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nature, but the transformation which it produces is partial and defective ; but “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
May our faith, my dear friend, “grow exceedingly," and may every look we take afford us clearer and more distinct views of His Rainbow Crown. So prays
THE IMPIOUS SCHEME AT BABEL
MY DEAR FRIEND, As the subject of the confusion produced at Babel, afterwards called Babylon, bears on the topics discussed in my letters, I shall offer no apology for bringing it before you, in order that I may point out to you the common origin of the several corrupted schemes of Religion which prevailed among the more ancient nations of the world, and of which enough remains in the pages of Philosophers and Poets to enable us to trace them all up to an original Revelation.
Our present inquiry will relate to the nature of that confusion which, Divinely and judicially produced among the Apostates collected at Babel, led to their dispersion thence, and to a consequent formation of the several nations which first peopled the earth after the devastation of the general deluge. The question which arises on this subject is, whether that confusion, from which Babel took its name, related to language or religious profession,—to a diversity of dialect or a diversity of opinion.
As this question has been elaborately discussed by the learned Vitringa, in the nine first chapters of his first book of Observationes Sacræ; and as I conceive that he has established the point which he undertakes to prove; I shall refer you to him for evidence on the subject. He maintains that no diversity of language from the original Hebrew existed till long after the building of Babel; since not only the descendants of Shem, who may be supposed to have had no connexion with that impious undertaking, but the descendants of Ham, also, retained, for many ages, the use of the primeval language. This opinion he supports by a copious appeal to Scripture documents, and to the earliest records of profane history.
His argument is, I conceive, in full accordance with the statement of the transaction at Babel which Moses has furnished, to which I shall briefly call your attention. The words of the sacred historian are as follow: Gen. xi. 1-9. “ And the whole earth was of one language (marg. lip) and of one speech. (marg. words) 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 throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build a city and a tower whose top (may reach) unto heaven, and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold the people is one, and they have all one language (Heb. lip): and this they begin to do, and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do. Go to, Let us go down and there confound their language (Heb. lip,) that they may not understand one another's speech (Heb. lip). So the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel, (marg. that is confusion) because the Lord did there confound the language (Heb. lip) of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."
If it has been proved by the author to whom I have referred you, that, as the primeval or Hebrew language was universally spoken long after the era of the dispersion, the means of dispersion described by the historian cannot have been a confusion of language or dialect.* And it is certain that the words which he has employed in describing that confusion, are usually applied to religious confession and not to the means of giving it utterance. It is thus employed in Ps. Ixxxi. 5, where, as God is the speaker, the meaning cannot be that He heard a language that he understood not, literally taken; but a religious creed which he did not acknowledge or approve. In the same sense is the word lip used, Isa. xix. 18,* where the “ language,” or lip, “of Canaan " is synonymous with “swearing by Jehovah of hosts,” or making a profession of faith in him. So also is the word applied in Zeph. iii. 9, where the restoration of a pure lip is the restoration of the pure religion. The word is also used, Hos. xiv. 3, on which Bishop Horsley observes, “Lips are here put for praises and thanksgivings uttered by the lips.” And in the critical notes which follow his translation, he adds, “ It is very remarkable that the word lip, when put for words
* I am well aware that the Jewish Targum sanctions the common notion of a confusion of language; but it combines with this the idolatrous object of the conspiracy. It says, “ The whole earth was of one speech or language, of one counsel, and one sort of words ; for they used the sacred Hebrew tongue, which had been in use from the creation of the world. And when at their first removal from Ararat, they came to Shinar, they consulted to build them a city, and a tower for a house of adoration, whose head might reach to, or be towards the heavens, and to place an image of the host of heaven, for an object of worship on the top of it, and to put a sword in his band, that he might make war for them against the Divine armies, to prevent their dispersion over the face of the whole earth. Whereupon the Word of the LORD was revealed from heaven, to execute vengeance upon them," &c.