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and that it was very proper to answer that end. This is our second part.
St. Peter, as said before, St. Peter meant to refute the odious objections of some profane persons of his own time, who pretended to make the doctrine of an universal judgment doubtful, and who said, in order to obscure its truth, or enervate its evidence, Where is the promise of his coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things remain as they were ? verse 4. I am aware that this comment is disputed, and some have thought the destruction of Jerusalem was the subject of this whole chapter, and not the end of the world: but, however averse we are to the decisive tone, we will venture to demonstrate that the Apostle had far greater objects in view than the fatal catastrophe of the Jew: ish nation. This I think clearly appears.
1. By the nature of the objection, which liberi tines made, Where is the promise of his coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things remain as they were ? These libertines did not mean, that from the beginning of the world the commonwealth of Israel had suffered no considerable alteration they did not mean from that false principle to draw this false consequence, that Jerusalem would always remain as it then was. How could they be such novices in the history of their nation, as not to know the sad vicissitudes, the banishments, and the plunderings, which the Jews had undergone ? They meant, that, though some particular changes had happened in some parts of the world, the generality of creatures had always remained in the same state ; thence they pretended to conclude that they would always remain so.
2. This appears further by the manner in which the Apostle answers them in the verses preceding the text. He alledges against them the example
of the deluge. This, says he, they are willingly ignorant of, that the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished, ver. 5, 6. To this he adds, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the things that are therein shall be burnt up, ver. 10. On which we reason tbus : The world, that was formerly destroyed with water, is the same which shall be destroyed by fire ; but the world that was destroyed with water, was not the Jewish nation only: St. Peter then predicts a destruction more general than that of the Jews.
3. This appears further by this consideration. The people, to whom St. Peter wrote, did not live in Judea, but were dispersed through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These people could have but little to do with the destruction of Jerusalem. Whether Jesus Christ terminated the duration of that city suddenly or slowly, was a question that regarded them indirectly only; but the day of which St. Peter speaks interests all Christians, and St. Peter exhorts all Christians to prepare for it, as being personally concerned in it.
4. Add a fourth consideration, taken from what follows our text: Even as our beloved brother Paul also speaks of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest unto their own destruction, ver. 15, 16. What are these things hard to be understood ? Many interpreters, ancient and modern, have thought that the doctrine of justification was intended; a doctrine established by St. Paul, and werested by many to their own destruction, as from thence they concluded that good works were useless. But, methinks, it is more probable that St. Peter designs some parts of the first epistle to the Thessalonians, (ch. iv. 13, &c. and y. 1, &c.) where the Apostle had spoken as if the day of judgment was very nigh; and from which many concluded that it would immediately appear, and the mistake caused a generał subversion of society. Since then, St. Paul had spoken of the day of judgment, and St. Peter speaks of the same things, it follows, that St. Peter designed to establish the truth of a general judgment, against those infidels who had endeavored to subvert it.
But how is what the apostle says, one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; how is such a proposition proper to refute the odious objection of infidels, who said, Where is the promise of his coming ? If a man who possesseth great riches promise a small sum to an indigent person, if he defer the fulfilment of his promise, in vain you endeavor to exculpate him by saying, the promiser is so opulent that a small sum with him is as great riches, and great riches are as a small sum.
In like manner, to say that a thousand years with God are as one day, and one day as a thousand years, is that to answer the objection? The question is not what the time of delay is to the eternal Being; the question is, what that time is to poor mortals, who are fastened to the earth loaded with miseries, and to whom one day is as a thousand days, and not a thousand years as one day.
This difficulty is solved by the connection of our text with the following verses : Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This answer is conclusive, as you will more fully perceive by the following paraphrase. The delay of the day of judgment may be considered either in relation to men who must be judged, or to God himself who will judge them. If you consider it in regard to men who must be judged, they have no room to complain that God defers this important period ; on the contrary, they ought to consider the pretended slackness, of which they complain, as an effect of the adorable love of their judge, who invites them to repentance. The manner in which God ordinarily takes men out of this life, is much more proper to incline them to repentance than the terrible retinue of his coming to judgment. How terrible will his appearance be! What 'eye will not be dazzled! Whose conscience will not be alarmed! Here blow the trumpets, the dreadful sounds of which proclaim the approach of the Judge of this universe. There, the heavens, which once opened to receive the Son of God, open again that he may return to the earth to execute his threatenings on rebellious men. Here, earth and sea restore the bodies which they have devoured. There, those thousand thousands, those ten thousand times ten thousand, who are continually before God, Dan. vii. 10. offer their ministry to him, and are the witnesses, admirers, and executors of his judgment. Here, open the eternal books, in which so many unrighteous thoughts, so many unprofitable words, so many criminal actions are registered. There, sentences are preparing, destinies determining, final decrees just pronouncing.. Whò then could have presence of mind enough to recur to genuine repentance, even supposing there were yet time for repentance ? Men then have no reason to complain that the day of judgment is not yet
willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
If you consider the pretended delay of judgment in regard to God, as we have considered it in regard to men, you will readily acknowledge that what appears delay to you does not appear so to him. Why? Because a thousand years are with him as one day, and one day as a thousand years ; because this long term that offends you is but as an instant to the perfect Being.
It seems to me that this reasoning is conclusive. This shall suffice for the present. Let us conclude, and let us employ the few moments which remain to infer from the doctrine of the general conflagration, secured against the objections of libertines, such motives to piety as the apostle intended we should draw from them. Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night ; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat ; the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burnt up. This is the doctrine that the apostle establisheth. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God? This is the consequence which he deduces; the justness of which inference will appear by five descriptions, which the general conflagration traces before our eyes: 1. A description of the power of our Judge : 2. A description of the