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THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL
IS TO BE SOUGHT.
Gen. vi. 22.
Thus did Noah ; according to all that God commanded him, so
CONCERNING these words, I would observe three things :
1. What it was that God commanded Noah, to which these words refer. It was the building of an ark, according to the particular direction of God, against the time when the food of waters should come; and the laying up of food for himself, his family, and the other animals, which were to be preserved in the ark. We have the particular commands which God gave him respecting this affair, from the 14th verse, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood," &c.
2. We may observe the special design of the work which God had enjoined upon Noah: It was to save himself and his family, when the rest of the world should be drowned. See ver. 17, 18.
3. We may observe Noah's obedience. He obeyed God: Thus did Noah. And his obedience was thorough and universal : According to all that God commanded him, so did he. He not only began, but he went through his work, which God had commanded him to undertake for his salvation from the flood. To this obedience, the apostle refers in Heb. xi. 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."
Doctrine.—We should be willing to engage in, and go through great undertakings, in order to our own salvation.
The building of the ark, which was enjoined upon Noah, that he and his family might be saved, was a great undertaking: The ark was a building of vast size; the length of it being three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A cubit, till of late, was by learned men reckoned to be equal to a foot and a half of our measure.
* Dated September, 1740.
But lately, some learned men of our nation have travelled into Egypt, and other ancient countries, and have measured some ancient buildings there, which are of several thousand years' standing, and of which ancient histories give us the dimensions in cubits; particularly the pyramids of Egypt, which are standing entire at this day. By measuring these, and by comparing the measure in feet with the ancient accounts of their measure in cubits, a cubit is found to be almost two and twenty inches. Therefore learned men more lately reckon a cubit much larger than they did formerly. So that the ark, reckoned so much larger every way, will appear to be almost of double the bulk which was formerly ascribed to it. According to this computation of the cubit, it was more than five hundred and Gifty feet long, about ninety feet broad, and about fifty feet in height.
To build such a structure, with all those apartments and divisions in it which were necessary, and in such a manner as to be fit to float upon the water for so long a time, was then a great undertaking. It took Noah, with all the workmen he employed, an hundred and twenty years, or thereabouts, to build it. For so long it was, that the Spirit of God strove, and the long suffering God waited on the old world, as you may see in Gen. vi. 3. “My spirit shall not always strive with man; yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." All this while the ark was a preparing, as appears by 1 Pet. iii. 20.
• When once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing." It was a long time that Noah constantly employed himself in this business. Men would esteem that undertaking very great, which should keep them constantly employed even for one half of that time. Noah must have had a great and constant care upon his mind for these one hundred and twenty years, in superintending this work, and in seeing that all was done exactly according to the directions which God had given him.
Not only was Noah himself continually employed, but it required a great number of workmen to be constantly employed, during all that time, in procuring, and collecting, and fitting the materials, and in putting them together in due form. How great a thing was it for Noah to undertake such a work! For beside the continual care and labour, it was a work of vast expense. It is not probable that any of that wicked generation would put to a finger to help forward such awork, which, doubtless, they believed was merely the fruit of Noah's folly, without full wages. Noah must needs have been very rich, to be able to bear the expense of such a work, and to pay so many workmen for so long a time. It would have been a very great expense for a prince; and, doubtless, Noah was very rich, as Abraham and Job were afterwards. But it is probable that Noah spent all his
worldly substance in this work, thus manifesting his faith in the word of God, by selling all he had, as believing there would surely come a flood which would destroy all ; so that if he should keep what he had, it would be of no service to him. Herein he has set us an example, showing us how we ought to sell all for our salvation.
Noah's undertaking was of great difficulty, as it exposed him to the continual reproaches of all his neighbours, for that whole one hundred and twenty years. None of them believed what he told them of a flood, which was about to drown the world. For a man to undertake such a vast piece of work, under a notion that it should be the means of saving him, when the world should be destroyed, it made him the continual laughing-stock of the world. When he was about to hire workmen, doubtless all laughed at him, and we may suppose, that though the workmen consented to work for wages, yet they laughed at the folly of him who employed them. When the ark was begun, we may suppose that every one that passed by and saw such a huge hulk stand there, laughed at it, calling it Noah's folly.
In these days, men are with difficulty brought to do or submit to that which makes them the objects of the reproach of all their neighbours. Indeed, if while some reproach them, others stand by them and honour them, this will support them. But it is very difficult for a man to go on in a way wherein he makes himself the laughing stock of the whole world, and wherein he can find none who do not despise him. Where is the man that can stand the shock of such a trial for twenty years ?
But in such an undertaking as this, Noah, at the divine direction, engaged, and went through it, that himself and his family might be saved from the common destruction which was shortly about to come on the world. He began, and also made an end : “ According to all that God commanded him, so did he.” Length of time did not weary him: He did not grow weary of his vast expense. He stood the shock of the derision of all his neighbours, and of all the world, year after year: He did not grow weary of being their laughing-stock, so as to give over his enterprise, but persevered in it till the ark was finished. After this, he was at the trouble and charge of procuring stores for the maintenance of his family, and of all the various kinds of creatures for so long a time. Such an undertaking he engaged in and went through in order to a temporal salvation.
How great an undertaking, then, should men be willing to engage in and go through, in order to their eternal salvation! A salvation from an eternal deluge; from being overwhelmed with the billows of God's wrath, of which Noah's flood was but a shadow.
I shall particularly handle this doctrine under the three following propositions :
1. There is a work or business which must be undertaken and accomplished by men, if they would be saved.
II. This business is a great undertaking.
III. Men should be willing to enter upon and go through this undertaking, though it be great, seeing it is for their own salvation.
I. Prop. There is a work or business which men must enter upon and accomplish, in order to their salvation.—Men have no reason to expect to be saved in idleness, or to go to heaven in a way of doing nothing. No; in order to it, there is a great work, which must be not only begun, but finished. I shall speak upon this proposition, in answer to two inquiries.
Ing. 1. What is this work or business which must be undertaken and accomplished, in order to the salvation of men.
Ans. It is the work of seeking salvation in a way of constant observance of all the duty to which God directs us in his word. If we would be saved, we must seek salvation. For, although men do not obtain heaven of themselves, yet they do not go thither accidentally, or without any intention or endeavours of their own. God, in his word, hath directed inen to seek their salvation, as they would hope to obtain it. There is a race that is set before them, which they must run, and in that race come off victors, in order to their winning the prize.
The Scriptures have told us what particular duties must be performed by us in order to our salvation. It is not sufficient that men seek their salvation only in the observance of some of those duties, but they must be observed universally. The work we have to do is not an obedience only to some, but to all the commands of God; a compliance with every institution of worship; a diligent use of all the appointed means of grace; a doing of all duty towards God and towards man. It is not sufficient that men have some respect to all the commands of God, and that they may be said to seek their salvation in some sort of observance of all the commands; but they must be devoted to it. They must not make this a business by the bye, or a thing in which they are negligent and careless, or which they do with a slack hand; but it must be their great business, being attended to as their great concern. They must not only seek, but strive; they must do what their hand findeth to do with their might, as men thoroughly engaged in their minds, and influenced and set forward by great desire and strong resolution. They must act as those that see so much of the importance of religion above all other things, that every thing else must be as an occasional affair, and nothing must stand in competition with its duties. This must be the one thing they do ; Phil. iii. 13. “ This one thing I do.”-It must be the business to which they make all other affairs give place, and to which they are ready to make
other things a sacrifice. They must be ready to part with pleasures, and honour, estate, and life, and to sell all, that they may successfully accomplish this business.
It is required of every man, that he not only do something in this business, but that he should devote himself to it ; which implies that he should give up himself to it, all his affairs, and all his temporal enjoyments. This is the import of taking up the cross, of taking Christ's yoke upon us, and of denying ourselves to follow Christ. The rich young man, who came kneeling to Christ to know what he should do to be saved, (Mark x. 17.) in some sense sought salvation, but did not obtain it. In some sense he kept all the commands from his youth up ; but was not cordially devoted to this business.--He had not made a sacrifice to it of all his enjoyments, as appeared when Christ came to try him; he would not part with his estate for him.
It is not only necessary that men should seem to be very much engaged, and appear as if they were devoted to their duty for a little while ; but there must be a constant devotedness, in a persevering way, as Noah was to the business of building the ark, going on with that great, difficult, and expensive affair, till it was finished, and till the flood came.—Men must not only be diligent in the use of the means of grace, and be anxiously engaged to escape eternal ruin, till they obtain hope and comfort : but afterwards they must persevere in the duties of religion, till the flood come, the flood of death.-Not only must the faculties, strength, and possessions of men be devoted to this work, but also their time and their lives ; they must give up their whole lives to it, even to the very day when God causes the storms and floods to come. This is the work or business which men have to do in order to their salvation.
INQ. 2. Why is it needful that men should undertake to go through such a work in order to their salvation ?
Ans. 1. Not to merit salvation, or to recommend them to the saving mercy of God. Men are not saved on the account of any work of theirs, and yet they are not saved without works. If we merely consider what it is for which, or on the account of which men are saved, no work at all in men is necessary to their salvation. In this respect they are saved wholly without any work of theirs, Tit. ii. 5, “ Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”We must indeed be saved on the account of works; but not our own. It is on account of the works which Christ hath done for
Works are the fixed price of eternal life; it is fixed by an eternal, unalterable rule of righteousness. But since the fall, there is no hope of our doing these works, without salvation offered freely, without money and without price.---But, VOL. VI.