of the artisan, or the mechanic, or the genius that devised and constructs it. In building this tower, the sin was in the aim, the end, and object which they had in view. Let us investigate what these were, and then we shall be able to calculate the moral nature of the workmen engaged in this enterprise. We have only to listen to the original invitation, — “Come, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name,” that is, get national celebrity or national glory, - to see that this was their grand, predominating, and absorbing object. But has this actuating motive perished or been buried amid the ruins of the Tower of Babel? Alas, it has not. How many study, not in order to be useful to man and serviceable in the cause of Christ, but to get a name ! Many an author writes books, many a senator makes speeches, many a statesman constructs cabinets, many a soldier draws the sword, many a sailor walks the deck, not from patriotic motives, or with Christian designs, but to get a name. As Dr. Chalmers well said, “Each of us has his tower of Babel, which we are continually building, and never learning wisdom from the experience of the past.” It is no evidence that the thing is good to say that any of these things—to be a soldier, a sailor, an author, a preacher, or an orator, – is good in itself: we must mark the aim, the end, the object in view. It matters not what the thing be, if it be not in