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2 Peter 3:1
The Way of Remembrance.
Here, then, the message of an Apostle, nay, even the teaching of the Holy Spirit, is identified with sacred remembrance remembrance of holy words and deep impressions dropped upon the heart in the highest moments of life. The apprehension of Divine things consists, it would seem, not in new discoveries, not in strained and laboured thought, but in the reawakening of the pure and simple mind and the gathering up of every Christlike image and affection from behind and from within.
I. This power, already known to Plato as reminiscence, is no other than that appeal to remembrance which Christ identified with the function of the Holy Spirit. This appeal, instead of passing downwards, like knowledge upon ignorance, or forward, like reason from point to point, moves inward towards a centre of faith and feeling that holds us all. It is by reversing our ambitious steps, not by advancing into original ideas, but by relapse upon simple affections, not by seizing new stations in philosophy, but by recovering the artlessness of the child, that we must find the joy of redemption and the wisdom of faith.
II. We have perhaps two sorts of memory, two ways at least in which we are referred to a prior state of the given object, and enabled to recognise it as not new. (1) There is the purely personal memory which reflects always the image of our individual selves, revives our actual experiences, writes our own biography, and hangs round the gallery of thought the portraits on which we love to gaze. Without this our being would have no thread of conscious continuity, our character no liability to judgment, our affections no root of tenacity. There are few lives which have not thus their secret store of natural pieties, their holy font of sweet and reverent affections, wherewith to rebaptise the dry heathenism of the present. (2) But besides this personal memory of our own past states, we have another, deeper and more refined, but not less real: an impersonal faculty which has another object than our own individual selves; a power of recognising, as ever with us, the secret presence of a Holy, a True, a God, that is not our own, that is above us, though within us, that has a right over us, which may be slighted, but cannot be gainsaid. When you wake up to the perception of deeper obligation or the consciousness of a sanctity unfelt before, your instant recognition of it is ever with you, seen or unseen, does not deceive you; it is not a new glory that is kindled, but the dull mind that is cleansed; and if the secret of the Lord were not consciously with you, it only waited till you were among them that fear Him.
J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. ii., p. 92.
2 Peter 3:3
Righteousness the School of Hope.
I. The cause which led persons to argue that Christ was gone never to return. It was the absence of change; the unvarying order and course of nature; the undisturbed, unhalting progress of events. "Things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." Against this dead weight of custom we, too, have to struggle. The common and deadly form of unbelief in our time is the atheism of hopelessness, which, recognising no change in past or present, looks for none, and therefore believes in none, for the future.
II. It is not only or principally the contemptuous derider of Christian faith and hopes who grounds his rejection of Christ's Gospel upon the unvarying course of nature. Rather is it the jester, the trifler, the player upon the surface of things, unwilling and unable to be earnest and to contemplate the seriousness of life and its momentous issues. These are the unbelievers most abounding and most difficult to convince. The scoffer scoffs as a defence against himself. There is more hope for him, just for this reason, than for the dilettante, the mere butterfly of infidelity, who enjoys his careless life in the sunshine, knowing nothing of any hour but the present. He does not wish for a world purged from evil and redeemed by Christ; he sees nothing of the good that is already in the world.
III. But, says the Apostle, there is an end to come, soon or late. Sin, and frivolity, and the cold heart must die, though good is imperishable. St. Peter may be in part appealing to the fears of the frivolous and the worldly, but he does not think the evil of their life to consist only in the punishment that may be in store for them; he reminds them that there can be no place for them in the new and redeemed world which God has promised, for the essence of the new heaven and the new earth for which they looked was that "therein dwelleth righteousness."
A. Ainger, Sermons in the Temple Church, p. 210.
2 Peter 3:4
The Three Comings of Christ.
The Scripture speaks of the three comings of our Lord Jesus Christ: the historical coming "in great humility" more than eighteen centuries ago, and the future coming "in glorious majesty" at a day and an hour when we think not, and the present coming of Christ into the hearts of His true servants, and through them into the world. This we should call a spiritual coming.
I. I would remind you of the simple historical fact that less than two thousand years ago Jesus Christ came into this world. The more thoughtful we are, and in proportion partly to our age, partly to the range of our intellect, chiefly to our acquaintance with the things of God, will the real richness and manifold significance of Christ's coming upon earth be felt by us. My present object is simply to remind you of it, to counsel you amid the busy, exciting rush of life to think once again over this most extraordinary and most momentous of all historical facts, the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in great humility, and the complete revolution in the history of the world which His presence inaugurated, His love and holiness inspired, while His Divine power rendered it possible and permanent.
II. There is a second coming of Jesus Christ. It is often spoken of by the name of the "Second Advent." "We believe that He will come to be our Judge." This human life of ours on earth is not intended by God, who gave it, to last for ever. Here it is stamped by three dark shadows: the shadow of sin, the shadow of sorrow, and the awful shadow of death. They will not be for ever. There will be a close of what is expressively, if unconsciously, called this earthly "scene"; and then a great change will come. Jesus Christ will be revealed to good and bad alike with a "glorious majesty" that may be either feared or welcomed, but cannot be questioned or ignored. "Heaven and earth shall pass away; but My words shall not pass away."
III. We must speak, lastly, of His third coming: His coming now into our hearts shall I say His actual coming or His desires, His efforts, to come? Try to believe that Jesus Christ is striving to enter your hearts. Whenever you feel your hearts touched; whenever your relish for prayer is quickened; whenever you are more certain that you are heard; whenever the call of duty sounds loud in your ears, bidding you be more bold and decided than heretofore in your Master's service; whenever you come to hate, as hateful to Him, some form of evil which you had hitherto tolerated, this is for you an advent of Christ. Then is He indeed knocking at the door of your hearts, urging you to let Him enter and "make His abode with you."
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 292.
References: 2 Peter 3:4 . R. L. Browne, Sussex Sermons, p. 269; G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, 2nd series, p. 1; H. P. Liddon, Advent Sermons, vol. i., p. 300; W. Skinner, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 107. 2 Peter 3:8 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 109; J. Keble, Sermons for Advent, p. 58; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 447; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 4. 2 Peter 3:9 . E. Garbett, The Soul's Life, p. 357.
2 Peter 3:10
The Suddenness of the Advent.
This truth of the suddenness of the advent of Christ we do not perhaps take sufficiently to heart; but if it be a truth that the second advent of Christ will be sudden, then some very important questions will arise out of that truth, which, whether welcome or unwelcome, must not be withdrawn from our consideration.
I. Let us look how far this truth of the suddenness of the coming of Christ is set forth in the Gospel. That the day of the Lord is to come suddenly is a truth laid down in the New Testament, not in one place only (though that would have been enough to make it true, as we have said, and, being true, to make it important), but in several places. It thus becomes a feature in the future aspect of the coming of the Son of man to be carefully borne in mind at all times when treating of this subject. "The day of the Lord shall come, and all men shall see the light." The similitude of the thief is used in the text also as showing the striking suddenness of the Second Advent.
II. What is the inference from the suddenness of Christ's coming as to the probable state of the world at that time? Were Christ to appear in the present age of the world, He would come suddenly to most of us. He is not generally expected. Few of us think of His actual appearance, though the hope of His coming is extensive enough. If, then, He is to come suddenly in whatsoever age of the world He may come, it is probable that the state of the world will be very much the same as it is in our own age, neither much better nor much worse. We may also infer from this suddenness, which is so frequently and specially predicted, that the world will not be prepared for Christ's advent, for that the Lord will come suddenly when He does come does but show that there will be as little preparation then as there is now, and His coming will be sudden to most of us, owing to our own want of preparation. This truth, then, of the suddenness of the day of the Lord is a very practical one. Death is not necessarily sudden, but the coming of the Son of man is. Death is sudden always to those who are not prepared for it. And yet how few of us can endure to think upon the possibility of a sudden death! How many are there who are not prepared for death at all! Remember that they only are prepared to die who are prepared for a sudden death; and they only are prepared for the coming of the Son of man who are prepared for His coming suddenly. Preparation for the one. involves preparation for the other.
A. B. Evans, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 65.
Reference: 2 Peter 3:10 , 2 Peter 3:11 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1125.
2 Peter 3:11
I. The Apostles lived, and prayed, and laboured in the continual expectation that Christ would come again to them, and speedily, and that this promise would be fulfilled in their own lifetime. Thus He was always at the door of their life; and their attitude was just that in which we listen for every footfall, and watch the door that is soon to open when we are waiting for some honoured and expected visitant. And this eager, hopeful belief of theirs laid its strong hand on all their converts; the eye of every Christian was turned upwards every day with a strange sense of expectant awe. The mysterious vault of the sky overhead was to them not an unfathomable immensity peopled with unknown worlds, but the curtain which shut out from their vision the throne of God, and they expected it to open before them at any moment. This expectation was one of their chief means of grace. It supported them through unparalleled difficulties and suffering; it made them feel all the burdens of their painful life comparatively light, because heaven was at their doors, and the reign of Christ was expected shortly to begin. Through the force of this expectancy they were, in fact, risen with Christ, their thoughts were fixed on things above, their home was at the right hand of God, in a far stronger sense than can be said of any of us.
II. After the lapse of eighteen hundred years we have learned rather to feel that with the Lord a thousand years are as one day, and that we cannot read the signs of His final coming; but we have lost thereby what was to those who laid the foundation of Christian life among men an all-powerful incentive to absolute and entire devotion to the service of Christ. Let us try to build up our life on a foundation of fear and reverence. Let us catch something, some faint reflection, of that spirit in which men once approached Him of the incommunicable name, and whom we, out of reverence, have styled "Lord." We cannot recall or recover those vivid expectations which filled the soul of the apostolic Christian, because we have learned by a long experience that we know not the end nor what we shall be, and that we cannot read the signs of any millennial time; but we can learn to wait for Him with the feeling of those who are in a holy presence, and waiting daily for that presence to manifest itself in clearer light and greater glory.
J. Percival, Some Helps for School Life, p. 206.
2 Peter 3:12
From the Bibles that have marginal readings, it will appear that these words admit of a different construction: "Looking for and hasting the coming of the day of God." As I understand the intention of God in the place, His will and command is this: that we should do both "hasting unto," and ourselves "hastening," "the coming of the day of God."
I. But now the question necessarily presents itself, Can anything which a man does really "hasten," by a single moment, such an event as the second coming of Christ? In every age Christians are to be praying and labouring for the extension of the Gospel over the whole earth. They are so to pray and so to labour as if they knew that the conversion of the world would be given to their faith, their diligence, and their love. And so labouring and so praying, they may command results. The Church shall grow; souls shall be saved; God shall be glorified. But, nevertheless, all this is only the earnest of a better dispensation the falling drops which tell that the shower is coming.
II. But can mortal wishes or mortal feelings accelerate that "day of God"? Assuredly. God has oftentimes, in His mercy, changed His times for His people's sake, in answer to their supplications, and in consideration of what they said and did. Many things have gone back. Death has retired for fifteen years. The destruction of a city has been postponed indefinitely when it had been most decidedly declared as imminent "within forty days." Great calamities, threatening a king and his people, have been handed down to the third and fourth generations. But has anything with God gone forward? Has the shadow on the dial ever gone on? "In those days shall be affliction such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days" What does that "shortening" mean? That the day of deliverance, the fixed day of deliverance, was put forward "for the elect's sake." Then here is a great and happy event "hastening" on for man. God Himself has ever instilled the thought that there are certain things which for a period let or hinder the accomplishment of prophecy.
III. What, then, must we do to "hasten the day of God"? (1) Pray for it. What is the promise ought always to be emphatically the prayer of the dispensation. When we pray for any promise, what the prayer means is that we pray it to "come quickly." Is the Second Advent an exception? Nay; has not our Lord encouraged us when He has given us His words, that ourselves may have the echo for all prayer, if rightly looked at, is the echo of God's word "Surely I come quickly".? Well, therefore, does the Church, in the most solemn of her services, teach us, over every opening grave, to say, "Accomplish the number of Thine elect, and hasten Thy kingdom." (2) Let the Church live in love and union, in order that a united Church may attract her Lord to "come." We can never forget that in His own last prayer He linked together inseparably the unity and the glory of His people our oneness with His return. (3) Make great efforts for the evangelisation of the world. There are three things which have to be done before our Lord can "come." The "knowledge" of Him must be coextensive with the habitable globe, the appointed sheaves of the Gospel harvest must be gathered in, and the Jews must be brought back to their own land and to Him. The first is already well-nigh accomplished; the second is altogether in the bosom of God; the third we must promote. (4) Cultivate personal holiness, as for every other reason, so for this: that every one who really loves God, and serves God, and is like God, as far as in him lies, is making that preparation by which the Church is to be ready for her Lord, just as "a bride is adorned for her husband." Will He "come" until His bride has put on her jewels? And when she is decked and when she is meet indeed, can He stay away? It seems to be the law of all that is great that its movement at first is slow, and grows rapid at the last. We have seen it with the mercies and with the judgments of God; will it not be so with that grandest event which goes to make the climax of our world's history?
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 12th series, p. 197.
References: 2 Peter 3:12 . H. P. Liddon, Advent Sermons, vol. ii., pp. 133, 148, 162, 177; Bishop Barry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 374.
2 Peter 3:13
I. The man who saw this vision may be described as a dreamer, and the glorious dream which he has put before us here still waits for its fulfilment. But dreamers are the pioneers of workers, and there are few movements of progress which have not had them amongst their leaders. It is the dreamer by whom the thought is first presented. A glorious dream surely is this: "A new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." There is, in fact, something pathetic in the attention that is given to every man who professes to have seen a vision or dreamed a dream provided only it be one that promises to deliver us from the power of that callous selfishness which has made the lives of multitudes so bare of all enjoyment, so full of care and misery, so abandoned to vice and wickedness. The new prophet may have little help to give, but he is heard, and heard with a patient thoughtfulness which indicates the desire to profit by any hint for a solution of the terrible problems by which the minds of enlightened men are exercised. The danger of the hour is scarcely "faithless coldness."
II. It would be useless, indeed, to deceive ourselves into the belief that some marvellous change has come over the spirits of men, that the demon of selfishness has been exorcised, that the lessons of the past have been wisely learned, and that we are about, under the influence of nobler thoughts and purposes, to enter upon an uninterrupted course of reform. In times of depression, looking at the force of opposition which all such changes have to encounter, a feeling of despair comes over the heart. The inroads made upon the kingdom of selfishness seem but small, and are with difficulty effected. The tendencies which in the past have not been altogether infrequent to reaction awaken the fear that the date of reform must be postponed to a very distant future. But in such moods we show not only a lack of faith, but also an inability to read correctly the signs of the times. We are progressing; we are in the midst of changes whose full significance we do not yet appreciate. The Church and the world are feeling the living forces of the Gospel as they have never felt them before. The victory is not yet, but the signs of success are many. We, at least, who believe in Christ "according to His promise look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
J. Guinness Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, Dec. 1892.
References: 2 Peter 3:13 . F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 257. 2 Peter 3:14 . R. Roberts, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 116; Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 326. 2 Peter 3:14 , 2 Peter 3:15 . R. L. Browne, Sussex Sermons, p. 15; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 214. 2 Peter 3:15 , 2 Peter 3:16 . G. Dawson, Sermons on Disputed Points, p. 166.
2 Peter 3:16
I. Strife, controversy, word-war, have gathered round the doctrine of atonement, the theory of justification, the mystery of the new birth, the everlasting sentence of God's predestination, the possibility of falling from grace, the certainty of salvation, the full assurance of faith, the eternity of punishment. In all are "many things hard to be understood." In all these there are what St. Paul calls α ἰνίγματα puzzles, riddles, hard sayings, paradoxes. In this searching of the Spirit into the deep things of God, as in all venturous voyages, no small peril has to be encountered. Happily for mankind, God, when He manifested Himself to the world in the person of His Son, hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes. The doors of the kingdom of heaven were easiest found by those that felt most their need of entrance there, by publicans and harlots sooner than by learned scribes or proud, contemptuous Pharisees. "Non in dialectica complacuit Deo," says old St. Ambrose, "salvum facere populum suum." "They that would do the will should know the doctrine." "The kingdom of God," cries Paul, "is not in word" in a logically developed system "but in power."
II. The very principle of faith, and with it, I venture to think, the only sure and permanent guarantee of holiness, is imperilled from two opposite sides: from the dogmatisers who call upon us to receive as truths propositions from which sometimes our conscience, sometimes our reason, revolts; and from the men of science who bid us, as a duty we owe to truth, give up everything that the reason cannot explain. Both parties make upon us what I cannot but consider unreasonable demands. There are mysteries in science, as well as mysteries in faith; and if philosophers are not disloyal to science by accepting a "working hypothesis," which they cannot fully prove, but which explains phenomena sufficiently well for practical purposes, neither are we disloyal to truth or false to our duty as reasonable beings for accepting as our hypothesis the principle of faith faith which can give a reason for itself in part, though not wholly, and on which we think we can dare to work out our own salvation, albeit in fear and trembling. But the perils from the side of ultra-dogmatism are, perhaps, even greater than the perils from the oppositions of science falsely so called. Under the specious names of catholic dogma or of infallible truth, weak minds are lured to accept propositions about Divine things which, if not simply unmeaning, are utterly incredible, and which when examined are not found to rest on any authoritative or undoubted warrant of God's word, but upon the precarious or over-subtle inferences of fallible man. And when this is discovered, the inevitable law of reaction comes into operation, and those who have believed most get to believe least, and the credulity of the youth is replaced by the scepticism of the man.
III. With regard to points of faith or doctrine, it was a memorable saying of Channing's that men are responsible for the uprightness of their opinions rather than for rightness. The desire to be truthful at all hazards is a nobler temper than the mere desire to be what men call "sound." The spirit of truthfulness is what Christ tells us the Father seeks in those who worship Him.
Bishop Fraser, University Sermons, p. 97.
2 Peter 3:18
Divine Grace and Human Effort.
I. Whenever we have to consider any joint action of God and man, we are in danger either of thinking of God to the exclusion of man, or of man to the exclusion of God. If we think of the Bible as a Divine book, as given by the Spirit of God, we dwell upon the Divine element in it, until we almost forget that all the writers of these books were human beings like ourselves, until all the reality of the human side of the book fades away; and we forget that the love of John, and the logic of Paul, and the fervour of Peter, and the rapt, visionary mind of Isaiah, and the tender and sorrowing heart of Jeremiah that every one of these was just as real, and is just as real, in this book, as the mind and the heart of the author are in the last book that was published and advertised yesterday. We forget the reality of the human element in the Bible while we dwell upon the Divine. And so, on the other hand, there is the danger that in attempting to make this book a real, and living, and human book to us, dwelling upon the human element, men forget the Divine, and they think and speak of these books and writings as the work of Paul, and Peter, and John, and Jeremiah, and Isaiah, and Moses, and forget that in and through all these the living and Eternal God is speaking words of eternal truth to men.
II. The word "grace" in the text gives us, of course, the idea of the Divine power. What is the idea that the word "growth" gives us? It gives us an idea of the Divine power and life, developing itself naturally and subject to natural influences. When you put a seed in the ground or plant a root in the ground, what happens? You have two things working together: you have the human hand that sets the seed and the human skill that trains and watches the seed. But in the seed what happens? Something that no man can give: you have a Divinely given life and power in that seed, and it is by virtue of that power that the seed grows up into the perfect plant, or the root into the full-grown tree. In the heart of every one of us is planted at his baptism the seed of grace, in which is the whole future life and growth of the Christian man. Just as in the acorn lies folded up the summer glory and beauty of the oak, so in the first sowing of the seed of grace in the human heart lies all the possibility of the perfect Christian life. But this life, if left to itself, perishes. This life, like all other life, must have its food, must have its suitable soil and clime, must have its careful tending, and watering, and pruning. Neglect these, and although the life that is in it be Divine, the human sin, the human carelessness, will stunt and stamp out eventually that very life itself. There is no Divine gift in man that may not be utterly lost by man's treatment of that gift.
Bishop Magee, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 531.
References: 2 Peter 3:18 . A. Raleigh, Quiet Resting-places, p. 145; J. Edmunds, Sermons in a Village Church, p. 263; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 80; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 100; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 427; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 46; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 296; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 27; Ibid., vol. xxviii., p. 33; T. V. Tymms, Ibid., vol. xxxiv., p. 45.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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