Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13
knowledge of the Truth, putting them under conditions inconducive to error and sin, and conducive to Truth and righteousness, favorably influencing them Christward and bringing all of them to the door of consecration, inviting them helpfully to the highway of holiness and offering the Holy Spirit to all, teaching them by experience the desirability of righteousness as against the undesirability of sin, lifting up the obedient to human perfection and giving the faithful everlasting life on this earth, turned into paradise. This work will require the full Millennium to complete and will be an impressive exhibition of Jehovah's zeal. And in the Ages to follow the Millennium, God's zeal, in the plans that He has for new creations in the worlds about us, will find an eternal sphere of activity and will be equal to any demand put upon it; "for the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this."
Moderation is the next tertiary attribute of God's character that will engage our study. Like the other tertiary graces, it is a compound quality. Previously we pointed out this fact when we stated that moderation results from a combination, first, of faith, hope, self-control, patience, piety, brotherly love and charity (higher primary graces), second, of tactfulness, restfulness, thoughtfulness and friendliness (lower primary graces) and, third, of humility, longsuffering and forbearance (secondary graces), along the line of balance of mind and heart. According to the above, moderation masses certain primary and secondary graces to the activity of securing and exercising a balance of thoughts, feelings, words and acts. It may be defined as the quality that avoids extremes of thought, feeling, word and act and strikes a happy mean of disposition and its expressions. No extremist is moderate. The moderate person avoids extremes. He pursues a middle course that balances him amid the various and conflicting relations of life. He takes an all-sided view of principles, circumstances, persons,
conditions, positions; demands, needs, etc., related to the matter at hand, and blends in his thoughts, motives, words and acts the above-mentioned qualities so as to secure balance in his mental states, words and acts relative to those principles, circumstances, persons, conditions, positions, demands, needs, etc. Thus he moderates, governs, himself so as to maintain a proper relation toward and amid them. And the quality by which he does this is moderation. This quality finds its supreme exemplification in God, whose moderation is manifest in all His thoughts, motives, words and acts, as the Bible shows.
The quality can be better understood, if its opposite is considered. We speak of a person as an extremist. What do we mean by that? We thereby understand a person to be meant who is radical in his thoughts, motives, words and acts, one who is unbalanced in his thoughts, motives, words and acts, one who overemphasizes or under-emphasizes principles, circumstances, persons, conditions, positions, demands, needs, etc., one who considers matters very onesidedly and very narrowly and feels, speaks and acts accordingly. To him things are either the best or the worst; people are either paragons of virtue or personifications of vice; times are either the hardest or the easiest; pains are the worst ever or pleasures are the keenest ever; and their acquaintances are either the best of friends or the worst of enemies. Such jump from one extreme to the other and are never happy unless they are at one or the other extreme of the matter at hand. To them those who are otherwise minded seem cranky, zealless, conscienceless. Of course, such are really the cranks, however zealous and conscientious they may be. They usually make a mess of their social relations; for their extremes make them almost constantly fly off on some tangent and hurt those with whom they have to deal; and all the time they wonder at, and speak of others as peculiar and hard to get along with!
Exaggeration and belittling are their middle names; and their course frequently is a great trial to their fellows. No such, or other extremes meet in God, whose perfect rulership of Himself, through His wisdom, power, justice and love, guarantee His moderation in thought, motive, word and act.
Of course, there is a Divine necessity for moderation in God. The ruler of others, He must of course rule Himself. Moderation is needed to impart to Him that roundness, allsidedness and balance of character for which His absolute perfection calls. If He were immoderate, this would not only introduce imperfection into His own thought, motives and qualities, but also into His Word and acts. A devout consideration and understanding of His Word shows that it is well rounded out, all-sided and balanced in itself and in its purposes and in its adaptability to its purposes. And this is so because of His moderation. If God were immoderate, His creation would express this fault; His providence would be replete with it; His redemption of us would manifest it; His instruction of us would be one-sided; His justification of us would be imperfect; His sanctification of us would be blemished; and His delivering of us would need amendment. Every detail of His creative works shows moderation; and the same remark applies to His providential, redemptive, instructional, justifying, sanctifying and delivering works. Thus His moderation is a necessary part of the perfection of the Divine character. And this quality is needed for the best interests of His creatures. If God were not moderate, neither the good nor the bad angels would be so favorably dealt with as they have been; nor would His future dealing with the fallen angels be so fruitful as we believe it will be. How greatly to the advantage of the fallen race now and especially in the Millennium is God's moderation! The same remark applies with special emphasis with reference to the Ancient
and the Youthful Worthies. Certainly His dealings with Satan and the second death class show very great moderation. The Great Company has and will have reason to extol God's moderation toward them. And the Little Flock will recognize in the highest measure the operation of this quality of God toward them. Thus moderation in God is a quality required by His perfection and by the needs of His creatures in all, their classes and planes of being.
The scope of God's moderation is universal. Hence it expresses itself in all His thoughts, motives, words and acts. If any of His thoughts, motives, words or acts could be shown to lack it, He would be proven imperfect. The fact that all of these are replete with this quality proves that He is the perfect Jehovah, whom we rightly adore for His perfection. We search nature in vain to find one expression of immoderation in God. We analyze grace in vain to find one intimation of immoderation in God. Everything, everywhere and all the time, manifests the presence of this quality in Him. Every feature of His plan and every act of His in connection with that plan unite in ascribing moderation to our God. A brief review of some of His chief pertinent Scripturally-described works connected with the outworking of that plan will show this to be true of this glorious attribute to God.
God's moderation is plainly manifest in the creation of the race perfect in Adam and Eve. Every faculty of theirs, every power and privilege of theirs ascribe honor to God's moderation. How well arranged were their capacities, surroundings and incidences connected with their trial for life! How moderate was death as the sentence on their disobedience, as compared with the immoderate alleged penalty of eternal torment! Moderation marks the infliction of the death penalty through a gradual experience with evil. Especially does this become manifest when we consider the purpose of its permission—to teach by experience the
unprofitableness and detestableness of evil, as a lesson instrumental for reformation; and also when we consider the transitoriness of its permission and its being followed by an experience with righteousness, calculated to teach the profitableness and loveableness of good, both experiences conjointly being designed by God to win for everlasting life more than could have been saved by any other method conformably with the blending of wisdom, power, justice and love. His moderation is manifest in His letting the antediluvians have such favorable environment, until evil had so increased that the watery canopy that in part made these favorable conditions had to be removed from about the earth, and thus bring about the flood; for when wickedness had increased so much as to make it necessary to reduce the race to but one family, God's moderation showed itself in choosing the easiest method of death for the race—drowning. And when it became necessary to furnish a type of the eternal destruction of the second death class (Jude 7), God's moderation limited the typical destruction to a small district, Sodom, etc., and to a few people whose wickedness well merited their exemplary punishment. Mark the moderation of the Lord in dealing with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the latter's evil brethren. Certainly God showed great moderation in dealing with Pharaoh and the Egyptians in connection with their oppression and His deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and His later dealings with them.
This moderation shows itself in the ten plagues, the first being mild and the following nine arising by small degrees in severity as the willfulness of Pharaoh and the Egyptians arose in intensity, God at no time afflicting them with too great severity, but moderating each chastisement compatibly with the idea of efficiency in its use. Thus God spread over ten plagues an amount of severity that was more lenient than the average imperfect earthly ruler would condense into
one chastisement under the circumstances. And God's final punishment of the Egyptians at the Red Sea was as mild as compatibility with His deliverance of Israel from Pharaoh's murderous purpose would permit. God's moderation with Israel in the wilderness is manifest in many ways. He Himself charges them with the guilt of ten national rebellions against Him before He turned them back to wander in the wilderness until that generation of sinners died (Num. 14: 22). To endure ten rebellions was a great expression of moderation. To seek to reform the people so that they would be fit to enter the land after each one of the first nine, was certainly another expression of moderation; and then, after the tenth, not to proceed with harsher methods than simply to delay their entrance into the land until the willful sinners among them were dead was a still greater exhibition of moderation; and then to permit those rebels for the most part to die off by natural deaths was a still higher expression of moderation. To have borne with them during the untoward experiences of the remaining 38 years in the wilderness, reasoning with them, encouraging them, correcting them, delivering them, always distinguishing in His dealings between the weak and the ignorant on the one hand, and the willful on the other hand, and then between the measurably willful and the totally willful, and measuring out rewards and punishments accordingly, shows how very moderate God was to all of them. This is reassuring to us.
God's dealings with Israel during the period of the judges is likewise an exhibition of His moderation. He sanctioned no extreme measures for Israel's dealings with their enemies. His dispossessing the latter from the land was only after centuries of aggravated wickedness on their part coming to the full; and their being so depraved physically, morally and religiously as to make them a curse to themselves and an exceptional menace to others was ample reason for their
suppression, which was accomplished as mildly as possible. Moderate, indeed, were His methods in dealing with frequently backsliding Israel during this period. Their ever recurring apostacies during this time were dealt with by the Lord by no severer measures than were required to bring them to repentance and to a whole-hearted seeking after the Lord. And the chastisements that He meted out on their oppressors were limited by the amount of stress necessary to inflict on them for Israel's deliverance from their oppressions. This is seen in God's dealings with Israel and Israel's oppressors, through Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel. In the times of the kings the same moderation on God's part is everywhere and always evident. Mark His moderation with Saul, both while he was good and when he became evil. Certainly the career of David in its lights and shadows, in its ups and downs and in its reverses and victories, manifests God's remarkable moderation holding Him back from extremes and moving Him on in the golden mean. The same quality marks His dealing with the subsequent kings of Israel.
His dealings with the prophets show the same characteristic. No extreme measures did He take with Elijah nor with His opponents. He exerted only such influence or pressure as the circumstances, position and characters of the pertinent ones required, as can be seen in the pertinent account of Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel, Obadiah and Elisha. Elisha's prophetic course shows the same quality in God as to His relations to Elisha as the latter was connected with Elijah, Jehoram, Ben-hadad, Hazael, Jehu, Gehazi, the Shunammite, Naaman and Joash. How moderate were God's dealings with Jeremiah in his dealings with the wicked kings, priests, prophets and people, toward whom he acted as God's prophet. No extremes of thoughts, words or acts mark God's pertinent dealings. Always and everywhere He shows Himself as taking a moderate
course, even in managing the crisis of the exiling of His people from the land. He went only so far as effectiveness in the purpose at hand required. God's dealings with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and toward their friends and enemies are replete with evidences of God's moderation in encouraging, restraining, correcting, rewarding and using these. The same spirit characterizes His dealings with Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah and their friends and enemies. Certainly God's Old Testament acts are a remarkable evidence of His moderation.
And no less so are His Gospel-Age acts. No exaggerations, no belittlings, no extremes are found therein. Everywhere and always does He show Himself as exercising moderation. His dealings with His Son in His carnation, early life, consecration, ministry, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension and glorification, are marked by an absence of exaggeration, belittlings and extremes. He pursued a balanced relation to Him in all these experiences, and to His opponents and friends. And this balanced state of heart and mind did not make Him indifferent to what time and occasion required of Him; but it did make Him moderate toward all concerned, even including unbelieving Israel and its wicked hierarchy. Moderate were His dealings with the Apostles and the early Church, as is manifest in His shielding them from too great evils and in His permitting untoward experiences only as they were ready for them, in His concealing from them too strong light and too exacting activities, and in His revealing to them the light as due and the work as practicable. Surely, as He did not suffer them to be tempted beyond their ability, neither did He allow any experience to become theirs beyond their ability. Moderation, therefore, has marked His thoughts, words and works toward them. And this same spirit was present in His activities toward His people all through the Age; and it will likewise be manifest in His activities toward the
Millennial world and in His Little Season and postmillennial dealings with all His creatures. All the descriptions found of these periods inculcate this thought; and this quality will eternally express itself in God's thoughts, motives, qualities, words and works, to His praise.
And great has been the fruitage of God's exercising this quality. It vindicates Him in His character, words and works before all His creatures. It has made mankind under the experience of evil fit candidates for, and, generally speaking, responsive recipients of the Millennial opportunities, as it will also inure to the perfection of the obedient and everlasting life for the faithful of those times. It has resulted in the winning and preparing of the Ancient Worthies for their Millennial office, as it will later result in their fitness for everlasting spiritual existence. During the Gospel Age it has helped to win many millions to faith justification and perhaps several millions to consecration. It has co-operated with others of God's qualities in winning the entire Little Flock and ere long it will inure to bringing them to glory. It has likewise helped with others of God's graces in winning the Great Company, and presently it will inure to their perfecting for the spiritual plane. It has operated in every stage of the development of these for their respective places and it will continue so to operate until they are perfected. Therefore it has in its effectiveness been exceedingly fruitful to all classes of the saved.
In this quality God is an example worthy of our imitation. Unlike God, we are more or less unbalanced in our characters, and more or less extreme in our thoughts, motives, words and acts. We often find it quite natural to jump from one extreme to another, and find it quite hard to draw back from these extremes and walk in the happy mean. Therefore we lack more or less the moderation so sublimely present in God's character, thought, motives, words and acts.
We, therefore, need just what He has in this respect; and He will gladly help us develop this goodly quality. A devout contemplation of His moderation, with a strong determination to imitate it, will prove one of the best methods of our developing this desirable quality. We may well rejoice that this example is so perfect, and that it calls so winsomely upon us to imitate it. We may also be sure that He will be pleased to help us in our every endeavor to develop it in imitation of His own moderation. Therefore let us think much and often of God's moderation as it is set forth in nature and in grace, especially as it is set forth in the Scriptures, and thereby will we be given strength to become like God in this respect. And to this glorious consummation may the Lord graciously help us.
The next tertiary attribute of God's character that we will here consider is magnanimity or, to use its Biblical name, goodness. This word is compounded from two Latin words: magnus, meaning great, and animus, meaning soul. It has retained this compound meaning—great-souledness—in the two significances given the word in English. Formerly this word in English referred to courage—a great-souled thing. Such courage centuries ago found its main exemplification in the nobility; and this occasioned the word to be used generally with reference to the nobility. Then, later, by reason of the fact that the nobility usually were characterized by a large-heartedness that ignored petty things, the word magnanimity took on its second meaning, in which it is now almost exclusively employed—largemindedness and large—heartedness. It thus by association took on a meaning kindred to nobleness because of the relation of its use with the nobility.
In the beginning of this chapter we gave the following description of the quality meant by magnanimity, goodness: Magnanimity results from a combination, first, of faith, hope, self-control, patience, piety, brotherly
love and charity (higher primary graces), second, of agreeableness, peaceableness and friendliness (lower primary graces), and third, of generosity, longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness and leniency (secondary graces) in estimation of, sentiment toward, and dealing with persons and things. It is thus seen to refer to breadth of mind and heart in estimating, feeling toward and dealing with persons and things. It does not hold these to too strict an account. It makes many allowances for weaknesses, faults, lacks, ignorance and small attainment in knowledge, character and work. It is the quality that shuts one eye, and part of the other, if necessary, to imperfection and that construes things for the best. It gives others the credit of having the best of intentions, gives them the benefit of every doubt, and construes unjustifiable things and blemishes as due to lack of knowledge and unavoidable weakness, rather than to deliberate willfulness, as well as blesses them with kindness and beneficence. It therefore gives others many chances for betterment, all the time hoping for the best results from their endeavors, and rendering them needed help, all given with a full, noble, generous, cheerful spirit.
A glance at its opposite will help us better to understand it. Narrow-mindedness and narrow-heartedness are its opposite, or, as we might put it, little-souledness. This is the spirit that offered the unique prayer, "God bless me and my wife, my son John and his wife—us four and no more." It is the quality that thinks its sect or sectlet alone has the truth and contains all the saints, that sees nothing admirable in any other sect or in sectless religion, that feels that one's own nation is the only worthwhile one, that one's own family embraces all the worthwhile members of the race, and is sure that one's own political party monopolizes the essence of political wisdom and the only honest and able party members. It is, in brief, the self-centered and others-depreciating complex. It makes no allowance of time,
place, condition or attainment. It recognizes almost no weakness as forgivable, almost no blemish as excusable and almost no lack as ignorable. It holds one to the mark without pity and turns a deaf ear and an implacable heart to failure. It is the stickler for trifles and forms, and the ruleinsister without exceptions. It exacts the last farthing and will tithe the smallest seed belonging to the poor, without reduction or exception, and always ends in straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. It will insist on punctiliousness, despite great injury to others, and will put the rules and traditions of man above the laws and thoughts of God in their practices.
The scope of magnanimity's operation is the field of one's own privileges and of things permissible as respects others, not that of duty. That its scope is not the field of one's duty toward self or others is manifest from the fact that one dare not exercise it against the calls of duty; for that would be sin. In matters of duty, one must indeed be so narrow-minded and narrow-hearted as not to deviate from it in thought, motive, word or act; for to be magnanimous in that field will make one trample underfoot right and truth, violate conscience and play fast and loose with God's Truth and commands. Hence its field of operation cannot be that of duty and truth. But in matters of one's privileges, in matters of things that are not of moral obligation, i.e., things morally indifferent, in things wherein we may do or leave undone, we find its theatre of action. If one's own rights are infringed upon by others ignorance, lacks, faults, weaknesses and blemishes, he with propriety, so long as avoidable injury is not thereby done to the trespasser, or unbearable injury is thereby done to himself, may well in magnanimity ignore the infringement, making all sorts of excuses for the trespasser. Thus we may be magnanimous at interruptions, discourtesies, insulting insinuations, unfair accusations, rebuffs, mistakes, personal
peculiarities and habits, differences of opinions and tastes, contradictions, inconveniences, etc., ignoring them as nonexistent, or overlooking, without rankling and with sincerity of heart, whatever of disagreeableness they might naturally arouse in one's thoughts and feelings. At such acts we naturally are inclined to take a narrow-minded and narrow-hearted view of the trespasser; and if this inclination is acceded to, we lose our magnanimity; but if we are broad-gauged and generous amid such experiences, magnanimity exercises itself in its proper sphere of action in blessing to all.
It should be remarked that neither the word magnanimity nor the word magnanimous occurs in the Bible, its equivalent being goodness (Gal. 5: 22). But the idea underlying these words is of frequent occurrence there, and that with respect to God, Christ and others. Especially is God therein shown to have this quality in very large measure. The large scope of freedom that He allows Satan, the demons and fallen men, attests this fact. Giving freedom of will to His free moral agents and allowing them to exercise it is another proof of His having this quality. His giving liberally to the just and unjust without upbraiding likewise attests its existence in Him. The numberless occasions on which He has "winked" at human ignorance and weakness also show it. And the exceptional privileges and liberties that He allows the good crown this quality in Him. How far from Him is a fault-finding and censorious spirit! How lacking is He of the spirit of him who is a stickler for trifles and mere forms, an exacter of nonessentials, and an insister on needless and unfruitful rules. Pettishness and inconsequentialities find no place in His thoughts, motives, words and acts. His practicable nature makes Him overlook and ignore the morally non-essential, the trivial, the inconsequential, the negligible. And even where justice requires strictness in Him toward the sinner, He has
through the merit of Christ as a satisfaction of justice made it actual to excuse the wrongdoer and to remember that he is but dust, thus in love making all sorts of allowances for him before the bar of strict justice. How magnanimous He has been in the presence of dense ignorance and denser conceit, lacks, faults and weaknesses! How noble He has been in remaining unruffled, apparently oblivious and surely generous amid interruptions, discourtesies, insulting insinuations, unfair accusations, rebuffs, mistakes, personal peculiarities and habits, differences of opinions and tastes, contradictions, etc.! And how often He has, figuratively speaking, turned the other cheek to wrongdoers and then turned and blessed them as though they had never done Him a wrong! Certainly God is the highest exemplification of magnanimity!
Examples of His magnanimity meet us on all hands in Biblical and in extra-Biblical experiences. He was magnanimous toward His unfallen creatures, angelic and human. But His magnanimity shines out most in His dealings with sinners, angelic and human. Certainly in His allowing Satan and the fallen angels the degree of liberty that they have is magnanimous on His part. This becomes apparent when we consider their evil course of opposition to Him and their bad effects upon themselves and mankind. All the more does this appear so when we learn His benevolent design therein toward both fallen angels and mankind. Certainly, while sentencing man for sin, to give him the ray of hope in prophecy of ultimate victory and deliverance shows God's magnanimity. His protecting wicked Cain from unbearable punishment shows it also. His course toward the world through Noah before the flood proves it. His continual lowering of the required number of righteous souls in Sodom, etc., as conditional to saving all at Abraham's request exemplifies it. His generosity to Laban and Esau as respects Jacob evidences it. And His indulgence
toward Joseph's brothers through Joseph demonstrates it. How His magnanimity shines out in His repeated relieving of hardened and hardening Pharaoh from the plagues, despite His knowledge of the latter's wicked and treacherous heart. How magnanimous He was to Israel in their deliverance from Egypt, in their tenfold special and national bantering of God during their first year and a half in the wilderness, in His care and provision for them throughout the wilderness period, in His giving them Canaan as their inheritance, in their frequent apostacies from Him during the period of the judges and in their worse conduct toward Him during the period of the kings! Magnanimity marked His course toward Israel during their Babylonian exile, in their return to the land and in their protection and deliverances after their return to the land, even to the time of Christ.
The acme of God's magnanimity or goodness shows itself in His dealings with His saints, including the Chief of these, Jesus. To offer the latter, while He was in His prehuman nature, the privilege of becoming the Executor of God's plan and His Vicegerent throughout the universe, with the Divine nature as His ultimate mode of existence, shows a hitherto unparalleled magnanimity on God's part. To have given up His Son to the associated sufferings was indeed magnanimous. For Him to have endured the sight of His Son's great sufferings and injuries was a further demonstration of it. Probably the greatest expression of God's magnanimity was His offer to some of the fallen members of Adam's race—children of wrath, the curse, even as others—the privilege of becoming partakers in the Divine nature and in Christ's vicegerental office. If we reflect but a little on who and what they were, especially on who and what the bulk of them were, this becomes manifest even to the most obtuse. And what shall we say of the magnanimity that has throughout this Age been marking God's
various dealings with these whom He, as it were, found on the dunghill and exalts to His own family, nature and throne? Only in a less degree does the same glorious quality shine out in His dealings with the lower elect classes of mankind—the Ancient Worthies, the Great Company and the Youthful Worthies.
This same blessed quality shows itself toward the human enemies of His Old and New Testament elect. He was magnanimous in His blotting out the antediluvian world, the inhabitants of the cities of the plain and the nations of Canaan. How so? They had become so corrupt, all of them morally, and most of them physically, that it was a mercy to them to be put into the sleep of death until the Millennial Age would bring them the needed help out of their corruption. It was likewise a mercy to others that they should be so dealt with in order to preserve the former from the contamination of such corruption. And in dealing so with them God manifested His magnanimity, even though the unenlightened world of sinners does not understand it so. This same remark applies to God's judgments upon Israel's enemies during the period of the judges, kings, exile and return after the exile. With greater pertinency does it apply to God's Gospel-Age dealings with hardened Israel. And with the greatest pertinency does this apply to God's dealing with apostate Christendom throughout the Age and in the end of the Age when a full end will be made of it in the great tribulation. And, looking forward to those who will, after 100 years' or 1,000 years' trial, be remanded to the second death, the fact that such will be spared the evil of living eternally in sorrow and evil and the fact that the righteous will be spared the suffering of eternal contact with such, certainly show in a clear light God's magnanimity or goodness in blotting the incorrigible out of existence, after they demonstrate unfitness for life.
Then, too, the amazing riches of His goodness and generosity shown to the world of mankind in providing all the opportunities of gaining Restitution with its ministering blessings, throw a bright light on His magnanimity. When we consider the physical, mental, moral and religious corruption and degradation of the world, especially that of a very large part of them, and when we consider the oppositional course toward God that many of them exhibited in this life, we are astounded at so magnanimous a spirit as will permeate God's dealings with the world in the Millennium, all of whose arrangements on behalf of man's rescue, blessing and uplift will be on the most generous scale and in lavish abundance. And our minds stand simply dumbfounded at the magnanimity of the perfect and blissful conditions which God will provide for, and with which He will surround those of the world who will be faithful to truth and righteousness under the trials of the Millennium and its following Little Season. No wonder that all in heaven and earth will for such magnanimity join the hallelujah chorus of the universe in ascribing "blessing and honor and glory and power unto Him that sitteth on the throne and unto the Lamb forever and forever!"—Rev. 5: 13.
Certainly, to us, there are valuable lessons to be derived from a consideration of God's magnanimity. Its first lesson surely is gratitude; for we are the beneficiaries of its exercise. Its second lesson is appreciation; for it deserves and calls forth our appreciation. Its third lesson is imitation; for it incites us to, and is worthy of our imitation; and its fourth lesson is commendation; for as its observers and recipients we would worthily respond to it by commending it to the consideration of others that they, too, with us, might learn and practice these four lessons.
There yet remain three of His tertiary attributes of character that have not been discussed: gentleness, joy and faithfulness. As in the case of God's attributes of
being and of His lower primary and secondary attributes of character we discussed only the more important, so will we do with His tertiary attributes of character. Considering God's joy and gentleness less important than the other five, we will omit a formal discussion of these and will conclude in this chapter on God's tertiary attributes of character with a discussion of His faithfulness, which is to us perhaps the most important of all His qualities. As the Lord blessed us in the preparation of this discussion on the Divine attributes, so we trust that He has blessed our readers also in the study of them.
In the beginning of this chapter we described the origin of faithfulness as follows: Faithfulness results from the activity of any single grace, or of a combination of any two or more or all of the graces, along the lines of loyalty to principles, persons or things. Faithfulness has, therefore, to do with principles, persons and things. So do other qualities. But that which distinguishes it from other qualities in its relation to principles, persons or things is loyalty. It exercises fidelity toward these, and such fidelity is exercised perseveringly, despite all untoward things, conditions and experiences in contact with which it comes. If there should be a break down amid such untoward things, conditions and experiences, there would be a lapse of faithfulness. If one does not maintain this quality perseveringly, faithfulness could not be truly ascribed to him. Hence only those who prove loyal to the end are faithful (Rev. 2: 10). The principles toward which faithfulness exercises itself in loyalty are those of truth and righteousness. The things toward which it exercises itself in loyalty are one's privileges, duties, engagements and promises. And the persons toward whom it exercises itself in loyalty are those to whom truth and righteousness bind one or to whom one has bound himself by an agreement or promise. From these remarks on, and descriptions of faithfulness we
may gather the following as our definition of it: It is the quality of character whereby one, despite all difficulties, perseveringly exercises loyalty to truth and righteousness and to the persons to whom and the things to which he has obligated himself. God's faithfulness, therefore, means His characteristic whereby, despite all obstacles, He perseveringly exercises loyalty to truth and righteousness, to His covenants and promises and to the persons to whom He makes these.
The idea of faithfulness can better be grasped by a consideration of its opposite, unfaithfulness, which is disloyalty to truth and righteousness and to the persons and things to which one has obligated himself, regardless of whether such disloyalty is exercised amid or apart from difficulties. The professed Christian who, to shield himself from earthly evil or to advantage himself with earthly good, compromises, forsakes or betrays truth or righteousness, his engagements, his promises and those to whom he is obligated, is unfaithful as a Christian. The citizen who, to shield or advantage himself, fails to support and defend his country, violates its laws, conspires against its peace and prosperity, rebels against its existence or betrays it to its enemies, is unfaithful as a citizen. The husband or wife who fails to be a real spouse, who violates his or her marriage vows and who forsakes the spouse on any pretext, is unfaithful as a husband or wife. The official who does not fulfill the duties of his office, and who, from cowardice or for gain, prostitutes or betrays his office, is unfaithful as an officer. The employee who does not fulfill his engagements or who uses his position to do evil to his employer or others, is an employee unfaithful to his employer. The policemen, magistrates or politicians, who use their office to protect favorites, or to wink at law violations, or who favor law breakers for graft, are unfaithful public servants. The man who violates valid contracts, agreements or promises, is unfaithful to his pledged word.
In short, every sin of omission or commission against truth and righteousness, and every avoidable failure to keep, or every avoidable transgression of, one's engagements or promises, are so many evidences and expressions of unfaithfulness.
Never has God been guilty of any of such things. Search His acts as the Fountainhead of Christianity, and none of them evidence a failure to exercise loyalty to truth or righteousness or to His obligations and promises, let alone a violation of these. As the symbolic Husband of the covenants, He has been without disloyalty to His symbolic wives. As the King of the universe, He has not neglected or violated the duties of such an office under any circumstance. No gain could bribe Him into neglecting the administration of the laws of His kingdom; and no fear of danger or loss could make Him relax such administration. As the Maker of covenants, He does not neglect to keep His parts therein, much less violate His obligations thereunder. As the Maker of promises, He does not prove untrue to them by violating them or neglecting to fulfill them. Unfaithfulness is further removed from Him than the East is from the West. If it were not so, He could not justifiably appeal to us to exercise faith in Him, nor would He do so. If He were unfaithful, everything that is the object of our faith and hope would become unreliable; and we might well despair and lapse into infidelity.
By four lines of thought the Bible stresses God's faithfulness. We will cite a list of Scriptures under each head, the looking up of which will prove a blessing to our readers. In the first list there is a general ascription of faithfulness to God as one of His characteristics. The following are some of these Scriptures: Deut. 7: 9; Ps. 36: 5; 40: 10; 89: 1, 2, 5, 8, 24, 28, 33; 92: 1, 2, 15; 119: 65, 89, 90; Is. 49: 7; Lam. 3: 23; John 8: 26; Rom. 3: 3, 4; 1 Cor. 1: 9; 10: 13; 1 Thes. 5: 24; 2 Tim. 2: 13; Tit. 1: 2; Heb. 10: 23;