« PoprzedniaDalej »
of this kind and gracious engagement, the rainbow, or as it is called in scripture, “God’s bow in the cloud,” was set, or appointed, as the seal of his faithfulness and truth. . Whether that beautiful phenomenon, the rainbow, existed and was seen before the flood, or whether it was now produced by some change in our atmosphere, for the express purpose of confirming and perpetuating the remembrance of this covenant, is a question, as unimportant as it is difficult to decide. It is unimportant, because, admitting that it existed before, it did not exist as the token of any covenant between God and man; and, when once appointed as the seal of Noah's covenant, it would answer that end as completely, as if it had been formed expressly for that purpose. The question is difficult to decide, because, although it proceeds from natural causes, the reflection and refraction of the sun's rays from innumerable drops of rain in a thin cloud, yet so many concurrent circumstances are necessary to its production, that no man, without knowing the alterations which may have taken place in the atmosphere at the time of the flood, or what change may have been made, after that event, in the mode of watering the earth, can prove, with certainty, that the antediluvians ever saw a rainbow. No object, perhaps, on the face of nature, is viewed with more complacency and delight than the bow in the cloud. This may be owing, in part, to its rich colours and elegant form, but chiefly, to its religious and appropriate design, as a messenger of good tidings, and a pledge to the world, that the earth and its inhabitants shall not be again visited by a general, or extensively destructive flood. And, I doubt not, that it is from a vague knowledge of this interesting fact of sacred history, received through the medium of tradition, that Homer, the father of epic poetry, takes his fine idea of IRIs, or the bow in the clouds, being the messenger of Jupiter, the Pagan king of heaven. Where it is said, in scripture, that when God looks upon the “bow in the cloud,” he will remember his covenant, we are to understand the expression, as used after the manner of man; for God, in whom there is no variableness, needs no remembrancer; he cannot, from the perfection of his nature, forget or fail to accomplish any of his promises. The outward memorials or tokens of any of God's transactions with man, are for man's use and benefit; to remind him of his duty, and to encourage his faith and hope in the divine promises. That this is true, in the case now before us, will not be doubted. When, therefore, we look upon the rainbow, let it remind us of our duty to Him who painted its beauteous colours, and placed it in the cloud as the symbol of his goodness to a dependant and guilty world. Nor let our thoughts be limited to temporal benefits, when viewing this beautiful emblem of the divine benignity. To those who are interested in that covenant, which is * ordered in all things and sure, it conveys a lesson of the highest and most consolatory import; a lesson of hope and confidence in Him whose blood and righteousness secure them from that fearful deluge of wrath that shall, in due time, come upon the ungodly. Hear the word of Jehovah, by the mouth of his prophet Isaiah: “This is as the waters of Noah unto me; for, as I have sworn that the waters of Noah shall no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee: for the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.” Isa. liv. 9–10. As an improvement of this article of our lecture, allow us to suggest a few practical reflections. In the covenant which we have been considering, God claims to govern the world, as well in its physical, as in its moral concerns. The laws of nature owe their efficiency, and steady operation to the constant agency of God. And not to acknowledge this truth, is but little short of practical atheism. The inimitable Cowper has some fine thoughts on this point: “Some say, that, in the origin of things, When all creation started into birth, The infant elements receiv'd a law, From which they swerve not since. That under force Of that controlling ordinance they move, And need not His immediate hand, who first Prescribed their course, to regulate it now.— But how should matter occupy a charge, Dull as it is, and satisfy a law So vast in its demands, unless impell’d To ceaseless service by a ceaseless force, And under pressure of some conscious cause ! The Lord of all, himself thro' all diffused, Sustains, and is the life of all that hives. Nature is but a name for an effect, . Whose cause is God.”—TAsk, b. vi.
Yes; it is God that sustains the earth in its orbit, and causes grass, and bread corn, and all its pleasant fruits to grow on its surface, for the use of man and beast. It is God that gives us the former and the latter rain, seed-time, and plenteous harvests. He it is, that maintains health in our borders, or visits us, as he sees fit, with sickness, disease, and death. He it is, that preserves the ships that convey our friends and our property across the mountain waves, and the trackless deep. He it is, that rides in the whirlwind—that directs the tornado—that lets loose his water-spouts, in such measure, and on such places, as he pleases, to teach men their dependance on his providence, and their obligations to his protecting power, and bounteous munificence. He it is, in one word, that gives us all our
Vol. II.-Presb. Mag. H
comforts, and removes them from us, at his pleasure. To him, therefore, let our prayers and thank-offerings be continually presented, in the name of Jesus, to whose mediation we owe all our comforts, and all our best hopes. The partial inundations that often occur are no infraction of the Noahic covenant; as that only engages that there shall not, again, be a universal deluge. “The waters of a flood shall not any more destroy all flesh.” Inundations, like earthquakes, pestilence, famine, and war, are the ministers of God's anger, by which he visits and reproves guilty communities of mankind. But the covenant sealed with its “bow in the cloud” secures the world from destruction by water, and constitutes our only authentic assurance of seed-time and harvest, winter and summer, and day and night, while the earth remaineth. Let us be thankful for the Bible, which among innumerable other precious pieces of instruction, contains this charter of the world's preservation and privileges, till all the designs of redeeming mercy shall be fully accomplished. The apostle Peter teaches us, that the fashion, or present form of the world is ultimately to be changed, or destroyed by a universal conflagration. “The heavens and the earth, which are now, are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men—the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; and the earth, also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.” 2 Pet. iii. 7–10. It is not certain, however, from this or any other passages of sacred scripture, that this earth is to be utterly consumed, blotted from existence, or even rendered useless, in the great empire of Jehovah. That the time will come when it shall be wrapped in flames, and undergo a purification—be stripped of its combustible furniture, by the action of fire, of which it comprises immense stores in its own bowels, cannot be doubted by any believer in the lively oracles of revelation. Yet, that it may answer a valuable purpose—be the dwelling place of some happy intelligences, after that event, is quite possible; nay, even probable: and the apostle Peter himself seems to encourage an expectation of this kind, when he says, in a subsequent verse of the same chapter, and, in concluding his description of the general conflagration:—“Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness:” verse 13. We do not believe that annihilation will ever invade any of the Creator's works. To conclude: let us try to fix in our minds the true idea of the nature and design of that covenant which we have been considering. That it was not formally and precisely the covenant of grace, is, we think, plain from these facts—viz. that there is no mention in it, of any spiritual and saving benefit; that its promise is made not only to all mankind, but to every living thing; fowl, cattle, and beasts of the earth; a scope of promise which certainly does not belong to the covenant of race,
We think, however, that the Noahic covenant, must be regarded, as having been formed with the world, for its temporal benefit and comfort, in consequence of the mediatorial office and work of Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant: for all the patience of God, in sparing a world stained with crimes, is to be ascribed to his gracious design of redeeming unto himself, a peculiar people, by the cross of Christ: so that, had not the covenant of grace taken effect before the deluge, there would have been no ark furnished for the saving of Noah and his family; nor any covenant of peace and safety, sealed by the rainbow, to quiet the fears, and gladden the hearts of guilty men. John the Evangelist saw, in the visions of Patmos, a rainbow round about the head of the Son of man, our glorious Redeemer. In him, we have that peace of God which passeth understanding. The bow of his covenant, perpetually encircles the throne of Heaven; and, when the storms of divine wrath shall sweep away all refuges of lies, they who put their trust in him, and accept the blessings of his grace, shall be safe, and peaceful, and triumphant, world without end.
Whenever we look upon the rainbow, let us recollect, and be thankful on the recollection of the blessed truth, that by virtue of the gracious interposition of Christ, we are placed under a dispensation of mercy, where we not only enjoy the common bounties of a munificent Providence, but have an opportunity of securing “ the true riches,” an interest in the favour of God, the forgiveness of sins, and the life everlasting through him that loved us, and gave himself for us. Sin has drawn down a curse upon the earth, and inflicted on the children of men most grievous maladies: but there is a fountain opened, in the blood of atonement, whose streams make glad the city of our God. There is a covenant, well ordered in all things, and sure; a covenant, rich in its provisions, and immutable in its engagements. The gospel of God, our Saviour, unfolds to us the contents of this divine compact; and, often, has our faith in its liberal promises, been invited, by the exhibition of its hallowed seals, in the ministry of reconciliation. To this well authenticated instrument of redeeming grace, let us yield consent, and affix our names, and entrust our souls; and, then may we sing with the poet:
“Ere God pronounc'd creation good,
Ere light from ancient chaos sprung,
Then was the cov'nant ordered sure,
God is the refuge of my soul,
CURSORY REFLECTIONS ON THE BENEFITS OF AFFLICTION. By A LAYMAN.
“Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, and teachest him out of thy law.”—PsALM xciv. 12.
Were the inquiry to be put to the man of this world, (all of whose hopes and desires are circumscribed by the present life,) who, think ye, is the happiest of mortals? what, in all probability, would be his reply? Would he say, the man whose days are passed in obscurity, in poverty, or in pain? The man whose expectations are disappointed—whose warmest desires are checked by insurmountable obstacles—whose fondest hopes are blasted by unforeseen misfortunes? Would he say, it was the man who had been humbled by adversity—who from having every stream of terrestrial enjoyment poisoned or cut off, had become weaned from the present state, and taught to draw his pleasures from the fountain of living waters 2 Quite the reverse; he would be more apt to say: Blessed is the man who is prosperous and affluent—who has so much of this world's goods, that he can say to himself, “Soul, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry: thou hast much goods laid up for many years.” Would he not reply: Blessed is the man who enjoys high honour—who sits at the helm of state, and wields the sceptre of empire; who is surrounded with obsequious followers, who are anxious to consult his wishes, and to execute his commands? Would he not say: Blessed is the man whose anind is illumined by wisdom—who, retired from the cares and