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The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose
Sons of God different from the daughters of men
2. In profession.
3. In moral character.
4. In eternal destiny. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Sons of Elohim and daughters of men
Opinions have differed greatly as to the meaning of the name “Sons of God,” or rather of “Elohim.” The rabbis, as was natural, from their love of the marvellous, took for granted that the fallen angels are meant; since “nephilim” is derived from the verb “to fall.” Hence Apocryphal Jewish literature assumes this constantly, while not a few writers of the most opposite schools still support this explanation, which, nevertheless, seems fanciful and ungrounded. The giants are not said to have been “the sons of Elohim,” and their name may as fitly be explained as referring to their “falling upon” their fellow men as by any mysterious connection with the rebel angels. Nor does the name “sons” of “Elohim” necessarily refer to angels at all; for the word “Elohim” is used elsewhere in Scripture of men. Thus, in Psalms 82:1, we read that God “judges in the midst of the Elohim,” who are shown in the next verse to be those who “judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked.” The name is evidently given them from their office, in which they represented, in Israel, the supreme judge of the nation--Jehovah. Jewish interpreters generally adopt this meaning of the passage, believing that the “great” or “mighty” sons of Cain are contrasted with the lowlier daughters of Seth. It is, moreover, very doubtful if the word be ever applied in the Old Testament to angels. On the other hand, it is continually used of heathen idols, and hence it may well point in this particular case to intermarriages between the adherents of idolatry and the daughters of the race of Seth, and a consequent spread of heathenism, far and near, with its attendant violence and moral debasement. If, however, by “the sons of Elohim” we understand the worshippers of Jehovah, the “daughters of men” would mean those of the race of Cain. This interpretation, indeed, is now very generally adopted, and seems the most natural. We should, then, read “the sons of the godly race” took wives of “the daughters of men.” The children of such marriages sadly increased the prevailing corruption. They became “gibborim,” or fierce and cruel chiefs, filling the world with blood and tumult. It was to prevent the final triumph of evil, Scripture tells us, that the deluge was sent from God. (C. Geikie, D. D.)
Marriage to be sought of God by prayer
It came to pass, when men began to multiply upon the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God (men well qualified) saw the daughters of men (very lewd ones) that they were fair (that is all they aimed at), and, therefore, they took them wives (hand over head) of all which they chose; but, being not of God’s providing, they had better been without them. Thus, when men send out lusts to seek them wives, and unclean spirits to woo for them; when men send out ambition to make their houses great, and covetousness to join house to house and land to land; when men send out flattery, lying and deceitful speeches, and do not send out prayers and loud cries unto Almighty God to direct them in their choice, they may thank themselves if they meet with wives, but not such helpmeets as God otherwise intended for them. (J. Spencer.)
Unequal marriages abhorrent to God
We see how grievous a thing unequal marriages be, when the godly with the ungodly, the believing with the infidels, the religious with the superstitious, are unequally yoked--surely even so grievous to God, that for this cause especially the whole world was destroyed by the flood. The Lord is no changeling; He disliked it ever, and disliketh it still. It is a secret poison that destroyeth virtue more speedily than anything. Solomon was overthrown by the daughters of men, for all his wisdom. Jehoshaphat matched his son to Ahab’s daughter, and it was his destruction. He forsook the way of the Lord, and wrought all wickedness in a full measure. Why? Because, saith the text, “The daughter of Ahab was his wife.” Ahab was wicked, but a wicked wife made him far worse, for she provoked him, saith the text. “Be not unequally yoked with infidels,” saith the apostle, “for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath the believer with the infidel?” It is a law of marriage that should not be broken, that it be in the Lord--that is, with His liking and in His fear--with such as be godly and hold the truth. Our children we allow not to marry against our wills, but our right we challenge to give a consent. And shall the children of God seek no consent of their Father in heaven to their marriages? But His consent He will never give to marry His enemy, and therefore do it not. It is not lawful; it is not expedient if it were lawful. The flood came to punish such disobedience, and forget it never. (Bishop Babington.)
Beauty a snare
Beauty is a dangerous bait, and lust is sharp-sighted. It is not safe gazing on a fair woman. How many have died of the wound in the eye! No one means hath so enriched hell as beautiful faces, Take heed our eyes be not windows of wickedness and loopholes of lust. (J. Trapp.)
The mingling of that which is of God with that which is of man is a special form of evil, and a very effectual engine in Satan’s hand for marring the testimony of Christ on earth. This mingling may frequently wear the appearance of something very desirable; it may often look like a wider promulgation of that which is of God. Such is not the Divine method of promulgating with or of advancing the interests of those who ought to occupy the place of witnesses for Him on the earth. Separation from all evil is God’s principle; and this principle can never be infringed without serious damage to the truth. (C. H. M.)
The Cainites and the Sethites
You will remember that at this time there were two distinct races upon the earth--the descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth; or, as we will call them, the Cainites and the Sethites. The latter were godly people; they worshipped and served the Lord; they kept up the observance of family prayer; they recognized, in fact, an unseen and spiritual kingdom; and they fashioned their lives, or endeavoured to fashion them, in accordance with their belief. The Cainites, on the contrary, cared for none of these things; they flung off the restraints of religion; they were the secularists and materialists of the antediluvian world. Whether there was an unseen kingdom, and a King to rule over it; whether there was such a thing as truth, or such a thing as righteousness, or even such a Being as God Himself, they did not care at all to inquire. These things might be, or might not be; but, at all events, there was the present visible, tangible, enjoyable condition of existence in which they found themselves placed; and of that they determined to make the best, without troubling themselves about difficult and abstruse questions which could probably never be solved. There is another observable thing, too, about these Cainites. Female names occur in their genealogies; and these female names are of such a character as indicates that especial attention had been given to attractiveness of personal appearance, and especial value set upon it by the women of this branch of the human family. Adah is one name: it means “ornament--beauty.” Zillah is another: it means “shade,” and seems to refer to the woman’s thick and clustering tresses, Naamah is a third: it means “pleasing,” and alludes, in all probability, to the fascination and winning attractiveness of manner possessed by the person who bore it. All this seems significant. We gather from it that the women of the Cainite race came into greater prominence, exercised a greater influence of a certain kind than the women of the Sethite race; were more obtrusive and less modest; wore more costly dresses, spent more time in adorning their persons, and gave themselves up to the cultivation and practice of feminine allurements. The recollection of this fact will enable us to understand better the statement of the text. Now, for some considerable time the two races kept completely apart; the Cainites went their way, the Sethites went theirs, and there was no intercourse to speak of between them. But after awhile the separation was removed. We are not informed how the change took place; it may have been through what we may call accidental circumstances, bringing the two races into contact; but it was more probably owing to a relaxation of religious principle on the part of the Sethites, a lowering of the spiritual tone, a departure from the ancient severity of their religious character, which threw them open to the assaults of temptation on the part of their worldly neighbours. And it was through the women of the Cainite race that the danger came in: “the sons of God” (that is, the worshippers of God--the Sethites) “saw the daughters of men that they were fair.” Their beauty attracted and ensnared them; their dress was exquisite; their manners were fascinating, if a trifle bold--unlike, they would say, the shy and retiring ways of the women of their own race; and they first fluttered round, and then fell into the net that was spread for them. “And they took them wives of all which they chose.” There is indicated in this language a simple following of their own will; there is no reference to God or to duty in the matter. The result was an intermingling of the two races, and a very rapid increase of the corruption of mankind. Possibly some of the Sethites, the sons of God, may have deceived themselves with fancying that they, by the infusion of their goodness, were going to raise from its spiritual degradation the Cainite family, and instruct them in the knowledge and the love of God. Ah, the snow as it falls upon the street may cherish the hope that it is going to cover the pathway with a robe of unsullied whiteness! The pure bright stream may fancy when it mingles its waters with those of some turbulent and turbid companion, that it is going to absorb the other’s foulness into its own immaculate purity! But what a miserable mistake this is! Good is indeed more potent than evil when it stands on the defensive and occupies its own ground; but it is feeble, it is powerless, it is soon overcome, when it allows itself to be drawn into the enemy’s territory, and to meet him as a friend. This seems to be the true explanation of the narrative to which our text belongs. And now the question arises, Has it any practical bearing upon ourselves, and upon the circumstances in which we are placed? We believe it has. In what did the criminality of these Sethites consist? In that perversion of the moral sense which led them to prefer external advantages, external attractions, to goodness. Yet how often we are tempted to prefer other things to this sterling quality, or at least to think that the absence of it is more than atoned for by the presence of exterior fascinations! Take, for instance, some favourite writer. He is profane, perhaps; he scoffs at religion, or at least sneers in a covert way. “True,” we say, apologetically; “but how full of intellect he is! What a masterly hand he lays upon his subject! How magnificent are his descriptions, and how his thoughts roll forth in a grand overwhelming tide from the depths of his mind, sweeping all before them!” Or that companion of ours, whom we have lately been warned against. “Perhaps he is irreligious; perhaps he is a little loose, both in his habits and his notions. But how clever he is! No one ever feels dull in his company!” Instances and proofs might easily be multiplied. Now, all this exactly corresponds to the fault, the sin of the “sons of God,” spoken of in our text. It is a criminal preference of external fascinations to the goodness which consists in recognition of God and in consecration to His service. “It is natural,” perhaps you will say. Granted; but the Christian ought to carry that about him which enables him to discriminate between the seeming and the real, and to know things, to a certain extent at least, as they really are. Our subject applies to companionship generally, and suggests the extreme importance of a right choice of associates. Many of us, of course, are thrown into unavoidable juxtaposition with those with whom we have no manner of sympathy, and whom we would gladly avoid if we could. The exigencies of business bring into the same office, or into the same pursuit, the pure and the impure, the godly and the ungodly; and nothing is more common than to hear right-minded young people complaining of the words which they are compelled to hear, or of the things which they are compelled to witness, in the place in which their lot is cast. But, after all, a man is safe if he is in the path of duty. It is the voluntary and not the enforced association which exercises a deleterious influence upon mind and character. But the subject suggests more particularly the effect of companionship between the sexes, and, more particularly still, it puts men on their guard against the fascinations of attractive and accomplished, but irreligious and unspiritual, women. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)
My Spirit shall not always strive with man
The striving of the Spirit
WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE ASSERTION, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man”? It is implied:--
(1) that the Spirit does sometimes strive with men;
(2) that men resist the Spirit.
II. WHAT IS NOT INTENDED BY THE SPIRIT STRIVING. It is no form of physical struggling or effort whatever. It is not any force applied to our bodies.
III. WHAT, THEN, IS THE STRIVING OF THE SPIRIT? It is an energy of God applied to the mind of man, setting truth before his mind, reasoning, convincing, and persuading.
IV. HOW MAY IT BE KNOWN WHEN THE SPIRIT OF GOD STRIVES WITH AN INDIVIDUAL?
(1) When a man finds his attention arrested to the great concerns of his soul;
(2) when a man finds himself convinced of sin;
(3) when the mind is convicted of the great guilt and ill-desert of sin;
(4) when men see the folly of seeking salvation in any other way than through Christ alone.
V. WHAT IS INTENDED BY THE SPIRIT NOT STRIVING ALWAYS? Not that He will at some period withdraw from among mankind, but that He will withdraw from the individual in question. There is a limit to the Spirit’s efforts in the case of each sinner; at some uncertain, awful point, he will reach and pass it.
VI. WHY WILL GOD’S SPIRIT NOT STRIVE ALWAYS?
(1) Because longer striving will do the sinner no good;
(2) because sinners sin wilfully when they resist the Holy Ghost;
(3) because there is a point beyond which forbearance is no virtue.
VII. CONSEQUENCES OF THE SPIRIT’S CEASING TO STRIVE WITH MEN.
(1) A confirmed hardness of heart;
(2) a seared conscience;
(3) certain damnation. (C. G. Finney.)
God striving with man
God strives with man in many ways by the working of His blessed Spirit within him; by the working of our own conscience, by various warnings from without constantly strewn in our paths; but if we grieve and resist the Holy Spirit of God, then He will not always strive with us, but will give us over to a reprobate mind.
I. Consider the great mercy of God, in consenting to strive with man at all.
II. The striving of the Spirit is a means of resisting the flesh.
III. The Spirit of God strives in many ways. His strivings have a meaning, a message, and a warning to us all. (Bishop Atlay.)
The Spirit’s influence
I. THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD DOES EXERT AN INFLUENCE ON MAN FOR THE PURPOSE OF SECURING HIS BEST INTEREST. Notice--
1. That this spiritual influence is universal. No doubt respecting its possibility. He who made man can influence him.
2. That this spiritual influence is essential to the production of good. Human nature is depraved, and therefore incapable of itself of producing anything good. As every drop of rain which falls from the clouds, and every spring that issues from the rocky mountains, comes from the mighty oceans; as the light which makes every planet and satellite gleam in the dark void of space comes from the sun, so does all good in man proceed from the Spirit of God.
3. That this spiritual influence is, in every case, limited by the conditions of man’s free agency. Nothing compulsory in its nature. If religion be virtue, man in becoming religious must act from choice and not from necessity.
4. That this spiritual influence is effective in proportion to the adaptation of the means by which it acts upon men’s minds. Nature. Providence. Chiefly the gospel.
II. THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD MAY CEASE TO INFLUENCE MEN FOR GOOD. This proved by facts. Saul (1 Samuel 28:15); Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1-31); Jews in time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:1).
III. THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD CEASES TO INFLUENCE MAN FOR GOOD BECAUSE OF MAN’S CONTINUED REBELLION. “For that he also is flesh.” The word “flesh” is often used in Scripture to denote the sinfulness of man. This ceasing to strive may not be the result of a positive act of withdrawal of heavenly influences, so much as that of the law of nature which determines that the momentum of any moving body is diminished by constant resistance. In the moral universe, as well as in the physical, this law operates.
IV. THAT THE BENEVOLENCE OF GOD IS MANIFESTED IN THE MANNER IN WHICH SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES ARE WITHDRAWN FROM MAN. “Yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”
1. The withdrawal never happens till after a long period of existence.
2. It never happens suddenly, but gradually.
3. It never happens without sufficient warning. (Evan Lewis.)
The Spirit striving
I. A WONDERFUL FACT IMPLIED. The Holy Spirit strives with man.
1. Remarkable power. Man can refuse to obey the Creator.
2. Amazing Divine condescension.
3. Astonishing human obduracy.
4. A merciful reason. Why not abandon man? Love of God.
5. The benevolent purpose. That man may forsake sin.
6. The mysterious method.
II. AN ALARMING PACT STATED.
1. A calamity of awful magnitude.
2. Most melancholy. (Homilist.)
The time of God’s grace is limited
There is a time when God will strive; but when that time is gone, God will strive no more. To make this plain I will lay down these six things:--
1. I will let you see that it hath been so by testimonies of Scripture. (1 Samuel 15:23; Hebrews 12:16-18; Luke 19:41-42)
2. I will show in or after what manner God deals with a soul in giving it over.
(1) The Lord changes His mind, and repents of the good He has done to such rebellious and stubborn creatures.
(2) The Lord gives over that man to the power of that sin, which He never did before when He strove with him; we must either lose our sins or our souls; and if no means will serve to bring a man home, then the Lord gives him over to commit his old sin (Psalms 81:11-12).
(3) As God gives a man over to the power of his lusts, so He doth blast a man in regard of all abilities and gifts that formerly he hath had. Look into the world, and you shall see this plain. Great scholars, learned doctors and preachers, their learning hath been blasted; they were bright candles, yet in the end they became snuffs, men of corrupt minds, etc. Look upon other common Christians, who have given hope of coming unto God when they were in sickness or necessity, etc. Yet at last it turns to nothing; He sent leanness into their souls (Psalms 106:15). He gave them their request. One aims at honour; well, God gives it unto Him. Another will have profit; well, saith God, and thou shalt have it, but My Spirit and the excellency thereof thou shalt never have.
(4) The Lord hardens that man. He repents of the good that is done unto him; He gives him up to the power of his lusts, and blasts all his parts, so that he hardens his heart. And look by what means God sought to bring him unto Him, those means harden him; afflictions harden, him, which should have been the means to have recalled him. God brays a fool ten times in a mortar, and yet he is the harder, harder, and harder.
(5) The Lord lets that man build upon false bottoms, live by false principles: that man which hath been enlightened must have somewhat to hold upon; else he would be in a little hell, and ergo a man hath his shifts. Saul saith, I have performed the will of the Lord, I have done that which He commanded me. Have you so, says Samuel? What then means the lowing of the oxen? Oh, saith he, it is to do sacrifice unto the Lord.
(6) The Lord gives a commission to all means formerly used, that they shall never come to Him more; the Lord bids those judgments and mercies wherewith He sought to humble him before, never more to meddle with him. Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone (Hosea 4:17).
3. I will let you see what persons they are.
(1) Those that have lived a good while under the means of grace, but are still unprofitable and no good is wrought upon them; it is likely such men are given over (Matthew 23:34-37). And a man that hardens his neck when he is rebuked, shall suddenly be destroyed and cannot be cured Proverbs 29:1).
(2) Those that have much calling and means and also many secret workings of the Spirit on them, that when they have gone out of the house of God have determined never to be drunk more, never to swear, lie, nor steal more, etc., and yet these come to nought. He that hath had many proclamations, as Ezekiel 24:13.
(3) Those that have much grieved the good Spirit of God in bringing in some sin contrary to the light of conscience and the suggestions of the good Spirit of God, as did the children of Israel, who resisted the good Spirit of God, and He sware, etc.
(4) Such as have a common, base, vile, and contemptible esteem of the gospel and ministers thereof. They mocked the ministers till the wrath of God broke out against them and there was no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16).
4. Now I come to the fourth thing which is the grounds of it, viz. Why the Lord in this life doth give men over and strive with them no more. The grounds of this point arise from these two attributes of God, His justice and His wisdom.
(1) God is a just God; and is it not just that those who have rejected Him, that He should reject them? I have called, but you answered not Jeremiah 7:13).
(2) God is a wise God. A man that knocks at the door if he be wise, will not always lie knocking if none answer: he gives over and goes away; so the Lord knocks at our hearts by mercies to allure us, by judgments to terrify us: yet He can find no entrance. Is it not wisdom then to be gone? Why should I smite you any more, saith God? (Isaiah 1:5). (W. Fenner.)
Divine forbearance and justice
I. THE LONG SUFFERANCE OF JEHOVAH TOWARDS HIS WAYWARD CREATURES IS SET FORTH IS THE SCRIPTURES IN VARIOUS WAYS. It is stated in a multitude of passages, that longsuffering is one of His distinguishing attributes; and the truth of this is evidenced by the exceeding great forbearance manifested towards many whose character and conduct are recorded in Holy Writ (Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:8; Ps 2 Peter 3:9). Consider, then, the fact of God’s exceeding great forbearance, and let it be the means of gently leading you to repentance. But, in addition to this, there is another consideration which ought to operate on your minds--namely:
II. THE WARNINGS AFFORDED TO SINNERS BEFORE THE POURING OUT OF HIS JUDGMENTS. There is nothing more clearly manifested in the account given us in the Word of God of His dealings with mankind, than the fact of the unwillingness with which the Almighty inflicts punishment on sinners. It is termed in the twenty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, and the twenty-first verse, “His strange work, His strange act.” Mercy is the work in which the Lord delights; and judgment when executed is performed as a matter of constraint, the effect of necessity. How many are the warnings which the Lord holds forth before He strikes the blow I This was remarkable in the case of the antediluvians. (T. R. Redwar, M. A.)
The danger of resisting the Spirit
I. THAT GOD’S TAKING AWAY HIS SPIRIT FROM ANY SOUL IS THE CERTAIN FORERUNNER OF THE RUIN AND DESTRUCTION OF THAT SOUL. This is clearly evinced from the words; for, although the flood did immediately terminate in the destruction of the body only, yet because it snatched these men away in a state of impenitence, it was consequentially the destruction of the soul.
II. THAT THERE IS IN THE HEART OF MAN A NATURAL ENMITY AND OPPOSITION TO THE MOTIONS OF GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT; outward contention is the proper issue and product of inward hatred: striving in action is an undoubted sign of enmity in the heart (Galatians 5:17). Here we see there is a sharp combat between these two: and the apostle subjoins the reason of it: “for these two are contrary.” Things contrary will vent their contrariety in mutual strife.
III. THAT THE SPIRIT IN ITS DEALINGS WITH THE HEART IS VERY EARNEST AND VEHEMENT. To strive, imports a vigorous putting forth of the power: it is such a posture as denotes an active desire. There is none that strives with another but conquest is the thing both in his desire and in his endeavour.
IV. THAT THERE IS A SET AND PUNCTUAL TIME, AFTER WHICH THE CONVINCING OPERATIONS OF GOD’S SPIRIT UPON THE HEART OF MAN IN ORDER TO HIS CONVERSION BEING RESISTED, WILL CEASE AND FOREVER LEAVE HIM.
1. Scripture proof (Psalms 95:10; Luke 19:42).
2. How the Spirit may be resisted in His workings upon the heart. Where we must first lay down, what it is in general to resist the Spirit.
And this I conceive is, in brief, to disobey the Spirit commanding and persuading the soul to the performance of duty, and the avoidance of sin. Now, the Spirit commands and persuades two ways.
1. Externally, by the letter of the word either written or preached.
2. By its immediate internal workings upon the soul, which I shall reduce to two:
(1) The illumination of the understanding.
(2) The conviction of the will. Now, suitable to all these ways of the Spirit’s dealings with us, there are so many different acts of resistance by which these dealings are opposed. Of all which in their order.
1. Concerning the resistance of the Spirit in disobeying the letter of the Word. The reason that disobedience to the Word is to be accounted an opposing of the Spirit, is because the Word was dictated and inspired by the Spirit itself.
2. I shall next show how it is resisted in its immediate internal workings upon the soul. Here we must reflect upon ourselves, and know that upon the unhappy fall of man, sin and the wretched effects of sin immediately entered upon, and took full possession of all his faculties: his understanding, that before shined clear like the lamp of God, was by sin overspread with darkness; his will, that bore a perfect conformity to the Divine will, was rendered totally averse from and contrary to the things of God.
(1) Concerning our resistance of it in illumination or its enlightening work. And these enlightenings both may be, and often are, resisted by the soul. Illumination in general may be described, the Spirit’s infusing a certain light into the mind, whereby it is in some measure enabled to discern and judge of the things of God. Now, this light is threefold.
(a) That universal light which we usually term the light of nature, yet so as it may also be rightly termed the light of the Spirit; but in a different respect. It is called the light of nature, because of its general inherence in all men; because it is commensurate and of equal extent with nature, so that wheresoever the nature of man is to be found there this light is to be found. “It enlightens every man that comes into the world.” But on the other hand, it is called the light of the Spirit, in respect of the Spirit’s efficiency, in that it is the producing cause of it as it is of every good and perfect gift.
(b) The second kind of light may be called a notional Scripture light; that is, a bare knowledge of or assent to Scripture truths. This light is begot in the mind of all professors by the mere hearing or reading the word; it is the bare perception of evangelical truths placed in the intellect, resting in the brain, treasured up there by a naked apprehension and speculation. So that the resisting this is almost the same with our resistance of the Spirit speaking in the word, only with this difference, that in the former we resist the word as considered in the letter, in this we resist it as it lies transcribed in the conceptions of the understanding.
(c) The third kind of light may be called a special convincing light, which is a higher degree of the enlightening work of the Spirit. This is the highest attainment of the soul on this side saving grace; it is like the clear shining of the moon and stars, which is the greatest light that is consistent with a state of darkness. Yea, it is such a light as does not only make a discovery of the things of God, but also engenders in the soul a certain relish and taste of them.
(2) We come now to the second, which is the conviction of the will, which conviction may be described in general. A work of the Spirit of God upon the will and affections, producing in them some imperfect liking of the ways of God, and dislike to the ways of sin. Now, the convincing works of the Spirit upon the will may be reduced to these three.
(a) A begetting in it some good desires, wishes, and inclinations.
(b) An enabling it to perform some imperfect obedience.
(c) An enabling it to leave some sins. In all these works the Spirit may be resisted and opposed.
3. Why, upon such resistance, the Spirit finally withdraws.
(1) The first reason is drawn from God’s decree.
(2) The second reason is because it is most agreeable to the great intent and design of the gospel.
(3) The third ground or reason why God withdraws His Spirit upon our resistance, is because it highly tends to the vindication of His honour. Now, God may vindicate His honour two ways in the Spirit’s departure.
(a) As it is a punishment to the sinner, that has dishonoured Him. God’s glory cannot be repaired but by the misery of the party that made a breach upon it.
(b) God may vindicate His honour by clearing His injured attributes from those aspersions that human mistakes might charge upon them.
(4) God withdraws His Spirit upon resistance, because this naturally raises in the hearts of men an esteem and valuation of the Spirit’s workings: and the reason of this is, because in so doing, men apparently see that God Himself puts an esteem and value upon them, otherwise why should He so severely bereave men of them upon their abuse? Were it not a treasure God would not be so choice of it. APPLICATION; And now, what can be more seasonable than to wrap up all in the apostle’s own exhortation, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Now, as arguments to dissuade or deter you from this, and withal to persuade and excite you to the former, take these motives.
1. Our resisting of the Spirit in His precepts and instructions will certainly bereave us of His comforts.
2. The second motive why we should comply with the Spirit is, because the resisting of it brings a man under hardness of heart and a reprobate sense.
3. The third motive is, because resisting of the Spirit puts a man in the very next disposition to the great and unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. (R. South, DD.)
Why God’s Spirit will not always strive
There is a certain point beyond which He will not go for sufficient reasons known fully to Himself, partly to us. Two of these we are to notice for our instruction.
1. He will not touch the free agency of His rational creatures. He can put no force on the volitions of men. An involuntary or compulsory faith, hope, love, obedience, is a contradiction in terms, and anything that could bear the name can have no moral validity whatsoever.
2. After giving ample warning, instruction and invitation, He will, as a just judgment on the unbelieving and the impenitent, withdraw His Spirit and let them alone. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
Neglecting the opportunity of grace
When I think of opportunities, I think I may liken us here tonight to a number of men in the Arctic regions. They have been frozen up for a long time, and the ship is high and dry on great masses of ice. The thaw comes on; but the thaw, however, will last but for a very short time. They set their saws to work; they see a split in the ice; there is a long and very narrow lane of water. If they can get the ship along there before the water freezes it up again, they may yet reach the shores of dear old England, and be safe; but if not, they are frozen in for another winter, and very likely will be frozen in forever. Well, now, tonight it seems just so with us. It seems as if the Spirit of God had purposely brought some of you here; and I do trust He is opening, as it were, the lane of mercy for you--causing your sins for a little time to loose their frosty hold, and opening your heart a little to the genial influences of the gospel. But, oh! if it should be frozen up again. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The world’s treatment of the Holy Spirit
It is sad, when the physician, having exhausted all the resources of his skill, gives up his patient and retires. It is sad when the parent, having tried severity and kindness, correction and encouragement, in vain, at last, heartbroken and hopeless, desists from his endeavours to reform his wayward child. But it is sadder still when Almighty God foiled, as it were, by human obduracy, in all the manifestations of His grace and mercy, at last gives up His efforts for the salvation of men, and retires exclaiming: “How often would I have gathered you under My wing, and ye would not.” Such is the spectacle here. The Spirit of God has, all through, been connected with our world. It was He who moved on the face of the waters, reducing the discordant elements to order, and building up that fair and goodly structure, which has still so many traces of its original beauty lingering amid its ruin and decay.
It was He who was breathed into man, making him a living soul, spiritual, and like to God in wisdom, goodness, happiness, and truth. After the Fall, He did not forsake the work of His hands, but clave to the souls of men, seeking to help their recovery, and if that might not be, seeking to act as a drag on their downward progress. Oh, how long-continued, constant, and persevering have been His efforts for the good of man! What has been the treatment which He has received from them in return? God tells us what it was from the men before the flood. They were going on in evils ways, and the Spirit strove with them, tried to stop them, and turn them back. He pleaded with them, warned them, but it was in vain; they went on, and grew worse and worse. Like a mighty torrent they swept along, and drew even the godly along with them. At length it became time for God to decide and act, and so He did. “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” Slowly and reluctantly, God comes to this determination. Oh, the evil of man’s sin! It makes, as it were, a conflict in the Divine bosom. Mercy calls for delay, but justice says, “It must be limited.” Love to men, and unwillingness that they should perish, cry, “Let alone a little longer,” but God is jealous for the honour of His Spirit. And so a time comes when the blessed God must decide and act; and so He does. “Man has become flesh,” mere flesh; all, with one exception, flesh. The case is hopeless, “Open the windows of heaven, and break up the fountains of the great deep.” So it was with Israel. With growing light, unparalleled privileges, they grew worse and worse--more hardened, formal, hypocritical. The case was hopeless; Israel was mere flesh--a dead, corrupting carcase. Ho, ho, ye Roman eagles, come and devour! (J. Milne.)
The long suffering of God
The stroke of judgment is like the lightning flash, irresistible, fatal; it kills--kills in the twinkling of an eye. But the clouds from which it leaps are slow to gather; they thicken by degrees; and he must be intensely engaged with the pleasures, or engrossed in the business of the world, whom the flash and peal surprise. The mustering clouds, the deepening gloom, the still and sultry air, the awful silence, the big pattering raindrops, these reveal his danger to the traveller, and warn him away from river, road, or hill, to the nearest shelter. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Sin beyond mercy
In an age of despotism, an Italian prince became celebrated for his forbearance, also for his severe punishment when aroused to do vengeance. He had an offending servant who was repeatedly admonished. With every pardon he became more reckless and impudent, and thought he could do anything with impunity. One day, he entered the presence of the prince with his hat on, and, when rebuked, said he had a cold. His much-enduring master said, “I will take care that you never catch cold again.” He immediately ordered the man to prison, and that the executioner should nail his hat to his head. One of the prince’s friends expressed surprise at this severe sentence, because the servant had been pardoned for more serious crimes. The prince took a goblet, and having half filled it with water, requested his friend to put an apple into it. This made the water rise to the brim. The prince then told his friend to drop in a coin. This made the water to run over. “How is it?” the prince asked, “that the small coin caused the water to run over, whereas the large apple raised it only to the brim?” The overflowing of the cup of God’s mercy is wrath and destruction to the impenitent.
Giants in the earth
Story of Jack the Giant Killer: written to teach children that they have got to fight giants.
I. The first giant you have to overcome is ILL-TEMPER. Look out for him when told to do something you don’t want to do. The time to beat him is right at the beginning.
II. The next giant you have to meet is SELFISHNESS. We have only one mouth because we don’t have to eat for anybody else; but two ears, eyes, hands, because we have to help other people. This giant has only one ear, eye, hand--just enough to do for himself and nothing more.
III. The third giant is UNTRUTHFULNESS. He is a big liar. The most dangerous of all the giants. Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.
V. SELF-SUFFICIENCY. Whenever this giant moves you to sneer at the honest beliefs of others, or to set your opinion and wisdom against that of the world, there is but one thing that will suffice to conquer him, and that is faith. (J. M. Pullman.)
Giants of strength
In the early days of which we read in the Bible men seemed to have been stronger and taller, and to have lived to a greater age than now. But it is not of these giants of strength of whom I would speak to you, but of giants in character, in faith, in holiness, and endurance, who may serve us feeble folk as examples how to live and die. Let us take Noah as an example of a giant in faith. He believed God’s promise that He would destroy the world, though there were no signs of the coming flood. And when the flood came, Noah was saved and the laughers destroyed. Again, take Abraham as an example of a giant of faith. Take Job as an example of patience: he lost health and home, and money and children, at one stroke, and he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” We, like them, may be giants of strength if we trust in Him whose grace is sufficient for us. Let me now tell you of some who have been giants of strength in their death, and let their dying words be a sermon to us. Let us hear Simeon, the old man who had grown grey waiting for the consolation of Israel; his dim eyes looked on the Son of God, his feeble arms held Him, and he went to his rest, saying, “Lord, now lettest,” etc. May we all likewise die the death of the righteous, and may our last end be like his! St. Stephen sank beneath the cruel stones, crying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”; etc. St. Paul, when his work was nearly over, said, “I have fought a good fight,” etc. Listen to Ignatius on his way to Rome to die for Jesus, “My Lord was crucified for me.” St. Polycarp, the white-haired bishop of Smyrna, is in the hands of his enemies, they bid him abjure the faith of Christ, or be cast to the lions, and the brave old man makes answer, “We Christians change no better for worse, but change from bad to better,” and so goes to the lions. John Huss is being bound to the stake and he cries, “Welcome this chain for Christ’s sake.” The dying Luther murmurs, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit, for Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of Truth.” When Melancthon was near his end, they asked him if he wanted aught, and he answered, “Nothing but heaven.” The poet Goethe said with his last breath, “Let the light enter,” and so passed away to where all things are made clear. When the learned Grotius was dying they brought young people to his bedside to hear his parting advice; he gave it in two words, “Be serious.” Beethoven, the great composer, was too deaf to hear his own sweet music, but on his death bed he said, smiling, “I shall hear in heaven.” Yes, the best music, the unending praises of the Lamb of God! From these giants let us learn how to die. Many of them were weak, and old, and sickly, some were women and tender children; only let us be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and the feeblest feet among us shall climb to heaven, the tiniest hands shall beat down the tempter, the sickliest bodies shall be glorified. (H. J.Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.
A degenerate world
1. The organic unity of society is favourable to the spread of moral evil.
2. The native willingness of the human soul to do evil is favourable to the contagion of moral wrong.
I. IT IS A WORLD IN WHICH MARRIAGE IS ABUSED.
1. We find that marriage was commenced on a wrong principle. It is altogether wrong for the sons of God to marry the daughters of men.
2. We find that physical beauty was made the basis of the matrimonial selection. We find that the marriage bond was violated by impurity.
II. IT IS WORLD IN WHICH VIOLENCE PREVAILS.
1. Men of physical strength became the rulers of the people.
2. Men of physical strength were the popular favourites of the day.
3. Men of physical strength were the terror of the day.
III. IT IS A WORLD IN WHICH SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES ARE REJECTED.
1. This degenerate world had not been entirely left to its own inclination.
2. The degenerate world rejected the holy influences of heaven.
3. The degenerate world was in danger of losing the holy and correcting influences of heaven.
IV. IT IS A WORLD UNDER THE IMMEDIATE INSPECTION OF GOD.
V. IT IS A WORLD THREATENED WITH DESTRUCTION BY GOD.
1. This threat was retributive.
2. This threat was comprehensive.
3. This threat was mingled with mercy.
1. To sanctify a long life by true piety, lest it become a means of impurity.
2. To avoid unhallowed alliances.
3. To coincide with the convictions of the Spirit or God. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)
The extent of man’s wickedness
1. The testimony of God respecting man. In general, the wickedness of man was great in the earth. Every species of wickedness was committed in the most shameless manner. But more particularly, “the hearts” of men were evil; “the thoughts” of their hearts were evil; “the imaginations” of the thoughts were evil, and this too without exception, without mixture, without intermission; for every imagination was evil, and “only” evil, and that continually. What an awful statement. But how could this be ascertained? Only by God (Proverbs 16:2). This is His testimony, after a thorough inspection of every human being. The same must be spoken of man at this day. Proved by observation. What has been the state of your hearts? Pride, anger, impure thoughts have sprung up in them. If occasionally a transient thought of good has arisen, how coldly has it been entertained, how feebly has it operated, how soon has it been lost. Compared with what the law requires, and what God and His Christ deserve at your hands, do we not fall short of our duty?
II. WHAT EFFECT IT SHOULD PRODUCE UPON YOU.
1. Humiliation. On review of our words and actions we have all reason to be ashamed. Who amongst us could bear to have all his thoughts disclosed? Yet God beholds all; and has a perfect recollection of all that has passed through our minds from infancy. We ought to be humble.
2. Gratitude. God sent His Son that through Him all our iniquities might be forgiven. Is not gratitude due to Him in return?
3. Fear. Though your hearts are renewed by Divine grace, it is only in part; you have still the flesh within you, as well as the spirit. (C. Simeon, M. A.)
A degenerate world
1. In the first place, we may remark the occasion of this general corruption, which was the increase of population. When men began to multiply they became more and more depraved: yet an increase of population is considered as a blessing to a country, and such it is in itself; but through man’s depravity it often proves a curse. When men are collected in great numbers they whet one another up to evil, which is the reason why sin commonly grows rankest in populous places. We were made to be helpers; but by sin we are become tempters of one another, drawing and being drawn into innumerable evils.
2. Secondly: Observe the first step towards degeneracy, which was the uniting of the world and the church by mixed marriages. The great end of marriage in a good man should not be to gratify his fancy, or indulge his natural inclinations, but to obtain a helper; and the same in a woman. We need to be helped on in our way to heaven, instead of being hindered and corrupted.
3. Observe the great offence that God took at this conduct, and the consequences which grew out of it: The Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, etc. It is for that he also (or these also) were flesh; that is, those who had been considered as the sons of God were become corrupt.
4. Observe the long suffering of God amidst His displeasure--His day shall be a hundred and twenty years (1 Peter 3:20). All this time God did strive, or contend with them; but, it seems, without effect. (A. Fuller.)
As there is a law of continuity, whereby in ascending we can only mount step by step; so they who descend must sink with an ever increasing velocity. No propagation is more rapid than that of evil; no growth more certain. He who is in for a penny, if he does not resolutely fly, will find that he is in for a pound. The longer the avalanche rolls down the glacier slopes, the swifter becomes its speed. A little group of Alpine travellers saw a flower blooming on the slope of the cliff on which they stood surveying the prospect below. Each started to secure the prize; but as they hastened down, the force of their momentum increased with each step of the descent--they were borne on the smooth icy surface swiftly past the object of pursuit--and were precipitated into a yawning crevasse. Such is the declension of the soul.
A fair scene spoiled
I know beautiful valley in Wales, guarded by well-wooded hills. Spring came there first, and summer lingered longest, and the clear river loitered through the rich pastures and the laughing orchards, as if loth to leave the enchanting scene. But the manufacturer came there; he built his chimneys and he lighted his furnaces, out of which belched forth poisonous fumes night and day. Every tree is dead, no flower blooms there now, the very grass has been eaten off the face of the earth, the beautiful river, in which the pebbles once lay as the pure thoughts in a maiden’s mind, is now foul, and the valley scarred and bare, looks like the entrance into Tophet itself. And this human nature of ours, in which faith and virtue, and godliness, and all sweet humanities might flourish, in miles of this London of ours, is what bad air, and the gin palace, and the careless indifference of a Christianity bent only upon saving itself, have made it. (Morlais Jones.)
I. THAT THE WICKEDNESS OF MAN IS, AND EVER HAS BEEN, GREAT.
1. Among the Jews.
2. In heathen nations. But, to bring the matter home to ourselves, for with ourselves the great concern lies, are not men still full of envy, murder, debate, deceit? Is not the state of society lamentably corrupted and depraved?
II. THAT THIS WICKEDNESS PROCEEDS FROM HIS CORRUPT NATURE. Prove this from--
2. Scripture. (Genesis 8:20-21; Job 15:14-16; Psalms 51:5-10; Matthew 15:19; Matthew 12:33; Romans 7:14-15; Romans 7:18.)
II. THE ONLY REMEDY FOR THIS CORRUPTION. (John 3:16.) (H. J. Hastings, M. A.)
The sinfulness of man’s natural state
Two things are here laid to their charge:
1. Corruption of life, wickedness, great wickedness. I understand this of the wickedness of their lives; for it is plainly distinguished from the wickedness of their hearts.
2. Corruption of nature. Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. All their wicked practices are here traced to the fountain and springhead: a corrupt heart was the source of all. The soul, which was made upright in all its faculties, is now wholly disordered. There is a sad alteration, a wonderful overturning in the nature of man: where, at first, there was nothing evil, now there is nothing good.
I. I SHALL CONFIRM THE DOCTRINE OF THE CORRUPTION OF NATURE. Here we shall consult the word of God, and men’s experience and observation. For Scripture-proof, let us consider,
1. How the Scripture takes particular notice of fallen Adam’s communicating his image to his posterity (Genesis 5:3).
2. It appears, from Job 14:4, our first parents were unclean; how then can we be clean?
3. Consider the confession of David (Psalms 51:5). Here he ascends from his actual sin to the fountain of it, namely, corrupt nature.
4. Hear our Lord’s determination of the point, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). Behold the universal corruption of mankind--all are flesh!
5. Man certainly is sunk very low now, in comparison of what he once was. God made him but a “little lower than the angels”; but now we find him likened to the beasts that perish. He hearkened to a brute, and is now become like one of them,
6. “We are by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). We are worthy of, and liable to, the wrath of God; and this by nature: therefore, doubtless, we are by nature sinful creatures. I shall propose a few things that may serve to convince us in this point--
(1) Who sees not a flood of miseries overflowing the world?
(2) Observe how early this corruption of nature begins to appear in young ones.
(3) Take a view of the manifold gross outbreakings of sin in the world: the wickedness of man is yet great in the earth.
(4) Cast your eye upon those terrible convulsions which the world is thrown into by the lusts of men! Lions make not a prey of lions, nor wolves of wolves: but men are turned lions and wolves to one another, biting and devouring one another.
(5) Consider the necessity of human laws, guarded by terrors and severities; to which we may apply what the apostle says (1 Timothy 1:9).
(6) Consider the remains of that natural corruption in the saints. Though grace has entered yet corruption is not expelled: though they have got the new creature, yet much of the old corrupt nature remains.
(7) I shall add but one observation more, and that is, that in every man naturally the image of fallen Adam appears. Some children by the features and lineaments of their face do, as it were, father themselves: and thus we resemble our first parents. Every one of us bears the image and impression of the Fall upon him: and to evince the truth of this, I appeal to the consciences of all in these following particulars--
(a) Is not sinful curiosity natural to us? and is not this a print of
Adam’s image (Genesis 3:6)?
(b) If the Lord by His holy law and wise providence puts a restraint upon us to keep us back from anything, does not that restraint whet the edge of our natural inclinations, and makes us so much the keener in our desires? And in this do we not betray it plainly that we are Adam’s children (Genesis 3:2-6)?
(c) Which of all the children of Adam is not naturally disposed to hear the instruction that causeth to err? And was not this the rock our first parents split upon (Genesis 3:4-6)?
(d) Do not the eyes in your head often blind the eyes of the mind?
(e) Is it not natural to us to care for the body, even at the expense of the soul?
(f) Is not everyone by nature discontented with his present lot in the world, or with some one thing or other in it?
(g) Are we not far more easily impressed and influenced by evil counsels and examples than by those that are good?
(h) Who of all Adam’s sons needs be taught the art of sewing fig leaves together to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:7)?
(i) Do not Adam’s children naturally follow his footsteps in hiding themselves from the presence of the Lord (Genesis 3:8)?
(j) How loth are men to confess sin, to take guilt and shame to themselves? Was it not thus in the case before us (Genesis 3:10)?
(k) Is it not natural for us to extenuate our sin, and transfer the guilt upon others?
II. I PROCEED TO INQUIRE INTO THE CORRUPTION OF NATURE IN THE SEVERAL PARTS THEREOF. Man in his natural state is altogether corrupt: both soul and body are polluted, as the apostle proves at large (Romans 3:10-18).
1. Of the corruption of the understanding.
(1) There is a natural weakness in the minds of men with respect to spiritual things. The apostle determines concerning everyone that is not endued with the graces of the Spirit, “That he is blind, and cannot see afar 2 Peter 1:9).
(2) Man’s understanding is naturally overwhelmed with gross darkness in spiritual things. He has some notions of spiritual truths, but sees not the things themselves that are wrapt up in the words of truth, “Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm” (1 Timothy 1:7). In a word, natural men fear, seek, confess, they know not what.
(3) There is in the mind of man a natural bias to evil, whereby it comes to pass that whatever difficulties it finds while occupied about things truly good, it acts with a great deal of ease in evil, as being in that case in its own element (Jeremiah 4:22).
(4) There is in the carnal mind an opposition to spiritual truths, and an aversion to receive them. It is as little a friend to Divine truths as it is to holiness.
(5) There is in the mind of man a natural proneness to lies and falsehood, which favours his lusts.
(6) Man is naturally high-minded; for when the gospel comes in power to him it is employed in “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
2. Of the corruption of the will. The will, that commanding faculty, which at first was faithful and ruled with God, is now turned traitor and rules with and for the devil. God planted it in man “wholly a right seed,” but now it is “turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine.”
(1) There is in the unrenewed will an utter inability for what is truly good and acceptable in the sight of God.
(2) There is in the unrenewed will an aversion to good. Sin is the natural man’s element; he is as unwilling to part with it as fish are to come out of the water on to dry land.
(3) There is in the will of man a natural “proneness to evil,” a woeful bent towards sin.
(4) There is a natural contrariety, direct opposition, and enmity in the will of man to God Himself and His holy will (Romans 8:7).
3. The corruption of the affections. The unrenewed man’s affections are wholly disordered and distempered: they are as the unruly horse, that either will not receive, or violently runs away with, the rider.
4. Corruption of the conscience (Titus 1:15).
5. Corruption of the memory. Even the memory bears evident marks of this corruption. What is good and worthy to be remembered, as it makes but slender impression, so that impression easily wears off; the memory, as a leaking vessel, lets it slip (Hebrews 2:1).
6. Corruption of the body. The body itself also is partaker of this corruption and defilement so far as it is capable thereof. Wherefore the Scripture calls it sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). We may take this up in two things.
(1) The natural temper, or rather distemper, of the bodies of Adam’s children, as it is an effect of original sin, so it has a natural tendency to sin, incites to sin, leads the soul into snares, yea, is itself a snare to the soul.
(2) It serves the soul in many sins. Its members are instruments or weapons of unrighteousness whereby men fight against God (Romans 6:13).
III. I SHALL SHOW HOW MAN’S NATURE COMES TO BE THUS CORRUPTED. Adam’s sin corrupted man’s nature and leavened the whole lump of mankind. The root was poisoned, and so the branches were envenomed: the vine turned into the vine of Sodom, and so the grapes became grapes of gall. Adam by his sin became not only guilty but corrupt, and so transmits guilt and corruption to his posterity (Genesis 5:3; Job 14:4). By his sin he stripped himself of his original righteousness and corrupted himself; we were in him representatively, being represented by him as our moral head in the covenant of works: we were in him seminally, as our natural head; hence we fell in him, and by his disobedience were made sinners, as Levi in the loins of Abraham paid tithes (Hebrews 7:9-10).
IV. I SHALL NOW APPLY THIS DOCTRINE OF THE CORRUPTION OF NATURE.
Use 1.--For information. Is man’s nature wholly corrupted? Then--
(1) No wonder that the grave opens its devouring mouth for us as soon as the womb has cast us forth, and that the cradle is turned into a coffin to receive the corrupt lump: for we are all, in a spiritual sense, dead born; yea, and filthy (Psalms 14:3), noisome, rank, and stinking as a corrupt thing, as the word imports.
(2) Behold here as in a glass the spring of all the wickedness, profanity, and formality which is in the world; the source of all the disorders in thy own heart and life.
(3) See here why sin is so pleasant and religion such a burden to carnal spirits: sin is natural, holiness not so.
(4) Learn from this the nature and necessity of regeneration. First, this discovers the nature of regeneration in these two things--
(a) It is not a partial, but a total change, though imperfect in this life. Thy whole nature is corrupted; therefore the cure must go through every part.
(b) It is not a change made by human industry, but by the mighty power of the Spirit of God. A man must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5). Secondly, this also shows the necessity of regeneration. It is absolutely necessary in order to salvation (John 3:4).
Use 2.--For lamentation. Well may we lament thy case, O natural man! for it is the saddest case one can be in out of hell.
Use 3.--I exhort you to believe this sad truth. Alas! it is evident that it is very little believed in the world. Few are concerned to get their corrupt conversation changed; but fewer, by far, to get their nature changed. Most men know not what they are, nor what spirits they are of; they are as the eye, which, seeing many things, never sees itself. But until you know everyone the plague of his own heart, there is no hope of your recovery. (T. Boston, D. D.)
A dark view of sin
If a doctor knows that he can cure a disease, he can afford to give full weight to its gravest symptoms. If he knows he cannot, he is sorely tempted to say it is of slight importance, and, though it cannot be cured, can be endured without much discomfort. And so the Scripture teachings about man’s real moral condition are characterized by two peculiarities which, at first sight, seem somewhat opposed, but are really harmonious and closely connected. There is no book and no system in the whole world that takes such a dark view of what you and I are; there is none animated with so bright and confident a hope of what you and I may become. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The sinfulness and cure of thoughts
1. Of the subject, “every man.”
2. Of the act, “every thought.”
3. Of the qualification of the act, “only evil”
4. Of the time, “continually.”
The words thus opened afford us this proposition: That the thoughts, and inward operations of the souls of men, are naturally universally evil, and highly provoking. In this discourse, let us first see what kind of thoughts are sins.
1. Negatively. A simple apprehension of sin is not sinful. Thoughts receive not a sinfulness barely from the object. That may be unlawful to be acted which is not unlawful to be thought of.
2. Positively. Our thoughts may be branched into first motions, or such that are more voluntary.
(1) First motions: those unfledged thoughts and single threads, before a multitude of them come to be twisted and woven into a discourse; such as skip up from our natural corruptions, and sink down again, as fish in a river. These are sins, though we consent not to them, because, though they are without our will, they are not against our nature, but spring from an inordinate frame, of a different hue from what God implanted in us. How can the first sprouts be good, if the root be evil? Not only the thought formed, but the very formation, or first imagination, is evil.
(2) Voluntary thoughts, which are the blossoms of these motions: such that have no lawful object, no right end, not governed by reason, eccentric, disorderly in their motions, and like the jarring strings of an untuned instrument. These may be reduced to three heads.
I. In regard of God.
II. Of ourselves.
III. Of others.
I. In regard of God.
1. Cold thoughts of God. When no affection is raised in us by them.
2. Debasing conceptions, unworthy of God. Such are called in the heathen “vain imaginations” (Romans 1:21). Such an imagination Adam seemed to have, conceiting God to be so mean a being, that he, a creature not of a day’s standing, could mount to an equality of knowledge with Him.
3. Accusing thoughts of God, either of His mercy, as in despair; or of His justice, as too severe, as in Cain (Genesis 4:13).
4. Curious thoughts about things too high for us. It is the frequent business of men’s minds to flutter about things without the bounds of God’s revelation (Genesis 3:5). “God knows that your eyes shall be opened.” Yet how do all Adam’s posterity long after this forbidden fruit!
II. In regard of ourselves. Our thoughts are proud, self-confident, self-applauding, foolish, covetous, anxious, unclean, and what not?
1. Ambitious. The aspiring thoughts of the first man run in the veins of his posterity.
2. Self-confident. Edom’s thoughts swelled him into a vain confidence of a perpetual prosperity; and David sometimes said, in the like state, that he should never be moved.
3. Self-applauding. Either in the vain remembrances of our former prosperity, or ascribing our present happiness to the dexterity of our own wit.
4. Ungrounded imaginations of the events of things, either present or future. Such wild conceits, like meteors bred of a few vapours, do often frisk in our minds.
(1) Of things present. It is likely Eve foolishly imagined she had brought forth the Messiah when she brought forth a murderer (Genesis 4:1).
(2) Of things to come, either in bespeaking false hopes, or antedating improbable griefs. Such are the jolly thoughts we have of a happy estate in reversion, which yet we may fall short of.
5. Immoderate thoughts about lawful things. When we exercise our minds too thick, and with a fierceness of affection above their merit; not in subserviency to God, or mixing our cares with dependencies on Him.
Worldly concerns may quarter in our thoughts, but they must not possess all the room, and thrust Christ into a manger; neither must they be of that value with us as the law was with David, sweeter than the honey or the honeycomb.
III. In regard of others. All thoughts of our neighbour against the rule of charity: “Such that imagine evil in their hearts, God hates” (Zechariah 8:17). These principally are--
1. Envious, when we torment ourselves with other’s fortunes.
2. Censorious, stigmatizing every freckle in our brother’s conversation1 Timothy 6:4; 1 Timothy 6:4).
3. Jealous and evil surmisings, contrary to charity, which “thinks no evil” 1 Corinthians 13:5).
4. Revengeful; such made Haman take little content in his preferments, as long as Mordecai refused to court him (Esther 5:13); and Esau thought of the days of mourning for his father, that he might be revenged for his brother’s deceits: “Esau said in his heart,” etc. (Genesis 27:41). In all these thoughts there is a further guilt in three respects, viz
1. Delight in them. The very tickling of our fancy by a sinful motion, though without a formal consent, is a sin, because it is a degree of complacency in an unlawful object.
2. Contrivance. When the delight in the thought grows up to the contrivance of the act (which is still the work of the thinking faculty). When men’s wits play the devils in their souls, in inventing sophistical reasons for the commission and justification of their crimes, with a mighty jollity at their own craft, such plots are the trade of a wicked man’s heart. A covetous man will be working in his inward shop from morning till night to study new methods for gain; and voluptuous and ambitious persons will draw schemes and models in their fancy of what they would outwardly accomplish.
3. Reacting sin after it is outwardly committed. Though the individual action be transient, and cannot be committed again, yet the idea and image of it remaining in the memory may, by the help of an apish fancy, be repeated a thousand times over with a rarefied pleasure, as both the features of our friends, and the agreeable conversations we have had with them, may with a fresh relish be represented in our fancies, though the persons were rotten many years ago. Having thus declared the nature of our thoughts, and the degrees of their guilt, the next thing is to prove that they are sins.
There are three reasons for the proof of this, that they are sins.
1. They are contrary to the law, which doth forbid the first foamings and belchings of the heart, because they arise from an habitual corruption, and testify a defect of something which the law requires to be in us, to correct the excursions of our minds (Romans 7:7).
2. They are contrary to the order of nature, and the design of our creation. Whatsoever is a swerving from our primitive nature is sin, or at least a consequent of it. But all inclinations to sin are contrary to that righteousness wherewith man was first endued.
3. We are accountable to God, and punishable for thoughts. Nothing is the meritorious cause of God’s wrath but sin. Having proved that there is a sinfulness in our thoughts, let us now see what provocation there is in them, which in some respects is greater than that of our actions.
Now, thoughts are greater in respect--
1. Of fruitfulness. The wickedness that God saw great in the earth was the fruit of imaginations. They are the immediate causes of all sin. No cockatrice but was first an egg.
2. In respect of quantity. Imaginations are said to be continually evil. There is an infinite variety of conceptions, as the Psalmist speaks of the sea, “wherein are all things creeping innumerable, both small and great,” and a constant generation of whole shoals of them; that you may as well number the fish in the sea, or the atoms in the sunbeams, as recount them.
3. In respect of strength. Imaginations of the heart are only, i.e., purely evil. The nearer anything is in union with the root, the more radical strength it hath.
4. In respect of alliance. In these we have the nearest communion with the devil. The understanding of man is so tainted, that his wisdom, the chiefest flower in it, is not only earthly and sensual (it were well if it were no worse), but devilish too (James 3:15). If the flower be so rank, what are the weeds?
5. In respect of contrariety and odiousness to God. Imaginations were only evil, and so most directly contrary to God, who is only good. Our natural enmity against God (Romans 8:7), is seated in the mind.
6. In respect of connaturalness and voluntariness. They are the imaginations of the thoughts of the heart, and they are continually evil. They are as natural as the estuations of the sea, the bubblings of a fountain, or the twinkling of the stars.
The uses shall be two, though many inferences might be drawn from the point.
1. Reproof. What a mass of vanity should we find in our minds, if we could bring our thoughts, in the space of one day, yea, but one hour, to an account! How many foolish thoughts with our wisdom, ignorant with our knowledge, worldly with our heavenliness, hypocritical with our religion, and proud with our humiliations!
2. Exhortation. We must take care for the suppression of them. All vice doth arise from imagination. Upon what stock doth ambition and revenge grow but upon a false conceit of the nature of honour? What engenders covetousness but a mistaken fancy of the excellency of wealth? Thoughts must be forsaken as well as our way (Isaiah 55:7). That we may do this, let us consider these following directions, which may be branched into these heads:
1. For the raising good thoughts.
2. Preventing bad.
3. Ordering bad when they do intrude.
4. Ordering good when they appear in us.
1. For raising good thoughts.
(1) Get renewed hearts. The fountain must be cleansed which breeds the vermin. Pure vapours can never ascend from a filthy quagmire. What issue can there be of a vain heart but vain imaginations?
(2) Study Scripture. Original corruption stuffs us with bad thoughts, and Scripture-knowledge would stock us with good ones; for it proposeth things in such terms as exceedingly suit out imaginative faculty, as well as strengthen our understanding. Judicious knowledge would make us
“approve things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:9-10); and where such things are approved, toys cannot be welcome. Fulness is the cause of steadfastness.
(3) Reflect often upon the frame of your mind at your first conversion. None have more settled and more pleasant thoughts of Divine things than new converts when they first clasp about Christ, partly because of the novelty of their state, and partly because God puts a full stock into them; and diligent tradesmen at their first setting up, have their minds intent upon improving their stock. Endeavour to put your mind in the same posture it was then.
(4) Ballast your heart with a love to God. David thought all the day of God’s law, as other men do of their lusts, because he inexpressibly loved it: “Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalms 119:97). “I hate the habit of faith is attended with habitual sanctification, so the acts of faith are accompanied with a progress in the degrees of it. That faith which brings Christ to dwell in our souls will make us often think of our Inmate.
(6) Accustom yourself to a serious meditation every morning. Fresh-airing our souls in heaven will engender in us a purer spirit and nobler thoughts. A morning seasoning would secure us for all the day. In this meditation, look both to the matter and manner. First, Look to the matter of your meditation. Let it be some truth which will assist you in reviving some languishing grace, or fortify you against some triumphing corruption; for it is our darling sin which doth most envenom our thoughts: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Secondly, Look to the manner of it. First the glances of the eye, soon on and soon off; they make no clear discovery, and consequently raise no sprightly affections. Secondly, Let it be affectionate and practical. Meditation should excite a spiritual delight in God, as it did in the Psalmist: “My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (Psalms 104:34); and a Divine delight would keep up good thoughts, and keep out impertinencies.
(7) Draw spiritual inferences from occasional objects. David did but wisely consider the heavens, and he breaks out into self-abasement and humble admirations of God (Psalms 8:3-4). Glean matter of instruction to yourselves, and praise to your Maker, from everything you see; it will be a degree of restoration to a state of innocency, since this was Adam’s task in paradise.
2. The second sort of directions are for the preventing bad thoughts. And to this purpose--
(1) Exercise frequent humiliations. Pride exposeth us to impatient and disquieting thoughts, whereas humility clears up a calm and serenity in the soul.
(2) Avoid entangling yourselves with the world. This clay will clog our minds, and a dirty happiness will engender but dirty thoughts.
(3) Avoid idleness. Serious callings do naturally compose men’s spirits, but too much recreation makes them blaze out in vanity. Idle souls as well as idle spirits will be ranging.
(4) Awe your hearts with the thoughts of God’s omniscience, especially the discovery of it at the last judgment.
(5) Keep a constant watch over your hearts. David desires God to “set a watch before the door of his lips” (Psalms 141:3): much more should we desire that God would keep the door of our hearts.
3. The third sort of directions are for the ordering of evil thoughts, when they do intrude; and--
(1) Examine them. Look often into your heart to see what it is doing; and what thoughts you find dabbling in it call to an account; inquire what business they have, what their errand and design is, whence they come, and whither they tend.
(2) Check them at the first appearance. If they bear upon them a palpable mark of sin, bestow not upon them the honour of an examination.
(3) Improve them. Poisons may be made medicinable. Let the thoughts of old sins stir up a commotion of anger and hatred.
(4) Continue your resistance if they still importune thee, and lay not down thy weapons till they wholly shrink from thee.
(5) Join supplication with your opposition. “Watch and pray” are sometimes linked together (Matthew 26:41). The diligence and multitude of our enemies should urge us to watch, that we be not surprised; and our own weakness and proneness to presumption should make us pray that we may be powerfully assisted.
4. A fourth sort of directions is concerning good motions; whether they spring naturally from a gracious principle, or are peculiarly breathed in by the Spirit. There are ordinary bubblings of grace in a renewed mind, as there are of sins in an unregenerate heart; for grace is as active a principle as any, because it is a participation of the Divine nature. But there are other thoughts darted in beyond the ordinary strain of thinking, which, like the beams of the sun, evidence both themselves and their original. And as concerning these motions joined together, take these directions in short--
(1) Welcome and entertain them. As it is our happiness, as well as our duty, to stifle evil motions, so it is our misery, as well as our sin, to extinguish heavenly.
(2) Improve them for those ends to which they naturally tend. It is not enough to give them a bare reception, and forbear the smothering of them; but we must consider what affections are proper to be raised by them, either in the search of some truth, or performance of some duty.
(3) Refer them, if possible, to assist your morning meditation; that, like little brooks arising from several springs, they may meet in one channel, and compose a more useful stream.
(4) Record the choicer of them. We may have occasion to look back upon them another time, either as grounds of comfort in some hour of temptation, or directions in some sudden emergency; but constantly as persuasive engagements to our necessary duty. Thus they may lie by us for further use, as money in our purse.
(5) Pack them with ejaculations. Let our hearts be ready to attend every injection from heaven with a motion to it, since it is ingratitude to receive a present without returning an acknowledgment to the benefactor. As God turns His thoughts of us into promises, so let us turn our thoughts of Him into prayers. (S. Charnock.)
Man has made himself what he is
I would a thousand times sooner believe that man made himself what he is than that God made him so, for in the one case I should think ill of man only, in the other I am tempted to blame his Maker. Just think, I pray you, to what conclusion our reason would conduct us in any analogous case. You see, for example, a beautiful capital still bearing some of the flowers and foliage which the chisel of a master had carved upon the marble. It lies prostrate on the ground, half-buried among weeds and nettles; while beside it there rises from its pedestal the headless shaft of a noble pillar. Would you not conclude at once that its present position, so base, mean, and prostrate, was not its original position? You would say the lightning must have struck it down, or an earthquake have shaken it, or some ignorant barbarian had climbed the shaft and with rude hand had hurled it to the ground. Well, we look at man, and come to a similar conclusion. There is something, there is much that is wrong, both in his state and condition. His mind is carnal, and at enmity with God; the “imaginations of his heart are only evil continually,” so says the Bible. His body is the seat of disease; his eyes are often swimming in tears; care, anticipating age, has drawn deep furrows on his brow; he possesses noble faculties, but, like people of high descent, who have sunk into a low estate and become menials, they drudge in the service of the meanest passions. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
The flood of evil
God’s all-piercing eye cannot read wrongly. The Spirit’s hand cannot pen error. Undoubted verity speaks here with open mouth. Thus with sorrowing reverence we draw nearer to the fearful picture. In the foreground stands Wickedness. This is a frightful monster. It is antagonism to our God. Whose is this wickedness? The “wickedness of man.” Man, and man alone of all who breathe the vital air, claims wickedness as his own. His crime sinks earth into a slough of woe. The degradation is world wide. The cause is wholly his. Wickedness is his sole property. Therefore, O man, see your exclusive specialty. Boast not of any excellency. Glory not of reason, faculties, power, mind, intellect, talent. Parade not your stores of acquired wisdom, your investigating knowledge, your elaborating skill. But rather blush that your superiorities claim wickedness as their territory. The picture next exhibits man’s heart. This is the home of the affections--the springhead of desires--the cradle of each impulse. Here the character receives its form. This is the rudder of the life. This is the guide of walk. As is the heart, such is the individual. Here schemes, and plans, and purposes are conceived. This is the mother of contrivance and device. What is naturally transacted in this laboratory? The reply here meets us. “Every imagination”--every germ of idea--every incipient embryo of notion--every feeling, when it begins to move--every passion, when it stirs--every inclination, as it arises, is “only evil.” Terrific word! Evil. Here wickedness comes forth in another but not less frightful form. Evil. It is the offspring of the evil one. “Only evil!” No ray of light mitigates the darkness. No spark alleviates the impure night. No righteous spot relieves the sinful monotony. No flower of goodness blooms in the rank desert. No rill finds other vent. All flow in the one channel of evil--“only evil.” Turn not too quickly from this picture. It is not yet complete. The full hideousness is “only evil continually.” What! is there no respite? Is evil never weary? Does not intermission break the tremendous sameness? Ah! no. There is no moment of a brighter dawn. Countless are these imaginations; but they all show one feature--evil continually. There is no better aspect. When the Father of lights gives saving grace, then instantly the foulness of the inner man is seen. Then the illumined conscience testifies, “Behold, I am vile.” When the revealing Spirit uplifts the heaven-lit torch, then newborn vision discerns the sin-sick ruin. But out of these materials God peoples heaven with a redeemed multitude, pure and glorious as Himself. Yes, through grace, there is relief large as the need. There is a remedy, mighty to heal the deepest depths of the disease. The sinner is not forever buried in hopeless guilt. God, from all eternity foreseeing the Fall and its tremendous woe, devised a reparation wide as the breach. This gracious work is entrusted to His beloved Son. Sin destroyed creature righteousness. Jesus brings in a righteousness Divine. But the gospel-mercy is richer yet. Nature’s heart is, as has been shown, a quarry of vile materials. It cannot be mended. These stones can frame no holy fabric. But grace works wonders. The Holy Spirit comes, and a new creation springs to life. He takes away the stony heart. He creates it gloriously clean. Thus old things pass away. Thus all things become new. The moral desert smiles fruitful and fragrant as Eden’s garden. (Dean Law.)
I. THE CAUSES OF THE CORRUPTION.
1. Original sin. This the prime cause; from this fertile source of evil arose many fruits, each of which in its turn and place strengthened and intensified the wickedness.
2. Pride. This would be fostered by growing numbers and wealth of men. If they were expelled from the garden, had they not now many and fenced cities? To this may be added pride of individual strength, which the flattery of others might inflame. The Nephilim and their redoubtable progeny would be regarded as leaders and champions.
3. Sensuality. Sons of God and daughters of men. Even to the better trained mere beauty, devoid of piety, became a snare, The result was godless and ill-trained children, who in their turn became the progenitors of a yet more sinful race.
4. Idolatry, which diverted the attention from the holy God, and fixed it on human qualities, etc.
II. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE CORRUPTION.
1. In regard to each individual. From the heart outwardly through all the life. The heart includes “conscience and consciousness, will and desire, intellect and emotion, understanding and affection.”
2. In regard to the race. All flesh. There were few exceptions. God never left Himself without witness (Enos, Enoch, Noah, etc.).
3. They were thus corrupt, notwithstanding the preaching of Noah and the example of Enoch.
4. The wickedness of man various. Idolatry. Violence. Violence the effect of idolatry.
5. Till now all men spoke one language.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS CORRUPTION. God, beholding, resolved to destroy man. Sceptics say the experiment failed--that men are as bad now as they were before. Before it can be said to have failed its object must be defined. It was punitive rather than remedial. As a punishment it did not fail. The story of the deluge stands out in history as a Divine protest against sin; and as a substantial proof that God is able, when and how He pleases, to destroy the earth in the last great day. To furnish a proof of the possibility of the future judgment seems to have been another object (2 Peter 2:4-6; 2 Peter 3:3-14). Another purpose served by the deluge is to illustrate and certify the reward of godliness. This seen in the character and preservation of Noah. The Divine estimate of sin and holiness one of the most important things for the world to know. (J. C. Gray.)
The universal corruption
1. The progress of corruption was not arrested. It increased as the tide of population rolled on. For a time the true people of God, the adherents of the house of Seth, kept themselves unspotted from the world. But even this barrier was at last overthrown (Genesis 6:1-2). There were very plausible reasons for their cultivating a good understanding, at least with the less abandoned of the ungodly faction. Thus, in the first instance, the useful arts and the embellishments of social life began to flourish, as has been seen in the house of Cain (Genesis 4:19-24). Agriculture, commerce, music, and poetry were cultivated among his descendants and brought by them to a high pitch of perfection. Were the children of Seth to forego the benefit of participating in the improvements and advantages thus introduced into the social system? Then again, secondly, the lawless violence, of which Lamech’s impious boast of impunity (Genesis 4:23-24) was a token and example, and which soon became general so as to fill the earth, might seem to warrant, and indeed require, on grounds of policy some kind of dealing between the persecuted and harassed people of God and the more reasonable and moderate of their opponents. The result was that to a large extent there ceased to be a separate and peculiar people testifying for God and reproving sin; and a new race of giants, powerful and lawless men, overspread the whole earth (Genesis 6:4). The salt of the earth lost its savour, wherewith was it to be seasoned (Mark 10:50)?
2. At last the patience of the Lord is represented as worn out. The period of His long suffering has arrived. The day of His wrath is at hand. What must that wrath be which the Lord so pathetically expresses His reluctance to inflict; and in reference to which He solemnly declares that it would have been good for the men of that old world that they had never been made, and for the traitor apostle that he had not been born? Such is now the state of the world lately so blessed. It is abandoned by the Creator as unfit for the purposes for which it was created. He changes, therefore, His work into a work of desolation. One man alone believes, to the saving of his house, and becomes heir of the righteousness that is by faith (Hebrews 11:7). Noah finds grace in the eyes of the Lord. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
Some thoughts be the darts of Satan; and these non nocent, si non placent. We cannot keep thieves from looking in at our windows, but we need not give them entertainment with open doors. “Wash thy heart from iniquity, that thou mayest be saved: how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?” They may be passengers, but they must not be sojourners. (T. Adams.)
It repented the Lord that He had made man
The sincerity of the Divine compassion
Marvellous words indeed, words such as no man could have ventured to use respecting God, words too strong and bold for anyone to have employed but God Himself.
I. What the words DO NOT MEAN.
1. They do not mean that God’s purpose had been frustrated. That cannot fail.
2. They do not mean that an unexpected crisis had arisen. God foresees all.
3. They do not mean that God is subject to like passions and changes as we are. He does not vary as we vary, nor repent as we repent. Instability is the property of the creature, not of the Creator.
4. They do not mean that He has ceased to care for His creatures. Wrath, indeed, has gone out against the transgressor; yet neither man himself, nor his habitation, the earth, has been overlooked by God--far less, hated and spurned. The words intimate neither the coldness nor the dislike of the Creator toward the creature. It is something very widely different which they convey; a sadder, tenderer feeling; a feeling in which, not indifference, but profound compassion, is the prevailing element.
II. What the words DO MEAN.
1. That God is represented to us here as looking at events or facts simply as they are, without reference to the past or future at all.
2. That God’s purposes do not alter God’s estimate of events, or His feelings respecting individuals and their conduct.
3. That God is looking at the scene just as a man would look at it, and expressing Himself just as a man would have done in such circumstances. He sees all the present misery and ruin which the scene presents, and they affect Him according to their nature; and as they affect Him, so does He speak, in the words of man. But now let us look at the words of our text--“repenting,”--“grieving at the heart.”
(1) “Repent.” The word frequently occurs in the same connection as in our Exodus 32:14; 1Sa 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:35; Jeremiah 26:13; Jeremiah 26:19).In these and other like passages it denotes that change of mind which is produced towards an object by an alteration of circumstances.
(2) “Grieve.” The word used in reference to man is found in such places as 2 Samuel 19:2; and, in reference to God, in such as Psalms 78:40; Isaiah 63:10. In these passages the word denotes simply and truly what we call “grief”; and then, in the passage before us, as if to deepen the intensity of the expression, and to show how thoroughly real was the feeling indicated, it is added, “at His heart.” The grief spoken of is as true as it is profound. It is not the grief of words. It is not the grief of fancy or sentiment. It is true sorrow of heart. We come now to ask, Why did the Lord thus grieve at His heart?
1. He grieved to see the change which sin had made in the work of His hands. Once it was “very good,” and in this He had rejoiced. Now, how altered! Creation was a wreck. Man’s glory had departed. The fair image of his Maker was gone!
2. He grieved at the dishonour thus brought upon Himself. It was, indeed, but a temporary dishonour; it was one which He would soon repair; but still, it was an obscuration of His own fair character; it was a clouding of His glory; it was an eclipse, however transient.
3. He grieved at man’s misery. Man had not been made for misery. Happiness, like a rich jewel, had been entrusted to him. He had flung it away, as worthless and undesirable. He had offered it for sale to every passer-by; nay, he had cast it from him as vile. This wretchedness filled His soul, and overshadowed this once blessed earth. How, then, could God but grieve?
4. He grieved that now He must be the inflictor of man’s misery. There had, for long years, been an alternative. He could be gracious; He could be long suffering. But now this alternative is denied. Such was the accumulation of sin; such was its hatefulness; such were its aggravations, that grace can no longer hold out against righteousness; long suffering has exhausted itself, and judgment must take its course. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Evil of sin in the sight of God
I. We may inquire, first, WHAT WERE THE CAUSES OF SO GREAT CORRUPTION AS THEN PREVAILED.
1. One of these was the intermarriage of the sons of God, or believers, with the daughters of men, or unbelievers. When the clear waters of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Illinois mingle with the turbid Missouri, they never regain their purity, but flow darkly on to the ocean; so when the children of Seth made affinities with the race of Cain, there was no regaining of moral purity until the generations of men had been buried in the waters of the deluge.
2. Another cause of the wickedness of the men before the flood was probably in their neglect of the Sabbath, and of God’s public worship. Of this neglect we have the following evidence. In the days of Seth and Enos it is said, “then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” This is supposed to refer to some regular assemblies for public worship, and as it is spoken in connection with Seth and his posterity, we may infer that it was confined to them. Indeed, it is said of Cain that “he went out from the presence of the Lord,” and he complained that he should be hid from God’s presence; not His omnipresence certainly, but from some visible display of His glory, in that place where the sons of God worshipped. In that separation from God and His worship the descendants of Cain rapidly increased in wickedness; for, if the Sabbath and its worship were banished from among us, enlightened and religious us we are, one half century might witness the most abominable idolatries, and call for another cleansing deluge.
3. The long life of the antediluvians was yet another cause of their wickedness. After the flood, God shortened man’s days from a little less than a thousand to a little less than a hundred years, because brevity of life is favourable to piety. It is in seeing our fellow creatures die almost as soon as they begin to live, that sin is checked, and the things unseen and eternal gather power. And what a curse to society might such a long life prove! Think of a drunkard polluting the earth with his breath nine hundred years; of an infidel scattering the poison of his works century after century; of the adulterer, the robber, the murderer, protracting their existence through thirty of our generations! The world would groan to have the grave close over them.
4. It is mentioned again, as a cause of their wickedness, that they were an ambitious race. There were mighty men and men of renown in those days, we are told, though we ask with a smile, who were they, and what did they do? for the antediluvian Napoleons and Caesars have left no record of their exploits. There were giants too in those days, and we generally associate with them the idea of great wickedness, for great strength puffs up its possessor, and makes him forget God. It was an age of great worldliness too for our Lord says, “They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they married and were given in marriage, until the day when the flood came”; meaning that they were absorbed in these things, for in mere eating and drinking there could be no sin. It was, moreover, an age of great civilization and refinement; for there were those who handled the harp and the organ, and artificers in all the mechanic arts. These may be made subservient to piety, but too often great skill in them, as, indeed, great worldly attainments of any kind, are apt to draw the heart off from God, so that the most refined people may be the most ungodly.
II. HOW GREAT THAT WICKEDNESS WAS, we may gather from the strong language of our text, and from other portions of Scripture. “And God saw,” we are told, “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was full of violence.” And what rendered this sinfulness the more guilty was, that the world was then in its youth, retaining probably more of its infant beauty than it now has in its wrinkled old age.
III. But we may especially see in our text and subject THE EVIL OF SIN IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. It destroyed a world which God created; nay, more, as far as might be, it destroyed the world’s Creator, when the Son of God died for it on the cross.
IV. Let us TAKE CARE OF RELAPSING INTO THAT STATE IN WHICH SIN SHALL NOT GRIEVE US AT THE HEART AS IT DOES OUR GOD. We are like Him, we are His, if we share His holy hatred of sin. But we are in continual danger of growing callous and indifferent to it, so that though once in the while, at long intervals, when some gross offence has been committed, or when something has specially aroused us, we are softened and contrite; yet our general frame is one of indifference to our offences. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
It repented the Lord that He had made man
Dismissing at once, as they deserve to be dismissed, these coarser and more repulsive aspects of the language before us, we will claim rather for it this most beautiful characteristic; that it speaks of the sympathy of God Himself with that very view of human life which is taken by the best and purest of His children and servants below. There are times when the contemplation of the misery and sin of the world is almost overwhelming to those who would keep (if it be possible) both their faith and their reason. The words here written of God Himself are exactly descriptive of them--“it repents them that God has made man on the earth; it grieves them at the heart.” They can take little comfort in the thought of the one or the two “perfect in their generations,” while they see the bulk of mankind suffering without hope, and living without God in the world. They can take little comfort in the thought of a heaven opened to the believing and the holy, if it implies that the very opposite and antithesis of a heaven is crowded with masses and multitudes of rejecters and despisers and neglecters of the gospel. Oh, why did God--they ask themselves, and there is none to answer--why did God make all things worse than for nought? Why did He create upon the earth a race predestined to a choice foreseen to be of evil? Why did He not either bias that inevitable choice for good, or else blot out instantly from existence the creature that had used liberty for self-destruction? With such questions all thoughtful men at times have vexed themselves. It is something, I say this morning, to read here of the sympathy of God Himself with the perplexity; to find the Bible speaking of God repenting Himself that He has created--vexing Himself at the very heart for these terrible consequences of the origination of human life and human free will. And I read in this record much more than a fruitless or hopeless lamentation. I read here, first of all, that which should reconcile heart and conscience to the necessity of a judgment. The verso which says, “It repented Him,” is followed by the verse which says, “I will destroy”--“I must bring a flood of waters.” Yes, we could not wish that this evil should be immortal. We could not wish that vices and crimes, cruelties and defilements, should go on forever repeating themselves on a suffering earth. If we saw any clear proof that the world, taken as a whole--not in a few of its privileged spots, but all over and everywhere--was improving, was on the way, surely however slowly, towards a millennium of health and welfare, we might leave contentedly the question of the when and the how, and be willing that there should be patience, in heaven as on earth, over a seed growing secretly and a promise gradually developing. But is it thus with us? Is the growth of good, in the world as a whole, and of good as a whole--the higher good as well as the lower, the spiritual good as well as the physical--is this growth discernible? Side by side with the growth of good, is there not an equal, or a more than equal, growth of evil? On what night of this earth’s history does not the enemy go forth, while men sleep, to sow his counterfeit grain? Who shall flatter us with the hope that either free trade or cheap literature, either compulsory education or shilling Bibles, have in them the secret of regenerating thoroughly this bad old world, or of rendering superfluous that aboriginal faith of the Church, The day of the Lord will come: “the judgment shall sit, and the books be opened”? For my part, I think that I can leave in God’s hands the exercise of that judgment and the settlement of its issues. There is, to me, almost an impertinence in trying to settle for Him, in this twilight of our knowledge, either the exact meaning of His terms, or the precise measurements of His eternity. I only know that saints and righteous men have been reconciled to the expectation of a judgment, not by the thought of the just recompense of the wicked, but by the thought of the putting down of evil, and the introduction of a new heaven and earth--this very heaven and earth it may be--wherein dwelleth righteousness. It would be no kindness to the sinner to let him sin on forever and not die. God sympathizes with us in our sense of this world’s evil; and if He had not in His view a glorious future, from which the spectre of misery shall be absent, and in which the demon of sin shall be forgotten and out of mind, He would say literally that it repented Him to have created--He would say indeed, and also do it, that He must annihilate the work of His own hands. But there is an alternative, and He has provided it. (Dean Vaughan.)
I. That such is the pestilent nature of sin as to provoke God, who did make the world, to mar it, and unmake it again.
II. A general defection is a most certain forerunner of a universal destruction. (C. Ness.)
Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God
NOAH, we read, “was a just man and perfect in his generations”; and why?
1. Because he was a faithful man--faithful to God, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Noah and Abraham believed God, and so became heirs of the righteousness which is by faith; not their own righteousness, not growing out of their own character, but given them by God, who puts His righteous Spirit into those who trust in Him.
2. Noah was perfect in all the relations and duties of life--a good son, a good husband, a good father: these were the fruits of his faith. He believed that the unseen God had given him these ties, had given him his parents and his children, and that to love them was to love God, to do his duty to them was to do his duty to God.
II. The Bible gives us a picture of the old world before the flood--a world of men mighty in body and mind, fierce and busy, conquering the world round them, in continual war and turmoil; with all the wild passions of youth, and yet all the cunning and experience of enormous old age; everyone guided only by self-will, having cast off God and conscience, and doing every man that which was right in the sight of his own eyes. And amidst all this Noah was steadfast; he at least knew his way; he “walked with God, a just man and perfect in his generations.”
III. There was something wonderful and Divine in Noah’s patience. He knew that a flood was to come; he set to work in faith to build his ark, and that ark was in building for one hundred and twenty years. During all that time Noah never lost faith, and he never lost love either, for we read that he preached righteousness to the very men who mocked him, and preached in vain. One hundred and twenty years he warned those sinners of God’s wrath, of righteousness and judgment to come, and no man listened to him. That must have been the hardest of his trials. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)
A good man living in degenerate times
I. THAT GOOD MEN LIVING IN DEGENERATE TIMES ARE NOT OVERLOOKED BY GOD.
II. THAT GOOD MEN LIVING IN DEGENERATE TIMES ARE OFTEN CHARACTERIZED BY SIGNAL PIETY. Piety at such times is--
1. A contrast.
2. A rebuke.
3. A testimony.
4. A duty.
III. THAT GOOD MEN LIVING IN DEGENERATE TIMES ARE ANXIOUS THAT THEIR FAMILY CONNECTIONS MAY BE PRESERVED FROM MORAL DEFILEMENT.
IV. THAT GOOD MEN LIVING IN DEGENERATE TIMES RECEIVE THE COMMUNICATIONS OF HEAVEN IN REFERENCE TO THE DESTINY OF MEN.
1. This is a dignity.
2. This is a discipline. LESSONS:
(1) The good man is worth the mention and commendation of God.
(2) That true piety can survive the darkest ages and live through the most arduous toils.
(3) That good men know most of the mind of God in reference to the world’s future.
(4) That good men will not be included in the destructions which overtake the wicked. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The piety of Noah
1. It was characterized by justice.
2. It was characterized by moral perfection.
3. It was characterized by holy communion with God. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)
The Christian’s walk
1. Christ the rule of it.
2. Christ the company of it.
3. Christ the end of it. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The saint among sinners
I. Notice here, first, THE SOLITARY SAINT. Noah stands alone “in his generations” like some solitary tree green and erect in a forest of blasted and fallen pines. “Among the faithless, faithful only he.” His character is described, so to speak, from the outside inwards. He is “righteous,” or discharging all the obligations of law and of his various relationships. He is “perfect.” His whole nature is developed, and all in due symmetry and proportion; no beauty wanting, no grace cultivated at the expense of others. He is a full man; not a one-sided and therefore a distorted one. We do not take these words to imply sinlessness, of course. They express a relative, not an absolute, completeness. Hence we may learn both a lesson of stimulus and of hope. We are not to rest satisfied with partial goodness, but to seek to attain an all-round perfectness, even in regard to the graces least like our dispositions. And we can rejoice to believe that God is generous in His acceptance and praise. He does not grudge commendation, but takes account of the deepest desires and main tendencies of a life, and sees the germ as a full-blown flower, and the bud as a fruit. Learn, too, that solitary goodness is possible. Noah stood uninfected by the universal contagion; and, as is always the case, the evil around, which he did not share, drove him to a more rigid abstinence from it. Flowers grow on a dunghill, and a very reeking rottenness may make the bloom finer. Learn, too, that the true place for the saint is “in his generations.” If the mass is corrupt, so much the more need to rub the salt well in. Notice, again, the companion of the solitary saint. What beauty there is in that description of the isolated man, passing lonely amid his contemporaries, like a stream of pure water flowing through some foul liquid, and untouched by it, and yet not alone in all his loneliness, because “he walked with God”! One man, with God to back him, is always in the majority. Though surrounded by friends, have we found that, after all, we live and suffer and must die alone? Here is the all-sufficient Friend, if we have fellowship with whom our hearts will be lonely no more. Observe that this communion is the foundation of all righteousness in conduct. Because Noah walked with God, he was “just” and “perfect.” If we live habitually in the holy of holies, our faces will shine when we come forth.
II. Notice THE UNIVERSAL APOSTASY. Two points are brought out in the sombre description. The first is moral corruption; the second, violence. Bad men are cruel men. When the bonds which knit society to God are relaxed, selfishness soon becomes furious, and forcibly seizes what it lusts after, regardless of others’ rights. To walk with God is the true way to make men gentle and pitying. Learn from this dark outline that God gazes in silence on the evil. That is a grand solemn expression, “corrupt before God.” All this mad riot of pollution and violence is holding its carnival of lust and blood under the very eye of God, and He says never a word. So is it ever. Then comes a further expression of the same thought. “God looked upon the earth.” As a sudden beam of sunshine out of a thundercloud, His eye flashes down, not as if He then began to know, but that His knowledge then began, as it were, to act.
III. WHAT DOES THE STERN SENTENCE TEACH US? A very profound truth, not only of the certain Divine retribution, but of the indissoluble connection of sin with destruction. Sin is death in the making; death is sin finished. The promise of deliverance, which comes side by side with the stern sentence, illustrates the blessed truth that God’s darkest threatenings are accompanied with the revelation of the way of escape.
IV. We pass by the details of the construction of the ark to draw the final lesson from the exact obedience of Noah. We have the statement twice over, HE DID “ACCORDING TO ALL THAT GOD COMMANDED HIM.” It was no easy thing for him to build the ark, amidst the scoffing of his generations. Smart witticisms fell around him like hail. All the “practical men” thought him a dreamy fool, wasting his time, while they prospered and made something of life. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us the secret of his obedience: “By faith, Noah,” etc. He realized the distant unseen, because he believed Him who warned him of it. The far-off flood was more real to him than the shows of life around him. Therefore he could stand all the gibes, and gave himself to a course of life which was sheer folly unless that future was real. Perhaps a hundred and twenty years passed between the warning and the flood; and for all that time he held on his way, nor faltered in his faith. Does our faith realize that which lies before us with anything like similar clearness? Do we see that future shining through all the trivial, fleeting present? Does it possess weight and solidity enough to shape our lives? Noah’s creed was much shorter than ours; but I fear his faith was as much stronger.
V. We may think, finally, of THE VINDICATION OF HIS FAITH. For a hundred and twenty years the wits laughed, and the “common sense” people wondered, and the patient saint went on hammering and pitching at his ark. But one morning it began to rain; and by degrees, somehow, Noah did not seem quite such a fool. The jests would look rather different when the water got up to the knees of the jesters; and their sarcasms would stick in their throats as they drowned. So is it always. So it will be at the last great day. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. HIS PRIVATE CHARACTER.
1. He found grace in the sight of the Lord.
2. He was a just man.
II. HIS PUBLIC LABOURS. A preacher of righteousness (1 Peter 2:5).
1. As such he would have to place their unrighteousness before them.
2. He had to enforce attention to righteousness.
3. As a preacher he was faithful.
4. He preached practically. By his own example, and especially by building the ark.
5. Yet he was an unsuccessful preacher.
III. HIS GRACIOUS DELIVERANCE.
1. The gracious reward of his faith and obedience.
2. For the encouragement of believing sinners to the end of the world.
1. Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years; displayed great frailty, etc. Let us watch and pray, etc.
2. Ministers may learn their duty.
3. Sinners, their only way of sure and certain safety.
4. And the incorrigible, their inevitable doom. (J. Burns, D. D.)
I. THE INNER PRINCIPLE OF NOAH’S LIFE. “Walked with God.”
II. THE OUTER ASPECTS OF THE LIFE OF THE PATRIARCH. His religion was no fruitless tree, no scentless flower, no painted fire; it was a tree growing fruit, a flower giving fragrance, a fire casting heat everywhere. I know there were many mournful and some disgraceful defects in his character, but then they were the defects, not of death, but of imperfect life. Society is always influential; companionship moulds character, association produces resemblance; the less always catches naturally something of the spirit and character of the greater; and so he, who walked with God, became “a just man,” says my text, “and perfect in his generations.” He who wears a mask before his God will always try to wear a veil before his fellow creatures. Integrity is the invariable accompaniment of spiritual religion; open, manly, brave, unselfish integrity. And so Noah was a just man, always upright, always straightforward, always clear as crystal. The righteousness at which he aimed was a righteousness of the heart; and here, of course, as everywhere, the waters took their sweetness and their purity from the fountain out of which they rose. He who has felt that inner life, which is a walking with God, will be no sham amongst his fellow creatures, no trickster towards them. Truth will be upon his lips, justice in his hands, honour in his acts, probity in his dealings, purity in his affections. Noah, too, my text says, was “perfect in his generations.” There was nothing pretentious, nothing vain; all was sincere; his devotion to his God was a visible reality. The man was just what he seemed to be--honest, earnest, truthful. The word “generations” is a very emphatic word in this connection. The age was all against such a character as this; it would be least looked for, and it would be sure to pass unhonoured and unloved at such a time. The world was never more corrupt than it was then, goodness never so scarce, so limited to a single person; yet the man kept his course, contracted no contagion, never fell clown quite to the low level which was on all sides of him. (C. J. P. Eyre, M. A.)
Noah walking with God
I. ILLUSTRATE THE SENSE OF THE PHRASE, “WALKING WITH GOD.”
1. To exercise the thoughts upon God continually.
2. A conscientious regard to His Word and ordinances.
3. To live habitually in the exercise of spiritual graces, depending on Divine influence.
4. It also imports that the attainments, intimacies, and joys, of godliness are of a progressive kind.
II. WHAT WE MAY ASSOCIATE WITH SUCH A WAY OF LIVING.
1. There is the highest honour which man can realize,
2. There is safety and peace to be found.
3. There will be a happy futurity. (Essex Remembrancer.)
Companionship with God
If we endeavour to keep the familiar figure of walking with a person fully in mind, we shall see that the phrase implies--
I. COMPANIONSHIP--constant and habitual; for as God is everywhere present and at all times, so the saint is never parted from Him. United once we are united forever by a companionship as constant as the omnipresence of God, and as long continued as the immortal life of man’s soul. Let the expression be closely observed, together with the familiar ideas it suggests--walking with God. Not amid God’s works, nor in God’s presence; notwith the saints of God, not in the ways of God, but actually with God, as if the Divine Being Himself had quitted His throne--as, indeed, He has done in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God--and, linking Himself with the creature He had redeemed, went forth in sweet and wonderful companionship with man, inseparable throughout all the trials and perplexing paths of human experience.
II. The expression IMPLIES CONCURRENCE OF WILL. To walk together implies movement toward the same object, along the same road. Where two persons take different roads, companionship must cease. Yet we know that Noah was a fallen creature like ourselves. He lived after the curse of sin had fallen upon man; and we know it to be the essence of sin that man’s will and God’s will do not agree. In unfallen man, pure and holy as he came from his Creator’s hand, there was perfect agreement with God. The two wills, the Divine and the human, were like two strains of music in sweet harmony with each other. But sin turned the harmony into discord. It is the very essence of the carnal nature that, in St. Paul’s language, “it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The will of man has become contrary to the will of God. One of the two must be subject to the other. That is most certain. Which is it to be? Is the will of the great, omnipotent, and holy Creator to be brought into conformity with all the wayward fancies, all the petty selfishnesses, and all the foolish imaginations of fallen man? God forbid! God’s will can not be changed to suit man’s. Then it remains that man’s will must be changed to suit God’s, and thus all the varying wishes of mankind be harmonized in one adoring submission to the Divine mind. This can be; this may be; if you will not drive the Holy Spirit away from you, this will be.
III. The expression IMPLIES AFFECTIONATE AND DELIGHTFUL INTERCOURSE. Do you not choose as a companion one whom you love? and if your choice be well placed, and there be thorough sympathy between you and your friend, is not companionship delightful? Indeed, do you not walk with him, for the sake of being alone with the loved one and enjoying his society? (E. Garbett, M. A.)
The duty and advantage of cleaving to the Lord and His way, in a declining time
Two doctrines are deducible from the words. Doctrine 1--In the most declining generation, wherein sin and wickedness come tothe greatest height,
I. GOD HAS STILL SOME, THOUGH FEW, THAT RETAIN THEIR INTEGRITY, and cleave to Him and His ways. It has been found so in all ages of the Church. In the old world there was a Noah; in Sodom a Lot; among the children of Israel in Egypt a Moses, who all retained their integrity, and cleaved to the Lord and His ways. When Christ came into the world, there were some “waiting for the consolation of Israel”; and when the Jewish nation was ruined at the destruction of Jerusalem, there was “a remnant according to the election of grace.” In the grand apostasy under the New Testament, there were still “two witnesses” left (Revelation 9:1-21).
II. How is it that the declining of a generation comes to he so very general, THAT SO VERY FEW ARE LEFT RETAINING THEIR INTEGRITY, that they may be for signs and wonders in the day wherein they live?
1. The corruption of human nature is the springhead of it (Genesis 6:5).
2. No due care taken for the religious education of those who are springing up, doth notably advance it.
3. Corruption of manners thus prevailing, everyone serves to corrupt another, till the leaven has well nigh gone through the whole lump Genesis 6:12).
4. When a generation is thus posting on in the road of apostasy from God unto ruin, the Lord usually takes home many of His own out from among Isaiah 57:1-2).
5. The declining humour by these means at length so prevails, that it makes its way over all opposition, and gets the mastery; so as it carries all before it, like a flood.
6. What puts the copestone on the course of a generation’s defection from God, and readily fills the cup to the brim, is persecution of the way of God, and of any that will dare to retain their integrity.
III. WHY ARE SOME, THOUGH FEW, STILL LEFT RETAINING THEIR INTEGRITY IN SUCH A GENERATION?
1. Because of God’s faithfulness in His promise (Matthew 16:18).
2. Because God will not leave Himself without a witness in an apostatizing generation.
3. Because therein the power of His grace appears most illustriously.
4. The Lord preserves them for a seed to better days.
Use 1. Whatever encouragement such have, that turn their back on the way of religion and seriousness, and take a sinful latitude to themselves from the multitude going their way, there is a witness against them still left, that will rise up in judgment against them, and condemn them.
2. However bad the days are, let none pretend it cannot be better with them, because their lot is cast in such an evil day.
3. Be exhorted not to conform yourselves to the ways of the declining generation wherein our lot is cast: but be among the few who cleave to Him and keep His way. It is hard, yet it is possible. Doctrine 2--God takes special notice of them for good, who in a declining generation retain their integrity, and keep right, cleaving to Him and His way in the face of a generation departing fast from Him.
I. The first thing is to show what this rare attainment is, this perfection in such a generation; or, How men keep right, like Noah, in such a generation. It is then to be,
1. Sincere, and not a hypocrite.
2. Downright for God, without going aside to the ways of carnal wisdom.
3. Tender in one’s private walk and conversation, as under the eye of the all-seeing God.
4. Watchful against snares and temptations, that one be not led away with them.
5. Proof against ill example, which is the great engine of Satan for carrying on apostasy in such a day and generation.
6. A mourner for the sins of others.
7. An opposer of the sinful courses of the day and generation wherein he lives, as he hath access. Hence is that exhortation (Ephesians 5:11).
8. In a word, it is to be rowing against the stream of iniquity, and endeavouring to draw the nearer God that others are going from Him.
II. The second thing is, to show what are the advantages of this course, in which the Lord takes special notice for good, of those who follow it in a declining day.
1. Sweet peace of conscience in keeping the Lord’s way, while others are disregarding it. Hence said the apostle (2 Corinthians 1:12).
2. Communion with God, and access to Him in duties. Hence saith our John 14:21).
3. A sweet allowance of furniture, strength, and support, for the duty called for (Proverbs 10:29).
4. Seasonable providential appearances for them. God has a watchful eye for good over them who keep His way; and He will protect them in it, while He has use for them in that way (Psalms 121:2-3).
5. Special favour in a suffering time, when the Lord ariseth to plead His controversy with the sinful generation. Hence saith the prophet Habakkuk Habakkuk 3:16).
USE. I exhort you to be perfect in this generation, to be persons of integrity, downright for God, rowing against the stream of this sinful generation. And in order to that,
1. Purge your conversation from the gross pollutions of the outward man.
2. Be Christians indeed, in the inner man. Such an one is described Romans 2:28-29).
3. Be of a public spirit (Psalms 137:5-6).
4. Be of a Gospel spirit, having high thoughts of the free grace of God, and deep impressions of the nothingness of man and all that he can do Galatians 6:14).
5. Be accurate observers of your duty to God, whom the generation we live in has much cast behind their back.
6. Be nice observers of justice and truth in your dealings with men; for both these are rare to a marvel in this generation, as they were of old (See Isaiah 59:13-15; Micah 7:1, etc.).
7. Oppose and set yourselves against sin and wickedness in others, as ye have access; and so endeavour to stem the tide of the apostasy of the generation (Ephesians 5:11).
8. Do your endeavour to get a right set in the young generation, who are in great hazard at this day. I shall give you the following motives to press you to be perfect in this generation, as you have been exhorted.
1. It will be a great discovery of your sincerity, and unfeigned love to the Lord and the way of holiness.
2. It is a noble, heaven-like disposition, to be perfect in such a generation; to cleave to Christ, when the generation is so generally turning their back on Him (John 6:66-68).
3. It will glorify God very much; and that is the great business we have to do in the world, agreeable to what is said (1 Corinthians 10:31).
4. It is the best service ye can do for the generation, like David, who “served his own generation by the will of God” (Acts 13:36).
5. Suppose it should not be effectual to stop the career of any in their sin, yet it would leave a conviction of sin in their consciences.
6. It is a debt we owe to posterity. Hence says the Psalmist (Psalms 45:17).
7. It is an honourable thing. It is to be a witness for God; and this is one of the characters of His people (Isaiah 43:10).
8. It is the best course ye can take to be safe in the evil day, when the Lord calls the generation to an account.
9. It will be most comfortable in a dying hour; as it was to the good king Hezekiah, when he said, “Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight” (Isaiah 38:3). (T. Boston, D. D.)
I. NOAH’S EARLY LIFE.
II. NOAH’S TIMES.
III. NOAH’S WORK.
IV. NOAH’S SECRET.
What was it that made Noah different from other people? What was it that made Noah a strong and valiant man--a hero, in fact? Why, his faith. He did not see the deluge approaching, but he believed in it; he was sure it would come, because God had told him so. And his belief in God’s Word made him despise all the opposition he had to encounter; made him begin the work, and carry on the work, and end the work; made him bold to tell people the truth, although there was at the time no proof or evidence to back his words. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)
That the power and providence of the most wise and most gracious God doth preserve and provide the best of men for the worst of times
I. How IT IS SO. ‘Tis most manifest in sacred history, that God ordered the best of prophets to be born and to officiate in the worst of times; oh what a degenerate age was that wherein Moses appeared! Israel was in the bondage of Egypt, and in the worst part of that bondage, their tale of brick and mortar work was doubled upon them, and that without straw Exodus 1:11; Exodus 1:14; Exodus 5:18-19, etc.). Then God sent Moses their deliverer. And what a degenerate age was that wherein Samuel was born, where there was no open vision (1 Samuel 3:1, etc.). No better, but far worse, were the times of Elijah, who, in his own computation, was left alone of all the Lord’s prophets, when the prophets of Baal were many (1 Kings 18:22). This is also remarkable in the civil or secular history (complying with that of the sacred aforesaid) that the best of human laws have been gained in the reigns of the worst of kings, as a happy counter-balance to their exorbitant and extravagant actings.
II. This leads me to the WHY IT IS SO. Herein appeareth the wisdom and graciousness, as well as the power and providence, of God to reserve a little remnant for royal use in the worst of times, that he might not ruin the whole work of His hands at once: saints are called the salt of the earth Matthew 5:13). Oh, how dark would the world be in the night of degeneracy if God had not some orient stars sparkling and bespangling the world, though not in every part, yet in every zone and quarter of it. Such an one was our Noah here. Some good men in bad times, a holy remnant kept for a reserve. Good husbands cast not all their corn into the oven, but reserve some for seed. God kept His Mithe-Mispar, a small few, here to replant the world.
III. AFTER WHAT MANNER IT IS. ‘Tis as the chaff is kept from burning while the corn is amongst it. As in all times God hath a few pearls to preserve the many pebbles, and a few jewels to preserve the lumber from being destroyed, so the Holy Seed. (C. Ness.)
The preacher of righteousness
I. NOAH’S CIRCUMSTANCES. The earth was filled with “violence,” i.e., oppression, tyranny, persecution of good men, injustice, cruelty. How difficult for Noah to be faithful! How he would be taunted, scoffed at, ridiculed!
II. NOAH’S CHARACTER. “Just,” i.e., righteous, trying to do that which was right in God’s sight, and right towards his fellow men; and “perfect in his generations,” i.e., living a blameless life among those of his own day and his kinsfolk. He also), like Enoch, “walked with God,” i.e., loved, trusted, and served God. He also “found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” i.e., was pleasing to the Lord, and was accepted by Him.
III. NOAH’S WORK. To warn the people of his generation.
1. By preaching God’s truth.
2. By preparing an ark.
1. Our day and opportunity is now and here. We must prepare now for the unseen future.
2. Being warned ourselves, we must both by what we say, and by what we do, proclaim God’s truth to those around us.
3. Let us pray God to give us Noah’s faith and Noah’s fear. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)
Lonely moral goodness
I. THE CHRISTIAN MAN IS SOMETIMES SOLITARY IN HIS COMPANIONSHIP. It was so with Noah. No companionship for him in the violent men of his age.
1. His was not fancied loneliness, like Elijah’s.
2. His loneliness was not the result of an exclusive spirit.
II. THE CHRISTIAN MAN IS SOMETIMES SOLITARY IN HIS CHARACTER. Noah was alone in moral goodness. The real king of the age his sceptre a holy life.
III. THE CHRISTIAN MAN IS SOMETIMES SOLITARY IN HIS WORK. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)
1. It is painful to find but one family, nay, it would seem but one person, out of all the professed sons of God, who stood firmly in this evil day. Some were dead, and others, by mingling with the wicked, had apostatized.
2. It is pleasant to find one upright man in a generation of the ungodly: a lily among thorns, whose lovely conduct would shine the brighter when contrasted with that of the world about him. It is a great matter to be faithful among the faithless. With all our helps from the society of good men, we find it enough to keep on our way: but for an individual to set his face against the whole current of public opinion and custom, requires and implies great grace. Yet that is the only true religion which walks as in the sight of God, irrespective of what is thought or done by others. Such was the resolution of Joshua when the whole nation seemed to be turning aside from God: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
3. It is encouraging to find that one upright man was singled out from the rest when the world was to be destroyed. If he had been destroyed with the world, God could have taken him to Himself, and all would have been well with him; but then there had been no public expression of what he loved, as well as of what he hated. (A Fuller.)
Standing on the seashore on a calm summer morning or evening, the vessels in the far distance appear to be sailing in the sky and not on the sea. So doubtless did Noah appear to these worldling spectators of his age, to be walking in the sky, and not on the earth. He was a marked man, secretly to be admired, but openly to be avoided. They took notice of him that be was unlike themselves, living a life of faith, traversing his spiritual way to the glory of God. (W. Adamson.)
The perfection here ascribed to Noah, and elsewhere to other servants of God, is to be understood as being a perfection, not of degree, but of extent--not of height, but of breadth. He is perfect--not as having reached on earth the full maturity of holiness which he is to attain in heaven, nor as being immaculate and exempt from liability to sin--but as having the entire new man formed in him, and no affection of the old man willingly allowed. For it is this completeness and consistency of character that is to be understood by perfection. It is opposed to a partial and insincere devotion of the heart and life to God--to everything like compromise, or evasion, or reservation in the obedience that is rendered to Him--to the idea of doing many things to please Him, but yet something to please self or the world. It implies the dedication of the whole man, soul, and body, and spirit, absolutely and unequivocally to God--and the keeping of the whole law, without offending in any one point or breaking one of the least of its commandments. In short, it is the wisdom which cometh down from above--whose distinguishing characteristic is, that it is perfect--complete and compact in all its parts--being “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” To this wisdom is opposed that which “descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” James 3:15-17). The bitter fruits and characteristics of that wisdom are envying and strife, confusion, tumult, unquietness, and every evil work in one word, “violence”--such as then filled the earth. Now, the perfection which has been described naturally attends upon a heart right with God--a mind calmly fixed in a righteous peace with heaven. To have got settled, upon just terms, the dread controversy which sin has caused, the angry strife of conscience, the impatient struggle against judgment--to have this warfare ended, in that blessed tranquillity which a sense of saving mercy and justifying righteousness inspires, through “the love of God being shed abroad in the heart, by the Holy Ghost, which is given” to the believer Romans 5:5)--to have the heart thus established with grace Hebrews 13:9)--this, this alone, and this effectually, disposes to universal holiness and love. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
Grace not defiled by contact with sin
As all the water in the salt sea cannot make the fish salt, but still the fish retains its freshness, so a]l the wickedness and filthiness that is in the world cannot destroy, cannot defile true grace; that will bear up its head, and hold up itself forever. (J. Caryl.)
Grace will show itself
Grace in the heart will appear in the life. If there be a new spirit, a tender heart, there will be walking in the statutes. A new spirit cannot be imprisoned within; but it will break out into action. When the seed is sown in good ground, it will not lie long under ground, but spring forth. Grace is light, and will manifest itself. (W. Greenhill.)
All grace is from God
Not only are the first beginnings of grace from God, but also the daily increase and progress of grace in every degree and step from the lowest to the highest. (J. Ferguson.)
Three wholesome fears with respect to grace
Happy art thou if thy heart be replenished with three fears--a fear for received grace, a greater fear for lost grace, a greatest fear to recover grace. (Quarles.)
Trace back any river to its source, and you will find its beginnings small. A little moisture oozing through the sand or dripping out of some unknown rock, a gentle gush from some far away mountain’s foot, are the beginning of many a broad river, in whose waters tall merchantmen may anchor and gallant fleets may ride. For it widens and gets deeper, till it mingles with the ocean. So is the beginning of a Christian’s, or a nation’s, grace. It is first a tiny stream, then it swells into a river, then a sea. There is life and progression towards an ultimate perfection when God finds the beginning of grace in any man. (J. J. Wray.)
The perfect life pleasant
Matthew Henry, shortly before his death, desired his friends to take down, and remember, as his dying saying, that, “A life spent in the service of God, and communion with Him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that any man can live in this world.”
Noah begat three sons
1. Fruitfulness in body is an effect of grace, to continue God’s Church.
2. The holiest parent cannot bring forth a holy seed; that is, born of grace. Noah could not.
3. Little or small may be the visible Church; father and sons and wives but eight.
4. In the visible Church may be such as are not saints, indeed; but far from it.
5. Grace puts the last before the first, and the younger before the elder.
6. Mixtures in the Church not destructive to its being, were permitted not to divide, but to put them upon purging it. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
The earth also was corrupt
Corruption and violence, twin evils
If succeeding generations inquire, wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto the work of His hands?
What meaneth the heat of this great anger? Be it known that it was not for a small matter: The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. Here are two words used to express the wickedness of the world, corruption and violence, both which are repeated, and dwelt upon in Genesis 6:12-13. The former refers, I conceive, to their having debased and depraved the true religion. This was the natural consequence of the junction between the sons of God and the daughters of men. Whenever the Church is become one with the world, the corruption of true religion has invariably followed: for if wicked men have a religion, it must needs be such as to accord with their inclinations. Hence arose all the heresies of the early ages of Christianity; hence the grand Romish apostasy; and in short every corruption of the true religion in past or present times. The latter of these terms is expressive of their conduct towards one another. The fear of God, and the regard of man are closely connected; and where the one is given up, the other will soon follow. Indeed, it appears to be the decree of the eternal God, that when men have cast off His fear, they shall not continue long in amity one with another. And He has only to let the laws of nature take their course in order to effect it; for when men depart from God, the principle of union is lost, and self-love governs everything: and being LOVERS OF THEIR OWN SELVES, they will be covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Such a flood of wickedness is at any time sufficient to deluge a world with misery. If these things did not then break forth in national wars as they do with us, it was merely because the world was not as yet divided into nations; the springs of domestic and social life were poisoned, the tender ties of blood and affinity violated, and quarrels, intrigues, oppressions, robberies, and murders pervaded the abodes of man. (A. Fuller.)
1. Apostasy from God and pollution of worship, is the corruption of men.
2. Such corruption in God’s face is high provocation.
3. Violent injury to man accompanieth apostasy from God.
4. Fulness of such iniquity makes a world ripe for judgment (Genesis 6:11).
5. God must see and mark iniquity done in His face.
6. God layeth open all corruption of men, which He seeth.
7. Man is a self-corrupter; he pollutes his own way.
8. The habitation of sinners aggravates their corruption (Genesis 6:12).
9. God revealeth His wrath before He strikes. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Corruption of man
Salter used to say: “In regard to our corruptions we may learn something from the difference of glasses. You behold yourselves in your common looking glasses, and see yourselves so fine that you admire your persons and dress. But when you view yourself in a microscope, how much may you behold in that fine skin to be ashamed of; what disfigurement to the eye! and instead of smoothness, irregularity, uncomeliness, and even impurity. So, if you will look upon yourself through the glass of faith, that glass would show you much of the corruption of your sinful nature still cleaving to you, your tempers crooked, your graces misshapen and deformed, and so much corruption cleaving to every action of your lives that would make you sin sick that you have known God so long, and are like Him so little.”
The earth must be destroyed
The earth was corrupted, and full of violence, and all flesh had depraved its way upon the earth; therefore the end of all flesh was resolved, together with the earth. The earth is, in the Bible, not considered as a mere passive object; it is the habitation of man; it beholds his deeds of virtue and of baseness; it is, therefore, like the eternal heavens, invoked as a witness in solemn exhortations; it cries up to heaven if it is soiled with blood; it “vomits out” the wicked inhabitants. But the earth has also furnished the matter from which man was framed; there is, therefore, a certain mutual relation between both; if man is corrupted, the earth shares his degradation; if the one is exterminated, the other participates in the ruin; Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed together with their impious inhabitants; the Israelites were threatened, that when they should be led away as captives for their iniquity, their once blooming land would be converted into a dreary desert of thorns and thistles; whilst, at the return of the pious and penitent into their land, even the inhospitable wilderness would be changed into beautiful gardens and proud cedar forests; and just as the first parents were, after their fall, doomed to exhaust their strength on a curse-laden soil; thus the generation of Noah was annihilated, together with the earth which had seen and suffered their iniquity. The Persian faith teaches that, in whatever country the sacredness of matrimony is violated, that country perishes, together with its inhabitants. The nearer man is to the state of nature, the more mysterious and inseparable appears to him his connection with the earth and its silently working powers; the earth is the “great mother” of all men, who produces, nourishes, and may destroy them; and the heathen nations have based upon these conceptions many of their most beautiful myths, too universally known to require a detailed allusion. But the animals must perish, because they had also beheld the iniquity of man; every witness of the degradation was to be removed; the history of man should commence a new epoch. If crimes were committed through the instrumentality of animals, the latter were also killed: an ox which had caused the death of a man, was destroyed; if a Hebrew town adopted idolatrous worship, its inhabitants were destroyed with their cattle; whilst piety and faith were attended by prosperity among the beasts; the avarice of Achan was punished by death, and the destruction of his family and his property; when the Amalekites were to be extirpated, the animals were included in the fatal decree; and when the Ninevites did penance by fasting and humiliation, the beasts shared the same acts of external grief. The horror against bloodshed was so intense, that every reminiscence of it was to be eradicated; some Indian tribes pursue with their united force the wild beast which has killed a man, and the family of the murdered is an abomination and a disgrace till they have killed that or another beast of the same species; and other ancient nations went a step still farther, and doomed even inanimate objects (as an axe) with which a crime had been perpetrated to ignominious treatment, if the author of the misdeed could not be discovered (see notes on Exodus 21:28-32); and if, among the Hindoos, a man is killed by an accidental fall from a tree, all his relations assemble, cut it down, and reduce it to chips, which they scatter to the winds. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
Make thee an ark of gopher wood
Noah and the ark
Sometimes God seems to create a colossal figure in the moral world for after ages to gaze at and pattern by, as the sculptor chisels a statue of heroic size for some high niche in temple or civic hall, that those below may be inspired by its beauty and its grand proportions.
Or, as God Himself has sculptured the Old Man of the Mountain on the naked cliff, high up in the air, for the traveller far down in the notch to gaze at, so he sometimes creates a man, sublime in his moral proportions, for all the ages to study--a character not for a generation, but for all the centuries. Yet, if we carefully study such a character, we shall find that, though the dimensions are heroic, they are not out of proportion. Each feature is true to common life, just as the “Guardian of the Notch” is no grotesque caricature of a man, but a faithful image. Such a colossal figure of the ages is Noah. And yet, as we carefully study this Scripture likeness, we shall find that his leading traits of character are common traits and imitable traits.
1. In the first place, we find that he was moved to the great work of his life--the building of the ark, at the command of God--by the same motivethat leads many men to turn to God today. He was “moved by fear,” says the apostle. There was nothing derogatory in this either to the power of God’s love or the human heart. If the storm is coming, it is the part of wisdom, not of cowardly fear, to prepare for it.
2. In the second place, if Noah was moved, aroused by fear, he was actuated by a sublime faith. When he began to build the ark the flood was one hundred and twenty years in the future. How dim and distant is any event removed from us by the space of six-score years!
3. Again, we are impressed with the fact that Noah’s difficulties and obstacles must have been very much the same in essence as those of the modern Christian. He was in the minority, as the Christian is today, only it was a far more hopeless and overwhelming minority. He was engaged in a most unpopular cause. The earnest Christian does not find that his best work obtains the plaudits of the world. Noah was not, so far as we know, openly persecuted and hindered in his work any more than is the Christian of the nineteenth century; but doubtless all the artillery of sarcasm and ridicule was trained upon him, just as the modern Christian, when he conscientiously does anything out of the ordinary course, anything that attracts attention, the utility of which the world does not understand, finds that the same weapons are in use today. And yet we do not know that the work was interrupted, or that its completion was delayed a week by the fun and raillery which were doubtless heaped upon the project.
4. Another imitable trait in the character of this grand antediluvian was his obedience, strict and implicit. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” Witness his ready obedience and minute performance of every command of God in the slow construction of the ark. Obedience was the same thing five thousand years ago that it is today. (F. E. Clark.)
The divinely achieved safety of the good, and its connection with the life-giving agencies of the material universe
I. THAT GOD IS NEVER AT A LOSS FOR A METHOD WHEREBY TO ACHIEVE THE SAFETY OF THE GOOD (Genesis 6:14).
1. We find that the good are often in imminent peril.
2. We find that the good are often in peril through the prevalence of sin in the world around them.
3. We find that when it is the purpose of God to save the good from peril, He is never at a loss for means whereby to do so.
II. That in the working out of these methods for the safety of the good, THE GOOD ARE DESIRED TO RENDER THEIR MOST EFFECTIVE COOPERATION (Genesis 6:15).
1. This cooperation involves an utter self-abandonment to the Divine teaching.
2. It involves self-sacrifice.
3. It involves much ridicule.
III. That in the working out of these methods for the safety of the good, THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE CONNECTS THEM WITH THE TEMPORAL NEEDS OF THE FUTURE. (Genesis 6:19-22). LESSONS:--
1. Let a remembrance of God’s care for the good inspire comfort within the hearts of those in perilous circumstances.
2. That good men should be thoughtful and devout in their cooperation with the Spirit and providence of Gad.
3. That by such cooperation men enhance the temporal interests of the world. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The ark a type of the scheme of human salvation
I. That like the ark, the scheme of human salvation was wrought out AFTER A DIVINELY GIVEN PLAN AND METHOD.
1. Like the ark, the scheme of salvation was not conceived by any human mind.
2. Like the ark, the scheme of salvation was originated by God, and was the outworking of a Divine plan.
II. Like the ark, the scheme of human salvation was ANTECEDENTLY VERY UNLIKELY AND IMPROBABLE FOR THE PURPOSE.
III. That as the ark had a window, so the scheme of human salvation is ILLUMINED BY THE LIGHT OF GOD.
1. The scheme of human salvation is illumined by the Holy Spirit.
2. This illumination of the scheme of salvation is the abiding comfort and joy of man.
IV. That as the ark had a door, so into the scheme of human salvation THERE IS BUT ONE METHOD OF ENTRANCE.
1. That like the ark, the scheme of salvation has an entrance. Christ is the way to eternal safety.
2. That like the ark, the scheme of salvation has but one entrance.
V. That like the ark, the scheme of human salvation is EFFICIENT TO THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE DESIGNED PURPOSE.
VI. That like the ark, the scheme of human salvation is NEGLECTED BY THE VAST MULTITUDE. LESSONS:--
1. That a Divine method of salvation is provided for the human race from the future retributions of the universe.
2. That this salvation is equal to all the need of the case.
3. That men who neglect or despise it are sure to perish.
4. The holy wisdom of entering the ark at once. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
God’s provision for salvation of His saints
1. In pouring out indignation on the wicked world, God provideth for His saints.
2. God alone knoweth how to deliver the just from destruction to come.
3. Man must use God’s means in order to salvation according to His prescript.
4. In God’s command of using means, there is implied a promise.
5. Means of salvation to sight are but mean and despicable, a little timber and pitch.
6. Several nests and mansions are in the ark of the Church (Genesis 6:14).
7. All Church work for salvation must have its line and measure from God.
8. Sufficient dimensions doth God give to the means of salvation for His people. Breadth and length, etc. (Genesis 6:15).
9. Light must be in the means or instrument of man’s salvation.
10. A door or entrance must be for souls to come into the ark of the Church and live.
11. A due proportion of place is designed by God for all creatures admitted into the Church ark for salvation (Genesis 6:16). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
The preaching of the ark
I. MEMORIAL OF DIVINE GOODNESS.
1. It reminds us of His saints. Amongst the thousands of the world, Noah stood alone, firm in faith, dauntless in courage; God does not forget him; the innocent shall not suffer with the guilty. “God waited . . . while the ark was a-preparing” (1 Peter 3:20).
2. It reminds us of His regard for the families of His saints.
3. It reminds us of God’s goodness to the world. All are invited to enter the ark.
II. A TESTIMONY TO NOAH’S FAITH (Hebrews 11:7).
III. A SYMBOL OF THE SAVIOUR.
1. The ark was a refuge. “Thou art my hiding place” (Psalms 27:7).
2. The ark was a home. “Lord, Thou hast been our home in all generations” (Psalms 90:1).
3. The ark was a temple. There Noah and his family worshipped. We must be in Christ if we would be acceptable worshippers (Revelation 21:22).
4. The ark was a conveyance. So to speak, it bore Noah from the old to the new world; from the valley of his labours and sorrows to the mountain of rest and plenty. “I am the way,” said Jesus.
IV. A BEACON FOR THE SINNER. The ark warns sinners of their danger. It points out the awful nature of unbelief, of voluptuousness, of pride. It warns us that, “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.” That numbers cannot shield us from Divine wrath.
1. The ark proclaims the wilfulness of sinners. Who built it? Were not many of its builders destroyed? We may be the means of insuring safety for others, and be ourselves lost (1 Corinthians 9:27).
2. The ark warns us of the power of sin. How long was it building? Month after month it was surveyed by hundreds, still they continued in sin. Beware of the deceitfulness of sin. Listen to the strange and varied story this silent ark so eloquently tells. Hear its attestation of the goodness and faithfulness of God; hear, too, its awful revelation of His power to punish and destroy. (Stems and Twigs.)
The ark a type of the Lord Jesus Christ
I. The ark was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, by being A MEANS OF ESCAPE OF GOD’S OWN PROVIDING.
II. The ark was THE MOST UNLIKELY MEANS OF ESCAPE.
III. The ark was MOCKED BY THE WORLD.
IV. THERE WAS MORE THAN ROOM IN THE ARK for all its inhabitants.
V. The ark was A PRESERVER OF LIFE.
VI. The ark had but ONE DOOR AND ONE WINDOW. VII. The ark was DELUGED BY GOD. (R. Jessop, M. A.)
The ark a type of the Church
I. IT WAS BUILT BY HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITY BUT THE FASHION OF IT, AS WELL, AS THE MATERIALS OF WHICH IT WAS TO BE MADE, WERE OF DIVINE APPOINTMENT.
II. THE ARK WAS BUILT BY DEGREES.
III. The ark was A RECEPTACLE FOR ALL.
IV. THE ANIMALS THAT ENTERED THE ARK WENT IN OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL, AND YET WERE DIVINELY GUIDED TO IT.
V. THE FIERCE PASSIONS OF THE ANIMALS WERE RESTRAINED WHILE IN THE ARK.
VI. TILL THE ARK WAS BUILT, THE WORLD COULD NOT BE DESTROYED. (R. Jessop, M. A.)
Noah’s warning, preparation, and deliverance
I. THE WARNING THAT NOAH RECEIVED.
1. Only one received it. Noah found grace, favour.
2. To him a most unprecedented and unlikely thing. Beyond that vision, what was there to strengthen his faith? While the evidence to him was so slight, the proofs to us are numerous.
3. Imagine Noah after receiving this warning, with what different feelings he would regard the world, etc.
II. THE PREPARATION THAT NOAH MADE. By faith. He believed God more than nature, which preached stability; or than men, who must soon have begun to argue thus--
1. Who is Noah that he should have this warning?
2. But where is the promise or sign of this flood? Nature does not change.
3. The old man will never live to complete his task.
4. If he does, how are the animals, etc., to be collected?
5. Even if they are, is it likely that so cumbrous a vessel will float?
6. But where will all the water come from? To such men, Noah’s ark would be Noah’s folly. (Christ, our Ark, is a folly to many, 1 Corinthians 1:23).
7. If the worst comes to the worst, we will fly to the hills. Faith overcomes all arguments. 480 years of age when he began, he toiled on for 120 years. While others were growing rich or spending their time in pleasure and sin, he spent his substance about the ark.
III. THE DELIVERANCE THAT NOAH EXPERIENCED.
1. The ark finished. The world comes to look, and wonder, and laugh. Science and selfishness have furnished their arguments, and begin to launch them. On a huge platform of timber stands the ark.
2. Noah examines his work, and compares it with the plan. He has done his part and enters.
3. God now collects the animals, etc. The astonishment of the world at that strange sight. Misgivings. Noah, a wise man after all.
4. Seven days’ pause. Time yet for repentance. Mercy in the midst of wrath.
5. Noah shut in, and the world shut out.
6. The flood.
7. The waters rising.
The ark swings round from its resting place, and floats out on the bosom of the great waste of waters. LEARN--
1. To take heed to the warning and invitation that we have had.
2. To work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
3. Noah made the ark to save his life; what are we doing to save our souls?
4. Let us fly for refuge to the hope set before us. (J. C. Gray.)
Noah was a type, and Christ the antitype, in sundry particulars
1. As Noah’s name signifies comforter and restorer, which shows Lamech’s faith to put that name upon him (Genesis 5:29; Genesis 8:21). Herein he typified Christ, our grand Comforter and Restorer of the new world, as Noah was of the old.
2. Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). So also is Christ both preaching and purchasing, yea, procuring everlasting righteousness Daniel 9:24).
3. As Noah found grace in the sight of God, both for himself and for all his family (Genesis 6:8; Genesis 7:1; Hebrews 11:7), so did Christ for Himself Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5), and for all his household of faith, for so many as God hath given him (John 17:2), they are all accepted in the beloved Ephesians 1:6). Yea, He is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe (1 Timothy 4:10; Luke 2:52).
4. As Noah was the builder of the ark, so is Christ of the Church, which is called His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10, etc.). Is not Christ the carpenter (Mark 6:3), to hew, plane, cement, and clinch us close together? etc.
5. As Noah was long in building the ark, even a hundred and twenty years, so is Christ long in building His Church, even some thousands of years.
6. As Noah used many carpenters that were instrumental to save others, but not themselves, so likewise doth Christ (Matthew 7:22-23). Some ministers Christ employs that may save--
(1) Others, not themselves.
(2) Themselves, not others.
(3) Neither themselves, nor others.
(4) Both themselves, and others (1 Timothy 4:16).
7. As when Noah had finished the ark, the destruction of the old world by water followed immediately; so when Christ hath gathered in all His elect, and completed His Church, then will the destruction of this present world by fire presently pass upon it. Add unto all these--
8. As Noah’s presence in the ark did secure his household all the time of its tossing, and landed them safely (after the destruction of the old world) in another; so Christ’s presence with His Church, while she is tossed with tempests and not comforted (Isaiah 54:11), doth secure her from allevil, for He keeps the ensuring office.
As there is congruity ‘twixt this type and antitype, to wit, Christ and Noah, so there is some disparity.
1. As Noah preached to the old world and converted none, but Christ converted many in this new world.
2. Noah saved his household, but only temporarily, but Christ saves the household of faith, spiritually and eternally.
3. Noah had no better to send out than a raven and a dove, but Christ sent out better things, such as the law and the gospel, the former to work fear and the latter love.
4. Noah was insufficient to complete salvation for his family, as he was unable of himself to shut the great door of the ark after him; but Christ sayeth to the utmost, by His own power (Hebrews 7:25), rebuking storms and procuring calms, all in His own name.
5. As Noah’s self was a type of Christ, so was his ark, wherein alone salvation was found from that deluge of waters, accordingly in Christ alone can be found salvation (of all sorts, temporal, spiritual, and eternal) from the deluge of Divine wrath and justice of God for the sin of man. Beside Him, there is no Saviour (Isaiah 43:11). As there was but one ark, so there must be but one mediator; no cock boats were to attend this ark Acts 27:30). (C. Ness.)
Dimensions of the ark
Much needless ingenuity has been wasted on the calculation of the exact space in the ark, of its internal arrangements, and of the accommodation it contained for the different species of animals then existing. Such computations are essentially unreliable, as we can neither calculate the exact room in the ark, nor yet the exact number of species which required to be accommodated within its shelter. Scripture, which sets before us the history of God’s kingdom, never gratifies such idle and foolish inquiries. But of this we may be quite sure, that the ark which God provided was literally and in every sense quite sufficient for the purposes for which it was intended, and that these purposes were fully secured. It may perhaps help us to realize this marvellous structure if we compare it to the biggest ship known--the Great Eastern, whose dimensions are six hundred and eighty feet in length, eighty-three in breadth, and fifty-eight in depth; or else if we describe it as nearly half the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It should be borne in mind that the ark was designed not for navigation, but chiefly for storage. It had neither masts, rudder, nor sails, and was probably flat at the bottom, resembling a huge floating chest. To show how suitable its proportions were for storage, we may mention that a Dutchman, Peter; Jansen, built in 1604 a ship on precisely the same proportions (not, of course, the same figures), which was found to hold one-third more lading than any other vessel of the same tonnage. To sum up Noah’s life of faith, Noah’s preaching of faith, and Noah’s work of faith in the words of Scripture: “By faith Noah, being warned of God,” etc. Hebrews 11:7). (Dr. Edersheim.)
I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh
The first fact that strikes us in the story of the flood is this: that God, on account of the wickedness to which the world had grown, had made up His mind to sweep it away, once and for all.
II. Out of the seed of Noah God had determined to people the earth once more with a race that would not be so wicked as the one He destroyed.
III. Noah was told to go into the ark because his life was to be saved from the flood. God has provided another ark for us; He tells us to go into it and be saved.
IV. Noah’s family was taken with him into the ark, showing the value God sets on family life.
V. God gave it as a reward to Noah for his righteousness that his children went with him into the ark. A holy and loving example preaches a sermon to those who watch it, and remains in the memory of the godless son and the godless daughter long after the parents have been laid in the grave. (Bp. Thorold.)
Lessons from the flood
A long period elapsed between the commencement of the building of the ark and the actual flood. During that period we notice--
1. The strength of Noah’s faith. God has told him of a deluge of which there is no appearance; He has commanded him to build a strange vessel for no apparent purpose; He has told him that one hundred and twenty years of toil must elapse before the vessel can be of any use to him. And yet, in the face of all these difficulties, Noah forms and keeps his resolution to obey God.
2. Notice the reception which Noah’s work and message probably met with. The first feeling excited would be one of derision and mirth, then would come wonder, then pity, then disappointment and disgust, and lastly, perhaps, a silent contempt.
I. THE FLOOD SHOWS US--
1. How absolute is God’s control over the natural world.
2. The evil of sin, and the light in which it appears to the eye of God.
3. It reminds us of another deluge, of which all unreconciled sinners stand in jeopardy.
II. Consider THE VARIOUS PURPOSES THAT WERE SERVED BY THE DELUGE.
1. It swept away an effete and evil generation, which had become of no use, except to commit sin and thus deprave and weaken the general stock of humanity.
2. The flood was calculated to overawe mankind, and to suggest the idea that other such interpositions might be expected when they were required.
3. The flood furnished an opportunity to God of coming more nearly and closely to men.
4. The flood brought the human family nearer to the promised land of Canaan. (G. Gilfillan.)
The history of the deluge
The history of the deluge is alleged in the New Testament as a type of the deep waters of sin, in which a lost world is perishing, and from which there is no escape but in that ark which God has prepared for us. The eight souls saved from the deluge are types of that little flock which rides safely and triumphantly, though the floods lift up their waves and the billows break over them. And their safety is assured to them, because they are in Christ.
I. At the root of all Christianity lies THAT DEEP MYSTERIOUS TRUTH, THE SPIRITUAL UNION OF THE REDEEMER WITH THOSE WHOM HE REDEEMED. To this truth most emphatically witnesses all the New Testament teaching about the ark as a symbol and a prophecy. For--
1. The ark is a figure of Christ. The ark floated over the waste of waters, as Christ dwelt and toiled and suffered in the wilderness of this world, and amid the waters of affliction.
2. The ark is a figure of the redeemed of Christ. The Church, which is Christ’s body, is also the ark of refuge from the wrath of God. This life is still to the Church a conflict, a trial, a pilgrimage, a voyage. The crown shall be at the resurrection of the just.
II. The practical thoughts to which this subject leads us differ but little from the doctrinal. Is not the substance and the end of all--safety in Christ, rest in Christ, and at last glory in Christ? Those only who have rested in the ark will rest upon Mount Ararat. The life of the Christian is begun on earth; it is perfected in heaven. When the voyage is over, the Saviour, who has been to us the ark upon the waters, shall be to us, in the eternal mountains of the Lord, rest and peace and light and glory. (Bp. Harold Browne.)
The record of the flood
I. Consider the record of THE FLOOD AS A HISTORY: a history having a two-fold aspect--an aspect of judgment, and an aspect of mercy.
1. “God,” St. Peter says, “spared not the old world,” He “brought in a flood upon the world of the ungodly.” He who made can destroy. Long trifled with, God is not mocked: and he who will not have Him for his Father must at last know Him as his Judge.
2. The record of judgment passes on into a record of mercy. Mercy was shown:
(1) in preservation;
(2) in reconstruction.
II. Consider THE FLOOD IN ITS USES: AS A TYPE, AS A PROPHECY, AND AS A WARNING.
1. The water through which Noah and his family passed into their ark was like the water of holy baptism, through which a Christian, penitent and believing, finds his way into the Church of the living God.
2. St. Peter exhibits the flood to us also as a prophecy. The flood of waters becomes in its turn the prediction of a last flood of fire. He who foretold the one--and notwithstanding long delay the word was fulfilled--may be believed when He threatens the other; and no pause or respite can defeat the certainty of the performance.
3. There is one special warning appended by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself to the Scriptural record of the great deluge: “As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Dean Vaughan.)
Flood of waters
Mythology tells how Jupiter burned with anger at the wickedness of the iron age. Having summoned a council of the gods, he addressed them--setting forth the awful condition of the things upon the earth, and announcing his determination to destroy all its inhabitants. He took a thunderbolt, and was about to launch it upon the world, to destroy it by fire, when he bethought himself that it might enkindle the heavens also. He then resolved to drown it by making the clouds pour out torrents of rain:--
“With his clench’d fist
He squeezed the clouds:
Then, with his mace, the monarch struck the ground;
With inward trembling earth received the wound,
And rising streams a ready passage found.”
The impotence of floods
The Almighty is about to do here what some of us in our imperfect wisdom have often wished to see done: we have supposed that if all notoriously bad people could be removed at a stroke from the world the kingdom of heaven would be at once established on the earth. The idea may be put roughly thus: Bring together all prisoners, all idlers, drunkards, thieves, liars, and every known form of criminal; take them out into the middle of the Atlantic and sink them there, and at once society will be regenerated, and paradise will be regained. Now this is substantially the very course which the Almighty took in the days of Noah, with what results we know only too well. All our fine theories have been tested, and they come to nothing. The tree of manhood has been cut down to the very root, and it has been shown in every possible way that the root itself must be cured if the branches are to become strong and fruitful. If you were today to destroy all the world, with the single exception of one household, and that household the most pious and honourable that ever lived, in less than half a century we should see all the bad characteristics returning. Water cannot drown sin. Fire cannot burn out sin. Prisons cannot cure theft and cruelty. We must go deeper. In the meantime it was well to try some rough experiments, merely for the sake of showing that they were not worth trying. If the flood had not been tried there are some reformers amongst us who would have thought of that as a lucky idea, and wondered that it had never occurred to the Divine mind! After all, it is a very elementary idea. It is the very first idea that would occur to a healthy mind: the world is a failure, man is a criminal and a fool, sin is rampant in the land; very well; that being the case, drown the world. There are persons who seriously ask, Do you think the flood ever did occur? and there are others who find shells on hilltops, and show them in proof of a universal deluge. O fools and slow of heart! This flood is occurring every day; this judgment upon sin never ceases; this protection of a righteous seed is an eternal fact! How long shall we live in the mere letter, and have only a history instead of a revelation--a memorandum book instead of a living Father? That there was a flood exactly as is described in the Bible! have not so much as a shadow of a doubt; but even if I took it as an allegory, or a typical judgment given in parable, I should seize the account as one that is far more profoundly true than any mere fact could ever be. Look at it! God morally angry, righteousness asserted, sin judged, goodness preserved, evil destroyed; it is true, it must be true, every honest heart demands that it be taken as true. (J. Parker, D. D.)
With thee will I establish My covenant
God’s covenant with Noah
The leading ideas suggested by a covenant are those of peace and goodwill between the parties, and if differences have subsisted, forgiveness of the past, and security for the future. Such were the friendly alliances between Abram and Abimelech, Isaac and another of the same name, and between Jacob and Laban. God was highly displeased with the world, and would, therefore, destroy that generation by a flood, but when He should have done this, He would return in loving kindness and tender mercies, and would look upon the earth with a propitious eye. Nor should they be kept in fearful expectation of being so destroyed again; for He would pledge His word no more to be wroth with them in such a way, nor to rebuke them forever.
2. In covenants wherein one or both the parties had been offended, it was usual to offer sacrifices, in which a kind of atonement was made for past offences, and a perfect reconciliation followed. Such were the covenants before referred to; and such, as we shall see at the close of the eighth chapter, was the covenant in question. “Noah offered sacrifices, and the
Lord smelled a sweet savour, and promised to curse the ground no more for man’s sake.”
3. In covenants which include a blessing on many, and they unworthy, it is God’s ordinary method to bestow it in reward, or for the sake of one who was dear to Him. God loves men, but He also loves righteousness: hence He delights to bestow His blessings in such a way as manifest His true character. If there had been any dependence on Noah’s posterity, that they would all have walked in his steps, the covenant might have been established with them as well as him; but they would soon degenerate into idolatry, and all manner of wickedness. If, therefore, He will bestow favour on them in such a way as to express His love of righteousness, it must be for their father Noah’s sake, and in reward of his righteousness. To say, “With thee will I establish My covenant,” was saying in effect, “I will not treat with thy ungodly posterity: whatever favour I show them, it shall be for thy sake.” (A. Fuller.)
Thus did Noah, according to all that God commanded, so did he
THE OBEDIENCE RENDERED BY NOAH.
1. The circumstances in which he was placed.
2. The means he was directed to use for the preservation of God’s chosen remnant.
3. His perseverance in the use of these means till he had completed the work assigned him.
II. THE OBEDIENCE REQUIRED OF US.
1. The danger to which we are exposed is similar.
2. The means provided for our escape are similar.
3. The distinction that will be made between the believing unbelieving world will be similar.
1. The office of faith. Not to argue, but to believe God.
2. The necessity of fear.
3. The benefit of obedience. (C. Simeon, M. A.)
The Divine commands
I. THE DIVINE COMMANDS ARE SEVERE IN THEIR REQUIREMENTS.
II. THE DIVINE COMMANDS ARE EXTENSIVE IN THEIR REQUIREMENTS.
III. THE DIVINE COMMANDMENTS ARE INFLUENTIAL TO THE WELFARE OF MAN. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
I. THE RULE OF NOAH’S OBEDIENCE. “All that God commanded.” Mankind need a rule for their conduct.
1. It should come forth from God, and have the Divine sanction.
2. It should be practicable in its requirements.
3. It should be plain and circumstantial in its phraseology.
4. It should be beneficial in its results.
II. THE NATURE OF NOAH’S OBEDIENCE. “So did he.”
1. Noah’s obedience was pious in its principle.
2. Prompt and decided in its acts.
3. Laborious in its exercise.
4. Universal its extent.
5. Persevering in its course.
6. Successful in its object.
Learn from the subject--
1. What terrible desolations sin makes in the world, and how the severity of God was displayed in making the very elements conspire to the destruction of those who had slighted the Divine counsels.
2. How tenderly God cares for His servants, and how easily He can provide means for their safety.
3. How much human security depends upon human exertion. The way of duty is the way of safety. (Sketches of Sermons.)
Noah, the model worker
I. Noah was--A READY--worker. And in this respect he is a good model to set before us. It was a very hard thing that Noah was commanded to do. He was told to build an ark, or a ship, that was very remarkable for its size. But Noah was not a ship builder himself, neither were his sons. He did not live in a seaport town, where the people were familiar with the business of building ships. He lived in an inland country, far away from the sea. We do not know that he, or anyone else then living in the world, had ever seen a large ship. And this must have made the work that Noah was told to do very hard indeed. How easy it would have been for him to make excuses when God commanded him to build that huge ark! He might have said, very truthfully, “I do not know anything about the work of building ships. I have no ship carpenters to help me, and know not where to get any.” And if, for reasons like these, he had begged to be excused from undertaking a work of so much difficulty, it would not have been at all surprising. Instead of this he went out to work at once. No doubt he asked God to help him. And when we get such help as He can give, nothing can be too hard for us. The apostle believed this fully, when he said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
II. But Noah was a model worker, because he was--A PERSEVERING--worker. If we have anything hard to do, or anything that will take a long time in which to do it, we never can succeed in doing it without perseverance. And no one ever had so much need of perseverance as Noah had in the work he was told to do. From the day when God first spoke to him about building the ark, until it was finished, one hundred and twenty years passed away. All that time he was engaged in the work. How strangely Noah must have felt when he laid the first piece of timber in the keel of the ark, and knew how many years were to pass away before that great vessel would be completed! We read of men who have become famous by the discoveries or inventions they have made, such as the art of printing, the use of steam engines, and other things. Some of these men were working away for seven, or ten, or fifteen, or twenty years, before they finished their work. And when we read about the difficulties they had to overcome before they succeeded in what they were trying to do, and how they persevered in overcoming these difficulties, we cannot but wonder at them. And yet, how short the time was in which they did their work, compared with the hundred and twenty years through which Noah had to go on labouring! His perseverance was the most wonderful ever heard of in the history of our world. How much trouble he must have had in getting the right kind of wood with which to build the ark! And when the wood was found, how much trouble he must have had in getting the right sort of workmen to carry on the building! And how many other difficulties he must have had, of which no account is given! But, notwithstanding all these difficulties, he went patiently on, for a hundred and twenty years, till his work was done. How well we may speak of Noah as a model of perseverance! Let us study this model, till we learn to persevere, in all the work we try to do, for God, or for our fellow men. After a great snowstorm, a little fellow about seven or eight years old was trying to make a path through a large snow band, which had drifted before his grandmother’s door. A gentleman who was passing by was struck with the earnestness with which he was doing his work. He stopped to look at him for a moment, and then said: “My little man, how do you ever expect to get through that great snow bank?” In a cheerful tone, and without stopping at all in his work, the little fellow’s reply was: “By keeping at it, sir. That’s how.” “By keeping at it” Noah was able to get through with the great work he had to do. And it is only “By keeping at it” that we can expect to succeed in any good work in which we may be engaged.
III. Noah was a model worker because he was--A THOROUGH--worker. We see this in our text when it tells us, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” Some people are willing to obey God just so long as He tells them to do what they like to do. But if He commands them to do anything that is disagreeable, they are not willing to obey Him. But this was not the way in which Noah obeyed God. And it is very important for us to follow the example of Noah in this respect, because this is the only kind of service that God will accept. It was what David taught us when he said, “Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all Thy commandments.” And this was what Jesus taught us when He said: “Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” And it is always pleasant to meet with persons who are trying to serve God as thoroughly as Noah did. A religious meeting was once held among some working men. One after another of them rose up to speak of their experience on the subject of religion. This was the way in which one of them spoke about himself: “I used to be an odd-job Christian; but now, thank God, I’m working on full time.” This was very expressive. There are a great many “odd-job Christians.” They work for Jesus just when it suits them. For the rest of their time they are pleasing themselves. But Noah was not one of this kind. He was on full time.
IV. Noah was a model worker, because he was--A COURAGEOUS--worker. If we had a history of all that took place while Noah was building the ark, how interesting it would be! It was such a strange work that he was engaged in! Nothing like it had ever been heard of in that country. People would come from all quarters. They would look on in wonder.
They would call him an old fool, and make all sorts of fun of him. And this is something which it is always very hard to bear. Many men who have courage enough to go boldly into battle, and face the glittering swords or roaring cannon of their enemies, have not courage enough to go on doing a thing when men laugh at them, and ridicule them for doing it. But Noah did not mind this at all. He let them laugh as much as they pleased, while he went quietly on with the work that God had given him to do.
V. Noah was a model worker, because he was--A SUCCESSFUL--worker. He laboured on through all those long years until the ark was finished. And then, when the flood came, he was saved himself, and his family was saved, while all the rest of the world was swept away in its wickedness. And who can tell how much good Noah did by his successful work on the ark? That good has extended to all who have lived since then. And this is a thought that may well encourage us in working for God. We never can tell how successful our work may be, and what great good may follow from it. And we shall find prayer a great help to success in all the work we have to do. (R. Newton, D. D.)
I would rather obey than work miracles. (Luther.)
Wicked men obey for fear, but the good for love. (Aristotle.)
“All God’s biddings are enablings,” says an early Christian writer. An obedient soul is like a crystal glass with a light in the midst, which shines forth through every part thereof. (T. Brooks.)
A soul sincerely obedient will not pick and choose what commands to obey, and what to reject, as hypocrites do. (T. Brooks.)
He praiseth God best that serveth and obeyeth Him most: the life of thankfulness consists in the thankfulness of the life. (W. Burkitt.)
The knowing of God, that we may serve Him, and the serving Him, that we may enjoy Him, take up the whole duty of man’s obedience. (Herle.)
Jesus Christ intended, when He opened your eyes, that your eyes should direct your feet. Light is a special help to obedience, and obedience is a singular help to increase your light. (J. Flavel.)
A man sincerely obedient lays such a charge upon his whole man as Mary, the mother of Christ, did upon all the servants at the feast: “Whatsoever the Lord saith unto you, do it.” (T. Brooks.)
Obedience to God’s will
It ought to be the great care of every one of us to follow the Lord fully. We must in a coarse of obedience to God’s will and service to His honour, follow Him universally, without dividing; uprightly, without dissembling; cheerfully, without disputing; and constantly, without declining: and this is following Him fully. (M. Henry.)
As fruits artificially raised or forced in the hothouse have not the exquisite flavour of those fruits which are grown naturally and in their due season; so that obedience which is forced by the terrors of the law wants the genuine flavour and sweetness of that obedience which springs forth from a heart warmed and meliorated with the love of God in Christ Jesus. (H. G. Salter.)
Obedience to God’s will
Some of the members of the household of Tiberius were so attached to their master that they obeyed all his commands with the most implicit care. One of them had such perfect faith in him that, when he declared he never failed to do what Tiberius commanded, and was asked, if he had been ordered to burn the Capitol, whether he would have done it, he answered that Tiberius would never have given him the order; but, when the question was repeated, he declared that, had it been commanded, he should have thought it right, for Tiberius would never have laid such a command on him if it had not been for the advantage of the Roman people. When we render allegiance to the Saviour, it is with the express understanding that He bids us do nothing but that which is essentially right; that if anything is cruel in its nature He cannot order it; but that, if He appears to do so, there is some hidden good beneath the action that He bids us perform.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany