<< Genesis 7: Ham, Noah and the Flood >>
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; 14 They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. 17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. 18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. GENESIS 7
We were compelled to leave some portions of the Divine history of Noah in our last, unfinished, and before going broadly into the wide field of the Flood, and the Ark, we must resume, and briefly notice them so far as to give suggestive hints to the reflective. The subject is too great to particularize. We left the subject with Ham, who had told his brethren of the unhappy state of Noah. This we saw was indicative of the Spirit which notices failings in others only to blazon them about. The brethren are those who are in goodness. They listen to Ham, but for a very different purpose. They are of the two classes of such as are in goodness.
Those who are actuated by love to the Lord, and worship Him direct from inward love, and those whose highest attainment is love to the neighbour, and who worship him because He enables them to love the brethren, these are brothers. They are joined by the brotherly principle. And their mode of treating the faults of others is beautifully delineated by the conduct of Shem and Japheth. " They took a garment, and laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness." They took a garment, means that they took such a view of the case as would excuse and cover it. They took the mantle of charity, which covereth a multitude of sins, and spread it over what they did not wish to see. They went backward, not desiring to gaze upon what they knew to exist, but which they were unhappy to know. They placed the mantle on their shoulders, that is, they covered what they desired to have concealed from the public gaze, with all their might. Whatever men are described in the Word as doing with vigour and strength, they are said to do with their shoulders. ''But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears that they should not ear." — Zech. vii, 11. There is a beautiful use of this correspondence in the prophecy of Zephaniah, which is obscured by the word shoulder being erroneously rendered consent. " For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one shoulder." — Zeph. iii. 9. When, then, the efforts of these loving spirits are described, who desire to excuse, not to accuse, they are said to go backwards and carry the mantle on their shoulders. How blessed it is to exercise this heavenly spirit of healing, and how much room there is almost always for its display. We know sometimes the evil which is done, but not how much is resisted. We know not the power of the temptation under which a weak child of humanity has sunk. We can take slight cognizance of neglected education, want of religious training, want of the sweet influence of early love, want of sound knowledge, perhaps, of the definite nature of good and evil, and the consequences of both. We know little of the vicious circumstances under which a sinner may have succumbed, circumstances internal as well as external. All these considerations should make us deal gently with the erring. And one other thought should confirm us in this determination, namely, that love is the grand reclaimer. Under threats and harshness the sinner hardens himself, and under love he softens. Let an erring one see that you love him and desire to do him good, and if there be any good in him, it will be powerfully affected. Proud defiance has often been turned into weeping penitence at the gentle touch and voice of active love. " Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." — Matt. v. 7. " Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful." — Luke vi. 36.
" O never let us lightly fling
The barb of woe to wound another;
Oh let us never haste to bring
The cup of sorrow to a brother.
Each has the power to wound, but he
Who wounds that he may witness pain,
Has learnt no law of charity,
Which ne'er inflicts a pang in vain.
“ 'Tis God-like to awaken joy.
Or sorrow's influence subdue :
But not to wound, nor to annoy,
Is part of virtue's lesson too.
“Peace winged in fairer worlds above
Shall lend dawn to brighten this:
When a man's labour shall be love,
And all his thoughts a brother's bliss.”
This spirit of hiding another's fault, if possible, is not only portrayed by the conduct of Shem and Japheth in covering their father, but its blessed influence in promoting his deliverance from his fault is intimated by the divine words following immediately after, "and Noah awoke from his wine." Many awakenings would come about sooner than they do, if the subjects of them were treated in the spirit of Shem and Japheth. Let us earnestly pray continually to be saved from laying any stumbling-block in the way of a brother's return to a state of heavenly wakefulness, by our being wanting in that Spirit which casts a veil over his infirmities.
There is, however, something very remarkable which follows, and with this we must conclude our present review of the Divine Word in relation to Noah. It is said that when he saw what Ham had done to him, Noah said, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." — Gen. ix. 25. This has been extremely perplexing to all interpreters of the letter alone, on many accounts.
The perplexity in relation to the curse of Canaan arises, first, from the circumstance that Ham himself should not be cursed, although he was the offender, but his son, and not all his children, but the youngest son Canaan only. If we are to suppose the curse as coming from the Divine Being, it would also have the additional difficulty of being contrary to the Divine Law. " The soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the. iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." — Ezek. xviii. 20. A variety of conjectures have been offered, but none which have arisen from the letter only have afforded a satisfactory solution. The chief offender escapes, and another is punished. Some have thought that Canaan was the darling son of Ham, and the father was punished in him to wound his dearest affections. But our feelings revolt from attributing such refinements of malice to the Best of Beings. We have not yet arisen to the knowledge of our God, if we have not learned that He is Love Itself, and punishment comes from sin, not from Him. Whether Ham or Canaan was cursed, it would arise from their own deformity of character, not from any primitive action of the All-Merciful. Others have imagined that Canaan was in some way abetting his father, but for this there is no warrant in the text. This is departing from the letter, not to go to a spiritual sense, but only to invent a new literal reading. This is indeed adding to the Word of God. But the fulfillment of this curse of Canaan, considered literally, is attended with equal difficulty. The nations proceeding from Ham were far more powerful than the Israelites, taken as the race of Shem, ever were. From Ham were the mighty Assyrians, with the great capital of Nineveh whose remains exhumed anew, command the astonishment of mankind. From Ham was that mighty Babylon, which ruled far and wide, and counted Judea among its least important tributaries. From Canaan even arose imperial Sidon, and Tyre, and the merchant empire of the Sidonians. Only after a thousand years could there be any pretence of a literal fulfilment of this prophecy, and then only of a portion of the race of Canaan, when the Israelites took possession of their land. And even to make this imperfect fulfillment, we must take Canaan as the type of his race, as we take Noah for the type of a Church. No individual Canaan became any such servant of servants to his brethren. Let us, however, look higher.
Ham, we have seen, is representative of those in the Church, at that time who were in the faith, but were wanting in charity. Now, such are not cursed in themselves, and may, if they unite their faith and knowledge to charity, become blessed. But when faith without charity does not unite itself to charity, and so make itself one of the family of heaven; but, on the contrary, goes on producing sects and differences more and more external, it settles into a mere form of outward worship, without any inward life or light. Such a dead form is what Canaan, Ham's last son, represents. The name denotes a trader. It is a mere superstition. To such a form of dead works may belong the vilest people in the world, and they often do. The tyrant, the covetous, the deceitful, the hater of his neighbour will attend the church, and the sacraments, but they are only hypocrites. In such external worship, self still reigns with all its lusts and passions. Monsters of cruelty, and avarice are often its most diligent devotees. But such worship is cursed by the presence of these interior impurities of an inner hell. Even with those who are not inwardly impure, but only uninquiring and dull in their worship, such unintelligent religion as theirs is the lowest of all low things, a servant of servants is Canaan to his brethren. It should be the effort of all to raise their fellow men to an enlightened faith, and loving worship. We should cleanse, first, the inside of the cup and the platter, that the outside may be clean also. " We should arise and shine, for the light is come, and the glory of the Lord has arisen upon us."
Before we conclude, the numbers of the years of Noah's life must have a slight notice, though the great subject of the spiritual sense of numbers is too vast to be treated here. We may remark, however, that Noah is said to be five hundred years old when we meet with the first mention of his name; six hundred years old when the flood came, and he continued for three hundred and fifty years after the flood.
The addition of hundreds or thousands makes no difference in the spiritual signification of numbers, since all increase in extent is only the repetition of the same principles as form the commencement. Five hundred, therefore, signifies the same as five, six hundred, the same as six, and three hundred and fifty the same as three and a half. Five reminds us of the five wise and foolish virgins, and represents a Church such as it is when it has received and comprehended the truths delivered to it and is about to bring them into practice. Its light and experience are all, and are represented by the number five. Six reminds us the six days of labour, and is especially appropriate to describe the Church when about to undergo the severest toils of temptations; while three hundred and fifty, or three and a half, indicative of a full end represented by three, which, derived from the Trinity, always signifies what is foil; and a half which represents the commencement of a New Church. Three and a half, under various forms, is frequent in the book of Revelation, and always refers to the full end of one dispensation and the commencement of another. It is in agreement with this rule that Noah is said to have died after the flood three hundred and fifty years.
Such are some of the instructive lessons which are taught in in the Spirit of the Divine Word respecting Noah. Let us ponder over them, and learn.
We come now to the consideration of the flood itself. What is its nature? What were its circumstances? Was it of water of wickedness? Those who have not reflected much on spiritual things are startled even at the mention of a spiritual flood, although the thing itself is not at all unknown or unfamiliar. They have been so long accustomed to the vulgar idea, and are habitually so persuaded of the value of natural life, that although the destruction of virtue and truth by torrents of iniquity is far more appalling to the wise, to the heedless it seems of little moment. Not so, however, is it regarded in the Word of God. Throughout its divine pages a spiritual flood is treated of as the soul's most awful calamity. And we may here notice, that a spiritual assault of evil and error is undoubtedly meant by the term flood, in a very large number of passages in the Scriptures. No other meaning could be attached to the expression. How manifest this is in the Book of Psalms every one must have noticed. Take, as a striking example, the sixty -ninth. " Save me, O God; for the waters are come in into my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me." — Ver. 1, 2. Again, “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me." — Ver. 14, 15. Here there is a cry which nothing but the agony of the bitterest temptation could produce. Not the death of the body, but the fear of the more terrible death of the soul could awaken the agonizing expressions here uttered. " Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul." In the eighteenth Psalm we have something of the same kind. " The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me." — Ver. 4, 5. And a little further : "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of strange waters." — Ver. 16. These are evidently entreaties of the soul under bitter trials, which are described as floods of water. Such language, with such signification, is very frequent in the Scriptures; and the states it portrays belong to the experience of all, except those who yield themselves willingly to sin, and go constantly along with the stream. The Psalmist says again: "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee, in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him." — Ps. xxxii. 6. In earthly floods, the righteous have no peculiar exemption. They are objects, like all others of divine care, for eternal ends; but while in ordinary life people recognize a great Providence in their escapes from danger, a wider and deeper view of Providence would reveal the truth that there is a Divine care and mercy over those drowned at sea, or dashed to pieces on a railway, equally with those who rejoice at being unhurt. "The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works."
The end of a Church is often in the Word described as accompanied by a flood, though certainly not by one of outward waters. Where the end of the Jewish Church is predicted by Isaiah, it is mentioned as being accompanied by the fearful circumstances of a flood, although no one supposes that such a catastrophe outwardly occurred. This is strikingly so in the twenty-eighth chapter; “Behold the Lord hath a mighty and a strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand." — Ver. 2. " Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it."— Ver. 15, 17, 18.
The prophet Daniel describes the end of the Jewish Church, which was completed by the crucifixion of the Lord, in like manner as attended by a flood. "And after threescore and two: shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood" — Chap. ix. 26. A flood of impieties, falsehoods, and delusions there was then, but we are not aware of any other. Such floods are adverted to by the Lord in the Gospel as assailing every one. The good come out of them, or ride over them; the wicked sink and perish. "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sands: the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it ---Matt. vii. 24-27. The floods alluded to in both portions is divine description of the temptations which must be endured in the discipline of life, are, as every one will admit, those influences which impel the soul to wrong; those assaults which, like surging waves come again and again to try the principles of all; and under which such as trust in their own opinions only, and do not rest on the Rock of the Divine Word, will surely fall. Similar floods of felsebood, it will be admitted, are meant when it is said, on the birth of the man-child, as mentioned in Revelation, — " The serpent cast out of his mouth water as flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth” Chap. xii. 15, 16. A flood from the mouth of the serpent can surely only be understood to mean a torrent of erroneous teachings, destined, if possible, to discredit the New Church meant by the woman, and the sublime doctrine she has produced for the world. It is, then, the undoubted usage of the Sacred Scriptures to represent under the figure of a flood, the streams of false and destructive errors which prevail at the end of a Church with the utmost virulence, and also at some period in the career of every man are permitted to test the sincerity and fixedness of his religion.
There are three sources of flood mentioned in our text: the " fountains of the great deep," the "windows of heaven," and " the rain.'' How far my hearers may be able to represent to themselves the meaning of these words in relation to an out ward flood, I know not, and do not now stay to enquire; but in times of spiritual struggle there are opened awful deeps within man, which send up malignant, loathsome persuasions, scalding hot, which would hurry the soul to ruin. The deep-rooted selfishness of the fallen heart says, " There is no God." — Ps. xiv. 7. The wicked bravado of insolent pride says within his heart also, "There is no fear of God before his eyes." — Ps. xxxvi. 1. The horrid cravings of sensuality beg for their indulgence with importunate yells, and the poor soul knows hardly what to do. "Deep called unto deep at the noise of the water-spouts: all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me." — Ps. xlii. 17. The windows of heaven are the rational faculties of the soul. These are given to let in heavenly light. In an orderly state they are indeed the windows of heaven. The Divine light of truth shines freely in. They are the eyes of the soul. But in sore temptation, at these same windows, false reasonings enter. Infidel spirits, perhaps infidel books, and infidel friends supply waterspouts of specious conclusions, all at the time seemingly powerful, weighty, with much truth in them, but all dishonouring God, and degrading to man. Logic, appearing to the sad and darkened mind irresistible, seems to prove evil good, and good evil, religion to be only superstition, heaven a dream, hell a bug-bear, virtue a farce, and all the glorious order of the universe a mere fortuitous jumble of atoms, brought together by blind chance, or equally blind necessity. Added to this, there is the rain, the unceasing pattering of false teaching from companions, and associates plying the Spirit day by day with the scornful word, the vile jest, the wild jeer, the frequent invitation, the constant persuasion to wrong-doing, and often the bitter denunciation of the virtuous as hypocrites; the withering sarcasm, which, like storms of hail, comes down on the wearied, almost despairing soul, with cruel force; all these make a storm — a flood of overwhelming force. Happy is he who has a heavenly ark at hand, in which he can take refuge, and be saved.
Let us imagine a situation in this great city, by no means rare. A young man comes from the order and quietude of a secluded, virtuous home. He has been trained to respect everything sacred, and has often himself experienced high and holy communings with heaven. The Bible has been to him the unquestioned Book of Life. He was cradled in its reverence, and the hymns be first heard from his mother's lips seemed to him like an angel's songs. He comes, however, to business, and finds himself side by side with persons licentious in thought and manners. He is introduced, perhaps, to books, written by parties who have given talents of transcendent excellence to prove that man is the creature of circumstances, has no pre-eminence over a beast, has no knowledge of anything higher than his body, and the whole mystery of iniquity, which renders the way broad, which leads to destruction. While he is thus assailed from without, inclinations to evil, deeply rooted in the lusts of his fallen nature, reply to the enemy without by traitorous attacks within. These, like the Amalekites of old, watch when the soul is faint, weary, and despairing, and strive to push it over the precipice of doubt into the abyss of recklessness. How needful in such circumstances is it for die young man especially to remember the words of the poet—
"Thou tread'st upon deceitful ground,
Perils and snares beset thee round.
Beware of all! guard every part!
But most the traitor in thy heart!”
While the great movements, without and within, from the windows, and the fountains of the great deeps are infesting him, the daily talk of those around him; the incessant seizure of anything evil in the affairs of the world; the weakness of some, the hypocrisy of others, the errors which have been too successfully mingled with religious doctrines, and which often place them in seeming antagonism to science, when they never really are; all these make a threefold series of attacks, under which tens of thousands fall, and which can only be defeated by the spirit's taking counsel from Him who is "a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest." — Isa. xxxii. 2. Such have a divine ark provided for them ; the Ark of true religion. If they enter into that, no danger can harm them.
At the end of a church, the flood assumes fearful power. Books of an irreligious character abound. The Church has first perverted the truth, and taught the traditions of men for the commandments of God. Puerile superstitions are common, from which the reason of mankind revolts. Morals are relaxed. Religions teachers are too often unworthy of their name and office. They have devised some scheme which they call religion, which dims the holy light of that truth which says, " Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God." Streams of iniquity flow far and wide. A godless clergy and superstitious doctrines are there. Others originate a philosophy which tries to make the universe a self-acting machine; a science very learned and very laborious, but learned and laborious about trifles; dwelling for ever on forms of speech, but overlooking the sense, the soul of speech; solemnly and devotedly engaged on worms and butterflies, on the affinities of atoms, and the measurement of angles, but seldom entering upon those aspirations of the angelic nature within, which raise us from creeping through this outer life the denizens of a day, to soar into the glorious regions of light and love, which give as affinities with the holy and the true of all ages, and enable us to take the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
Thus was it in the middle and latter half of the last century. Iniquity abounded. Love waxed cold. Faith was scarcely to be met with anywhere. Works of amusement were disgustingly vicious. From royal circles down to the poorest hovels, vice under ten thousand forms, reigned almost unchallenged. Alison, the historian of that period, thus describes it: " Man's connection with his Maker was broken by the French apostles of freedom: for they declared there was no God in whom to trust, in the great struggle for liberty." "Human immortality," says Channing, "that truth which is the soul of all greatness, they derided. In their philosophy man was a creature of chance, a compound of matter, a worm soon to rot and perish for ever. The revolution, with its disasters and its passions, its overthrow of thrones and altars, its woes, its blood, and its suffering." In the general deluge, thus falling upon a sinful world, the mass of mankind still clung to their former vices. They were, as of old, marrying and giving in marriage, when the waters burst upon them, but an Ark of Salvation had been prepared by more than mortal hands. The hand on the wall had unlocked the fountains of original thought. (Chap. lx.)
Here, then, we had a deluge — a flood, making an end of old things, and preparing for a new state in Christendom. And here was fulfilled the prediction of the Saviour: “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall he shaken” — Luke xxi. 25, 26. This will illustrate what we mean by the question, as to the flood of Noah, Was it of water or of wickedness ? We wish, first, to bring our minds to look definitely at a spiritual flood, that we may perceive that in professing to consider the flood as one of the series of remarkable events narrated in the early chapters of Genesis, which are to be understood as sublime descriptions of the rise, career, and fall of the Church, told by the Divine Wisdom in the ancient manner, we are not lessening the importance of the sacred teaching, but rather drawing from its fulness instruction which will be of service to every individual when the floods come him, as well as to show to every age that though “the floods have lifted up, O Lord (Jehovah), the floods have lifted up their voice: the floods lift up their waves: the Lord (Jehovah) on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea." (Ps. xciii. 4.)
If we take the flood of Noah to be like the floods we have already adverted to, we shall find that there were some special circumstances about it, which gave it a fearful peculiarity of its own. “There were giants in the earth in those days." — Gen. vi. 4. Monsters of guilt were these, produced from the admixture of truths from heaven, — " sons of God," with odious lusts, "daughters of men." In the kingdom of the soul, heaven hell were blended, and results were produced, such as we only faintly conceive. This mixture took place from the pollution of those who knew better. It was the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they chose their wives from them. The Lord says, the good seed are the children or sons of the kingdom (Matt. xiii. 38). When these, forgetting their high origin, debase themselves to purposes of hypocrisy, vileness and passion, terrible productions are born. Giant sins stalk abroad in the earth of the human soul. In those days we have the delusion of the Salt Lake, a giant of this class, in which the office of the prophet has been united to knavery and lust, and monstrous forms of guilt affright the earth, There were also numbers in ancient times, and it is said now to reviving across the Atlantic, of those who seek to have communion with the dead, who rush into divine things, but depraved atheistic in heart, and are reproducing the abominations of heathenism with supposed divine sanction. They take the echoes of their own phantasies, from spirits like themselves, the the utterances of messengers from heaven. Such awful perversions make giants of impurity and folly. Such were the Nephilim, which is the word translated giants, and derived from nephil, to fall. And it is a singular circumstance, which they who hold close to the letter would do well to ponder, that the men who brought an evil report to the Israelites, calculated to intimidate them, said, " And there we saw the Nephilim (the giants), the sons of Anak, which come from the Nephilim (the giants)." Only here, and in Genesis, are there giants of this class mentioned. And if these were from the Nephilim, or giants before the flood, it is evident that some of these must have lived on in bodily life, however spiritually dead.
Such were the enormous corruptions into which the posterity of the most ancient church, or Adam, fell, " that God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." — Chap. vi. 5. " And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart" — Ver. 6. That is, even Divine Mercy could permit them to continue a church no longer. The Lord cannot repent, because He never does wrong (Numb, xxiii. 19). But when the divine operations, though still for a merciful end, change from being agreeable to us, and become afflictive and disagreeable, it seems to us that the Lord repents, and changes, but it is only an appearance. He changes not (Mal. iii. 9). The Lord, it is written, said, " I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air ;for it repenteth me that I have made them." — Gen. vi. 7. And, again, " God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth." The Lord is said to save and to destroy; to kill and to make alive; yet doth the same fountain at the same place, as James says, send forth sweet and bitter? (chap. iii. 11.) "Out of the mouth of the Most High proceeded not evil and good." — Lam. iii. 38. He is the Father of lights, in whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning (James i. 17). But though the Lord is unchangeable love in Himself, and nothing but the purest mercy and light are His Holy Spirit, yet its effects are various according to the conditions of those upon whom it operates. Like the light of the sun, which pains the owl, the light of heaven is abhorrent to the evil. When truth is proposed, they pour forth falsehood. The states of the wicked are like a powder magazine, full of explosive material. When influences from heaven touch them , they rage, they foam, they writhe with pain, they pour out on every side blasphemies and falsehoods in torrents. And, because this excitement follows the coming of Divine Truth, it is said the Lord brings it. When the Saviour, the Prince of Peace, came upon the earth. He knew He came not to bring peace, but division. To the peace-loving He brought peace. But to the selfish Sadducee, the sanctimonious hypocritical Pharisee, His words were the excitements to perpetual indignation. The storm raised in them by the presence and utterance of Truth became daily more and more fierce and tumultuous, until they never met him but with envy and race. The waves of opposition tossed more violently as malice lashed itself and its partizans into greater fury; and at length, bursting all bounds, they cried, "Crucify Him, crucify Him," and hurried Him to death. Thus alone is it the Lord brings destruction. There is no destructive material in Him; but in coming to save the good. He necessarily excites the bad. They fly against His omnipotence, and fall. The Lord, in coming to found a New Church at the end of the Adamic, by His unfoldings of Divine truth and goodness, excited the deeps of incredible passions and abhorrences, provoked the whole power of delusive reasonings, and excited oppositions the most unremitting, until a flood of unheard of malignity and extent was called forth, sweeping in its destructive career all that was sacred and truthful, all that was virtuous and pure, all that was moral and decent, into one wild whirlpool of impiety, impurity, and madness. This was the deluge; a far more destructive inundation than any mere flood of waters, and one that entails most surely the loss of both soul and body. Such a flood prevails at the end of every church, although each has its peculiar virulence. Its billows have to be endured by every man, and hence the importance of the lessons it teaches in the spiritual sense. To study it is no vain thing; it is our life.
But, it may now be asked, why do you not receive the account of the Flood as commonly taught? Why not accept it in the letter, as well as in the spirit? We admit the spiritual meaning as you propose, but why not the letter also? To this we reply. We have dwelt thus on the spiritual sense first in this discourse that it may be seen that, although we consider the divine account of the flood to be allegorical, we by no means make less of the Divine Word than others, but, in fact, more. We perceive immeasurably more in it than mere literalists admit, but we cannot accept the natural interpretation of the history, because we do not believe it was ever so intended to be understood. It is part of the series which describes spiritual creation under natural imagery, trees of life and knowledge, talking serpents, and a variety of other particulars which cannot be reconciled with reason or with science; and we hare no doubt that true theology, true reason, and true science are in harmony. They come from the same divine fountain.
Many, however, will admit the spiritual signification of the flood to the fullest extent, but will ask. Why not consider it literal also? Inasmuch as the general rule is, that the letter of the Word contains history literally true, why not the same in this instance? To this we reply, that there is everywhere a literal sense to the Word, but that sense varies in its style; it is sometimes allegory, sometimes history, sometimes precept, sometimes prophecy, sometimes praise. The outward sense of the Scripture, like the outward garment of the Saviour, consists of various parts, and could be divided : the inner sense, like the inner garment, is all of a piece throughout. In the letter, the Word was given to each people in the mode best accommodated to them, and in the early ages allegory was what they loved. They gave spiritual history in natural forms. Hence, we have the account of the formation of the church, like the creation of the world; we have trees of life and of knowledge, and a speaking serpent. Hence the origin of parables, and mythology; and to this class of writing belongs the flood. But, again, it may be asked, why not consider this history, in particular, literal ? We answer, why not consider the account of the trees going forth to choose a king, as mentioned in Judges, chapter nine, literally true ? You will answer, it would be absurd to think so. Such a conception would not be in harmony with our ideas of divine wisdom. It would be needless, foolish, and extravagant to do so. So we reply, in relation to the flood. The geologists inform us that there are no vestiges of a universal flood visible on the earth. The celebrate Professor Buckland, of Oxford, once thought otherwise, and wrote his work Reliquiae Deluviana, but he recanted his opinion, and himself condemned his former conclusions. Professor Sedgwick, of Cambridge, also declared that there were no appearances in nature from which to arrive at the conclusion that there had been a flood affecting the whole earth, during the period of human existence. On closing his career of Professor, he said, "Our errors were, however, natural, and of the same kind which led many excellent observers of a former century to refer all the secondary formations of geology to the Noachian deluge. Having been myself a believer, and, to the best of my power, a propagator of what I now regard as a philosophical heresy, and having more than once been quoted for opinions I do not now maintain, I think it right, as one of my last acts, before I quit this chair, thus publicly to read my RECANTATION. We ought, indeed, to have paused before we first adopted the diluvian theory, and referred all our old superficial gravel to the action of the Mosaic flood: for of man, and the works of his hands, we have not found a SINGLE TRACE among the remnants of a former world tombed in these ancient deposits." With the remarks of these eminent men we might leave the subject, so far as the science of geology is concerned, but we will add, that no eminent geologist of the present day can be quoted for a different opinion. Hence, any persons who cling to the literal account of the flood, seek to escape the chief difficulties now, by urging, as Dr. Pye Smith does, that it was a limited flood, extending only over a part of Asia, and have collected a vast number of facts to show that the flood could not have extended elsewhere. But this is departing from the letter of the record, which states, "Behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die." — Gen. vi. 17. " And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were UNDER THE WHOLE HEAVEN, were covered." — Chap, vii. 19.
But if the flood were not an universal one, why spend a hundred years to build an ark to escape from it ? Why not walk it of the district which it would affect? Why, too, collect beasts, and especially birds, to preserve them in the ark. A partial flood would not extinguish them, and scarcely affect the birds at all. The substitution of a partial for an universal flood removes some difficulties, but leaves others of a very grave character; and is itself a departure from the letter of the Word, without giving us anything of a spiritual lesson. Some cling to the literal account of the flood, because they find traditions among many ancient nations of such a calamity having happened. But this would be the case from a vast spiritual deluge. If a wild overspreading of malignant follies and falsehoods took place, and an inundation destructive of all that was sacred among them existed, this, in the ancient manner of speaking, would be called an universal flood, and in after ages, when the spiritual meaning was forgotten, would be supposed to have been a flood f earthly waters. This is clearly the case with the Hindoo tradition. It was translated by Sir William Jones from the Bhagavat, and is the subject of the first Purana. It is sufficiently like the Bible account of the deluge, to show that it alludes to the same great event. It is said to to have taken place at the close of the calpa, or dispensation of a calpa, or dispensation, when there was a general destruction, owing to the sleep of Brahma, and his creatures in different worlds were drowned in a great ocean. A holy king, by name Satyavrata, is saved by the appearance of the Deity in the form of a fish (Scientific truth), with a great horn (power), who slays a demon, and recovers the sacred books. This remarkable tradition coincides with these words: "But the appearance of a horned fish to the religious monarch was maya, or delusion, and he who shall devoutly hear this important ALLEGORICAL NARRATIVE will be delivered from the bondage of sin." Here, then, we have a key to all these traditions. The most perfect of them all states that it is an allegorical narrative. This is in perfect harmony with our view of the flood in the Bible: removes every difficulty, and gives us a spiritual divine lesson.
But, if any one still clings to the literal narrative, let us ask, have you duly reflected that such a flood as you conceive would require a new creation of water, and afterwards its annihilation, of which the Scriptures make no mention. For, although the deluge is ascribed to rain coming down forty days and forty nights, yet rain is only the pouring down on the earth of the water which has previously been raised out of the sea. The fountains of the great deep are said to have been opened, it is true, but fountains only bring up again the water which has sunk from a wide surface, and from high ground. Neither of these add to the water on the earth. But all the water of all the oceans and seas only suffice to fill up the present hollows, and if evenly spread, the best philosophers tell us, would not be more than a mile deep. To make a deluge deep enough to cover the highest mountains, that is, be more than five miles high, there must be water IN ADDITION to all the water now on the earth, which only fills the present depressions, equal to many times more than at present exists in all the oceans and seas of the earth. And of this not a word exists in Holy Writ. Such a stupendous miracle, too, would be quite contrary to all Divine operations, so far as we know them.
The further consideration, however, of the subject we must defer until our next, and, for the present, close by the grateful confession of the Psalmist : “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say: Then the proud waters had gone over our soul. Blessed be the Lord who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth." — Ps. cxxiv. 1, 5, 6.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)