Sermon 637. The Dove'S Return To The Ark
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, JULY 2, 1865, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"But the dove found no rest for the soles of her feet and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the faceof the whole earth. Then he put forth his hand and took her and pulled her in unto him into the ark." Genesis 8:9.
THE sending forth of the raven and of the dove have furnished ready materials for numerous allegories with which Divines indifferent ages have sometimes edified and more frequently amused their hearers. We cannot afford time to mention many of them,but one of the host may serve as a specimen.Certain expositors have fancied that the mission of the raven prefigured the sending forth of the Law, which was black andterrible and which came not back to man bearing any token of comfort, or sign of hope. And that afterwards the Lord sent forththe Gospel, foreshadowed by thedove, which by-and-by came back to sinful man, bearing the olive branch of peace.
Thus they illustrated the great Truth of God that there is no peace in the terms of the Law, for that raven can only croakhoarsely and fiercely. But there is peace in the ground of the Gospel, for the dove bears the olive branch in her mouth. Suchfar-fetched allegories as these, at the time whenthey were contrived and carried out, may have had their value and have been instructive to an undiscerning age. It is not,however, to be regretted that the Church of today has far less taste for such childish things.
We are quite as willing as any men to see allegories where they are really clear, for we remember the words of Paul concerningHagar and Sarah, "which things are an allegory," but we are not ready to follow the quaint and strange inventions of spiritualistswhether ancient or modern. The clue mustbe evident or we had rather not enter the labyrinth. There is one adaptation of the incident before us which seems so naturallyto suggest itself that I can not help using it this morning. The dove may well picture the Believer's soul. That soul sometimesflies abroad to and fro andtakes a survey of all things-but it finds no rest for the soles of its feet anywhere except in Christ Jesus. And, therefore,however long in flight, it is sure, eventually, to return to its own proper resting place.
The child of God can never be content out of his God-he who has once had Christ in him, the hope of Glory, can never be satisfiedto rest or glory except in the Lord Jesus. Let us, this morning, carry out that one thought and look at it in the variouslights which this picture of the dove maythrow upon it.
I. First, LET US LOOK AT THE DOVE SETTING OUT UPON HER VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY. She has been perfectly safe in the ark. Otherfowls have perished-cattle and creeping things have all been destroyed by the flood- but this dove, with other favored ones,has been happily secured. She has wantedfor nothing-for the God who put her into the ark has taken care of her there and that righteous man who was made the meansof her rescue has constantly provided her with her daily food.
She has nestled in the ark and been happy and comfortable there and yet she is about to stretch her wings and fly away fromthe boat of safety. Why does she act thus? Well may we ask this question of ourselves-we have been saved in Christ Jesus,many of us-saved when the floods of sincovered the rest of our kinsfolk-saved when our doubts and fears threatened eternal ruin to us! We have been provided forin Christ Jesus and housed in His salvation. He has been no wilderness to us-we have found enduring rest and seasonable provisionin Him. How is it,then, that we can stretch our wings to fly, or even open our eyes to look abroad?
My Soul, is there not enough in Christ? Why will you seek elsewhere? Why leave the Fountain for the broken cisterns? Willa man leave the fertile fields for a barren rock, or forsake the running waters for pestilential pools? Remember the mischiefthat Dinah gained unto herself when she left herfather's house to go to the tents of Shechem. Think how the prodigal fared when he left his father's house. Why do you nottarry at home with your Husband and liege Lord?
Why do you go abroad where all is empty and void and waste? Yet we must all confess that these hearts of ours are apt to bearus away from Christ and these minds of ours are prone to forget Him and to look abroad after some other love.
But why did the dove fly away? I answer first-a very simple answer to give, you will say-because she had wings. A creaturewith wings feels within itself a natural instinct to fly and, having been in the ark so long where she had little space forflight, I daresay her liberty at firstwas very sweet to her. What are these pinions for-why are they covered with silver and the feathers there with yellow gold,if I may not clip through yonder cloud and cleave these earth-mists and see what there is to be seen?
And, therefore, because she has wings she flies. And so it is with us. Our soul has many thoughts and many powers which makethe spirit restless. If we were without imagination we might be content with the few plain truths which we have so well knownand proved. But having an imagination we areoften dazzled by it and we want to know whether certain things which look like solid verities really are. If we had no reason,but could abide entirely in a state of pure and simple faith, we might not be exposed to much of the restlessness which nowafflicts us.
But reason will draw conclusions, ask questions, suggest problems, raise enquiries and vex us with difficulties. Therefore,because our souls are moved by so vast a variety of thoughts and possess so many powers which are all restless and active,it is readily to be understood that while we arehere in our imperfect state our spirits should be tempted to excursions of research and voyages of discovery, as thoughwe sought after some other object of love besides the One who still is dearer to us than all the world besides.
Possibly there was another reason. This dove was once lodged in a dovecote. When children we saw men throwing up carrier pigeonsinto the air laden with missives and we foolishly wondered how the dove knew the way to go with the letter, dreaming as wedid that it flew with it wherever the personchose to direct the envelope. We soon learned the secret. The dove bears the letter to her own dovecote-she will go nowhereelse with it-and it is not in the wit of man to make the dove fly in any other direction than towards its own home. The doveis thrown up into theair. She mounts aloft, whirls round and round and round, looking with eager eyes. At last she sees the place where she hasbeen known to rest and where her little ones have been reared and she darts straight to the spot.
Before the ark was built, no doubt, this bird frequented much a chosen spot where it had built its nest and reared its youngones and its heart went towards it. Though it had been in the ark so long, it had not forgotten the past. And therefore nosooner has it liberty than it seeks to fly in thedirection of its own dovecote, although that cote had been swept away forever.
Ah, and you and I, before we knew the Savior, we had a rest. Before we had experienced the sweetness of His love we foundjoy in sin. We built our nest and we thought in our heart that we should never be moved. We were satisfied once, after a fashion,with the vanities of this present world. We hadour loves, our joys, our pleasures, our delights. And that carnal old nature within us is not dead! When it gets its libertyit is sure to look out for its old haunts. Have you not, even when singing God's praise, remembered a snatch of an old, perhapslascivious song? Have not youfrequently, when in the service of God, had brought to your recollection a dark scene of sin in which you had a share? Andthough you have loathed it with the new nature, yet has not the old nature tended towards it?
And has not that base heart within-which will not die until flesh becomes worms' meat-whispered to you to go back to the fleshpotsof Egypt and once more to partake of the garlic and leeks and onions which were so sweet in the house of bondage? Yes, thedovecote still has itsattraction. The best of men have still within them the seeds of those sins which make the worst of men so vile. The oldserpent still creeps along the heart which has become a garden of the Lord. Our gold is mixed with dross. Our sky bears manya cloud and the clearest river ofhumanity still has mire at the bottom.
I marvel not that the dove flew away from the ark when she remembered her dovecote. And I do not wonder that at seasons theold remembrances get the upper hand with our spirit and we forget the Lord we love and have a hankering after sin. Yet itwould not be fair to forget that this dove was sentout by Noah-so that whatever may have been the particular motives which ruled the creature, there was a higher motive whichruled Noah who sent her out.
Even so there are times when the Lord permits His people to endure temptation. What does this passage mean concerning theSavior-"After He was baptized, He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil"? What? Led of theSpirit? Where will the Spirit lead Him? Will notthe Spirit lead Him to His Father's temple that He may join in its hallowed exercises? Will He not lead Him to the mountainwhere He may proclaim glad tidings to the peo- ple? No. The Spirit led Him into the wilderness "to be tempted of the devil."We are taught to pray, "Lead usnot into temptation." And very stupid people have tried to alter the petition into, "Leave us not in temptation."
The Savior never said that. It would be a very proper prayer, but it is not what He said. His words are, "Lead us not intotemptation." It appears, then, that sometimes God may allow His people to be led into temptation, or otherwise we need notsay, "Lead us not into temptation." Such temptationproduces excellent results in being overruled by Divine Grace for the lasting benefit of the Lord's people. The dove wouldlove the ark far better than before, after taking its dreary flight above the watery waste. She would nestle more peacefullythan ever in Noah's hands afterhaving seen and known how impossible it was to find rest for the soles of her feet anywhere else!
Thus the Lord permits His people to gad abroad in their thoughts and to go flying about in their minds that their after reposemay be sweeter and more enduring. He takes away from them the light of His Countenance and familiar fellowship with Himselfthat the darkness may make them prize the sun.They fly from vanity to vanity learning the emptiness of all and then they cling to their own real bliss-their God and Fatherin Christ Jesus! And throughout life they have to bless God for that dark and bitter experience which yielded so good andcomfortable a fruit that itcompelled them to know that there was none upon earth for them but Christ and none even in Heaven to fill their souls buttheir Lord Jesus.
So when I see the Christian taking wing in his thought away from the ark, I will be grieved to see him in the temptation,but I will pray the Lord to overrule it that he may come back again and say, "Return unto your rest, O my Soul, for the Lordhas dealt bountifully with you." Beloved, it is abitter but a precious lesson to learn, that all is nothing out of Christ and that Jesus alone can give us rest. May youall learn it thoroughly and learn it soon.
II. Now MARK THE DOVE AS SHE FINDS NO REST. She has plumed her wings and she hurries in her search after a home. The mountaintops, I think, according to the preceding verses were just visible, but this was all. She flies over them and between them,as they rise like islands in the midst of thatvast shoreless sea. At last she tires-even the dove cannot fly forever. She needs to rest. Where shall she end her flight?The raven yonder is comfortable enough gorging himself upon the carcass of a huge beast which was floating by. The dove, however,cannot restthere-her nature loathes putridity and she flies away from the reeking mass.
Yonder is a tree-one of the mighty monarchs of the forest has been broken off in the great tempest which drowned the worldand is now floating high with branches lifted up like the masts of a vessel. She tries to light upon it but it is coveredwith thick mire and filth. The wet and slimesuit her not and she takes to her wings again. Further off another object attracts her and she speeds to it as well as herweary wings can carry her. But there is nothing there for her to rest upon.
She turns east, north, south, but her wings grow weary for she can find no place where to rest the soles of her feet. As weobserve her flapping her wings so languidly, I think we have a picture of a Christian in pursuit of an earthly object on whichhe would desire to set his heart. Forgettingthat here we have no continuing city, the pilgrims of God at times wander in the wilderness hoping to find a settled habitationthere. But their desolate hearts are soon faint within them, for there is no rest for their feet on earth. The Savior verybeautifully said, "Come unto Me,all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
What kind of rest did the Savior mean to give? I take it that He meant rest to all the powers of manhood. The intellect seeksafter rest and by nature seeks it apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. Men of fine education, men of great mental powers areapt, even when converted, to look upon thesimplicities of the Cross of Christ-I may not say with dises-teem-but still with an eye too little reverent and loving.They are snared in the net in which the Grecians were taken- they have a hankering to mix philosophy with Revelation. Thetemptation is with aman of refined thought and high education to go away from the simple Truth of Christ Crucified and to invent a more complicated,as the term is, a more intellectual doctrine.
This it was which led the early Christian Church into Gnosticism and bewitched them with all sorts of heresies. This is theroot of Neology and the other fine things which in days gone by were so fashionable in Germany and are now so ensnaring tocertain classes of Divines. Brethren, I care not whoyou are nor what your education may be-if you are the Lord's people you will find no rest in the teachings of philosophy-orphilosophizing divinity. You may receive this dogma of one great thinker, or that of another profound reasoner-but what thechaff is to thewheat-that will these be to the sure Word of God! All that reason, when best guided, can find out, is but the ABCs of theTruth of God and even that lacks sureness and certainty-while in Christ Jesus there is treasured up all the fullness of wisdomand knowledge!
All attempts on the part of Christians to be content with systems such as Unitarian and Broad Church thinkers would approveof must fail! True heirs of Heaven must come back to the grandly simple reality which makes the plow-boy's eyes flash withjoy and gladdens the pious man's heart-"JesusChrist came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." Christ satisfies the most elevated intellect when He isbelievingly received. But apart from Him the mind of the regenerate discovers no rest.
The heart, too, wants satisfying. Every one of us needs an object to love. I suppose there can hardly live on earth a manso monstrously selfish that he can be perfectly wrapped up in himself and care for no one. Some of the grossest villains whohave ever defiled the name of manhood have had onepoint in which they could be touched. Their hearts have gone out after one dear object-it may be a little child, long dead-andyet the recollection of that little one sleeping beneath the turf has been a link to goodness.
Many a hardened man has remembered his mother and her name has touched his heart. We must love something, or someone. Manwas not made to live alone and therefore no man lives unto himself. Our heart must flow like a river, or it corrupts likea stagnant pool. Some have great hearts and theyrequire a great object on which to spend their love. They love fondly and firmly-too fondly and too firmly for earthly love.These are they who suffer from broken hearts. They have so much love that when they set it upon an unworthy object they reapa proportionate degree ofmisery and disappointment.
Now let me say solemnly that no heart of a child of God will ever be satisfied with any object or person short of the LordJesus Christ. There is room for wife and children, there is room for friend and acquaintance and all the more room in one'sheart because Christ is there-but neitherwife, nor children nor friends, nor kinsfolk can ever fill the Believer's heart. He must have Christ Jesus-there is no restfor him elsewhere. Do I address any Believer who has been making an idol? Have you set up any god in your heart? Have youloved any creature so as toforget your Savior? Be it child, or husband, or friend, take heed of the sin of idolatry!
Ah, you cannot, you shall not find rest for the soles of your feet in the creature, however fair that creature may seem. Godwill break your idol before your eyes, or if He suffers that idol to stand, it shall remain to plague and curse you, for thussays the Lord, "Cursed is he that trusts in manand makes flesh his arm." "Cease you from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted?" Giveyour hearts to the Lord Jesus and He will never disappoint you. Lean on Him with all your weight of affection, for He willnever fail you. Come here, all you fondand doting, you lovers, and love with all the lavish wealth and fervent heat of your spirits! Kindle your hearts until,like Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, they glow seven times hotter-here is a fuel with which you can maintain the flame forever!
You whose love is like the sea, too deep to fathom, come to the Savior and give Him all and He shall not waste a drop, forHe deserves all you can give and He will give you back a love which, compared with yours, shall be as the ocean when comparedwith the dewdrop that twinkles on the bough. Sothere is rest for the heart in Christ Jesus, but nowhere else.
Man has also judgment. And judgment, when exercised upon things right or wrong, is called conscience-and the conscience isa very difficult thing to quiet when once disturbed. Conscience is like a magnetic needle which if once turned aside fromits pole will never cease trembling. You cannever make it still until it is permitted to return to its proper place-
"In vain the trembling conscience seeks, Some solid ground to rest upon. With strong desire the spirit faints, Till we apply to Christ alone."
We shall never be able to find lasting peace for conscience till we cast ourselves upon Christ Jesus!
The child of God may sometimes so forget himself as to endeavor to base his hopes upon his experiences, his feelings, hisjoys, or his repentances. He may try to assure himself that all is well between God and his own soul because of his gracesor his good works. Now, Christian, you know, or youought to know by past experience, that you will never enjoy lasting peace here. You must come to Christ as you did at firstwith nothing of your own and take Him to be your All in All. And if you do not do this your feet shall know no rest, for youshall fly wearily on till youshall drop with despair.
Christ Jesus in the preciousness of His besprinkled blood! Christ Jesus in the glory of His snow-white righteousness! ChristJesus in the prevalence of His intercession! Christ Jesus in the power of His arm and the love of His heart must be the soleand solitary dependence of every heir of Heaven!And if you try to mix anything else with Christ, then your conscience shall accuse and Satan shall find an echo in yourheart when he rails at you-and what will you do then?
Let me say, dear Friends, that for the entire man-we cannot stop this morning to take all the different powers with whichman is endowed-but taking the whole together there is nothing that can satisfy the entire man but the Lord's love and theLord's own Self. Many saints have tried toanchor in other roadsteads, but all have failed. I believe Solomon was a saint. I know he was a sinner-I believe he wasthe biggest fool that ever lived. But I believe that he was also the wisest of men. He was, in fact, a mass of contradictions.
Now Solomon was permitted to make experiments for us all and to do for us what we must not dare to do for ourselves. Hereis his testimony in his own words-"I said of laughter, It is mad. And of mirth, What does it? I sought in my heart to givemyself unto wine, yet acquainting my heart withwisdom. And to lay hold on folly till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under theHeaven all the days of their life. I made me great works. I built houses. I planted vineyards-I made gardens and orchardsand I planted trees in them of allkind of fruits. I made me pools of water, to water the wood that brings forth trees. I got me servants and maidens and hadservants born in my house.
"Also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me. I gathered me also silverand gold and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces. I got men singers and women singers and the delights ofthe sons of men, as musical instruments and that ofall sorts. So I was great and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.And whatever my eyes desired I kept not from them. I withheld not my heart from any joy, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor-andthis was my portion ofall my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had worked and on the labor that I had labored to do-and, behold,all was vanity and vexation of spirit and there was no profit under the sun." "Vanity of vanity, all is vanity."
What? The whole of it vanity? Is there nothing in all that wealth, Solomon? What? Nothing in that wide dominion of yours reachingfrom the river even to the sea? Nothing in Palmyra's glorious seat? Nothing in the house of the forest of Lebanon? Do yousee nothing from Dan to Beersheba when you havemade brass to be like pebbles and gold and silver to be but as common dust of the land? In those sweet sounds that lullyou to your rest, in all the music and dancing that delight you, is there nothing?
"Nothing," he says, "but weariness of spirit." This is his verdict when he has tried it all. To get hold of Christ, to haveHis love and to taste of union with Him-this, dear Brethren-this is everything! You need not try any other form of life inorder to see whether it is better thanthe Christian's. Let me assure you if you roam the world round and search from Britain to Japan you will see no sights likea sight of the Savior's face! And if you could have all the comforts of life, yet if you lost your Savior you would be wretched!But if you get Him, thenshould you rot in a dungeon you would find it a paradise! Should you live in obscurity, or die with famine, you would yetbe satisfied with favor and full of the goodness of the Lord!
III. Let us spend a moment in considering WHY THE DOVE COULD FIND NO REST FOR THE SOLES OF HER FEET. Was there a want of willin the dove? Was she one of those discontented birds that will not rest anywhere? Nothing of the kind! She seems to have searchedafter rest, for otherwise it need not berecorded that she found none. There are certain people in this world who never will rest and they certainly do not deserveit. They always grumble. No matter what you do, or what you do not do, they grumble forevermore.
They grumble at the sun, and call him, as Thompson once did, "a rosy drunkard." They murmur at the moon, her light is toopale and sickly and variable. They murmur at death-it is a dreadful thing to lose one's friends. They murmur at life-everybodyseems to die and be happy, they say,except themselves-they are condemned to live on. You never can please them. All things are either too hot or too cold, tooyoung or too old, too rough or too smooth, too high or too low. They have made up their minds that there is nothing on earththat will ever satisfy them.They have set up an ultra standard of what they want and the world does not yield it.
No grass is green enough for them. No milk that is ever given by cows is fit for them to drink. No wine that was ever pressedfrom grapes is rich enough for their taste. Upon all created things they use the only organ which seems to be of use to them,that is, their nose-and that they turnup! Such people as these will tell you that there is nothing on earth-nothing on earth. They have indigestion, their liveris out of order-and consequently there is nothing on earth-everything here below is mean and despicable.
Now when people talk like that you just measure their talk by the men and make small account of their utterances. These menare not talking from their judgment-they are merely talking under the influence of an absurd, half-mad feeling! But such isnot the case with the Christian. I know aconsiderable number of Christians who are of a cheerful disposition and who would even, as worldlings, have been satisfiedwith very little. They are a kind of men, (I trust you have some of them for your friends), who are not often put out. They,on the other hand, always look atthe bright side of everything and if there should be a something which is a little amiss, they take it as a variety andonly say, "Well, this is a change," and so they make pleasure where others would find pain.
And yet these very people, when they are converted, will tell you that they are not satisfied out of Christ! Now their verdictis worth considering. The dove had a will to find rest for the soles of her feet but she could not. It is not from want ofwill that I am compelled to say I cannot findanything beneath these stars, nor within the compass of the skies that can satisfy my soul's desires. I must get my Godand have Him to fill my large expectations or I shall not be content. I mention these things because people are apt to supposethat Christians are all a set ofmelancholy dyspeptics who put up with religion because there is nothing else that helps to make them to be so happily miserableand therefore they take to it as congenial with their melancholy disposition! But it is not so. We are a cheerful, genialrace and yet for all that we arenot resting the soles of our feet anywhere in earthly things.
Again, the reason why the dove could find no rest was not because she had no eyes to see. I know not how far a dove's eyescan discern, but it must be a very vast distance-perfectly incredible I should think. We see the dove sometimes mount aloft-wecan see nothing and yet she perceivesher dovecote and darts towards it. Now the Christian does not say there is no joy on earth for him except in his Lord becausehe has no power to see things pleasing and delightful. If there is melody in music, the Christian knows it, likes it, rejoicesin it. If there is sweetnesshis palate is as good as another man's. If there is anything to be found in wealth, or what the world calls pleasure, hecan see it all-he is not blind!
I know many Christians who are as quick in apprehension, as refined in taste, and as ready to appreciate anything that ispleasurable as other men-and yet these are men who are not fanatics! They are not shut up to a narrow range of things, buttheir vision can take in the whole circle ofsublunary delights. These are men who have not only seen but even tasted, yet bear their witness that like the dove theycan find no rest for the soles of their feet.
Moreover, the reason why the dove found no rest was not because she had no wings to reach it. Her wings were strong and swift.She could fly as well as the raven-perhaps she could, in the long run, outstrip him. So the Christian has power to enter intothe enjoyments of the world if he likes.It is not because his youth has departed and he has become old and shriveled and therefore the delights of the flesh haveceased to be temptations to him. No! Of course there are some in that condition, who when converted can almost be tauntedby sinners with the remark that theyhave tried the world's pleasures and when they could not enjoy them they then turned away from them.
But some of us are young and strong and full of blood and our bones are full of marrow. And if we willed it we could be ringleadersin all sorts of pleasure and plunge head first into the stream of sensual delight. We lack not courage and we lack not forceand yet for all this-we say itsolemnly and the God that searches all hearts knows we only say what we feel forced to say-that we can find no rest forthe soles of our feet in earthly pleasures. We have tried. We have wished to rest. We have even wanted to be satisfied withthe world-but the voidwithin can never be filled out of the mines of earth. We cannot-God has made it all empty to us.
Now what was the reason, then? It was not want of will. It was not want of sight. Nor was it want of wings-what was it? Thereason lay in this-she was a dove! If she had been a raven she would have found plenty of rest for the soles of her feet.It was her nature that made her restless.And the reason why the Christian cannot find satisfaction in worldly things is because there is a new nature within himthat cannot rest. "Up! Up! Up!" cries the new heart! "What have you to do here?" "Come, strike your tents," cries the newcreature. "You have no continuing cityhere-how is it that you try to make one in this barren wilderness? Away with you! What are you doing?"
If I could transform myself to an unregenerate man, the world might content me. But if I am regenerate, it matters not intowhat society I may be thrown away, I never can, I never shall, I must not, I dare not hope for contentment-for to the regenerate,Christ alone is satisfaction-theycannot find it anywhere else. You see, then, that this is a great test-this will try you, dear Friends, and divide you.
If any of you are saying, "Oh, I am satisfied enough. I do not want this Christ the man talks about-give me this and giveme that and I shall be quite content." I say, "Very likely-so was the raven content with carrion. But and if you are a childof God, you may seek contentmentelsewhere, but you shall be compelled, perhaps by sore and bitter trials, to turn away from all earthly things and fly backagain to your ark."
IV. Being disappointed, WHAT DID THE DOVE DO? When she found there was no contentment elsewhere, what then? She flew backto the ark. Josephus tells us that the dove came back to Noah with her wings and feet all wet and muddy. I think it is verylikely, but I do not think it any the more likelybecause Josephus says so. Some of you have grown wet and muddy. You have been trying to find rest in the world, Christian,and you have got mired with it. Trying to rest those feet where they could not rest you have collected filth.
What then? Shall I advise you to bathe in the flood? Shall I advise you to cleanse those wings till they are bright as theyonce were? No, I do not. I cannot give you any such advice. I can only say to you, "Do what the dove did." She mounted again-shecaught sight of the ark and knew theplace of safety. I want you once again to get a sight of Christ. Peter had gone far away, as the dove had done-he had deniedhis Master with oaths and curses-and what brought him back? Why, it was the Lord getting a sight of Peter and Peter gettinga sight of the Lord!"The Lord turned and looked upon Peter and he went out and wept bitterly."
Was it not all done as soon as the Lord's eyes and Peter's eyes came into contact? If you are enabled by the Holy Spirit toremember that there was a Savior who loved you so that Heaven could not hold Him. That He had to come to earth and enter intoyour degradation, and bear your sin, and sufferfor your sake, you will be getting right at once, however far off you are! If you look to Jesus, there is life for you ina look at the Crucified One.
Then the dove, after looking, was not content with that-she began to speed with all her might back to the ark. So, when youhave a faint view of your Savior and you are once more consciously saved, then fly back to Him! I do not read that the dovemade a tour round about, or that she thoughtshe would try something else. No, she took just the straight-est line she could, the nearest way between herself and herloved abode and went right straight away to Noah. Fear may have made her wings heavy, but it did not stop them! Mire and mudmay have made the journey morelaborious, but it did not turn her aside!
Come you mired ones! Come you fainting ones, doves as you are! Though you think yourself to be black as the raven with themire of sin-back, back to the Savior! Every moment you wait does but increase your misery! Your attempts to plume yourselfand make yourself fit for Him are all vanity.Come to Him just as you are! "Return you backsliding Israel." He does not say, " Return you repenting Israel," (there issuch an invitation, doubtless), but, "you backsliding one, as a backslider with all your backslidings about you. Return, return,return!"
V. I want you now to turn your eyes for a moment to THE VERY BEAUTIFUL SCENE, so it seems to me to be, at the end of her returnjourney. Noah has been looking out for his dove all day long. Here she comes! How heavily she flies! She will drop-she willnever reach the ark. Here she comes andNoah is ready to receive her. She looks bespotted with mire and dirt, but Noah waits for her. She has just strength to geton to the edge of the ark-she can hardly hold on there and is ready to drop when Noah puts forth his hand and pulls her inunto him.
Mark that-"pulled her in unto him." It seems to me to imply that she did not fly right in herself, but was too fearful, ortoo weary to get right in. She got as far as she could and then he put forth his hand and pulled her in unto him. Did youever feel that blessed gracious pull, when yourheart has been desiring to get near to Christ? Oh, it has been such tugging, such toiling in prayer-you could only say,"I would but cannot pray. My heart is heavy as lead and my soul as hard as adamant and dead as iron. I cannot stir myselfand get near to the Savior. Oh thatI could! Oh that I had the wings of a dove, for then would I flee away and be at rest."
All of a sudden it comes, that gracious pull! Your heart begins to be on fire! Before you are aware your soul seems to belike the chariots of Aminadab! Now it is all well with you! Now can you sing sweetly to your Beloved who has done great thingsfor you and you are glad. All this was, youperceive, to the wandering dove, to the miry dove speckled with filth. Just as she was, she is pulled into the ark. So you,with all that sin of yours and those wanderings will be received. "Only return"-those are two gracious words in the Bible-"onlyreturn"-so itis put. What? Nothing else? No, only return.
She had no olive branch in her mouth this time. Nothing at all but just herself and her wanderings. But it is, "only return,"and she does return and Noah pulls her in. Lord, pull me in! My thirsty spirit faints to reach You! My soul cries out forYour Presence but cannot reach You! I see You,Lord! Pull me in! When like Esther I faint in Your Presence and cannot tell You what I would, stretch out Your silver scepter-readmy heart and grant my desire and show Yourself to me! Oh, open my eyes to see You and know You!
Thus much concerning the dove and its likeness to our own hearts. Now I close with these three things-First, this becomesfirst of all a test to you. We can divide the house into two parts by asking the question, "Are you satisfied out of Christ?"Are you satisfied and content with anythingshort of a conscious knowledge of your union and interest in Christ Jesus? If so, you have no reason to believe that youare a converted man. If this world satisfies you I have no fault to find, no reason to be angry with you. Who finds faultwith horses for being satisfied with hayand oats? It is their natural food.
Some persons are very indignant with others because they will go to theatres and gay assemblies. They only take what theirnature craves after. The raven is now feeding on his carrion. I draw a distinction forevermore between that which men withoutDivine Grace may do and that which gracious menmay do. The graceless man stands somewhat on the level of the beast that perishes. Well, let the swine have their husks!Let the swine, I say, have their provender. You will never make them any better by denying them their husks! You may excitetheir angry passions against you, thatis all-let them have their husks.
But you, on the other hand, who are a Christian, are a different being. You are lifted into another state. You have anothernature. Now, could you enjoy those things? If you really could find satisfaction in them, you are a hypocrite. If your soulreally could stretch herself at rest and find thebed long enough and the coverlet broad enough to cover you in the chambers of sin, then you are a hypocrite and one of thesedays down to the pit your soul must go! On the other hand, if you feel sure and certain that if you could indulge in sin withouta punishment, it would stillbe a punishment of itself. And if you feel you could have the whole world and never be parted from it, it would be quiteenough misery not to be parted from it-for your God-your God is what your soul craves after, then be of good courage! Youare a child of God!
With all your sins and imperfections, take this to your comfort-if your soul has no rest in sin, you are not as the sinneris. If you are still crying after and craving after something better, Christ has not forgotten you for you have not quiteforgotten Him. Here is a test, then. And then,secondly, we must use our text as an encouragement. Here we have an encouragement to backsliders to return like the dove.She did not find the ark shut against her-we do not even find there was any delay. Noah pulled her in at once. To the sinnerhere is encouragement, too. Ifyou come back to the ark, you shall not be excluded. If any man shall be shut out of Heaven, he shuts the door himself.He who is damned signs his own death warrant. Our verse is true-
"None are excluded from now But those who do themselves exclude."
If you come-sinner, drunkard, blasphemer, liar, thief-whoever you may be, it is written, "Him that comes to Me I will in nowise cast out." "But here is one," I think I hear someone say, "here is one of such a sort as never came before! Blacker thannight. More full of sin than the eggis full of meat! Now, now there is one that will be shut out." I say make way for him, make way for him! Stand back youcommon sinners, make a way for him! Now we will see whether Christ is true or not! Brethren, what will be the result? Whywe know that in Christ there is love andtruth and faithfulness-and that what He says He means and that His promise He will perform.
When that black sinner comes, the Lord looks upon him with an eye of unutterable love and His first word is, "I have blottedout your iniquity as a cloud and like a thick cloud your transgression." "I have loved you with an everlasting love," andHis next act is to plunge that sinner in thefountain filled with blood and suddenly he comes out whiter than snow, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing! He isable to cleanse from all iniquity and to deliver from all unrighteousness and to make the foulest and vilest bright as thesun at noonday! This isencouragement-God help you to take it! May the Holy Spirit bring you to Christ today.
And then, lastly, we use our text, I think, as a loud cry for gratitude. Does Christ receive us when we have found Him andis there none on earth like He? Is He the best of all the good, the fairest of all the lovely? Oh then, let us praise Him.!Down with your idols, up with the Lord Jesus! Nowlet the standard of all pomp and pride be trampled under foot, and let the Cross of Jesus, which the world frowns and scoffsat, be lifted up! Oh for a high throne for the Savior! Let Him be lifted up forever and let my soul sit at His feet and kissHis feet and wash them with mytears.
Oh how precious is Christ! How can it be that I have thought so little of Him? How is it I can go abroad for anything elsewhen He is so full, so rich, so satisfying? Christian, make a covenant with your heart and ask the Lord to ratify it- thatyou will never depart from Him! Bid Him set youas a signet upon His finger and as a bracelet upon His arm. Ask Him to bind you about Him as the bride decks herself withornaments and as the bridegroom puts on his jewelry. I would live in Christ's heart-in the clefts of that Rock my soul wouldabide!
The sparrow has made a house and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O Lord of Hosts,my King and my God! And so, too, would I make my nest, my home in You and never from You may the soul of Your turtle dovego forth again! May I nestle close to Jesus whohas pulled me back into the ark after my backsliding. May the Holy Spirit so preserve us for His name's sake. Amen.