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UNION IS STRENGTH*
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one
language, and this they begin to do : and now nothing will be * restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.-Genesis, xi, 6.
The undertaking to which these words refer, was nothing less, than to build a city and a tower up to heaven. This great work was to be accomplished, by the united skill and labor of all the men belonging to one very numerous branch of Noah's family; who embarked in the singular and daring enterprise, with the avowed object of making themselves a name, and guarding against dispersion, by cementing, more firmly than ever, the bonds of their union.
Accordingly, having selected the spacious plain of Shinar, as well suited to their purpose, they began, with alacrity, to execute their vast design, by preparing materials, and laying the broad foundations.—How long they were permitted to prosecute the work, or how high they carried their city and tower, the sacred historian has not
Nor can any certain information be collected, from ancient heathen writers, though some of them profess to have seen the tower many centuries afterwards, and speak with astonishment, of its prodigious height.
* Preached at New Haven, before the Moral Society of Connecticut, 1815.
But, whatever progress the aspiring builders of Babel had actually made, when their language was confounded, the Holy Spirit has borne unequivocal testimony to their cordial union, determined perseverance, and entire ability to compass their main design. • And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.'
Not that any possible combination of human efforts, could ever literally raise a tower up to heaven ; but that the builders in this case were so numerous, so perfectly united, so industrious, and so persevering, that there was nothing within the wide range of possibility, which they might not ultimately accomplish. If the event proved, that they had 'imagined a vain thing, it was only, because they could not thwart the purpose and resist the power of Jehovah. They evidently had no thoughts of abandoning the enterprise, till they were confounded and scattered by a miracle.
This instance may stand in the place of a whole volume of facts and arguments, to exhibit, in a strong light, the mighty efficiency of united and persevering efforts, for the attainment of whatever great object, they may be employed. It was because the builders of Babel were one, that is, were united under one head, or in one strong confederacy, all aiming at the same object, and moving, as if actuated by one soul, that nothing short of a miraculous interposition, could frustrate their undertaking. Had they differed among themselves; had some pulled down as fast as others built up; had each one been afraid of doing more than his neighbor; had the many tood by, with their arms folded, and thrown all the burden upon a few; had some of the most influential
around at the same time, for the express purpose of discouraging the workmen ; or, had there been a general disposition to leave the work, half finished ; there would have been no occasion for a miracle to defeat the enterprise. It would have failed, of course.
Now, my brethren, 'all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. The passage to which I have invited your attention, is full of instruction and reproof, and well suited, if I mistake not, to lead our meditations on the present occasion. If in this enlightened and country it is mortifying to be sent to school, to the builders of Babel, we may, nevertheless, learn from them a very useful lesson. They were children of this
orld,' who, as our divine Lord himself has told us, wiser in their generation, than the children of light.' Any new attempt to build a city and tower up to heaven, would certainly be both foolish and impious. But when ever we have any great and good object in view, we can scarcely do better, than to emulate the union, activity, and perseverance of those ancient builders. In pursuing the subject, I intend to keep my eye steadily fixed upon these three things. My discourse will consist of two parts. The first will contain a general and practical view of the surprising efficacy of combined and persevering action. The second will be employed, in pointing out the necessity, and admirable use, of united action and persevering efforts, for the promotion of good morals.
I. Let us take a general and practical view of the surprising efficacy of combined and persevering action. It would be foreign from my purpose, to detain you a moment with mere abstract speculations. I shall not amuse you with conjectures, about what might be done; but
mind you, for your encouragement, of what has been done.
Look, then, in the first place, at a few obscure and despised fishermen of Galilee, aiming .at nothing less than the establishment of a new religion, throughout, and even beyond the bounds of, the vast Roman Empire. Their Master had just been crucified, as the vilest of malefactors. Against them, the sword of persecution was drawn. They were threatened, scourged, thrown into dungeons, and peremptorily commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus. Who would have thought, that in these circumstances, they could have done anything towards reforming the world !--Surely, had they consulted with flesh and blood,' they would have shrunk from a task so laborious, so perilous, and so apparently hopeless. But nothing can shake their steady purpose. De termined at all bazards, to obey God, rather than man,' they buckle on their armor, grasp the 'weapons of their warfare,' and boldly attack at once, the strong entrenchments of Pharisaical self-righteousness, and Sadducean infidelity, together with the deep rooted superstitions and proud philosophy of Paganism. Everywhere they are furiously opposed, by the united powers of earth and hell. Death, in its most frightful forms, stares them in the face at every step. But they persevere. They gain ground every day. The far-famed oracles of heathenism are struck dumb. The Gospel triumphs. Churches are planted at Ephesus, at Corinth, and even at Rome. In a few years, all parts of the known world are visited by the Apostles, and gladdened with the 'salvation of God.'
Far be it from me, to ascribe this astonishing success to human wisdom, or might. To God be all the glory.
Everything, however, was effected by human instrumentality. It was by the united, zealous, and persevering labors of a few men, acting under the authority of Christ, and guided by his spirit ;—it was by their patient continuance in well doing,' that they, succeeded, against all human probability, in bringing thousands, of many nations and languages, to the knowledge and acknowledgement of the truth.
Take the history of the reformation from popery, as another example. Long and dark was the night, which preceded the dawn of that glorious day. Deep was the gloom that hung over the earth. Strong and terrible were the beast and the false prophet. Red with the blood of martyrs was the mother of harlots. The hands of the few, who had not received the mark in their foreheads, were 'feeble, and their hearts were faiut. Most of them would have deemed it madness, to lift a finger against that spiritual tyranny, which had been rapidly gaining strength, and every year clothing itself with new terrors, for so many centuries. But when hope was about taking her final leave of the world, when darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, light began unexpectedly to dawn, in Gerinany, in Switzerland, in France, and in England. A few undaunted spirits, rising almost at the same time, though at first unknown to each other, boldly denounced the abominations of Popery. The wrath of Antichrist was roused, and soon wrought up to the highest pitch of diabolical phrensy. Day and night, the reformers were beset by a thousand dangers. The legions of death and hell,' encompassed them. Their ininds, however, were made up. They counted not their lives dear unto themselves. United firmly in spirit, and as