Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and to them were sons born after the flood.…
The one point to which I would draw your attention is that which lies upon the very surface of this history, and to which, as a great law imprinted by God upon our race, I wish to call your special notice. It is the degree in which the original features of the founders of a race reproduce themselves in their descendants, so as to become the distinct and manifest types of national life. This is so plain here that it has rarely escaped some observation. The few words wherein, according to the wont of patriarchal times, Noah, as the firstborn priest of his own family, pronounces on his sons his blessing and his curse, sketch in outline the leading characteristics of all their after progeny. Thus, the "Blessed be the Lord God of Shem," can hardly fail to convey to the heater's mind the impression that devotion to, and a trust in God, as his portion, marked the character of the firstborn of Noah. And so it proved in fact, for it was the line of Abraham and the Semitic race, in the tribes of Israel and Judah, which filled this office of the priests of mankind for two thousand years. So also with regard to the second son of Noah. Sensuality and filial irreverence manifestly stained his character. In the future of such a man lay naturally cruelty — the inseparable companion — and degradation — the unfailing consequence — of lust. A "servant of servants" should he be. He who disregarded the duties of a son should lose the place of a brother: he who sacrificed to sensual appetite every highest duty, should in the end barter for it his own liberty; and his character, too, has through unnumbered generations reproduced itself in his descendants. Without entering upon the difficult task of tracing in some of its details the outline of the Hamitic race, it is clear beyond all contradiction, that through past ages, and even to the present day, the nations which manifestly sprung from his loins are marked by these characteristics — lust, cruelty, and servitude. The character of Japhet is perhaps, at first sight, less plainly to be traced in his father's benediction. His words would seem, however, to point to a character marked less strongly than that of his firstborn by piety towards God, but possessed of those family virtues with which, in the course of things, an increasing posterity is commonly connected and endued with the practical activity and vigour, which, as opposed to the more contemplative character of Shem, were essential to that subduing of the earth, which must accompany its replenishment by the enlarging seed. Beyond this lay the unexplained and mysterious blessing of his future dwelling in the tents of Shem, pointing probably, in the personal life of the patriarch, to the pious rest into which the later years of a virtuous activity would so probably sub. side. And all this has plainly marked the Japhetic races: their increase has furnished the nations of the Gentiles; whilst family virtue, and that practical activity which to this day has so wonderfully subjected the material earth to its obedience, are the distinction of their blood. In all these cases, then, we may trace on the broadest scale the action of that of which I have spoken, as a law impressed upon our common nature, that nations, in their after generations, bear, repeat and expand the character of their progenitor. And then, further, we may observe adumbrations of a mode of dealing with men which seems to imply that in His bestowal of spiritual gifts, God deals with them after some similar law, Hence, then, we may conclude further, that, by the laws of grace as well as of nature, there is a reproduction in the after seed of the character of the progenitor. Now, it is to the application of this principle to our past history and our present duty, that I would specially invite your notice. And first, FOR THE FACT. Since the opening of the historical period, there has been scarcely any national planting of the earth through emigration, until within the last three centuries. Even those events of far distant times, which most resembled it, were widely different. For they were rather irruptions than emigration; and the great wave of life which they brought into some new land, first cast out races in possession, often as numerous as, and commonly more civilized than, their invaders, and who not unfrequently tinged their subduers with their religion, their manners, and their language. The direct replenishment of the earth for the last three hundred years by the Japhetic family, is altogether different. These emigrations have set forth exclusively from Christian lands. They have been directed to vast tracts of thinly peopled countries; and they have borne to them men who have been, in the fullest sense of the words, founders of nations. In this work, we have borne a larger share than any other people. Now, with what an awful character of responsibility does the truth which we have before considered invest such acts! A sensual seed will produce a degraded people; a godless seed will grow into an atheistic empire; nay, even the lesser evils of a worldly, or a sectarian origin, will mark and renew themselves in successive generations. How plainly, then, must it be one of the very highest duties of a Christian people to provide all that is needful to bless and hallow such a national infancy: — to plant a chosen seed, and not a refuse; to send forth with them that faith, which alone can exalt and renew the race of man in its purest form, and with every advantage for its reproduction! How far, then, has England, which has been the chiefest of the nations in this sacred work, acted up to her responsibilities? Let North America, — let Australasia answer. How scanty in its measure — how imperfect in its form — how divided in its character — was the Christianity we mingled with the abundant seed of man which we scattered broadcast over North America; how fearful a paternity of crime did we assume, when we conceived and almost executed the enormity of planting the antipodes with every embodiment of reckless wickedness, and giving it no healing influence of our holy faith! What then must be herein our guilt and shame! But our chief concern is not with the past: it is with that present in which the future lies enfolded. Never has the tide of emigration risen so high as now; never were we so freely planting the earth with our energetic, increasing race as the seed of future empires; never, then, did the duty of planting it aright press so heavily upon us: and what is the prime essential for its adequate discharge? Surely, far beyond all other, that with the seed of fallen man we plant that Church of Christ, through which God the Holy Ghost is pleased to work for his recovery. This, and no less than this, can fulfil our obligations.
(Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)
In their nations. —
Parallel VersesKJV: Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.