And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:
1. God's relation to the world before the gospel age. The ages before the gospel were "times of ignorance" as regards the grand subjects of religion — "the world by wisdom knew not God." This was a guilty ignorance. Outward nature, and the intuitions of their own souls, were sufficient to teach them the knowledge of God; but the means they neglected. This ignorance "God winked at," not that He connived at it, but overlooked it. He dealt leniently with those dark ages. He did not interpose specially, either in vengeance or in grace. This is a question which, if proper to ask, is impossible to solve. We may discover certain useful ends answered by it; and these ends will be sufficient to satisfy us that His forbearance was worthy of Himself. It serves to show —
(1) The insufficiency of human reason in matters of religion. God gave human reason plenty of time to exhaust all its resources in endeavours to find Him out.
(2) The necessity of a special revelation. Since God gave mankind so many ages to endeavour to find Him out, and they failed, men are left without the shadow of a foundation for supposing that they can do without the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. God's relation to the world in the gospel age. God's conduct now towards the world is changed. He who overlooked in forbearing mercy the wickedness of past times, now commands "every man everywhere to repent." Notice —
I. THE ONE GREAT DUTY OF MAN IN THE GOSPEL AGE. To repent; which means something more than contrition or change of opinion, or renunciation of a habit; it means a change in the ruling disposition of life. Every man is under some ruling disposition, into which you can resolve all the actions of his everyday life. This is the heart of the man. Repentance is a change in this. This reformation of the soul is the one urgent duty of every man. Why?
1. Because it is right. All men, everywhere, are in the wrong, and eternal rectitude demands a change.
2. Because it is indispensable. There is no possibility of being happy without it.
II. THE ONE GRAND PROSPECT OF MAN IN THE GOSPEL AGE. The day of judgment.
1. The period is appointed (Matthew 25.). Who knows when? No one. It will come, perhaps, as the flood came — whilst men are eating and drinking, etc.; or as Christ came — in the deep hush of darkness, when men were all asleep. We know not when, but we know it is fixed. It is registered in His unfulfilled plans. His Providence is getting nearer to it every hour. "God hath appointed a day." It must come.
2. The Judge is appointed. "By that man," etc. This Man has heretofore ever dealt in mercy. Now eternal rectitude is the rule of His conduct. The grand thing that loomed before the gospel was the gospel age itself; the grand thing that looms in the future of humanity now is the day of judgment. What an argument for repentance is this righteous judgment! We must be made right to be enabled to stand in that day.
III. THE ONE DEMONSTRATING FACT FOR MAN IN THE GOSPEL AGE "whereof He hath given assurance," either that there will come a day of judgment, or that Christ is the Divine Judge. The latter is the most likely idea.
1. Any teacher, living a holy life, and rising from the dead according to his own announcement, must be Divine.
2. Christ as a Teacher did live a holy life, and did rise from the dead according to His own announcement. Who can escape the inference?
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: