Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

April 1, 1886

A Lesson from Noah's Time

By Mrs. E. G. White

“As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot. They did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”

It is the nature of sin to spread and increase. Since the first sin of Adam, from generation to generation it has spread like a contagious disease. While the world was yet in its infancy, sin became fearful in its proportions. Hatred of God's law, and, as the sure result, hatred of all goodness, became universal. God, who had created man, and given him with an unsparing hand the bounties of his providence, was dishonored by the beings he had created, slighted and despised by the recipients of his gifts. But though sinful man forgot his benevolent Benefactor, God did not forget the creature he had formed. Not only did he send “rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,” filling man's heart with “food and gladness,” but he sent him also messages of warning and entreaty. Man's wickedness was fully set before him, and the result of transgressing the divine law.

In the days of Noah, the wickedness of the world became so great that God could no longer bear with it; and he said, “I will destroy man whom I have created, from the face of the earth.” But he pitied the race, and in his love provided a refuge for all who would accept it. He gave the message to Noah to be given to the people: “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” Noah was directed to build an ark, and at the same time to preach that God would bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy the wicked. Those who would believe the message, and would prepare for that event by repentance and reformation, should find pardon and be saved; but a continued resistance of the entreaties and warnings from God through his servant Noah, would separate them from God, and as a result infinite mercy and love would cease its pleadings. The Spirit of God continued to strive with rebellious man until the time specified had nearly expired, when Noah and his family entered the ark, and the hand of God closed its door. Mercy had stepped from the golden throne, no longer to intercede for the guilty sinner.

All the men of that generation were not in the fullest sense of the term heathen idolaters. Many had a knowledge of God and his law; but they not only rejected the message of the faithful preacher of righteousness themselves, but used all their influence to prevent others from being obedient to God. To every one comes a day of trial and of trust. That generation had their day of opportunity and privilege while Noah was sounding the note of warning of the coming destruction; but they yielded their minds to the control of Satan rather than of God, and he deceived them, as he did our first parents. He set before them darkness and falsehood in the place of light and truth; and they accepted his sophistry and lies, because they were acceptable to them, and in harmony with their corrupt lives, while truth that would have saved them was rejected as a delusion.

Numbers were not on the side of right. The world was arrayed against God's justice and his laws, and Noah was regarded as a fanatic. Satan, when tempting Eve to disobey God, said to her, “Ye shall not surely die.” Great men, worldly, honored, and wise men, repeated the same story, “Ye shall not surely die.” “The threatenings of God,” they said, “are for the purpose of intimidating, and will never be verified. You need not be alarmed. Such an event as the destruction of the world by the God who made it, and the punishment of the beings he has created, will never take place. Be at peace; fear not. Noah is crazy; he is the wildest fanatic.” So the people did not humble their hearts before God, but continued their disobedience and wickedness, the same as though God had not spoken to them through his servant.

But Noah stood like a rock amid the tempest. He was surrounded by every species of wickedness and moral corruption; but amid popular contempt and ridicule, amid universal wickedness and disobedience, he distinguished himself by his holy integrity and unwavering faithfulness. While the world around him were disregarding God, and were indulging in all manner of extravagant dissipation which led to violence and crimes of every kind, the faithful preacher of righteousness declared to that generation that a flood of water was to deluge the world because of the unsurpassed wickedness of its inhabitants. He warned them to repent and believe, and find refuge in the ark.

The message of Noah was to him a reality. Amid the scoffs and jeers of the world, he was an unbending witness for God. His meekness and righteousness were in bright contrast to the revolting crimes, intrigue, and violence continually practiced around him. A power attended his words; for it was the voice of God to man through his servant. Connection with God made him strong in the strength of infinite power, while for one hundred and twenty years his solemn warning voice fell upon the ears of the men of that generation in regard to events, which, so far as human wisdom could judge, seemed impossible. Some were deeply convicted, and would have heeded the words of warning; but there were so many to jest and ridicule that they partook of the same spirit, resisted the invitations of mercy, refused to reform, and were soon among the boldest and most defiant scoffers; for none are so reckless, and go to such lengths in sin, as those who have once had light, but have resisted the convicting Spirit of God. Thus while God was working to draw man to himself, man, in his rebellion, was drawing away from God, and continually resisting the pleadings of infinite love.

The world before the flood reasoned that for centuries the laws of nature had been fixed. The recurring seasons had come in their order. The rivers and brooks had never yet passed their boundaries, but had borne their waters safely to the sea. Fixed decrees had kept the waters from overflowing their banks. But these reasoners did not recognize the Hand that had stayed the waters, saying, Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.

As time passed on without any apparent change in nature, men whose hearts had at times trembled with fear, began to be reassured. They reasoned then as many reason now, that nature was above the God of nature, and that her ways were so fixed that God himself could not change them. Reasoning that if the message of Noah was correct nature would be turned out of her course, they made that message, in the minds of the world, a delusion, a grand deception. They manifested their indifference and contempt of the solemn warning of God by doing just as they had done before the warning had been given. They continued their festivities, their gluttonous feasts, eating and drinking, planting and building, in reference to the advantage they hoped to gain in the far future; and they went to greater lengths in wickedness, and in defiant disregard of God's requirements, to testify that they had no fear of the Almighty before their eyes.

How simple and childlike, amid the unbelief of a scoffing world, was the faith of Noah. His faith was indeed the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It was a faith that was perfected and made evident by his works. He gave to the world an example of believing just what God said. In accordance with the directions of God, he commenced to construct the ark, an immense boat, on dry ground. Multitudes came from every direction to see this strange sight, and to hear the earnest, fervent words of this singular man, who seemed to believe every word he uttered. Noah was indeed singular. He was one in the world, but not one of the world. He made himself the object of contempt and ridicule by his steadfast adherence to the words of God; yet he obeyed without a questioning doubt. What a marked contrast to the prevailing unbelief and disregard of God's law.

The time of Noah prefigures the present age. Christ tells us that as it was in the time of Noah, so shall it be in the days that immediately precede his appearing in the clouds of heaven. Human nature in our day, uninfluenced by the Spirit of God, is the same as in the age of Noah. And Satan is not asleep; he is as active and vigilant now as he was then. While the voice of God is making itself heard through his servants in warning and entreaties, he is mustering his forces. He engages his host with gigantic energies to make, through his sophistry, cruelties, and oppression, the words of warning of none effect. The people are tested, and the great mass will be found on the side of the great deceiver, and will be overwhelmed in swift and irretrievable destruction. But those that heed the warnings of God, and in their lives bring forth fruits meet for repentance, shall “dwell in the secret place of the Most High;” they “shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” For them is the promise: “With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”

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