Beware when seeking knowledge from strange sources.
WHEN a reader of the Bible first steps across the borders of the Bible, and, for love of the Bible, begins to read the ancient books that lie around and beneath the Bible, he comes sometimes upon a real treasure, but more often upon a heap of rubbish. When a reader of the Bible first hears of The Book of Enoch, taking Coleridge’s excellent advice, he sells his bed to buy that book. Enoch walked with God, he says to himself. I have the whole Bible in my hands, all written, he says to himself, by men all of whom so walked, but let me get all the books of all such men before I have either time or money for any other manner of man or any other kind of book.
Beware, The Book of Enoch is not from Enoch or about Enoch.
But when, after long looking for it, he, at last, holds The Book of Enoch in his hand, it is with what a disappointment! For one thing, he soon sees that he has been deceived and imposed upon. Enoch! He has not read the first chapter of the book until it is as clear as day to him that Enoch never saw the book that goes under his ancient name; and besides, it is simply impossible that any man who had ever walked with God as Enoch walked could have written a single chapter of such an inflated and fantastic book. In four verses of his own Bible—in two verses in the Old Testament, and in two verses in the New Testament—there is more truth and more beauty and more guidance how he is to walk with God, than there is in all the hundred and eight chapters of the so-called Book of Enoch taken together.
Still, our Bible scholars must work on in rubbish-heaps like The Book of Enoch, if only for the sake of the chips and the filings of the Bible that are sometimes to be found there. But unless you are a Bible scholar, and are able to get good out of a book that returns but a far-off echo of your Bible, you will spend your time and your money far better than by spending either on The Book of Enoch. ‘And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.’ There is substance there for him who knows what substance is, and there is style there for him who knows what style is. And that is but one single verse out of a whole Bible full of such substance and such style.
Here is the truth of the life of the man Enoch.
This, then, is the book of the generations of Adam. ‘Adam begat a son in his likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth. And Adam lived after he had begotten Seth, he begat sons and daughters, and he died. And Seth lived, and died. And Enos lived, and died. And Cainan lived, and died. And Mahalaleel lived, and died. And Jared lived, and begat Enoch. And Jared lived after he begat and begat sons and daughters, and he died. And Enoch begat Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah, and begat sons and daughters. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.’ What is that? Let us go back upon that. Let us ponder all that passage over again.
Adam and all his sons, after they had begotten sons and daughters, died. But of Enoch, the seventh from Adam, we read very differently. Adam, and Seth, and Enos, and Cainan, and Mahalaleel, and Jared all lived, they simply lived on, after they had had children born to them, and then died. But Enoch walked with God after his first child was born. As much surely as to say—could anything be said with more plainness?—that it was only after his first child was born to him that Enoch really and truly began to walk with God.
A role model for us all.
Fathers and mothers, young fathers and young mothers, fathers and mothers whose first child has just been born, and no more—seize your opportunity. Let not another day pass. Begin today. Begin tonight. It is late, if not yet too late, with the most of us; but it is not yet too late with you. Take Enoch for your father. Take him for your patron patriarch. Take him for your example. Follow him in his blessed footsteps in his family life. It was his first son that made Enoch a saint. As soon as he saw his first child in his image, and in his arms, Enoch became from that day a new man. All men begin to walk for a short season with God when their first child is born; only Enoch, alone almost of all men, held on as he had begun.
Enoch’s heart ran over to God when his first child was born; and his tender, noble, princely heart never went back from that day from God, never grew cold again, never grew hard again, and never again forgot or neglected God. And as child followed child, Enoch, their father, grew more and more in grace with the growth of his house, till at the last he was not, for God took him. What an inheritance of blessed memories Enoch’s children must have had! We all have fathers and mothers with God, for God has taken them; but, unless it was Elijah’s children, no man’s children ever looked up to heaven with such wondering and worshiping eyes as Enoch’s children looked. My father! my father! The chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!
Enoch knew God . . . actually we should say, Enoch knows God.
Enoch, the wisest and the happiest of men, began his religious life where most men have not yet come to at the end of their religious life. He began by believing that God IS. With us, with all that we can do, we but attain to occasional hopes and confused convictions that perhaps God IS. We do not, indeed, even at our worst, in as many words deny that God IS. But scarce one in a thousand of our actions is performed, scarce one in a thousand of our words is spoken, on the pure and clear and sure ground that God IS.
At our best we believe in a languor and in a dream that God is away out somewhere in the universe. We call Him ‘infinite’ in our catechisms and in our creeds, in our psalms and in our prayers, not thinking what we are saying, and then we go away and live as if He were infinitely far away from us and from this whole world. Only, after death, when at last death comes, we fear that, somewhere and somehow, we shall see God. But Enoch never saw death, because he ever saw God.
Enoch never died. Enoch did not need to die.
Death could do nothing for Enoch. Death was neither friend nor enemy, first nor last, to Enoch. Death was not appointed for men like Enoch. As Dr. Herrick has it in his Heretics of Yesterday, Enoch was the first recorded mystic. ‘The first mystic of whom we have any record was Enoch, and the four words which furnish us with his whole biography is the best definition we have of true spiritual mysticism,—Enoch walked with God.’
You are an orthodox theologian when you take pen and ink and subscribe with your hand that God is. But you become a mystical theologian and a spiritual man when you begin to believe with your whole heart that God is beside you, and within you, and is nowhere else for you but in your own heart. Commonplace men see now and then a skirt of God, and catch now and then a broken ray, a scintilla, as a mystic would say, of God’s glory; but Enoch walked with God up and down the land of Eden, as a man walketh with his friend.
God was in Enoch’s heart. ‘He looked within and saw God mirrored there.’ Enoch, from the day that his little child was born, felt God shed abroad in his heart. He entered every new morning into his own heart to walk there with God. He walked abroad every morning with his child in his arms, and with his God in his heart. Enoch so entered and so dwelt with God in his own heart, that God could not endure to loan him to this world any longer.
The truth of Enoch’s life is in the Holy Bible, not in The Book of Enoch’s fables.
When I first heard tell that there was a Book of Enoch, did I not promise myself a great treat! What an autobiography that must be! I wonder, will Enoch enter into particulars, I said to myself, and will he give instances, and tell in plain pedestrian words, giving chapter and verse, and step after step, just as I can understand it and imitate it, how he, Enoch, walked with God: really, and on his own solid feet, and on this solid earth, how he walked with God?
But when I made an effort and got the book, what was I in every chapter introduced to and made to walk with, but cherubim and seraphim, principalities and powers, angels and devils, seven holy ones, and four holy ones, and three holy ones; behemoth and leviathan; wild camels, wild boars, wild dogs; eagles and elephants and foxes; giant men and siren women—till I rose up and put Enoch in my shelf and took down William Law.
All orders and all ranks of men and women of all ages are obliged to devote themselves to God.
Took William Law to my heart and read in him for the thousandth time his two golden chapters showing, How all orders and all ranks of men and women of all ages are obliged to devote themselves to God; as, also, How great devotion to God fills our lives with the greatest peace and happiness that can be enjoyed in this world. Till, like everybody who takes up William Law, I could not lay him down till I had come to his concluding chapter, ‘Of the excellency and greatness of a devout spirit.’ And then, when I turned the last page and came to the printer’s name, I felt like that member of my young men’s class who told me that he read Law slowly and grudgingly, counting the pages every now and then, lest he should come too soon to the end.
Yes, Dr. Herriek, you are right; Enoch was the first mystic, and his biography is written in as few words as would have pleased the arch-mystics themselves. Enoch, the true and genuine Enoch, never wrote a book, far less The Book of Enoch. But he did for us what very few books know anything about, he walked with God, and so sets us on thinking what walking with God might mean.
My brethren, I am not making a play with solemn words, nor am I practicing upon you when I say it—walking with God is both the most difficult thing and the easiest thing in all the world. It is so difficult as to be found positively an impossibility by most men; while to one man here and there among men it is as easy to him as breathing is, as easy as eating is when he is hungry, and as drinking is when he is thirsty.
A miracle needed to enable one to walk with God.
Suppose you had exhorted Cain to begin to walk with God from the day that he murdered Abel—it would have taken nothing short of a miracle to make the murderer do it. A miracle could have made him do it, but it would have been a miracle. But suppose, on the other hand, that Enoch had for any cause fallen out of step with God for a single day, what a weary and heavy-laden man you would have had in Enoch that night! But, not to wander so far from home, how few of us ourselves ever enter into our own hearts, where alone God walks with men.
God dwelleth not in temples made with hands, nor walketh on the pavement that leads up to such temples. Your first step in the direction of God is not taken when you put on your Sabbath clothes and walk demurely into your pew. No; but it is taken when you put on humility upon your proud heart, and fill your hot heart full of meekness, and resignation, and quietness, and contrition, and a broken, heavenly, holy heart.
To hold your peace when you are reproved is a direct and sure step toward God. To be silent when you suffer wrong—God takes at that great moment a great step of His toward you. To let a slight, an insult, a blow, a scoff, a sneer fall on your head like an excellent oil, and on your heart like your true desert—with that man will I dwell, says the God of Israel in His prophet. Every step you take out of an angry heart and into a meek heart; out of envy and into admiration and honor; out of ill-will and into good-will;—on the spot your heavenly Father seeth you and loveth you, and sayeth to His angels, Hast thou considered My new servant?
Enoch, on the day his first child was born, just began to lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings, and as a new-born babe desired the sincere milk of the word that he might grow thereby. He just began to live in the Spirit before the dispensation of the Spirit, and walked in the Spirit even before the Spirit was as yet given. And though his family, and his friends, and his enemies did not know so much as the very name of the fruit of the Spirit, they all ate and drank that fruit in Enoch’s walk and conversation; for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, and such like.
Are any of you, my brethren, in your secret heart, in continual fear of death? Are you, though no one knows it, all your lifetime subject to that terrible bondage? Well, Enoch of all the Bible characters is the best of them all for you. For Enoch was translated that he should not see death. Begin then to-night, and as long as you are left on the earth a living man walk with Enoch.
Walk with God. Walk with Him into whose presence death never comes, and in whose whole kingdom no grave is ever dug. You have neglected God until to-night. But you are not yet dead. Your body is still warm and free and your own. Your soul is still in this church this Sabbath night. You are not yet in hell. God has not yet in anger said, Cut that cumberer down! Instead of that, He is still waiting to be gracious to you.
Begin, then, to walk all the rest of your life on earth with God. And, if you are not to have your name added to the names of Enoch and Elijah; if you are not to be translated; if you are not to remain and to be alive when Christ comes; even so, your death, if it must be, will only be a circumstance in your walk with God. It will only be a striking and a never-to-be-forgotten incident and experience to you. It will only be a new departure, the opening up of a new prospect, and your first entrance on that which God hath prepared for them that love Him.
If you will only walk close enough with Enoch and with Enoch’s God you will never really taste death. You will not know where you are. Is it past? you will ask in astonishment. Am I really gone over Jordan? And it will all be because you importuned so often on earth, and said, and would not be kept quiet from saying, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Behold, now, thy Deliverer for whom thou didst so often cry; behold, He has come at thy cry, and has come for thee out of Zion. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Whyte, A. In Bible characters: Adam to Achan (Sixth Edition, Vol. 1, pp. 51–60).