Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE "WORD" OR "COMMANDMENT" HERE INTENDED. Concerning such we ask:
1. By whom is it proclaimed?
(1) "Spoken before by the holy prophets;" i.e., perhaps chiefly, though not solely, of the Old Testament. Forth-tellers as well as fore-tellers.
(2) "Your apostles;" i.e., those that brought you the gospel.
(3) "The Lord and Saviour." He is the Source; the prophets and apostles are but the channel.
2. How is it to be received?
(1) "Stir up your mind;" active intelligence.
(2) "Sincere" mind; unprejudiced intelligence.
(3) By way of "remembrance;" intelligence that recalls what has been revealed. Not a novelty, not a discovery.
3. What is it? The theme of both Epistles - Christ's coming.
II. THE OBJECTION OF MEN TO THIS "WORD" AND "COMMANDMENT."
1. What are the men who object? "Mockers with mockery." Not the troubled truth-seeker.
2. What is the spirit in which they object? "Walking after their own lusts." Strong unbridled desire is the explanation of their scornful unbelief.
3. What is the argument of this objection? "Where is the promise of his coming?" Not, where written? but, what has come of it? Since the fathers fell asleep it seems to lie like a dead letter.
III. THE THREEFOLD ANSWER TO THIS OBJECTION.
1. It arises from willful ignorance of history. There is the "Flood" - probably one among many, but the chief - of which tradition, science, the Bible, have much to say. And that Flood, and all coming destruction, is to be traced, not to a fortuitous concourse of atoms, but to "the Word of God."
2. It arises from fixing time as a condition of God's ways, as it is of man's. "One day," etc. Look at "the dial of the ages, not the horologe of time."
3. It arises from misreading the apparent tardiness of God. He is slow, but never late. What seems to us delay is not an interval of Divine neglect, but a period of Divine mercy, granting an opportunity for human "repentance." - U.R.T.
I. AIM OF THE EPISTLE.
1. To stir them up by reminding them. "This is now, beloved, the second Epistle that I write unto you; and in both of them I stir up your sincere mind by putting you in remembrance." There is here the first of four designations of them as beloved in this chapter. It was already a second Epistle that he was writing to the same circle; not much time had elapsed since the writing of the First Epistle, which in all probability is that which has come down to us under that title. The aim of both Epistles was the same. It is expressed in accordance with language used in the first chapter of this Epistle. lie did not profess to be revealing to them new truths, but only to put them in remembrance of old truths. They had a sincere mind, i.e., open to the light. They would not therefore object to truths because they were old, or to their being re-stated, but would rather welcome being reminded of them, that they might be stirred up to a deeper sense of their importance.
2. To stir them up by reminding them of certain holy words. "That ye should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles." He first refers them to the words of the holy prophets, i.e., who wrote on holy themes, and under holy inspiration. He has specially in view the holy theme of the second coming. Their words spoken before had received striking, yet partial, fulfillment in the first coming; they would receive their complete fulfillment in the second coming. He also refers them to the commandment of the Lord and Saviour, than which surely nothing could be more binding. Christ first saves, and then commands: where is the teacher who is in that commanding position? He first teaches the fact of his second coming, and then he commands the corresponding life. "Watch therefore," says Christ: "for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh." This commandment, having the highest authority, was delivered to them through their apostles, i.e., the apostles that had laboured among them. The chief of these thus echoed his Lord. "The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night:... so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:2-7).
II. THE MOCKERS.
1. The time of their appearance. "Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery." Peter refers to the advent of the mockers as of primary importance in its bearings. They were to come in the last of the days, by which we cannot understand simply the time immediately preceding the second advent. The last period is to be regarded as extending from the first advent to the second advent. During this period, as time went on, they were to come, and to come in character. In Hebrew style, it is said that the mockers were to come "with mockery" - with their mocking at holy things.
2. What they were to mock at. "Walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" What they were to say was to be determined, not by truth, nor by fact, but by prejudice, and by prejudice founded on their walking after their own lusts, i.e., their loose mode of life. In the first psalm those that "walk in the counsel of the ungodly" are next represented as "standing in the way of sinners," and then as "sitting in the seat of the scornful." So here those whose life cannot bear looking into, disliking the coming because it meant a check to them, are represented as saying, with an air of mocking triumph, "Where is the promise of his coming?" i.e., it has turned out to be vain and mendacious.
3. How they were to argue.
(1) Fact on which they were to base their argument. "For, from the day that the fathers fell asleep." By "the fathers" we are probably to understand the men of the first Christian generation. The promise was made to them, and they lived in hope of its being fulfilled in their day. But the day came when, without its being fulfilled, they fell asleep. There is an example here of the use of language from which there has been receding. Christians speak of their friends in Christ as falling asleep. The sentiment comes out in the word cemetery, which means "sleeping-place," with which we associate an awaking. The mockers, no longer in accord with Christianity, use Christian language. The fact on which they base their argument is not to be denied: the use which they made of it is taken up at verse 8.
(2) Argument drawn from uniformity. "All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." We are warranted in proceeding on the uniformity of nature - on the sun rising tomorrow as it has done today, and in days past. Nor is it surprising that scientific men should be more than ordinarily impressed with the fact of uniformity, by their researches into nature. Peter here prophesies that in the last days mockers would seek to turn the fact of uniformity against Christianity, and it has remarkably turned out as he prophesied. This is really the line that has been followed by many skeptics. They have said, "All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." On this ground Hume argued against miracles. "A miracle," he said, "is a violation of a law of nature: but the universal experience of ourselves, and of the whole human family, proves that the laws of nature are uniform, without exception." Strauss and his school have sought to establish, not merely the incredibility, but the impossibility, of miracles. Their argument bears against such a subversion of the present order of things as is connected with the second coming. They have thus unconsciously fulfilled prophecy.
III. CATASTROPHISM IS THE PAST. "For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the Word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." Peter, in putting his finger on catastrophism, refers to it as what they willfully forgot. It required an effort of their will to shut it out. The impression of the event, though it had taken place centuries before, had not died out. His reference to the Flood is introduced by a statement bearing on the way in which it was brought about. This is founded on the Mosaic account of creation. The first part of the statement refers to the bringing of the heavens into existence. There were heavens from of old, by the Word of God. This is the first thought of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heaven." It did not exist from eternity, but was brought into existence by the creative word of God. The second part of the statement refers, not to the bringing of the earth into existence, but to its receiving its present form. An earth was compacted out of water, i.e., as material. The reference seems to be to the waters of chaos in the Mosaic record (Genesis 1:2). It was also compacted, not "amidst water," as it is unwarrantably in the Revised Version, but "by means of water," i.e., as the instrumental element. The reference seems to be to the gathering together of the waters into one place. Behind the water as material and instrumental element was the directing and potent Word of God. Having made this statement, Peter introduces the Flood as his answer to the mockers. The connecting words are," by which means." The use of the plural creates a difficulty. The most probable solution is that the reference is to the water and the Word of God. This is favoured by the latter being carried forward in the next verse. Water, let loose by God, flooded the then world, i.e., not the earth simply, but the earth as supporting its then inhabitants. There was catastrophism of the most impressive nature. There was (let the mockers note it) a mighty disturbance of uniformity. The world that then was perished.
IV. CATASTROPHISM IN THE FUTURE. "But the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." There is suggestion, not of their ceasing to be heavens and earth, but rather of there being still heavens and earth, only not such as we now see them. The Word of God has fixed the destiny of the new heavens and earth. There is catastrophism in store for them. They are here represented as stored up for fire. The agency is not far to seek, being in the heart of the earth. There is suggestion of the fire being needed for the new heavens and earth on account of the ungodly men that have defiled them. For their God-forgetting, God-defying life, they - when the appointed day comes - are to be adjudged to destruction. The heavens and earth that they have defiled are to be subjected, not to water (which is forbidden by promise), but to an agency more penetrative and subduing. The same Word that carried out the catastrophism of water is to carry out the catastrophism of fire.
V. THE DIVINE MODE OF RECKONING. "But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." This is Peter's answer to the suggestion in the argument of the mockers, "From the day that the fathers fell asleep." By addressing his readers as "beloved," he bespeaks their attention. He bespeaks their attention to a thing which they were in danger of forgetting. He bespeaks their attention to a thing which was principally to be considered. "Forget not this one thing." The language in which this one thing is expressed is an extension of what is found in Psalm 90:4, both sides being presented here. Peter teaches that our ideas of short and long in time are not to be applied to God's mode of reckoning. A day is what is short with us. We think of there being many, many days of life. But a day may be long with God. If we think of the days of creation, how much was crowded into each of them! If we think of the day on which the Flood came, how much characterized it! If we think of the last day of our Lord's Passion, how much affecting human history, and affecting angelic history, and affecting even God himself, was crowded into it! We are taught to think of a nation being born in a day. So we do not need to think of more than a day as required for the events that are to be included in the second coming. On the other hand, a thousand years is what is long with us. Men used to think of that as the limit of human life. But we cannot now think of our living a hundred years. But a thousand years may be a short time with God. "A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." There was a waiting for thousands of years before the arrival of man on the earth; and if thousands of years have to elapse before the winding up of human history, in the sure and effectual evolving of his purpose that may not be long to God.
VI. EXPLANATION OF SEEMING DELAY. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is long-suffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." When a promise is made for a specified time, and is not fulfilled at that time, there is real delay there, the explanation of which may be found to be slackness. Such slackness cannot be attributed to God. There is apparent delay, and some, in the disappointment of their expectation, and in the working of unbelief, may say it is slackness; but that cannot be justified. It is said that "the Judge is before the door," which may be construed as an immediate coming. But the real meaning is that Christ is ready for judgment. Why, then, does he not come? The answer is that things are not ready for his coming. Christ's people are charged with making things ready for his coming, so far as they themselves are concerned, and so far as others are concerned; and they have not things in sufficient readiness. It is not, then, that God is slack concerning his promise, as though he were not sufficiently interested; it is, says Peter, that he is long-suffering to you-ward. He is bearing with Christian people in their dereliction of duty, in their slackness in performing their part. And not merely they, hat others, arc thought of by God. He does not wish that any should perish. It is not according to his heart that even one whom he has created, and for whom Christ has died, should remain in misery. This is a thought Which comes out strongly in the prophecy of Ezekiel. "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, saith the Lord God? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God." "Say unto them [that pine away in their sins], As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." The positive side of the Divine wish is that all should come to repentance. He has not an interest merely in some, but in all. None can be happy in sin; it can only be pining away, as the prophet puts it. None can be happy without repentance, i.e., change of mind; but this change of mind he wishes for all. And it is not a mere wish, but it is a wish that has been manifested in the cross of Christ; and, in the operations of the Spirit, and in the workings of Providence, this is the end which is sought. Let us all respond, then, to the Divine wish which accompanies the Divine long-suffering.
VII. THE COMING CHARACTERIZED. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up." By "the day of the Lord" we are to understand the day of Christ's glorious manifestation. The interest of that day will all center round his appearance and judicial action. The coming of the day is regarded with certainty. In the original "will come" has the emphatic position: "Will come the day of the Lord." Whether our thoughts are contrary to it, or whether we have not thoughts about it at all, it will come. Peter touches on the suddenness of the coming, in this echoing the Master, as Paul also did: "Will come the day of the Lord as a thief." He more than touches on an awe-inspiring association of the coming. There will be a general conflagration. It was said in prophecy that the heavens shall vanish away like smoke. Here it is said that they shall pass away with a great noise. This is to be explained by the clause which follows, which is to be taken with it. The elements, i.e., of which the heavens are composed, shall be dissolved with fire. The noise, then, is the rushing sound of the destroying fire, or the consequent crash. The conflagration is to embrace the earth: "The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up." The works must be understood as including man's works. Some works long outlive the workers. It is hoped that some works of art may survive for centuries. But, however long they survive, they will at last be burnt up. That teaches us that there is what is higher than art. And we need not wonder at this being the destiny of man's works on earth, when it is to be the destiny of even God's works on earth. Lift up your eyes to the heavens in the stillness of night, or look upon the earth beneath bathed in the sun-light of a summer day: can it be that catastrophism shall reign wherever your eyes rest? can it be that the wild, all-devouring element of fire shall lay hold on all this material fabric? So prophecy tells us that it will be. It will come, the day of general conflagration. - R.F.
I. THE MEANING OF THE PROMISE.
1. This is definite enough in itself, and has been and is firmly held by the whole Church. A sincere belief in the first advent of the Son of God leads to a belief in his second advent, as plainly foretold both by our Lord and by his apostles.
2. But, though definite in itself, the promise of Christ's second coming is by no means definite in circumstances or in time. This is apparent from the diversity of view prevailing upon these points in many periods of the Church's history. How and when Christ shall come are matters of secondary interest as compared with the fact that he shall come.
II. THE GIVER OF Tile PROMISE. The value of any promise depends upon the character of him by whom it is given, and not upon his character only, but also upon his ability and resources. Now, the promise in question has been given by a Promiser who is in the highest degree faithful and powerful, even by him who is eternal and unfailing Truth. The voice has been that of the Son, of the inspired prophets and apostles; but the counsel declared has been the counsel of the all-wise God.
III. THE DELAY IN THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE. No doubt there has been a constant coming of the Lord Christ by his Spirit, both in judgment and rebuke, and also in mercy and deliverance. Yet the coming is still in the future. If the primitive Christians were in some instances impatient because their glowing hopes were not fulfilled, what wonder if, now and again - as for example in times of depression and in times of persecution - the hearts of the faithful have called for the appearance of the Redeemer, in fervent prayer, in ardent song! Can we be surprised if it has sometimes been lost sight of, that "with God one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day"?
IV. THE ABUSE OF THIS DELAY BY MOCKERS AND SCOFFERS. From the first such persons have asked," Where is the promise?" Unbelief has taken the form of ridicule. And, even worse, the fear of judgment has been to some extent cast off. Like the servants who, finding that their lord delayed his coming, began to eat, drink, and be drunken, and to abuse their fellow-servants, so the scoffers have flung aside every restraint, have spurned every check, and have abandoned themselves to the indulgence of their carnal lusts.
V. THE POWER AND INSPIRATION OF THE PROMISE. That which to one is the occasion of scoffing is to another the inducement to every Christian virtue. Faith rests upon the first advent; Hope stretches forth her hands towards the second advent. There may be mentioned among the fruits of this blessed promise:
1. Patient endurance of privations and sufferings which are known to be temporary.
2. Faithful fulfillment of the appointed stewardship, in preparation for the approaching account.
3. Quiet disregard of all the scoffs and mockeries of unbelievers. - J.R.T.
I. THE GREAT TRUTH ASSERTED. Time is for man, not for God. We human beings have but a few years allotted to us as the period of earthly work; within the scant limits of those years we must do what we have power to do, or we must leave it for ever undone. This is not so with the Eternal He has the vast range of all human history in which to carry out his designs. The dispensations follow one another with no haste. The ages are the province within which God works.
II. THE APPLICATION OF THIS TRUTH TO IMPENITENT SINNERS. It cannot be otherwise than that those who defy God's authority should be affected by the deliberation with which the Almighty Ruler conducts his government.
1. Judgment deferred is made an excuse for perseverance in sin. If the Divine King were under the same restrictions as to time by which an earthly ruler is governed, the case would be otherwise. As it is, the withholding of retribution is misconceived. Yet judgment deferred is, in truth, not judgment reversed, but judgment delayed.
2. If the matter be regarded from the Divine side, another lesson comes to light. Judgment delayed is an opportunity for repentance. Long-suffering on God's part has this merciful significance. Time may teach when other instructors are disregarded; forbearance may be fruitful even when threatening is barren.
III. THE APPLICATION OF THIS TRUTH TO THE TRIED AND TEMPTED PEOPLE OF GOD. Sometimes deliverance deferred is made a ground for fear that deliverance may never come. But the Christian is appointed to learn that deliverance deferred is only deliverance delayed. The day of disappointment, of persecution, of seeming desertion, may appear to the afflicted like a year; the year may appear to be an age. But if the matter be regarded from the Divine side - as our text invites us to regard it - what a change comes over it! The distinction between a longer and a shorter period now almost vanishes. "What of the night? The morning cometh; and also the night." The rescue is near; the daybreak has already begun. Interposition is to be measured, not by years or by centuries, but by Divine purposes and promises.
APPLICATION. These considerations should check the arrogance of scoffers and unbelievers; and should sustain the faith, the courage, and the hope of the Church militant. - J.R.T.
I. THE CERTAINTY AND YET THE UNCERTAINTY OF THE PASSING AWAY OF THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF THINGS.
1. What will "pass away"? "Heavens;" i.e., firmament. "Elements;" not the forces we usually so name, because they include "fire," which is here the revolutionary force; but, according to Farrar and others, "the orbs of heaven."
2. How shall they "pass away"? "Dissolved," not destroyed. Fresh forms. Whether this be literal, as with the Flood, or wider and figurative, so as to include institutions, empires, and all that "the world" is to us, is an open question.
3. The certainty of all passing away. The fact is certain.
4. The uncertainty. The date is uncertain. "As a thief;" not as to wrongfulness, but unexpectedness. "At such an hour as ye think not is the true answer to all chronological theories about "the end."
II. THE GLORY OF THE FUTURE AFTER THAT STUPENDOUS EVENT HAS HAPPENED. It is not the catastrophe, or climax, but the prologue and dawn. It leads not to annihilation, but restoration and purification.
1. A new system of things. "New heavens and new earth." Fresh, in contrast to worn out. Scars and wounds all gone.
2. The true principle dominant in the new system - " righteousness." Probably not more material grandeur or loveliness than now, but pervaded with rectitude - man right with God, man right with man, man right with himself.
3. The permanence of this pervasive righteousness. Wherein "dwelleth." Not, as now and here, often an alien, frequently a stronger, at best a visitor; but the new system of things will be its home. That is
(1) its fitting,
(2) its happy,
(3) its permanent abode.
4. All this rests on a Divine "promise." This indicates
(1) God's pity;
(2) God's prescience;
(3) God's power.
The tones of this promise are manifold and harmonious, from Jonah down to Peter. - U.R.T.
I. REFERENCE TO GOD IN OUR CONDUCT. "Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness?" The catastrophe that is to accompany the second coming is here put down in time present in the original, to raise an impression of its certainty: "Seeing that these things are thus all dissolved." If the conclusions of some scientific men are to be accepted, this is literally true, inasmuch as they say that there are processes going on which must end in the material fabric being worn out. It is in the condition of a clock that, if not wound up, must run out. The catastrophe thus vividly presented is here made a reason for our attending to ourselves. "What manner of persons," Peter exclaims, "ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness?" Holy living is the living of those who are set apart to the service of a holy God. Godliness points to this living as based on our relation to God. By the use of the plural in the original there is brought out the manifold workings and forms of a godly life. There is the feeling of dependence on God and of fear toward him, desire for the blessing from God and trust in him for the blessing, the feeling of love toward God for what he is and of gratitude toward him for his mercies, knowledge of God's will and the resolution to do his will, - all this finding expression in worship, self-command, and sacrifice for others.
II. ATTITUDE TOWARD THE SECOND COMING. "Looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God." This is the only instance of the day being called "the day of God." We must think of the Father ordering the day and its events, that the Son after his mysterious Passion may be magnified. "As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will. For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." Our attitude to the day of God is to be that of expectancy. We are to look for its coming or presence. We are to allow it to dwell in our minds, so as to call forth our earnest desire after it. The first Christians looked for it to come in their day. They were nearer the Divine intention than those who, because it may not be for thousands of years, do not think of it at all. But our attitude is also to be that of active preparation. The proper translation is neither "haste unto" nor "earnestly desire," but "hasten on." The idea of hastening on the coming is unusual; but it is remarkable that it is elsewhere expressed by Peter. "Repent ye therefore," he said to the assembly in Solomon's porch, "and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things." It is thus Petrine and scriptural to think of the coming as an event which may be accelerated by our repentance and prayers and efforts for the diffusion of the gospel.
III. WHAT IS NECESSITATED BY THE SECOND COMING OUTWARDLY. "By reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." It is said that the heavens are not clean in God's sight. The idea here is that even the heavens have been defiled, by reason of those who have lived under them, and upon the earth. Once Christ did not shrink from dwelling on this earth, being on his saving mission; but when he is to come in his judicial character, he is to be a consuming fire, at his approach, even to material things. It is said in Revelation 20:11, that from the face of him that sat upon the great white throne the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. So here it is taught that even the heavenly world is to be subjected to fire, not merely to the breaking up of its order, but even to the melting of its elements.
IV. WHAT IS LOOKED FOR AT THE SECOND COMING OUTWARDLY. "But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." This is in accordance with Revelation 21:1, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away." The most striking promise is in Isaiah 65:17, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered." The newness does not necessarily refer to the materials of which the present heavens and earth are Composed; these may be transformed so as to constitute new heavens and earth, just as our bodies are to be transformed so as to constitute new bodies. The new heavens and new earth are to correspond to newness of character - a correspondence of the outward to the inward never to be disturbed. It is said in Isaiah 66:22, "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I shall make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain." The expression of the idea here is, "wherein dwelleth righteousness" - has its permanent abode, from which it will never take flight. It will be a world where there is no superstition or infidelity, where there is a correct, bright conception of what God is, and a due appreciation of the work of Christ. It will be a world where there is nothing to interfere with social well-being, where jealousies and antipathies are unknown. "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord! Is not, then, the institution of this order of things to be much thought of by us, and to be earnestly desired? We may regret that much that is beautiful in the present order of things is to vanish. Shall we never again look upon that beautiful sky, those beautiful landscapes, the beautiful flowers? But there is ample compensation in the higher beauty to which the present is to give place. When we have got the glorious resurrection-body, there will be no regret that we have left the present body behind. So when we see the new heavens and the new earth, there will be no regret that the former things have passed away. In their higher forms they will have a greater power of lifting the soul to God. The teaching of Peter regarding the heavens and earth agrees with what Paul teaches in the eighth of Romans, "For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God." Peter emphasizes fire as the liberating element; Paul simply notes the liberation. Peter, again, thinks of a fit abode for righteousness; Paul thinks of an abode that shadows forth the liberty of the glory of the children of God. There is use in looking forward to new heavens and a new earth. We feel that the present arrangement is not independent of God. He made it, and he can alter it. He can make a world suitable to a probationary state, and a world suitable to a state of attained righteousness, He can make a world suitable for his people in their present imperfect state, and a world suitable to them when he puts glory on them.
V. PERSONAL CONCERNS AT THE SECOND COMING. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight." We look for a great catastrophe at the end of time as that which has been certainly foretold. We do not look for that alone, but for that as introducing a great reconstruction in the production of new heavens and earth. This is connected with our seeing God on the day formerly referred to. Our personal anxiety must be to be found in peace on that occasion - to have God as our Friend, so that the catastrophe shall not reach us, and so that the new heavens and new earth shall be for our blessed and eternal abode. We can only expect this consummation by our being without spot and blameless. Spots and blemishes attract the fire of Divine judgment. This very earth and even the heavens have to be subjected to fire because they have been connected with man's sin. Let us not think, then, that we can stand in God's sight with hearts defiled. We must give diligence to have all spots and blemishes removed from us, in the use of the means of grace, in a constant recourse to the blood of Christ, in a constant endeavour to conform our life to the Divine will.
VI. INTERPRETATION OF PRESENT DELAY. "And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation." In explanation of the delay of the second coming, it was said formerly that "the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, but is long-suffering." Here long-suffering is asserted of our Lord, apparently the Lord Jesus Christ, as the absolute Manifestation of the disposition of the Father. Here also there is connected with long-suffering its end, viz. salvation. Christ makes to us the offer of salvation; but he does not reject us so soon as we refuse his offer. He would teach us even from our experience of the bitterness of sin, he would disabuse our minds of false ideas of life, he would make us tired of a life of sin, he would make us turn in desire to a life of holiness. He has no quarter for sin; but he has patience for the sinner, he heaps mercies upon him; there is the continual mercy that he is not treated according to his desert. Thus by his continual goodness would he lead us to repentance, by his long-suffering he would compass our salvation, by his gentleness he would make us great. But for patience extended over years, Paul would never have lived to be a preacher of righteousness, and John Bunyan would never have lived to write the 'Pilgrim's Progress.' And so it is with the race as a whole. The offer of salvation has yet to be made to all. And even when the offer has been made, means have to be used to secure the acceptance of salvation. Therefore it is that the coming is delayed. Let us not, then, misinterpret the delay; let us not mistake what is long-suffering for slackness in promising, or indifference to sin.
VII. REFERENCE TO THE WRITINGS OF PAUL. "Even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his Epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." Peter refers to Paul by whom, on one occasion, he had been withstood, as his beloved brother, i.e., not ministerial associate, but brother to the readers and to himself alike, and alike dear to them. He also recognizes him as possessing a wisdom which was not his own. Paul had written to the same circle on the subject of the coming. If we think of the Asiatic circle, we turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians. In it the nearest approach to what Peter has been saying is to be found in chapter Ephesians 5:27, "That he might present the Church to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." When Peter passes to other Epistles, we at once think of the Epistles to the Thessalonians. In these Paul expressly treats of delay in the second coming, and points out the attitude to be taken up. And this naturally suggests "some things hard to be understood." What he had in his mind was probably the revelation of the man of sin. Of other things hard to be understood in Paul's Epistles we may particularize the gathering up of all things in Christ, the doctrine of election especially as set forth in the ninth chapter of Romans, and the filling up of that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ in Colossians. Peter notes the bad use made of these things hard to be understood, in common with other Scriptures, by the ignorant and unsteadfast, i.e., those who had not the essentials of Christian instruction, and did not hold to the Christian position once taken up by them. They "wrested them" as by a hand-screw, i.e., from their natural meaning to their own destruction. There is no support here to the Roman Catholic idea of withholding the Bible from the people. Because Scriptures, especially difficult Scriptures, are abused by the ignorant and unsteadfast, that is no argument against the good use of them by those who are exhorted in this same chapter to "remember the words spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through the apostles." Let us, even when we (in company with Peter) do not thoroughly understand, humbly seek to get profit.
VIII. CAUTION. "Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own steadfastness." What they knew beforehand was what Paul and Peter said about the second coming. The conclusion of the verse points especially to the foretold appearance of errorists before the coming. These were condemned by their lawless conduct. Let them not, then, as they valued his love in the gospel, be carried away with their error. They had firm footing; let them not be carried off their feet. Let them not be like Barnabas, the companion of Paul, who, when at the coming of some from James to Antioch, the Jews dissembled with Peter, he also was carried off his feet with their dissimulation (Galatians 2:13).
IX. PARTING COUNSEL. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." A tree is not a complete reality at once; but from a beginning there is progress toward an end. So we are not complete beings at once; but from a beginning there is a progress intended for us toward the end of our being. There may be growth in a wrong direction: what we are here exhorted to grow in is what of Divine assistance as sinners we need in order to come to the goal of our being. "Grow in grace," which is to be taken as an independent conception. If we are not growing under gracious influence, then we have only a name to live. Our faith grows as it becomes more ample and conquering. Our love grows as it becomes more fervent and diffusive. Our hope grows as it becomes more calm and bright. We are to grow in self-abasement, in power of work, in power of concentrating the mind on the truth, in power to bear hardships and injuries. We are to grow especially in that in which we find ourselves to be deficient. We are further exhorted to grow in "the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." This is in keeping with the great importance which is attached to knowledge in this Epistle. It is that by which we grow. The knowledge which is thus nutritive is knowledge of Christ as opening up and dispensing the treasures of Divine grace, and as showing in his own life what grace would bring out in ours. Let us, then, have a worthy conception of Christ in our minds; it is upon this that our growth in grace depends.
X. DOXOLOGY. "To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen." It is to Christ that the adoration is offered. To him be glory now; for it is to the knowledge of him that we owe all of grace that we have. To him be glory for ever, literally, "to the day of the age" - the day on which eternity, as contrasted with time, begins, and which is never to be broken up, but is to be one long day. To him we are indebted, as for all that we have now, so for all that we hope to have hereafter. Thus does the Epistle end without the customary salutations, simply with the carrying forward of Christ into our eternal life. It becomes every one who has followed out the thought of the Epistle to add his devout "Amen." - R.F.
awe, and paralyze all his energies. But the inspired writer looks beyond the scenes of dissolution and destruction to the fair and beautiful visions which become clear to the eye of faith when enlightened with a heavenly ray.
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATIONS. Science sometimes foretells with some definiteness the future of the material universe, that is, so far as dissolution is concerned. According to a universal law of rhythm - so we are told - this earth shall be dissipated into atoms. But little is said upon scientific grounds of any process of reconstruction. Now, it is admitted that Scripture goes into no details with regard to the future. But, at the same time, whilst admitting the perishableness of all created things, revelation passes beyond the epoch of destruction, and assures us that what seems the end is not the end of all things. The old will certainly decay, but only to give place to the new. How this reconstitution is to be effected, we know not; yet that it shall be brought to pass is assured in the promise of "new heavens and a new earth."
II. THE MORAL CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATION, If there is vagueness as to what is material, nothing could be more explicit than so much of the revelation as relates to the spiritual. It matters very little what are the visible and tangible accompaniments of a future state, if only its ethical character be satisfactorily determined. And this is done in the language, "wherein dwelleth righteousness." In such a revelation as this the judgment and conscience can peacefully rest. The contrast between the prevalence of unrighteousness on this earth, and the reign of righteousness in the reconstructed world, is striking in itself, and it furnishes a true satisfaction to the mind which by reason alone cannot confidently anticipate a change so blessed.
III. THE DIVINE BASIS OF THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATION. This is no surmise of sagacity; it is no poetic dream. Our anticipation is "according to God's promise." Here is the all-sufficient justification. Building upon the assurances of him who cannot lie, we secure a firm foundation for our faith and hope. We know that what he has promised he is able to perform. In the region in question all created might is powerless; if the result is to be brought to pass, it must be by the exercise of omnipotence itself.
IV. THE PREPARATION FOR THE FULFILMENT or THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATION. If we "look for" such a glorious future as these words suggest, our attitude must be other than mere hope. We shall cherish fortitude amidst ills that must soon pass away; we shall cultivate that habit of righteousness which shall be congenial to the state which we anticipate; and we shall seek that harmony with the Divine will that shall make us truly and for ever at home in every world of God. - J.R.T.
I. THE SPHERE OF CHRISTIAN DILIGENCE.
1. Properly considered, this includes the whole life. There is no department of our lawful activity where negligence, remissness, indolence, are allowable. The boy in his school-work, the woman in her household, the man in his profession, - all are called to diligence.
2. Diligence is especially important in the achievement of Christian character. E.g., in the study of God's Word, in meditation upon Christ's gospel, in imitating Christ's example, in the use of all the means of grace. It is thus that we hope to realize the noble aim before us, to reach the stature of the perfect man in Christ. Such an aim can only be achieved by assiduity and perseverance.
3. Diligence should distinguish the efforts put forth to promote the welfare of our fellow-men. In all walks of Christian philanthropy and usefulness there is a loud call for something better than a languid interest or a fitful zeal.
II. THE METHODS OF CHRISTIAN DILIGENCE. Good things are worth seeking, and for the most part are not to be had without seeking. The following may be acted upon as rules justified by practical experience.
1. Study the biographies of zealous, successful, useful servants of God.
2. Ponder the searching and stirring maxims of the wise - especially those recorded in the Book of Proverbs.
3. Form seriously and deliberately, good resolutions for the conduct of life.
4. Pray, especially against the besetting sin (if such it be) of sloth.
5. And with prayer conjoin watchfulness, lest constantly recurring temptation to indolence prevail.
III. THE MOTIVES TO CHRISTIAN DILIGENCE.
1. Foremost among these must be placed the influence of Christ's love. What can be a stronger impulse in the mind of a true friend of Jesus than a clear understanding of the Saviour's sacrifice, and a warm response of affection and gratitude evoked by the love, pity, and self-denial of Immanuel? How can a friend of Jesus stand beneath his Master's cross, listen to his Master's dying groan, and then be indifferent and remiss in doing that Master's will?
2. The wish to resemble Christ will lead to diligence in the service of God. When we remember those words which revealed our Saviour's consecration, "I must work the works of him that sent me;" "How am I straitened until it [the baptism] be accomplished?" when we remember that it is recorded of him that he "had no leisure so much as to eat;" - how can we remain or become supine in the fulfillment of our life-mission?
"Our Master all the work hath done 3. Be diligent in preparation for Christ's return. He will require an account from every one of his servants - the trustees of his precious gifts. Then shall the diligent, the faithful, be rewarded, and have praise of God. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." - J.R.T.
3. Be diligent in preparation for Christ's return. He will require an account from every one of his servants - the trustees of his precious gifts. Then shall the diligent, the faithful, be rewarded, and have praise of God. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." - J.R.T.
I. lie MAKES THEIR DISCIPLINE A PLEA FOR REACHING A BLESSED IDEAL.
1. Their discipline. How much is involved in "these things"?
2. Their ideal. "Be found in peace, without spot, and blameless."
3. Their struggle. "Give diligence."
II. HE INDICATES THAT THE MYSTERY OF DELAYED JUDGMENT IS A MYSTERY OF DIVINE MERCY GIVING OPPORTUNITY FOR SALVATION.
1. This is taught by Paul.
2. This is affirmed again by Peter.
3. This is the clear teaching of Scripture, even though it has its things "hard to be understood."
III. HE WARNS THAT EVEN THE BEST MEANS OF BLESSING MAY BE PERVERTED TO HARM. The ignorant and unsteadfast wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction.
IV. HE SHOWS THE PERIL THAT COMES TO THE GOOD FROM EVIL MEN. "Carried away with the error of the wicked," etc.
1. Strong influence - "carried."
2. Great calamity - "fail."
V. HE PROCLAIMS THE METHOD AND HOPE OF TRUE SAFETY. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour." This is in harmony with his emphatic teaching: "Add to your faith virtue," etc.
VI. HE ASCRIBES PRAISE TO HIM WHO IS ITS RIGHTFUL OBJECT.
1. The glory is Christ's. "On his head are many crowns." Peter vies with Paul in passionate homage for his Lord.
2. The glory is Christ's now. Our obedience, our actual service, our praise, today.
3. The glory is Christ's for ever. There may be new systems of things, and these systems of surpassing grandeur; but his glory shall ever be the diadem on the very brow of the universe, the central sun amid all its constellations. For the moral evermore transcends the material. And he is for ever "the Lord our Righteousness." - U.R.T.
I. THE NATURE OF DIVINE LONG-SUFFERING. We know something of human patience and forbearance, and we have all been again and again indebted to these qualities for our opportunities of happiness and usefulness, But Divine long-suffering transcends all that has been displayed by men.
1. Long-suffering is different from mere goodness and bounty, 1.e. the disposition to bestow benefits upon the needy and dependent.
2. And from pity or compassion, which is a sentiment of commiseration towards the wretched and helpless.
3. And at the same time it is, on the other hand, different from indifference to the evil conduct which is observed in men.
4. It is a kind of mercy. It involves a holy Superior and an offending subject. It is an emotion of the heart which prompts to the restraint of indignation; a principle of action which averts and withholds wrath and penalty, although these be abundantly deserved. God, in the exercise of long-suffering, beat's with the sinners whom he might justly doom, gives further opportunity for repentance, and waits for its signs.
II. THE OCCASION FOR DIVINE LONG-SUFFERING.
1. The sins of mankind have given occasion for the exercise of this grace upon the vastest scale. Scripture history abounds with instances of God's forbearance; e.g., in the time of Noah; when Israel rebelled in the wilderness; and when Israel afterwards so largely apostatized, etc. So has it been in the history of every nation, and in the history of the human race.
2. The sins of individual unbelievers and transgressors call for the forbearance of a gracious God. The young who live viciously and irreligiously, those in afterlife who forget God and give themselves to the pursuit of worldly aims, continue to live and to enjoy privileges only through the forbearance of Heaven.
3. The unfaithfulness of Christians is only tolerated by a long-suffering Lord. How otherwise could the frailties and infirmities which disfigure the religious life of multitudes be endured? If our God had not again and again borne with our imperfections, should we be still in the possession of opportunities and advantages so many and valuable?
III. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF DIVINE LONG-SUFFERING.
1. God refrains from judgment and condemnation.
2. God addresses faithful warnings, and summons to repentance as the clouds gather before the thunderstorm breaks. Expostulations are repeated: "How shall I give thee up?"
3. Promises and invitations are renewed.
4. Probation is extended, in order that further opportunity may be given for repentance. The mandate goes forth concerning the barren tree, "Let it alone this year also!"
IV. THE GRACIOUS INTENTION OF DIVINE LONG-SUFFERING. When the apostle writes, "is salvation," he means, "is intended to work salvation." God does not prolong our proving with a view to the increase of our guilt and chastisement, but for a purpose exactly opposed to this - in order, that is, that hardness may be melted down, that rebellion may cease and be followed by loyalty, that neglect and disregard of religion may give place to interest and to prayer, that the sinner may repent, the wanderer return, the careless be revived. The gift of Christ to man is the most glorious evidence of Divine long-suffering. This is a dispensation of mercy. To forbearance we owe our privileges, and to forbearance we shall be indebted for our final and everlasting salvation. Great, indeed, is the guilt of those who despise and abuse the long-suffering of the Lord. Such there have ever been. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." But it is better that delay in judgment should be used as the opportunity of repentance, rather than that it should be abused as an excuse and an inducement for perseverance in sin. - J.R.T.
grow in grace.
I. THE DIVINE LAW OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH. It is well that the tree be planted in a rich and suitable soil; that there be room for its roots to strike forth as far as the most spreading of its goodly boughs; that it be by rivers of water, through whoso moisture it may be green; that the winds of heaven may freely rustle through its leafage, and may swing its lithe young branches to and fro. But to what end does the tree possess these advantages? Not that it may remain a tender sapling, not that having grown for a while it may be pollarded, or its growth so checked that it may remain a stunted deformity; but rather that, through all the rough yet kindly forces of nature, the tree may wax greater and stronger year by year; that its heart may be sound, its sap full flowing every spring; that it may "hang all its leafy banners out;" that its branches may give homes to the birds of the air, and shade to the beasts of the field; that its outline may be beautiful to the eye, and its fruit grateful to the taste. So is it the intention of God, and the duty of the Christian, that there should be spiritual growth. It is for those who dwell in the land of privilege, who enjoy the care of the heavenly Husbandman, upon whom are shed the soft influences of heaven, to profit by this fostering culture and these genial powers, to make constant and unmistakable progress in those graces which are the strength and beauty of the Christian life.
II. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH GROWTH IS TO TAKE PLACE. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon." "Israel shall grow as the lilies." In such declarations the reference is evidently to spiritual progress.
1. In the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. By this expression we are to understand the grace of Christ as revealed, bestowed, and experienced. The grace in us is to be over against, in correspondence with, the grace which is in him. Christian character and excellences are the sign and the effect of spiritual participation in the favour of our Lord.
(1) In the number of Christian graces. These are enumerated in the first chapter of this Epistle. Let every reader ask himself - Am I possessed of the graces thus catalogued? or am I not painfully lacking in some one or more? Now, tile possession of one does not compensate the lack of another. There is room for supplying many deficiencies.
(2) In the strength of Christian graces. In degree every virtue is capable of development; and it is by exercise that the desired increase is to be attained. He who gives play and scope to his holy emotions shall find that they become purer and quicker. If righteous purposes and endeavours have room to act, they will gain in vigour and effectiveness.
(3) In the harmony of Christian graces. Symmetry of character is essential to moral perfection, as is physical symmetry to the perfection of bodily figure and features. Harmonious as well as vigorous development of the renewed nature should be the aim of all whose desire is to please God. Instances abound in which the possession of one excellence is presumed to compensate the absence of others. But to be bluntly honest and uncourteous, or to be discreet and untender; to be amiable but unable to resist evil influence, - is spiritual deformity. Whilst perfection is to be found in God alone, each follower of Christ aspires to grow up in all things unto him who is the Head. "Ye are complete in him." The tree which has been hindered from growing on one side fails in symmetry; it is the same with the disciple of Christ who has evidently failed in learning some of the Master's most essential lessons.
2. In the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul prayed, on behalf of the Colossians, that they might increase in the knowledge of God. And our Lord himself deemed this knowledge so important that he made it a petition of his great intercessory prayer that his disciples might "know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he had sent." Now, all human knowledge is susceptible of increase; and the Lord and Saviour in whom we trust is a theme, an object of knowledge, so vast as to be inexhaustible.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH GROWTH IN GRACE IS ACHIEVED. As the plant needs soil, air, light, culture, in order that it may grow, as the body needs food and many and varied necessaries in order that the child may develop into the man, so are there conditions indispensable to spiritual progress. There it is for all who desire to advance in the Divine life, to discover and to use. The study of God's Word, the diligent attendance upon Church ordinances, constancy in prayer, faithfulness in work, - these are acknowledged "means of grace." The reading of biographies of great, good, and useful men may be mentioned as a subsidiary but valuable means to spiritual progress. And at the same time, it is important to observe and to avoid and strive against those hindrances to growth which in great variety beset us on every side, and by which very many have been injured, if not ruined.
IV. THE EXTENT AND LIMIT OF CHRISTIAN GROWTH. With regard to this world, such progress is intended to be lifelong. If growth be constant, it cannot matter to us at what precise stage of advance the earthly development comes to a close. Let death come when it may to the Christian who is making progress in Divine grace and knowledge, it cannot come inopportunely.
"It is not growing, like a tree, Although it fall and die that night -
Although it fall and die that night -