<< Genesis 5: Noah: What Was He? >>
NOAH, THE PATRIARCH OF NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS: WAS HE AN INDIVIDUAL OR A COMMUNITY ?
32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth. GENESIS V
28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29 And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died. GENESIS IX
IN the discourses on the early chapters of Genesis illustrative of the spiritual sense of the Word as arising from the opening of he Divine narratives of Creation, Paradise, the Fall, and the Tower of Babel, we noticed that purely allegorical history exuded in the Scriptures to the history of Abraham, that is through the first eleven chapters of the Bible. Thus the geologist need not distress himself to harmonize his science, which teaches that the earth has existed for an immense though definite period, and in the formation of its strata has numbered millions of years, with the account in Genesis, which speaks of the creation in a week, and only six thousand years ago. The Bible narrative is a spiritual history contained in natural language. And so is it with Eden, and the other great subjects of the early Word. They were never intended to be literal history, they belong to the teachings of a higher wisdom. They were written in the manner of the wiser ancients, who saw in all nature the types and correspondences of spiritual and divine kings. And here, if we keep to the letter, we shall find it the letter that killeth; here, it is the Spirit only that can give life (2 Cor. iii. 6). It is proposed, before closing this series of discourses, to apply the same principles to the sacred accounts of Noah, the Flood, the Ark, and the Rainbow, for great difficulties arise from viewing these as the natural man views them, and these difficulties never can be removed but in proportion as we bear in mind " that the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." — 1 Cor. ii. 14.
The natural man may display himself in religion as well as in irreligion. The natural man in in irreligion denies the divinity of the Word altogether; the natural man in religion acknowledges the Word in name to be the Word of God, but treats it in precisely the same style as if it were a human production. The rule of the natural man is, to make much of its letter, and rest in that, if it be possible, satisfied with incorrect science, feeble reasoning, and narrow views. He evidently goes on in the idea that the High and Lofty One that inhabits eternity, and has formed immortal man for heaven, is as much concerned with earth-born inquiries and ideas as he himself is. He thinks this to inform him on subjects of science is the proper object of Divine Revelation, and he must admit no other or higher scheme anywhere in the sacred page, unless there is an express text declaring that it has, in that particular place, an inner meaning. The natural man will abide by the husks of nature as long as he can yet how much better would it be to hunger and thirst after the kernel of the Spirit. Let us, my beloved hearers, regard the Word as the ladder which leads to heaven, and then we may haply perceive angels of God ascending and descending upon it.
In the history of Adam we have shown it was not an individual which was treated of, but a church, represented as a man. The elevation, temptation, and fall of humanity, in general, are unfolded by the lot of Adam in Eden, his dealings with the serpent, and his expulsion from Paradise. " Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam.''— Gen. V. 2. Under this name, and in the short but wonderfully significant history of the first man and his descendants, the first church, with its offshoots, is delineated. These people, who are represented as living nearly a thousand years each, are types of the communities which existed in the golden age. That most ancient church, like all other great churches, had sects and varieties which were its generations, its sons and daughters. Each name, with the hundreds of years of existence, describes in the brief divine style some state and quality belonging to that church. And when it sunk altogether with gigantic lusts, and immersed in floods of falsehood, it was succeeded by another church represented in the Divine Word by Noah.
The great length of life enjoyed by the early patriarchs, so called, is to some a thing of wonder and miracle, to some, food for unbelief. Noah, with his nine hundred and fifty years, has occasioned great perplexity to thoughtful men who have not been aware of the Divine style of writing. To the worldly man, no doubt, it has seemed a privilege to live so long, for worldly life with him is everything: not so, however to him who is convinced that heaven is higher than the earth, and the life of angels is better than this life of toil below. For him "to live is Christ, but to die is gain." — Phil. i. 21. To him it would be no privilege to remain a thousand years in this valley of time and tears, as one not permitted to enter his glorious home. He would not be anxious to cling to the idea that when men were better they were kept so much longer on earth than now. He will not be disposed to admit strange and unnecessary miracles and deviations from the usual order of things, but be rather inclined to enquire if what seems to be so may not be understood in some more rational way. He will not find it too difficult to think that as the church is one body before the Lord, though consisting of millions of members, so its life may be described as the life of one man, however long the period assigned to it may be. The Jewish Church is generally described in the singular as Israel, although it subsisted for fifteen hundred years. It was the manner of the ancients thus to group all of one sentiment, as if they were one being. It is derived from the Divine Wisdom, which views heaven as one angel (Ps. xxxiv. 7), the Church as one body (1 Cor. xii. 37), a nation as one individual, as Assyria (Ezek. xxxi.), a heresy as one polluted form (Rev. xvii. 5), legions of infernal spirits as one devil (Mark v. 9).
In treating upon the garden of Eden, the two trees of life and of knowledge, the Serpent and the Fall, we have noticed that the Hindoo ancient books, and others which go up to the meet remote periods, have mythological accounts, which, though somewhat different in their form, are similar enough to show that their meaning is substantially the same as the spiritual sense of these subjects in Genesis. No Christian would take these accounts in other ancient books to be literally correct. Many would reject them as mere fabulous and unfounded stories: and there are not a few who do the same with Genesis. But this is not philosophical nor satisfactory. These accounts must have had a better origin than the love of falsehood, or they would never have been received and held sacred for thousands of years. The people who receive and cherish these books are among the slowest to receive anything new, and we have no right to conclude that their fathers could be duped more easily. The idea that they were given at a period of the world's progress, when men delighted in spiritual wisdom, and clothed it in natural imagery, makes it easy to see how they were conceived, how they were received, and how afterwards they became misunderstood by their being naturally interpreted. In their origin they were spiritually meant.
We find the same similarity with Genesis, as to the ages of the early fathers of mankind, in Egyptian, Chinese, and Hindoo mythologies. The first kings of Egypt, according to their traditions, reigned each more than twelve hundred years. In the Chinese books it is related that the primitive ancestors of mankind lived eighteen hundred years. The Hindoos, however, assure us that in the golden age the period of man's life was eighty thousand, and at its best period one hundred thousand years. And one of their holy kings was two millions of years old when he began to reign, continued on the throne for a million of years, and then spent in retirement one hundred thousand years more. No one in Christendom, certainly, would adopt these numbers literally, and yet, probably, they had a meaning well understood when they were written. Just so it if with the long ages in the early part of Genesis; they belong to the allegorical period, and like all the particulars related of the personages treated of, are to be understood in a spiritual manner. The apostle Peter, after having alluded to Noah, and the ark, and the eight persons who were saved, says, " The LIKE FIGURE, whereunto baptism doth also now save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ"— 1 Pet. iii. 21. He describes Noah, the ark, and the flood to be a FIGURE, and a figure of the same signification as baptism, that is, of purification from sin, and the work of regeneration.
This mode of viewing Noah as a figure, not as an individual, does not make the Word less instructive, less definite, or less worthy of its Divine Author, but more, it fills every sentence with interest and meaning. Where we had only a curious, and to many an unimportant and improbable story, we obtain an insight into the spiritual history of mankind; and while we discern states which have their parallels in our own souls, we have laid open to us that great and wide-spread movement in which originated all the ancient pre-Mosaic religions of mankind.
There are many considerations which would lead us to take Noah, not as an individual, but as, like Adam, a type of a church, if we consider the Divine narrative well, besides those which will arise from our further considerations respecting the flood and the ark, which we trust, it will be seen, are only to be spiritually understood. For instance, does it consist with individual life to suppose he would live for five hundred years without having any children? Yet we are informed Noah was five hundred years old, and then his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth were born.
Again, as Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood, he must have been living still for nearly sixty years after Abraham was born, for the birth of the latter took place, according to the dates in the eleventh of Genesis, two hundred and ninety-two years after the flood. But if, in Abraham's time, so wonderful a phenomenon still existed as these thousand-year old people, who lived hundreds of years before the flood, is it to be conceived that we should not have had them noticed, and their sayings chronicled? Is it possible to be imagined that with these witnesses still living, the only men left from the flood, that their descendants would have all become idolaters, as the ancestors of Abraham are acknowledged to have been? To us it seems inconceivable. Such remarkable persons would have commanded world-wide attention. Every history of every nation would have spoken of their sayings and doings. They, too, would have been the embodiment of all the learning, the literature, and the science of the world, before the flood. Their lives hundreds of years after the great catastrophe would have afforded ample opportunity of unfolding their stores to their descendants. But no, not a single ancient history out of the Bible refers to one of them, or to any saying of theirs. On the contrary, several great nations can be traced up to very nearly the time of the deluge, and no mention of these extraordinary individuals. If they were individuals this would seem inexplicable; but if they are names representing a new church among mankind after the former had set in a flood of iniquity, the difficulty vanishes. Rollin traces the history of the Assyrians up to little more than a hundred years from the supposed date of the deluge, and is extremely puzzled to find them then a great empire, with immense armies of millions of foot and hundreds of thousands of horse, with numerous cities, and making war upon other and distant countries numerously populated like themselves. The Chinese annals go beyond the supposed date of the flood, and are represented as a great nation at a more ancient period, with no mention of any universal deluge, or of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, persons who must have been their own ancestors, if this portion of Scripture is to be literally interpreted.
The earliest portion of the Hindoo sacred books, the Rig Veda, is admitted by scholars to be at least as old as the time of Abraham, and they evidently imply that then the Indian empire was large, a high state of cultivation attained, and the Brahminical system greatly developed. At this time Noah and his sons must have been alive, and been their venerated fathers if they were individuals, but there is no mention of any such individuals. The learned Bunsen himself, a sincere Christian, remarks: " We have no hesitation in asserting at once that there exist Egyptian monuments, the date of which can be accurately fixed, of a higher antiquity than those of any other nation known in history, viz., above FIVE THOUSAND YEARS" (Egypt, p. 28) : that is, nearly a thousand years before the date of the universal deluge. But monuments, which exhibit the arts in great perfection, imply a nation's previous existence and cultivation for hundreds of consecutive years. Yet these monuments give no account of, and make no reference to, Noah or Shem, Ham or Japheth.
The allusions made to a deluge we shall notice in the next discourse. From all this we may, at least, see that we are quite open to inquire whether that is the only interpretation of these early histories which is, at least, surrounded with difficulties, or if there be not a more excellent way. We think there is. The spiritual sense removes the difficulties, and itself presents admirable lessons concerning man's regeneration and interior life, fraught with instruction and edification. Let us examine it in this point of view.
And, first, let us remark that the name of Noah, which is the Hebrew for CONSOLATION, is indicative of his representative character, especially if taken in connection with the other names of the generations from Adam. These are Seth, which means placed, and refers to the somewhat restored condition of the Most Ancient Church after it fell ; then Enos, sick, which speaks of its still being in a declining state, and Cainan, lamentation, carries on the sad result. Then we have Mahalaleel, the illumination of God, and Jared, he who commands, and Enoch, whose name signifies dedicated. These three indicate a revival in the declining church, an arrest of the decay by the power of truth, the illumination of God, and a stay for a while of the manifest corruption; but because it was chiefly from truth, and the love underneath was not restored, the apparent improvement again gave way, and we have Methusaleh, which means, sends his death; and Lamech, the last, whose name signifies poor, and is expressive of the utter spiritual desolation in which a fallen church ends. Noah then, or consolation, represents those who would form the nucleus of a new church, the germ of a new age.
We shall endeavour to show in the two following discourses on the flood and the ark, that the catastrophe described in the Divine Word was not an inundation of outward water, but a flood of direful false doctrines and principles, such as always abound at the end of a dispensation of religion, but they had a peculiar malignancy from the awful lusts out of which they arose. And, of course, if it be proved that the flood was the abounding of terrible false persuasions and grievous errors, those who were saved from these will be such, be they few or many, as are disposed to love and obey the truth. Such, in the general wreck, are the receivers of interior comfort, and the source of comfort to others. These enter into the provided ark of a new system of doctrine which preserves them. And while there is ruin all around, these are saved by infinite mercy, shut in by Almighty love, and ride through the turbulent billows of abounding falsity to the sweet haven of a peaceful rest. We need not suppose, from Noah being used in the singular, that one individual is meant. The Lord's Church, whether consisting of many or few, is spoken of as one; sometimes as one man, sometimes as one woman. There is a parallel, both as to the flood and the preservation, furnished in the fifty-fourth of Isaiah. "For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones." — Chap. liv. 9-12. Here, and often elsewhere, the Church is addressed as a woman, threatened by a flood, "O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted."Many individuals are represented by that one form; in fact, all who fly from the torrents of impurity around, to the truth and goodness revealed to them by the Lord of heaven.
Of these, it is said, he called his name Noah, saying, " This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.'' — Chap. V. 29. And by these words is meant that by means of this New Church the difficulties of cultivating the soul would be overcome, and spiritual rest would be attained, for another signification of the word Noah, is rest.
The Lord (Jehovah) is said to have cursed the ground; but we must bear in mind that the Lord never causes ground or anything else to be cursed; He only declares it to be cursed when sin has made it so. The ground is the mind, especially as the affections which ought to be cultivated so as to bring forth beautiful sentiments and righteous acts. These, like lovely flowers and goodly fruit-trees, make the spirit like a “watered garden”—Isa. lviii. 11. The good ground, the Lord said in the Gospel, is " an honest and good heart." — Luke viii 15. When a church has become perverted, and bitter is called sweet, and sweet bitter, evil good, and good evil, even by the rulers and teachers of it, then to cultivate the heart is a toilsome and heavy work. The soul suffers great discouragement, regeneration is slow, laborious, and almost impossible. The weeds grow, and the grieved spirit has scarcely courage to attempt their eradication. Thorns and thistles almost everywhere abound, and we scarcely can dare or hope to overcome them. The Lord seems far off, and we dwell in a desert. When the Son of man shall come, shall He find faith in the earth ? is true of every coming. There may be much of what some people call faith, that is self-derived confidence in some phantasy of theirs; but faith in the Lord as the God of goodness, faith in Him as the God of commandments which must be obeyed, faith in Him as the present ruler of the world, faith in Him as One whose will must be done, now, and by whom the heart and mind must be renewed and regenerated, now, — this faith is always extremely small when spiritual floods are threatening, and the work of religion is full of toil and weariness. When a New Church, however, begins, that proclaims afresh the true character of the Lord and of His kingdom; and while it declares that man must be born again, and must grow up to the full stature of a man in Christ Jesus, assures us of His daily and hourly help, as our Saviour and Regenerator, this Church gives comfort to the toilers, gives them hope in their work, and while they still have tribulation outwardly, in the Lord they are blest with peace. Such a Church is Noah; they are directed to make an ark, and they will be saved when others are submerged.
Noah is said to have been just and perfect, or upright, in his generations, and to have walked with God, and these three qualifications are the essentials of every church. Justice is expressive of the essence of goodness, uprightness of the clear acknowledgment of truth; while walking with God is undoubtedly said in relation to the activity of a good life. These three are the essentials of all religion. When one of these essentials is truly present with man, the other two will be present also. We cannot be just be in the will without also directing the intellect to revere and seek truth, and if we really revere the truth we shall bring it into practice. We speak sometimes of faith alone, but in reality this is an impossible thing. He who does not love goodness will not love truth, which always leads to goodness, and he who does not love truth will not really believe it. He may outwardly assent to it, but in his heart he denies it. And he who neither loves truth, nor really believes it, will not bring it into practice. If a man live a good life in appearance, but has no love of goodness nor reverence for the truth, he may seem to be virtuous, but in the sight of the Lord will be a hypocrite. His good works will in reality be evil works. The Church called Noah, then, as possessed of the true essentials of religion, the trinity of heavenly virtues, is described as just, upright, and walking with God.
Besides Noah himself, there is mention made of his three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their wives, who went also into the ark and were saved. These three represent the general features into which the church of Noah divided itself. Churches have sons' and daughters just as individuals and just as nations have. Each sect is as a son to the church out of which it sprung. Thus, out of the Church of Rome, sprang the Church of England, the Lutheran and the Calvinistic Churches. From the Church of England arose the Puritans, the Methodists, the Baptists, the Independents, and all the numerous sub-divisions which, as children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have originated from her. These, as they have the same essential principles as the groundwork of their faith, namely, the doctrines of three Divine Persons in the Deity, the punishment of one of these to pacify the anger of another, against man's sin, and the salvation of man by imputation when he believes this is done for him, they may all be regarded as one family sprung from the lineage of Rome. This may serve to illustrate that vast family of churches which spread over the immense regions of the east at a time beyond the period of history, but which originated the sublime ideas and emblematic worship which still lingered in the world among the priests of Egypt, the magi of Persia, and the followers of Brahma when the earliest annals we pow possess served only to catch their last feeble rays as they were setting in the darkest forms of idolatry.
Some of these rays yet faintly shining are preserved in the wonderful dialogues of Plato, and others in the writings of Hermes Trismegistus, who has that profound saying, “All things on earth exist also in the heavens, but in a heavenly manner, and all things in heaven exist also on the earthy but in an earthly manner.”
Shem and Japheth appear to represent those portions of the ancient church who were actuated by that charity which hideth the sins of others, as manifested by their conduct in covering the nakedness of their father. Ham is clearly the representative of such as know indeed what is right, but use that knowledge rather to expose the failings of others than to hide or to heal them. These differences in their representation are manifest from what is said of them in a later part of the history (chap. x. 22, 23), and on which we shall subsequently dwell. We name it here only to give a complete idea of what is meant by Noah and his three sons. In every church there are similar distinctions among its members to those intimated by these sons of Noah. There are those who invariably love the Lord, and worship Him from inward affection. These are meant by Shem, the elder brother. They give a character to the church, and their name means Renown. There are also those who are more external in their goodness, who know, like the apostle, that they have passed from death to life because they LOVE THE BRETHREN (John iii. 14), but whose love is more ardent in following out the second commandment than the first. They are pleasant to live with and pleasant to see, and their name Japheth means Goodliness. There are those again who are critical in matters of faith and knowledge, but cold. These are devoid of the essential spirit of religion, but nevertheless are mixed up with others in the church, and are not without their usefulness, but they are often thorns in the sides of their kindlier brethren. Their name Ham signifies Dark or Brown, and when the spirit of one who is fonder of frowning with blame than of smiling with hope and love, is seen, no doubt the term dark will be tolerably expressive of its nature. But in this life the church, though an ark of safety from the devastations around, does receive and long retain in her bosom all three, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Noah then with his sons composed the church in those days. They had the qualities of those whom the Lord can save, to whom a new dispensation can be given, and out of which a new generation can be formed. We shall, in the next discourses, trace their movements and their salvation in the ark, but at present we must be content to keep our attention fixed upon Noah. The grand difference between the whole dispensation represented by him and that of which Adam was the symbol was what was expressed by the terms common over the whole ancient eastern world, the golden age, and the silver age; Adam (red ground), with his Eden, in the language of Scripture symbolizing the same as the poets meant by the golden age; Noah with his vineyard being, when spiritually understood, what expressly answered to the beautiful appellation, the silver age. The first from its interiorly holy character, has been appropriately styled the celestial church; the second, because the spirit of truth was rather the leading principle they followed than the perfect love which casteth out fear, has been called the spiritual church. This is what is described in the declaration, when it is written that Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard (chap. ix. 20), for to cultivate a vineyard is a common mode in the Word, both in the Old Testament and the New, of representing the cultivation of truth. It arises from the vine in its growth and in its results, imaging the growth of faith in the soul, and the virtuous works which, on the one hand, proceed from so holy a stock, and depend upon it like goodly clusters of grapes; and, on the other, the cheering and delightful truth which, like heavenly wine, it pours into the weary soul. Thus the Lord speaks in Isaiah, ''My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill, and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein, and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant; and He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry." — Chap. v. 1, 2, 7. Here the choicest vine will evidently mean the choicest doctrine. In like manner the prophet Jeremiah speaks, " Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me ? " And in the Psalms, the bringing of the Jewish church out of Egypt is spoken of in similar language, " Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt, thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it, thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. Return, we beseech Thee, God of Hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, visit this vine." — Ps. lxxxi. 8-10, 14.
The Lord in the New Testament obviously recognizes the correspondence of the vine when He says, " I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine and, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing" (John xv. 1-4) Here the great Saviour, manifestly under the image of a grand vine, represents His whole Church as deriving life from Him by a living faith, ever raising them to greater vigour, parity, and abundance of good works. The wine we have mentioned as the corresponding object to the cheering truths of faith. “ Should I leave my wine which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?" — Judges ix. 13. The wine that cheereth God must be the truth that saves His creatures. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat ; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." — Isa. Iv. 1. Water, wine, and milk are obviously the correspondences of purifying and cheering truth, and of those simple lessons by which also we can feed all that is innocent in ourselves and give to others the sincere milk of the Word (1 Pet. ii. 2). The Saviour spoke of the same holy wine of heavenly truth when He said to His disciples, " I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." — Matt. xxvi. 29.
These illustrations enable us abundantly to see that Noah's becoming a husbandman and planting a vineyard in the divine style of speech is descriptive of the state of the church represented by him, when they gave themselves to the cultivation of their minds by means of the doctrines of religion. They had no longer inward intentions and perceptions which were enjoyed in a better age, but they nevertheless sought by doctrinal training to arrive at it. The blessing of having heavenly wine to drink, of receiving those angelic counsels and consolations which are afforded by the spiritual sense of the Word, is so great that he who enjoys it may well exclaim with the Psalmist, " Thou anointest mine head with oil, my cup runneth over." — Ps. xxiii. 5. Man partakes of angels' food. He who has learned to perceive the divine love and wisdom in all texts and teachings of the sacred pages, because he has united in himself an enlightened faith to a fervent love, he has already had the water turned into wine. He feels its power and its pleasantness, and he is careful to receive it into the new bottles of a regenerated mind. His renewed spirit from day to day is prepared to rejoice in more holy outpourings of everlasting wisdom, and he finds a generous joy stimulated constantly by the opening to his delighted feelings of the Divine love in all its infinite varieties of blessing. He rejoices to see how Infinite mercy has provide for him in the Word, in the constant helps by which he is restored when he has been weakened and beaten down, and has faithfully promised to sustain him all his future course. He feels that the Lord has not come to take his joy away from him, but that the Divine joy may be in him, and that his joy may be full. “He has come that may have life, and that he may have it more abundantly.” While he is rejoicing over these gracious openings of heavenly wisdom, he cannot but confess in the fulness of his heart, " Thou hast kept the good wine until now."
But, alas I even in good things it is possible there may be abuse. There may in spiritual as in natural things be too much feeding and too little working. We eat and drink to live; we do not live to eat and drink. But those who are represented by Noah seem, as has too often in the Church's history been done, have forgotten this important truth ; hence we are informed “he drank of the wine, and was drunken.'' Spiritual drunkenness is more terrible than natural, it is being besotted with phantasies and errors, inflated with self-derived intelligence. hen a person neglects practical religion, and forgets the humility of heart, which fills us with distrust of ourselves, he is on the highway to some infatuation. He begins soon to be impatient of contradiction, goes from one paradox to another until no conceit is for him too absurd. Errors of the most fearful kind creep in. He will have all the world be occupied with some small idea of his, and if they are not disposed to pay as much deference to it as his vanity has led him to think it deserves, he will regard them with uncharitable dislike. He will deride and condemn them. He sees his one thought everywhere, and in everything, and thus by exaggerating what may be true in itself, to an due proportion, he shuts out other truths, and makes some form of monstrous fallacy exist, where the fair proportion of a complete and well-formed faith ought to be. Thus comes spiritual drunkenness. In this state we are never steady. We reel to and fro like a drunken man. We roll from phantasy to phantasy, for the sake of preserving our idol thought, until we lose sight of the great essential of religion; and instead of charity being our central principle, self-love and self-conceit become so. Thus was it with Noah. He was drunken, and was uncovered within, or in the midst of his tent (ver. 21).
This spiritual drunkenness is often alluded to in the Scriptures. When that terrible lust of dominion over human souls, which became so awfully dominant in the fallen Christian Church, was foretold by John, it was portrayed by the image of a fearful woman, in whose hand was a cup full of abominations, by whom the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication (Rev. xvii. 2). To To be made drunk is to be besotted with her errors. Those who are thus besotted say the greatest follies, and do the most absurd things, yet without themselves being aware of it. They are drunk with their own conceit, infatuated with their own inflations. The Egyptians, and especially their king, are so described by the prophet. "The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof : and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof ,as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit"---Isa. xix. 14. Some become spiritually intoxicated by making the Word of the Lord subject to their self-will, and so perverting it. Others, however, are drunk with pride, and disdain the Word. There are persons who are infatuated with the idea that they are beyond all others wise, because they busy themselves with worldly gain and sensual pleasure, and are never troubled about religion. With them all wisdom consists in heaping up for to-day, in gathering for themselves enough to purchase ten thousand times more than they will ever need to eat, drink, or wear, in the life which is to us all uncertain, and make no provision for that life which is everlasting, and into which we know not how soon we shall certainly enter. These latter are they whom the prophet speaks of when he says, " They are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink." — Isa. xxix. 9. Such persons think they are wise, but are in the deepest folly: they imagine they are beyond others awake; but as to their highest interests are in a deep sleep. To such, the apostle addressed himself when he wrote the words, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."— Eph. V. 14.
Vanity is the secret cause of all spiritual drunkenness. Self is its centre. When a person deems his every thought a certain truth, because it is his, he is liable to catch at the first appearance of things, and decide at once, when a humble state would have led him to pause, weigh, and consider. The true spirit in which to learn the truth is the spirit of meekness; ''The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach his way." — Ps. xxv. 9. But the self-confident dash forward and dogmatize. They never distrust their own judgment. They never suspect that they can be wrong. They decide offhand, and expect that their judgment will unhesitatingly be accepted. If others have considered a subject beforehand, and come to a decision, they will make a point of differing, and hurrying to an opposite conclusion, however absurd it may be. These are they who become spiritually intoxicated> such persons. Such person, also, having no solid grounds for their conclusions in a humble perceptlon of the truth, not only err grossly on one side, but after circumstances have revealed their errors, not infrequently plunge as far into extremes on the other side. "They reel to and fro like a drunken man." Theirs is the state which was experienced by Noah when he was said to be drunken; and the discovery of the self-hood, which forms the soul and essence of such a state, is meant by his being uncovered in the midst of his tent.
This uncovering, or revelation of the interior character, is often alluded to in the Divine Word. The Lord in the Book of Revelation refers to it. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that THE SHAME OF THY NAKEDNESS do not appear." — Chap. iii. 18.
Ordinarily the selfish are at great pains to cover themselves with appearances and pretexts. We have an instance of this in the case of Adam and Eve. When their eyes were open to their real fallen state, and they knew that they were naked, (that is, were conscious of their having sunk into self-hood,} they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons (Gen. iii. 7). The fig-leaves represent the lowest forms of truth, such as they are in the letter of the Word. These may easily be arranged so as to cover any state, however evil. Every false religion is only an immense covering of the nakedness of the soul, and an elaborate device to put a fair face upon what is intrinsically bad. A man who clings to self, still wishes to be saved, and he will hatch or favour any scheme that promises him salvation without the subjugation of self. He will believe he can be saved by confession to a priest, if he can be flattered with forgiveness, while his inner desires remain the same. He will take up the idea that by believing it will be so, he can have the Saviour's righteousness put down to his account, and be justified by it, although he have none of the practical righteousness of shunning evil and doing good. Although he has never washed his robes, he can put on the Saviour's robe, and all will be covered in divine purity. There are, however, times when revelations of the interior character of such states are made. There are periods when the infatuation of such persons is so palpably great, that they lie exposed, as it were, to the eyes of all. Their opinions, perhaps, are combatted, and they become maddened with rage. Their views are at times so palpably disproved, that they can only reiterate they will have it so, right or wrong. Their obstinacy, insolence, and wrong-headedness are manifest to all. They lie exposed in the midst of their tent. Such was the declining state of those meant by Noah. They sin, and their sin is made manifest But how differently they are treated by different characters. They are first observed by Ham. We have already noticed that this son of Noah represents those who have faith, so called, and knowledge in the church, but who are destitute of love and charity. They see the nakedness of others, but instead of aiding them, or shielding them, they tell it to their brethren without. How sad it is that so much of the Ham spirit remains to the present day. It has been said, and not without some ground, that dwelling upon the failings of one another is the besetting sin of churches. Yet nothing can be more odious or more destructive of true charity. The Spirit of heaven leads the angels to attribute good to every one, as far as possible, and if there be evil to excuse it as much as can be. The spirit of evil accuses, attributes an evil motive even when good is done, and magnifies the least failing so as to make it a serious fault. Evil spirits are called the accuser of the brethren. "The accuser of the brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night." — Rev. xii. 10. This accusing spirit is typified by Ham, and is often connected with a fair amount of learning and talent, but, alas, with the desire of raising itself at the expense of others. Indisposed to advance in purity and heavenly- mindedness, those who are represented by Ham cannot bear to see others esteemed better than themselves, however justly it is their due: but if they gaze upon the sun, they mark only his spots; and if they desire so much to detract from the virtues of others, it is a perfect jubilee to them to detect a fault. They mark it well ; they see that its blackest features come out; they publish it far and wide. Alas, at the same time they know not how much they are proclaiming their own deficiency in that highest of Christian graces — angelic charity.
There are several particulars of an interesting character yet unnoticed, so that we must, from want of room, defer the continuation of the subject to the next discourse.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)