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springs from that root: He believed what the Lord spake of his determined judgment on the ungodly world; and from the belief of that arose that holy fear, which is expressly mentioned as exciting him to this work. And he believed the word of promise, that the Lord spake concerning his preservation by the ark; and the belief of these two carried him strongly on to the work, and through it, against all counter blasts and opposition; overcame his own doubtings, and the mockings of the wicked, still looking to him that was the master and contriver of the work.
Till we attain such a fixed view of our God, and such firm persuasion of his truth and power, and goodness, it will never be right with us. There will be nothing but wavering and unsettledness in our spirits and in our ways; every little discouragement from within, or without, that meets us, will be like to turn us over. We shall not walk in an even course, but still reeling and staggering, till faith be set wholly upon its own basis, the proper foundation of it: not set betwixt two, upon one -strong prop, and another that is rotten, partly on God, and partly on creature helps and encouragements, or our own strength; that is the way to fall off. Our only safe and happy way is, in humble obedience, in his own strength, to follow his appointments without standing and questioning the matter, and to resign the conduct of all to his wisdom and love; to put the rudder of our life into his hand, to steer the course of it as seeineth him good, resting quietly on his word of promise for our safety. Lord, whither thou wilt, and which way thou wilt, be thou my guide, and it sufficeth.
This absolute following of God, and trusting him with all, is marked as the true character of faith in Abraham, going after God from his country, not knowing nor asking whither he went, secure in his guide. And so in that other greater point of offering his Son, he silenced all disputes about it, by that mighty conclusion of faith, accounting that he was able to raise him from the dead". Thus here, Noah, by faith, prepared the ark; did not argue and question how shall this be done,, and if it were, how shall I get all the kinds of beasts gathered together to put into it, and how shall it be ended, when we are shut in? No, but believed firmly that it should be finished by him, and he saved by it; and he was not disappointed.
8 Heb, xi. 8.
II. The end of this work was the saving of Noah, and his family, from the general deluge, wherein all the rest perished.
Here it will be fit to consider the point of the preservation of the godly in ordinary and common calamities, briefly in these positions.
1. It is certain that the children of God, as they are not exempted from the common universal calamities and evils of this life, that befal the rest of men, so not from any particular kind of them. As it is appointed for them, with all others, once to die', so we find them not privileged from any kind of disease, or other way of death; not from falling by sword, or by pestilence, or in the frenzy of a fever, or any kind of sudden death: yea, when these, or such like, are on a land, by way of public judgment, the godly are not altogether exempted from them, but may fall in them with others; as we find Moses dying in the wilderness with those he brought out of Egypt. Now, though it was for a particular failing in the wilderness, yet it evinces, that there is in this no encroachment upon their privileges, nothing contrary to the love of God to. wards them, and his covenant with them.
2. The promises made to the godly, of preserva. tion from common judgments, have their truth, and are made good in many of them so preserved; though they do not hold absolutely and universally: for they are ever to be understood in subordination to their highest good: but when they are preserved, they ought to take it as a gracious accomplishment, b Heb. xi. 19.
Heb. ix. 27.
even of these promises to them, which the wicked, many of which do likewise escape, have no right to, but are preserved for after-judgment.
3. It is certain, that the curse and sting is taken out of all those evils incident to the godly with others, in life and death, which makes the main difference, though to the eye of the world invisible. And it may be observed, that in these common judgments of sword or pestilence, or other epidemic diseases, a great part of those that are cut off are of the wickedest, though the Lord may send of those arrows to some few of his own, to call them home.
The full and clear distinction of the godly and wicked, being reserved for their after estate in eternity, it needs not seem strange, that in many things it appears not here: one thing above all others, most grievous to the child of God, may take away the wonder of other things they suffer in common, that is, the remainders of sin in them while they are in the flesh: though there is a spirit in them above it, and contrary to it, which makes the difference; yet sometimes the too much likeness, especially in the prevailings of corruption, doth confuse the matter, not only to others eyes, but their
4. Though the great distinction and severing be reserved to that great and solemn day, that shall clear all, yet the Lord is pleased, in part, more remarkably at some times to difference his own from the ungodly, in the execution of temporal judgments, and to give these as preludes of that final and full judgment. And this of Noah was one of the most eminent in that kind, being the most general judgment that ever befell the world, or that shall till the last, and so the liveliest figure of it; this was by water, as the second shall be by fire, and it was most congruous that it should resemble in this, as the chief point, the saving of righteous Noah and his family from it; prefiguring the eternal salvation of believers, as our apostle teacheth.
Wherein few, that is, eight persons were saved by water.] This great point of the fewness of those that are saved in the other greater salvation, as in this, I shall not now prosecute: only,
1. If so few, then the inquiry into ourselves, whether we be of these few, should be more diligent, and followed more home than it is yet with the most of us. We are wary in our trifles, and only in this easily deceived, yea, our own deceivers in this great point. Is not this folly far beyond what you usually say of some, Penny wise and pound fool; to be wise for a moment, and fools for eternity ?
2. You that are indeed seeking the way of life, be not discouraged by your fewness; it hath always been so; you see here. how few of the whole world, and is it not better to be of the few in the ark, than of the multitude in the waters ? Let them fret, as ordinarily they do, to see so few more diligent for heaven, as no doubt they did of Noah; and this is it that galls them, that any should have higher names, and surer hopes this way: “What! are none but such as you going to heaven, think you us all damned?” What can we say, but there is a flood of wrath wasting many who say so, and certainly all that are out of the ark shall perish in that flood.
3. This is that main truth that I would leave with you; look on Jesus Christ as the ark, of whom this was a figure; and believe it, out of him there is nothing but certain destruction, a deluge of wrath, all the world over, on those out of Christ. Oh! it is our life, our only safety, to be in him. But these things are not believed. Men think they believe them, and do not. Were it believed that we are under the sentence of eternal death in our natural state, and that there is no escape, but by removing out of ourselves unto Christ, Oh! what thronging would there be to him; whereas, now he invites and calls, and how few are persuaded to come to him. Noah believed the Lord's word of judgment against the world, believed his promise made to him, and prepared an ark. Is it not a high sign of unbelief, that there being an ark of everlasting salvation ready prepared to our hand, we will not so much as come to it? 1. Will you, who are not yet entered, be persuaded certainly that the ark-door stands open; his offers are free; do but come, and try if he will turn you away; no, he will not, Him that comes to me, I will in no ways cast out". And as there is such acceptance, and sure preservation in him, there is as sure perishing without him, trust on what you will. Be you of a giant's stature, as many of them were, to help you to climb up, as they would sure do when the flood came on, to the highest moun. tains, and tallest trees, yet it shall overtake you. Make your best of your worldly advantages, or good parts, or civil righteousness, all shall prove poor shifts from the flood of wrath, which rises above all those, and drowns them; only the ark of our salvation is safe. Think bow gladly they would have been within the ark, when they found death without it, and now it was too late! How would many, that now despise Christ, wish to honour him one day? Men, so long as they thought to be safe on the earth would never betake them to the ark, but rather would think it a prison; and could men find salvation any where else, they would never come to Christ for it: this is because they know him not: but yet, be it necessity, let that drive thee in; and then being in him, thou shalt find reason to love him for himself, besides the salvation thou hast in him.
2. You that have fled in to him for refuge, wrong him not so far as to question your safety. What though the floods of thy former guiltiness rise high, thine ark shall still be above them; and the higher they rise, the higher he shall rise, shall have the more glory in freely justifying and saving thee. Though thou find the remaining power of sin still within thee, yet it shall not sink thine ark; there was in this ark sin, yet they were saved from the flood. If thou dost believe, that puts thee in Christ,
k John vi. 37.