Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

March 9, 1886

The Government of God

[Sermon delivered at Basel, Switzerland, January 23, 1886.]

By Mrs. E. G. White

Text: “It is time for thee, Lord, to work; for they have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:126-128.

If this prayer was appropriate in David's time, it is in a special sense appropriate now. If in his day sin and iniquity prevailed to such a degree that it was time for God to work, it certainly is time for him to work in our day; for the warring powers of darkness are prevailing to a remarkable extent. The entrance of sin into heaven cannot be explained. If it were explainable, it would show that there was some reason for sin. But as there was not the least excuse for it, its origin will ever remain shrouded in mystery.

Sin began with Satan when he was an exalted angel in heaven. He had great honor there among the angels. The first sign of his dissatisfaction was the manifestation of his desire to be equal with God, to be worshiped as God. He tried to falsify the word of God, and pervert his plan of government before the angels. He claimed that God was not just in laying rules and laws upon the inhabitants of heaven. He represented that God was not self-denying, and that Christ was not self-denying; why, then, should the angels be required to be self-denying?

Satan was greatly loved by the heavenly beings, and his influence over them was strong. Some course must be pursued to uproot him from their affections. God's government included not only the inhabitants of heaven but of all the created worlds; and Satan thought that if he could carry the intelligences of heaven with him in rebellion, he could also carry with him the other worlds.

God in his wisdom did not immediately thrust Satan out of heaven. This act would not have changed his principles, and would only have strengthened his rebellion, for it would have created sympathy for him as one unjustly dealt with; and he would have carried a much larger number with him. He must be displaced, and have time to more fully develop his principles.

Satan was artful in presenting his side of the question. As soon as he found that one position was seen in its true character, he changed it for another. Not so with God. He could work with only one class of weapons,—truth and righteousness. Satan could use what God could not,—crookedness and deceit. These are the very weapons that he uses in our day to make the truth of none effect. When the truth is presented to the people, it seems to many to be consistent and right; and if the enemy and his followers did not come in and oppose it by every means in their power, where there are now ten who take hold of it, there would be thousands.

The only way in which God could deal with Satan was to take a straightforward course; and this is the course that his children must pursue in the great controversy which is still being carried on in the world between truth and error, light and darkness. Those who hold the truth in righteousness will be fair; they can afford to be fair. But those who oppose the truth lack Bible evidence to sustain their position. Therefore they are not fair, but are constantly warring against the things that are for their good.

When Satan tempted and overcame Adam and Eve, he thought he had gained possession of this world; “because,” said he, “they have chosen me as their governor.” God had said to man, Thou shalt not eat of the forbidden tree. Satan had said, Thou mayest eat. They did eat, and in consequence were driven out of the garden. The sentence of death rested upon them, and the entire race was plunged in hopeless misery. This world is, as it were, but one link in a chain composed of a thousand links; but because of sin it was struck off from the continent of heaven, and Satan claimed it as his.

If God were like us, we would expect to hear him say, “Let the world go; let Satan have it for his own.” But I am so thankful that God is not like man. He so loved the creatures of his care that he provided a way by which they might be brought back to their Eden home. But at what an immense cost was this provision made! It was no less than by giving up his own dear Son, who was equal to himself, to bear the penalty of the transgressor. The controversy was not to be taken into the other worlds of the universe; but it was to be carried on in the very world, on the very same field, that Satan claimed as his.

Ever since his fall, Satan has been at work to establish himself as ruler of this earth. He saw the sacrificial offerings which had been ordained to represent Christ as dying for the race; and he tried in every possible way to so pervert them that the people would lose sight of their true meaning. He was acquainted with the people whom Christ led out of Egyptian bondage, and who were the depositaries of God's law; and he tried earnestly to overcome them by constantly plying them with his temptations. But God did not give them up to his control. He so far succeeded, however, that nearly the whole company who left Egypt fell in the wilderness. Not all, thank God! not all. There were a few faithful ones to pass the work into the hands of others to carry forward.

From the Jewish age down to the present time, Satan's warfare has been directed against the Son of God and his work; and he still flatters himself that he will obtain the victory. Christ came to our world in the form of humanity. All heaven were intensely interested in following him from the manger to Calvary, as he traversed, step by step, the blood-stained path to redeem man. Here were the very people whom he had led out of bondage, and to whom God had intrusted his law; but they received him not. He was the light of the world; but the darkness comprehended it not.

It was Satan's studied purpose to bring the Jewish nation into such a state of darkness that they would not know Jesus when he came. Had they walked in the light, they would not have been thus deceived. Heaven marked the insult and mockery that he received from the very men who professed to be his children. They knew that it was at Satan's instigation that spies were placed upon his track as he went from city to city. Christ declared that he came to break the yoke of bondage from every neck, and to let the oppressed go free. Here was a work of counter-agencies going on. Satan was constantly pressing darkness, suffering, and sorrow upon the race; Christ was counteracting it.

When Christ went into the wilderness of temptation after his baptism, it was to meet the wily foe in conflict. Satan did not at first appear to Christ in his true character, but as a bright, beautiful, attractive angel sent to him with a message direct from his Father in heaven. This was a temptation to Christ. His humanity made it a temptation to him. It was only by trusting in his Father that he could resist these temptations. He walked by faith as we must walk by faith. It would have been impossible for him to know how to succor those who are tempted had he not known what it was to be tempted. The temptations that he endured were as much more severe than those which come upon us as his character is more exalted than ours. He overcame Satan by the word of God, “It is written.” So must we.

When Satan exercised his power by taking Christ and placing him on a pinnacle of the temple, he tempted him, saying: “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Christ answered him saying, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

Again Satan takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and laying aside his disguised character, presents before him the kingdoms of the world in all their glory and attractiveness. “All these will I give thee,” he says, “if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” He declares that they are his to give; and he presents them as a tempting bribe to the Son of God. It is then that the indignation of Christ is stirred; and he says, “Get thee hence, Satan.” The tempter then leaves Christ, faint and dying, upon the field of battle, and one of the heavenly angels who are watching the scene is immediately sent to minister unto him.

As the ministry of Christ commences, the battle between light and darkness waxes stronger. And as he cries out upon the cross in his expiring agony, “It is finished,” a shout of triumph rings through every world and through heaven itself. The great contest that has been going on in this world for so long is ended, and Christ is conqueror. His death has now answered the question whether there was self-denial with the Father and the Son.

The angelic host who watched the scenes in the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ, knew that it was Satan who entered into Judas and led him to betray Christ into the hands of the murderous mob; they knew, too, that it was he who impelled the throng to cry out, “Crucify him; crucify him;” and “release unto us Barabbas.” Satan has now revealed his true character as a liar and a murderer. It is seen that the very same spirit with which he ruled the children of men who were under his power, he would manifest if permitted to control the intelligences of heaven. The question is settled in all the worlds that there is no place for him in all their dominions.

They see their loved Commander hanging upon Calvary's cross as a malefactor. He is taken down and laid in Joseph's tomb. He comes forth a conqueror. Again, as at his death, a shout of victory echoes and re-echoes throughout the universe. Now that the issue is determined, all are free to express their indignation at Satan's rebellion; and with one voice, the loyal universe unite in extolling the divine administration.

The penalty of the transgression of God's law is death. Christ suffered death for man, and brought life and immortality to light by coming from the dead. When he died, the death knell of Satan was sounded. The work of Christ was to destroy him who had the power of death; therefore we are today prisoners of hope. How grateful we should be that, notwithstanding this earth is so small amid the created worlds, God notices even us. The nations are before him as the drop in the bucket, and as the small dust in the balance; and yet the great, the stupendous work that has been done for us shows how much he loves us.

As soon as Christ was raised from the dead, Satan's lying propensities led him to start the lie that the body of Christ had been stolen. By this he thought he could conceal the fact that it was the Son of God who had died, and he could, after all, make a victory out of his terrible defeat. Failing in this, he tried another scheme. He had controlled the Jewish nation so that they had rejected and crucified the Son of God. He now pretends to exalt Christ before the Christian world by telling them that instead of keeping the seventh-day Sabbath they must keep the first day of the week in memory of Christ's resurrection. Anything, he cares not what, to show that the law of God can be changed! If he can make the world believe that this law can be changed, he has gained his point.

There is one pointed out in prophecy as the man of sin. He is the representative of Satan. Taking the suggestions of Satan concerning the law of God, which is as unchangeable as his throne, this man of sin comes in and represents to the world that he has changed that law, and that the first day of the week instead of the seventh is now the Sabbath. Professing infallibility, he claims the right to change the law of God to suit his own purposes. By doing, he exalts himself above God, and leaves the world to infer that God is fallible. If it were indeed true that God had made a rule of government that needed to be changed, it would certainly show fallibility.

But Christ declared that not one jot or tittle of the law should fail until heaven and earth should pass away. The very work that he came to do was to exalt the law, and show to the created worlds and to heaven that God is just, and that his law need not be changed. But here is Satan's right-hand man ready to carry on the work that Satan commenced in heaven, that of trying to amend the law of God. And the Christian world has sanctioned his efforts by adopting this child of the papacy,—the Sunday institution. They have nourished it, and will continue to nourish it, until Protestantism shall give the hand of fellowship to the Roman power. Then there will be a law against the Sabbath of God's creation, and then it is that God “will do a strange work in the earth.” He has borne long with the perversity of the race; he has tried to win them to himself. But the time will come when they shall have filled their measure of iniquity; and then it is that God will work. This time is almost reached. God keeps a record with the nations: the figures are swelling against them in the books of heaven; and when it shall have become a law that the transgression of the first day of the week shall be met with punishment, then their cup will be full.

We should consider that it was not merely to accomplish the redemption of man that Christ came to earth; it was not merely that the inhabitants of this little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded; but it was to demonstrate to all the worlds that God's law is unchangeable, and that the wages of sin is death.

There is a great deal more to this subject than we can take in at a glance. Oh that all might see the importance of carefully studying the Scriptures! Many seem to have the idea that this world and the heavenly mansions constitute the universe of God. Not so. The redeemed throng will range from world to world, and much of their time will be employed in searching out the mysteries of redemption. And throughout the whole stretch of eternity, this subject will be continually opening to their minds. The privileges of those who overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony are beyond comprehension.

We have each to battle with the fallen foe. I feel an intense interest that all should look upon this battle in the light of the Bible. Begin the warfare at once by gaining victories over self. Do not give place to the Devil. Do not sin against God, by indulging sinful thoughts or words. Do not let the enemy have control over your powers, but throw all the weight of your influence on the side of Christ.

When you look at the cross of Calvary, you cannot doubt God's love or His willingness to save. He has worlds upon worlds that give Him divine honor, and heaven and all the universe would have been just as happy if He had left this world to perish; but so great was His love for the fallen race that He gave His own dear Son to die that they might be redeemed from eternal death. As we see the care, the love, that God has for us, let us respond to it; let us give to Jesus all the powers of our being, fighting manfully the battles of the Lord. We cannot afford to lose our souls; we cannot afford to sin against God. Life, eternal life in the kingdom of glory, is worth everything. But if we would obtain this precious boon, we must live a life of obedience to all of God's requirements; we must carry out the principles of the Christian religion in our daily life.

The law of God is made void in the land. For this reason every one who sees the light in regard to that law should put on the armor, and in the name of Jesus try to build the breach that has been made in that law by the man of sin. “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”

Oh that I might impress upon the minds of all the true mission of Christ in coming to our world! It was to redeem man, and at the same time to show the immutability of his Father's law. The very fact that it was necessary for him to give his life for the fallen race, shows that the law of God will not release man from one tittle of its claims upon him. Satan's work has ever been to find fault with the law of God. But the very fact that Christ bore the penalty of the transgression of the law, is a mighty argument to all created intelligences in heaven and in other worlds that that law is changeless; that God is righteous, merciful, and self-denying; and that his administration is one of justice and mercy.

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