2 Peter 3:3-4
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,…
I shall consider the words as a standing objection of scoffers or free-thinkers against the truth and authority Of the Christian religion.
I. THAT MIRACLES ARE NOT NOW NECESSARY TO THE CONVICTION OF UNBELIEVERS. It is sufficient that we are assured there was a time when the Christian religion was confirmed by numerous and undoubted miracles. Those who contend for the continuance of miracles in order to evince more effectually the truth of revealed religion, proceed upon one of these suppositions. Either that it is necessary every particular person should for his own satisfaction be an eye-witness of some miraculous fact, or else, that once at least in every age and nation, God should exert His omnipotence, and the miracle be committed to some public and standing record for the information of those who were not eye-witnesses of it. As to what is here required in the last place, it is obviated by staying that we have all the evidence of the miracles recorded in the gospel, that any man, who is not an eye-witness of it, can have of a miracle done in his own age or nation. Upon the former supposition, miracles would be so frequent that they would become of little force or consideration. This is certain, that the effects which miracles have upon men depend upon a good, docile, and obedient temper of mind. He that is in this good disposition needs no further evidence of miracles for his conviction; but he that is not, would not be convinced by them, though we should suppose them more frequent.
II. But if miracles are not necessary to the conviction of unbelievers, MAY THEY NOT RE NECESSARY TO THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS? or to reclaim those who already believe from walking after their own lusts, prod bring them to repentance? I answer again in the negative.
1. The same motives which now induce men to put off their repentance would, in all probability, be as prevalent, though we should suppose miracles more frequent. Would a miracle tend to convince a sinner of the Divine authority of the laws of the gospel? That we here suppose him convinced of already. Would it tend to enforce his obedience to those laws by conveying any sanctifying graces into his nature? What would it then do in order to his conversion? You will say it might be aa occasion of bringing him to a better temper of consideration, and to make him take up some speedy resolutions of amendment. It is granted; but then such a resolution is no more than what we see sinners taking up daily, and yet, notwithstanding this, how ordinary is it for them to shift off their repentance from time to time, till it be past time!
2. It is not reasonably to be expected such an impression should be of any long or lasting continuance.
3. Though what is here asserted could not be made appear from probable reasons and arguments; yet it is confirmed by experience and undeniable shatters of fact. We have numerous examples in Scripture, and it may not be improper to instance some few of them to this purpose.
(1) Who would have thought that Pharaoh, after all the miracles which were done before his eyes, and which he did not only see, but feel the dreadful effects of, should still have persisted in his disobedience to the commands of God?
(2) So, again, notwithstanding the many miracles Moses afterwards wrought in the deliverance of the Jews, what little effect had they towards reclaiming them either from the error or evil of their ways!
1. And when I say that miracles are not now necessary to the conviction of unbelievers, I would be understood as speaking only of such unbelievers as live among Christians, and may at any time have the proofs of Christianity laid clearly before them.
2. If, then, God Almighty has afforded us all sufficient means to convince us of the truth of our holy religion, let us faithfully endeavour to employ those means to the ends they are designed; let us frequently reflect on the reasonableness of Christianity, and the evidence of its truth, that our faith may be built upon a solid foundation.
(R. Fiddes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,