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for his own safety: and it was an unequivocal proof of his crediting the declarations of God concerning them.]
He exerted himself in God's appointed way
[God commanded him to construct a vessel of an immense size, and such an one as had not been seen from the foundation of the world. The expense of building it must be exceeding great, so as to swallow up all his fortune. The time it would occupy would be many years; during all of which the people would be scoffing at him as a deluded visionary, and taking occasion from the very forbearance of God to load him with grosser insults. But he regarded not any labour, any odium, any sacrifice in the path of duty: he was intent only on executing the Divine mandate, and on providing for the security of those who should believe his testimony.]
2. Its effects and consequences
He" condemned the world"-
[During the hundred and twenty years that he was engaged in building the ark, he preached to the world with much earnestness and fidelity: and therefore doubtless condemned them often in his discourses. But he condemned them yet more by his example. His faith condemned their unbelief; his fear, their security; his obedience, their disobedience. If he had not spoken one word with his lips, his constructing the ark would have been a tacit, but keen, and continual reproof to all around him.]
He "saved his family"
[At the appointed time the flood came. The world, notwithstanding all the warnings given them, were as far as ever from expecting the event'. It is probable that their contempt of Noah's superstition and folly (as they would call it) had risen to its height, when they saw this immense vessel built, and filled with all different kinds of animals, and provisioned for many months; and Noah with his little family enclosed in it, before the smallest symptom of any inundation had appeared. But in the midst of their revels the flood came and swept them all away and Noah only, with his family, were preserved. That his family owed their preservation to him is clear; not only because it was ascribed to the exercise of his faith, but because one at least of them was as deserving of God's wrath as the generality of those who perished.]
He "became an heir of righteousness
d It was above one hundred and sixty yards long, twenty-seven broad, and sixteen high.
e 2 Pet. iii. 4.
f Matt. xxiv. 38, 39.
[Noah knew that the whole of that mysterious dispensation was typical of the salvation which is given us in Christ Jesus. He saw that a more terrible deluge was about to overwhelm an ungodly world: and that Christ was the ark which God had prepared for us. Into that ark he entered by faith: and thus, being " found in him"," and "preserved in him," he "became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith;" or, in other words, he was accepted, justified, and saved through the Saviour's merits.]
While we call you to admire the faith of Noah, we would also,
II. Commend it to your imitation
Our circumstances being wholly different from his, there must be many particulars in his faith which we cannot imitate, but the substantial parts of it are imitable by all.
1. Believe God's testimony respecting the judgments which he will bring upon the world
[There are great and terrible judgments denounced against the ungodly, yea, "against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men k" - Nor shall gross wickedness only be the object of God's wrath: a state of unregeneracy, whether attended with more or less open sin, will certainly involve us in the general doom1: nor shall one of all the human race, at least not one to whom the Gospel has been preached, escape, unless he get into the ark prepared for him m
Now do not presume to dispute against this. Do not, because there is no appearance at present of such calamities, imagine that they shall never come. Do not pretend to be more merciful than God, and to say, God will never execute such tremendous judgments: for "he has said, and he will do it; he has spoken, and he will make it good." It may appear as improbable as the deluge; but, however improbable it may appear, it shall come to pass; and all who will not believe it now, shall experience the truth of it to their cost.]
2. Use the means of safety which God has appointed
[You have not to build an ark: there is one constructed and provisioned by God himself; and the door is open for you to enter in, Do not absurdly ask, "How can that vessel save
g 1 Pet. iii. 20, 21.
h Phil. iii. 9.
k.Ps. ix. 17. and xi. 6. and Rom. i. 18. m Acts iv. 12.
i Jude, ver. 1. 1 John iii. 3.
me?" neither attempt to form another for yourself: nor flee to this or that mountain for safety: but go to Christ: seek an interest in him by faith: commit yourself wholly and cheerfully to him: and then you may defy all the storms and billows that menace your destruction. Moreover, delay not to place yourself beyond the reach of danger; because, while you are loitering, "the door may be shut," and all entrance into it may be barred for ever". It is not at all improbable that many who had derided Noah, or perhaps assisted in constructing the ark, clung to it when the floods came; and cried to Noah, "Open to us, and take us in:" and doubtless, if that were the case, Noah would pity their deplorable condition when he heard their cries or saw their unavailing endeavours. But God had shut the door; and Noah was not at liberty to open it: so that, one after another, they all "sank like lead in the mighty waters." Thus many in the last day will say, "Lord, Lord, open to us;" or " they will cry to the rocks to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb":" but the judgments they once despised, will come upon them irresistibly, and for ever. Cultivate then a holy fear; and enter into the ark while it continues open to you.]
3. Suffer nothing to divert you from your pur
[We have said that Noah incurred much odium as well as much expense in this exercise of faith. And it is certain, that you also will be called to make some sacrifices for your God. Not your reputation only, but your interests also, may be materially affected by your obedience to Christ. But what did Noah lose in the issue? What concern did he feel either about the reflections cast on him, or the labour and money he had bestowed, when he found himself safe in the ark, and saw the whole world perishing in the waters? Still less will ye feel, when we shall see the floods of divine vengeance deluging the ungodly, and yourselves, as "heirs of righteousness," placed beyond the reach of harm. Fear not then to be singular in a good cause. It is better to condemn the world by a holy singularity, and to be condemned by them on account of it, than to be condemned with them, and endure the wrath of an incensed God.]
n Matt. xxv. 10-12.
• Rev. vi. 16.
ABRAHAM'S LIFE A PATTERN FOR OURs.
Heb. xi. 8-10. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
THERE can scarcely be proposed to our consideration any subject more important than the practical efficacy of faith. It is the one subject which pervades this whole chapter: and it is set before us in the most advantageous way that can be imagined, being exhibited in living examples, in whom it was so embodied as to be visible, as it were, before our eyes. Had the Apostle launched forth into a general description of it, we might possibly be thought to lay an undue stress on any expressions which he has used: but, when he merely refers us to historic fact as illustrative of the point, we feel, that there is no room for misapprehension on the part of any candid inquirer.
The Apostle has already adduced instances which occurred before the flood: and now he comes to specify others which took place at different and distant periods, almost to the apostolic age. At the head of these is the case of Abraham, who, both in this chapter, and in other parts of Scripture, is more celebrated for his faith than any other of the children of men. We propose to consider,
I. His conduct under the influence of faith
It is but a partial view that we shall be led to take at present of Abraham's faith, because other, and yet more remarkable, circumstances will come under our consideration at a future time. We now notice only two things:
1. His departure from his own country—
[Whilst Abraham was in Ur of the Chaldees, God appeared to him, and said, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land which I will shew thee." Whether this was done in a vision, or by a voice, we are not informed: but it is clear that it was done in such a way as not to leave the smallest doubt upon Abraham's mind, that the command proceeded from Jehovah, the only true and living God. It was a command which required much self-denial: for every man naturally feels attached to his country, and his kindred, and his possessions; and, unless induced by the prospect of some great advantages, is averse to leave them. But the self-denial was the greater, because he was not informed whither he was to go: it was to a land which should afterwards be shewn him. What would all his friends and relatives think of him, when he told them that he was about to forsake them all, and did not so much as know whither he was going? Would they not account him mad? Yet did he obey, without hesitation, and without a murmur. God, at the same time that he issued this command, had engaged to "make of him a great nation," and to raise up from his loins the promised "Seed, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed":" and of God's power or fidelity he had no doubt: he therefore went forth, willingly renouncing all present comforts in obedience to his God, assured that, however despised or ridiculed his conduct might be, it would prove in the issue to be the path of happiness and wisdom.]
2. His sojourning in the land of promise as in a strange country
[When he went forth from his own country, he took with him Sarah his wife, and Terah his father, and his nephew Lot. But though he went towards Canaan, he stopped short of it in Haran; and there abode five years, till his father's death: when he proceeded to Canaand, where, except when driven from it by a famine, he abode during the remainder of his days. But did he then merely change one inheritance for another? No; he had not there the smallest inheritance, "no, not so much as to set his foot on." He had not even a stationary abode; but dwelt in tents, which were moved from one place to another, as occasion required: thus avowing himself to bo a mere pilgrim and sojourner there, and to be "looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." The city which he had left in his native land, and those which were in the land of promise, had their foundation in the dust, to which they would all in time be reduced: but the heavenly
a Gen. xii. 1. and Acts vii. 3.
b Gen. xii. 2, 3.
d Acts vii. 4.