“And the LORD said unto Noah, Come you and all your house into the ark, for you have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.”
GOD keeps His eyes upon the sons of men and He searches among them for certain individuals upon whom He delights to fix His gaze. These are not the kings and princes. These are not the men of talent or of fashion. These are not the men who are regarded by their fellows as famous. When God speaks of having seen Noah, He speaks of having seen one of the kind of men for whom He was looking, namely, a righteous man. There is not a righteous man upon the earth whom God does not see. He may be in a very obscure position, his circumstances may be those of poverty, he may be anything but famous. But as long as he is righteous, God delights to look upon him. He looks upon him so as to take care of him so that if destruction is to come upon the face of the earth, an ark is to be prepared for the preservation of righteous Noah and his family. “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry.” Whoever else He does not see, He is sure to see the righteous! But “the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”
Now, what God delights to look upon, we should delight to look upon, so we will fix our mind’s eye upon the righteous man mentioned in our text and notice, first, the eminence of Noah’s character. whereinthat eminence consisted. .
- So, first, we are to notice THE EMINENCE OF NOAH’S CHARACTER. He was a righteous man in the sight of the Lord. The Lord said unto Noah…“you have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.”
Noah was a gracious man, one to whom the Lord had shown great favor for He had put Divine Grace in his heart and had given him faith, for it was by faith that Noah “prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” The Grace of God was within him and became the source and wellspring from which flowed the righteousness for which he was so remarkable. Divine Grace is the root of every righteous character, so let Grace have the honor and glory of it!
In the Chapter preceding our text, we are told that “ Noah was a just man.” It is especially noticeable that in an ageof violence and oppression, Noah was a just man. He was no oppressor. He dealt justly and fairly with his fellow men. Noah was also “perfect in his generations.” The marginal reading is that he was “upright.” He was not one who leaned this way for advantage, or who leaned that way for gain. He stood upright in conscious integrity before his fellows. Acting in accordance with the Grace of God which was in his heart, he had learned to do that which was just towards others. He was also a devout man, for we read that “Noah walked with God.” Like his ancestor, Enoch, he lived in communion with God, in prayerfulness and pious meditation–and his life before his fellow men was in consistency with that walk before God.
It is especially mentioned that
Noah was righteous in that generation, and this is the more remarkable as that gener
ation was so unrighteous and ungodly! The darker the night, the more brightly shine the stars–and good men are never more precious than in evil times! There are plenty to go the way the stream is running. When godliness is in the ascendant, and the Puritans rule the realm, they are Puritans, too, but when ungodliness comes to the front and the Cavalier holds the scepter, they scoff at everything that is good! Like dead fish, they must go with the stream–they have not the power of the living fish to swim against the current. They go the way their neighbors go. But Noah was a righteous man in an unrighteous generation. It may be that you, dear Friend, are seeking to serve the Lord among most ungodly men. Well, if it is so, be all the firmer for the right because of all the wrong that is around you! Remember how much honor it brings to the Grace of God when it produces a righteous Noah in the midst of an evil generation. You, working man, are the only one on your street who comes to the House of God–well, mind that you come boldly–be not ashamed of being different! And when, in your workshop, you hear the cursing and reviling of the wicked, let them know whose colors you wear and who is your King. But be careful that your life is so consistent that they cannot pick holes in it–and then you need not mind being a speckled bird among them, as Noah was in his generation!
What makes the character of Noah all the more remarkable is the fact that he was almost alone as a righteous man.The Lord said to him, “You have I seen righteous before Me in this generation,” as though he was the only righteous one in that generation! When the flood came, his ancestors had all passed away and the members of his own family were not all that they ought to have been. He practically had to stand alone and standing alone is not easy work. You know how we are all helped by the company of godly people, how good it is for us to be where the Word is preached with power, or where we can listen to the gracious talk of Christians who are more advanced in Divine things than we are. But to stand quite alone–to be the one white man amid a nation of aborigines, to be the one traveler in a land which all the inhabitants are your foes, to be in a community where there is no one to help you–it is only the Grace of God that can make a man of this sort and enable him to say, “If the world, itself, is to be destroyed, one honest man shall be found upon its surface. The Grace of God has so settled me in the fear of the Most High that whatever others may do, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
But the special point about Noah’s character is that we are not only told that he was righteous, but that he was righteous before God. The Lord said to him, “You have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.” As I have turned that expression over in my mind, I have thought of the various tribunals before which we all have to stand. And as I try to take you, in imagination, before them, one after another, I wonder how many of you will be able to pass them all and to endure the supreme test so that, like Noah, you may be righteous before God?
First of all, there is the common tribunal of ordinary society and public repute. I hope that without any conceit, the most of us can say that we believe we are reckoned as righteous by our fellow men. They trust us in business matters, they do not suspect us of dishonesty. We hope we have not given them occasion to do so. Yet, in so large an assembly as this, there may be some who dare not say that even in the opinion of their fellow men, they are righteous. And if it is so, my dear Hearers–if you are justly condemned by your fellow creatures–how can you expect to stand before the tribunal of God? If you cannot dispute the justice of man’s verdict, you may well tremble at the thought of appearing before the bar of God! You are evidently unrighteous but oh, thank God that there is a Savior for the unrighteous, “for when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” That last word describes you–you know that you could not stand without a degree of shame before those who are acquainted with your character. Well then, fall down upon your knees before God–tell Him that you are sinners, but also quote Paul’s faithful saying that, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Do not be afraid to do so! Christ did not come to save sham sinners, but real sinners such as you are! Go to God in all your sinfulness, without first attempting to make yourselves better, and cast yourselves upon His Infinite Mercy in Christ Jesus!
There is another tribunal a little further on. A man may have a pretty good character among his fellow men who do not know him intimately, but how does he stand in the opinion of his more immediate friends? Those who know us well, those with whom we constantly trade, those whom we meet in our daily work–our employers, our servants, our fellow workers–what do they think of us? If any of them think badly of you because you try to do what you believe to be right, you need not mind that, but rather rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake! But, on the other hand, if friends who judge you as favorably as they can are obliged to regard you as far from upright, how will you stand before the all-seeing eyes of God? Let the painful fact that you do not stand well before those who know you drive you to humble yourself before the Lord and to seek pardon and peace through Jesus Christ, the sinner’s Savior!
Suppose we have been able to pass these two barriers of public repute and our more immediate acquaintance? How do we stand in the inner circle at home? Occasionally, when I have spoken well of some young man or woman, I have been grieved to hear the parent stay, “I wish, Sir, your judgment had been correct. My son (or daughter) may behave very well before strangers, but it is very different at home.” Sometimes I have thought a good deal of certain men whom I have met here but I have afterwards discovered that they had broken-hearted wives whom they had not treated with the love and kindness they ought to have shown towards them. And I have also known professing Christian women who have not sturacter in the Church, and a reputation for sanctity there, what is the verdict of those who know more about our private life? What is the verdict of the servant concerning his master? What is the judgment of the wife concerning her husband? What does the parent or the brother or sister say? I solemnly fear that there are many professors of religion who cannot pass this test–and I am deeply sorry when this is the case–for if there is any place where Christianity should be best seen, it is in the home circle! Rowland Hill used to say that he would not give a penny for the religion of the man whose cat and dog were not the better for it. And there is much good sense in that homely remark. I do not know anyone here whom this cap will fit, but if there is such a person, I hope he will put it on and wear it. This is the sum and substance of the matter–if our character cannot endure the scrutiny of those who are around us in our home, how can we hope to stand at the bar of God when all that we have done shall be published before the assembled universe?
Supposing that we can satisfactorily pass that ordeal, how do we stand before our enemies? “Before our enemies?” asks someone. Yes, for you remember what was said by the jealous presidents and princes of Babylon concerning Daniel, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the Law of his God.” He was such a godly man that they could not find a flaw in his character however closely they examined him. There he stood fully clad in the armor of righteousness and before they could lay hold of him, they had to get their king to make a new law ordaining that any man who would pray should be cast into the den of lions. Look, too, at our Lord Jesus Christ when He was accused by His enemies–they brought various charges against Him, but they could not substantiate them. And even when they bribed two witnesses to give evidence against Him, even they did not agree with one another as towhat He had said! His life had been so perfect that there was nothing that could be truthfully laid to His charge. “Ah,” says one, “that is a test, to live so that even our enemies cannot truthfully find any fault in us.” It is no dishonor to a manto be wrongfully accused–it is rather a mark of honor to have bad men plotting against him–but it is a subject for gratitude to God when one can run the gauntlet of our enemies and remain unabashed before their cruel, wolfish eyes! They are always on the watch for anything wrong or inconsistent with a Christian profession. “Well,” says one, “that is a test that I could not pass.” If so, dear Friend, remember this–there is no enemy whose eyes are as clear and as keen as those of God! Even the great archenemy could not detect a thousandth part of the imperfections and infirmities that lie open before the Most High! How important it must be, then, to be found righteous before God!
Then, further, I wonder whether all of us who profess to be Christians could pass the test of being adjudged righteous before our own conscience. I do not mean that we should be self-righteous–God forbid that we should ever be that! But I mean that we should have so lived that our own conscience would declare that we had not been hypocrites, nor liars, nor deceivers, but that, through the Lord’s upholding and restraining Grace, we had been true to our profession and had done that which we sincerely believed to be right. You remember how the Apostle John, taught of the Spirit, writes concerning this matter–“If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart condemns us not, then have we confidence toward God.” [See Sermons #1855, Volume 31–WHAT IS THE VERDICT? and #3152, Volume 55–THE LOWER COURTS–Read/download both sermons, free of charge, at http://www.spurgeongems.org.] Can we, all of us, pass thistest? Happy and blessed are we if we can! But even then, we must remind ourselves and one another that there is a still sterner test which Noah was able to pass, for he was righteous before the Lord.
II. This brings us to the second part of our subject, in which we are to try to find out WHEREIN THE EMINENCE OF NOAH’S CHARACTER CONSISTED. He was distinguished for his righteousness before God, for the Lord expressly said to him, “You have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.”
So the eminence of Noah’s character consisted in this–his righteousness must have answered to the Divine standard.God would not have called Noah righteous if he had not been righteous–and we cannot suppose that God’s standard is anything short of perfection. Then did Noah live a perfect life? No, speaking popularly, and as the Scripture often speaks, we may say that Noah’s character was a righteous one. There must have been flaws in it and, certainly, after this time, there was one great sad flaw of which it is not now necessary to speak more particularly–still, God regarded him as righteous–and that must settle the question as far as we are concerned.
Noah had the righteousness which is of faith, and that faith of his enabled him to look forward to Christ’s Atonement. Do you ask how I know this? Well, when he came out of the ark, he “built an altar unto the Lord, and took of every clean beast, and of every clear fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” Those sacrifices were acceptable unto the Lord, for He “smelled a sweet savor”–“a savor of rest”–in them, and they were among the many types of the one great Sacrifice that was afterwards to be offered upon Calvary’s Cross. It was in this way that Noah’s faith enabled him to look forward to Christ as the sin-atoning Lamb of God. And his faith, like that of Abraham, “was counted unto him for righteousness.” God looked upon him, in Christ, as a perfectly righteous man–and his righteous life was the experiment and outflow of the inward righteousness which God had imputed to him in answer to his faith. He was righteous before God, and no man was ever that in his own naked character! Job’s friend, Bildad, said concerning God, “The stars are not pure in His sight. How much less man, that is a worm? And the son of man, which is a worm?”
I have set forth the character of Noah before you and commended it to the utmost. Yet I know that in the sight of God, the Patriarch’s character was not, in itself, perfect. There must have been innumerable imperfections, infirmities, and faults which God’s Omniscient eyes could see in it. How, then, could he be said to be righteous before God? Why, God looked at him in Christ! He became heir of the righteousness which is by faith, or, as Paul puts it, he was “accepted in the Beloved.” Then, in consequence of that acceptance, he was “righteous” in the modified sense in which all the Lord’s people are righteous when the Grace of God has taught them to walk uprightly and so made them, at least in a measure, like their righteous Father who is in Heaven!
But let me add to this, in order to clear the Gospel of anything like legal defilement, that the eminence of Noah’s character appears in the fact that
he was righteous before God, that is to say, his righteousness had respect to God. When
he dealt with his neighbors, he did not say to himself, “Now I must deal righteously with these men, or I shall lose my reputation as an honest, upright man.” Oh, no! He dealt righteously with men because he desired to be righteous before God. He did not ask himself, “What will my neighbors think or say concerning the building of the ark?” His great concern was to be obedient to the commands that the Lord had given him and, therefore, we read again and again, “according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” He fashioned his life by the will of God, not by the will of his fellow men, nor by his own will and, Beloved, this is the way for us to be righteous before God, when He brings us, by His Grace, to desire to live according to His will and to His praise and glory! I fear that many professors go blundering on, not stopping to pray, “Lord, show us what You will have us do.” Noah did not act thus–he was righteous before God, righteous with respect to God, righteous in God’s sight!
I would like to have, in this Tabernacle, a band of men and women who will be just and fear not. Who will do the right even though all others are opposed to them, or though no one else shall know anything about it. Are any of you seeking to please men by your religion? If so, such religion is of little or no worth. Be not the servants of men, but the servants of God! Take your orders from Him and from Him alone. Do not shape your course and character according to the fashion of society. If you are truly born of God, you belong to a noble race which should never stoop to such degradation as that, so be righteous before the Lord! You have already had the righteousness of Christ imputed to you, so may the Spirit of God impart that righteousness to you that you may live unto God, and before God, fearless and careless of what men may say against you so long as you are right in the sight of the Most High! May the Lord graciously give us such a righteousness as this! And, Beloved, we must have it, we must have it, for without holiness shall no man see the Lord! Our own righteousness can never save us–we must have the righteousness of Christ!
But remember that we must be purified in heart, character and conduct, or else, where God is we cannot go. How searching will be that test which we shall have to endure at the last! When we are judged by our fellow man, they may be deceived–but when we shall be judged by God, He will never be deceived. Men may accept fair words as signs and tokens of Divine Grace, but God will not so much regard our words as read our hearts! If men hear us pray, they say, “What good men they must be.” Yet God knows what hypocrisy may be lurking behind those pretty sentences! Men judge us by our actions, but God can read the motives that prompted us to those actions. You know how righteous men have appeared to be in the eyes of their fellow men, yet they have proved to be false after all. God grant that none of us may ever be like that, but may we have a character that will bear holding up to the Light of God, a character concerning which, when the eyes of God examine it, He will say, “Here is truth in the inward parts. My Spirit has worked truth and integrity within this heart and life–this man is weighed in the balances, and is not found wanting.” I am speaking these solemn words to myself, to the deacons and elders around me, and to you who have long professed to be Christians–not to you outsiders, but to the very best people here. None of us are any better than we ought to be and I cannot help fearing that some of us are not what we seem to be. Do not let us imagine that what we seem to be in the sight of our fellow creatures will have any weight in the judgment of God! We may be reckoned righteous by our neighbors and friends, but if we are not washed in the precious blood of Jesus, if we are not robed in the righteousness of Christ, if our lives have not within them the evidences of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, our friends' favorable judgment will avail us nothing when the all-seeing eyes of God beholds us as we really are! I pray with all my heart that we may, each one of us, be righteous before God even as Noah was in his generation.
III. I have no time left for dealing with the third part of my subject which was to have been THE GRACIOUS REWARD GIVEN TO NOAH BECAUSE OF THE EMINENCE OF HIS CHARACTER.
You all know that the Lord will bless the righteous forever and ever, but the great question that we all have to answer is, are we righteous? Oh, what searching sermons, what tremendous blows hypocrites will endure without showing asign of feeling anything! I usually notice that if I preach a sermon that is more than ordinarily searching, there are sure to be some tender-hearted souls crying out at the close that they are hypocrites. Dear Creatures, I wish I had no hearers more hypocritical than they are! Those who take such discourses most to heart are often those who have the least reason for doing so, while the real hypocrite is no more moved by it than is the marble in our baptistery! I might almost point him out with my finger, for he would not stir–he would be as bold and brazen as Judas was when he sat with the rest of the Apostles just before going out to betray his Lord. Oh, the dreadful presumption, the terrible hardness of heart to which men may come! Lest this should be the case with any of us, let us, each one, now pray David’s prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Let each one also pray, “Lord, let me know the truth about my case! Let me neither be self-deceived nor a deceiver of others! Let me know the worst of my case! Open my eyes even though the sight of my petition before you should be horrible to the last degree! Do not let me go down to Hell dreaming that I am going to Heaven! Let me know what I really am–and if my heart has never been broken, break it now! If I have never been washed in the precious blood of Jesus, wash me in it now! Jesus, the sinner’s Savior, I come to You this moment. I cast my arms around Your Cross, O frown me not away! Look in mercy and love upon me and tell me that my sins, which are many, are all forgiven.”
Let the most trembling soul in this whole congregation cling to the Cross, crying to Him who hung upon it–
“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Your Cross I cling.
Naked, come to You for dress.
Helpless, look to You for Grace.
Foul, I to the Fountain fly–
Wash me, Savior, or I die!”
If we cannot cling to Christ’s Cross as the sailor clings to the mast, let us cling as the limpet clings to the rock–and the more the devil tries to detach us from it, the more closely let us cling to it. Let us come either as saints or sinners, whichever we may be, to the foot of the Cross and look up at that dear head crowned with thorns and those blessed hands and feet and side so rudely pierced and, as by faith, we see the precious sin-atoning blood flowing from the Savior’s cruel wounds, let us each one sing as we have often done before–
“There is a Fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains!
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That Fountain in his day,
Oh may I there, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away!”
Then, though you have not, up to now, been righteous before God as Noah was, you shall be so for the future! The blood of Christ and the righteousness of Christ shall make you so! And then a new heart and a right spirit shall be given to you–God’s own Spirit shall be put within you and God shall be glorified in you even as He was in righteous Noah! May it be so, for His dear Son’s sake! Amen.