Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

December 21, 1897

The Limit of God's Mercy

Mrs. E. G. White

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

The means which the Lord has employed in the gracious provision of his mercy, to soften and subdue the objects of his love, have, through the workings of Satan, encouraged the depraved and hardened hearts in perversity, resistance, and transgression. Even as far back as the days of David, this led him to exclaim, “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.”

Because of the goodness and long-suffering of God, many have been led to consider and appreciate his mercy and loving-kindness, and this has led them to repentance. On the other hand, many have become more careless, and have abused his mercy. To their own loss and shame, they have followed the will of Satan, irrespective of the retribution that will surely come upon them for their disobedience and transgression. They will yet learn that God is jealous of his honor and his glory. He will not have his laws trifled with. Men cannot with impunity treat them with indifference and defiance.

If God had decided, in his councils in heaven, to visit the transgressors of his law with instant death, there would have resulted a much greater restriction of the inclination to do those things that are offensive to God. The very men who seem to be dead to entreaties and warnings sent in mercy by God, those who will not be deterred from their evil course of action, would be prudent to save their lives, even if they had no love for God. But the Lord's arrangement, made in council with his only begotten Son, was to leave men free moral agents to a certain length of probation. His eye would discern all their works, but he would compel no man's service. If the love displayed in his long-suffering and patience could not bring them to repentance and perfect surrender to the laws of his kingdom, then they must be left to choose whom they would serve. Their life must testify of their choice. If men love transgression, and choose to disregard his laws, after sufficient test and trial their case is forever decided. God cannot have such as members of his family in heaven. Their punishment will be in accordance with the character of their defiance and rebellion against God.

A vast reformation would be wrought in the world if the veil of the future could be lifted, and all could see that very soon there is to be a change in the attitude of God, in his dealings with the perversity of man; that there are limits to divine mercy and forbearance. There are those who, by their impenitence under the beams of light that have shone upon them, are very near the line where the forbearance of God is exhausted. In mind and heart they are saying, “The Lord delayeth his coming,” and they are eating and drinking with the drunken. But God declares of such that “sudden destruction cometh upon them,” “and they shall not escape.”

The present time, when great light is shining forth from the Word of God, making dark mysteries plain as day, is the day of mercy, of hope, of assurance, of joy, for all who will be benefited thereby, for all who will open their minds and hearts to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. But there are those who will not come to the light, who despise the truth because it exposes error and transgression and sin; and as a result, boldness in transgression is becoming all-pervading.

The time is very near when men will reach the prescribed limits. They have now almost exceeded the bounds of the long-suffering of God, the limits of his grace, the limits of his mercy. The record of their works in the books of heaven is, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

The Lord will interfere to vindicate his own honor, to repress the swellings of unrighteousness and bold transgression. He will not be left without witness. The one-hour laborers will be brought in at the eleventh hour, and will consecrate their ability and their entrusted means to advance the Lord's work. While many have reduced the Word, the truth, the holy law of Jehovah, to a dead letter, and by their example testify that this law is a hard, rigorous burden; while they say, “We will lay off this yoke, we will be free, we will no longer remain in covenant relation with God, we will do as we please,” there will be men who have had very meager opportunities, who have walked in ways of error because they knew no better way, to whom beams of light will come. As the word of Christ came to Zacchaeus, “I must abide at thy house,” so the word will come to them; and those supposed to be hardened sinners will be found to have hearts as tender as a child's, because Christ has deigned to notice them. These will receive the reward for their faithfulness because they are true to principle, and shun not their duty to declare the whole counsel of God. When those who have had abundance of light throw off the restraint which the Word of God imposes, and make void his law, others will come in to fill their place and take their crown.

In all parts of the world there are diligent students of the Word of prophecy, who are obtaining light, and still greater light, from their study of the Scriptures. This is true of all nations, of all tribes, and of all peoples. Many will come from the grossest error, and will take the place of those who have had opportunities and privileges, and have not prized them. These have worked out their own salvation with fear and trembling, lest they should become deficient in doing the ways and will of God; while those who have had great light have, through the perversity of their own natural heart, turned away from Christ because displeased with his requirements. Even many supposed to be heathen will take the side of Christ, while those who become offended, as did the disciples in the synagogue at Capernaum, will go away, and walk no more with him.

From time to time the Lord has made known the manner of his working. He is mindful of what is passing upon the earth; and when a crisis has come, he has revealed himself, and has interposed to hinder the working out of Satan's plans. With nations, with families, and with individuals, he has often permitted matters to come to a crisis, that his interference might be marked. Then he has made known the fact that there is a God in Israel who will sustain and vindicate his people.

In Noah's day, men had disregarded the law of God until almost all remembrance of the Creator had passed away from the earth. Their wickedness reached so great a height, violence, crime, and every kind of sin became so intensely active, that the Lord brought a flood of water upon the earth. Yet mercy was mingled with judgment. Noah and his family were saved, but the wicked inhabitants of the world were swept away. In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, also, when fire came down from heaven and destroyed those wicked cities, we see that the Lord will interfere for his people.

In these last days wicked men and professed Christians will harmonize in their hatred of the law of God. Then the crisis will come; then we shall see the class specified in Malachi 3:13-15: “Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” Here is a company of disaffected professed Christians, whose chief business is to murmur, and complain, and accuse God by accusing the children of God. They see nothing defective in themselves, but very much that is displeasing in others.

But while they are murmuring, and complaining, and falsely accusing, and doing Satan's work most zealously, another class is brought to our notice: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord harkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”

In this time of prevailing iniquity, the Protestant churches that have rejected a “Thus saith the Lord,” will reach a strange pass. They will be converted to the world. In their separation from God, they will seek to make falsehood and apostasy from God the law of the nation. They will work upon the rulers of the land to make laws to restore the lost ascendency of the man of sin, who sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. The Roman Catholic principles will be taken under the protection of the state. The protest of Bible truth will no longer be tolerated by those who have not made the law of God their rule of life.

And what effect will these attempts of men to make void the law of God have upon the righteous? Will they be intimidated by the almost universal scorn that is put upon the law of God? Will the true believers in the “Thus saith the Lord,” become wavering and ashamed because the whole world seems to despise his righteous law? Will they be carried away by the prevalence of evil?—No; to those who have consecrated themselves to God to serve him, the law of God becomes more precious when the contrast is shown between the obedient and the transgressor. In proportion as the attributes of Satan are developed in the despisers and transgressors of the law of God, to the faithful adherent the holy precepts will become more dear and valuable. It is the ones who have been faithful stewards of the grace of God, whose love for God's commandments grows with the contempt which all around would put upon them.

When the defiance of God's law is almost universal, when his people are pressed in affliction by their fellow men, God will interpose. Then will the voice be heard from the graves of martyrs, represented by the souls that John saw slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ, which they held,—then the prayer will ascend from every true child of God: “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.” The fervent prayers of his people will be answered; for God loves to have his people seek him with all the heart, and depend upon him as their deliverer. He will be sought unto to do these things for his people, and he will arise as their protector and avenger. “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?

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