Copyright (c)1999, 2000. Gospel Truth Ministries




Chapter 4


 But it is plain that man was not doomed for his first sin, or for manifold sins, to eternal woe. In that case there would be no room for any gracious interposition. Of course, if the sin continued the curse remained, yet so that God, to gain if possible the sinner, made his sun to shine on him and his rain to descend for his benefit. A merciful promise was given to our first parents; Cain was spared; the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah; God bore long with the Amorites; he showed Pharaoh great mercy, and was not ready to destroy him or his people till the last effort of graciousness was tried: the Canaanites would all have been spared if they had humbled themselves as the Gibeonites did, who need no deceptive trick to secure grace from the God that made them.

All through the history of Israel and of the Gentiles, as they appear in the Bible, we find mercy alternating with judgment or intermingled with it. The threatenings of God, even when expressed without qualification, were found to mean that they would be executed unless there was repentance, as in the case of Nineveh. Jonah was right in his interpretation of the nature of God's comminations; and he was afraid he would lose his character as a prophet, because in case the Ninevites repented his denunciation would come to nought. God said to Jeremiah: "In what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them." In Ezekiel the principle is extended to the individual: "When I say unto a wicked man, Thou shalt surely die, if he turn from his sin . . . none of his sins which he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him."

Everything shows that man was not brought by the representative sin of Adam into a hopeless condition. But there were some forms of evil to which, in general, the race was to be subjected, as disease, decay, and animal death, and the train of bereavement and sorrow connected with these evils such that, on account of the fear of them, men, till the hope of the gospel delivers them, are all their lifetime in bondage.

Prophecy, especially in the Apocalypse, speaks of the visible judgments on the nations under the reign of Christ, to whom his Father has committed all judgment, as quite as terrible as those inflicted on the old world. The imagery of the prophet of Patmos is fully as awful and impressive as that of the more ancient seers. The same may be said of the language of our Lord himself. The judgments on the old world are represented in the Now Testament as the punishment of the time of God's forbearance of the time when God relatively overlooked, winked at, the ill-desert of men.

In a large degree the punishments of Old Testament times are the visible judgments exhibited on the theatre of history for it was God's design to prepare thus a historical, matter-of-fact proof of his moral reign over the nations of the earth. This would prepare mankind to appreciate the revelations respecting the retributions of the unseen world. These were not brought into the bold relief they present in the New Testament revelation, though they were by no means unknown to ancient Israel, and are spoken of in the Book of Daniel as plainly as in the apostolic writings.