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THE SIN OF HAM: THE CURSE ON CANAAN
The letter of this story of Noah's drunkenness and his exposure by Ham, and the charitable treatment he met with at the hands of Shem and Japheth, is the relation of a domestic incident - a Divine picture, designed to convey to us the most important lessons. It is a domestic parable.
By Noah, as we have seen, is denoted the Ancient Church. His drunkenness symbolizes the errors into which that church fell, when it departed from its high principles and began to cultivate religion, as a mere philosophy of doctrine. To do this is to become spiritually intoxicated. This is what is meant by Noah's drunkenness. He became drunk with the wine of his own vineyard. Self intelligence had found its way into the church; and following the dictate of self intelligence led the church into all manner of errors. Noah laid drunk in his tent. Revelation from the Lord is the only safeguard of the church, for no church can guide itself into anything but errors. This statement applies to the modern church as truly as it applies to the Ancient Church. The very moment any church begins to turn away from the plain declarations of the revelation by which it is founded, to its own intelligence, it becomes inebriated with the wine of his own vineyard. This has been realized in the history of the Christian Church. The early Christian Church - the church of the Apostolic age, accepted the Lord's guidance in His Word and had spiritual power and intelligence from Him. But as that age of the church closed, the Christological and Trinitarian controversies arose; and the age of the councils marks a long period of spiritual inebriation. Noah, again, lay uncovered in his tent. And it was all due to self intelligence. Noah's drunkenness was this very thing - the fall through self intelligence, of the Ancient Church into all mannerof erroneous persuasions. And his being uncovered in his tent is only the symbolic way of describing the shame and disgrace to which those errors and false persuasions exposed the Ancient Church. Has not the same thing happened in the history of the Christian Church? Have not the formulations of the councils - the cruel and debasing doctrines of the Post Nicene Church, been a disgrace and a scandal to Christianity? Could a sober church ever invent the doctrine of the tripersonality of God, the vicarious atonement, salvation by faith alone, predestination, infant damnation, and a hell of everlasting burning? Truly, any sober-minded man is able to see that those doctrines have exposed the church's shame to the gaze of the world. This, only on another plane and in a different form, was Noah uncovered in his tent, the Ancient Church disgraced by the errors which resulted from its own intelligence.
The sons of Noah are not to be thought of as individuals. They stand for the three classes of principles which entered into the constitution of the Ancient Church; and also for the three classes of persons by whom they were embraced.
Shem stands for those who placed the worship of the Lord in the foreground - who regarded it as the first principle of the church. They, however, did not attach much importance to the element of spiritual intelligence in directing and forming that worship. They were not doctrinal people; nor did they see the importance of true doctrine as a qualifying factor in their worship of the Lord.
Japheth stands for those who were in simple obedience to the laws which commanded the life, and inculcated the moralities of religion. To them, this was the principal requirement of religion. But they saw no necessary connection of the moralities of religion with the good and the truth of God, from which all the outward moralities and utilities of life must get their true inwardness.
Ham stands for those who accepted and received the truths of religion, because of the light they afforded to their understandings - for the worldly advantage they derived from them. They had only a scanty regard for the good in which they originated - for the high spiritual use they were designed to serve.
Now, the people called Ham, soon began to fall away from truths of the church. Regarding the love of goodness and obedience from interior and spiritual motives, as inferior to the cultivation of mere knowledge, their truth soon lost all connection in their minds with its Divine origin in revelation, and soon failed to see any real connection between knowledge and conduct.
Here we see a law, which is this: Spiritual truth, if it is not connected in the mind with its source in God and revelation, is soon turned into intellectual speculation. This leads to a separation of religion from life. This being the genius of the Hamites, therefore Ham is said to be the one who exposed Noah; for it was a part of their disposition to detect every fault or error which was manifested.
The Hamites were the rationalists of the Ancient Church. They were quick to observe every discrepancy and to hold it up, and speak of it. This they did, with no intention of correcting error, but only to expose it to the gaze of others.
The people of the ancient Church denoted by Shem and Japheth, acted differently. They were in simple, good and obedience; thus they endeavored to excuse the errors that had made an entrance into the church - to put upon them, a favorable construction. This effort of the charitable people of the church to protect it from scandal is represented by Shem and Japheth covering Noah with a garment. Their disinclination to give publicity to the errors that were reported of the church is what is meant by their turning their eyes away from their father's nakedness and going backward as they covered him in his tent. Here is a great lesson in charity; and there is ample room and opportunity for the practice of it in our own day and in our own church.
"Noah awoke from his wine." What does this mean? It means that the Ancient Church awoke to a sense of the dreadful error into which it had fallen. The church is the larger man; and as an individual may make a mistake and afterwards come to see it, so the church may fall into errors of interpretation, and afterward awake to a full sense of the nature and consequence of such errors. This was true of the Ancient Church. "Noah awoke from his wine."
When Noah awoke, we are told that, "he knew what his younger son had done unto him." This is strange language; and it is impossible to think of it only in a figurative sense; for Ham, according to the literal sense, was Noah's second, and not his younger son. The awakening of Noah was the Ancient Church seeing the errors into which it had fallen; and Noah seeing what his younger son had done unto him was the parable way of telling us that the church perceived the fact that the Hamites - the people of mere knowledge, had founded a corrupt worship on the very errors that they had detected.
That corrupt worship had arisen during Noah's state of intoxication. He saw it when he awoke. The people who adopted such worship and made it their religion, are called Canaan; and they are spoken of as Noah's younger son, because they adopted and carried into practice the religious corruptions which had last descended from the Ancient Church. Canaan, thus represented the last and youngest heretical worship that descended from the declining Ancient Church. In the story, Ham is called the father of Canaan. This means that from the Hamitish branch of the Ancient Church, which had perverted the Divine truth, there was begotten a new corruption which is here called Canaan.
Here we see why the curse for exposing Noah's nakedness was pronounced against Canaan and not upon Ham. The curse upon Canaan means that the people, under that name, who had adopted such corrupt worship, turned themselves away from the Lord and closed all the avenues of Divine influx against the life of heaven. This curse - this closure of the minds of the Canaanites to the Lord, was fully realized in their history as a people; for it was this people with their corrupt worship that were long afterwards destroyed by the Jews when they came into possess the land of Canaan.