This is inspired testimony respecting the state of society in the days of Noah—an accurate description of the generation that perished in the waters of the flood. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great,” and that the “earth was filled with violence” [Genesis 6:5, first part, 11]. The fear of God had well-nigh died out of the hearts of the children of men. Lawlessness was rife, and almost every conceivable sin was practiced. The wickedness of men was open and daring, and the cries of the oppressed reached to heaven. Justice was trampled in the dust. The strong not only disregarded the rights of the weak, but forced them to commit deeds of violence and crime.
The wickedness of man was great; but this was not all. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” [Genesis 6:5, last part]. The purposes and desires of the heart were corrupt from day to day.
Many flatter themselves that in this enlightened age men are superior in knowledge and talent to those who lived before the flood; but those who think this do not rightly estimate the physical and mental strength of that long-lived race. In those early ages, growth was slow and firm. Men did not, as at the present time, flash into maturity early, and quickly exhaust their vital forces. Their minds were of a high order, and were strong and clear. Had these men, with their rare powers to conceive and execute, devoted themselves to the service of God, they would have made their Creator’s name a praise in the earth, and would have answered the purpose for which he gave them being. But they failed to do this. “All flesh had corrupted his way on the earth” [Genesis 6:12]. There were many giants, men of great stature and strength, renowned for wisdom, skillful in devising the most cunning and wonderful work; but in proportion to their skill and mental ability was their great guilt because of unbridled iniquity.
These antediluvians had received many and rich gifts from God; but they used the bounties granted them by Divine Providence to minister to their own selfish desires, and turned them into a curse by fixing their thoughts and affections upon the gifts instead of the Giver. They had goodly trees of great variety and almost without limit; but of these they made temples, where they reveled in scenes of pleasure and wickedness. Gold, silver, and precious stones were in abundance; but they used these also to gratify the desires of their own proud hearts.
These sinful men could not deny the existence of God; but they would have been glad to know that there was no God to witness their deeds and call them to account. They delighted to put Him out of their minds. The children were not taught to fear and reverence their Maker. They grew up unrestrained in their desires, and destitute of principle or conscience. Their minds were absorbed in devising means to rival one another in pleasure and vice; and they neither looked nor cared for a heaven beyond this world.
Yet the whole world was not corrupt. There were a few faithful witnesses for God. Methuselah, Enoch, Noah, and many others labored to keep alive on the earth the knowledge of the true God, and to stay the tide of moral evil. God declared that his Spirit should not always strive with guilty men, but that their probation should be a hundred and twenty years; if they did not then cease to pollute with their sins the world and its rich treasures, he would blot them from his creation; and these faithful ministers of righteousness gave the warning message. But the light was not heeded, and the preaching of Noah and his co-laborers impressed hearts less and less. Many, even of the worshipers of God, had not sufficient moral power to stand against the corrupting influences of the age, and were beguiled into sin by the bewitching allurements that were constantly before them.
But at length the patience of God was exhausted. By their obstinate resistance to the reproofs of conscience and the warnings of God’s messengers, that generation filled up the measure of their iniquity, and became ripe for destruction. Because mankind had perverted his gifts, God would deface and destroy the things with which he delighted to bless them; he would sweep away the beasts of the field, and the rich vegetation which furnished such an abundant supply of food, and transform the fair earth into one vast scene of desolation and ruin. And guilty man should utterly perish in the overthrow of the world upon which he had set his affections.
Is not this picture of the antediluvian world reproduced in our time? Man has not grown more pure and holy since the days of Noah. His heart has not changed; it is still “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” [Jeremiah 17:9]. The intense worldliness of that generation is exceeded by that of the generation now living. Money is lavishly spent for costly houses, fine horses and carriages, and other expensive articles of luxury and display, while the poor suffer for food and clothing. The fear of God is banished from the hearts of the children of men, and his law is treated with indifference and neglect.
Said Christ: “As in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” [Matthew 24:38, 39]. God did not condemn the antediluvians for eating and drinking; he had given them the fruits of the earth in great abundance to supply their physical wants. Their sin consisted in taking these gifts without gratitude to the Giver, and debasing themselves by indulging appetite without restraint.
It was lawful for them to marry. Marriage was in God’s order; it was one of the first institutions which he established. He gave special directions concerning this ordinance, clothing it with sanctity and beauty; but these directions had been forgotten, and marriage had been perverted to minister to passion. The godly mingled with the depraved, and became like them in spirit and in deeds. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” [Genesis 6:2].
A similar state of things exists now in relation to marriage. Marriages are formed between the godly and the ungodly, because inclination governs in the selection of husband or wife. The parties do not ask counsel of God, nor have his glory in view. Christianity ought to have a controlling, sanctifying influence upon the marriage relation; but husband and wife are not united by Christian principle; uncontrolled passion lies at the foundation of many of the marriages that are contracted at the present time.
In Noah’s day there were men who laughed to scorn his words of warning. They said that nature was governed by fixed laws which made a flood impossible, and that if there were any truth in what he said, the great men, the wise and prudent, would understand the matter. There was total disbelief in Noah’s testimony in regard to the coming judgments; but this unbelief did not prevent or hinder the gathering storm. At the appointed time, “the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” [Genesis 7:11], and the earth was washed of its corruption. Only those who found shelter in the ark were saved.
Reader, another storm is coming. The earth will again be swept by the desolating wrath of God, and again sin and sinners will be destroyed. … Says the psalmist: “Because thou hast made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” [Psalm 91:9–11].
The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, July 1, 1887.