ŇBy faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.Ó Hebrews 11:7.
In this verse is contained the third example, and the last in order of those who lived before the flood in the first and old world; namely, of the renowned patriarch Noah, the tenth from Adam.
Of whom, and whose faith, great and glorious things are spoken in this verse; and that in a high and excellent style, full of majesty and divine eloquence.
Concerning NoahŐs faith, two points are laid down: A. first, the ground of his faith, and B. secondly, the commendation of it.
A. The ground of his faith was a special revelation from God in these words: Noah being warned of God. The things revealed whereof God warned him are laid down two ways: first, generally, to be things as yet not seen; then particularly three in number:
I. GodŐs judgment upon the sinful world, that He was purposed to destroy it by water.
II. GodŐs mercy on Noah, that he would save him and his family.
III. That He would save him by an ark, and therefore he must make one; and these be the things whereof Noah was warned of God.
B. His faith is commended by three worthy effects, or operations, in him:
I. It moved in him a reverence, or a reverent regard of the warning sent him from God.
II. It made him prepare the ark, of which ark there are set down two ends: (1) it saved his household, (2) it condemned the world.
III. It made him heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
This, I take it, is the true resolution of these words; and they contain many excellent things concerning his faith.
By faith, Noah, being warned of God of the things which were as yet not seen;
By faith, that is, by a general and historical faith, and also by a true and saving faith in the Messiah to come, Noah being warned of God of the just judgment He purposed to bring upon the world by a universal flood; and of His merciful providence to him and his family that He would save them by an ark (all which things were then to come, and therefore unseen), he believed these forewarnings of God; and therefore in reverence to this message from God, he prepared the ark, and thereby saved his household, and condemned the wicked world.
And so his faith, by all these, appearing to be a true and lively faith; did make him a just and righteous man in GodŐs sight. This is the sum and substance of NoahŐs example. Let us speak of the several parts in order.
A. The first point is the ground of his faith, a warning, or an answer, from God. For, he being a righteous man in that wicked age, wherein all the world weltered in wickedness, and walking before God in great holiness, when no man cared for religion, he had this special favour from God, that when He purposed to destroy the world for their sin, He first of all revealed to righteous Noah that purpose of His. So that these words have reference to the revelation which Noah had from God, in the sixth chapter of Genesis. For this message came not from God by any prophet (for we know none in those evil days, except Noah himself), but either by the ministry of an angel, or else by immediate revelation from God Himself; and this favour he received from God, not for any cause in the world, but because he was an holy and righteous man.
From hence, we may learn diverse excellent instructions:
I. First, whereas God maketh choice of Noah, to reveal unto him His counsel and His judgments to come, we learn that this is a prerogative which God bestowed on such as fear Him; He revealeth His counsels to them in a special manner, whether they be purposes of judgment upon His enemies, or of mercies unto his church. Thus dealt He with Abraham (Gen. 18:19), Shall I (saith God) hide from Abraham the thing that I will do? Which thing was the destruction of Sodom and her rulers. And so when the Sodomites lived in wanton carelessness, and put far from them the evil day, then Abraham knew from God their destruction was at hand. And as in that, so it is generally true in all His great works, that the Lord God will do nothing but He reveals His secrets to His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). Now this is not a prerogative of prophets alone, or of such as were extraordinary men as Abraham was, but the secret of the Lord are amongst such as fear Him (Psa. 25:17). All that fear the holy name of God, are GodŐs friends, and of His counsel; and therefore not Abraham only is called the friend of God (Jam. 2:23), but of all true believers, saith Christ (John 15:14,15), You are my friends, if you do what I command you; henceforth I call you not servants, but friends; for the servant knoweth not what his master doth; but all things I have heard of my Father, have I made known unto you. As if He had said, I will communicate and impart my secrets unto you, as one friend doth unto another, as far as shall be fit for you to know. And the apostle saith (1 Cor. 2:15), A faithful and a holy man discerneth into the deep counsels of God; which are revealed unto them, as much as concerneth their salvation, and sometimes more; as here unto Noah, who was forewarned of God of things then not seen.
This prerogative of GodŐs children is to be understood with some cautions:
(1). First, that this is more proper to prophets and holy ministers of God, than to ordinary Christians.
(2). Secondly, that it was more ordinary in the Old Testament than now in the days of the gospel. If any object that then the state of the church before Christ was better than it is now under Christ; I answer, Not so, for first, we are recompensed by having the Scriptures perfect and complete, which they had not; and by having the substance of their shadows and the performance of their promises; in which respect our state is far more excellent than theirs. And, secondly, for this particular, I answer, They indeed had more ordinary revelation of matters personal and private, and not directly touching salvation; but of such things as are general, and do necessarily concern salvation, we in the time of the New Testament have more evident demonstration, and more full revelation, than they had before Christ. For example: particular mercies to some faithful men, or particular judgments on GodŐs enemies, whether particular men or whole kingdoms, were after revealed to godly men, in those days (as here to Noah), but salvation by the Messiah, and the manner how the Messiah should save His church, is more filty and plainly revealed now, than in those days.
(3). Out of which consideration ariseth the third caution; which is, that revelations of GodŐs will, to be expected now under the gospel, are ordinarily nothing else but these: the true meaning of Scripture, and a discerning of true Scripture from forged, of true Sacraments from supposed, of true doctrine from false, of true pastors from false prophets. These and such like, as far forth as they are necessary to salvation, all true and faithful believers (which out of an humbled heart, do seek it at GodŐs hand) are sure to have revealed unto them from God. But as for other purposes of God, of personal and particular matters, or what shall be His blessings, or what His judgments to these and these men, families, cities or kingdoms; or when or how he will change states, or translate kingdoms; or by what extraordinary means He will have His gospel propagated, or a declining church or state upholden; these we are not to expect, nor easily to believe any that shall say that such things are revealed unto them. And yet we tie not the Lord in such strait bonds but that He may sometimes extraordinarily reveal His purpose therein to some of His selected servants; yet provided that the revelation be examined and allowed of the church. But as for such things as concern immediately the salvation of our souls, GodŐs Spirit doth most comfortably reveal them to us, in our prayers, in His Word, and in His Sacraments; all of which it is most true that the secrets of God are amongst them that fear Him.
The use of this doctrine is double: for instruction and for exhortation.
(1). For our instruction, here we learn how to answer the church of Rome. They ask us how do we know true religion from erroneous; or true Scripture or true Sacraments from forged? We answer, first, by itself, by sight and sense of the excellencies thereof; as we know gold from brass, or silver from lead. But what if the brass or tin be gilded over? I then answer secondly, we can know gold from brass, or silver from tin, by the sound and smell, and hardness to endure, and by the operation; so there is a spiritual sound of the Scriptures in the ears of a Christian, a spiritual comfort and taste in true religion, a spiritual operation (in holy mensŐ hearts) of the true Sacraments. But what if false prophets come in sheeps clothing, and by lying wonders seem to give the same sound, taste, smell, virtue, and operation unto their forgeries, or at least challenge it, and say that theirs is true? I answer lastly, true religion, true Scripture, true Sacraments, true prophets, true doctrines from false, are revealed by a holy and supernatural revelation from GodŐs Spirit; which by evident and powerful demonstration, assureth us what is true and what is false for the substance of salvation. And this spirit is given to all that in true humility do seek it, in holy prayer and in a holy and frequent use of GodŐs Word and sacraments; and to none else. And surely if the papists were as well acquainted with the Spirit of God as they are with their own forged revelations, they would never deny it. By force of this testimony a Christian man knoweth, as assuredly as that God is God, that the pope as now he is, and as he exerciseth his place and power, cannot be the true vicar of Christ; and that popery, as it is now established by the Council of Trent and taught by the most learned of their side, cannot be the true religion, nor the safest way to heaven. And when question is, what is the meaning of this place, There is one God, and one mediator betwixt God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5), if all the world should say the contrary, a Christian man will know and believe there are no more mediators to God but Christ; or of that place, that Christ was offered for our sins once for all (Heb. 10:10); that there is no sacrifice can purchase us pardon but His; let papists colour the matter by unfound distinctions as much as they can; and the same might be shewed in divers other points and places. And if any ask how this can be; I answer, Noah was warned of God of things not seen; so GodŐs children are warned and assured of God of such things as concern their salvation, though they be things beyond sense and reason; GodŐs secrets do belong unto them.
(2). The use of exhortation is, that if God warn His children of His will, and reveal His secrets to them, this should move and excite us to become truly and indeed GodŐs servants; for we serve not a Lord that is strange and austere unto us; that will not give us a good look, or a fair word; nay, He is so far from that, that He calls us to His holy counsel, and makes us know His secrets, and communicates His own self unto us by His blessed Spirit; and by that Spirit revealeth unto us many excellent mysteries of salvation, which the carnal and profane men of the world never dream of.
II. In the second place, let us observe that Noah, being thus warned of God in this particular matter (as he had been formerly warned and taught of salvation by a Messiah to come), believeth not only the general promise of salvation, but also this particular promise of his preservation and deliverance. Out of which his practice, we may learn two things:
(1). First, that faith is a supernatural work of God in those menŐs hearts that have it. That it is a work of God, it appeareth in that it always acknowledgeth and believeth GodŐs Word; that it is supernatural, it appeareth in that it apprehendeth and believeth whatsoever GodŐs Word delivereth, be it never so incredible to reason or sense. But how doth God work this faith? By His Word; for as God is the author and worker of faith, so God hath appointed a means whereby He works it, and that is His Word; which Word of God is the only ordinary outward means to work faith. And that Word of God is two ways to be considered: either as revealed by God Himself (as to Noah here), or else being written by God, is either preached by His ministers, or read by a manŐs self in want of preaching; and these are all one, and are all means ordained of God to work faith; and that not only to begin it where it is wanting, but to augment it where it is begun.
Which being so, it must teach us all, not only with special care and reverence to hear the Word, by whomsoever it is preached; but also to hear it read; yea, to read it ourselves with all diligence. So doing, it will work out, and make perfect in us that holy faith, which will make us blessed in ourselves, and accepted of God, as it did Noah in this place.
(2). Secondly, here we learn what is the whole object of faith, or what is all that that faith believeth, namely, nothing but GodŐs Word, and all and every Word of God. So that faith hath two objects, differing not in nature, but in degree: principal and inferior. The principal object of true faith is the promise of salvation by Christ. The inferior objects thereof are all other particular promises of safety, deliverance, providence, help, assistance, comfort, or what other benefit soever is made either to the whole church, and so inclusively to any particular man; or which are made personally unto him. For saving faith believeth not only the grand promise of salvation, but all other promises either of spiritual or corporal blessings, which are subordinate to the great promise, and do depend on it, and are therefore apprehended by the same faith. So Noah here had already apprehended the main promise of salvation by the Messiah, and had hid it in his heart; and afterward when this particular promise of his deliverance was made, by the same faith he laid hold on it also. And it is good reason that faith should do so, for if it apprehended the greater promise, then no marvel though it take hold of all other inferior promises, which are but dependences upon the principal.
By this that hath been said, it appeareth that we are wrongfully charged by them who say, we teach that saving faith believeth only salvation by Christ, or apprehendeth only the promise of salvation by Christ; for we say and teach that it apprehendeth also other particular promises, and even the promises of outward and temporal blessings, as appeareth in this example of Noah.
III. Lastly, in that Noah a faithful man, is here warned of God of the dangers ensuing, that so he may avoid them; we may learn the loving care that God hath over them who have a care to fear and serve Him. Thus dealt He with His children in all ages, for their comfort and preservation, to encourage all men to serve God in truth and uprightness, as here Noah did; for so doing they may assure themselves of GodŐs care and providence over them, even then, when His wrath smoked against the sinners of the world; and that furthermore in all exigents and extremities, He will teach them, either from His Word, or by the counsel of some others of His children, or else by His own secret inspiration, what they are to do, and what course to take, for their safety and deliverance.
How often shall a Christian man find in the course of his life that God put into his mind to answer thus and thus, or to foresee this or that; by which his so doing, he escaped some great danger; so that (though not in the same manner as Noah was) all faithful men do daily find that they are warned by God of such things as do concern them.
But what were those things whereof Noah was warned from God? The text saith, Of the things that were as yet not seen.
This hath not relation to the time, when the Holy Ghost wrote these words, but when God gave the warning to Noah; for then they were not seen, but were to come; for they were not performed for many years after, as shall appear in the particulars.
Particularly they were these three:
(1). First, the great and just wrath which God had conceived against the sinful world, for the universal corruption and general sinfulness thereof. Noah was a preacher of righteousness to that wicked age, as St. Peter saith (1 Pet. 3:11); the very Spirit of Christ preached in him; but they condemned both him, and the Spirit by which he spake, and made mock of him and all his holy admonitions, and solaced themselves in all their sinful pleasures, without fear or respect of God or man, pleasing themselves in their own defiled ways, and promising to themselves safety and security. But behold, this Noah, whom they esteemed a base and contemptible man, unworthy of their company; to him is revealed how short their time is, and that they must be cut off in the midst of their jollity. GodŐs children, whom wicked men do think and speak of with great contempt, do know full well the miserable state of such men, and the fearful dangers hanging over them; when the wicked men themselves are far from thinking of any such matter.
(2). The second thing which God revealed to Noah, was that He would save him and his family from perishing by the waters which he would bring upon the world. His faith was not in vain; God rewarded it with a singular preservation. Thus dealt He always with His children, delivering Lot out of Sodom (Gen. 19); Rahab out of Jericho (Josh. 6:22); the Kenites from the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15); and here Noah out of that general destruction. And this God beforehand reveals unto him, for his greater comfort and security; that when signs and strange tokens did foretell and shew that still the destruction was nearer and nearer; still Noah might comfort himself in the assurance of that merciful promise which God had made him of his deliverance, and of his family also for his sake.
(3). The third thing revealed to him, was the means whereby he should be saved from the universal flood; namely, by an ark, which for his more assurance he is bid to make himself; that so at every stroke he gave, he might remember this merciful promise of his God unto him. For as every stroke in the making of the ark was a loud sounding sermon to that sinful generation, to call them to repentance; so was it also an assurance unto Noah of his deliverance. Of which ark, and of NoahŐs obedience in making it, we shall hereafter speak at large. And thus much concerning the ground of NoahŐs faith, which was a warning, or revelation, from God.
B. Now followeth a second point, namely, the commendation of his faith, or a description of the excellence thereof by divers and singular effects.
I. Moved with reverence,
The first effect of his faith is, It moved in him a reverence, or a reverent fear, of that God that spake to him, and of His justice towards sin and sinners, and of His mercies towards him.
In this effect, we are to consider two points:
1. The ground of the reverence, and 2. The occasions or motives of it.
1. The ground whence this reverence sprang, was his true and saving faith; for the Holy Ghost first tells us of NoahŐs faith, and afterwards of this reverent fear he had of God and His great works.
Where we learn, that whosoever is endued with saving faith is also touched with fear and reverence at the consideration of God and His glorious works; whether they be works of (1) His power, (2) His wisdom, (3) His mercy, or (4) His justice, or of all together.
(1). For the first, David could not see the works of GodŐs power in the creation, Psa. 8. But when he looked up and beheld the heavens, the works of GodŐs hands, the moon and the stars which He had ordained; he forthwith fell into a reverence and admiration of GodŐs mercy to man, for whom and whose use He made them all.
(2). For the second, the same David could not enter into consideration of GodŐs wisdom in the admirable frame of manŐs body, Psa. 139. But he presently falls into a reverence and admiration thereof in most excellent and passionate words: Thou possessest my reins, thou coveredest me in my motherŐs womb. I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well. My bones are not hid from thee, though I was made in a secret place, yet thy eyes did see my substance, when I was without form, and in thy book were all my members written, which in continuance were fashioned, though there were none of them before. How dear therefore are thy counsels to me, O God. Thus we see how this holy king cannot content himself with any terms to express his religious and reverent concept of GodŐs majesty.
(3). For the third, GodŐs merciful works to His church and children have always been considered of by good men with great reverence; and, What shall I give unto the Lord, saith David, for all His benefits poured on me? (Psa. 116:12).
(4). But especially, the judgments of God have been always entertained of GodŐs children with much reverence and admiration. Blessed David saith, My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments (Psa. 119:120). How would this noble king have trembled and been afraid if he had been a private man? And how glorious is God and His works of judgments, whereat even kings themselves do tremble? And the prophet Habakkuk saith, that when he but heard of GodŐs judgments to come, his belly trembled, his lips shook, rottenness entered into his bones (Hab. 3:16). And thus Noah here, hearing of GodŐs just wrath against the sinful world, and of His purpose to overthrow all living flesh by water, was moved with great fear and reverence at this mighty work of God; and from the view of this His great and just judgment, his faith made him arise to a more earnest consideration of the majesty of God. By all which it is more than apparent that true faith (wheresoever it is) worketh a holy fear and reverent estimation of God and of His works, and of God in and by His works; whereby on the contrary side, it followeth that therefore to think basely or ordinarily of God, to think scornfully of His works, or to deny His power and His hand in the great works either of mercy or judgment done in the world, is an argument of a profane heart, and wanting true faith.
The use of this doctrine discovers the profaneness and the great want of faith that ordinarily is in the world. And that appears by two evidences: the first, is to menŐs own consciences; the other is to the view and sight of all the world.
First, men may see in themselves a profane heart and void of faith, by this evidence. For, doth a man in his heart think basely of God, His power, His justice or His mercies? Doth he either doubt of them, or granting them, doth he think of them without fear and amazement? Then assuredly his heart is void of true faith, and far from the life and power of religion. For assuredly, where God is known and believed, there that manŐs heart (though he be a king) cannot once think of God without a reverence of His majesty and an admiration at His greatness, and his own baseness; therefore the want of this argueth a want of true religion and true faith in menŐs hearts.
Secondly, this profaneness discovers itself to the world by want of reverence to GodŐs works. Let the Lord send unseasonable weather, or famines, or plagues, or any strange signs in heaven or in earth; forthwith they are but fools that cry out, Behold the finger of God, the hand of God. No, it is nature, and it is produced by natural causes. Ill weather comes from the stars; famines from ill weather and menŐs covetousness; Plagues from famines or from ill airs, or else by apparent infection from another place. But cannot nature and natural means have their place, unless they have GodŐs place? God overthroweth not them, why should they overthrow God? Yet thus it is in the world, and thus God is robbed of His glory; and he is but a simple fellow which is moved with reverence at sight of such things, or begins to magnify GodŐs power and justice in them. This is too apparent to be denied; for have we not now as great causes of fear as may be? Noah heard of water; and we hear that fire is to destroy the world, and yet where is he that is moved with reverence as Noah was; and yet Noah could say, The flood shall not be these 120 years; but who can say and prove that this world shall not be destroyed by fire within 120 years? And till the flood came, they had doubtless many other plagues, which were forerunners of the general destruction; all which as they came, moved Noah unto reverence; and so we in this life do see the great works of GodŐs judgments upon men, upon families, upon towns, upon countries, and whole kingdoms, and we feel His heavy hand in many sharp strokes; but who and where are they whose hearts fear God the more, and do tremble in the consideration of His judgments? Nay alas, amongst many it is but a matter of mockery so to do. This is not the fault of our religion, but the want of it; for if men truly knew and believed in God, they could not think nor speak of God, nor look at His works, but with fear and reverence. For as our fear of God is, so is our faith; little fear of God, little faith; and no fear at all, no faith at all. Let therefore all men shew their religion by their fear of God, and let every Christian acknowledge God in His works. England hath been faulty herein in one point specially. We have had great plagues, which have taken away many thousands in short time wherein God hath shewed Himself mighty against our sins; but GodŐs hand would not be seen nor acknowledged, but only nature and natural causes. But let England take heed that God send not a plague so general and so grievous that even the most profane men (even the sorcerers of Egypt if they were here) do acknowledge that it is the finger of God; and so give God that due reverence which in His ordinary visitation He hath not. Thus we see the ground whence this reverence in Noah sprang, namely, his faith.
2. Now let us see the occasions or considerations in NoahŐs heart that made him fear. The ground whereupon he feared was true faith; for else he had not been capable of any fear or reverence of God; but the occasions which stirred up this fear in him were some things else.
Now if we look to human reasons, Noah had no cause at all to fear as he did. For first, the judgment was far off, 120 years after; and common reason saith, it is folly to fear anything so far off, but it is time enough to fear when it is near at hand. Again, he was one single man, and the world was full of wise and mighty men; they all heard of it, yet none of them feared; therefore their example might prevail with him, to keep him from fear, and to make him secure and careless with the rest; for examples are strong, especially when they are so general. Thirdly, the strangeness of the judgment threatened, was such as might drive any man in reason from fearing at all. For first, who would ever believe that God would drown all the world with water? Such a thing never had been, and therefore how could it be? And again, if all should be drowned, who would think that Noah should escape, and none but he?
These three considerations, being weighed in the balance of manŐs reason, would have kept Noah from fearing, or believing this word of God. But behold the power of faith; it goeth beyond all human reach, fixeth itself fast on GodŐs word; and therefore he not only believeth it, but hath furthermore his heart possessed with a great reverence of GodŐs majesty upon this message. And there were three motives stirring him up unto this reverence:
(1). First, the consideration of GodŐs strange judgment upon the sinful world; to see that His wrath was so provoked that He should bring so unwanted a plague; so strange both for the nature of it; a flood of water to drown men; whereas generally all men can avoid the violence of that element; and for the measure of it, so great as it should drown all the world, and destroy all men.
Now that which this judgment of God wrought in Noah, the same effect should GodŐs judgments work in us; namely, they should move us with reverence. For as Christ saith, Our days are like NoahŐs: As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the days be before the coming of Christ (Matt. 24:37). These days are as wicked, men are as covetous, as cruel, as malicious, as voluptuous, and yet as secure as they then were; as full of sin, and yet as dead in sin as they were then. Therefore Noah looked for a flood 120 years after; and who can tell whether our world shall last so long a time or no? At least we may safely say (whatsoever the world doth), there is no man liveth, but within far less time than 120 years is assured to be overthrown to hell by a flood of GodŐs wrath at his death, unless in the meantime he repent; and yet alas, where is he that is moved with reverence at the consideration hereof? The wicked man may escape the water of a flood, but he cannot escape the fire of hell, he cannot escape death, he cannot escape the last judgment. These are to come, yet they are far. Why then do not men fear as Noah did? He feared 120 years before it came. We can indeed tremble a little at a present judgment; as when fire breaks out, when waters overflow, when the plague destroyeth, or when famine consumes; but to tremble at a judgment threatened, though it be afar off, this is the work of true faith. This was in Noah, and wrought in him a reverence; and so would in us, if it were in us. When men cry fire, fire, we stir, we run, we tremble; but God crieth in His Word, the fire of hell, the fire of His wrath; and we care not, we stir not, we leave not our sins, we are not moved with reverence, as Noah was; therefore it is more than manifest that holy faith is wanting in the world, which Noah had.
(2). The second motive, stirring up this reverence n him, was the consideration of GodŐs wonderful mercy to him and his family, in saving them. This mercy seemed so wonderful to him, both for that he knew it was undeserved (knowing himself a sinful man, and therefore not able to merit GodŐs favour and being privy to himself of his own manifold imperfections) and also unexpected, for he thought not to have been spared alone in an universal destruction; therefore he wondered with reverence at so great a mercy. Thus GodŐs mercies do not only win a manŐs heart to love God, but even to fear Him with much reverence. This David proveth (Psa. 130:4), There is mercy with thee O Lord, that thou mayest be feared; as though he had said, Thy great mercies to thy children, O Lord, do make them conceive a reverent estimation of thee. This made David cry out in a holy passion, How excellent are thy mercies, O Lord.
And as GodŐs children wonder at the excellencies of GodŐs mercies unto them, so also at their own baseness and unworthiness. Thus doth holy David (2 Sam. 7:18) (who as he was a man of much faith, so was he full of excellent meditations, and reverent speeches of God, which are the true effects of faith), when God had set him in his kingdom, he saith, Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hither? And 1 Chr. 29:14, But who am I, saith he, and what is my people, that we should offer thus unto the Lord? And doubtless even so said NoahŐs blessed soul often unto the Lord, and to itself, Who am I, O Lord, and what is my family, that we should be chosen out of so many thousands, and be saved when all the world perisheth?
Let us apply this to our church and state. If any nation have cause to say thus, It is England; God hath delivered us out of the thraldom of spiritual Egypt, and led us out; not by a Moses, but first by a child, then by a woman, and given us His gospel, more fully, and freely, and quietly than any kingdoms so great in the world; and still delivereth us from the cursed plots of the pope, and tyrannous invasions of the Spaniard, who thought to have marked us in the foreheads with the brand of infamy, and to have done to us as they have done to other nations whom they have conquered; but God from heaven fought for us, and overthrew them in their own devices; yea, the Lord put His hook in his nostrils, His bridle in his lips, and carried him back again with shame and reproach (2 Kin. 19:28). We are unworthy of such a mercy, if our souls do not often say unto God, O Lord, what are we and what is our people that thou shouldest be so wonderful in thy mercies unto us?
And particularly this must teach every Christian to be a careful observer of the favours and mercies that God vouchsafeth to his soul and body, to him or his; and the consideration of them must make him daily be moved with reverence, and reverent thoughts of GodŐs majesty; and still as the Lord is more and more merciful unto him, to bear still the more fear and reverence unto him for the same.
(3). The last motive of this reverence in Noah, was the consideration of GodŐs power and wisdom, both in the judgment upon the world, and in the mercy upon him; for (i) first, in the judgment, it was wonderful that God would choose so weak an element as water to destroy and vanquish the huge giants of those days; but therein appeared first GodŐs power, that by so weak means can cast down His enemies; and again, His wisdom, that as an universal wickedness had polluted the whole world, so a flood of water should wash the whole world. Secondly, the mercy was also wonderful that God should choose to save Noah by so strange a means as an ark, which should swim on the waters. For Noah though, if the Lord will save me, he will either take me up into heaven (as He did Enoch a little before), or else make me build a house upon the top of the highest mountain. But the Lord will save him by no such means, but by an ark; wherein appeared first, GodŐs power that would save him by so weak a means, as might seem rather to destroy him. For Noah must lie and swim in the midst of the waters, and yet be saved from the waters; and the ark must save him; which in all reason, if the tempests had cast it against the hard rocks and mountains, or upon the strong castles and houses of the mighty giants, would have been broken in pieces; and so it had, but that God Himself was the master and pilot in that voyage.
(ii) And secondly, GodŐs wisdom shone clearly in this means; because God would have him saved not in such sort as the world might not see it (as it would have been if he had been taken up into heaven or into the air); but would have him saved in an ark; that so all the wicked men, as they were a-dying in the water, or expecting death upon the tops of the hills, might see him live and be saved, to their more torment, and to their greater shame, who would not believe GodŐs Word, as he did. For as the wicked in hell are more tormented to see the godly in the joys of heaven; so doubtless were the wicked of that age, to see Noah saved before their eyes. The view of this power and wisdom of God herein, made Noah give great reverence to GodŐs majesty.
And no less ought it to work in the hearts of all true hearted Englishmen, and faithful Christians. For did not the Lord restore and establish the gospel to our nation, by a child, and by a woman; and in her time when all other princes were against her (contrary to the rules of policy)? And did not God in our late deliverance, overthrow our enemies, not so much by the power of man, as by His own hand? Did not He fight from heaven? Did not the stars and the winds in their courses fight against that Sisera of Spain? Let us therefore with blessed Noah stand amazed to see GodŐs mercies, and with reverence and fear magnify His great and glorious name.
And thus we have the three motives that moved in Noah this reverence of God: the consideration 1. Of His great judgment on the sinful world; 2. Of His great mercy in saving him; 3. Of His admirable power and wisdom, shewed both in the judgment, and in the mercy.
Hitherto of the first effect. It followeth:
II. Prepared the ark.
The second effect of NoahŐs faith, whereby it is commended, is, that he upon a commandment received from God (as we heard before) doth make and build an ark, wherein to save himself and his family. Concerning this ark, much might be spoken out of the book of Genesis, but it is not to our purpose; which is no more in this chapter, but to shew the obedience and practice of faith, and therein the excellency of it. Now the point here to be spoken of, is not the matter, nor the measure, nor the proportion, nor the fashion, nor the uses of the ark; all which in the 6th chapter of Genesis are fully described; but the action and obedience of Noah in preparing it, as God bad him; whereof the Holy Ghost (in Gen. 6:22) saith, Noah did according to all that God had commanded him, even so did he.
Now in this action of NoahŐs faith, divers points of great moment are to be considered:
1. First, why did God bid Noah make an ark 120 years before the flood, when he might ha ve built it in three or four years?
The answer is, God did so for divers causes; some respecting the sinful world, as that they might have longer time and more warnings to repent; every stroke of the ark, during these 120 years, being a loud sermon of repentance unto them. Again, that they might be without excuse, if they amended not; and lastly, that their iniquities might be full, and their sins ripe for vengeance. But of all of these we will not speak, because they concern not Noah, of whose faith we are only to speak; let us therefore touch only those causes which concern Noah. And in regard of him, the Lord did thus, that He might try his faith and patience, and exercise other graces of holiness in him. Thus God dealeth with his servants always; He exerciseth them many and strange ways in this world. He led the Israelites in the deserts of Arabia forty years; whereas a man may travel from Rameses in Egypt to any part of Canaan in forty days; and this God did to humble them, and try them, and to know what was in their heart (Deut. 8:2).
God promised Abraham a son, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed (Gen. 12:3), but he performed it not until 30 years after (Gen, 21:2); He gave David the kingdom of Israel, and anointed him by Samuel (1 Sam. 16:13), but he attained it not until many years after; and in the meantime was persecuted and hunted by Saul as a flea in a manŐs bosom; or as a partridge in the mountains (1 Sam. 24:15, 26:20). And thus God exercised him both in this and other His promises, as He saith in Psalm 40:1. In waiting, I waited on the Lord; and Psalm 119:82, Mine eyes fail for the waiting for thy promise. O, when wilt thou comfort me? Thus God dealt with them, and thus in some measure He deals with all His children, to humble and to try them, and to know what is in their hearts; for that, in these cases, men do always shew themselves, and their dispositions. When men enjoy all things at their will and wish, who cannot make a fair profession? But where men are long deferred, and kept from that that is promised, and that they expect, and are so long crossed in their expectations; then they appear in their own colours.
And as God dealt with them, so will He one way or other do with us; if we be His servants. He will at some time of our life or other, lay some such affliction upon us as may try us, and our faith, and our patience, and our humility. For if we be hypocrites, and have no true graces, but only a shew; this will discover it; and if we have true and sound faith, and patience; this will make them shine like orient pearls in their true and perfect beauty.
2. Secondly, as God bad Noah build an ark so long time before any need of it, so he did without denying or gainsaying. So saith the story (in Genesis), He did according to all that God commanded him. And thus the Holy Ghost saith here, He being warned of God by faith prepared the ark. Where we learn that where true faith is, there followeth true obedience to every commandment of God; insomuch as godly believing man no sooner heareth any duty to be commanded of God, but he thinks his soul and conscience is tied to obedience; and this is the nature of true faith. And it is as impossible to be otherwise, as it is for fire having fuel not to burn. Acts 15:9, Faith purifieth the heart, namely, from careless disobedience to GodŐs Word; for if from any corruption at all, then from it especially, because it is most contrary to the pureness of true faith.
This being so, sheweth us, not any fault in our religion (as the papists slander us), but the want of our religion, and the want of true faith in the world; for there is almost no obedience to GodŐs commandment. For first, Turks and Jews acknowledge not the Scriptures; and the papists have set aside GodŐs commandments to set up their own. And few Protestants have the feeling of the power of true religion, and nothing indeed but a bare profession; but it must be a feeling of the power of it which produceth true obedience. And alas, we see men obey not GodŐs commandments. God saith, Swear not by my name vainly; Keep my Sabbath. Where is there a man of many that feareth to break these? Alas, there are more mockers of such as would keep them, than careful and conscionable keepers of them. How truly said Christ, When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8). It is likely therefore, these be the days wherein we may wait for the coming of Christ; for the general want of obedience sheweth the general want of faith.
3. But this obedience of Noah is better to be considered of; for it was very excellent and extraordinary; there being many hindrances that might have stopped him in the course of his obedience, and to have persuaded him never to have gone about the making of the ark.
(1). As first, the great quantity of the ark, amounting to many thousand cubits; a work of huge labour and great charge.
(2). Again, the length of his labour, to last 120 years. It is a tedious thing, and troublesome to manŐs nature, to be ever in doing, and never to have done.
(3). Thirdly, the building of it was a matter of much mockery to the world; for it signified, 1. The destroying of the whole world; 2. The saving of him and his. These things were taunted at by the worldly wise men of that sinful age, and he was loudly laughed at by many a man, to think all the world should perish, to imagine that he and his should be delivered.
(4). Lastly, the building of the ark was a harsh thing to nature, and natural reason, in many respects; for,
(i) First, that all the world should be destroyed seemed not possible to be, because it never had been.
(ii) Secondly, it seemed not likely that GodŐs mercy should be so wholly swallowed up of His justice.
(iii) Thirdly, they must live in the ark, as in a close prison, without comfort of light or fresh air, and amongst beasts of all sorts, and that for a long time, he knew not how long. Now reason would tell him, he had better die with men than live with beast; and better die a freeman and at liberty than live a prisoner; and better die with company than live alone; and that if God had purposed to save him, he could have used other means, and more easy, more direct, and more safe than this; that therefore his deliverance was to be doubted of.
(iv) And lastly, reason would say, I make myself a gazing and mocking stock to the world for 120 years; and it may be that GodŐs purpose will be altered, and no flood will come; or if it come, I go into the ark and it chance to break against the mountains, so that I perish with the rest, then I am worst of all, who perish notwithstanding all my labour; therefore I had better let it alone, and take my venture with the rest of the world.
These doubtless, and many such natural considerations came into his mind, and stood up as so many impediments of his faith. But behold the power of true faith in the heart of a holy man; it overcometh all doubts, it breaketh through all difficulties, to obey the will and Word of God. Yea, it gives a man wings, with which to fly over all carnal objections. Thus we see it here in Noah, and afterward shall as clearly see it in Abraham and other holy men.
The use of this doctrine discovereth the weakness of many menŐs faith; for if the doctrine of the gospel go current with our natural affections, or seem plausible to our natures, we do formerly obey it; but if it cross our affections, or go beyond our reason, or control our natural dispositions, then we spurn against it, we call it into question, we are offended at it, and dent our obedience. Here wants the faith of Noah, which carried him beyond the compass of nature and reach of reason, and made him believe and do that which neither nature could allow, nor reason like of, and which would be displeasing to his natural affections. Let us therefore learn to practice true faith, by believing forthwith what God shall say unto us, without asking advice, or hearing the objections of flesh and blood. God threatened in times past the overthrow of the great monarchies of the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Grecians, Romans; reason did make doubts how it could be, but faith believed it, and it is done. God in latter times threatened the fall of abbeys, and dispersing of monks for their wickedness. It seemed impossible to reason, yet faith in some believed it, and it came to pass.
God now threateneth the ruin of Babylon, and the full revelation of Antichrist, and the overthroweth of the new found hierarchy of the Jesuits, which glitter so in worldly glory, and in outward strength; this seems hard to bring to pass, but let faith believe it, for it is GodŐs word, and shall be fulfilled in His season. God hath said, that our bodies shall rise again, even these bodies which are burned to ashes, or eaten of beasts, or fishes, or turned to dust in the earth. This is a wonder to nature, an amazement to reason; but faith will believe it, and shall find it true, for God hath said it.
God saith, Christ is in the sacrament, truly and really present to the soul of a Christian. Carnal senses deny this, and natural reason knoweth not how; but ask with the Caperneans, How can He give us His flesh to eat? (John 6:52). But faith believeth it, and knoweth how; though to outward sense it cannot be expressed. And it was a holy and divine speech used by holy martyrs, who being asked how Christ could be eaten in the sacrament, and not with the teeth, answered, My soul knoweth how. God saith, Wicked men, though they flourish never so, are miserable; and good men are blessed above all other. Reason and worldly experience say this is false; but true faith believes it, and finds it true; for never did any child of God desire to change his estate with the mightiest or wealthiest wicked man in the world. God saith, He that will follow Christ, must deny himself, and his own desires, and follow Christ in bitterness and affliction. Nature saith, This is a hard lesson, who can bear it? But faith believes it, yields to it, and endeavours the practice of it, because God hath so commanded. Such is the power and excellency of true faith.
4. Fourthly, and lastly, out of this action and obedience of Noah, mark a special lesson. God had revealed to him that He would save him and his family, and assured him he should not perish. Yet for all this, he makes an ark; whereupon it followeth that Noah, though he knew God would save him, yet was persuaded that he must use the means, or else should not be saved. He might have said to himself, God hath said, and bound Himself by covenant, He will save me; now if I make not the ark, yet His Word is His Word, and He will stand to it. His will cannot be altered. Though I be false, He will be true; though I do not that I should do, yet He will do what belongs to Him; therefore I will spare my labour and cost of making the ark; especially seeing it is a matter of so much mockery, and so ridiculous to reason. But Noah is of another mind; he will not sever GodŐs Word from His means. He dependeth on GodŐs Word for his safety, but not on His bare words without the means.
Whence we learn that though a man be certain of his salvation, yet he is to use the means of salvation, and that not only, though he be certain in the certainty of faith, but though he could be assured from God Himself by immediate revelation. For if God should say to a man by his name, thou shalt be saved; it is no more than here was said to Noah for his deliverance. For to him said God, I will destroy all flesh, but with thee I will make my covenant, and thou shalt be delivered; yet for all that, Noah judgeth that if he use not the means, if he make not an ark, he is to look for no delverance; this was NoahŐs divinity. Contrary both to the divinity and practice of some in this age, who say, If I shall be saved, I may live as I list; and though I live as I list, yet in the end I can say, Lord have mercy on me, I am safe enough. But Noah would not trust his body on such conditions, though they be so presumptuous as to trust their souls. Let such men be assured, God in His decree hath tied the ends and the means together. Let not therefore man separate what God hath joined together. He that doth, let him look for no more salvation if he use not the means, than Noah would have done for safety if he had made no ark. And thus we see the second effect of his faith.
To the saving of his household.
Now, this second effect of preparing is further enlarged by a particular enumeration of the ends or purposes why the ark was made; namely, both of GodŐs commandment, and his obedience in making it.
1. By it, he saved his household.
2. Hereby, he condemned the world.
1. The first end which both God had in commanding and Noah in making the ark, was the saving of his household; that is, himself and all that belonged to him, which were his wife, their three sons and their wives (Gen. 7:7).
But, first of all, it may seem wonderful how this ark should save him and his household in this general destruction. For it was a great and huge vessel resembling a ship; yet so far unlike as it is called an ark. It must float above the water, it must be laden with a heavy burden, and yet without anchor to stay her, without mast to poise her, without stern to guide and move her, without master to govern her. For Noah was partly an husbandman and partly a preacher; and though he had much learning, yet the use of sailing was not then found out; and therefore in all reason, this ark would be carried on hills and rocks by the violence of the tempests, and so slit in pieces. Yet, for all this, it saved him, even when heaven and earth seemed to rain together (so vehement was the rain), even then it saved him and his. How came this to pass? Even because GodŐs providence and His hand was with it. He was the Master, and the Steersman. For as God Himself shut the doors of the ark upon him, when he was in, and made it fast after him, that no water might enter (which was impossible for Noah himself to have done) (Gen. 7:16). So doubtless the same God that had vouchsafed to be his porter, was also his keeper and preserver, and the Master of the ark during that voyage. And from hence came it to pass that the ark saved him, which otherwise in reason it could never have done.
(1). Here we learn, first, the special and extraordinary presence and providence of God over His children in great distresses and extremities. His providence is over all His works, for He forgets nothing that he hath made; but the special eye of His providence watcheth over His children, as a master of a family hath an eye over his meanest servants, yea, over his very cattle; but his care night and day is over his children. And as God overlooketh all His children always, so principally His providence sheweth itself when they are in the deepest dangers, or in the greatest want of natural helps. When Daniel was cast into the lionŐs den, God was there with him and shut their mouths (Dan. 6:22). When the three children were cast into the fiery furnace, God was with them and took away the natural force from the fire (Dan 3:27). When the Israelites were to pass through the sea or else die (a hard shift), God was with them and made the sea give place to His children, and stand like two walls on either side of them (Exod. 14:22). When they were to wander through the wild wilderness, through so many dangers and discomforts as deserts do afford, Christ was with them, and waited upon them with His continual comfort and assistance (1 Cor. 10:4). And so when Noah was to go into the ark, and (being in) must have the door shut and closed upon him; his case was pitiful. For do it himself he could not; it both being so big that elephants and camels must enter in at it; and though he could have pulled it to, yet being within, he could never have sufficiently have closed it from the water. Nor would any other of that wicked world do it for him; they did not owe him so much love or service, but rather mocked him and laughed at him; as, first, for making the ark; so now for entering in, when he knew not how to have it closed. How should he do? Himself could not, others would not; God Himself with His own hand shut it for him. And after, when he was in, and was in danger to be thrown upon the rocks, and to be split in pieces on the hills, and had no anchor, no stern, no pilot, no master; God Himself was with him, and was all in all unto him. The eye of His love, and the hand of His power was over him, and so the ark saved him and his household. Such is the providence of God over His, when they are in the deepest distresses, and most destitute of all worldly comforts.
The use of this doctrine ministereth comfort unto GodŐs children, as they are sure of divers calamities to fall upon them; so are they sure also of a special care of God over them; even in their greatest extremities. And this may GodŐs children (who serve Him in the true obedience of faith) ever assure themselves of, that the Lord doth never forget nor forsake them in any of their troubles; but will be ever ready with His merciful hand to defend them from dangers, to provide for them in necessities, and to comfort them in distresses, when they know not in the world how to do. Elisha (2 Kin. 6:15) had an army of men sent against him, to take him; How should one man escape from a whole army? His man cried, Alas, master, what shall we do? He answered his man, and bade him, Fear not, there were more for him than against him; that is, more angels (though they were unseen) for him, than there were men in the army against him. And so when no man would shut the door for Noah, there were angels enough ready sent from God to do it for him; and when all wicked men wished he might perish with the ark he had made, and assured themselves he would perish; having no such helps as ships require; then the holy angels, or rather God Himself, supplied all such wants unto him; and so when themselves perished, they saw him and his household saved by that ark. And no less care hath God over His church and children to this day. And though He worketh not visible miracles for them, yet they feel and find that He is oftentimes mighty and wonderful in preserving them, in providing for them, in assisting them, and in comforting them, when else without that providence of His, they know they had miscarried.
Again, where God Himself vouchsafeth in NoahŐs danger to be the Master and Pilot of this ark, that so it may save him and his household; we learn the anciency and dignity of the trade of mariners, sailors and masters of ships. The anciency: For we see it is as old as Noah, as old as the second world, even 4,000 years old. The dignity is great; for God Himself was both the first author and the first practiser of it. The author and first deviser: For Noah made not this ark of his own head, but (as we heard before) he was warned of God to do it. And He was the first practiser; for God Himself performed all those services unto Noah in the ark; else it had never saved him.
This being so, it is the more grief to see that worthy calling so abused and debased as it is; the most of them that practise it being profane, ungodly and dissolute men. Such men should remember, God made the first ship, and God was the first Master, and the first Mariner, and the first Pilot, the first governor of a ship; and they should labour to be like Him. This is one of those few callings which may say, God was the first deviser and practiser of it. All callings cannot say so; why then should they so far forget whom they succeed? Indeed, upon the seas and in distresses, they will make some profession of religion; but let them come ashore; what swearing, what whoring, what drunkenness amongst them. But let them be afraid to be so profane, which hold the place which once God Himself held; or else let them know they are unworthy of so good a calling.
And thus we see the reason and the means how the ark could save him and his household; namely, because God did govern it.
(2). In the next place, observe the end and use of the ark. It was to save this holy man and his household. Learn here that GodŐs servants in common calamities have safety; for God Himself giveth them security, and provideth deliverance. Thus was it ever. When God proceedeth in judgment against Jerusalem, for the sins thereof; He marketh the godly in their foreheads; namely, such as mourn and cry for the abominations which are done against God (Ezek. 9:4).
When Sodom must be destroyed, righteous Lot and his family must be drawn out; nay, the angel can do nothing till he be safe (Gen. 19:16,22). When the destroying angel went over the land of Egypt, and destroyed the firstborn in every house of the Egyptians (the Israelites dwelling among them), He passed over all the Israelites, whose doors were sprinkled with the blood of the Paschal Lamb (Exod. 12:13). And even so he whose heart and soul is sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, no calamity can do him hurt; nay, when others are smitten he shall be delivered.
The use of this doctrine is to our church and state. We have by GodŐs mercy long enjoyed peace and the gospel; and both under a gracious government; and with these, many other blessings. Yet speak truth, and the sins of our times call for a flood, as in NoahŐs time; and sure a flood of tribulation must come one way or other. For this was always the state of GodŐs church; now peace, now persecution. Peace abused causeth trouble and calamities. Therefore as we have so long had peace and ease, so assuredly look for a flood; what it will be or when, knoweth no man; only He who will send it, the righteous and almighty God. How then shall we do, when the flood of tribulation is upon us? There is no way but one. Believe in Christ Jesus; settle thy heart in true faith; repent of thy sins; get GodŐs favour and forgiveness; and then when the flood comes, GodŐs providence shall afford thee (one way or other) an ark of safety and deliverance. Sprinkle thy soul now with ChristŐs blood by faith and true repentance; and the destroying angel of GodŐs wrath shall pass over thee and thy household.
(3). Thirdly, observe the largeness of GodŐs bounty. Not only Noah shall be saved, but with him his household also. Why the Lord did so, there be divers reasons:
(i) First, for the propagation and multiplication of the world after the flood. If any object Noah and his wife might have served for that end; I answer, they were old; for he was 600 years old when the flood came; and though he lived 300 years after the flood (Gen, 9:28), yet read we not of any children that he had. If any further object, The first world was begun and multiplied by two alone, Adam and Eve and no more; why then should there be so many for the beginning of the second world? I answer, God did so in the beginning, to shew that all mankind come of one blood (Acts 17:26), and that in regard of body or birth, there is no difference originally betwixt man and man, which also was observed even in the second beginning. For though the world was multiplied by three brethren, Shem, Ham and Japheth, yet those three were not strangers, but all sons of one man, Noah; so that as at first by Adam and Eve, so after from Noah and his wife came all men in the world. But in the beginning of the second world, there must needs be more lines than one; because now the blessed seed was promised, whose line and kindred must needs be kept from all other until His incarnation. Again, there was more cause now why the world should be speedily replenished than at the beginning. For first, the earth had some glory and beauty left it after the first curse; so that it was still a most pleasant and delightful habitation to Adam and Eve. But now by the second curse in the flood, all her beauty was gone, she and all her glory was overrun, spoiled and defaced; so that it had been a miserable habitation for Noah and his wife, if they had been without company. Secondly, the earth being much defaced, and the virtue of it almost quite perished by the flood, had now more need to be recovered by the hands and helps of many menŐs labours. And to this purpose the Scripture saith (Gen, 9:19 & 10:32), that the earth was divided amongst the three sons of Noah. And they lived not all together, but overspread the earth. And lest the beasts, which then were many, should overgrow the world, therefore God would have the world speedily replenished; and to that end, Noah and his wife had never a servant in the ark, but only such as should have children; their three sons and their wives. And thus the multiplication of mankind is the first cause why God saved NoahŐs children.
(ii) The second cause: it is likely that as himself was a righteous man, so they of his family were more orderly and religious than others of that wicked age; for good men make conscience of teaching their families; as Abraham (Gen. 18:18). And seeing Noah is commended for a just and good man, doubtless he did carefully instruct his household; and therefore it is to be supposed that all, or most of them, were holy and righteous persons fearing God.
(iii) Thirdly, though all of them were not righteous, yet they were all of the family of righteous Noah, and therefore for his sake they were saved; all being his children or his childrenŐs wives. For the righteous man procureth blessings not on himself alone, but on all that belong unto him, dwell with him or are in his company. At AbrahamŐs request, had there been but ten righteous men in Sodom, all had been spared for their sakes (Gen. 18:32). When Lot was delivered out of SodomŐs destruction, the angels asked him, Hast thou any sons in law that they might have been saved for his sake? (Gen. 19:12). When Paul and 276 souls with him suffered shipwreck, and were all in present danger of drowning, God saved Paul, and for his sake all the rest; God gave him the lives of all that were with him in the ship (Acts 27:24). And so here NoahŐs children, and their wives, are spared for NoahŐs sake.
Let this encourage all men to serve God in truth and uprightness; seeing thereby they shall not make themselves alone blessed, but bring down GodŐs blessing even on their houses, children and posterities; yea, the very places where, and the people with whom they dwell, shall fare the better for them. And thus we see the causes and reasons why not Noah alone, but even his household were also saved.
(4). In the fourth place, let us observe how the Holy Ghost saith that Noah built the ark; not for the saving of himself, but of his household; and it is so said for two causes:
(i) First, to shew that Noah, though he were the head and governor, yet was one of the household; for in the word household, himself is comprehended. Masters and fathers, though they be governors, yet must think themselves members of the household; so will they have more care thereof, when they esteem themselves members of the body, and parts of the whole.
(ii) Secondly, to teach us what care Noah had for his family; even so great that he prepared an ark for them all. Here is an example of a worthy master of a household; and yet all this was but for a temporal deliverance. Now if he was so careful for his bodily safety, how much more was he to save them from hell and damnation, which he knew to be an eternal destruction of both soul and body. Therefore, doubtless, as he was a diligent preacher of righteousness to that sinful world; so principally a diligent preacher, and prayer, and catechiser of his own family; that so he might make them GodŐs servants, and deliver them from the eternal fire of hell.
NoahŐs example is to be a pattern to all parents and fathers of families, to teach them care not only for the bodies and bodily welfare of their families, but especially for their souls and spiritual welfare. And if they be bound by all bonds of nature and religion to provide for the bodies of their children, let reason judge how much more straitly they are tied to look to their souls. But St. Paul saith, He that provideth not temporal things necessary for his family, is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. 5:8). Then what is he who provideth nothing for their souls? Surely his case is extremely fearful. Therefore, when thou hast provided meat, apparel, a calling, and marriage, house and livings for thy child; think not thou hast done, and so mayest turn them off. The world may take them thus; but God will not take them so at thy hands. No, the greater duty remains behind; thou must provide for their souls, that they may know God and fear His name. Thou must, with Abraham (Gen. 18:19) teach thy family, that they may walk in the ways of God; I know Abraham, saith God, that he will do it. And surely God will know all such as do so. By doing thus, men shall make their houses churches of God, as here Noah was; and it would be far better with our church and state if men did so; ministers in the church, and justices in the country should have much less to do, if masters of families would do their duties.
But to go further, let us see more particularly what this household was, that was thus saved by the ark.
(1). First, it was a family of four men and four women. Not men or women alone, but both, and consisting of as many women as men. Thus God would have one sex to love another, and one to think themselves beholden to the other; the beginning of the first world was by one man and one woman; of the second, by four men and four women; but always equal. And here also God would teach men not to contemn the other, though the weaker, sex; for God saved as many of them from the universal flood as he did men.
(2). Secondly, how many were they in all: but eight persons. Of the whole world no more were saved. A miserable spectacle. See what sin can do. It can bring many millions to eight persons in a short time. See what it is to offend God. Let us not then glory in our multitudes, but glory in this, that we know and serve God; for otherwise, if our sins cry out to Him against us, He can easily make us few enough.
(3). Thirdly, what were these eight persons? Not one servant amongst them all; there were none but Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives. It is marvellous that here were none of NoahŐs servants. Some think he had none, and that the simplicity of those days required no attendance, but that each one was servant to himself. And they seem to gather it out of Gen. 7:1 where God biddeth Noah, Enter thou, and all thine house into the ark; and when they entered, they are recounted in the seventh verse to be none but himself, his wife and his children; therefore, they say, in NoahŐs house there were no servants. But why might not Noah have servants, as well as Abraham and Lot had? Doubtless he had. But behold a wonderful matter; NoahŐs own servants would not believe his preaching, but chose rather to live loosely with the world, and perish with it, than to live godly with their master, and be saved with him. This was and will be true in all ages, that in a wicked age, or in a wicked town, a master shall not be able to govern his own servants; but the stream of common wickedness, and ill examples of other men, doth draw them from the obedience of their masters. They can readily allege for themselves, We will not be used more hardly than other men are; We will not be tied to our hours, and bound to so many exercises, we will do as others do. Thus would NoahŐs servants do, and perished with the world. So hard a thing is it for a good man to have good servants in such times or places where wickedness reigneth.
And thus we have seen in some sort, how the ark saved Noah and his household, and what this household of his was.
Now besides this end and use of the ark, we are further to know that whereas this saving of them was but a corporal deliverance from a temporal death, this ark hath also a spiritual use, which we may not omit; for as many of NoahŐs family as were true believers, it was a means to save them another way, even to save their souls; for it taught them many things:
(1). First, it was an assurance of GodŐs love unto their souls; for if He were so careful to save their bodies from the flood, they thereby assured themselves that he would be as good unto their souls, which they knew to be far more precious and excellent.
(2). Secondly, it shewed them how to be saved. For as they saw no safety, nothing but present death, out of the ark; so it taught them that out of GodŐs church, and out of GodŐs favour, no salvation could be expected; and so it taught them to labour to be in GodŐs favour, and members of His true church.
(3). Thirdly, they saw they were saved from the flood by faith and obedience. For first, Noah believed GodŐs word, that the flood should come; then he obeyed GodŐs commandment, and made the ark as he was commanded. And thus he and his, by believing and obeying, were saved through the ark; and without these, the ark could not have saved them. This taught them more particularly how to be saved; namely, by believing God and obeying God, or else no salvation. For when they saw their bodies could not be saved without them, it assured them much less their souls could be saved without faith and obedience.
(4). Lastly, this deliverance by the ark was a pawn unto them from God, assuring them of salvation if they believed in the Messiah. For, seeing God so fully performed His promise unto them for their bodily deliverance upon their believing; they thereby might assure themselves that He would perform His promise of salvation unto them upon their faith and true obedience. Moreover, it strengthened their faith. For, whenever after any promise of God was made unto them, or any word of God came unto them, then they remembered GodŐs mercy and faithfulness unto them in their deliverance by the ark; and therefore believed.
Unto these and many other spiritual uses did the ark serve unto Noah, and to his household, as many of them as were believers.
But what is this to us? Indeed, the ark served them for a temporal deliverance, it saved their lives; therefore they also had reason to make spiritual use of it. But it saved not us, it served us to no corporal use; therefore how can we make any spiritual use of it?
I answer, Though we had no corporal use of the ark, yet there arises an excellent spiritual use out of the consideration of it.
The ark of Noah and our baptism are figures correspondent one to the other; that, as NoahŐs ark was to them, baptism is to us. Thus teacheth St. Peter (1 Pet. 3:20,21), To the ark of Noah, the figure which now saveth us, even baptism, agreeth. The same that St Paul here ascribes to the ark, St. Peter ascribeth to baptism. The ark saved them, baptism saveth us. Now the resemblance between these two figures hath two branches:
(1). First, as it was necessary for them that should be saved in the flood, to be in the ark; and out of the ark no possibility to escape; so it is for them that will have their souls saved, to be in Christ, and of His church; they must be mystical members of Christ and visible members of His church; and out of Christ and His church, no possibility of salvation. That this is true (for Christ), St. Peter proveth apparently (Acts 4:12), Among men there is no name given under heaven, whereby to be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ; neither is there salvation in any other.
And that this is true for the church he also proveth ((Acts 2:47), The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. See how such as are to be saved must join themselves to the church, when they see where it is; and all this is signified and taught in baptism. For the outward use of baptism makes us members of the visible church, and the inward and powerful use of baptism makes us members of Christ Himself.
The use and consideration hereof, should make us all more careful to be true members of Christ and of His church, by making not only a bare profession of religion, but by seeking to be incorporated into Christ by faith and true repentance; for this must save us when nothing can. As they that were out of the ark, no gold nor silver could buy out their safety, no lands nor living, no houses nor buildings, no hills nor mountains, nothing in the world, nor the whole world itself, could save them; but being out of the ark, they all perished. So if a man be out of Christ, and out of His church, no gold nor silver, no honour nor glory, no wit nor policy, no estimation nor authority, no friends nor favour, no wisdom nor learning, no hills of happiness nor mountains of gold, can save his soul; but he must perish in the flood of GodŐs eternal wrath. For as it proved folly to them that trusted to their high houses or catchhold on the hills, if they were out of the ark; so will it prove much greater folly to them that shall trust to any means of salvation, if they be out of Christ. And, contrariwise, as they that were in the ark were sure to be saved, do the waters, winds and weathers, storms and tempests all they could; and so that still, the more the waters rose, the ark rose also, and was ever higher than they; and the higher it was carried by the violence of the waters, the safer it was from the danger of hills and rocks; and so in the midst of danger they were out of danger; and were saved in the midst of the water; so he that is once truly in Christ, is sure of salvation, nothing can hinder it; floods of calamities may assault him and humble him, but they hurt not his salvation; he is in the ark, he is in Christ; nay, the gates of hell shall not overthrow him; but through all the ways of the devilŐs malice, and through all tempests of temptations, the blessed ark of ChristŐs love and merits shall carry him up, and at last shall convey him to salvation; this is the blessed assurance of all them that are truly baptised into Christ. But as for such as out of their profaneness, either care not to be in Christ, or contemn baptism; let them assure themselves, they be out of the ark, and they perish certainly. This is the first part of the resemblance.
(2). The second is this: NoahŐs body going into the ark, he seemed therein a dead man, going into a grave or tomb to be buried; for he was buried in the ark, and the ark in the waters, and he deprived of the fresh air and gladsome light; yet by GodŐs appointment, it was the means to save Noah, which in all reason, seemed to be his grave; and if Noah will be saved, he must go into this grave. So they that will escape hell and damnation by Christ, the true ark of holiness, must be buried and mortified in their flesh and fleshly lusts; and there is no way to come to life everlasting but this. For thy soul cannot live whilst thy sins, the old man, that is, thy corruptions, do live; but they must die and be buried, and then thy soul liveth; and whilst they live, thy soul is dead, and far from the life of grace, which is in Christ Jesus. All this is affirmed at large in Rom 6:3,4, where we may see apparently that we must by baptism die with Christ, and be buried with Him, else we cannot be saved by Him; our corruptions, our sins, which are the old man, must die and be buried; that the new man, that is, the grace and holiness of Christ, may live in us, and our souls by it; and he that thus dieth not, never lives; and he that thus is not buried, never riseth to true life. Thus mortification of sin is the way to heaven, and death the way to life eternal; and he that is not thus mortified in his corruption, let him never look to be quickened to grace or glory.
If this be so, we may then see what a miserable world we now live in, wherein mortification of sin is a thing unknown; not a man of many that can tell what it is; nay, grace is dead and holiness is mortified, and I fear buried also; but the old man reigns, corruption lives, and sin flourisheth. Mortifying of Christ by our sins is common; but mortifying of sin is seldom seen. For Christ is betrayed, crucified, and killed in a sort by the sins of men. What a fearful change is this? Christ should live in us, and we endeavour to crucify Him again; sin should be crucified, but it liveth in us. But if we will have Christ to save us, then must we mortify the body of our sin; for he that will live when he is dead, must die while he is alive. And he that will be saved by his baptism, must look that baptism work this effect in him, to make him die, and be buried with Christ, that afterwards he may rise and reign with Christ. And then shall baptism save us, as the ark saved faithful Noah and his household.
And thus much for the first end and use of the ark; the second followeth.
2. By the which he condemned the world.
Here is the second end why Noah prepared the ark; to the condemnation of the world that then was. For by it (not by his faith, as some would read it), he condemned that wicked generation, both to a temporal destruction of their bodies, and to an eternal judgment in hell.
In the words, there are two points to be considered: (1). Who are condemned? The world. (2). Whereby? By NoahŐs ark.
(1). For the first, it may be asked, What is meant by the world? St. Peter answereth (2 Pet. 2:5), The world of the ungodly; that is, that generation of sinful men, who lived in the days of Noah, whom also (1 Pet. 3:20) he called disobedient; and their more particular sins are disclosed and recorded by Moses (Gen. 6:45) to be monstrous abuse of holy marriage, unnatural lusts, cruelties and oppressions; an utter neglect of GodŐs service and Sabbath; and an extreme profaneness and dissoluteness in every kind. And this corruption was not private or personal, but universal, through all estates, sexes and ages. This world of the ungodly, this whole race of wicked and disobedient men were condemned; but how was that world condemned by Noah? Thus: God vouchsafed them 120 years to repent in, and appointed Noah to preach unto them during that time, to call them to repentance. But they believed not God, nor Noah, but continued in their disobedience, and grew in their ungodliness; therefore when that time was expired, God performed His word spoken by Noah, brought the flood upon them, destroyed them all, and condemned in hell as many of them as died in impenitence and unbelief. And thus that wicked world was condemned, according as Noah in his ministry had foretold them.
Here we may learn:
(i) First, what the world of this age is to look for, unless there be repentance. For, to speak but of ourselves in this nation, Have not we had the gospel thirty years and more? And with peace, and much prosperity? Have not we had a goodly time given us to repent? What is our duty, but with reverence to see and acknowledge this goodness of God, to take hold of this merciful opportunity, this time of grace, and this day of salvation? If we do not, and make no account of the gospel, what can we look for, but to be condemned, as that world was? Look at the means and opportunities which these days afford; and they be as golden days, as ever were since Christ, or as ever can be expected till His coming again. But look at the profaneness and carnality and security of this age (even over all Christendom) and this is the iron age, these be the evil days; and so evil that nothing can be expected but a river of brimstone, and a flood of fire to purge it.
The days of the coming of the Son of man (which I take to be these days) shall be like (saith Christ, Matt. 24:37) unto the days of Noah. And, surely, in security and profaneness, they are like; and therefore in all reason they must be like in punishment. We must therefore take warning by them, and shake off this security which possesseth all menŐs hearts, and wait for the Lord in watching and prayer, and think every day may be the last day of this world; at least the last day of our lives; and let us prepare for it, and live in the expectation of it. Otherwise, if our sinfulness grow on a little further; nothing can we look for but to be condemned in an universal judgment, as that world was. Let us therefore betake ourselves to a more serious serving of God; that the Lord when He cometh, may find us so doing.
(ii) Secondly, in that the whole world that then was, was thus destroyed and condemned, and (as we heard afore) only Noah and his household saved; we learn, that it is not good, nor safe, to follow the multitude. Noah was here a man alone, he held and believed against all the world, and yet his judgment and his belief was true, and all the worldŐs false; and (accordingly) he saved, when they were all condemned.
It is marvel therefore that the church of Rome should so much stand upon numbers and multitudes for the gracing of their religion; for it ever was, and ever will be a weak argument. If multitudes might ever have been alleged; then unto Noah especially, to whom it might have been said, Who art thou that pretendest to be wiser than all men? And to know more than all the world? Thou that hast a faith by thyself, and hast no man to bear thee company; think not that all AdamŐs posterity, all the children of holy Enoch and Methuselah are all deceived, but thyself alone? Would not these and such like objections have discouraged any man? Yet behold the force of faith, Noah had GodŐs Word for it, and therefore believed against all the world, and is commended to all ages for this faith. It is therefore but a vain flourish of the papists to press us to much with their multitudes, and universality, and consent, and unity, and succession, and continuance. For all this is worth nothing, as long as they first prove not that the doctrine or opinion which these multitudes hold, hath his ground from GodŐs Word; till then, all the other is vanity. For it is better with Noah to have GodŐs plain Word on his side, than to believe otherwise with all the world; which was here deceived and condemned, when Noah alone believed GodŐs Word, and was saved.
And thus we see who were condemned: The world. To end this point, one question may not unprofitably be here moved:
Whether was all the world, that is all the men in that world, condemned or no? The words seem to imply that all but Noah were; and yet it may seem strange that of so many millions none should repent but he; if they repented, why were they not saved? I answer, The world of that wicked age was condemned two ways:
(i) First, with a corporal destruction, and so they were all condemned without exception. No high houses, no hills, no devices of man could save them. For the waters rose fifteen cubits above the tops of the highest mountains under heaven (Gen. 7:21,22). And it is but vain to imagine that any of them could be saved upon that ark; for first, it was so made with a ridge in the top (as is most probably thought) that no man could stand upon it, much less make any stay in that violent tossing by tempests. Again, if they could, yet could they not have lived so long for want of food; the waters being (almost) a year upon the earth. And thus it is most certain that all without exception were destroyed with bodily destruction.
(ii) But secondly, they were condemned to an eternal destruction in hell; and therefore St. Peter saith (1 Pet. 3:18), Their spirits are now in prison, who were disobedient in the days of Noah. Now all the question is, whether they were all condemned or no? I answer, For ought that we certainly know out of the Scripture, they were all condemned. Yet in the judgment of charity, we are not so to think; and the rather because there are many probable conjectures that some of them repented. For howsoever many of them believed not Noah, judging that he spake of his own head; yet it is more than likely that they saw it begin to rain extraordinarily; at least, when they saw themselves driven to the tops of the hills, and there looked hourly for death; that then divers of the posterity of Enoch and Methuselah, and Lamech, were ashamed of their former unbelief, and then turned to God in faith and repentance. And doubtless this is the only or the principal cause why God brought the flood in forty days, which he could have done in four hours; that so men might have time to repent (Gen. 7).
But it will be said, if any repented, why then were they not saved? I answer, Because they repented not in time, when they were called by NoahŐs preaching. Repentance is never too late, to save the soul from hell; but it may be too late to save the body from a temporal judgment. And this, I take it, is that that we may safely hold; for it seems too hard to condemn all the posterity of Methuselah, Enoch. Lamech, and other holy patriarchs (who as the text saith, begat sons and daughters) and to think that none of them repented when they saw the flood come indeed, as Noah had said. It cannot be but they heard their fathers preach; and why might not that preaching work upon their hearts, when the judgment came, though before it did not? But why then did not God record in Scripture, neither their repentance, nor their salvation, but hath left it so doubtful?
I answer, for the very same reason for which He would not record AdamŐs nor SolomonŐs; all for this cause, that He might teach all men to the worldŐs end what a fearful thing it is to disobey His commandments, as Adam did; or to defer repentance when they are called by GodŐs Word, as these men did. Therefore to fear us from the like, though afterwards they repented; it pleased God not to record it, but to leave it doubtful.
This question being thus discussed, yields us two strong motives to repentance:
(a) First, for if we repent not betimes, our state then is fearful and doubtful, though not desperate; as we see here the salvation of MethuselahŐs children is doubtful; for they repented not when they were called, but deferred it, till the judgment came. So if we defer our repentance till our deaths, there is great question of our salvation; but let us repent, when we are called by GodŐs Word, and then it is out of question, then there is no doubt of our salvation.
(b) Secondly, if we repent betimes, we shall escape the temporal judgment which God sends upon the world for sin. If not, but defer repentance till the judgment come, we may then by it save our souls, but our bodies shall perish in the universal judgment. If the children of Enoch and Methuselah, which were near akin unto Noah, had repented at NoahŐs preaching, they would have been saved with Noah; they did not. But when the flood came indeed, then doubtless they believed with Noah, and wished themselves in the ark with him; but it was too late, they saved their souls, but were drowned with the rest. So assuredly, when God threateneth any judgment on our church or nation, they that believe and repent in time shall escape it. But they that will live in wantonness with the world, and not repent till God begin to strike; if then they do when the flood is come (though salvation cannot be denied to repentance whensoever) yet let them assure themselves, they shall bear their part with the world in the punishment, as they did partake with them in their sins. Let then these two considerations move us all to turn to God by timely repentance; then shall we be sure to escape both the eternal and temporal judgment, and not be condemned, as here this world of the ungodly was. And thus we see who were condemned:
(2). The world.
The second point is, whereby were they condemned? The text saith only, by which He condemned &c. Whereupon some would understand faith, and read it thus: by which faith he condemned the world. Which, though it be true (for the faith of holy men condemns the unbelieving and misbelieving world), yet is it not proper in this place where the ark is described by the uses of it; which are two, whereof this is one. And (besides the Greek construction doth well bear it) the judgment of almost all interpreters refers it to the ark. And further in all reason; that that saved him and his household, condemned the world also; but the ark is said to have saved them, therefore by it he condemned the world. Neither is this any derogation, but a commendation of faith; for by faith he made the ark, which ark condemned the world. Now by the ark, Noah condemned the world two ways:
(i). By his obedience in building it.
(ii). By his preaching in building it.
(i) For the first, God bad Noah build an ark, so great, and to such an use, as in all reason no man would have done it. Yet Noah by the power of his faith believed GodŐs Word, and obeyed, and therefore built the ark. This faith and obedience of Noah to this commandment of God condemned the unbelieving and disobedient world, and made them without excuse. So saith Christ; The Ninevites, who believed at the preaching of Jonah, shall rise in judgment against the Jews and condemn them, because they repented not at ChristŐs preaching. And the Queen of Sheba, who came so far to hear Solomon, shall condemn them, who then would not hear Christ (Matt. 12:42,43).
Even so, NoahŐs obedience shall condemn them. For Noah, being told of a miraculous thing, and believing it, and being commanded so unreasonable a thing as the making of the ark, and obeying, did condemn that wicked world, who would not believe GodŐs ordinary promises, nor obey His ordinary and most holy commandments. And as the saints are said to condemn the world (1 Cor. 6:2) by being witnesses against them, and approvers of GodŐs just sentence; so NoahŐs act and faith condemned that world. And thus we see it is apparent that the obedience and godly examples of good men do condemn the world.
The use whereof is to encourage us all to embrace Christian religion, and not be daunted by the scorns or other evil behaviours of profane men which cannot abide the gospel. For he that walketh in the way of holiness, and keepeth good conscience in the midst of a wicked generation; if his godliness do not overcome their evil, and convert them, it shall more demonstrate their wickedness, and condemn them. Our church is full of mockers, and they discourage many from Christ and religion; but let them know that this will be the end of it, their obedience whom they contemn and laugh at, will be their condemnation. And thus Noah, by his obedience in building the ark, condemned the world.
(ii) Secondly, so did he also by his preaching, as he built it. For the building of the ark was a part of his prophetic ministry.
The prophets preached two ways: in word and in action. For besides their verbal preaching and delivering of GodŐs word, they preached in their lives and actions; especially in such actions as were extraordinary. And such was NoahŐs building of the ark; it was an actual preaching; yea, every stroke upon the ark was a loud sermon to the eyes and ears of that wicked world. For by making it, he signified some should be saved, and the rest drowned; namely, all that would believe and repent should be saved in it, and all that would not, should (out of it) be drowned; and because they believed not this, therefore by it he condemned them. From this ground we may learn:
(a) First, that a man may be a true and sincere minister, lawfully called by God and His church, and yet not turn many unto God, nor by his ministry bring many to repentance. For here Noah, a prophet called immediately, yet in 120 years preaching both in word and action, he cannot turn one to faith and repentance. A most fearful thing, if we well consider it, that both by preaching and making the ark, he should not turn one of the sons of Lamech, Methuselah or Enoch to believe him; but that they should all rather choose to be misled in the general vanity of that wicked world, than to serve God with Noah. This was a most uncomfortable thing unto him as could be, yet this hath been the case and lot of many holy prophets. Isaiah must go and preach unto them, and yet his doctrine must burden their hearts that they would not be saved (Isa. 6:10). And Ezekiel must go and speak, and yet told beforehand, they will not hear him nor repent (Ezek. 3:4,7). And when St Paul himself preached unto the Jews at Rome, some believed not (Acts 28:24). There is nothing that will more discourage a man, and cast down his heart, than to see that his labours are not only in vain, but do take a contrary effect; that whereas they were bestowed to have saved them, they are means of their deeper condemnation. Therefore as when their labours bring men to God, they may greatly rejoice, and account those people as St Paul did the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:19), his crown, his joy, his glory; so when they do no good (as Noah here), but that men are worse and worse; this must humble and abase them in themselves, and let them know that power and virtue is not in them, but in God. So saith St Paul to the ungodly and impenitent amongst the Corinthians, I fear, saith he, when I come, my God will abase me amongst you, and I shall bewail many of them which have sinned and not repented (2 Cor. 12;21). And surely, this or nothing will abase a minister, and minister matter of great bewailing; yet not so, but as still there is matter of true comfort and contentment unto all godly and faithful teachers. For whether thy labour be the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death, unto thy hearers; it is to God a sweet savour of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15,16).
(b) Again, we may here learn that those who are condemned before God, have their condemnation by the preaching of the word; The secrets of all the world, saith the apostle, shall be judged by Jesus Christ, according to the gospel (Rom. 2:16); and here the preaching of Noah, and his actual preaching by preparing the ark, condemns the world. Such is the power and might of the ministry of GodŐs word upon all that resist it.
Which being so, should teach all men when they come to hear GodŐs word, to submit themselves to the power of it, to obey it, and become penitent; for otherwise, so many sermons as a man heareth, so many indictments are presented to God against him. And if at the last day there were no devils to accuse, these bills of indictments would both accuse and condemn him. And this judgment is begun in this life, as their consciences do often tell them, and is accomplished at the last day; for there is no dallying with GodŐs word; if it cannot save, it kills. It is the fire, which if it cannot soften, it hardens. Let then all impenitent men make conscience to obey GodŐs word, for if now they abuse it, it will be even with them, both here and in another world. For as the very same ark, which saved Noah and his household, condemned the world; so the same word of God, which believed and obeyed by godly men is their salvation; disobeyed and refused by ungodly men shall be their condemnation.
And thus much for the two ends, why Noah prepared the ark; and consequently, of the second effect of NoahŐs faith. It followeth:
III. And was made heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Here is the third and last effect whereby the excellency of NoahŐs faith is commended. It made him an heir, and that not of the world (for so he was besides); but of that that the world could not yield, of righteousness; and that of the best of all, even of that righteousness which is by faith. These words have relation to that testimony which God gave of Noah in Gen. 6:9, Noah was a just and upright man, and walked with God. Now that which is spoken there more generally, is here particularly opened and unfolded; he was just or righteous, How? He was righteous by the righteousness of faith; so that these words are a commentary unto the other.
But because what is here affirmed of Noah is a most glorious thing; his faith made him an heir (that is, made him that was heir of all the earth, a better heir) therefore these words are to be well weighed. For their full opening, three points are to be considered:
1. What is the righteousness here spoken of.
2. Why it is called the righteousness of faith, or by faith.
3. How Noah was made heir of it by his faith.
1. For the first: That righteousness by which Noah and all holy men are to stand righteous before God, is not a righteousness of any nature, but such a one as is appointed of God for that purpose. That we may know it the more distinctly, we must examine the several kinds thereof.
Righteousness is of two sorts: Created and uncreated.
(1). Uncreated is that which is in God, and hath no beginning nor ending; no means, no measure. Of this speaketh the prophet (Psa. 119:137), Righteous art thou, O Lord. This cannot make any man righteous for two reasons:
(i) First, for the Godhead and it are all one; it is in God essentially. A man is one thing, and his righteousness is another; but God and His righteousness are all one; and therefore it is as impossible for any man to have this righteousness, as it is to be God.
(ii) Secondly, it is infinite, and manŐs soul is a finite creature, and therefore not capable of anything that is infinite; and consequently not of the unmeasureable righteousness which is in the Godhead. Therefore this we must leave to God, as proper to the Deity.
(2). Created righteousness is that which God frameth in the reasonable creature, man and angels. Of angels we are not to speak, though theirs and manŐs differed not much in nature at their creations.
Created righteousness of man is of two sorts:
(i) Legal righteousness is that which the moral law prescribeth. (ii) Evangelical righteousness, that which the gospel hath revealed.
(i) Of legal righteousness, I find there are three sorts spoken of:
(a) One that is a perfect righteousness.
(b) One that is a civil righteousness.
(c) One that is an inward righteousness.
(a) Perfect legal righteousness is the perfect fulfilling of the law in a manŐs own self. And by this shall no man living be justified before God; for no man since the fall of Adam is able perfectly to fulfil the law. If any can, then shall he be righteous by it, but none did nor ever can; therefore no man shall stand righteous by perfect legal righteousness in himself. Some will object, But a regenerate man may, for he is restored by grace, therefore though by AdamŐs fall a man is disabled, yet by regeneration he is enabled to fulfil the Law perfectly.
I answer, It were so, if they were perfectly sanctified in their regeneration; but they are sanctified but in part, and it is not perfect until death.
Objection: (1 Thess 5:23) We are sanctified throughout, spirit, soul and body. If all those, what then remains unsanctified? Therefore our sanctification is perfect. I answer, It is perfect in parts, but not in measure nor degree. As a child is a perfect man in all the parts of a man, but not in the quantity of any part; so a child of God is perfectly sanctified in all parts, but not in the measure of any part until flesh, and mortality, and corruption have an end.
Secondly, some may object, the virgin Mary sinned not. I answer, So teacheth the church of Rome, that she never sinned, that her life was free from actual sins, and her conception from original sin. But so taught neither the scripture, nor GodŐs church; but contrariwise, it is more than manifest that she was a sinner. For first, she confesseth, her soul rejoiced in God her Saviour; but if she were no sinner, she stood in need of no Saviour. Again, she died; but if she had not sinned, she should in justice not have died. For death entered by sin, and where no sin is, there death is not due. Thus no man can be righteous by the perfect righteousness of the Law, in himself.
(b) Secondly, there is a civil righteousness, and that is, when a man in his outward actions is conformable to the law, especially to the commandments of the second table. For example, he is free from the outward actions of murder, adultery or thievery and such like; or he can refrain his anger and overcome his passions that they shall not break out to open violence to the view of the world; and for the first table, he comes to church and professeth religion. All this is a civil righteousness, and by this can no man be justified, nor made righteous.
For first, it is not a perfect, but a most imperfect righteousness, and therefore cannot justify. It is so imperfect that it is as good as none at all in GodŐs sight; for it is but an outward and constrained and dissembled obedience, and wants the inward and true obedience of the heart and soul.
Secondly, it cannot make a man righteous; for wicked men have it which are unrighteous, and cannot be saved. Haman hated Mordecai in his heart; yea, his heart boiled in malice against him; yet the story saith, that nevertheless he restrained himself till he came home (Esth. 5:10). And therefore Christ saith, that except our righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20). Now what was theirs but an outward civil righteousness, whereby they kept the law only in outward actions? As appeareth in that Christ afterward, in the same chapter, expounding the law, doth reduce it to the inward, which is to his full and proper sense. So then, yet we have not found that righteousness which may make a man righteous.
(c) Thirdly, there is a righteousness called the inward righteousness of a Christian man, which is this: a man having repented, and his sins being forgiven, he is by the Holy Ghost sanctified inwardly in his soul, and all the parts and powers of it. This sanctification is called inward righteousness. Now the church of Rome saith that a man may be justified by this. But it is not so, as appears by these reasons: First, this righteousness is in this life imperfect; and this is proved by the apostle, where he saith, We do here know but in part (1 Cor. 13:12). Therefore our understanding is but in part regenerate; and as it, so consequently all other parts or powers of our soul are but in part regenerate; and in them all, we are partly spirit and partly flesh (Gal. 5:17). Therefore if our sanctification be imperfect, it cannot justify us. Again, this righteousness is mingled with sin and unrighteousness; and from this mixture comes the combat between the flesh and the spirit (spoken of in Gal. 5:17), for these two are contrary one to the other.
If it be mingled with sin, then it cannot make us righteous; no, not the works of grace that come from it, though God in mercy reward them. And though as St James saith, they justify our flesh and make us just before men (Jam. 2:21), yet can they not justify us before GodŐs justice; nor at the bar of the last judgment will they pass for payment. St Paul saith (1 Cor. 4:4), I know nothing by myself, yet am I not thereby justified; that is, I have so walked in my calling, since I was an apostle and minister of the gospel, as I am not privy nor guilty to myself of any negligence therein. If he dare not stand to that, to be justified by it, who dare take hold when he refuseth? Again, no man can do any perfect good works unless he be perfectly just; for how can perfection come out of imperfection? But no man can be perfectly just in this sinful body, as is proved in the first reason; therefore his works here in this life cannot be such as may make him righteous.
But it may be objected, Though our works have some defects in them, yet GodŐs mercy accepts them for righteous and just; and therefore they may justify us. I answer: As GodŐs mercy accepts them, so must His justice be satisfied also; but they being imperfect, cannot satisfy His justice; for GodŐs infinite justice requires perfect satisfaction. But as for our best works, as they are done by us, weigh them in the balance of GodŐs justice, and they are so light, as they deserve damnation; yet in GodŐs mercy in Christ, their defects are covered, and they are reputed good works, and are rewarded; but we encroach upon GodŐs mercy, and abuse His justice, if therefore we imagine they should deserve GodŐs mercy, or be able to justify us in His sight. Thus then, seeing that legal righteousness faileth us, let us come to Evangelical.
(ii) Evangelical righteousness is that that is revealed in the gospel, and should never have been revealed, if that of the Law could have saved us. But when it (not by defect in it, bur default in ourselves) could not, then God in mercy affordeth us another in the gospel.
Evangelical righteousness is that that is in Christ Jesus; His it is, that must make a man righteous before God. But this Christ was an extraordinary person, consisting of two natures, Godhead and manhood. And accordingly, He hath a double righteousness in Hi holy person:
First, as He is God, He hath in His nature the righteousness of God, and that is uncreated and infinite; and therefore incommunicable; and so none is, nor can be, righteous by it.
Secondly, there is in Christ a righteousness of His humanity; and this, though it be finite and created, yet it is beyond measure in comparison of the righteousness of man or angel; so saith St John (John 3:34), God giveth not Him the Spirit by measure.
This righteousness of Christ, as man or Mediator, consisteth in two things:
(1.) In the purity of His nature.
(2.) In the perfection of His obedience.
(1.) The first branch of our MediatorŐs righteousness is the holiness of His humanity; which was perfectly sanctified in His conception, by the powerful operation of the Godhead; and this was done at the first instant of His conception in the virginŐs womb. From this purity of nature proceedeth His obedience, which was as perfect as His nature was pure; and so pure a nature made a plain way to perfect obedience. And therefore as His conception was free from original sin, so was His whole life from the least actual sin.
(2.) Now the MediatorŐs obedience was double: Active and Passive. And both these He performed in His own person.
His passive obedience was His passion, or suffering of whatsoever the justice of God had inflicted on man for sin, whether for soul or body.
The active obedience of the MediatorŐs person, was His perfect fulfilling of the moral law, in all duties to God or man, in thought, word or deed; and all this for us in our stead and on our behalf. And here is true righteousness, for where the nature of any person is perfectly pure, and the obedience perfect, the righteousness of that person is perfect. And I say all this was done by Him for us; He suffered all we should have suffered, and suffered not; He did that which we should have done, and did not. And this is that righteousness by which a sinner is made righteous before God. For seeing legal righteousness cannot, it is this that must. And now we have found that righteousness by which Noah and all holy men were made and counted righteous; namely, that that is resident in the holy person of Jesus Christ the Mediator.
And yet this is above and beyond all reason, that one should be justified by anotherŐs righteousness; and the doctrine, though it be of God, and grounded never so strongly on GodŐs Word, yet hath it enemies, and is mightily opposed by the church of Rome. Therefore let us first prove it; and then answer the objections to the contrary.
(a) We prove it thus:
First, from plain Scritpure (2 Cor. 5:21), He that knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. What can be said plainer? He was made sin for us, and we righteousness by Him. Therefore as Christ was no sinner in His own person, but our sins were laid upon Him, and so He was made a sinner by our sins; so though we be not righteous in our own persons, yet having ChristŐs righteousness imputed to us, we are made righteous by His righteousness.
Again, the righteousness that must save us, must be the righteousness of man and God; as in the aforenamed place it is said that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ. But no manŐs own righteousness can make him the righteousness of God, nor can GodŐs righteousness be the righteousness of man; therefore it remaineth that only Christ, being both God and man, hath in Him that righteousness which may make a man the righteousness of God.
Thirdly, the Scripture saith, Christ is the end of the law to all that believe (Rom. 10:4). The end of the law, that is, not the taker away, or abrogater of the law, but the fulfiller of it; as the abrogater of the ceremonial, so the fulfiller of the moral law. If he fulfilled the law, for whom was it? Not for Himself. For as the Messiah was not slain for Himself (Dan. 9:26), so He obeyed not the law for Himself. For whom then? For all that believe. Therefore Christ doing it for them, they fulfil the law in Christ; and so Christ by doing, and they by believing in Him that doth it, do fulfil the law. Now if it be not amiss to say, We do in Christ fulfil the law; no more it is to say, We are made righteous by ChristŐs righteousness; though it be His, and not ours, only by faith.
(b) Let us then see (in the second place) what the church of Rome object against it.
They first object thus: As a man cannot be wise by another manŐs wisdom, nor rich by another manŐs riches, nor strong by another manŐs strength; so can he not be righteous by another manŐs righteousness.
I answer, The comparison is not alike. For one man hath no propriety in another manŐs wisdom, strength or riches; but we have a right and propriety in ChristŐs righteousness. Again, the wisdom of one man cannot be the wisdom of another; because they are two persons, fully and equally distinct; but it is not so between Christ and a sinner; for every believer is spiritually, and yet truly and really, conjoined to Christ, and they make one mystical body; Christ being the head, and every true believer being a member of that body; and therefore, that which is His righteousness may be also truly ours. His, because it is in Him; and ours, because we are knit to Him. For by reason of this mystical union between Him and us, all blessings of salvation in Him as the head, are diffused into us, as His members or branches; and yet are as properly still in Him, as is the brain in the head of a man. And thus, though in sense and reason this cannot be, yet by faith and GodŐs Spirit, the righteousness of Christ is made ours.
Secondly, they object, If this be so, then God justifieth wicked men; but God will not do so, it is against the nature of His holiness and justice. And again, He that justifieth the wicked, is abominable to God (Prov. 17:15). Therefore, God will not do so Himself.
We answer, The ground is good, but the collection is untrue. God will not justify a wicked man, that is true; but that therefore a man cannot be justified by ChristŐs righteousness, is false. For God doth not justify him that hath rooting in his former sins, and weltering in his old corruptions; but him that believeth in Christ, and repenteth of his sins. And that man in his faith is justified, and in his repentance sanctified, and so he is made a new man, as St Paul saith, He that s in Christ is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). For as it is in the first conversion, God turneth nor saveth no man against his will; but first makes him willing by His own work alone, and then converteth and saveth him with his own free will working together with GodŐs grace. So it is in the work of justification; God justifieth no wicked man, but makes him first just and righteous in and by Christ, and then accounts him so. But then (will some say) the sinner hath no righteousness but that of ChristŐs; and that is in Christ and not in himself; therefore he hath none in his own person; how then can he be anything but a wicked man still? I answer, That is not true, that is first affirmed. The believing sinner hath more righteousness than that that is in Christ. That which justifieth him, is in ChristŐs person; but the sinner, when he is justified, is also sanctified by the mighty work of GodŐs grace; and so he is made a holy man, and doth good and holy works, because he is in Christ, though his sanctification be imperfect. To this end, saith St Peter (Acts 15:9), Faith purifieth a manŐs heart; for it is impossible a man should believe, and so be justified, but he must also be sanctified in his heart and life. Thus a sinner is justified by ChristŐs righteousness, inherent in Christ Himself; and sanctified by ChristŐs righteousness, diffused from Christ into the sinner. And therefore his justification is perfect, because that that justifieth him is still in Christ; but his sanctification is imperfect, because that that sanctifieth us is in ourselves; the one imputed to us, the other infused and inherent.
Again, I answer, that if we take it in the sense of Scripture, it is true, that God justifieth a wicked man, for St Paul saith (Rom. 4:5), To him that worketh not, but believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness. See, God justifieth the ungodly; but how? Even as we heard before; not him that is ungodly after, but before he be justified; him that by nature, and in himself is ungodly, God justifieth by working in him faith and repentance; by which, of an ungodly man he is made a man justified and sanctified.
Their last objection is: If a sinner be righteous by ChristŐs righteousness, then Christ is a sinner by his sin; for there is the same reason of both. But Christ is no sinner, but the holy of holiest; and St Paul saith, He knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21), and Himself for Himself challengeth His enemies, Which of you can reprove me of sin? (John 8:46). If then our sins cannot make Him a sinner, no more can His righteousness make us righteous.
I answer, Here we grant all, if they speak the words of the Scripture; for Christ was a true and reputed sinner, in the sight of GodŐs justice, as he that becomes surety for another is a debtor in his room, or as he that undertakes for a man, body for body, must answer for him, his own body for his; so in all reason and justice, Christ, though He had no sins of His own, yet being our surety, and undertaking for us, and standing in our stead, our sins are justly accounted His. And as for these places, and many more like, that are all understood of personal sins; from all which, and the least contagion thereof, He was perfectly free. And therefore the same place that saith, He knew no sins (that is, in and for His own person, knew not what sin was), saith also, that for us and in our stead, He was made even sin itself, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Thus Christ, in Himself more righteous than all men and angels, in our stead is a reputed sinner; and by the same reason we (most unrighteous in ourselves) are clothed with ChristŐs righteousness, and thereby are reputed righteous. And as Christ (though no sinner in Himself), by being a sinner in our stead, and having our sins imputed unto Him, became subject to the wrath of God, and bare it even to death itself; so we, though not righteous of ourselves, yet having ChristŐs righteousness imputed unto us, are made thereby partakers of GodŐs love; and for the worthiness of that righteousness of His, so made ours, shall be glorified in heaven. And thus now at last we have found that true, and that only righteousness, which can make a man, as it did Noah, righteous in GodŐs sight. Now it remains to make use of it.
(i) First, here we learn how foully our nature is defiled with sin, and stained with corruption; the stain whereof cannot be washed away with all the water in the world; no, nor with the blood of all creatures; no, nor covered with the righteousness of all men and angels, but only with the righteousness of God. And that Son of God also, if He will apply that righteousness unto us, and make it effectual, must become man, and live, and die, and rise again for us. A marvellous thing is it, and worthy of our often consideration; that all the angels and men in the world cannot make one sinner righteous; but that GodŐs Son must needs do it; and that our sins are so hideous, as that nothing can hide the filthiness thereof from the eyes of GodŐs justice, but only the glorious mercy seat of ChristŐs righteousness. This may therefore teach us how to esteem of ourselves, and our own natures.
(ii) Furthermore, see here the great goodness of God to man. God put perfect legal righteousness in AdamŐs heart in his creation; he received it for himself and us, and lost it for himself and us. God in mercy purposing to restore man, thus by himself lost and cast away, gives him another, and a better righteousness than before. But because He saw man so ill a keeper of his own jewels, He trusts not him with it, but sets the righteousness in the person of Jesus Christ, and commits it to Him to keep. Who as He truly knows the full value and excellency thereof, and as He dearly loves us; so He will most safely keep it for us, and clothe us with it in His FatherŐs presence at the last day. A point of unspeakable comfort to GodŐs children, to consider that their salvation is not in their own keeping, where it might again be lost; but in a safe hand, where they shall be sure to find and have it, when they have most need of it; and to remember that their righteousness being in Christ, they cannot lose it. For though they sin, and so lose often the comfort of a good conscience for a time; yet they then lose not their righteousness, which is then in Christ; and to consider that when in this world they suffer losses or injuries, or lose all they have upon earth; that yet their righteousness (the riches of their soul) is then in heaven full safe in ChristŐs keeping, and shall never be lost. This should make us learn to know Christ more and more, and to give Him the love and affections of our very hearts, that so we may be able to say with blessed Paul (1 Tim. 1:12), I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.
(iii) Lastly, if there be such a communion between Christ and a believer, that our sins are made His, and His righteousness made ours; this may teach us patience, and minister us comfort in all outward afflictions or inward temptations; because it is certain that all our sufferings are His, and He is touched with all the wrongs done to us. When He was in heaven, He calls to Saul (Acts 9:4), Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And at the last day (Matt. 25:45). Whatsoever either good or evil was done to any of His children, He saith, was done to Himself; and accordingly it shall be rewarded as done to Him.
And thus we have taught that true righteousness, which justifies a sinner, and made Noah righteous; and we see the use of that worthy doctrine. And in this first point we have the longer insisted, because it is one of the fundamental points of Christian religion.
Hitherto of the first point, namely, what that righteousness is, which is here spoken of.
2. The second point to be considered in these words is, that this righteousness is that righteousness which is by faith.
It is so called because faith is the proper instrument created in the soul of man by the Holy Ghost, to apprehend that righteousness, which is in the person of Christ; nor can it be any ways else either apprehended or applied; and therefore it is worthily called, that righteousness which is by faith; that is, which by faith is made a manŐs own, or whereunto a man hath title by his faith. Here therefore two points offer themselves to our observation:
(1). That true faith apprehends properly this true righteousness.
(2). That only faith can do it.
(1). For the first, it is proved by apparent evidences of Scripture: St Paul tells the Galatians (Gal. 3:14), They received the promise of the Spirit by faith. And St John saith (John 1:12), that as many as received Christ, to them He gave power to be called the Sons of God. And lest any man should think that to receive Christ is not to believe in Christ; he addeth, Even to as many as believe in His name. And therefore faith is fitly compared to a hand that takes hold on a garment, and applieth it to the body, being naked; or to a beggarŐs hand that takes or receives a kingŐs alms; so faith in a manŐs soul takes hold on ChristŐs righteousness (which is the merciful and liberal alms of the king of heaven), and applieth it to the poor and naked soul of the believer.
If any man ask, How can faith apply Christ to the believer? I answer: As a man, being in his corrupt nature, hath nothing to do with Christ; so contrariwise, when the Holy Ghost hath wrought faith in his heart by a supernatural operation; then we are to know, that as faith is the proper instrument to apprehend Christ; so is Christ and His righteousness the proper object for faith to work upon. For though it apprehend and apply all other promises which God makes to our souls or bodies; yet most properly and principally, and in the first place, it apprehends the promise of salvation, and the righteousness of Christ. Now for the particular manner, how faith does thus; we are to know that though it be spiritual and invisible, and not so easily expressed to sense, yet it is done as properly by faith, as a garment is by the hand taken and applied to the body, or a plaister to a sore.
If any ask further, But when may a man know whether his faith hath apprehended and applied ChristŐs righteousness to his soul or no?
I answer, When he believeth particularly that ChristŐs righteousness is his righteousness, and hath reconciled him to God, and shall justify him in GodŐs presence, then doth faith work his true and proper work; for this cannot be done but by faith; and where faith is, this must needs be done.
(2). The second point is, that faith alone, and no other virtue, nor spiritual power in manŐs soul, is able to do this. And this may be proved by comparing it with all the principal virtues of the soul; for amongst all these are none that may come into comparison with faith, but hope and love; both which, especially love, have their several and special excellencies; yet have neither of them, nor both of them, this virtue to apprehend and apply ChristŐs righteousness. This property of love is to extend itself, and with itself to carry many passions or affections of the heart, and to place them upon the thing that is loved; yet cannot love be said properly to apprehend Christ; for He must needs be apprehended before He can be loved. And the proper action of hope is to wait and expect for a blessing to come; so hope waits for salvation, but properly apprehends it not. For salvation must first be believed, and then hoped or expected; so saith Jeremiah (Lam. 3:26), It is good both to trust and to wait for the salvation of the Lord. To trust, that is to believe assuredly it will come (there is the action of faith), and to wait till it do come (that is the action of hope). Thus we see the several natures and actions of these two worthy virtues. But the proper action of faith is to apprehend and lay hold on Christ and His righteousness, and to apply them to a manŐs own soul; and that being done, then come love and hope, and do their duties. And so, though love lasts longer than faith doth, yet faith is before love, and makes the way for it.
To conclude this second point: faith is a hand to take hold on Christ and His benefits; love is a hand to give out tokens of faith both to God and man; for (1 Cor. 13:5), love seeketh not her own, but others good; namely, the good of them that are loved. Hope is an eye looking out, and waiting for the good things promised. So that as faith is the hand of the soul, so love is the hand and hope is the eye of faith; love the hand whereby it worketh, and hope the eye whereby it waiteth and looketh for the performance of such things as faith hath apprehended and believed. If the church of Rome think this any wrong to this holy virtue of love, to be the hand of faith; let them know it is not ours, it is the doctrine of the apostle, where he saith, Faith worketh by love (Gal. 5:6). If faith works by it, then surely love is the hand of faith. Thus faith worketh by love, waiteth by hope, but believeth by itself.
And for this cause, the righteousness that makes us righteous before God, is rather called the righteousness of faith, than of any other Christian virtue or grace of the Spirit. And for the same cause is it, that often in St PaulŐs epistles, it is called by the same name, (Phil 3:9).
3. The third and last point concerning NoahŐs faith is that Noah was made heir of this righteousness. A special commendation of his faith; it made him heir of true and saving righteousness; that is, it gave him a true title unto it, and made him heir-apparent of that glory which it assureth everyone that apprehends it by this true faith; and so he was made as certainly, and as truly partaker of it, as the young prince is assured of his crown and kingdom at his time; or the heir of his fatherŐs lands.
Here two most worthy doctrines do offer themselves to our view:
(1). The excellency of faith.
(2). The excellency of a Christian manŐs estate.
(1). The excellency of faith appears thus: it makes a holy man assured and certain of his salvation by Christ Jesus. The church of Rome saith that it is presumption in any man to think so, unless he have an extraordinary revelation; but we learn from the Scripture, if a man have true faith, that is able to assure him of salvation. For faith makes him an heir of true righteousness, and of salvation thereby. Now we know, the heir is most sure and certain of his inheritance; whatever he gets or loseth, he is sure of that. But this righteousness and salvation by it, is his inheritance, therefore he may be, and is by faith, assured of it. The papists therefore do wrong unto this doctrine, and derogate from the dignity of true faith; but this is their custom, they will extol anything rather than that which the holy Scriptures so much extolleth; namely, true faith. For if they knew what it is truly to know Christ, and to believe in Him by that faith which worketh by love, they would then know that faith makes a man heir of happiness, and therefore most assured of it.
(2). Secondly, here we may see the excellency of a Christian manŐs estate; he is not naked, nor destitute of comfort; but is heir of a glorious inheritance by means of his faith; and a Christian manŐs inheritance is ChristŐs righteousness. Out of which we learn:
(i) First, that no man by any good works done by or in himself, can merit true and justifying righteousness. The Pharisaical papists teach so; but their conceit is here overthrown by the doctrine of the Holy Ghost. For saving righteousness is his inheritance; which, we know, is always gotten by the father, and descends from the father to the son, as a free token of his love. And it were scornful and absurd to see a son offer to buy his inheritance from his father; it being against the nature of an inheritance to come any other way but by free gift from the father to the son. Therefore our righteousness that must save us, being as we see here our inheritance, let us resolve of it, we cannot buy nor merit it.
(ii) Again, here is sure and solid comfort against all the griefs and crosses and losses of this world; GodŐs children must needs have their portion of afflictions in this life; but here is their comfort: they may lose their goods, livings, possessions, their good names, their health, their lives; but their inheritance standeth sure and firm, and cannot be lost. Let them therefore here learn not to grieve out of measure; for a holy man may say thus to himself, and that most truly: My Father may frown on me for my faults, and chastise me for my sins; but I am sure He will not disinherit me; for I am heir by faith of ChristŐs righteousness; and I may lose many things, but I shall not lose that.
(iii) Thirdly, and lastly, here must GodŐs children learn their duties. They are heirs to a godly and glorious inheritance; and ChristŐs righteousness is their inheritance, therefore they must learn to see and settle all their affections on this inheritance. For, there is nothing in the world more worthy to be affected than a fair inheritance.
We must therefore first labour above all worldly things for this inheritance; namely, to be made partakers of this righteousness. This is that pearl which we, having found, must sell all we have to buy it. And when we have gotten it, we must care to keep it, and therefore must lay it up in our very hearts and souls; and keeping it, we must rejoice and delight in it above the world, and all the pleasures of it.
This is the glorious portion which our God and Father leaveth us as His children. What should all the care of our hearts be, but to prefer it? Naboth had a vineyard, that came to him from his father by inheritance; Ahab the king would give him money, or a better vineyard for it; but Naboth would not; Nay (saith he), God forbid I should sell my fatherŐs inheritance (1 Kin. 21:3). If he made such account of an earthly inheritance, what should we of the heavenly? If he of a poor vineyard, what should we of the glory of heaven? If he denied the king to sell it for a better, should not we deny the devil, to leave our part in Christ and His righteousness for the world, or anything that he can promise us? In all such temptations, our answer should be, God forbid I should sell away my inheritance, which my God and Father gave me. Thus did blessed Paul, who esteemed the world and all in it, dung and dross, that he might win Christ, and be made partaker of that righteousness (Phil. 3:8). So must we (if we will be worthy of this inheritance) prize and value it above this world, and think basely of all the pomp and pleasures of this world in comparison of it; and rather be content to lose the world than to leave it.
And lastly, when we have it, and are thus careful to preserve it; where should our content, joy and delight be, but in this our inheritance? So doth the heir; nothing so rejoiceth him as to think of his inheritance. Here therefore the madness of carnal men is discovered, who rejoice exceedingly in the honours, profits and pleasures of this life (as swine in their bellies) and never go further. But alas, this is not their inheritance, if they look to have their souls saved. Therefore herein they shew themselves to be void of all grace, and of all hope of a better world. For if they had, they would rejoice in it, and not in the vain and transitory delights of this world, which perish in the using, and are lost with more torment and vexation, than they were kept with delight. We must learn then to use this world, as though we used it not (1 Cor. 7:31). And if the Lord vouchsafe us any portion of pleasures in this world, we must take it thankfully, as above our inheritance (and must therefore use it lawfully and soberly); but have our hearts, and the joy of them, upon our inheritance, which is in heaven, whereof we are made heirs by faith; and wherein we are made heirs with this blessed Noah, who was made heir of that righteousness which is of faith.
And thus we have heard the most glorious commendation of NoahŐs faith; and of Noah by his faith, and of all the examples before the flood.
Now follow the second sort of examples, namely, such as lived in he second world, after the flood.
They are all of two sorts: either such as lived before the giving of the law, or after.
Before the giving of the law, here are many whereof, as of all the other kinds, some are men, some women.
The first of those blessed men after the flood, whose faith is here renowned, is Abraham, that great father; of whom, and whose faith, because he was a father of so many faithful, more is spoken than of anyone.