An Exposition on the
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
First published in 1691, by Charles Doe.
An unfinished commentary on the Bible, found among John
Bunyan's papers after his death, in his own handwriting.
er. 1. "And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark; and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged."
Moses having thus related the judgment of the waters, as they respected the drowning of the world, and so typed forth the last judgment: he now returneth to speak of them more largely, as they were a type of the persecution and afflictions of the church, and so sheweth how God delivered Noah from the merciless violence of the waves thereof.
"And God remembered Noah." This word remembered is usual in scripture; both when God is about to deliver his people out of affliction, and to grant them the petition which they ask of him. It is said, "God remembered Abraham; and sent Lot out of Sodom" (Gen 19:29); that he remembered Rachel, and hearkened to her (30:22); that he also remembered his covenant with Abraham, when he went to bring Israel out of their bondage (Exo 2:24).
Hence note, that Noah was not both in an afflicted and a praying condition; afflicted with the dread of the waters, and prayed for their asswaging. It is a question accompanied with astonishment, How the ark being of no bigger an hull or bulk should contain so many creatures, with sustenance for them? And verily, I think that Noah himself was put to it, to believe and wait for so long a time. But God remembered him, and also the beasts, and every living thing that was with him, and began to put an end to these mighty afflictions, by causing the waters to asswage.
"And God made a wind to pass over the earth." The waters being here a type of persecutors and persecution: this wind was a type of the breath of the Lord's mouth, by which he is said to slay the wicked. "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" (Isa 11:4). It was a wind also that blew away the locusts of Egypt (Exo 10:19), which locusts were a type of our graceless clergy, that have covered the ground of our land. Again the kingdom of Babel was to be destroyed by a destroying wind, which the Lord would send against her (Jer 51:1,2), which Paul expounds to be by the breath of the Lord's mouth, and by the brightness of his coming. This wind therefore, as I said, was a type of the breathing of the Spirit of the Lord, by which means these tumultuous waves shall be laid over, and God's ark in a while made to rest upon the top of his mountain (2 Sam 22:19). For by the breath of the Lord the earth is lightened, and by this lightning coals are kindled; "yea, he sent out his arrows and scattered them, and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils" (Psa 18:14,15). "And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged." That is, in New Testament language, the afflictors and afflictions of the church did cease and decay, and came to nought.
"And the waters asswaged": To wit, by the blowing of this wind, wherefore, as this wind did assault the waters, so it did refresh the spirit of this servant of God, because by it the affliction was driven away. Thus then by the wind of the Lord were these dry bones refreshed, and made to stand upon their feet (Eze 37:9,10).
"And God made a wind to pass over." And God made it; when God blows, the enemies of his truth shall pass away like waters that fail.
Ver. 2. "The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained."
By these words we see, that when the church of God is afflicted, both heaven and hell have their hand therein, but so as from a differing consideration, and to a diverse end. From heaven it comes, that we may remember we have sinned, and that we may be made white, and tried (Dan 11:35); but from hell, from the great deep, that we might sin the more, and that we might despair, and be damned (Job 1:11; 2:5).
"And the fountains of the great deep." When God begins to slack and abate the afflictions of his church, he rebukes, as it were first, the powers of hell; for should he take off his own hand, while they have leave to do what they list, the church for this would be worse not better: But first he rebuketh them: "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan," that's the first; and then he clothes them "with change of raiment" (Zech 3:1-5): The fountains of the great deep were stopped, and then the bottles of heaven (Gen 15:14).
"And the rain from heaven was restrained," or held back, or made to cease. Afflictions are governed by God, both as to time, number, nature and measure. "In measure when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of his east wind" (Isa 27:8). Our times therefore, and our conditions in those times, are in the hand of God; yea, and so are our souls and bodies, to be kept and preserved from the evil, while the rod of God is upon us (Jer 15:1-3).
Ver. 3. "And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated."
The verse before doth treat of the original, the fountains of the deep, and the windows of heaven, that they were shut, or stopped; which being done, the effect beginneth to cease. Hence note, that case and release from persecution and affliction cometh not by chance, or by the good moods, or gentle dispositions of men, but the Lord doth hold them back from sin, the Lord restraineth them. It is said "the Lord stirred up the adversaries of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:14,23). Again, when the Syrians fought against Jehoshaphat, "the Lord helped him, and God moved them to depart from him" (2 Chron 18:31). The Lord sent the flood, and the Lord took it away.
"And the waters returned from off the earth continually." When God ceaseth to be angry, the hearts and dispositions of the adversaries shall be palliated, and made more flexible. It is said, when the afflictions of Israel were ended in Egypt, the hearts of the people were turned to pity them; yea, he caused them "to be pitied of all those that carried them captives" (Psa 106:46).
When you see therefore, that the hearts of kings and governors begin to be moderated toward the church of God, then acknowledge that this is the hand of God. "I," saith he, "will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil, and in the time of affliction" (Jer 15:11). For by waters here are typed out the great and mighty of the world, by the flowing of them, their rage; and by their ebbing and returning their stillness and moderation. "And the waters returned." That is, to the sea (Gen 1:9,10). "He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in store houses" (Psa 33:7).
By "gathering up," the persecutors may be understood, his gathering them to their graves, as he did Herod, who stood in the way of Christ (Matt 2:19,20). And as he did those in Ezekiel, who hindered the promotion of truth, and the exaltation of the gospel (31:14).
"And after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated." These words then imply, that for so long time, Noah, and the church with him, were to exercise patience. They also show us, That when the waters are up, they do not suddenly fall: They were up four hundred years, from Abraham to Moses (Gen 15:13). They were up threescore and ten years in the days of the captivity of Babylon (Jer 25:12; Zech 1:12). They were up ten mystical days in the persecution that was in the days of Antipas (Rev 2:10). And are to be up forty and two months, in the reign, and under the tyranny of antichrist (13:5). But they will abate; the house of Saul will grow weaker; yea, they shall be gathered to their sea, and shall be laid in the pit; yea, they shall not be on the earth, when God shall set glory in the land of the living (Eze 26:19-21).
Ver. 4. "And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat."
These instances therefore were a type of Christ, the munition of rocks (Isa 33:16), who is elsewhere called, the mountain of the Lord's house (Micah 4:1); the rock upon which he will build his church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt 16:18). For after the ark had felt the ground, or had got settlement upon the tops of these mountains; however, the waters that came from the great deep, did notwithstanding, for some time, shake, and make it stir, yet off from these mountains they could not get it with all their rage and fury. It rested there; these gates of hell could not prevail. But mark, it did rest on these mountains almost a quarter of a year, before any ground appeared to Noah. A right figure of saving faith; for that maketh not outward observation a ground and foundation for faith, but Christ the rock, who as to sense and feeling is at first quite out of sight. Hence the hope of the godly is compared to the anchor of a ship, which resteth on, or taketh hold of the rock that is now invisible under the water, at the bottom of the sea (Heb 6:19).
This then should learn us to stay on the Lord Jesus, and there to rest when the waters have drowned all the world, and when all the mountains and hills for help are as if they were cast into the midst of the sea.
That is an excellent saying of the prophet, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, [as now it seemed] and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah" (Psa 46:1-3).
Ver. 5. "And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen."
In the third verse we read, that after an hundred and fifty days" flood, the waters returned; that is, began to return, from off the earth: Which beginning of their return, was, because that God had mercifully remembered the prayer and affliction of Noah. Again, in this verse we read, that from the day that the ark did rest upon the mountains of Ararat, the waters decreased continually. Now the resting of the ark on the mountain, was a figure of our trusting on Christ. Hence it follows, that the tumults and raging of the mystical waters, are made to decrease by the power of faith: "This is the victory, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). As it is also said of Moses, "By faith they passed through the Red sea" (Heb 11:29). But above all take that as most pertinent, "Through faith they subdued kingdoms, - stopped the mouths of lions, - and turned to flight the armies of aliens" (Heb 11:33,34). Here you see faith made the waters decrease; it took away the heat and rage of the adversary.
"And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month, [another period of time,] and in the first day of the tenth month were the tops of the mountains seen." These mountains were before the flood, a type of the hope of the hypocrites, and therefore then were swallowed up, fifteen cubits under the waters. But now, methinks, they should be a figure to the church of some visible ground of deliverance from the flood; for almost three months the ark did rest on the invisible mountains of Ararat. But now are the tops of the mountains seen: A further sign that the waters were abated; and a ground, that at length they would be quite dried up. Let these mountains then be types of the high and mighty, which God is used to stir up to deliver his church from the heat and rage of tyranny and persecution, as they are often termed and called in scripture, the mountains of Israel, for this very end. So then, from our thus considering the mountains, Two things we are taught thereby.
1. That when the great ones of this world begin to discover themselves to the church, by way of encouragement, it is a sign that the waters are now decreasing. Or thus: When God lets us see the tops of the mountains, then we may certainly conclude, that the rage of the waters abate.
Doubtless when God made promise of raising up Josias to Israel, in Canaan (1 Kings 13:1-3); and of raising up for them Cyrus, in Babylon (Isa 45; Eze 1:1-3). The thus appearing of the tops of these mountains, was comfort to the church in her day of affliction.
2. This should teach us while we are in affliction, to look this way and that, if it may be that the tops of the mountains may be seen by us (1 Sam 11:1-3). For though it be too much below a Christian to place his confidence in men, yet when God shall raise up Josias or a Cyrus, we may take encouragement at this working of God. Therefore is that in the Psalms read both ways, shall I look to the mountains? "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. Yet so, as that he would also conclude his help did come from the Lord" (Psa 121:1,2). So then, we must take heed that we look not to the mountains [alone]. Again, it is our wisdom "to look to the mountains": only look not to them but when God discovers them. Look unto them if God discovereth them; yet then but so as means of God's appointing. But again, God doth not let us see the hills for our help, before we have first of all seen them drowned. Look not to them therefore while the water is at the rising; but if they begin to cease their raging, if they begin to fall, and with that the tops of the mountains be seen, you may look upon them with comfort, they are tokens of God's deliverance.
Ver. 6. "And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made."
These forty days seem to commence from the discovery of the tops of the mountains. Wherefore he did not presently go out of the ark, but stayed there above fourteen days still, signifying unto us, that we must not be therefore delivered so soon as the tops of the mountains are seen, but may yet be assaulted with the waters of the flood, days, and weeks, and months, &c.
When Moses was sent to deliver Israel, they came not presently out of Egypt; neither seemed their burthens ever the light to sense or feeling, though faith indeed did see the end (Exo 5:15-23). Again, When he had brought them forth of Egypt, they came not in a day, or a month, to Canaan; but, saith the Holy Ghost, He brought them out, (or, forth of affliction) after that he had showed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
Let us therefore take heed of a feverish spirit, while we behold "the tops of the mountains"; possibly, for all they are visible tokens to us of deliverance, themselves may be yet much under water. We see what work Moses, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson had to deliver Israel, even after more than their tops were seen. Be content to stay yet forty days. David stayed, after he was anointed, till years and times went over him, before he could deliver Israel from the tyranny of its opposers.
"At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark." This opening of the window also, was a type, that now he was preparing to take possession of the world. It also might be a type of the opening the law and testimony, that light might by that come into the church; for we find not that this window had any other use, but to be a conveyance of light into the ark, and as a passage for the raven and the dove, as may be further showed after. Now much like this, is that of John: "The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament" (Rev 11:19). And again, "I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened." And then, as the raven, and the dove came out of the window of the ark; so "the angels," that is, the Lord's executioners, "came out of the temple" that was opened in heaven (Rev 15:5,6).
Hence note, That though men may be borne with, if they lie in their holes in the height of the tempest; but to do it when the tops of the mountains were seen, if they then shall forbear to open their window, they are worthy of blame indeed. When the lepers saw the Assyrians were fled, and that liberty from heaven was granted to Samaria, then they feared to conceal the thing any further; They feared, I say, that if they went not to the city to declare it, some judgment of God would befall them (2 Kings 7:9).
Ver. 7, 8. "And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground."
Behold, the raven and dove are now sent out at the window of the ark, as the angels are said to come out of the temple, when it was opened in heaven. This raven therefore, and the dove, were figures and types of those angels (Rev 15:5,6).
But to speak to them both apart. The raven went forth, but returned not again to the ark. This is intimated by these words, "She went to and fro, until the waters were abated, and dried up." This is further evident by that antithesis that the word doth put between the practice of the raven and the dove. The raven went forth, and went to and fro till the waters were dried up. But mark it, "But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark" (v 9). The raven then did find rest elsewhere, the raven then returned not to him into the ark.
But what did the raven then do? Why, certainly she made a banquet of the carcasses of the giants that were drowned by the flood; it fed upon the flesh of the men that had sinned against the Lord.
The raven therefore was a type of those messengers that God sends out of his temple against Antichrist; that is, for "eating the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses." He was, I say, a type of those professors that God saith he hath a great sacrifice to sacrifice unto, a sort of professors in his church; as the raven was one that had his being in the ark: These are they which Ezekiel mentions, that were to eat flesh, and drink blood; to eat the fat till they be filled, and to drink blood till they be drunken (39:17-20). These also are the guests that Zephaniah mentions, and saith, God hath bidden to the same feast also (1:7-14).
And let no man be offended that I say these birds are in the church: For one effect of the sixth vial, was that battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev 16:16). Further, The angel that proclaims this feast, calls to those that are God's guests, by the name of, "the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven": That they should "come and gather together to the supper of the great God: That they may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men," &c. (Rev 19:17,18). Besides, this supper is the effect of the going forth of the King of kings against the Antichristian whore, whose going forth was at the opening of heaven, as the going forth of the raven was at the opening of the window of the ark (v 11-16).
Note therefore, That God, in the overthrow of the kingdom of Antichrist, and at the asswaging of the rage of her tumultuous waves, will send forth his birds amongst her fat ones, to partake of the banquet that he hath appointed; who when they shall be tolerated by that angel that standeth in the sun, will come down to their feast with such greediness, that neither king nor captain shall keep them from their prey: They will eat flesh, and fat, till they be full, and drink the blood till they be drunk.
"Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated." This dove was a type of another sort of professors in the church, that are of a more gentle nature (Matt 10:16); for all the saints are not for such work as the raven; they are not all for feeding upon the carcasses, the kingdoms and estates of the Antichristian party, but are for spending their time, and for bending their spirits to a more spiritual and retired work; even as the dove is said to be harmless, and to mourn for communion with her companion (Isa 38:14), and that is content if she hath her nest in the sides of the rock, Christ (Jer 48:28). Wherefore he adds,
Ver. 9. "But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth," &c.
The dove could not live as the raven; the raven being content, so long as she found the carcasses; but the dove found no rest till she returned again to Noah.
The raven therefore, though he was in the ark, was not a type of the most spiritual Christian; nay rather, I think, of the worldly professor, who gets into the church in the time of her affliction, as Ziba did into the army of David, in the day of his trouble; not for love to the grace of David, but that, if time should serve, he might be made the Lord of his master's inheritance (2 Sam 16:1-4). But David was content to let him go with him, and that too as under such a consideration: as Christ also lets these ravens to herd with his innocent doves; because he hath flesh to give them, which the doves care not for eating.
"But the dove found no rest." It seems the raven did, as it is also with some professors, who when they by their profession have advanced themselves to some worldly honour, they have ease and rest, though, like the raven, they have it by going out of the church.
"But the dove found no rest." Though all the enemies of God lay tumbling in the sea, this could not satisfy a gracious soul: divide her from the ark, and she finds no rest, she is not at ease till she be with Noah. "And she returned unto him into the ark; - and he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark" (v 9).
Noah here was a type of Christ, who took the dove unto him: And it shows us, That Christ hath a bosom open for the cries and complaints of his people; for the dove returned a-weary with the tidings of this, that the waters still raged. A fit figure of those of the saints that are groaning and weary under the oppression and cruelty of the enemy.
Hence note, That though thou hast no other tidings to Christ but sighs and groans, and weariness, because of the rage of the waters; yet he will not despise thee; yea, he invites thee, as weary, to come (Matt 11:28-30).
Ver. 10. "And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark."
This staying shows us, That he exercised patience, waiting God's leisure till the flood should be taken away. This grace therefore had yet seven day's work to do, before he obtained any further testimony that the waters were decreasing. O this staying work is hard work! Alas! sometimes patience is accompanied with so much heat and feverishness, that every hour seems seven until the end of the trial, and the blessing promised be possessed by the waiting soul. It may be Noah might not be altogether herein a stranger: I am sure the Psalmist was not, in that he often under affliction, cries, But how long, O Lord! for ever! (Psa 6:3; 79:5; 13:1; 74:1; 89:46). Make haste! O Lord, how long! (90:13; 94:3).
"And again he sent forth the dove." The first time he sent her, she brought no good news, but came panting and weary home; yet he sends her a second time.
This should teach us, not to make conclusions too suddenly about God's dispensation, saying it must be now or never; for it may be the seven days are not out. The men of David said, This is the day that the Lord will give thee the kingdom of Israel: But David perceived otherwise, and therefore adds yet to his temperance, patience (1 Sam 24:1-4; 26:8-10). Not sullenly saying like that wicked king, Why should I wait on the Lord any longer? (2 Kings 6:32). But comforts himself with the truth of the promise, saying, His time shall come to die, &c. He that believeth, maketh not haste, but waiteth patiently, for the perfecting God's work in God's time. That is excellent in the song: "I charge you [saith the church] that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please" (Cant 8:4). Noah was much for this, wherefore he stayed yet other seven days.
"And again he sent forth the dove." Elias did much like this, when his servant, at the first sending, brought him no tidings of rain, he gave him his errand again, saying, Go again: go seven times (1 Kings 18:43-45). As Noah here did with the dove, and again he sent her. Seeming delays are no hindrance to faith; they ought to try it, and put it into exercise: As here it was with this good man about the waters of the flood; he fainted not, but believed to see the goodness of the Lord. That in the prophet is notable as to this, "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: thought it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" (Hab 2:3).
Ver. 11. "And the dove came in to him in the evening; and lo! in her mouth was an olive-leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth."
"And the dove came in to him in the evening." Wherefore his patience was tried this day also. All the day he heard nothing of his dove. Surely she could not keep the wing all the day. Is she drowned I tro? Is she lost? O, no! She comes at last, though she stayed long. Samuel also stayed long before he came to Saul; but Saul could not wait as Noah did, therefore he had not the benefit of the mercy promised.
"The dove came in to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth was an olive-leaf," &c. Now he is recompensed for the exercise of patience: As also was Abraham when God gave him Isaac; for after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
"And lo, an olive-leaf." A sign that God was going through with his work of diminishing the waters: A sign, I say, and a good experience of the continued love of God to his servant; according to that of Paul, "patience worketh experience"; that is, it at last obtaineth the blessing promised, and so settleth the soul in a fresh experience of the love and faithfulness of God.
And lo! This word Lo, it is, as it were an appeal to all readers to judge, whether God to Noah was faithful or no. So then, this was not written for his sake only, but for us also that believe in God, that we might now exercise patience, as Noah; and obtain the tokens of God's goodness, as he; for lo the dove, at last, though 'twas night first, came to Noah into the ark, "and lo in her mouth was an olive-leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated."
"An olive-leaf plucked off." These words, an olive-leaf plucked off, do intimate, that Noah was now inquisitive and searching how the dove obtained the leaf; that is, whether she found it as dead, and upon the waters; or whether she plucked it off some tree: But he found by the greenness and freshness of the slip, that she plucked it off from the olive. Wherefore, he had good ground now to be comforted; for if this leaf was plucked off from a tree, then the waters could not be deep; especially, because as the story tells us, the olive used also to stand in the bottoms, or valleys.
This should teach us, That not over highly we conclude messages or tokens, to be signs of God's mercy. There are lying visions, and they are causes of banishment; they we should beware of, or else we are not only at present deceived, but our faith is in danger of the rocks; for not a few have cast up all, because the truth of some seeming vision hath failed. Mark how David handleth the messenger that brought him tidings of the death of Saul: says he, How dost thou know that Saul is dead? What proof canst thou make of the truth of this story? (1 Sam 1:1-10). So should we say of all those visions or messengers that come to persuade us, that either inward or outward deliverance is for us at the door. Prove these stories; look if they be not dead and lifeless fancies; see if you can find that they were plucked off from the tree that is green.
Ver. 12. "And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more."
We read before of forty days' patience, and after that of seven days' patience; and that after the waters began to return from off the earth, and here again of seven days more. Whence not, That the best of God's people, in the times of trials, find their patience too short-winded to hold out the whole length of a trial, unless the time be, as it were, cut in pieces. The prophet when he was to lay siege against Jerusalem, he must rest the one side, by turning him upon the other (Eze 4:2-6). It was with holy Job exceeding hard, when he might not have time to swallow his spittle, when he might not a little sit down and rest him. And if you observe him, he doth not desire an absolute deliverance as yet, but only time to take wind and breathe awhile; and then, if God will, to engage in the combat again: "How long [saith he] wilt thou not depart from me." Depart: what quite? O! No, saith he, I beg not that absolutely, but only so long as till a man might "swallow down his spittle" (Job 7:19). This the church in Ezra's time took as an exceeding favour. "And now [say they] for a little space, grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage" (Ezra 9:8).
"And he stayed yet other seven days." Note again, That it is not God's way with his people to shew them all their troubles at once; but first he shews them a part; first forty days, after that seven other days, and yet again seven days more; that, they coming upon them by piecemeal, they may the better be able to travel through them. While Israel was in affliction in Egypt, they knew not the trial that would meet them at the Red Sea. Again, When they had gone through that, they little thought that yet "for forty years they must be tempted and proved in the wilderness."
And thus it was with this blessed Noah; he thought that by the first seven days his trials might be ended. But behold, there is yet seven days more behind: "and he stayed yet other seven days."
Further: There may also be by these words thus much insinuated, That these periods of time might be also of Noah's prefixing: and if so, then note, That the people of God in these days are not the first that have been under mistake, as to the timing of their afflictions. Noah counted it would end many days before it ended indeed, even seven days, and seven days, and seven days to that; for he sent forth his dove about the beginning of the first month, in which month also were his two seven days' trials. Again, after that he had stayed two seven days more, to wit, to the end of that first month. Again, he stayed almost four sevens more; for he came not out of the ark till the twenty-seventh day of the second month.
Hence therefore let Christians beware that they set not times for God, lest all men see their folly. "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). Yea, I say again, take heed lest that for thy setting of God a seven days' time, he set not thee so many as seven times seven.
"And he sent forth the dove, which returned not again unto him any more." This is the third time that the dove was sent to see how the waters were abated on the face of the earth. The first time she, by her restlessness, bespake the waters to be high and mighty. The second time, by her olive-leaf, she notifieth that the waters were low and ebbing. But this third time, she seems to be weary or her service, she returned not again to him any more; yet in her so absenting herself, she gives confirmation to Noah, that the waters were even in a manner quite gone. If he will take this for a proof let him, if not, let him hang in suspense with himself. Hence note, that God will not be always testifying, by renewing of his tokens, to that about which we have had sufficient conviction before; for in so doing he should gratify and humour our unbelief. Noah had received already two sufficient testimonies that the waters were decreasing. First by his seeing the tops of the mountains, and then by the olive-leaf; but notwithstanding these two testimonies, his unbelief in part remains; but God will not humour such a groundless mistrust, by giving him any further token, than the very absenting of the dove. Much like this was that of Samson's father; the angel once had told his wife, that she should have a son that should deliver Israel; well, Manoah heard of this, he also desired that he might see that man that had told his wife this happy news. Now God thus far condescends, as to send the angel a second time; but then, this being now a sufficient antidote against their unbelief, the angel after the next departing, was not seen again of them at all. But saith the word, The angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah, and to his wife: So that now they must live by faith, or not at all (Judg 13:3,9,21).
God's dealing with his people with respect to their spiritual condition, is much like this. The Holy Ghost doth not use to confirm us by new revelations of grace and justification, so often as by our fond doubts or mistrust we call for and desire the same. But having confirmed in us the testimony of Christ, it may be twice or thrice, (for the testimony of two men are true) he then expects we should live by faith. And observe it, if we have after such testimony joyful communion with God, it is either by retreating to former experience, or by arguing according to faith; that because God hath done thus before, he therefore hath given me interest in such and such promises and mercies besides.
I speak now of the first seals of the love of God to the soul, after we have been sufficiently tossed upon the waves of unbelief, as Noah was by the waters of the flood: such seals are few, the Lord gave them to Solomon twice (1 Kings 11:9). And also twice to his servant Paul (Acts 22:6,18). 'Tis enough that they have seen "the tops of the mountains," and have had brought to them the olive- leaf. Let them now believe this confirmation of mercy is sufficient, and if they will not believe now, they shall not be established.
Ver. 13. "And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the fist day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry."
"And it came to pass." That is, by the working of God, that the waters were dried up. This came to pass in God's time, to wit, in "the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month"; not in the times of Noah's prefixing. God's time is THE time, the best time, because it is the time appointed by him for the proof and trial of our graces, and that in which so much, and so much of the rage of the enemy, and of the power of God's mercy, may the better be discovered unto us; "I the Lord will hasten it in HIS time" (Isa 60:22), not before, though we were the signet upon his right hand (Jer 22:24).
Noah the only man with God in that generation, could not be restored before the time; no more could Israel from the thraldom of Egypt (Exo 13:4). Yea, the Son of God himself must here give place and be content. And when Satan had ended all the temptation, when he "had ended all, - then he departed from him for a season" (Luke 4:13).
"And Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked." The failing again of his expected comforter, caused him to be up and doing; probably he had not as yet uncovered the ark, that is, to look round about him had the dove by returning pleased his humour; but she failing him, he stirs up himself, Thus it should also be with the Christian now: doth he dove forbear to come to thee with a leaf in her bill as before, let not this make thee sullen and mistrustful, but uncover the ark, and look, and by looking thou shalt see a further testimony of what thou receivedst by the first manifestations: "He looked, and behold the earth was dry." Paul tells us, that by looking we have a testimony like, or as that, which at first was given us by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18). "And behold the face of the earth was dry."
Ver. 14. "And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried."
This prospect was like the rain that we read of in another place, that confirmed God's inheritance when it was weary: It was a comfortable sight to Noah to see that the face of the earth was dry; and now he could wait upon God with less trial and strain to his patience the remaining days, which were fifty and four, to wit, from the first of the first, to the twenty-seventh of the second month, than he could one of the sevens that he met with before. Indeed the path is narrowest just at entrance as also our nature is then the most untoward; but after we are in, the walk seems to be wider and easy; the flesh is also then more mortified and conformable. The walk is but a cubit wide at the door, but inward ten times as broad (Eze 42:4,11).
"And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried." So that from the first day it began to rain, which was the seventeenth day of the second month in the year before, unto this day, was Noah in the ark; it was just a year and ten days. That was the time then that God had appointed to try his servant Noah, by the waters of the flood: in which time he was so effectually crucified to the things of the world, that he was as if he was never more to enjoy the same. Wherefore Peter making mention of this estate of his, he tells us, it was even like unto our baptism; wherein we profess ourselves dead to the world, and alive to God by Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).
In the first verse of this chapter, we read that God remembered Noah; but till now we read not, that the face of the earth was dried. Hence note that our being under the rage of the enemy, doth not argue that we are therefore forgotten of God, "he remembereth us in our low estate," even when tossed to and fro by the waters of a flood of temptations.
Ver. 15, 16. "And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee."
Now we are come to the end of the trial, and so to the time of Noah's deliverance, and behold as he went in, so he came out: He went into the ark at the commandment of the Lord. "And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark" (Gen 7:1). And here again, "And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark." Hence note, that notwithstanding the earth was dry about fifty-four days before, yet Noah waited for the word of God for his commission to bring him forth of the ark. Providence seemed to smile before, in that the earth was dry, to which had but Noah added reason, he must have concluded, the time is come for me to go forth of the ark. But Noah knew, that as well the providences of God, as the waters of the flood might be to try his dependence on the word of the Lord: wherefore, though he saw this, yet because he had no answer of God, he will not take the opportunity.
It is dangerous, or at least very difficult, to make the most smiling providence of God our rule to act by: Had David done it, he had killed Saul before the time, But David respected the word of God (2 Sam 24:17-20). Elisha also would not suffer the king to make that improvement of the providence of God, which reason should be put in execution, when he rebuked the king's desire that he had to have killed the Syrians, and commanded that bread should be set before them, that they might eat, and go home again to their master (2 Kings 6:19-23). Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word. "At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched. - - At the commandment of the Lord they rested in their tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord, by the hand of Moses" (Num 9:18-23).
"Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee."
When God delivereth, he delivereth completely. Thus Israel also went out of Egypt, they, their wives, their children, with their flocks and herds, not an hoof was left behind (Exo 10:24-26). When David's time was come to possess the kingdom, he brought along with him those six hundred men that had been his companions in his suffering state, every man with his household. But I say, he went up to possess it, not simply by the voice of providence, though Saul was dead, but "David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" Nay, a general answer, even from God, would not satisfy this holy man. "The Lord said, - Go, but David replied, Whither shall I go? and he said unto Hebron" (1 Sam 2:1). Oh! it is safe to regard the word of the Lord; this makes us all come safe to land. When men wrest themselves from under the hand of God, taking such opportunities for their deliverance, which are laid before them only for trial of obedience to the word: they may, it is probable, have a seeming success; the end will be as with Zedekiah king of Judah, affliction with addition. The Jews that were left in the land of Israel, from the hand of the king of Babylon, would flee to the land of Egypt (Jer 41:17), that they might have quietness there, but they went without the word of God, and therefore their rest brought them to their ruin (42; 43).
Noah therefore chose the safest way, even to stay in the ark, till God's word came. As it is also said of Joseph, "The word of the Lord tried him"; till the word of the Lord came to deliver him, and then he had deliverance indeed (Psa 105:19), as Noah also and David had safe deliverance for himself and relations.
Ver. 17. "Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth."
Noah was not only to have in this deliverance, respect to himself and family, but to the good of all the world. Men's spirits are too narrow for the mind of God, when their chief end, or their only design in their enjoying this or the other mercy, is for the sake of their ownselves only. It cannot be according to God, that such desires should be encouraged: "none of us liveth unto himself," why then should we desire life only for ourselves.
The church cries thus, "God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us." Why? "That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations" (Psa 67:1,2).
So David, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee" (Psa 51:12,13). So then, we must not desire to come out of trials and afflictions alone, or by ourselves, but that in our deliverance the salvation of many may be concerned. It is said, when Israel went up out of Egypt, there went up with them "a mixed multitude," to wit, of Egyptians, and other nations: This going out of captivity was right, they carried out with them the fowls, the beasts, and the creeping things; to wit, the heathens of other lands, and so added increase to the church of God (Exo 12:37,38). In Esther's time also, when the Jews came from under the snare of Haman, they brought with them to God many of the people of the provinces. "Many of the people of the land became Jews" (Esth 8:17).
These words therefore, "bring forth with thee every living thing," &c. are not lightly to be passed over; for they shew us, that we ought in our deliverance to have special respect to the deliverance of others. And if our deliverance be with the word and liking of God, it must needs have this effect. "When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria, and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them" (Eze 17:53).
And indeed there is reason for this, for in every affliction and persecution, the devil's design is to impair Christ's kingdom: wherefore no marvel, that God designeth in our deliverance, the impairing and lessening the kingdom of sin and Satan. Wherefore, O thou church of God in England, which art now upon the waves of affliction, and temptation, when thou comest out of the furnace, if thou come out at the bidding of God, there shall come out with thee the fowl, the beast, and abundance of creeping things. "O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people" (Hosea 6:11).
"That they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth."
This was God's end in preserving the creatures from the flood, that again the earth might be replenished therewith. The same end he hath in his suffering of the persecutors, and all manner of adversity to take away but "a part," some (Amos 7:4). Some of them they shall kill and crucify, leaving a remnant alive in the world, namely, that they might breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. As he saith by the prophet Isaiah, "He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (Isa 27:6). And this after their deliverance from persecution: According as he saith again, "The remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah, shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant" that is yet to replenish the earth with converts (37:32). As Luke observes, that when the churches in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had rest, they "walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied" (Acts 9:31).
Ver. 18. "And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him." Obedience is better than sacrifice. Noah is at the beck of God, what he bid him do, that does he; and indeed this is in truth to worship God, yea, this is to know and worship God. It is said of Abraham, when he went at God's command to offer up Isaac, that he counted it going to worship the Lord (Gen 22:5). And God saith of Hezekiah, that he did "judgment and justice," judging the cause of the poor and needy; and then adds, Is not this "to know me, saith the Lord?" (Jer 22:15,16). I bring these to shew, that obedience to the word of God, is the true character of God's people in all ages; and this very text, as also such others before, is on purpose recorded by the Holy Ghost, to shew you, that Noah was obedient in all things; yea, I may add, these commands were to discover the proof of him, whether he would be obedient in all things; and this was also his way with New Testament churches (2 Cor 2:9). The sincerity of love, and of the uprightness of the heart, is greatly discovered by the commandments of God. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them," saith Christ, "he it is that loveth me" &c. (John 14:21).
Ver. 19. "Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth after their kinds, went forth out of the ark."
These words are yet a further expression of the sincerity of Noah's obedience, for that he at the command of God, did carefully search and seek out every little creeping thing that God had brought to him into the ark. Obedience in little things do ofttimes prove us most; for we through the pride of our hearts are apt to look over little things, because though commanded, they are but little (Jer 23:38). O, but Noah was of another spirit, he carefully looked after little things, even after every thing, "whatsoever creepeth upon the earth"; and not only so, but sought diligently that they might go out in order, to wit, male and female, according to their kind. Sometimes God would have men exact to a word, sometimes exact to a tache, or pin, or loop (Exo 36:12,13); sometimes to a step (Eze 40:3,4,37). Be careful then in little things, but yet leave not the other undone (Matt 23:23).
Indeed the command of God is great; if HE therefore commands us to worship him, though but with a bird, we must not count such ordinances insignificant, or below a human creature (Lev 14:52).
Ver. 20. "And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt- offerings on the altar."
This is the fist work that we read Noah did, when he came forth of the ark; and it shews us, that at this time he had a deep sense of the distinguishing mercy of God. And indeed he had sufficient cause to wonder, for the whole world was drowned, save only himself, and they that were with him in the ark.
But I say, this was the first work, to wit, "to worship God." Hence note, That a sense of mercy, of distinguishing mercy, naturally engageth the heart to worship. It is said of Moses, when the name of the Lord was proclaimed before him, as "merciful and gracious, - and abundant in goodness and truth, - and that he pardoned iniquity, transgression and sin"; that he "made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped" (Exo 34:8).
"And Noah builded an altar." Although this altar be the first that we read of, yet forasmuch as there was before a blessed church, and also an open profession of godliness, together with offering sacrifice, in all probability this was not the first altar that was builded unto the Lord. Besides, we read not of any immediate revelation, from which Noah had light and instruction to build it. The text only saith, he built an altar unto the Lord; which may be aptly expounded, according as he was wont in the other world.
This altar was a type of Christ, as capacitated to bear the sin of the world (for the altar was it, upon which the sacrifices were burnt;) wherefore it, in mine opinion, in special respected his Godhead, by the power of which he offered himself, that is, his flesh. Again it is said, "The altar sanctifieth the gift" (Matt 23:19). So did the Godhead the humanity of Christ, through which "eternal Spirit, he offered himself without spot to God" (Heb 9:14). By this altar then this blessed man preached to his family the Godhead and eternity of Christ.
"And took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl." These beasts and fowls were types of the flesh of the Son of God, as Paul in the ninth and tenth chapters to the Hebrews affirms; wherefore by this act he also preached to his family the incarnation of the Lord Christ, how that "in the fulness of time" he should in our flesh offer himself a sacrifice for us; for as all the ordinances of the New Testament ministration preach to us, That Christ is come; so all the ordinances of worship under the Old Testament preached to them that were under it, Christ, as yet TO come.
"Of every clean beast and of every clean fowl." This was to shew, That when Christ did come, he should not take hold of the Jew, and exclude the Gentile; but that in his flesh he should present unto God EVERY clean beast, and EVERY clean fowl; that is, all the elect, both of Jew and Gentile (Acts 10:11-16).
And it was requisite that this by Noah should be preached, because the whole world was yet in his family; from whence, at the multiplication of men, if through their rebellion and idolatry they lost not this doctrine, they might to all their offspring preach the Lord Jesus.
Wherefore, the doctrine of the gospel, had the world been faithful, might have been to this day retained amongst them that now are the most barbarous people.
Ver. 21. "And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; [a savour of rest;] and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done."
These words more fully shew, that this sacrifice of Noah was a type of the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ, he being said to be that blessed sacrifice that is as perfume in the nostrils of God: "He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour" (Eph 5:2). Besides, this offering of Noah was a burnt-offering to God; which burning signified, the curse of God, which Christ was made in his death for us. Wherefore, the burnt offerings were all along a type of him; as by reading the epistle to the Hebrews you may see: "It is the burnt-offering, [saith God,] because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it" (Lev 6:9). Which was a type of the fire of the law, and the guilt of sin, that Christ, when he offered himself, should undergo for the sins of man.
"And the Lord smelled a sweet savour." This signifies the content and satisfaction that for the sin of the world, God should have by the offering upon of his Son for us upon the cross: Wherefore, he is said to be now "in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor 5:19).
Now it is observable, That Noah was a man of faith long before this. Hence note two things.
1. That men, even of eminent faith have yet need of a continual remembrance of the death and sufferings of Christ; yea, and that in the most plain and easiest manner to understand.
2. They have need also, notwithstanding they have faith before, to present themselves before God, through Jesus Christ our Lord: For as our persons are not accepted, but in and through him, no more are our performances; yea, though they be spiritual services or sacrifices; it is the blood that maketh the atonement, as well for work as persons (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:21). As he saith in another place, I will accept you with your sweet savour, but not without it (1 Peter 2:5; Eze 20:41). As he also said to his church in Egypt, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" (Exo 12:13).
"And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse," &c. By heart here, we may understand two things.
1. That God was altogether unfeigned in this promise. He spake it from his very heart: which we use to count the most sincere expressing of our mind: According to that of the prophet, "Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly - [in truth, in stability,] with my whole heart, and with my whole soul" (Jer 32:41). Mark, I will rejoice to do it, I will do it assuredly, I will do it in truth, even "with my whole heart, and with my whole soul."
2. By his saying, "In his heart," we may understand the secrecy of his purpose; for this doctrine, Of not cursing again, it is hid from all but those to whom it is revealed by the Spirit of God. For this purpose, in the heart of God, is one of the depths, or of the deep things of God, which the spirit of a man cannot understand. "Who hath known the mind of the Lord?" None of all the sons of men, but those that have the Holy Ghost: Therefore Paul applieth that to himself and fellows, as that which is peculiar to them to know, "We have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16). It is said, that after Christ had by his parables preached his gospel to the world, he in private "expounded all things to his disciples" (Mark 4:34).
Hence note, That they that will hear God speak this, they must be near his very heart. They that are in his heart, may hear it: but to them that are without, in parables. This secret, in revelation of the gospel, is also expressed in other terms: as, That the Lord spake "in mine ears" (Isa 5:9), and "it was revealed in mine ears" (Isa 22:14). And again, "Hear now this word that I speak in thine ears" (Jer 28:7).
"I will not again curse the ground any more." These words are also under Moses' veil; for in them is contained the sin of the world, and damnation thereof. He said, when he was to bring the flood, that the "earth was corrupt," and that he would "destroy the earth" (6:11,13); but his great meaning, was, of the sinners that dwelt therein; as the effect of that flood declared. So he saith again, he will not bring any more a flood to destroy the earth; and that the bow in the cloud should be a sign of peace between him and the earth: By all which is meant in special, the men that dwell on the earth (Psa 114:7; Deu 32:1; Jer 6:19; 22:29); and they are called, the Ground, and the Earth, because they came from thence. So then, there is, as it were, the foundation of all spiritual blessedness couched under these words, "I will not curse the ground, I will not destroy man." And that this must needs be the meaning thereof, consider, that this promise ariseth from the sweet savour that he smelt before in the burnt-offering; which was a figure of Christ, who was "made a curse for us" (Gal 3:13), to deliver us from the curse of the law; that we might through him obtain the blessing of forgiveness of sins; to which the curse stands directly opposite.
"I will not again curse the ground for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." The imagination of man's heart was the ground of this dreadful curse; and the effect of this curse, was, to lay them up in chains in hell: Wherefore Peter saith, These men are "now in prison." The curse therefore, in its most eminent extension, reached the souls of those ungodly ones that were swept away with the flood. But it seems a strange argument, or reason rendered of God, why again he would not curse the ground, if it was because of the evil imagination of man's heart, this being the only argument that prevailed with him to send the flood. The meaning therefore is rather this, That because of the satisfaction that Christ hath given to God for sin, therefore he said in his heart, he would "not again curse the ground," for the evil imagination of man; that is, he would not do it, for want of a sacrifice that had in it a sufficient propitiation (John 3:18,19).
Hence note, That the great cause now of man's condemnation, is not because of his inherent pollution, but because he accepteth not, with Noah, of the satisfaction made by Christ; for to all them that have so accepted thereof, there is now no curse nor condemnation (Rom 8:1), though still the imagination of their heart be evil. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).
"For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." These words seem to insinuate the cause of these evil imaginations; and that is, from the corruption of their youth. Now how soon their youth was corrupted, David shows by these words, "I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psa 51:5). Ezekiel also shows, we were polluted in the day that we were born (Eze 16:1-8). Further, God to Moses strongly affirms it, in that he commands, That for the firstborn, in whom the rest were included, an offering should be offered, by that they were a month old (Exo 13:13; 34:20). God seems therefore, by this word, to look back to the transgression of our first parents, by whom sin came into our natures; and by so doing he not only intimateth, yea, promiseth a pardon to personal miscarriages; but assureth us, That neither them, nor yet our inward pollutions, shall destroy us, because of the rest that he found before in Christ (Rom 5).
"Neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done." The creatures therefore also have some kind of benefit by the death and blood of Christ; that is, so as to live, and have a being; for infinite justice is so perfectly just, as that without a sacrifice it could not have suffered the world to stand, after sin was in the world, but must have destroyed, for the sake of sin, the world which he had made.
For although it be foully absurd to say that beasts and fowls are defiled with sin, as man; yet doubtless they received detriment thereby. "The creature was made subject to vanity, by reason of him who hath subjected the same," &c. That is, by Adam's sin. Which vanity they also show by divers of their practise; as both in their enmity to man, and one to another, with which they were not created; this came by the sin of man. Now that man lives, yea, that beasts live, it is because of the offering up of Christ: Wherefore it is said in that of the Colossians, The gospel is "preached to every creature"; in every creature under heaven; to wit, in that they live and have a being (1:23).
"Neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done." These words, as I have done, doth not exempt the creature from every judgment of God, but from this, or such as this; for we know, that other judgments do befall ungodly men now; and if they continue in final impenitence, they shall partake of far greater judgments than to be drowned by the waters of a flood. "The wicked is reserved unto judgment" (Job 21:30). Yea, the heavens and the earth that now are, are "reserved unto fire, - and perdition of ungodly men" (2 Peter 3:7).
Ver. 22. "While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease." "While the earth remaineth." These words may have respect both to the words before, and to them that follow after. If they respect the words before, then they are as limits to that large promise, of not destroying the world again: not but that the day will come, as I said, in which another general judgment, and that too far more dreadful than this of water, will overflow the world, and every living thing shall again be cut off from the face of all the earth: as now by rain of water, then by rain of fire and brimstone: Which day and sore judgment, God showed unto men, when he burned Sodom and Gomorrah with "fire and brimstone from heaven." But,
"While the earth remaineth," this shall not be. But in the end, then indeed both it and "the works that are therein, shall [as Peter saith] be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). But so long as it remaineth, that is, until it be overtaken with this second, and that too the beginning of eternal judgment, no universal judgment shall overrun the earth: For albeit that since that flood, the earth hath been smitten with many a curse; yet it hath been but here and there, not in every place at once. Famines, and earthquakes, and pestilences, have been in divers places, but yet at the same time hath there been seed time and harvest also (Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11).
"Seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease." These words were some of the first, with that of "the bow in the cloud," that prevailed with me to believe that the scriptures were the word of God.
For my reason tells me, they are, and have continued a true prophecy, from the day that they were related; otherwise the world could not have subsisted; for take away seed time and harvest, cold and heat, &c., and an end is put to the beginning of the universe.
Besides, if these words be taken in a spiritual sense, they have also stood true from that very day; otherwise the church had ceased to have a being long before this: For take away seed time and harvest from the church, with cold and heat, and day and night, and those ordinances of heaven are taken from her, which were ordained for her begetting and continuation. This head might with much largeness be insisted on; but to pass it, and to come to the next chapter.