By Dwight L. Moody
I want to call your attention to a text that you will find in the seventh chapter of Genesis, first verse. When God speaks, you and I can afford to listen. It is not man speaking now, but it is God. "The Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark."
Perhaps some sceptic is reading this, and perhaps some church member will join with him and say,
"I hope Mr. Moody is not going to preach about the ark. I thought that was given up by all intelligent people."
But I want to say that I haven't given it up. When I do, I am going to give up the whole Bible. There is hardly any portion of the Old Testament Scripture but that the Son of God set His seal to it when He was down here in the world.
Men say, "I don't believe in the story of the flood."
Christ connected His own return to this world with that flood: "And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all."
I believe the story of the flood just as much as I do the third chapter of John. I pity any man that is picking the old Book to pieces. The moment that we give up any one of these things, we touch the deity of the Son of God. I have noticed that when a man does begin to pick the Bible to pieces, it doesn't take him long to tear it all to pieces. What is the use of being five years about what you can do in five minutes?
A Solemn Message.
One hundred and twenty years before God spake the words of my text, Noah had received the most awful communication that ever came from heaven to earth. No man up to that time, and I think no man since, has ever received such a communication. God said that on account of the wickedness of the world He was going to destroy the world by water. We can have no idea of the extent and character of that antediluvian wickedness. The Bible piles one expression on another, in its effort to emphasize it. "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at His heart. . . . The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." Men lived five hundred years and more then, and they had time to mature in their sins.
How the Message was Received.
For one hundred and twenty years God strove with those antediluvians. He never smites without warning, and they had their warning. Every time Noah drove a nail into the ark it was a warning to them. Every sound of the hammer echoed, "I believe in God." If they had repented and cried as they did at Nineveh, I believe God would have heard their cry and spared them. But there was no cry for mercy. I have no doubt but that they ridiculed the idea that God was going to destroy the world. I have no doubt but that there were atheists who said there was not any God anyhow. I got hold of one of them some time ago. I said,
"How do you account for the formation of the world?"
"Oh! force and matter work together, and by chance the world was created."
I said, "It is a singular thing that your tongue isn't on the top of your head if force and matter just threw it together in that manner."
If I should take out my watch and say that force and matter worked together, and out came the watch, you would say I was a lunatic of the first order. Wouldn't you? And yet they say that this old world was made by chance! "It threw itself together!"
I met a man in Scotland, and he took the ground that there was no God. I asked him,
"How do you account for creation, for all these rocks?" (They have a great many rocks in Scotland.)
"Why!" he said, "any school boy could account for that."
"Well, how was the first rock made?"
"Out of sand."
"How was the first sand made?"
"Out of rock."
You see he had it all arranged so nicely. Sand and rock, rock and sand. I have no doubt but that Noah had these men to contend with.
Then there was a class called agnostics, and there are a good many of their grandchildren, alive to-day. Then there was another class who said they believed there was a God; they couldn't make themselves believe that the world happened by chance; but God was too merciful to punish sin. He was so full of compassion and love that He couldn't punish sin. The drunkard, the harlot, the gambler, the murderer, the thief and the libertine would all share alike with the saints at the end. Supposing the governor of your state was so tender-hearted that he could not bear to have a man suffer, could not bear to see a man put in jail, and he should go and set all the prisoners free. How long would he be governor? You would have him out of office before the sun set. These very men that talk about God's mercy, would be the first to raise a cry against a governor who would not have a man put in prison when he had done wrong.
Then another class took the ground that God could not destroy the world anyway. They might have a great flood which would rise up to the meadowlands and lowlands, but all it would be necessary to do would be to go up on the hills and mountains. That would be a hundred times better than Noah's ark. Or if it should come to that, they could build rafts, which would be a good deal better than that ark. They had never seen such an ugly looking thing. It was about five hundred feet long, and about eighty feet wide, and fifty feet high. It had three stories, and only one small window.
And then, I suppose there was a large class who took the ground that Noah must be wrong because he was in such a minority. That is a great argument now, you know. Noah was greatly in the minority. But he went on working.
If they had saloons then, and I don't doubt but that they had, for we read that there was "violence in the land," and wherever you have alcohol you have violence. We read also that Noah planted a vineyard and fell into the sin of intemperance. He was a righteous man, and if he did that, what must the others have done? Well, if they had saloons, no doubt they sang ribald songs about Noah and his ark, and if they had theaters they likely acted it out, and mothers took their children to see it.
And if they had the press in those days, every now and then there would appear a skit about "Noah and his folly." Reporters would come and interview him, and if they had an Associated Press, every few days a dispatch would be sent out telling how the work on the ark was progressing.
And perhaps they had excursions, and offered as an inducement that people could go through the ark. And if Noah happened to be around they would nudge each other and say:
"That's Noah. Don't you think there is a strange look in his eye?"
As a Scotchman would say, they thought him a little daft. Thank God a man can afford to be mad. A mad man thinks everyone else mad but himself A drunkard does not call himself mad when he is drinking up all his means. Those men who stand and deal out death and damnation to men are not called mad; but a man is called mad when he gets into the ark, and is saved for time and eternity. And I expect if the word crank was in use, they called Noah "an old crank."
And so all manner of sport was made of Noah and his ark. And the business men went on buying and selling, while Noah went on preaching and toiling. They perhaps had some astronomers, and they were gazing up at the stars, and saying, "Don't you be concerned. There is no sign of a coming storm in the heavens. We are very wise men, and if there was a storm coming, we should read it in the heavens." And they had geologists digging away, and they said, "There is no sign in the earth." Even the carpenters who helped build the ark might have made fun of him, but they were like lots of people at the present day, who will help build a church, and perhaps give money for its support, but will never enter it themselves.
Well, things went on as usual. Little lambs skipped on the hillsides each spring. Men sought after wealth, and if they had leases, I expect they ran for longer periods than ours do. We think ninety-nine years a long time, but I don't doubt but that theirs ran for nine hundred and ninety nine years. And when they came to sign a lease they would say with a twinkle in their eyes:
"Why, this old Noah says the world is coming to an end in one hundred and twenty years, and it's twenty years since he started the story. But I guess I will sign the lease and risk it."
Someone has said that Noah must have been deaf, or he could not have stood the jeers and sneers of his countrymen. But if he was deaf to the voice of men, he heard the voice of God when He told him to build the ark.
I can imagine one hundred years have rolled away, and the work on the ark ceases. Men say, "What has he stopped work for?" He has gone on a preaching tour, to tell the people of the coming storm--that God is going to sweep every man from the face of the earth unless he is in the ark. But he cannot get a man to believe him except his own family. Some of the old men have passed away, and they died saying: "Noah is wrong." Poor Noah! He must have had a hard time of it. I don't think I should have had the grace to work for one hundred and twenty years without a convert. But he just toiled on, believing the word of God.
And now the hundred and twenty years are up. In the spring of the year Noah did not plant anything, for he knew the flood was coming, and the people say: "Every year before he has planted, but this year he thinks the world is going to be destroyed, and he hasn't planted anything."
But I can imagine one beautiful morning, not a cloud to be seen, Noah has got his communication. He has heard the voice that he heard one hundred and twenty years before--the same old voice. Perhaps there had been silence for one hundred and twenty years. But the voice rang through his soul once again, "Noah, come thou and all thy house into the ark."
The word "come" occurs about nineteen hundred times in the Bible, it is said, and this is the first time. It meant salvation. You can see Noah and all his family moving into the ark. They are bringing the household furniture.
Some of his neighbors say, "Noah, what is your hurry? you will have plenty of time to get into that old ark. What is your hurry? There are no windows and you cannot look out to see when the storm is coming." But he heard the voice and obeyed.
Some of his relatives might have said, "What are you going to do with the old homestead?"
Noah says, "I don't want it. The storm is coming." He tells them the day of grace is closing, that worldly wealth is of no value, and that the ark is the only place of safety. We must bear in mind that these railroads that we think so much of, will soon go down; they only run for time, not for eternity. The heavens will be on fire, and then what will property, honor, and position in society be worth?
The first thing that alarms them is, they rise one morning, and lo! the heavens are filled with the fowls of the air. They are flying into the ark, two by two. They come from the desert; they come from the mountain; they come from all parts of the world. They are going into the ark. It must have been a strange sight. I can hear the people cry, "Great God! what is the meaning of this?" And they look down on the earth; and, with great alarm and surprise, they see little insects creeping up two by two, coming from all parts of the world. Then behold! there come cattle and beasts, two by two. The neighbors cry out, "What does this mean?" They run to their statesmen and wise men, who have told them there was no sign of a coming storm, and ask them why it is that those birds, animals, and creeping things go toward the ark, as if guided by some unseen hand.
"Well," the statesmen and wise men say, "We cannot explain it; but give yourselves no trouble; God is not going to destroy the world. Business was never better than it is now. Do you think if God was going to destroy the world, He would let us go on so prosperously as He has? There is no sign of a coming storm. What has made these creeping insects and these wild beasts of the forest go into the ark, we do not know. We cannot understand it; it is very strange. But there is no sign of anything going to happen. The stars are bright, and the sun shines as bright as ever it did. Everything moves on as it has been moving for all time past. You can hear the children playing in the street. You can hear the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the land, and all is merry as ever."
I imagine the alarm passed away, and they fell into their regular courses. Noah comes out and says: "The door is going to be shut. Come in. God is going to destroy the world. See the animals, how they have come up. The communication has come to them direct from heaven." But the people only mocked on.
Do you know, when the hundred and twenty years were up, God gave the world seven days' grace? Did you ever notice that? If there had been a cry during those seven days, I believe it would have been heard. But there was none.
At length the last day had come, the last hour, the last minute, ay! the last second. God Almighty came down and shut the door of that ark. No angel, no man, but God Himself shut that door, and when once the master of the house has risen and shut to the door, the doom of the world is sealed; and the doom of that old world was forever sealed. The sun had gone down upon the glory of that old world for the last time. You can hear away off in the distance the mutterings of the storm. You can hear the thunder rolling. The lightning begins to flash, and the old world reels. The storm bursts upon them, and that old ark of Noah's would have been worth more than the whole world to them.
I want to say to any scoffer who reads this, that you can laugh at the Bible, you can scoff at your mother's God, you can laugh at ministers and Christians, but the hour is coming when one promise in that old Book will be worth more to you than ten thousand worlds like this.
The windows of heaven are opened and the fountains of the great deep are broken up. The waters come bubbling up, and the sea bursts its bounds and leaps over its walls. The rivers begin to swell. The people living in the lowlands flee to the mountains and highlands. They flee up the hillsides. And there is a wail going up:
"Noah! Noah! Noah! Let us in."
They leave their homes and come to the ark now. They pound on the ark. Hear them cry:
"Noah! Let us in. Noah! Have mercy on us."
"I am your nephew."
"I am your niece."
"I am your uncle."
Ah, there is a voice inside, saying: "I would like to let you in; but God has shut the door, and I cannot open it!"
God shut that door! When the door is shut, there is no hope. Their cry for mercy was too late; their day of grace was closed. Their last hour had come. God had plead with them; God had invited them to come in; but they had mocked at the invitation. They scoffed and ridiculed the idea of a deluge. Now it is too late.
God did not permit anyone to survive to tell us how they perished. When Job lost his family, there came a messenger to him: but there came no messenger from the antediluvians; not even Noah himself could see the world perish. If he could, he would have seen men and women and children dashing against that ark; the waves rising higher and higher, while those outside were perishing, dying in unbelief. Some think to escape by climbing the trees, and think the storm will soon go down; but it rains on, day and night, for forty days and forty nights, and they are swept away as the waves dash against them. The statesmen and astronomers and great men call for mercy; but it is too late. They had disobeyed the God of mercy. He had called, and they refused. He had plead with them, but they had laughed and mocked. But now the time is come for judgment instead of mercy.
The time is coming again when God will deal in judgment with the world. It is but a little while; we know not when, but it is sure to come. God's word has gone forth that this world shall be rolled together like a scroll, and shall be on fire. What then will become of your soul? It is a loving call, "Now come, thou and all thy house, into the ark." Twenty four hours before the rain began to fall, Noah's ark, if it had been sold at auction, would not have brought as much as it would be worth for kindling wood. But twenty four hours after the rain began to fall, Noah's ark was worth more than all the world. There was not then a man living but would have given all he was worth for a seat in the ark. You may turn away and laugh.
"I believe in Christ!" you say; "I would rather be without Him than have Him."
But bear in mind, the time is coming when Christ will be worth more to you than ten thousand worlds like this. Bear in mind that He is offered to you now. This is a day of grace; it is a day of mercy. You will find, if you read your Bible carefully, that God always precedes judgment with grace. Grace is a forerunner of judgment. He called these men in the days of Noah in love. They would have been saved if they had repented in those one hundred and twenty years. When Christ came to plead with the people in Jerusalem, it was their day of grace; but they mocked and laughed at Him. He said: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Forty years afterward, thousands of the people begged that their lives might be spared; and eleven hundred thousand perished in that city.
In 1857 a revival swept over this country in the east and on to the western cities, clear over to the Pacific coast. It was God calling the nation to Himself. Half a million people united with the Church at that time. Then the war broke out. We were baptized with the Holy Ghost in 1857, and in 1861 we were baptized in blood. It was a call of mercy, preceding judgment.
Are Your Children Safe?
The text which I have selected has a special application to Christian people and to parents. This command of the Scripture was given to Noah not only for his own safety, but that of his household, and the question which I put to each father and mother is this: "Are your children in the ark of God?" You may scoff at it, but it is a very important question. Are all your children in? Are all your grandchildren in? Don't rest day or night until you get your children in. I believe my children have fifty temptations where I had one. I am one of those who believe that in the great cities there is a snare set upon the corner of every street for our sons and daughters; and I don't believe it is our business to spend our time in accumulating bonds and stocks. Have I done all I can to get my children in? That is it.
Now, let me ask another question: What would have been Noah's feelings if, when God called him into the ark, his children would not have gone with him? If he had lived such a false life that his children had no faith in his word, what would have been his feelings? He would have said: "There is my poor boy on the mountain. Would to God I had died in his place! I would rather have perished than had him perish." David cried over his son: "Oh, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, would God I had died for thee!" Noah loved his children, and they had confidence in him.
Someone sent me a paper a number of years ago, containing an article that was marked. Its title was: "Are all the children in?" An old wife lay dying. She was nearly one hundred years of age, and the husband who had taken the journey with her, sat by her side. She was just breathing faintly, but suddenly she revived, opened her eyes, and said:
"Why! it is dark."
"Yes, Janet, it is dark."
"Is it night?"
"Oh, yes! it is midnight."
"Are all the children in?"
There was that old mother living life over again. Her youngest child had been in the grave twenty years, but she was traveling back into the old days, and she fell asleep in Christ asking, "Are all the children in?"
Dear friend, are they all in? Put the question to yourself now. Is John in? Is James in? Or is he immersed in business and pleasure? Is he living a double and dishonest life? Say! where is your boy, mother? Where is your son, your daughter? Is it well with your children? Can you say it is?
After being superintendent of a Sunday school in Chicago for a number of years, a school of over a thousand members, children that came from godless homes, having mothers and fathers working against me, taking the children off on excursions on Sunday, and doing all they could to break up the work I was trying to do, I used to think that if I should ever stand before an audience I would speak to no one but parents; that would be my chief business. It is an old saying--"Get the lamb, and you will get the sheep." I gave that up years ago. Give me the sheep, and then I will have someone to nurse the lamb; but get a lamb and convert him, and if he has a godless father and mother, you will have little chance with that child. What we want is godly homes. The home was established long before the Church.
I have no sympathy with the idea that our children have to grow up before they are converted. Once I saw a lady with three daughters at her side, and I stepped up to her and asked her if she was a Christian.
Then I asked the oldest daughter if she was a Christian. The chin began to quiver, and the tears came into her eyes, and she said,
"I wish I was."
The mother looked very angrily at me and said, "I don't want you to speak to my children on that subject. They don't understand." And in great rage she took them all away from me. One daughter was fourteen years old, one twelve, and the other ten, but they were not old enough to be talked to about religion. Let them drift into the world and plunge into worldly amusements, and then see how hard it is to reach them. Many a mother is mourning to-day because her boy has gone beyond her reach, and will not allow her to pray with him. She may pray for him, but he will not let her pray or talk with him. In those early days when his mind was tender and young, she might have led him to Christ. Bring them in. "Suffer the little children to come unto Me." Is there a prayerless father reading this? May God let the arrow go down into your soul! Make up your mind that, God helping you, you will get the children in. God's order is to the father first, but if he isn't true to his duty, then the mother should be true, and save the children from the wreck. Now is the time to do it while you have them under your roof. Exert your parental influence over them.
I never speak to parents but I think of two fathers, one of whom lived on the banks of the Mississippi, the other in New York. The first one devoted all his time to amassing wealth. He had a son to whom he was much attached, and one day the boy was brought home badly injured. The father was informed that the boy could live but a short time, and he broke the news to his son as gently as possible.
"You say I cannot live, father? O! then pray for my soul," said the boy.
In all those years that father had never said a prayer for that boy, and he told him he couldn't. Shortly after, the boy died. That father has said since that he would give all that he possessed if he could call that boy back only to offer one short prayer for him.
The other father had a boy who had been sick some time, and he came home one day and found his wife weeping. She said:
"I cannot help but believe that this is going to prove fatal."
The man started, and said: "If you think so, I wish you would tell him."
But the mother could not tell her boy. The father went to the sick room, and he saw that death was feeling for the cords of life, and he said:
"My son, do you know you are not going to live?"
The little fellow looked up and said: "No; is this death that I feel stealing over me? Will I die to-day?"
"Yes, my son, you cannot live the day out."
And the little fellow smiled and said: "Well, father, I shall be with Jesus tonight, shan't I?"
"Yes, you will spend the night with the Lord," and the father broke down and wept.
The little fellow saw the tears, and said: "Don't weep for me. I will go to Jesus and tell Him that ever since I can remember you have prayed for me."
I have three children, and if God should take them from me, I would rather have them take such a message home to Him than to have the wealth of the whole world. Oh! would to God I could say something to stir you, fathers and mothers, to get your children into the ark.