God's Mercy and Man's Inhumanity

God is good and doeth good. No man could come to Him without getting good, for He is good, but to hide away from Him can only result in evil and sorrow both now and for ever. It is the business of the servants of the Lord to proclaim the goodness of God, and again to proclaim it, for He is much slandered in these days, and it is a sad feature of the condition of men that they would rather believe the lie about God than the truth, their minds being blinded by the god of this world (the devil) (2 Cor. 4:4).

There are some who boldly cast upon God the blame of all the cruelties that men perpetrate upon each other, and deny that God is good so long as they are prevented from gratifying themselves as they please, and are made to suffer in any way. The atheist takes a less blasphemous but equally foolish and short-sighted view of things and says, "There is no God." A leader of this latter school has recently written —

"Under the weight of overwhelming calamity the world staggers and groans. Was all this designed before the foundations of the earth were fixed? How then can anyone worship the designer? Is it a by-product, an undesigned and unexpected result of creative power? How then can omnipotence exist? Does not the state of Europe make belief in God a superstition? In the shadow of the immense disaster the figure of the loving Father recedes into dim and formless outline. Trust in His care grows feeble and faint. Human tears blur the vision of eternal bliss."

We are glad that the writer of this paragraph has the feeling that if God is, He will love His creatures and care for them, but he stands with the fool when he says, "There is no God" (Ps. 14). If there is no God we are without hope, for without God we have only ourselves or our fellow-men to look to, and what faith can we have in men when we see that all their efforts to deliver themselves from their miseries and attain their ambitions only increase their sorrows. When we see that the more strenuous their efforts are the worse are the results.

It is the popular and easy way to blame Prussian junkerism for all the miseries of these days, but we must look deeper than that for the cause of them and remember that those who are readiest now to saddle Germany with the world's calamity were foremost a few years ago in hailing her as the leader of the world's progress in almost every department of life, but mostly in denying the true God, and His Christ and His Bible. That despised Bible delivered us long ago from any faith in man's ability to deliver himself from the woes from which he suffers, and the present "overwhelming calamity" confirms what the Bible teaches, so that it is plain to us, and should be plain to all, that to be without God is to be without hope.

It is remarkable how the atheists themselves acknowledge the hopelessness of their position and prospects. One of the most famous of them has expressed it thus:

"Life is a narrow vale between the narrow peaks of two eternities. We strive to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailings."

And as to the end of life this same eloquent denier of the existence of God has said:

"For whether in mid-seas or among the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck must mark at last the end of each and all. Every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love, and every moment jewelled with a joy, will at its close become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death."

Yes, we can understand the fears and gloom of the man who is without God, for without God we are without hope and without good.

But if "God is," and if He is good, why does the world "stagger and groan under the weight of an overwhelming calamity?" The question is not a difficult one to answer, it is found in a striking passage from one of the most human of poets:

"Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn."

But the Bible goes to the root of the matter and gives us the cause of man's inhumanity. He is not as God made him. He has broken away from God's rule, and proclaimed his independence of God, as a star might break away from its orbit. And this determination to be master of his own destiny is the cause of every sorrow and calamity. "By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin," and the terrible consequences of that primal disobedience, which the whole race by nature has willingly endorsed, is that,
"THEIR MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS:
THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD."
DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR WAYS:
AND THE WAY OF PEACE HAVE THEY NOT KNOWN:
THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.

And that indictment was not penned by a sour pessimist in the twentieth century but is part of God's own summing up of man's condition in Romans 3.

Men delight in the thought that they are independent of God, but it is a delusion, they are not, for in Him we live and move and have our being. He is the faithful Creator, giving to all life and breath, and all things. His mercies preserve us. Every breath of our nostrils and every throb of our feeble hearts is by God's power and ordering. He is above His creation, dwelling in light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see (1 Tim. 6:16); yet He is not indifferent to the travail of His creatures, even though that travail is the result of their rebellion against Himself. He has His part in events of today and His part is that of THE LIVING GOD, THE PRESERVER OF ALL MEN (1 Tim. 4:10). And this He has been towards men from the beginning. There have been times when His sore judgments have fallen upon men, as at the flood, and on the cities of the plain, and on the seven nations of Canaan, but this was because their revolt against Him was so open and determined and their moral degradation so horrible that the race could only be preserved by the extermination of those upon whom those judgments fell. As the surgeon's knife cuts deeply into the flesh to remove the foul cancer, so cut God's judgments into these scenes of violence for the good of His creatures. Yet judgment is His strange work. He delights in mercy. We count His long-suffering salvation. He is the preserver of all men.

"Self-preservation is the first law of nature," is an old proverb; but those who are without God know not how to preserve themselves, they can only destroy themselves and their fellows by their ambitious schemes. Were God not the preserver of all men, and did He not intervene continually in preserving mercy, the race would have destroyed itself long ago.

We have a solemn indication of this in Revelation 6. The seer in that remarkable chapter records his divinely-given vision of what shall follow the taking out of this world of those that are Christ's at His coming for them. The day of God's long-suffering will close and His mercy give place to His wrath. Men will be left for a brief space to their own devices before God's direct judgment falls upon them, and the Lord Jesus appears to judge the world in righteousness. There first appears

A RIDER ON A WHITE HORSE, with bow and crown, going forth conquering and to conquer. The victories he gains are bloodless and the whole description of him is one of promise, but there comes a change, and any hopes raised in the hearts of men by his appearance swiftly disappear, for he is superceded by

A RIDER ON A RED HORSE, who takes peace from the earth, so that they kill one another; and this evidently indicates internecine strife more than war between nations — a "French revolution" throughout the civilized world.

A RIDER ON A BLACK HORSE follows, telling of grim famine, crushing with its miseries those who escape the sword, and making the way easy for . . .

A RIDER ON A PALE HORSE who will come forth killing with sword, with hunger, and with death and with the beasts of the earth. And this is not the end as some men fondly hope that death must be the end of all things for them, for

HELL FOLLOWS with him to claim the souls of those whose bodies are slain by the overwhelming calamities that the prophet saw. How quick, how terrible is THIS DESCENT OF MAN, from the promise of the rider on the white horse to the hopeless depths of hell. Such will be the descent of man when God's preserving mercy is in measure withdrawn from him, and even now the swift steeds are bound to the chariot and are straining at the curb and would take that steep gradient at a headlong gallop, but for the restraining hand of God, and men, so blind are they, would fondly believe that they were speeding to the attainment of their most cherished ambitions. The ascent of man is a false dream, a delusion of the old serpent, the descent of man is a terrible fact.

Was it not so in the beginning? Adam was set up as lord of this lower creation to subdue it and to enjoy the fruits of it. To use the apocalyptic figure, he was set as a rider on a white horse. But how soon he was unhorsed by the devil! How soon he choose to ride in independence of God who would have preserved him in that position of peace and prosperity had he but trusted Him! And the inevitable result appeared in his own family, for when Cain rose up and slew his brother the red horse of hatred and murder had appeared. The cause of the overwhelming calamities is not that there is no God who cares for His creatures, as the atheist would tell us, but because men won't have God, because they chose their own way and hate His restraint. And with this goes hatred of one another.

God still shows Himself to be good. He does not leave Himself without witness to this. He is the preserver of all men and He gives us "rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14).

He gives the increase of the earth in answer to man's toil upon it. Yea, every good and perfect gift comes down from Him, and He continues to give though the multitudes never so much as thank Him for His gifts. He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust, and He is kind to the unthankful and the evil, and He turns the very miseries that result from man's inhumanity and injustice to one another to the good of all those who turn to Him, so that their sorrows often become their greatest blessings. His goodness is manifested in His command to men to repent, to turn from their own ways that can only involve them in everlasting ruin to Him who alone can do them good. It makes itself eloquent as He beseeches men to be reconciled to Him; it shines forth from the face of the Saviour who sits at His right hand, but who was once crucified at Calvary that men might believe that God loves them. "For God commendeth His Love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

If any have doubts as to the goodness of God, because of the ills they suffer, let them turn to Him and test Him. Apart from Him there is no good and we have no hope. "Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."