« PreviousContinue »
of information respecting the details of the method of salvation has been very different in different ages ; but the great truth, through the faith of which men are interested in that method of salvation, has never varied. It is, “ that God is, and that He is the rewarder of them who diligently seek Him.”
This, then, is the Apostle's argument, and it is plainly a good one : Enoch is a glorious illustration of the efficacy of faith in obtaining benefits.
He obtained a most important benefit-translation to heaven without tasting of death; and it was through believing that he obtained this benefit. The Scriptures represent him as before his translation an object of the peculiar divine favour; and they represent his translation as a manifestation of this peculiar favour. But none but a believer can be an object of the divine peculiar favour. It is by faith, and faith alone, that a man can be justified.'
The concluding part of the 6th verse is valuable, as giving us a further illustration of the Apostle's description of faith in the first view. To believe the truth with regard to the character of God, is a conviction with regard to things unseen,” “ for no man hath seen God at any time;" and to believe that He is the rewarder of them who diligently seek Him,” is “ confidence respecting things hoped for.” It is also useful for confuting two very absurd tenets which have been adopted by some men. There are men, even professed Christians, who maintain the innocence of error,—who say it is of no consequence what men believe, if they but live well. That is just equivalent to saying that it is of no consequence to “please God”—to be an object of His complacency and kind regard ; for “ without faith it is impossible to please God.” There are others who affirm, that in serving God we ought to have no respect to the “ recompense of reward.” But the Apostle states it as forming a necessary part of that truth which must be believed in order to our pleasing God, “ that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
This passage has often been abused for the purpose of proving that the heathen, who have no written revelation, are not in such deplorable circumstances as the friends of missions represent them. They have the means of knowing that “ God is, and that He is the rewarder of them who diligently seek Him;" and if they believe this, they, like Enoch, will please God, and though they should not, like him, be translated, yet when they die they will certainly go to leaven. That the heathen have to a certain extent the means of knowing that “God is," is plain from the first chapter of the Romans; but the Apostle, who asserts this truth, asserts also, that in consequence of the depravity of man's nature, these means are not improved, and therefore but increase their guilt and deepen their condennation; and that, in fact, the heathen world“ by wisdom knew not God,” but, on the contrary, “ did service to them who by nature are no gods." The views of every heathen are not only necessarily very defective, from the imperfection of the means of knowledge, but, as experience teaches, they are uniformly greatly erroneous. The god or gods in whose existence they believe, is not the true God. With regard to the second article of that faith which the Apostle represents as necessary to please God, “ that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him,” that is what no man without an express revelation could ever discover.
It is very consonant with reason to believe that God will make innocent and obedient creatures happy; but as to whether God will be reconciled to sinners, and make them .ultimately happy, or in what way He is to be sought for this purpose, it is plain that unenlightened reason can give no information. The faith here spoken of must be founded on a supernatural revelation of the true character of God, and of His purposes of mercy towards a lost world. It was through the faith of the revelation made in his time on this subject, that Enoch was accepted of God; it is through the faith of the revelation now made to us, that we are to be accepted of God. It is not my purpose to enter into the general question of the salvability of the heathen ; but I think it must be evident to every careful reader, that that doctrine receives no support from the passage before us. It would be a strange thing indeed, if in an Epistle, the great object of which is to show the supreme importance of the faith of the Gospel, we should meet with a declaration that men may be saved without knowing anything about the Gospel.
The third example of the efficacy of faith which he brings forward, is that afforded by the history of Noah. Ver. 7. “ 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.” Let us first shortly attend to the facts of the case; and then consider the illustration which they afford of the efficacy of faith in enabling to perform duties, to endure trials, and to obtain blessings.
1 πίστει must be construed, not with χρηματισθείς, but with κατεσκεύασε: δι' ής must not be referred to κιβωτόν, but to πίστει.
The facts are these : “ Noah was warned of God of things not seen as yet;" in consequence of this, he was moved with fear,” and built an ark; he obtained the salvation of his family; "he condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is by faith."
The first fact is, “ Noah was warned of God of things not seen as yet.” The approaching deluge was the event of which Noah was warned. The circumstances of that event are termed “ things not seen as yet ;" because, though in their own nature sufficiently apprehensible by the senses, they were then unseen, because future, and because nothing in the appearance of nature indicated their approach. We have a particular account of the warning in Gen. vi. 12–18: “And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt : for all flesh had corrupted his way
the earth. 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 earth. Make thee an ark of gopher-wood : rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of; The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven ; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish My covenant: and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee."
The second fact refers to the influence which this warning had on the mind and conduct of Noah. He was “ moved with fear,” and he “ prepared an ark.” When it is said that Noah was moved with fear,” we are not to suppose that he was in
any degree afraid that he or his family were to perish in the approaching deluge. He had precisely the same reason for expecting his deliverance, and that of his family, along with a small remnant of all species of living creatures, that he had for expecting the destruction of the rest of mankind and the animal tribes. It is easy, however, to see how Noah was “moved with fear.” An evil of such tremendous magnitude, inflicted on account of sin, placed in a very striking light the irresistible power, the immaculate purity, the inflexible justice of God, and was fitted to fill the mind with reverence and godly fear. Besides, Noah knew that he and all his family were sinners, and de
erved to perish along with the rest of their race; and he knew also, that though, if the ark was prepared, according to the divine appointment, all was safe; it was equally true, that if the ark was not prepared, he and they must perish in the general ruin. The very idea of this must have excited a salutary terror, and operated as a powerful motive to diligence in the building of the ark. When we consider the size of the ark,—especially when connected with the collection of the various animals, which from the history seems to have been Noah's work,—the undertaking, in any circumstances, must have been an arduous one; and when we consider the difficulties which must have arisen out of the state of sentiment and feeling of the great body of mankind, it may well be considered as one of the most extraordinary examples of difficult duty which the world has ever witnessed. The testimony of God on this subject is this—adding, after a particular detail of the commands laid on Noah, “ Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.”
The third fact stated by the Apostle is, that Noah thus obtained the deliverance of his family. He “ built an ark to the saving of his house." “ House,” here, is plainly equivalent to family. The words, “ to the saving of his house,” taken by themselves, may either signify what was the design of Noah in building the ark, or what was the result of his building the ark. In the first case, they are equivalent to—he built an ark that his family might be saved ;' in the second case, they are equivalent tom he built an ark, and thus his family was saved.' Both are truths; but it is the last of these truths which serves the Apostle's object—the illustration of the efficacy of faith. By building the ark, Noah obtained the salvation of his family. “ And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man : all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven ; and they were destroyed from the earth : and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.” When "all flesh” had died, “Noah remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.”
The next fact stated is, “He condemned the world." These words have generally been supposed to refer to that tacit condemnation which Noah, by his conduct, in obeying the divine commandment, and preparing for the coming deluge, as it were pronounced on an ungodly world.? But as it is said that “ by faith” (for I apprehend there can be no doubt the reference is to faith in the relative " which,” and not to the ark, as some have supposed; for it was by the same thing, whatever it was, that he 6 condemned the world" and " became the heir of the righteousness of faith ;" and certainly it was not by the ark that he was justified) “ he condemned the world," I am disposed to consider the words as referring to the same fact which Peter, in his second Epistle, ii. 5, refers to, when he calls Noah “a preacher of righteousness.” I think we are warranted from the declaration here, as explained by that in the Epistle of Peter, to conclude, that the warning Noah received from God he publicly proclaimed, -remonstrated with the men of his age on their wickedness, called them to repentance, and denounced, on their continuing in sin, the awful sentence of a common and universal destruction.
The last fact stated is, that Noah“ became,” or was, “ an heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” “The righteousness by faith” is just the justification by believing; and to be
1 Gen. vii. 21-23.
2 The following passage from Ecclesiasticus has been referred to for illustration :-κατακρίνει δε δίκαιος καμών τους ζωντας ασεβείς, και νεότης τελεσθείσα ταχέως πολυετές γήρας αδίκου. “ The dead just man condemns the living ungodly; and the finished youth swiftly condemns the protracted old age of the wicked."