Part 2 Chapter 5

Section 3—Genesis 6:5.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth; and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

This text represents not only the heart of man in general to be evil,but the thoughts of his heart; not only these, but the imagination r[y,the substratum of thought, the very first motion to it, and the formation of it; yea, every imagination, or formation, and that only so, nothing good in it, nay always,µwhy lk, every day; and so is a considerable proof of the general and original corruption of human nature: to which the following things are objected.

1st. That these[1] words regard not all mankind, but only the antediluvian world: and not every one of them, since Noah is excepted as a just and perfect man;nor are they spoken of any sin common to all men, as original sin is supposed to be, but of some gross sins committed by the worst of men, who had corrupted themselves by a long course of continual impiety. To which I reply, that the former part of the text, and God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,has a special regard to the flagitious crimes of the men of that generation, which brought down the judgment of God upon them in an universal deluge; but the latter part of the text, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,respects the fountain and spring of all their wickedness, which is the corruption of nature, common to them with all men that were before them, or have since risen up after them. The words are expressed in very general terms: it is not said, every imagination of the thoughts of the heart of these men, or the men of this generation, is only evil continually;but every imagination of the thoughts of men's hearts is so. Noah's being a just and perfect man, was owing to the free favor of God; for it is said, that he found grace in the eyes of the lord,and to the righteousness of Christ, of which he was a preacher;otherwise, by nature he was as corrupt, as much a child of wrath of others;no thanks to his nature that he was just and perfect, but to the distinguishing grace of God he was made a partaker of. Moreover, what is here expressed, is elsewhere said of all men without any exception. It is to me very probable, that the Psalmist has reference to this very passage before us in Psalm 14:2,3, which the apostle Paul, in Romans 3:9-12, without any restriction or limitation, applies to all men, Jews and Gentiles. Add to this, that the very same thing, in almost the same words, is said in Genesis 8:21, of man after the flood, as is here said of him before it; yea, when there was only Noah and his family in being. But, on this last cited text, two things are observed.

1. That the words[2] should not be translated, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, for,but, although,or for this,or upon this account, that the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.And it is said, that the usual way of reading that text, carries in it this absurdity, that the same reason which moved God to destroy the world before, now moves him to spare it. But let it be observed, that the reading pleaded for, is contrary to the common sense of the particle yk, as these men themselves own, to the Targums of Onkelos, and Jonathan Ben Uzziel, who render it by µwra and yra, to the versions of the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Samaritan, and Vulgate Latin, and to many modern ones, which translate the particle for, and not though: nor is there any absurdity in the common reading; for as the phrase, in the other text, accounts for the justice of God, and his proceedings against the men of the other world, this here represents the inconvenience of the continuance or frequency of such proceedings; since he must be always destroying the world, and the inhabitants of it, and consequently could have no church abiding; nor would there be any society of men subsisting, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.Besides, should the reading contended for be admitted, for it will be owned that the particle may be sometimes so rendered, nothing will be got by it; should the words be read, I will not again curse the ground for man's sake, though the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth,or for this,or upon this account, that the imagination of his heart is evil from his youth;either ending both expresses and implies, that the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth, which is the only thing for which we produce it.

2. It is objected,[3] that "the word wyr[gm, doth not signify from their birth,but only from their youth;for he speaks of the imaginations of their hearts,and so only of the time when they are able to entertain and prosecute the thoughts of their evil hearts; nor doth this phrase, it is said, signify an original, but only a long-contracted custom, an habitual course of doing what is either good, or evil, or indifferent." To which I reply, that the Lord here speaks not of what man did, but what was the imagination of his heart,the substratum of his thoughts, and which is antecedent to the entertainment and prosecution of them, that this was evil wyr[m; which Onkelos renders by jywy[zm, from his infancy;and agrees with the derivation of the word from r[n, which signifies[4] to shake out; and with the sense of the ancient, and some of the modern Jews,[5] who say that the [rh rxy, the evil figment,or corruption of nature, is in man from the time of his formation in the womb; or from his birth, as soon as r[ynēm he is shook out of his mother's bowels.Moreover, some of the texts brought to disprove this sense of the phrase serve to confirm it.; particularly Job 31:18, Psalm 71:5,6, where from my youth,and from my mother's womb,are mentioned as terms synonymous. Add to this, that such an interpretation well agrees with other scriptures; where men are represented as shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin, and as transgressors from the womb (Ps. 51:5; Isa. 48:8). But to return to the consideration of what is further objected to our sense of the particular passage under consideration.

2ndly It is said,[6] that "the wickedness the text speaks of was voluntary, and was the moving cause of God's destroying the world by the flood; which cannot be said of original corruption, since that being always the same, would always have been a reason why he should do so; and besides, if the corruption of nature is here intended, in vain did God invite men to repentance by the ministry of Noah, and wait for it one hundred and twenty years; since, without the almighty power of God, they could no more conquer this, than they could change their sex, or raise a dead man to life." In answer to which, let it be observed, that though the wickedness spoken of in the former part of the text designs personal, actual, and voluntary transgressions; yet the evil imagination,in the latter part of it, intends the corruption of nature, which is the fountain of actual transgressions; nor is this doing any violence to the text, or separating what the Scripture has joined together; but distinguishing between the cause and the effect, the fountain and its streams, the tree and its fruit. Nor do I see any reason why original sin, and the corruption of nature, may not be thought, with actual transgressions, to be the cause of the flood; since all actual transgressions flow from thence; and especially, since infants, who sinned not after the similitude of Adam's transgression,suffered in the universal deluge; which cannot be accounted for, but by supposing original sin, or the corruption of nature, in them. Nor is it any sufficient objection to its being a cause of this calamity, that it had always been, and so must always, have been, a reason, for it; seeing God might defer such a strict and severe observance of it; partly until his elect in this interval were gathered in; partly to show his patience, forbearance, and long-suffering, until iniquity was fully ripe, and it is corruption had broken out, and showed itself to such a degree, that God must be, beyond all dispute, justified in his sharpest resentments against it. Nor was the long-suffering of God,which waited in the days of Noah,in vain: since, though such was the rooted corruption of human nature, that none can conquer it without the unfrustrable grace of God; yet these men, under the advantages they had, might have attained to an external repentance and reformation; which would have secured them from temporal destruction, and therefore were left inexcusable. Besides, God might, by these means, bring some of his elect to true repentance, whom he would not have perish, and whom he might take to himself, before the general calamity; as well as he saved Noah and his family in the midst of it.


[1] Curcellaeus, p. 139; Limborch, p. 191.

[2] Whitby, p. 327; ed. 2.319.

[3] Curcellaeus, Limborch, and Whitby, ubi supra.

[4] Whitby, p. 328; ed. 2. 320.Vide Buxtorf and Schindler in Lexicis.

[5] R. Joden, in Bereshit Rabba, tel. 30, I; Talmud Sanhed. fol. 91, 2; R. Sol. Jarchi, in Genesis 8:21, and R. Aben Ezra, in Psalm 51:5.

[6] Curcellaeus and Limborch, in 1ocis supra citatis.

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