Sermon Book / SM077 - God's Plans vs Man's Plans

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"We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called."#Ro 8:28,30.

By every process of logic and human reasoning we should suppose that the Almighty God would be by far the superior of every human being, in that His sentiments and plans would be higher than ours. True, we are informed that man was created in his Maker’s moral image, and that this enables him to reason and think on moral subjects on a higher plane than does the brute creation.

But the same Scriptures inform us that the entrance of sin has wrought havoc with the likeness of God in the human race, blurring and in considerable measure obliterating it. While disagreeing with those who claim that "total depravity" has overtaken our race, we are all witnesses to the fact that the moral sense of the race is variant, that some have very little—idiots none—and that its brightest representatives have their limitations, which are recognized by themselves as well as by their friends. For the highest standards and conceptions of justice, love and wisdom we look beyond ourselves and all our fellow-creatures to that which is perfect, which believers are hoping to attain in the resurrection. That perfect condition of heart and mind will signify our renewal in our Creator’s likeness, He being the perfect standard before our minds.

The Scriptures admonish us that Satan, moved by selfish ambition, rebelled against Jehovah and His Government; and that he has since sought to use his every


opportunity and ability to ensnare our minds, to poison them against our Creator, to make His goodness appear in a false light, to put light for darkness and darkness for light. Looking over the world we perceive that to a large extent he has been successful. Our race has followed his misleadings, as the Apostle points out in #Ro 1:28, where he assures us that man originally in accord with God became alienated and forsook the Lord, who gave men over to a reprobate mind and evil works, by which they have degraded themselves more and more. As a consequence we see members of the race who are almost devoid of the original likeness of God and proportionately blind to the Truth—"the god [Satan] of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not."


Nevertheless, amidst all the darkness that prevails respecting God and His true character and plan the organs of reverence and worship persist in the human brain.

Hence, we find amongst all people a tendency to worship, to acknowledge responsibility; and this, combined with a realization of their own imperfection and unworthiness, leads them to fear the God whom they do not know. To assist them in the worship which they feel they should render they make images of earth and stone and metal or with silk batting and gold thread. These images are as different from each other as the conceptions of their makers. Nevertheless, they illustrate three things: (1) Power, strength, ability; (2) intelligence, wisdom, knowledge of us and our whereabouts and doings; (3) anger, malice, hatred, vengeance, cruelty.

Most evidently the poor heathen do not know the true God, hence do not worship and serve Him. They need a revelation that will remove from their mental eyes the delusions which now prevail and give them a glimpse of the true God—gracious, merciful, kind, loving, as well as wise, powerful and just. Alas! The poor heathen we see need to learn the Message of God’s love exemplified


in the gift of His Son, who died for our sins and thus opened the way for our return to harmony with the Father. We send missionaries, we give millions of money and thousands of prayers for the breaking of the bonds of ignorance and the opening of the blind eyes of the heathen. We thank God that so many have this degree of appreciation of God and of sympathy for the heathen.

But let us come nearer home. Let us look about us in the lands of highest civilization where Christian doctrine has prevailed for centuries, where from the least to the greatest should have had an opportunity to learn of the grace of God in Christ and to become reconciled to God. What do we find in so-called Christendom? We find scores of sects of Christians possessed of the same mental organ of veneration, exercising it to some degree in worship. We find that more intelligent than the heathen, they realize the impropriety of making images of God out of wood, stones, metal, etc. But we find also that each sect or party has made a mental image of God, and described this mental image until the disciples of each cult may worship the same mental image. We are not finding fault with these, for without some mental appreciation of God worship would be impossible.


We are reminded of our Lord’s words to the woman at Samaria, of the true God. Our Lord said to her, "Ye worship ye know not what." And undoubtedly this is true of the majority of worshipers of all various sects and creeds. They worship, they exercise the organ of veneration, partly under the impulse of fear, but without particular knowledge of whom they worship and without any particular desire to become acquainted with Jehovah, that they might know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent to be our Redeemer. (#Joh 17:3.) This is true undoubtedly of the majority of worshipers of all the sects of all Christendom. But on the other hand in all the sects are to be found those who have a different


creedal image of God before their mental vision. We are interested in the comparison of these various mental images of God. Let us take a glance at a few of them as presented to us in the creeds of some of the most prominent Christian denominations.


One of the highest conceptions of the Almighty, one of the most noble that prevails to a large extent in Christendom, is the Calvinistic. It pictures the Almighty as the high and lofty One possessed of all wisdom, knowledge, power; that He is grave, dignified, commanding reverence and worship. There is much in this image to attract our attention; it is so much nobler than any of the images of the heathen we have ever seen. It inspires us with awe, with reverence. But there is something lacking.

A cold chill of fear comes over us as we gaze upon the august majesty. His face is serene and calm, but cold and unsympathetic, ungenerous; stern justice and uncompromising firmness are there. But love! oh, love is lacking!

We tremble before this image, and the more so as we hearken to the message which this God of Calvinism has sent to those who have the ear to hear Him. He has declared His omnipotence, His justice and unchangeableness; He has declared an election and predestination of a little handful of our race to wondrous glory in His presence and equally foreordained and predestinated that the vast majority of our race shall have none of His loving favor, but shall die in heathen ignorance—non-elect, predestinated before their birth not only to ignorance of the only name in the present life but to an eternity of suffering in the ages to come.

To the inquiry respecting the justice of this program, the answer comes that those heathen not favored with a knowledge of Christ were foreknown of God to be unworthy, and that they would not have received Him if they had heard His message. If we ask respecting the


masses of Christendom who have heard of the only name but have rejected it and failed to become His footstep followers as saints—if we inquire what hope there is for these, the answer is that there is none. Alas! we say, as we turn away to seek for a still higher ideal, a still more glorious image and a still more blessed Message!

This Calvinistic image, glorious in many of its features and details, can never satisfy the longings of our hearts; for while its pictures of justice and of power are satisfactory, its lack of love and sympathy makes us fear that it is deficient of the most important element of a truly noble character. We say to ourselves that with all of our weaknesses and faults we would love even our enemies too much to torture them, especially to torture them to all eternity hopelessly, uselessly. We would say to ourselves that if we possessed the wisdom and power of the Calvinistic God, the love in our hearts and sympathy would have co-operated with our wisdom and power and would have hindered us from creating a soul that could not be destroyed, could not be blotted out of existence.

For this is the claim made in the name of this image of God; that He so made man that he must live forever, that God Himself could not destroy him; that man being unworthy of a place in glory God has no alternative but to perpetuate his existence in misery. Our reply is that this implies a lack of either power or wisdom on the part of the Calvinistic God.


Arminianism offsets Calvinism. While the latter is held by almost all the various branches of the Presbyterians and by almost all Baptists, Congregationalists, etc., Arminianism is most particularly represented today by our Methodist friends of different branches. The celebrated "five points" of Arminianism are in substance:— (1) Conditional Election. (As in opposition to the unconditional election held by Calvinists.)


(2) A Universal Redemption, or that Christ died for all alike, though only those who accept His atonement by faith will be actually saved. (As in opposition to the Calvinistic theory that atonement was only for the Elect.) (3) That Salvation is by Grace; or man can exercise true faith only by the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, with which, however, he can co-operate. (As in contradiction to the Calvinistic view that the grace of God—His mercy, His forgiveness, His assistance—was destined only for the Elect and applies to none others.) (4) That God’s Grace is not irresistible. (As in contrast with the Calvinistic theory, that it is irresistible—that the Elect cannot resist God’s grace but must yield to it.) (5) That to fall from a state of Grace is possible.

(As in contrast with the Calvinistic view, that for the Elect to fall from grace is impossible.) Looking at this mental image, which has appealed to an increasingly large number of Christian people during the past century, we perceive that while it is a less dignified image than the Calvinistic one it has more warmth, more love, more grace. This draws our hearts sympathetically toward this image, to a considerable degree.

But as we look and hearken to its message we are impressed with the thought that it, too, is lacking in some particulars. It seems deficient in the qualities of wisdom and power. Its message is really no broader than that of the Calvinistic image; the same "Little Flock" alone will reach the Heavenly Kingdom, the same thousands of millions will be condemned to an eternity of torture.

The only difference between these two images seems to be not in the result of their work, but in the method pursued therein. Unlike the Calvinistic image the Arminian one does not elect, does not foreordain, does not predestinate, but gives to every member of the race all the blessings, all the opportunities, all the knowledge, all the assistance it can render them, so that if they are lost it


is in spite of the best endeavors of the Arminian image for their aid. And so when the vast majority of mankind are lost in Eternal Torment it will not be because God willed it so, not because He predestinated it so, but because He could not help it; because with His very best endeavors He was unable to bring about a more favorable condition either in civilized or in heathen lands, because the great Adversary, Satan, had more power for evil than God could control for good.

Alas! Alas! The benevolent designs of this image can never reconcile us to its weakness, its inability, its unwisdom to foreknow and to forearrange and to accomplish its good and loving purposes. We need a God who is not only loving, generous and just, but who is wise enough and powerful enough to make His love of practical benefit to our race. These deficiencies in wisdom and power are the very point in which the Calvinistic image displays such grandeur. But the Arminian image possesses the love which the Calvinistic lacks. Alas!

Neither image can fully satisfy our hearts. The proper mental image of the true God to be satisfactory to our hearts must be complete—perfect in justice, in love, in wisdom, in power. And this can be said of neither of these.

We must look further. Surely the Bible is the Divine revelation of the Divine character, and surely an error has been made by which some of God’s people have shown Him from one side, ignoring the other, while others have shown Him from the opposite side. It should be the ambition and effort, dear friends, of every true child of God to formulate before his mental vision that proper image of God which would be complete in all respects, which would be in harmony with every declaration of the Bible—the image of God before which we could bow and worship and adore, the image of God which would awaken in us that grand conception of the Almighty as superior in every particular to all of His creatures, infinite in Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power.



Since the two mental images thus described are worshipped by all Christendom as the best and grandest imaginable, and since these have been entertained for centuries by some of the best minds, we might naturally enough be deterred from even attempting to formulate before our minds and hearts a superior image. But, then, we remember that the time was when these images were novelties and had few adherents. We remember that these were vast improvements upon the grosser misconceptions of those who burned each other at the stake and otherwise tormented one another and were esteemed to be most particularly copying the Divine character, method and program. We take courage, too, when we remember that we are not left to the resources of our own imagination in formulating the proper image of God.

We remember that God has revealed Himself in His Word, in the Bible, and properly we go to it for guidance lest in our imagination we should be equally unsuccessful as others. We are encouraged again when we find that these two most prominent images before the minds of Christendom had both been constructed with the aid of the Bible. We say to ourselves: "If the Bible presents one of these images to some minds and the other image to other minds it surely proves that there has been some mistake in interpretation, because as the Word of God it cannot be yea and say nay. It cannot contradict itself as these two creedal images contradict and oppose each other in vital points."

Let us, therefore, give the more earnest heed as we go to the Bible. Let us be sure to cast away all of our preconceived ideas, notions, opinions, etc. Let us build afresh our image of God from the very foundation, accepting nothing in respect to it that is not in full accord with every other portion of that Revelation. Let us expect that the true God must be as perfect in His Love as in His other qualities, and that He must be as perfect


in His Wisdom and in His Power as He is in His Love.

Surely any other image of Him must be defective.

Coming thus to the subject of the Bible our text meets us as a consoling and encouraging message and declares in one breath not only the Justice of God and His Love, but also His Wisdom to foreknow, prepare and plan for the execution of His Justice and Love. It tells us further of His Divine Power to carry out all that His Wisdom, Justice and Love have planned. How encouraging the statement, "My Word that goeth forth out of My mouth shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall be delivered with joy and brought home in peace"; "For My plans are not your plans, neither are your methods My methods, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My methods higher than your methods and My plans than your plans." (#Isa 55:11,12,8.) How Divine Mercy shines through these declarations of Divine Foreknowledge and Power!

And be it noted that the context is in full accord with this, showing that the deliverance with joy and home coming in peace is future during the Millennial Age—when Christ, who redeemed the world, shall be its Deliverer from the power of sin and death, its Deliverer from the prison-house of death—Sheol, Hades. The home coming will mean the restitution to the former estate of harmony with God, lost through Father Adam’s disobedience, but redeemed for all the willing and obedient by the precious blood of Christ. In our Father’s house are many mansions, many stations; one is for the angels, another for the "Little Flock" of the Elect, and still another for the world in general, who will be brought into harmony with God as a result of the Millennial blessings, during times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy Prophets since the world began—to all cursed by the fall, but redeemed by the precious blood.


The picture continues. Our context declares that instead of the thorn and the briar there will then be the fir tree and the myrtle tree. The thorn and the briar are here used to typify the wicked, the injurious, who now flourish. The fir tree represents the evergreen, whose balsamic influence is healthful, giving a refreshing effect, while the myrtle tree, also an evergreen, yields sweet perfume and berries that are a delicacy. These two trees represent mankind under the favorable blessing of the Lord during the Millennium, yielding good influences and themselves possessed of everlasting life, symbolized by the evergreen qualities of these trees.


The difficulty with God’s people for centuries has been that they have not given sufficiently critical heed to the Word of God’s mouth. They have been contented too frequently to take the words of men, or, as our Lord declared, the traditions of men instead of the Word of the Lord. The lesson to us is that we must give heed to the Word of the Lord if we would have true Wisdom, and that the words of man must be hearkened to only as they are found to be in close alignment and assistances to us in the study of the Divine Word, which alone is authoritative.

As an illustration of how we have added man’s word to the Word of the Lord and thus have perverted the teachings of the Scriptures, we remind you of the Scriptural declaration that "the wages of sin is death," and "the soul that sinneth it shall die," and again, that "all the wicked will God destroy."—#Ro 6:23; #Eze 18:4; #Ps 145:20.

These plain statements taken at their proper valuation leave no room for misunderstanding the mind of the Lord. But we are not content thus to do. We add to the Word of the Lord and say that the wages of sin is not death, and hence the word death here must be understood to mean life—life in torment. And again we said, "It cannot be true that the soul that sinneth it shall die;


for we have often heard the theory that the soul cannot die. Hence we must twist and wrest this statement of God’s Word to mean its opposite. We must say, "The soul that sinneth it shall never die, but shall live forever in an eternity of woe and God Himself cannot destroy it."

Again we said, "There must be a mistake about the statement that God will destroy the wicked; for we have been taught from infancy that He will preserve the wicked by miraculous power, so that the fires of torment will not consume them but merely cause pain." And again, "Have we not heard that matter is indestructible?"

Thus we have beclouded our reason and made void the Word of God through the traditions of our elders and seniors, our ancient and honorable ones—Doctors of Divinity. And how silly the only real argument here adduced—that matter is indestructible, that it passes from one form to another! We are not considering the indestructibility of matter; it is not in question that if you burn a man up his entire body will pass into gases.

Undoubtedly there was as much matter in the world before Adam was created as afterward, and as much today as there was then. But matter is not conscious, matter cannot suffer, cannot enjoy. Hence the argument is merely a sophistry. When the Lord says, "All the wicked will be destroyed," let us accept this statement as the very truth and know that when the wicked are destroyed they will be no more, even though the matter which once composed their bodies shall have been turned into various gases. Let God be true though it proves every creed to be a lie. Let us go back to the Word of the Lord that from its standpoint we may have the true image of God’s character before our minds and may worship Him in spirit and in truth.

If then the Bible written by various pens, guided by the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of God, is God’s Word or Message to His people, let us hearken to it. What say the Scriptures? They tell us that man was created in God’s


image and likeness, that he was intelligent, upright and worthy of trial for eternal life; and that he was placed on trial in Eden. They tell us that he was disobedient, not through ignorance or deception; and that he thus came under the Divine sentence—a death sentence. Not a word do they tell us of his being condemned to an eternity of torture with devils some place beyond the bounds of space and time. Not a word do they tell us of his being condemned to Purgatory to expiate his guilt. They not only declare that the penalty for disobedience was announced to him in advance of his trial, but that after his trial he was cast out of Eden so that the penalty might take effect, so that he might die; and they reiterate the penalty saying, "Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return." How plain! How simple! No one could misunderstand this simple statement without the assistance of trained theologians, skilled in the art of handling the Word of God deceitfully or wresting the Scriptures, as St. Paul terms it.

The Bible record goes on to show that from that time onward sin and death prevailed; and that their reign has since continued we all can testify. God’s only word on the subject was, "Dying, thou shalt die," and "Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return." He did, however, give a glimmer of hope when pronouncing the sentence upon the serpent. He declared that ultimately an offspring from the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. This was a dark saying to our first parents, but to us it is luminous by reason of what has since transpired. We see that the Seed of the woman is Christ—Jesus the Head and the Church His Body. The clear intimation is that eventually this glorified company shall have a victory over Satan which in some manner will inure to the benefit of the entire race of Adam.—#Ge 2:17; 3:19.

In the light of other scriptures we see that the death of Jesus was necessary as the very foundation of any blessing of forgiveness toward our race; and we see


that those who have accepted Jesus and received forgiveness have during this Gospel Age been invited to become of the elect Church, His joint-heirs in the Messianic Kingdom which is to crush Satan, destroy evil and release mankind from bondage to the reign of Sin and Death, delivering so many as will "into the glorious liberty of the sons of God" freedom from death, everlasting life.

For nearly eighteen centuries God was silent, giving no word, no message of hope except the glimmer which came from Enoch’s prophecy, "Messiah cometh with myriads of holy ones." (Jude 14.) After eighteen centuries God revealed His purpose further and more particularly to His servant and friend, Abraham. After testing the loyalty of his faith God declared to him, "In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (#Ge 18:18.) Although this Word of God could not be broken, could not return unto Him void but must be accomplished in its due season, nevertheless, the time for its accomplishment being long, God added His oath and swore to Abraham the certainty of this promise, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." For centuries this was more or less a plain promise which the nation of Israel hoped they would inherit. For eighteen centuries more they waited for Messiah to be sent to them to exalt them, to use them as the Seed of Abraham in blessing the world with a Divine law and government, stamping out sin and lifting up the slaves of sin from the prison-house of death and from the power of sickness.

"In due time God sent forth His Son." The time seemed long from the human standpoint, but through the Prophet the Lord reminded them that a thousand years in His sight are but as yesterday. Jesus at His first Advent accomplished a different work from that which His nation expected; it was necessary that He should first redeem Israel and all the families of the earth before He could give them the permanent blessing of life eternal.

The penalty upon them was death, and they had gone


down to Sheol under it. And so we read that Christ died for our sins, that His soul descended to Sheol, and that He was not left in Sheol, in Hades, but was raised therefrom on the third day. (#Ac 2:27.) He did not pay an eternal torment penalty, for no such penalty had been announced. He paid a death penalty, the one the Scriptures declare that God had announced and inflicted.

Thus the basis was laid for the general blessing of every creature; for Christ died as the Substitute or Ransom for Father Adam; and in Adam’s redemption all of his race were involved, just as through his transgression they were all involved. Jesus the Messiah first offered the privilege of joint-heirship with Himself in the sufferings and in the glory that should follow and a share in the Heavenly nature to His own people, the Jews; and when few of them accepted the proposal we are told that the remainder were blinded until His Second Coming. (#Ro 11:7.) Thus it came that in God’s providence, after selecting the remnant of "Israelites indeed" to be members of the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, joint-heirs with Himself, our Lord subsequently turned to the Gentiles to take out from them a people for His name. (#Ac 15:14.) He has been finding and gathering these for over eighteen centuries; and soon, we believe, the work will be completed, the last member of the Body will have been called, accepted and found faithful. Then this election or calling of the Seed of Abraham will be at an end.

What will follow? We answer just what God’s Word declares. He said, "My Word that goeth forth out of My mouth shall not return unto Me void, but shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." He sent it forth to Abraham and all who would believe, announcing the blessing of all the families of the earth. But that has not been accomplished yet. He sent forth a further Message through Jesus to all who would accept of Him that thereby He might gather out the Spiritual Seed of Abraham.

This Message will not return void but will find a suitable


class, a Seed of Abraham class, which God can use in conjunction with our Lord Jesus for the blessing and uplifting and restitution of mankind in general. It has prospered in the thing whereto it was sent. It evidently was not sent to convert the world, neither is such a statement to be found in the Word of God. It was sent to gather out a people for His name, both from the Jews and from the Gentile nations. It will accomplish this, the Seed of Abraham will be found, and just so surely as that occurs the other part of the promise will also be fulfilled; namely, that in and through that Seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.


Here we find supplied by the Scriptures the very feature which was lacking in the Calvinistic view or image of God. We see the Election of the Church during the present time, an Election according to favor; and we equally see that the great mass of the world are non-elect, not called, not chosen, and that they consequently could not be faithful to a calling they did not receive nor even hear about. But so far from the Election of the Church signifying the condemnation of the remainder of mankind, the world, the word of the Lord to Abraham tells us that the elect class will be God’s instrumentality for the blessing of the non-elect. And through the Prophet, in our text and elsewhere, the Lord repeatedly draws attention to the Millennial Kingdom, which will be established under the whole heavens for the breaking down of sin and the exaltation of righteousness and the assistance of all who under that enlightening influence will go upward to perfection on the Highway of Holiness.

Now we are beginning to see in the proper image of God not merely the dignity of His Foreknowledge, His Wisdom, His Justice, His Power, but also in Him the Love which so draws our hearts and which calls upon us to bow before Him and adore Him, because His righteous dealings are being made manifest to us, because we are


learning gradually that His Plan must be considered as a whole, because we are applying in their proper places those promises which belong to the world and which assure us that they shall be brought into Divine favor and have glorious opportunities for gaining eternal life.

In this view also we find the elements of character, lacking from the image of God as given to us by our Methodist friends of the Arminian view. Here is the very God of Love they were looking for, all-loving, all-generous, all-kind, yet just, not sparing the guilty from the punishment He had meted out to them—death—not purposing in any sense of the word their torture at any time. Here we see the qualities lacking in the Arminian image; we see God’s Justice, Wisdom and Power, as well as His Love. We see that He has the Millennial Age for the purpose of granting Free Grace to every member of the race under much more favorable conditions than now prevail. We see that the Election of the present time is not to the disadvantage of the world, but that ultimately it will be to their great advantage, when the elect Seed of Abraham, as the agents of God, shall bless all the families of the earth.


But can we be sure of this, can we be sure that after the Election of the Church the world will not be destroyed or tormented but will receive Divine blessings? Are there other proofs? Yes, dear friends, when once you get the eyes of your understanding turned in the right direction and away from the hobgoblins of eternal torture and fireproof devils, when once you get the eyes of your understanding rightly focused upon the Word of God, you will see that it is full of exceeding great and precious promises not only to us, the Church, respecting the Millennial Kingdom and joint-heirship in it and a fellowship with the Lord in the glory, honor and immortality of that blessed state on the spirit plane, but also to the world—


rich provisions for the entire race of Adam redeemed by the precious blood—"In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."—#Ge 12:3; #Heb 6:13-20.

Let us quote another Scripture pertinent to this subject.

The Apostle declares that the Church is this Seed of Abraham, joint-heir with her Lord, saying, "If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s Seed, and heirs according to the Promise." (#Ga 3:29.) The Promise is not yet fulfilled and cannot be until the Elect, the Seed of Abraham, is completed. We are heirs of that Promise; and our inheritance of it will mean our glorification and our authorization to begin and to complete the work of blessing the world of mankind by releasing them from the bondage of sin and death and helping them onward through faith and obedience back to harmony with God and life everlasting.

Let us then, dear friends, have full confidence in the Word of God that it will be accomplished, that it will not return void. Let us co-operate with this Word and thus make our calling and election sure. To this end let us lay aside every weight and every besetting sin and run with patience the race set before us, the race for the crown of life, for joint-heirship with our Lord, for a share with Him in the great work of blessing all the families of the earth.—#Heb 12:1,2.

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!