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THE TOWER OF BABEL.
GENESIS Xi. 9.
Therefore the name of it is called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
THERE are several customs and ceremonies observed among the various nations of the earth, of the origin of which we should have had no knowledge whatever, had we not possessed the records of the sacred scriptures. Of these the universal use of sacrifices to propitiate the Deity is one, which evidently owes its rise to traditions, handed down through all generations of the human race from its first progenitors, of the manner in which they offered sacrifices to God, taught
no doubt by the offended maker himself to be propitiatory of their sins, and typical of the great atonement of his divine Son. In like manner the origin of certain facts which would otherwise have been locked up in impenetrable obscurity is revealed to us in the same source. No satisfactory reason could have been given of the finding of shells and other marine productions in all parts of the dry land of the earth, had we not possessed the records of the deluge. We could not have accounted for the universal depravity of all ages, and the proneness to evil which we cannot but feel to prevail in our own hearts, if we had not possessed the scriptural statement of the fall of man. And how vainly should we have speculated on the vast diversity in the languages which are spoken in the earth, if we had not been informed of the cause from the same fountain of instruction? This is a subject which I have chosen for our present consideration. Let it not be considered as a matter of mere curiosity or literary speculation. I trust that it will be found, like all the preceding subjects, to
afford us some spiritual instruction, that so we may retire, not only wiser, but better, from the discussion of it.
It is evident from the relation of scripture, that a diversity in language arose, in the first instance, as a punishment for some high offence. We must enquire,
I. First. What was the Nature of that offence; and to discover it we must have recourse to the sacred narrative.
"The whole earth," we are told, "was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar: and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, let us build us a city, and a tower whose top may reach to heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." This is all the account we have of their project. In what did the offence of it consist? It seems, in the first place, to have in it an act of great
impiety. Here was an insult offered to the majesty of God, in the thought, though it could be but a vain one, of building a tower whose top should reach to heaven. It is a desire to rival his greatness, or an audacious attempt to scale his heavens. It has in it the spirit of the giants of heathen story, a fable which probably took its rise from some obscure intimations of this history, who by heaping mountain upon mountain would have ascended to the skies, and pulled the gods from their thrones. Though we say not that such was the intention of these builders of the tower of Babel, yet there appears in the expression, a haughty, bold, and impious feeling, which dared to invade the dwelling of the most high.
2. Secondly.-It manifested their great ambition. "Let us make us a name." They sought the honour which cometh from man, not that which cometh from God. They desired to be had in everlasting remembrance for the greatness of their work, and to lay foundations of their own honour and glory in the earth, solid as those of the city and tower
which they proposed to build. But behold, not one of their names is recorded; their expectation is purposely frustrated; they are not admitted upon the page of the Bible, the only record of persons and transactions of such early times. How far there was added to this ambitious project a lust for universal dominion, which some have supposed to have been their main object, I undertake not to say: but that vain-glory was one of the leading motives of their scheme is sufficiently evident.
3. In the third place it was done in opposition to God's plan of replenishing the earth, which seems to have constituted a particular, if not the principal part of their offence. God had blessed Noah and his sons, as we read in the first verse of the ninth chapter, and had said to them, "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth," which implied that they should separate from each other into different nations and countries, and fill the whole earth with inhabitants. But the purpose of these men was to keep together and to prevent a separation; "let us build us