Chapter 4 – Noah, or Separating Faith

The great lesson of Noah’s life is the necessity of separation from the world. By his faith, we are told, he condemned the world. He did not save it, although he tried to do so for one hundred and twenty years; but he, at least, bore witness against it, and left the world without excuse. When George Whitefield was asked by his roommate, in a country inn, what he had gained by leaving his bed and going down into the bar-room to warn men — to be met only by mockery and scorn — he answered, “I have gained a good conscience, and left them without excuse.” So, our business is not always to save, but simply to be faithful witnesses.

The cause of the Deluge was that very thing which is bringing about the last apostasy, namely, the mingling of the Church and the world. God told His children at the beginning that there must be enmity between the two seeds, the woman’s and the serpent’s. He soon made the truth terribly plain in the deadly hate of Cain and the murder of Abel. In Seth’s day the races were kept separate, for we read of Seth’s family, “Then began men to call themselves by the name of the Lord “(marg.). But in the days of Noah the fatal compromise had begun. “The sons of God,” or the godly race, saw “the daughters of men” — no doubt, the seed of Cain — “that they were fair,” and, thinking only of their own earthly desire, and not of God’s will, “they took them wives of all THEY CHOSE.” The offspring of these unions was a race marked by splendid physical culture, but equally characterized by depravity and moral degradation. These giants in stature were monsters of wickedness, and their violence filled the earth with blood. The early geological specimens of the human race show a man of gigantic stature, and by his side lies a woman with her skull crushed in by a murderous blow; corresponding exactly with God’s picture of primitive man.

This is the result of the devil’s unholy alliance between the Church and the world. It is filling the Church once more, and it will bring another flood — A FLOOD OF FIRE. Its forms are innumerable. The world invades the home, the sanctuary, the pulpit, the seminary, the whole fibre of modern religion. It is the devil’s snare, and its evil touch is forbidden by God in urgent and reiterated warnings. When Balaam could not destroy Israel by his curse, he ensnared them by the world’s fascinations. “Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world.” “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “What fellowship hath light with darkness? What communion hath Christ with Belial? What fellowship hath he that believeth with an unbeliever?

These are some of God’s signals over the inviting archways of the forbidden land. And yet Christians walk coolly past them, and only awake to their danger when too late to return. Like the eagle that sat down on the frozen ground to feed upon its prey, and when it would have risen, found its great wings so frozen to the ice that it could never rise again, but perished beside its costly pleasure; like the ship that sailed so close to the current that it was impossible to stem the awful tide that drove it over the abyss — so Christian men and women are trifling with forbidden things until they have neither heart nor strength to rise to their heavenly calling.

A Christian has no more business in the theater than Jesus had. A Christian mother has no more right to give her child’s hand to an unbeliever, or a Christian minister to unite them in marriage, than to sell her into a Turkish harem. And yet, such ideas are considered obsolete and narrow; and not only does the membership of the Church patronize the broadest and most popular theaters, but the Sunday-school picnic and the religious entertainment are vying with the drama for popular attraction. All this is bringing in the latter days. The end is judgment. The only remedy is the faith and faithfulness of Noah. Never will the world be saved by compromise with it, but only by standing on God’s level, and lifting men up to His side.

And we can only take this place of separation as we have Noah’s faith. It was because Noah had found a better world that he let the old world go; and only they who have learned the value of the true treasure will throw the tinsel away. The raven will settle down upon the carrion feast of the world; but the dove will take the olive leaf as her pledge of a future world of peace and blessedness, and wait in the ark (until the evil days are past) for freedom and inheritance.

A gardener had a willow tree which he tried in vain to make symmetrical. It would send out all its branches to one side only, and in spite of pruning, it grew lopsided. At last he found the reason. There was a little subterranean stream running on that side of the tree, from which it drew its nourishment, and the tree grew toward the source of its life. He immediately changed his tactics. He stopped his pruning and dug a channel on the other side of the tree, diverting the water from its old course, and supplying it on the neglected side. And lo, ere another year had passed, the tree had wholly changed its form. It sent out roots below and branches above, toward the welcome waters, and grew symmetrical and beautiful without an effort. This is the secret of the great Husbandman, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above; set your affections on things above, and not on things upon the earth; for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”

The Apostle Peter, in speaking of Noah, says a most singular thing about him. He says his household was “saved by water.” Most persons would think they were saved from water. But it was not so. “The like figure wherewith, even baptism, both also now save us . . . by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The water of the Deluge, like baptism — which is a similar figure — was significant of our death and resurrection with Christ. Noah was saved from the flood of the world which had almost engulfed his family, by that other flood of water; and so we are saved from the world by the Cross of Jesus Christ, “by which the world is crucified unto us, and we unto the world.” It is only as we really know in our spirit the meaning of that death, and let our spirit die with Him to all the old natural life of the flesh, and rise with a new nature, even His own, to a new inheritance, even His kingdom and His throne, that we can rise above the world. It can attack us no more. We are not of the world, even as He is not of the world.

As when the magnet, drawn through a box of earth mingled with iron filings, draws to it every particle of iron without an effort, so the heaven-born spirit springs to Christ, and the earthly neither knows nor cares for His call:

” Rivers to the ocean run,
Nor stay in all their course;
Fire, ascending seeks the sun—
Both speed them to their source.

So a soul that’s born of God
Pants to see His glorious face,
Upward tends to His abode,
To rest in His embrace.”

We need not go out of the world to be separated from it. The water spider makes its home beneath the surface of the pool, but no drop of water ever touches its soft and downy coat. From the upper world it takes down with it a globule of air, and anchors it under water — a bubble of buoyant air which displaces the water; and in its center the spider makes its nest, living beneath the waves, but breathing the air of the upper world.

So can we be shut in by God’s Holy Spirit, like an encompassing world of light and life, beneath the dark waves of the world and sin, but separated even from its touch in the secret of His Presence:

“Tell me not of earthly pleasures,
Tempt me not with sordid gain;
Mock me not with earth’s illusions,
Vex me not with honors vain.
I am weaned from sinful idols;
I am henceforth not my own;
I have giv’n my heart to Jesus,
I belong to Him alone.”