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    June 23, 1890

    “Goodness Leading to Repentance. Romans 2:4” The Signs of the Times, 16, 24.

    E. J. Waggoner

    (Romans 2:4.)

    “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Romans 2:4.SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.19

    It is very common for men to lay the blame of their sinful condition upon God; to say that they are just as God made them. This kind of talk is increasing, and the logical result is the denial of any future punishment for sin. But that such a position is directly contrary to Bible teaching, it needs only this verse to disprove. God cannot deny himself, and therefore he cannot work at cross-purposes. He cannot at one time deliberately set about to undo that which he has once done. That he has deliberately set about the salvation of men, the entire Bible attests. He manifested his hatred for sin, and his desire to rescue men from it, by giving his Son to die. This was the supreme manifestation of his goodness to lead men to repentance. All this effort to save men from sin is utterly inconsistent with the theory that God is any way responsible for sin.SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.20

    The apostle tells us plainly that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” Romans 5:12. The terrible depth of sin into which man fell, and the first act of God’s goodness to lead him from it, are brought to view in Genesis 3:15, where these words of the Lord to the serpent-Satan-are recorded: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” The fact that God had to put enmity between man and Satan, shows that in the fall all of man’s natural enmity to Satan had been obliterated.SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.21

    God made man in his own image, both physically and spiritually; but when man yielded to the tempter, he deliberately rejected God, and became, body and soul, the servant of Satan. In that condition all his desires would have been for evil, and, like Satan and his angels, he would have had not the shadow of a desire to do right. Of course a simple offer of salvation from sin could not have been any benefit to a man in such a condition. “Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” Of what use to offer freedom from sin to a man incapable of appreciating goodness? Therefore as the first act in the great plan of salvation, God put into the heart of man an enmity against Satan. It was purely an act of divine love. And since this enmity has been a part of the inheritance of every one of Adam’s race, it follows that not a man has lived in earth, no matter how wicked, who was not just to the extent that he ever had a thought of goodness, a subject of the grace of God.SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.22

    It is this enmity implanted in the heart of men by God, upon which the Spirit works when it strives with men. It is this seed which the Spirit waters into fruitfulness, in those who will yield to its influence. Thus the Spirit of God, through his goodness, is leading all men toward repentance. God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4. But all men will not be saved. Thousands say to the Spirit: “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee;” and still other thousands refuse to give it any recognition.SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.23

    It is in this sense that God “is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10. His love is bestowed alike upon all; to all he comes as a Saviour; but only those will be saved who will accept salvation. It is thus, also, that Christ is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:9. Every man that has come into the world has had some rays of divine light shining into his heart,-enough to have led him into the glorious liberty of the children of God, if he had followed it; and for that light he was indebted to the grace of God in Christ.SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.24

    The goodness of God is thus set forth by the apostle Paul: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:1-7.SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.25

    And that this goodness is manifested to men in sin, in order to deliver them from it, is shown also by these words to Titus: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7.SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.26

    But where shall we stop, if we attempt to recount the goodness of God, which is manifested to lead men to repentance, since the whole Bible, like the whole earth, “is full of his goodness.” Let us sum the whole matter up in one or two passages of Scripture. The first shall be Hebrews 12:1-3:-SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.27

    “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.28

    What was the joy that was set before Christ? It seems as though the question is fully answered in Philippians 2:6, 7, which says that although Christ was in the form of God, he “thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” The idea is, as expressed in the Revised Version, that he counted it not a prize, or a thing to be grasped or held to, to be equal with God; but he emptied himself. The thought, then, in brief, is this:-SITI June 23, 1890, page 359.29

    Christ was equal with God, the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person. He was God. Before him all the hosts of angels, whom he had created (Colossians 1:16) bowed in adoration. His glory was the glory of the Father. John 17:5. Not a thing was there to mar the perfect peace of heaven, and nothing more could have been conceived to add to the perfect enjoyment of all its inhabitants. But when Christ looked upon the world of men “dead in trespasses and sins,” treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, all this glory seemed to fade away. He did not count it as a thing at all to be desired, so long as men were perishing before his eyes without help. And so he divested himself of all his glory, and submitted to degradation and death, in glory, and submitted to degradation and death, in order that he might win a still greater joy.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.1

    Yes, even the joy of heaven could be increased, and that by removing the Joy of Heaven to earth, that earth’s misery might be turned to joy. Who can estimate the depth of love that could count the immeasurable bliss of heaven as nothing compared with the joy of bringing, through reproach, ignominy and death, fallen men to share it with him? And this is the goodness of God toward men. Ought it not to lead them to repentance? Yea, verily; and such will be its effect upon everyone who will but steadfastly look at it. Oh that men would indeed look to Jesus, not once nor twice, but continually! Of such a look could it with truth be said, “There’s life in a look.”SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.2

    And there is life. What power there is in the thought of God’s love in Christ, to lift up the soul of the dependent, and to strengthen the weak. Human words cannot give any just conception of this great love, which has healing in it, for the mind cannot grasp it.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.3

    “For the love of God is broader
    Than the measure of man’s mind;
    And the heart of the Eternal
    Is most wonderfully kind.”
    SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.4

    What, then, “shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” E. J. W.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.5

    “The Baptism of Fire” The Signs of the Times, 16, 24.

    E. J. Waggoner

    From Texas comes the following request: “If you can possibly do so at once, please give me an exposition of the baptism of fire spoken of in Matthew and Luke.”SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.6

    The words of John the Baptist to the Pharisees and Sadducees among the crowds of Jews assembled on the bank of Jordan were these: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11, 12. The record in the third of Luke is the same.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.7

    We have here two classes of people brought to view,-the wheat and the chaff; and likewise we have two treatments mentioned,-the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and the baptism of fire. The two baptisms are as distinct as are the two classes of people. As the question concerns only the baptism of fire, we shall consider that alone.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.8

    It would seem as though the text itself should be sufficient to give a good idea, if not to settle the question, as to what is meant by the baptism of fire. Having stated of Christ that he will baptize with fire, it says that he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. This sets us on the right track; let us see how perfectly the figure fits the final destruction of the wicked.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.9

    In the first place, it must be borne in mind that “baptism” always and everywhere means immersion, and that only. “Baptism” of a whole congregation with a quart of water was a thing unheard of for the first two or three centuries after Christ. John baptized in Ænon near to Salim, “because there was much water there.” John 3:23. It would not require as much water to “baptize” a thousand people according to the papal perversion of the ordinance, as would suffice to quench the thirst of half a dozen men. Without going further into detailed proof, let it be remembered that whenever a person or thing is said to be baptized in any fluid substance, the person or thing baptized is wholly enveloped in the substance.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.10

    Let the well-known fact also be borne in mind that it is the nature of fire to consume and destroy that which is cast into it. This is its nature, and it will also do so unless the thing is immediately removed after being cast in, or else the fire is quenched before it can begin its devouring work. But if the fire is so great and so fierce as to be unquenchable, then there is no hope of saving anything that it has enveloped. Especially is this so when the substance cast into it is as combustible and as light as chaff, to which the wicked are compared.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.11

    Now read Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.” Revelation 20:14, 15 also speaks of the “lake of fire.”SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.12

    This lake of fire will be at the time when “the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:10), and the earth shall be “clean dissolved” by the fire of destruction. See Isaiah 24:19. When the earth is melted with the intensity of the heat, there will be indeed a “lake of fire,” into this the wicked, as chaff, thorns, and worthless branches, will be cast, and burned up. They will literally be immersed in a lake of liquid fire. And this is the “baptism of fire,” for which some earnest but misinformed souls sing and pray.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.13

    Baptism in water is for the remission of sins, and so it is sometimes referred to as washing away sin. See Acts 22:16. Consistently with this idea, the baptisms of fire for the purpose of washing away sin; but there is this difference; the baptism by water is for the remission of sin and the salvation of the individual; but the baptism by fire is for the destruction of the sin and of the individual upon whom it is found. It is this that is brought to view in Isaiah 4:3, 4:-SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.14

    “And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.”SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.15

    This is the time when “whomsoever was not found written in the book of life [“written among the living in Jerusalem”] was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15); the time of the melting of the elements with fervent heat, in the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7, 10), when “the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” Isaiah 24:6.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.16

    At that time the filth of the daughters of Zion shall be washed away, and the blood of Jerusalem purged with fire. The earth will be cleansed from the curse of sin. Before that time all will be given a chance to wash themselves from sin in the blood of the Lamb; on such the second death-the lake of fire-will have no power. But those who refuse the gracious offer will have to be baptized when the time comes for this to be done, those who have fully identified themselves with sin, and who are permeated with it, will necessarily be destroyed by the same fire which removes it from the earth.E. J. W.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.17

    “The Sabbath-School. Notes on the International Lesson. Height of Mercy” The Signs of the Times, 16, 24.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Notes on the International Lesson.
    (June 29.)

    This being the close of the quarter, the choice is given of reviewing or of substituting a lesson on temperance or on missions. The scripture suggested for one of the substituted lessons is Isaiah 55:8-13, and on this a few comments will be made. The text reads thus:-SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.18

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.19

    The text quoted begins with “for,” indicating that it is a conclusion from something preceeding. The sixth and seventh verses contain an exhortation: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Then naturally follows the statement, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,” etc. The unrighteous man is to forsake his thoughts, because they are not the thoughts of God. From this we learn the wonderful fact that men must think the thoughts of God, in order to please him.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.20

    What are the thoughts of God? It is evident that we must be able to determine this, to some extent, at least, or else we should not know whether or not to forsake the thoughts that we have, as not being his thoughts. Since the Bible is the word of God, it is plain that it must express his thought. In it we find what he thinks of different actions of men. But that which is most specifically the thought of God is his law, the ten commandments. This is his revealed will, comprehending in itself all that is drawn out in detail in the various books of the Bible.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.21

    The law of God is a law of love. It was given as love. Deuteronomy 33:2, 3. The object of it is love. 1 Timothy 1:5. Love is the fulfilling of it. Romans 13:10. The keeping of the commandments is the only complete manifestation of the love of God. 1 John 5:3. And it is in vain that anybody makes a profession of love to God, while he does not keep his commandments. See John 14:15; Luke 6:46. From these Scripture facts we may know that when the apostle Paul says that love “thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5), he means that perfect obedience to the law of God consists in being free from evil thoughts. This must necessarily follow, because the law of God is the thoughts of God.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.22

    These thoughts are as much higher than the thoughts of the natural man as the heaven is higher than the earth. Therefore when a man fully turns to the Lord, his thoughts must be elevated as much as from earth to heaven. And this one point shows the exceeding greatness of God’s law, and how far short of it all men come. Men in their self-righteousness may boast, like the Pharisee, over those whom they regard as great sinners, but their boasting is vain, for, while there are indeed degrees of sin, the difference in the guilt of different men, when compared with that heavenly standard, the law of God, is only as the difference in the height of different trees on earth compared with the distance of earth from the farthest star.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.23

    The statement that as the heavens are high above the earth so are God’s thoughts higher than our thoughts, may remind us that the heavens themselves may enable us to think God’s thoughts after him. As the law of God is an expression of God’s thoughts as to morals, so the material universe is an expression of God’s thoughts in concrete form. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” In them we see what great thoughts God had to mind when he planned the universe. They show his eternal power and godhead, and thus are an aid in lifting our thoughts to the level of God’s, in the realm of morals. Surely it is impossible for a person to gaze upon the heavens thoughtfully, and with reverent recognition of their Creator, and at the same time to harbor evil thoughts.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.24

    But there is comfort as well as instruction in the fact that God’s thoughts are as much higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth. It is in connection with the statement that God will “abundantly pardon “those who turn to him. Now of his thoughts toward us we read: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11. His thoughts toward us are thoughts of peace, and they are as much higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth. This agrees with the statement in Psalm 36:5: “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” Also Psalm 108:4: “For thy mercy is great above the heavens; and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.” And Psalm 103:11: “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” It would be well sometimes if doubting souls could think of their own good traits in contrast with those of God. I do not mean for them to think how evil they are, but to rate at a fair value any good qualities they may possess, and then, holding to that valuation, think in how infinitely greater degree those same good qualities exist in God. For instance, take the quality of mercy; let a man think how he would receive one who, having injured him, comes to him with tears in his eyes, making an humble confession, and asking pardon. There are few who would even wait for the penitent one to finish his confession before assuring him of full pardon. His thoughts toward him would be all kindness; but God’s thoughts are as much higher than ours as heaven is higher than earth. God is as much more merciful than man as he is greater. Whoever will institute such a comparison as this, will become ashamed of his own doubts.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.25

    That which should be of special encouragement in the line of missionary effort is the statement that God’s word will accomplish that which he pleases, and prosper in the thing whereto he sends it. This does not mean that it will result in the conversion of the whole world. The word of God has been as powerful in every age of the world as it is now, or as it ever will be; yet in no age of the world, not even when the word was incarnate, have even a large minority of people acknowledged God. It is true, however, that even then it accomplished God’s purpose. It gathered out of the multitude a people for his name, and left the remainder without excuse. Of one thing we may be sure, that the word will prosper. Therefore consecrated effort to spread abroad a knowledge of the word will not be in vain. “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” Ecclesiastes 11:6. It is certain that either this effort or that will prosper, and there is a possibility that both may yield abundant returns. And the few from every age, who have heeded the word of God, will at last form a great multitude whom no man can number, who shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, when the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion, with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and the whole earth shall resound with the praises of God. E. J. W.SITI June 23, 1890, page 375.26

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