THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES
November 27, 1884
Noah's Time and Ours
By Mrs. E. G. White
In the days of Noah “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” This is an accurate description of the generation that perished in the waters of the flood; for it was written by inspiration.
“God saw that the wickedness of man was great,” and that the “earth was filled with violence.” Lawlessness was rife. God had given men his commandments as a rule of life; but the fear of God had well-nigh died out of their hearts. His law was transgressed, and almost every conceivable sin was the result. The wickedness of men was open and daring, and the cries of the oppressed reached to Heaven. Justice was trampled in the dust. The strong not only disregarded the rights of the weak, but forced them to commit deeds of violence and crime.
The same characteristics prevail in our day. Crimes as grievous, as black and terrible, are perpetrated. How many men in high positions, who have been honored as men of talent and integrity, have proved themselves unworthy to be trusted. How many such persons have been detected in fraud, bribery, theft, and even murder. Take up the secular papers, and read the accounts of murder. Many of these crimes are so cold-blooded and causeless that it seems as though men kill one another merely from impulse or for amusement. And these atrocities have become of such common occurrence that they hardly elicit a comment or awaken surprise. They are looked upon as a matter of course, as evils that must be endured.
Before the flood the wickedness of man was great; but this was not all. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The purposes and desires of the heart were corrupt from day to day.
Men sometimes flatter themselves that in this enlightened age they are superior in knowledge and talents to those who lived before the flood; but those who think this do not rightly estimate the physical and mental strength of that long-lived race. Growth was slow and firm. Men did not, as at the present time, flash into maturity early, use up their vital forces, and only live out half their days. Their minds were of a high order, and were strong and clear. Had these men, with their rare powers to conceive and execute, devoted themselves to the service of God, they would have made their Creator's name a praise in the earth, and would have answered the purpose for which he gave them being. But they failed to do this. Man corrupted his way on the earth. There were many giants, men of great stature and strength, renowned for wisdom, skillful in devising the most cunning and wonderful work; but in proportion to their skill and mental ability was their great guilt because of unbridled iniquity. They were apostates from God, and were cruel and oppressive to those who were not able to resist them.
God bestowed upon these antediluvians many and rich gifts; but they used his bounties to glorify themselves, and turned them into a curse by fixing their thoughts and affections upon the gifts instead of the Giver. They had goodly trees of great variety and almost without limit; but of these they made temples, where they reveled in scenes of pleasure and wickedness. Gold, silver, and precious stones were in abundance, but they used these also to gratify the desires of their own proud hearts.
These sinful men could not deny the existence of God; but they would have been glad to know that there was no God to witness their deeds, and call them to an account. They delighted to put him out of their minds and hearts. The children were not taught to fear and reverence their Maker. They grew up unrestrained in their desires; and were without principle or conscience. Their minds were absorbed in devising means to rival one another in pleasure and vice. This world was all the Heaven these people wanted. They were slaves to appetite and passion, and the indulgence of every wish was their ambition. They were hasty and violent, and would bear no contradiction. Everything that interfered with their desires was bitterly hated, and quickly moved out of the way.
Yet the whole world was not corrupt. There were faithful witnesses for God. Methuselah, Enoch, Noah, and many others labored to keep alive on the earth the knowledge of the true God, and to stay the tide of moral evil. God declared that his Spirit should not always strive with guilty men, but that their probation should be a hundred and twenty years; if they did not then cease to pollute with their sins the world and its rich treasures, he would blot them from his creation; and these faithful ministers of righteousness gave the warning message to the world. But the light was not heeded; and the preaching of Noah and his co-laborers impressed hearts less and less. Many, even of the worshipers of God, were beguiled into sin by the bewitching allurements which were constantly before them, and lost their peculiar, holy character. They had not sufficient moral power to stand against the corrupting influences of the age.
By their obstinate resistance to the reproofs of conscience and the warnings of God's prophets, that generation filled up the measure of their iniquity, and became ripe for destruction. The patience of God was exhausted, and he determined to manifest his justice in the utter extinction of the sinful race, who had given themselves up to the almost unrestrained control of Satan. Because mankind had perverted his gifts, he would deface and destroy the things with which he had delighted to bless them; he would sweep away the beasts of the field, and the rich vegetation which furnished such an abundant supply of food, and transform the fair earth into one vast scene of desolation and ruin.
Is not this picture of the antediluvian world reproduced in our time? Man has not grown more pure and holy since the days of Noah. His heart has not changed; it is still “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” The intense worldliness of that generation is exceeded by that of the generation now living. Money is lavishly spent for costly houses, fine horses and carriages, and other expensive articles for luxury and display, while the poor suffer for food and clothing. God intrusts means to his stewards that they may prevent heart-sickening poverty with its attendant ignorance and wretchedness; but they do not realize their duty to their fellow-men. The fear of God is banished from their hearts, and his law is treated with indifference and neglect.
Said Christ, “As in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” God did not condemn the antediluvians for eating and drinking; he had given them the fruits of the earth in great abundance to supply their physical wants. Their sin consisted in taking these gifts without gratitude to the Giver, and debasing themselves by indulging appetite without restraint.
It was lawful for them to marry. Marriage was in God's order; it was one of the first institutions which he established. He gave special directions concerning this ordinance, clothing it with sanctity and beauty; but these directions were forgotten, and marriage was perverted and made to minister to passion. The pious mingled with the depraved, and became like them in spirit and in deeds. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”
A similar state of things exists now in relation to marriage. Marriages are formed between the godly and the ungodly because inclination governs in the selection of husband or wife. The parties do not ask counsel of God, nor have his glory in view. Christianity ought to have a controlling, sanctifying influence upon the marriage relation; but husband and wife are not united by Christian principle; uncontrolled passion lies at the foundation of many of the marriages that are contracted at the present time.
In Noah's day there were men who laughed to scorn his words of warning. They said that there were fixed laws in nature, which made a flood impossible; that Noah was crazy on this subject, and if there were any truth in what he said, the men of renown, the wise, the prudent, the great men, would understand the matter. There was total disbelief in Noah's testimony in regard to the coming judgments; but this unbelief did not prevent or hinder the coming storm. At the appointed time, “the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened,” and the earth was washed of its corruption. Only those who found shelter in the ark were saved.
Reader, another storm is coming. The earth will again be swept by the desolating wrath of God; and again sin and sinners will be destroyed. Do you feel that it is an event of little importance? Read some of the utterances of the prophets in reference to the day of God: “Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.” “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord. The mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
But though this is a day of trouble and distress to the wicked, the righteous will be able to say, “Lo, this is our God;” “we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” The truth will be their shield and buckler. God will be their refuge, and under his wings shall they trust. Says the psalmist: “Because thou hast made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”