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"And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all
the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged: the fountains also of the deep, and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; and the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated."
Gen. viii. 1-3.
WHEN the hero of the noblest of the Roman poets was cast with his associates on the nothern coast of Africa, des poiled of their shipping, ignorant of their situation, and mourning the destruction of so many of their friends, he is represented as consoling their drooping spirits among other things with the suggestion that in after times, when they should have retrieved their losses, and effected a settlement in the country so long sought, they would reap no small enjoyment from the remembrance and recital of their present woes. It was a stroke most true to nature. The recollection of past sorrows as well as of departed joys is "pleasant, though mournful to the soul.” And when such emotions are placed under the consecration of christian
feeling;. when the recognition of all-ruling Providence itlumines the dark scene; when we remember how we trust ed and were not disappointed, when we call to mind the kindness that cherished the failing spirit, the tender consideration that took thought for our many wants and set our feet at last upon firm and even ground;--then the remembrance of our sorrows is indeed a blissful exercise, for it is mingled with feelings of thankfulness and gladness: thankfulness for the unwearied cares of such a friend; gladness that he still befriends us, and is our hope for time to come. If this earth was ever the seat of one moment of felicity unmingled and unperturbed, if ever one emotion pure as those of angels thrills through the human heart, it surely is that moment when, unnoticed by the world and heedless of all its interests, we ponder the ways in which the Almighty has led us, and remembering all his goodness when there was none other we could trust, and humbled by the recollection of our impatience or misgivings, we fall down before him and bless him for bis kindness, and with ingenuous tears lament that we ever doubted, ever were afraid. Such tears may flow profusely, but they sparkle as they roll, nor will they blight the roses on the softest cheek.
Never was there a being on whom such recollections had fairer room to work, than on the patriarch whose de liverance we this day celebrate. On last Lord's day we left him in that ark, still floating on the bosom of the mighty waters. That prodigious vessel, of burden exceeding forty thousand tons, floated along unwieldly and unwielded, without a sail or rudder, the current alone its mover, and Providence its guide. Of the dangers it encountered they are fittest judges who car best imagine what surges lashed it, what billows heaved it, when falling mountains raised mountains in the deep, and spouting cataracts made alt its surface boil. Nor can less be infered from that com mand of the Almighty that all the sides and all the top should be made impervious to the water, save only one little window to admit the light and air. Providence interpo ses no miracles, except where ordinary means in their or dinary application will not effect his purposes; and the means thus employed to prevent the ark from filling clear ly indicate the danger to wbich it was exposed.
This arrangement likewise answered another important end. The patriarch had no view from this strange prison except directly upward. It was enough for him and his family to feel the tossings of the vessel, and to hear the fierce turmoil in which all without was driving. It was well that he could only imagine the horrors of the scene, the deluged earth, the falling mountains, the floating car
The fact no doubt exceeded all mortal comprehen sion: the sight would have been distraction.
But at the end of forty days the face of heaven brightened; the waters rolled no longer; and floating softly along as the tide might shape their course, full leisure was left this highly favored family to contemplate the kindness which had interposed to save them--them—them only of all a world so populous. How the uproar they had heard and the tossings they had experienced must have heightened and sweetened their present sense of calmness and security, you will determine for yourselves. And how this dread dispensation, taken all in all, must have elevated their con. ceptions of unswerving righteousness that made such hav. oc of a world, and of condescending goodness which yet would not destroy the righteous with the wicked, we surely need not tell you. We know well how recent danger
endears present safety; and we know that no moment so elevates devotion as that which confers distinguished kindness, when, bereaved of every other stay, we have none but God to trust.
It was on the 7th of December that "the fountains of the great deep were broken up.” On the 6th of May, 150 days from the commencement of the deluge, the mandate was given and the waters began to retire. The same difficulty meets us here which we have already encountered in relation to the original place of this vast collection of waters. We know too little of the structure of the earth to say any thing with certainty on a question about which the scriptures are so utterly silent. One thing however is certain. The mean density of this great globe is nearly four times greater than that of water;that is to say it is nearly four times heavier than an equal bulk of water would be. Now, though we cannot penetrate a single mile below the surface, yet, if we are to judge from the lava of volcanoes, and from such other slight informations as we occasionally pick up in relation to the bowels of the earth, there is every reason to believe that a solid mass of rock and min, eral and metal would be vastly more ponderous than we know to the world to be. We are therefore constrained to suppose that its internal parts contain prodigious cavi. ties filled only with water. This seems necessary to account for the comparative lightness of the whole mass, Nor, if we can trust the geological intimations of him who made the earth, will we hesitate upon this subject. The apostle Peter suggests that the disposition of its parts was different originally from their present arrangement; "the earth,” he says, “then standing out of the water, and in the water." And the psalmist is express in his assertion that
it is founded on the floods. We are not to expect from the scriptures formal instruction on questions of geology, or astronomy, or indeed on any other subject which man pursues as science. But we surely are to expect that God best knows his own works, and must therefore believe that if he incidentally alludes to them, the allusion will be correct. When, for instance, we are told that he hung the carth upon nothing, that he balanced it in empty space, we are to look out for facts corresponding with the assertion: and modern astronomy now assures us of these facts. So also when we are told that the ground is founded upon flood, we are entitled to expect that there are vast collections of waters in the central parts of the earth. We have only then to suppose that when Omnipotence destroyed the internal organization this heavier crust would sink; and at every chasm the waters necessarily spouted. We have only to suppose another exercise of power to raise again the surface, vast interstices would be formed, and then would take place what the psalmist has described when celebrating this very event: "God laid the foundations of the earth that it should not be removed forever.The wa. ters stood above the mountains; at thy rebuke they fled: at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. They go up by the mountains, they go down by the vallies into the place which thou hast founded for them.”—Psals. civ. 5-8.
They had sunk but a very little when this heavily laden vessel grounded on the top of one of the mountains of Armenia. The precise spot is of course a matter of uncer tainty. The natives of the East generally point us to a large and isolated mountain, commonly called Masis, some times the finger mountain because of its tall and slender form. It is one of the loftiest in Asia, at least a third of its height being above the boundary of perpetual snow,