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carnal minds fly out of the ark of God's church and embrace the present world: rather chusing to feed upon the unsavoury carcasses of sinful pleasures, than to be restrained within the straight lists of Christian obedience!
The dove is sent forth, a fowl both swift and simple. She, like a true citizen of the ark, returns, and brings faithful notice of the continuance of the waters, by her restless and empty return; by her olive-leaf, of the abatement. How worthy are those messengers to be welcome, which with innocence in their lives, bring glad tidings of peace and salvation in their mouths!
Noah rejoices and believes; yet still he waits seven days more. It is not good to devour the favours of God too greedily; but so take them in, that we may digest them. O strong faith of Noah, that was not weary with this delay! Some men would have so longed for the open air, after so long closeness, that, upon the first notice of safety, he would have uncovered, and voided the ark. Noah stays seven days ere he will open, and well-near two months ere he will forsake the ark; and not then, unless God that commanded to enter, had bidden him depart. There is no action good without faith; no faith without a word. Happy is that man, which in all things (neglecting the counsels of flesh and blood) depends upon the commission of his Maker.
Of those they are
No sooner is Noah come out of the ark, but he builds an altar: not an house for himself, but an altar to the Lord. Our faith will ever teach us to prefer God to ourselves; delayed thankfulness is not worthy of acceptation. few creatures that are left, God must have some; all his; yet his goodness will have man know that it was he, for whose sake they were preserved. It was a privilege to those very brute creatures, that they were saved from the waters, to be offered up in fire unto God. What a favour is
it to men, to be reserved from common destructions, to be sacrificed to their Maker and Redeemer.
Lo, this little fire of Noah, through the virtue of his faith, purged the world, and ascended up into those heavens from which the waters fell, and caused a glorious rainbow to appear therein for his security: all the sins of the former world were not so unsavoury unto God, as this smoke was pleasant. No perfume can be so sweet as the holy obedience of the faithful. Now God that was before annoyed with the ill savour of sin, smells a sweet savour of rest. Behold here a new and second rest! First, God rested from making the world, now he rests from destroying it; even while we cease not to offend, he ceases from a public revenge. His word was enough; yet withal he gives a sign, which may speak the truth of his promise to the very eyes of men. Thus he doth still in his blessed sacraments, which are as real words to the soul. The rainbow is the pledge of our safety, which even naturally signifies the end of a shower: all the signs of God's institution are proper, and significant.
But who would look, after all this, to have found righteous Noah, the father of the new world, lying drunken in his tent! Who could think that wine should overthrow him that was preserved from the waters! that he, who could not be tainted with the sinful examples of the former world, should begin the example of a new sin of his own! What are we men if we be but ourselves! While God upholds us, no temptation can move us: when he leaves us, no temptation is too weak to overthrow us. What living man had ever so noble proofs of the mercy, of the justice of God: Mercy upon himself, justice upon others! What man had so gracious approbation from his Maker? Behold, he of whom in an unclean world, God said, Thee only have I found righteous, proves now unclean, when the world was purged. preacher of righteousness unto the former age, the king, priest, and prophet of the world renewed, is the first that renews the sins of that world which he had reproved, and which he saw condemned for sin. God's best children have no fence for sins of infirmity. Which of the saints have not once done that, whereof they are ashamed? God that lets us fall, knows how to make as good use of the sins of his holy ones, as of their obedience. If we had not such patterns, who could chuse but despair at the sight of his sins?
Yet we find Noah drunken but once.
One act can no
more make a good heart unrighteous, than a trade of sin can stand with regeneration. But when I look to the effect of this sin, I cannot but blush and wonder; lo, this sin is worse than sin: other sins move shame, but hide it; this displays it to the world. Adam had no sooner sinned, but he saw and abhorred his own nakedness, seeking to hide it, even with bushes. Noah had no sooner sinned, but he discovers his nakedness, and hath not so much rule of himself, as to be ashamed. One hour's drunkenness betrays that which more than six hundred years' sobriety had modestly concealed. He that gives himself to wine is not his own: what shall we think of this vice, which robs a man of himself, and lays a beast in his room? Noah's nakedness is seen in wine. It is no unusual quality, in this excess, to disclose secrets. Drunkenness doth both make imperfections, and shew those we have to others' eyes; so would God have it, that we might be doubly ashamed, both of those weaknesses which we discover, and of that weakness which moved us to discover. Noah is uncovered, but in the midst of his own tent; it had been sinful, though no man had seen it. Unknown sins have their guilt and shame, and are justly attended with known punishments. Ungracious Cham saw it and laughed his father's shame should have been his; the deformity of those parts from which he had his being, should have begotten in him a secret horror and dejection. How many graceless men make sport at the causes of their humiliation! Twice had Noah given him life; yet neither the name of a father and preserver, nor age nor virtue, could shield him from the contempt of his own. I see that even God's ark may nourish monsters. Some filthy toads may lie under the stones of the temple: God preserves some men in judgment. Better had it been for Cham to have perished in the waters, than to live unto his father's curse. Not content to be a witness of this filthy sight, he goes on to be a proclaimer of it. Sin doth ill in the eye, but worse in the tongue. As all sin is a work of darkness, so it should be buried in darkness. The report of sin is ofttimes as ill as the commission; for it can never be blazoned without uncharitableness; seldom without infection. Oh the unnatural, and more than Chamish impiety of those sons, which rejoice to publish the nakedness of their spiritual parents, even to their enemies!
Yet it was well for Noah that Cham could tell it to none but his own; and those, gracious and dutiful sons. Our shame is the less, if none know our faults but our friends. Behold, how love covereth sins! these good sons are so far from going forward to see their father's shame, that they go backward to hide it. The cloak is laid on both their shoulders, they both go back with equal paces, and dare not so much as look back, lest they should unwillingly see the cause of their shame, and will rather adventure to stumble at their father's body, than to see his nakedness. How did it grieve them to think, that they, which had so oft come to their holy father with reverence, must now in reverence turn their backs upon him! that they must now clothe him in pity, which had so often clothed them in love! And, which adds more to their duty, they covered him and said nothing. This modest sorrow is their praise, and our example. The sins of those we love and honour, we must hear of with indignation, fearfully and unwillingly believe, acknowledge with grief and shame, hide with honest excuses, and bury in silence.
How equal a regard is this both of piety and disobedience! Because Cham sinned against his father, therefore he shall be plagued in his children: Japheth is dutiful to his father, and finds it in his posterity. Because Cham was an ill son to his father, therefore his sons shall be servants to his brethren because Japheth set his shoulder to Shem's, to bear the cloak of shame, therefore shall Japheth dwell in the tents of Shem, partaking with him in blessings as in duty. When we do but what we ought, yet God is thankful to us; and rewards that, which we should sin if we did not. Who could ever yet show me a man rebelliously undutiful to his parents, that hath prospered in himself, and his seed?
How soon are men and sins multiplied! within one hundred years, the world is as full of both, as if there had been no deluge. Though men could not but see the fearful monuments of the ruin of their ancestors, yet how quickly had they forgotten a flood! Good Noah lived, to see the world
both populous and wicked again: and doubtless ofttimes repented to have been preserver of some, whom he saw to traduce the vices of the former world to the renewed. It could not but grieve him to see the destroyed giants revive out of his own loins, and to see them of his flesh and blood tyrannize over themselves. In his sight Nimrod, casting off the awe of his holy grandfather, grew imperious and cruel, and made his own kinsmen servants. How easy a thing it is for a great spirit to be the head of a faction, when even brethren will stoop to servitude! And now, when men are combined together, evil and presumptuous motions find encouragement in multitudes, and each man takes a pride in seeming forwardest: we are the cheerfuller in good, when we have the assistance of company; much more in sinning, by how much we are more prone to evil than good. It was a proud word—“Come, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach to heaven.”
They were newly come down from the hills unto the plains, and now think of raising up of an hill of building in the plain. When their tents were pitched upon the mountains of Armenia, they were as near to heaven as their tower could make them; but their ambition must needs aspire to an height of their own raising. Pride is ever discontented, and still seeks matter of boasting in her own works.
How fondly do men reckon without God. "Come let us build;" as if there had been no stop but in their own will; as if both earth and time had been theirs. Still do all natural men build Babel, forecasting their own plots so resolutely, as if there were no power to countermand them. It is just with God, that peremptory determinations seldom prosper; whereas, those things, which are fearfully and modestly undertaken, commonly succeed.
"Let us build us a city." If they had taken God with them, it had been commendable; establishing of societies is pleasing to him that is the God of order: but a tower whose top may reach to heaven, was a shameful arrogance, an impious presumption. Who would think, that we little ants, that creep upon this earth, should think of climbing up to heaven, by multiplying of earth?
Pride ever looks at the highest. The first man would know as God, these would dwell as God: covetousness and ambition know no limits. And what if they had reached up