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judgest another “ thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”
2. The fault of Noah, as a sin of infirmity, and the sentiments we ought to entertain towards the doer of it, as towards one labouring under the common corruption of our nature, being thus once clearly understood, the fault of his son Ham can scarce be very difficult to apprehend. If“ love covereth all sins", and if a tenderness to the failings of those from whom we have received kindness, and to whom we owe the duty of gratitude and reverence, be of any honour in the sight of men, or of any value in the formation of a meek and merciful disposition, then did the son of Noah fail in the possession of this claim to his father's affection, and this mildness towards his father's infirmity. To see the nakedness of him to whom he owed his being, would, if he had felt the sacredness of the parental character, have been to him a grief, and lamenting that his eye had been even an involuntary witness to a parent's shame, he would have endeavoured to forget, and resolved never to reveal it. But to proclaim it to his brethren was, in fact, to proclaim it openly to the world, (for the family of Noah was then the whole world), and to expose, without reason or temptation, that upon which his tongue should
have been for ever silent. Surely he could have been under no incapacity to understand the manner in which he ought to have proceeded. All the opportunities of instruction in the duties which we owe to the author of our life and happiness which his brethren enjoyed, he also might have embraced. Why then had he not, like them, learnt his duty ; and why was he not equally ready to practise it? With reverential awe they looked not upon that, which they thought their father would disapprove their having seen; and with filial tenderness they hid from the view of others what they would not behold themselves, because they could not behold it without regret and shame. “ Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness." The historian by the minuteness of this description, by the anxiety with which he points out their reverential attitude, and by the repetition with which he enforces upon our attention the fact that “they saw not their father's nakedness," seems evidently to mark and approve the respect with which they acted. Why then had not Ham before bethought him of doing the same? Or why, if a mere casual inadvertency had induced him to communicate the situation of his father to his brethren, why do we not find him subsequently participating in their pious deed? Shem and Japheth, we are told both laid the garment upon their shoulders, and both approached with their faces backward ; but the name of Ham never once appears in this more commendable part of the transaction. He had been ready enough to tell the shame, though he seems to have displayed but little willingness to remedy it: and this his absence from the more amiable task of hiding the transgression he had seen, is sufficient to justify the sentiments which Noah, when he awoke from his wine, appears to have both entertained and expressed with regard to the different conduct of his sons. It is enough to account for the displeasure he displayed, without resorting for additional motives to the unsupported and traditionary tale of Ham having stood at the door to mock. For displeasure, under such circumstances as those we have described, must have been an instinctive feeling in every parent's breast.
It is still possible, however, that the Patriarch’s disapprobation though justifiable
in itself, may have been either objectionable in its character, excessive in its degree, or unjust in the object against whom it was levelled. We must now, therefore, in the third place, proceed to examine the nature of Noah's conduct, and the manner in which he is represented to have spoken and acted when he awoke from his wine.,
3. It is to be observed, then, that Moses, in this
part of his narrative, does nothing more than barely relate the words uttered upon that occasion. Noah,” he remarks, “awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, “Cursed be Canaan." We have here a simple statement of facts and words, unexplained by any commentary, and referred to no particular motive. The feeling, therefore, which we suppose to have dictated these expressions of the Patriarch, and the object we imagine he had in view in making use of them, are inferences which we ourselves deduce from the pages
of the historian: and the historian himself cannot be made justly responsible for the consequences which flow from our conclusions, unless the truth of those conclusions can be irresistibly proved. Yet in direct violation of this rule the objectors to revelation have ventured to put the most unfounded construction upon the whole, and ascribing motives to Noah, at which Moses never even hints, have contrived to condemn him for improprieties of their own creation. They first assert, that the son alone was cursed for the transgression of the father, and presume that Canaan never would have become “a servant of servants to his brethren," had not Ham made known the nakedness of Noah. They next infer that Noah uttered the curse not in the spirit of
prophecy, but of wrath, and that Moses represents the Deity as having purposely fulfilled this unjust and angry denunciation. Upon such assuniptions they may easily triumph against such a proceeding, as “contradicting all our notions of order and of justice“;" for if their premises be just, their censure can scarce be too severe. But if it can be shewn that their interpretation arises out of an entire misapprehension of the origin of the Patriarch's words, their condemnation must be relinquished, as being founded upon no real or solid grounds. This error of their's, then, it shall be my endeavour to correct, by giving as clear an explanation as possible of the nature and object of this memorable curse.
I would maintain then, first, that Canaan was not ordained to become “a servant of servants unto his brethren ” as a punishment for the transgression of his father. Wherever the calamities inflicted upon the Canaanites by the children of Israel are mentioned in Scripture, they are declared to be the consequence and the punishment of their own varied and increasing wickedness ; nor were the chosen people permitted to take possession of the promised land, until the iniquity of its former inhabitants was
• Lord Bolingbroke, the great objector on this subject.