Puslapio vaizdai

readily as Noah, for they had the same evidence that he had. By believing Noah not only saved his own house, but by the same act "he condemned the world." Christ teaches that the same overwhelming suddenness will be repeated at the great end yet to come. The destruction of the old world and the destruction of Sodom are types of what will be at the coming of the Son of Man, when men shall call on the mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. Is that judgment not a final one? Shall it be said, No, it is not, the judgment is not final, as it seems. It is only a change of venue ; the kings and princess and mighty men and the crowds of ungodly and rebellious who wail because of him are only being shunted off to a side track to await the coming of a new and splendid mercy. Surely it does not so strike the common reader. Yet that would be a fair inference, if it were true that the men of the old world, swept away in wrath, were only being lifted to the higher plane of privilege. The simple, plain and natural conclusion from these combined utterances is that the old world had its day and opportunity, its day for hearing and its opportunity for repentance. It scorned them both, and as a judgment, a condemnation, and for the purposes of an utter destruction, the flood came and swept them all away. If that judgment was not final, then the impression left by reading all these passages is wholly misleading.


I. Pet. i., 10, 11, 12; iii., 18, 19, 20; iv., 5, 6; II. Pet. ii., 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you searching what, or what manner of time THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For, for this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chaius of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world but saved

Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an over throw, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; and delivered just Lot," etc., etc., etc., (then) the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.

Now we are to take Peter's words as a whole, not a part of what he said, but all of it, and we must take his thoughts in the order in which he himself presented them. This compels us to begin an exegesis of the 19th verse of the III. Chap. by a prior consideration of the 11th verse of the I. Chap., in order to find out what conceptions were in his own mind at the time.


This is the key to the whole position. A long line of prophets in the olden time had spoken of the sufferings of the mysterious and coming Christ and of the glory that should follow. That line includes such men as Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi, Daniel, Isaiah, Elijah, Samuel, Moses, Noah and Enoch. It was part of the work of these men to denounce judgment as well as to proclaim mercy. The utterances they made were not of themselves, but in part. THE "SPIRIT OF CHRIST" was in them, and it spoke through them, it spoke of Christ and it spoke for Christ. It was the Spirit of the unborn Christ in the womb of humanity working in advance of the incarnation. It was that spirit in the Psalmist which led him so often to cry out for Christ, as, for example, when he said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." Surely it must be plain that all along the ages that Spirit of Christ was in them, who were called to be his prophets. Now comes the allessential question. Did Noah too have that "Spirit of Christ" "? Or was he an exception, the only exception in the whole prophetic line? When it says the Spirit of Christ which was in them, and that it testified, then was the Spirit of Christ in Noah? and did it testify and make him talk out and preach as it did all the others? and were his words determinative of destiny as were the words of every one of the others?

If we take the position, as we ourselves do, that Noah was not an exception but that he had the Spirit of Christ in him, and that it was a witnessing spirit, and a striving spirit, and a reforming spirit, and an exhorting spirit, in him-the preacher of righteousness-then we have attained much to help us understand the meaning of the perplexing verse 19 in Chap. III. For the thought of this 11th verse in Chap. I. had already filled the

mind of Peter before he came to speak of Noah at all. As we would say in our modern speech, the ink was not dry on that first chapter before he came to write the third one, in which speaking of Christ he says as we may here render it: "Being put to death indeed in flesh but made alive in spirit in the which also, or, even to those the imprisoned spirits going, he had heralded forth." The latter verse therefore stands out as a specific application of the great sentiment contained in the former. Presently in the IV. Chap. the apostle adds another statement in exact accord with the two that precede as now explained. He spoke of Christ as being ready to judge the quick and the dead-the quick, all those who may be alive when he comes, and the dead all those who are in their graves and that shall hear his voice. Because they are to be thus judged, for this cause, they too have had a Gospel preached to them in their day, and are to be judged according to the circumstances and conditions of the men of their day, and live according to God in the spirit, in proportion as they have believed and acted up to the light and evidence possessed in their own day and generation. For, be it recognised here, God has never left himself without a Gospel witness as well as a law witness. And so we discern a graded Gospel along the ages. There was a Gospel preached to Adam and Eve, aud a Gospel to Noah, and a Gospel to Abraham, and also a Gospel of Nature, as we learn from Paul's sermon at Lystra. It is faith that saves always, and faith is required according to light possessed, and faith avails according to its exercise in conformity with light possessed. The XI. of Hebrew is filled with conspicuous illustrations. In his II. Epistle Peter sets forth his views still further. He there groups three classes of sinners-the angels who kept not their first estate, the people of the old world, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. They are adduced to teach one and the same lesson; the angels have their cases settled, being reserved in chains of darkness to the day of judgment to be punished; the Sodomites are set forth, making them an ensample to those that after should live ungodly and (as Jude says) are suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. So their cases are settled also. How about the third class, the people of the old world; are they made an exception? Then why are they included in such company? Are we to understand that what is vengeance, fierce and final in two cases is only a stepping stone to grace in the other. The incongruity would be remarkable. But if it be true that in these three examples brought together because they are homogeneous, if it be true that in one case the downpour of wrath was only an initial step to the inauguration of a new and more wonderful series of mercies then also may we infer that when it speaks of the everlast

ing chains of the devils the word "everlasting" is only a hyperbole of speech, not meaning what it says, and also that the brimstone flames of Sodom were only on Elijah's chariot to give a horribly beastly people a lift up nearer to heaven and the throne of an infinitely pure and holy God. Not so do we read the doctrine of Peter.

From the Apostles' own writings then taken as a whole and starting from his declaration about "the Spirit of Christ which was in them" we submit the point that he himself gives the clues to his own meaning when he speaks of the Spirit of Christ preaching to the spirits in prison. He tells us what was preached to that old world, and where it was preached, and when it was preached, and who was the preacher, and by what agency that preacher was moved, and what futile results attended the preaching, and what an overwhelming destruction followed in consequence. All this in language of his own-a clearly stated and concatenated revelation in itself.

We may summarise the whole teaching in the form of a few questions and answers.

I. Who did the preaching to that old world?

Noah. He is called "a preacher." Peter says he was a preacher. If he was a preacher he must have preached to somebody or other. He had none but the old world to preach to, and he must have been a mighty preacher as well as a mighty shipbuilder. II. What did Noah preach about?

He preached righteousness just as Paul preached righteousness and a judgment to come to Felix. Peter designates him as a preacher of righteousness. Noah preached righteousness, and beyond doubt pressed a continued call to repentance as the only way of escaping an overhanging judgment. That means that Noah preached a Gospel as well as a condemnation.

III. When was the preaching done?

In the days of Noah. Whatever may be conjectured about any other preaching certain it is that the preaching there spoken of was done in the days of Noah, the preacher, and not some two thousand and more years later after they were all dead and gone.

IV. Where was the preaching done?

In the place where the ark was a preparing above ground on the surface of the earth and not far away in some underground and unseen world.

V. To whom was the preaching done?

To the world of the ungodly that then was, to the great multitudes that came and went amid the sawing of planks, the felling of timbers, the driving of nails and the continual predictions and warnings of the old prophet and preacher of righteousness.

VI. For how long was the preaching kept up ?

While the ark was a preparing, for a hundred and twenty years, the limit of the probation allowed to a corrupt and violent generation.

VII. What was the divine attitude meanwhile?

It was one of waiting and long suffering, waiting to see if any would repent and so avert the hastening doom.

VIII. When they did not repent and that time was up
what did God then do?

He brought in the flood upon them and destroyed them all. IX. What spiritual power moved Noah to preach righteousness and the judgment to come as he did?

"THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST," the Spirit of Christ which was in all the prophets, the Spirit of Christ which was in Noah as one of the prophets. That "Spirit" was not simply a synonymn for feeling, disposition and like mindedness. Our translators and revisers. all understand Peter in the 11th verse of the I. Chap. to mean the actual personal Spirit of Christ himself. It was that spirit in person which entered into Noah after the manner of any other spirit, impelling him, lifting him up, bearing him along (4Loμevod) in what he said. Christ's own Spirit, as in other cases before his incarnation, united itself with Noah's human spirit for the time and so made the blended utterances of the two to become as the single utterance of one, while at the same time the characteristics of the two are retained. Whether or no, therefore, the Spirit of Christ did afterwards go a second time and preach to these same persons, certain it is that he did go once in the days of Noah. The preembodied Spirit of Christ was as real and substantial as could afterwards have been his disembodied spirit. It was the Spirit of Christ which was in them and not simply an influence from Christ which was upon them.

The people of that old world then did have a "probation," as it is called a Gospel probation, at the end of that age, as they had a law probation at the beginning of it. They had an opportunity to make a choice, a final and determinative choice; an opportunity to exercise the "obedience of faith;" they had an opportunity to hear, to believe and to comply with a specific requirement. They would not believe, and so became disobedient. They were condemned under both law and grace. Whether they had a second, and may yet have a third and a fourth probation, is another thing. Certain it is they did have a Gospel probation in the days of Noah while the ark was a preparing.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »