Ellet J. Waggoner
The Signs of the Times : February 25, 1886
WHY THE LAW WAS SPOKEN ONLY TO THE JEWS
Now why was it that only the Jews had the written law? Did the giving of the law to them indicate partiality on the part of God? Not by any means: “For there is no respect of persons with God.” Before the exode, all the world was on a level, so far as written revelation was concerned. When sin separated man from God so that he could no longer talk with him face to face, then God supplemented the light which men had in their own hearts, by communicating with them in visions and dreams given to his prophets (Numbers 12:6), and by sending angels to them. Genesis 22:15. Had all men hearkened to the voice of conscience, the communication thus opened between God and man would have been sufficient to bring them at last to the state where the law would be perfectly restored in their hearts. This is that which God is still striving to accomplish. Hebrews 8:10
But men did not care to follow even that portion of the law that they retained in their hearts, and consequently God could not send them more light through his prophets. Thus “as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a mind void of judgment.” Romans 1:28. In process of time, only one family retained the knowledge of God, and all the rest of the world was destroyed for their abominable wickedness.
Within four hundred years after the flood, men had again corrupted their way on the earth, and only Abraham remained loyal to God. He kept God’s commandments (Genesis 26:5), and had the determination to command his children and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. Genesis 18:19. In order that the descendants of Abraham might retain the knowledge of God, God called Abraham away from his corrupt associates, and gave him the rite of circumcision, in order that the separation might be complete. This rite was not designed to be a mark of birth or nationality, but simply as a means of keeping the observers of God’s law from the contaminating influence of those who did not regard it; for whenever one of any other nation became willing to separate from his people and keep the law, he also became circumcised. Genesis 17:12
This precaution served to keep the descendants of Abraham a distinct people through all their wanderings, and to preserve among them the knowledge of the true God. Some from other tribes, getting the light from them, would occasionally turn to the Lord, to keep his commandments, and, becoming circumcised, would be counted as the descendants of righteous Abraham; but the great mass of the world chose to remain in the darkness of heathenism. Thus it happened that when the Lord brought his people from Egyptian bondage, they alone of all the people in the world had a knowledge of God. All the rest could say with Pharaoh, “I know not the Lord.” At that time the Lord chose to give mankind his law in a manner so plain that it could not possibly be mistaken, and so that they could always meditate in it, in its perfection, even though no prophet were at hand. By this means, the Spirit could make greater progress, so to speak, in writing the law in their hearts. But to whom could he speak the law? Only to those who knew him, and would accept the law as coming from him. Therefore he was compelled to give the written law to the Jews, and make them light-bearers to the world. The law, when it entered, came to the Jews, not because it was designed for them alone, but because they alone would receive it.
As a further evidence that God was not moved by race considerations, and did not give the law exclusively to the Jews as a nation, we may notice the fact that when the Jews left Egypt, “a mixed multitude went up also with them.” Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4. This “mixed multitude” was composed of Egyptians, and, no doubt, of people of other nationalities. These went along with the Jews, and with them received the law from God at Mount Sinai.
We cannot close this portion of our subject without giving, from the pen of another, the following graphic portrayal of the condition of a people who should have no regard for the law of God: —
“No error accepted by the Christian world strikes more boldly against the authority of Heaven, none is more directly opposed to the dictates of reason, none is more pernicious in its results, than the modern doctrine, so rapidly gaining ground, that God’s law is no longer binding upon men. Every nation has its laws, which command respect and obedience; no government could exist without them; and can it be conceived that the Creator of the heavens and the earth has no law to govern the beings He has made? Suppose that prominent ministers were publicly to teach that the statutes which govern their land and protect the rights of its citizens were not obligatory—that they restricted the liberties of the people, and therefore ought not to be obeyed; how long would such men be tolerated in the pulpit? But is it a graver offense to disregard the laws of states and nations than to trample upon those divine precepts which are the foundation of all government? It would be far more consistent for nations to abolish their statutes, and permit the people to do as they please, than for the Ruler of the universe to annul His law, and leave the world without a standard to condemn the guilty or justify the obedient. Would we know the result of making void the law of God? The experiment has been tried. Terrible were the scenes enacted in France when atheism became the controlling power. It was then demonstrated to the world that to throw off the restraints which God has imposed is to accept the rule of the cruelest of tyrants. When the standard of righteousness is set aside, the way is open for the prince of evil to establish his power in the earth.
“Wherever the divine precepts are rejected, sin ceases to appear sinful or righteousness desirable. Those who refuse to submit to the government of God are wholly unfitted to govern themselves. Through their pernicious teachings the spirit of insubordination is implanted in the hearts of children and youth, who are naturally impatient of control; and a lawless, licentious state of society results. While scoffing at the credulity of those who obey the requirements of God, the multitudes eagerly accept the delusions of Satan. They give the rein to lust and practice the sins which have called down judgments upon the heathen.
“Let the restraint imposed by the divine law be wholly removed, and human laws would soon be disregarded. Because God forbids dishonest practices, —coveting, lying, and defrauding, —men are ready to trample upon His statutes as a hindrance to their worldly prosperity; but the results of banishing these precepts would be such as they do not anticipate. If the law were not binding, why should any fear to transgress? Property would no longer be safe. Men would obtain their neighbors’ possessions by violence, and the strongest would become richest. Life itself would not be respected. Those who disregard the commandments of God sow disobedience to reap disobedience. The marriage vow would no longer stand as a sacred bulwark to protect the family. He who had the power, would, if he desired, take his neighbor’s wife by violence. The fifth commandment would be set aside with the fourth. Children would not shrink from taking the life of their parents, if by so doing they could obtain the desire of their corrupt hearts. The civilized world would become a horde of robbers and assassins; and peace, rest and happiness would be banished from the earth.”—Mrs. E. G. White, in “Great Controversy,” vol. 4, chap. 51.
This is just the state of things that would exist, not only in this world, but in all the universe, if the Ten Commandments were not the universal rule of action. If there be any portion of the universe where the Decalogue is not the recognized law, the above paragraphs accurately describe the condition of its society.