BY REV. W. J. TOWNSEND, D.D.
Enoch was the bright particular star of the patriarchal epoch. His record is short, but eloquent. It is crowded into a few words, but every word, when placed under examination, expands indefinitely. Every virtue may be read into them; every eulogium possible to a human character shines from them. He was a devout man, a fearless preacher of righteousness, an intimate friend of God, and the only man of his dispensation who did not see death. He sheds a lustre on the antediluvian age, and he shines still as an example to all generations of steady and lofty piety.
It is difficult to realise the exact environment of the early patriarchs. Human society was then in its making. There were giants in those days, both physically and intellectually. They lived long, and unfolded a vigorous manhood, by which civilisation was developed in every direction. Some of them, also, were tenderly responsive to supernatural influences, and thus rose to a spiritual stature which enables them to bulk largely in sacred history.
The guiding lines of Enoch's biography are clear though few. |He walked with God|; |he pleased God|; |he was translated that he should not see death.| These are the pregnant remnants of his history, from which we may construct a character and career of striking eminence.
|He walked with God.|
Therefore he knew God. The articles of his creed were not many, but he was fixed on this foundation-truth of all religion. Further than this, he knew God as taking a living interest in His creatures, as one who could be approached by them in prayer and communion, and who was sympathetically responsive to their needs. He somehow knew God, also, as being righteous and holy, and he must have had a rudimentary idea of the Christ, as it unfolded itself in the great promise of a deliverer from evil made to our first parents in Paradise. However scanty in number were the articles of his creed, they were not scanty in results. They produced a great life and a great name. The results were that |he walked with God.| Walking is the habitual exercise of a man's life. A man runs sometimes. Under great strain, or the demand of special circumstances, he runs, but finds that exhaustion follows; or if he runs too frequently, total collapse is the inevitable consequence. Two of the most eminent ministers of our times recently died owing to overstrain and over-exertion. But we have some now living who have done signal service for the Church during a ministry of fifty years, and who are still hale and having a green old age. To walk at a steady pace, fulfilling life's responsibilities and the demands of duty, is to fulfil the will of God and serve our generation. This rule refers to man's religious and spiritual life. To walk onward and upward in the highest things is to grow in excellence and grace.
As man is a social being, he must walk with someone in life. Perpetual solitude dries up the springs of existence, and true manhood is shrivelled up. Solitary confinement is the saddest and cruellest punishment that can be inflicted by man on his fellow. The prisoner in the Bastille, when his reason reeled through prolonged silence and loneliness, was saved from mental collapse by the friendship of a rat; and a similar story is told of an English prisoner, who, under similar circumstances, found solace in the company of a pigeon. Man craves for fellowship and friendship. Happiest is he who has the noblest companion. God alone fills the deep craving of the heart for a congenial and helpful presence, and Enoch |walked with God.| The words imply regular, unbroken, well-sustained communion with Him. With a sublime and lofty aspiration Enoch had risen above shadows, idols, and pretences, and with simple, manly faith had grasped the unseen substance and reality, the personal God, the Father of us all.
This |walking with God| may be fairly inferred to have been carried out in all the affairs of life. The statement has no exceptions in it. Other saints have their failings and sins recorded with an admirable candour, but we are left to conclude that this was a saint of pure life and character. In tending his flocks and herds, in carrying out the barter of the markets in the early world, in commanding his children and ordering his household, in preaching righteousness and foretelling judgment, the great law of his life was here, |walking with God.|
When such unbroken intercourse with God is maintained, all duty and labour have a new meaning, and are suffused with a new glory. Every occupation or profession becomes a transparency by which divine truth and purity are translated to the world. No man is then a menial or a slave, but a free man, living in love and by love. He becomes an evangel, who, by words of holiness and deeds of sacrifice, adorns the doctrine of God and Christ in all things. Nothing is common, nothing is unclean; all life is sanctified and beautiful; the man is a temple consecrated by and for God alone.
In such habitual fellowship there is constant growth in familiarity and intimacy. God becomes known more and more in the tenderness and considerateness of His love. He unfolds Himself to the soul of His friend in such love-compelling charm as that the believer is constrained to ever-growing reverence, gratitude, and devotion. The man is transfigured. His thoughts, motives, desires, actions, are all inspired by the Divine Mind and framed after a Divine Pattern. The limitations of human nature are relaxed, and the man expands into newness of life; he soars into heavenly places; he is charged with holy influences. |The trivial round, the common task,| become media to him, by which he can interpret and make known to all, the beauty of holiness as revealed to him by communion with God.
It is a significant fact in the history of Enoch, that his piety shone brightest amid family surroundings. He was not an ascetic or an anchorite. He was a husband and a father. It is said that he |walked with God after the birth of Methusaleh.| With what measure of fervour he served God before the coming of a child into his house, we are not told; but we are told that after that event |he walked with God three hundred years.| Possibly he had not manifested special piety before. His children gathered round him, for we are told that after Methusaleh, he had |sons and daughters.| But the blessing of children in no wise slackened his course of piety. Not infrequently, family cares and business responsibilities draw men's thoughts and desires from God; and many who in youth were ardent in religious exercises and unfailing in spiritual duties, in middle life and old age are found to be merely formalists in worship, and paralysed for useful work in the Church. The fine gold has become dim, through the fretting cares or the surging excitements of life. It is awful when such is the case, when the promise and interest of youth settles into impotence and rigidity, when the type which once had the die of thought fresh upon it is worn flat by overuse, or when the shell, once the home of life and bright with ocean's spray, lies with faded colour and emptied hollowness. This is melancholy, indeed, and many such wrecks of religious life are around us. But with Enoch, the increase of life's cares brought an access of fresh devotion. New gifts of Providence roused new feelings of gratitude, and he grappled himself the closer in attachment to the Giver of enlarged blessing. This is as it should be. Every gift of God should be a call to renewed praise and prayer, to a more perfect and joyous service.
This record of Enoch's piety teaches that the highest spirituality of nature is not found in avoiding the duties and cares of life, or in seeking a cloistered and solitary existence. The piety of monkery is not the crown of living. It is neither an experience of healthy joy nor of abundant fruitfulness. The healthful influences of Christianity are immeasurably more beautiful when manifested in the joys of family and home life, or in the discharge of honest trade and commerce, than in the introspective gloom of the recluse, or the ceremonial round of the ascetic. It is remarkable that the record states that Enoch's walk with God lasted |three hundred years after the birth of Methusaleh.| There was no break in his spiritual course; it was continuous growth and progress until the light of eventide deepened into the glory of heaven.
|He pleased God.|
This is to win the highest prize of life. Not only because God is highest and noblest of beings, but also because His pleasure presupposes great moral and spiritual qualities, and unfolds itself in blessings of untold preciousness both in this life and that which is to come. The pleasure of the Lord is graduated to the intrinsic beauty or value possessed by the object which draws it out. It was manifested when the great creation stood in finished order before Him, and He pronounced it |only good.| But of a higher kind is that pleasure said to be taken by Him in His only-begotten Son, in His people, and in His Church. Over these He rejoices with singing, as He rests in His love. Of such pleasure Enoch was the recipient, and it was bestowed upon him in a most signal and unique manner. Two especial qualities are indispensable to those with whom God is pleased. One is faith -- |Without faith it is impossible to please God| (Heb. xi.6). The other is uprightness -- |I know also, my God, that Thou hast pleasure in uprightness| (1 Chron. xxix.17). The former grace is the superlative and distinguishing feature of the people of God. It is indeed the foundation quality on which all others rest, and from which they spring. It is the broad separating act which marks the difference between the saint and the sinner. Without it man is in opposition to God. The Divine displeasure rests upon him, because absence of faith means want of confidence and want of sympathy. The unbeliever distrusts God, and has no fellow-feeling with Him or His ways.
There is no more offensive feeling that can be shown by one being towards another than distrust. It irritates our sensibility; it arrays in opposition all the resentment of our nature. It is the parent of gloom, dissatisfaction, pessimism, and rebellion. It writes discontent on the brow, and bitterness on the heart. It is the fruitful parent of all ill in human nature. But faith pleases God. It draws the human and Divine into loving association. It leads the human to look to the Divine for counsel, to lean upon Him for help, to refer all things to His decision, to wait on Him for guidance in every step and enterprise in life. The faith of the patriarchs seems to have been characterised by entire simplicity and childlikeness. As manifested by Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, all of whom had the pleasure of the Lord resting on them in a pre-eminent degree, there was no stumbling or hesitancy. Some of them had their faith severely tried, but it came forth from the test victorious, as |gold tried in the fire.| Therefore, if the command of God was hard, faith led to obedience; if the mystery of life was deep, faith drew them close to the Father; if the sense of sin and guilt was strong, faith never failed, but led them to look for the promised Redeemer, and they rejoiced to see His day and were glad.
Faith is said to be difficult to exercise in this day of bustle, excitement, and pressure. The differences between this day and Enoch's day are merely accidental and not essential. There were the same inducements and temptations to evil then as now. There were scoffers and cavillers then as now. The doubting spirit in our first parents and in Cain was felt in all; but there was also the strong and manly faith which resisted the sin of doubt, which looked from the seen to the unseen, from the temporal to the eternal, from sin and folly to God, and which established itself firmly on His promise of unchangeable love. Therefore Enoch |pleased God.| Faith presupposes reverence, love, obedience, and man never pays a higher tribute to another than to trust him implicitly and for all in all. Such faith God accepts and delights in. Such faith builds a noble character and a lofty life.
|He was translated that he should not see death.|
That was the crowning evidence and token of the Divine pleasure. Death is the wages of sin, the harbinger of retribution, the seal of man's humiliation and defeat. The fear of death is a bondage under which the race of man lies, save only where Christian faith and hope alleviate the terror and inspire a superhuman courage before which all fear is banished. The extraordinary nature of Enoch's piety could not be demonstrated by any fact so imperative as this, |He was translated.|
There are three complete men in heaven. Man is threefold in his nature. He is body, soul, and spirit. He is not complete without his bodily organisation. The work of faith is not perfect, nor is the work of sin undone until at the Resurrection trump man shall stand complete in his threefold being. But of that completeness there are three specimens in heaven; Enoch from the patriarchal epoch; Elijah from the Jewish dispensation; and Christ from the Christian. The translation of Elijah was a marvellously dramatic episode. It was witnessed by Elisha and the sons of the prophets -- and a heavenly equipage, lambent with supernal glow, carried him in triumph out of sight. But as to Enoch there was no such scenic display. |He was not found, for God took him.| It was a quiet but beautifully fitting end. Moonlight rising into sunlight, the sweet calm light of a starlit sky becoming flushed with the auroral tints of a brilliant morning.
Translation means promotion, and also expansion.
It is promotion in honour, in office, in privilege. The bishop is translated from Rochester to Winchester and thence to Canterbury, because he has pleased his party and his sovereign. It is a sign that he has won promotion by devoted service. Christ says to his follower, |Occupy till I come|; and after a due period of labour well discharged, he says, |Come up higher.| The rule of the Divine Kingdom is, |faithful in that which is least,| then, |ruler over that which is much.| Translation to Enoch meant the elevation to higher duties and enjoyments without the wearing agonies of disease, the sharpness of death, or the darkness of the grave.
It meant also expansion. In the passing from a lower to a higher condition, we cannot now realise the quick change which would pass over the material framework of the patriarch, but that it would be etherialised so as to be |a heavenly body| marvellously endowed with new powers of sense, of insight and locomotion, fit to be the instrument of a soul fully redeemed from the consequences of sin, we cannot doubt; and for thousands of generations has that soul sunned itself in the brightest fellowships and employments of the highest heaven.