Noah's history is peculiarly interesting, because it affords us a type of the servant of God on the earth, who is testifying to the world of the vanity of everything here by his preparing an ark to get safely out of it. He is in fact the head of the new order in moral power. Adam was only a few years dead, as were also Seth and Enoch, and therefore Lamech his father might count on God to send them some " rest "-some evidence of His care and government. This Noah proved to be; and consequently his life is very instructive to the servants of God. Abel and Enoch were witnesses of principles, but Noah is the witness of God, in a scene where those principles were declared and now disregarded. Noah therefore is God's patient witness and servant in great long-suffering, warning of coming judgment. The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence : all the barriers between clean and unclean were broken down. The children of God intermarried (the most intimate intermixture) with the daughters of men as " they chose." The will was the only guide and the only check to these unhallowed unions. The NAME of God was lost in the earth. The religion of Enoch and the fathers may have remained, but the lines and characteristics which the children of God should observe to preserve His name were now surrendered to the dictation of their own will. Thus in this early day was disclosed that the gratification of our own will, no matter how great we are positionally, will entail our surrender of that testimony to a holy God, which assuredly behoves us in an evil world. Position is valuable if maintained, but aggravates our defection if not ; because the higher it is, the less will it bear the slightest defection. A failure which would be unnoticed in a lower position, would be intolerable in a higher. It was necessary to tell Timothy not only to purge himself but also to flee " youthful lusts " or impulses. The will must not come in if the insular position of God's people on the earth is to be maintained. Hence heresy is simply a determined adherence to one's own opinions, on any subject. Now this doing as " they chose " was the ruling influence with man at this time, after the departure of Enoch, whose prophecies were unheeded; and God, now in His goodness and forbearance, raises up a testimony for Himself in the person of Noah.
Noah had been five hundred years upon the earth before he was called to his especial work, and we are told that he was, in his fife and age (as generation may be interpreted), a witness of the truths already revealed through Abel and Enoch on the earth. It is said that he was " a just man," or righteous, of which Abel was the witness, and that he " walked with God," which was the great and holy line observed by Enoch. Such is the man who is called to declare the name of God-that is, what God is, and what God has declared Himself in the world. Principles of truth to bless man had been distinctly witnessed to on earth. Now when all moral obligation to the holiness of God or apprehension of it is relinquished, God comes forth to declare Himself. And His faithful servant devotes himself to trace in new, deep and broad lines the nature of God. God is his object as well as his subject. Man may forfeit and surrender his own dignity and position, and do so beyond remedy: but the truth of God, and what God is, which afforded this dignity and position, cannot be surrendered, but every true servant stands by it and maintains it-not to repair the human vessel which ought to have preserved it, but to vindicate His name and goodness, which had been lost sight of. When principles are enunciated by God they are for man's blessing, and therefore are peculiarly for men as their object; but when the men who receive them make light of them, so that their beauty and value are marred, then it becomes the servant to resuscitate them-not as toward men, though they be still for them, but FOR GOD, whose honour is the more paramount, when indifferentism to it prevails. And the more distinctly and vividly they are presented, the more are the careless and unbelieving condemned, but the more are the true servants-those moral victors--crowned with honour and blessed. The servant, among such as Noah was surrounded with, had much to learn besides his own acceptance and association with God.
The discipline is suited to the service required. Patience pre-eminently was the great lesson Noah had to learn ; but it was patience, too, combined with toil. Enoch had patience, but it was in a separated walk. Noah must have it in practical life, dealing not with that which was grateful to him, but with adverse spirits. Enoch escapes from men to walk with God, and is patient therein for three hundred years. Noah has to do with men in daily toil, condemning the world, and is a preacher of the righteousness which by faith he had as believing in God, who was morally denied in it. Instead of comfort from work and toil, as his father Lamech expected, it is work and toil to reach comfort and rest, and toil, too, to condemn the world, on which the curse of God rested. Patiently he worked on, and patience had its perfect work, so far though we shall see later on in his history that his nature betrays the contrary. To arrive at comfort and rest in an evil world, I must patiently maintain the name of God and His truth. We often propose a good and worthy object to our souls, but we little know the trying and toilsome path we must tread to reach it. That Noah was to be a comfort and a rest concerning the work and toil of man's hands was undoubtedly true, though Lamech never lived to see it. He saw it in progress. The purpose to reach a good and desired object modifies greatly intervening difficulties. Noah, while patiently witnessing of the distinctness which ought to mark the children of God on earth, was preparing an ark for the saving of his house, and also condemning the world for their unbelief and denial of God. Let him only be the patient servant, and comfort would accrue to his own house by the very toil in which he was condemning the world for their ignorance of God.
God always honours the servant who honours Him. "Because thou hast kept my word, and not denied my name, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and they shall know that I have loved thee." When God and His truth (at all times as much as has been revealed) have lost their true moral effect on the consciences of men, the only sure and certain means of restoring it; even to one's self, is to declare emphatically, let God be true, and every man a liar! I turn from men to bear witness of the truth, for no conscience, after all, can be rightly blessed when God is not presented to it according to the truth. Therefore if truth be fallen in the streets, the valiant for it, like the most valiant One, avow that for this purpose came I into the world, that I might bear witness unto the truth.
After years of discipline and toil, Noah is in the ark. Very often the quality we are most pre-eminent for, and from which we have gained most, becomes inactive, and we suffer much. Noah, doubtless, became impatient to quit the ark after it had accomplished its purpose. In nothing is our impatience or wilfulness so much exposed as here. Noah was a witness of adherence to God's mind, in opposition to the wilfulness of man around him. He toiled for many a year to prepare the ark, and now he is impatient to abandon it, as soon as it has afforded him salvation. God has been vindicated, His truth witnessed to, Noah and his house saved; and now he wants to leave it before it is God's time. It is a greater test to remain in the place of blessing than even to reach it, for many untoward things may induce or press us to seek it, but if the mind be not satisfied, if it be not occupied with the riches of God's inheritance, and in participating with Him according to the joy of His heart in the circle of His delights there, " the leeks and onions " outside invite its attention ; the saved and blessed one is in more danger of being drawn aside than the unsecured one-the will is at work, and the very rest to his conscience affords liberty to his unoccupied mind to seek and plan for itself. The emancipated raven, going to and fro, is an apt emblem of the restlessness of our impatient spirits. The dove reads Noah a different lesson. The raven had taught him the true causes of wilfulness, which he himself had witnessed against, like a dog roaming up and down, and not satisfied. The dove tells first that he must have patience. How humbling when we are rebuked by the weak, gentle accents of confiding love! The dove had a home in the ark, why should not Noah? The second time the dove returns with the branch of peace, so that not only must he submit, but patience having had its perfect work, he wants nothing. The olive leaf tells us the fulness of blessing which is his. And when the dove goes forth again she may tarry abroad. Discipline has matured Noah, and he is called into a new scene wherein he is to demonstrate the valuable education afforded to him! he having come forth from the ark in all the vigour and faithfulness of a victorious servant, to set forth God in His proper place on the earth. God is pleased, testimony is restored, and with it increased blessing to man.
After this Noah begins to find rest and comfort for himself. Self-pleasing takes the place of patience, and there and then he exposes the frailty of the greatest servants of God when they seek their own rest and gratification. The going to and fro of thoughts, like the raven, when we are encompassed with still unabated difficulties, may tell us what our propensity is ; but when we have succeeded, and we have set ourselves down to enjoy ourselves, our weakness, in its broadest lines, is exposed-(cursed be he who promulgates it). Though God has long borne with us, He must teach us His grace. If I betray my weakness, when in the excess of my enjoyment, I learn how frail I am; and thus Noah finds how frail he is after all his self-renunciation and service and with this warning voice his history significantly closes.