2 Peter 3Observe here, 1. The design of both St. Peter's epistles was one and the same, even to put them in remembrance of, and to call to their minds what they had formerly heard and understood, but possibly not retained, nor duly considered. This second epistle I write; in both which I stir up your minds by way of remembrance.
Note, The office of ministers is to be remembrancers, The Lord's remembrancers, by putting him in mind of the people's wants; their people's remembrancers, by putting them frequently in mind of their duty to God. There is then a constant necessity of a conscientious ministry; none are weary of it but such as love not to be remembered of their duty by it.
Nay, farther, St. Peter tells them, he would stir up their pure minds by ways of remembrance; implying, that the memories of the best Christians stand in need of refreshing, and the affections of the holiest want a fresh exciting. The freest Christians sometimes want a spur: We are slow to learn what we should do, and more slow to do what we have learnt.
Great then is the sin of those who contemn repeated truths. Cursed is that curiosity that despises a wholesome truth, because it is common. If we have such nice stomachs that will not endure to eat twice of the same dish, if wholesome; it is just with God, that want should overtake our wantonness.
Observe, 2. What it is that he would have them remember and be mindful of; it is the word of prophecy in the Old Testament, and the doctrine of the gospel in and under the New, That ye be mindful of the words spoken before by the holy prophets, namely, Enoch and Daniel, who prophesied of the general judgment of the last day, and of the destruction of Jerusalem, then at hand.
Observe, 3. How St. Peter here joins the prophets and apostles together, as concuring harmoniously in their doctrine; what was foretold by the prophets was confirmed by the apostles; hence they are said to have but one mouth, Luke 1:1 As he spake by the mouth of all his prophets, not by the mouths; for, though the prophets and apostles were many, yet had they all but one mouth, speaking all the same things.
Observe here, 1. The persons foretold, or what sort of men should be found in these last days; namely, scoffers. These are the dregs of mankind, found in the dregs of time; they scoff sometimes at the word of God, sometimes at religion and the ways of good men; sometimes at sin, and the follies of those that are bad. The scoffing spirit, is a vile spirit; it is better to be a fool than a flouter; better to have a dull spirit than a deriding spirit; to deride God and religion is the height of impiety. Such as are in the chair of the scorner are in the highest form in the devil's school.
Observe, 2. What it was that these men scoffed at; namely, at the prediction of our Saviour's coming to judge the world; they say, Where is the promise of his coming? because Christ did not come when some looked for him, they concluded he would not come at all, but that all things should go on in a constant course, as they had done from the beginning of the creation.
Observe, 3. The character of the persons who are called scoffers; they are said to walk after their own lusts, men of sensual spirits, and licentious lives. No wonder, that they who give themselves up to all manner of sensuality, to deny a judgment to come; for, as it is expedient for them that there should be none, so they endeavour to persuade themselves that there shall be none, and are glad to find arguments to fortify themselves in that persuasion. But surely God scorneth the scorners, he will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their desolation cometh. Lord! what a black and horrid ingratitude is this, to scoff at the author of our beings, and the Patron of our lives; to live in definace of him in whom we live? Is it not time for God to come and judge the world, when men begin to doubt whether ever he made it?
These scoffers had declared in the former verse, that the world was the same it was from the beginning; that nature always had, and therefore ever would keep its course. But, says the apostle here, these scoffers know better; if they be ignorant, they are willingly ignorant what a change God made in the world since the first creation of it, and that he can as easily destroy it, as he did at first create it.
To evidence this, the apostle shews how God by water drowned the old world, and therefore all things had not continued as they were from the beginning of the creation; and that this present world shall, when God's time is come, be ruined by fire, as the old world was by water. The same omnipotent power of God which created the world, upholds it and preserves it, and will at last destroy it, namely, at the final judgment, when all wicked persons, especially profane scoffers at, and deriders of Christ's coming, shall be condemned and perish.
Hence learn, That those great and awful works of God, the creation, preservation, and final destruction of the world, first by water, and next by fire, none ought to be ignorant of, but all ought to meditate frequently upon, and be continually prepared for.
Note, 2. That the day of judgment will be a day of perdition to ungodly men, they shall then be utterly and eternally destroyed. The wicked are called in scripture sons of perdition; they are so actively, they make it their work to destroy others; and they are so passively, they shall be destroyed at that day, when they and their works shall be burnt up.
Our apostle here answers the cavil and objection of the fore-mentioned scoffers, namely, That if Christ intends to come to judgment, why does he so long defer his coming?
To this our apostle replies,
1. By assuring them that this delay ought not to be judged according to our sense and apprehension of things, for God does not measure time as we do, but a thousand years, which seem so long to us, are but a day, yea, but a moment to him who is eternal, and inhabiteth eternity. To the eternity of God no finite duration bears any proportion; to eternity all time is equally short; God does not measure time by our pole, nor cast up years by our arithmetic.
2. He assures them farther, that God's delay of judgment did not proceed from slackness, but from divine patience and goodness. He delays his coming, on purpose to give men time to repent, and by repenting, on purpose to give men time to repent, and by repentance to prevent their own eternal ruin.
Learn hence, 1. That God's delay of judgment is no ground for sinners to conclude that he will not come to judgment, for our Saviour has now here fixed and determined the time of it. We can neither be sure when our Lord will come, nor certain when he will not come.
Learn, 2. That the true reason why God defers judgment is, to give sinners opportunity for repentance, if this be not complied with, he reserves those who are incorrigibly bad to a more remarkable ruin, condemning them that will not be saved, but obstinately destroy themselves.
Our apostle having asserted, that this solemn day of judging the Jews, at the destruction of Jerusalem first, and then of all mankind at the end of the world, will certainly come; he next shews the manner how, and that although this great day of the Lord comes slowly, yet it will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, surprising the secure and unprepared part of the world. The thief cometh without warning, and without noise, so shall the coming of the Son of man be. Rev 16:15 Behold I come as a thief, blessed are they that watch.
Observe next, The apostle declares what a great change there will be when Christ comes to judgment, namely, a total dissolution of the whole frame of nature, The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt, and the earth be burnt up: that is, say some, totally consumed and utterly abolished; for when there is no more need of sun and stars, of earth and water, why should they be any more? And when the saints see God face to face, what need of the glass of the creatures to behold the face of God in?
Others conceive that the heavens and the earth shall not be annihilated, but bettered and improved, their substance continued, but their qualitites changed; that out of this conflagration God will bring forth a new edition of heaven and earth, and of what is contained in them, to be the everlasting monuments of his own power and goodness, and the delightful objects of his saints contemplation.
These words are St. Peter's practical improvement of the foregoing doctrine, concerning the certain, sudden and terrible judgment of Christ to come. If the whole frame of heaven and earth shall be so wonderfully changed, and a new world made, how holy should they be, and how great a degree of purity should they labour to attain unto, who expect to live in this new world?
Learn hence, That the firm belief of Christ's coming to judgment, and the dissolution of this sinful world by fire, should convince all Christians of the necessity of, and engage them in their pursuits and endeavours after, a life of universal holiness, and that with the utmost care and possible diligence: Seeing all these things, what manner of persons ought ye to be? - Heaven is an holy place, has holy company, holy employments, holy enjoyments; we must be qualified for it, before we can be admitted into it, and begin that life of holiness upon earth which will never end in heaven; without a present meetness for heaven, we must never expect to be admitted into it, Col 1:12
Having exhorted persons by holiness to prepare for Christ's coming to judgment in the foregoing vcerse, he now directs them to expect and look for it, to desire and long after it, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, that joyful day of our perfect deliverance and salvation, when the lower heavens and earth shall be dissolved, and the elements melt with fervent heat.
Learn hence, That there is, or ought to be in all believers, a vehement desire after, and a fervent longing for, the coming and appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. O Christian! long intensely for Christ's company, for know assuredly he longs for thine.
Observe here, 1. What is the subject matter of the Christian's expectation, he looks for new heavens, and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness, that is, only righteous persons, and perfectly righteous persons, where sin shall no more prevail.
Observe, 2. What is the ground and foundation of this hope in the Christian, it is the promise of God, we (according to his promise) look for new heavens and a new earth. To hope for any thing that God has not promised, is presumption. Hope is the expectation of some future good which God has promised and faith believed.
Observe, 3. How Christians should qualify and fit, make ready and prepare themselves for this joyful hour, this desirable place and state. Be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless. Give all diligence that ye may be found at that day in a state of peace and reconciliation with God by justification, and without spot, and blameless, without any allowed spot or blame, by pressing now after the highest measures of sanctification, that so an entrance may both joyfully and abundantly be administered to you into that kingdom wherein dwelleth righteousnes.
In these words St. Peter advises them to make an holy and wise construction of the forbearance of God in his delaying to come to judgment, not to think that God neglects them under sufferings, or is well-pleased with the perverseness of the wicked world in sinning; but his patience and long-suffering towards them is hereby displayed, in order to the bringing of them to repentance, and by repentance to salvation. Account that the long-suffering of God, that is, the design of God in his long-suffering, is the sinner's salvation.
Here note, That patience and long-suffering in God is an ability or power in him, not only to delay the execution of his wrath for a time, by a temporary suspension of it towards them that perish, and shall feel it at last; but to delay the execution of it towards others, in order to their eternal salvation, that they may never feel it.
Observe next, How this apostle, to add to the strength and authority of what he had spoken concerning the certainty of Christ's coming, and their duty to be in a ready preparation for it, doth make mention of St. Paul as bearing witness, in several places of his epistles, thereunto.
Even as our beloved brother Paul hath written unto you in all his epistles speaking in them of these things. As the prophets had all one mouth, so had the apostles also, speaking all the same thing.
Observe lastly, The testimony given by St. Peter to St. Paul's epistles. He acknowledges, 1. That there were some things in them hard to be understood.
Mark, He doth not say many things, much less that all things in St. Paul were hard to be understood, but some things only. How vainly then doth the church of Rome produce this text, to prove the obscurity of the whole scripture? whereas the great and necessary things to our salvation are so plainly revealed in scripture, that even babes in Christ do apprehend and understand them. And though there be difficulties in other points, more remote from salvation, yet they are so for our exercise and trial, to excite our most intense study and diligence.
Note farther, Who the persons are to whom the scriptures are hard to be understood, to the unlearned and unstable, who wrest and pervert them to their own destruction. The original word rendered to wrest, is a metaphor taken from torturers, who put a man upon the rack, they torment him so long till they make him speak what he never meant to speak; so these wrest a sense out of scripture which the Holy Ghost never intended. Scriptura obscuritas non nova regtula necessitatem, sed spiritus illuminantis et ministerii exponentis necessitatem ostendit. Bishop Davenant.
Our apostle concludes his epistle with an exhortation to watch against the errors and false doctrines of seducers, lest we, being led away thereby, do fall from our own stedfastness in the faith of the gospel. It ought to be our care not only to be sound in the faith, but stedfast in the faith; and, that we may be so, we are here directed.
1. To grow in grace, in all grace, in faith, hope, and love; for grace establishes the heart, and, accordingly, stedfastness and increase of grace are here joined together.
2. To grow in knowledge; the way to be kept stedfast is to grow in grace; and the best way to grow in grace, is to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, to know him in his person, in his offices, in his undertaking, in his doctrine, in his example; such a knowledge as this is of Jesus Christ, is fundamental to all graces. They all begin in knowledge, and are increased by knowledge. Grow in grace and in the knowedge of Jesus Christ; behold how these two keep equal pace in the soul of a Christian, namely, grace and knowledge; in what degree one increases, the other increases proportionably. To the author and finisher of which grace, to the fountain and foundation of which knowledge, be ascribed all honour and glory both now and forevermore. Amen.
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