Sermon 517. The Rainbow
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, JUNE 28, 1863, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And the bow shall be in the cloud and I will look upon it, that I may remember the Everlasting Covenant between God and everyliving creature of all flesh that is upon the earth."
THE story of Noah's preservation in the ark is a suggestive representation of salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is, wethink, especially intended to depict that part of our salvation which lies in the washing of regeneration. In the same wayas Baptism is the outward symbol of regeneration, soalso is the ark, "wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." The ark was immersed in those dreadful rains andawful waterfalls which deluged the earth, and Noah's family were buried in that ark to all the world.
But by this burial they were floated out of the old condemned world into the new world of life and Divine Grace. Death tothe world and burial in the ark were the means of their safety. "The like figure whereunto," says the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 3:21), "even Baptism does also now save us, (not theputting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."Baptism is a most significant picture of regeneration, but it is in no sense the cause of the new birth. And the blunder ofthe Puseyites lies inconsidering the outward manifestation of an accomplished fact, as though it were the means of creating that fact.
Baptism saves no one, except, as Peter says, in figure. But as a figure, it is eminently full of Divine teaching, for it setsforth the great Truth of God that the Believer, standing today in the old world, is buried to that world, "buried with JesusChrist by Baptism into death." And his risingfrom the liquid tomb is the figure of his resurrection in Christ, into a new world, as a new man, "that like as Christ wasraised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Would to God that we thought more of being deadwith Christ, buried with Him and risen with Him. Brethren, let Noah in his ark preach the work of righteousness within theheart to all of us this morning.
Do you not think, dear Friends, that the history of Noah, when he left the ark, in all its items, may be viewed as typicaland instructive? Noah came out of the ark no longer cooped up and penned within its narrow limits. He walked abroad and thewhole world was before him where to choose. Was notthat a picture of the freedom of the Believer who has been "buried with Christ," and enjoys the possession of God's freeSpirit? For him there is no spirit of bondage, he is free as a child in his father's house. All things are his, by gift ofGod, to use and to enjoy. He haslearned the liberty wherewith Christ makes men free, and if the Son make us free, we are free, indeed.
When Noah slew the bullock and the other clean beasts and offered them upon the altar, did he not show forth the Believer'semployment? We also offer acceptable sacrifices of prayer and praise unto God, and we, ourselves, are living sacrifices untoGod. Did he not as much say to all generations ofsaints, "You being thus delivered from a death which you deserve, are to spend your lives as priests unto your God"? Whenthe Lord was pleased on that day to bless Noah and his family, bidding them be fruitful, did He not therein set forth thefruitfulness which belongs untoBelievers, so that, abiding in Christ, they "bring forth much fruit"? May not that benediction teach us how earnestly weshould seek to be spiritually the parents of immortal souls, travailing in birth till Christ is formed in them?
When the Divine Father gave them dominion over the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and over all cattle, did notthis portray the power which Believers have over lust, and sin, and evil? And did it not prophesy the subjugation of all thingsby the power of their faith, so that they whobecome "priests," in sacrifice, become also "kings," by virtue of the charter of dominion which the heavenly Father bestowsupon them? What do you think, Brothers and Sisters? When He enlarged the grant of food, and permitted them to eat flesh, didHe not set forth that food onwhich true Believers feed, who now eat His flesh and drink His blood who has become the spiritual Food of our souls?
Is it straining the allegory, is it carrying it too far, if I close this spiritualizing by observing that the very same securitywhich God then gave to Noah and his descendants is that security under which we stand? He gave them a Covenant-a Covenantembellished with a Divine symbol andratified with His own signature written out in all the colors of beauty. We, too, stand under a Covenant which has its ownfaithful witness in Heaven, more transcendently illustrious and beautiful than the rainbow-the Person of Christ Jesus ourLord.
Leaving, however, all those points, which I have only started to excite thought among you, we come to this: we have Scripturalreason for asserting that this venerable Covenant-that the world shall no more be destroyed by a flood-is typical of a yetmore ancient compact which God madewith Christ. That being that He would be unto His people a God, and they should be His chosen ones, world without end. Inthe fifty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, (vv. 8-10), we find such language as this-"In a little wrath I hid My face from you fora moment. But with everlastingkindness will I have mercy on you, says the Lord your Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto Me: for as I havesworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with you, nor rebukeyou.
"For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed. But My kindness shall not depart from you; neither shall the Covenantof My peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on you." The covenant of Noah, then, is typical of the great EverlastingCovenant made with Christ on behalf of Hispeople. And the rainbow, as the symbol of the Covenant with Noah, is typical of our Lord Jesus, who is the Lord's witnessto the people. You read in the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation, in the third verse, "there was a rainbow round aboutthe Throne," showing that the bowis not a temporary symbol for earth only, but is a symbol of everlasting and heavenly things.
And in the tenth chapter of the book of Revelation, if I mistake not, in the first verse, you will find that the mighty angelwith a little book in his right hand, who shall put one foot upon the sea and another upon the land, is described as havinghis head crowned with a rainbow. In this place,our Lord Jesus Christ, in His mediatorial capacity, wears the symbol of the Covenant about His brow. And in the other passageour Lord, as King, is represented as sitting upon the Throne, surrounded with the insignia of the Covenant of Grace whichencompasses the Throne, so thatthere are no goings forth of His majesty and His power and His Grace, except in a covenant way and after a covenant sort,since the rainbow must be passed before the bright rays of His power and love can reach the sons of men.
This brings us now into the center of our discourse. We have to talk of two things-first, the tenor of the Covenant and secondly,the token of it-running a parallel all the way through between the two Covenants. The tenor of Noah's Covenant is the tenorof the Covenant of Grace(Everlasting Covenant)-just as the rainbow represents, and in some sense is, the token of the Covenant of Grace, also.
I. First, then, the Covenant itself-WHAT IS ITS TENOR? We reply, that it is a Covenant ofpure Grace. There was nothing inNoah why God should make a covenant with him. He was a sinner-and proved himself to be so in a most shocking manner withina few days. He needed a sacrifice, for heafterwards became drunk. He was one of the best of men. But the best of men are but men at the best, and can have no claimupon the favor of God. He was saved by faith as the rest of us must be-and faith, we all know, is inconsistent with any claimof merit. At least one ofhis sons we must set down as being an open and abandoned sinner, and in him there could have been no ground why God shouldmake a covenant with him.
We have no reason to imagine that Noah ever sought this Covenant. He did offer a sacrifice. But we do not know that he venturedto indulge the idea that God would enter into bonds with him not to destroy the earth. We imagine that the very first cloudwhich swept across the sky would excite thePatriarch's alarm. The first drop which fell would dampen his comfort. As a preacher of righteousness he understood wellenough that on grounds of justice he had no claim upon the Most Holy God, and he would not venture to plead any merit of hisown. But out of pure favor-justas out of the mountain's side the sparkling fountain gushes freely without the labor of man, so this Covenant of sparingmercy sprang spontaneously from the overflowing, ever bounteous, and loving heart of God.
Certainly it is so with that greater Covenant, whereof we strive to speak. For this was made with Christ, "or ever the earthwas." And as there were no men to supplicate, it could not have been possible that it was due to their intercession. As therewere no men to merit anything, it could not bebought by their worthiness. Divine foreknowledge well knew that man would be evil-"only evil and that continually from hisyouth up," so no foresight of human goodness could have suggested it. And yet, because He, "will have mercy on whom He willhave mercy, and will havecompassion on whom He will have compassion," He, our gracious God, whose heart was swelling like the deep sea with floodtidesof loving kindness, was pleased to strike hands with Christ, our Covenant and Federal Head. And from Grace, and Grace, alone,He entered into engagementswith Christ on our account.
The Everlasting Covenant, we note, in the next place, was all of promise. You will be struck, if you read these verses, howit runs over and over again, "I establish." "It shall come to pass." "I will." "It shall." "I will." He who knows the differencebetween, "you shall," and "/ will," is a goodtheologian. The old Covenant of Works is, "you shall." "You shall not commit adultery. You shall not kill. You shall notsteal." Death always comes to us by that Covenant of Command. But the new Covenant is, "/ will," and life comes to us by itspromises. The Covenant of Grace runson this wise- "/ will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean. From all your iniquities will /save you." Ifthere is a, "you shall," it is not by way of command, but by way ofpromise.
"/ will," and "you shall"! O dear Friends, one's heart rejoices to think of those potent shalls and wills-those immoveablepillars which death and Hell cannot shake-the shalls and wills of a God who, "speaks and it is done." God who, "commands andit stands fast." I do not see an if,nor a but, nor the shadow of a perhaps in it. It is all, "/ will, / will, / will," from beginning to end. And so when Godcovenanted with Christ, it was not, "/ will save My people if they do this," but, "/ will," and, "they shall," from firstto last-
"It is like a living spring of waters, sweet and clear. There's not an if to foul the stream nor a perhaps here. Grace isits fountainhead, the source from where it came- In wills and shalls of Gospel Grace, eternally the same." The Apostle Paulis very clear upon this. In that most blessedEpistle to the Galatians he calls this, "the Covenant of Promise," and marks the difference between Ishmael, "the son ofthe bondwoman," according to nature and according to works, and Isaac, "who is the child of the promise and the gift of God,above nature: not according to theefficacy and energy of the creature, but according to the will and power and truthfulness of the Most High." You and I donot stand today under a Covenant which demands anything of us. Unconditional favors, unlimited mercies made sure to all theseed by the oath andpromise-the shall and will of God!
Further, I would have you observe that this Covenant has up to now been faithfully kept. It cheered my heart, when thinkingthis matter over, to remember that although / depend upon covenant faithfulness, I am not alone in that dependence. Everyliving thing upon the face of the earth lives byvirtue of the Everlasting Covenant of God. Covenant engagements preserve the world from flood-were it not for that Covenant,the tops of the mountains might be covered tomorrow. A covenant tenure is a very sure one, seeing that these thousands ofyears the world has never beendestroyed by a flood. Go back to ancient histories and see whether the deluge God has ever again swept away the race ofman with water, and you shall not even dare to hint that such a thing has been.
No, the earth standing in the water and out of the water, since the fathers fell asleep, according to the testimony of scoffersthemselves, abides still the same. And so does the Covenant of Grace. It has never been removed or altered, nor have its promisesbeen broken. O Saint, you dwell intabernacles which shall never be taken down! God has never failed His people, nor cast away His chosen. Not one promisehas lost its fulfillment, nor one word its faithfulness-
"This Covenant of Grace all blessings secures. Believer, rejoice, for all things are yours, And God from His purpose shallnever remove, But love you and bless you and rest in His love." Beloved, there is this about Noah's Covenant and about theCovenant of Grace-they do not depend in anydegree at all upon man. For, if you will notice, the bow is put in the cloud, but it does not say, "And when you shall lookupon the bow, and you shall remember My Covenant, then I will not destroy the earth." No, it is gloriously put, not upon ourmemory, which is fickle and frail,but upon God's memory, which is infinite and immutable! "The bow shall be in the cloud. And / will look upon it, that /mayremember the Everlasting Covenant." Oh, it is not my remembering God-it is God's remembering me! It is not my laying holdof His Covenant, but HisCovenant laying hold on me! Glory be to God, the whole of the bulwarks are secured, and even the minor towers which we mayfancy might have been left to man, are guarded by Divine strength!
Even the remembrance of the Covenant is not left to our memories, for we might forget-but our Lord cannot, will not forgetthe Saints-whom He has inscribed on the palms of His hands. It is with us today as it was with Israel in Egypt. The bloodwas upon the lintel and upon the two sideposts. But God did not say, "When you see the blood I will pass over you." No, no, "When / see the blood I will pass overyou." My looking to Jesus brings me joy and peace, but it is God's looking to Jesus which secures my salvation, and that ofall His elect.
It is impossible for our God to look at Christ, our bleeding Surety, and then to be angry with us for sins already punishedin Him. No, dear Friends, it is not left with us even to be saved by remembering the Covenant. There's no linsey-woolsey here-nota single thread of the creature marsthe fabric. Here we have the pure gold, and not an atom of alloy. It is not of man, neither by man, but of the Lord alone.We should remember the Covenant and we shall do it, through Divine Grace. But the hinge of the matter does not lie there.It is God's remembering us, not ourremembering Him.
And therefore, for all these reasons it is an Everlasting Covenant. We know that as long as there is day and night, and summerand winter, and these shall be so long as the earth stands, the proud waves can never cover the earth. Forever has God establishedthis Covenant in Heaven. Even so, theEverlasting Covenant is not intended to be fleeting and temporary. "Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in Heaven." "Hehas made with us an Everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure." "He will ever be mindful of His Covenant." If itconcerns you today, it is, "the sameyesterday, today, and forever." If the Covenant blesses you at this hour, it shall bless you in old age, in the time ofdeath, at resurrection and throughout eternity.
No time can change one of its stipulations. You may walk the centuries and fly adown the ages far into eternity, but you cannever discover such a thing as the change or failure of one single article of the Covenant of Grace. Its jots and tittlesare sure to all the seed-
"He loved the world of His elect, With love surpassing thought. Nor will His mercy ever neglect The souls His Son has bought.The warm affections of His breast Towards His chosen burn, And in this love He'll ever rest Nor from His oath return. Stillto confirm His oath of old, See in the heavensHis bow, No fierce rebukes, but love untold, Awaits His children now."
Would to God you and I studied more the doctrine of this Everlasting Covenant. Our old Puritan forefathers were accustomedto preach much about it. Those Scotch Theologians, who were a second band of Puritans, Erskine and the men of his day, werealways dwelling upon the Covenants. Good Witsius hasleft us a marvelously learned and potent treatise on the same, and Fisher's Marrow of Theology is a valuable expositionof the matter. He who studies the doctrines of the Covenants is not very likely to make a mingle-mangle of his ministry, orto preach a yes and no Gospel.
My dear Friends, when you think of the Covenant of Law and the Covenant of Grace, and remember that they are contrary theone to the other, and can never mingle, can never be united-so that the one can dilute the other-it must come out forciblybefore you that we may address the Gospelto the sinner as a sinner, without a fitness on his part. We may still believe in God's love to the Saint, even though hehas sinned and that notwithstanding all the misbehavior of any of the chosen people. Since they are under the Covenant ofGrace and not of works, their salvationis never in jeopardy, never at hazard, so far as God's will and God's power are concerned.
He that vowed to save them, and loved them in Christ, and has given them faith, which is the token of His Grace, will mostassuredly save them and bring them to glory. The earth shall be destroyed, with water, long before one of God's elect shallbe damned. It shall be destroyed with fire, we know,but when, "the mountains depart," and, "the hills are removed," the Covenant of His Grace shall still stand. And He willbe mindful of all who have an interest in it.
So much, then, concerning the tenor of the Everlasting Covenant itself. My Soul, search, and look, and see whether you havean interest in that Covenant. Can you say from your heart-
"My hope is fixed on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness"? Then, my Soul, that Everlasting Covenant is yoursand you are safe beyond risk of harm!
II. Secondly, THE TOKEN OF THE COVENANT. The Covenant needs no token, as far as God is concerned. Tokens are given for us,because of our littleness of heart, our unbelief, our constant forgetfulness of God's promises. The rainbow is the symbolof Noah's Covenant. And Jesus Christ, who is theCovenant, is also the symbol of that Covenant to us. He is the Faithful Witness in Heaven.
1. Briefly upon this part of the subject let us notice when we may expect to see the token of the Everlasting Covenant. Therainbow is only to be seen painted upon a cloud. Expect no tokens, except when you need them. The Lord Jesus, when He can,will trust us to our faith. For it is, on the whole,more healthy, more strengthening to us, to, "walk by faith and not by sight." Tokens are helps for our childhood-they wouldbe unnecessary to us were we men. Tokens, to men whose faith is in vigorous order, would be as crutches to a man who is notlame, or as glasses to thosewhose eyes are perfect. The Lord is pleased to give tokens when tokens are wanted, I say.
And therefore He gives them, as He gives rainbows, when there is a cloud. When the greatest cloud which ever gathered uponearth had covered Calvary with blackness. When the sun himself had suffered eclipse. When human sin and Divine wrath had madea tempest so black and terrible that all the earthwas in affright-then on that black cloud was painted the rainbow-for Jesus was lifted up and amidst that thick darkness.He, the Expiation and the Atonement, offered up Himself, and poured forth His blood.
When the sinner's conscience is dark with clouds. When he remembers his past sins. When he mourns and laments before God,Jesus Christ is revealed to him as the Covenant Rainbow, speaking peace. And to the Believer, when his trials surround him.When temptations beset him. When he suffersdepression of spirits-then how sweet it is to behold the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ! To see Him bleeding for us, offeredup for guilty men-God's Rainbow, hung over the cloud of all our sins, our sorrows and our woes. Look, Believer, when you havea cloud-lookfor a Token, and be not satisfied without it. The ancient Church said upon one occasion, "We see not our signs." And youand I have sometimes to say the same. But let us hasten to the Rock of our salvation and beseech Him to bestow upon us a comfortablesight of Jesus, who shallwill the Covenant to our souls again.
Nor does a cloud alone give a rainbow. There must be rain. There can be no rainbows, unless there are the crystal drops toreflect the light of the sun. So, Beloved, our sorrows must not only threaten, but they must really fall upon us. There hadbeen no Christ for us if the vengeance of God hadbeen merely a threat. It must fall in terrible drops upon Him. Christ, who sets forth to us the vengeance and the love ofGod at the same time, had not come to us unless there had been a real vengeance and a real punishment of sin-until there isa real anguish in the sinner'sconscience, there is no Christ for him. And until the chastisement which you feel becomes grievous to you-till the big dropsbespatter you, and you feel it is not a threat, but a real infliction of sorrow upon you, you cannot expect to see Jesus Christ.
Perhaps, dear Brothers and Sisters, some of us have but slight views of Christ, and few have visits from Him because we haveso few troubles. And the reason why most Saints in these days do not live so near to Jesus as they were custom to do in thecenturies gone by may be because we have not somany of those showers of persecution which fell at that season. Why, when, in the reign of Dioclesius and in the precedingcenturies, Believers were stoned and dragged into the amphitheatre, or hacked to death with knives! They saw the glory ofJesus as the rainbow painted on theblack cloud of persecution, while the raindrops fell upon them. It makes us even long to suffer as they suffered, that wemay behold Jesus as they beheld Him.
But the day is coming when the world shall, "hear of wars and rumors of wars." The earth shall rock and reel and the pillarsof Heaven shall be shaken. The stars shall fall, the moon shall be turned into a clot of blood, and the sun shall be blackas sackcloth of hair. Ah, then how glorious willthat Rainbow shine to all the people of God, when over the conflagrations of earth, and the destruction of men, and themelting of empires, and the blazing of earth, there shall be seen Christ the Mediator, securing all His people and ratifying,still, the Everlasting Covenant!There must be drops of rain, or else no rainbow. Some failings of vengeance, or else no sight of Christ.
But then, there must be a sun. For clouds and drops of rain make not rainbows, unless the sun shines. Beloved, our God, whois as the Sun to us, always shines. But we do not always see Him. Clouds hide His face. But no matter what drops may be falling,or what clouds may be present, if He does butshine, there will be a Rainbow at once. When the blessed Spirit, "sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts"-when we cansay, "Abba, Father," and a Father's love and a Father's peace are breathed upon us-then we see Jesus Christ, beholding theFather in the Person ofHis Son.
It is said that when we see the rainbow, that particular shower is over. So good Bishop Hall tells us in his, "Contemplations."Certain it is, that when Christ comes, our troubles are over. When we behold Jesus, our sins are gone-our doubts and fearssubside at His command. When He walks thewaters of the sea, there will be a calm. But others say that the rainbow is the showery arch and heralds bad weather. Andprobably this is quite as true. Certainly, whenever you get a love token from Christ, you may expect some trouble. For Hebrings His people into the banquetinghouse either before a battle, or after it. Melchisedek came to meet Abraham when the kings had all been slaughtered. Butsometimes our Melchisedek brings the bread and wine just before the battle is to commence.
We are not always to be living upon love-tokens. Our beloved Jesus would rather make us live by simple faith, and thereforewe, "walk in darkness and see no light." Still, rainbows are delightful sights, and a vision of Jesus is rapturous and transporting.But we cannot expect to see Him, I say,unless it is when the storm is over or when another storm is coming on, or when the cloud is there, or the drops are falling,or the light of God's countenance is especially shining upon you. We will say no more about when this token is seen, but wewill now notice briefly, whatthis token is.
2. What do we see in our Covenant Witness in Heaven? We see in Him what we see in the rainbow. In the rainbow we see supremeGlory and beauty. As one of the works of God, it is worthy to be sought out by them that have pleasure in them. One mightstand and gaze on the rainbow with wonder andadmiration and never be weary. I do not know whether you have noticed paintings of rainbows-did you ever see a good one?Will you ever see a good one? There are one or two in the Royal Academy this year-I am no judge of paintings, but I can judgethat they are as muchunlike rainbows as they well could be.
Rainbows cannot be painted. The thing is impossible. There is such a melting and blending of colors, that human art shallnever be able to rival the art of God. The Master Painter, with the black cloud for His palette, and the sun's rays for Hisbrush, paints so that no artist shall rival Him. Ifyou could gather together a heap of all the glittering gems and jewels which adorn an Oriental prince, and build a gloriousarch-you could not make such glitter and brightness of glory as in the rainbow-which is the simple work of a drop of rainand a ray of light. Butshall I compare my Lord Jesus to the rainbow? I do Him an injustice-
"All human beauties, all Divine, in my Beloved meet and shine."
You never saw a picture of His face which satisfied you, and you never will. You shall go all over the Continent and see someof the marvelous productions of the masters put up as altar pieces. And you will say when you see them, "That is not likeJesus Christ." They can paint Judas. There are somefine heads of Peter-sweet guesses at John-John the Baptist to life-all but that little bit of a cockleshell in his hand.They can paint Mary Magdalene if you will, but never Jesus Christ. They can never paint Him. No artist that ever lived cancatch His expressionor countenance, much less put it on canvas. And as to the beauty of His Character, must we not burst out with the spousein the Canticles, "He is altogether lovely"?-
"The spacious earth, the swelling flood, Proclaim the wise and powerful God. And Your rich glories from afar, Sparkle in every rolling star, But in His looks a glory stands, The noble labor of Your hands- God, in the Person of His Son, Has all His mightiest works outdone."
The rainbow has been recognized by ancient poets and bards as an appointed messenger of God. Homer calls it the messengerof the gods, and the old mythologies speak of it as the Iris, the messenger of Juno. They knew not who had sent it, nor whatwas the errand on which it came. Still theyrecognized it as a Divine ambassador. And surely such is Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant whom we delight in. God'sgreat Ambassador, who is, "our peace," "the desire of all nations," who shall yet come and shall be hailed as, "King of kingsand Lord of lords." O blessedRainbow, Jesus! When shall Your beauties be beheld by mortal eyes? When shall all kings fall down before You and yield theirscepters and their crowns to You?
Again-in the rainbow and in Christ, I see vengeance satisfied. Is not the bow the symbol of the warrior's power? With far-reachingarrows he draws the string, and woe unto his enemies. But when a hero hangs up his bow upon the wall, what means he but thatwarfare is over and peace isproclaimed? When he loosens the bow and leaves it without the string and without an arrow, it means that he will no morego out to hunt his adversaries. His arrows shall be no more, "drunk with the blood of the slain." He lays the bow aside, hangsit up on high, and leaves itunstrung, without an arrow. Such is the rainbow. A bow, it is true, but a bow hung up-a bow without string or arrow.
And such is Christ, God's Bow. "Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies, whereby the people fall under You."When He takes the "rod of iron," He breaks His enemies in pieces, "like a potter's vessel." "Who is this that comes from Edom,with dyed garments from Bozrah, traveling inthe greatness of His strength?" Jesus, the Arrow of God, the polished shaft in the quiver of the Most High. But there Isee Him-a bow still-still mighty to destroy-but yet a bow without a string. He threw that away, when He came from Heaven toearth, and layslumbering in the manger. A bow without an arrow!-
"No thunder clothes His brow, No bolts to drive our guilty souls To fiercer flames below."
Beloved, Christ is vengeance satisfied. Those wounds, those bright and burnished jewels of His hands, betoken that God demandsno more of man. The rainbow, yet again, is a token that vengeance itself has become on our side. You see, it is an unbroken"bow." He did not snap it across His knee. It isa bow still. Vengeance is there, justice is there. But which way is it pointed? It is turned upward. Not to shoot arrowsdown on us, but for us, if we have faith enough to string it, and to make it our glorious bow-to draw it with all our might,to send our prayers, ourpraises, our desires, up to the bright Throne of God. Mighty is that man, omnipotent is his faith, who has power to bendthat bow and draw it and shoot his prayers to Heaven.
No, more. Inasmuch as it is a bow not black, nor blood-red, but a bow painted with the colors of holiday and delight, it seemsto me as if Heaven hangs out its streamers of joy, while angels sing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwilltowards men." They pull the banners fromthe standards of glory, and they hang them out across the sky, as we do on our ships upon marriage days. Heaven hangs outits glorious banners to show that God is so completely satisfied with Christ and so at peace with man, that He joys in man'sjoy, and rejoices in man'srejoicing-"rests in His love and rejoices in us with singing,"
Look up, Believer, to the Person of Christ. Behold the joy of God, "the pleasure of the Lord," prospering, "in His hands,"and your soul will be full of ecstasy and delight. Once again, in the rainbow we see the one color of light, which appearsto us to be but white, broken up, refracted,distributed, blended, harmonized, brought out in all its distinct elements. There is no doubt that there are more colorsin light than our eyes have ever seen. The spectrum of eye can only compass a certain quantity of the colors. But beneaththe lowest, and above the highest, thereare others. There is infinitely more in God than you and I will ever be able to see.
One of the best sights of light, as dissolved and analyzed, is to be had in the rainbow. There you see the colors arrangedin their proper order, and you are able to mark the red melting into the orange, and the orange into the yellow, and the yellowyet again into the green, and the green into theblue, and the blue into the indigo and violet. They are all there-not one put out of place, not one left out. The Characterof God is one, like His Essence. Yet to us, that we may read it, it must be, as it were, broken up, but not thrown out ofharmony. He that has seenChrist, "has seen the Father." He that sees the rainbow sees "Light." He that sees Christ, sees the Father-God's justicemeeting and blending into His Truth. God's Truth melting into His mercy. That mercy melting into His love, that love in contactwith His faithfulness.
And so every attribute standing side by side with its next of kin. The whole of them absolutely necessary to complete theglory of that arch, and every one of them necessarily to be put in its proper place also, to make the arch a harmony and avery music of colors. Beloved, such is Jesus Christ.If we could but understand Jesus Christ, we could not make mistakes about God. In Jesus I see blood-red justice, justiceas fierce as if there were no mercy. But what love I see also! What boundless love! As Watts puts it, we cannot tell-
"Which of the letters best is writ, The power, the wisdom, or the Grace."
They are all so clearly there. The whole of God written out in Christ! And yet, I warn you, we can never see the whole ofGod-in this life, never. I do not know whether it is quite correct, but two or three of the older commentators, in glossingupon that passage, "there was a rainbow roundabout the Throne," say that it means entirely round it, and therefore there is a complete circle-that we only see one halfof it, but that, in fact the Covenant rainbow is a circle.
Now, whatever you may think of that gloss, there certainly is one circular rainbow in the Bible, for that angel, in the tenthof Revelation, had "a rainbow round his head." He wore it as a crown round his head. We may, without straining a point, saythe most we can ever see, even in Christ, asrevealed to us, while we are here, is just a glorious semi-circle of Truth-an arch, like a Divine ladder, by which we maymount to the very loftiness of God Himself. But there is another half which you and I have not seen, and we shall not seeit till we get to the Throne ofGod. Moreover, that rainbow that is in Heaven differs from ours, for there it is, "like unto an emerald." The green preponderates.The mild luster of the mercy of God and His love will seem to triumph over the fiery sardius and jacinth of His justice.
3. How ought we to act, dear Friends, with regard to this rainbow and Jesus Christ as the symbol of the covenant? First, letus act like little children. Little children run in clapping their hands with glee, "Father, there's a rainbow!" Out theyrun to look at it, and they wonder whether theycould find the end of it. They wish you would let them run till they could catch it. They look, and look, and look, andlook, and when the shower begins to abate and it dies out, they are so sorrowful because they have lost the splendid vision.Beloved, let us be children. Wheneverwe think of Christ, let us be little children and look, and look, and look again. And let us long to get at Him, for, unlikethe rainbow, we can get at Him.
Pliny, who, by the way, talks a deal of nonsense, declares that wherever the rainbow's foot rests, the flowers are made muchsweeter. And Aristotle says the rainbow is a great breeder of honeydew. I do not know how that is, but I know that whereverJesus Christ is He makes the perfume of His peoplevery sweet. "His name is as ointment poured forth," and I know He is, "a great breeder of honeydew." There is sure to bemuch more loving kindness in that man's heart who has seen much of Jesus. I recommend you to follow that Divine Rainbow tillyou reach the foot of it, and tillyou embrace it and say with Simeon, "Now let Your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation." Play thechild then.
While we gaze, ought we not praise and admire? One or two of the nations of antiquity had it as a part of their religion alwaysto sing hymns when they saw the rainbow. Should not we, whenever we see Christ? Should it not be a red-letter day marked inour diary? "This day let us praise His name."And as we ought always to see Him, I may improve upon this and bid you say-
"I willpraise You every day. Now Your anger's passed away, Comfortable thoughts arise from the bleeding sacrifice."
And again, when we see Christ, we ought to confess our sins with humiliation. An old writer says that the Jews confess theirsins when they see the rainbow. I am sure, whenever we see Christ, we ought to remember the deluge of wrath from which Hehas delivered us, the flames of Hell from which Hehas saved us. And so, humbly bowing ourselves in the dust, let us love and praise and bless His name.
To some of you there is nothing in this sermon, because you have never laid hold on the Covenant. You have never believedin Jesus. Remember, that a simple faith in Christ is the evidence of your being in the Covenant. If you believe in the LordJesus Christ with all your heart, then your name iswritten in the roll of the blessed. But if you will not believe in Him, however excellent your character, however goodlyyour works, you shall perish in your sins.
For, "he that believes and is baptized shall be saved. He that believes not," be he who he may or what he may, "shall be damned."Believe, and believing you put yourself under the Divine arch of the blessed Covenant. You shall see its glorious colors withexultation and delight, and you shall besecure, whatever catastrophes shall shake the earth, whatever calamities shall trouble the race of man.