"He sent forth a raven, which went forth to and
fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth."--Genesis 8:7
Blessed are they, who find their constant pleasure-ground
in the luxuries of the Bible! They commune with the mind of God. They listen
to a heavenly voice. They bask in rays of purest light. They feed in
wholesome pastures of refreshment. They fear no poison from the weeds of
error. No devious path can lead their steps astray. Wisdom from above guides
sweetly them. The Spirit, as high Teacher of the Church, instructs the
students. They advance safely, happily, from grace to grace.
The lessons are vast, as the mine from which they spring.
They are pure, as the realms to which they call. They warn of sin--its
filth--its misery--its end. They unfold Jesus in all the glories of
redeeming love. They exhibit holiness, as the road to holy heaven.
Reader! heed a salutary admonition. Study the Bible, as
holding treasure for your soul. Study in the earnestness of prayer. Study
with eternity outspread before you. Study with the lowliness of a poor
sinner before a speaking God. Study with faith devoutly grasping every word.
Close not the volume without inquiring, "Is sin more hateful--the world more
worthless--the flesh more treacherous in my sight? Is Jesus brought nearer
to my adoring soul? Is my heart won to more entire devotedness? Am I more
resolute to live for Him, who died for me?" The lively word should thus give
But this teaching is more than mighty in its matter. It
is attractive in its varied mode. It charms by inexhaustible diversity. It
summons all creation to its service. It traverses the universe of things
alive and lifeless. It uses all their stores, as handmaids to profounder
A few flowers, culled from this spacious garden, will
illustrate this. It looks above, and from the wonders of the skies brings
testimony to Redemption's nobler work. The orb of day proclaims the
Sun of Righteousness. The glory of the lovely light is typically significant
of "the true light." "I am the light of the world--he that follows Me shall
not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 8:12. The
glittering star has a Gospel-voice. "I am the root and the offspring
of David, and the bright and morning star." Rev. 22:16.
It looks to the earth, and Christ is seen throughout the
countless produce. The stately tree--the fragrant flower--the flowing
stream--the living stone--the riches of the mine, and all the length and
breadth of its immensities, call us to adore "the chief among ten thousand."
So, also, the world of animal life inculcates thoughts of
highest import. The lion, ruling the forest in his might--the ox, not
ignorant of its owner--the donkey, quick to discern its master's crib--the
washed swine returning to the mire--the gentle flocks reposing in the
meadows--the goats cast out from the fold, and other tribes, warn by their
peculiar characteristics. Each seems to say, 'Immortal souls may harvest
deep profit by observing me.'
Among these monitors the feathered creation
occupies its place. To each of this class some specialty belongs. These
different species are not given in vain. The mind, which framed their
diverse instincts, writes on each some admonition.
Sometimes the lesson is distinctly drawn. Sometimes
nothing but the habit of the winged one is stated. The reader is left to
ponder it in meditative prayer.
Such is the case of the first bird named in sacred
annals. Its notice is brief. It appears when the waters of the deluge were
partially assuaged. Noah had been told by God what God alone could tell. The
coming of this ruin had been distinctly announced beforehand. No human means
could ascertain when thus the floodgates of heaven would open, and all the
fountains of the great deep be broken up. This then was taught by a
revealing voice. But God fixed not the moment of departure from the
ark. Deity instructs sufficiently, but not superfluously. What reasoning
powers can discover, no inspiration will unfold. When ordinary means
suffice, no miracle will interfere. Noah by natural resource must learn,
when earth again shall be dry ground.
He seeks aid from the winged inhabitants of the ark. He
selects the Raven. He sends it forth on embassy of observation. "Noah opened
the window of the ark which he had made, and he sent forth a raven." Genesis
8:6. In vain he waited. There was no return. It brought no tidings. Its
wings beat not again against the window of its departure. It sought no more
admission into its former shelter. "It went forth to and fro." It wandered
up and down. It found some resting-places perhaps on the loftiest crags of
the reappearing mountains. It was content to perch on any height. It was
well pleased to feed on any floating carrion. It cared not where it perched,
or where it gained support, so long as it had no restraint. It left the ark,
pleased to escape. It left the ark, never to re-enter.
My soul, mark well this wandering RAVEN. It gives a
warning. It speaks of disappointment. Noah expected its return with
tale of earth's revival. But it came not back. It cheered him not with an
assurance that the destroying waters were assuaged--and desolation's reign
was past. It gave not the solace of abated ruin. It never said, 'Go
forth--walk up and down in peace--peril has ceased--earth is again a dry
From all the streams of teaching flowing from this
spring, let that be heard which is most vitally instructive. Let us then
first observe an allegoric emblem of the Moral LAW. Doubtless no such lesson
is primarily designed. But profit may be incidentally deduced, when not
originally meant. The soul intent on holy growth, may gather flowers in a
field tilled to render other crop.
It is sadly true, that many turn to the Law for life--for
peace--for righteousness. But can its voice proclaim these blessings? It is,
indeed, an ordinance--godlike in majesty, sublimity, and truth. It is seated
on a glorious throne. It is a picture of Jehovah's mind. It shows the
lineaments of His eternal essence. It is wondrous in brevity--infinite in
extent. Love is the substance of its whole requirement. Love shines, as the
dazzling crown upon its brow. Love is the one channel of its course. But
still it is so boundlessly expansive, that its wide arms embrace each
thought--each word--each work of all, who ever trod, or shall tread, earth.
It announces, that deviation from pure Love is utter
abomination in God's sight. It points to heaven and cries, 'Love is the one
atmosphere of that bright home. Nothing breathes there but Love.' It stands
as a guard before the shining portals. It drives back all transgressors of
its grand enactment.
View now the sinner's breast, when penetrated by the
Spirit's light. Conscience instantly accuses of transgressions--as many as
the moments of existence--towering high as mountains piled on
mountains--extending in multitude, as all the sands of ocean's
shore--embodied in each act--sounding in each word--staining each thought.
Will the Law draw softly near, and wipe away all tears, and silence fears?
Will it bid gloom to disappear? Will it diffuse the calm of heavenly peace?
Will it show wrath appeased--and vengeance satisfied--and deathful weapons
laid aside? Far otherwise. The Raven brought no happy tidings. The Law can
tell no tale of comfort. It leaves the soul in deepest cells of uttermost
despair. It pays no soothing visits. It has no cheering note. It has no
messages of reconciliation. It raises not from terror's agonizing depths. It
only affrights with its inexorable threats. It thunders, 'Give me my due.
Pay the full debt contracted by offence.' But the insolvent cannot pay.
Therefore the curse must fall. Thus it inflicts banishment from
God--exclusion from the realms of blessedness--consignment to the
prison-house of hell. Thus it piles anguish upon anguish, which never can
relax, until the ages of eternity shall cease.
Reader! study the Law profoundly. Ponder its breadth--its
length--its depth--its height. Gaze with open eye upon its perfect purity.
Mark well its large and just requirements. Realize your own infinite
shortcoming. See your whole life one mass of violation. Mark, how it fastens
condemnation on you. View its high barrier, excluding you from heaven. Weigh
its strong chain, dragging you to hell. Take the inevitable truth. It has no
word of peace. It never pardons. It gives not life. It surely dooms to
death. Expect not help from it. No, flee far from it. If you escape not, it
will surely slay you. The Raven cheered not the inhabitants of the ark. The
Law brings no relief.
Noah, disappointed, sends forth another messenger. The
DOVE speeds her gentle way. She tarries not. She soon relieves the anxious
fears. Her welcome wings are heard again. Joy brightens at her glad return
"When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a
freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from
the earth." Genesis 8:11
This leaf relates a happy story. The waters are abated.
The destroying element has subsided. Peril has fled away. Security again
smiles. The detaining doors may now be opened. Earth is again verdant. Solid
ground invites returning steps. Let now thanksgivings rise. Let praise
ascend. Let man reoccupy his renovated home.
Here is a lovely emblem of our GOSPEL! What the Law
announces not, is sweetly published by glad tidings from above. Welcome,
thrice welcome news resound from heaven. Floods upon floods of joy
unspeakable issue from Zion's heights. Full salvation is revealed. On earth
peace, good-will toward men, are gloriously proclaimed.
Hearken, O children of men. Give ear, my soul. Would that
all earth's sons, from East--from West--from North--from South, could be the
audience! Would that all might hear the faithful sayings of the blessed
Gospel! Christ is the first and last--the sum and substance of this noble
word. Christ--chosen--sent--anointed--accepted of God. Christ--wondrous in
His person--the mighty God--therefore infinitely glorious to save.
Christ--very man, therefore entirely qualified to represent the family of
Adam. Christ--loving from everlasting to everlasting, with love knowing no
origin--no end--no intermission--no degrees--with love always unchangeably
the same--perfect--pure--intense--enduring. Christ--hanging on the accursed
tree--laying down His life a sufficient ransom-price--by His blood closing
the gates of hell--quenching God's fiery wrath--paying all
demands--satisfying every claim--glorifying every attribute--washing out
each crimson-stain of all His ransomed flock. Christ--gloriously fulfilling
every iota of the glorious Law--saying to each command, 'I fully have
obeyed'; and then transferring the vicarious obedience, as divine
righteousness, to His bride the Church--her robe for heaven--her luster in
the courts above.
Christ--purchasing the Holy Spirit, and sending Him to
bless the Church with all His powers to teach--to sanctify--to comfort--to
adorn--to beautify. Christ--rising from the grave, a proof, that God is
satisfied--and all redemption fully earned--a pledge, that the ransomed in
their turn shall put on the beauties of a resurrection body, worthy of a
resurrection-state. Christ--ascending to the right hand of the majesty on
high, representing all His people in Himself--bearing their names upon His
shoulders and His heart--receiving all gifts for them--pouring down all
blessings on them. Christ--coming to institute a glorious reign--to change
the living--to raise the dead--to execute eternal judgment--to fill all
heaven with glory--to awaken the eternal song of never-ending hallelujahs.
O my soul, what a flood of tidings of great joy! Spring
forth to welcome them. Stretch forth your arms to clasp them. The Law frowns
condemnation. The Gospel thus smiles salvation. The wrath is gone.
Destruction's billows are no more seen. Dismiss all fears. Annihilate your
shivering doubts. Tremble no more. Open the gates of liberty. Go forth, as
Noah, upon the renovated earth. Walk up and down in the green pastures of
delight. See all around you verdant and redolent of peace. Enjoy. Give
thanks. Lift up the voice. Sing praises. All things are yours--the
world--things present--things to come--all are yours--and you are
Christ's--and Christ is God's. 1 Cor. 3:21-23.
Following the Gospel-voice, we dwell as lords of a wide
universe of peace. We lie down in green pastures--we feed beside still
waters. The hand of love makes full provision. Goodness and mercy follow our
steps, as the attending shadow. This Gospel flies from heaven, assuring us,
that God, even our own God, shall bless us. Thus, like Noah's dove, it calls
us forth to liberty and joy. All glory to the Gospel of free grace! All
glory to the Gospel of eternal life!
But mark again the Raven. We may learn much from
its departing flight. Without unduly giving wings to imagination, we
may here trace silly worldlings in their silly ways. To such, the
Gospel-ark is not a welcome home. Its holy boundaries are uncongenial. They
flee its pious inhabitants. They shun its righteous shelter. The easy yoke
galls, as an enfettering chain. The light burden is as a heavy bondage. They
give the wing to their unbridled passions. They are carried away by wild
desires--and craving appetites--and raging lusts. Their feet speed hastily
from spots, where Christ is the one testimony--where God is lovingly
adored--where eternity in vivid colors is brought near.
O my soul, take warning. Make the Gospel-ark your
constant dwelling-place--your much-loved home--your safe retreat--your
all-protecting shelter. Dwell in Christ, and Christ in you. Abide in Him,
and He in you. Nestle sweetly--rest securely--in the screening refuge of His
wounds. Stray not away from Him.
There is a beacon, also, in the Raven's restlessness.
It wanders to and fro, and never settles. Worldlings wandering from Christ
find no repose. Tossed up and down, they lead a weary life. Hurried here and
there, they are strangers to all peace. Some vain allurement offers rest.
They seek it only to take early flight. Another spot invites. It promises
much, and disappoints the more. Behold the fretting waters of the troubled
sea. They represent the constant motion of the unfixed mind. Thus always
craving--never satisfied--the weary votaries of earth drag out their uncalm
O my soul, have you found Christ? The true believer
sweetly sings, "I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His
fruit was sweet to my taste." Song 2:3. Shall God say of Zion, "This
is my rest forever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it?" Ps. 132:14.
And will not you respond, Christ is indeed my rest forever? Nothing
shall tempt me from my home of joy.
The Raven's food erects another beacon. What
nourishment could it find in the drowned waste? What, but the putrid
remnants of the floating carcases? Thus worldlings starve their souls amid
the husks and carrion of their pleasures! Their maxims are false, and
therefore poisonous. No wholesome nutriment is there. Their cup of joy at
best is flavorlessness. Contrast the banquet-house of faith. The WORD
luxuriantly contains supplies to cheer--to strengthen--to refresh. The
PROMISES, what animating cordials. The truths of the CROSS, what a
well-stored table! Jesus is the bread of life. The soul partakes and lives.
The prospect of the HEAVENLY REST, what a rich feast! "Eat, O
friends--drink, yes drink abundantly, O beloved." The LOVE OF CHRIST, how
invigorating! "Your love is better than wine."
Reader! be always a guest at this table, and "eat that
which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."
If any worldling should peruse this page, may his eye
turn not again to that poor cheat, the world. May it look to Christ, and
never look away! He is sure rest. He is safe refuge. He is a treasury of
all delights. He satisfies, until the full soul can hold no more.