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THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
2 Peter 3:7. The day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
A FUTURE state of rewards and punishments is, in theory, universally acknowledged; but, in practice, it is grievously forgotten, and, by not a few, is held in derision. Because God delays to execute his threatenings against ungodly men, they imagine that he never will execute them. Just as in the days of Noah, because the menaced deluge was suspended for one hundred and twenty years, it was to multitudes an object of scorn; so now the idea of an universal conflagration, when “the heavens and the earth shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up,” is deemed a fable; and the destruction which will then come upon the whole ungodly world is disregarded, as the dream of a fanatical or superstitious mind. The day of judgment, it is hoped, will prove alike favourable to all; and no great difference be put between the righteous and the wicked. But the name given to that day deserves particular attention: and I beg you to attend to it, with the humility that becomes you, whilst I open to you,
The terms by which the day of judgment is here designated—
It is called “The day of the perdition of ungodly men.” Let us consider,
Why it is so called—
[As, at that period, rewards and punishments will be alike distributed, one would suppose that that day might with equal propriety be called “the day of the salvation of godly men.” But this designation would by no means be so proper as that which is given to it in my text. For, though the salvation of the godly will be then completed, it will not then be begun: it is begun in this world: the saints, as soon as they believe in Christ, “receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls [Note: 1 Peter 1:8-9.]:” nor is there any one blessing which they shall ever enjoy in heaven, but is now conferred upon them through the medium of faith; insomuch, that they are represented by St. Paul as already “sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [Note: Ephesians 2:6.].” Their bodies will indeed be then partakers with their souls in the felicity of heaven; but, as far as their souls are concerned, they have already, even whilst here upon earth, an earnest and foretaste of their heavenly inheritance. The ungodly, on the other hand, have to wait for their award till the day of judgment. I say not, indeed, but that God does sometimes make them to feel a foretaste of his wrath even here; but, generally speaking, they are left to pass their time here under a fearful delusion, by which they pacify their consciences, and lull themselves asleep in their sins. They are under condemnation now, as much as ever they will be: as it is said, “He that believeth not, is condemned already, because he believeth not in the name of the only-begotten Son of God [Note: John 3:18.]:” but the day of execution is that which is specified in my text: and so St. Jude expressly calls it; “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, The Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodlily committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him [Note: Jude, ver. 14, 15.].” And the great use of the judgment will be, to display before the whole assembled universe the justice of God in inflicting on the wicked this punishment, whilst so different a portion is given to the righteous: as St. Paul has said; “It is the day of wrath, and of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God [Note: Romans 2:5.].” Hence there is a peculiar propriety in that name, by which the day of judgment is designated, in my text, “The day of the perdition of ungodly men.”]
That it will so prove—
[Doubtless, at the time of our death, a suitable award is made to every man: but at the day of judgment there will be a public assignment of this doom to every individual of mankind, attended with solemnities which will greatly augment the keenness of their perceptions; and the bodies of all will be made partakers of the sentence that shall be accorded to their souls. In that day every child of man, from the very beginning to the end of time, will be called forth, and summoned to appear before their God. “The sea will give up the dead which were in it; and death and hell will deliver up the dead which were in them: and all will be judged according to their works: and whosoever is not found written in the book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire [Note: Revelation 20:13-15.].” Then will be a separation between the righteous and the wicked, even as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and then shall the wicked go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal [Note: Matthew 25:46.].” Yes, verily, this separation shall take place; for “the wicked,” whatever they may now imagine, “shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous [Note: Psalms 1:5.].”]
And now let me endeavour to place before you,
The considerations which such a view of the judgment should suggest to our minds—
And surely it should lead us,
To inquire into our own real character—
[At that day, the Judge will not determine according to our partial views, but according to his own most righteous law: and, whatever may have been the line chosen by ourselves, he will bring our conduct to that infallible test, and determine our doom in perfect accordance with is.
Now, in that day, the ungodly, of every class, will be sentenced to perdition. St. Paul appeals to us respecting this: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” And then he guards us against that self-deception to which we are so prone; “Be not deceived:” and then, enumerating a sad catalogue of persons addicted to wickedness, as fornicators, adulterers, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners, he declares that no one of them “shall ever inherit the kingdom of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.].” To these may be added “the impenitent” and “unbelieving, as sure to take their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone [Note: Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5.Revelation 21:8; Revelation 21:8.].” Nor must we omit the unregenerate, even though their lives may have been as exemplary as that of Nicodemus himself: for, “except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God [Note: John 3:3; John 3:5.].” Care, too, must be taken not to deceive ourselves in relation to our own experience: for there is much hypocrisy in the human heart; and “a hypocrite, even though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and reach unto the clouds, will be detected by God, and will perish for ever, like his own dung;” so that his former admirers, with a mixture of surprise and grief, will say, “Where is he [Note: Job 20:4-7.]?” The apostate too, however eminent his profession may have been, will share the same fate. The man who turns back, “turns back to inevitable and everlasting perdition [Note: Hebrews 10:39.];” and plunges himself into deeper misery than he would ever have experienced if he had never known the way of righteousness at all [Note: 2 Peter 2:20-21.]. Seeing, then, that so many must perish, is it not of vast importance that we ascertain our true character, in order that we may know what doom we are to expect? Yes, beloved, to all of you I would most affectionately say, “Judge yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord.”]
To realize in our minds the terrors of that day—
[St. Paul, “knowing the terrors of the Lord, persuaded men [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:11.].” And we, too, should meditate upon them, in order to stimulate our souls to a holy activity in the ways of God. Consider how many millions of our fellow-creatures will in that day “call upon the rocks to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them from the wrath of that Lamb,” whom here they neglected and despised [Note: Revelation 6:15-17.]! What “fearfulness, too, will surprise the hypocrites,” who indulged the vain conceit that their specious conduct would find a happier issue! and with what bitter cries will they exclaim, “Who amongst us can dwell with the devouring fire? Who can dwell with everlasting burnings [Note: Isaiah 33:14.]?” In vain will they knock at the gate of heaven, crying, “Lord, Lord, open to us;” since they were content with the lamp of outward profession, without the oil of true grace in their hearts [Note: Matthew 25:3; Matthew 25:11-12.]. Some will venture even to expostulate with God, as though they had been hardly treated: “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?” But they will be repelled with that indignant reproof, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye who wrought iniquity [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.].” O, the millions, the countless millions, that will perish in that day; all of them “drinking of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, and be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment will ascend up for ever and ever: and they will have no rest day nor night [Note: Revelation 14:10-11.]! Who can reflect on this, and not determine, through grace, to shun so awful a doom, and to make “the long-suffering of God the means and prelude of everlasting salvation [Note: ver. 15.]?”]
To improve to the uttermost the advantages we now enjoy—
[This is the day of grace; “this is the day of salvation,” to every soul that desires to be saved [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:2.]. Yes, truly, “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and live [Note: ver. 9.].” Do but consider this, my brethren: you will never have to cast the blame of your condemnation upon God. If the day of judgment prove the day of perdition to your souls, the fault will be utterly your own. There is no want of sufficiency in Christ to save any who shall come unto God by him. Nor is there in him any want of willingness to save even the chief of sinners. Of those who rejected him in the days of old, and provoked him to abandon them to utter destruction, he complained, “How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” The same may he say of you in the day of judgment. Be diligent, then, in the use of all the appointed means of salvation. Repent of all your sins: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world. Flee to him for refuge: lay hold upon him: hide yourselves under the shadow of his wings: and then, in that awful day, when all who offend and do wickedly shall be cast out, you shall stand before him with great boldness, and “be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless [Note: ver. 14.].”]
2 Peter 3:8-9. Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
THE compassion of Almighty God has in all ages been abused by ungodly men, and made an occasion of impenitence and persevering wickedness. In the minds of many it has been made a source of triumph against God, as though he were not able or willing to vindicate the honour of his law. Just as our blessed Lord’s condescension in noticing an abandoned, but penitent, woman was made by his enemies a reason for doubting whether he was a prophet—since, if he had been really inspired of God, he must have known how unworthy she was of such an honour; so the forbearance of God with an ungodly world has given occasion to “scoffers to say, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” But such persons forget, that, however long God may have borne with the wickedness of men, he has given at the deluge a very awful testimony of his determination to punish it. And, though he now bears with sinners, he reserves the earth for a similar display of his vengeance by fire; and will surely, in due season, execute his threatenings against sin and sinners. In the mean time, however, he waits to be gracious to returning penitents, and will gladly lay aside his anger the very instant that they come to him in his appointed way.
The words which I have now read will naturally lead me to shew,
In what light God’s delay of his final judgment should be viewed—
God forbears to punish sinners, because he desires to save them—
[Scoffers, indeed, impute it to weakness or indifference; and take occasion from it to cast reflections on God himself, as either not seeing, or not regarding, the wickedness of men: since, if he did see it, and did regard it as he professes to do, it would not be possible for him to pass it over from year to year in the way he does. But such persons forget, that time, which to us appears long, has, in fact, no existence before God. All things past, present, and future, are alike present with him, and form in his mind but a single point: “One day is with him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Men are afraid to suspend the exercise of their displeasure for a number of years, lest they should be considered as acting from policy, or a sense of weakness and fear. But with God there is no scope for any such views or feelings. He is able to punish whensoever he will: nor is it possible for any to escape from his hands. He, however, is averse to proceed to extremities, till he has used every possible method to reclaim sinners, and to open a way for the exercise of his mercy towards them. “He is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness.” He is kept back, not by any conscious weakness, or by indifference, or by fear, or by any other motive which may be supposed to influence us: he is restrained by long-suffering alone, and by a desire to spare those who have deserved punishment.]
He desires to save every child of man—
[“He is not willing that any should perish:” no; he would not that so much as one should ever become a monument of his indignation. This he affirms in the strongest manner; yea, and confirms his assertion with an oath: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.].” It is surprising, that any, after such a declaration as this, should maintain the doctrine of absolute reprobation. Were that, or any other doctrine, clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures, I should feel it my duty to receive it with the simplicity of a little child: but to receive it merely as a deduction of human reason, an inference drawn by weak and fallible man from the doctrine of election, when the whole Scriptures uniformly declare the very reverse, is, to say the least, very dangerous, and exceeding sinful. I know it is said of ungodly men, by St. Jude, that “they were of old ordained to this condemnation [Note: Jude, ver. 4.].” I know, also, that St. Peter says of many, that they “stumbled at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed [Note: 1 Peter 2:8.].” But it is not of individuals that these Apostles speak, but of characters. God has ordained, that they who will not receive the truth with humility shall stumble at it; and that they who will resist the faith which he has delivered to his saints, shall be left to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and to deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is a wise and righteous appointment. But it is a far different thing from creating any with a fixed determination to consign them over to perdition, purely of his own arbitrary will, without any fault of theirs. Such an idea as this is directly contradicted by the assertion in my text: and by the oath which I have before mentioned; and by numberless other portions of Scripture, which can admit of no doubt. Our blessed Lord said to his hearers, “Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life [Note: John 5:40.]:” and to the Jews, even after they were given up to the judgments they had merited, he said, “O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes [Note: Luke 19:42.].” And again: “How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not [Note: Matthew 23:37.].” The whole Scripture attests, that “God would rather that all should come to repentance and live.” He “commands all men everywhere to repent [Note: Acts 17:30.].” He exhorts them to it also; saying, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.]?” and he declares to all, without exception, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out [Note: John 6:37.].” Now shall we, in deference to human systems, set aside all these passages of holy writ? God forbid: we dare not do so: and if we cannot mark out the precise boundaries where truths of an opposite aspect meet, we are contented to say, “What I know not now, I shall know hereafter.” If we choose to speculate on divine truths, we may soon get out of our depth: but if we will practically apply them to our own souls, we shall find them as clear as we can wish. Where is the man who has not experienced more or less the strivings of God’s Spirit in his soul [Note: Genesis 6:3.]? Who amongst us has not a consciousness that he has resisted those strivings [Note: Acts 7:51.]; and that, if he had made a due improvement of them, “God would have given him more grace [Note: James 4:6.]?” The truth, then, is plain: if God forbear to execute upon the world the judgments we deserve, it is not because he is indifferent about our proceedings, but because he is long-suffering towards us, and desirous, if we would improve the opportunity, to save us all. This is the true reason why “he endures, with such astonishing forbearance, the vessels of wrath who are fitted for destruction [Note: Romans 9:22.].”]
Having seen the long-suffering of God towards this sinful world, let us consider,
What improvement we should make of it—
From a sense of it, we should be led,
To acknowledge our obligations to him—
[Who amongst us has not reason to acknowledge the long-suffering of God towards him? Who is not a sinner before God? Who has not merited his wrathful indignation? Who might not, on ten thousand occasions, have justly been cut off, and made a monument of God’s righteous displeasure? — — — Let us not, then, impute his forbearance to any indifference in him respecting us, but to its true source, his tender compassion, and unbounded mercy — — —]
To humble ourselves before him—
[“Because judgment against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of too many are fully set in them to do evil [Note: Ecclesiastes 8:11.].” But let it not be so with us. St. Paul tells us, that the true intent of “God’s patience and long-suffering is, to lead us to repentance [Note: Romans 2:4.].” Let it operate upon us in this manner; and let us humble ourselves before him in dust and ashes.]
To justify him in his judgments—
[Whatever men may urge against the denunciations of God’s wrath, we are sure he will be justified in every sentence which he shall pass, and be just in every judgment which he shall inflict [Note: Psalms 51:4.]. The man who had not on the wedding-garment was speechless, when called to an account for his neglect. He might have said, “Lord, I was called suddenly, and compelled to come in,” and had not time to procure the requisite apparel. But there was no room for any such excuse. The Master of the feast would have provided him with the garment; but he would not deign to ask for it. Therefore, when cast into outer darkness, he had not a word to say in vindication of himself, or to criminate his Lord. And so, when sentence shall be past on those who despise the forbearance of their God, the whole host of heaven will cry, “Righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”]
To improve the time that may be yet allotted to us—
[God is now “giving us space to repent.” But how soon his patience may come to an end, we know not. We see persons taken away at every period of life [Note: If this be a Funeral Sermon, any particulars may be mentioned here.] — — — Let not another day pass unimproved; but “to-day, whilst it is called to-day, turn unto the Lord, and seek him with your whole hearts.”]
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
2 Peter 3:10-14. The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless [Note: This was preached on occasion of the horrible conspiracy (called “The Cato-Street Conspiracy,” in February, 1820,) against his Majesty’s Ministers; the meditated destruction of whom, by the explosion of a grenade of 14lbs. weight, afforded very abundant and appropriate matter as introductory to this Discourse.].
* * * * * * *
BUT have we never contemplated our own situation? Have we never considered that the solemnities of the judgment day are now in actual preparation; and that, not our own individual dwelling, or friends only, will be affected by them, but the whole universe? Our minds are at this time justly, and almost exclusively, engrossed with the consideration of this tremendous plot, which God, in mercy to this whole nation, has defeated. And I hope rather to strengthen, than efface, those impressions, by leading you to contemplate,
The events predicted in our text—
These are widely different indeed from each other; but they are inseparably connected, and infallibly simultaneous. Let us consider,
The dissolution of this present world—
[Once the world and every thing in it, with the exception of that small portion contained in the ark, was destroyed by water: and there is a time coming when the whole of it without exception will be destroyed by fire. Of the latter there will be no more expectation at the time, than there was of the former. In the days of Noah they were eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, as securely as at any former period of the world: and would not believe that they were in any danger, till, on the entrance of Noah into the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. So, at the last day, the inhabitants of this globe will be as little occupied with the thoughts of judgment, as we are at this moment. Our Lord tells us, that “he will come as a thief in the night;” that, without any previous warning, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth, with every thing in it, shall be burnt up.”
Conceive now the feelings of men at the very first moment that this tremendous and irresistible combustion shall burst forth. Some faint idea may be entertained, if only you suppose that the plot, which God in his mercy has defeated, had been accomplished. Conceive the company that was assembled, either as partaking of the friendly repast, or as deliberating on the affairs of state, and consulting with each other for the welfare of the nation: conceive of them as beholding the desolating instrument cast in among them, and ready in a few moments to execute its destined office: with what terror would they be filled ! and, if a moment were allowed for an ejaculatory petition, with what ardour would they implore mercy for their souls! Thus will it be in every quarter of the globe. All, except the remnant, who, in the habit of their minds, have been dying daily, will be ready to “call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, and to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb,” whose judgment they dread.
But to that happy remnant another scene will open: for to them shall be revealed,]
The establishment of a new and better state—
[They, “according to God’s promise, are even now looking for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness:” and then shall that new state open to their view. In the bold and figurative language of prophecy, the Millennial state is sometimes described under these terms [Note: Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22.] — — — and well it may be; since, when compared with the present state of things, wherein iniquity so awfully abounds, it will be indeed “a new creation.” But the period here spoken of is contemporaneous with the final judgment; and, consequently, must refer to heaven itself, where neither sin nor sorrow can ever dwell. That is the period of which St. John speaks, when he says, “I saw a new heaven, and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away ……and there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth [Note: Revelation 21:1; Revelation 21:27.].”
Contemplate the feelings of the godly at the moment that this glory bursts upon them. In vain shall we look for any thing wherewith to compare it upon earth. Alas! the visions of the godly are not so bright; nor do their sublimest raptures make so deep an impression as do the terrors which are inspired by sudden and appalling danger. But, as contrasted with the feelings of the ungodly, we may conceive in some little measure their bliss. Let us picture to ourselves the Rich Man and Lazarus, entering at the same moment into the eternal world, the one beholding the abyss of hell ready to swallow him up, and the other fixing his eyes upon his God and Saviour, whose glory and felicity he is about to share. But]
We shall contemplate these things to more advantage, if we view them in connexion with,
The effect which the prospect of those events should produce upon us—
This the Apostle sets forth,
In a way of candid appeal—
[We all look for these events; nor do any of us doubt but that they will come in due season. Let me then ask of all who are here present, “What manner of persons ought ye to be?” Should you not be waiting for that period “in all holy conversation and godliness?” Should you not be “looking for it, and hasting unto it” with a holy eagerness, to meet “your God at his coming?” As for the things of this life, they should be as nothing in our eyes. Being so soon to part with them all, we should sit loose to them; as the Apostle says; “They who have wives should be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.].” I well know, that, when such a state of mind is recommended by us, we appear to require more than is necessary. But I will venture to appeal to every considerate man, whether this be not the conversation that becomes us, when our God is coming to judgment; and when he has told us that “he will come as a thief in the night?” Would it not be madness to be dreaming of “peace and safety, till sudden and everlasting destruction come upon us [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.]?” The wise virgins were not wise in this respect, that, like the foolish virgins, they slumbered and slept. Happily for them, they had oil in their vessels with their lamps; or else, with the foolish virgins, they also would have been excluded from the nuptial feast. The true frame for all of us to be in, is that of ardent and affectionate expectation; “our loins being girt, and our lamps trimmed,” and our whole souls as “those who wait for the coming of their Lord.” Maintaining this frame, you may rest assured, that “the Lord Jesus Christ will confirm you to the end [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:7-8.],” and present you faultless before the presence of his Father’s glory with exceeding joy [Note: Jude, ver. 24.].”]
In a way of affectionate entreaty—
[“Beloved” brethren, “seeing that ye look for such things, I beseech you be diligent that ye may be found of God in peace, without spot and blameless.” Think, if that day should come upon you unprepared; and, instead of going forth to meet a loving Saviour, you should behold only an angry and avenging Judge; how terrible will this be! Lose not an hour then; but be diligent in seeking peace with God through the Son of his love. It is the blood of Christ, and that only, which can effect your reconciliation with God: and therefore lose not a moment in sprinkling it upon your souls; yea, let your holiest actions, as well as your more acknowledged sins, be purged with it from their defilement. Endeavour, too, to preserve a “spotless and blameless” conduct throughout your whole lives, being “sincere and without offence until the day of Christ.” Let no allowed sin be found in you: but so “cleanse yourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, that you may perfect holiness in the fear of God,” and be acknowledged by him as “Israelites indeed, in whom there was no guile.” This will doubtless require “diligence:” but surely the occasion justly deserves all the care and labour you can bestow upon it. Can you doubt whether those, whose lives have been lately in such imminent peril, have taken precautions against any future surprise? Would they not be justly blamed, if they were to be as heedless of danger, as they were before they knew of the conspiracy that was formed against them? Be ye then on your guard. They, whatever attempts were made against them, might escape: but no possibility of escape remains for you. “Your God will come, even as a thief in the night;” and therefore I entreat you all to be diligent, that, “whether he come in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or in the morning [Note: Mark 13:32-37. The particular instructions in this passage, “Take ye heed, watch, and pray,” may here be dwelt upon to advantage.],” “you may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless” — — —
I only add, “Account the long-suffering of God to be salvation [Note: ver. 15.].” You have long been spared; and God is still forbearing to call you to your great account. “Beloved brethren,” “despise not this goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering of your God; but let them lead you to repentance [Note: Romans 2:4.].” Though the general judgment should be long deferred, your own particular doom will be fixed the very instant that you shall be summoned into the eternal world. Do not then delay till it be too late; but “to-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts,” lest God cut you off in your sins, and “swear in his wrath that you shall never enter into his rest.”]
GROWTH IN GRACE
2 Peter 3:17-18. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
HOWEVER averse men are to receive warnings and exhortations from each other, there is, in reality, no greater proof of affection, than the administering of faithful cautions, and salutary advice, to those whom we love. It is evident how much St. Peter’s mind was warmed with affection towards his brethren, since he, no less than four times in this short chapter, addresses them by that endearing term, “Beloved.” And how did he testify his love, but by guarding them against the dangers to which they were exposed, and by prescribing to them the most effectual means of deliverance and safety?
Let his word then be thankfully received by us, while we consider,
His caution against apostasy—
[The wicked will take occasion from God’s forbearance to question his remunerative justice [Note: ver. 3, 4. with Ecclesiastes 8:11.] — — — and even the godly need to be on their guard against the influence of this delusion [Note: Ephesians 4:14. 2 Peter 2:18.] — — — Certain it is, that they are liable to fall from their own steadfastness; and that, without the greatest vigilance, they will do so [Note: 1 Timothy 1:19. 2 Timothy 2:18. Matthew 24:12. 1 Corinthians 9:27. Whether God will restore his elect, is a distinct question, that, if introduced in this place, might uphold a system, but would weaken the force of the Apostle’s caution.] — — — But they “know” the certainty and awfulness of the day of judgment, and should therefore be afraid of meeting it unprepared. It will then be too late to rectify their “errors,” or repent of their instability [Note: Matthew 25:11-13.]; and this consideration should make them doubly cautious against every occasion of falling [Note: This argument is thrice urged; ver. 11, 14, 17.].]
His direction for preventing it—
The Christian should seek to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”—
[None, who have received grace, will be satisfied with the measure they have received; but they will be seeking to attain more and more [Note: Philippians 3:12-14.]. Nor will any, who know Christ, think they “know any thing yet as they ought to know:” they will perceive that there are in him “treasures of knowledge,” which they have never explored [Note: Colossians 2:3. St. Paul, after preaching Christ for above twenty years, yet sought above all things to “know him.” Philippians 3:8; Philippians 3:10.], and which to all eternity will be progressively opening to their view.
Hence the Christian’s duty is to be continually advancing in every part of the divine life; and to “make his profiting appear unto all men.”]
This will be his best, his only, preservative against apostasy—
[Painting or statuary admit of intermissions in labour: such work, left for a season, may be resumed without any increased difficulty: but, in religion, every intermission is a positive injury: if the work proceed not, it declines: it always either waxes or wanes. Now every declension weakens the vital principle within us—restores to activity our dormant corruptions—exposes us to the assaults of our great adversary—and provokes God to withdraw his accustomed aid [Note: Mark these particulars very distinctly, pausing at the end of each. And do the same in that which follows.]: consequently, our downfall begun, will, if not prevented by sovereign grace, be speedy, gradual, irretrievable. On the other hand, a progress in grace confirms every good habit—fastens round us the whole armour of God—keeps our enemy at a distance—and secures to us the continued protection of heaven. Go on adding to your grace, says God, “and you shall never fall [Note: 2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:10-11.].”]
Reflect much and often on the day of judgment—
[Through a forgetfulness of that day we become the sport of every temptation: but if we would frequently endeavour to realize the strictness of the scrutiny, and the severity of the judgment which will then take place, we should be more fortified against error in principle, or evil in practice. We must expect our Lord’s coming, if we would be found ready on his arrival [Note: Matthew 24:42-44.].]
Be diligent in the use of all the means of grace—
[It is in vain to hope that we shall grow in grace or knowledge, if we do not use the means which God has appointed. But, if we watch unto prayer, and conscientiously devote ourselves to him, he will “bless us with all spiritual blessings:” “our faith and love shall grow exceedingly;” our “hope shall abound through the power of the Holy Ghost,” and, from being “babes,” we shall become “children, young men, and fathers in Christ [Note: 1Co 3:1 and 1 John 2:12-14.]:” and, having attained at last “the measure of the full stature of Christ [Note: Ephesians 4:13.],” we shall “enter into his joy,” and be partakers of his glory for evermore.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany