The Spiritual Meaning of the Noahic Covenant

Spiritual Meaning of the Noahic Covenant

Francis Roberts (1609-1675)
Mysterium & Medulla Bibliorum
The Mystery and Marrow of the Bible
Book 3, Chapter 2.

Of the Discovery and Administration of the Covenants of Promise in the Second Period of Time—From Noah till Abraham.

II. The Spiritual Meaning of the Noahic Covenant.

II. What the spiritualness, or spiritual meaning of these Covenants of God with Noah, as a renewed administration of the Covenant of Faith is hath partly been discovered by the arguments formerly produced to prove the thing; and may further appear, by considering briefly: 1. The Author, 2. Parties, 3. Matter, and 4. Form of these covenants, as a Covenant of Faith in Christ, touching sinners’ salvation.

I. The Author: God.

I. The Author of these Covenants with Noah, etc. as a Covenant of Faith, was God. God was Author of them, immediately by lively voice revealing them to Noah, as a gracious preserver, deliverer, and merciful Saviour of a remnant of mankind from deserved destruction. In this notion God was Author hereof. The impulsive cause moving him hereunto, was inward and outward. 1. Inward; his own mere grace and commiserating favour to Noah and his family. 2. Outward; the satisfactory and sweet smelling sacrifice of Jesus Christ, typified in Noah’s sacrifices which were a savour of rest to God, and an occasion of God’s Covenant with him.

II. The Parties: God and Christ.

II. The parties to these Covenants, as a Covenant of Faith, were chiefly two:

1. On the one hand, as the party covenanting: God, as a gracious compassionate and merciful Saviour of a remnant of lost mankind in Christ.

2. On the other hand, as the party restipulating, in Noah and his family: Christ (as a true Noah, a true Comforter, and author of rest and peace, to cursed and tired sinners), and his family, his spiritual household in him. Typically—Noah and his family. Anti-typically or spiritually—Christ and his family, the Church, his spiritual seed, are here federates with God.

III. The Matters Covenanted.

III. Matters covenanted in these two Covenants, as a distinct administration of the Covenant of Faith, are: 1. On God’s part. 2. On Christ’s part (as the true Noah) and his seed’s.

1. God’s Gracious Promises.

1. God on his part graciously covenanted and promised:

(1) The elect will be saved from the Deluge of God’s wrath.

(1) That the spiritual household of Christ, the true Noah, (though very few in comparison of the world), should be spiritually and eternally saved from the Deluge of God’s wrath, when the whole world besides should utterly perish therein. For under the temporal and corporal salvation of Noah’s family from the Flood of waters, we are to understand the spiritual and eternal salvation of Christ and his family from the Flood of God’s wrath.

(2) Saved in the Ark—the Church of Christ.

(2) That they who should be spiritually and eternally saved from the Deluge of God’s wrath and vengeance, should be saved only in the Ark of God’s Church with and by Jesus Christ the true Noah. No living creature on earth was saved without the Ark, all died in the Flood, except they that were with Noah in the Ark. So all without the Church eternally perish. They only that are with Christ in his Church are eternally saved. “And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). But first they were added to the Church, then saved. Yea therefore added to the Church that they might be saved. To this purpose said Cyprian notably of the Church of Christ, by her fructifying we are brought forth, by her milk we are nourished, by her Spirit we are animated. The Spouse of Christ cannot be defiled with adultery, She is incorrupt and chaste, she knows one House, most chastely preserves the sanctity of one chamber. She keeps us to God, she assigns the sons which she hath begotten to a Kingdom. Whosoever segregated from the Church is joined to an adulteress, he is separated from the promises of the Church. Nor shall he come to Christ’s rewards, who relinquisheth Christ’s Church. He is an alien, he is profane, he is an enemy. He cannot have God for a Father, that hath not the Church for a Mother. If any could escape who was without the Ark of Noah, then may he escape that is without the Church. So here, without the Ark, none escaped drowning: without the Church none escape damning.

And as all that shall be saved, shall be saved only in the Church, so they are to be saved only with and by Christ therein. Peter saith, eight persons were saved in the Ark, but by water, so we must be saved in the Church, but by Christ, figured by water (1 Peter 3:20-21). Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6); the only saving door of the sheep (John 10:7-9); the only Mediator betwixt God and man (1 Tim. 2:5); the only name given whereby we can be saved (Acts 4:12). So then, in this Covenant, under the type of Noah, Christ as a comforting Saviour of his House from God’s wrath, is most sweetly promised of God.

(3) Saved by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection.

(3) That they who should be saved by this true Noah Jesus Christ in the Ark of his Church, should be saved by virtue of his death and resurrection. This Peter intimates in his accommodation of the type to the anti-type. “While the Ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved. The like figure whereunto, even Baptism doth also now save us, by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into Heaven, and is on the right hand of God.” (1 Peter 3:20-21).

When Christ purchased and wrought out our salvation, he effected it chiefly two ways:

1. By his death and humiliation. Dying for our sins, and bearing the curse of our sins in his own body on the tree, for the full satisfying and pacifying of divine justice. So that now there needs no more sacrifice for sin.

2. By his resurrection from the dead, and exaltation. Hereby he justified himself to be the Son of God, a righteous person, and a triumphant conqueror of sin, death, grave, and all the powers of darkness—and this for our justification, that we might be over these enemies joint conquerors with him.

Proportionably when Christ applies unto us salvation purchased, he doth it two ways:

1. By mortifying and burying our old man with him, that sin should no longer live and reign in us.

2. By vivifying and raising up the new man with him. That as Christ rose from the dead, so we should walk in newness of life. Both these are signified by Baptism.

(1) Our death with Christ, by our going into the water, or being in or under the water in baptism. Hence these phrases, we are baptized into his death; we are buried with him by baptism into death; we are planted together in the likeness of his death (Rom. 6:3-5).

(2) Our life and resurrection with Christ, by our coming out of, or from under the water of baptism. Hence we are said to be buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). And it is styled, our planting in the likeness of his resurrection (Rom. 6:5). Thus (as Peter intimates) we are saved: A. Meritoriously by Christ’s death and resurrection. B. Actually, by the effectual application of both these to us. C. Sacramentally by baptism signifying and sealing both these to us. Now of both these the saving of Noah’s family in the Ark by water, was a type. For,

(1) Noah’s entering into the Ark and his house with him, was a kind of typical death and burial. As Mr. Perkins hath well observed,

“They went into the Ark as dead men into a grave. They were buried in the Ark, and the Ark in the waters: they were deprived of humane Society, fresh air, glad some light, and of the comfort of earthly Creatures. Yet this was God’s way to save them from Death and Grave, as it were by Death and Grave. If Noah’s family will be saved alive with him, they must go into the Grave with him. So if Christs family will be eternally saved by him, they must go into the grave with him, being spiritually mortified, crucified and buried with him.” (com. on Heb. 11:7).

(2) Noah’s coming out of the Ark alive and his family with him, when all the world was drowned and dead, was a kind of typical reviving and resurrection from the dead. They came out of the Ark as out of the grave, and that into a New World. If Noah’s family will be saved with him, they must also come out of the Ark with him. Had they not come out at last, they had perished there. So if Christ’s family will be saved with him eternally, they must be quickened and rise again with him. As they must die with him to sin: so they must live with him to righteousness.

Thus in this Covenant with Noah, God typically represented sinners’ salvation by Christ’s death and resurrection: in their entering into, and coming out of the Ark. And this is one high point, and a principal mystery of the Gospel.

(4) Saved from the Flood and the wrath of God.

(4) That Christ’s family and elect saved by him once from the Flood of God’s wrath, should never eternally perish by the deluge of his wrath. As Noah and his family saved from the Flood of waters, receive a Covenant from God, that neither they nor the living creatures on Earth should ever any more be destroyed by a Flood of waters.

(5) Superadded temporal blessings.

(5) Finally, that they who are spiritually and eternally saved by Christ, shall have all necessary temporal blessings superadded to them in Christ. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mat. 6:33; 1 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 1:3 with Rom. 8:17). Thus in the type, Noah’s family was not only saved in the Ark with Noah, but also for their sakes, a seed of the living creatures were saved in the Ark with them for their after use and service. The free use of the creatures is granted to them, the Earth and creatures being put under their power in subjection, and the continued course and revolution of times and seasons, without danger of being destroyed anymore, by an universal Flood of waters, is assured to them. So in Christ “all are your’s…the world, and life, and death, and things present, and things to come; all are your’s; and we are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

These things God covenanted and promised on his part.

2. Christ and the Church.

2. Christ (the true Noah) and his family, on their part, restipulated respectively diverse things:

(1) That Jesus Christ would prepare and build a Spiritual Ark, his Church, wherein his elect family should be saved from wrath to come, whereby the world of the ungodly should be destroyed.

(2) That the elect of Christ should come into this Ark, should enter into this Church with Jesus Christ, and therein abide with him, for their salvation. Christ entered into his Church by baptism, that with himself he might save all his elect in his Church. That his elect may actually partake salvation by Christ, they must enter Christ’s Ark, and remain therein with Christ.

These things Christ and his family restipulated, under the type of Noah and his family, on their part.

IV. The Form of the Noahic Covenant.

IV. The form of these covenants of God with Noah, as a renewed administration of the Covenant of Faith in Christ, was twofold:

1. Inward. The reciprocal and mutual obligation of the federate parties to each other.

2. Outward. The way and manner of this Covenant’s administration. This Covenant of Faith from Noah till Abraham was revealed, dispensed, and administered in this sort.

1. It was explicitly styled a covenant (Gen. 6:18 & 9:9-17). A covenant for perpetual generations (Gen. 9:12) (Heb. “for generations of eternity“). An everlasting covenant (Gen. 9:16) (Heb. “a covenant of eternity“). This was the first express mention and denomination of a covenant betwixt God and man. And this covenant everlasting, in that hereby God assured Noah that the world should never again be destroyed by a general Flood. Proportionably hereunto God in his Covenant of Peace hath assured his people that he would not be wroth with them, but have mercy on them with everlasting kindness.

2. It was made by God’s immediate [voice] to Noah (Gen. 6:13ff & 9:9-18). Clearly therefore a divine covenant.

3. It was limited to Noah and his family—as the type; to Christ and his Church visible—as the anti-type. All others were aliens from the Covenants of Promise.

4. It was revealed and represented under the visible temporal preservation of Noah and his family in a material Ark from the Flood of waters; and their certification, or assuring of them and their seed, that the Earth should no more be destroyed with a general flood of waters. Under which the elect of Christ are assured of their spiritual and eternal salvation in the Church by Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection, etc. from the Deluge of God’s wrath and vengeance for sin and iniquity.

5. It was confirmed strongly two ways. 1. By God’s sacred and inviolable oath. “For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for, as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the Earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee” etc. (Isa. 54:9-10 with Gen. 8:21). 2. By God’s eminent and visible sacrament, the rainbow in the cloud—the solemn ratifying sign and seal of this Covenant. So that this Covenant as dispensed to Noah was most firm, sure, and inviolable.

6. Finally, this covenant administration had many temporal blessings annexed thereunto. 1. The continued revolution of seed time and harvest, cold and heat, etc. while the Earth remaineth. 2. The fruitfulness of mankind on Earth. 3. Dominion over the creatures. 4. Enlarged liberty to have not only herbs, but the flesh of the creatures for food, etc. So true is that of our Saviour, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat. 6:33). And that of Paul’s, “Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).

Thus of the spiritual meaning of these covenants of God with Noah.

III. Additions to the Noahic Covenant after the Adamic administration.

III. What additionals were annexed to this second federal administration from Noah till Abraham, more than were to the first dispensation of the promise from Adam till Noah; may now appear by what hath already been declared. And consequently what agreement and difference there was betwixt these two dispensations.

I. Additions.

I. Additionals to this federal dispensation, beyond the former, were these:

1. The express name of “a covenant“: this being the first time that the transaction betwixt God and his people is called a covenant in the whole Scripture.

2. The express mention of the parties with whom God made this Covenant, viz. of the parties restipulating with God: Noah, his sons, and their seed.

3. A new and more clear representation of sinners’ recovery and salvation by Christ, under the type of Noah’s saving his family in the Ark by water, from perishing with the world of the ungodly.

4. A notable establishment and confirmation of this Covenant: 1. By God’s sacred oath. 2. By God’s sacramental token: the rainbow. That by these two Noah and his sons, and we in them, might have strong consolation, in hope and assurance of divine performance.

5. An express declaration of this Covenant’s perpetuity, till the end of the world.

6. Certain accessory promises of diverse temporal blessings.

II. Agreements & Differences between the Noahic and Adamic Covenants.

II. Agreement and difference betwixt this federal dispensation, and the first promissory administration, stands thus:

1. They agree in substance, both of them having:

1. The same author, God.

2. The same parties covenanting, viz. God on the one hand, Christ and his elect seed taken from among lapsed mankind, on the other hand.

3. The same foundation, viz. God’s mere grace in Christ.

4. The same matter promised and covenanted, viz. Recovery of sinners from state of sin and death to righteousness and life by Jesus Christ.

5. The same end, the assuring and securing of sinners of their salvation and recovery, if by faith they will accept Christ according to God’s Covenant.

Herein they agree for substance.

2. They differ in circumstance, and in some accidental considerations. For,

1. That was laid down but as a promise. This, as a formal and complete covenant.

2. Of that God was author as a destroyer of lapsed man’s enemy the Serpent: of this God was author, as lapsed man’s preserver, deliverer, and Saviour from death and destruction.

3. That mentioned no parties restipulating with God, being neither directed expressly to Adam, nor to his wife, but to the Serpent, though the promised benefit thereof was intended to them, not to the Serpent. But this expressly mentions parties restipulating with God, namely, Noah, his sons, and their seed, and under them we are also principally to understand, Jesus Christ, the true Noah, and his seed.

4. That led to Christ more generally, as the seed of the woman, intimating that Christ should come of some woman that should be in the world, but neither expressing nor excluding any nation, family, or person. But this led to Christ more particularly, as to descend of Noah’s family, by which the whole earth was overspread, excluding all other families and women from this privilege of bringing forth Christ into the world, that were not in a direct line from Adam till Noah.

5. That represented Christ as the Seed of the woman at enmity with the Serpent’s Seed, bruised in his heel by the Serpent, but bruising the head of the Serpent, that old Serpent the Devil and Satan, who had bruised and undone mankind. This represented Christ as the anti-type of Noah, a true Comforter and Saviour of his elect family, in his Ark of the Church, by his own death and humiliation, resurrection and exaltation. So that Christ is here more clearly revealed as the sinners’ Recoverer, than in the first promise.

6. That was established without any oath of God, or sacramental token; only sacrifices were added thereunto, which had as it were a sacramental confirming nature. But this was established, both by God’s sacred inviolable oath, wherein it was impossible for God to lie, and also by his eminent sacramental token—the rainbow in the cloud. Hereby God sweetly provided for the stronger consolation of his people.

7. That was not styled everlasting, or perpetual. But this was named an everlasting covenant, for perpetual generations (Gen. 3:15; Gen. 9:12, 16). Though for substance they were both equally everlasting in respect of Christ and man’s spiritual recovery by him.

8. Finally, this superadded more temporal blessings and promises than that, and more clearly. That implicitly signified and promised the woman’s conception and bringing forth of children, in the curse pronounced upon her; and the man’s eating of bread all his days by his labour, in the curse propounded upon him (which words some do very well interpret to be a command, a threatening, and a promise to man). But this explicitly declared diverse notable promises and temporal blessings, as hath been formerly declared.

In these things these two first federal dispensations do principally agree and differ.

IV. Consequences drawn from this doctrine.

IV. Corollaries from the whole, are briefly these:

1. God’s covenants with Noah before and after the Flood, revealed not only a corporal and temporal, but also a spiritual and an eternal salvation. That corporal and temporal salvation in the Ark from the flood of waters, with security to the world for ever after from such a General Flood, typically resembling and representing the spiritual and eternal salvation of lapsed sinners in the Church by Christ from the Flood of God’s wrath and vengeance.

Doubt. But seeing God’s later Covenant with Noah extended to the whole world, to save all mankind from any such general Flood for future: doth not this typically favour the doctrine and opinion of universal redemption by Christ?

Resolution. No. For, 1. It hath already been cleared, that in the former dispensation of the first promise, there was no footing for the opinion of universal redemption: nor proportionably was there in this, which for substance is one and the same with that. 2. If this Covenant should in this regard favour universal redemption, because the corporal benefit thereof is extended to all mankind in the whole world: then by the same argument, spiritual redemption should by this Covenant belong to brute beasts and other living creatures. For even they reap the benefit of this Covenant, and God is said to make it with them, as well as with mankind. But this were most absurd to imagine. 3. These Covenants with Noah revealed a double salvation, an outward corporal and temporal salvation, and an inward spiritual and eternal salvation principally intended and typified thereby. This latter belongs only to the elect family of the true Noah, Jesus Christ, and to the New World planted and replenished by him spiritually. The former salvation which is but outward and corporal, from all such future floods, is (in and for the benefit of Christ’s elect, and saved family) extended even to all the wicked in the world, and to brute creatures themselves.

2. They who treat of God’s Covenants with man in Christ purposely, and yet totally omit this excellent federal dispensation to Noah, seem too much to neglect the gradual order and method of God’s federal administrations, and to bury in too much silence this eminent transaction of God with Noah, which was the very first in the world expressly styled a Covenant. And that it was a Covenant of Faith in Christ, hath been already proved.

Here I ingenuously confess, I durst not make so large a leap over this federal transaction, as some have done, but have diligently examined and inquired into the mystery of it; 1. Lest I should darken or eclipse the glory of God’s grace, goodness, mercy, and wisdom herein, by an unthankful silence. 2. Lest I should disturb the order, and deface the beauty of God’s dispensations of grace, which he hath purposely revealed in certain gradual discoveries. 3. Lest I should prejudice and prevent myself or others of that spiritual benefit and edification, which (I hope) through God’s blessing may be reaped by the opening of this Covenant in order.

3. This federal dispensation is much fuller and clearer than the first: as hath been evidenced in many particulars. Such is God’s grace, wisdom, and goodness to his Church and people, that as her capacity of receiving groweth, so his dispensations and discoveries of mercy grow towards her.

4. Finally, God’s Covenant with Noah, etc. being a Covenant of Faith in Christ, it may be both a useful and comfortable subject even for our meditation and contemplation. The substance of it, being the same with this under the New Testament. And both the temporal blessings expressed, and the spirituals implied, reaching to every one of us and our families, as well as to Noah and his family.

How many lectures may we read to ourselves, of Christ, in Noah: of the Church, in the Ark: of the Salvation of Christ’s family in his spiritual Ark by his death and streams of his blood, in the saving of Noah’s family in the Ark from perishing by water: of the acceptableness of Christ’s death and sacrifice of himself to God, in the gratefulness of Noah’s sacrifice to him: and in a word, of that divine mercy, grace, and favour towards sinners, that encompasseth his throne, and shines in his face abundantly, in the rainbow, that token of divine grace and commiseration?

Sometimes let us converse with Noah, who walked with God. Lets mark his faith and patience in building his Ark: Christ’s more in building his Church. Let’s consider his entering into, and coming out of the Ark, to save his family: but much more Christ’s entering into and coming out of the grave, to save his people. Yea as they of old were buried with Noah in the Ark, and as it were drowned in the Ark in the waters; that they might not be buried and drowned with the wicked world: So let us die, and be buried with Christ spiritually, that we may not die and be buried eternally. Let’s make sure we are of Christ’s elect family, and get we into his spiritual Ark indeed: that so we may be saved from the Flood of God’s indignation, which will swallow up all the wicked of the world for evermore.

Hitherto of God’s Covenants of Promise, as dispensed in the second eminent period of time, from Noah till Abram, that is, from the 480th year of Noah, Anno Mundi 1536 till the 70 or 71st year of Abram, Anno Mundi 2079 the time of God’s first promise to Abram. Which was precisely 430 years before Israels going out of Egypt, and the giving of the Law.


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