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PRESERVATION OF NOAH
Genesis 7:1. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou, and all thy house, into the ark.
THE Church of God has frequently been at so low an ebb, that its existence cannot now be traced. There have been times, even since the promulgation of Christianity, when the righteous have been but few: they appear to us indeed much fewer than they really were: and, if we had authentic records respecting them, as we have concerning the Jews, it is probable that we should find several thousand worshippers of Jehovah for one whose name has been transmitted to us [Note: 1Ki 19:14; 1 Kings 19:18.]. But in the patriarchal ages we are certain that the knowledge of God was very limited: yea, so universal was the degeneracy of man before the flood, that piety was confined to one single family: nor were all of them truly religious, though for their parents’ sake they were all made partakers of the same deliverance. The history before us presents to our view a most distressing scene; a world of sinners doomed to destruction; and the only righteous family in the world selected out of them, to be monuments of God’s sparing mercy. The account given of Noah in the text will lead us to shew,
The provision made for his security—
Righteousness is universally an object of God’s regard: and though it is not meritorious in his sight so as to justify men before him, yet is it so pleasing and acceptable to him, that he will on account of it bestow many temporal blessings, and in the eternal world will confer a more exalted state of glory [Note: Eze 9:4 with 1 Timothy 4:8.]. On account of his eminent piety, God distinguished Noah [Note: See the words following the text.], and instructed him to make an ark for the saving of himself and his household.
This ark was typical of the Church of Christ. St. Peter compares it with baptism, by which we are initiated into the Church; and tells us, that as Noah was saved by his admission into the one, so are we by our introduction into the other [Note: 1 Peter 3:20-21.].
To mark the resemblance between the type and antitype, we may observe that the ark was,
[As the Tabernacle in the time of Moses, so the Ark in Noah’s times was made according to a pattern devised by God himself.
Noah never could have thought of constructing such a vessel himself: the suggestion originated with God: the model for it was given by God: nor was even the smallest part of it left to be formed after man’s device.
And who among the sons of men ever conceived the idea of saving man through the incarnation and death of God’s only-begotten Son? Who could ever have imagined that Jehovah’s Fellow should become a man; that He should submit to this degradation, yea, moreover should endure the accursed death of the cross, for the purpose of reconciling us to his offended Father, and of “gathering together into one body all things both in heaven and on earth [Note: Ephesians 1:10.] ?” Who, I ask, would have ever thought of forming a church in such a way, and of saving man by such means? The whole plan bears the stamp and character of a divine origin, according to what is said by the Apostle, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God [Note: Ephesians 2:8. Τοῦτο, it should seem, refers rather to the sentiment expressed, than to πίστις, which is of the feminine gender.].”]
[The ark, it must be confessed, did not accord with those principles of navigation which obtain amongst us: it was defective in some of the most essential points: it had no mast, no sails, no rudder. But it was so constructed as to convince all who were saved in it, that their salvation was of God alone, and that to him alone was all the glory due. At the same time it was so formed, that every creature in it found ample accommodation.
The Church too is constituted far otherwise than human wisdom would have framed it. Man would have left room for the display of his own skill, and for the establishment of his own righteousness. He would not have chosen to stand indebted wholly to the righteousness of another: that is too offensive to his natural pride: it is “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:23.].” To have no sails or rudder left for him to manage, would be disgusting; because it would necessitate him to feel his entire dependence on God, and to acknowledge, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy [Note: Romans 9:16.].” Yet in all these things God’s wisdom is displayed. This way of salvation is justly called, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:24.].” It cuts off all possible occasion for boasting [Note: Romans 3:27.], and compels us to say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.” At the same time it is the most suitable that can possibly be imagined. “While the moral and discreet are constrained to seek refuge in Christ, the vilest prodigal is not left to despair of mercy: he may enter in at the same door with others, and participate the salvation which God has provided for him.]
[There was in the ark an abundant store of provision both for man and beast: so that no creature, from the largest animal to the smallest insect, lacked any thing that was needful for it.
Surely in this respect it beautifully represents the Church of Christ, wherein the ordinances of divine grace are administered, and “exceeding great and precious promises are given” for our support. There is not a person in it, from the greatest to the least, who may not find all that can conduce to his health and comfort. There is milk for babes, and meat for those who are of full age [Note: Hebrews 5:13-14.]. There is “a feast of fat things” provided for our daily sustenance. There are the richest cordials, “even wines upon the lees well refined,” that are dispensed freely to all who desire them. Nothing is lacking: we need never fear lest the store should be exhausted. Nothing is grudged to the meanest servant in the family: all is given to one as well as to another; and to every one, “without money and without price.”]
We may yet further trace the typical import of the ark in,
The direction given in reference to it—
Noah having finished the ark, waited for further intimations of the divine will, which at length were given him. The direction, as it relates to us, implies two things;
That we should use the appointed means of salvation ourselves—
[God having formed his church, and provided every thing requisite for the preservation of our souls, now speaks to every one of us, “Enter thou into the ark.”
Christ says to us, “I am the door;” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” By Him therefore we are to enter in [Note: John 10:9.].” By faith in him we shall be placed beyond the reach of harm, and may “rejoice in hope of the glory of God [Note: Romans 5:2.].” This is the duty to which we are called.
We are not to amuse ourselves with indulging idle speculations about the fitness of the ark to answer its intended purpose: we have no time to lose: the danger is imminent: if we lose the present moment, we may be undone for ever. We have nothing to do but to “enter in,” and to commit ourselves to the care of our heavenly Pilot.]
That we should exert ourselves for the salvation of others—
[We should not be contented to go to heaven alone: we should say with the church of old, “Draw me; and we will run after thee [Note: Song of Solomon 1:4.].” It is the height of impiety to ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are all appointed to watch over each other: What the Minister is amongst his flock, that every Parent and Master is among his children and servants. We should employ all the influence we possess, for the advantage of those around us. God testified his approbation of Abraham on account of his fidelity in improving this talent; and inflicted signal judgments upon Eli for neglecting to exert his parental authority. If, like Lot, we cannot prevail upon our relatives to follow our advice, we shall not be responsible for them: but if they perish through our neglect, their blood will be required at our hands [Note: Ezekiel 33:8-9.]. We should therefore warn our children and servants to flee from the wrath to come. We should open to them the way of salvation through faith in a crucified Saviour We should declare faithfully to them, that there is “no other name given under heaven whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ;” and we should urge them with all possible earnestness to embrace his covenant, and seek acceptance through him: In short, we should separate both ourselves and them from an ungodly world, and” seek to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith in him.”]
We are aware that many objections will arise against this advice: which therefore we will briefly consider.
We are in the ark already—
[It is granted, that as far as the ark designates the visible Church of Christ, we are all inclosed in it [Note: In the baptismal service we pray, that, “as Noah and his family, were saved in the ark from perishing by water, so we, being received into the ark of Christ’s Church, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that we may be finally brought to the land of ever-lasting life.”]. But we must distinguish between the visible and the invisible church. Our blessed Lord has taught us carefully to distinguish between the fruitful and unfruitful branches; which, though they are both “in him,” will be very differently dealt with by the great Husbandman [Note: John 15:2.]. The Gospel net incloses many fishes; but the good only will be preserved: the bad will be cast away [Note: Matthew 13:47-48.]. In the field, the tares grow together with the wheat: but a separation will be made at last; the-one for the fire of hell, the other for the granary of heaven [Note: Matthew 13:30.]. The Jews were the peculiar people of God: and St. Paul tells us, that “to them pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises:” Yet “he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart on account of them;” which he would not have had, if he had thought that the possession of those outward privileges was sufficient. But he accounts for his feelings by saying, that “all are not Israel, who are of Israel [Note: Romans 9:3-6.].” And he elsewhere assures us, in still stronger terms, that it is not any outward privilege or profession that constitutes us Christians, but an inward change of heart, which approves itself to the all-seeing God [Note: Romans 2:28-29.]. Let us not then deceive ourselves, or imagine that we must of necessity be saved because we have been baptized: for there was an “accursed Ham” in the ark, as well as a righteous Noah: but let us inquire into the dispositions and habits. of our minds: let us examine whether we have given up ourselves unreservedly to God; and whether we are striving to “glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his?”]
We do not see that we are in any danger—
[This was the case with the antediluvian world. They saw no appearance of any deluge: they could not persuade themselves that God would ever inflict such a tremendous judgment on the earth: and they imputed the anxiety of Noah to superstition, credulity, and folly. But did their unbelief make void the truth of God? Yea rather, did it not harden them to their own destruction? What security then will our unbelief afford us? We see not any symptoms of that wrath which is threatened against an ungodly world: but will it therefore never come? Will the word of God fail of its accomplishment? Is it safe for us to set up our opinions against the positive declarations of Heaven, and to found all our hopes of salvation upon the presumption that “God will lie?” Seen, or unseen, our danger is the same: and if all perished at the deluge who took not refuge in the ark, so will all perish at the day of judgment who have not “fled for refuge to the hope set before them.”]
We shall become singular—
[This is an objection which we cannot but allow; and it is with pain and grief that we confess its force. We acknowledge that, if we will seek in earnest the salvation of our souls, we must be singular. But whose fault is this? It was not Noah’s fault that he was singular in the old world: it was the fault of those who refused to listen to the voice of mercy, and to obey the commands of God. And surely Noah would have paid a very unbecoming deference to the world, if he had followed their example rather than his own convictions, and consented to perish with them, rather than secure his own salvation. Why then should we carry our complaisance to such a criminal extent, when the everlasting salvation of our souls is at stake? We regret that we are compelled to be singular: but we must confess, It is better to be saved with Noah and his little family, than to perish with an ungodly world: It is better to walk in the narrow and unfrequented way which leadeth unto life, than to go in the broad road which terminates in destruction.]
Dismissing then your objections, “suffer a word of exhortation”—
[To every one we would address the words of our text, “Enter thou, and all thy family, into the ark.” Consider, how near the day of mercy may have come to its close! The day of judgment may be far off, as it respects the world at large; but it may be nigh at hand as it respects ourselves. The hour of death may be much nearer to us than we imagine: and that will, in effect, be the day of judgment to us. O what shall we then do, if we be not found in the true ark? What shall we do, if we belong not to Him “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” and be not numbered amongst his “little flock,” on whom alone the kingdom of heaven will be conferred? Let us only paint to ourselves the distress we should have felt, if we had seen the waters rapidly surrounding us, and the ark shut against us: yet this would be a very faint image of what we shall feel, when the vials of God’s wrath shall be poured out upon us, and no hope of deliverance be afforded. Let us then “not seek merely, but strive, to enter in.” Let us endeavour to bring all we can along with us. It will be a painful sight, if we be saved ourselves, to see our wife, our children, our servants, our friends perishing around us, and swallowed up in “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” On the other hand, what a joy will it be to present them unto God, saying, “Here am I, and the children, thou hast given me!” Let us then exert our influence while we can; and I pray God that our labours may be crowned with success; and that, instead of going to heaven alone, we may all have some to be “our joy and crown of rejoicing” in that solemn day!]
ABRAM’S JOURNEY TO CANAAN
Genesis 7:5. They went forth, to go into the land of Canaan: and into the land of Canaan they came.
THE call of Abram is one of the most instructive subjects that can occupy the human mind; both because the perfections of Almighty God were most gloriously displayed in it; and because, in it, he shewed himself one of the brightest patterns of obedience that ever the world beheld.
He had had a revelation from God whilst yet he was at Ur, in the land of the Chaldees: by that he was directed to leave his native country; which was immersed, as he also and his father were, in idolatry [Note: Joshua 24:2.]. At Haran (or, as it is also called, Charran) he abode till his father’s death; when he received from God a further direction to go into Canaan, with an express assurance that the whole land of Canaan should be given to him and his posterity for an inheritance, and that in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed [Note: –4 with Acts 7:2-4.]. With this direction he complied: he took his wife and family, and all that he possessed, and set out upon the journey; as it is said in the words before us—“They went forth, to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.”
Now this call of Abram is very instructive; no less as displaying the glorious perfections of God who called him, than as exhibiting the distinguished virtues of him who obeyed the call. I propose then, in illustrating this subject, to set before you,
The perfections of God for your admiration—
To this we are particularly led by that expression of St. Stephen, “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham.” Observe, then,
[Why was Abram distinguished above all other of the sons of men, to be so blessed in himself, and such a blessing to the world? He and all his family were idolaters, as also were all around him: yet was he selected by Almighty God from among them, and made the friend and favourite of heaven. Can any account for this? Can it be traced to any thing but the sovereign will and pleasure of Jehovah? However adverse any man may be to the idea of God’s sovereignty in the dispensation of his blessings, he cannot deny, he cannot question it, in this case. Yet this is really what is done in the conversion of every soul to God. The Almighty Sovereign of the universe “has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [Note: 2 Timothy 1:9.].” “It is God, and God alone, that has made any of us to differ” from our fellows [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.]: and every saint, whether in heaven or on earth, must say, “By the grace of God I am what I am [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.].”]
[Nothing less than omnipotence could have effected such a sudden and total change in the heart of Abram as was wrought at this time: nor, in truth, could any thing less than omnipotence have sufficed to accomplish for him all that was now promised. And is less power required for the “turning of any man from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God?” It is a new creation, and is expressly called so by God himself [Note: Ephesians 2:10.]. It is compared by St. Paul to the power which the Father exercised in raising his Son Jesus Christ from the dead, and exalting him to glory far above all the principalities and powers, whether of heaven or hell [Note: Ephesians 1:19-21. See the wonderful force of the original.]. From the first awakening of a sinner to his final exaltation to glory, he must say, in reference to the whole work, “He that hath wrought me to this self-same thing is God [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:5.].”]
[Not one foot of ground had Abram: nor for twentyfive years after the promise was made to him, had he the child to whom the promises were made. The time was past in which, according to the course of nature, it was possible for him and Sarah to have a child. Yet the child was given him; and to his posterity all the land of Canaan; and in due time, the seed also, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. Thus, in like manner, are all the promises fulfilled to every one who believes in Christ: not one jot or tittle of God’s word is ever suffered to fail [Note: Joshua 23:14.]. “The promises of God in Christ are, not yea and nay, but yea and amen, to the glory of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:20.],” and to the everlasting salvation of all who rely upon them. However numerous their dangers be, or great their difficulties, “they shall never be plucked out of God’s hands [Note: John 10:29.],” but shall be “kept by his power unto full and complete salvation [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.].”]
Let us now set before you that which is no less conspicuous in our text; namely,
The virtues of Abram, for your imitation—
We are told, on divine authority, that if we be Abram’s seed, we shall do the works of Abram. Behold, then,
His simple faith—
[He received implicitly all that God spake unto him. To whatsoever it referred, and however improbable, humanly speaking, the accomplishment of it was, he never for one moment doubted the truth of God’s word, “nor ever staggered at any promise through unbelief.” Now in this most particularly he is set forth as an example to us; who are required to “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had whilst he was yet uncircumcised [Note: Romans 4:12.].” And more especially are we to imitate him in relation to the faith which he exercised on the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he beheld at the distance of two thousand years as the Saviour of the world. If any person ever could be justified by his works, Abram might have claimed that honour: but, eminent as his obedience to the divine mandates was, “he had nothing whereof to glory before God;” and, sensible of his own utter unworthiness, he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for righteousness, and was justified solely by faith in him [Note: ib. –3.]. And why is this so minutely recorded concerning him? Was it for his sake, that he might be honoured? No: it was altogether for our sakes, that we might know how we also are to be justified, and may look simply to Christ as our all in all [Note: ib. 2–25.].]
His prompt decision—
[It is said concerning him, that “when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, he obeyed.” There was in him no hesitation, no delay. And in this way must we also obey the divine call, when bidden to “forsake all and follow Christ.” We must “not confer with flesh and blood [Note: Galatians 1:16.] ;” but must, like the Disciples with their nets, and Matthew at the receipt of custom, leave all for Christ. We must be on our guard against specious excuses, “Lord, let me go home and bury my father,” or “take leave of my friends:” we must not be looking for “a more convenient season;” our obedience must be prompt, our decision firm and unchangeable: whilst it is called to-day, we must avail ourselves of the opportunity that is afforded us to do the will of God: to hesitate, is treason: to delay, is death. “What our hand findeth to do, we must do it instantly, and with all our might.”]
His self-denying zeal—
[Doubtless Abram felt that attachment which men usually do to their native country; and found it painful to turn his back upon all his friends, and to forsake all the comforts which he enjoyed in opulence and ease. No doubt, too, he had much to combat with amongst his friends and acquaintance. He was leaving his native country, and yet “he knew not whither he was going.” How strange must this appear! yea, what a folly and infatuation! But “he knew in whom he had believed,” and had no fear but that the Lord Jehovah, who had called him, would guide his feet, and keep him in all his ways. And shall not we also have much to contend with, if we obey the call of God in his Gospel? To renounce the world, to “mortify our members upon earth, to cut off a right hand, to pluck out a right eye, to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts,” is surely no easy work. The very terms in which these duties are expressed sufficiently declare what self-denial is necessary for the discharge of them. From without, also, our difficulties will be increased. We shall have foes without number to obstruct our way; and most of all, “those of our own household.” Hence our blessed Lord warned his followers, saying, “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” In truth, “if we hate not father and mother, and houses and land, yea, and our own lives also in comparison of him, we cannot be his disciples.” Let not this appear a hard saying: obey it, like Abram; and, like him, you shall find it “a light burden and an easy yoke.”]
His prudent care—
[Abram collected together all the substance which he could conveniently carry with him, and took it along with him for his support. To have acted otherwise, without necessity, would have been to tempt God, rather than to trust in him. He had many dependent on him; and it became him, as far as with propriety he could, to provide for their support. And the same prudent care becomes us also. It is one thing to improve the means we possess, and another to trust in them. We must never say to gold, “Thou art my hope; or to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence:” but at the same time we are to employ the talents which God has committed to us, that we may support ourselves, and not be chargeable to others. That is a remarkable expression of Solomon, “I wisdom dwell with prudence [Note: Proverbs 8:12.].” And a prudent attention to our worldly circumstances tends rather to honour, than disgrace, religion. Abram, as the head of a family, provided for his own: and he did right in this: yea, if he had not done it, he would have “denied the faith, and been worse than an infidel.” Whatever, then, be your situation in life, endeavour to discharge the duties of it in a becoming manner; and let your determination through grace be like that of David, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way [Note: Psalms 101:2.].”]
His persevering diligence—
[In stopping at Haran till his father’s death, I suppose, he judged that to be, or rather, that it was for the time, his proper destination. But being afterwards directed to go to Canaan, he went forth, and turned not aside till he came thither: and there he abode for many years. Indeed, to the very end of his life he held on in the good way which God had directed him to pursue. And thus it is that we also must approve ourselves to God. We must “not turn back: for, if we do, God’s soul will have no pleasure in us.” If we “turn back” at any time, it is to certain “perdition.” Let us “remember Lot’s wife.” In fact, it were better for us never to have “known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to depart from it.” Go on then, like Abram, “as pilgrims and sojourners here,” “shewing plainly, that you are seeking a better country [Note: Hebrews 11:9-10; Hebrews 11:13-16.].” And be assured, that “if, by patient continuance in well-doing, you seek for glory and honour and immortality, you shall in the end attain eternal life [Note: Romans 2:9.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 7". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30