7. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
7. Fide Noe, divinitus admonitus de iis quae nondum videbantur, veritus apparavit arcam in salutem domus suae; per quam condemnavit mundum, et ejus (quae secundum fidem est) justitiae factus est haeres.
7. By faith Noah, etc. It was a wonderful example of magnanimity, that when the whole world were promising themselves impunity, and securely and unrestrainedly indulging themselves in sinful pleasures, Noah alone paid regard to Gods vengeance though deferred for a considerable time, -- that he greatly wearied himself for a hundred and twenty years in building the ark, -- that he stood unshaken amidst the scoffs of so many ungodly men, -- that he entertained no doubt but that he would be safe in the midst of the ruin of the whole world, -- yea, that he felt sure of life as it were in the grave, even in the ark. It is briefly that I shall touch on the subject; each one can better for himself weigh all the circumstances.
The Apostle ascribes to faith the praise of so remarkable a fortitude. He has been hitherto speaking of the fathers who lived in the first age of the world; but it was a kind of regeneration when Noah and his family emerged from the deluge. It is hence evident that in all ages men have neither been approved by God, nor performed anything worthy of praise otherwise than by faith.
Let us now then see what are the things he presents to our consideration in the case of Noah. They are the following, -- that having been warned of things to come, but not yet made visible, he feared, -- that he built an ark, -- that he condemned the world by building it, -- and that he became the heir of that righteousness which is faith.
What I have just mentioned is that which especially sets forth the power of faith; for the Apostle ever reminds us of this truth, that faith is the evidence of things not seen; and doubtless it is its peculiar office to behold in God's word the things which are hid, and far removed from our senses. When it was declared to Noah that there would be a deluge after one hundred and twenty years, first, the length of time might have removed every fear; secondly, the thing in itself seemed incredible; thirdly, he saw the ungodly heedlessly indulging in sinful pleasures; and lastly, the terrible announcement of a deluge might have appeared to him as intended only to terrify men. But Noah attended so much to God's word, that turning away his eyes from the appearance of things at that time, he feared the destruction which God had threatened, as though it was present. Hence the faith which he had in God's word prepared him to render obedience to God; and of this he afterwards gave a proof by building the ark.
But here a question is raised. Why does the Apostle make faith the cause of fear, since it has respect to promises of grace rather than to threatening? For Paul for this reason calls the Gospel, in which God's righteousness is offered to us for salvation, the word of faith. It seems then to have been improperly stated, that Noah was by faith led to fear. To this, I reply, that faith indeed properly springs from promises; it is founded on them, it rests on them. We hence say that Christ is the real object of faith, for through him our heavenly Father is reconciled to us, and by him all the promises of salvation are sealed and confirmed. Yet there is no reason why faith should not look to God and reverently receive whatever he may say; or if you prefer another way of stating the subject, it rightly belongs to faith to hear God whenever he speaks, and unhesitatingly to embrace whatsoever may proceed from his sacred mouth. Thus far it has regard to commands and threatening, as well as to gratuitous promises. But as no man is moved as he ought and as much as is needful, to obey God's commands, nor is sufficiently stirred up to deprecate his wrath, unless he has already laid hold on the promises of grace, so as to acknowledge him as a kind Father, and the author of salvation, -- hence the Gospel is called the word of faith, the principal part being stated for the whole; and thus is set forth the mutual relation that there is between them both. Faith, then, though its most direct regard is to God's promises, yet looks on his threatening so far as it is necessary for it to be taught to fear and obey God.
Prepared an ark, etc. Here is pointed out that obedience which flows from faith as water from a fountain. The work of building the ark was long and laborious. It might have been haltered by the scoffs of the ungodly, and thus suspended a thousand times; nor is there a doubt but they mocked and derided the holy man on every side. That he then bore their wanton insults with an unshaken spirit, is a proof that his resolution to obey was not of an ordinary kind. But how was it that he so perseveringly obeyed God except that he had previously rested on the promise which gave him the hope of deliverance; and in this confidence he persevered even to the last; for he could not have had the courage willingly to undergo so many toils, nor could he have been able to overcome so many obstacles, nor could he have stood so firm in his purpose for so long a time, had he not beforehand possessed this confidence.
It hence appears that faith alone is the teacher of obedience; and we may on the contrary draw this conclusion, that it is unbelief that prevents us to obey God. And at this day the unbelief of the world exhibits itself dreadfully in this way, for there are a very few who obey God.
By the which he condemned the world, etc. It were strange to say that Noah's deliverance condemned the world, and the context will hardly allow faith to be meant; we must then understand this of the ark. And he is said on two accounts to have by the ark condemned the world; for by being so long occupied in building it, he took away every excuse from the wicked; -- and the event which followed proved how just was the destruction of the world; for why was the ark made the means of deliverance to one family, except that the Lord thus spared a righteous man that he should not perish with the ungodly. Had he then not been preserved, the condemnation of the world would not have been so apparent. Noah then by obeying God's command condemned by his example the obstinate disobedience of the world: his wonderful deliverance from the midst of death, was an evidence that the world justly perished; for God would have doubtless saved it, had it not been unworthy of salvation
Of the righteousness which is by faith. This is the last thing in the character of Noah, which the Apostle reminds us to observe. Moses records that he was a righteous man: history does not expressly say that the cause and root of his righteousness was faith, but the Apostle declares that as arising from the facts of the case. And this is not only true, because no one ever devotes himself really and sincerely to God's service, but he who relies on the promises of his paternal kindness, and feels assured that his life is approved by him; but also on this account, because the life of no one, however holy it may be, when tried by the rule of God's law, can please him without pardon being granted. Then righteousness must necessarily recumb on faith.