“What if God, willing to show his wrath?”
It is not strange that men should contemplate the mercy and grace of God with satisfaction, while they dread his awful wrath, for we have all sinned against him, and should he display on us his wrath, as we have displayed our rebellion against him, no flesh could endure the weight of vengeance under which we should be crushed. The greatest Arminians we have met with, seem perfectly willing that God should show his mercy, his long-suffering and kindness to the children of men, while they deny his right, in justice, to show his wrath, but how few consider that eternal justice calls for wrath, and when justice calls for wrath, that justice would be violated, outraged and trampled upon, if mercy should take the place of wrath. Depraved men, in their unregenerated state, find it hard to conceive how the holy God can pour his wrath on them without violation of his justice, especially if he has made any discrimination, and saved some from wrath, and consigned others who are only of equal guilt, to wrath. But quickened sinners, when under his mighty hand, convinced of their own lost and helpless condition, wonder with much greater admiration, how God can be just, and yet the justifier of any of the guilty sons of men.
Whatever, however, may be the views or speculations of men upon this subject, God has on various occasions shown his wrath in his providential government of the world. In bringing the flood upon the ungodly in the days of Noah, and sweeping the guilty race from his footstool; in the case of Pharaoh, Amalek, Moab, and upon the heathen nations of the earth, and that he has done it demonstrates that he did it willingly, or willed to do it, for he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. For his pleasure, we are told, the earth and heavens are and were created, and that he doeth his pleasure in the army of heaven and among men, and none can turn him. Had God been unwilling to show his wrath, who could force him to do it against his will? And had he not been willing to show his wrath; when the Son of God hung writhing on the cross, by what door could grace and salvation have entered for any of the guilty sons of men? But, was God willing to show his wrath, and to pour his vengeance upon the suffering, bleeding Lamb who died on Calvary? “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” - Isaiah liii. 10. He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. For this very purpose came he into the world. “Then, said I, Lo, I came to do thy will, O God.” - Psalm xl. 7, 8; Hebrews x. 7, 10. And when the dreadful hour had arrived for which he came, he was seen crushed with agony in the garden, sweating, as it were, great drops of blood, and praying, “O, my God, if it be possible, let this cup pass.” But no other way was possible. “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” - Isaiah liii. 6. And where iniquity was found, the bolts of justice must fall. The doleful prayer wrung from the agonizing heart of the suffering Savior, fully establishes the doctrine for which we contend. “If it be possible, let this cup pass; nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done.” Could wicked Romans or spiteful Jews; could earth or hell inflict on him one pang beyond what was the will of God? Never, we confidently affirm, from the creation of the world to the great burning day, has wickedness of men or devils been so fearfully developed, never has hell belched forth so much spite at any time, as when the immaculate Lamb of God, loaded with the iniquity of all his people, stood the victim. “Truly against thy holy child, Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” - Acts iv. 27, 28. What if God willing? Does that make him the author of sin? or does it afford to man a just cause to blaspheme his holy name? God forbid. Because God has power and wisdom to control, restrain, permit, overrule, and even to make use of the wicked acts of men and devils, just as he pleases, does that imply that he is himself a sinner, or that sin flows from, or is compatible with his nature? Absurd and preposterous. Nay, wicked and blasphemous as such conclusions are, the charges are often belched forth from infidel lips, and alas! must we add, that some of God’s dear children have thoughtlessly, or carelessly indorsed the horrid blasphemy, by arguing that if he absolutely governs and controls all beings, all worlds, and all events, then he is, or must be the author of sin? But, be entreated, dear child of God, to pause and consider this matter a moment. Must God lay aside his crown, must he yield some part of his governing power, in order to escape your charge? But you say you admit that he has all power, and that he controls all events and all worlds. But, forget not that he is the infinite God; of one mind, and none can turn him; what he wills to allow today, was his will yesterday, and from everlasting. You cannot believe that he has found out anything new, that he did not have in his mind and will before he made this world. One of two things you must admit, either that Jehovah knew precisely what kind of a world he was about to make, and that he made it just as he intended to, or else that he has been disappointed in his purpose. You dare not deny that this world with all its vast machinery, is precisely as the omniscient eye of God saw it, before the days of creation: peopled with all its infinite variety of men, and beasts, of birds, of fishes, of serpents and of worms, from the grosser objects down to the myriads of animalcule which people a single drop of water. What part of the history of the world have we a right to believe God did not know from everlasting, and what may we presume he knew, and yet had not in his inscrutable wisdom determined? Is there a sparrow or a worm, by him created, for which he has no use? True, we may not know or comprehend the use of many of his creatures, but we are finite, and have only that measure of intelligence which he has appointed and provided for us, and beyond that measure who can go?
But, once more. What if God be willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known? The apostle anticipates the ranking venom of the depraved hearts of men, and says, “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault; for who hath resisted his will?” In one general sense, every carnal man has and does resist the will of God, they are not reconciled to it; they hate it, and employ all their depraved powers in opposing it, as Stephen charged the persecuting Jews, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did, so do ye.” But how vain is their resistance. All the powers of earth and hell combined cannot prevent the execution of his purpose so as to cause a sparrow to fall, or bring even a single hair of our heads prematurely to the ground. But in the sense evidently intended, the apostle does not say that any have or can successfully resist the will of God. Woe to the world, if they could. What then would it avail us to know that it is our Father’s good will or pleasure to give us the kingdom, if he were unable to execute his will? But must it be inferred that if God is so infinitely wise and omnipotent, that he executeth his pleasure in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, that he has therefore no right to punish men for their wickedness which he overrules for his own glory? This is strange logic for infidels, but stranger still for christians. “Nay, but O, man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed, say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known?” Has he not an undoubted right to do so? Are any of his creatures able to give a reason why his will shall not be the supreme rule of his government? If any of us feel that it would be unsafe for us, why do we mock him by praying, “Thy will be done,” and then object to his universal control and government of all beings, and of all events, according to his own sovereign will?
But, instead of the frightful images painted in the vain imagination of men, as to the consequences of his wearing the crown, bearing the sceptre, and occupying the eternal throne, let us consider how he shows his wrath, and how he makes his power known on the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
If it were his sovereign pleasure to show his wrath and to make his power known upon the vessels of his wrath, by crushing them to atoms, or by such signal displays of his power and wrath as when he destroyed Sodom, or when he deluged the world in the days of Noah, his right to do so could not be contested. But it is his will to show his wrath and display his power in a very different form. By enduring with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction. By allowing them to pursue their own course, act out the enmity of their own wicked nature, walk in the light of their own eyes, and to fancy themselves the masters of their own destiny. Long has he suffered them to dispute his reigning power, and to call his sovereign government unjust. With much long-suffering has he spared their lives, afforded them health and strength to fill up their cup of iniquity, by stoning his prophets, killing his messengers, under the old dispensation, and with what endurance and long-suffering has he allowed them to drench the earth with the blood of his saints, and even to stain their guilty hands with the blood of his dear Son. With what forbearance did he wink at the idolatry of the Gentile world before the advent of the Redeemer, and how has he, for purposes of righteous wrath, allowed the anti-christian powers of iniquity to make drunk the nations of the earth with the wine of Babel’s intoxicating cup. Even now, what more awfully retributive judgment of God can we contemplate, than to be suffered to reject and defy his government, and to pursue our own course, the course of this world, under the power of darkness, in the pride and vanity of our own hearts treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath? Why has he suffered the wicked to prosper, or seem to prosper, in their abominable wickedness? Had he no power to restrain them? He had, for he has all power. But it is because in his inscrutable wisdom he saw fit thus to show his wrath, and to make his power known on them.
How, or why is it that unto his chosen, redeemed, regenerated children, it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, and from all others this knowledge is withheld? Because, in this very way it is his sovereign will to show his wrath and make his power known. Nor is this a matter for his saints to regret or deplore. Having the mind and spirit of Christ, we will rather with him rejoice and thank God that he has hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes, because so it seemed good in his sight. If our Lord Jesus Christ rejoiced in spirit at the accomplishment of the sovereign will of his Father, can we possess his Spirit, and yet desire that it should be otherwise? If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
We do not say that God could not display his mercy without also making a display of his wrath, for we dare not limit his power and wisdom, but the Scriptures teach us that it is in wrath, that he remembers mercy. (Hebrews iii. 2; Isaiah lxi. 2; lxiii. 1, 6.) The very first intimation of mercy made to fallen man fully expressed this doctrine. The seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. God’s people were preserved by the destruction of their enemies. Egypt must suffer the wrath of God, that the Hebrews might be mercifully released from bondage. The same miraculous display of power which wrought the salvation of Israel at the Red Sea, overwhelmed in wrath, and utterly destroyed their pursuing enemies. The everlasting salvation of the church of God, from sin, death and hell, was made manifest by the wrath which her sin-bearing Savior endured, when he carried her sorrows and bore her griefs, when the chastisement of her peace was laid on him, by whose stripes she is healed. And the final triumph which awaits the saints at the resurrection, their bodies will be raised simultaneously with the destruction of the last enemy which is death. What then, we once more inquire, “If God, willing to show his wrath and make his power known,”
“Shall man reply against his God,
And call his Maker’s ways unjust?”
“Shall mortal man presume to be
More holy, just or good, than he?”
Does it not rather become us to be still and know that he is God?
The will of God being the only recognized standard of holiness in heaven, whatever that will dictates, whether of wrath or grace, is right, and just, and harmonious with all the eternal perfections of Jehovah. If then it be his will to launch the fiery bolts of vengeance down upon the ungodly, or even to bruise his only beloved Son, when the guilt of his people was laid on him, or if he choose to redeem from sin, and death, and hell, millions of the chief of sinners, and ultimately to raise them up to crowns and seats at his right hand, all, all we need to know is, that it is the will of God, and then we know it is all right, for that will is the true standard of righteousness. High as the heavens rise above the earth, are God’s ways and thoughts transcending our ways and our thoughts. Therefore, with the apostles, we beseech the saints to be reconciled to God. Our brightest, our only hopes of heaven, rest on the complete and perfect execution of the will of God in all things. If in a single thing it could possibly fail, that failure would shake the very foundation of our hope. It is because he is God, because as God he changeth not, the sons of Jacob are not consumed. O, may we then in sincerity and truth pray, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is done in heaven.”
August 1, 1860.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 365 - 382