"Despisest thou the riches of his goodness ... not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" -- PAUL. (Rom. 2:4)
THE phrase "the goodness of God" is found occurrent in various places of the Holy Scriptures. It is not peculiar to the New Testament, but common to it and the Old. It occurs first in the writings of Moses, who, speaking of the effect of his narrative of Jehovah's [Yahweh's] severity upon Egypt and deliverance of Israel upon the mind of his father-in-law, says: "And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptian". (Ex. 18:9) From this the reader will perceive that the Lord's goodness is comprehensive both of good and evil. It is not unmixed good -good, pure, and absolute -- but mixed and relative. If His goodness had been pronounced upon by the Egyptians, they would have characterized it as pure evil; because His goodness plagued them with grievous plagues, and destroyed their army with a terrific overthrow. But this pure and absolute evil upon Egypt was unqualified goodness to Israel; for it delivered them from a sore and cruel bondage, and commenced the fulfilment of the "good thing" (Jer. 33:14) which Jehovah [Yahweh] had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob, and their seed. God's goodness, then, is good in act and promise to His people; but only evil to them who afflict them, and blaspheme His name.
God's goodness to His people, and severity upon His enemies, are the necessary result of His peculiar character. Hence His goodness and character are inseparable; so that to declare "THE NAME" of the Lord is at once to make known His character and goodness, which stand related as effect and cause. Because of this it is written, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy". (Ex. 33:19) Jehovah (Yahweh), therefore, descended in a cloud, and stood with Moses on Mount Sinai, and proclaimed the attributes which constitute His character, saying, "Jehovah, Jehovah [Yahweh,Yahweh], a God merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and destroying not utterly the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth, generation" (Exod. 33:19; 34:6,7).
Such a God is Jehovah [Yahweh] in His character, or relations of goodness to those whom He chooses for His people; but at the same time "a consuming fire" to His enemies (Heb. 12:29). He is a great and absolute sovereign in all His doings, having mercy upon whom He will, and hardening at His pleasure (Rom. 9:18). He chose Israel for His people, or nation, to, whom He granted a constitution, laws, and institutions, burdensome to be borne, but most agreeable to Himself, and promotive of His purpose in the manifestation of His goodness concerning them in the latter days (Acts 15:16). All His promises emanate from the essential goodness of His nature, which is favour, forbearance, abounding in truth, faithfulness, pardoning, and corrective but not utterly destroying. His promises are made to Israel, and to Israel alone; nevertheless He has condescended to invite those of all nations who believe His promises to share in them when the time shall arrive to perform them. To Israel He is gracious; to Israel He is long-suffering; to Israel He is abundant in goodness and truth; for thousands of Israel He keeps mercy in store; He forgives Israel's iniquity, transgression, and sin; and He corrects Israel, but He does not utterly destroy him, as his history shows even to this day. He hath not dealt so with any other nation. "Jehovah [Yahweh] found Israel in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness: he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye" (Deut. 32:10) There is no nation so dear to him as Israel; for "Israel is beloved for the fathers' sake" (Rom. 11:28). So tenderly compassionate is He of His nation that He said by His prophet, "He that toucheth you, O Israel, toucheth the apple of Jehovah's [Yahweh's] eye" (Zech. 2:8). And all this mercy to Israel is shared by those Gentiles who believe the promises and obey the law of faith; for believing Jews and Gentiles are all the children of God through the faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of these believers as have been baptized into Christ have put him on. They are therefore all one in Christ Jesus; and if Christ's, then Abraham's seed or Israelites, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:26,29). Being thus adopted, the Gentiles who believe the gospel of the kingdom in the name of Jesus are no more strangers and foreigners, or aliens from Israel's Commonwealth, and strangers from the covenants of promise, but fellow- citizens with the saints of Israel, and of the household of God, which for about seven years after the resurrection of Jesus consisted only of faithful Israelites (Eph. 2:12,19).
It is an attribute of Jehovah's [Yahweh's] goodness to "keep mercy for thousands". (Ex. 34:7) These thousands for whom mercy is kept are "those who love him, and keep his commandments" (Exod. 20:6) -- the Israel of God in the higher import of the phrase. The mercy kept for them is the chesed styled the berith olahm chasdai Dahwid , or Age-covenant mercies of David, rendered by Lowth "an everlasting covenant, the gracious promise made to David", which shall never fail (Isa. 55:3). These gracious promises, or loving kindness, or mercy which Jehovah [Yahweh] keeps for thousands, are based upon the chesed or mercy to Abraham, to which Mary and Zacharias refer in these words: "He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever": "Jehovah [Yahweh] hath raised up a horn of salvation for us (Israel) in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been from the beginning of the age: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us: to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, that he would grant us (Israel) that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life" (Luke. I:54,55,69-75). The birth of Jesus was a proof that Jehovah [Yahweh] remembered the mercy he had promised to Abraham and David. Jesus, the born king of the Jews, was the Horn or Power by which the nation is to be saved from all its enemies; he is therefore styled "a horn of salvation for Israel". He has not saved them yet. They are still subject to the Horns of the Gentiles, and have no part in their native land. So long as their condition remains as it is, the mercy promised to Abraham and David continues unfulfilled. The resurrection of Jesus, however, is the earnest that it will be accomplished in the appointed time; and that he will certainly deliver them from the tyrants "who destroy the earth". (Rev. 11:18)_ Hear this, ye who profess to love the Lord, but believe not what He saith: "Behold, saith he, the days come that I will perform the good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of Righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem dwell safely: and this (is his name) which shall be proclaimed to her: The Lord our Righteousness. For thus saith Jehovah [Yahweh]; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the House of Israel: neither shall the Priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offering, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually" (Jer. 33:14-18; 23:5,6). This "good thing" is the subject-matter of the mercy promised to Abraham and David, which Jehovah [Yahweh], the fulfiller of promises keepeth for thousands; and which is as certain to be communicated as that He exists, for "He magnifies his word above all his name" (Psa. 138:2). That good thing in its details is abundantly spoken of by the mouth of all the Prophets through whom Jehovah [Yahweh] hath kept alive the remembrance of it from the foundation of Israel's Commonwealth. It is Israel's Hope, and therefore the hope of the true Christian; for "salvation is of the Jews". (John 4:22)
Behold, then, the promised goodness of God! An Immortal King shall reign and prosper in the land of Israel, and shall execute judgment and justice there over the Twelve Tribes, and the obedient nations of the world, for a thousand years. This is the oath which Jehovah [Yahweh] swore to Abraham, saying, "In thee and in thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 18:18; 22:18) -- a blessedness in the establishment of which Israel will have been delivered out of the hand of all their enemies, and henceforth enjoy the privilege of serving Jehovah [Yahweh] without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of their mortal career. The nation of our adoption will then be the chief of all the nations dwelling safely in its own land. Gentiles by birth, but Jews by regeneration, the goodness of God promises us resurrection from among the dead, and exaltation to the highest honours of the State; as it is written, "The saints of the Most High shall possess the Kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever". (Dan. 7:18)
Such mercy Jehovah [Yahweh] keeps for thousands of Israel and adopted Gentiles who believe the promises He has made to the fathers. But His goodness promises even more than eternal life and honour to the just. It promises them wisdom, and knowledge, and physical strength, the possession of the world and the fulness thereof, glory, equality with the angels, and the high favour of God for ever. He keeps this mercy in store for them that love him, and obey His word. Who that believes these things would hesitate to respond, "Jehovah [Yahweh] is good, for his mercy endureth for ever?" (1 Chron. 16:34; 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:3; Ps. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1,26; 136:1) Yea, it is even so: for "the mercy of Jehovah [Yahweh] is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those who remember his commandments to do them". (Ps. 103:17,18) Mark, dear reader, "to such as keep his covenant and obey him". Dost thou know what it is to keep Jehovah's [Yahweh's] covenant and obey Him? Know then that it is to believe the gospel of the kingdom, and to be baptized, or united to the name of Jesus, and thenceforth to continue patiently in well-doing . The covenant is the covenant concerning the kingdom of which the gospel treats -- the oath of national blessedness through Abraham and his seed, which Jehovah [Yahweh] swore to him when He brought him into the territory of the future kingdom. You must believe this same particular gospel or you cannot "keep the covenant", or have any part in the kingdom it proclaims.
The Goodness of God (con't)
THE GOODNESS OF GOD (con't)
Now, beloved reader, "Despisest thou the riches of this goodness of God"? Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the good things of His mercy we have brought up herein, and say if they are not of peerless import. Are not endless life and good days, boundless riches, honour, and eternal glory in a kingdom of God's establishment upon the earth, more to be desired than all the world can give you now? Can you be of sane mind and despise all these riches of goodness? Can you be rational and self-possessed? But if you despise them not, but "believe on God" , that is, be fully persuaded that what He has promised He is able to perform, and will do it, will you not likewise be willing to make any sacrifice to obtain them? If you were till a certain time devoted to the world and the enjoyment of the flesh, but came afterwards to believe in these promises with an honest and good heart, or as men say, "sincerely", would not your views of things present and future have undergone a radical change? Would you not cease to set your affections on earthly things; would not your affection rather be transferred to the things contained in that "mercy kept for thousands"? (Ex. 34:7) Yea, verily. And would you not have been led to this change of views, affection, and will by the goodness of God exhibited in the testimony of His holy prophets? Even so and you would then be a practical illustration of the Bible sentiment that "it is the goodness of God that leadeth to repentance". (Rom. 2:4)
God's goodness leads to repentance. It leads believers to place themselves in such a relation to the truth that "repentance unto life" may be " granted unto them" (Acts 1:18). The goodness of God is like to choice and goodly wares exhibited in a bazaar for sale. Their goodliness attracts the attention of passengers, and leads them to desire to possess them. The merchant grants their desire on certain conditions. They accept the terms, and receive the right of property in them; and he promises to put them in possession of them at an appointed time. The goodness of God which leads to repentance is exhibited in the gospel of the kingdom, and nowhere else; for this gospel is the grand theme of the word of God contained in the scriptures, old and new: and because it is displayed in that royal proclamation, therefore John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles before their Lord's crucifixion, went through the towns and cities, and country parts of Judea, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, Repent; for the Majesty of the heavens is arrived" (Matt. 3:2; 4:17,23; Mark I:14, 15; Luke 4:18,43; 9:2,6). The kingdom and arrival of its king were preached to lead those who believed it to repentance. The goodness of God set forth in the doctrine of the kingdom was preached also after the Lord's resurrection, to lead men to repentance, that they might be made meet for its inheritance; but the motive hereto, founded on the personal presence of the king, was not repeated. It could not be; for "the Majesty of the heavens" had departed into a far country (Luke 19:11,12). The apostles no longer said: "Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"; but, "Repent: because God hath appointed a day in which he will rule the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance to all in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:30,31) - - in other words, "Repent; because the Majesty of the heavens, who hath departed, will come again to rule the world in righteousness". This is now the glad tidings of the kingdom for repentance unto life.
That "the gospel" and "the goodness of God" are phrases importing the same things, is clear from the use of them by Paul. He says: "the Jews became the enemies to the gospel for the sake of the Gentiles". (Rom. 11:28) It was no good will to the Gentiles on their part, that they refused to believe; but their refusal was the result of hardness of heart: therefore, as a punishment God blinded and hardened them still more, so that, instead of filling His house or kingdom with believers who were "Jews by nature", (Gal. 2:15) determined to make up the complement of the redeemed by believers separated from "sinners of the Gentiles", (Gal. 2:15) who should become Jews by adoption, through faith in His goodness. Judah, though still beloved for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's sake, fell from gospel favour through want of faith; while faithful Gentiles were grafted into the stock of Israel's olive, and recognized as Israelites in every respect save the accident of birth. This was just severity towards Judah; but gracious goodness towards Gentiles. (Rom. 11)
Thus it is apparent that the principle according to which the position of Judah and the Gentiles relative to Jehovah [Yahweh] and His mercy was changed, was that of faith. To continue in the faith of the gospel was to continue in the goodness of God. Judah did not continue in that goodness because the Jews did not continue to believe it. They were therefore "cut off". (Rom. 11:22) The offer was to be made to them no more. Judah would indeed be grafted in again to the national olive: that is, reorganized with the rest of the tribes as a nation and commonwealth, or kingdom, in their own land, under the sovereignty of "Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews"; (John 19:19) but those of them contemporary with the national blindness should have no share in "the joy" of their king -- in those good things offered to individuals in the gospel of the kingdom. This gospel announces that the God of heaven will set up a kingdom and dominion upon earth, under whose righteous administration Israel and the nations will be blessed with all temporal and spiritual blessings for a thousand years; such as, that there shall be war no more; that oppression and injustice shall cease; that the earth shall give her increase; that the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord's glory; that the poor shall be comforted and protected; that there shall be but one religion, and so forth -- these are gospel blessings for the world, when by conquest it is brought into subjection to Israel's king; but the gospel promises the glory, honour, majesty, and riches of the kingdom and dominion only to those persons who, before the manifestation of them , while they are yet a matter of faith, and not of sight, believe the promised goodness of it, and continue in it.
To Gentile people the apostle saith; "If ye continue not in the goodness of God, ye also shall be cut of" . (Rom. 11:22) "In the same place, he saith: "Thou, O Gentile, standest by faith" . (Rom. 11:20,21) That is, so long as the Gentiles continue to believe the gospel of the kingdom, there shall be scope for repentance unto life, that they may inherit the kingdom; but when they become faithless of the gospel, as Judah was before them, the door of mercy shall with like destructive violence be closed against them. "Be not high-minded, but fear", saith Paul; "for if God spared not the natural branches of the olive tree, beware lest he also spare not thee" (Rom. 11:20,21) In the apostle's day there was a disposition in the Gentile mind to high-mindedness, and to boast against Judah, who had stumbled at the stone of stumbling and rock of offence. They do not seem to have entertained the idea of the re-engraftment of the broken-off branches, but concluded that God had cast Israel away as a people for whom He had no further use or affection. This was not the general idea; but some seem to have held it, or the apostle would not have contradicted the supposition. "God forbid", says he, "that such a thing should be; he hath not cast away his people, Israel, whom he knew before he received the Gentiles into favour". (Rom. 11:1- 2,11) But, though the apostle so promptly repudiated the notion, he did not succeed in repressing it. That Israel was finally rejected and cast away, took strong hold of the Gentile professors of Christianity, who in after times thought they were doing God service in persecuting the Jews. Even at the present day, after a lapse of eighteen centuries, the receiving of Israel into favour again is regarded as fabulous by "Christian professors". Being "wise in their own conceits", (Rom. 11:25) they boast themselves against the Jews, and denounce as "carnal Judaizers" those who, with Paul, affirm that "God hath not cast away his people, Israel, whom he foreknew". (Rom. 11:2) Hear what Jehovah (Yahweh) saith of Israel: "Thus saith the Lord, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night; who divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar -- the Lord of hosts is his name". "If those ordinances depart from before me", saith the Lord, "then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever." Mark the "if", which is still further emphasized in the next verse, saying "If the heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done", saith the Lord (Jer. 31:35-37). This is equivalent to saying, Israel shall never cease from being a nation before Me though they have done grievously in My sight; for the hypotheses upon which their casting away is predicated are absolute impossibilities. It is as impossible for their national existence to cease for ever, as it is for feeble-minded man to measure heaven, or to search out the centre of the earth.
We have said that the non-restoration of Israel was not the general idea entertained by Gentile believers in the apostle's day. To say that it was, would be to affirm that they did not generally believe the gospel; for there can be no kingdom without the restoration of the Jews. There are those in our day who deny their restoration. This is proof-positive that they do not understand the gospel, which is the glad tidings of the restoration of the kingdom again to Israel, and the blessedness of all nations through their government; for, we repeat it, "Salvation is of the Jews". (John 4:22)
The spiritual condition of the Gentiles at the present crisis in all countries of "Christendom" is the exact counterpart of Judah's at the period of the dissolution of their commonwealth. The Jews were without faith, and so are also the Gentiles of today. But thou wilt perhaps say, 0 reader, how can that be? Are there not thousands upon thousands of holy men engaged in preaching Christ in every land; and are not they sustained by millions of faithful men, who contribute immense sums for the propagation of the Christian faith? We admit there are multitudes of preachers, and millions of sincere professors of religious faiths they call Christian; but where are the preachers and believers of the gospel of the kingdom; and rarer still, where are the believers thereof, who obey it? "Faith", such as it is, abounds, but "THE Faith" is known to very few, and preached by still fewer. The Jews believed the gospel of the kingdom, but they refused to obey it in the name of Jesus as king of Israel. They stumbled at him. They did not believe in him as Jehovah's [Yahweh's] Anointed One; and therefore rejected "the mystery of the gospel" (Eph. 6:19) in his name. It is so likewise with the Gentiles at this day. They preach a character they call Jesus, whom Paul did not preach. Compare the popular notions of Jesus Christ with the Christ delineated in the old and new scriptures, and you will be astonished, O reader, at the want of congruity between them! The Gentiles stumble at the character called Christ in the Bible, even as the Jews did at Jesus. These repudiated a suffering Messiah; the Gentiles reject a Christ who shall subdue the nations by the sword, replant Israel's", olive in its native soil, restore the kingdom and throne of his father, David, sit upon it for a thousand years, and as sole monarch of the world rule all nations as Jehovah's [Yahweh's] vicegerent . upon the earth. The Bible is at variance with them both, for it not only reveals a Christ who should be made perfect through sufferings, but one that should do all these things besides.
We repeat it with profound conviction, that the gospel is not preached, it is not believed, nor is it obeyed by the religionists of our day. The exceptions to this statement are so few that they do not affect the generality of its application. If, as in the days of Elijah, there be seven thousand in Christendom who believe the truth and have obeyed it, our statement is not at all invalidated thereby. They who believe in a gospel of kingdoms beyond the skies to be possessed with a Jesus who is to return to earth only to destroy it, believe a gospel that has no place in the Bible. How high minded and wise are professors in this day in their own conceit! They plume themselves in their christianity and spiritual intelligence, saying "they are rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; but know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17) So Egyptian is the darkness which beclouds their minds that they discern not the awful crisis which is advancing upon them with gigantic strides. They are sporting themselves with their own deceiving, while destruction is at the door. Faithless of the gospel, highminded, and wise in their own conceit! This is itself a great sign of the times. By faith we stand; by unbelief we fall. What then remains? Nothing more, but that the Gentiles be cut off, and the process of their engraftment be terminated. Short will be the work when it is once fairly under weigh. The cutting off accomplished, the gathering in of Israel's tribes will then proceed, and shall not be intermitted until "all Israel shall be saved". (Rom. 11:26) Hear, in conclusion, what Jehovah (Yahweh) saith by the hand of Moses concerning this time of trouble coming upon the world: "The day of the calamity of Israel's foes is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left. See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me. I kill, and I make whole; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever, If I whet my glittering sword, and my hand take hold of judgment, I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy." (Deut. 32:35-42,43) When this shall be perfected, then "Rejoice, 0 ye nations, with his people; for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people". (Deut. 32:35-42,43)