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of this course. Is it a light matter to you, to die in your sins, and to have the wrath of God abiding on you ? to have refused Christ so often, and that after you have been so often requested to receive salvation ? after the Lord hath followed you with entreaties, hath called to you so often, Why wili ye die ? yet, wilfully to perish, and withal to have all these entreaties come in and accuse you, and make your burden heavier ? Would you willingly die in this state? If not, then think that yet he is waiting, if at length you will return. This one day more of his waiting you have, and of his speaking to you; and some who were here with you the last day, are taken away since. You too must die, and for any thing you know, quickly. Why wear you out then the day of grace and these precious seasons, still, as uncertain of Christ, yea, as careless about him, as you were long ago ? As you love your souls, be more serious in their business. This was the undoing of the sinners we are speaking of-they were all for present things. They ate and drank, they married, in
à continued course, without ceasing, and without minding their after-estate. They were drowned in these things, and that drowned them in a flood. Noah did also eat and drink, but his main work was, during that time, the preparing of the ark. The necessities of this life, the children of God are tied to, and forced to bestow some time and pains on; but the thing that takes up their hearts, that which the bent of their souls is set on, is their interest in Jesus Christ : and all your wise designs are but a pleasing madness till this be chief with you.
While the ark was a preparing. Observe, the delay of the Lord's determined judgment on the ungodly, was indeed long-suffering towards them, but there was more in it to Noah and his family-the providing for their preservation—and till that was completed for them, the rest were spared. Thus the very forbearance which the ungodly enjoy, is usually involved with the interest of the godly; something of that usually goes into it; and so it is in a great part for their sakes, that the rest are both spared and furnished with common mercies. The saints are usually the scorn and contempt of others, yet are they, by that love the Lord bears towards them, the very arches and pillars of states, and kingdoms, and families, where they are, yea, of the world, the frame whereof is continued mainly in regard to them, Isa. vi, 13. But they who are ungrateful to the great Maker and Upholder of it, and regardless of him, what wonder if they take no notice of the advantage they receive by the concernment of his children in the world?
Observe here, 1, the work ; 2, the end of it.
1. In the work, the preparing of the ark, observe God's appointment and Noah's obedience.
It was God's appointment. His power was not tied to this, yet his wisdom chose it. He who steered the course of this ark safely, could have preserved those he designed it for without it; but thus it pleases the Lord usually to mix his most wonderful deliverances with some selected means; exercising in that way our obedience in their use, yet so as that the singular power of his hand in them, whereon faith rests, doth clearly appear, doing by them what, in a more natural way, they could not possibly effect.
As to the obedience of Noah, if we should insist on the difficulties both in this work and in the way of their preservation by it, it would look the clearer, and be found very remarkable. Considering the length of the work, the great pains in providing materials, especially the opposition that probably he met with in it from the profane about him, or at least their hatred and continual scoffs, it required principles of an invincible resolution to go through with it. "What, would they say, means this old dotard to do? Whither this monstrous voyage ? And inasmuch as it spoke, as no doubt he told them, their ruin and his safety, this would incense them so much the more. You look far before you ; and what! shall we all perish, and you alone escape? But the sovereign command and gracious promise of his God carried him through all, regarding their scoffs and threats as little in making the ark, as he did afterwards the noise of the wa. ters about it, when he was sitting safe within it. This his obedience, having indeed such boisterous winds to encounter, had need of a well-fastened root, that it might stand and hold out against them all; and so it bad. The apostle
St. Paul tells us what the root of it was; By faith, being warned of God, he prepared an ark. And there is no living and lasting obedience but what springs from this root. He believed what the Lord spake of his determined judgment on the ungodly world, and from the belief of that, arose that holy fear which is expressly mentioned, Heb. xi, 7, as exciting him to this work; and be believed the word of promise, which the Lord spake concerning his preservation by the ark : and the belief of these two carried him strongly on to the work, and through it against all counter-blasts and opposition; overcame both his own doubtings and the mockings of the wicked, while he still looked to him who was the master and contriver of the work.
Till we attain such a fixed view of our God, and such firm persuasion of his truth, and power, and goodness, it will never be right with us; there will be nothing but wavering and unsettledness in our spirits and in our ways. Every little discouragement from within or from without, that meets us, will be likely to turn us over. We shall not walk in an even course, but still be reeling and staggering, till faith be set wholly upon its own basis, the proper foundation of it; not set betwixt two, upon one strong prop and another that is rotten, partly on God and partly on creature helps and encouragements, or our own strength. Our only safe and happy way is, in humble obedience, in his own strength, to follow his appointments without standing and questioning the matter, and to resign the conduct of all to his wisdom and love ; to put the rudder of our life into his hand, to steer the course of it as seemeth him good, resting quietly on his word of promise for our safety. Lord, whither thou wilt, and which way thou wilt; be thou my Guide, and it sufficeth.
This absolute following of God and trusting him with all, is marked as the true character of faith in Abraham and in Noah also. He prepared the ark. He did not argue and question, How shall this be done ? and, if it were done, low shall I get all the kinds of beasts gathered together to put into it ? and how shall it be ended, when we are shut iu? No; but he believed firmly that it should be finished by him, and he be saved by it; and he was not disappointed.
2. The end of this work was the saving of Noah and his family from the general deluge, wherein all tbe rest perished.
It is certain that the children of God, as they are not exempted from the common universal calamities and evils of this life, which befal the rest of men, so not from any particular kind of them. As it is appointed for them, with all others, once to die, so we find them not privileged from any kind of disease or other way of death ; not from falling by sword, or by pestilence, or in the frenzy of a fever, or any kind of sudden death. Yet the Lord is pleased sometimes to distinguish his own from the ungod. ly, in the execution of temporal judgments, and to give these as preludes of the final and full judgment. And this instance of Noah was one of the most eminent of this kind, being the most general judgment that ever befel the world or that shall befal it till the last, and so the liveliest figure of it. It was most congruous that it should resemble it in this, as the chief point; the saving of righteous Noah and his family from it, prefiguring the eternal salvation of believers, as our apostle teacheth.
Wherein few, that is, eight persons, were saved by water. This great point of the fewness of those who are saved in the other greater salvation, I shall not now prosecute; only, if few be saved then the inquiry into our selves, whether we be of these few, should be more diligent and followed more home, than it is as yet with the most of us. We are wary in our trifles, and only in this easily deceived, yea, we are our own deceivers in this great point.
You who are indeed seeking the way of life, be not discouraged by your fewness. It hath always been so. You see here how few of the whole world were saved. And is it not better to be of the few in the ark, than of the multitude in the waters ? Let others fret, as ordina. rily they do, to see a few more diligent for heaven. This is what galls them, that any should have higher names and surer hopes than they. What! are none but sucb as you going to heaven? Think you all of us damned? What can we say, but that there is a flood of wrath awaiting many, and certainly all that are out of the ark shall perish?
This is that main truth that I would leave with you look on Jesus Christ as the ark, of whom this was a figure, and believe it, out of him there is nothing but certain destruction, a deluge of wrath, all the world over, on those who are out of Christ. O it is our life, our only safety, to be in him! But these things are not believed. Men think they believe them, and do not. Were it believed, that we are under the sentence of eternal death in our natural state, and that there is no escape but by removing out of ourselves unto Christ, O what thronging would there be to him! Whereas now be invites and calls, and how few are persuaded to come to him! Noah believed the Lord's word of judgment against the world, believed his promise made to him, and prepared an ark. Is it not a high sign of unbelief, that, there being an ark of everlasting salvation ready prepared to our hand, we will not so much as come to it?
Will you be persuaded certainly, that the ark-door stands open ? His offers are free ; do but come, and try if he will turn you away. No, he will not; Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out. And as there is such acceptance and sure preservation in him, there is as sure perishing without him, trust on what you will. Be
you of a giant's stature, to help you to climb up to the highest mountains and tallest trees, yet the flood shall overtake you. Make your best of your worldly advantages, or good parts, or civil righteousness, all shall prove poor shifts from the flood of wrath, which rises above all these and drowns them. Only the ark of our salvation is safe. Think how gladly they would have been within the ark, when they found death without it; and now it was too late. How will many who now despise Christ, wish one day to honor him! Men, so long as they thought to be safe on the earth, would never betake them to the ark, would think it a prison; and could men find salvation any where else, they would never come to Christ for it: this is, because they know him not. But yet, be it necesssity, let that drive thee in ; and then, being in him, thou shalt find reason to love him for himself, besides the salvation thou hast in bim.