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of forbearing mercy. God said, "This is the token of the covenant, which I make between me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant that is between me and you, and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look it that I may
remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said to Noah, this is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth."
I do not intend to enter at all into a question which has been made the subject of much enquiry amongst the learned, much less to determine it, that is, whether the rainbow ever appeared before the deluge, or was now for
the first time seen by Noah and his family. Those who think, from the terms in which this history is given, that this was the first appearance of the bow, suppose that the temperature of the antediluvian world was such, that there were no natural causes for its production; but it will be sufficient for all the purposes of religion, even if we conclude, with others, that though the rainbow was wont to be visible before, it was now first appointed to this particular purpose, so that what was previously no more than a natural appearance, thenceforth became a gracious symbol of God's covenant. Neither do I mean to put forth any philosophical explanation how those various colours which are so pleasing to the eye are produced, or whence arises that arched form in which we always view it. I wish to render the subject subservient to the interests of religion rather than the advancement of science; and therefore I propose to treat of the rainbow simply as a pledge of the covenant which God has made with the earth, that he will no more destroy it by a flood. Let this be our first consideration.
I. A covenant usually means a contract formed between two parties, with mutual engagements and stipulations; but it also frequently expresses only a special promise and benefit from the one party, independent of any condition to be performed by the other. Such is the nature of the covenant here made with Noah. It contains an absolute promise without requiring either faith in the promise itself, or obedience to any commandment, or observance of any ceremony. It is universally made with all mankind, nay even with the inferior animals also; it is made with all nations, with the Gentile as well as with the Jew, with the Heathen as much as with the Christian; it is made with all characters, with the wicked and with the holy, with believers and unbelievers. As God makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and causes his rain to descend on the just and on the unjust, so he makes his rainbow, which is produced by these joint causes, to appear indifferently to all, that all may be assured that a deluge shall no more destroy the earth. Hence also the sign of it is a
thing which does not depend on our will, or require any act or observance on our part, as did the sign of circumcision among the Jews, as do those of water, which must be used in the sacrament of baptism, and of bread and wine, which must be eaten and drunk in that of the Lord's supper. It depends not on us, I say, whether the Rainbow shall appear, as it does whether we bring our children to be baptized with water, or ourselves partake of the outward representations of the body and blood of Christ. In all these particulars the covenant made with Noah, is essentially different from the covenant made with Adam on his creation, and from that new and better covenant afterwards made with all believers, through Abraham, in Christ: It conveyed not any spiritual blessings and promises to Noah or to any of his posterity, but was a pledge to all of the new world which should arise from him, of future security from one particular cause of fear. And how suitable for the prevention of such fear is the symbol adopted. As there is a peculiar fitness in all the signs of God's covenants to
represent the things signified, and the spiritual blessings which they are intended to convey, and the spiritual acts which are required of us; so is there a suitable adaptation in the rainbow to the purpose for which it was designed. The bow appears in the cloud, and is formed by the presence of rain: so that it is in the cause itself from which we should expect the danger, and at the very time when we might be the most liable to fear it, that God spreads out the token of safety. Though the clouds overhang, and the drops descend, yet there need not be the slightest apprehension of a second universal deluge, for behold, saith God in the words of the text, "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of the covenant between me and all flesh."
Yet although the covenant, thus made with Noah, was in so many respects different from the covenant made with the church of God in Christ, it is nevertheless used by the prophet Isaiah to illustrate and confirm the stability and perpetuity of that covenant, in which the true church is assured that her God will never leave her nor forsake her, that his kindness