"My soul trembles as I reflect upon the amount of light, and the harmonious truths of the Bible which have been presented to our minds and urged upon our consciences; and which have been by us acknowledged and received as binding and important to salvation. What must be our condemnation if we sink with so much light beaming upon us? Will not the men who from one sermon were moved to prayer and fasting, to robe themselves in sackcloth, to sit in ashes, and to repent of their sins, arise in judgment against such?"
As we reflect upon the prophecy respecting the great city of Nineveh, the course of action of this people when the message concerning its overthrow was proclaimed, and the long-suffering of the Lord toward them, an important lesson may be learned.
1. The city. This was the metropolis of ancient Assyria. It had stood some fifteen hundred years, and was long the mistress of the East. It was about sixty miles in circumference. The walls of this city were one hundred feet high, and so broad that three chariots could drive abreast on them. Upon them were fifteen hundred towers, each two hundred feet high.
Thus securely fortified, why should this people fear? No doubt they often reasoned within themselves, We dwell safely, and there is no occasion of fear. Indeed, a prophecy had come down to them from their fathers, that their city could not be taken until the river should become their enemy.
2. The warning given. God pitied this wicked people in their blindness and hardness of heart. To Jonah he said: "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me."
"Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
This was not a familiar sound; it was new and unheard of before. The preacher came not from their schools of learning. He was a stranger and alone. He had no Bible in his hand to prove his message from; no prophecy to spread out before them which could be proved true by an overwhelming amount of evidence flashing and burning before them. Again, the message was a very unwelcome one. "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Let such a declaration be borne to one of our cities, under similar circumstances, at the present day, and no doubt the preacher would be counted as a madman.
3. The reception of the message, and the effect produced on the people. The faith of the Ninevites was one of the most remarkable on record. In the threatened overthrow of Nineveh there were no conditions specified, yet the people understood well that they might exist in the mind of a merciful God.
"So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them." Here faith and works united, which proved the salvation of the city.
Of this fast it has been said: "Never was there one so general, so deep, and so effectual. Men and women, old and young, high and low, and even cattle themselves, all kept such a fast as the total abstinence from food implies." There was something more than fasting. The proclamation of the king was: "But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every One from his evil way, and from the violence that is in. their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" This was a move in the right direction, one of which Heaven could approve.
4. God's mercy to the people. He has declared: "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and 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." Hence, his mercy and long-suffering here. "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto then; and he did it not."
The overthrow of the city was delayed about one hundred and fifty years. But divine love and pity leave not this people now. In the most solemn and stirring manner are they warned by the prophet Nahum, of their final destruction and utter blotting out; following which, we have no record of repentance on their part. One hundred years fly away, when the cup of "the bloody city, full of lies and robbery," was filled to overflowing; and what will soon be true of all the nations and cities of earth, was true of great Nineveh; notwithstanding her pride and power, her magnificence and boasted fortifications,—she was no more. The prophecy was fulfilled, "The gates of the river shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved."
5. Practical instructions from the history of Nineveh. Said the Saviour to his hearers: "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."
And, again, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light. because their deeds were evil." Men can see how this declaration may be true of past generations; but how will it be with this generation? Has God given us light sufficient to condemn us if we reject it?
From the childhood of many of us, the sound of the coming of Christ "at the doors" has been heard, sustained by unmistakable evidences. The commandments of God for years have been proclaimed. His downtrodden Sabbath is being restored. The preparation of heart to meet the Lord has been preached thousands of times. Many of us have heard it, and these solemn warnings have sunk deep into our hearts. We have had precept upon precept; line upon line. And will not God hold us responsible for these truths?
Perhaps we may decide with respect to men of this world. We may see why they should call to reeling mountains and hurling rocks: "Fall on us,, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." We may understand why nominal Christians who oppose the proclamation of the third angel's message, who reject the light of God's word and trample it under their feet, should come up to the Judgment deceived and hear the awful words from the lips of the Judge, "Depart from me ye that work iniquity." But are we aware of the doom that awaits those who apostatize from present truth? Will they be favored above other men? Can they turn away from the truth and settle down into unbelief and infidelity, and yet escape the judgments which hang over the impenitent?
My soul trembles as I reflect upon the amount of light, and the harmonious truths of the Bible which have been presented to our minds and urged upon our consciences; and which have been by us acknowledged and received as binding and important to salvation. What must be our condemnation if we sink with so much light beaming upon us?
Will not the men who from one sermon were moved to prayer and fasting, to robe themselves in sackcloth, to sit in ashes, and to repent of their sins, arise in judgment against such? But there arc those who will not draw back unto perdition; but who will "believe to the saving of the soul." May we be of the number, and enter into the joy of our Lord.—A. S. Hutchins, Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, September 1886
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