"And the Lord said unto Noah. Come thou and all thy house into the ark, for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." — Genesis 7:1.
There are two ways in which the New Testament speaks of the deluge; one by the Lord in the gospels, as an illustration of prophecy; and the other, as a figure of salvation, in 1 Peter 3. It is in the latter sense I desire to ask my reader's attention. Before doing so, however, it will be well to ponder the solemn statement of our Lord in Matthew 24:37-39, "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark. And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
Thus, then, we learn from the lips of Christ, that the present state of this evil, careless world will go on until the very coming of Christ; and that what God saw and said about man then is true now. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart, was only evil continually." "The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence." This is what God sees this present world to be still. No doubt, man boasted then of his great progress as he boasts now, but the deluge came. And the Lord shall come in terrible judgment on this age, though as little expected as was the flood.
It was true then, that a time should come when the knowledge of the Lord should cover the earth as the waters cover the deep. But did that hinder the flood? neither will it hinder the coming of the Son of man to judge the living wicked nations of this age. Until He comes, a few years at most, the earth's wickedness ripens for harvest. Blessed are they who shall be first caught up to meet the Lord in the air. It is a solemn thought to feel assured that that event is very, very near. This, however, is not the theme of my present paper, though I can scarcely take my pen and thoughts from it, and may refer to it again.
I desire then to look at the deluge as a figure of salvation.
The end of all flesh was come before God; and is not this the first solemn fact, as to man's present state, declared in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans? whether Jews or Gentiles, all are guilty before God, or subject to the judgment of God. The end of man's probation has come before God. It is too late for man to talk of being tried again; he is guilty and under condemnation. It is too late for that poor young man, condemned to death, to talk of being tried again. He must be pardoned or executed. Such is man's condition. Man has been tried and found guilty. The end of all flesh is come before God. The poor prisoner may dream he is at large, and hope to commit no more crimes, — but he wakes for execution. Oh! how blind this world is as to its true state before God: and such was the state of the world in the days of Noah. The end of all flesh had come before God. The whole world stood under the sentence of death. No further probation or trial of man. God proposed no remedy for man in the flesh. Death and judgment were determined on the whole scene; and all this a figure of man in his present state. Death is passed upon all men — "for all have sinned." No remedy is proposed for man in the flesh in the gospel. Death and judgment is passed upon the whole race of Adam.
"And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." Noah is thus presented as a representative man — the head of all his house. The striking type of Christ, the Head of the Church, the First-begotten from the dead. In his own person, as a man, it was true of Noah as of every child of Adam: "there is none righteous, no, not one." But he believed God, condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Like as in the case of Abraham, faith was reckoned to Noah for righteousness. But, surely, as a picture of Christ, nothing could be more striking. Just as God took Noah out from among the dead, and raised him up above the billows of judgment, and placed him on the high places of Ararat; so has God taken Jesus out from among the dead, and placed Him above heaven's highest Ararat. And as a new world was to begin in Noah's family from mount Ararat, so in Christ, raised from the dead, God has begun a new creation. Let us, then, examine these words more closely, as setting forth God's thoughts of Christ, and the true figure of our salvation.
It is deeply interesting to see how creation is made to share in this great deliverance. But who can fathom the depth of those words, "Come thou and all thy house into the ark." If Shem, Ham, and Japheth were welcome, as sons of Noah, how welcome is every child of God in Christ? "Behold me, and the children whom thou hast given me." Yes, in this touching figure, I hear God saying to Jesus, "Come thou and all thy house." Oh! the glad welcome that awaits every child of God into his Father's house above! Welcome as Christ is welcome. No stranger God shall greet us there.
Now notice, most closely, the peculiar reason God assigns for the welcome. "For thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." Weigh every word. "For thee," He does not say for them, "have I seen righteous." It was not what God saw in Shem, Ham, and Japheth. It is not what He sees in us. God can only look in the face of His adorable Son and say, "For thee have I seen righteous before me." "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Blessed Jesus, thou only couldest say, "I do always those things that please Him." Every thought of His heart most holy; every act, every word, perfect righteousness before God. Oh, how false is that accusation, that we deny the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ! We regard every doubt, every slight cast on His spotless Person, as from the father of lies, with which we can have no fellowship whatever. And for this we are hated of men.
It may be asked, Then what is the difference betwixt our thoughts of the righteousness of Christ, and the thoughts of those who oppose our writings so bitterly? I will try to explain the difference. We hold the righteousness of Christ in a far stronger, higher sense than our mistaken friends. They hold that man, under law, in the flesh, is not so bad, and that the righteousness of Christ's person, is not so ineffably different from man in the flesh, but that both may be mingled together. The one imputed to the other, so as to make man righteous, under law, before God. To use the Lord's figure, the old garment is not so rotten but that the new piece may be sewed on to fill it up. Now, we believe the Holy Scriptures teach the very opposite of this — that the end of all flesh is come before God; that man in the flesh is like an old garment, so rotten that it can neither be mended nor worn again; and more, yes, indeed, and more; that though our blessed Lord, when on earth, was in the likeness of sinful flesh, truly and really man, yet so absolutely without sin, so ineffably perfect, that there could be no assimilation between sinless humanity and sinful humanity. No taking of or from one to mingle with or mend the other. This is that solemn truth taught in those words of Jesus, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24.) This was that truth that Jesus ever taught, but which His disciples were most slow to understand, That He could be of no use to man in the flesh; He must die and rise again; and if they must live they must first die. If they loved and kept the life they had, they could not have the life He had to give in resurrection. We are as slow now to learn this lesson as they were then; but until it is learnt, we must remain as dark now as they were then. When Jesus taught this truth, Peter dared to rebuke the Lord. Surely, then, we may patiently bear the same rebuke in this day. (See Mark 8:31-35.)
This, then, is the great difference of our day. Some do not see man so bad in the flesh, or Christ so infinitely righteous that He could not be assimilated to man in sinful flesh, Others see man so utterly lost in sin, and that Christ was so infinitely, holy, and perfectly righteous, that He could not become one with man in sinful flesh, except as an expiatory substitute. But man must die: yea, that He must die the atoning death of the cross, that through that death and resurrection man might be made one with Him in that resurrection state, where sin and death are known no more. In plain words, Christ could not be made one with us in sinful humanity, but we, after His death and resurrection, by the Spirit, are made one with Him who was in sinless humanity. Oh! the depths of the riches and wisdom of God. How much better are God's ways than man's poor thoughts!
Now, if we look at the figure, we shall see how beautifully all this truth is shadowed forth. God did not impute the righteousness of Noah to the old world, to men in the flesh. The end of all flesh was come. God had no purpose of saving it, but of destroying it. The terrible waters of judgment roared over the earth, But those very waters of death that destroyed all beneath them, bore in safety on their bosom this representative man, and those that were saved with him; only we must bear in mind that this is a figure of death and resurrection. "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ; who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." (1 Peter 3:21, 22.) In this scripture, the deluge and baptism are put side by side, as like figures; both showing that true salvation is on the principle of death to the flesh, and new position and life, in resurrection. Noah was taken from among the dead and placed on Ararat: Christ was taken from among the dead and is gone into heaven. All perished outside the ark: all must perish outside Christ. It did not matter how near a person was to the ark, he was either shut in or shut out. He might have helped to fell the trees or even build the ark, but when once the door was shut he was shut out. It was in vain to cry, Noah! Noah! open unto us. We know it will shortly be so again. The door will soon be shut. No matter how near you may be, "almost in" will not do. Do not say, I am almost a Christian, and therefore I hope to be saved. You may be a Sunday-school teacher, ah, a preacher, but has God shut you in the only ark of safety? It says, "And the Lord shut him in." The Lord never needs to do His work twice. When Noah was once shut in, he was as safe as at the moment when he stepped out on Mount Ararat. If in Christ you cannot be lost; if out of Him when the door is shut you cannot be saved. There was no salvation outside this resurrection ark. There is no salvation outside the risen Christ. If Christ be not risen, our preaching is utterly false and vain. If the ark had not risen and floated above the waters, it would have been of no use whatever — it would (if it had remained under the waters) have been a huge coffin. Now, our blessed Jesus did sink down to the lowest depths, He died the Just for the unjust. The dark waters of judgment passed over His soul. He died for our sins and was buried. But if He had remained under death, then all would have died with Him and perished for ever; His death would have been in vain, of no use, like the ark sunk beneath the waters of the deluge. But He rose again for our justification; and thus the ark floating in safety to Ararat is a true figure of the risen Christ.
Now we find, I repeat, God did not propose to save man in the flesh. All that breathed in the old world were destroyed, and Noah only remained, and those who were with him in the ark. Is not this exactly what baptism teaches? Why is the believer baptized? Is it not to show, that as a man in the flesh he is now dead, and therefore buried in water; and henceforth not to reckon himself any more alive in the flesh, but dead. True, if this were all there would be no use in it; but he is also risen with Christ. The believer's old world has perished beneath the waters of judgment, and his new world has begun on his heavenly Ararat. Nothing could be more clear than the harmony of the two figures — baptism and the deluge.
The old world perished. The new world began where the ark rested, upon the mountains of Ararat. God did not save the old world by Noah; old things passed away and all became new. It is so in Christ, old things passed away, and all things became new; and all things of God. Only let us not overlook one divine contrast. Failure soon came in with Noah, the head of his new world. There can be no failure in Christ, the Head of the new-creation.
Now as to these questions of resurrection, righteousness, and life. Looking at the ark as a figure, when may we say that the new world commenced? And where would you say was the fountain head, so to speak, of the Noahic new world? Plainly, the new world did not commence until judgment was executed on the old, and the spring head or starting place was Ararat. This is the great question, I repeat: When did the new creation commence, and where is the fountain-head of righteousness and life? The New Testament makes it as clear to my soul that this was and could only be when God raised Christ from the dead, as the Old Testament makes it clear that Noah's world began when God raised him, from the dead above the waters of the flood. I do not doubt the sons of Noah, were safe, resting in the word of God, before this. But they were saved when the ark rested on Ararat. Neither can I doubt for a moment, that all believers before the death and resurrection of Christ were safe, resting in the promise of God. But I could not say they were saved until Christ arose from the dead. Though Elijah had long been safe in heaven, yet he was as really saved on the cross as the dying thief, and Christ as truly rose for his justification as mine. All God's salvation, past, present, and to come, is through the death and resurrection of Christ. The Holy Ghost could not be given, and could not say to any, before the death of Christ, "By grace ye are saved." Is it not through the exceeding greatness of the power of God in raising Christ from the dead — Head over all to the Church — and having now raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus? I say, is it not on this very account that the Holy Ghost can now say, "By grace ye are saved?" (Eph. 1:2.) All this is now said of every believer, of all in Christ Jesus. But could it have been said of one single believer before? Impossible! It is of little avail, for those who are ignorant, to ridicule or oppose these things as new and dangerous notions. Let such be ignorant still. But if the reader is a child of God and bows to the word of God, let him search it, and be will find that this is the very truth once delivered to the saints.
Surely the type is not more clear than the antitype. If Noah's world began when the old world was destroyed, so the new creation began when God raised Christ from the dead. "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." (Col. 1:18.) I say, it is of the first importance to see that Christ is the beginning of the new creation, as raised from the dead. If we suppose that the new creation began by the incarnation or life of Christ in human flesh, or the righteousness of Christ under law — if this is our Christianity, it then presumes that the end of all flesh is not come. That man is still under probation or trial. If under law in the flesh, he must be still on trial. But all this is utterly contrary both to our figure and the plainest teaching of the Epistles. Indeed if this were true, it would be no new creation at all, but simply man perfected in Judaism. As we have seen, Christ ever taught His disciples that He must die and rise again; that nothing else was of the least use. The apostle tells us that all are dead, that the trial of man in the flesh by law is utterly abolished, that all are guilty and under judgment, that we now know no man after the flesh — no, not even Christ after the flesh. No doubt we had known Him perfect in the flesh. But it is not after that manner we know Him as the salvation of God, but in resurrection; so that if any man be in Christ he is a new creature. "Old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new, and all of God." In proof of all this read, as a little child, Romans 1-8 and 2 Cor. 3, 5. In Noah then, as a figure, we see resurrection from among the dead. And thus through Jesus is preached the resurrection from [among] the dead. The Jews could have done with Jesus as a king to adorn their system. Men now can do with Him to improve or make up for man in the flesh. But to see the world, and to see man as God sees him in the flesh; to see that man is just what he was in the days of Noah; and to say what God says about all this, that all is about to be destroyed, that God is now taking out as He did with Noah, an elect family in Christ from among this dead world; and linking them with that Christ in heaven, and that all else, however religious, and fair, and mighty in the world will be destroyed — ah! there is no wonder that this truth is so distasteful and stirs up so much wrath and enmity what good would all the man-mending religion of this day have done in the days of Noah? And what will it do in this? The end of all flesh is come.
Nothing, then, can be more certain than this, that the new creation began when God raised Christ from among the dead — "the firstborn among many brethren" — that thus Christianity is altogether of resurrection.
Our next inquiry then is, Where is the fountain-head of righteousness and of life? In the figure, the fountain-head of this new race was certainly in the person of Noah, on Ararat. In like manner, the fountain-head of the new creation is in the person of Christ, gone into the heavens. We thus, in this figure, hear, as it were, these words addressed by our God and Father to the adorable Son in the highest heavens, "Come thou and all thy house;" not, surely, into an ark of gopher wood, but into the highest, heavens of glory; "for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." Yes, all believers are thus made accepted in the Beloved — meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Oh, the blessed welcome! Come thou and all thy house. Gaze up into the highest heavens and see the glory of God in the face of our true Noah, the man Christ Jesus — the righteous One. There He is, the fountain-head of righteousness and life.
If we turn to Romans 5 we there find two fountains — the fountain-head of sin and death in Adam, the fountain-head of righteousness and life in Christ. As by one offence the stream of sin, and death, and condemnation flowed forth toward all men; so by one righteousness, the stream of righteousness and life flowed forth toward all. The whole of Adam's race thus are under death and condemnation; the whole of the new race have righteousness and life. But it may be asked, Is not that the righteousness of Christ under the law, imputed to us who are still under law? The very word used in verse 18 makes this impossible. The Greek word translated "righteousness" in this instance, means, "righteousness accomplished." Now, righteousness could never be said to be accomplished, completed, until the righteous One had died on the cross and risen again. Then the one righteousness was accomplished, and the righteous One seated in the heavens became the fountain-head of righteousness and life; so that just as Noah's sons were accepted with righteous Noah, so are we accepted in the righteous One on high. The righteousness of Noah was not imputed to men under any of the institutions of the old world; neither is the righteousness of Christ imputed to men under the ordinances or institutions of the flesh under law. The institutions of the old world were buried beneath the flood. The ordinances of the flesh under law were nailed to the cross. Before righteousness was accomplished it was imputed. Faith believed the promise of God, and this was reckoned for righteousness. The apostle cites David and Abraham in proof. This is true of believers now, but much more than this is also true; and hence to speak of the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us as righteousness was imputed to Abraham, is far short of the whole truth. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one many shall be made righteous." We shall be as wholly constituted, or made righteous, as we have been, by Adam's sin, made or constituted sinners. Nay, the very purpose of God in the death of Jesus, was that we might be "made the righteousness of God in him." In one sense, righteousness is imputed to us; that is, we are reckoned righteous, because our resurrection is not yet actually accomplished. But, then, it is not the unfinished righteousness of Christ on earth, in the flesh; but righteousness as now finished, accomplished, and subsisting in the Person of our representative in the heavens. We are reckoned dead with Him, risen with Him, one with Him, like the sons of Noah in the ark. In a little while we shall be made righteous, for we shall see Him as He is, and be like Him and with Him for ever.
He was ever the righteous One, but He had to die the death of the cross to accomplish that one righteousness in which we stand justified from all things. And now He has accomplished that righteousness, even so as to manifest the righteousness of God in saving lost sinners. God has now said, "Come thou and all thy house (into the highest heavens), for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation."
If He is thus, in resurrection, the fountain-head of righteousness, He is also the fount of risen life. In the ark was life: under the ark all was death. Christ is our life: out of Christ all is death. "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" Now, why had Jesus remained away from this much-loved family until Lazarus was dead? and why does He connect resurrection with life in these striking words? He was the eternal life. In Him was life. But He had not that life to infuse into man in the flesh, to cure man, so to speak. This would have been to set aside the righteous sentence of God on sin. He could not become one with man in that state. He must die, or remain alone. But if He die, He must then bring forth much fruit in resurrection. Therefore He says, "I am the resurrection and the life." In resurrection, those taken from among the dead are made one with Him. He can give them a new life, new to them, and that after, yea, on the very ground of the righteousness of God having been accomplished. The whole question of man's guilt, and judgment, and God's righteousness was divinely and for ever settled, so that the believer can look upon himself, as to the sinful flesh, with all its lusts and sins, as truly judged on the cross, as the old world was judged beneath the flood. But now, as really one with Him who is the "I am, the resurrection and the life," and as passed from the old world of sin and death, as the sons of Noah had passed from the old to the new in the ark with Noah. Yes, I look at that risen One in glory and say — there is the fount; yea, there is my righteousness and life. He is my life, He is my righteousness. Now, I ask, Is this denying the righteousness of Christ? Ah, I fear that some of those who thus charge us, know that they are bearing false witness. As a lady said the other day to a christian friend of mine, "Ah, you all deny the righteousness of Christ." "Stay, stay," said my friend, "if you really think so, how is it that you can shake hands with us; is this all you care for your Lord?" No, if we denied the spotless righteousness of our adorable Jesus, we could not be Christians. We, as I said at first, hold the spotless and perfect righteousness of His holy person to be so pure, that he could not be assimilated or become one with man in sinful flesh; but that he must first as our substitute, in the likeness of sinful flesh, by a sacrifice for sin, condemn sin in the flesh. And we hold, that righteousness had to be accomplished by the death of the cross, before man could be identified with Him, and thus made righteous in Him and partaker of His risen life.
Blessed be God, all this has been done. It is finished. And now let me ask the reader, have you this life? Are you in this ark? All that have not this life, must perish beneath the everlasting wrath of God. "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." And if you have this life, it is eternal life. All the waters of the flood could not wash away one sin. The sentence on sin is death, and nothing can avert that sentence. Every other refuge but the ark, was swept away. It will be so again; every costly refuge that man is now building, will be burnt up. What a picture of man's folly does the deluge present. What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world, and missed a place in the ark? And is it not precisely the same in this day? What are the world's honours, riches, or pleasures; its politics and ambition? Now what fools we are to be occupied with these things; what can they profit in that hour, when it shall be as it was in the days of Noah? Do not turn a deaf ear to the words of Christ. It shall surely be as it was in the days of Noah? Blessed be God the door is not yet shut, you are not yet shut out; may God bring you, my beloved reader, and shut you in; and if shut in once, all is safe. Even in this there is a beautiful parallel in the two figures: the door was only shut once, and there is one baptism. Under law there were many baptisms, because its sacrifices could never take away sins, and its washings could never make perfectly clean. But now all is perfect. A perfect Saviour, a perfect sacrifice. All who are once sanctified by it, are for ever made perfect. One sacrifice, one baptism, once dead and risen with Christ, for ever risen. The new nature can never die, can never perish. "And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" The one baptism is therefore a figure of perfect and everlasting salvation. If once passed from death unto life, like the sons of Noah; once dead with Christ, once alive with Him in resurrection, then saved for ever. It is not the washings of the flesh, like the many baptisms of the law. We are not saved by the mere water in any form. But "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." (1 Peter 3:21.)
Now whilst it could not be that His righteousness should be imputed to us in sinful flesh, He could not be one with us in this sinful nature, yet it is most certain, if we have passed from death unto life, we are now made one with Him in resurrection, like Noah on Ararat. "And he (Christ) is the head of the body the church who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." "And ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power." "But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," &c. (Eph. 2:4, 6.) Nothing could be more strikingly a figure of all this, than the raising up of Noah and his sons from among the dead old world. Let us not, then, think of taking Christ back with us into that old nature of sin and death, but reckon ourselves dead and risen with Him; and thus by the Spirit united to Christ, the Head, we form the spiritual or mystic body of the Christ. Now, if we are thus one with Him in the heavens, "There is one body." "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." "There can, therefore, be no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." What a blessed place of perfect safety. Now as one with Him on the heavenly Ararat, we are in that new state, and have that new life derived from Him our head. Really have that new-creation existence before our God and Father, which He must in faithfulness to Christ justify, and cannot possibly condemn.
I do not merely hint at a positive state of righteousness: but I most fully declare it. We shall as really be righteous throughout a bright, everlasting day, as risen in and one with Christ, as we have been really sinners, during the little moment we were the children of Adam. We have this righteous standing now in Christ our risen head. He is now our righteousness, and as our glorified representative, the pledge and certainty that we shall be raised from the dead, even as to the body, and made like Him. All this is not imputed to us on the principle of promise merely, but now made ours, because all has been accomplished in his death and resurrection.
And surely nothing could be more practical than this our calling — as dead and risen with Christ. We are called to give up the old world with its lusts, its pride, and its false pleasures, as the sons of Noah gave up the old world at the flood, and like them with Noah in the new world, so "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God." Oh "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." Thus the Scriptures teem with proofs that as there was no salvation in the days of Noah, but by being raised from among the dead in the ark, so there is no salvation now, but by being made one with Christ raised from among the dead. And thus are we saved, justified, and glorified. And thus are we called to walk as those who are alive from among the dead.