State Road, Delaware, May, 1897.
Brethren Editors: – I will attempt to write for the consideration of your readers some reflections that I have been earnestly requested to reproduce for the Signs, otherwise I might not have written just at this time, or just upon this particular subject. It has for a long time been interesting to me to contemplate, as I think I see the wisdom of the divine government, and the harmony of the divine attributes as exemplified therein. There is no clash or contradiction in the revelation that God has made of his government, if rightly understood.
Among the different portions of Scripture that might be considered as covering about the same ground, I will cite one in the prophecy of Zephaniah iii. 8, 9, “For my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the lire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.” The Lord’s methods, as here set forth, in dealing with men, and making known to them his salvation, not only presents the subject in an interesting light, but leads us up to a contemplation of the attributes and perfections of the holy One. No one knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. So he to whomsoever he is revealed, will have such knowledge of him as can be obtained in no other way. No man hath seen God at any time. As nothing of anger or wrath ever appeared in the life and character of the Redeemer, we are led naturally to inquire in what sense these terms are to be understood, when used in reference to the divine government, as we can know nothing of God only what is revealed in Christ.
“Not one revengeful, angry word,
The dear Redeemer spoke.”
That these terms are not to be understood when applied to Jehovah, and his dealings with men, as they are used and understood as expressing human depravity, is evident, for in that sense they belong to the works of the flesh, and not to the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are all carefully named, and there is no wrath or anger or hatred among them. Among; the old Jewish traditions we may find, “Thou shall love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy;” but Christ never taught to hate anybody, and his Spirit does not produce hatred nor envying, wrath or ill will, toward anybody. How then are we to understand these terms as they occasionally occur in the divine record? Shall we not understand them to be in harmony, and not in conflict with all gracious dealings of the Lord with his people? In the first awakenings of the sinner, he, I presume, always feels that God is angry with him, and fears that destruction from the divine presence awaits him. Like Israel at Sinai, they could see nothing, and hear nothing, but threatenings, and thunderings, and wrath; but it was through teaching of this kind, that the revelation of mercy was to be made, and instead of wrath, it had been mercy all the while. The prophet Isaiah says, “O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.” Has there been a change with Jehovah? If so, what is it that has turned his anger away? Is it not rather that it was a mistaken view of him, that led to the use of the expression, angry? Did not Isaiah see afterward that the Lord had not been angry with him at all, but was only dealing with him to show him the sinfulness of sin, and his just condemnation as a sinner? If there had not been such a view of himself in Jehovah’s sight, he would not have needed the comfort, or have been in condition to receive the comfort that came to him when all appearance of anger was turned away. In the text which I first cited, after the declaration of fierce anger and indignation follows, “For then will I turn to the people a pure language,” &c. The pure language that Israel speaks is the result of divine teaching, and has no mixture of Ashdod in it. It is the language that faith inspires, and recognizes salvation entirely of the Lord, and gives all the praise and glory to him. The song of the redeemed is made up of this pure language that the psalmist learned when he was brought up out of the horrible pit, and his feet set upon a rock. It was just even praise to the name of the Lord. The high praises of God are inspired continually by the knowledge given us of him. If grace and truth is what conies to us through Jesus Christ, and all we have known, or can know of God, is what is made known in Christ; then the divine government is all a ministration of grace and truth. If I say that God is love, and that the words hatred, and anger and wrath, as they are used to express the basest passions of wicked men, do not have a place among the perfections of Deity, I am only saying what the apostle said before me. “Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Those who are born of his Spirit do not possess evil passions as the result of that birth, if men in their first awakenings regard God as angry with them, and about to destroy them, I think they would not, and could not, love such a being. If it was not hatred, it would be a fearful apprehension and dread. Nobody loves God until he reveals himself in the charms of his salvation. He is, and has been of one mind, but he was not so revealed as he is now. Now he is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. God has never been revealed to anybody but what they loved him, and loved the work of his Spirit, and the experience of his grace, whenever they were seen. We know that it is, and has been true, that the subjects of divine teaching do all call upon the name of the Lord, and that it is a necessity with them, as everything else is taken from them. To show perhaps a little mere clearly the use of these terms, even when the Lord is dealing in love and in mercy, I will quote from the prophet: “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries whither I have driven them in mine auger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.” – Jer. xxxii. 37-39. The point that. I am making is, that the Lord changes not, and that he is of one mind all the time. What appeared to be anger and wrath, and great fury, was just as much for the good of them, and of their children after them, as any of the after dealings. Where the glory of God was shown to Moses, the Lord caused all his goodness to pass before him, and he saw nothing else. But how with regard to the wicked! Is the Lord angry with them? and does be hate them, and blind their minds, and harden their hearts, and lay a necessity upon them to do evil? The Lord Jesus said he was kind to the unthankful, and to the evil. Did the Messiah ever teach to hate people because they did evil! Did he not rather teach if we would be the children of our Father in heaven, to bless them that would curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us, and persecute us! A holy and pure spirit is averse to evil, but God does not hate his creatures. He warns them of the consequences of wrong doing, and admonishes them that “destruction and misery are in their way.” Men, in whose hearts is the love and fear of God, may detest the wickedness of the world, while they pity the wrong doer. If that Being to whom reverence belongeth, ever revealed himself to me, love to him was enkindled in my heart to such an extent that no room was left for idolatrous reverence for anything else. He is a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the residue of his people. For a small mement he had forsaken them, but with great mercies he will gather them. It is said that the wicked are driven away in their wickedness. And who is it, or what is it, that drives them away from the sanctuary, and from the companionship of the saints? Why do they go to the dens of debauchery and vice, and indulge in all the mad passions that well up from the pit! Does anybody disturb them, or debar them, from any spiritual or substantial good? The Lord governs; and his government authorizes us to say to the righteous, it shall be well with him, for he shall eat of the fruit of his doings; but woe unto the wicked, for it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him. It was in accordance with the righteous judgment of God, that the adherents of the Romish power, who had shed the blood of a multitude of the saints, should be given blood to drink. – Rev. xvi. 6. So when skepticism and infidelity triumphed in France, and broke through all legal restraints, the dogs of war were let loose upon the nations of Europe, to that extent that prophecy said, their rivers were turned to blood But who did it? Was it not their own bloodthirsty passions, and lust for power? The reward of their own cruel bloodthirstiness was given them. They had been forewarned. When the Lord Jesus announced the calamities that awaited the Jews, as in their phrensy they were rushing on to their own overthrow, “When Jesus drew nigh unto the city he wept over it.” The consequences of sin are terrible enough, and there is punishment enough in them, without any addition from the righteous judgment of God. “He shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yen, the Lord our God shall cut them off.” – Psalm xciv. 23.
My understanding is limited, and the purpose and counsel of Jehovah is far above our highest thoughts, but he has revealed enough to us to inspire love and reverence in our hearts.
Yours to serve in the gospel,
Signs Of The Times
Volume 65., No.11.
JUNE 1, 1897.