Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

favour. Now the spark of jealousy in Cain's heart was rapidly fanned: “his countenance fell.' But God, the all-seeing, the all-merciful, desiring to draw him from the brink of a fearful precipice of sin, reproved him gently. He asked him why he was angry, and why his countenance was fallen ? If his offering was not accepted, ought he not to take it as a sure sign that he had not done well? He should search his heart, and he would find that it was tainted by a grievous vice. · He ought to take heed, or else repentance would come too late. For a time Cain's envious rancour was silenced; he spoke to Abel with brotherly feeling. But when the daily toil recommenced, and the difference of occupations became again painfully striking, the old animosity was revived, and in a moment of ungovernable rage Cain slew Abel.

The first murder was perpetrated : the earth was stained with human blood. That blood cried aloud to the Creator, who said to the murderer, “Where is Abel, thy brother ? ' Like Eve, his mother, Cain tried to evade the enquiries of God. “I know not,' said he; 6 am I my brother's keeper ?' But the Lord replied in just anger, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood cries to Me from the ground. Thou art cursed from the ground which has opened its mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be on the earth. Thus Cain, like Adam and Eve, was to wander from his first abode, from his paradise, where his parents dwelt, and where he had passed his childhood. But Cain clung to his miserable existence. Guilty as he was, he wished to live. His prayer was granted; but fearing the wrath of some human avenger, he entreated God for protection of his life. This was also conceded to him. He was branded, however, with the mark of the outlaw, that he might be known and shunned. Thus he

wandered about without rest and without peace, and at last settled in the district of Nod, which signifies flight, and which probably represents one of the eastern countries of Asia, far from the early centres of civilisation, and separated from all friendly communion with the rest of the human families. But gradually even Cain, in some degree purified by hard ; and persevering labour, found relief and consolation. His wife bore him a son, whom he called Enoch, which name, meaning instruction, perhaps implied the earnest intention on the part of the sinful father to train his child in the path of virtue, and thus to guard him against those snares of sin that had blighted his own life : and in order to keep that intention more vividly in remembrance, Cain, when he proceeded to build a city in the land of Nod, called it also Enoch after his son. This city was soon peopled by his descendants; and there the energies and talents of mankind were gradually awakened and exercised. The four next generations mentioned in the Bible are represented by the names of Irad, Mehujael, Methusael, and Lamech. Here the narrative pauses to introduce a social progress of peculiar importance.

Lamech had two wives, Adah and Zillah, of whom the former bore two sons, Jabal and Jubal. Jabal was the first herdsman among the descendants of Cain; he was permitted to follow the easy and peaceful occupation of the pious but short-lived Abel ; his ancestor's bloody crime was atoned for, and the curse-laden race was free to commence a new and happier career. A decisive beginning was made in that very generation. For Jabal's younger brother, Jubal, is mentioned to have been the father of all those that use the lyre and the flute': he was the inventor of musical instruments; the toil of the daily labour was lightened and beautified by art. Zillah was the mother of Tubalcain, who was the first to manu

facture sharp instruments of brass and iron : thus man was better able to force from the earth the grains that support his life, and the flowers that delight his eye; he in some measure acquired the power of creating by his own exertions a second paradise. But beyond this the descendants of Cain were not permitted to pass; the next and higher steps were reserved to other and purer branches of the human family,

Adam and Eve, bereft of both their children, the younger one slain, the elder an outcast, were alone in their misery. Their punishment seemed indeed hard to bear. But when they were blessed with a third son, they called him Seth, meaning compensation, and accepted him in the place of the good and innocent Abel. And when Seth grew up, he had a son, whom in humbleness he called Enos, the ó frail' or ' mortal.' But it was in the lifetime of this frail Enos, that one of the most important advances was made in the education of mankind. For then began men to invoke the name of the Lord.' Their spiritual life commenced. They became aware of their insignificance before the Almighty; and they expressed this feeling in prayer.

The Bible passes rapidly over the next generations, those of Cainan, Mahalaleel, and Jared ; for a vast field was opened to human energy, and the progress in the inner life is naturally slow and struggling. But the great age which men attained in those periods, materially aided their endeavours. Man had been originally intended for immortal life; Adam and Eve forfeited this privilege ; they became mortal, and with them their descendants. But the diminution of their lives was ordained to be gradual ; thus Methuselah attained the remarkable age of 969 years, and Noah of 950 years; but Abraham died at 175, Jacob at 147, Moses at 120, and Joshua at 110 years; while the Psalmist exclaims: The days of our

years are threescore years and ten, and if very strong, fourscore years.'

But in the fourth generation after Enos, the religious efforts and aspirations began to bear fruit. Jared's son, Enoch, was an example of excellence and piety. Even now, after so many thousands of years, he is to us the type of the good and perfect man, who walked with God and in whom God peculiarly delighted. As a reward, he was spared the infirmities of old age and the sufferings of death; for Enoch walked with God, and he was no more, for God had taken him away. But it is remarkable that he passed from this life into a happier and brighter existence at a comparatively early age; he died younger than any of the primitive patriarchs—to teach the lesson that a long life is not in itself a blessing, nor an early death in itself a misfortune; but that a long life may be a curse if stained by crime, as was proved by the example of Cain, and that an early death may be the highest favour of God, as was shown by the example of the pious Enoch.

4. THE DELUGE.

[Genes, VI.-IX.]

The tenth descendant from Adam was Noah. At his birth, his father Lamech exclaimed prophetically: “This one will relieve us from our work and the toil of our hands, from the ground which the Lord has cursed. The somewhat obscure meaning of these words may be thus explained. It was during the lifetime of Noah that man was first permitted by God to kill for his food the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and to eat the fishes of the sea; he was no longer to subsist merely upon the precarious produce of the land; his hard struggle with the reluctant soil was lightened ; and God's first curse,

though not repealed, was mitigated. This involved indeed a sad decline of man from that state of innocence, when all the brute creation lived in happy security and freedom ; therefore, remembering the harmony and beauty for which the world was designed, we should try to lessen the sufferings which we inflict upon animals either for our subsistence or our self-preservation.

When Noah was 500 years old, he had three sons : Shem, Ham, and Japheth. He was a good and pious man, fearing and loving God, and was unlike all the other inhabitants of the earth, who had gradually become more and more depraved. The disobedience of our first ancestors was aggravated in the succeeding generations. They sinned so constantly and so grievously that at last the Lord repented having created man, who had been destined to form the crown and glory of the world. Of so fearful a nature was the prevailing corruption, that God determined to extirpate all life by a universal Deluge, not only the men but the beasts also, that no trace might remain of that wicked age. Iniquity should not stain God's earth, which was to be regenerated by a miraculous act of Divine interference. For Noah and his family, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, were to be saved from the general destruction, as the germs of the future population.

It is with feelings of awe that we contemplate God's fearful punishment. We can hardly realise the Deluge, the death of every living creature, the immersion of the whole earth, the dwelling-place of man, in the rising waters sweeping over hill and vale, forest and pastureland, and engulfing all rivers, lakes, and seas. God revealed His resolution to His servant 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. But as Noah was not to perish with the

« AnteriorContinuar »