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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 6

 

 

Verse 3

DISCOURSE: 12

STRIVINGS OF THE SPIRIT

Genesis 6:3. And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man.

MAN, at first, was created in the image of his God: but when he fell, he begat children in his own fallen image. His very first-born became a murderer. Some of his posterity, however, were pious: but they, not being careful to connect themselves with those who feared God, were drawn aside from religion by their ungodly wives, insomuch that, in eight or nine generations, “all flesh had corrupted their way,” and it repented “God that he had made man [Note: Genesis 6:6-7; Genesis 6:12.].” In consequence of this, God determined to destroy the whole earth. But yet, being full of mercy, he would not proceed to this extremity without giving to man space for repentance. Accordingly, he commanded Noah to preach to them; and to declare, that in the space of 120 years the threatened judgments should be inflicted, if the people did not avert those judgments by their penitence. During that period his Holy Spirit should continue to strive with them—but no longer: for “he should not always strive with man, who was now become altogether flesh,” and carnal; and who, if he did not repent in the time allotted him, should be left to reap the bitter fruit of his own ways.

That this warning may have a salutary effect on us, I will endeavour to shew,

I. That the Spirit of God, if long resisted, will cease to strive with us.

Certain it is, that the Spirit of God does strive with unregenerate men—

[He strove with the whole antediluvian world, by the ministry of Noah: for “by the Spirit did that holy man preach, during the whole period whilst the ark was preparing, even to the spirits which for their disobedience were condemned, and shut up in the prison” reserved for all impenitent transgressors [Note: 1 Peter 3:19-20.]. “To the whole nation of Israel, also, did the Holy Spirit for ages testify, in and by his Prophets, notwithstanding they dealt proudly, and withdrew their shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear [Note: Nehemiah 9:29-30.].” With us also does he strive, both by the ministry of his word, and by his own immediate agency on the hearts of men. For, what is conscience, but God’s vicegerent in the soul? By that, God speaks to us; warning, and inviting us from time to time, if by any means we may be induced to repent and turn unto him. Let any one only look back upon his past life; and he shall find that there have been some periods when he has felt a conviction upon his mind that it was his duty, and would be his happiness, to seek after God, and obtain, whilst yet he might, the remission of his sins.]

But we resist his sacred motions—

[To whom amongst us may not those words of Stephen be applied, (if not in reference to the present moment, yet certainly in reference to some period of our lives,) “Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so also do ye [Note: Acts 7:51.].” We may not, indeed, have set ourselves in such hostility to the truth as they did; but have we been more practically obedient than they? Have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, calling us to repentance, and to a dedication of our whole selves to him? Alas! there has been the same stoutness of heart in us, as in persons of a more profane character; many of whom, perhaps, have “said, I will not, but afterwards have repented, and went” into their Lord’s vineyard; whilst we, perhaps, have said, “I go, Sir,” but have been as far from executing our acknowledged duty as ever [Note: Matthew 21:28-30.].]

And will the Spirit always continue to strive with us?

[No: we are assured he will not. We know that his motions may be resisted, till they are altogether “quenche [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:19.].” And in many instances has he been driven away by the obstinacy of those with whom he had striven. Of Saul we are told, that “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul; and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him [Note: 1 Samuel 16:14.].” And it was not without reason that David prayed, “Cast me not away from thy presence! and take not thy Holy Spirit from me [Note: Psalms 51:11.] !” When God saw his ancient people incurably addicted to idolatry, He said, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone [Note: Hosea 4:17.].” And what else can we expect, if we continue obstinate in our sins? The doom of Israel must of necessity be ours. Of them it is said, “They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit; therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and fought against them [Note: Isaiah 63:10.]:” and we verily can expect no other, than that He, whose solicitations we refused to follow, as a Friend, shall send forth his vindictive judgments against us, as an Enemy.]

Let me then proceed to shew,

II. What is the state of a soul thus abandoned by the Lord.

Truly its condition is most pitiable. God has said, “Woe unto them, when I depart from them [Note: Hosea 9:12.]:” and verily it will be a woeful day for any one of us, if God should ever abandon us to ourselves! for the deserted soul is from that moment given up, yes, and given up for ever,

1. To delusion—

[It is surprising what delusions an abandoned sinner will harbour in his heart: “I shall have peace, though I walk in the imaginations of my heart to add drunkenness to thirst, and sin to sin [Note: Deuteronomy 29:19.].” Refuges of lies he shall have in plenty, to administer to his composure: ‘There is no future state: death is but an eternal sleep: or, at all events, God is too merciful to inflict punishment in a future state: or, at any rate, the punishment cannot be eternal. As for the Holy Scriptures, perhaps they are only the writings of fallible men, like ourselves: or, at best, they are so highly figurative, that you cannot depend upon them.’ Thus men take refuge in infidelity, that so they may rid themselves of records, which, if credited, would be subversive of their peace. And to these delusions God will give them up; as he has said: “They have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations: I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them [Note: Isaiah 66:3-4.].” In the New Testament, this judgment is yet more emphatically denounced: “They (the Antichristian powers) received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” says St. Paul: “and for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.].” Oh, terrible judgment!—and the more terrible, because they who are subjected to it have no conception that they are lying under it: but it will be the assured portion of all with whom the Spirit of God has ceased to strive.]

2. To bondage—

[To the power of their own lusts will they be given up, so that Satan shall lead them captive at his will. How awful is that declaration of Solomon, “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself; and he shall be holden with the cords of his own sins [Note: Proverbs 5:22.] !” Yet this must be the fate of all who constrain the Holy Spirit to depart from them. If men “will despise and reject all the counsel of the Lord, they will assuredly be left to eat the fruit of their own ways, and be filled with their own devices.” It was so with the Heathen, “who liked not to retain God in their knowledge: he gave them over to a reprobate mind [Note: Romans 1:28.].” It was so, also, with the Israelites: “My people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me: so I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust; and they walked in their own counsels [Note: Psalms 81:11-12.].” What more common than to see this very judgment inflicted before our eyes? The infidel, the drunkard, the whoremonger, the thief, the covetous man, the profane swearer, what slaves do they become to their respective habits! These shew us the very truth that I am insisting on; and declare, with one voice, that the Ethiopian may as well change his skin or the leopard his spots, as they renounce the habits to which they have been given over by their God.]

3. To obduracy—

[Pharaoh, for his obstinacy, was given up to a state of hardness that is scarcely to be credited. And how many, in every age, when forsaken by the Lord, have had “their consciences seared as with a hot iron,” and become altogether “past feeling [Note: Ephesians 4:19; 1 Timothy 4:2.] !” Behold the scoffer, who pours contempt on all religion, and, with daring impiety, cries, “Where is the promise of God’s coming to judgment? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation [Note: 2 Peter 3:4.].” If reproved for their impiety, they will in effect say, “Who is Lord over us [Note: Psalms 12:4.] ?” “We know not the Lord; neither will we obey his voice [Note: Exodus 5:2.].” Even in death itself, they often evince the very same hardness, and shew how entirely they are given over by the Lord. Their friends around them are ready to say, “They died like lambs:”—and so indeed they did, even like brute beasts that have no understanding, having no conception of the state which awaits them at their departure hence. A terrible judgment this is! and a certain prelude,]

4. To ruin!—

[There is a time wherein God may be found, by every living man: but that season may be passed; and a time arrive, when he will no more be found [Note: Isaiah 55:6.], and when all God’s offered mercies shall be for ever withheld. Such a period had actually arrived to the Jewish nation, when they crucified the Lord of glory. Our blessed Saviour, previous to his death, took up this lamentation over them: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate [Note: Matthew 23:37-38.] !” “Oh that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes [Note: Luke 19:42.].” Thus, it is to be feared, there may be, even amongst ourselves, some with whom God will strive no longer: they have so long trifled with the means of grace, and been unprofitable under all the culture that has been bestowed upon them, that they shall be henceforth left only to be gathered, in due season, as fuel for the fire [Note: Hebrews 6:7-8.]. What an awful thought, To be left only to “fill up the measure of their iniquities,” and to ‘’treasure up wrath against the day of wrath [Note: Romans 2:5.] !” Better were it for a man that he had never been born, than that ever he should live for such an end as that! But such is the state of the deserted soul: and at the appointed hour, “wrath will come upon him to the uttermost.”]

Address,

1. Those who are yet withstanding the motions of the Holy Spirit—

[Little do you think how greatly you offend your God, or what misery you are entailing on your own souls. But let me ask, Is there one amongst you that does not look back upon his past rebellion with regret? Is there one who is not persuaded in his mind, that he would have been a far happier man, if he had obeyed the voice of the Lord, and followed, instead of resisting, the dictates of his conscience? How long, then, will ye continue this rebellious course? Shall not the declaration in my text affect you? Shall not even the possibility of your day of grace having come to an end, appal you? Do but think how much you have at stake — — — and how short is the time which you have to seek the things belonging to your peace. — — — I pray you, Arise, ere it be too late, and cry unto your God, “if God peradventure may give you repentance, and you may be recovered out of the snare of the devil, by whom you have been taken captive at his will [Note: 2 Timothy 2:25-26.] !” “To-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; lest you provoke God to swear, in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest [Note: Psalms 95:7-11.].”]

2. Those who through grace have obeyed his blessed will—

[Truly this is of the Lord, who alone has “made you willing [Note: Psalms 110:3.],” and has thus caused you to “differ from those around you [Note: l Cor. 4:7.].”— — — Be thankful for this distinguishing grace; but remember that you still need his gracious influences as much as ever. There is not any part of the divine life that can be carried on within you but by the operation of the Holy Spirit. He must be within you “a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of might, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and must make you of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord [Note: Isaiah 11:2-3.].” Seek him, then, for all these gracious ends: and be careful that you “do not grieve him,” by any sinful disposition, or any secret neglect [Note: Ephesians 4:30.]. It is by him that you are to be “sealed unto the day of redemption [Note: Ephesians 4:30.],” and by him that you are to be “rendered meet for your heavenly inheritance.” To him, therefore, “I commend you, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified [Note: Acts 20:32.].”]


Verse 5

DISCOURSE: 13

EXTENT OF MAN’S WICKEDNESS

Genesis 6:5. God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

THE extent of man’s wickedness is far greater than the generality of mankind have any conception of. Whilst a person’s words and actions are inoffensive before men, he is supposed to conduct himself acceptably to God. And even when his words and actions are blameworthy, he is judged as having nothing wrong in his intentions, and as possessing, on the whole, a good heart. But God looks chiefly at the heart, which is the fountain from whence every thing that is evil proceeds [Note: Matthew 7:21-23.]: and his testimony respecting it is, that “the heart,” not of this or that more egregious offender, but of every man by nature, “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” In the passage before us, God assigns his reason for destroying the whole world by an universal deluge. And that we may be suitably affected by it, I shall set before you,

I. The testimony of God respecting man—

He speaks more immediately respecting the antediluvian world—

[In general, the wickedness of man was great in the earth. No doubt, every species of wickedness was committed, in the most shameless manner. But, more particularly, “the hearts” of men were evil; “the thoughts” of their hearts were evil; “the imaginations” of the thoughts were evil, and this too without exception, without mixture, without intermission; for every imagination was evil, and “only” evil, and that “continually” What an awful statement is here!

But how could this he ascertained? Who could he competent to judge of this? and on what authority is this declared? I answer, It is the declaration of God, who can discern all things; for “all things are naked and opened before him [Note: Hebrews 4:13.] ;” and he himself says, “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them [Note: Ezekiel 11:5.].” And, as he knows every thing, so he is able to estimate the quality of every thing; for “he weigheth the spirits [Note: Proverbs 16:2.].” And this is his testimony, after a thorough inspection of every human being.]

But the same must be spoken of man at this day—

[God himself repeats the same testimony, in relation to those who survived the deluge, and of all their descendants [Note: Genesis 8:21.]. And it is as true of us, as it was of them. In proof of this, I will appeal to your own observation and experience. What, from observation, would you yourselves say was the state of the world around you? Do you not see that evil of every kind obtains to a vast extent; and that piety, except in some very narrow circles of persons whom the world, regards as weak enthusiasts, is altogether banished; insomuch that you may mix in society for months and years, and yet never once hear them speak with admiration and gratitude respecting all the wonders of Redeeming Love? Of what passes in the hearts of others you are not able to judge; and therefore, in relation to that, I appeal to every man’s own experience. What has been the state of your hearts? As to your words and actions, I will suppose them to have been correct: but your “hearts,” your “thoughts,” “the imaginations of your thoughts,” what report must you give of them? Have they been all correct? or, could you bear that man should see them as God has seen them? The proud, the envious, the uncharitable, the angry, the vindictive, the impure thoughts, say, (whether carried into effect or not) have they not sprung up within your hearts as their proper soil, and so occupied the ground, that no holy fruits would grow unto perfection? If occasionally a transient thought of good has arisen, how coldly has it been entertained, how feebly has it operated, how soon has it been lost! And, at all events, if compared with what the Law requires, and what God and his Christ deserve at your hands, tell me whether it do not fall so short of your duty, that you cannot venture to call it good, but only evil of a less malignant kind?

Know ye then, all of you, that this is your real state before God: and now learn,]

II. What effect it should produce upon you—

Certainly this view of our state, and especially as attested by the heart-searching God, should produce in us,

1. Humiliation—

[Even on a review of our words and actions, I am convinced there is not any one of us who has not reason to be ashamed, especially if those words and actions be tried by the standard of God’s holy Law. But who amongst us could bear to have all his thoughts inspected and disclosed? Who would not blush, and be confounded before God and man, if his heart were exposed to public view, so that every imagination of every thought of it should be disclosed? Yet God beholds it all; and has as perfect a recollection of all that has passed through our minds from our earliest infancy to this present moment, as if it had passed not an hour ago. What then becomes us, but the deepest humiliation? In truth, our religious thoughts, when compared with what they ought to have been in number and intensity, are no less a ground of humiliation, than those which have sprung from a more impure source; since they prove, indisputably, how defective are our conceptions of God’s excellency, and how faint our sense of the Redeemer’s love. I call on you then, every one of you, my brethren, to “lothe yourselves for your abominations,” and to “abhor yourselves,” as Isaiah did, and as holy Job did, “in dust and ashes [Note: Isaiah 6:5 and Job 42:6.].”]

2. Gratitude—

[We have often told you, that God has sent to us a Saviour, even his only dear Son; and that through Him all our iniquities, how great soever they may have been, shall be forgiven. But methinks, this is only “a cunningly-devised fable:” for, how can it be supposed, that God should ever have shewn such mercy, and manifested such love, towards such vile creatures as we? But, brethren, however incredible it may appear, it is true, even the very truth of God. Notwithstanding all you have done amiss, “God is not willing that any of you should perish, but that all should come to repentance and live.” Yes, brethren, he has laid all your iniquities on his only-begotten Son; who, agreeably to the Father’s will, has expiated them by his own blood, and will take them away from your souls for ever. Tell me, then, whether gratitude do not well become you? Tell me, whether there should be any bounds to your gratitude? What, think you, would the fallen angels feel, if such mercy were shewn to them? And what are millions of the redeemed now feeling before the throne? Oh, let your souls be penetrated with a measure of their love, and your songs of praise abound day and night, even as theirs.]

3. Fear—

[Though your hearts may have been renewed by divine grace, you are renewed, brethren, only in part: you have still the flesh within you, as well as the Spirit; and you carry about with you still “a body of sin and death,” from which, to your dying hour, you will need to be delivered. In fact, your whole life must be “a putting-off of the old man, and a putting-on of the new.” I need not tell you what precautions people take, when they carry a light in the midst of combustibles, which, if ignited, will spread destruction all around. Know, that ye carry such combustibles about you, wherever you go; and you know not how soon you may come in contact with somewhat that may cause a desperate explosion. You all know how David fell, in an unguarded moment; and what a dreadful tissue of evil was produced by one sinful imagination. Know ye, then, what corrupt creatures ye are: be sensible of your proneness to commit even the vilest abominations: and pray, day and night, to God, to “hold up your goings in his ways, that your footsteps slip not.” It was from sad experience that Peter spoke, when he said, “Be sober, be vigilant; for your adversary, the devil, goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, steadfast in the faith [Note: 1 Peter 5:8.].” He had indulged self-confidence, and had slept when he should have watched: and hence arose his fall, which speaks loudly to every one of us. “Be ye, then, not high-minded; but fear:” and “what I say unto one, I say unto all, Watch.”]


Verse 6-7

DISCOURSE: 14

GOD’S DETERMINATION TO DESTROY MAN

Genesis 6:6-7. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.

THE evil of sin is visible wherever we turn our eyes. Not only has a manifest deterioration taken place in the intellectual and moral qualities of man, but the material world itself, together with all the brute creation, bears marks of God’s displeasure, and of the curse inflicted on account of sin. The spring with all its vivifying powers, or the autumn with all its profusion of matured fruits, does not more surpass the desolate appearances of winter, than the earth at its first formation did the state to which it is now reduced. It was the garden of the Lord, replete with beauty, and productive of nothing which did not minister to the comfort of its inhabitants: but it is become a waste howling wilderness, infected with plagues, agitated with storms, and fruitful in occasions of sorrow. Whether any additional curse was inflicted on it at the time of the deluge, we cannot say: but the shortening of man’s life from eight or nine hundred years to less than one tenth of that period, seems to indicate, that both the frame of our bodies, and every thing that contributes to their support, have undergone a further change, and “become subject to vanity” in a yet greater degree, than they were before the deluge. However this may be, it is certain that, of all the judgments with which God has ever visited his rebellious creatures, the deluge was the most tremendous. All other expressions of God’s anger have been limited to a few individuals, or cities, or nations; but this extended over the face of the whole earth.

That we may view aright this awful dispensation, let us consider,

I. The state of the antediluvian world—

The degeneracy of mankind had been advancing with rapid strides from the time that Adam fell, to the time spoken of in our text. Their state was characterized by

1. General supineness—

[Our blessed Lord informs us, that “in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, till the day that Noah entered into the ark [Note: Matthew 24:37-39.].” By this he did not mean to condemn the use of those means which God himself had appointed for the maintenance of life and the preservation of our species, but to inform us, that the people were altogether addicted to carnal and sensual indulgences, without paying any regard to their spiritual and eternal interests. The great ends of life were quite forgotten by them; and their only study was, how to dissipate care, and spend their time in pleasure.]

2. Awful depravity—

[The expressions used in the preceding and following context clearly shew, that wickedness of every kind was practised without restraint [Note:, 11, 12, 13. The words themselves are strong; but the frequent repetition of them greatly increases their energy.]. The law of God being disregarded, and human laws not having been framed and executed as they are amongst us, the strong and violent oppressed the weak and peaceable; and whatsoever any man’s interest or inclination prompted him to do, that he did without shame or remorse. We may form some idea perhaps of the state which then existed, from what still exists among uncivilized nations, and amongst us also, when the restraints of human laws are withdrawn [Note: How ready are men to embark their property and risk their lives in privateering expeditions, when they can obtain a licence to rob and plunder their unoffending neighbours! And how terrible are the atrocities committed by victorious armies!].]

3. Obstinate impenitence—

[For a hundred and twenty years did Noah continue to warn that wicked generation [Note: 1 Peter 3:19-20.]. By his practice also as well as by his preaching, did he condemn them. Before their eyes “he prepared (with vast expense and labour) an ark for the preservation of his household [Note: Hebrews 11:7.] ;” giving them thereby a certain pledge that the threatened judgments should be inflicted on the impenitent and unbelieving: but they, no doubt, ridiculed his precautions as absurd and visionary; and the longer the judgment was delayed, the more bold was their confidence, and the more bitter their derision [Note: 2 Peter 3:3-6.]. Amongst us, the Gospel, though generally, is not universally, despised: some are brought to listen to its benign overtures: but to such a degree did the contemporaries of Noah harden themselves against the gracious messages of Heaven, that in that whole space of time there was not (as far as we know) one single person awakened to a sense of his guilt and danger.]

Fearful indeed must have been their state, when we consider,

II. The regret which it excited in the bosom of Jehovah—

We must understand the language of the text, not in a literal, but figurative sense—

[We are not to suppose that God did not foresee what would happen; for prescience is an essential perfection of His nature: take away his foreknowledge, and you deny him to be God. Nor must we suppose that his happiness was really interrupted by what he saw in his creatures; for he is as immutable in his happiness, as in his nature. The language of the text is accommodated to our feeble apprehensions: it is taken from what passes among men, when they are disappointed in their expectations and endeavours. As a potter, finding that a vessel which he has formed with the utmost care does not answer the desired purpose, regrets his labour, and casts out of his sight the worthless object with indignation and grief; so God represents himself as “repenting that he had made man, and as grieved at his heart” that he had bestowed upon him so much labour in vain.]

Nevertheless the figure conveys to us much plain and solid instruction—

[The same figure occurs in various other parts of holy writ: sometimes it imports a change from anger to pity [Note: Jonah 3:10.], and sometimes the reverse [Note: 1 Samuel 15:11. It is used in both senses, and in connexion with the foregoing illustration. Jeremiah 18:3-10.]. In the text, it is intended to intimate, that God is not an unconcerned spectator of human actions — — — that he expects men to answer the end of their creation, by seeking his glory and their own happiness— — — and that he will manifest against sin his heavy displeasure, making all who practise it the objects of his fiery indignation— — —]

The feelings of our Creator on account of man’s apostasy are more plainly shewn by,

III. The resolution he adopted in consequence of it—

To destroy all the human race was indeed a terrible resolve—

[We can form little conception of the distress occasioned through the habitable globe, when once the flood began to rise above its accustomed limits. Every contrivance would be resorted to, and every eminence be made a refuge, in hopes that the waters would subside, and that a premature death might be avoided. When one place was covered, happy would they feel themselves who could flee to some lofty mountain, and carry with them provision for their support. But they would soon find that they indulged a vain hope: a suspense, more painful than death itself, would soon occupy their minds; and the waves, fast approaching, would at last terminate their lives, which fear and terror had already half destroyed. It is probable that many would seek admittance into the ark, and cling to it, when every other refuge had failed. Many too would, doubtless, betake themselves to prayer in the midst of their distress: but the time of judgment was come; and mercy, whether exercised or not in the eternal world, could not be extended to them [Note: Thus it was with Saul, 1 Samuel 15:25-26.]. Children in vain solicited their parents’ aid; in vain did the fond mother clasp them in her arms, or the affrighted husband strive to succour his beloved wife: all, in quick succession, were swept away; and neither man nor beast (those only in the ark excepted) were permitted to survive the wreck of nature.]

But, however terrible this judgment was, it was strictly just

[The punishments inflicted by human governors, of necessity, involve the innocent with the guilty: the children suffer through the misconduct of their parents; yet no one on that account exclaims against the laws as unjust. Why then should that be deemed unjust in the government of God which is approved as just in the governments of men? But God, who is the giver of life, and by whom alone it is maintained, has a right to take it away at any time, and in any manner that he sees fit. Does any one arraign his providence, if numbers both of men and children are carried off by a pestilence, or overwhelmed in a storm? By what authority then do we prescribe limits to God, and say unto him, “Hitherto shalt thou go, and no further?” We might as well condemn the Governor of the Universe for inflicting disease and death upon one single infant, as arraign his justice for destroying many. The lives of all are forfeited: and whether he take them away after a longer or shorter period, or cut them off singly or at once, he is still the same; “a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” The Judge of all the earth will do right: and who are we that we should reply against him? “Whoso reproveth God, let him answer it.”]

Infer,

1. We are not at all the more safe for having many on our side—

[No doubt, the antediluvians fortified themselves against the warnings of Noah, by the consideration that they acted only like those around them. They probably replied, as many at this time do, ‘If I perish, what must become of all the world? And, Is God so unmerciful as to destroy the whole world?’ But the event shewed the folly of all such reasonings: and we should learn from it to expect safety in no other way than in turning from all iniquity, and seeking refuge in Christ Jesus.]

2. There will certainly be a day of future retribution—

[From the judgment executed at the deluge it is manifest, that God will punish sin: but from the indiscriminate manner in which that punishment was inflicted, we may be assured, that there shall be a day in which justice shall be more equitably dispensed [Note: 2 Peter 2:4-5; 2 Peter 2:9.], or, as it is called in Scripture, “a day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Then shall every one receive according to his deeds, whether they be good or evil: “the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” May God prepare us all for that great and solemn day!]

3. It becomes us all to grieve and mourn for our past sins—

[Have the sins of men caused God himself to “repent and be grieved at his heart” that ever he formed man; and should not our sins awaken sorrow and contrition in our hearts? O that we could but view them aright! O that we could mourn over them, as it becomes us, and weep in dust and ashes! Surely if we go on impenitent in our sins, the day will come, when we shall repent that ever we were created; we shall wish that we had died in our mother’s womb; we shall find that “it would have been better for us if we had never been born.”]


Verse 22

DISCOURSE: 15

NOAH’S OBEDIENCE

Genesis 6:22. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

NEVER, from the foundation of the world to this hour, if we except the sacrifice which Christ made of himself upon the cross for the sins of men, was there such a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin, as that which was given at the universal deluge. All flesh having corrupted their way, God determined to execute vengeance upon all, and to destroy from the face of the earth every living thing. There was, however, one favoured servant, whom, together with his family, he was pleased to exempt from the general judgment. Noah was a righteous man, and obtained favour in his sight; and, by means prescribed to him by God himself, he was preserved. Let us consider,

I. The obedience rendered by him—

It is not easy to form a just estimate of this—

[Let us contemplate the circumstances in which he was placed. He was appointed “a preacher of righteousness,” unto all who came within the reach of his ministrations: and he was commanded to declare that God would overwhelm the whole world with a deluge. Of such a judgment there was no appearance whatever for the space of 120 years, during the whole of which period he proclaimed its approach. If at the beginning of his ministrations any were impressed with fear, they soon were led to deride the menace; and to conclude, from the delay, that the threatened calamity should never come upon them.

Let us next notice the means he was directed to use for the preservation of God’s chosen remnant. He was to build a vessel of stupendous magnitude, capable of holding two of every sort of animals that breathed, and of containing also provision for them. The expense and labour employed in constructing this ark must have been immense: and the ridicule which it must have excited, year after year, must have been almost beyond endurance.

Let us, lastly, observe his perseverance in the use of those means, till he had completed the work assigned him. Nothing could induce him to desist from his work, till it was perfected in every part. Then he, with his whole family, entered into the ark, having first assigned to every living creature its place: and then “God shut him in:” and on that very day the rain descended, and the flood commenced, which speedily reached above the highest mountains, and destroyed every living creature from the face of the earth.]

Verily this obedience was of a most exalted character—

[It shewed how firmly he believed the divine testimony, whilst yet there was not only no symptom of any such calamity, but no conceivable mode by which the threatened judgment could be inflicted. It shewed how much he stood in awe of God; and how determined he was, whilst yet the means of safety were within his reach, to avail himself of the opportunity that was afforded him, lest he also should be involved in the general ruin. It shewed, too, how boldly he faced reproach, when cast upon him for executing the divine commands. Had such a conduct been called for during the space of a few days only, we should have been the less astonished at it: but when it continued without intermission or abatement for the space of 120 years, we cannot but reckon it amongst the sublimest acts of obedience ever rendered unto God by fallen man.]

But in perfect accordance with this, is,

II. The obedience required of us—

1. The danger to which we are exposed is similar—

[God has declared that he will call the whole world into judgment; and that in that day “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God [Note: Psalms 9:17.].” We see not, indeed, any preparation for such a judgment; and are ready to think that it never can be executed. But God has denounced it against the whole world; and executed it shall be, whether men will believe it or not. Multitudes who assisted in building the ark, would not believe the declarations of God, till the threatened judgments were inflicted: and so it is with us. Multitudes laugh at the threatenings of God; and will continue to do so, till their day of grace shall have passed, and the wrath of God shall fall upon them to the uttermost.]

2. The means provided for our escape are similar—

[God has provided an ark for us—even his only dear Son; an ark, into which all who believe shall be admitted, but which will speedily be closed against the unbelieving world. Many think it altogether absurd to imagine that such an ark is provided for us: they would prefer one of their own constructing, and for which their own good works shall afford the materials. To enter into Christ by faith, and to look for salvation through faith in him, is in their eyes an unsuitable device: and it is derided accordingly, as an indication of weakness and folly. But this, after all, will be found “the wisdom of God,” yea, and “the power of God unto salvation” also to all them that embrace it]

3. The distinction that will be made between the believing and unbelieving world will also be similar—

[Of those who believed the testimony of Noah, not one perished: of those that disbelieved it, not one was saved. And so it will be at the last day. Those who are “found in Christ,” will be monuments of God’s sparing mercy; whilst those who have neglected and despised him, will be monuments of his righteous indignation for ever and ever.]

To dilate more, either on the original fact, or on its typical adaptation to our circumstances, will not be necessary: the whole taken together in one combined view will be found, I apprehend, more instructive.

Learn then, from the whole,

1. The office of faith—

[It was to his faith that Noah’s conduct on this occasion must be ascribed [Note: Hebrews 11:7.]. He did not reason on the subject that was revealed to him. He did not say, How can such a deluge be produced? or, How can it be supposed that a merciful God should exercise such severity? or, How can it be hoped, that, if all the rest of the world be destroyed, any vessel that I can build will preserve me? It is probable that others argued thus: but he believed, and acted upon, the divine testimony. Now it is precisely in that way that we must exercise faith in the divine records. We are not to argue, How can it be, that any should be punished with endless torments in hell? or, that so great a part of mankind should be doomed to that fate? or, that a simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should be sufficient to deliver those, who without such faith must inevitably perish? We are to give credit to the divine testimony; and to assure ourselves, that whatever God has spoken shall surely come to pass;—that “he who believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; and that he who believeth not, shall be damned.”]

2. The necessity of fear—

[By this also was Noah actuated; and under the influence of it he prepared the ark [Note: Hebrews 11:7.]. And if we believe God’s threatenings against sin and sinners, how can we but fear? The wrath of God is not to be disregarded, as a matter of no concern: no, in truth, it becomes us to tremble at it, and to flee from it with all imaginable earnestness. Well would it have been for them, if the people whom he warned had feared also: but, because they would not fear, they perished. So will it be with us also [Note: Matthew 24:37-39.]. It shall surely be found a truth at last, that “he who, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without a remedy [Note: Proverbs 29:1. Compare 2 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 2:9.].”]

3. The benefit of obedience—

[Here you behold with your eyes what shall be again realized in the day of judgment. Behold Noah for 120 years an object of universal derision, but now, with his family, borne above the waves in perfect safety, whilst all the rest of the world, not excepting the very builders of the ark, are overwhelmed in one common destruction! Thus let the ungodly world laugh at piety now, if they will: but such will be the issue of their contemptuous proceedings, when those who were the objects of their scorn will be honoured by their God, and be saved with an everlasting salvation. “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings: but woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him [Note: Isaiah 3:10-11.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 6:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-6.html. 1832.

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