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3dly. Example, although it is that of numbers ever so great, or of individuals ever so able, splendid, or powerful ; is no proof of rectitude.
Here all mankind walked in one broad, and crooked road. “ The earth was corrupt before God, and was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt : for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually.” “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me ; for the earth is filled with violence through them : and, behold, I will destroy them, with the carth.”
Still “ the way” was“ broad, and crooked ;" although“ many there were, who went in thereat.” It was “the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” Thither it led ; there they all entered; there they all perished.
Whatever others do, their example will furnish no justification, and no safety, to us in following them. That, which they do, is not the less guilty, nor the less dangerous, because they do it ; nor because of their numbers, their talents, their stations, or their fame. Had Noah followed this world of sinners, would he have been innocent ? Would he have been safe? Would he have been more innocent, or more safe, because the sinners, whom he followed, were immensely numerous ? Would he ever have entered the ark? Would he have passed securely over the waves of destruction ?
4thly. Religion is not less true, less excellent, nor less secure of the favour of God, because the number of its votaries is small.
Never was that number so small, since the earth first became extensively inhabited. Yet Noah and his family were distinguished by peculiar proofs of the favour of God. They were selected out of a world of sinners; and secured in the ark from the universal ruin. The earth, recovered from destruction, was
given to them, with an absolute dominion over all which it con"tained. Their sacrifice was graciously accepted. The Lord smelled a sweet savour in the offering ; established his covenant
with them; in which he was pleased to declare, that “the waters of Noah should no more return to cover the earth.” To confirm this covenant he “set his bow in the cloud ;” and promised that he would look upon it," and remember the everlasting covenant between God, and every living creature.” To these and many other proofs of the divine favour he finally added the blessings of immortality: and the faith, approved on earth by these glorious testimonies, was rewarded beyond the grave with enjoyments, endless and inexpressible.
5thly. Sinners can derive no hope of Safety from their numbers.
Perhaps no consideration more strongly contributes to persuade sinners, that they are safe, than that of their multitude. So far as I have been able to observe, they feel usually assured, that God will not destroy such a numerous train of intelligent beings, as are included under this name. This argument was undoubtedly pleaded, before the deluge, as a complete refutation of the warnings, and predictions, of Noah. It is easily realized, that it was advanced with triumph, and considered as decisive.
We can almost hear them say, and say with both the smile, and the sneer of victory, “Can it be imagined, that God made so many of his creatures, merely to destroy them.” Never could this suggestion be made with equal force ; for the destruction threatened was almost absolutely universal. Still it was a mere suggestion ; and those, who made it, were all in fact destroyed. They were not indeed created, nor any other beings, for destruction, as the proper end of their existence; as is here falsely insinuated; but beings were here created, who were afterwards actually destroyed for their rebellion and impenitence, notwithstanding this argument. What was true of these men will be true of all other impenitent sinners. Every person of this character, who enters the future world in a state of impenitence, is undone. “ Without holiness" no man ever did, “no man ever will, see the Lord.”
6thly. The genuine Faith of the Gospel will resist, finally and effectually, all opposition.
“By 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.” The faith of Noah was the faith of the Gospel : the “ faith,” which “ worketh by love;" the faith, " which purifieth the heart;" the faith, “which overcometh the world.” Throughout his life, and particularly for one hundred and twenty years, he resisted the opinions, the practices, the influence, and the authority, of a world ; of a race of men more abandoned, more opposed to Religion, to good men, and to God, than any other generation, which has lived. But neither their numbers, their learning, their power, nor their hostility, could shake his purpose, slacken his labours, or change his character. So far as we are able to conjecture, there was never more done to excite unbelief, or subvert faith, in any human bosom. Never were circumstances, either for their duration or their efficacy, more fitted to break down so frail a being as man, than those of Noah. This eminent preacher of righteousness had all the human feelings. There is not a reason to believe, that he loved singularity any better than we; that he was more willing to oppose his fellow creatures; more pleased with hatred and persecution; or less sensible to the stings of contempt and derision. But he looked beyond these ; and saw the glory of his Maker, his duty to his fellow-men, and the salvation of his own soul, demanding of him unalterable resistance to this host of temptations. To the eye of such beings, as those, whom he was compelled to address, how ridiculous must appear his prediction, and much more his belief, of an approaching deluge: an event absolutely unheard of before; so contrary to all the acknowledg. ed laws of nature; for which the world itself did not contain a sufficient quantity of water; for which then, certainly, there was no visible preparation ; which every philosopher of the day pronounced to be impossible; and the arrival of which the Prophet himself thought proper to postpone for one hundred and twenty years. Why, if it should come at all, did it not come
It was true Noah professed, that he had received a Revelation concerning this event from God; but who could rationally believe that God would reveal his designs to him, rather than to ten thousand other persons, in every point of view as worthy and respectable, and in many much more so, than he was? Could it be supposed, that the Creator felt such a partiality towards him, above all the people on the earth ; above men far greater, wiser, and more respected, than he ? Could he be weak enough to imagine, that all the millions of the human race, beside himself and his family, were to be destroyed; and that they were to be snatched from the destruction ? Surely none but the most pitiable bigot, the most hoodwinked enthusiast, the most contemptible fanatic, could give credit to such a tale.
.When he began to build the ark, and thus proved himself in earnest, the news undoubtedly flew among his neighbours with rapidity. A work so extraordinary, begun for so singular a purpose, must unquestionably have excited their curiosity, their wonder, and their contempt, in the highest degree. As he began it fifty years before the predicted period of the deluge, it undoubtedly seemed a ridiculous anticipation even of his own prophecy. As it demanded the expense of a princely fortune; as it required labour, care, and trouble, never before heard of in the world; and as all things went on during the whole time just as quietly, as they had always done, it can scarcely be doubted that he was the song, the jest, the by word, and the hissing, of all, who beheld him busied in this employment.
But the faith of Noah met, endured, and triumphed over, all these evils. Such always in kind, and sometimes in degree, is the faith of a Christian.
7thly. The preacher, and the professor, of Religion must preach, and live, amidst wicked men as if he were in the midst of Chris. tians.
The preacher must declare the truth, whether his hearers believe or disbelieve. The professor must perform his duty, whether others follow or oppose him. Thus Noah preached and lived. Perhaps no herald of truth was ever so unsuccessful, so universally disbelieved, so much the object of scorn and derision. Probably VOL. II.
no saint was ever so destitute of companions and supporters. What audiences must he have uniformly found ? By what neighbours was he surrounded? What workmen must he have employed ? What unbelief, what hostility, what contempt, what mockery, must he have encountered ? How must he have been wearied of all this opposition and abuse, protracted through one hundred and twenty years? Yet he “set his face as a flint" against this host of difficulties, and this world of opposers. No enemy terrified him, no difficulty discouraged him. In the path of duty, the straight and narrow way that leads to life, he moved onward with immoveable firmness, and unclouded serenity. GOD beheld his course, and smiled upon his faith and fortitude ; sustained him in every trial; and in every conflict enabled him te overcome.
Noah preached the revealed will of God, and delivered his Master's message faithfully. The most painful truths he hesitated not to declare: the most terrible threatenings he denounced in all their awful import. The wicked, numerous and formidable
, as they were, he resolutely warned of the "error of their way;" and although they did not "turn, and live,” yet "he delivered his own soul.” Such will be the preaching of every faithful minister of Christ. Like Noah, he will boldly declare the truth, as it is in Jesus;" and declare it in its purity and simplicity, “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.” All Christians, also, will live in some good measure, as Noah lived. Their faith is the same with his : their fortitude will resemble his. All of them will not, indeed, be equally firm and faithful; equally secure at all times from the influence of temptation, and the danger of backsliding. Still they will endure unto the end;" and under the influence of the Spirit, by whom they are sanctified, and sustained, and with a consciousness, that “the afflictions of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory, which shall be revealed hereafter," will fix their eyes upon God, the promises of the Gospel, and the blessings of immortality; and while they “ wait upon the Lord, will renew their strength ; will mount up with wings, as eagles; will run, and not be weary; will walk, and not faint."