Expositions of Holy Scripture
Alexander Maclaren

Part 1 out of 12

This eBook was produced by Anne Folland, Charles Franks and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team








THE VISION OF CREATION (Genesis i. 26--ii. 3)

HOW SIN CAME IN (Genesis iii. 1-15)

EDEN LOST AND RESTORED (Genesis iii. 24; Revelation xxii. 14)

THE GROWTH AND POWER OF SIN (Genesis iv. 3-16)


WITH, BEFORE, AFTER (Genesis v. 22; Genesis xvii. 1;
Deuteronomy xiii. 4)


THE SAINT AMONG SINNERS (Genesis vi. 9-22)

'CLEAR SHINING AFTER RAIN' (Genesis viii. 1-22)


AN EXAMPLE OF FAITH (Genesis xii. 1-9)


GOING FORTH (Genesis xii. 5)


THE MAN OF FAITH (Genesis xii. 6, 7)

LIFE IN CANAAN (Genesis xii. 8)

THE IMPORTANCE OF A CHOICE (Genesis xiii. 1-13)

ABBAM THE HEBREW (Genesis xiv. 13)

GOD'S COVENANT WITH ABRAM (Genesis xv. 5-18)



(Genesis xvii. 1-9)

A PETULANT WISH (Genesis xvii. 18)

'BECAUSE OF HIS IMPORTUNITY' (Genesis xviii. l6-33)


THE SWIFT DESTROYER (Genesis xix. 15-26)

FAITH TESTED AND CROWNED (Genesis xxii. 1-14)


JEHOVAH-JIREH (Genesis xxii. 14)

GUIDANCE IN THE WAY (Genesis xxiv. 27)

THE DEATH OF ABRAHAM (Genesis xxv. 8)

A BAD BARGAIN (Genesis xxv. 27-34)

POTTAGE _versus_ BIRTHRIGHT (Genesis xxv. 34)



MAHANAIM: THE TWO CAMPS (Genesis xxxii. 1, 2)

(Genesis xxxii. 9-12)

A FORGOTTEN VOW (Genesis xxxv. 1)


MAN'S PASSIONS AND GOD'S PURPOSE (Genesis xxxvii. 23-36)

GOODNESS IN A DUNGEON (Genesis xl. 1-15)

JOSEPH, THE PRIME MINISTER (Genesis xli. 38-48)



GROWTH BY TRANSPLANTING (Genesis xlvii. 1-12)

TWO RETROSPECTS OF ONE LIFE (Genesis xlvii. 9; Genesis xlviii. 15, 16)

'THE HANDS OF THE MIGHTY GOD OF JACOB' (Genesis xlix. 23, 24)



JOSEPH'S FAITH (Genesis l. 25)

A COFFIN IN EGYPT (Genesis l. 26)


'And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of
the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the
cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping
thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man
in His own image: in the image of God created He him;
male and female created He them. And God blessed them:
and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and
replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion
over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing
seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every
tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed;
to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the
earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing
that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I
have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And
God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it
was very good. And the evening and the morning were the
sixth day.

'Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all
the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His
work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day
from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the
seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it He
had rested from all His work which God created and made.'
--GENESIS i. 26-ii. 3.

We are not to look to Genesis for a scientific cosmogony, and are
not to be disturbed by physicists' criticisms on it as such. Its
purpose is quite another, and far more important; namely, to imprint
deep and ineffaceable the conviction that the one God created all
things. Nor must it be forgotten that this vision of creation was
given to people ignorant of natural science, and prone to fall back
into surrounding idolatry. The comparison of the creation narratives
in Genesis with the cuneiform tablets, with which they evidently are
most closely connected, has for its most important result the
demonstration of the infinite elevation above their monstrosities
and puerilities, of this solemn, steadfast attribution of the
creative act to the one God. Here we can only draw out in brief the
main points which the narrative brings into prominence.

1. The revelation which it gives is the truth, obscured to all other
men when it was given, that one God 'in the beginning created the
heaven and the earth.' That solemn utterance is the keynote of the
whole. The rest but expands it. It was a challenge and a denial for
all the beliefs of the nations, the truth of which Israel was the
champion and missionary. It swept the heavens and earth clear of the
crowd of gods, and showed the One enthroned above, and operative in,
all things. We can scarcely estimate the grandeur, the emancipating
power, the all-uniting force, of that utterance. It is a worn
commonplace to us. It was a strange, thrilling novelty when it was
written at the head of this narrative. _Then_ it was in sharp
opposition to beliefs that have long been dead to us; but it is
still a protest against some living errors. Physical science has not
spoken the final word when it has shown us how things came to be as
they are. There remains the deeper question, What, or who,
originated and guided the processes? And the only answer is the
ancient declaration, 'In the beginning God created the heaven and
the earth.'

2. The record is as emphatic and as unique in its teaching as to the
mode of creation: 'God said ... and it was so.' That lifts us above
all the poor childish myths of the nations, some of them disgusting,
many of them absurd, all of them unworthy. There was no other agency
than the putting forth of the divine will. The speech of God is but
a symbol of the flashing forth of His will. To us Christians the
antique phrase suggests a fulness of meaning not inherent in it, for
we have learned to believe that 'all things were made by Him' whose
name is 'The Word of God'; but, apart from that, the representation
here is sublime. 'He spake, and it was done'; that is the sign-
manual of Deity.

3. The completeness of creation is emphasised. We note, not only the
recurrent 'and it was so,' which declares the perfect correspondence
of the result with the divine intention, but also the recurring 'God
saw that it was good.' His ideals are always realised. The divine
artist never finds that the embodiment of His thought falls short of
His thought.

'What act is all its thought had been?
What will but felt the fleshly screen?

But He has no hindrances nor incompletenesses in His creative work,
and the very sabbath rest with which the narrative closes
symbolises, not His need of repose, but His perfect accomplishment
of His purpose. God ceases from His works because 'the works were
finished,' and He saw that all was very good.

4. The progressiveness of the creative process is brought into
strong relief. The work of the first four days is the preparation of
the dwelling-place for the living creatures who are afterwards
created to inhabit it. How far the details of these days' work
coincide with the order as science has made it out, we are not
careful to ask here. The primeval chaos, the separation of the
waters above from the waters beneath, the emergence of the land, the
beginning of vegetation there, the shining out of the sun as the
dense mists cleared, all find confirmation even in modern theories
of evolution. But the intention of the whole is much rather to teach
that, though the simple utterance of the divine will was the agent
of creation, the manner of it was not a sudden calling of the world,
as men know it, into being, but majestic, slow advance by stages,
each of which rested on the preceding. To apply the old distinction
between justification and sanctification, creation was a work, not
an act. The Divine Workman, who is always patient, worked slowly
then as He does now. Not at a leap, but by deliberate steps, the
divine ideal attains realisation.

5. The creation of living creatures on the fourth and fifth days is
so arranged as to lead up to the creation of man as the climax. On
the fifth day sea and air are peopled, and their denizens 'blessed,'
for the equal divine love holds every living thing to its heart. On
the sixth day the earth is replenished with living creatures. Then,
last of all, comes man, the apex of creation. Obviously the purpose
of the whole is to concentrate the light on man; and it is a matter
of no importance whether the narrative is correct according to
zoology, or not. What it says is that God made all the universe,
that He prepared the earth for the delight of living creatures, that
the happy birds that soar and sing, and the dumb creatures that move
through the paths of the seas, and the beasts of the earth, are all
His creating, and that man is linked to them, being made on the same
day as the latter, and by the same word, but that between man and
them all there is a gulf, since he is made in the divine image. That
image implies personality, the consciousness of self, the power to
say 'I,' as well as purity. The transition from the work of the
first four days to that of creating living things must have had a
break. No theory has been able to bridge the chasm without admitting
a divine act introducing the new element of life, and none has been
able to bridge the gulf between the animal and human consciousness
without admitting a divine act introducing 'the image of God' into
the nature common to animal and man. Three facts as to humanity are
thrown up into prominence: its possession of the image of God, the
equality and eternal interdependence of the sexes, and the lordship
over all creatures. Mark especially the remarkable wording of verse 27:
'created He _him_ male and female created He _them_.' So 'neither is
the woman without the man, nor the man without the woman.' Each is
maimed apart from the other. Both stand side by side, on one level
before God. The germ of the most 'advanced' doctrines of the relations
of the sexes is hidden here.


'Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the
field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the
woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree
of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We
may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of
the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the
garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither
shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said
unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth
know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes
shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good
and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good
for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a
tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the
fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also unto her
husband with her, and he did eat. And the eyes of them
both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves
aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking
in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his
wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God
amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called
unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he
said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid,
because I was naked; and I hid myself. And He said, Who
told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the
tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not
eat And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be
with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the
Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast
done? and the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I
did eat. And the Lord God said onto the serpent. Because
thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle,
and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt
thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy
life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman,
and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy
head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.'--GENESIS iii 1-15.

It is no part of my purpose to enter on the critical questions
connected with the story of 'the fall.' Whether it is a legend,
purified and elevated, or not, is of less consequence than what is
its moral and religious significance, and that significance is
unaffected by the answer to the former question. The story
presupposes that primitive man was in a state of ignorant innocence,
not of intellectual or moral perfection, and it tells how that
ignorant innocence came to pass into conscious sin. What are the
stages of the transition?

1. There is the presentation of inducement to evil. The law to which
Adam is to be obedient is in the simplest form. There is
restriction. 'Thou shalt not' is the first form of law, and it is a
form congruous with the undeveloped, though as yet innocent, nature
ascribed to him. The conception of duty is present, though in a very
rudimentary shape. An innocent being may be aware of limitations,
though as yet not 'knowing good and evil.' With deep truth the story
represents the first suggestion of disobedience as presented from
without. No doubt, it might have by degrees arisen from within, but
the thought that it was imported from another sphere of being
suggests that it is alien to true manhood, and that, if brought in
from without, it may be cast out again. And the temptation had a
personal source. There are beings who desire to draw men away from
God. The serpent, by its poison and its loathly form, is the natural
symbol of such an enemy of man. The insinuating slyness of the
suggestions of evil is like the sinuous gliding of the snake, and
truly represents the process by which temptation found its way into
the hearts of the first pair, and of all their descendants. For it
begins with casting a doubt on the reality of the prohibition. 'Hath
God said?' is the first parallel opened by the besieger. The
fascinations of the forbidden fruit are not dangled at first before
Eve, but an apparently innocent doubt is filtered into her ear. And
is not that the way in which we are still snared? The reality of
moral distinctions, the essential wrongness of the sin, is obscured
by a mist of sophistication. 'There is no harm in it' steals into
some young man's or woman's mind about things that were forbidden at
home, and they are half conquered before they know that they have
been attacked. Then comes the next besieger's trench, much nearer
the wall--namely, denial of the fatal consequences of the sin: 'Ye
shall not surely die,' and a base hint that the prohibition was
meant, not as a parapet to keep from falling headlong into the
abyss, but as a barrier to keep from rising to a great good; 'for
God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall
be opened, and ye shall be as gods.' These are still the two lies
which wile us to sin: 'It will do you no harm,' and 'You are
cheating yourselves out of good by not doing it.'

2. Then comes the yielding to the tempter. As long as the
prohibition was undoubted, and the fatal results certain, the
fascinations of the forbidden thing were not felt. But as soon as
these were tampered with, Eve saw 'that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes.' So it is still. Weaken the
awe-inspiring sense of God's command, and of the ruin that follows
the breach of it, and the heart of man is like a city without walls,
into which any enemy can march unhindered. So long as God's 'Thou
shalt not, lest thou die' rings in the ears, the eyes see little
beauty in the sirens that sing and beckon. But once that awful voice
is deadened, they charm, and allure to dally with them.

In the undeveloped condition of primitive man temptation could only
assail him through the senses and appetites, and its assault would
be the more irresistible because reflection and experience were not
yet his. But the act of yielding was, as sin ever is, a deliberate
choice to please self and disobey God. The woman's more emotional,
sensitive, compliant nature made her the first victim, and her
greatest glory, her craving to share her good with him whom she
loves, and her power to sway his will and acts, made her his
temptress. 'As the husband is, the wife is,' says Tennyson; but the
converse is even truer: As the wife is, the man is.

3. The fatal consequences came with a rush. There is a gulf between
being tempted and sinning, but the results of the sin are closely
knit to it. They come automatically, as surely as a stream from a
fountain. The promise of knowing good and evil was indeed kept, but
instead of its making the sinners 'like gods,' it showed them that
they were like beasts, and brought the first sense of shame. To know
evil was, no doubt, a forward step intellectually; but to know it by
experience, and as part of themselves, necessarily changed their
ignorant innocence into bitter knowledge, and conscience awoke to
rebuke them. The first thing that their opened eyes saw was
themselves, and the immediate result of the sight was the first
blush of shame. Before, they had walked in innocent unconsciousness,
like angels or infants; now they had knowledge of good and evil,
because their sin had made evil a part of themselves, and the
knowledge was bitter.

The second consequence of the fall is the disturbed relation with
God, which is presented in the highly symbolical form fitting for
early ages, and as true and impressive for the twentieth century as
for them. Sin broke familiar communion with God, turned Him into a
'fear and a dread,' and sent the guilty pair into ambush. Is not
that deeply and perpetually true? The sun seen through mists becomes
a lurid ball of scowling fire. The impulse is to hide from God, or
to get rid of thoughts of Him. And when He _is_ felt to be
near, it is as a questioner, bringing sin to mind. The shuffling
excuses, which venture even to throw the blame of sin on God ('the
woman whom _Thou_ gavest me'), or which try to palliate it as a
mistake ('the serpent beguiled me'), have to come at last, however
reluctantly, to confess that 'I' did the sin. Each has to say, 'I
did eat.' So shall we all have to do. We may throw the blame on
circumstances, weakness of judgment, and the like, while here, but
at God's bar we shall have to say, '_Mea_ culpa, _mea_ culpa.'

The curse pronounced on the serpent takes its habit and form as an
emblem of the degradation of the personal tempter, and of the
perennial antagonism between him and mankind, while even at that
first hour of sin and retribution a gleam of hope, like the stray
beam that steals through a gap in a thundercloud, promises that the
conquered shall one day be the conqueror, and that the woman's seed,
though wounded in the struggle, shall one day crush the poison-
bearing, flat head in the dust, and end forever his power to harm.
'Known unto God are all his works from the beginning,' and the
Christ was promised ere the gates of Eden were shut on the exiles.


'So He drove out the man: and He placed at the east of
the garden of Eden cherubims and a flaming sword which
turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.'
--GENESIS iii. 24.

'Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they
may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in
through the gates into the city.'
REVELATION xxii. 14.

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning.' Eden was fair, but
the heavenly city shall be fairer. The Paradise regained is an
advance on the Paradise that was lost. These are the two ends of the
history of man, separated by who knows how many millenniums. Heaven
lay about him in his infancy, but as he journeyed westwards its
morning blush faded into the light of common day--and only at
eventide shall the sky glow again with glory and colour, and the
western heaven at last outshine the eastern, with a light that shall
never die. A fall, and a rise--a rise that reverses the fall, a rise
that transcends the glory from which he fell,--that is the Bible's
notion of the history of the world, and I, for my part, believe it
to be true, and feel it to be the one satisfactory explanation of
what I see round about me and am conscious of within me.

1. _Man had an Eden and lost it._

I take the Fall to be a historical fact. To all who accept the
authority of Scripture, no words are needed beyond the simple
statement before us, but we may just gather up the signs that there
are on the wide field of the world's history, and in the narrower
experience of individuals, that such a fall has been.

Look at the condition of the world: its degradation, its savagery-all
its pining myriads, all its untold millions who sit in darkness
and the shadow of death. Will any man try to bring before him the
actual state of the heathen world, and, retaining his belief in a
God, profess that these men are what God meant men to be? It seems
to me that the present condition of the world is not congruous with
the idea that men are in their primitive state, and if this is what
God meant men for, then I see not how the dark clouds which rest on
His wisdom and His love are to be lifted off.

Then, again--if the world has not a Fall in its history, then we
must take the lowest condition as the one from which all have come;
and is that idea capable of defence? Do we see anywhere signs of an
upward process going on now? Have we any experience of a tribe
raising itself? Can you catch anywhere a race in the act of
struggling up, outside of the pale of Christianity? Is not the
history of all a history of decadence, except only where the Gospel
has come in to reverse the process?

But passing from this: What mean the experiences of the individual-these
longings; this hard toil; these sorrows?

How comes it that man alone on earth, manifestly meant to be leader,
lord, etc., seems but cursed with a higher nature that he may know
greater sorrows, and raised above the beasts in capacity that he may
sink below them in woe, this capacity only leading to a more
exquisite susceptibility, to a more various as well as more poignant

Whence come the contrarieties and discordance in his nature?

It seems to me that all this is best explained as the Bible explains
it by saying: (1) Sin has done it; (2) Sin is not part of God's
original design, but man has fallen; (3) Sin had a personal
beginning. There have been men who were pure, able to stand but free
to fall.

It seems to me that that explanation is more in harmony with the
facts of the case, finds more response in the unsophisticated
instinct of man, than any other. It seems to me that, though it
leaves many dark and sorrowful mysteries all unsolved, yet that it
alleviates the blackest of them, and flings some rays of hope on
them all. It seems to me that it relieves the character and
administration of God from the darkest dishonour; that it delivers
man's position and destiny from the most hopeless despair; that
though it leaves the mystery of the origin of evil, it brings out
into clearest relief the central truths that evil is evil, and sin
and sorrow are not God's will; that it vindicates as something
better than fond imaginings the vague aspirations of the soul for a
fair and holy state; that it establishes, as nothing else will, at
once the love of God and the dignity of man; that it leaves open the
possibility of the final overthrow of that Sin which it treats as an
intrusion and stigmatises as a fall; that it therefore braces for
more vigorous, hopeful conflict against it, and that while but for
it the answer to the despairing question, Hast Thou made all men in
vain? must be either the wailing echo 'In vain,' or the denial that
He has made them at all, there is hope and there is power, and there
is brightness thrown on the character of God and on the fate of man,
by the old belief that God made man upright, and that man made
himself a sinner.

2. _Heaven restores the lost Eden_.

'God is not ashamed to be called their God, _for_ He hath
prepared them a _city_.'

The highest conception we can form of heaven is the reversal of all
the evil of earth, and the completion of its incomplete good: the
sinless purity--the blessed presence of God--the fulfilment of all
desires--the service which is _blessed_, not toil--the changelessness
which is progress, not stagnation.

3. _Heaven surpasses the lost Eden_.

(1) Garden--City.

The perfection of association--the _nations_ of the saved. Here
'we mortal millions live alone,' even when united with dearest. Like
Egyptian monks of old, each dwelling in his own cave, though all
were a community.

(2) The richer experience.

The memory of past sorrows which are understood at last.

Heaven's bliss in contrast with earthly joys.

Sinlessness of those who have been sinners will be more intensely
lustrous for its dark background in the past. Redeemed men will be
brighter than angels.

The impossibility of a fall.

Death behind us.

The former things shall no more come to mind, being lost in blaze of
present transcendent experience, but yet shall be remembered as
having led to that perfect state.

Christ not only repairs the 'tabernacle which was fallen,' but
builds a fairer temple. He brings 'a statelier Eden,' and makes us
dwell for ever in a Garden City.


'And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought
of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And
Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and
of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel,
and to his offering: But unto Cain, and to his offering,
he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his
countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art
thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou
doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest
not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be
his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked
with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they
were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his
brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain,
Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not. Am
I my brother's keeper? And He said, What hast thou done?
the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from the
ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which
hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from
thy hand. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not
henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and
a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto
the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face
of the earth; and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I
shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth: and it
shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall
slay me. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore, whosoever
slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.
And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him
should kill him. And Cain went out from the presence of
the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of
GENESIS iv. 3-16.

Many lessons crowd on us from this section. Its general purport is
to show the growth of sin, and its power to part man from man even
as it has parted man from God. We may call the whole 'The beginning
of the fatal operations of sin on human society.'

1. The first recorded act of worship occasions the first murder. Is
not that only too correct a forecast of the oceans of blood which
have been shed in the name of religion, and a striking proof of the
subtle power of sin to corrupt even the best, and out of it to make
the worst? What a lesson against the bitter hatred which has too
often sprung up on so-called religious grounds! No malice is so
venomous, no hate so fierce, no cruelty so fiendish, as those which
are fed and fanned by religion. Here is the first triumph of sin,
that it poisons the very springs of worship, and makes what should
be the great uniter of men in sweet and holy bonds their great

2. Sin here appears as having power to bar men's way to God. Much
ingenuity has been spent on the question why Abel's offering was
accepted and Cain's rejected. But the narrative itself shows in the
words of Jehovah, 'If thou doest well, is there not acceptance?'
that the reason lay in Cain's evil deeds. So, in 1 John iii. 12, the
fratricide is put down to the fact that 'his works were evil, and
his brother's righteous'; and Hebrews xi. 4 differs from this view
only in making the ground of righteousness prominent, when it
ascribes the acceptableness of Abel's offering to faith. Both these
passages are founded on the narrative, and we need not seek farther
for the reason of the different reception of the two offerings.
Character, then, or, more truly, faith, which is the foundation of a
righteous character, determines the acceptableness of worship.
Cain's offering had no sense of dependence, no outgoing of love and
trust, no adoration,--though it may have had fear,--and no moral
element. So it had no sweet odour for God. Abel's was sprinkled with
some drops of the incense of lowly trust, and came from a heart
which fain would be pure; therefore it was a joy to God. So we are
taught at the very beginning, that, as is the man, so is his
sacrifice; that the prayer of the wicked is an abomination. Plenty
of worship nowadays is Cain worship. Many reputable professing
Christians bring just such sacrifices. The prayers of such never
reach higher than the church ceiling. Of course, the lesson of the
story is not that a man must be pure before his sacrifice is
accepted. Of course, the faintest cry of trust is heard, and a
contrite heart, however sinful, is always welcome. But we are taught
that our acts of worship must have our hearts in them, and that it
is vain to pray and to love evil. Sin has the awful power of
blocking our way to God.

3. Note in one word that we have here at the beginning of human
history the solemn distinction which runs through it all. These two,
so near in blood, so separate in spirit, head the two classes into
which Scripture decisively parts men, especially men who have heard
the gospel. It is unfashionable now to draw that broad line between
the righteous and the wicked, believers and unbelievers. Sheep and
goats are all one. Modern liberal sentiment--so-called--will not
consent to such narrowness as the old-fashioned classification.
There are none of us black, and none white; we are all different
shades of grey. But facts do not quite bear out such amiable views.
Perhaps it is not less charitable, and a great deal truer, to draw
the line broad and plain, on one side of which is peace and safety,
and on the other trouble and death, if only we make it plain that no
man need stop one minute on the dark side.

4. The solemn divine voice reads the lesson of the power of sin,
when once done, over the sinner. Like a wild beast, it crouches in
ambush at his door, ready to spring and devour. The evil deed once
committed takes shape, as it were, and waits to seize the doer.
Remorse, inward disturbance, and above all, the fatal inclination to
repeat sin till it becomes a habit, are set forth with terrible
force in these grim figures. What a menagerie of ravenous beasts
some of us have at the doors of our hearts! With what murderous
longing they glare at us, seeking to fascinate us, and make us their
prey! When we sin, we cannot escape the issues; and every wrong
thing we do has a kind of horrible life given it, and sits
henceforth there, beside us, ready to rend us. The tempting,
seducing power of our own evils was never put in more startling and
solemnly true words, on which the bitter experience of many a poor
victim of his own past is a commentary. The eternal duty of
resistance is farther taught by the words. Hope of victory,
encouragement to struggle, the assurance that even these savage
beasts may be subdued, and the lion and adder (the hidden and the
glaring evils--those which wound unseen, and which spring with a
roar) may be overcome, led in a silken leash or charmed into
harmlessness, are given in the command, which is also a promise,
'Rule thou over it.'

5. The deadly fruit of hate is taught us in the brief account of the
actual murder. Notice the impressive plainness and fewness of the
words. 'Cain rose up against his brother, and slew him.' A kind of
horror-struck awe of the crime is audible. Observe the emphasis with
which 'his brother' is repeated in the verse and throughout.
Observe, also, the vivid light thrown by the story on the rise and
progress of the sin. It begins with envy and jealousy. Cain was not
wroth because his offering was rejected. What did he care for that?
But what angered him was that his brother had what he had not. So
selfishness was at the bottom, and that led on to envy, and that to
hatred. Then comes a pause, in which God speaks remonstrances,--as
God's voice--conscience--does now to us all,--between the
imagination and the act of evil. A real or a feigned reconciliation
is effected. The brothers go in apparent harmony to the field. No
new provocation appears, but the old feelings, kept down for a time,
come in again with a rush, and Cain is swept away by them. Hatred
left to work means murder. The heart is the source of all evil.
Selfishness is the mother tincture out of which all sorts of sin can
be made. Guard the thoughts, and keep down self, and the deeds will
take care of themselves.

6. Mark how close on the heels of sin God's question treads! How God
spoke, we know not. Doubtless in some fashion suited to the needs of
Cain. But He speaks to us as really as to him, and no sooner is the
rush of passion over, and the bad deed done, than a revulsion comes.
What we call conscience asks the question in stern tones, which make
a man's flesh creep. Our sin is like touching the electric bells
which people sometimes put on their windows to give notice of
thieves. As soon as we step beyond the line of duty we set the alarm
going, and it wakens the sleeping conscience. Some of us go so far
as to have silenced the voice within; but, for the most part, it
speaks immediately after we have gratified our inclinations wrongly.

7. Cain's defiant answer teaches us how a man hardens himself
against God's voice. It also shows us how intensely selfish all sin
is, and how weakly foolish its excuses are. It is sin which has rent
men apart from men, and made them deny the very idea that they have
duties to all men. The first sin was only against God; the second
was against God and man. The first sin did not break, though it
saddened, human love; the second kindled the flames of infernal
hatred, and caused the first drops to flow of the torrents of blood
which have soaked the earth. When men break away from God, they will
soon murder one another.

Cain was his brother's keeper. His question answered itself. If Abel
was his brother, then he was bound to look after him. His self-
condemning excuse is but a specimen of the shallow pleas by which
the forgetfulness of duties we owe to all mankind, and all sins, are

8. The stern sentence is next pronounced. First we have the grand
figure of the innocent blood having a voice which pierces the
heavens. That teaches in the most forcible way the truth that God
knows the crimes done by 'man's inhumanity to man,' even when the
meek sufferers are silent. According to the fine old legend of the
cranes of Ibycus, a bird of the air will carry the matter. It
speaks, too, of God's tender regard for His saints, whose blood is
precious in His sight; and it teaches that He will surely requite.
We cannot but think of the innocent blood shed on Calvary, of the
Brother of us all, whose sacrifice was accepted of God. His blood,
too, crieth from the ground, has a voice which speaks in the ear of
God, but not to plead for vengeance, but pardon.

'Jesus' blood through earth and skies,
Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries.'

Then follows the sentence which falls into two parts--the curse of
bitter, unrequited toil, and the doom of homeless wandering. The
blood which has been poured out on the battlefield fertilises the
soil; but Abel's blasted the earth. It was a supernatural
infliction, to teach that bloodshed polluted the earth, and so to
shed a nameless horror over the deed. We see an analogous feeling in
the common belief that places where some foul sin has been committed
are cursed. We see a weak natural correspondence in the devastating
effect of war, as expressed in the old saying that no grass would
grow where the hoof of the Turk's horse had stamped.

The doom of wandering, which would be compulsory by reason of the
earth's barrenness, is a parable. The murderer is hunted from place
to place, as the Greek fable has it, by the furies, who suffer him
not to rest. Conscience drives a man 'through dry places, seeking
rest, and finding none.' All sin makes us homeless wanderers. There
is but one home for the heart, one place of repose for a man,
namely, in the heart of God, the secret place of the Most High; and
he who, for his sin, durst not enter there, is driven forth into 'a
salt land and not inhabited,' and has to wander wearily there. The
legend of the wandering Jew, and that other of the sailor, condemned
for ever to fly before the gale through stormy seas, have in them a
deep truth. The earthly punishment of departing from God is that we
have not where to lay our heads. Every sinner is a fugitive and a
vagabond. But if we love God we are still wanderers indeed, but we
are 'pilgrims and sojourners with Thee.'

9. Cain's remonstrance completes the tragic picture. We see in it
despair without penitence. He has no word of confession. If he had
accepted his chastisement, and learned by it his sin, all the
bitterness would have passed away. But he only writhes in agony, and
adds, to the sentence pronounced, terrors of his own devising. God
had not forbidden him to come into His presence. But he feels that
he dare not venture thither. And he was right; for, whether we
suppose that some sensible manifestation of the divine presence is
meant by 'Thy face' or no, a man who had unrepented sin on his
conscience, and murmurings in his heart, could not hold intercourse
with God; nor would he wish to do so. Thus we learn again the lesson
that sin separates from our Father, and that chastisements, not
accepted as signs of His love, build up a black wall between God and

Nor had Cain been told that his life was in danger. But his
conscience made a coward of him, as of us all, and told him what he
deserved. There were, no doubt, many other children of Adam, who
would be ready to avenge Abel's death. The wild justice of revenge
is deep in the heart of men; and the natural impulse would be to
hunt down the murderer like a wolf. It is a dreadful picture of the
defiant and despairing sinner, tortured by well-founded fears, shut
out from the presence of God, but not able to shut out thoughts of
Him, and seeing an avenger in every man.

We need not ask how God set a mark on Cain. Enough that His doing so
was a merciful alleviation of his lot, and teaches us how God's
long-suffering spares life, and tempers judgment, that there may
still be space for repentance. If even Cain has gracious protection
and mercy blended with his chastisement, who can be beyond the pale
of God's compassion, and with whom will not His loving providence
and patient pity labour? No man is so scorched by the fire of
retribution, but many a dewy drop from God's tenderness falls on
him. No doubt, the story of the preservation of Cain was meant to
restrain the blood-feuds so common and ruinous in early times; and
we need the lesson yet, to keep us from vengeance under the mask of
justice. But the deepest lesson and truest pathos of it lies in the
picture of the watchful kindness of God lingering round the wretched
man, like gracious sunshine playing on some scarred and black rock,
to win him back by goodness to penitence, and through penitence to


'If thou doest not well, sin croucheth at the door: and
unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over
him.'--GENESIS iv. 7 (R. V.).

These early narratives clothe great moral and spiritual truths in
picturesque forms, through which it is difficult for us to pierce.
In the world's childhood God spoke to men as to children, because
there were no words then framed which would express what we call
abstract conceptions. They had to be shown by pictures. But these
early men, simple and childlike as they were, had consciences; and
one abstraction they did understand, and that was sin. They knew the
difference between good and evil.

So we have here God speaking to Cain, who was wroth because of the
rejection of his sacrifice; and in dim, enigmatical words setting
forth the reason of that rejection. 'If thou doest well, shalt thou
not be accepted?' Then clearly his sacrifice was rejected because it
was the sacrifice of an evil-doer. His description as such is given
in the words of my text, which are hard for us to translate into our
modern, less vivid and picturesque language. 'If thou doest not
well, sin lieth at the door; and unto thee shall be his desire, and
thou shalt rule over him.' Strange as the words sound, if I mistake
not, they convey some very solemn lessons, and if well considered,
become pregnant with meaning.

The key to the whole interpretation of them is to remember that they
describe what happens after, and because of, wrong-doing. They are
all suspended on 'If thou doest not well.' Then, in that case, for
the first thing--'sin lieth at the door.' Now the word translated
here 'lieth' is employed only to express the _crouching_ of an
animal, and frequently of a wild animal. The picture, then, is of
the wrong-doer's sin lying at his door there like a crouching tiger
ready to spring, and if it springs, fatal. 'If thou doest not well,
a wild beast crouches at thy door.'

Then there follow, with a singular swift transition of the metaphor,
other words still harder to interpret, and which have been, as a
matter of fact, interpreted in very diverse fashions. 'And unto thee
shall be _its'_ (I make that slight alteration upon our version)
'desire, and thou shalt rule over it.' Where did we hear these words
before? They were spoken to Eve, in the declaration of her punishment.
They contain the blessing that was embedded in the curse. 'Thy desire
shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.' The longing of
the pure womanly heart to the husband of her love, and the authority
of the husband over the loving wife--the source of the deepest joy
and purity of earth, is transferred, by a singularly bold metaphor,
to this other relationship, and, in horrible parody of the wedded
union and love, we have the picture of the sin, that was thought of
as crouching at the sinner's door like a wild beast, now, as it were,
wedded to him. He is mated to it now, and it has a kind of tigerish,
murderous desire after him, while he on his part is to subdue and
control it.

The reference of these clauses to the sin which has just been spoken
of involves, no doubt, a very bold figure, which has seemed to many
readers too bold to be admissible, and the words have therefore been
supposed to refer to Abel, who, as the younger brother, would be
subordinate to Cain. But such a reference breaks the connection of
the sentence, introduces a thought which is not a consequence of
Cain's not doing well, has no moral bearing to warrant its
appearance here, and compels us to travel an inconveniently long
distance back in the context to find an antecedent to the 'his' and
'him' of our text. It seems to be more in consonance, therefore,
with the archaic style of the whole narrative, and to yield a
profounder and worthier meaning, if we recognise the boldness of the
metaphor, and take 'sin' as the subject of the whole. Now all this
puts in concrete, metaphorical shape, suited to the stature of the
bearers, great and solemn truths. Let us try to translate them into
more modern speech.

1. First think, then, of that wild beast which we tether to our
doors by our wrong-doing.

We talk about 'responsibility' and 'guilt,' and 'consequences that
never can be effaced,' and the like. And all these abstract and
quasi-philosophical terms are implied in the grim, tremendous
metaphor of my text 'If thou doest not well, a tiger, a wild beast,
is crouching at thy door.' We are all apt to be deceived by the
imagination that when an evil deed is done, it passes away and
leaves no permanent results. The lesson taught the childlike
primitive man here, at the beginning, before experience had
accumulated instances which might demonstrate the solemn truth, was
that every human deed is immortal, and that the transitory evil
thought, or word, or act, which seems to fleet by like a cloud, has
a permanent being, and hereafter haunts the life of the doer, as a
real presence. If thou doest not well, thou dost create a horrible
something which nestles beside thee henceforward. The momentary act
is incarnated, as it were, and sits there at the doer's doorpost
waiting for him; which being turned into less forcible but more
modern language, is just this: every sin that a man does has
perennial consequences, which abide with the doer for evermore.

I need not dwell upon illustrations of that to any length. Let me
just run over two or three ways in which it is true. First of all,
there is that solemn fact which we put into a long word that comes
glibly off people's lips, and impresses them very little--the solemn
fact of responsibility. We speak in common talk of such and such a
thing lying at some one's door. Whether the phrase has come from
this text I do not know. But it helps to illustrate the force of
these words, and to suggest that they mean this, among other things,
that we have to answer for every deed, however evanescent, however
long forgotten. Its guilt is on our heads. Its consequences have to
be experienced by us. We drink as we have brewed. As we make our
beds, so we lie on them. There is no escape from the law of
consequences. 'If 'twere done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well it
were done quickly.' But seeing that it is not done when 'tis done,
then perhaps it would be better that it were not done at all. Your
deed of a moment, forgotten almost as soon as done, lies there at
your door; or to take a more modern and commercial figure, it is
debited to your account, and stands inscribed against you for ever.

Think how you would like it, if all your deeds from your childhood,
all your follies, your vices, your evil thoughts, your evil
impulses, and your evil actions, were all made visible and embodied
there before you. They are there, though you do not see them yet.
All round your door they sit, ready to meet you and to bay out
condemnation as you go forth. They are there, and one day you will
find out that they are. For this is the law, certain as the
revolution of the stars and fixed as the pillars of the firmament:
'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap' There is no seed
which does not sprout in the harvest of the moral life. Every deed
germinates according to its kind. For all that a man does he has to
carry the consequences, and every one shall bear his own burden. 'If
thou doest not well,' it is not, as we fondly conceive it sometimes
to be, a mere passing deflection from the rule of right, which is
done and done with, but we have created, as out of our very own
substance, a witness against ourselves whose voice can never be
stifled. 'If thou doest not well' thy sin takes permanent form and
is fastened to thy door.

And then let me remind you, too, how the metaphor of our text is
confirmed by other obvious facts, on which I need but briefly dwell.
Putting aside all the remoter bearings of that thought of
responsibility, I suppose we all admit that we have consciences; I
suppose that we all know that we have memories; I suppose we all of
us have seen, in the cases of others, and have experienced for
ourselves, how deeds long done and long forgotten have an awful
power of rising again after many long years.

Be sure that your memory has in it everything that you ever did. A
landscape may be hidden by mists, but a puff of wind will clear them
away, and it will all lie there, visible to the furthest horizon.
There is no fact more certain than the extraordinary swiftness and
completeness with which, in certain circumstances of life, and often
very near the close of it, the whole panorama of the past may rise
again before a man, as if one lightning flash showed all the dreary
desolation that lay behind him. There have been men recovered from
drowning and the like, who have told us that, as in an instant,
there seemed unrolled before their startled eyes the whole scroll of
their earthly career.

The records of memory are like those pages on which you write with
sympathetic ink, which disappears when dry, and seems to leave the
page blank. You have only to hold it before the fire, or subject it
to the proper chemical process, and at once it stands out legible.
You are writing your biography upon the fleshly tables of your
heart, my brother; and one day it will all be spread out before you,
and you will be bid to read it, and to say what you think of it. The
stings of a nettle will burn for days, if they are touched with
water. The sting and inflammation of your evil deeds, though it has
died down, is capable of being resuscitated, and it will be.

What an awful menagerie of unclean beasts some of us have at our
doors! What sort of creatures have you tethered at yours? Crawling
serpents, ugly and venomous; wild creatures, fierce and bloody,
obscene and foul; tigers and bears; lustful and mischievous apes and
monkeys? or such as are lovely and of good report,--doves and lambs,
creatures pure and peaceable, patient to serve and gentle of spirit?
Remember, remember, that what a man soweth--be it hemlock or be it
wheat--that, and nothing else, 'shall he reap.'

2. Now, let us look for a moment at the next thought that is here;
which is put into a strong, and, to our modern notions, somewhat
violent metaphor;--the horrible longing, as it were, of sin toward
the sinner: 'Unto thee shall be its desire.'

As I explained, these words are drawn from the previous chapter,
where they refer to the holy union of heart and affection in husband
and wife. Here they are transferred with tremendous force, to set
forth that which is a kind of horrible parody of that conjugal
relation. A man is married to his wickedness, is mated to his evil,
and it has, as it were, a tigerish longing for him, unhallowed and
murderous. That is to say--our sins act towards us as if they
desired to draw our love to themselves. This is just another form of
the statement, that when once a man has done a wrong thing, it has
an awful power of attracting him and making him hunger to do it
again. Every evil that I do may, indeed, for a moment create in me a
revulsion of conscience; but it also exercises a fascination over me
which it is hard to resist. It is a great deal easier to find a man
who has never done a wrong thing than to find a man who has only
done it once. If the wall of the dyke is sound it will keep the
water out, but if there is the tiniest hole in it, the flood will
come in. So the evil that you do asserts its power over you, or, in
the vigorous metaphor of my text, it has a fierce, longing desire
after you, and it gets you into its clutches.

'The foolish woman sitteth in the high places of the city, and
saith, Whoso is simple let him turn in hither.' And foolish men go
after her, and--'know not that her guests are in the depth of hell.'
Ah! my brother! beware of that siren voice that draws you away from
all the sweet and simple and pure food which Wisdom spreads upon her
table, to tempt the beast that is in you with the words, 'Stolen
waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.' Beware of
the first step, for as sure as you are living, the first step taken
will make the second seem to become necessary. The first drop will
be followed by a bigger second, and the second, at a shorter
interval, by a more copious third, until the drops become a shower,
and the shower becomes a deluge. The river of evil is ever wider and
deeper, and more tumultuous. The little sins get in at the window,
and open the front door for the full-grown house-breakers. One
smooths the path for the other. All sin has an awful power of
perpetuating and increasing itself. As the prophet says in his
vision of the doleful creatures that make their sport in the
desolate city, 'None of them shall want her mate. The wild beasts of
the desert shall meet with the wild beasts of the island.' Every sin
tells upon character, and makes the repetition of itself more and
more easy. 'None is barren among them.' And all sin is linked
together in a slimy tangle, like a field of seaweed, so that the man
once caught in its oozy fingers is almost sure to be drowned.

3. And now, lastly, one word about the command, which is also a
promise: 'To thee shall be its desire, and thou shalt rule over it.'

Man's primitive charter, according to the earlier chapters of
Genesis, was to have dominion over the beasts of the field. Cain
knew what it was to war against the wild creatures which contested
the possession of the earth with man, and to tame some of them for
his uses. And, says the divine voice, just as you war against the
beasts of prey, just as you subdue to your purposes and yoke to your
implements the tamable animals over which you have dominion, so rule
over _this_ wild beast that is threatening you. It is needful
for all men, if they do not mean to be torn to pieces, to master the
animal that is in them, and the wild thing that has been created out
of them. It is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. It is your
own evil that is thus incarnated there, as it were, before you; and
you have to subdue it, if it is not to tyrannise over you. We all
admit that in theory, but how terribly hard the practice! The words
of our text seem to carry but little hope or comfort in them, to the
man who has tried--as, no doubt, many of us have tried--to flee the
lusts that war against the soul, and to bridle the animal that is in
him. Those who have done so most honestly know best how hard it is,
and may fairly ask, Is this useless repetition of the threadbare
injunction all that you have to say to us? If so, you may as well
hold your tongue. A wild beast sits at my door, you say, and then
you bid me, 'Rule thou over it!' Tell me to tame the tiger! 'Canst
thou draw out Leviathan with a hook? Wilt thou take him a servant
for ever?'

I do not undervalue the earnest and sometimes partially successful
efforts at moral reformation which some men of more than usual force
of character are able to make, emancipating themselves from the
outward practice of gross sin, and achieving for themselves much
that is admirable. But if we rightly understand what sin is--namely,
the taking self for our law and centre instead of God--and how deep
its working and all-pervading its poison, we shall learn the tragic
significance of the prophets question, 'Can the leopard change his
spots?' Then may a man cast out sin from his nature by his own
resolve, when the body can eliminate poison from the veins by its
own energy. If there is nothing more to be said to the world than
this message, 'Sin lieth at thy door--rule thou over it,' we have no
gospel to preach, and sin's dominion is secure. For there is nothing
in all this world of empty, windy words, more empty and windy than
to come to a poor soul that is all bespattered and stained with sin,
and say to him: 'Get up, and make thyself clean, and keep thyself
so!' It cannot be done.

So my text, though it keeps itself within the limits of the law and
only proclaims duty, must have hidden, in its very hardness, a sweet
kernel of promise. For what God commands God enables us to do.

Therefore these words, 'Rule thou over it,' do really point onwards
through all the ages to that one fact in which every man's sin is
conquered and neutralised, and every man's struggles may be made
hopeful and successful, the great fact that Jesus Christ, God's own
Son, came down from heaven, like an athlete descending into the
arena, to fight with and to overcome the grim wild beasts, our
passions and our sins, and to lead them, transformed, in the silken
leash of His love.

My brother! your sin is mightier than you. The old word of the Psalm
is true about every one of us, 'Our iniquities are stronger than
we.' And, blessed be His name! the hope of the Psalmist is the
experience of the Christian: 'As for my transgressions, Thou wilt
purge them away.' Christ will strengthen you, to conquer; Christ
will take away your guilt; Christ will bear, has borne your burden;
Christ will cleanse your memory; Christ will purge your conscience.
Trusting to Him, and by His power and life within us, we may conquer
our evil. Trusting to Him, and for the sake of His blood shed for us
all upon the cross, we are delivered from the burden, guilt, and
power of our sins and of our sin. With thy hand in His, and thy will
submitted to Him, 'thou shalt tread on the lion and the adder; the
young lion and the dragon thou shalt trample under foot.'


'Enoch walked with God,'--GENESIS v. 22.

'Walk before Me.'--GENESIS xvii. 1.

'Ye shall walk after the Lord your God.'--DEUTERONOMY xiii. 4.

You will have anticipated, I suppose, my purpose in doing what I
very seldom do--cutting little snippets out of different verses and
putting them together. You see that these three fragments, in their
resemblances and in their differences, are equally significant and
instructive. They concur in regarding life as a walk--a metaphor
which expresses continuity, so that every man's life is a whole,
which expresses progress, which expresses change, and which implies
a goal. They agree in saying that God must he brought into a life
somehow, and in some aspect, if that life is to be anything else but
an aimless wandering, if it is to tend to the point to which every
human life should attain. But then they diverge, and, if we put them
together, they say to us that there are three different ways in
which we ought to bring God into our life. We should 'walk
_with_ Him,' like Enoch; we should 'walk _before_' Him, as
Abraham was bade to do; and we should 'walk _after_' Him, as
the command to do was given to all Israel. And these three
prepositions, _with_, _before_, _after_, attached to the general idea
of life as a walk, give us a triple aspect--which yet is, of course,
fundamentally, one--of the way in which life may be ennobled, dignified,
calmed, hallowed, focussed, and concentrated by the various relations
into which we enter with Him. So I take the three of them.

1. 'Enoch walked _with_ God.'

That is a sweet, simple, easily intelligible, and yet lofty way of
putting the notion which we bring into a more abstract and less
impressive shape when we talk about communion with God. Two men
travelling along a road keep each other company. 'How can two walk
together except they be agreed?' The companion is at our side all
the same, though the mists may have come down and we cannot see Him.
We can hear His voice, we can grasp His hand, we can catch the
echoes of His steps. We know He is there, and that is enough. Enoch
and God walked together, by the simple exercise of the faith that
fills the Invisible with one great, loving Face. By a continuous,
definite effort, as we are going through the bustle of daily life,
and amid all the pettiness and perplexities and monotonies that make
up our often weary and always heavy days, we can realise to
ourselves that He is of a truth at our sides, and by purity of life
and heart we can bring Him nearer, and can make ourselves more
conscious of His nearness. For, brethren, the one thing that parts a
man from God, and makes it impossible for a heart to expatiate in
the thought of His presence, is the contrariety to His will in our
conduct. The slightest invisible film of mist that comes across the
blue abyss of the mighty sky will blot out the brightest of the
stars, and we may sometimes not be able to see the mist, and only
know that it is there because we do not see the planet. So
unconscious sin may steal in between us and God, and we shall no
longer be able to say, 'I walk with Him.'

The Roman Catholics talk, in their mechanical way, of bringing down
all the spiritual into the material and formal, about the 'practice
of the presence of God.' It is an ugly phrase, but it means a great
thing, that Christian people ought, very much more than they do, to
aim, day by day, and amidst their daily duties, at realising that
most elementary thought which, like a great many other elementary
thoughts, is impotent because we believe it so utterly, that
wherever we are, we may have Him with us. It is the secret of
blessedness, of tranquillity, of power, of everything good and

'I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers
were,' said the Psalmist of old. If he had left out these two little
words, 'with Thee,' he would have been uttering a tragic complaint;
but when they come in, all that is painful, all that is solitary,
all that is transient, bitterly transient, in the long succession of
the generations that have passed across earth's scene, and have not
been kindred to it, is cleared away and changed into gladness. Never
mind, though you are a stranger, if you have that companion. Never
mind, though you are only a sojourner; if you have Him with you,
whatever passes He will not pass; and though we dwell here in a
system to which we do not belong, and its transiency and our
transiency bring with them many sorrows, when we can say, 'Lord!
Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations,' we are at
home, and that eternal home will never pass.

Enoch 'walked with God,' and, of course, 'God took him,' There was
nothing else for it, and there could be no other end, for a life of
communion with God here has in it the prophecy and the pledge of a
life of eternal union hereafter. So, then, 'practise the presence of
God.' An old mystic says: 'If I can tell how many times to-day I
have thought about God, I have not thought about Him often enough.'
Walk with Him by faith, by effort, by purity.

2. And now take the other aspect suggested by the other word God
spoke to Abraham: 'I am the Almighty God, walk _before_ Me and
be thou perfect.'

That suggests, as I suppose I do not need to point out, the idea not
only of communion, which the former phrase brought to our minds, but
that of the inspection of our conduct. 'As ever in the great
Taskmaster's eye,' says the stern Puritan poet, and although one may
object to that word 'Taskmaster,' yet the idea conveyed is the
correct expansion of the commandment given to Abraham. Observe how
'walk before Me' is dovetailed, as it were, between the revelation
'I am the Almighty God' and the injunction 'Be thou perfect.' The
realisation of that presence of the Almighty which is implied in the
expression 'Walk before Me,' the assurance that we are in His sight,
will lead straight to the fulfilment of the injunction that bears
upon the moral conduct. The same connection of thought underlies
Peter's injunction, 'Like as He ... is holy, so be ye holy in all
manner of conversation,' followed immediately as it is by, 'If ye
call on Him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth'--as a
present estimate--'according to every mail's work, pass the time of
your sojourning here in fear'--that reverential awe which will lead
you to be 'holy even as I am holy.'

This thought that we are in that divine presence, and that there is
silently, but most really, a divine opinion being formed of us,
consolidated, as it were, moment by moment through our lives, is
only tolerable if we have been walking with God. If we are sure, by
the power of our communion with Him, of His loving heart as well as
of His righteous judgment, then we can spread ourselves out before
Him, as a woman will lay out her webs of cloth on the green grass
for the sun to blaze down upon them, and bleach the ingrained filth
out of them. We must first walk 'with God' before the consciousness
that we are walking 'before' Him becomes one that we can entertain
and not go mad. When we are sure of the 'with' we can bear the

Did you ever see how on a review day, as each successive battalion
and company nears the saluting-point where the General inspecting
sits, they straighten themselves up and dress their ranks, and pull
themselves together as they pass beneath his critical eye. A
master's eye makes diligent servants. If we, in the strength of God,
would only realise, day by day and act by act of our lives, that we
are before Him, what a revolution could be effected on our
characters and what a transformation on all our conduct!

'Walk before Me' and you will be perfect. For the Hebrew words on
which I am now commenting may be read, in accordance with the usage
of the language, as being not only a commandment but a promise, or,
rather, not as two commandments, but a commandment with an appended
promise, and so as equivalent to 'If you will walk before Me you
will be perfect.' And if we realise that we are under 'the pure eyes
and perfect judgment of' God, we shall thereby be strongly urged and
mightily helped to be perfect as He is perfect.

3. Lastly, take the other relation, which is suggested by the third
of my texts, where Israel as a whole is commanded to 'walk
_after_ the Lord' their God.

In harmony with the very frequent expression of the Old Testament
about 'going after idols' so Israel here is to 'go after God.' What
does that mean? Communion, the consciousness of being judged by God,
will lead on to aspiration and loving, longing effort to get nearer
and nearer to Him. 'My soul followeth hard after Thee,' said the
Psalmist, 'Thy right hand upholdeth me.' That element of yearning
aspiration, of eager desire to be closer and closer, and liker and
liker, to God must be in all true religion. And unless we have it in
some measure, it is useless to talk about being Christian people. To
press onwards, not as though we had already attained, but following
after, if that we may apprehend that for which also we are
apprehended, is the attitude of every true follower of Christ. The
very crown of the excellence of the Christian life is that it never
can reach its goal, and therefore an immortal youth of aspiration
and growth is guaranteed to it. Christian people, are you following
after God? Are you any nearer to Him than you were ten years ago?
'Walk with Me, walk before Me, walk after Me.'

I need not do more than remind you of another meaning involved in
this same expression. If I walk after God, then I let Him go before
me and show me my road. Do you remember how, when the ark was to
cross Jordan, the commandment was given to the Israelites to let it
go well on in front, so that there should be no mistake about the
course, 'for ye have not passed this way heretofore.' Do not be in
too great a hurry to press upon the heels of God, if I may so say.
Do not let your decisions outrun His providence. Keep back the
impatience that would hurry on, and wait for His ripening purposes
to ripen and His counsels to develop themselves. Walk after God, and
be sure you do not go in front of your Guide, or you will lose both
your way and your Guide.

I need not say more than a word about the highest aspect which this
third of our commandments takes, 'His sheep follow Him'--'leaving us
an example that we should follow in His steps,' that is the
culmination of the walking 'with,' and 'before,' and 'after' God
which these Old Testament saints were partially practising. All is
gathered into the one great word, 'He that saith he abideth in Him
ought himself also so to walk even as He walked.'


'And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took
GENESIS v. 24.

This notice of Enoch occurs in the course of a catalogue of the
descendants of Adam, from the Creation to the Deluge. It is
evidently a very ancient document, and is constructed on a
remarkable plan. The formula for each man is the same. So-and-so
lived, begat his heir, the next in the series, lived on after that
so many years, having anonymous children, lived altogether so long,
and then died. The chief thing about each life is the birth of the
successor, and each man's career is in broad outline the same. A
dreary monotony runs through the ages. How brief and uniform may be
the records of lives of striving and tears and smiles and love that
stretched through centuries! Nine hundred years shrink into less
than as many lines.

The solemn monotony is broken in the case of Enoch. This paragraph
begins as usual--he 'lived'; but afterwards, instead of that word,
we read that he 'walked with God'--happy they for whom such a phrase
is equivalent to 'live'--and, instead of 'died,' it is said of him
that 'he _was not_.' That seems to imply that he, as it were,
slipped out of sight or suddenly disappeared; as one of the psalms
says, 'I looked, and lo! he was not.' He was there a moment ago--now
he is gone; and my text tells how that sudden withdrawal came about.
God, with whom he walked, put out His hand and took him to Himself.
Of course. What other end could there be to a life that was all
passed in communion with God except that apotheosis and crown of it
all, the lifting of the man into closer communion with his Father
and his Friend?

So, then, there are just these two things here--the noblest life and
its crown.

1. The noblest life.

'He walked with God.' That is all. There is no need to tell what he
did or tried to do, how he sorrowed or joyed, what were his
circumstances. These may all fade from men's knowledge as they have
somewhat faded from his memory up yonder. It is enough that he
walked with God.

Of course, we have here, underlying the phrase, the familiar
comparison of life to a journey, with all its suggestions of
constant change and constant effort, and with the suggestion, too,
that each life should be a progress directly tending to one clearly
recognised goal. But passing from that, let us just think for a
moment of the characteristics which must go to make up a life of
which we can say that it is walking with God. The first of these
clearly is the one that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews
puts his finger upon, when he makes faith the spring of Enoch's
career. The first requisite to true communion with God is vigorous
exercise of that faculty by which we realise the fact of His
presence with us; and that not as a jealous-eyed inspector, from
whose scrutiny we would fain escape, but as a companion and friend
to whom we can cleave. 'He that cometh to God,' and walks with God,
must first of all 'believe that He _is_'; and passing by all
the fascinations of things seen, and rising above all the
temptations of things temporal, his realising eye must fix upon the
divine Father and see Him nearer and more clearly than these. You
cannot walk with God unless you are emancipated from the dominion of
sense and time, and are living by the power of that great faculty,
which lays hold of the things that are unseen as the realities, and
smiles at the false and forged pretensions of material things to be
the real. We have to invert the teaching of the world and of our
senses. My fingers and my eyes and my ears tell me that this gross,
material universe about me is the real, and that all beyond it is
shadowy and (sometimes we think) doubtful, or, at any rate, dim and
far off. But that is false, and the truth is precisely the other
way. The Unseen is the Real, and the Material is the merely
Apparent. Behind all visible objects, and giving them all their
reality, lies the unchangeable God.

Cultivate the faculty and habit of vigorous faith, if you would walk
with God. For the world will put its bandages over your eyes, and
try to tempt you to believe that these poor, shabby illusions are
the precious things; and we have to shake ourselves free from its
harlot kisses and its glozing lies, by very vigorous and continual
efforts of the will and of the understanding, if we are to make real
to ourselves that which is real, the presence of our God.

Besides this vigorous exercise of the faculty of faith, there is
another requisite for a walk with God, closely connected with it,
and yet capable of being looked at separately, and that is, that we
shall keep up the habit of continual occupation of thought with Him.
That is very much an affair of habit with Christian people, and I am
afraid that the neglect of it is the habitual practice of the bulk
of professing Christians nowadays. It is hard, amidst all our work
and thought and joys and sorrows, to keep fresh our consciousness of
His presence, and to talk with Him in the midst of the rush of
business. But what do we do about our dear ones when we are away
from them? The measure of our love of them is accurately represented
by the frequency of our remembrances of them. The mother parted from
her child, the husband and the wife separated from one another, the
lover and the friend, think of each other a thousand times a day.
Whenever the spring is taken off, then the natural bent of the
inclination and heart assert themselves, and the mind goes back
again, as into a sanctuary, into the sweet thought. Is that how we
do with God? Do we so walk with Him, as that thought, when released,
instinctively sets in that direction? When I take off the break,
does my spirit turn to God? If there is no hand at the helm, does
the bow always point that way? When the magnet is withdrawn for a
moment, does the needle tremble back and settle itself northwards?
If we are walking with God, we shall, more times a day than we can
count when the evening comes on, have had the thought of Him coming
into our hearts 'like some sweet beguiling melody, so sweet we know
not we are listening to it.' Thus we shall 'walk with God.'

Then there is another requisite. 'How can two walk together except
they be agreed?' 'He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also
so to walk even as He walked.' There is no union with God in such
communion possible, unless there be a union with Him by conformity
of will and submission of effort and aim to His commandments. Well,
then, is that life possible for us? Look at this instance before us.
We know very little about how much knowledge of God these people in
old days had, but, at all events, it was a great deal less than you
and I have. Their theology was very different from ours; their
religion was absolutely identical with ours. Their faith, which
grasped the God revealed in their creed, was the same as our faith,
though the creed which their faith grasped was only an outline
sketch of yours and mine. But at all times and in all generations,
the element and essence of the religious life has been the same-that
is, the realising sense of the living divine presence, the
effort and aspiration after communion with Him, and the quiet
obedience and conformity of the practical life to His will. And so
we can reach out our hands across all the centuries to this pre-
Noachian, antediluvian patriarch, dim amongst the mists, and feel
that he too is our brother.

And he has set us the example that in all conditions of life, and
under the most unfavourable circumstances, it is possible to live in
this close touch with God. For in his time, not only was there, as I
have said, an incomplete and rudimentary knowledge of God, but in
his time the earth was filled with violence, and gigantic forms of
evil are represented as having dominated mankind. Amidst it all, the
Titanic pride, the godlessness, the scorn, the rudeness, and the
violence, amidst it all, this one 'white flower of a blameless life'
managed to find nutriment upon the dunghill, and to blossom fresh
and fair there. You and I cannot, whatever may be our hindrances in
living a consistent Christian life, have anything like the
difficulties that this man had and surmounted. For us all, whatever
our conditions, such a life is possible.

And then there is another lesson that he teaches us, viz. that such
a life is consistent with the completest discharge of all common
duties. The outline, as far as appearance was concerned, of this
man's life was the same as the outline of those of his ancestors and
successors. They are all described in the same terms. The formula is
the same. Enoch lived, Mahalaleel, and all the rest of the half-
unpronounceable names, they lived, they begat their heirs, and sons
and daughters, and then they died. And the same formula is used
about this man. He walked with God, but it was while treading the
common path of secular life that he did so.

He found it possible to live in communion with God, and yet to do
all the common things that men did then. Anybody's house may be a
Bethel--a house of God--and anybody's work may be worship; and
wherever we are and whatever we do, it is possible therein to serve
God, and there to walk with Him.

2. And now a word about the crown of this life of communion. 'He was
not, for God took him'

What wonderful reticence in describing, or rather hinting at, the
stupendous miracle that is here in question! Is that like a book
that came from the legend-loving and legend-making brains of men; or
does it sound like the speech of God, to whom nothing is
extraordinary and nothing needs to have a mark of admiration after
it? It was the same to Him whether Enoch died or whether He simply
took him to Himself. If one wants to know what men would have made
of such a thing, if _they_ had had to tell it, let them read
those wretched Rabbinical fables that have been stitched on to this
verse. There they will see how men describe miracles; and here they
will see how God does so.

'_He was not_.' As I have said, he disappeared; that was what
the world knew. 'God took him'; that was what God tells the world.

Thus this strange exception to the law of death stood, as I suppose,
to the ancient world as doing somewhat the same office for them that
the translation of Elijah afterwards partially did for Israel, and
that the resurrection of Jesus Christ does completely for us, viz.
it brought the future life into the realm of fact, and took it out
of the dim region of speculation altogether. He establishes a truth
who proves it, and he proves a fact that shows it. A doctrine of a
future state is not worth much, but the fact of a future state,
which was established by this incident then, and is certified for us
all now, by the Christ risen from the dead, is all-important. Our
gospel is all built upon facts, and this is the earliest fact in
man's history which made man's subsistence in other conditions than
that of earthly life a certainty.

And then, again, this wonderful exception shows to us, as it did to
that ancient world, that the natural end of a religious life is
union with God hereafter. It seems to me that the real proofs of a
future life are two: one, the fact of Christ's resurrection, and the
other, the fact of our religious experience. For anything looks to
me more likely, and less incredible, than that a man who could walk
with God should only have a poor earthly life to do it in, and that
all these aspirations, these emotions, should be bounded and ended
by a trivial thing, that touches only the physical frame. Surely,
surely, there is nothing so absurd as to believe that he who can say
'Thou art my God,' and who has said it, should ever by anything be
brought to cease to say it. Death cannot kill love to God; and the
only end of the religious life of earth is its perfecting in heaven.
The experiences that we have here, in their loftiness and in their
incompleteness, equally witness for us, of the rest and the
perfectness that remain for the children of God.

Then, again, this man in his unique experience was, and is, a
witness of the fact that death is an excrescence, and results from
sin. I suppose that he trod the road which the divine intention had
destined to be trodden by all the children of men, if they had not
sinned; and that his experience, unique as it is, is a survival, so
to speak, of what was meant to be the law for humanity, unless there
had intervened the terrible fact of sin and its wages, death. The
road had been made, and this one man was allowed to travel along it
that we might all learn, by the example of the exception, that the
rule under which we live was not the rule that God originally meant
for us, and that death has resulted from the fact of transgression.
No doubt Enoch had in him the seeds of it, no doubt there were the
possibilities of disease and the necessity of death in his physical
frame, but God has shown us in that one instance, and in the other
of the great prophet's, how _He_ is not subject to the law that
men shall die, although men are subject to it, and that if He will,
He can take them all to Himself, as He did take these two, and will
take them who, at last, shall not die but be changed.

Let me remind you that this unique and exceptional end of a life of
communion may, in its deepest, essential character, be experienced
by each of us. There are two passages in the book of Psalms, both of
which I regard as allusions to this incident. The one of them is in
the forty-ninth Psalm and reads thus: 'He will deliver my soul from
the power of the grave, for He will take me.' Our version conceals
the allusion, by its unfortunate and non-literal rendering
'receive.' The same word is employed there as here. Can we fail to
see the reference? The Psalmist expects his soul to be 'delivered
from the power of the grave,' because God _takes_ it.

And again, in the great seventy-third Psalm, which marks perhaps the
highwater mark of pre-Christian anticipations of a future state, we
read: 'Thou wilt guide me by Thy counsel, and afterwards _take_
me' (again the same word) 'to glory.' Here, again, the Psalmist
looks back to the unique and exceptional instance, and in the
rapture and ecstasy of the faith that has grasped the living God as
his portion, says to himself: 'Though the externals of Enoch's end
and of mine may differ, their substance will be the same, and I,
too, shall cease to be seen of men, because God takes me into the
secret of His pavilion, by the loving clasp of His lifting hand.'

Enoch was led, if I may say so, round the top of the valley, beyond
the head waters of the dark river, and was kept on the high level
until he got to the other side. You and I have to go down the hill,
out of the sunshine, in among the dank weeds, to stumble over the
black rocks, and wade through the deep water; but we shall get over
to the same place where he stands, and He that took him round by the
top will 'take' us through the river; and so shall we 'ever be with
the Lord'

'Enoch walked with God and he was not; for God took him.' This verse
is like some little spring with trees and flowers on a cliff. The
dry genealogical table--and here this bit of human life in it! How
unlike the others--they _lived_ and they _died_; this man's life was
walking with God and his departure was a fading away, a ceasing to be
found here. It is remarkable in how calm a tone the Bible speaks of
its supernatural events. We should not have known this to be a miracle
but for the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The dim past of these early chapters carries us over many centuries.
We know next to nothing about the men, where they lived, how they
lived, what thoughts they had, what tongue they spoke. Some people
would say that they never lived at all. I believe, and most of you,
I suppose, believe that they did. But how little personality we give
them! Little as we know of environment and circumstances, we know
the main thing, the fact of their having been. Then we are sure that
they had sorrow and joy, strife and love, toil and rest, like the
rest of us, that whether their days were longer or shorter they were
filled much as ours are, that whatever was the pattern into which
the quiet threads of their life was woven it was, warp and weft, the
same yarn as ours. In broad features every human life is much the
same. Widely different as the clothing of these grey fathers in
their tents, with their simple contrivances and brief records, is
from that of cultivated busy Englishmen to-day, the same human form
is beneath both. And further, we know but little as to their
religious ideas, how far they were surrounded with miracles, what
they knew of God and of His purposes, how they received their
knowledge, what served them for a Bible. Of what positive
institutions of religion they had we know nothing; whether for them
there was sacrifice and a sabbath day, how far the original gospel
to Adam was known or remembered or understood by them. All that is
perfectly dark to us. But this we know, that those of them who were
godly men lived by the same power by which godly men live nowadays.
Whatever their creed, their religion was ours. Religion, the bond
that unites again the soul to God, has always been the same.


'These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man
and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with
God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was
filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth,
and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted
His way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end
of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled
with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy
them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood;
rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it
within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion
which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall
be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits,
and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou
make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it
above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the
side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt
thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of
waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is
the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing
that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I
establish My covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark,
thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives
with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two
of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them
alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls
after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of
every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of
every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and
thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food
for thee, and for them. Thus did Noah; according to all
that God commanded him, so did he.'--GENESIS vi. 9-22.

1. Notice here, first, the solitary saint. Noah stands alone 'in his
generations' like some single tree, green and erect, in a forest of
blasted and fallen pines. 'Among the faithless, faithful only he.'
His character is described, so to speak, from the outside inwards.
He is 'righteous,' or discharging all the obligations of law and of
his various relationships. He is 'perfect.' His whole nature is
developed, and all in due symmetry and proportion; no beauty
wanting, no grace cultivated at the expense of others. He is a full
man; not a one-sided and therefore a distorted one. Of course we do
not take these words to imply sinlessness. They express a relative,
not an absolute, completeness. Hence we may learn both a lesson of
stimulus and of hope. We are not to rest satisfied with partial
goodness, but to seek to attain an all-round perfectness, even in
regard to the graces least natural to our dispositions. And we can
rejoice to believe that God is generous in His acceptance and
praise. He does not grudge commendation, but takes account of the
deepest desires and main tendencies of a life, and sees the germ as
a full-blown flower, and the bud as a fruit.

Learn, too, that solitary goodness is possible. Noah stood
uninfected by the universal contagion; and, as is always the case,
the evil around, which he did not share, drove him to a more rigid
abstinence from it. A Christian who is alone 'in his generations,'
like a lily among nettles, has to be, and usually is, a more earnest
Christian than if he were among like-minded men. The saints in
'Caesar's household' needed to be very unmistakable saints, if they
were not to be swept away by the torrent of godlessness. It is hard,
but it is possible, for a boy at school, or a young man in an
office, or a soldier in a barrack, to stand alone, and be
Christlike; but only on condition that he yields to no temptation to
drop his conduct to the level around him, and is never guilty of
compromise. Once yield, and all is over. Flowers grow on a dunghill,
and the very reeking rottenness may make the bloom finer.

Learn, too, that the true place for the saint is 'in his
generations.' If the mass is corrupt, so much the more need to rub
the salt well in. Disgust and cowardice, and the love of congenial
society, keep Christian people from mixing with the world, which
they must do if they are to do Christ's work in it. There is a great
deal too much union with the world, and a great deal too much
separation from it, nowadays, and both are of the wrong sort. We
cannot keep too far away from it, by abstinence from living by its
maxims, and tampering with its pleasures. We cannot mix too much
with it if we take our Christianity with us, and remember our
vocation to be its light.

Notice, again, the companion of the solitary saint. What beauty
there is in that description of the isolated man, passing lonely
amid his contemporaries, like a stream of pure water flowing through
some foul liquid, and untouched by it, and yet not alone in his
loneliness, because 'he walked with God!' The less he found
congenial companionship on earth, the more he realised God as by his
side. The remarkable phrase, used only of Enoch and of Noah, implies
a closer relation than the other expression, 'To walk before God.'
Communion, the habitual occupation of mind and heart with God, the
happy sense of His presence making every wilderness and solitary
place glad because of Him. the child's clasping the father's hand
with his tiny fingers, and so being held up and lifted over many a
rough place, are all implied. Are we lonely in outward reality? Here
is our unfailing companion. Have we to stand single among
companions, who laugh at us and our religion? One man, with God to
back him, is always in the majority. Though surrounded by friends,
have we found that, after all, we live and suffer, and must die
alone? Here is the all-sufficient Friend, if we have fellowship with
whom our hearts will be lonely no more.

Observe that this communion is the foundation of all righteousness
in conduct. Because Noah walked with God, he was 'just' and
'perfect.' If we live habitually in the holy of holies, our faces
will shine when we come forth. If we desire to be good and pure, we
must dwell with God, and His Spirit will pass into our hearts, and
we shall bear the fragrance of his presence wherever we go. Learn,
also, that communion with God is not possible unless we are fighting
against our sin, and have some measure of holiness. We begin
communion with Him, indeed, not by holiness, but by faith. But it is
not kept up without the cultivation of purity. Sin makes fellowship
with God impossible. 'Can two walk together, except they be agreed?'
'What communion hath light with darkness?' The delicate bond which
unites us in happy communion with God shrivels up, as if scorched,
at the touch of sin. 'If we say that we have fellowship with Him,
and walk in darkness, we lie.'

2. Notice the universal apostasy. Two points are brought out in the
sombre description. The first is moral corruption; the second,
violence. Bad men are cruel men. When the bonds which knit society
to God are relaxed, selfishness soon becomes furious, and forcibly
seizes what it lusts after, regardless of others' rights. Sin saps
the very foundations of social life, and makes men into tigers, more
destructive to each other than wild beasts. All our grand modern
schemes for the reformation of society will fail unless they begin
with the reformation of the individual. To walk with God is the true
way to make men gentle and pitying.

Learn from this dark outline that God gazes in silence on the evil.
That is a grand, solemn expression, 'Corrupt before God.' All this
mad riot of pollution and violence is holding its carnival of lust
and blood under the very eye of God, and He says never a word. So is
it ever. Like some band of conspirators in a dark corner, bad men do
deeds of darkness, and fancy they are unseen, and that God forgets
_them_, because they forget God; and all the while His eye is
fixed on them, and the darkness is light about them. Then comes a
further expression of the same thought: 'God looked upon the earth.'
As a sudden beam of sunshine out of a thunder-cloud, His eye flashes
down, not as if He then began to know, but that His knowledge then
began, as it were, to act.

3. What does the stern sentence on the rotten world teach us? A very
profound truth, not only of the certain divine retribution, but of
the indissoluble connection of sin with destruction. The same word
is thrice employed in verses 11 and 12 to express 'corruption' and
in verse 13 to express 'destruction.' A similar usage is found in 1
Corinthians iii. 17, where the same Greek word is translated
'defile' and 'destroy.' This teaches us that, in deepest reality,
corruption is destruction, that sin is death, that every sinner is a
suicide. God's act in punishment corresponds to, and is the
inevitable outcome of, our act in transgression. So fatal is all
evil, that one word serves to describe both the poison-secreting
root and the poisoned fruit. Sin is death in the making; death is
sin finished.

The promise of deliverance, which comes side by side with the stern
sentence, illustrates the blessed truth that God's darkest
threatenings are accompanied with a revelation of the way of escape.
The ark is always shown along with the flood. Zoar is pointed out
when God foretells Sodom's ruin. We are no sooner warned of the
penalties of sin, than we are bid to hear the message of mercy in
Christ. The brazen serpent is ever reared where the venomous snakes
bite and burn.

4. We pass by the details of the construction of the ark to draw the
final lesson from the exact obedience of Noah. We have the statement
twice over, He did 'according to all that God commanded him.' It was
no easy thing for him to build the ark, amidst the scoffing of his
generations. Smart witticisms fell around him like hail. All the
'practical men' thought him a dreamy fool, wasting his time, while
they prospered and made something of life. The Epistle to the
Hebrews tells us the secret of his obedience: 'By faith, Noah,' etc.
He realised the distant unseen, because he believed Him who warned
him of it. The immediate object of his faith was 'the things not
seen as yet'; but the real, deepest object was God, whose word
showed him these. So faith is always trust in a divine Person,
whether it lays hold of the past sacrifice, the present indwelling
Spirit, or the future heaven.

Noah's example teaches us the practical effects of faith. 'Moved
with godly fear,' says Hebrews; by which is meant, not a mere dread
of personal evil, for Noah was assured of safety--but that godly
reverence and happy fear which dwells with faith, and secures
precise obedience. Learn that a faith which does not work on the
feelings is a very poor thing. Some Christian people have a great
horror of emotional religion. Unemotional religion is a great deal
worse. The road by which faith gets at the hands is through the
heart. And he who believes but feels nothing, will do exactly as
much as he feels, and probably does not really believe much more.

So after Noah's emotion followed his action. He was bid to prepare
his ark, we have only to take refuge in the ark which God has
prepared in Christ; but the principle of Noah's obedience applies to
us all. He realised so perfectly that future, with its double
prospect of destruction and deliverance, that his whole life was
moulded by the conduct which should lead to his escape. The far-off
flood was more real to him than the shows of life around him.
Therefore he could stand all the gibes, and gave himself to a course
of life which was sheer folly unless that future was real. Perhaps a
hundred and twenty years passed between the warning and the flood;
and for all that time he held on his way, nor faltered in his faith.
Does our faith realise that which lies before us with anything like
similar clearness? Do we see that future shining through all the
trivial, fleeting present? Does it possess weight and solidity
enough to shape our lives? Noah's creed was much shorter than ours;
but I fear his faith was as much stronger.

5. We may think, finally, of the vindication of his faith. For a
hundred and twenty years the wits laughed, and the 'common-sense'
people wondered, and the patient saint went on hammering and
pitching at his ark. But one morning it began to rain; and by
degrees, somehow, Noah did not seem quite such a fool. The jests
would look rather different when the water was up to the knees of
the jesters; and their sarcasms would stick in their throats as they
drowned. So is it always. So it will be at the last great day. The
men who lived for the future, by faith in Christ, will be found out
to have been the wise men when the future has become the present,
and the present has become the past, and is gone for ever; while
they who had no aims beyond the things of time, which are now sunk
beneath the dreary horizon, will awake too late to the conviction
that they are outside the ark of safety, and that their truest
epitaph is 'Thou fool!'


'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;
The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven
were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;
And the waters returned from off the earth continually:
and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the
waters were abated. And the ark rested in the seventh
month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the
mountains of Ararat. 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.
And it came to pass at the end of forty days that Noah
opened the window of the ark which he had made: 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; 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: then he put forth his hand, and took her,
and pulled her in unto him into the ark. And he stayed
yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove
out of the ark; And the dove came in to him in the
evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt
off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off
the earth. And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent
forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any
more. And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first
year, in the first month, the first 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 in the second month,
on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the
earth dried. And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth
of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy
sons wives with thee. 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.
And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and
his sons' wives with him: Every beast, every creeping
thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the
earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.
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. And the Lord smelled a
sweet savour; 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 thing living,
as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and
harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and
day and night shall not cease,'--GENESIS viii. 1-22.

The universal tradition of a deluge is most naturally accounted for
by admitting that there was a 'universal deluge.' But 'universal'
does not apply to the extent as embracing the whole earth, but as
affecting the small area then inhabited--an area which was probably
not greater than the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris. The story
in Genesis is the Hebrew version of the universal tradition, and its
plain affinity to the cuneiform narratives is to be frankly
accepted. But the relationship of these two is not certain. Are they
mother and daughter, or are they sisters? The theory that the
narrative in Genesis is derived from the Babylonian, and is a
purified, elevated rendering of it, is not so likely as that both
are renderings of a more primitive account, to which the Hebrew
narrative has kept true, while the other has tainted it with
polytheistic ideas. In this passage the cessation of the flood is
the theme, and it brings out both the love of the God who sent the
awful punishment, and the patient godliness of the man who was
spared from it. So it completes the teaching of the flood, and
proclaims that God 'in wrath remembers mercy.'

1. 'God remembered Noah.' That is a strong 'anthropomorphism,' like
many other things in Genesis--very natural when these records were
written, and bearing a true meaning for all times. It might seem as
if, in the wild rush of the waters from beneath and from above, the
little handful in the ark were forgotten. Had the Judge of all the
earth, while executing 'terrible things in righteousness,' leisure
to think of them who were 'afar off upon the sea'? Was it a blind
wrath that had been let loose? No; in all the severity there was
tender regard for those worthy of it. Judgment was discriminating.
The sunshine of love broke through even the rain-clouds of the

So the blessed lesson is taught that, in the widest sweep of the
most stormy judgments, there are those who abide safely, fearing no
evil. Though the waters are out, there is a rock on which we may
stand safe, above their highest wave. And why did God 'remember
Noah'? It was not favouritism, arbitrary and immoral. Noah was bid
to build the ark, because he was 'righteous' in a world of evil-
doers; he was 'remembered' in the ark, because he had believed God's
warning, obeyed God's command as seeing the judgment 'not seen as
yet,' and so 'became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.'
They who trust God, and, trusting Him, realise as if present the
future judgment, and, 'moved with fear,' take refuge in the ark, are
never forgot by Him, even while the world is drowned. They live in
His heart, and in due time He will show that He remembers them.

2. The gradual subsidence of the flood is told with singular
exactitude of dates, which are certainly peculiar if they are not
historical. The slow decrease negatives the explanation of the story
as being the exaggerated remembrance of some tidal-wave caused by
earthquake and the like. Precisely five months after the flood
began, the ark grounded, and the two sources, the rain from above
and the 'fountains of the deep' (that is, probably, the sea), were
'restrained,' and a high wind set in. That date marked the end of
the increase of the waters, and consequently the beginning of their
decrease. Seven months and ten days elapsed between it and the
complete restoration of the earth to its previous condition. That
time was divided into stages. Two months and a half passed before
the highest land emerged; two months more and the surface was all
visible; a month and twenty-seven days more before 'the earth was
dry.' The frequent recurrence of the sacred numbers, seven and ten,
is noticeable. The length of time required for the restorative
process witnesses to the magnitude of the catastrophe, impresses the
imagination, and suggests the majestic slowness of the divine
working, and how He uses natural processes for His purposes of moral
government, and rules the wildest outbursts of physical agents. The
Lord as king 'sitteth upon the flood,' and opens or seals the
fountains of the great deep as He will. Scripture does not tell of
the links between the First Cause and the physical effect. It brings
the latter close up to the former. The last link touches the fixed
staple, and all between may be ignored.

But the patient expectance of Noah comes out strongly in the story,


Back to Full Books