The waters assuaged.I. THAT IT IS MARKED BY A RICH MANIFESTATION OF DIVINE MERCY TO THOSE WHO HAVE SURVIVED THE TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION.
1. God's remembrance of His creatures during the cessation of retribution is merciful.
2. God's remembrance of His creatures during the cessation of retribution is welcome.
3. God's remembrance of His creatures during the cessation of retribution is condescending.
II. THAT IT IS MARKED BY THE OUTGOING AND OPERATION OF APPROPRIATE PHYSICAL AGENCIES. "And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged." There have been many conjectures in reference to the nature and operation of this wind; some writers say that it was the Divine Spirit moving upon the waters, and others that it was the heat of the sun whereby the waters were dried up. We think controversy on this matter quite unnecessary, as there can be little doubt that the wind was miraculous, sent by God to the purpose it accomplished. He controls the winds. The Divine Being generally works by instrumentality.
3. Natural. Anti in this way is the cessation of Divine retribution brought about.
III. THAT IT IS MARKED BY A STAYING AND REMOVAL OF THE DESTRUCTIVE AGENCIES WHICH HAVE HITHERTO PREVAILED. Here we see —
1. That the destructive agencies of the universe are awakened by sin.
2. That the destructive agencies of the universe are subdued by the power and grace of God.
3. That the destructive agencies of the universe are occasional and not habitual in their rule.
IV. THAT IT IS MARKED BY A GRADUAL RETURN TO THE ORDINARY THINGS AND METHOD OF LIFE. This return to the ordinary condition of nature is —
3. Minutely chronicled.The world is careful to note the day on which appeared the first indication of returning joy, when after a long period of sorrow the mountain tops of hope were again visible. It is fixed in the memory. It is written in the book. It is celebrated as a festival. Lessons —
1. That the judgments of God, though long and severe, will come to an end.
2. That the cessation of Divine judgment is a time of hope for the good.
3. That the cessation of Divine judgment is the commencement of a new era in the life of man.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. —
I. It was THE VILLAGE OF THE ARK, a building fashioned and fabricated from the forests of a drowned and buried world. To the world's first fathers it must have seemed a hallowed and venerable form.
II. The village of the ark was THE VILLAGE OF SACRIFICE. They built a sacrificial altar in which fear raised the stones, tradition furnished the sacrifice, and faith kindled the flame.
III. The first village was THE VILLAGE OF THE RAINBOW. It had been seen before in the old world, but now it was seen as a sign of God's mercy, His covenant in Creation.
IV. The village of the ark gives us our FIRST CODE OF LAWS. As man first steps forth with the shadows of the Fall around him, scarce a principle seems to mark the presence of law. Here we advance quite another stage, to a new world; the principles of law are not many, but they have multiplied. As sins grow, laws grow. Around the first village pealed remote mutterings of storms to come.
V. The village of the ark was THE VILLAGE OF SIN. Even to Noah, the most righteous of men, sin came out of the simple pursuit of husbandry. A great, good man, the survivor of a lost world, the stem and inheritor of a new, he came to the moment in life of dreadful overcoming.
(E. P. Hood.)
I. SIN PUNISHED. Mount Ararat was a solemn witness to the severity of God's judgments upon a guilty world.
II. GRACE REVEALED. Mount Ararat saw Divine grace displayed to sinful men.
III. SALVATION ENJOYED. Mount Ararat beheld salvation enjoyed by believing sinners: This temporal deliverance was a type of the spiritual. Immeasurably grander, however, will be the salvation of the saints.
1. In respect of its character, being spiritual instead of merely temporal.
2. In respect of its measures, being complete and not merely partial.
3. In respect of its duration, being eternal, and not merely for a brief term of years.
IV. GRATITUDE EXPRESSED. Mount Ararat heard the adorations and thanksgivings of a redeemed family.
V. SAFETY CONFIRMED. Mount Ararat listened to the voice of God confirming the salvation of His people.
(T. Whitelaw, M. A.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Tops of the mountains seen. —
Noah opened the window of the ark.
The judicious conduct of a good man in seeking to ascertain the facts of life and his relation thereto
I. THAT NOAH DID NOT EXHIBIT AN IMPETUOUS HASTE TO GET OUT OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH GOD HAD PLACED HIM.
1. We see that God does sometimes place men in unwelcome positions.
2. That when God does place men in unwelcome positions, it is that their own moral welfare may be enhanced.
3. That when men are placed in unwelcome positions they should not remove from them without a Divine intimation.
II. THAT NOAH WAS THOUGHTFUL AND JUDICIOUS IN ENDEAVOURING TO ASCERTAIN THE WILL OF GOD IN REFERENCE TO HIS POSITION IN ITS RELATION TO THE CHANGING CONDITION OF THINGS.
1. Noah felt that the time was advancing for a change in his position, and that it would be necessitated by the new facts of life.
2. Noah recognized the fact that the change in his position should be preceded by devout thought and precaution.
III. THAT NOAH EMPLOYED VARIED AND CONTINUOUS METHODS OF ASCERTAINING THE FACTS OF HIS POSITION AND HIS DUTY IN RELATION THERETO.
1. These methods were varied.
IV. THAT NOAH YIELDED A PATIENT OBEDIENCE TO THE TEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH HE HAD EMPLOYED.
V. THAT INDICATIONS OF DUTY ARE ALWAYS GIVEN TO THOSE WHO SEEK THEM DEVOUTLY. The dove returned to Noah with the olive leaf. Men who seek prayerfully to know their duty in the events of life, will surely have given to them the plain indications of Providence. Lessons: —
1. That men should not trust their own reason alone to guide them in the events of life.
2. That men who wish to know the right path of life should employ the best talents God has given them.
3. That honest souls are divinely led.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. God in wisdom sometimes lengthens trials to the proof of the faith and patience of His saints.
2. Believing saints though God appear not, will stay contentedly forty days, that is, the time fit for His salvation.
3. Lawful means believers may use for their comfort, when there is no immediate appearance of God. Noah opens the window which God forbids not (ver. 6).
4. Visible experiments of the ceasing of God's wrath may be desired and used by His people where the Lord sets no bars.
5. Unclean, or the worst of creatures, may be of use sometimes to comfort the Church. As the ravens fed Elijah.
6. Instinct of creatures from God teach His people of His providences to them. (ver. 7).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
I. MESSENGERS SELECTED. After long floating, during which time Noah would know little of what was passing in the outer world, save that he heard the rain and tempest, the ark grounded. Doubtless he would often look forth on the waste of waters. The rapid evaporation, etc., would very much intercept a distant view. Fogs and mists, etc. Hence to know the state of things beyond the reach of his vision he would send forth messengers. Birds. Birds of swift and strong wing, and clear vision. Land birds. Aquatic birds would not have returned. Birds that may be domesticated and having local attachments. Hence they would return to the ark.
II. MESSENGERS SENT FORTH.
III. MESSENGERS RETURNING. Though Noah might not follow their far flight, they could see the huge ark, to which also their unerring instinct — perhaps supernaturally — would guide them. The joy of Noah on looking once more upon a branch of olive. One of the most beautiful and useful of trees also. Learn —
1. Gratitude for that reason which adapts means to ends.
2. God's creatures thus employed in the service of man.
3. The ark a type of Christ; and the dove and olive branch, of the soul hastening with peaceful feelings and first fruits to Jesus.
(J. C. Gray.)
(M. Dods, D. D.)
But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot and she returned unto him into the ark.I. LOOK AT THE DOVE SETTING OUT UPON HER VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY. Why did she fly away?
1. Because she had wings. Natural instinct. So it is with us. Our soul has many thoughts and many powers which make the spirit restless. If we were without imagination, we might be content with the few plain truths which we have so well known and proved; but having an imagination, we are often dazzled by it, and we pant to know whether certain things which look like solid verities really are so. If we had no reason, but could abide entirely in a state of pure and simple faith, we might not be exposed to much of the restlessness which now afflicts us, but reason will draw conclusions, ask questions, suggest problems, raise inquiries, and vex us with difficulties. Therefore, because our souls are moved by so vast a variety of thoughts, and possess so many powers which are all restless and active, it is readily to be understood, that while we are here in our imperfect state, our spirits should be tempted to excursions of research and voyages of discovery, as though we sought after some other object of love besides the one who still is dearer to us than all the world besides.
2. Possibly there was another reason. This dove was once lodged in a dovecote. Yes, the dovecote still has its attraction. The best of men have still within them the seeds of those sins which make the worst of men so vile. I marvel not that the dove flew away from the ark when she recollected her dovecote, and I do not wonder that at seasons, the old remembrances get the upper hand with our spirit, and we forget the Lord we love, and have a hankering after sin.
3. Yet it would not be fair to forget that this dove was sent out by Noah; so that whatever may have been the particular motives which ruled the creature, there was a higher motive which ruled Noah who sent her out. Even so there are times when the Lord permits His people to endure temptation.
II. Now MARK THE DOVE AS SHE FINDS NO REST. No rest outside of Christ for intellect, heart, conscience
III. WHY THE DOVE COULD FIND NO REST FOR THE SOLE OF HER FOOT.
1. The dove had a will to find rest for the sole of her foot, but she could not. It is not from want of will that I am compelled to say I cannot find anything beneath these stars, nor within the compass of the skies, that can satisfy my soul's desires; I must get my God and have Him to fill my large expectations, or I shall not be content. I mention these things because people are apt to suppose that Christians are all a set of melancholy dyspeptics, who put up with religion because there is nothing else that helps to make them to be so happily miserable, and therefore they take to it as congenial with their melancholy disposition; but it is not so; we are a cheerful, genial race, and yet for all that we are not resting the sole of our foot anywhere in earthly things.
2. Again, the reason why the dove could find no rest, was not because she had no eye to see. I know not how far a dove's eye can discern, but it must be a very vast distance, perfectly incredible I should think. We see the dove sometimes mount aloft: we can see nothing, and yet she perceives her dovecote, and darts towards it. I know many Christians who are as quick in apprehension as refined in taste, and as ready to appreciate anything that is pleasurable as other men, and yet these men who are not fanatics, who are not shut up to a narrow range of things, but whose vision can take in the whole circle of sublunary delights, these men who have not only seen but even tasted, yet bear their witness that like the dove they can find no rest for the sole of their foot.
3. Moreover, the reason why the dove found no rest, was not because she had no wings to reach it. So the Christian has power to enter into the enjoyments of the world if he liked. Now, what was the reason then? It was not want of will, it was not want of eye, nor was it want of wing — what was it? The reason lay in this, that she was a dove. If she had been a raven, she would have found plenty of rest for the sole of her foot. It was her nature that made her unresting, and the reason why the Christian cannot find satisfaction in worldly things is because there is a new nature within him that cannot rest. "Up! up! up!" cries the new heart, "what hast thou to do here?"
IV. Being disappointed, WHAT DID THE DOVE THEN DO? When she found there was no contentment elsewhere, what then? She flew back to the ark. Josephus tells us that the dove came back to Noah, with her wings and feet all wet and muddy. Some of you have grown wet and muddy. You have been trying to find rest in the world, Christian, and you have got mired with it.
V. I want you now to turn your eye for a moment to THE VERY BEAUTIFUL SCENE, So it seems to me to be, at the end of her return journey. Noah has been looking out for his dove all day long. Mark that: "pulled her in unto him." It seems to me to imply that she did not fly right in herself, but was too fearful, or too weary. Did you ever feel that blessed gracious pull, when your heart has been desiring to get near to Christ? Lord! pull me in.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. AS IT WANDERED TO AND FRO, IT COULD FIND REST NOWHERE SAVE BY RETURNING TO THE ARK. There, and only there, was rest. Oh, weary soul, have you Bet come to that point? You will not come until you give up all confidence in your self-power.
II. "When the dove came back, IT CAME WITHOUT ANYTHING. Bring no excuse.
III. God had provided but ONE ARK. Only one name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
IV. That ark had only ONE WINDOW AND THAT WINDOW WAS OPEN. A woman, who was striving to find rest for her soul, was sitting in her summer house, when in through an open door flew a bird. It was alarmed, and flew up toward the roof, and tried to get out at this window and at that. It flew from side to side until it panted with fright and weariness. The woman said, "Poor bird, why do you not come down lower, then you would see this open door, and you could fly out easily?" But the bird kept wounding itself against the closed windows and at every crevice. At last its wings grew tired, and it flew lower and lower until it was on a level with the open door, when quickly it escaped, and soon its song was heard in the trees of the churchyard near by. A new light dawned upon the mind of the woman: "I, like that poor bird, through my pride and self-sufficiency, have been flying too high to see the door which stands wide open." Her heart was humbled, and soon she too was singing songs of gladness.
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
Old Testament Anecdotes.The following quaint epitaph has reference to a little girl buried at the age of five months: "But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark."
(Old Testament Anecdotes.)
An olive leaf. —
I. Let us look at the profound, far-reaching SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GREEN LEAF in the mouth of the dove, as the first production of a new and regenerated world.
1. In the first plaice, the green leaf is the great purifier of nature. This is one of the most important offices which it was created to fulfil. In the early ages of the earth, long before man came upon the scene, the atmosphere was foul with carbonic acid gases, so poisonous that a few inspirations of them would be sufficient to destroy life. These formed a dense covering which kept in the steaming warmth of the earth, and nourished a rank and luxuriant vegetation. Gigantic ferns, tree mosses, and reeds grew with extraordinary rapidity, and absorbed these noxious gases into their own structures, consolidating them into leaves, stems, and branches, which in the course of long ages grew and decayed, and by subtle chemical processes and mechanical arrangements were changed into coal beds under the earth. In this wonderful way two great results were accomplished at the same time and by the same means — the atmosphere was purified and made fit for the breathing of man, and animals useful to man, and vast stores of fuel were prepared to enable future generations to subdue the earth and spread over it the blessings of civilization. And what the green leaves of the early geological forests did for the primeval atmosphere of the world, the green leaves of our woods and fields are continually doing for our atmosphere still. They absorb the foul air caused by the processes of decay and combustion going on over the earth, and by the breathing of men and animals, and convert this noxious element into the useful and beautiful products of the vegetable kingdom. They preserve the air in a condition fit for human breathing. These considerations will show us how significant it was that the first object of the new world that was about to emerge from the flood should be a green leaf. It was a symbol, a token to Noah that the world would be purified from the pollution of those unnatural sins which had brought death and destruction upon it, and would once more be fitted to be the home of a peculiar people zealous of good works. What the green leaf is in nature the leaves of the tree of life are in the spiritual sphere. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which the Heavenly Dove carries to the homes and the hearts of men, is the great purifier of the world.
2. In the second place, the green leaf is the source of all the life of the world. It is by its agency alone that inert inorganic matter is changed into organic matter, which furnishes the starting point of all life. Nowhere else on the face of the earth does this most important process take place. Everything else consumes and destroys. The green leaf alone conserves and creates. In this light how suitable it was that an olive leaf freshly plucked should have been the first object brought to Noah in the ark! For just as the green leaf is the means in the natural world of counteracting all the destructive forces that are reducing its objects to dust and ashes, and clothing its surface with vegetable and animal life, so the olive leaf in the mouth of the dove spoke to Noah of the undoing of the work of destruction caused by the flood, and of the raising up of a new and fairer creation out of the universal wreck. And just as all this beautiful world of life and joy is the product of the work of the green leaf, so all that mankind has achieved and enjoyed since the flood — the great results of civilization and the still greater results of redemption — arose out of the work of grace whose dawning the green leaf intimated, and whose operation it typified. For sin and grace are in constant antagonism — like the force of the fire that burns everything to ashes, and the force of the green leaf that builds up life and beauty out of the ashes; and God has suffered sin to continue because He knows that grace can conquer it, strip its spoils, and convert its ruins into higher and nobler forms of life.
3. In the third place, the green leaf is the best conductor of electricity — that most powerful and destructive of all the forces of the earth. A twig covered with leaves, sharpened by nature's exquisite workmanship, is said to be three times as effectual as the metallic points of the best constructed rod. And when we reflect how many thousands of these vegetable points every large tree directs to the sky, and consider what must be the efficacy of a single forest with its innumerable leaves, or of a single meadow with its countless blades of grass, we see how abundant the protection from the storm is, and with what care Providence has guarded us from the destructive force. And was not that green leaf which came to Noah in the ark God's lightning conductor? Did it not bear down harmlessly the destructive power of heaven? Did it not assure Noah that the wrath of God was appeased, that the storm was over, and that peace and safety could once more be enjoyed upon the earth? And is not He to whose salvation that leaf pointed — who is Himself the "Branch" — God's lightning conductor to us? He bore the full force of the Father's wrath due to sin; He endured the penalty which we deserved; and having smitten the shepherd, the sheep for whom He laid down His life are deathless and unharmed. He is now our refuge from the storm; and under His shadow we are safe from all evil.
4. In the fourth place, the green leaf is the source of all the streams and rivers in the world. It is by the agency of the leaf that water circulates as the life blood of the globe. And how appropriately in this light did the green leaf come to Noah as the earnest and the instrument of the rearrangement of a world which had been reduced to a desert by the punishment of man's sin! That leaf assured him that the old rivers would flow again; that the former fields would smile anew; that the forests would, as in previous times, cover the earth with their shadow; and that all the conditions of seed time and harvest, and of a pleasant and useful home for man, would be present as of yore. And is not the Heavenly Dove bringing to us in the ark of our salvation a leaf of the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations, as a token that beyond the destructive floods of earth, beyond the final conflagration in which all things shall be burned up, the river of life will flow again; and amid the green fields of the paradise restored the Lamb shall lead us to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes?
5. In the fifth place, the green leaf is the type upon which the forms of all life are moulded, All organisms, whether animal or vegetable, are similar in their elementary structure and form; and the most complicated results are attained by the simplest conceivable means, and that without the slightest violation of the original plan of nature. Thoreau has said that the whole earth is but a gigantic leaf, in which the rivers and streams resemble the veins, and the mountains and plains the green parts: And did not He who sent the dove with the olive leaf to Noah thereby assure him that out of that leaf would be evolved the whole fair world of vegetable and animal life, which for a while had perished beneath the waters of the flood; that it would be reconstructed upon the old type and developed according to the old pattern? And did not He who developed this great world of life out of the single leaf develop all the great scheme of grace, all the wondrous history of redemption, out of the first simple promise to our first parents after their fall? Amid all the varying dispensations of His providence He has been without variableness or shadow of turning, unfolding more and more the germinating fulness of the same glorious plan of grace.
II. Of all the green leaves of the earth it was MOST FITTING THAT THE OLIVE LEAF SHOULD HAVE BEEN SELECTED as the first product of the new restored world. The olive tree spreads over a large area of the earth; it combines in itself the flora of the hills and the plains. It clothes with shade and beauty and slopes where no other vegetation would grow. It extracts by a vegetable miracle nourishment and fatness from the driest air and the barest rock; on it may be seen at the same time opening and full-blown blossoms, and green and perfectly ripe fruit. Each bough is laden with a wealth of promise and fulfilment; beauty for the eye and bounty for the palate. No tree displays such a rich profusion and succession of flowers and fruits. It is the very picture of prosperity and abundance. Its very gleanings are more plentiful than the whole harvest of other trees. It strikingly illustrates, therefore, the overflowing goodness of the Lord, to whom belong the earth and the fulness thereof. What the olive leaf began in Noah's case was consummated under the olive trees of Gethsemane. He who destroyed the antediluvian sinners by the flood endured the contradiction of greater and more aggravated sinners against Himself. He who sent the flood as a punishment for sin, now suffered it Himself in a more terrible form as an atonement for sin. The olive leaf of Noah's dove showed that God's strange work was done, and that He had returned to the essential element of His nature, and love shone forth again. The olive leaves of Gethsemane, that thrilled with the fear of the great agony that took place beneath them, tell us that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." What sweeter message, what dearer hope, could come to us in our sins and sorrows than this!
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
1. God's delay of answer and His saints waiting are fitly coupled.
2. God's gracious ones are of a contented, waiting and hoping frame.
3. Faith will expect from seven to seven, from week to week, to receive answers of peace from God.
4. After waiting, faith will make trial of lawful means again and again. It will add messenger to messenger (ver. 10).
5. Waiting believers shall receive some sweet return by use of means in God's time.
6. He that sends out for God is most likely to have return from Him.
7. Visible tokens of God's wrath ceasing sometimes He is pleased to vouchsafe to His.
8. It concerns God's saints to consider His signal discoveries of grace, to know them, and gather hope and comfort from them.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
2 Kings 7, of the good news of the lepers, and 2 Samuel 18:27. "He is a good man," saith David, "and cometh with good tidings." So good men and women have words of comfort in their mouths, when others have the poison of asps under their tongues; they have olive leaves to cheer up Noah and his company withal, when others have wormwood and gall to make their hearts ache with the bitterness thereof. Such does God make us evermore, and if this be regarded of us, we will endeavour it.
Noah removed the covering of the ark.
Homilist.I. He would probably be impressed with the GREATNESS OF THE CALAMITY HE HAD ESCAPED. The roaring waters had subsided, but they had wrought a terrible desolation, they had reduced the earth to a vast charnel house; every living voice is hushed, and all is silent as the grave. The patriarch, perhaps, would feel two things in relation to this calamity.
1. That it was the result of sin.
2. That it was only a faint type of the final judgment.
II. He would probably be impressed with the EFFICACY OF THE REMEDIAL EXPEDIENT. How would he admire the ark that had so nobly battled with the billows and so safely weathered the storm!
1. This expedient was Divine. Christianity, the great expedient for saving souls from the deluge of moral evil, is God's plan. "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh." Philosophy exhausted itself in the trial.
2. This expedient alone was effective. When the dreadful storm came, we may rest assured that every one of that terror-stricken generation would seize some scheme to rescue him from the doom. "There is no other name," etc.
3. The expedient was only effective to those who committed themselves to it.
III. He would probably be impressed with the WISDOM OF HIS FAITH IN GOD. He felt now —
1. That it was wiser to believe in the Word of God than to trust to the conclusions of his own reason.
2. That it was wiser to believe in the Word of God than to trust to the uniformity of nature.
3. That it was wiser to believe in God's Word than to trust to the current opinion of his contemporaries.
1. The giving in of one step of mercy maketh God's saints to wait for more.
2. God's gracious ones desire to let patience have its perfect work towards God.
3. The saint's disposition is to have experience of mercy by trying means, as well as to wait for it.
4. In the withholding of return of means may be the return of mercy. Though the dove stay, yet mercy cometh.
5. Providence promotes the comfort of saints when He seems to stop them, as in staying the clove (ver. 12).
6. As times of special mercy are recorded by God, so they should be remembered by the Church.
7. At His appointed periods God measures out mercy unto His Church.
8. The saints' patient waiting would God have recorded, as well as His performing mercies.
9. As mercies move to God's Church, so He moveth His saints to remove veils and meet them.
10. Manifestations of mercies God vouchsafeth His, as well as mercy itself.
11. Several periods of time God takes to perfect salvation to His Church.
12. After all patient waiting, in God's full time full and complete mercy and salvation is given into His Church (ver. 13).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
Noah went forth.I. THAT HE GOES FORTH UPON THE DIVINE COMMAND (vers. 15-17).
1. That Noah was counselled to go forth from the ark on a day ever to be remembered.
2. That Noah was commanded to go forth from the ark when the earth was dry.
II. THAT HE GOES FORTH IN REFLECTIVE SPIRIT. We can readily imagine that Noah would go forth from the ark in very reflective and somewhat pensive mood.
1. He would think of the multitudes who had been drowned in the great waters.
2. He would think of his own immediate conduct of life, and of the future before him.
III. THAT HE GOES FORTH IN COMPANY WITH THOSE WHO HAVE SHARED HIS SAFETY.
1. He goes forth in company with the relatives of his own family. God permitted the family of Noah to be with him in the ark, to relieve his solitude, to aid his efforts, to show the protective influence of true piety; and now they are to join him in the possession of the regenerated earth, that they may enjoy its safety and aid its cultivation.
2. He goes forth in company with the life-giving agencies of the universe.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord.I. THERE IS AN EVIDENT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SACRIFICE OF NOAH AND THOSE OF CAIN AND ABEL. Here, under God's guidance, the mound of turf gives place to the altar which is built. An idea is discovered in the dignity of the inferior creatures; the worthiest are selected for an oblation to God; the fire which consumes, the flame which ascends, are used to express the intention of him who presents the victim.
II. WE MUST FEEL THAT THERE WAS AN INWARD PROGRESS IN THE HEART OF MAN corresponding to this progress in his method of uttering his submission and his aspirations. Noah must have felt that he was representing all human beings; that he was not speaking what was in himself so much as offering the homage of the restored universe.
III. THE FOUNDATION OF SACRIFICE IS LAID IN THE FIXED WILL OF GOD; in His fixed purpose to assert righteousness; in the wisdom which adapts its means to the condition of the creature for whose sake they are used. The sacrifice assumes eternal right to be in the Ruler of the universe, all the caprice to have come from man, from his struggle to be an independent being, from his habit of distrust. When trust is restored by the discovery that God means all for his good, then he brings the sacrifice as a token of his surrender.
(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
I. That worship should succeed every act of Divine deliverance.
II. That sacrifice is the only medium through which acceptable service can be rendered. Noah's sacrifice expressed —
1. A feeling of supreme thankfulness.
2. A feeling of personal guilt.
III. That no act of worship escapes Divine notice.
IV. That human intercession vitally affects the interests of the race.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. THAT NOAH GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGED HIS DELIVERANCE AS FROM GOD.
II. THAT NOAH DEVOUTLY OFFERED TO GOD A SACRIFICE IN TOKEN OF HIS DELIVERANCE.
1. This sacrifice was the natural outcome of Noah's gratitude.
2. This sacrifice was not precluded by any excuse consequent upon the circumstances of Noah.
III. That the sacrifice of Noah was ACCEPTABLE TO GOD AND PREVENTIVE OF FURTHER EVIL TO THE WORLD.
1. It was fragrant.
2. It was preventive of calamity.
3. It was preservative of the natural agencies of the universe.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Sketches of Sermons.I. THE OCCASION ON WHICH THIS OFFERING WAS MADE.
1. How impressively would Noah and his family be reminded of the Divine forbearance which had been displayed to the whole world.
2. With what solemn awe would Noah and his family now view the earth bearing on every part of its surface the marks of recent vengeance.
3. With what adoring and grateful feeling would Noah and his family view their own preservation on this occasion.
II. ITS NATURE.
1. An expression of gratitude.
2. An acknowledgment of dependence.
3. A lively exhibition of his faith in the future atonement, as well as an appropriate testimony that his recent preservation was owing to the efficacy of that atonement.
III. ITS RESULTS.
1. The offering was accepted.
2. The promise which was given.
3. The covenant which was made.
(Sketches of Sermons.)
1. A believing priest.
2. A sanctified altar.
3. A clean sacrifice.
4. A type of Christ.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The Congregational Pulpit.I. NOAH'S SACRIFICIAL OFFERINGS.
1. Observe WHAT HE OFFERED.
(1) (2) 2. See how he offered. (1) (2) (3) (4) II. THE LORD'S GRACIOUS ACCEPTANCE THEREOF. 1. The Lord accepts a limited offering, if it be our best. 2. It is the sacrifice of faith which pleases God. 3. The Lord loves gratitude in return for mercies received. 4. The Lord visits the remnant of His people where there is family devotion. 5. In seeking to please God, the Christian secures richest blessings. (The Congregational Pulpit.)
(2) 2. See how he offered. (1) (2) (3) (4) II. THE LORD'S GRACIOUS ACCEPTANCE THEREOF. 1. The Lord accepts a limited offering, if it be our best. 2. It is the sacrifice of faith which pleases God. 3. The Lord loves gratitude in return for mercies received. 4. The Lord visits the remnant of His people where there is family devotion. 5. In seeking to please God, the Christian secures richest blessings. (The Congregational Pulpit.)
2. See how he offered.
(1) (2) (3) (4) II. THE LORD'S GRACIOUS ACCEPTANCE THEREOF. 1. The Lord accepts a limited offering, if it be our best. 2. It is the sacrifice of faith which pleases God. 3. The Lord loves gratitude in return for mercies received. 4. The Lord visits the remnant of His people where there is family devotion. 5. In seeking to please God, the Christian secures richest blessings. (The Congregational Pulpit.)
II. THE LORD'S GRACIOUS ACCEPTANCE THEREOF. 1. The Lord accepts a limited offering, if it be our best. 2. It is the sacrifice of faith which pleases God. 3. The Lord loves gratitude in return for mercies received. 4. The Lord visits the remnant of His people where there is family devotion. 5. In seeking to please God, the Christian secures richest blessings. (The Congregational Pulpit.)
II. THE LORD'S GRACIOUS ACCEPTANCE THEREOF.
1. The Lord accepts a limited offering, if it be our best.
2. It is the sacrifice of faith which pleases God.
3. The Lord loves gratitude in return for mercies received.
4. The Lord visits the remnant of His people where there is family devotion.
5. In seeking to please God, the Christian secures richest blessings.
(The Congregational Pulpit.)
I. THE ACCEPTANCE OF NOAH'S SACRIFICE AND ITS TYPICAL IMPORT.
1. Look at the acceptance of Noah's sacrifice.
2. Noah's sacrifice was typical of Christ's, and like His brought a blessing on the world.
II. THE WISE ECONOMY OF GOD, IN HIS WISE LAWS OF NATURE FOR TEMPORAL BLESSINGS.
1. The wisdom and benevolence of God are visible in the variety of the seasons, and in the profusion of earthly blessings.
2. The wisdom of God is visible for faith in all His providential arrangements for the good of the world.
III. PRACTICAL REFLECTIONS.
1. Reflect that it is because of Christ's sacrifice the whole world is blessed.
2. Reflect how God deals with sinful men in great long suffering mercy.
3. Reflect and remember that the Lord Jesus shall stand like Noah, when a deluge of fire rolls over this world.
(J. G. Angley, M. A.)
1. It was an altar of obedience. With Noah the will of God was paramount. What is religion but obedience? — "the obedience of faith" — of which the entire simplicity constitutes its true perfection. Noah's career in the new world began in the spirit of essential obedience. At the command, "Go forth," the Ark is deserted; and, doubtless, in the spirit of faith the altar was erected.
2. It was an altar of gratitude and dedication. Noah was grateful to his Almighty Friend; and, as gratitude is a quality which loses its fragrance by delay, so he postponed every business and consideration to the thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.
3. It was an altar of propitiation. This is its most important feature. Worship and sacrifice are incorporated and identified from the beginning of the world. Man was always a sinner. He could never approach his Maker in any other character.
4. The altar of Noah was a family altar. He was the priest of his family. He required their presence before the throne of grace. He persuaded them to assist in praising God, and in making a covenant by sacrifice. A family altar is, transcendently and incalculably, a family blessing. With Noah, the worship of God was the first business he attended to. He lacked neither calls of necessity nor momentous cares; but he postponed all ether considerations to the service of God. Not like the majority amongst us, who fancy that they have too much to do to devote any time to religion. In the patriarch's worship there was no trace of selfishness. Many think there is no worship like free worship, and are most willing to pray where they have little to pay. What a reproof may they find in Noah! The seventh part of his whole stock and substance he dedicated to God. He reasoned not about future wants, but made an instant and "a whole burnt offering" to his Maker. He did it because it was God's appointment.
(C. Burton, LL. D.)
The Lord smelled a sweet savour.
1. The reflection of His own love.
2. The vindication of His righteousness. God prescribes the sacrifice in order that He may be just when He justifies (Romans 3:25, 26).
3. The willingness of the self-devotion.
4. The prospect of pure service. Human nature, in Christ's obedience and death, is purified and restored. Noah's sacrifice might be compared to a morning prayer at the dawn of a new epoch in human history. It was a dedication of restored humanity to the service of God, the Deliverer. The hope of the human race consists in possessing acceptable access unto God. This we have in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:19-22).
(W. S. Smith, B. D.)
The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. —
I. These words were said by our Maker more than four thousand years ago, and they have been true ever since down to this very hour. There is so much more bad than good in us that we should certainly go wrong if left to ourselves, and the bias of our nature to evil is so strong that it can only be corrected by changing the very nature itself; or, in the words of Scripture, by being born again of the Spirit. Everything is properly called good or evil according as it answers or defeats the purpose for which it was made. We were made for our Maker's glory, after His own image, that we should make His will the rule of our lives, and His love and anger the great objects of our hope and fear; that we should live in Him, and for Him, and to Him, as our constant Guide and Master and Father. If we answer these ends, then we are good creatures; if we do not, we are bad creatures. Nor does it matter how many good or amiable qualities we may possess; like the blossoms or leaves of a barren fruit tree, we are bad of our kind if we do not bring forth fruit.
II. Now, instead of living to God, we by nature care nothing about God; we live as if we had made ourselves, not as if God had made us. This is the corruption of our nature, which makes us evil in the sight of God. Christ alone can make us sound from head to foot. He alone can give us a new and healthy nature; He alone can teach us so to live as to make this world a school for heaven. All that is wanted is that we should see our need of Him, and fly to Him for aid.
(T. Arnold, D. D.)
I. A MOST PAINFUL FACT. Man's nature is incurable. The statement of Scripture is corroborated by —
1. The confessions of God's people.
2. Our own observation.
II. GOD'S EXTRAORDINARY REASONING. Good reasoning, but most extraordinary. He says, "I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." Strange logic! In the sixth chapter, He said man was evil, and therefore He destroyed him. In the eighth chapter, He says man is evil from his youth, and therefore He will not destroy him. Strange reasoning! to be accounted for by the little circumstance in the beginning of the verse, "The Lord smelled a sweet savour." There was a sacrifice there; that makes all the difference. When God looks on sin apart from sacrifice, Justice says, Smite! Smite! Curse! Destroy!" But when there is a sacrifice God looks on us with eyes of mercy, and though Justice says, "Smite!" He says, "No, I have smitten My dear Son; I have smitten Him, and will spare the sinner." Rightly upon the terms of Justice, there is no conceivable reason why He should have mercy upon us, but grace makes and invents a reason.
III. INFERENCES. If the heart be so evil, then it is impossible for us to enter heaven as we are. Another step; then it is quite clear that if I am to enter heaven no outward reform will ever do it, for if I wash my face, that does not change my heart.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. OF MAN'S NATURAL THOUGHTS CONCERNING GOD.
1. Of this thought there is no God.
2. That the word of God is foolishness.
3. I will not obey God's word.
4. It is a vain thing to worship God.
5. Of man's thought of distrust — God will not regard, or be merciful to me.
II. OF MAN'S NATURAL THOUGHTS AGAINST HIS NEIGHBOUR
1. Thoughts of dishonour.
2. Thoughts of murder.
3. Thoughts of adultery.
III. OF MAN'S NATURAL THOUGHTS CONCERNING HIMSELF.
1. Man's proud thoughts of his own excellency.
2. Man's proud thoughts of his own righteousness.
3. Man's thought of security in the day of peace.
IV. OF THE WANT OF GOOD THOUGHTS IN EVERY MAN NATURALLY.
1. Good thoughts about temporal things are much wanting.
2. In spiritual things they are much wanting.
3. The fruits of this want of good thoughts.
4. The timely preventing of evil thoughts by good parents and teachers.
5. The repentance of evil thoughts.
V. RULES FOR THE REFORMATION OF EVIL THOUGHTS.
1. They must be brought into obedience to God.
2. The guarding of our hearts.
3. The consideration of God's presence.
4. The consideration of God's judgments.
( W. Perkins..)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. SINCE A FLOOD WAS AS MUCH CALLED FOR TWICE AS ONCE, WHY SHOULD IT HAVE BEEN SENT ONCE, THE PROVOCATION BEING JUST THE SAME, AND YET THE DEALING MOST DIFFERENT? WAS ANY END ANSWERED BY THE DELUGE? Now, our first thought on finding that there was just the same reason for destroying the world twice as for destroying it once is, that no end was answered by the deluge which might not have been answered without a deluge. But though it is most certain that there was as much provocation after as before the deluge, it is a most unwarranted conclusion that no great ends were answered by the deluge. The deluge was God's sermon against sin, whose echoes will be heard until the consummation of all things. We give no harbourage for a moment — we know there could be nothing more false than the opinion — that the antediluvians must have been more wicked than ourselves because visited with signal and unequivocal punishment: but if you infer from this that the flood was unnecessary, that the antediluvians might as well have been spared as their successors, we at once deny the conclusion. Had there never been a flood, we should have wanted our most striking attestation to the truth of the Bible. We are prepared to contend that, in bringing water upon the earth, God was wondrously providing for the faith of every coming generation, and was writing in characters which no time can efface, and no ingenuity prove to be forgeries, that He hates sin with perfect hatred, and will punish it with rigid punishment. But it is important to bear in mind that, when God visibly interferes for the punishment of wickedness, there are some ends of His moral government to be answered, over and above that of the chastisement of the unrighteous. Ordinarily God delays taking vengeance till the last day of account; and we judge erroneously if we judge from God's dealings with man on this side eternity. When there is a direct interposition, such as the deluge, we may be sure it answers other designs besides that of punishing unrighteousness: and before, therefore, we can show that there was the same reason for a second deluge as for one, we must not only show there was the same amount of wickedness, and the same evil in the imagination of the heart — we must show there was the same end of moral government to be answered, over and above that of the punishment of the rebellious. And here it is you will feel established in the belief that a great lesson was recorded as to God's hatred of sin, and His determination to destroy, sooner or later, the impenitent. And God furnished this lesson, so that ages have obliterated no letter of the record, by bringing a flood on the earth, and burying in the womb of waters the unnumbered tribes that crowded its continents. But the lesson required not to be repeated; it was sufficient that it should be given once — sufficient, seeing that it is still so powerful and persuasive that it leaves inexcusable all who persist in rejecting it.
II. We propose to seek an answer to the inquiry, WHETHER LONG SUFFERING CAN PRODUCE THE SAME RESULTS AS PUNISHING. And this, after all, is the question most forcibly presented in our text. Whether God smites, or whether He spares, we know He must have the same objects in view — the promotion of His own glory and the well-being of the universe. But how comes it, then, to pass that it was best at one time to smite, and at another time to spare? We have given a reason for one deluge, which could not be given for a second. The lesson of the deluge was to be spread over the whole surface of time; and thus the one act of punishment was to have its effect throughout the season of long suffering. Punishment was a necessary preliminary to long suffering, to prevent the abuse of long suffering. God is only taking consecutive steps in one and the same design; and if we are right in saying that punishment was necessarily preliminary to long suffering, than even a child can perceive that God was only acting out the same arrangement when He said, "I will not spare," and when He said, "I will spare, for the imagination of man's heart is evil." It is as though He said, "I might send flood after flood, and leave again only an insignificant fraction of the population; but the evil lies deep in the heart, and would not be swept away by the immensity of waters. I might deal with succeeding generations as I have with this very one; and as soon as the earth sent up new harvests of wickedness, I might come forth, and put in the scythe of My vengeance; but after all there would be no renovation, and evil would still be predominant in this section of the creation. Therefore I will be long suffering; nothing but long. suffering can affect My purpose, for nothing but an atonement can reconcile the fallen; and long suffering is nothing but the atonement anticipated. I will not, then, again curse the ground, for man's imaginations are evil. I will not curse — the evil will not be grappled with by the curse — the evil would not go away before the curse. If the evil were not in the very heart, it might be eradicated by judgment; if it were not engraven into the very. bone and sinew and spirit, it might be washed out by the torrent; and I would again curse. But it is an evil for which there must be expiation; it is an evil which can only be done away by sacrifice, it is an evil which can only be exterminated by the entering in of Deity into that nature." It is thus that, so far as we can judge, without overstraining the passage, the corruption of human nature will furnish a reason why there was no repetition of the deluge. God's object was not to destroy, but to reconcile the world: and the reconciliation could not be effected by judgments; the machinery must be made up of mercies. Judgments might make way for mercies, but they could not do the work of mercies. Punishment was preliminary to sparing, but punishment continued would not have effected the object of the Almighty. So that long suffering was the only engine by which the machinery could be mastered. The whole of Christ's work was gathered, so to speak, into long suffering.
III. But who can give himself to an inquiry which has to do with the cause or reason of the deluge, and not feel his attention drawn to the TYPICAL CHARACTER of that tremendous event? The history of the world before the flood is nothing but the epitome of the history of the world up to that grand consummation, the second coming of the Lord. And if we wanted additional reasons why one deluge should be sent and not a second, we might find it in the fact that all the affairs of time shall be wound up by a single visitation. The antediluvian world had been dealt with by the machinery of the most extensive loving kindness: the Almighty had long borne with the wickedness of the earth; and it was not till every overture had been despised that He allowed Himself to strike. Shall it not be thus with the world of the unrighteous? Wonderful has been the long suffering of the Almighty: and as there has gone on the building of the ark — as the Church of Christ has been gathered and cemented and enlarged, the voice and entreaties of ministers and missionaries have circulated through Christianity; and the despiser has been continually told, sternly, and reproachfully, and affectionately, that a day will yet burst upon the creation, when all who are not included in the ark shall be tossed on the surges and buried in the depths of a fiery sea. But as the time of the end draws near, the warning will grow louder, and the entreaty more urgent, that all men put away their wickedness, and prepare themselves for meeting their Judge.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
While the earth remaineth, seed time, and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.I. In the text there is A SOLEMN HINT OF WARNING. "While the earth remaineth."
1. It is implied that the earth will not always remain.
2. The time when the earth shall no longer remain is not mentioned. The uncertainty of the end of all things is intended to keep us continually on the watch.
3. Let me further remark that the day when the remaining of the earth shall cease cannot be very far off; for according to the Hebrew, which you have in the margin of your Bibles, the text runs thus: "As yet all the days of the earth, seed time and harvest shall not cease." The "while" of the earth's remaining is counted by days; not even months or years are mentioned, much less centuries.
II. Thus, then, there is a hint of warning in our text; but secondly, there is A SENTENCE OF PROMISE, rich and full of meaning: "While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease." It is a promise concerning temporal things, but yet it breathes a spiritual air, and hath about it the smell of a field that the Lord hath blessed.
1. This promise has been kept. It is long since it was written, it is longer still since it was resolved upon in the mind of God; but it has never failed. There have been times when cold has threatened to bind the whole year in the chains of frost; but genial warmth has pushed it aside. The ordinances of heaven have continued with us as with our fathers.
2. So long-continued is the fulfilment of this promise, and even this race of unbelievers has come to believe in it. We look for the seasons as a matter of course. Why do we not believe God's other promises?
3. Brethren, we have come not only to believe this promise as to the seasons and to make quite sure about it, but we practically act upon our faith. The farmers have sown their autumn wheat, and many of them are longing for an opportunity to sow their spring wheat; but what is sowing but a burial of good store? Why do husbandmen hide their grain in the earth? Because they feel sure that seed time will in due time be followed by harvest. Why do we not act in an equally practical style in reference to the rest of God's promises? True faith makes the promises of God to be of full effect by viewing them as true and putting them to the test.
4. If a man did not act upon the declaration of God in our text, he would be counted foolish. Equally mad are they who treat other promises of God as if they were idle words; no more worthy of notice than the prophecies of a charlatan.
5. Let me close this point by noticing that, whether men believe this or not it will stand true. A man says there will be no winter, and provides no garments; he will shiver in the northern blast all the same when December covers the earth with snow.
III. There is also in the text, I think, A SUGGESTION OF ANALOGIES. Reading these words, not as a philosophical prediction, but as a part of the Word of God, I see in them a moral, spiritual, and mystical meaning.
1. While the earth remaineth there will be changes in the spiritual world. "While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." No one of these states continues; it comes and goes. The seasons are a perpetual procession, an endless chain, an ever-moving wheel. Such is this life: such are the feelings of spiritual life with most men: such is the history of the Church of God. It will be so while the earth remaineth, and we remain partakers of the earth.
2. Yet there will be an order in it all. Cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, do not come in a giddy dance or tumultuous hurly burly; but they make up the fair and beautiful year. Chance has no part in these affairs. So in the spiritual kingdom, in the life of the believer, and in the history of the Church of God, all things are made to work for good, and the spiritual is being educated into the heavenly.
3. Great rules will stand while the earth abideth, in the spiritual as well as in the natural world. For instance, there will be seed time and harvest, effort and result, labour and success.
IV. Last of all, I want you to regard my text as A TOKEN FOR THE ASSURANCE OF OUR FAITH. "While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." And they do not. In this fact we are bidden to see the seal and token of the covenant.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. A TESTIMONY FOR GOD'S FAITHFULNESS. The return of harvest speaks to you in language not to be mistaken. "Hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering; for He is faithful that has promised." "My covenant will I not break, saith the Lord; nor alter the thing that has gone out of My lips." "But," you will say perhaps, "it is not God's faithfulness I question — I doubt His mercy. The Word of the Lord, that shall stand; but 'His mercy is in the heavens.' It reacheth not to me." And why not? What but mercy, infinite mercy, so prevailed with the Almighty that He should promise "seed time and harvest" so long as the earth endureth!
II. THE HARVEST IS A FIGURE OF THE CONSUMMATION OF ALL THINGS.
1. The end of the world is as sure as the harvest.
2. As in harvest the reaper casts aside the weed, so every false professor will be "cast into outer darkness," while the righteous will "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." "Whoso hath ears to hear, let him hear."
3. Again, it is in harvest we receive of that we have sown; and it is in harvest we see the end of the husbandman's labour — why he hath so long "waited for the early and latter rain." And so in the end of the world. Then is it that we shall see the purposes for which the world was made, and wherefore it has been sustained so long. Then we shall see the long suffering of God, and wherefore He hath borne with us so long.
(W. M. Mungeain, B. A.)
I. WHEN WAS THIS PROMISE GIVEN? Immediately after the deluge. In wrath God remembered mercy.
II. WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE PROBABLE RESULT, IF GOD HAD GIVEN US JUDGMENT AND NOT MERCY? If the covenant with the seasons had been suspended, all happiness and comfort must have been instantly paralysed, and all animal life extinguished; existence would no longer have been possible, and your palaces, mansions, and cottages would have been mere sepulchres, full of dead men's bones.
III. But thirdly, let us inquire WHETHER A TIME IS NOT COMING WHEN SEED TIME AND HARVEST, HEAT AND COLD, SUMMER AND WINTER, DAY AND NIGHT, WILL CEASE? Yes, the covenant in the text is limited in time, it holds good only "whilst the earth remaineth." Let this consideration lead us to seek an interest in the better covenant, founded on better promises, and which lasts for eternity; and let us rest our hopes on that firm foundation.
(H. Clissold, M. A.)
1. Every harvest teaches the fact of God's wise providence.
2. Every harvest teaches the fact of God's definite purpose. One vast magnificent purpose has kept everything in exact order during all these years of Divine fidelity.
3. God expects every one of His creatures to be as faithful to a purpose as He Himself has been.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
1. Spiritual winter is an ordination of God. The true spiritual analogue of winter is not spiritual death, not even feeble spiritual life. There is an orderly change in the soul. Unseen, yet very really, God's Spirit is at work, altering influences, changing modes. He introduces a new state of spiritual experiences, seeking to accomplish varied objects, and summoning to new modes of improving His presence.
2. The objects of spiritual winter are:
(1) (2) (3) 3. How are we to improve spiritual winter? (1) (2) (A. Mackennal, D. D.)
(2) (3) 3. How are we to improve spiritual winter? (1) (2) (A. Mackennal, D. D.)
(3) 3. How are we to improve spiritual winter? (1) (2) (A. Mackennal, D. D.)
3. How are we to improve spiritual winter?
(A. Mackennal, D. D.)
(A. Mackennal, D. D.)
Homilist.The seasonable changes to which our earth is subject are of vast importance to man. They serve —
1. To impress us with the fact of the brevity of life.
2. To keep the soul in constant action.
3. To revive the recollections of old truths. What are the truths that nature reproduces in winter?
I. THE EVANESCENT FORMS OF EARTHLY LIFE. Individuals, families, and nations have their seasons — their spring, summer, autumn, winter.
II. THE STERN ASPECTS OF NATURE'S GOD. Winter significantly hints that the Absolute cannot be trifled with — that He curses as well as blesses, destroys as well as saves.
III. THE RETRIBUTIVE LAW OF THE CREATION. Winter brings on men the penalties for not rightly attending to the other seasons.
IV. THE PROBABLE RESUSCITATION OF BURIED EXISTENCE. The life of the world in winter is not gone out, it is only sleeping..
1. The resuscitation of Christian truth.
2. The resuscitation of conscience.
3. The resuscitation of the human body.
1. Something ought, by the time we have arrived at autumn, to have been got ready to give to man. Have you done it? What fruit have you borne in life for your brother men; how much wheat will God find in you when He comes to reap your fields? We have read the answer that should be given in the harvest time every year. Few sights are fairer than that seen autumn after autumn round many an English homestead, when, as evening falls, the wains stand laden among the golden stubble, and the gleaners are scattered over the misty field; when men and women cluster round the gathered sheaves, and rejoice in the loving kindness of the earth; where, in the dewy air, the shouts of happy people ring, and over all the broad moon shines down to bless with its yellow light the same old recurring scene it has looked on and loved for so many thousand years. It is the picture of a fruitful human life when its autumn tide has come; and blessed are they of whom men can feel the same as when they share in a harvest home — of whom they can say, "He has reached his autumn, we reap his golden produce, and we thank him in our hearts"; and in whose own spirit glimmers fair the moonlight of peace in the evening of life, the peace that is born of work completed, the humble, happy knowledge that can say, "Men will feed on my thoughts, my work shall nourish them, and God in whose strength I have lived, will garner all for me." There is no blessedness in life to be compared with that; it is the true, unselfish joy of harvest.
2. There is a second aspect of autumn that follows upon the harvest. A fortnight ago I went into Epping Forest in the morning. The wind blew keen and strong through a cloudless sky: but a faint, fine mist was on the ground. The air was full of leaves that fluttered to their rest on the red earth and the dark green pools scattered through the wood. The grass was silver-sown with frosted dew, and the birds sang cheerily but quietly. Things were just touched with the breath of decay; one knew that the time of mirth, that even the harvest time was gone away; but the light was too fresh and the sky too bright for sadness. There was an inspiration of work in the air — of quiet, hopeful work — though the ingathering of the year was over. And looking through the thin red foliage of the trees, beyond the skirt of the wood, I saw the rest of the autumn work of man — two dark-brown fields of rich earth, the upturned ridges just touched with the bright footprints of the frost, and in one, looming large through the light mist, two horses drew the plough, and tossed a darker ridge to light, and in the other a sower was sowing corn. And I thought, as I beheld, that our autumn life is not only production, but preparation; not only harvests, but ploughing and sowing. It is not enough to have produced a harvest: we must make ready for a new harvest for men and for ourselves, and more for men than for ourselves. To do so for ourselves alone were selfish, and would defeat its end, for work with that motive has from the very beginning the seed of corruption in it, and the harvest it may reach will be cankered. To begin with one's self is to end in fruitlessness. Begin, on the contrary, your work of sowing with the motive of Christ: "I do this for the love of men"; and you will then find that, without knowing it, and because you did not know or think about it, you have ploughed and sown in the noblest way for yourself. In the new spring time of God's paradise, where only summer's fulness, but never autumn's decay is known, you will fulfil your being, and not one aspiration shall fail of its completion, not one failure but shall be repaired, not one yearning for truth but shall be satisfied, not one effort made here to bring forth a harvest, to plough the land of the world, to sow the seed of good and truth, but shall find at last a noble scope, and expand itself into an infinite sphere of labour. These are the hopes of autumn.
3. There is yet another aspect of autumn, and it is the aspect of decay. The evening falls, the damp air is chill, the mist rises, and the leafless trees are hooded in its ghostly garment. Our feet brush in the avenues through the thick floor of sodden leaves, and through the places we remember green and bright as paradise a low wind sighs in sorrow for the past.
(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)
I. THAT THERE IS A CERTAINTY OF A REGULAR RETURN OF THE NATURAL HARVEST, RESTING UPON THE UNCHANGEABLE PURPOSE OF GOD.
1. The harvest is a time of poetry, rich in meaning, full of beauty, and set to music by God Himself, the poetry of nature smiling in her loveliness and ripe fruition, accompanied by the music of the breeze, as it rustles among the golden ears of bearded grain, and enlivened by sounds of human gladness.
2. Harvest is a time of joy. Then is seen the fruit of long and arduous toil, the fulfilment of ardent hopes and doubtful promises.
3. It is not only the result of work and the triumph of work, but it needs work to secure its golden spoils. Labour is the price of securing as well as of cultivating the fruits of the soil? What more joyous occupation than gathering the fruits of the soil? Man is here a worker with God.
4. Harvest is a time for thankfulness. Whose is the earth we till? God's. Whose the seed we sow? God's. Whose the influences of the sunshine, rain, and air? God's. Whose are the appointed laws by which the seed develops into the plant, and by which the plant bears the precious grain? God's. Whose gift is the intelligence that wields the reaper and drives the team afield? God's. All come from God.
II. THE NATURAL HARVEST REPRESENTS OTHER HARVESTS IN WHICH MEN HAVE A PART. Nature is a picture lesson for man to learn, and there are realities in the world of mind and man corresponding to her images.
1. There is a seed time and harvest in the history of man, analogous to that established by God in nature. Look over the record of the ages and do you not find that the exertions, the struggles, the sacrifices of the men in one age have produced results for the benefit of later generations? Who sowed the harvest of civilization which we are now reaping? Was it not the sages and the poets of ancient Greece, the lawyers and rulers of ancient Rome; the prophets and apostles, the martyrs and evangelists of the Jewish and of the early Christian Church? These were the men that sowed the seeds of law, of learning, of morality, and of religion; and we today, in conjunction with other Christian people, are reaping in our Christian civilization, with all its faults and deficiencies, still great and glorious, the fruit of all their toils, the rich results of their laborious exertions. To bygone ages, to bygone men, how much, then, do we owe! Ah! you cannot separate the ages. One sows, another reaps, and the world of man is richer.
2. There are seed time and harvest for every individual life. The young especially ought to remember that they are now to make those preparations without which age will bear but little fruit. Now is the season to deposit the store of knowledge in their memories as into genial soil, there to take root and germinate into blissful fruit, so that when future years come they may reap the harvest of ripened wisdom and be enriched with the results of work which has gone before, and looking into their minds, as into rich storehouses, they may view the accumulated thoughts, facts, and principles, which form the abundant harvest of their minds. Nor is it with knowledge and wisdom in secular affairs that the individual seed time and harvest should be solely concerned. The spirit requires cultivation. Seed time and harvest is also going on at the same time in the sphere of Christian experience. No sooner do we know the Saviour than we begin to reap the fruits of believing; every gain to our Christian knowledge, or effort of the Christian life, procures for us a greater benefit. We reap as we go on sowing and cultivating our immortal nature — sowing truth, love, and holiness, we reap present satisfaction, delight, and peace, and prepare the way for grander and richer harvests on high. And even in heaven the cultivation of our powers of love and wisdom will go on forever, and bring us increasing harvests of progress in all that is excellent and godlike — world without end.
3. But there is, strictly speaking, a spiritual harvest. And this spiritual harvest has a double aspect — as it respects the righteous, as it respects the wicked. Have you never seen the drunkard, the sensualist, the debauchee, sowing to the lusts of his flesh, nourishing, cultivating, pampering his passions and the brute-like instincts of his nature, and reaping in like kind, creating evil and degraded habits for himself, brutalizing and polluting his thoughts and his imagination, destroying his strength, and health, and manly beauty, and ruining his immortal soul? He is reaping what he sows. Have you never seen, on the other hand, the noble Christian, sowing to the higher life of the spirit, sowing love and kindness to all around him, to come back to him in a harvest of gratitude and affection; sowing intelligence and wisdom to be paid to him in happy thoughts, beautiful fancies, and glorious aspirations; sowing piety, and adoration, and devotion to God, and reaping here the peace that passeth understanding, joy in the Holy Ghost, sweet communion with God, and in the world to come, life everlasting. Let us be thankful for nature's kindly law, the regular return of seed time and harvest, the ordinance of our covenant Jehovah, our loving Father in heaven.
(E. E. Bayliss.)
1. Common things are too often taken as matters of course. The Source and Author of them all is forgotten.
2. God not only orders all these things, maintaining them in constant succession, as He said He would, but He orders them in the best and wisest manner. He takes in at a glance the wants of all His creatures, foresees all the consequences, both near and far off, of what He does, and sends His dealings accordingly. A labouring man used to say, when he heard people complaining of the weather — "It is such weather as God sends, and therefore it pleases me."
3. But all this concerns the present life only. May we not learn something from the text concerning the life to come? The very words carry our thoughts on to the future state. "While the earth remaineth." This promise, then, sure as it is, is only for a time — "while the earth remaineth"; and the earth will not remain forever as it now is. A great change will come — a new heaven and a new earth. Then at length seed time and harvest will be no longer distinguished.
4. Not only the promise of the text, but every other promise that God has made, will be fulfilled.
(F. Bourdillon, M. A.)
(G. S. Robinson, D. D.).