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preacher of righteousness.” And Noah preached by the Spirit of Christ.
Ever since the promise of Christ to restore the world, Christ has striven with sinners by His Spirit. Enoch, as we have seen, prophecied of His coming. Noah is called “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter ii. 5.) And it is also said, that by the Spirit, Christ went and preached unto them (whose spirits are now in prison, reserved unto judgment) who were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah. (See 1 Peter ii. 18-20.)
Unto the unbelieving Jews, Stephen said, “ Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did, so do ye ; which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted ? ” (Acts vii. 51, 52.) God's Spirit strove with the Old World in the preachers of righteousness. He strove with the Jews in the law and writings of Moses, in His Prophets, and in His own Son. God's Spirit strives with men now. The Holy Ghost speaks God's mind in the word written and preached. And as this word falls upon men's ears, strikes upon their conscience, the Spirit strives. And alas! with how many does He strive in vain! They hear, and heed not; or they refuse to hear, turn away from the preacher, shut up and look not at their Bibles !
Again, God's Spirit strove with men in the still small voice of a reproving conscience. “Their thoughts the mean while accused or else excused one another.” They knew they sinned, but they heeded not their consciences. Conscience instructed by God's word is a monitor which will rise up in judgment and condemn us at the last day, if he is slighted now.
Once more,—God's Spirit strove with men before the flood, by the good example of Noah. This was a light continually before them. Here was one righteous man, who stood out against all the world. They knew he was a man of God, but they shunned his company, and followed not his example. God speaks to men now in the same way. He tells them of grace to make men good in His word, and He shows them the power of that grace in the lives of the righteous. These are epistles known and read of all. All men have some such light before them; some pious relative, or some friend or acquaintance, who goes on walking piously, praying, reading, and seeking to avoid evil, and to cleaye to that which is good. This is God's voice. This is the striving of His Spirit. What shall be the end of those who refuse Him that speaketh ? Surely, it shall be with them as it was with those of old! “My Spirit shall not always strive with
God's voice will soon not be heard. And they that have not obeyed it, will not hear it again until it passes eternal judgment on the sinner.
We may notice next, how it is said that the fountain head from which flowed all this great wickedness was men's hearts. Their hands were engaged in it. Their minds were occupied with it. But the seat of the evil was the heart. "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” So again we read, “The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.” Every heart born into the world is here described. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” And again, “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”
And this accounts for men's resisting God's voice, and God's Spirit. In vain does He strive with men's consciences, and in vain does He teach men's minds, and in vain do His words strike upon the outward ears, until the heart be opened to admit Him, and men's wills be turned towards Him. Men have, by nature, no heart for God, no taste for spiritual things now, any more than they had before the flood. Their imaginations are only of this world. They “mind earthly things.” Would we lay the right foundation of true repentance,
it must be repentance of the heart. Would we have saving faith, it must be faith that affects the heart,-faith that “worketh by love." In this way to be “spiritually minded is life and peace.” To continue as we are by nature, which is “to be carnally minded, is death." And so men found it in the days of Noah.
It repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.
And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth.” This, of course, does not imply any change in God's mind, or any feelings of sorrow, as we change, or as we feel sorrow; - but it is language used for our infirmities. It is speaking after the manner of men. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning.” He foresaw that man would corrupt his way on the earth, even when He made him. At the same time such language tells of God's hatred of sin, and His purpose of bringing judgment on sinners.
What an awful thought is that, that any man should so live in this world, that God repents that He has made that man ;-just as a man repents having planted a fruit tree in his garden, and having taken pains with it, and it remains unfruitful, so at the last he says, “ Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground ?”
But in judgment God remembered mercy. The earth was laden with iniquity ; offensive with its ill-savour. Yet the Lord spared it awhile, and He said, “Yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” The time of its continuance was thus limited.
And why was it granted at all? We learn from other Scripture (1 Peter iii. 20, it was then “the long-suffering of God waited.” God waited to be gracious. To see if there were any, that would seek after Him ;-lest any should say they had not time, nor warning enough,—and that God should be proved to be the righteous Judge in condemning those who “despised the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads to repentance."
The same is going on now. The period of the world's continuance in its present state is limited. We know not how many years. But the Father knoweth the very day of its end. Of one thing we are sure, it is now a time of long-suffering. God's Spirit is yet striving. Yet, a little while, and He will withdraw it. The appointed years will have ended. God's people will have been called out of the wicked world. God's enemies will have been proved. The measure of their iniquity being filled up, God will appear to their confusion, and to the eternal salvation of His own people.