Note: In this manuscript about the Days of Noah, Ellen White provides a few thoughts on the topic of how God’s character of love, mercy and patience doesn’t hinder Him from executing His laws as a moral Governor. The manuscript explains how in no government is it left to the lawbreakers to say what punishment is to be executed against those who have broken the law. Written over 145 years ago, the manuscript showcases God’s love and justice through the story of Noah.
Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 – 1882)
Ms 5, 1876
by Ellen G. White
[First two pages missing.] … Because of his holy integrity and unwavering adherence to God’s commands, he was counted singular indeed and made himself an object of contempt and derision by answering to the claims of God without a questioning doubt. What a contrast to the prevailing unbelief and universal disregard of His law!
Noah was tested and tried thoroughly, and yet he preserved his integrity in the face of the world—all, all against him. Thus will it be when the Son of man shall be revealed. The saved will be few, as is represented by Noah and his family. The world might have believed the warnings, God’s Spirit was striving with them to lead them to faith and obedience, but their own wicked hearts turned aside the counsel of God and resisted the pleadings of infinite love. They continued their empty ways as usual, eating, drinking, planting, and building, up to the very day Noah entered into the ark.
Men in Noah’s day were not all absolute idolaters, but in their idolatry they professed to know God; and in the grand images they had created, their plan was to represent God before the world. The class who professed to acknowledge God were the ones who took the lead in rejecting the preaching of Noah and through their influence leading others to reject it.
To every one comes the time of test and trial. While Noah was warning the inhabitants of the world of the coming destruction, it was their day of opportunity and privilege to become wise unto salvation. But Satan had control of the minds of men. They set light and truth for darkness and error. Noah seemed to them to be a fanatic. They did not humble their hearts before God, but continued their occupation the same as if God had not spoken to them through His servant Noah. But Noah stood like a rock amid the pollution and wickedness surrounding him and wavered not in his faithfulness. He stood amid the scoffs and jeers of the world, an unbending witness for God, his meekness and righteousness shining brightly in contrast to the crime and intrigue and violence surrounding him.
Noah connected with God, and he was strong in the strength of infinite power. For one hundred and twenty years he daily presented God’s warning in regard to events which, so far as human wisdom was concerned, could not take place. The world before the flood reasoned that for centuries the laws of nature had been fixed; the recurring seasons had come and gone in regular order. Rain had never yet fallen, but a mist or dew had fallen upon the earth, causing vegetation to flourish. The rivers and brooks had never passed their boundary, but had borne their waters safely to the great sea. Fixed decrees had kept the waters from overflowing their banks. The people did not recognize the Hand that had stayed the waters, saying, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.” [Job 38:10, 11.]
Men began to feel secure and to talk of the fixed laws of nature. They reasoned then as men reason now, as though nature were above the God of nature, that her ways were so fixed that God Himself would not or could not change them, thus making God’s messages of warning of none effect because, should His word be fulfilled, the course of nature would be disturbed. The men before the flood sought to quiet their consciences that the Spirit of God had aroused by arguing how impossible it was for the message of Noah to be true and a flood to deluge the world, which would turn nature out of her course. The same reasoning is heard today. “Why, the world will not be destroyed by fire.” The siren song is sung, “‘All things continue as they were from the beginning.’ No need to pay any regard to this preaching that the world’s history will soon close. Why, the laws of nature show the inconsistency of this.” [2 Peter 3:3, 4.] He who is Lord of nature can employ it to serve His purpose, for He is not the slave of nature.
They reasoned that it was not in accordance with the character of God to save Noah and his family, eight persons only, in that vast world, and yet all the rest be swept out of existence by the waters of the flood. Oh, no. There were great men and good men on the earth. If they did not believe as Noah did, Noah was deceived. It could not be otherwise. Here were the philosophers, the scientific men, the learned men. All could see no consistency in this message of warning. This fanciful doctrine was an illusion of the brain. If this were the truth, the wise men surely would know something about it. Would all of these learned men perish from the face of the earth and Noah be found the only one worthy of being spared?
As they reasoned in Noah’s day, they reason today, when the warning message is proclaimed to fear God and keep His commandments, for the wrath of God is soon to fall on all the sinful and disobedient, and they will perish in the general conflagration. Professed servants of Christ who are unfaithful, who do not reverence God and with fear prepare for the terrible future event, will lull themselves to carnal security with their fallacious reasoning, as they did in Noah’s day. God is too good and too merciful to save just a few who keep the Sabbath and believe the message of warning. The great men and the good men, the philosophers and men of wisdom would see the Sabbath and the shortness of time, if it were true. They did not believe a merciful God who made men would consume them with fire because they did not believe the warnings given. This, they reason, is not in accordance with God.
But the days before the flood steal silently on as a thief in the night. Noah is now making his last effort in warnings, entreaty, and appeal to the rejecters of God’s message. With tearful eye, trembling lip, and quivering voice, he makes his last entreaty for them to believe and secure a refuge in the ark.
But they turn from him with impatience and contempt that he should be so egotistical as to suppose his family are the only ones right in the vast population of the earth. They have no patience with his warnings, with his strange work of building an immense boat on dry ground. Noah, they said, was insane. Reason, science, and philosophy assured them Noah was a fanatic. None of the wise men and honored of the earth believed the testimony of Noah. If these great men were at ease and had no fears, why should they be troubled?
God’s love is represented in our day as being of such a character as would forbid His destroying the sinner. Men reason from their own low standard of right and justice. “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” Psalm 50:21. They measure God by themselves. They reason as to how they would act under the circumstances and decide God would do as they imagine they would do.
God’s goodness and long forbearance, His patience and mercy exercised to His subjects, will not hinder Him from punishing the sinner who refused to be obedient to His requirements. It is not for man—a criminal against God’s holy law, pardoned only through the great sacrifice He made in giving His Son to die for the guilty because His law was changeless—to dictate to God. After all this effort on the part of God to preserve the sacred and exalted character of His law, if men, through the sophistry of the devil, turn the mercy and condescension of God into a curse, they must suffer the penalty. Because Christ died they consider they have liberty to transgress God’s holy law that condemns the transgressor and would complain of its strictness and its penalty as severe and unlike God. They are uttering the words Satan utters to millions, to quiet their conscience in rebellion against God.
In no kingdom or government is it left to the lawbreakers to say what punishment is to be executed against those who have broken the law. All we have, all the bounties of His grace which we possess, we owe to God. The aggravating character of sin against such a God cannot be estimated any more than the heavens can be measured with a span. God is a moral governor as well as a Father. He is the Lawgiver. He makes and executes His laws. Law that has no penalty is of no force.
The plea may be made that a loving Father would not see His children suffering the punishment of God by fire, while He had the power to relieve them. But God would, for the good of His subjects and for their safety, punish the transgressor. God does not work on the plan of man. He can do infinite justice that man has no right to do before his fellow man. Noah would have displeased God to have drowned one of the scoffers and mockers that harassed him, but God drowned the vast world. Lot would have had no right to inflict punishment on his sons-in-law, but God would do it in strict justice.
Who will say God will not do what He says He will do? Let God be true and every man a liar. The Lord is coming in flaming fire to take vengeance on those sinners who know not God and obey not His gospel. And because, in His infinite mercy, He delays His coming to give the world a larger span for repentance, sinners flatter themselves He will never come.
In the public press, in the haunts of sin, as well as in the schools of science so-called, there is one sentiment. They curl the lips with scorn and jest and ridicule at the warnings given them and look upon the thousands who will not believe. Jests are uttered, witty paragraphs published at the expense of those who wait and look for His appearing and with fear, like Noah, prepare for the event. This is not new, but as old as sin. It is as false as the father of lies.
When ministers, farmers, merchants, lawyers, great men, and professedly good men shall cry, Peace and safety, sudden destruction cometh. [1 Thessalonians 5:3.] Luke reports the words of Christ, that the day of God comes as a snare—the figure of an animal prowling in the woods for prey—and lo, suddenly he is entrapped in the concealed snare of the fowler. [Chapter 21:35.]