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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Peter 3

Verses 1-2

2 Peter 3:1-2

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you.

St. Peter’s love token

The nature of it--a letter written. What shall we render to the Lord for His mercy in writing these blessed covenants?

The number of it--a second after the former. “This second”; not so much fearing the miscarriage of the first, as hoping to work better confirmation by the next.

The tenor of it--to stir up their minds. Why are the words of the wise compared to goads (Ecclesiastes 3:11) but to show that the best in God’s team need pricking forward?

The order--by way of remembrance. This is a just order and method; first, to teach the way of the Lord, then to remind men of walking in it. We are not only called teachers, but remembrancers (Isaiah 62:6). (Thos. Adams.)

I stir up your pure minds.

A Christian memory

The power of memory is, perhaps, the most amazing part of our mental equipment. It is a golden thread that links infancy and age, on which are hung, like pearls, varied facts and experiences of every hue. Memory has her servant, recollection, an invisible librarian running about the chambers of the mind, to find what she calls for. Now God uses this faculty in the work of building up Christian character.

1. The gospel has a history to be remembered.

2. History repeats itself ordinarily; but this history of the gospel can never be repeated. Christ has suffered once for all. A Christian memory is swift to remember this.

3. In the revelation of His “memorial name “Jehovah has emphasised the significance of memory. He is not an abstraction, a far-distant personality, even, but “the Father of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob”--a historic God.

4. Again, keep in mind that the life of our Lord in glory is linked with that of His redemptive work on earth, as truly as your existence there, some day, will be connected with your residence here on earth.

5. Finally, a Christian memory holds in trust these historic dates of Christ and His redemption, because of the fact that they are to be the theme of adoring praise throughout eternity. (J. M. English, D. D.)

Mindful of the words which were spoken before.--


The object of their mindfulness.

1. “Words,” for their plain certainty; not shadows and abstruse paradoxes.

2. “Spoken before,” for their antiquity; not things of yesterday; no new devices.

3. “By the prophets,” for the authority; men that had their commission immediately from God Himself.

4. “Holy prophets,” for the sanctity; they passed not through the lips of a Balaam, or Caiaphas.

5. “The commandment of us,” etc. The prophets were legal apostles, the apostles are evangelical prophets. Both these came to the world with commandments.

(1) Neither prophets nor apostles did ever command in their own names; but the former came with “Thus saith the Lord,” and the other in the name of Christ.

(2) St. Peter refers us to the words of the prophets and commandments of the apostles, and precisely chargeth our mindfulness with these lessons.

(3) Neither the prophets without the apostles, nor the apostles without the prophets, but both together. The gospel without the law may lift men up to presumption; the law without the gospel may sink them down to desperation.

(4) The rule of truth is delivered to us by the prophets and apostles.

Their mindfulness of that object. This consists in two things:

1. Observation. God never meant His Word for a vanishing sound; that which is kept upon eternal record in heaven, and is a constant dweller in the elected heart (Colossians 3:16), must not be a sojourner, much less a passenger, with us.

2. Conversation. It is a barren mindfulness that does not declare itself in a holy fruitfulness. Conclusion:

1. Let us desire the faculty and facility of doing; earnestly to desire it is one half, yea, the best half.

2. Let us be thrifty husbands of time and means to be spiritually rich.

3. Let us reduce all to practice. (Thos. Adams.)

Compendious commandments

Cultivate the habit of reflective meditation upon the truths of the gospel as giving you the pattern of duty in a concentrated and available form. It is of no use to carry about a copy of the “Statutes at Large” in twenty folio volumes, in order to refer to it when difficulties arise and crises come. We must have something a great deal more compendious and easy of reference than that. A man’s cabin-trunk must not be as big as a house, and his goods must be in a small compass for his sea voyage. We have in Jesus Christ the “Statutes at Large,” codified and put into a form which the poorest and humblest and busiest amongst us can apply directly to the sudden emergencies and surprising contingencies of daily life, which are always sprung upon us when we do not expect them, and demand instantaneous decision. (A. Maclaren.)

Verses 3-4

2 Peter 3:3-4

There shall come in the last days scoffers.

The character of the last days

The personal qualifications of the disputers here described. To be a scoffer is sure no very laudable character, being the joint result of pride and malice, the doing mischief, and the doing it in sport. But as this temper is most injurious, it is also ignorant and indocile. The sure effect of knowledge is an humble sense of the want of it; the deeper we immerse ourselves in any art or science, the greater difficulties are started by us. But over and above the ingredients, of pride, ill-nature, and incorrigible folly, the mockers of the text are branded with immorality and vice--“to walk after their own lusts.” And sure there cannot be a more prodigious impudence than that guilty persons liable to the severest punishments should dare to awaken observation by being sharp on others.

The force of their discoursings. “Where is the promise of His coming?” The delaying of performance is no prejudice against it. With Almighty God everything, however distant it may seem, is actually present. First, the apostle denies the proposition that all things continue as they were since the Creation; and secondly, he denies the consequence drawn from thence, Though all things did continue, it no way follows they shall for ever do so.

As they are a recital of a prophecy. The appearance of these scoffers in the world is itself a very signal mark of its approach (Jude 1:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:1; Matthew 24:37). Will they find arguments of mockery and laughter in the place of weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth? If they can do this, in God’s name let them mock on, deny a future judgment, or what is more brave, let them dare it. (John Fell, D. D.)

The nature, folly, and danger of scoring at religion

To consider the nature, folly, and danger of scoffing at religion, than which nothing can be more offensive to a considerate mind.

1. Is there anything ridiculous in the belief of a Deity, a supreme, infinite, and intelligent mind, the creator and governor of the universe? Is it absurd to assert that He who made the world exercises an universal providence and directs all the affairs of it? What is there ludicrous in any of the duties of piety, in a supreme reverence and love of God? What is there that has a ridiculous aspect, or can excite any but the laughter of fools, in justice, temperance, etc.? Again, is it at all unsuitable to our most worthy notions of God to believe, that when the world was universally corrupted, He would graciously interpose for the good of His creatures, and teach them their duty by an extraordinary revelation? Is it in the least irrational to suppose that this revelation has fixed, with the utmost distinctness, the terms of our acceptance with God, and thereby removed distracting suspicions and superstitious terrors?

2. Further, the grand principles and duties of religion are so far from having anything ridiculous in them, that they are some of the plainest and most obvious dictates of reason, which renders the guilt of the scoffer much more aggravated and his impertinence and folly more insupportable.

3. Let me only add that religion is of the utmost consequence to the comfort of men’s minds, the peace of society, and the general good of the world. So that whoever sets himself to vilify these important truths not only fixes certain reproach upon himself by misplacing his ridicule on what has really nothing absurd in it, but is, in fact, whatever his intention may be, whether to gratify a trifling humour, display the forwardness of his genius, or corrupt the morals of the age, an enemy to society and the general happiness of mankind.

4. And as the guilt of these scoffers is very great, their danger is in proportion. For if the principles of religion should happen to be true, he that has so abused his reason, that noblest gift of God, as to employ it against his Maker, and all that is amiable and useful in human life, must expect to be treated with the utmost rigour and severity.

To inquire into the causes of it.

1. It sometimes springs from a levity of mind which disposes men to treat all subjects ludicrously.

2. Again, bantering religion frequently proceeds from ignorance and superficial inquiry.

3. Sometimes again it happens that the fashion of the age they live in, or the general humour of the company they frequent, makes persons set up for scoffers.

4. Scoffing at religion may, in some persons, proceed from a direct hatred of it, occasioned by a prejudice in favour of their vices. This was the case of the scoffers mentioned in the text, who are expressly described as walking after their own lusts. I may safely assert that immorality in the practice is the source of the most invincible prejudices against religion. How natural is it for those, who live as without God in the world, to wish that there was no such Being, that by destroying the first principle of all religion they may justify the want of it in their practice. I shall only add, that when men are averse to the principles of religion, they will naturally decline all further inquiries into the reasonableness of them, and be fond of everything that looks plausible on the side of infidelity.


1. Into what extreme corruption the mind of man, which is indued with such noble faculties and formed for Godlike perfection, is capable of being sunk, even to mistake confusion for order and deformity for beauty?

2. Again, that we may not be imposed on by the scoffers of our own times, let us always take care to distinguish between reasoning and ridicule. We should examine what it is that is really ridiculous: whether it be religion itself, or something of a different nature substituted in the place of it.

3. Finally, that we may keep at the utmost distance from this crime, let us employ our reason in defending religion and representing it in a just and amiable light. Let our natural abilities be devoted to this service, and all our studies and improvements made subservient to it. (James Foster.)

The folly of scoffing at religion

We will consider the nature of the sin here mentioned, which is scoffing at religion. “There shall come scoffers.” In those times there was a common persuasion among Christians, “that the day of the Lord was at hand.” Now this, it is probable, these scoffers twitted the Christians withal. They looked upon all things as going on in a constant course.

the character which is here given of these scoffers. They are said to walk after their own lusts. St. Jude, in his epistle, gives much the same character of them that St. Peter here does (verses 18, 19). To deride God and religion is the highest kind of impiety. And men do not usually arrive to this degree of wickedness at first, but they come to it by several steps. I remember it is the saying of one, who hath done more by his writings to debauch the age with atheistical principles than any man that lives in it, “that when reason is against a man, then a man will be against reason.” I am sure this is the true account of such men’s enmity to religion--religion is against them, and therefore they set themselves against religion. Besides that, men think it some kind of apology for their vices that they do not act contrary to any principle they profess.

The heinousness and the aggravations of this vice. If it prove true that there is no God, the religious man may be as happy in this world as the atheist. Besides that, the practice of religion and virtue doth naturally promote our temporal felicity. It is more for a man’s health, and more for his reputation, and more for his advantage in all other worldly respects, to lead a virtuous than a vicious course of life. And for the other world, if there be no God, the case of the religious realm and the atheist will be alike, because they will both be extinguished by death and insensible of any further happiness or misery. But then if the contrary opinion should prove true, then it is plain to every man, at first sight, that the case of the religious man and the atheist must be vastly different; then where shall the wicked and the ungodly appear? I will but add one thing more, to show the folly of this profane temper. And that is this: that as it is the greatest of all other sins, so there is in truth the least temptation to it. Profane persons serve the devil for nought. Lessons:

1. To take men off from this impious and dangerous folly of profaneness, which by some is miscalled wit.

2. To caution men not to think the worse of religion, because some are so bold as to deride it.

3. To persuade men to employ that reason and wit which God hath given them, to better and nobler purposes, in the service and to the glory of that God who hath bestowed these gifts on men. (Abp. Tillotson.)

The sin of scoffing at religion

The nature of the vice.

1. It is not the serious inquirer that I complain of, let his objections be raised against whatever doctrines they may, but the individual who treats the subject with a spirit of levity, derision, and contempt.

(1) In some instances this unhappy and unholy disposition goes so far as to despise every kind of religion, natural as well as revealed.

(2) In other cases, the scorner appears in the character of a deist, who, while he professes to believe the truth, and to submit to the obligations of natural religion, attacks the system of Divine revelation. He reviles the Scriptures as forgeries.

(a) Much unhallowed ridicule is thrown by some on what are considered by us as the most sublime and important doctrines of revelation--I mean the trinity of persons in the Godhead, and the atonement of our Lord.

(b) The scorner will not unfrequently be found avowing his belief in the important articles which I have just mentioned, while, at the same time, he ridicules the only legitimate influence and valuable results of these doctrines. Has not the term saint, that highest appellation which can be given to man or glorified spirit, been bandied about society as a term of reproach?

(c) Another way of scoffing at religion is to pitch upon the imperfections of good men and to expose them to public ridicule. But how hateful is the malignity which delights to throw all the praiseworthy parts of the character into the shade of one ludicrous trait.

(d) It is a miserable device, which many have had recourse to, to select the absurdities of fanaticism and the hollow pretences of hypocrisy, as they have been exhibited in some false professors, and thus to raise a prejudice against all genuine religion.

2. To inquire where and when the practice of scoffing is indulged in.

(1) In the theatre.

(2) How often the social circle is the scene of this unhallowed sport and the entertainment of the convivial party is heightened by profane ridicule.

(3) How saturated with the sin of scoffing at religion are many of the publications, and much of the periodical literature of the present day.

The causes of scoffing.

1. There are many subordinate and proximate ones.

(1) Of these, pride and an unmortified opinion of self takes the lead.

(2) Scoffing is sometimes the result of a prevailing and indecent levity of mind, an habitual and indulged frivolity, which alike indisposes and unfits a man for any serious pursuit.

(3) A silly affectation of novelty combined with a wish to be thought superior to the terrors of superstition, leads in many cases to the sin of ridiculing piety.

(4) Many are led on to assume the character of the scorner by the power of fashion and the contagion of evil company.

(5) Inability to attack religion in any other way induces some to assail it with their scorn.

2. But the chief source of scoffing is that which the apostle has mentioned in the text, “Scoffers walking after their own lusts.”

The character of this vice.

1. It is irrational. Ridicule is neither the test of truth in others nor the way to obtain it for ourselves.

2. It is rude and uncivil. A decent respect is due to every man’s convictions on the subject of religion, though they may be erroneous.

3. It is a most cruel and inhuman sin. Did he but consider how many there are who, amidst the vicissitudes and the trials of life, have no ray of consolation from any other source to fall upon their dreary path, would he follow them to their last refuge and attempt to drive them by unhallowed scorn even from thence?

4. It is a most hardening vice. The sacred writers speak of a scorner as almost irreclaimable.

5. But its impiety in the sight of God surpasses all description. Religion is at once the production and the image of Deity; and to scoff at religion, therefore, is to scoff at God.

6. It is a contagious and injurious vice. Scorners are the chief instruments of Satan, the promoters of his cause, his most zealous apostles, his most able advocates, and his most successful emissaries.

The punishment of the scorner.

1. Are there, tell me scoffers, no midnight scenes of terror and self-reproach? How will this be increased on the bed of death?

2. I cannot conceive of any character with whom Jehovah will be so awfully severe as the scoffer; his is the loftiest height of vice, and his will be the lowest depth of punishment. God’s patience in bearing with such impious creatures is wonderful; and His justice in punishing them will be in proportion.

3. And then, who shall tell the secrets of his prison, or conceive of what the scorner shall endure in the dark world of hell? There will be no saint near him there on whom to utter the effusions of his ridicule. Not one flash of wit will for a moment relieve the darkness of eternal night; not one sally of humour resist the oppression of eternal despair. (J. A. James.)

Where is the promise of His coming?--

The delay of the advent of Christ

The scientific difficulty.

1. So far as the objection relates to the delay of the second advent, it would seem that, in a scientific age like the present, it would least of all have weight. For the history of the earth, as related by geology, and the history of the cosmical system, as related by astronomy, present periods so vast, that the eighteen hundred years, during which Christianity has been evolving its work among men, shrink into utter insignificance in the comparison. Certainly, the man of science, of all men, should recognise the utter inadequacy of human standards of time as measures of the development of the plans of the Creator.

2. Again, so far as the objection relates to other aspects of the subject, such as the regularity and immutability of natural law which, it is alleged, forbid any such catastrophe as the end of the world, I suggest--

(1) That creation is the fundamental fact on which all our knowledge rests. Science is compelled to admit the beginning of the Kosmos. The very principle of evolution which, in some form or other, is now generally adopted as a twin generalisation with gravitation, carries with it the idea of a beginning. Even if the Kosmos had been self-evolved, the seed out of which it evolved itself must be assumed. But does not this suggest that it is working towards an end? an ultimate solution?

(2) That the three leading ideas involved in the second advent, and that which is associated with it, at least in perspective, the end of the world, find clear analogies in the latest theories of science.

(a) The second advent involves the idea of the imagination of a higher stage of life and being for man--emancipation from old fetters, the ascent to a higher plane, the taking on a new body with new powers, and under new and higher conditions. But this is just in the line of the story which science is telling us--whether in astronomy, geology, natural history, or sociology--the several spheres in which the law of evolution is traced.

(b) The second advent involves the sudden manifestation of the Son of God, and a new birth of the world resulting from it. But again, the scientific man at our side teaches us that the ascent of matter and force to higher planes, though indeed in orderly succession, has not been by infinite gradation as upon a sliding scale, but always by paroxysms. The story of a chemist is a story of successive births of force into higher and higher forms, the transformation of dead into living matter, of physical into chemical force, and again of chemical into vital force. These are all instances of sudden births into higher conditions with new properties and powers which could not have been imagined before.

(c) The second advent--or that great event which, in the perspective, is contiguous with it, though in reality it may lie far beyond it (like two distant peaks, which seem to spring from the same base though a wide valley really intervenes)--involves also stupendous natural phenomena--the regeneration by fire, the new heavens and the new earth. But here again the analogy of science is in harmony with the scriptural revelation; for the geologist, in telling of an internal treasure-house of fire, as well as the astronomer in his theory of “planetary old age,” clearly establish that harmony. And, moreover, if there is a law of conservation of force, there is also, as its antithesis, a law of dissipation of energy. Says Le Comte, “All scientific speculations on the subject of the final destiny of the Kosmos bankrupt nature. The final result is, the running down of all forms of force into heat, and so the final death of the Kosmos.”

The historical difficulty. Christ promised to come again in person to judge the world. He said, “Behold, I come quickly.” But He has not come. Long cycles of history have rolled round, yet still He comes not. Now how do we meet this objection? Exactly as St. Peter did--by reminding the objector that with the Lord “a thousand years are as one day.” He is the strong and patient worker. Whether we study the record of races or of civilisations, the conclusion is the same--that the God who orders the course of history does indeed reckon “a thousand years as one day,” maturing His purposes through long tracts of time, and refusing to hasten His work in obedience to the impatience of men. Great nations are not born in a day; strong civilisations are not the product of a generation; both are rather the resultant of a combination of forces and influences whose origin must be sought in remote antiquity. Judging, then, from the analogy of history, what should be the case of Christianity? Here was a new spiritual kingdom set up on earth, designed to be as wide as the world, and as universal as man. How would its results be reached? Surely we should expect that such a design could only be wrought out through long cycles of time; or, at least, this is certain, leaving out of view what could be done (for who shall limit the power of the Almighty?) if experience shall prove that the kingdom of God is to establish itself slowly and through long ages of development, this is only what the analogy of history would teach us to expect. But does not this slow ripening of the great periods of history and civilisation, while it removes the difficulty occasioned by the long delay of the second advent, create at the same time a presumption against the manner of its imagination? The Scripture picture represents a sudden event, a great crisis and catastrophe in the history of the world, in the second coming of Christ. But this, too, finds its frequent analogies in history. The records of mankind afford instances not a few of great crises in the history of cities and nations and races, when sudden destruction has overtaken them, when the long pent-up clouds of wrath have burst upon them and swept them away from among the families of the earth. Such was the case with Nineveh and Babylon. Such was the case with Accad, a city older than either of these, which was indeed the cradle of civilisation, but which so utterly disappeared, that its existence was not even known forty years ago, and was only brought to light by the discovery of the key to the arrow-headed characters, in which the story of the Accadians, with their laws and literature and religion, had remained securely locked up for more than three thousand years. Such was the case with Jerusalem, which when it filled up the measure of its guilt, perished in that sudden storm of indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish. Such was the case with the Roman Empire, when it sank to rise no more before the devastating flood of the Northern barbarians. Similar examples are not wanting in modern history, illustrating the principle in question, and giving ground for the assertion that the analogy of history is in harmony with the prophecy that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night--a day of judgment and indignation and wrath to those who are disobedient and rebellious against the Son of God, but a day of Redemption to all them that wait for His appearing. (R. H. McKim, D. D.)

All things continue as they were.

Mans external universe as read by the scoffing sceptic

They get from it a one-sided idea. The idea they obtained from the observation of nature was, that it was unchanging. “Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue,” etc. This is only partially true. We thank God for this constancy. Without it the farmer would have no motive to cultivate his field, the mariner no chart to guide him over the deep, the philosopher no data on which to prosecute his inquiries or to build up his science. All would be confusion. Man, without plan, and without hope, would move under the wild impulses which the casualties of the moment awakened. Still, nature has her changes. Nay, amidst all this constancy are there not incessant revolutions? Does not the inorganic change in its appearance? Old mountains, rivers, islands disappear, and new ones emerge. The vegetable and animal worlds succeed each other. Nay, perhaps there is nothing the same--all things change. A one-sided view of u many-sided thing is evermore erroneous.

They apply this one-sided idea against the written word. “Where is the promise of His coming?” Now, has not the sceptic always read nature in this way? Whether he has looked at its astronomical, geological, or physiological phases, has he not always so read it as to get some false idea of it, in order to turn it against the Bible?

They do this from a sad perversity of heart. They are “scoffers walking after their own lusts and willingly ignorant.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Miracles are now neither necessary to the conviction of unbelievers, nor the conversion of sinners

I shall consider the words as a standing objection of scoffers or free-thinkers against the truth and authority Of the Christian religion.

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.

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.)

Verses 5-7

2 Peter 3:5-7

This they willingly are ignorant of.

Willing ignorance

Nelson, at St. Vincent, putting the telescope to his blind eye, and swearing that he could not see the signal to cease firing, affords an apt illustration of ninny who, for less worthy motives, will not, because they wish not, see the truth.

The avowed infidels and atheists. They are willingly ignorant--

1. Of the teachings of the Bible which they affect to despise.

2. Of the evidences of its Divine origin and inspiration.

3. Of the evidences of the being, wisdom, and love of God.

4. Of the evidences of the Divine origin of Christianity.

Many men of science and culture.

Multitudes who profess and call themselves Christians. All those who habitually neglect the sanctuary, and to whom the Bible is an unknown book. (The Study.)

The world that then was,… perished.--

The flood

A malefactor. “The world that then was.” Locally, a piece of it perished: the earth; materially, a great deal of it perished: all the riches and commodities of the earth; principally considered, all perished but eight persons: formally, there was nothing left. Only God’s quarrel to the world was for the men of the world; and His quarrel to the men of the world was for their sins. The world itself was, in this, like the sea; and sins, like the winds: the sea would be calm and quiet if the winds did not trouble it; if iniquities, like storms, had not put the course of nature into an uproar, the world had not perished.

An executioner. “Being overflowed with water.” This is an excellent servant to us, so God made it; but an ill master, so our sins make it. Nothing is so sovereign, which being abused by sin, may not, of a blessing, become a curse.

The conveniency of the execution. The water was not far to fetch; either with danger, as David’s water from the well of Bethlehem, through an army of Philistines; or with labour, as Jacob’s water from a deep well in the bowels of the earth; but near at hand, ready. (Thos. Adams.)

Man’s external universe as regarded by the thoughtful Christian

What is the Christian’s view of nature? The answer we get from this passage is--

He regards it as originally produced by the Divine word. “By the Word of God the heavens were of old,” etc. It had an origin--it is not eternal; it arose not from chance, but from the Divine Word.

He regards it as dependent every moment upon the Divine word. “The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store.”

1. That the past changes of nature are to be referred to the Divine Word. Peter here refers to one tremendous catastrophe. “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” The deluge was no accident. “I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth,” etc. The earthquake, the tornado, the blight, the pestilence, all these things in nature come from the Word of God. His will is in all.

2. That the present existence of nature is to be referred to His Word. “But the heavens and the earth which are now by the same Word kept in store”--are preserved in their present state. If this is a right view of material nature, we may infer three important considerations.

(1) That it is absurd to cite the so-called laws of nature against the fulfilment of God’s revealed purposes. This is just what the scoffing sceptics did in the days of Peter. The laws of nature seemed against the deluge; but God purposed that these things should take place, and the laws of nature yielded. The laws of nature may seem against a resurrection, etc., but the purpose of God will be fulfilled. If material nature was originally produced by, and is ever dependent upon, the Word of God, we infer--

(2) That there can be no real contradiction between its facts and those of the Bible. Moreover, if material nature was originally produced by, and is ever dependent upon, the Divine Word, we infer--

(3) That its relation to the soul should be especially realised. As the Word of God is thus in material nature, material nature has a meaning. It is the voice of God to the human heart, a Divine appeal to the human conscience. Nature has a moral meaning, God’s Word is in it. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

One day is with the Lord as a thousand years.--

God’s estimate of time

First, take this statement as a general principle, “that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,” etc.

1. In opening up this general principle we remark that all time is equally present with God. Childhood, manhood and old age belong to creatures, but at the right hand of the Most High they have no abode. Growth, progress, advancement, all these are virtues in finite beings, but to the Infinite the thought of such change would be an insult. Yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, belong to dying mortal, the Immortal King lives in an eternal to-day. This is a subject upon which we can only speak without ourselves fully understanding what we say, but yet, perhaps, a metaphor may tend to make the matter a little simpler. There is a river flowing along in gentle slope toward the sea. A boatman is upon it; his vessel is here; anon it is there; and soon it will be at the river’s mouth; only that part of the river upon which he is sailing is present to him. But up yonder, on a lofty mountain, stands a traveller; as he looks from the summit he marks the source of the river and gazes upon its infant stream, where as yet it is but a narrow line of silver; then he follows it with his clear eye until it swells into a rolling flood, and he tracks it until it is finally absorbed into the ocean. Now, as the climber stands upon that Alp, that whole sparkling line of water adorning the plain is equally present to him from its source to its fall; there is not one part of the stream that is nearer to him than another; in the long distance he sees the whole of it, from the end to the beginning. Such, we think, is the stream of time to God. From the altitude of His observance He looketh down upon it and seeth it at one gaze; taking in, not at many thoughts, but at one thought, all the revolutions of time and all the changes of ages, and seeing both the thousands of years that have gone, and the thousands that are yet to come, as present at one view before his eye.

2. The text teaches us next that all time is equally powerless with God to affect Him. A day does not make any particular change in us that we can notice. But if you take fifty years--what a difference is perceptible in any of us! But as a day seems to make no change with us, so, but far more truthfully, a thousand years make no change with God. Ages roll on, but He abideth the same. We need be under no apprehension that God will ever be affected with weakness through the revolutions of time. The Ancient of Days, ever omnipotent, fainteth not, neither is weary. And as time brings no weakness, certainly it shall bring no decay to God. Upon His brow there is ne’er a furrow; no signs of palsy are in His hand. And as no weakness and no decay can be brought to God by time, so no change in His purpose can ever come through revolving years. To that whereto He hath set His seal He standeth fast, and what His heart decrees, that will He do. Moreover, as there can be no change in His decree, so no unforeseen difficulties can intervene to prevent the accomplishment of it. As long as there is a work to do, He shall do it; as long as there is an enemy to conquer, that enemy shall be overcome.

3. Yet further--no doubt the text intends to teach that all time is insignificant to God. Within the compass of a drop of water we are told that sometimes a thousand living creatures may be discovered, and to those little creatures no doubt their size is something very important. There is a Creature inside that drop which can only be seen by the strongest microscope, but it is a hundred times larger than its neighbour, and it feels, no doubt, that the difference is amazing and extraordinary. But to you and to me, who cannot even see the largest creature with the naked eye, the gigantic animalcule is as imperceptible as his dwarfish friend, they both seem so utterly insignificant that we squander whole millions of them, and are not very penitent if we destroy them by thousands. But what would one of those little infusorial animals say if some prophet of its own kind could tell it that there is a creature living that could count the whole world of a drop of water as nothing, and could take up ten thousand thousand of those drops and scatter them without exertion of half its power; that this creature would not be encumbered if it should carry on the tip of its finger all the thousands that live in that great world--a drop of water; that this creature would have no disturbance of heart, even if the great king of one of the empires in that drop should gather all his armies against it and lead them to battle? Why, then the little creatures would say, “How can this be; we can hardly grasp the idea?” But when that infusorial philosopher could have gotten an idea of man, and of the utter insignificance of its own self, and of its own little narrow world, then it would have achieved an easy task compared with that which lies before us when we attempt to get an idea of God.

4. I think we ought also to learn from the text that all time is equally obedient to God. You and I are the servants of time, but God is its sovereign Master.

God’s estimate of a day. He can make a day as useful, and to Him it shall be as long as a thousand years. I think this is one of the most brilliant of the Church’s hopes. We have been saying,” How many converts have been made by the Missionary Society during fifty or sixty years?” and we have said, “Well, at this rate, how long will it be before the world is converted?” Ah! “At this rate”; but how do you know God’s rate? God can do as much in a day as has been done in a thousand years that are past, if so He wills it. Only let Him will it, and there shall be one day written in the records of the Church that shall be equal in achievements, and in triumphs, to any thousand years of her history recorded aforetime. This should lead us to remember that when God speaketh of judging the world at the day of judgment, He will find no difficulty in doing it. Two hundred judges might find it difficult to try in one day all the cases that might be brought before them in a single nation, but God, when He holdeth the great assize, shall be able to convict every guilty one, and to absolve every penitent, and that, too, in one day.

God’s estimate of a thousand years. A day is to Him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. “How long, how long?” the saints under the altar cry. “How long?” and the saints at the altar here to-day take up the same wailing notes, “How long?” But He answereth, “I am not long. What if I have waited and the time is long to you; yet it is not long to Me.” God bids you think for a moment, that if you really measure aright, it is no lengthened period of time that He has made the vision to tarry. For see you first, the time that has elapsed since Christ’s crucifixion is not long compared with eternity. Then, again, when ye say that God is long in the accomplishment of His great purposes, remember that He has no need to be in hurry. Whatsoever you and I find to do, we must do it with all our might: for there is neither work nor device in the grave whither we are hastening; but God liveth for ever. Besides, there is an advantage in His being slow--it tries our faith. To win a fight when it lasteth but for an hour, what is there in it? One gallant charge and the foemen have fled. Comrade, but that is a battle worthy to be written with your Waterloos and your Marathons, when hour after hour, and day after day, valour disdains to succumb, and patience endures the fight while foot to foot the soldiers stand. Further, it is well that God should thus be long, because He is unravelling revelation. The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to loose the seals, and to open the book for us, and year after year He reads another page, and yet another in the Church’s history. If Christ should come to-day, if we should have no more conflicts, no more trials, then we might suppose that the book had come to its brilliant golden finis; but if it keepeth on a thousand years to come, so much the better: the glowing eyes of angels wish not for the end of the story, and the bright eyes of immortal spirits before the throne, when it shall be all over, shall not regret that it was too long. No, let it go on, great Master; let a thousand years run on; our loving hearts will patiently bear it, as though it were but one day. And more: the victory of Christ at the end will be all the greater, and the redemption all the more glorious, because of this long time of strife and confusion. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Time a rate of motion

The apostle evidently wishes us to look upon the flight of the years more as God in His eternity looks down upon them. We are to approach the idea of eternity not by multiplying years together in indefinite figures of time, but more truly by remembering that with the Eternal our measurements of time have no importance.

I ask you to reflect, first, that time is a gift of God to the creation. Time is a bequest from the Eternal conveyed and secured in the constitution of the creation. These visible, revolving worlds are by nature temporal. Time is the rate of motion determined by the Creator in His own thought of the worlds. Now, inasmuch as time itself is an original gift of God to the creation, we may well stop to reflect upon the value of this gift. It is one of the primal evidences of the benevolence of the Creator. This original providence of perfect time for the world, true to the infinitesimal of a second through the ages of ages, is evidence of the far-seeing thoughtfulness of the Creator. It is the first condition and means of conveyance of all other good gifts of God. Time is the magna charta of all man’s rights upon the earth. The ancient order of the heavens is the surety that our God is not a Sovereign who has made us of His mere pleasure, but one who has made all things according to His good pleasure; and whether man’s works upon the earth be good or evil, this solar system which God made shall keep true time without variableness, or shadow of turning, until the end comes and time shall be no longer.

Keeping in mind this fact that time is a gift of God to the creation, reflect, secondly, that what we know as time is only the particular rate of motion to which our life on this earth has been adjusted. For example, you can easily imagine that the human race might have been put to school upon a planet of swifter revolutions than our earth, and all our vital powers adapted to the more rapid succession of day and night upon that orb--our pulses made to beat proportionally quicker, and the whole mechanism of life and thought made to run more swiftly--so that the same human history might be lived through upon that faster world. So, on the other hand, God might have graduated our rate of living and thinking to the motions of a slower planet than this earth, and still our consciousness of the duration of the years, our sense of time, have remained precisely the same. Time, then, is only a relative thing, the rate of motion of the mechanism; nothing of absolute determination or worth in itself. God has chosen this earth for our time-keeper, and adjusted our consciousness of life to its rate of motion; God has determined the existing time-rate of human history for us, out of many possibilities of different time-rates, for reasons which He thought best, and which we do not know. I may make this idea of the relative nature of time still plainer by reminding you how often in our own experiences we escape from the ordinary course of the world’s time, and in a sense make our own time for ourselves, as we live in memory or in anticipation. Fear and hope, sorrow and joy, thought and action, when intense, have a certain witchery and mastery over our time; and not the revolutions of the earth, but the beatings of our spiritual pulses, and the life of our hearts, make our days short or long upon the earth. We mortals are all of us swept along in the flood of the years; yet it seems as if we have power in sudden upspringings of thought to leap, as it were, out of this stream of time and change, and to catch some gleam upon our spirits of a higher element of existence, like God’s eternal light, and then we fall back again into the hurrying stream which is our proper element of existence now. All this superiority of soul to time in memory, thought, and hope, means that there is something timeless and deathless within us--something of the being of the Eternal in the living soul of man. You and I are made of the dust of the earth; but within these bodies bound to the earth, and destined to-morrow to return to its dust, is a godlike something which refuses to measure its life by the revolutions of the stars; a something which sinks back into its own consciousness of being, and in its brooding thought and love forgets the passing hours and separations of this mortality; a mystery of spirit within man which by its own thought of God and immortality proves itself to be above the course of nature, and possessed of a Divine birthright. First of all, let us take the help for faith in God’s character which the text was intended to give. We wonder how God can live these long ages in the calm blessedness of His presence around our human history of sin and death: where is the promise of His coming? But be not ignorant of this one thing--God does not measure His times by our clocks; a thousand of our years is as one day to Him. Everything depends upon the point of view from which things are judged; and God looks from eternity to eternity! You look out in the morning, and see a cloud overhanging the top of a mountain. At noon you glance up, and the south wind still leaves its vapours upon the mountain. At evening you may notice that the cloud is still there, though beginning to be changed by the setting sun into a glory. It has been a short day to you in your business and your pleasures. But had you been on the mountain waiting for the cloud to lift, and hoping for a clear broad view, the hours would have lengthened, and as you watched the time and the shiftings of the mists, the day would have seemed almost endless. We are now under the cloud--a very little cloud of sin and sorrow, it may be--a passing cloud--in the large, bright universe of God! We are waiting for the hour of clear revelation; and this world-age seems long. But what is it to Him who inhabiteth eternity--who sees all around? Again, these reflections may serve to teach us afresh the real value of time to us. Time, I have said, is simply the rate of the mechanism; hence it is worth in any life simply what it is used for--what is worked out in it. We should look upon our lifetime as a means towards an end--time the means, and a Christlike character, worth God’s keeping in His own eternity, the end of our life here. The one thing needful is that the soul go hence clothed in Christ’s wedding garment; not how long a time God gives us to dress our souls for that perfect society. Has He not already given us time enough? (Newman Smyth, D. D.)

God’s eternity considered in reference to the suspension of His promised purposes

Endeavour to illustrate their import, and establish the truth of the proposition which they contain. These words are designed as an answer to the objections which irreligious scoffers advance against the certainty of the accomplishment of the Divine declarations, founded on its long delay.

1. Every portion of duration is something real, and has a true and proper existence; but the epithets great and small, when applied to this (as well as to anything else), are merely comparative. We should consider fifty years as forming a very large portion of human life; but the same number of years in the history of an empire would be justly considered small. Thus is the same quantity either great or small, as you place it by the side of something much inferior to it in magnitude, or much superior.

2. Hence it results that absolute greatness belongs only to what is infinite; for whatever falls short of this, however great it may appear, its supposed greatness is entirely owing to the incidental absence of another object that is greater.

3. In duration, absolute greatness belongs only to eternity.

4. We must then conceive that He who has subsisted throughout eternal ages; who knows “no beginning of days, nor end of years”; who possesses eternity; to whom all its parts (if we may be allowed so to speak) are continually open, both past and future; must have a very different apprehension of that inconsiderable portion of it we call time, from creatures who are acquainted with no other. Nor let any one object, and say it must appear as it is, and therefore there is no reason to suppose it appears to Him different from what it does to us. No doubt it appears to Him exactly as it is. His apprehensions are, unquestionably, agreeable to the nature of things; but it does not follow from thence that it must appear in the same light as it does to us. That each portion of duration appears to Him real, we admit: we are not contending for its being annihilated in His view. Something it is, and something it appears, unquestionably, in His eyes. The measure by which God estimates time is, consequently, quite different from that which we are compelled to apply in its contemplation. We measure one portion of duration by another; He measures time by eternity. How inconceivably different must be the apprehension arising from these different methods of considering it!

The use to which the doctrine of the text may be applied.

1. It removes the ground of objection against the fulfilment of the Divine declarations, arising from the accomplishment being long delayed.

2. It accounts for the peculiar cast of Scripture language, when employed in announcing the coining of Christ, and the end of all things.

3. Though we cannot immediately change our senses, let us endeavour to conform our ideas and convictions to the dictates of Infallible Wisdom on this subject. Let us consider the whole duration of things here as very short. (R. Hall.)

Heaven’s clock

goes at a different rate from our little timepieces. (A. Maclaren.)

God’s calm view of events in time

is one of the marks of Divinity. For not only is it true that a thousand years are to God as one day to us, but it is also true, as St. Peter tells us, that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” are with us. We know what the effect of a thousand years past (for of a thousand years to come we cannot know the effect) is upon the human mind. We regard things that happened a thousand years ago very calmly, without any of the passion which thrilled the breasts of the men who lived when the events we now read of in history were taking place. That is the way in which God regards events the very day they happen. They are to Him as if they had happened a thousand years ago; so calm is the Divine temper, so far from the impatience and haste characteristic of us men who live for threescore years and ten. This comes of His being the Everlasting One. Yet, strange to say, while God takes things so calmly and never hurries, He at the same time never forgets. A thousand years are to Him as one day to us. He is as much in earnest in His purpose at the end of a millenium as we are with ours the day we form it. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

The Lord is not slack … but is long-suffering.--

Reasons why God delays the punishments of wicked men

That men may re brought to a sense of their condition, and led to use those methods which may serve to avert God’s anger.

That in many cases ready punishment cannot be inflicted on bad men without laying a considerable share of it on the good, and therefore God spares them for the present that the righteous may not be involved in the calamities of the wicked.

the agency of ill men may be made use of in order to liking about many great designs of providence, and, in particular, the delays of vengeance on some ill men may serve for the chastisement of others.

But it is much one, with respect to the divine being, when punishment is inflicted on ill men if it be inflicted at all: one day is with Him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Nor can the sinner, if he reflects, take any great satisfaction in thinking that those punishments are distant which are yet certain.

That the present delays of vengeance, if they do not work their proper effects and lead men to that repentance they were intended to produce, will but aggravate their ruin. (Bp. John Conybeare.)

God’s forbearance to sinners

I am to give some account and to assign some reasons of God’s forbearance to sinners.

1. That the delay bears no proportion either to the eternity of His own or to the future continuance of our being.

2. God never intended this world for the place of our final recompense, and therefore is the less concerned to interpose with frequency for the immediate punishment of the sinner.

3. We may presume it designed in much mercy to sinners that He does not catch at every advantage.

4. It is designed to lead us to repentance. There are critical junctures in religion, as well as in life and fortune.

The long-suffering of God is no reason to believe he will never take vengeance. The reasons which account for His forbearance destroy that inference.

1. If the end of the world and the dissolution of all things be the vengeance expected, it was no way proper to raise so vast a fabric except it had been designed for some ages’ continuance.

2. For if sin could never be committed without immediate vengeance closely pursuing it, there could be no proper foundation of reward to our obedience.

3. Whatever continuance the world may seem made for, yet the lives of particular men are short and uncertain.

The delay of His vengeance can be no just reason for our continuance in sin. It does not lessen the danger; it gives no colour to the notion that God is an unconcerned spectator of wickedness. But now His present forbearance makes proof that He will hereafter pursue the wicked with His vengeance.

His long-suffering is much rather an argument to us to forsake sin, and to proceed henceforward in all holy obedience.

1. It is so in point of gratitude, because we have seen that it is an effect of His mercy.

2. But if the motives of gratitude fail of persuading us, we should at least consider that our interest is very deeply concerned in this matter. For it is a very great aggravation to turn the means of grace into occasions of sin. (N. Marshall, D. D.)

The long-suffering of God a proof of His power

Suppose I were one of those scoffers, what should I be most inclined to doubt from observing how God’s threatenings did not take effect? I suppose the power of God. I should be inclined to say, “God has threatened what He is not able to perform; hence, the reason why sun, moon, and stars still rise and set in their appointed order.” Well, if this were my way of arguing, would it be any answer to me to say, “The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward.” Yes, indeed it would. There is no proof of the Divine power so great as the Divine long-suffering. How beautifully does one of our collects express this truth! “O God, who declarest Thine almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity.” Now, before beginning to prove to you that long-suffering is a great proof of the power of God, we would allow this idea to be at variance with that most commonly entertained. We have only to make mention of the power of God, and the thoughts are instantly far away amid the fields of immensity, busying themselves with accumulations of the workings of Almightiness--star upon star, and system upon system. And, from the fact of creation, we pass onward to that of preservation: we tell you that the complicated machinery of the universe is superintended and upheld by God. Far be it from us to imply that such a mode of demonstrating the power of God is other than correct. But it would appear to be possible, that whilst searching through the universe for evidence of the power of God, we may pass by the more signal demonstration lying individually in ourselves. We speak not of the testimony which is undoubtedly given by the construction of our bodies, and by the surprising manner in which the material incloses the immaterial. But there may be evidence which is still more overlooked, and that, too, an evidence which each may fetch from his own experience and his own habits. Towards each transgressor there has been an exercise of long-suffering on the part of the Almighty; so that if the greatest demonstration of God’s power be God’s long-suffering, then each of us may find in himself that great demonstration in all its completeness. With an hatred of sin which outruns our conception, and much more our imitation, God is looking down on every misdoing by which the earth is polluted. He is present at the perpetration of each species of crime--standing by the blasphemer whilst pouring out his curses, and by the murderer whilst bearing down on his victim. If this fact be pondered, it must always startle us. And yet He strikes not. We just ask you to imagine a tender-hearted man standing by whilst some monster of his species was foully ill-treating some fellow-creature or animal. Suppose him possessed of the most perfect ability of putting a stop to the cruelty, and awarding due punishment. The first impulse would be to exercise this ability. And if, in place of yielding to the impulse, he should reflect within himself--If I spare this guilty one awhile, if I visit not on him, on the instant, his iniquity, he may possibly repent--why we do not deny that, by a great effort, reflection might carry over the impulse, and the man might pass on in the hope of future amendment, resolved to administer no present correction. We allow that there is no actual impossibility against the exercise of such forbearance. But we think you will all agree that a vast moral effort would be needed for the repressing his feelings. Long-suffering is power over one’s self. If, then, it be reverent so to speak, God’s long-suffering is power over Himself. And assuredly God’s power over Himself must be greater than the power which He puts forth when He deals with what is material and finite. You may read of such instances as of a man in the hardihood of his Atheism challenging, so to speak, the Deity to prove His existence by striking him to the earth. “If there be a God, let Him show Himself, by smiting me, His denier.” Now you can hardly picture to yourselves a Being exercising over Himself so much control as that, with all the apparatus of fiery reply at His disposal, He should not answer the challenge by levelling him who utters it with the ground. Can you measure to me the effort which it would be to the Creator to keep back the thunderbolt and chain up the lightning? Yet the Atheist is allowed to depart unscathed. What lesson does the believer in God derive from this absence of all anger. He learns God’s might a hundredfold more from the unbroken silence of the firmament than he would do from the hoarse tones of vengeance rushing down to the destruction of the rebel. The Atheist overthrown is as nothing to the exhibition of the Atheist spared. We shall probably arrive at right apprehensions of God’s long-suffering as connected with God’s other attributes, if we carefully review two simple facts. The first is that God can punish every sin; the second, that God can pardon every sin. It is essential to the long-suffering of God that each of these assertions should, in the largest sense, hold good. Unless there be the power of punishing, there can be no long-suffering; for long-suffering necessarily pre-supposes that the Being, who might on the instant take vengeance, passes over for a while the iniquity. On the other hand, unless God can pardon every sin, what is there in His long-suffering? We can have no idea of long-suffering except as exhibited in our text--that it is bearing with the offender in order that, time being given him to consider his ways, he may yet by repentance turn away punishment. If we can satisfactorily show that God is pre-eminently powerful, inasmuch as He is both the punisher and the pardoner of sin, we shall have established the point under debate--that God’s long-suffering is a great measure of His power. You will readily admit that it is proving God powerful to prove Him superior to every creature, so that were the whole universe banded against Him, it would have no power in trenching upon His sovereignty. But how can we more thoroughly assure ourselves of God’s superiority to every creature than by ascertaining that over every creature who swerves from obedience God can exercise the office of avenger. Whoever the creature who apostatises from God, whether standing high or low in the scale of intelligence beyond all question the power of God can reach to restrain or crush this creature. It may indeed be that the creature is permitted to go on in rebellion; and thus no direct evidence is given of the supremacy of God. Wherein, then, would be the proof of God’s power? Simply in God’s long-suffering. Long-suffering is the greatest exhibition of power on this side the day of judgment. It is our evidence that God now possesses all that God shall then exercise. And when I am told that God is long-suffering, and no limitations are placed on the attribute, you bring before me a picture as overwhelming in its details as stupendous in its outlines, I see at once that if God can be long-suffering, then God can punish every sin. He could not be long-suffering unless He could punish; He could not punish unless He were supreme. And then observe, secondly, that God can pardon every sin. Of all extraordinary truths, perhaps the most extraordinary is that sin can be forgiven. It may be a bold thing to say; but if you examine carefully, you will see that there is a strong sense in which it may be said that long-suffering is not natural to God. For was God long-suffering without effort? Could He be long-suffering without a preparation? He could be long-suffering only as He had resolved to give up His well-beloved Son to the fiercest agonies and the foulest wrongs. And when I think of the difference between God, the Creator of worlds, and God, the Pardoner of sin, the one done without an effort, and the other demanding an instrumentality nobly sublime; the one effected by a word, the other wrought out in agony and blood oh! the world created is as nothing to the sin blotted out! That God can pardon is the very summit of what is wonderful; and, therefore, O Lord, do I most know Thee, the Omnipotent, when I behold in Thee, the Long-sufferer! (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The patience of God

Consider the patience and long-suffering of God towards mankind, as it is an attribute and perfection of the divine nature: “God is long-suffering to us-ward.”

1. The patience of God is His goodness to sinners in deferring the punishment due to them for their sins; and the moderating as well as the deferring of the punishment due to sin is an instance likewise of God’s patience; and not only the deferring and moderating of temporal punishment, but the adjourning of the eternal misery of sinners is a principal instance of God’s patience; so that the patience of God takes in all that space of repentance which God affords to sinners in this life--nay, all temporal judgments and afflictions which befall sinners.

2. It is not necessarily due to us, but it is due to the perfection of the Divine nature; it is a principal branch of God’s goodness, which is the most glorious perfection of all other; and therefore we always find it in Scripture in the company of God’s milder attributes.

3. Give some proof of the great patience and long-suffering of God to mankind.

And this will evidently appear if we consider these two things--

1. How men deal with God. Every day we highly provoke Him; we grieve and weary Him with our iniquities (Isaiah 43:24).

2. The patience of God will farther appear if we consider how, notwithstanding all this, God deals with us. He is patient to the whole world. He “presents us daily with the blessing” of His goodness, prolonging our lives and vouchsafing many favours to us. But the patience of God will more illustriously appear if we consider these following particulars--

(1) That God is not obliged to spare and forbear us at all.

(2) That God spares us when it is in His power so easily to ruin us.

(3) That God exerciseth this patience even when we are challenging His justice to punish us and provoking His power to destroy us.

(4) That He is so very slow and unwilling to punish and to inflict His judgments upon us.

(a) God’s unwillingness to punish appears in that He labours to prevent punishment; and that He may effectually do this He endeavours to prevent sin, the meritorious cause of God’s judgments; to this end He hath threatened it with severe punishments that men may fear to offend.

(b) He is long before He goes about this work. Judgment is, in Scripture, called “His strange work”; as ii He were not acquainted with it and hardly knew how to go about it on the sudden (Deuteronomy 32:41).

(c) When He goes about this work He does it with much reluctance (Hosea 11:8). He is represented as making many essays and offers before He came to it (Psalms 106:26). God withholds His judgments till He is weary of holding in, as the expression is (Jeremiah 6:11), until He can forbear no longer (Jeremiah 44:22).

(d) God is easily prevailed upon not to punish, as in the case of Nineveh. With what joy does He tell the prophet the news of Ahab’s humiliation!

(e) When He punisheth He does it very seldom rigorously and to extremity, not so much as we deserve (Psalms 103:10).

(f) After He hath begun to punish, and is engaged in the work, He is not hard to be taken off (2 Samuel 24:1-25.). Nay, so ready is God to be taken off from this work, that He sets a high value upon those who stand in the gap to turn away His wrath (Numbers 25:11-13).

5. The patience of God will vet appear if we consider some eminent instances of it. His forbearance is so great that He hath been complained of for it by His own servants. Job, who was so patient a man himself, thought much at it (Job 21:7-8). Jonah challengeth God for it (Job 4:2).

That the patience of God and the delay of judgment is no ground why sinners should hope for impunity: “God is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness.”

The true reason of God’s patience and long-suffering to mankind: “He is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This is the primary end of God’s patience to sinners; and if He fail of this end through our impenitency He hath other ends which He will infallibly attain; He will hereby glorify the riches of His mercy and vindicate the righteousness of His justice; for God does not lose the glory of His patience, though we lose the benefit of it, and He will make it subservient to His justice one way or other. Lessons:

1. That nothing is more provoking to God than the abuse of His patience.

2. That the patience of God will have an end.

3. That nothing will more hasten and aggravate our ruin than the abuse of God’s patience. (Abp. Tillotson.)

Man’s external universe as maintained by God for a moral purpose

That man’s external universe is maintained by God.

1. However long He may continue to uphold it, He does not overlook the claims of His justice. There are before Him “a day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

2. However long He may continue to uphold it, duration is nothing to Him. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” He is not limited to time as we are.

3. However long He may continue to uphold it, He does not forget His promise. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness.”

4. However long He may continue to uphold it, His forbearance is manifest through the whole. He “is long-suffering to us-ward.”

That man’s external universe is maintained by God for a moral purpose. “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” What is the purpose? Why is this world kept in existence for so many ages? Is it that men might luxuriate amidst animal gratifications, revel amidst the elements which minister to the senses, and pander to the passions? Is it that they might train the intellect to think, and to fill the mind with knowledge? Not even this. It is the moral restora tion of man. “That none should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

1. This moral restoration of man requires “repentance.”

2. This moral restoration of man is according to the Divine will. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

God true to His purpose

Sometimes in architecture and sculpture designs are formed as an exercise of skill, without any intention of embodying them in work. And sometimes politicians frame schemes which are intended only for Utopia, and for’ the carrying out of which no attempt will be made. But God’s design is for execution and His scheme for embodiment. A purpose to work out His design has firm hold of every portion and feature of that design. (S. Martin.)

That all should come to repentance.

The rules and directions for the right performing the duty of repentance

1. The first is this, implore repentance at the hands of God (2 Timothy 2:25).

2. Have due regard to the sacred Word. Suppose we were travelling in the dark, what could we do better in such a case than procure a light to guide us? Naturally we are in the darkness of ignorance and mists of error, and want to be illuminated in the right way (Psalms 119:105; 2 Peter 1:19). And that the Holy Scripture has a peculiar efficacy to purify from sin, which is done by repentance, is evident (Psalms 119:9).

3. Consider the nature of God. As His word rightly heard, so His nature duly contemplated, will be not only a mighty antidote against sin, but as strong an inducement to repentance. Now the nature of God we may best learn from His glorious name (Exodus 34:6-7). God in His nature is holy and even essentially and infinitely holy (Isaiah 60:3). And can we endure to rest in wilful sin when it is an evil abominable to God, and makes us as odious to Him as it is in its own nature? Reflect then seriously again, that He is just too. And as His perfect purity sets Him against sinners, so His absolute justice inclines and constrains Him to punish all that persist in it. And then we may consider further that He is powerful too, and armed with omnipotence. And so He is able to punish us (Psalms 76:7).

4. Place the promise and assurance of pardon before your eyes (Ezekiel 18:30; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31).

5. Fix your thoughts upon Christ’s sufferings. They were various, sharp, and terrible; but all for our sins. (R. Warren, D. D.)

God’s willingness to pardon

That God is “not willing that any should perish,” appears by His own positive declarations.

That God “is unwilling that any should perish,” is illustrated by the invitations with which the sacred scriptures abound.

The same truth is still further illustrated by the encouragement God everywhere presents to those who show an inclination to return.

The same truth is illustrated by the threatenings and warnings which are given to persons and nations before destruction comes on them.

The delay of judgment illustrates my text.

The most notorious characters are specified in the offers and invitations of mercy which we find in sacred scripture.

The death of Christ is an illustration of the proposition in the text.

The means employed to keep up the gospel of Christ before the world and the Church declares the same truth.

The pains taken to remove distrust prove that God is “not willing that any should perish.” He not only gives us His declaration that He is not willing that any should perish, but He gives us His oath.

The proposition contained in the text is illustrated by many examples: Manasseh. Thief on cross. (W. Freeland, LL. D.)

God’s unwillingness

What does the apostle mean here by the expression “perish”? What is it to perish? This will be most appropriately answered in the words of Holy Scripture. Paul called it “Being punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). “Sudden destruction” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). “Swift destruction” (chap. 2:1). “The vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).

What reasons have we to conclude that any will thus perish?

Fallen angels have perished (Jude 1:6).

2. Sodom and Gomorrah have “suffered the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).

3. Other men deserve to perish. “The Scripture hath concluded all under sin.”

4. That part of the punishment which consists in natural death is daily being inflicted before our eyes.

5. God has said that some characters shall perish. “He that believeth not shall be damned.”

But WHO are thus in danger?

1. “Despisers” (Acts 13:41).

2. profane persons, and all who “forget God” (Psalms 9:17).

3. All the impenitent (Luke 13:5).

4. All unbelievers (Mark 16:16).

How are we to understand the expression God is not willing that any should perish? Hell does not exist without His permission! Death is His messenger! The judgment of the great day will be held by His appointment! But then--

1. God will not punish without occasion. Nor

2. Till the guilt of man has rendered it necessary. Nor

3. Without having provided a remedy:--the best possible remedy. Nor

4. Without having authorised the publication of that remedy. Nor

5. Without having implored men to accept it. Nor

6. Without having given space for repentance.

7. Nor will He inflict eternal judgment on one soul which has not proved its filial enmity to Him, to truth, to holiness.

What evidences have we that God is “not willing that any should thus perish”?

1. The evidence arising from His character.

2. From His word.

3. From His oath (John 3:16).

4. From the gift of His Holy Spirit.

5. From the revelation of His truth.

6. From the exaltation of Christ as a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance.

7. From the promise of the personal help of the Holy Spirit--to them that ask it.

8. From every instance of true repentance which has occurred.

9. From sparing mercy from day to day.

10. From warnings, exhortations, invitations, directions, promises, etc., without number.

What is the imperative and only alternative that men may not perish? We answer, “repentance.” (The Evangelist.)

Verse 10

2 Peter 3:10

The day of the Lord will come as a thief.

The day of the Lord

The text first points us to a period advancing rapidly upon us, in the future; and as such differs from any other which may have marked an epoch in the succession of ages since the world began.

1. The bright display of the Lord’s attributes which will then be made.

2. The affairs of the mediatorial kingdom of grace, the reign of Christ, as such, will then be completed.

3. The exhibition of His equity, which will then be made in the regular dispensations of His providence among men.

4. The Lord will then receive in and from His people glory and renown.

The declarations made in the text concerning its coming.

1. The certainty of it.

2. The sudden and unexpected manner of its approach.

(1) To excite men to watch for the event.

(2) The knowledge of the exact time might alarm men, and prevent attendance to the present duties of life.

Some of the occurrences of the day of the Lord. (J. Thompson Smith.)

Preparation for dearth and judgment

The period referred to. There have been memorable days in the history of the world and in the histories of nations.

1. On that day the dispensation of mercy will close.

2. It will be the day of the second coming of the Lord Jesus. Believer, it will be the consummation of thy bliss to have a perfect sight of Christ “without a veil between,” and to bear an exact conformity to His likeness. But O sinner! how wilt thou meet His frown?

3. It will be the day of the Lord’s especial honour.

4. It is the day on which all His declarations will be fulfilled and verified--His declarations of mercy to His people and His threatenings of destruction to the impenitent and unbelieving.

The duties to which its expected coming calls us.

1. We should watch against a spirit of slothfulness and indifference.

2. We should anxiously desire to be found ready whenever that day may come.

(1) Reconciliation with God is necessary.

(2) A close and humble walk with God is requisite.

(3) Frequent meditation on the consequences of that day will prepare us for its coming.

Motives to lead us to the discharge of these duties.

1. The uncertainty of the time when this day shall come.

2. The danger and ruin resulting from the want of preparation for its coming. (Essex Remembrancer.)

The heavens shall pass away with a great noise.--

The destruction of the universe:--

1. The destruction of the universe affords us a picture of the power of our Judge. How powerful is this Judge! Who can resist His will?

2. The conflagration of the universe affords us a picture of the horrors of vice. Behold how far God carries His resentment against sin. Heavens, earth, elements, are ye guilty? But, if ye be treated with so much rigour for having been the unconscious instruments of the crime, what must the condition of the criminal be?

3. In the burning of the universe we find a representation-of the vanity of the present world. What is this world which fascinates our eyes? It is a funeral pile that already begins to burn, and will soon be entirely consumed. The hope of an imaginary immortality hath been able to support some men against the fear of a real death. The idea of existing in the minds of those who exist after them hath, in some sort, comforted them under the miserable thought of being no more. Hence pompous buildings, hence rich monuments, and vainglorious titles inscribed on marble and brass. But behold the dissolution of all those bonds, and the memory of all that is fastened to the world will vanish with the world.

4. The conflagration of the universe furnisheth a description of the world to come. Ye often hear us declaim on the nothingness of earthly things. How is it that God, who hath resolved to render us one day happy, doth not allow us to continue in this world, and content Himself with uniting all happy circumstances in our favour? Ah! a life formed on this plan might indeed answer the ideas of happiness which finite geniuses form, but such a plan cannot even approach the designs of an infinite God. A life formed on this plan might indeed exhaust a terrestrial love, but it could never reach the love of an infinite God. To accomplish this love there must be another world; there must be new heavens and a new earth; there must be objects far more grand.

5. Finally, the destruction of the universe displays the excellence of piety. Oh that I could represent the believer amidst fires, winds, tempests, the confusion of all nature, content, peaceable, unalterable! (J. Saurin.)

The earth also … shall be burned up.

The world on fire

The last general conflagration. In this Epistle there is one truth very plainly taught, namely, that this present world is to be consumed by fire. We learn also that this conflagration will take place in connection with the judgment, for “the heavens and the earth which now are, are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” We gather also from our text that this fire will burn up all the works existing upon the earth--everything which man has constructed shall perish. Chemists tell us that the great noise which Peter speaks of would certainly accompany such a combustion. The whole world shall become one molten mass again, and this terrestrial firmament shall cease to be. We may here note that the prophecy that the earth will thus be consumed with fervent heat is readily to be believed, not only because God says it, but because there are evidently the means at hand for the accomplishment of the prophecy. Pliny was wont to say that it was a miracle that the world escaped burning for a single day, and I do not wonder at the remark, considering the character of the district in which he spent much of his time. In visiting the country around Naples the same thought constantly occurred to me. Yonder is Vesuvius ready at any moment to vomit fire, and continually sending up clouds of smoke. Then go across to the Solfatara on the other side of Naples, stand at the vent of that ancient volcano and listen to the terrific rumblings which attend the rush of steam and sulphur; then stamp your foot or dash a stone upon the ground, and hear how the earth resounds; it is evident that you are standing over a vast cavern. Look around you and remark how the earth steams with sulphureous exhalations. Observe, also, how the earth in some places has risen and fallen, again and again. Yet this volcanic region around Naples is but one of the many ventholes of the great fires which are in the bowels of the earth; three hundred or more burning mountains have already vomited flame. According to the belief of many geologists, the whole centre of the earth is a mass of molten matter, and we live upon a thin crust which has cooled down, and is probably not so much as one hundred miles thick. The probabilites are that the whole internal mass is in a liquid, and, perhaps, in a gaseous state. Astronomers tell us that within the last two hundred or three hundred years some thirteen fixed stars have disappeared, and according to their belief they have been burned up. If such things happen in other worlds, is there anything improbable in the belief that the like will occur to us? But if there were no internal sea of fire, and no instance of other worlds being consumed by fire, who can guess the power which lurks in electricity, and other subtle forces? God’s dreadful armies lie in ambush everywhere. He has but to speak the word, and the servants of His omnipotence will rise, terrible in their destructive power. Earth is as a pile of wood, and the torch-bearers stand ready to kindle it at any moment. Although we read of the world being burned by fire, we are not told that it will be annihilated thereby. We believe from various things which are hinted at in Scripture, though we would not dogmatize, that this world will be refitted and renovated; and in that sense we expect new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Luther used to say that the world is now in its working clothes, and that by and by it will be arrayed in its Easter garments of joy. One likes to think that the trail of the old serpent will not always remain upon the globe, and it is a cheering thought that where sin has abounded God’s glory should yet more abound.

The apostle has drawn practical inferences. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” What connection can there be between the burning of the globe and holy conversation and godliness? The first connection is this. Our position as Christians is at this moment like that of Noah before the destruction of the world by water. What manner of person ought Noah to have been? I should suppose such a man, daily expecting the rain to descend and the flood to burst up from beneath, would lead a life very free from worldliness, a life the very reverse of the rest of his fellow-men. Now our life ought to be like that of Noah. Look around on the beauties of nature, and when you enjoy them say to yourself, “All these are to be dissolved and to melt with fervent heat.” You understand that the things which are seen are but a dream, that the things unseen are alone substantial. Therefore sit loose by all things below the moon, and clutch as with the grasp of a dying man the things eternal which God has revealed to you. Such conduct will separate you from your fellow-men. As there is down deep in your heart an object different from theirs, and as you set a different estimate on all things, your conduct will be wide apart from theirs; being swayed by different motives, your life will diverge from theirs, and they will misunderstand you, they will impute ill motives to you. I remark further, that the nearness of the Lord as suggested by the fact that the world is to be destroyed, according to His word, suggests holiness. The sinner finds a reason for sin when he says, “God is not here: everything goes on in the ordinary way: God does not care what men do.” “No,” says the apostle, “He is not away, He is here, holding back the fire forces; He is reserving this world a little while, and by and by He will let the fires loose and the world will be destroyed. He is not far off: He is even at the door.” How can ye sin against One who is so close at hand? The apostle says, “What manner of persons ought ye to be?” Remember he was talking to saints, and he teaches us that even saints ought to be more saintly than they are. We have not attained to what we ought to be, and I may say to the best child of God here this morning, “There is a yet beyond.” And then he goes on to specify two branches of holy life. “In all holy conversation,” that is to say, all holy behaviour towards men; “and godliness,” that is, all pious dealing towards God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

On the dissolution of the world

Contemplate the Supreme Being directing the dissolution, as He directed the original formation, of the world.

Let us contemplate the dissolution of the world as the end of all human glory. This earth has been the theatre of many a great spectacle, and many a high achievement.

contemplate the soul of man as remaining unhurt in the midst of this general desolation, when the whole animal creation perishes, and the whole frame of nature falls into ruins. Here, then, let us behold what is the true honour and excellence of man.

We contemplate the dissolution of the world as the introduction to a greater and nobler system in the government of God. We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (H. Blair, D. D.)

Man’s external universe as awaiting a tremendous crisis

There is a spiritual conflagration now going on. Christ came “to send fire on the earth.” His word like a fire consumes the false and the corrupt. But the conflagration in the text is a material one.

That the character of this crisis will be very terrible.

1. The agent by which it will be accomplished, “fire,” is terrible. Fire, when not in its latent but active state, is the most terrible force in the world. There is agony in its touch. Forms the most beautiful it turns to ashes. Water, which destroyed the old world, is in some of its forms a terrible power, but life can subsist in it. You can touch it without pain, you can float on its surface, you can construct a vessel to bear you over its surging floods and seas. But not so with “fire.” No ark will bear you over a fiery deluge.

2. The extensiveness of its scene makes it terrible. “The heavens shall pass away.” “The earth also and all the works that are therein.”

3. The tumult with which it will be attended is terrible. “A great noise.” There are some sounds that shake one’s very soul with horror. The howl of the wind rising into the tempest, the rumble of the approaching thunderbolt, the wild and dismal roar of the ocean when lashed into fury--these are all sounds more or less of terror. But there are animal sounds still more so. The groans of the dying, the moanings of bereaved love, the shrieks of an agonised heart--these are fearful sounds. What a noise is produced by a little bonfire, what a noise, too, by a little steam from the engine; but what must be the noise of burning forests, and boiling oceans, of falling cities and rocking mountains! This “great noise” will be very terrible.

4. The unexpectedness with which it will come is another element of terror. “It will come as a thief in the night.” It will not come as a thief in some respects.

(1) A thief comes without warning.

(2) A thief has no right to come.

(3) A thief may be resisted. There is a possibility of turning him back; but not so with this crisis. It must come.

That the approach of this crisis is very certain.

1. It is certain that there is a point in the future that will terminate men’s present connection with this earth.

2. There is conclusive evidence that this period will be attended with a conflagration.

That the prospect of this crisis should exert on mankind a hallowing influence. The apostle states two effects which the prospect ought to produce upon us--

1. Practical holiness in every part of our life--“Holy conversation and godliness.” If all our material interests are thus to pass away, with what earnestness ought we to cultivate those principles of character, those dispositions of mind, and those habits of life which will abide for ever?

2. An earnest longing of the soul for the future. “Looking for and hasting,” etc. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Elements that will enhance the final conflagration

Since the noblest attribute of water is its blandness, who would be prepared to find that, chemically speaking, it is remarkable for its fiery composition? When its two constituents are burned in the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe, they produce a flame of extraordinary ferocity. Such is the violence with which they combine that it is necessary to keep them from mingling, except in small quantities, unless they are just at the point of ignition. Dr. Clarke placed a brick screen between himself and the dangerous gases when he first experimented on their power, but was nearly killed by an explosion. Perhaps, when the world and all the works that are therein shall be burned up, the ocean may really be the magazine from which fuel may be drawn to support the great conflagration. But let this be as it may in God’s good counsel, is it not a startling thought that water, the uncompromising adversary of fire, should be compounded of two elements whose conjunction is accompanied by a passionate burst of flame and a terrible eruption of caloric? (Scientific Illustrations.)

Verses 11-18

2 Peter 3:11-18

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved.

Immortality and science

It is a singular fact that these words have far more probability of truth than they had a generation ago. Then, the stability of the physical universe was held to be a settled fact of science; it is not so regarded now. If this world and the universe of worlds are to undergo at times such catastrophes as science and Scripture indicate, even to possible destruction, where shall immortal man abide? Physical science chiefly touches human destiny at two points of what is technically known as the principle of continuity; namely, the resolution of thought and feeling into molecular changes, and the development of man from preceding lower orders of life. The principle is thought to militate against immortality, as it implies that all the potency of life is within matter, and that all mental and moral activities are but the operation of organised matter. Under this hypothesis thought and feeling are resolved into the whirl of molecules and the formation and destruction of tissue, a wholly material process, necessary in its character and admitting of no permanent personality. To find anything outside of this all-comprehending law of which immortality can be predicated, anything that survives when the bond breaks that holds the whirling atoms together, is an impossibility under this conception. On the contrary, its analogies seem to point to an opposite result. It is not strange that the dreariness of such conclusions repels the mind towards some better hope, and that physicists are working other veins of truth if for no other end than to escape the horror of desolation their own triumphs have compelled them to face. Mr. Fiske says: “There is little that is even intellectually satisfying in the awful picture which science shows us of giant worlds concentrating out of nebulous vapour, developing with prodigious waste of energy into theatres of all that is grand and sacred in spiritual endeavour, clashing and exploding again into dead vapour balls, only to renew the same toilsome process without end a senseless bubble-play of Titan forces, with life, love, and aspiration brought forth only to be extinguished.” Such sentiments characterise the ablest physicists of the age. We reach at last either nothingness, or a cinder, or a ceaseless clash and repulsion of vapour-balls called worlds, with possible moments of life amidst vast cycles of lifeless ages. We reach the end of a road, but find nothing to tell us why it exists. The question forces itself upon us, if by looking in other directions we cannot; reverse this process and find some worthy end of creation, something instead of nothing, the play of mind instead of the whirl of molecules, life instead of death. The recent verdict of science as to the fate of the material universe drives us with irresistible force to belief in an unseen, spiritual world--not the belief of religious faith, but of cold, hard reason. The other main point at which physical science touches human destiny is in connection with that part of the doctrine of physical evolution which holds that all forms of life are developed from preceding forms under the impulse of some unknown force--a theory not yet exactly defined, and far from being fully proved. Take the extremest form of evolution--matter having all the potency of life within itself--it does not necessarily exclude future existence. If matter can attain to mind that longs for immortality, may not its potentiality be able to achieve it? If it can develop the conception, may it not be able to develop the fact? If the question still recurs, at what point in the process of evolution, granting its truth for the moment, the principle of immortality is inserted, or gets possession?--a question of great pungency under the principle of continuity, we answer it by instancing an analogy. At what point of its growth does a plant acquire the power of self-perpetuation? As a shoot it utterly perishes if cut down; the lusty after-growth of stem and branches also withers into nothingness; the flower is not “a self-reviving thing of power”; but the flower, gathering light and dew into its glowing bosom, intermingles with them its own life essence and so bears a seed around which it folds its faded petals as a shroud, and falls into the dust, no longer to perish, but to live again. This is more than illustration, it is an argument. A living thing under the law of development comes to have a power of self-perpetuation that it did not have at first; why should it not be so with the life that has culminated in man? He is the flower of life, and in his heart alone may there be found the seed of eternal existence. But this phase of the subject is unsatisfactory; it is not necessary to consider it under these suppositions, and we turn to another. We want not mere continuance, but some solid ground for belief in personality after death. Evolution cannot impair the fact of personality here or hereafter, simply because man transcends nature, which is the field of evolution. Man may comprise all that has gone before him in nature, but he is not summed up by it. As the grand proof of this, we adduce the fact of the moral nature with its prime characteristic of freedom. Mr. Darwin himself admits that “free-will is a mystery insoluble to the naturalist.” Necessity, which is the equivalent of law, never could evolve freedom. But choice, or freedom, is the constituting characteristic of man, upon which is built the whole fabric of his life and moral nature. It makes him a person; it is the basis of his history. It puts him above the order and on-going of nature. Professor Tyndall says that the chasm between brain-action and consciousness is impassable, that “here is a rock upon which materialism must split whenever it pretends to be a complete philosophy of the human mind.” The admission is valuable, not merely because of its origin, but for its impregnable truth. With such a chasm between the two parts of man’s nature--molecular processes and perpetual flux on one side, and conscious identity, moral sense, and freedom on the other side--we need not feel troubled at anything physical evolution may assert of man: it simply cannot touch him. We may now build our argument as to his destiny, unhindered by any clamour that may reach us from the other side of this chasm--a chasm that science itself recognises in our composite nature. But other difficulties may arise, such as the thought that this sense of personal identity may be temporary, that as our life was drawn out into separateness from the great ocean of being, so, having some cycle within itself, it will sink back into it, as a star rises and sets. Age and infancy are very like, especially when each is normal; sleep and unconsciousness mark both. As there is no identity before infancy, is there any after age? The fact that, notwithstanding the extreme plausibility of this familiar analogy, the human mind has never accepted the suggestion, has great significance; it has instinctively felt that this resemblance does not indicate a reality. Descartes argued: “I think, therefore I am.” Had he continued, I am, therefore I shall continue to be, he would have uttered as cogent logic. Granted the consciousness of personality, and it is impossible to conceive of non-existence. If self is a unit, and not a conglomerate of atoms, how is it to be got out of existence? But it may be said, if there is another life, there must be another world. Where is it? Of what composed? If it is within the limits, or under the laws of matter, it can have no endurance. The soul must have a sphere like itself, permanent, unfluctuating. Surely if philosophy may create a universe in which to float the worlds, and convey those quiverings of burning suns that we call heat and light, it will not withhold a fit sphere for the soul when it breaks away from the bonds of matter. We base our proof, however, not on mere analogy, but on the simple ground that the nature of the soul demands a proper and answering sphere, as wings demand air, and fins water. Otherwise, creation is without order and coherence. Were we to search for this sphere of the soul, we would not look for it in any refinement of matter, nor in any orb beyond the “flaming walls of the world,” but rather in an order over against this visible order, as mind stands over against the body. If, however, it be said that the mind must always have a body, or something like it, to hold it up, a sub-sto--a something like quicksilver upon a mirror, to take up and turn back its operations, something to sustain reaction and perhaps necessary to yield consciousness--we may follow a hint dropped by science in its latest suggestions. Physicists of the highest rank hold to the existence of a pure or non-atomic fluid filling all space, in which the worlds swim, a sort of first thing to which atomic matter is a second thing. But while science thus acknowledges a non-atomic fluid filling the inter-stellar spaces as a basis upon which the universe is a cosmos, or a united whole, it cannot impugn the analogy of a non-atomic soul fluid, or ether, as the basis or body upholding the mind, if we care to claim it. As we can imagine all the worlds from “Blue-eyed Lyra’s topmost star” to the smallest asteroid, swept together into some far-off corner of space--a not improbable result--and leave it clear of atomic matter yet filled with ether ready to float and unite another universe, so the material atomic body may be swept away and gathered to its original dust, leaving the immaterial body intact, a basis for the mind and its action as it had been before. Science and Revelation here draw very near to each other, science demanding a non-atomic substance as the only possible basis of conscious identity, and Revelation asserting “there is a spiritual body,” and “God giveth it a body even as it pleased Him.” (T. T. Munger, D. D.)

Disturbances in nature an argument for holy living

Nothing preaches to us such a sermon of the vanity of man, his works, his ambition, his art, his fashion, his pleasures, his proud over-weening science, as the instability of earth and of its final dissolution. But these extraordinary movements of Nature have for us a vastly higher argument than this.

1. In these terrific convulsions of the natural world there are found motives of unusual moment for highest, holy living. The force of this argument will perhaps be most felt when we consider, first, the vital relation which exists between this dissolution of nature and the sin of man. The fatal effects of sin were not limited to the boundaries of human nature, but they reach out into all the boundaries of creation, everywhere bringing blight and derangement. The imperfect and abnormal growths in tree and plant; the pains, diseases, death, which riot among these mute, inanimate things; the distempers and sorrows of the inferior animals; the drear waste of deserts, the thawless regions of ice, the fierce and fitful agitations in nature, the internal fires and ferments, ocean tempests and distractions, are palpable symptoms of organic difficulty and incurable sickness throughout the whole natural world. Ought we not to find in this exhibition of nature’s unrest and discord an irresistible argument for holiness of life? How can we delay to forsake that against which nature from the first rebels, against whose influence the very earth protests in her volcanic thunders and her profound shudderings.

2. Again we find an argument for holy living when we consider the vital relation which exists between this dissolution of nature and the restoration of man. Dissolution is not annihilation, it is simply transformation. These are not the death-pangs, but the birth-throes of nature. They clearly foretell a new creation, in which all that so terribly blights and mars the present one shall be absent. Does not the thought of all this come at last to press home upon us as with a tremendous argument to live in all godliness of life? No man of impure habits or misshapen character and deformed repulsive life shall range through that fair region, for there the river of life flows pure from the eternal throne, and instead of the thorn there is the fir tree, and instead of the brier there is the myrtle tree. (G. B. Spalding, LL. D.)

The dissolution of the world

The certainty of the dissolution of the world. That all these things shall be dissolved is a doctrine expressly delivered in Scripture, and by many impressive allusions brought home to the human heart. The day no sooner dawns and gains its meridian splendour than it begins to decline and ends in night. Spring no sooner introduces the bloom of summer than autumn assumes its reign, and then the devastations of winter desolate all the beauties of the year. Around us all things continually change, and life itself is ever passing away; grey hair and the faded look soon remind us that old age is at hand. Nothing is stable on earth. Cities, states, and empires have their period set. The labours of men perish; the monuments of art moulder into dust; even the works of nature wax old and decay. The world was created for the pleasure of God; and, when its destined course is fulfilled, He commands its destruction. He saw it meet that when the probationary course of the generations of men was finished, their present habitation should pass away. Of the seasonableness of that period He alone can judge. But amidst this great revolution of nature our comfort is that it is a revolution conducted by Him, the measures of whose government are all founded on goodness. Over the shock of the elements and the wreck of nature eternal wisdom presides. It is the day of the Lord, and from the terrors His faithful subjects shall have nothing to dread.

The sudden and unexpected coming of this great event. How miserable they whom it shall overtake in the midst of dark conspiracies, criminal deeds, or profligate pleasures!

The consequences of the dissolution of the world to man.

The influence which the dissolution of all things ought to produce upon our lives. It ought to produce a seriousness of thought, at all times, upon the mind. (D. Malcolm, LL. D.)

The end of all things

We think it quite unnecessary to travel into the question whether these words mark an annihilation of matter, or only its purification preparatory to its re-appearance in some better form; it is sufficient for our purpose that the effect shall be the same as if the whole were taken down, and star after star and system after system departed from the vast fields of space.

There are two ways in which the assertion as to the dissolution of all material things may be considered and applied; we may speak of them as to be dissolved, either as they are in themselves, or as they are possessed by us.

1. And first as to the fact, literally taken, that “all these things shall be dissolved.” We must pause to note the sublimity and augustness of the fact that the Almighty is to remain unchanged and unchangeable, whilst the very heavens and suns and stars are dim with age. We find His eternity before the series commenced, and we find it when the series shall have passed. Who amongst us does not feel rebuked by the truth now presented to his attention, if indeed he be living in the preference of the objects of sight? Man of pleasure! go on delighting thyself with things which gratify the senses; man of learning! continue to neglect “the wisdom which is from above”; man of avarice! persist in digging for gold, and consume thy days and nights in heaping up riches; man of ambition! still toil for distinction, and spare no sacrifice which may gain the honour of this world. But now, all ye worshippers of visible things, that immortal yourselves ye choose for your portion what is infinite and perishable. Appointed yourselves to an endless duration, ye place your happiness in objects that are to last for a time and then wholly disappear. “All,” yea “all these things shall be dissolved.”

2. But we observed to you-that there was another sense in which this declaration might be taken--regard being had to the shortness of our own lives, rather than finite duration of all visible things. Even if there were never to come an appointed change over the visible universe, if the sun were never to be extinguished nor the earth consumed, ye cannot deny that so far as ye yourselves are concerned “all these things” would have to “be dissolved.” We will not argue with the sensualist in the midst of the fascinating objects wherein he delights; we will not argue with the miser whilst the gold glitters and sparkles before him; we will not argue with the philosopher as the broad arch of the heavens fixes his study; but we will argue with them amidst the graves of a churchyard, and our reasoning shall be its inhabitants of all ages and all ranks. We need not continue our progress through the melancholy spot; but will any of you go away from the churchyard unimpressed with the feeling that all created good can be enjoyed but for a short time, and therefore that it is not the good which should engage the affections of creatures appointed for immortality?

But let us endeavour to place before you this inference in a somewhat clearer point of view. The apostle argues that forasmuch as all visible things are to “be dissolved” they ought not to engage our affections; in other words, he argues from the transitoriness of all that earth can give to the folly of making it our chief good; and we wish to prove to you that the argument is in every way sound and logical. You must admit in the general that the worth or the value and possession depends in great measure on the length of time for which it is to be enjoyed. The objects of human pursuit are for the most part precious in men’s eyes in proportion to their probable duration, and you take the most effectual way of depreciating them by proving them transitory in respect to themselves, or transitory in respect to their possessor. And if this be true, there ought to be needed nothing but an actual consciousness of the shortness and uncertainty of life, in order to our estimating at their true worth the riches and honours and pleasures of the world. It would cause the gold that ye covet to look dim, and the honours that ye envy to fade in your estimation, and the knowledge for which ye toil to seem of little worth, and the pleasures which ye crave to appear to you insipid, were ye indeed in the habit of expecting your decease, and were ye really to count yourselves “strangers and pilgrims upon earth.” It is only because there is no such feeling, and practically no such computation that ye are yet so fascinated and engrossed with what the world can bestow on its votaries.

If there be one effect which more than another this consideration of the dissolution of all visible things is adapted to produce, it is a willingness “to do good and to communicate.” Shall we, if indeed it be only for a brief time that we can have possession of earthly things--shall we either selfishly hoard them or squander them on our own gratification, when we may “make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” and secure, by our acting as stewards rather than proprietors, unfading riches in that day when the earth and heavens shall flee from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

What manner of persons ought ye to be.--

Things and persons, here and hereafter

An important classification: “Things” and “persons.”

1. Things. We call the visible universe the great system of things. We need sometimes to remember that they are things only. The uplifted mountains which awe us with their sublimity are simply things. The animal and vegetable creations belong to the same category. There are endless varieties of life, instinct, structure, and form; but all are things. The possessions on which men so much pride themselves, and which attract such consideration from their fellows, are things, and nothing more. Our very bodies, so closely related to ourselves--inseparably united with us for this life--are yet not ourselves. They are but things. Youthfulness, elasticity, and bloom; age, debility, and decay, are not ourselves, nor our friends; they are things only--frail and changing things.

2. Persons. Persons are endowed with intelligence and will; they discern both right and wrong; they love and loathe. What a tremendous prerogative, to be a person! What high fellowship! God is a Person. So are angels. Man is the image of his Maker. What a pinnacle of danger is this! What a fall is possible from hence! Things exist for persons, not persons for things. Creation is for God, not God for creation. Nature, like the Sabbath, is for man, not man for nature, not man for the Sabbath. The popular philosophy of our day reverses this order. Its practical teaching is, that persons exist for things. As long as you court men, not for what they are, but for what they have, you put things above persons. In the Divine intention things are subordinate to persons. Business, riches, competence, poverty, are tests of men. They are instruments of education and discipline. None of these things are for themselves; they are ordained for persons--for the development of the mind and conscience and heart of man. The solemn question about every one is--ought to be now--will be hereafter--not, What has the man made by business? but, What has business made the man? The world’s creed is--Man exists for business, not business for man. The same perversion is visible in the misuse of the human body. One needs sometimes to ask, Which is the man, the body or the soul? The outer man is designed to be the hourly test of the inner man. The end of the thing is answered, when the intellectual, moral, and spiritual habits of the person inhabiting and using it are expanded and perfected. The husk is shed when stem and leaf appear.

An instructive contrast: “Things “shall be “dissolved”; “persons” must continue “to be.”

1. “Things” shall be “dissolved.” The globe is but our larger habitation, and, like the body which we occupy, it will not survive its uses. It is not “shall be dissolved.” It is, “are being dissolved.” Future events are close to the vision of the seer. There is something of the remotest future in every immediate present. “We all do fade as the leaf.” The elements of death, to which we must succumb at the last, work in us through childhood, youth, and maturity. So, too, the seeds of the final ruin are sown in the world now, and grow from hour to hour.

2. “Persons” continue to be. “Persons” cannot “dissolve.” The consciousness of existence and the sense of responsibility are indestructible. They may be bedimmed, but not extinguished. The intellectual and moral energies of the soul are a fire which may be buried, and, for a while, be constrained to smoulder; but, uncovered to the air, it will break forth once more into dazzling flame. Ah! what changes persons can pass through, and still remain the same! What differences there are between childhood and age, and yet the individual continues as before! A man may so alter his earthly condition that the past may become a dream, and will no more be realised in the present. He may modify and even cancel all the judgments which he ever held, and may reverse all his moral principles and religious hopes. But not even a suspicion will ever cross his mind to confuse the unquestioned conviction that, as a person, he is unaltered and the same. Life and death, the grave and judgment, heaven and hell, immortal activity and endless years will never bedim the individuality of a single soul. Personality in every deathless spirit shall stretch in a line of unwavering light to all eternity.

A solemn inference: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be.”

1. Ye ought to live in the hallowed discharge of all duty towards God and man.

(1) “In all holy conversation.” The word is plural, “conversations.” As usual in our version, conversation means conduct. The plural indicates no particular conduct, but all conduct without exception.

(2) “And godliness.” The plural occurs here also, “godlinesses.” Godliness is all thought, feeling, and conduct which are possible to a man towards God. This is man’s action towards heaven, as the former is man’s action towards earth. Penitence for sin; faith in Christ, whose blood was shed; the eager pursuit of the Holy Spirit’s grace, that godliness with you may be likeness to God; these and all emotions, resolutions, and actions which can cleanse the conscience, pacify the heart, and refine the character, are to distinguish men who recognise that “all things are dissolving,” that “persons” are immortal, and may be for ever blessed.

2. In the holy fulfilment of all duty to man, and in the sacred enjoyment of all hallowed privilege from God, ye are to expect the grand consummation, and by the same conduct to hasten it on.

(1) “Looking for the coming of the day of God.” The word means watching and waiting. It is looking, not doubtfully, but in expectancy. This state of mind is the fruit of “all holy conversations and godlinesses.” It cannot be projected by a wish. It can no more be extemporised in the Christian life than can an elaborate Corinthian capital or an ethereal group of sculpture be flung off and finished with a blow. Languishing piety and increasing worldliness will not attain it. If you would reap the harvest, you must sow the seed, and protect the rising growth from all blight and injury.

(2) “And hasting the coming of the day of God.” “All holy conversations and godlinesses,” not only create the state of expectancy, but in the design of the Almighty they bring on the day. The great system of “things” is passing to dissolution, let holy “persons,” who will mount above the ruin and live for ever, hasten the blissful hour. (H. Batchelor.)

What manner of persons Christian professors ought to be

zealous and in earnest as to the concerns of religion. “What shall it profit a man, if,” etc.

Penitent and broken-hearted (Psalms 51:17).

Believing on Christ as set forth in the word (John 6:27-29).

Patient and resigned. Because--

1. Their sufferings less than they deserve.

2. Christ suffered more for them.

3. They suffer for their profit.

Benevolent, condescending, and merciful. Because Christ has been so to them (2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 John 3:16-17),

Circumspect. Because their danger is great.

Grateful. Because all their blessings are undeserved.

Hopeful. Because what God has done for them ensures everything.

Ready for the dissolution of their present state, and the commencement of that to come. Learning hence-

1. Christianity, when reduced to practice, is beneficial to others as well as to our selves.

2. Christianity at a low ebb amongst us.

3. God will help those who are seeking to be what they should be (Philippians 4:13).

4. The consideration of what we should be teaches us our need of Christ in everything (Galatians 2:19-20). (H. Foster, M. A.)

Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.--

Desire for the day of God

The privilege and duty enjoined. Christians should live and walk as on the borders of eternity, dying daily. This “looking for” the coming of Christ is similar to that of the watchman who waits with earnest solicitude for the dawn of day. It is the look of desire, not of regret; of hope, not of fear; and hence it is added, “hasting to” the coming of the day of God. The Christian ought to do this in two ways--

1. In desire. As he approaches the heavenly country he ought to breathe more of its atmosphere; to become more and more engrossed with those foretastes which faith gives him of its blessedness.

2. In preparation.

The means by which we may attain to the exercise of this duty and the enjoyment of this privilege.

The blessed consequences which would result from our habitually looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God.

1. It would make us watchful and circumspect.

2. It would support us under the trials of life.

3. It would make us bold in our Master’s cause.

4. It would lead us to form proper notions of worldly things.

5. It would cause our light to shine brighter amongst men. (W. C. Wilson, M. A.)

Advancing the Second Advent

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.” Practically it comes to the same, whether we hasten to Christ or cause Christ to hasten to us. But the intention is that we should do both--“Hasting unto,” and ourselves “hastening,” “the coming of the clay of God.” But now the question presents itself--“Can anything which a man does really ‘hasten,’ by a single moment, the Second Coming of Christ?” It is a question which, in fact, loses itself in a far greater one--“Can the acts of the Almighty, which are all pre-determined from all eternity, be affected by anything which His creatures do?” In every age Christians are to be praying and labouring for the extension of the gospel over the whole earth. 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. “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. Many things have gone back. Death has retired for fifteen years. The destruction of a city has been postponed indefinitely. 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? “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 was put forward “for the elect’s sake.” Then here is a great and happy event “hastening “on for man! 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.

2. Let the Church live in love and union, in order that a united Church may attract her Lord to “come.”

3. Make great efforts for the evangelisation of the world.

4. Cultivate personal holiness. 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? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The day of God

Can it be that God has left large tracts of present time to themselves; that He has retreated into some distant future, when He will exert a jurisdiction that does not now belong to Him? Certainly not. This were irreconcileable with any true idea of the Omnipresent and the Eternal. All days most assuredly are His, who is the Lord of time. Each hour, each minute, as it passes by, is passed beneath His eye, or rather within His encompassing presence.

By “the day of God” is meant a day which will not merely be his, as all days are His, but which will be felt to be His--a day in which His true relation to time and life, which is, in the case of the majority of men, only dimly perceived, will be unreservedly acknowledged; a day which will belong to Him, because in the thoughts of every reasonable creature of His hand, whether it will be for weal or for woe, He will have no rival.

“The day of God” means, again, a time when all human things will be rated at their true value; when man’s life, and all that belongs to it, will be seen in the light of the infinite and the eternal, and therefore in its relative insignificance. “The day of God” thus tacitly implies a contrast; it means that the days of man’s earthly life and all that concerns it will have passed away (Isaiah 2:12-17). Most men who have lived until middle life have experienced something that will enable them in part to understand this. You have gone on for years without any shock to the even tenour of life. You may have fallen under the empire of nature and the empire of your bodily senses, and everything belonging to this world may have come to be seen in exaggerated proportions, because you have lost sight of a higher. Now, a state of mind like this is abruptly broken in upon by a great trouble, by a loss of income, by a loss of reputation, by the death of a dearly loved relative, by a break-up of your health. He finds that he has made too much of it, both in detail and as a whole, and he wakes up to see that there is another world beyond it, compared with which, at its very best, it is poor and worthless indeed. This is for him a true “day of the Lord”; and in the light of that day he learns this truth, that “all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness of man as the flower of the field,” and that while “the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth, the Word of our God shall abide for ever.” And every such experience in life is a preparation for the awful day, when we shall learn, as never before, the insignificance of all that only belongs to time.

“The day of God” means the day of universal judgment. Certainly God is always judging us. Moment by moment we live beneath His all-seeing eye; He registers each act, each word, each thought, each movement of passion, each truancy of the will, each struggle by His grace to live for Him, each victory over the craft and subtlety of the devil or man. Yes, He is always on His throne of judgment, but this does not prove that no time is coming when He will judge as never before. The predicted day of judgment will differ from the continuous judgment that always is exercised by the Divine Mind as it gazes upon a moral world in two respects--in its method and in its finality. It will be carried out, that last judgment, by the Man Christ Jesus in person. And as the last judgment will be administered by a visible judge, by our dear Lord, who was crucified for us, and who rose from the grave, and who ascended into heaven, so it will be final. There will be no appeal, no rehearing, no reversal possible. Every grace responded to, or neglected, will be taken into account. Every thought, word, act, habit, all that has gone to make up our final self--and everything from the cradle to the dying hour, most assuredly, contributes something--all will be taken fully, unerringly into the reckoning. And thus, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is called an “Eternal Judgment,” meaning a judgment from which there is no appeal, in the new and everlasting age. We cannot picture to ourselves this judgment; but that does not prove that it will not take place. (Canon Liddon.)

The influence of belief in tire coming of the day of God

The expectation of a coming day of God affects Christian thought, in the first place, by reminding us of what human life really is and means. Springing, as it does, out of the very idea of duty, being, as it is, the inseparable concomitant of a reasoned conception of right and wrong as the law planted within us by some moral being, who must have the will and the power to enforce it, the expectation of a coming judgment at once raises man into his true place as the first of created beings here below; and yet, withal, it keeps him there. In short, the knowledge that we have to be judged at once guarantees our dignity and defines our subordination. It is only as moral beings having free-will that we are capable of undergoing judgment at all; and, as having to undergo it, we are necessarily and infinitely below Him whose right and whose duty it is to judge us.

A second way in which the expectation of the coming of the day of God powerfully affects Christian thought is that which illuminates the sense of responsibility. The sense of responsibility is as wide as the moral sense of man; that is to say, it is as wide as the human race. This primal idea, rooted in our first instinctive perceptions of moral truth, that we are responsible beings, necessarily implies that some one exists to whom this responsibility is due. Who is it? We look around us, and we see, most of us, some fellow creatures to whom we have to answer for our conduct. The child knows that he must answer for it to his parents--to his mother in early, to his father in later years. The schoolboy thinks of his master, the clerk of his employer, the soldier of his commanding officer. As we get higher in the scale of society, it may seem at a distance that there are personages so exalted as to be subject to no human masters to whom their responsibility is due; but in reality it is quite otherwise. Those who govern us are answerable to what is called public opinion for their conduct of public affairs. That is to say, they have to give an account, not to one, but to many millions of their countrymen. But if conscience speaks to us at all with clearness and honesty, it tells every one of us one thing about such responsibilities we owe to our fellow-creatures, and that is that such responsibility covers only a very small part indeed of our actual conduct. A great deal goes on in every life which is either right or wrong, yet for which a man feels in no way accountable to any human critic or authority whatever. Is he, therefore, not accountable for such acts and words as do not fall within human jurisdiction? And this knowledge obliges us to look often and beyond this human world to One to whom our responsibility is really due. As He only can take account of that which is withdrawn from the eyes of our fellow-men, so He assuredly does take account of all in which others may have a right to do so. We are responsible to God--yes, all who seriously believe that He exists as the moral Governor of this world which He has made must admit this responsibility. But, then, the question arises: When is the account to be rendered? That God keeps His eye upon it day by day in the case of every one of us is as certain as that He exists. It is faith in a future judgment which makes the sense of responsibility living and operative, by making the prospect of a real reckoning definite and concrete.

Belief in a coming day of God affects our whole view of human history and of human life. When we take up a volume of ancient history, or of the history of our own country, of what does it mainly consist? It describes royal and noble personages succeeding one another--their birth, their training, their coronations, their deaths. It describes the varying fortunes of multitudes of human beings associated together as what is called a nation, their privations, their conquests, their gradual improvement, the crimes for which they are collectively responsible. In short, we read history too often as though it told us all that was to be said about man, as though when man had done with this earthly life there was really an end. Ah! we forget the truth which makes history so inexpressibly pathetic, that all is not really over with those whom it describes, that they have only ceased to be visible, that the most important part of their career yet awaits them, viz., the account they have to give of it. Our Saxon forefathers, and the Britons whom they so ruthlessly exterminated, and Alfred, and Edward the Confessor, and William the Conqueror, and Rufus, and Coeur de Lion, and John, and the great Plantagenets, the Edwards and the Henrys, and Elizabeth, and Mary Stuart, and Charles, and Cromwell, and the Georges, and the Pretenders, and the great statesmen who fill the canvas of the first half of this century, and the men of the first Revolution, and the Napoleons, down to those who left us but yesterday--depend upon it they are no mere names; they are still living beings; and this is the fact, the pathetic fact, common to all of them, that they are waiting for the final judgment, and they already know enough to know what it will mean to each one of themselves. This view of history, considered in the light of a coming day of judgment, extends itself at once and inevitably to human life in our own day and immediately around us. Our first and, so to call it, our natural view of human beings around us takes note of their positions in this world, and of the points wherein they differ from or resemble ourselves. We think of them as better or worse off, as more or less educated, as friendly or as distant acquaintances, as belonging to a past or to a younger generation, or to our own, as standing in this or in that relation to the public life of the country, as belonging to this or to that profession, as occupying this or that or a third position in the social scale; but once let us have steadily thought out the truth that, like ourselves, every human being is certainly on his trial and his judgment before Him, and how insignificant do all those considerations about our fellow-creatures appear in the light of this tremendous fact! Yes, those possessors of vast influence, which they use, if at all, for selfish ends; those owners of accumulated wealth, which they spend so largely, if not altogether, upon themselves; those men of cultivated minds, who regard cultivation as an end in itself, and without a thought of what it may be made to do for others or for the glory of God; yes, the consideration that all, all will be judged, and that every hour that passes brings them nearer to the judgment, makes us think of human life around us in quite a new light. (Canon Liddon.)

The day of God

The solemn event we should anticipate. “The day of God, wherein,” etc.

1. The day of His glory.

2. The day of His power.

3. The day of His wrath.

The practical influence it should produce. “Looking for and hasting unto,” etc.

1. It should duly interest our minds.

2. It should duly influence our conduct. “Looking for and hasting unto the day of God” comprehends earnest desire and diligent preparation.

The important reflections it should suggest.

1. The awful nature and effects of sin.

2. The emptiness and vanity of the world.

3. The necessity of seeking an interest in Christ. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

Verses 13-14

2 Peter 3:13-14

Look for new heavens and a new earth.

New heavens and new earth

A question here arises whether the new heavens and new earth will be created out of the-ruins of the old. The idea of the annihilation of so many immense and glorious bodies, organised with inimitable skill, is gloomy and forbidding. It ought not to be believed without the most decisive proof. On the other hand, it is a most animated thought that this visible creation which sin has marred will be restored by our Jesus.

1. The words which are employed to express the destruction of the world do net necessarily imply annihilation. The figures taken from the wearing out of a garment and from the vanishing of smoke do neither of them import the destruction of substance. For the substance of a garment when it moulders away, and of smoke when it vanishes, is not annihilated; only the form is changed. Is it said that the world shall perish? The same word is used to express the ancient destruction of the world by the flood. Is it said that the world shall have an end and be no more? This may be understood only of the present organisation of the visible system. The natural power of fire is not to annihilate, but only to dissolve the composition and change the form of substances.

2. Our text and several similar passages compel me to believe that new material heavens and a new material earth will be raised up to supply the place of those which the conflagration shall have destroyed. This being allowed, it seems more natural to suppose that the old materials will be employed than that they will be annihilated and new ones created in their stead. We know that the glorified bodies of the saints will be formed of materials which now exist on the earth, and that even the glorious body of Christ is formed of no other.

3. The new heavens and new earth seem eminently represented as a part of the vast plan of restoration which Christ undertook to accomplish. But it is not the part of Christ in this work to create out of nothing, but only to renew.

4. The time of Christ’s advent to judgment is called “the times of restitution of all things.”

5. But the passage on which the advocates for renovation chiefly rely remains yet to be produced (Romans 8:1-39.). If, then, by “the creature” is meant “every creature” or “the whole creation,” how is the whole creation to “be delivered,” in the resurrection, “from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God?” Not by annihilation, but by a glorious renovation. But why, if the heavenly bodies are to be continued in existence, should they be dissolved by fire, since they are not, as far as we know, defiled, as our earth is, by sin? One end of their dissolution may be that by a different composition of their materials they may be rendered more pure and glorious. Another end may be to make a memorable display of God’s abhorrence of everything which has had the most distant connection with sin. They have ministered to apostate man and lighted him in his course of rebellion. Lift up your heads, ye people of God, and sing, for your redemption draweth nigh. What though you are poor in this world, the new heavens and new earth will be all your own. Ye who must now walk on the earth lame and halt, while the world rattle by you in their splendid equipages, shall shortly make easy excursions from star to star, and from world to world. (E. Griffins, D. D.)

The new creation

Reflect on the great creation and the purpose of God in making the infinity of worlds. That there is no adequate purpose it would be absurd, indeed almost blasphemous, to suppose. The tornado may work blindly as it tears down the forest trees in its fury; but how unworthy would be such blind, aimless work on the part of the Infinite God! A giant may put forth his portentous strength in mere vain display; but could God exert such stupendous energy in order that some fraction of its wonder might dazzle the few beholders in one world? Surely a devout faith, as well as a reasoning intelligence, must conclude that the purpose which alone explains the creation and arrangement of our earth is that it should be the home of life, and of beings able to apprehend God’s will, is the actuating purpose of all the rest of the creation.

But in this world, at least, there has been failure. In man’s inmost nature there has been a collapse. High faith and loyalty, integrity and pureness, persistent endeavour for the right--all this has broken down, and man’s moral and spiritual nature is in ruins. But into the midst of the ruin of human hope there has come the all-renewing power of a great redemption.

How boundless is the prospect opened out to man by this new hope! What infinite possibility and promise of the development and application of human faculty! what a future for the researches of science and the plastic skill of art! and what sacred joy in the perfected and permanent relationships of human society!

Our attention is directed to the regnant principle of the new universe. Where vice reigns all is hell; where vice and virtue are in conflict life is mingled joy and pain; but where triumphant righteousness makes its abiding home there must be health without any lurking incipiency of sickness, joy without threat of grief, love without peril of parting, and life without possibility of death. “Wherein dwelleth righteousness”--as the very coherence of the texture of the new world, and the pervasive and penetrating energy of the new life. And for this ultimate triumph of righteousness God is our guarantee. (T. F. Lockyer, B. A.)

A new heaven and a new earth

The events looked for.

1. First, the destruction of the world that now is. Not only the heavens, but “the elements.” Light, heat, air, moisture--all these are to come under the action of the final fire. Then “the earth,” where God planted Eden of old, and whose virgin soil was trodden by sinless humanity; earth, where are Bethlehem, Gethsemane, and Calvary, with all their holy memories of suffering and of rejoicing and of triumph. Then not only earth, but the things that are on the earth; all that human art and human labour and human skill may have added to the earth or reconstructed out of material things. Then the means--fire. Fire is the mightiest force with which we are acquainted in the material world. Science has taught us that no material has been found as yet which fire cannot melt. And fire is not only the mightiest force, but it is the most universally diffused. We find it everywhere--in the vegetable, in the animal, and in the mineral. There is fire in the tree which grows, and hence the savage will take two sticks, and, rubbing them briskly together, he produces a spark and flame. Though there is much of moisture in the wood, nevertheless he can produce fire from it. There is fire in the very stone on which you tread. Hence the sparks that you see struck forth beneath the prancing steed, or sometimes occasioned by your own sharp footsteps. There is fire in the water. If there were not it would all be frozen. Fire enters into the constitution of our own body. There is heat in the skin and in the flesh, in the blood and in the bone, and in the sinew; and it causes life to kindle from the sole of the foot to the very crown of the head. This earth of ours was once a sea of molten lava. It is now cooled at the surface, and this constitutes the crust of the globe; but if you were only to dig down seven miles through that crust, you would still come upon the ocean of liquid lava. And God has only to let loose this treasure of fire from its secret place, and then it will rush with destructive fury from world to world and from system to system. No wall can be constructed as a barrier to check its progress. Then you will observe another thing--the manner. “Pass away with a great noise.” The manifestations of God to man are sometimes calm and peaceful and assuring. At other times His manifestations are accompanied with things that awaken terror or create alarm. So it was in connection with Sinai. Then this great crisis is designated the day of the Lord--the day of the Lord Jesus. Why is it designated the day of Christ?

(1) It will be the day of the Lord Jesus, because the transactions of the day will be all based upon the mediatorial work of Christ.

(2) Because it will be the day for the vindication of Christ against all the falsehoods and the prejudices and the wrong judgments which men have entertained concerning Christ.

(3) Then it is the day of the Lord as distinguished from man’s day. It is your day now; and I say to young men it is your day now to do as you please--to rebel against God. But it will be the Lord’s day when the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved.

2. Next, the reconstruction of a new earth out of the material of the old. The renewal of the earth and the heaven will be a something that will take place after the destruction of the old earth and the old heaven. Now we must bear in mind that in the material world nothing is annihilated. He will want all the gold to pave the highways of the New Jerusalem. He will want the diamonds and the precious stones to gem the battlements of the city of the saints. He will put them all into one seething cauldron and melt and purify and purge them, and make them fit material for the erection of the future home of the saints. “We look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.” The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. They shall inherit the earth, and the wicked shall not have a part in it at all. But is this old earth to be cursed for ever? No. Jesus Christ’s work as Redeemer would not be complete. After He has saved man, He will have to effect the restitution of things as well as of men. He will have to extract the curse from the heart of the earth, and so silence the cry of a groaning creation. And let me say that this new heaven and new earth, in its purified form, will be far superior to our old home. What do we find here? Beasts of prey are prowling the deserts. In the new heavens and the new earth “no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon.” In the old earth venomous vipers and poisonous reptiles are crawling, and sometimes they inflict pain, and even death, upon our fellow-men. But in the new heavens and the new earth nothing that hurts and destroys shall ever be seen in all God’s holy mountain. In this old earth what do I find? The air is laden with pestilence and desolation and death. But in the new heavens and the new earth the atmosphere shall be purged of all deleterious influences, and the inhabitants shall never say “I am sick.” Here time lays its destroying hand upon the mightiest monuments that man has ever reared. But in the new heavens and new earth “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and thieves do not break through and steal.” Immortality is possessed by everything there. The inheritance is “incorruptible and undefiled, and it fadeth not away.” In the new heavens and in the new earth there shall be no more sea, no element of destruction there. And then I look at the heavens above me, so magnificent on a bright starry night; but I cannot help being reminded of the alternations of heat and cold, of the insufferable heat of summer and the greater heat endured in other portions of the world than ours, and of the insufferable cold of winter. But in the new heavens and the new earth there will be no such alternations. There is no need of the sun or of the moon, but the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the light thereof. In this old earth the hearts of righteous ones are wounded and pierced to the very quick by the wickedness of those around them. But in the new heavens and in the new earth there “dwelleth righteousness.” There will be no sorrow or suffering through the wickedness of men rebelling against the Lord most high.

What should be our attitude with these things before us? “Be diligent”--that is, “Do your best, that ye may be found of Him in peace.” Oh! is it possible to be at peace when the world is in a blaze? Yes, thank God, it is possible to be at peace then. But how are we to be at peace under such conditions? “Found of Him without spot and blame less”--“without spot” inwardly; “blameless “outwardly. A pure heart and a pure life. There will be nothing to fear then. Suppose two men standing side by side at that day gazing upon the upheaving of all things. The one man has been a millionaire commanding his broad acres and his ample revenue, but has died without Christ. The other man has died in the poor-house, and gone to heaven by faith from his humble abode. The two stand side by side. Ah, which of the two would you prefer to be, then? The one loses all. The fire burns all he ever possessed. The other loses nothing. The flames cannot touch his possessions. He has a pure heart, a clear conscience, a spirit delivered from sin; and the fires cannot touch them. (Richard Roberts.)

The final heaven

There was but one word between chaos and creation--there need be but one between the sustentation and the dissolution of the universal frame. And we are looking for these things! To this promise we hope to come! It is the goal of consummated bliss!

Let us endeavour from this description to suggest to our minds the true nature of that perfect felicity and satisfaction which are reserved for the people of God.

1. The scene we occupy was evidently intended for a great system of life. There is scarcely spot or element in which it may not be found. It is a great contrivance for all the forms and kinds of existence. It would be unmeaning, running to waste, but for this intention. Air, land, water are crowded with their several tribes. The happiness of every one is consulted, function and habitude agree most perfectly with the province and support provided for them, and none who survey and reason out the final causes of things can doubt the will of the great Master and Lord of all. Still he who was made the last of all earthly creatures is the greatest: to him they are all tributary and ministering, and God has given him dominion over them. Then, assuredly, when there shall be new heavens and a new earth, man, the capital figure of the present system, shall still be more prominently raised. He shall there need for help no inferior creatures. Their spirit has gone downward to that earth which is no more. But he is not alone. The ministering spirits which ministered to the heirs of salvation during this life shall be his companions amidst these fairer fields.

2. The world in which we dwell, with all its proper appendages of circumambient air and supernal light, is a material fabric. If, therefore, new heavens and a new earth shall be constituted, they must be material and related to space, or the figure does not hold. And everything concerning that abode would seem to confirm it. It has its entrances, its dimensions, its boundaries, that which can be “seen,” that which may be “heard.” The flesh of the risen saints is seen in those borders. The glorious body of the Eternal Son is the centre of all the beatific attractions and influences.

3. The visible works of God are the means by which intelligent creatures rise in their thoughts to Him and judge of Him. These are the monu ments of His existence and natural perfections. Heaven and earth but vary and multiply the perfect demonstration of a First Cause, His skill, His might, and His bounty. When we read, consequently, of “the new heavens and the new earth,” we cannot fail to infer that they shall be impressed with the same designations. How shall the depths of those heavens, how shall the ever-spreading horizons of that earth, be “sought out” and interpreted for the praises of Him whose glorious majesty shines forth from their incomparable frame l

4. The community of the saints is now a most pleasing fact: they are one. A new heaven and a new earth shall now embrace their whole multitude. God hath prepared a habitation for them. They are all brought home.

5. While the present state of our sojourn abounds in multitudinous life, while it is chiefly administrative to the life of man, we cannot but be amazed at the contrivance and the fulness of those provisions which give general life, and peculiarly that of man, its greatest possible happiness and freest possible exercise. We, however, boast a life of higher functions and aims. To be spiritually-minded is life and peace. The spirit of life breathes it into our soul. Though the sky and earth cannot affect this new mode of being, this life of faith, yet the passions and concernments of the present do war perpetually with it. But “the new heavens and the new earth” shall as much favour the inward life, the life of the spirit, as these mundane conveniences and laws now sustain our inferior life.

6. If the future condition of happiness and glory which shall be prepared for the redeemed may be thus expressed, we may expect that, notwithstanding the difference between it and “this visible, diurnal sphere,” there shall be certain points of resemblance. What are now the marks of our dwelling? Heavens--earth. How is our eternal abode described? New heavens--new earth. Is not there in the former an analogue to the latter? Is not the second the reflex of the first? Was there not a shadowing out of ideas which shall seem familiar to the saints in that glory? That which is inferior in appetite and instinct is done away. But is there no beauty in form and colour which the eye may behold? Are there no ravishing harmonies for the ear? Everything here may be but rudiment and cypher to be evolved and interpreted in far distant seats of the universe. By a graduated scale we may now rise through an ascending series of progressive changes until we reach the climax of all.

7. But this supposed parallelism, however unequal, between these different scenes of existence, comprehends an exercise of distinct and perfect memory. The “terrible crystal” of the new heavens, the fair paradise of the new earth, must recall the old.

8. The manner in which the present heavens and earth are supplanted by the new declares that a measure of happiness is ensured by the exchange which perfectly corresponds to the solemn revolution. Joy is the invariable fruit of a rightly appreciated Christianity.

9. Nothing more distinctly marks the evil of sin than the variance which is often supposed in Scripture between man and the scenes of his habitation. These are bid to rise up and declare against him. He is represented as alone “coming short of the glory of God.” They are true to their purpose, while he has turned aside from the end for which he was created and endowed. Hence those awful apostrophes with which inanimate objects are invoked, as if even they could but condemn him. They are summoned, like so many witnesses and justices, to denounce his crimes. But “the new heavens and earth” shall environ nothing which can offend. They shall correspond with whatever they embrace. Their pure elements shall only encompass the pure.

10. Since heaven and earth combine all our ideas of the fair and grand, since these complete our present sphere of life and action, the continuance of such machinery in a future state must intimate to us the diversity of its good. Herein is every constituent of our pleasure, whether sensual or intellectual. From above or beneath we derive all our gratifications. There is endless variety.

11. We have no such images of permanence as those works of God concerning which we speak. “For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.” “They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure.” “The earth abideth for ever.” God suspends the proof of his faithfulness upon these ordinances, upon the covenant of day and night. Yet are we forewarned of their wreck. If, then, these monuments of whatever is durable are themselves to be destroyed, if the azure fade and the globe decay, how certainly may we regard in the new heavens and earth the voucher of a proper immortality! Their sun shall no more go down. Their refulgent tissues shall not decay. They are the perfect signals of a duration which admits no intervals and wants no monitors--which cannot be broken into ages nor counted out by stars!

12. The power of God to protect and bless is not infrequently rested upon His creative achievements. “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” “The Lord that made heaven and earth, bless thee out of Zion.” “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, which made heaven and earth.” The mourner, the oppressed, the persecuted have sought unto Him who had done all these things--His aid and benediction they could not henceforth distrust nor slight. The meek of the earth were safe beneath the care of Him who made it. The new heavens and earth are fashioned by the same omnipotent artificer, the God of truth and of salvation, and in the same manner does He design that they should support the quietness and assurance of His people for ever! He who reared them shall be their God so long as they endure. They are the standard evidence and voucher of what He can and will work on their behalf.

Let us examine the evidence on which this firm expectation rests. To Abraham a covenant was given in which were contained many promises of a more than earthly kind. He had the seal of righteousness by faith. From him was to descend a spiritual seed. We believe in the Lord, and He counteth it to us for righteousness! We take this ancient warrant, which no time can impair nor cancel--a warrant distinct, successive, cumulative--and “according to His promise we look for new heavens and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness.” Christianity, which brings life and incorruption to light, which is the promise of eternal life, exhibits the true and alone hope of this surpassing condition. We have everlasting consolation and good hope through grace. We depend upon the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began. Promise is a form of Scriptural revelation and encouragement with which we are familiar. It is an infinite condescension in God thus to bind Himself, and to speak to His servants, “for a great while to come.” (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)

New heavens and new earth

1. We know historically that earth, that a solid, material earth, may form the dwelling of sinless creatures in full converse and friendship with the Being who made them. Man, at the first, had for his place this world, and at the same time, for his privilege, an unclouded fellowship with God, and for his prospect an immortality which death was neither to intercept nor put an end to. He was terrestrial in respect of condition, and yet celestial in respect both of character and enjoyment. This may serve to rectify an imagination, of which we think that all must be conscious--as if the grossness of materialism was only for those who had degenerated into the grossness of sin. Were our place of everlasting blessedness so purely spiritual as it is commonly imagined, then the soul of man, after, at death, having quitted his body, would quit it conclusively. That mass of materialism with which it is associated upon earth, and which many regard as an incumbrance, would have leave to putrefy in the grave, without being revisited by supernatural power, or raised again out of the inanimate dust into which it had resolved. There will, it is true, be a change of personal constitution between a good man before his death and a good man after his resurrection--not, however, that he will be set free from his body, but that he will be set free from the corrupt principle which is in his body--not that the materialism by which he is now surrounded will be done away, but that the taint of evil by which this materialism is now pervaded will be done away. And this will be his heaven, that he will serve God without a struggle and in a full gale of spiritual delight--because with the full concurrence of all the feelings and all the faculties of his regenerated nature. The great constitutional plague of his nature will no longer trouble him; and there will be the charm of a general affinity between the purity of his heart and the purity of the element he breathes in. But the highest homage that we know of to materialism is that which God manifest in the flesh has rendered to it. That He, the Divinity, should have wrapt His unfathomable essence in one of its coverings; that He should now be throned in universal supremacy, that substantial and embodied humanity should be thus exalted, does this look like the abolition of materialism, after the present system of it is destroyed; or does it not rather prove that, transplanted into another system, it will be preferred to celestial honours, and prolonged in immortality throughout all ages?

2. But though a paradise of sense, it will not be a paradise of sensuality. There will both be heavens and earth, it would appear, in the next great administration--and with this specialty to mark it from the present one, that it will be a heavens and an earth “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Were it the great characteristic of that spirituality which is to obtain in a future heaven, that it was a spirituality of essence then occupying and pervading the place from which materialism had been swept away, we could not, by any possible method, approximate the condition we are in at present to the condition we are to hold everlastingly. But when we are told that materialism is to be kept up, and that the spirituality of our future state lies not in the kind of substance which is to compose its framework, but in the character of those who people it--this puts, if not the fulness of heaven, at least a foretaste of heaven, within our reach. We have not to strain at a thing so impracticable as that of diluting the material economy which is without us--we have only to reform the moral economy that is within us. This will make plain to you how it is that it Could be said in the New Testament that the “kingdom of heaven was at hand”--and how, in that book, its place is marked out, not by locally pointing to any quarter, and saying, Lo here, or lo there, but by the simple affirmation that the kingdom of heaven is within you. And hence one great purpose of the incarnation of our Saviour. He came down amongst us in the full perfection of heaven’s character, and has made us see that it is a character which may be embodied. We learn from Christ that the heavenly graces are all of them compatible with the wear of an earthly body and the circumstances of an earthly habitation. And had we only the character of heaven, we should not be long of feeling what that is which essentially makes the comfort of heaven. Let us but love the righteousness which He loves, and hate the iniquity which He hateth, and this, of itself, would so soften and attune the mechanism of our moral nature, that in all the movements of it there should be joy. Let the will of God be done here as it is done there, and not only will character and conduct be the same here as there, but they will also resemble each other in the style though not in the degree of their blessedness. And here we may remark that the only possible conveyance for this new principle into the heart is the gospel of Jesus Christ. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Man’s external universe as assuming a real form

That the new heavens and the new earth will emerge from the ruins of the present. This is far the most probable for the following reasons--

1. Our planet has already undergone changes somewhat analogous. Geology would give us to understand that this globe has passed through numerous changes.

2. The apparent indestructibility of matter.

3. The moral events that have transpired on this earth.

4. The context makes it evident. Lest the reader should fancy that the fire should entirely destroy this beautiful world, it was natural for St. Peter to intimate that a new heaven and a new earth would grow out of it.

The new heavens and the new earth will be the abode of “righteousness.” “Wherein dwelleth righteousness,” This is its moral glory, this it is that marks it off in glorious contrast from its present character. This world at present is like the house of the old leper, every part defiled. But “righteousness “will dwell in its future state.

1. It will dwell universally.

2. It will dwell supremely. Now, wherever found, it is in a servile state. Right is under the foot of might.

3. It will dwell exclusively. There will be nothing of an opposite character.

4. It will dwell permanently. Its regions will never be invaded, its authority will never be shaken, its glory will never be overshadowed by evil. This indwelling righteousness is its glory. The most bright and majestic objects of nature looked at through a corrupt heart are uninteresting. No one can see God’s beauty in the external world who has not moral beauty within; no one can catch the sweet harmonies without who has not the moral harmonies within. The soul is the measure and mirror of man’s universe.

That the new heavens and earth are objects of prospective interests to the good. “We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth.” This looking implies two things--

1. Sufficient evidence to believe that these new heavens and earth will appear. Looking means expecting--expecting implies reason.

2. A conviction that some advantages will accrue from the appearance. Looking implies desire--desire implies the desirable. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The qualities of the new earth

This earth is perishing. All the productions of nature, all the works of art, all the arrangements of policy that regard it, perish; man, its lord and master, is short-lived and perishing.

The nature of the earth which is to succeed the present.

1. The earth beyond the grave is new; by which we are to understand that it is as perfect in its structure and as attractive in its appearance as if it had just come from the hands of its Creator. No inundations have deluged it; no torrents have disfigured it. No lapse of years impairs its beauty, or introduces among its objects anything like ruin.

2. In the earth beyond the grave “dwelleth righteousness”; by which we may understand that it is the habitation of the righteous, and the place where their work of righteousness is rewarded. Conclusion:

1. The illustration of the text shows the value of righteousness. Revolutions shake the thrones of princes; but righteousness is raised on everlasting foundations, and they who have taken their seat there cannot be moved.

2. The doctrine of the text enforces heavenly mindedness. Set thy affections on that world which is lasting as thyself, and which only is capable of yielding thee perfect bliss.

3. The doctrine of the text enforces trust in God. He whose word made and will unmake the world is the only stay for you.

4. The doctrine of the text should awaken devout gratitude to Christ. (W. Thorburn.)

Seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent.

Wonders in man’s future history

That the wonders in man’s future are transcendently great. “Such things.”

That these wonders are anticipated by some. “Ye look for such things.”

1. They are expected for very good reasons.

(1) They are certain.

(2) We have an interest in them. These are good reasons.

2. They are expected with very different feelings. By some with indifference, by some with dread, by some with rapturous joy.

That these wonders demand personal preparedness. How shall I become prepared to meet them? The text suggests two things as an answer.

1. Reconciliation with God. “Found of him in peace.”

2. Sanctification. “Without spot and blameless.”

That these wonders demand Christian earnestness. “Be diligent.”

1. Think of the greatness of your work.

2. The brevity of your probationary period. (F. F. Thomas.)

Christian diligence, with its motives and end

Persons addressed. “Wherefore, beloved,” etc.

1. Beloved of God. That the people of God are beloved by Him, we infer from the titles by which He distinguishes them (Deuteronomy 33:12; Nehemiah 13:26; Daniel 9:23; Malachi 3:17; Romans 9:25).

2. Beloved of each other.

Events anticipated. “Ye look for such things.”

A charge given. “Be diligent.” Diligence is opposed to idleness, slothfulness, or inattention. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

“Be diligent”

The clear hope which should fill our future. “Seeing that ye look for such things.” What things? Peter has been drawing a very vivid picture of the end, in two parts, one destructive, the other constructive. Opticians make glasses with three ranges, and write upon a little bar which shifts their eye-pieces, “Theatre,” “Field,” “Marine.” Which of the three is your glass set to? The turn of a button determines its range. You can either look at the things close at hand, or, if you set the eye-piece right, and use the strongest, you can see the stars. Which is it to be? The shorter range shows you possibilities; the longer will show you certainties. The shorter range shows you trifles; the longer, all that you can desire. How many hopes we have outgrown, whether they were fulfilled or disappointed. But we may have one which will ever move before us, and ever draw our desires. The greater vision, if we were only wise enough to bring our lives habitually under its influence, would at once dim and ennoble all the near future.

The definite aim which this clear hope should impress upon life, If you knew that you were going to emigrate soon, and spend all your life on the other side of the world, in circumstances the outlines of which you knew, you would be a fool if you did not set yourself to get ready for them. The more clearly we see, and the more deeply we feel, that future hope, which is disclosed for us in the words of my text, the more it will prescribe a dominant purpose which will give unity, strength, buoyancy, and blessedness to any life. “Seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent.” For what? “That ye maybe found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” Every word is weighty here.

1. “That ye may be found.” That implies, ii not search, at least investigation. It suggests the idea of the discovery of the true condition, character, or standing of a man which may have been hidden or partially obscured before--and now, at last, is brought out clearly.

2. Then, note, “Found in Him,” or, “in His sight.” Then Christ is the Investigator, and it is before “those pure eyes and perfect judgment” that they have to pass, who shall be admitted into the new heavens and the new earth, “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

3. Then mark what is the character which, discovered on investigation by Jesus Christ, admits there: “without spot and blameless.” There must be the entire absence of every blemish, stain, or speck of impurity. “Blameless” is the consequence of “spotless.” That which in itself is pure attracts no censure, whether from the Judge or from the assessors and onlookers in His court. In Peter’s other letter Christ Himself is described as a Lamb “without blemish and without spot.” And thus the character that qualifies for the new heavens is the copy in us of Jesus Christ. Still further, only those who thus have attained to the condition of absolute, speckless purity and conformity to Jesus Christ, will meet His searching eye in calm tranquillity and be “found of Him in peace.” The steward brings his books to his master. If he knows that there has been trickery with the figures, and embezzlement, how the wretch shakes in his shoes, though he may stand apparently calm, as the master’s keen eye goes down the columns! If he knows that it is all right, how calmly he waits the master’s signature at the end, to pass the account! If we are to meet Jesus Christ with quiet hearts, and we certainly shall meet Him, we must meet Him “without spot and blameless.”

The earnest diligence with which that aim should be pursued, in the light of that hope. Peter is fond of using the word which is here translated “be diligent.” Hard work, honest effort, continuous and persevering, is his simple recipe for all nobleness. The word includes in its meaning earnestness, and it very frequently includes that which is the ordinary consequence of earnestness--viz., haste and economy of time.

1. Be in earnest in cultivating a Christian character.

2. Make it your business to cultivate a character like that of Jesus Christ.

3. Make haste about cultivating a Christlike character. The harvest is great, the toil is heavy, the sun is drawing to the west, the reckoning is at hand. There is no time to lose; set about it as you have never done before, and say, “This one thing I do.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Christian diligence

The stupendous events which are expected.

The important duty which is required.

1. The opposite of that moral stupidity which prevails among men.

2. The reverse of that indolence of soul, with which so many engage in the affairs of salvation.

3. The opposite of a worldly spirit.

The happy end to be accomplished.

1. “That ye may be found of Him in peace”--not in affluence, honour, ease or indulgence; but in peace--

(1) With all mankind;

(2) With your own heart;

(3) With God, your reconciled Father.

2. “Without spot” (1 John 1:7). Let us plunge with confidence into this fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. Let us also be diligent, not only that we may be made, but also that we maybe preserved pure.

3. “Blameless”; your holy love so manifest, your justification and acceptance so clear, that bad men and devils dare not, good men and angels cannot, and God will not, lay anything to your charge. (James Bromley.)

That ye may be found of Him in peace.--

Peace with God

1. Observe, that whatever be our state or character, we shall all be found of God. If we are sinners, and die such, our sins will find us out.

2. As all will be found of God at last, so there are some who will be “found of Him in peace.” Such as have had the enmity of their hearts slain by Divine grace. This it is that heightens every other blessing, alleviates every affliction, and supports in the agonies of death.

3. In order to be found in peace at last, it is needful that we seek it here with diligence. Let us carefully examine into the state of our souls. Occupy till He come, and then His coming will be neither a terror nor surprise.

4. Let us now inquire who they are that will be found of God in peace.

(1) Those only whom God finds in this world, and brings into a state of grace.

(2) Those shall be found of God in peace who here have found Him. Some seek and find Him in the closet, some in the public assembly, and some on a sick and dying bed. Some in their youth, and others in more advanced years. If we do not find Him as a friend and a father, He will find us as a judge and avenger.

(3) Those only will be found of God in peace who are found in Christ. This is what Paul so earnestly desired: “That I may win Christ, and be found in Him.”

(4) Those only will be found of Him in peace in whom some good thing is found towards the Lord God of Israel. Our nature must be renewed.

(5) Those only will be found of God in peace whom He finds walking in the paths of peace. Religion does not so much consist in talking of God as in acting for Him; not in theory but in practice. Improvement:

1. The subject administers reproof to the careless, who content themselves with some sluggish attempts, but who are never in earnest about salvation.

2. We may hence learn that it is possible for persons to be satisfied about themselves, and to have a kind of peace in their own minds, and yet not be found of God in peace.

3. We see the suitableness and importance of the advice given us in the text: “Be diligent, that ye may be found of Him in peace.” (B. Beddome, M. A.)

Verses 15-16

2 Peter 3:15-16

Our beloved brother Paul … in all his epistles.

St. Paul and his writings

This passage proves that, at the time Peter wrote, some epistles of Paul existed, and intimates that they were written according to a kind of wisdom which he had supernaturally received. It proves, also, that they were considered of much authority. This passage declares, also, that, from some cause, either in the writer or the subject, there were some things in these epistles hard to be understood, and likely to be perverted. It is my present design to give you, in the first place, the history and character of St. Paul, and then to consider the causes of that obscurity in his writings of which Peter complains.

Those portions of his life which tend most to illustrate his character are his conduct before his conversion, and the consequences of that remarkable event. In the history of Paul we have two different men to describe, the persecutor and the apostle. Nothing can be imagined more complete than the change of views in this apostle, yet he pre serves through the whole of his life what may be called the original stamina of his character. There is nothing which impeaches his integrity, or which ought to render us suspicious of his moral character. He was only actuated by a species of mistaken zeal, which has been common enough in every age. But God had marked out this young man for the most eminent apostle of that faith which he was now intent upon exterminating. If we suppose Paul’s character such as I have represented it to be, there wanted nothing but to show to this young man, by the irresistible evidence of his senses, that this very Jesus, whom he regarded as a crucified, detestable malefactor, was really alive in power to turn the whole current of his conduct, sentiments, and character. This mercy God granted him. In summing up the traits of Paul’s character, you will observe how singularly he was qualified for that office to which he was especially destined, the apostleship of the Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire. He was the only one of the apostles who appears to have had what may be called a liberal education, or, at least, who had any tincture of the literature and philosophy of the Greeks. The mission which was given him demanded not only a strength of genius like his, but an ardour which no discouragement should quench. I will close this division of my subject with two reflections.

1. In the first place, notwithstanding the extreme ardour of this apostle’s imagination, nothing which he has left us discovers any thing of fanatical delusion.

2. How important must that cause be which such a man as Paul could maintain with such amazing exertions, such unwearied zeal, through a longlife of such discouragements, privations, persecutions and indignities, even to the hour of his martyrdom! He saw the happiness of the world suspended on the reception of Christianity. He found that the dearest interests of the souls of men were entrusted to him.

I proceed to state, and, if possible, to illustrate, the sources of the obscurity which particularly attends the apostolical parts of the new testament.

1. The first source of obscurity is, that they are private letters, addressed to particular societies, or individuals, upon particular occasions.

2. Another cause of the obscurity of Paul’s epistles is, the peculiar genius of the man. His imagination was easily inflamed with the subject on which he was writing. The motions of his mind were exceedingly rapid.

3. The education and peculiar circumstances of Paul contribute, also, to the obscurity of his epistles. Paul was a man whose head was filled with the Jewish learning of his age; and he, no doubt, writes often like one whose early notions were formed in the school of Gamaliel. Hence he uses many words in a signification which is now extremely difficult to settle. The word” justification “is a remarkable instance of this. It is doubtful, in some instances, whether he means by it a benefit relating only to this life, or extending to our eternal condition. The term” law “is another of similar ambiguity; and it is only by careful attention that we can determine, in particular passages, whether the apostle means by it the whole Jewish dispensation or the ceremonial part of it, or that moral law which is equally obligatory on every rational creature.

4. A fourth source of obscurities in the epistles is to be found in a maxim of interpretation which has too much prevailed without reason: “that we must expect to find in the present circumstances of Christianity a meaning for, or something answering to, every appellation and expression which occurs in Scripture; or, in other words, the applying to the personal condition of Christians at this day, those titles, phrases, propositions, and arguments which belong solely to the situation of Christianity at its first institution.” (J. S. Buckminster.)

The authority of Church guides

And that which first entitles the governors of the Church to a superiority over their subjects is that special ordination and commission which they have received from Christ to instruct the world in all necessary truths, and that charge which He hath laid upon others to obey them.

The reasonableness of this submission will appear from those promises of assistance which Christ hath made to them. And those are illumination, direction, and power. Illumination in things obscure; direction in things difficult; power to encounter and overcome all opposition.

The reasonableness of this submission will appear from their study and learning in Divine matters, and from the far less knowledge and ordinary capacity in others.

The necessity of this submission appears as it is the only means to restore peace and unity to the Church; happiness and tranquillity to the state. (Miles Barne, D. D.)

In which are some things hard to be understood.--

Why Scripture is hard to be understood

The mysteries of salvation are hard but to our understanding; the difficulty is not in their own nature but in our capacity. As some rural inhabitant being admitted into a royal palace admires the building, and is transported with the rareness and magnificence of it; and much of it he understands: when he comes into the hall he knows that that is a place for feeding; when into the gallery, he knows that to be a place for walking; when into the bed-chamber, he knows that to be a place for sleeping; but into some rooms he is brought, no whit inferior to the former for state and pleasure, the use whereof he knows not; will he now censure the architect for making of such unnecessary and superfluous places? or not rather lay the blame, where it is, upon his own ignorance? The Scripture is a goodly edifice, the Almighty King’s palace; whereof Paul was one of the master builders. When we read his epistles we are surveying the rooms and receptacles; some whereof we easily apprehend, as 1 Timothy 1:15, Romans 8:1, Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:17; but searching further, we light upon some curious rooms, bearing as much art and majesty in them as the rest, but more obscure and mystical, and veiled with the curtain of awful secrecy; such are certain doctrines of St Paul; we are not forbidden to view them, and review them, to study and meditate on them; but if we cannot perfectly understand them, far be it from us to tax St. Paul of obscurity; no, let us impute the fault to our own simplicity. (Thos. Adams.)

Biblical difficulties

As acknowledged by the inspired.

1. To those who reject the Bible on account of its difficulties. The Bible does not profess to be a book easily understood. Its difficulties are--

(1) Consistent with its character. It is a revelation of the Infinite directed to the finite.

(2) Consistent with its intention. The Bible is an educational book. The school book which the student has mastered ceases to be educational.

2. To those who arrogate a thorough comprehension of the Bible.

As perverted by the ungodly.

1. The perverters are here described. “Which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

2. The perversion is here indicated. “‘They wrest’--pervert. The word here used occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is derived from a word meaning a windlass, winch, instrument of torture (στρεβλή), and means to roll or wind on a windlass; then to wrench or turn away as by the force of a windlass; and then to wrest or pervert. It implies a turning out of the way by the application of force. Here the meaning is, that they apply those portions of the Bible to a purpose for which they were never intended.”

3. Their destiny is here stated. “Their own destruction.” What is spiritual destruction? The destruction of all the blessings that can make existence worth having--life, peace, hope, etc. Such is the perversion of those difficulties, but what is the proper use of them?

(1) They should superinduce humility. Before their majesty the intellect should fall prostrate.

(2) They should stimulate intellectual inquiry. They challenge thought--their oceans ask you to navigate them, their hills to climb their summit, their mines to dig and be made rich.

(3) They should point to a future life. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The mysterious doctrines of Christianity

We must observe, that in a Divine revelation mysterious doctrines could not have been avoided. No man hath seen God at any time- clouds and darkness are round about Him--His judgments are unsearchable; and His ways past finding out.

That from the limitation of our faculties our information must, of necessity, have its limits. In sciences merely human, one discovery does little else than produce the desire of more. Our utmost attainments are still unsatisfactory and incomplete. Were the mysteries which at present perplex us fully explained, others would be brought within our view. How far soever we might be permitted to advance, we must at last reach the point where our faculties would fail us. HI. These mysteries in religion are such only with reference to our understandings. To us that is difficult which we cannot perform; that is mysterious which we cannot comprehend. But the difficulty and the mystery depend less upon the objects themselves than upon the narrowness of our capacities. In our future state of existence we shall probably be allowed to acquire much higher degrees of information than we at present possess.

It will tend still further to reconcile us to the mysterious doctrines of our faith, if we seriously reflect that there abe mysteries equally unsearchable in almost everything around us. Not a subject can be named which the human mind can be said fully to understand. Lessons:

1. The difficulty and obscurity inseparable from some of the articles of our faith is an obvious reason that, whenever they are discussed at all, they should be discussed with caution and diffidence.

2. The doctrines, however, which we cannot comprehend, it is still incumbent upon us to believe. We pursue, not what we know, but what we think, will promote our own good. And the same principle prevails in the religion that we profess.

3. Finally, while we admit that the Christian revelation has its mysteries, like every ether work of its Divine Author, and like that Author Himself, we maintain that it teaches plainly all that is necessary for us to know or to practise. (W. Sparrow, D. D.)

The difficulties of Scripture

The writings of St. Paul, occupying as they do a large portion of the New Testament, treat much of the sublimer and more difficult articles of Christianity. There is a great deal made known to us by the Epistles, which could only imperfectly, if at all, be derived from the Gospels. It was to be expected that the New Testament would be a progressive book; the communications of intelligence growing with the fuller opening out of the dispensation. And it is a natural consequence on the greater abstruseness of the topics handled, that the apostle’s writings should present greater difficulties to the Biblical student. With this admission of difficulty we must join the likelihood of misconception. If a man have error to maintain he will turn for support to passages of Scripture of which, the real sense being doubtful, a plausible may be advanced on the side of his falsehood. But you will observe that, whilst St. Peter confesses both the difficulty and the attendant danger, he gives not the slightest intimation that the Epistles of St. Paul were unsuited to general perusal. Had St. Peter intended to infer that, because obscurity and abuse existed, there ought to be prohibition, it is altogether unaccountable that he did not lay down the inference. A fairer opportunity could never be presented for the announcement of such a rule as the Roman Catholic advocates. After all, it is not so much the difficulty which makes the danger as the temper in which the Bible is perused. We desire to bring before you what we count important considerations, suggested by the announcement that there are difficulties in Scripture. There “are some things hard to be understood.” We lay great stress on the fact that it is an inspired writer who gives this decision. The Bible attests the difficulties of the Bible. If we knew the Bible to be difficult only as finding it difficult, we might be inclined to suppose it luminous to others though obscure to ourselves. We should not so thoroughly understand that the difficulties which one man meets with in the study of Scripture are not simply produced by his intellectual inferiority to another--no, nor by his moral or spiritual inferiority--but are, in a great degree, inherent in the subject examined, so that no equipment of learning and prayer will altogether secure their removal. We take into our hands the Bible, and receive it as a communication of God’s will, made, in past ages, to His creatures. And we know that, occupying, as all men do, the same level of helplessness and destitution, so that the adventitious circumstances of rank and education bring with them no differences in moral position, it cannot be the design of the Almighty that superior talent, or superior learning, should be essential to the obtaining due acquaintance with revelation. There can be no fairer expectation than that the Bible will be intelligible to every capacity, and that it will not, either in matter or manner, adapt itself to one class in preference to another. And when, with all this antecedent idea that revelation will condescend to the very meanest understanding, we find, as it were on the covers of a book, the description that there are in it “things hard to be understood,” we may, at first, feel something of surprise that difficulty should occur when we had looked for simplicity. And undoubtedly, however fair the expectation just mentioned, the Bible is, in some senses, a harder book for the uneducated man than for the educated. So far as human instrumentality is concerned, the great mass of a population must be indebted to a few learned men for any acquaintance whatsoever with the Scriptures. Never let learning be of small account in reference to religion. But after all, when St. Peter speaks of “things hard to be understood,” he cannot be considered as referring to obscurities which human learning will dissipate. He certainly mentions the “unlearned” as wresting these difficulties, implying that the want of one kind of learning produced the perversion. But, of course, he intends by “unlearned” those who were not fully taught of the Spirit, and not those who were deficient in the acquirements of the academy. The “un learned,” in short, are also “the unstable”: it is not the want of earthly scholarship which makes the difficulties, it is the want of moral steadfastness which occasions the wresting. We have nothing, therefore, to do in commenting on the words of St. Peter with difficulties which may be caused by a defective, and removed by a liberal, education. The difficulties must be difficulties of subject. It were a waste of time to adduce instances of the difficulties.

We would show you that it was to be expected that the Bible would contain “some things hard to be understood.” We should like to be told what stamp of inspiration there would be upon a Bible containing nothing “hard to be understood.” Is it not almost a self-evident proposition that a revelation without difficulty could not be a revelation of divinity? You ask a Bible which shall, in every part, be simple and intelligible. But could such a Bible discourse to us of God, that Being who must remain necessarily and for ever a mystery to the very highest of created intelligences? Could such a Bible treat of purposes which extend themselves over unlimited ages? Could such a Bible put forward any account of spiritual operations, seeing that, whilst confined by the trammels of matter, the soul cannot fathom herself, but withdraws herself, as it were, and shrinks from her own scrutiny? Could such a Bible, in short, tell us anything of our condition whether by nature or grace? But it is not the manner in which they are handled which makes them “hard to be understood.” The subject itself gives the difficulty. If you will not have the difficulty you cannot have the subject. You must have a revelation which shall not only tell you that such and such things are, but which shall also explain to you how they are: their mode, their constitution, their essence. And if this were the character of revelation it would undoubtedly be so constructed as never to overtask reason; but it would just as clearly be kept within this boundary only by being stripped of all on which we mainly need a revelation. A revelation in which there shall be nothing “hard to be understood” must limit itself by the powers of reason, and therefore exclude those very topics on which, reason being insufficient, revelation is required. There is no want of simplicity of language when God is described to us. But who understands this? Can language make this intelligible? We might argue in like manner with regard to every Scriptural difficulty. We account for the existence of these difficulties mainly by the fact that we are men, and, because men, finite in our capacities. Let there be only the same amount of revelation, and the angel may know more than the man because gifted with a keener and more vigorous understanding. And it is evident, therefore, that few things could have less warranty than the supposition that revelation might have been so enlarged that the knowledge of man would have reached to the measure of the knowledge of angels. We again say that there is no deficiency of revelation, and that the difficulties which occur in the perusal of Scripture result from the majesty of the introduced subjects and the weakness of the faculties turned on their study. And we are well persuaded that, however disposed men may be to make the difficulties an objection to the Bible, the absence of those difficulties would have been eagerly seized on as a proof of imposture. There would have been fairness in the objection. It can only be viewed as a necessary consequence on the grandeur of the subjects which form the matter of revelation that, with every endeavour at simplicity of style and aptitude of illustration, the document contains statements which overmatch all but the faith of mankind. And, therefore, we are bold to say that we glory in the difficulties of Scripture. We can feel the quick pulse of an eager wish to scale the mountain or fathom the abyss. But at the same time we know, and we feel, that a Bible without difficulties were a firmament without stars. We know, and we feel, that the vast business of our redemption, arranged in the councils of the far-back eternity, and acted out amid the wondering and throbbings of the universe, could not have been that stupendous transaction which gave God glory by giving sinners safety, if the inspired account brought its dimensions within the compass of a human arithmetic, or defined its issues by the lines of a human demarcation. And, therefore, do we also know and feel that it is a witness to the inspiration of the Bible that, when this Bible would furnish us with notices of the unseen world hereafter to be traversed, or when it would turn thought on the Omnipotent, or when it would open up the scheme of the restoration of the fallen; then, with much that is beautifully simple, there are mingled dark intimations, and pregnant hints, and undeveloped statements before which the weak and the masterful must alike do the homage of a reverent and uncalculating submission. We do not indeed say--for the saying would carry absurdity on its forefront--that we believe a document inspired because in part incomprehensible. But if a document profess to be inspired, and if it treat of subjects which we can prove beforehand to be above and beyond the stretchings of our intellect, then we do say that the finding nothing in such a document to baffle the understanding would be a proof the most conclusive that what alleges itself divine deserves rejection as forgery.

The advantages which follow, and the dispositions which should be encouraged by, the pact which has passed under review. We see at once from the statement of St. Peter that effects, to all appearance disastrous, are produced by the difficulties of Scripture. The “unlearned and unstable” wrest these difficulties to “their own destruction,” and, therefore, by what process of reasoning can they be proved advantageous? We have shown you that the absence of difficulties would go far towards proving the Scriptures uninspired; and we need not remark that there must be a use for difficulties if essential to the complete witness for the truth of Christianity. But there are other advantages which must on no account be overlooked. We only wish it premised, that though the difficulties of Scripture--as, for example, those parts which involve pre-destination-are wrested by many “to their own destruction,” the “unlearned and unstable” would have equally perished had no difficulties whatsoever existed. They would have stumbled on the plain ground as well as on the rough: there being no more certain truth in theology than that the cause of stumbling is the internal feebleness and not the external impediment. A man may perish ostensibly through abuse of the doctrine of election. But would he not have perished had he found no such doctrine to wrest? Ay, that he would; as fatally and as finally. It is the love of sin, the determination to live in sin, which destroys him. This being premised, we may enlarge on the advantages resulting from the fact that Scripture contains “some things hard to be understood.”

1. And first, if there were nothing in Scripture which overpowered our reason, who sees not that intellectual pride would be fostered by its study? You can make no way with the disclosures of Holy Writ until prepared to receive, on the authority of God, a vast deal which, of yourself, you cannot prove, and still more which you cannot explain. A Bible without difficulties would be a censer full of incense to man’s reason. And if the fallen require to be kept humble, if we can advance in spiritual attainment only in proportion as we feel our insignificance, would not this conversion of the Bible into the very nurse and encourager of intellectual pride, abstract its best worth from revelation; and who, therefore, will deny that we are advantaged by the fact that there are in Scripture “things hard to be understood”?

2. We remark again, that though controversy has its evils, it has also its uses. It is not the stagnant water which is generally the purest. We hold that heresies have been of vast service to the Church, in that they have caused truth to be more thoroughly scanned, and all its bearings and boundaries explored with a most painstaking industry. It is astonishing how apt men are to rest in general and ill-defined notions. If never called to defend the truth the Church would comparatively lose sight of what truth is.

3. When I read the Bible and meet with passages which, after the most patient exercises of thought and research, remain dark and impenetrable, then, in the most especial degree, I feel myself immortal. The finding a thing “hard to be understood” ministers to my consciousness that I am no perishable creature destined to a finite existence, but a child of eternity, appointed to survive the dissolutions of matter, and to enter on another and an untried being. If the Bible be God’s revelation of Himself to mankind, it is a most fair expectation that, at one time or another, the whole of this revelation will be clear and accessible. We can never think that God would tell man things for the understanding of which he is to be always incapacitated. Such are certain of the advantages which we propose to investigate.

It yet remains that we briefly state, and call upon you to cultivate, the dispositions which should be brought to the study of a bible thus “hard to be understood.” We would have it therefore remembered, that the docility and submissiveness of a child alone befit the student of the Bible; and that, if we would not have the whole volume darkened, its simplest truths eluding the grasp of our understanding, or gaining at least no hold on our affections, we must lay aside the feelings which we carry into the domains of science and philosophy, not arming ourselves with a chivalrous resolve to conquer, but with one which it is a thousand-fold harder either to form or execute, to yield. The Holy Spirit alone can make us feel the things which are easy to be understood, and prevent our wresting those which are hard. Never, then, should the Bible be opened except with prayer for the teachings of the Spirit. You will read without profit as long as you read without prayer. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Hard things

1. We believe the hard things were left in the Bible for a lofty purpose. God wished us to think and reason. God had a great purpose to fulfil in the training of the race. Hence both in nature and in the Bible He allows perplexing questions. He can only discipline man’s thinking by allowing him to be subject to perplexity. We believe, then, that God purposely left certain difficulties in the Bible to create diversity, to foster the thinking power, and to lead to the exercise of that charity that never faileth. Instead of codification and finality, there is always something to Cause fresh thought, to interest by its newer suggestions--something to quicken mind and lead the soul to listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit.

2. We have to recognise that danger arises from the presence of the “hard things” in the Book. Peter saw that, and said that the “unlearned and unstable” would “wrest them to their own destruction.” Such, by a twist of an obscure text, would bolster up unbelief or find countenance for a pet idea. They will find even excuse for sin by twisting some word. The ill-tempered will quote, “Be ye angry,” and leave out the words “sin not.” The covetous man will defend greed by “Be diligent in business,” and leave out “serving the Lord.” The neglecter of worship will quote “The Sabbath was made for man,” and go off to indulge in that which will not help him to keep holy the Sabbath day.

3. Some things in life as well as in the Book are “hard to understand.” (F. Hastings.)

Obscure passages in the Bible

“What would you think of a very hungry man, who had not eaten a morsel of food for the last twenty-four hours, and was asked by a charitable man to come in and sit down at a richly covered table, on which were large dishes of choice meat, and also covered ones, the contents of which the hungry man did not know, instead of satisfying his exhausted body with the former, he raises one cover after another and insists on finding out what these unknown dishes are composed of? In spite of all the advice of the charitable man to partake first of the more substantial dishes, he dwells with obstinate inquiry on nicer compounds, until overcome with exhaustion he drops down. What do you think of such a man? “He is a fool.” (Dr. Leiber.)

They that are un-learned and unstable wrest--

Wresting Scripture

The men whose evil handling of the scripture i am going to point out are described generally in our text as “unlearned and unstable.” Those meant by “unlearned” are men who, whatever be their human knowledge, have either never “learned of the Father,” or who are at best, “unskilful in the Word of righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13); and, he adds, “unstable men”--men who, if in some degree enlightened, yet are not established in the faith; but are like “children driven to and fro and tossed about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

Now let us see what are the various ways in which this offence against God’s book may be committed.

1. One of the most awful ways of wresting Holy Scripture is where men try to draw out of its pages a justification of their sins. “David, they say, was once guilty of adultery--Jacob, of deceit--and Peter of a lying oath; and yet they were good men. And this, they think, is either a warrant or excuse for the sins in which they live themselves. Oh! when men read a portion of God’s Word which describes some evil deed, and are tempted from His silence to suppose He disregarded it, let them look at other portions. Let them think of His most holy laws; let them mark His terrible threatenings” against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18).

2. Another grievous way of wresting Scripture is where men try to draw out of its doctrines a justification of their doing nothing for their souls.

3. A third way in which Holy Scripture may be “wrested,” and often, I fear, is so, is as follows. Men adopt a certain set of doctrines as their own, these doctrines may seem to be the language of certain texts of Scripture, but are evidently contrary to others. What, then, do they do when they are pressed with all those passages which make against them? Why, they try to give these passages another meaning. They find out some ingenious method of explaining them away, or of adapting them to their own peculiar views.

4. I will speak of one instance more of the “wresting” of the Scriptures. It is where men quote Scripture, as Satan did (Matthew 4:6), by halves, so as to make it seem to speak the thing they wish. How awful is that threatening which is addressed in the Book of Revelation to all such triflers with the Bible! (Revelation 22:18-19).

How, then, are we to escape the guilt and danger of wresting holy scripture?

1. The chief means, most assuredly, of avoiding such a guilt as this, is to pray for the Spirit as our Guide and Interpreter in reading His own Book.

2. Let me recommend to you, again, some frames of mind in which we must ever pray and strive to open the Lord’s Book.

(1) One is a sense of our own ignorance, with a desire, a most unfeigned desire, to be led and taught of Holy Scripture.

(2) Again, it is a great point to study Holy Scripture in simplicity of mind without any prejudice or bias.

(3) He who would shun the sin of wresting Holy Scripture must study it with diligence. He must take all the pains he can to ascertain its real meaning.

(4) So as not to wrest it to your own destruction--study it as a sinner searching for a Saviour. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

Verses 17-18

2 Peter 3:17-18

Beware lest ye also … fall

Seducers of faith


Let us shun the society of idolatrous seducers, and hate the very air they breathe. We shall hardly win them to goodness; their familiarity will easily possess us of their wickedness.

2. The greater show of sanctity that error puts on, the more suspicious let us be of the intended mischief.

3. Let us consider that these seducers help to overthrow us, but what help is there in them to raise us up? (Thos. Adams.)

Christian perseverance

The nature of that duty which is here recommended. The apostle does not address himself here to such as were unacquainted with the ways of godliness, but those who had been initiated in the Christian profession. It is not enough for us to begin well, and to set out hopefully in the exercises of religion, but we must run till we have reached the goal.

Arguments which may reasonably incline us to the practice of this duty.

1. The easiness of proceeding in a virtuous course when once we are made familiar with it, should powerfully persuade us to persevere in goodness, and not to fall from our own stedfastness.

2. The great advantages which will redound to us from the performance of this duty should powerfully persuade us to persevere in godliness and not to fall from our own stedfastness.

3. The dangers and inconveniences of a contrary proceeding should powerfully persuade us to persevere in goodness and not to fall from our own stedfastness.

Such rules and instructions as may duly qualify us for the performance of this duty.

1. Let us endeavour to strengthen our good resolutions.

2. Let us be perpetually upon our guard, and keep a vigilant eye over all our actions.

3. Let us be frequent in the exercises of religious duties, especially in such as are more solemn and public.

4. Let us be fervent in private prayer to Almighty God; that He will assist us with His Holy Spirit, and give us grace to proceed without danger of falling. (N. Brady.)

Young Christians

Your little child hangs over the taffrail of the steamboat and says, “Father, what is that black thing in the water? “You say, “That is a buoy, showing there is a rock underneath, and danger there.” So the Apostle Peter in the text points out the perils of the Christian voyage. It would be a strange thing if all our anxiety about men ceased the moment they were converted. You would almost doubt the sanity of that farmer who, having planted the corn and seen it just sprout above ground, should say, “My work is all done. I have no more anxiety for the crop.” You have only just been launched; the voyage is to be made. Earth, and heaven, and hell are watching to see how fast you will sail, how well you will weather the tempest, and whether at last, amid the shouting of angels, you shall come into the right harbour.

Hold before your soul a very high model. Do not say, “I wish I could pray like that man, or speak or have the consecration of this one.” Say, “Here is the Lord Jesus Christ a perfect pattern. By Him, with God’s grace, I mean to shape all my life.” You have a right to aspire to the very highest style of Christian character. I admit that a man cannot become a Christian like that without a struggle; but what do you get without fighting for it? In the strength of Christ go forward. God is for you, and if God be for you, who can be against you? Remember that God never puts you in battle but He gives you weapons with which to fight.

Abstain from all pernicious associations, and take only those that are useful and beneficent. I know young people who have meant well enough, but they have floated off into evil influences, and they have associated day by day with those who hated God and despised His commandments, and their characters are all depleted. I can see they are changed for the worse, but they are not aware of it. Oh, young man, come out of that bad association. Stand back from that furnace in which so many young Christians have been destroyed.

Be actively employed. Who are the happy people in the Church to-day? The busy people. The very first prescription that I give to a man when I find him full of doubts and fears about his eternal interest is to go to work for God. Here is a wood full of summer insects. An axeman goes into the wood to cut firewood. The insects do not bother him very much, and every stroke of the axe makes them fly about. But let a man go and lie down there and he is bitten, and thinks it is a horrible thing to stay in that wood. So there are thousands of Christians now in the Church who go out amid great annoyances in life--they are not perplexed, they are all the time busy; while there are others who do nothing, and they are stung, and covered from head to foot with the blotches of indolence, and inactivity, and spiritual death.

Be faithful in prayer. You might as well, business man, start out in the morning without food and expect to be strong all that day--you might as well abstain from food all the week and expect to be strong physically, as to be strong without prayer. And the only difference between this Christian who is getting along very fast in the holy life, and this one who is only getting along tolerably, is that the first prays more than the last.

Be faithful in bible research. A great many good books are now coining out. Glorious books they are. But I have thought that perhaps the followers of Christ sometimes allow this religious literature to take their attention from God’s Word, and that there may not be as much Bible reading as there ought to be. You go to the drug store and you get the mineral waters; but you have noticed that the waters are not so fresh or sparkling or healthful as when you get these very waters at Saratoga and Sharon--getting them right where they bubble from the rock. And I have noticed the same thing in regard to the truth of the gospel. While there is a good deal of the refreshment and health of the gospel of God as it comes through good books, I find it is better when I come to the eternal rock of God’s Word, and drink from that fountain that bubbles up fresh and pure to the life, the refreshment, the health of the soul. (T. de Witt Talmage.)

Spiritual steadfastness

A spiritual steadfastness may be obtained. The Prophet David commands it, prays for it, and confesseth that some did obtain it, possess it. And doth not the apostle also persuade to the same, crying, Be steadfast, immovable? Who, then, hath cause to question the truth of this doctrine? If any shall, reason may relieve him. For, is not a man a subject capable of it, may he not be fitted to receive it? Is not the faculty of his understanding, in respect of its essence, sound? His will of power, strongly, since his fall, bent to action? And hath he not affections, violent, passionate? Again, shall we think anything impossible with God? And if this were not thus, for what end was preaching appointed, sacraments ordained, and prayer commanded? Are these given in vain? Finally, let me ask thee a question, Shall not Christ be of ability to recover what Adam of imbecility lost? The Holy Ghost to build what the unclean spirit did destroy? Spiritual steadfastness is a firm retention of the degree of grace received. Observe further that this steadfastness is habitual, practical. Again, habitual steadfastness is in the understanding, will, and affections. As for practical steadfastness, that is external, internal.

The cause of these declinings. And they be within us, without us. First, melancholy, for it is a true axiom that the soul follows the disposition and temperature of the body. Secondly, some raging lust, unmortified affection. When such a passenger is in the ship of man’s soul, like another Jonah it will unsettle all. If the reins hang under his feet, the strongest, readiest footed beast may stumble. Cut all the feet equal the table stands steadfast, else not. Thirdly, unbelief, what mists will this raise in our understandings. How subtly will this sophister argue, dispute, what? Where is the promise of Christ’s coming? Fourthly, carnal confidence, that is, whatsoever we trust in except Christ Jesus. Fifthly, weakness of grace, to speak properly this is not a real or positive cause of declining, yet by occasion may have a finger in the business. Sixthly, want of knowledge experimental. Now the contrary of all these we have mentioned will be excellent helps for the firm retention of grace received. Wherefore keep thy body in good plight, feed on choice meats, walk in pure air, use moderate labour, recreation. Mortify also fleshly lusts, crucify the whole body of sin, for in so doing thou shalt remove rubs out of the way, curb the old man, and bind him to good behaviour. See in like sort thou increase thy faith, and that will expel infidelity--consume it as fire doth stubble. And shall not hope in Christ make the new man lusty, arm him against fear, foil despair, and in all assaults cheer up his spirits? Be sure to grow in grace, for is not a feeble person subject to trip, to stumble when able bodies hold out, march valiantly, win the field? And thus much of the inward causes of declining; the other, from without us, follow. First, wavering minded companions. He who walks with such will in time walk as such. Secondly, the fierce trial of affliction. Thirdly, personal wrongs, undeserved injuries. Fourthly, public scandal. Fifthly, example of supposed great ones. For some are like a strong poison that dispatcheth its patient quickly, others a lingering disease which killeth certainly though not suddenly. These things being inserted let us proceed. First, when we have not so clear an apprehension of the worth of grace, and the means to procure it, increase it, as in former time. If the glory thereof be darkened, and we account faith, love, hope, but as common favours, in some degree we are declined. Secondly, if we want an eager appetite after the doctrine of sound words, the bread and water of life, feed on them more for fear and fashion than love and affection, we have just cause to suspect ourselves. Thirdly, a neglect of our particular calling. For a diligent hand maketh rich, as well in spiritual as corporal things. Unthrifts and loiterers always die beggars. Fourthly, when we feebly perform holy actions, or fearfully omit them. Fifthly, a fifth symptom is a quiet concoction of what heretofore we have distasted, spued out, holding the same, as then, for loathsome meats. A soul in her best plight, as she abhors the greatest so hates the least known evil. Sixthly, finally, when men offend, and will not endure reproof. And may a spiritual steadfastness be fallen from? Then try thyself if thou be or not revolted. Tradesmen keep a register of all their proceedings, cast up their accounts yearly, take a strict view how they have decreased or increased their substance; and should not Christians be as wise in their generation? First, we must call to remembrance what truths in the understanding or in our conversation, we have fallen from, and so return unto them. Secondly, we are to consider what sin we have embraced, whether it be an error in judgment or practice, and if we clearly discern any, then to cease from it. First, cast in thy mind what an uncomfortable condition thou art fallen into, compare it often with the times of old. Do not slavish fears upon the least occasion arise in thy soul? Secondly, consider that greater evils than these may attend thee. This may suffice to have spoken of the last branch of our text, the other succeedeth. “Lest ye also being led away with the error of the wicked.” Error leadeth from steadfastness. He who is led with error is always unsettled. For error leads from God. And is not He the best stay, and very centre whereupon all the creatures are settled, established. Again, whither leads error to any constant object? Is it to the world? Doth not the fashion of it pass away? Think it not strange, then, if they who err from the doctrine of godliness be unstable in all their ways. What marvel is it that men walking on craggy rocks, steep mountains, and unequal ways, trip, stumble, and catch a fall? Whereas the apostle calls it the error of the wicked, we may collect, that the way of error, by a peculiar prerogative, is the way of the wicked. True it is that error is called a way, but a crooked, wandering, and evil one. For as the commandments of God are styled ways, so are the doctrines of men. Thus far we are agreed; but what may be the reasons hereof?

1. Because the wicked invent them, are the prime authors of them. For what a man effecteth is properly said to be his own.

2. Again, in regard they conserve and support them.

3. This way is not from God; He disclaims it. For all His paths are holy, and good, and true. “Beware lest ye also,” etc. The note which issueth out of this phrase is this, that by one error many may be seduced. As first, from the quality of error, for it is of a spreading nature. Besides, error is easy, pleasant; and what is agreeable to the flesh of multitudes is followed. The way of truth is straight, narrow. Moreover men are wonderfully prone to follow examples, the worst, not the best. And by one error may many be seduced; then get a good eye, a sound judgment; exercise thy wits, that thou mayest discern between truth and falsehood. Error being discovered is to be avoided. (John Barlow, D. D.)


It is a word for trespassers, and God puts it up in all the by-ways of temptation. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

Salutary warnings

There are evils which give warning of their coming. Drunkenness does not seize upon a man suddenly. It gives warnings often and many. Avarice, and a number of other vices, can be detected long before we are within their reach. There are infallible indications by which we may be warned. The approach of vice is like the approach of the rattlesnake. This horrible reptile, one of the most venomous of serpents, warns man involuntarily against its formidable presence. At the end of its tail there is placed a rattle, which consists of a string of hollow, dry, trod semi transparent bones, which constantly clatter against each other as the reptile moves, with a hoarse, dull, echoing sound. The bony rings increase in number with the reptile’s age, and it gains an additional one, it is said, at each casting of the skin. The warning which it is thus compelled to give of its approach enables those who hear to escape an awful death. Happy are those men whose ears are open to the warnings which social monsters, far more horrid than even the rattlesnake, in like manner invariably give of their presence and movements, and, profiting thereby, manage to escape. (Scientific Illustrations.)

Stop the beginnings of sin

I have seen the little pearls of a spring sweat through the bottom of a bank, and penetrate the stubborn pavement, till it hath made it fit for the impression of a child’s foot, and it was dispersed like the descending dews of a misty morning, till it had opened its way and made a stream large enough to carry away the ruins of the undermined strand, and to invade the neighbouring gardens; but then the despised drops were grown into an artificial river, and an intolerable mischief. So are the first entrances of sin stopped with the antidotes of a hearty prayer, and checked into sobriety by the eye of a reverent man, or the counsel of a single sermon; but when such beginnings are neglected, and our religion hath not in it so much philosophy as to think anything evil so long as we can endure it, they grow up to ulcers and pestilential evils; they destroy the soul by their abode which, at the first entry, might have been killed by the pressure of a little finger. (Jeremy Taylor.)

Verse 18

2 Peter 3:18

But grow in grace.

Religious growth

Almost every created thing seems to have within it the principle of growth. The tree grows from a seed. The bird, fish, beast of field, all come to maturity by growth. The human body grows from feeblest infancy into the strength of manhood. And mind grows as well as matter. The reasoning faculty, the imagination, the memory, expand and strengthen. So, too, the moral and spiritual affections of the soul. Hence religion, which consists of love to God and man, may grow also.

Grace, in its strict sense, is the free favour of God to the unworthy. The grace of God toward men produces piety; grace is the cause, piety the effect.

1. To grow in grace is to grow in virtue, faith, meekness, gentleness, patience, a spirit of forgiveness, usefulness.

2. In this growth of all right principles there will be going on at the same time in the soul the weakening and decay of all wrong principles.

We may overlook too much the importance of religious growth. We may be in danger of feeling that when one is introduced into the kingdom by conversion and the joining of the Church, the great work is done. Not so our Saviour. How much He laboured to train His disciples.

Having life by union with the Saviour, we grow in grace by using the means of grace. There is a law of spiritual growth just as fixed as the law of natural growth. The means of grace, suited to advance us in the Divine life, are daily provided, not only in the house of God, but in every engagement of the world. Every human being you meet may offer you a means of grace, for there is a Christian feeling to be cherished toward all, and a Christian way of treating all.

That we may grow in grace, we need to use the means of grace in their due proportion. Meditation is good, but where it becomes exclusive it is evil. So outward activity, in labouring for the salvation of men, is of the highest importance; but let this absorb the Christian, and the most fruitful piety will wither and die.

Nor are we to despise outward forms and symbols as helps in religious growth. It may be asked, What matters the form if I have the spirit? But will you have the spirit as fully without the aid of the form? We are not purely spiritual beings; we are body as well as spirit. And there is an action of the body that harmonises with and helps the spirit. Nor can devotion prosper well without set seasons; we need the aid of habit to assist in the formation of spiritual character.

He who will grow in grace must be ready to suffer. The natural life in us dies not without some species of internal agony. For one Christian God has one form of trial; for another, another form.

Growth demands earnestness. No one grows who does not mean to grow.

Growth demands exercise. As fast as we learn duty, we must apply it. “To him that hath shall be given.” Every act of faith increases the principle of faith; as every battle Washington fought for his country only increased his patriotism. (John MacLeod.)

Growth in grace

The meaning of the expression itself. “Grow in grace.” The Christian is not a lifeless machine. He is not to satisfy himself with going through a cold round of duties. Wherein are you improved?

The means of growing in grace.

1. Faith, to be strong, must be exercised. Commit your ways to God. Trust Him. Your faith will increase.

2. Another means which may be suggested is prayer. If you will only wrestle with God in prayer as Jacob did, you will succeed.

3. I may specify Scriptural reading.

4. A further and most important means for advancing in our heavenward journey is meditation upon the promises of God.

5. I will only mention one other means of growth in grace, self-examination. Prevention is better than cure; when you know your deficiencies, then you may guard against them; thus mischief may be kept away.

We are not to suppose, however, that our course is to be one of continued success. There are many hindrances.

1. I may name, as the chief hindrance, the corruption of our hearts.

2. Connected with this hindrance is that which I may term the weakness of the flesh.

3. I pass on to that indifference to the truth of religious doctrines now so common amongst men. It leads men away from the contemplation of Christ. It makes them afraid to maintain their cause boldly before their fellows. Their minds become less affected with the sense of the preciousness of Jesus.

I will not add any lengthened detail of the encouragements to seek this growth in grace. The certainty of success. Your Father which is in heaven will help you. (H. M. Villiers, M. A.)

Signs of growth in grace and motives inviting to it

By the grace of God we understand the favour or love of God; but in the Christian Scriptures it means that especial exertion of His love, which is applied to mankind as sinners, and to the recovery and final salvation of a guilty world.

what that is in which our growth in such grace may be discerned.

1. It may be in an especial manner discerned in humility. The virtue required of us is no abjectness of spirit. It is that heart which feels its own infirmities and sins.

2. An abjuration of our favourite sin.

3. A genuine love of virtue for the love of God, and a uniform preparation of heart against the various temptations which may assail us. “If the first sparks of evil were quenched, how should they ever break forth into a flame? How shall he kill, who dare not be angry? Be adulterous in act, who does not transgress in desire?

Permit me to remind you of the solemnity and grandeur of the doctrines which your knowledge of Jesus Christ comprises. Say, therefore, whether this knowledge of your Lord and Saviour lead you not to those virtues which we have now been discussing, as adapted to your state of grace. Say whether under such a God anything can be so indispensably requisite as humility; whether under such a Saviour anything can be so required as abjuration of sin; whether under such a Comforter anything can be so becoming as firmness of heart; whether under such promise of forgiveness and of glory anything can come so directly from the soul as sorrow for our sin. (G. Mathew, M. A.)

The Christian’s improvement

The several steps and stages of the christian’s progress.

The necessity and advantage of this growth and improvement.

1. That our sincerity in religion can no otherwise be well approved.

2. Our perseverance cannot be ensured whilst we are at a stand.

3. As grace is the seed of glory, that seed must rise by gradual advances to its full maturity.

Some of the means whereby we all may be thus built up.

1. Since those habits of virtue which are essential to our improvement are contracted by a frequent repetition of single acts, let us by all means cherish the opportunities of exerting those acts.

2. Therefore we should work up our minds to a full persuasion that religion is the most important business of our lives. (N. Marshall, D. D.)

Growth in grace

It will appear to be highly reasonable, yea necessary, that you grow in grace, and that both in respect of yourselves and in respect of God. First, in respect of yourselves, and that upon this fivefold account.

1. Because your present condition which you are now in requireth it. It is true in the first creation of the world all creatures and species of things were made perfect. Trees and plants sprung up to their height at the first. But it is not so since either in nature or grace. Thus our state being imperfect here, and we coming not to a height at once, it is requisite that we increase our strength gradually; that is, that we be every day growing, and that we constantly make accessions to our feeble virtues and graces.

2. A continual growth in grace is very reasonable and necessary, because our duty is so large and comprehensive. “The commandments of God are exceeding broad.” Christianity especially is a vast work.

3. We cannot show the truth of grace in us unless we daily increase; for this is one great sign of it, and that an inseparable one. The true sons of Sion go from strength to strength (Psalms 84:7). It is a sign of insincerity and unsoundness to sit down and rest satisfied with a mean degree of holiness. “He was never good indeed,” saith St. Bernard, “who endeavoureth not to be better.”

4. Growth in grace is necessary in order to joy and comfort.

But as growth and increase in grace are requisite in respect of ourselves, so, secondly, in respect of God, and that upon this fourfold account.

1. Because growth in grace is answerable to God’s expectation from us.

2. This is answerable to Christ’s design, as you read in John 15:5.

3. This is answerable to the means appointed by God and Christ, as praying, the Word read and preached, the blessed sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the gifts and graces of others, holy conference, meditation, and the like.

4. By our growth in grace God is most signally glorified.

How You may examine yourselves as to this weighty matter, that you may know you are of the number of those persons who really grow in grace.

1. He that truly grows in grace hath a greater sense of his defects and failings than ever he had before. First, a greater sense of the shallowness of his understanding. Secondly, of the sinfulness of his life. In the first place, he daily grows more apprehensive of the defect of his knowledge. Again, if we grow in grace, we shall have every day a greater sight and sense of our sins.

2. Profound humility is an undeniable mark of a man that increaseth with the increase of God.

3. If your desires of grace increase, it is an argument that your graces themselves do so. The sharpness of the appetite is some indication of bodily growth and nourishment. If you experience these fervent longings, you may conclude that the graces of the Holy Spirit grow in you.

4. The true growth of a Christian is proportionable and uniform; by which I mean that he is one who grows in all his parts. The new man is not monstrous in its accretion.

5. You may know your growth in grace by the easiness you find in religion. You will certainly perform all duties with facility and dexterity.

6. There will be uneasiness and pain as long as you are hindered from religious exercises and holy duties. Lastly, if your conversation be in heaven, if your thoughts, desires, and longings tend thither, if you ardently wish to depart and to be with Christ, this is a good evidence of your growing in grace and goodness. But yet here great caution is to be used, lest you be mistaken in this important point which I have been treating of.

You must therefore remember these four things--

1. When I say that every true believer grows in grace, it is not meant that he doth so every moment or every hour of his life. As it is in the natural body, there may be some disease or malady that will retard the growth for a time.

2. All Christians have not a like growth.

3. All graces grow not alike in the same person.

4. Remember this also, that grace may grow insensibly sometimes; it may increase, but you may not perceive it.

To direct you to the use of those means whereby you may most effectually grow in virtue and godliness. You will certainly make great progress in religion by an uninterrupted exercise of your graces and by a constant performing of your duties. Think not highly of yourselves by reason of any progress you have made. For this may stop you, but it will never promote your farther proceeding. Set before you the examples of the eminent saints and servants of God. It will not be amiss to observe the practices and examples of the wicked. They stand not still, they increase in vice; like crocodiles, they grow as long as they live. Every day adds to their hatred of God and goodness, to their love of sill and vice, and to their dextrous practice of it. Lastly, observe how in all other things men strive who shall make the greatest proficiency, and let this be one help to further your growth in grace. You will find theft Christians are compared in the gospel to merchants, bankers, stewards, who are persons that are busy to increase their own or others estates. This may teach the professors of Christianity what they are to do, viz., to improve what they have. Add to your attainments, be they never so great.

To press this duty won you by some cogent motives. (J. Edwards, D. D.)

Soul education

Soul education is growth. This implies--

1. That the soul is a vital existent. That soul education is a growth, implies--

2. That the soul is a vital existent possessing developable powers. There are living things theft have not the power of growth. Some, perhaps, have been created with their nature fully developed. There is no power in them of coming to any higher point. And others have passed through all the stages of development, and are exhausted. It is not so with the soul. Its potentialities are unbounded. Omniscience only knows what greatness of intellect, grandeur of character, splendour of achievements, come within the power of every mind, however humble. That soul education is a growth, implies--

3. That the soul is a vital existent, possessing developable powers, requiring developable conditions. The seed may contain a germinant power capable of covering continents with fields of golden grain; yet if it remains shut up in the granary, or buried under a rock, it will never be anything more than dry dust. It is so with the soul. Soul education, then, is growth. Not the growth of anything imparted to it, but the growth of itself; not the growth of any of its particular faculties, but the growth of its entire self, simultaneously and symmetrically.

Soul education is growth in Christ. “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” These two words represent the two great elements by which alone tile human soul can be educated. “Love and truth.”

1. Christ is the ideal after which the soul is to grow.

2. Christ’s character is the element in which alone the soul can grow. His “grace” and His “knowledge” furnish the only atmosphere in which the human soul can healthfully live, thrive, and grow. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Growth in grace

What is meant by growing in grace? To grow in grace is to increase in a spirit of conformity to the will of God, and to govern our conduct more and more by the same principles that God does.

Some things that are not evidences of growth in grace although they are sometimes supposed to be such.

1. It is not certain evidence that an individual grows in grace because he grows in gifts. We naturally increase in that in which we exercise ourselves. We may pray ever so engagedly, and increase in fluency and apparent pathos, and yet have no grace.

2. Growing in knowledge is not evidence of a growth in grace. In hell no doubt they grow in knowledge, but never in grace.

3. It is not evidence that a person grows in grace because he thinks he is doing so. A person may be favourably impressed with regard to his progress in religion, when it is evident to others that he is in fact declining.

Some things that are evidences of a growth in grace.

1. When an individual finds he has more singleness of heart, and more purity of motive in his conduct, it is evidence that he is growing in grace.

2. An individual who grows in grace is more and more actuated by principle, and less and less by emotion or feeling. By principle, in contradistinction from feeling or emotion, I mean a controlling determination in the mind to do right.

3. Another important evidence of growth in grace is more love to God. By this I do not mean that there will be in all cases a conscious increase of emotions of love to God, but that there will be a strengthening of real attachment to God’s character and government. And this increased attachment will evince itself in a growing veneration for all the institutions of religion, and for all the commands of God.

4. Another evidence of growth in grace is when a person increases in love to men as well as love to God.

5. Those who grow in grace feel more and more self-loathing. This is the natural result of having a clear view of God. It makes a person sink down in self-abasement.

6. An increased abhorrence of sin is another mark of growth in grace. When a person feels, day by day, less and less disposed to compromise with any sin, in himself, or in others, it is a sign that he is growing in grace.

7. He who grows in grace has less relish for the world. He has less and less desire for its wealth, its honours, its pleasures.

8. Increasing delight in the fellowship of the saints is another evidence of growth in grace.

9. He who grows in grace finds it more and more easy to exercise a forgiving spirit, and to pray for his enemies.

10. Growing more charitable is an evidence of growth in grace. But he is mere ready to ascribe a person’s apparently wrong conduct to mistake, or misapprehension, or some other cause, than to direct evil intention.

11. Having less and less anxiety about worldly things is an evidence of growth in grace.

12. Becoming more ready to bestow property is a sign of growth in grace.

13. He feels less and less as if he had any separate interest. It is a great thing, in regard to growth in grace, to feel that all you have is Christ’s, and that you have absolutely no separate interest in living, or in dying, or in holding property, or children, or character.

14. It is an evidence of growth in grace when a person becomes more willing to confess faults to men.

15. Growing in grace raises a person more and more above the world. The growing saint regards less and less either the good or ill opinions of men. He feels that it is of little importance, only as it may affect his usefulness.

How to grow in grace.

1. Watch against besetting sins.

(1) Levity.

(2) Censoriousness.

(3) Anger.

(4) Pride.

(5) Selfishness, in all its forms. Here is the great root of all the difficulty. This is the foundation, the fountain, the substance, and sum total, of all the iniquity under heaven. Watch here; look out constantly; see where self comes out in your conduct, and there set a guard.

(6) Sloth.

(7) Envy. If you see others going ahead of you in prosperity, in influence, or in talents, examine your feelings, and see whether you are pleased at it. If the sight give you pain, beware!

(8) Ambition. By this sin angels fell, and it is impossible to grow in grace without suppressing it.

(9) Impure thoughts. It is necessary to make a covenant with our eyes, and with our ears too, and all our senses, or they will prove the inlet of temptation and sin. If you find yourself in danger, turn your thoughts away instantly.

2. Another direction for growing in grace is, take care to exercise all the Christian graces. Exercise yourself especially in those things where you find yourself most deficient. If you are exposed to a particular sin, guard there. If you are deficient in a particular grace, exercise that.

(1) Suppose you are naturally worldly-minded, and in danger of being carried away by the love of the world. Shut down the gate, and determine that you will on no account add to your wealth, or lay field to field.

(2) Suppose you are in danger of being flattered and lifted up with pride. As a reasonable being you are bound to know this, and be on your guard.

(3) If you find that you are reluctant to confess your faults, break right over it, and confess to everybody that you have injured. Practise it on all occasions, till you get the victory.

3. Exercise decision of character. To walk with God a man must walk contrary to the course of this world. He must face public sentiment.

4. To grow in grace, a man must possess great meekness. If a man suffer himself to be fretted by opposition, and thrown into a passion by obstacles that are thrown in his way, he may rest assured that Satan will manage to keep him in such a state of mind that he will by no means grow in grace.

Some things that are evidences of declension.

1. The person who grows weary of being asked to give for promoting the kingdom of Christ is evidently declining.

2. Becoming backward to converse on the subject of religion, and particularly to converse on spiritual, and experimental, and heart-searching points, is evidence of declension.

3. When a person is less disposed to engage in the duties of devotion, public, social, or private, it is a sign of declension.

4. Taking more delight in public meetings than in private duties and secret communion with God, is another evidence of a declining state.

5. Feeling less delight in revivals of religion is a sad token of declension.

6. A person that becomes captious about measures used in promoting revivals is in a declining state.

How to escape from a state of declension.

1. You must admit the conviction that you are in a state of declension.

2. Apply to yourself all that God says to backsliders, just as if you were the only individual in the world in that condition.

3. Find out the point where you began to decline. See what was the first cause of your backsliding, and give that up. You will often find this first cause where you did not expect it, in something which you called a little matter, or that you tried to make yourself believe was not a sin.

4. Give up your idols. If it be an article of property, dispose of it in some way; give it away, sell it, burn it, away with it, rather than have it stand between you and God.

5. Be careful to apply afresh to the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and peace with God.


1. There is no such thing as standing still in religion.

2. The idea that persons grow in grace during seasons of declension is abominable. Their whole progress is the other way.

3. There are but few persons that do grow in grace. How many, instead of setting themselves resolutely to obey God, and setting their faces as a flint against all sin, passively commit themselves to the stream, and expect to be wafted home to glory in this lazy way, without the trouble of a conflict.

4. We see the great fault of ministers. How little pains they take to train up young converts.

5. Unless ministers grow in grace it is impossible for the Church to grow. “Like priest like people” is a maxim founded on principles of correct philosophy.

6. Great pains should be taken by young ministers to grow in grace.

7. It is just as indispensable in the promotion of a revival, to preach to the Church, and make them grow in grace, as it is to preach to sinners, and make them submit to God. (C. G. Finney.)

Soul culture

The words are suggestive of two thoughts: that growth implies life, and that life requires culture.

Life is characterised by receiving. There are four things indispensably requisite to the growth of plants. The elements essential to the growth of spiritual life are analogous.

1. There must be light. The Word of God is to the growth of a soul as necessary as light to vegetation.

2. There must be also heat. Knowledge without life- truth without love--resembles a frosty moonlight. Flowers open to the sun, and hearts open to Christ, when the constraining power of His love is felt as a burning heat. The soul must build its conservatory on the south side of the temple of truth. This will make the soul of the Christian a Divine sunflower.

3. Moisture is essential to the growth of plants. In rain and dew the tree receives those influences without which neither beauty nor fruitfulness can exist. What moisture is to vegetation the Spirit of God is to soul-growth.

4. To the growth and healthiness of vegetation there must be air. “Of all common things, air is the most common. No space or place is accessible to us that is not filled with it. It is, of all material wants, that which is most indispensable to our existence. The character of a tree, plant, or flower will be determined by the air of the neighbourhood where it is planted. Impure air will affect the vitality of a plant as truly as it does the lungs of an animal. “The life of God in the soul of man” cannot thrive save in an atmosphere somewhat congenial with its heavenly character. It must move in an air higher and purer than that of earth. We must know what it is to have “fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ,” and with His saints. To “grow in grace” we must surround our selves with the elements of a Divine life. The character and complexion of our daily life will be the natural result and outgrowth of the company we keep, the society in which we move, the religious atmosphere we breathe.

The second property of life is that of giving. The flower gives its fragrance and loveliness; the plant its nourishment and healing; the tree its shadow and fruit. The animal gives its strength of sinew, bone, and muscle. Man does the same, with the additional contribution of intellectual strength. Without this giving forth there would be no true or perfect development of life. The man that lives for self is a man of stunted growth. A Christian that lives for self is a spiritual dwarf. (A London Suburban Minister.)

A psalm for the New Year

A divine injunction with a special direction: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” “Grow in grace.” What is this? It must be in the outset implied that we have been quickened by grace. Dead things cannot grow. Growth shall prove your life. Grow in that root-grace, faith. Seek to believe the promises better than ye have done. Let your faith increase in extent, believing more truth; let it increase in firmness, getting a tighter grip of every truth; let it increase in constancy, not being feeble or wavering, nor always tossed about with every wind; let your faith daily increase in simplicity, resting more fully and more completely upon the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. See to it that your love also grows. If ye have loved with a spark, pray that the spark may become an all-consuming flame. Ask that your love may become more extended--that ye may have love unto all the saints; more practical, that it may move your every thought, your every word and deed; more intense, that ye may become as burning and shining lights whose flame is to love God and man. Pray that ye may grow in hope, that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints; that ye may by hope enter into the joys of heaven while ye are on earth; that hope may give you immortality while you are yet mortal--may give you resurrection before you die. Ask that you may grow in humility, till you can say, “I am less than the least of all the saints”; that ye may grow in consecration, till ye can cry, “For me to live is Christ: to die is gain”; that ye may grow in contentment till ye can feel, “In whatsoever state I am, I have learned therewith to be content.” Advance in likeness to the Lord Jesus, that your very enemies may take knowledge of you that ye have been with Jesus and have learned of Him. Pray that ye may grow downward; that ye may know more of your own vileness, more of your own nothingness; and so be rooted in humility. As ye root downward, seek to grow upward. Send out the topshoot of your love towards heaven. Then pray to grow on either side. Stretch out your branches; let the shadow of your holy influence extend as far as God has given you opportunities. But see to it also that ye grow in fruitfulness, for to increase the bough without adding to the fruit is to diminish the beauty of the tree. We are not compared to trees, but to children. Let us grow as babes do, nourished by unadulterated milk. Steadily, slowly, but surely and certainly. Little each day, but much in years. But do ye inquire why and wherefore we should thus grow in grace? Let us say that if we do not advance in grace it is a sorrowful sign. It is a mark of unhealthiness. It is an unhealthy child that grows not, a cankered tree that sends forth no fresh shoots. More; it may be not only a sign of unhealthiness, but of deformity. If a man’s shoulders have come to a certain breadth, and his lower limbs refuse to lift him aloft, we call him a dwarf, and we look upon him with some degree of pity. Now to grow may be, moreover, the sign of death. It may say to us, Inasmuch as thou growest not, thou livest not; inasmuch as thou dost not increase in faith, and love, and grace; and inasmuch as thou dost not ripen towards the harvest, fear and tremble lest thou shouldst only have a name to live and be destitute of life, lest thou shouldst be the painted counterfeit; a lovely flower-picture drawn by the painter’s skilful hand, but without reality, because without the life-power which should make it bud and germinate and blossom and bring forth fruit. Grow in grace, because to increase in grace is the only pathway to enduring nobility. Oh! would ye not wish to stand with that noble host who have served their Master well, and have entered into their eternal rest? But to grow is not only to be noble--it is to be happy. That man who stays growing refuses to be blessed. Forward is the sunlight! forward is victory! forward is heaven! But here, to stand still is danger; nay, it is death. O Lord, for our happiness’ sake, bid Thou us advance; and, for our usefulness’ sake, let us ascend. I have thus explained the Divine exhortation; but you perceive it contains a special injunction, “And in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” We must see to it that we ripen in the knowledge of Him--of Him in His Divine nature, and in His human relationship to us; in His finished work, in His death, in His resurrection, in His present glorious intercession, and in His future royal advent. We must study to know more of Christ also in His character--in that Divine compound of every perfection, faith, zeal, deference to His Father’s will, courage, meekness, and love. Above all, let us long to know Christ in His person. This year endeavour to get better acquaintance with the Crucified One. Grow in the knowledge of Christ, then. And do ye ask me why? Oh! if ye have ever known Him you will not ask thai question. He that longs not to know more of Christ, knows nothing of Him yet.

A grateful thanksgiving, with a most suggestive termination: “To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” The apostles very frequently suspended their writing in order to lift up their hearts in praise. Praise is never out of season, and it is no interruption to interrupt any engagement in order to laud and magnify our God. “To Him be glory.” Yes, to Him, ye atheists, who deny Him; to Him, ye Socinians, who doubt His Deity; to Him, ye kings, who vaunt your splendour, and will not have this man to reign over you; to Him, ye people, who against Him stand up, and ye rulers who against Him take counsel; to Him, the King whom God hath set up upon His holy hill of Zion; to Him be glory. To Him be glory as the Lord: King of kings and Lord of lords; “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” To Him be glory as Saviour. He alone hath redeemed us unto God by His blood; He alone hath “trodden the wine-press,” and “cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength.” “To Him be glory.” Church of God respond! Let every pious heart say, “To Him be glory.” But the apostle adds “now”--“to Him be glory now.” Oh, postpone not the day of His triumph; put not off the hour of His coronation. Now, now; for now, to-day, He hath raised us up together, and made us sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. “And for ever.” Never shall we cease our praise. Time! thou shalt grow old and die. Eternity! thine unnumbered years shall speed their everlasting course; but for ever, for ever, for ever, “to Him be glory.” But, now, there is a conclusion to this of the most suggestive kind--“Amen.”

1. First, it is the desire of the heart, “Behold, I come quickly; Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” We say “Amen” at the end of the prayer to signify,” Lord, let it be so it is our heart’s desire.

2. But it signifies more than this; it means the affirmation of our faith. We only say amen to that which we really believe to be true. We add our affidavit, as it were, to God’s promise, that we believe Him to be faithful and true.

3. But there is yet a third meaning to this amen. It often expresses the joy of the heart. As you see King Jesus sitting upon Mount Zion with death and hell beneath His feet, as to-day you anticipate the glory of His Advent, as to-day you are expecting the time when you shall reign with Him for ever and ever, does not your heart say “Amen”?

4. But, lastly, amen is sometimes used in Scripture as an amen of resolution. It means, “I, in the name of God, solemnly pledge myself that, in His strength, I will seek to make it so; to Him be glory both now and for ever.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Of growth in grace

How many ways may a christian be said to grow in Grace?

1. He grows in the exercise of grace; his lamp is burning and shining.

2. He grows in the degree of grace (Psalms 84:7).

What is the right manner of a Christian’s growth?

1. To grow less in one’s own eyes.

2. To grow proportionably--in one grace as well as another.

3. When a Christian has grace suitable to his several employments and occasions.

Whence is it that true grace cannot but grow?

1. It is proper for grace to grow; it is the seed of God.

2. Grace cannot but grow from the sweetness and excellency of it; he that hath grace is never weary of it, but still would have more.

3. Grace cannot but grow from a believer’s ingrafting into Christ; he who is a scion, ingrafted into this noble, generous stock, cannot but grow.

What motives or incentives are there to make us grow in grace?

1. Growth is the end of the ordinances.

2. The growth of grace is the best evidence of the truth of it.

3. Growth in grace is the beauty of a Christian.

4. The more we grow in grace, the more glory we bring to God.

5. The more we grow in grace, the more will God love us.

6. What need have we to grow in grace? There is still something lacking in our faith. Grace is but in its infancy and minority, and we must still be adding a cubit to our spiritual stature.

7. The growth of grace will hinder the growth of corruption. As some plants have an antipathy, and will not thrive if they grow near together, as the vine and the bay tree: so, where grace grows, sin will not thrive so fast.

8. We cannot grow too much in grace; there is no excess there. The body may grow too great, as in the dropsy; but faith cannot grow too great: “your faith groweth exceedingly”; here was exceeding, yet not excess. As a man cannot have too much health, so not too much grace.

9. Such as do not grow in grace, decay in grace. “Not to advance in the path of life is to return.”

10. The more we grow in grace, the more we shall flourish in glory.

How shall we know whether we grow in grace?

1. The signs of our not growing in grace, but rather falling into a spiritual consumption.

(1) When we have lost our spiritual appetite.

(2) When we grow more worldly.

(3) When we are less troubled about sin.

2. The signs of our growing in grace.

(1) When we are got beyond ore” former measures of grace.

(2) When we are more firmly rooted in religion, rooted in Him, and established: the spreading of the root shows the growth of the tree.

(3) When we have a more spiritual frame of heart. More spiritual in our principles, affections, and performance of duty.

(4) When grace gets ground by opposition. The fire, by an antiperistasis, burns hottest in the coldest season. The martyrs’ zeal was increased by persecution. Here was grace of the first magnitude.

What shall we do to grow in grace?

1. Take heed of that which will hinder its growth--the love of any sin.

2. Use all means for growth in grace. It is better to grow in grace than gifts; gifts are for ornament; grace is for nourishment, to edify others, to save ourselves.

How may we comfort such as complain they do not grow in grace? They may mistake; they may grow when they think they do not. The sight Christians have of their defects in grace, and their thirst after greater measures of grace, makes them think they do not grow when they do. Let Christians be thankful for the least growth. If you do not grow so much in assurance, bless God if you grow in sincerity; if you do not grow so much in knowledge, bless God if you grow in humility. If a tree grows in the root, it is a true growth; if you grow in the root grace of humility, it is as needful for you as any other growth. (T. Watson.)

Christian growth

The command is that we enlarge ourselves; that we pass up by graduation from one class to another class in the great school of life, of action, of understanding. The injunction pre supposes that we are capable, that we have faculties susceptible of being disciplined and trained. It pre-supposes that we are intelligent and ambitious after good, and desirous of higher attaimnent. The germ idea contained in the word “education” is that of leading forth the natural capacity of the man. An educated person is a person who has been led forth, or brought out, or developed from what he was into something larger, and fuller, and more complete. Moral education is, there fore, the leading forth of the moral capacity of man. Human nature is a nature of capacity; it is susceptible of great development in any direction and toward any state of being. It can be led out toward the good or toward the bad; can be made to seek its affinities among the high or the low. It can be influenced toward heaven or it can be influenced toward hell. As far as we can see, there is no limit to this development of man’s capacity. The whole human machinery impresses one in its every part with the idea of motion, and the assertion that the mind and soul will ever come to a dead standstill, whether here or in the hereafter, is one repugnant to the very genius of their construction. The endless activity of God, according to its capacity to receive it, seems to have been imparted to His last and finest creation, man. Now, this marvellous being, whose capacity of growth is endless, is located in the midst of a thousand incentives of growth. Regard him simply as an animal, and what that he needs does the earth and the air refuse him for food? Look at him, as a student, as an embodiment of mental faculties, and behold how multitudinous are the objects that elicit his inquisition. The earth on which he walks swells with problems that challenge’ solution; the air he breathes is charged with forces and combinations of elements which provoke him to analysis. Contemplate him as a social being, and see in the midst of what quickening and vital associations he lives. Love, sympathy, tenderness, mercy, pity--each through its own channel sends down its crystal stream to swell the tide of his ever-widening life. Or examine him in his spiritual connections. What capacity of moral discernment do we not find in him? What magnificent equipment of sensibilities is his; what profound depth of life he has; what energy to aspire, what power to feel, what force to execute, what ability to acquire impressions distinguish him? The education of such a being must be, to every thoughtful mind, one of the gravest subjects within the whole range of human inquiry. The worst thing that any man can do is to think of himself as a creature of little value. I care not how ordinary you may be in your own eyes; I care not how little gifted you may be as others might judge, still I beg you to remember that you are of the highest dignity in the eye of your Maker. It is safe to say that there is not a creation of God, there is not a combination permitted by Him, the object of which is not man’s education. You are to look upon the whole world in all its growths, in all its ever-revolving changes, as ordained for your instruction and assistance. There is not a tree, there is not a spire of grass, there is not even a daisy-head that you passed this summer in the fields, that was not created and put in growth and bloom for you. Wisdom as to these is wisdom as to God, and he is wisest as regards the Creator who comprehends most clearly all the use and relation of created things. Now, bearing these things which we have suggested in mind, we submit to you, if the appliances for the leading forth of your nature, in all manner of admirable ways, is not a matter of wonder and gratitude. If you will put yourself in connection with all these helps, so bounteously given; if you will only co-operate with the agents and agencies devised in your behalf, how can your natures fail to be daily enlarged by what is about you? Who can say what knowledge a babe gets out of its mother by feeling with its little hands about the mother’s face? This we must remember also, that we are not educated along one line or by a single contact with men, but along many lines and by means of association with many. Hence God groups us. Like stars, men are clustered in constellations, and move on in systems, mutually attracting, mutually repelling each other. There is no education equal to that which a man or woman can get in the sweet school of family life. It is the school in which love should be master and mistress. In it the only law known should be that of affection; the highest privilege, that of serving. This family life may be lived in humble circumstances, as men count surroundings; but its influence on your soul may be as precious, and the results as happy, as if you had lived within the sentinel-guarded doors of a palace. As Christianity enlarges the domain of its sovereignty over men, this family principle gets wider and wider application. The ties of blood cease to bound the limits of affectionate regard, and a spiritual brotherhood unites you to a larger circle. Ultimately the whole race will be kin to each member of it. In order that this education of human nature may go forward unto its complete triumph, it is necessary that every organisation, every form of government, and the entire social structure, should be of a pro, per kind. There is no pressure that can be brought to bear upon a man more potent than that of organisation. If the organisation of the family be wrong in its spirit, in its tone and temper, then will each member of the family be wrong in his or her tone and temper. A. family whose government rests on the principle of force, of authority that speaks only by the infliction of punishment, will make children in it cowardly, hypocritical, and brutal. A Church whose organisation rests on a bigoted foundation will make its members bigoted. The influence of its pulpit, and even of its prayers, will educate men and women into narrowness of thought and harshness of opinion. You cannot base a Church of Christ on anything less wide, less liberal, less sympathetic, than the heart of Christ. Education is thus for ever progressive, and the human mind at the dawn of each generation goes in search of the undiscovered as birds go forth from their groves with the coming of every morning to canvass the fields for their food, and feel in the movement of their flight the joy of a fresh experience. Thus you see that education includes the idea of growth. The educated man is the grown man. He has grown out of old forms of thought into new ones. He has left one plane of feeling and been lifted to a higher plane. That which was difficult for him to understand has become plain. He walks as those who walk in the light. Christianity, as measured by its effect on humanity, if properly interpreted and understood, is movement. It builds no permanent encampment for its followers. Its army is for ever on the march, and every night finds them in a new camp-ground. We must remember that we are all school-children in spiritual education. We are not far advanced--we are on the lower benches, and are sitting at the feet of the Master. We are not studying the high sciences of God. We are not able to fathom the “deep things” of His will. We are only being instructed in the first lessons of good manners. We are only being taught, here and now, how to behave. By and by, when we have learned how to behave, when we have become obedient, cheerful, patient, and good; by and by, when our spiritual senses have become organically so developed as to create a hunger for finer knowledge, and have begun to long to see the things that eye hath not seen, and to hear the things that ears have never heard, God will lift us and honour us with higher seats where the older scholars sit, and we shall begin to be wise as well as good. For this education of which I am talking, this leading out of man’s moral faculties, is a thing not of to-day, nor a movement of time as men count time; it is a thing of the ages. It is a movement which rolls itself on into eternity. As to extent, there is no end to it. I close with this word of cheer. The theme suggests it. Whatever your state spiritually may be, you need not remain in it. You can grow out of that state into a better one. You who have failed can grow out of your failure into success. You who are despondent can grow up into the condition of hopefulness. You who are sad God will lift into joy. You who are in the midst of sin can be redeemed out of that sin, and become upright. You who are weak in the structure of your virtue can be braced with the bands of everlasting power. The heavens are full of attractions, and by their sweet might you can be lifted until you stand higher than the stars. (W. H. H. Murray.)

Growth in grace

What is it to grow in grace.

1. The Christian should be ambitious to increase in the number of his graces.

2. We should grow in the measure of our graces.

3. We should grow in the use of our graces.

Why growth in grace should be sought.

1. Because God has afforded a variety of helps to promote it.

2. As we are otherwise in continual danger of losing what we have already obtained.

3. Our advancement in glory will be in proportion to our present improvement in grace.

How growth in grace is to be attained.

1. Ascertain that the good work is really begun.

2. Cherish a lively sense of your imperfections.

3. Carefully avoid whatever would hinder your growing in grace.

4. As you must be diligent in the use of the means of grace, so you must take care not to place any confidence in them. (S. Lavington.)

Growth in grace

A sense of insufficiency is an indispensable prerequisite to growth in grace.

But a self-renouncing dependence on divine help must not be allowed to supersede or to slacken your own endeavours.

Growth in grace is a process which cannot go on without sooner or later manifesting itself by its fruits.

1. A growing reliance on Christ.

2. Increasing power over temptation.

3. The increasing influence of conscience.

4. Increasing disinterestedness of religious feeling.

5. Increased complacency in thinking of death and eternity. (J. M. McCulloch, D. D.)

Grow in grace

1. In growing better, the first thing is to become good; or rather this is preliminary to all improvement. The foundation must be laid before the building can rise. No digging about and enriching, no ever so auspicious alternation of sun and shower can bring forward a plant which has no life in it. Yet in morals this is what some are endeavouring to do; they would feed death and cultivate sterility. The sinner must pass from the state of nature to that of grace before he can grow in grace.

2. Then the soul being born again, the principle of spiritual life being communicated to it, it must have nourishment in order to grow; the principle of spiritual life is not independent of aliment any more than that of animal life. Now truth is the nutriment of the soul, and it must be taken, or the soul will not grow, and in a little while will cease to live. They say it is no matter what a man believes, or whether he believes anything, so he but practises aright, which is as if one would say, it is immaterial what a man eats or whether he eat at all, so he but lives. Can he live without eating, and eating wholesome food? If error is not injurious, poison is not; and if ignorance is not hurtful, starvation is harmless. The man who is indifferent to the interests of truth is also to those of virtue. It is impossible to love the one without loving the other. Truth is the principle and pabulum of virtue. The Word of God must be understood, believed and meditated on, and especially its testimony concerning Christ, otherwise there can be no growth in grace.

3. The exercise of the moral powers and gracious dispositions in you is essentially necessary to their growth and expansion. How can one grow in benevolence or in compassion unless he obeys its dictates? in temperance unless he habitually practises temperance? how increase in humility unless he frequently, humble himself? And as they cannot be exercised without trials and afflictions, hence the necessity of these to the growth of those virtues and the perfection of the human character. God is the author, upholder, and finisher of good in us. No use of means, and no making of exertion are of any avail without His secret, spiritual efficiency; hence a spirit of dependence on God must be cultivated and exercised, and hence is prayer an indispensable means of growth in grace. The Holy Spirit is promised only to them who ask Him.

5. Watchfulness is another important means of growth in grace. The plant of grace requires the most anxious attention and the most constant care. It has many enemies--some that grub the earth, and some that infest the air--and it is exposed to many evil influences. It must be assiduously watched.

6. Christians are members of a mystical body of which Christ is the head, and from Him, in consequence of this connection, they derive strength, grace, nourishment, and every needed good. Now faith is the bond of this union, and the stronger the faith, the closer the bond, and the more free the communication. Hence, if one would grow in grace, he must habitually exercise faith in Christ, and increase in faith.

7. Striving against sin is all-important to growth in grace and holiness.

8. Sensual indulgence is a formidable foe to growth in grace; and, when carried far, is incompatible with its existence. Hence the necessity of abstinence and self-denial.

9. The love of the world is another enemy to holiness. There is a wonderful moral efficiency in the Cross of Christ to destroy this inordinate affection.

10. Finally, the promises exert a sanctifying influence when contemplated and applied (2 Peter 1:4). (W. Nevins, D. D.)


There is such a thing as growth in grace. I do not for a moment mean that a believer’s interest in Christ can grow. I do not mean that he can grow in safety, acceptance with God, or security. I only mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart. I hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, progress, and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage, and the like, may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble, and may vary greatly in the same man at different periods of his life. One principal ground on which I build this doctrine of “growth in grace,” is the plain language of Scripture. “Your faith groweth exceedingly” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). “We beseech you that ye increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:10). “Increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). “Having hope, when your faith is increased “(2 Corinthians 10:15). “The Lord make you to increase in love” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). “That ye may grow up into Him in all things” (Ephesians 4:15). “I pray that your love may abound more and more” (Philippians 1:9). “We beseech you, as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1.) “Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2.) “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The other ground on which I build the doctrine of “growth in grace,” is the ground of fact and experience. What true Christian would not confess that there is as much difference between the degree of his own faith and knowledge when he was first converted and his present attainments, as there is between a sapling and a full-grown tree? His graces are the same in principle; but they have grown. Let us turn away to a more practical view of the subject before us. I want men to look at “growth in grace” as a thing of infinite importance to the soul.

1. “Growth in grace” is the best evidence of spiritual health and prosperity. In a child, or a flower, or a tree, we are all aware that when there is no growth there is something wrong.

2. “Growth in grace “is one way to be happy in our religion. God has linked together our comfort and our increase in holiness. He has graciously made it our interest to press on and aim high in our Christianity.

3. “Growth in grace” is one secret of usefulness to others. Our influence on others for good depends greatly on what they see in us.

4. “Growth in grace” pleases God. The husbandman loves to see the plants on which he has bestowed labour flourishing and bearing fruit. It cannot but disappoint and grieve him to see them stunted and standing still (John 15:1; John 15:8). The Lord takes pleasure in all His people, but especially in those theft grow.

5. “Growth in grace” is not only a thing possible, but a thing for which believers are accountable.

There are marks by which growth in grace may be known.

1. One mark is increased humility.

2. Another mark is increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Another mark is increased holiness of life and conversation.

4. Another mark is increased spirituality of taste and mind.

5. Another mark is increase of charity.

6. One more mark is increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls.

The means that must be used by those who desire to grow in grace.

1. One thing essential to growth in grace is diligence in the use of private means of grace.

2. Another essential is carefulness in the use of public means of grace.

3. Another essential is watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters of every-day life.

4. Another essential is caution about the company we keep and the friendships we form.

5. There is one more thing which is absolutely essential to growth in grace, and that is regular and habitual communion with the Lord Jesus. (Bishop Ryle.)

Christian life a growth

The heart must become rooted in living, Christ-like principles.

The Christian religion is to be cultivated.

Due attention must be given to the law of spiritual development.

The law of growth works its purpose through changing seasons.

The growing life will manifest itself. (W. Currrie.)

Growth the test of Christian life

The want of growth is the want, generally speaking, of organisation. Rocks do not grow, soil does not grow. Growth belongs to the higher stages of development, and as things grow, not by accretion, but by definite formation, by their growth we judge of their vitality. When anything ceases to grow its end is near. Any man that has ceased to grow is waiting for his undertaker, and the longer he has to wait the greater is the pity for everybody about him. There are, of course, in so compound a creature as man, several concentric circles of growth. There is bodily growth, but that usually takes care of itself, and needs no exercitation. Then there is physical culture, a growth not in dimensions alone, but in other ways. One may develop strength; it may be increased by his purpose. One may develop activity; one may develop skill of hand or alertness and quickness of foot. This is the lowest form of growth, and yet the lowest growth even of the body is a worthy one, and justifies our endeavour. A healthy and well-developed body is a chariot fit to carry a hero’s soul. To grow up in good sound health, without violation of the great canons of morality, and with the law of moderation fixed upon every appetite and passion, is itself no insignificant ideal for a young man or woman. But, then, we are familiar, in this land where education is almost an atmosphere and a byword, with growth in intelligence and knowledge. These two things are very different. Intelligence implies a certain condition of the knowing faculties. Knowledge is the fruit of intelligence. There is just as much difference between them as there is between skill and the product of skill, or between husbandry and the harvests that husbandry can produce. A man may have intelligence and scarcely any knowledge. A man may have a good deal of knowledge and hardly any intelligence. But where one has both intelligence and knowledge, and is growing in them both, that is a transcendently noble thing. It is the direct tendency of intelligence and knowledge to produce morality. I declare that education, or the development of the knowing parts of a man, gives him so large a view of the field of life that he is more likely to see that morality is safety than if he were ignorant; and that the general fact stands proved that intelligence and knowledge tend, on the whole, by immense measure, toward goodness, respectability, virtue, and morality. So if we grow in aptitude for intelligence and knowledge we shall make a long stride away from animalism, and from the dangers that beset the passions and appetites of human life. Now, while bodily growth, intellectual growth, and growth in knowledge are to be esteemed, and are not to be thrown into the shade by any misconception of the value of grace and religion, I affirm that the highest growth, because it is the one that carries all these others with it more or less, or blesses them, is growth in grace. Self-sacrifice, that is one element of it. Meekness and humility are other elements of it. Good nature, which is called kindness in the text of Scripture, is another element of it. Easiness to be entreated is one of the elements of growth. In regard to that manhood which springs from the activity of our highest spiritual and moral functions, in regard to this eminent spiritual-mindedness, I must say that it does not belong to the cave nor to the cloister. The serene wisdom of love, and the guidance of God’s presence with a man, will prosper him more, in the long run, in every relation of life, than the turbulent wisdom that springs from vanity, from pride, from avarice, from passion. Men adopt a lower form of power when they undertake to carry out the ends of life by the selfishness that prevails in human society. It requires more skill in the beginning to wield this higher power--to learn the trade, that is, of piety in its application to life. It also requires more time for reaping the fruit. Some harvests are sown in autumn, and the sun leaves them; but they come to ripeness next summer. Some things can be sown in spring and reaped before midsummer. In regard to moral and spiritual elements, it takes more time to develop them and procure their final results in secular wisdom than it does to take the lower and superficial forms and achieve success, but when once they are established they do not go back. A man that fears and loves God, and therefore stands intact under the temptations of life, men will give large premiums to get. It is ripening growth that is demanded. In other words, it is not enough for our religion that we have revivals of it; it is not enough that we have flashes of any or all of these spiritual feelings and experiences. What is wanted is, that they shall become steadily a part of us and abide in us, so that they constitute our character. Then growth in grace amounts indeed to a sure victory. The piety that comes and goes is better than nothing--scarcely more than that; but the higher spiritual qualities of a man’s nature that abide with him, and grow stronger, and throw their roots deeper, and take hold on life with more multiplied hands, are the qualities that constitute the true man. When such things shall have been thoroughly developed, the stability and habitualness of the highest Christian experiences will work spontaneity. The mind’s action in this channel will become automatic. Then, too, there will be harmony. It will not be simply a few feelings that will run in this line, but the whole soul. Like an orchestra well trained, it will be harmonious, and will increase in force from year to year. For while prophecy and teaching and knowledge do not abide, while we are in the childhood of the human race, and know everything only in fragments and parts, there are some things that death itself does not change. We are told that they are faith, hope, and love. These go on ineradicable and unchangeable. Such men walk with God. If you liken human life and development to a dwelling, the lower story is on the ground, and made of clay. How roomy and how full of men that live next to the dirt! Above that, however, is a story of iron. There are men of energy, and of a ruling purpose irresistible, seeking and gaining their ends at all hazards, and this story is populous too. The next story is dressed in velvet and carved wood, and here are they that dwell in their affections, and are brought together by the sympathy of a common gentleness and kindness, but on the lower levels of life. Above that is a room of crystal and of diamonds, and there are but few that dwell in it. From its transparent walls one may behold the heavens and the earth. Out of it men may see the night as well as the day--men who live a life so high, so pure, and so serene that they may be said to dwell at the very threshold of the gate of heaven itself. (H. W. Beecher.)

Growing in grace

It is implied that we are not perfect in grace, that there is wide room for growth. Another thing implied is that we may and can grow if we will. God knows our abilities and our inabilities, our dispositions and indispositions, the moral outflow and the moral recoil, and, knowing all, He says, “Grow in grace.”

Directions. How to grow in grace? We cannot but remember that growth, to be real and healthy, must be free. It may seem, therefore, an impertinent thing to interpose directions at all. But in truth we do not interpose them with any authority. We shall bring them, such as they are, within sight. Use them if they are suitable. If not, find other modes more akin with your spirit’s life. Only grow.

1. Might not one try this among other things, at least for a little while--say for one week--that one shall take a strong morning thought concerning it.

2. Then, in the next place, let there be an actual arrangement of things, in so far as he has the power--of the employments and circumstances of the day--with express view to the accomplishment of this the supreme purpose.

3. If in the general review and arrangement of the life some things are found, perhaps in the very structure of it, or hanging closely to the structure, which are seen to be hindrances, then let them be laid aside without reserve, without delay. A thing may not be a sin, and yet it may serve the sinful cause as effectually as if it were. If you planted apple trees in your orchard in the hope of feasting your eyes in a while with their wealth of blossom and heaping your baskets with the sweet-smelling fruit, would you hang weights on the branches to see how much they would bear and still grow? Would you gather up the withered branches and hook them on to the fresh green ones? If you did they might not kill them, but would they not mar the beauty, would they not hinder the growth? It may seem to be hardly necessary to say anything regarding the renunciation of sin as such. We have spoken of hindrances both slight and serious. Now let me say that a man should hold himself ready to take all gracious helps for gracious growing. These helps are manifold and very near. It is therefore exceedingly important that the soul should be in a receptive state. Everything about the kingdom of grace is in such a state of readiness that in a moment God can give help if the soul is prepared to take it. Now to be ready does not mean having an assemblage of great thoughts in the mind. It does not mean having the feelings or the frame of the heart in a theological or so-called evangelical state. It means being humble and looking up with desire to God. One more hint. It is this. That we should maintain a constant connection with the fountain-head of grace in God by everything which constitutes prayer. God’s windows are open. God’s fountains are flowing. God’s lights are streaming, and His vital airs are breathing forth, and every prayerful spirit will catch a double measure of those heavenly gifts and treasures as they come.


1. The first is the ease with which this growing can be accomplished when we heartily incline to it. If we would but hold ourselves in simplicity in the garden of God, and abide where we are planted, by His rivers of water, the fruit would be in season and the leaf would never wither.

2. Another inducement is found in the principle of necessary growth which belongs to every rational soul. We must grow in something, and if not in grace, you know in what the growth will be. “Ye therefore, beloved, beware, lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” And now, when you see the danger, how are you to act to avoid it? “Grow in grace.” That will keep you safe and well in the right faith, in the right practice. If we do not believe the truth and grow in that we shall soon be heretics, holding fallacies, believing lies. If we do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, and grow by that pure and infinite affection, the longing, unportioned heart will soon have another in His place. It will wind itself, like the ivy, around anything that comes, be it no better than mouldering wall or rotting tree, rather than live in vacuity or sink into utter negation. We must grow; then let our growing be in lily-like beauty, in cedar strength, in “smell as Lebanon.” Every other kind of growth is uncertain, limited, transient. But growth in grace is for ever; there is nothing in grace which indicates, far less necessitates, decay. It is for every place; for land and sea, for earth and heaven. It is for all time, now and evermore. It is for the whole nature of man--body, soul, and spirit. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The growth of grace

What is meant by their growing in grace.

1. They must exercise grace more constantly.

2. Uniformity as well as constancy is implied. Some shine in one grace and some in another, while very few shine in all the beauties of holiness.

Why growth in knowledge is necessary in order to the growth in grace.

1. Knowledge tends to increase their obligations to grow in grace. The knowledge of duty always increases an obligation to do it.

2. Divine knowledge not only increases the obligations of Christians to grow in grace, but actually increases the holiness of all their holy affections. The degree of holiness in every exercise of love to God is always in proportion to the light or knowledge which the person has at the time of exercising that particular grace. A Christian has a much clearer and more extensive view of God at one time than at another, and his love is always virtuous in exact proportion to the degrees of his present knowledge. One exercise of faith is more virtuous than another, because the believer may have much greater knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ at one time than he has at another. The same holds true of submission, joy, gratitude, and every other Christian grace. The celebrated Howard, who spent his property and his life in relieving the objects of charity in Britain and in various other parts of Europe, was a man of benevolence, and his benevolence was in proportion to his knowledge. As he had a far more extensive view of the miseries of mankind than Christians in general, so his exercises of kindness and compassion were much more virtuous than theirs towards similar objects.

The importance of their growing in both these respects.

1. The honour of religion requires Christians to grow in knowledge and grace. Though the men of the world are disposed to despise religion, yet they are constrained to respect it in those professors who appear to be both knowing and growing Christians.

2. It is of great importance that Christians should grow both in knowledge and in grace, not only on the account of others, but on their own account.

(1) For, in the first place, their growth in these respects will be the most effectual security against the gross and dangerous errors to which they are continually exposed in their present imperfect state.

(2) Growth in knowledge and grace will happily tend to remove darkness and doubts from the minds of Christians.

(3) Furthermore, growth in knowledge and grace will prepare Christians for the delightful and acceptable performance of every duty.

(4) It is, finally, of great importance that Christians should make continual advances in knowledge and grace to prepare them for the closing scene of life. If they neglect to improve their minds in knowledge and their hearts in holiness they may expect to live in bondage and die in darkness, for Christians commonly die very much as they live.


1. If knowledge be necessary to promote the growth of grace, then the most instructive preaching must be the most profitable.

2. If religious knowledge be conducive to the growth of religious affections, then that religious conversation among Christens is the most useful which is the most instructive.

3. If Divine knowledge has a tendency to promote all the Christian graces and virtues, then growing Christians have an increasing evidence of their good estate. (N. Emmons, D. D.)


I ask, first, into what we are to grow? Now, the Revised Version throws some light upon the connection of the two things specified in my text by a very slight but significant alteration. It reads, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.” Both are connected with Him; He is the source of the grace; He is the object of the knowledge. Thus we get the thought that all our Christian progress, in its deepest meaning, consists in penetrating more deeply into Christ, and what He has and is. We hear a great deal about “progress” in these days; and very much of it consists in departure from Jesus Christ. Those of us who know and possess most of Him have but a drop from the great ocean; one sparkle from the star; a pittance from the storehouse. We have an infinite treasure, and our growing wealth consists in our pressing further into its rooms filled with bullion, and taking more and more of Him into ourselves. For, again, the true notion of Christian progress consists in the growing reception of a gift. We advance, not by our own unaided efforts. Reception is growth; and the more we open our hearts to receive, the more we advance in the Christian life. Instead of toilsomely trying to struggle up the steep mountain, we are borne up on wings as eagles. Hence the blessed distinctive mark of Christian progress is that, in the midst of the most strenuous efforts, there may be perpetual calm. To have more of Christ--that is growth. But if we look at the two points which the apostle separates here, a word may be said about each of them. Our reception of Jesus Christ is a growing reception of His grace. Now, “grace” here seems to mean, not so much His undeserved love to inferiors, as the consequences of that love in His gifts to us. Or, to put it into other words, what is meant by “the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” in this connection is the bestowing upon us, in our spirits, that we may work them out and manifest them in our lives, all the excellences and virtues of a Christlike character. And I lay this on your hearts, that growth in grace is not so much the blessedness of private, personal experience, or the welling up of certain emotions in heart and mind, as conduct in the life, aspiring after, and showing in exercise “whatsoever things are lovely and of good report.” If these things be in you, and grow in you, you are growing in grace. Then consider the other side of this exhortation--grow in the “knowledge of Christ.” That probably concerns mainly what we call intellectual processes, and yet not altogether. For if it is a Person that is known, then the process of knowing cannot be altogether a mere matter of dry brain-work. It may be enough to begin the Christian life that a man should have but a little acquaintance with Jesus Christ, but there is not enough to keep it up unless that acquaintance is ever growing, becomes tenderer, deeper, quieter, more assured, more impossible to be ever altered. There is no fear of exhausting Christ! But we may look at this exhortation in a slightly different way. “Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” means not only grow in personal acquaintance with Him, but grow in the perception of the truths which are embodied in His person and work. Now, there is a great deal of so-called progress in Christian knowledge which largely consists in getting away from the initial truths and going out into other regions. That is not growth; that is decay. For the initial truths are the most important truths, and when a man has learned that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” he has learned what only needs to be pondered upon and followed out, and above all lived by, in order that it shall open into a boundless universe of truth and wisdom. Progress into Christ is like that of the bee that buries itself more deeply into the flower, and draws honey from its innermost recesses. First Christ may be seen as but a speck, then He is a disc of brightness in the dark, and then he is a flaming sun that lightens all the sky.

How are we to grow? My text is a commandment; therefore growth comes through our own efforts. Now, there are many metaphors in the New Testament for this conception of Christian progress. One set of them represents it as being spontaneous, automatic, effortless. As, for instance, when our Lord says, “First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear , there is no effort there. But that is only one side of the truth. Another side to the answer to the question, How we are to grow? is involved, as I have just said, in the fact that we are commanded to do so. So, very characteristically, when the Apostle Paul speaks of this same subject he rarely uses the metaphor of growth. And what are the figures which he prefers? The race, which implies strenuous strain of the muscles, and is not to be won without effort, dust, and sweat. The fight, for there is resistance to be faced and overcome. With these figures my text falls in, and suggests that there can be no growth in the Christian life without strenuous endeavour. No doubt the progress of the Christian life consists mainly in reception, but reception is not passive. If you do not hold the cup out, it will not be filled. What, then, have we to do? First, and mainly, to keep very near to our Lord. Communion with Jesus Christ is the secret of all growth. If we are close by Him, He will pour Himself into our hearts. Food is needed for growth. If a Christian starves his soul by neglecting to feed on the bread which came down from heaven, no wonder that he is stunted. Exercise is essential for growth. Unused muscles atrophy, like the fakir’s arm that has been held up for twenty years in one position, and now is stiff and rigid as a bar of iron. Use the grace that you have, and practise the truth that you are sure of, and the grace will grow and other truths will be made clear.

Lastly, what happens to us if we do not grow? My text begins with a “but,” and that throws us back to what goes before. The connection which is thus established is very noteworthy and monitory. “Beware lest ye also … fall from your own steadfastness; but grow.” So, then, the only way to prevent falling is growth; and if you are not growing, you are certainly falling. No weight will stand at rest on an inclined plane. If it is not being hauled up it will be hurtling down. The student who is not advancing in his science will forget what he has learned. Water that stagnates gathers a scum. The talent that is wrapped in a napkin rusts; and the oxidising diminishes its weight and also dims its brightness. I feel ,that all our churches are full of cases of arrested development. Let me put a plain question: Are we more like Jesus Christ than we were a year ago? Let us remember that the process of growth begun here will go on for ever. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


The characteristics of growth.

1. The first characteristic of growth that we would notice is its silence. It is of all things the most calm, the most quiet, the most dignified. Whatever else may give rise to agitation and commotion and excitement, it is not spiritual growth. To this the analogy of nature clearly points. This the Great Teacher Himself flatly affirms. “The Kingdom of God,” He says, “cometh not with observation.” Silently the Spirit of Truth makes use of the instrumentality of the truth in communicating to our nature that life without which we know not what it is to live. Silently the same Spirit helps us to draw from the storehouse of the truth the nourishment that is needful to sustain and strengthen the life that has been given. Thus it is that the process of spiritual growth begins, and thus it is that it is carried onward and forward toward a higher and fuller development.

2. A second characteristic of growth is, that it is a gradual process. People sometimes feel discouraged by the littleness of their attainments in the Christian life and the tardiness of their spiritual growth, and too often there is cause for humiliation on this score; but, for my part, I would prefer the slowest rate of progress that is compatible with growth to that unnatural rapidity of development that is sure to fall into rapid consumption. If the progress of the cornstalk which comes to maturity in a few months be scarcely measurable at the interval of a week, and if the progress of the oak tree which comes to maturity in a century or more be barely observable in a year, what are we to say of that spiritual growth which shall not be consummated and completed until all the cycles and the aeons of eternity have run their course, and become buried in the bosom of the infinite past? If the interval at which progress may be measured and ascertained is to be lengthened in proportion to the period of growth, how long must that interval be in the case of the Christian’s advancement in the life divine?

3. There are many other characteristics of growth, but of these we shall mention only one, and that is the tendency of growth whenever found to develop in a definite direction. Nature has a certain model or type to which the growth of the seed must conform. And she keeps that before her, and to the best of her ability she builds up blade and stalk and ear after the fashion of this particular model. So it is with the acorn. It grows after a long lapse of years into an oak. This is the type toward which nature was working all the time. To the filling up of this model the growth of the tree always tended. So it is with everything else in nature. So it is with the Christian. Spiritual growth is in a definite direction. It tends to a perfect type. It advances in the direction of Christ.

This brings us naturally to consider in the next place the conditions of growth.

1. There is first the condition of previous life. As well expect a corn seed to grow into an oak as expect the man who is destitute of spiritual life to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” How does that life become ours? It is not ours by nature. It is ours only in union with Christ.

2. The other condition of growth to which we would refer is the presence of favourable surroundings, or to put it in the language of modern science, the existence of an appropriate “environment.” Spiritual life is what you might call a hardy plant. It will grow in almost any situation, in castle and cottage, under peasant’s roof-tree, under monarch’s dome, in the shop and the counting-house and the study, in the factory and the market, and the farm. But when all this has been allowed, it must still be admitted that neither soft nor atmosphere in this world is such as to ensure a perfect growth. The perfect type cannot be cultivated in this unsuitable soil and in this unfavourable climate. It needs to be transplanted to another sphere, to a more kindly soil and to a more congenial clime before the perfect ideal can be approached or approximated. Meantime it is our duty and our privilege, by Divine grace, to make the most of the circumstances in which we find ourselves here. But further, we are to grow in the knowledge of Christ. And how do you grow in the knowledge of a person? By associating with him. By attending carefully to the different way in which he reveals himself. If you would know Christ you must make Him your constant companion and counsellor, you must speak with Him, and above all you must hear Him speak with you. (W. J. Lowe, M. A.)

The means of growth in grace

The ordinances of the new testament are means of improvement in religion.

1. Divine revelation, by its influence on the understanding, the heart, the will, and the conscience of man, in every condition of life, promotes the Christian’s growth in holiness, in comfort, and in usefulness.

2. The sacraments are means of improvement in religion.

3. Conversation among private Christians is one of the means of growth in knowledge, in holiness, and in usefulness. It is itself a part of our religious enjoyments; and the means of increasing both the desire and the capacity for more enjoyment.

4. Prayer.

Judicious reflections upon our personal concerns, in the light of Divine revelation, have a great influence upon our religious improvement.

1. Let us consider the sinfulness of our disposition and deportment.

2. A due consideration of God’s providence respecting us tends to our personal progress in true religion.

3. Meditations on the love of God are conducive to the improvement of the Christian character.

4. Judicious reflections upon our own mortality, and the future state which we are daily approaching, have a tendency to prepare us for both.

Divine influences are required and employed in the progressive improvement of the saints.

1. The Spirit presents to the saints the proper objects of pursuit.

2. The Spirit directs the affections of the heart to spiritual objects.

3. Divine influence strengthens the saints for every duty.


1. I observe that there are different degrees of gracious attainments, and I urge upon all ranks the duty of further progress--“Grow in grace.”

2. Be not discouraged although your progress in religion is neither as uniform nor as rapid as you first expected it should actually prove. (A. McLeod, D. D.)

Growth in the grace of Christ

1. Have we not need to grow in the lowliness of Christ?

2. The unselfishness of Christ is brought out by the evangelists in a striking manner.

3. An uncompromising enemy of Pharisaism and all hypocrisy, there was not the slightest taint of cynicism or misanthropy in Christ.

4. Notice one more outstanding feature in the character of Christ--His beautiful enthusiasm in the cause--that is, our cause--which He has espoused. Such an example of joyful self-sacrifice the world never witnessed before, and never will do again. “Grow in the grace of Christ,” that is, if true Christians, we have the grace of Christ in some germinal measure: but that is not enough, there must be growth in it, and continual growth in it. To a sincere follower of Christ there can be no contentment with partial growth. (W. Skinner.)

Growth in grace by ordinary means

This higher life is attained and maintained chiefly by the diligent and right use of ordinary means--prayer, praise, worship, reading the Word, etc. Extra means may stimulate, but they do not largely feed; hence, those who principally depend on the irregular, the sensational means, are always spiritually poor and feeble. The stimulant is in excess of the nutriment, and is followed by reaction and exhaustion. All God’s highest and best works are accomplished by ordinary means, by light, and heat, and moisture; by regular and orderly growth. The thunder, whirlwind, and flood, though useful at the time, yet contribute but a small share in effecting the grand result of Nature’s processes. It is so in the spiritual world. The thing most needed is not extra means, but extra diligence in the use of ordinary means. (R. Chew.)

And in the knowledge of our Lord … Jesus Christ.--

Growth in grace and knowledge

The best persons have need of improvement. The possibility of growing in grace will be readily admitted by the true Christian. But what is meant by growing in the knowledge of Christ?

1. By the knowledge spoken of, first, we may understand the evidences of the Christian religion.

2. But that knowledge in which Christians should grow may be taken to include, or even to consist of, a familiar acquaintance with the contents of the Bible, both historical and prophetical, doctrinal and practical.

3. There is a species of knowledge in its very nature progressive, and which above all other knowledge it concerns us to acquire; I mean self-knowledge. Our growth in this will also cause us to grow in the knowledge of Christ, and show us the need we have of a Redeemer. But there is another branch of self-knowledge equally proper for man to study; I mean not the weakness of his nature, but the strength. As none ever pushed his capacity for intellectual improvement as far as it was able to extend, so in matters of morality, few or none ever exerted their strength as far as it would have carried them in the pursuit of virtue. (A. Gibson, M. A.)

Growing in the knowledge of Christ

What it is to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

1. The knowledge of Christ is of the greatest excellency. Other kind of knowledge is like light from the stars; this like beams from the sun. To know Christ assimilates and makes us like Him.

2. The knowledge of Christ is of absolute necessity.

3. The knowledge of Christ is by supernatural revelation.

4. The knowledge of Christ was communicated in a degree under the Old Testament.

5. The revelation of Christ under the New Testament is more clear. Therefore to be ignorant of Him is the more without apology.

6. All true believers in Christ have some knowledge of Him (Romans 10:14).

7. Those who know most of Christ know Him but in part. Therefore are they to be urged to grow in knowledge.

(1) Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a fuller apprehension of His Godhead.

(2) A clearer sight of His humanity.

(3) A more plain discerning and full persuasion that He was foreordained to be a Redeemer.

(4) A greater insight into His sufferings.

(5) A more fruitful eyeing of His resurrection and going to His Father.

(6) Greater satisfaction about His imputed righteousness.

(7) A more constant and fiducial eyeing of His intercession, and the pity and compassions of Him that intercedes.

(8) Being better acquainted with His great power, and continual presence with His Church which is so nearly related to Him.

(9) A better understanding of Him as “Mediator of the New Covenant.”

(10) A more earnest looking for His appearing.

What properties are required in this knowledge.

1. This knowledge of Christ should grow more and more certain.

2. It should more and more humble the Christian.

3. It should grow more spiritual.

4. It should encourage to a more settled reliance upon Him.

5. It should raise Him higher and higher in Christians’ estimation.

6. It should have a great aspect upon whatever else is revealed in the Word of God.

7. It should be operative still in a greater measure.

8. It should cause great glorying and joy.

How to increase and grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

1. Be sensible of your remaining ignorance.

2. Compare all other knowledge with this, and see the vast difference in point of excellency.

3. You must not lean to your own parts and understandings.

4. Heedfully attend to the word of the truth of the gospel.

5. Look unto Jesus Himself (Colossians 2:3).

6. Cry for more knowledge, and eye the promise of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.

7. Take heed of seducing spirits.

8. Abstain from worldly and fleshly lusts.

9. Associate yourselves with those who have a great measure of the knowledge of Christ.

10. Let your end in desiring a greater degree of the knowledge of Christ be right. Not that you may be puffed up in your own minds, or admired of men; but that Christ may be more admired and esteemed by you.


1. TO unbelievers.

(1) Christ is willing to receive the very worst of you, upon you returning and believing.

(2) Christ is willing to give Himself to you.

2. To saints.

(1) Improve the knowledge of Christ with reference to God Himself.

(2) To the law of God.

(3) To sin.

(4) To angels both good and bad.

(5) To this present world.

(6) To duties, grace, and perseverance.

(7) To comfort. (W. Vincent, M. A.)

Growth in the knowledge of God

To increase in the knowledge of God is distinctly commanded, not in this passage alone, but in very many. The progress of the mind in the knowledge of physical truth, scientific truth, depends very much upon the exercise of the senses upon matter; but the growth of knowledge in moral truth depends upon the exercise of moral feelings. While sense is the source of physical or scientific knowledge, disposition is the source of the knowledge of moral truth. Growth in the knowledge of a Divine Being unites both of these.

1. The earliest knowledge which we have of Divine existence is derived, undoubtedly, from teachers And parents. It differs, therefore, in children, according to the instruction which they receive. It is ampler or scantier, it is more wisely or less wisely imparted, according to circumstances. If the notion entertained by children could be analysed, I think it would be found to consist largely of the social and moral qualities which exist in the family, framed and bordered with their imaginations, in which physical qualities largely inhere.

2. I suspect that the next stage of growth consists in clothing these abstract notions, which we gain very early, and which are taught out of catechisms, with the facts of the history of the Lord Jesus Christ as they are narrated by the evangelists. So that it may be said of hundreds of people, that their God is literally, yet entombed in the Bible. They do not use these records as building materials out of which to develop an ever-increasing conception of heavenly excellence.

3. But if one be of a devout nature, and he be earnestly alive to moral growth, then his reading and his childhood instruction, after being subject to reflection, to mental digestion, will carry him forward one step further in the growth in the knowledge of God. His conception of the Divine nature will begin to enlarge and fill out in every direction if only there is a real, active, earnest moral life going on within him. In this work the imagination will be the architect, reason will be the master-builder, and the materials will come largely from experience. Men’s minds are magnets. One man going into the Bible, or into the realm of experience, his mind seeks that which shall feed his strongest faculties--his ideality, his self-esteem, his conscience, and his reason; and he draws those elements out, and leaves all the others. He sees those, and feels those, and he is astonished if anybody can resist the evidence which is so irresistible to him. He has a Calvinistic conception of God which is overwhelming to him, and to every other man who is organised just as he is. But here is another man that stands near him whose magnet draws another kind of filings, and who is just as true to himself. He has an inward want of a conception that is all beaming, and genial, and sweet, and tender. He does not disbelieve in righteousness, nor in conscience, nor in law, nor in government; but he is relatively insensitive to these as he is sensitive to those other elements. This man’s constitutional endowment draws to him all that goes to make up this partialism, and he is amazed to hear one talk so like a fool as his brother does. He has read the Bible, and he has seen no such evidence as that which his brother professes to have seen. Why, to him it is as clear as noonday that God is all summer. A third man, standing and looking upon these disputants, says, “They are fools, both of them. I do not think God cares much about government, or much about this benevolence. It seems to me that God is a lover of things in order, full of taste, full of proportion, and full of harmony. He is all music, and all blossom, and all beauty as I conceive Him.” That part of this man’s mind which craves these things being most sensitive, he takes just that class of materials. His magnet draws those things and no others.

4. There is a powerful influence at work in the formation and growth of the knowledge of God as derived from experience. If a person lies sick, to him all the world is cut off, all hopes are ended, all life seems sad. He does not turn to the jubilant side of God. He turns to those sides on which God declares that He comforts the sorrowing as a mother comforts her children. Another person is put in circumstances by God’s providence where he needs perpetual nerve and perpetual enterprise. The sterner, the more active elements of the Divine nature, are congenial to his want and to his experience. And so he ponders these most, and comes to these most. Is one discouraged? He looks for something in his God that shall encourage him. Is one sad from remorse and repentance? He looks to the forgiving side of God. Is one set to defend the truth in a period of backsliding and persecution? He instinctively goes after the prophet’s God.

5. One of the most powerful influences, aside from those which I have mentioned, for the shaping of our conceptions and the development of our knowledge of God, is the necessity or the attempt to employ the Divine nature in the rescue and education of our fellow-men. To bring the Divine nature home to all the phases of character which surround us, to all the conditions of life, and to the subjugation of the strong attributes of the mind; to find men just where they are in all their infinite variations of condition; to find that which arrests their attention; to find that which shall inspire in them some moral reaction; to find that which shall feed them--this is one of the most potential of all influences for developing in you the growth of the Divine idea. For there is no material like human nature, and there is no dignity like working in it, and there is no grandeur like success in thus working. It is declared that he who saves a soul from death shall shine like the stars of the firmament in the future kingdom of God. These are the principal ways that suggest themselves to me in which we grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And if we be living Christians, true men, we are growing. Our conception of the Divine nature never remains at the same stage for any considerable length of time. It is enlarging itself by experience; it is enriching itself by the position and circumstances in which we are placed, so that no man can compass in words what he believes of God. If he believes all things that come through his intensified affections, through his various wants, and through the wants of those round about him, these, methodised by reflection, and vitalised by imagination, constitute an air-filling notion of God, so vast and so continually changing that anybody would say, “It is impossible for a man to write what he thinks or to say what he thinks”--as we should suppose it would be if God is infinite and is overflowing according to the conception which the thought of infinity inspires. And so every creative mind, every active mind, that is really in union with God, by prayer and affinity, and is working like Him, as well as with Him, and day by day is still augmenting in these various ways his realisations of God, having the Divine spirit in him, and growing evermore up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Jesus Christ--every such man has a growth of which he himself is not conscious, and which he never can and never could represent to others. This view should lead persons to study and consider what their condition is whether they have any living influential conception of God. You have been taught that He is the Ruler, that He is the Governor. Is He your Guide? Is He your Master? Is He your Friend? Is He your Companion? Does He smile on you? Does He converse with you? Is He the Toiler with our toil? Does He rest when you rest, and travel when you travel? Do you live and move and have your being in Him? If so, you have a God, and you have reason for endless congratulation and joy. One evidence that we have a true conception of God is, that it is growing. Why, the whip that stood before my door has become a bush; and the bush has become a large shrub, and the shrub is mounting up into a tree, and the tree shall yet spread its branches wide abroad. And that little germ which first came up, and that vast tree, are the same, although they have differed every year more and more by development and growth. And so does our conception of God grow abroad, multiplying its branches, and sub-dividing them into infinite twigs, but they all cohere in the unity of the original idea of conception. Growth does not imply the abandonment of our former notions, then. It is simply the unfolding, in a line or direction, more, not less, and differing, not by rejecting one element and inserting another, but by making each element that was true yesterday more true to-day by fulness, variety, and application in all directions. And this variety, renewing multiplicity and intensity of conception, is of more benefit to man than are selectness and definiteness of statement. That which you see most in God I am not bound to beat down because I see another quality more than you see it, and do not see the one that you see as much as you see it. Men are the complements of each other. Some men interpret God through beauty. They are my brothers, though I may be deficient in interpreting the Divine nature through this quality. I am your brother, though I may not gain the same conception of God that you do. One stands in Milan Cathedral, under the nave, and looks up into those mysterious depths until he seems as though he would exhale and fly into space. There, in the brooding darkness, the feeling of reverence weighs upon his very soul. And the Milan Cathedral to him is that which it seems to be when the low-lying sun has shot through the window and kindled the whole interior. At the very same moment there stands upon the roof another man, and about him are those three thousand statues carved and standing in their several niches and pinnacles; and everything looks like the bristling frost-work in a forest of icicles; and far above and far on every side swell the lines of beauty. How different is his conception from that of the man who stands in the nave below! But, at the same time, a man stands outside looking at the cathedral’s fretted front and its wondrous beauty and diversity; while a fellow-companion and traveller is on the other side looking also at the exterior. Here are four men--one before the structure, one behind it, one on the roof, and one in the interior I and each of them, as he gives his account of the Milan Cathedral, speaks of that which made the strongest impression upon his mind, and that most carried him away. But it takes the concurrent report of these four men to represent that vast work of architecture. Is it so with a man-built cathedral? and shall it not be so with the mighty God who is from eternity to eternity? Is there any man that can take the reed of his understanding and lay it along the line of God’s latitude and longitude as if he were measurable as a city? Is there any man that can cast his plummet into the depths of the Infinite and say, “I have sounded God to the bottom”? Each man has that conception of God which he is capable of receiving. This is added to the common stock. And it is these concurrent differences, these harmonious separations, that make the symphony of knowledge. We do not want unison: we want harmony. Harmony is made by different parts, and not by the repetition of the same sounds and tones. (H. W. Beecher.)

Growth in the knowledge of Christ

At first sight it would appear as if Peter had inverted the natural order of things when he puts growth in the “knowledge” of Christ, after and not before, growth in the “grace “of Christ. How can we grow in the grace of Christ if we do not first possess a knowledge of Him? To know Christ, in the highest sense of that word, we must first seek to grow in the grace which distinguished Him so signally among the children of men. I stand with a great artist before a famous picture. I make bold in my ignorance of art to confess that I can see nothing extraordinary in it at all. “What,” exclaims my companion, somewhat indignantly but with great enthusiasm, “don’t you observe the splendid manipulation?” and forth he launches into a glowing analysis of the picture before us. While he is explaining I can discern more clearly than I did before what made the picture famous in the eyes of others, but yet at the close I had to exclaim, “Well, my friend, I have no doubt I would speak as you have done if I had your eyes, but I confess I don’t see what makes you so enthusiastic. I should much like, however, to possess your knowledge and enthusiasm, and shall be glad if you will only show me love.” “There is only one way of possessing the knowledge,” replies my companion; “you must begin to learn the first elements of drawing and colouring, and as you progress in the acquisition of the art of painting you will know.” Without striving to grow in the graces of the painter’s pencil, you will never understand the feelings of the painter himself. Turning now to moral qualities we are not infrequently surprised by the strength and the beauty of character which some of our fellow-creatures display. Here is one with a spirit which nothing can ruffle or disturb. To us, so easily provoked, so hasty to resent, so strong in speech “not seasoned with salt,” that person is a mystery. “There is but one way to a knowledge or understanding of this man. We must begin where he began, by curbing the hasty passions of the heart, by continuous efforts to return good for evil, and then, by striving, to grow in his grace, we will be in a position to grow in knowledge of him. So it is with regard to the knowledge of Christ. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Before we can be said to know the spirit, the life, of our Master, or enter upon the full possession of the truths He came to reveal, we must first strive to grow in the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. By knowledge of Christ it will be seen that we mean such an entering into sympathy with the springs and motive forces of His life as shall, by its gradual increase, lead us into the perfection of spiritual life.

1. Those who have had much to do with newly-quickened souls, or those who can recall the first experiences of the Divine life within their own hearts, will bear me out in this, that love to Christ is, at such a time, the one absorbing passion of the soul. The mind seems able only to grasp one truth--and it is a grand one--“Jesus so loved me that He gladly endured the shame and agony of the Cross in order to save me.” Love is the first beautiful impulse of the heart. It is the root of all the virtues. It may be blind in the first stages of its existence, but it soon attains, at least, to partial vision--vision which will grow from more to more if rightly used. We often love each other impulsively, but there is little harm done if the impulse will but lead up to reason. But the test of growth in the knowledge of Christ is when we love Him for what lie is in Himself, and not so much for what He has done. The latter is not free from a taint of selfishness. Applying this test to Christ, do I love Him most because He is the incarnation of virtue and goodness? Then is my love not altogether worthy of Him. It has, at any rate, lost the alloy of impulse and selfishness, so apt to spoil the most precious ore of the heart.

2. The soul does not long remain under the genuine influence of Christ when it learns that to live like Him is better than simply to love Him, however ardently. It is necessary that the Saviour should be first revealed to the sinner in the first act of salvation, but once this is accomplished the Teacher sent from God leads the soul up from himself, so to speak, to a knowledge of the Holy Ghost and God the Father. When adopted into the family of God, we have many graces lying dormant, and not a few faculties impaired or withered by courses of sin. We need the Holy Ghost to quicken those graces in life, and to put new life into those withered faculties. This fact we will come to recognise only when comparing our lives with that of Christ: we then see our barrenness and emptiness. Love for Him will lead us in that case to desire to be like Him. But to live the life of Christ we need a nature balanced and sustained like His. How shall we reach this most desirable state of life? By the influence of the Holy Spirit alone. “He will take the things of Christ and show them unto us.” But to live this life, what is it? Simply this. I recognise that God has given me powers and virtues as well as the opportunity to exercise them, and that, therefore, He means me to use them for some purpose. Now, what is that purpose? The answer is found in Christ. Here is a Divinely inspired and quickened life; how is it spent? In making sorrow less, in making joy more to abound. That is the simple philosophy of the life of Christ. This then is to be my life--a continual expenditure of vital forces in order to complete the work which Christ began--the redemption of the whole world from the blight of sin. Can any grander conception of life enter your imagination? Did we but possess more of the spirit of our Master we would gladly suffer a daily crucifixion if thereby we could bless the race. Yes, a true-hearted heroic man will always consider that good service is infinitely better than joy which is selfish, and will therefore look upon life as the vantage ground of Divine service and not of selfish pleasure. This we learn; up to this state we may hope to climb by growing in the knowledge of Christ.

3. Life, then, to us should not, and in fact does not pass like a dream of bliss. No one who has eyes to see can ignore the cruel wrongs, the sickening spectacles of lust and crime with which the world is full. No one with ears to hear can deny that the air is full of discords, and the ear is often stretched and strained in vain to catch the under tone of harmony which some hope and some allege may be heard underneath. The penalty of growth in true life is growth in care, mental perplexity, and pain. The more we know, the more of mystery there is to us, the more Christ-like we are, the more sensitive we become to the desolation which sin has wrought in this beautiful world of ours. Hence we come to recognise the need of another truth which most likely has not hitherto come prominently in view--that for our life to be vigorous and well sustained under all circumstances we must have our faith firmly grounded in the Fatherhood of God. Resting by a firm faith on the omnipotence, the unerring wisdom, the infinite love of God, the heart will bravely face the blinding storm of life, heroically grapple with its mysteries, and hush its doubts and fears with the inspiring whisper, “The Father reigneth.” (W. Skinner.)

On growth in the knowledge of Christ

To give some account of the knowledge of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

1. The knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is necessary to salvation.

2. The knowledge of Christ is attained by the study of the Holy Scriptures.

3. The saving knowledge of Christ is effectually obtained by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

4. The knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is desirable and delightful.

What is implied in growing in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; or what of Christ His disciples should grow in the knowledge of.

1. They should grow in the knowledge of the Person of Christ.

2. Believers should grow in the knowledge of the love of Christ.

3. They should grow in the knowledge of the perfection of the righteousness of Christ.

4. They should grow in the knowledge of the word and way of Christ.

To specify some of the evidences that the disciples of Christ are growing in the knowledge of Him.

1. He will be rising higher and higher in the estimation of your souls.

2. You will be growing in a filial dependence on Him.

3. The more you grow in the knowledge of Christ the more you will be assimilated to His glorious image.

4. The more you grow in the knowledge of Christ you will the more cheerfully worship, honour, and obey Him. (John Jardine.)

Increase in the knowledge of Christ

When the Pilgrim Fathers first came to America they did not discover all--the iron, the coal, the natural gas. So with Christ. There are many needs in us of which the young convert dreams not. (D. Watson.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Peter 3". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.