« PreviousContinue »
destruction of the present mundane system: if so, we must understand by “ the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men;” not the fiery indignation poured upon the fourth apostate empire, but the last final judgment, at the general resurrection of the wicked. Or, perhaps both judgments may be in view of the Spirit; for the judgment of the apostates, at the first resurrection, is evidently a commencement of the last fiery indignation, that shall at length consume all the wicked, as we shall see more plainly hereafter.
8. “But, 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 Church, when told of the coming of its great Redeemer, must not calculate the time of its fulfilment, as though it were the promise of a mortal, which, unless it be accomplished within the compass of a few short years, can never be accomplished at all : and where long delay may justly lead to the suspicion that the promise is forgotten. We must remember, as the ancient prophecy admonished us, time 'occurs not to the Almighty ; and in his dealings with his church, and with her adversaries too, he invests them with immortality! His promise and his threatenings, though delayed a thousand years, will be true to the utmost, at last,
9. “ 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."
As repentance is the gift of God, and He bestows it on whom he will, taking away the stony heart, and giving an heart of flesh; and inasmuch as the new birth is not " of the will of flesh,” I cannot otherwise interpret this passage than according to the prayer of our church: “We beseech thee shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom, that we, with all them that are departed this life in thy faith and fear, may receive our perfect consummation of bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting kingdom.”
10. “ 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 burned up. Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein" —or, “ during which®,- the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
This prediction appears to take in view all the results of the coming of the day of the Lord. It commences, as we have seen, with the fiery indignation that is poured upon the apostate nations of the Christian faith. In respect of that portion of the earth where his elect are tabernacling, the heavens being on fire will be dissolved, and the elements will melt with fervent heat. This is the particular judgment we have all along heard denounced, both figuratively respecting rulers and peoples, opposed to the kingdom of Christ; and literally, respecting the seat of the empire of the great Antichrist, and respecting his assembled armies. But not only the judg
ments at the very commencement of that day, which cometh as a thief, when apostates are destroyed by fire from heaven, when the fourth beast is slain, and his body given to the burning flame," seem to be here in view of the Spirit ; but the final judgments which are to follow when the prolonged season and time of the rest of the beasts is expired; when the general judgment of the wicked dead shall come, and men in the flesh perhaps be no more. The distinction made by Tindal, an eminent reformer and martyr of the church of England, between the subjects of the second and third chapters of this epistle to St. Peter, has often struck me as remarkable,
that he, living and smarting under the tyranny of the popedom, could still see, from declarations of Scripture, that when the popedom should decline, a worse enemy of Christ was to arise.
His observations are :-" In the second chapter, he,” St. Peter, “ warneth them of false teachers that should come, and through preaching confidence in false works, to satisfy their covetousness withal, should deny Christ;"
-" and so describeth them with their insatiable covetousness, pride, stubbornness, and disobedience to all temporal rule and authority, with their abominable whoredom and hypocrisy, that a blind man may see that he prophesieth it of the pope's holy spirituality, which devoureth the whole world with their covetousness, living in all lust and pleasure, and reigning as temporal tyrants. In the third chapter he showeth, that in the latter days the people, through unbelief and lack of fear of the judgment of the last day, shall be even as epicures, wholly given to the flesh, which last day shall yet surely and shortly come, saith he: for a thousand years and one day is with God
And he showeth also how terrible that day shall be, and how suddenly it shall come, and, therefore, exhorteth all men to look earnestly for it, and to prepare themselves against it with holy conversation and godly living."
“ Finally: The first chapter showeth how it shall go in the time of the pure and true Gospel; the second, how it should go in the time of the pope and man's doctrine; the third, how, at the last, men should believe nothing, nor fear God at all.”
The prophecy in St. Jude's epistle is very similar to the former part of St. Peter's, and may serve to illustrate some of its expressions. Like that of St. Peter, it sees in the false teachers, which had already began to show themselves in the church, the very root and origination of the predicted great apostasy, the actual forming of that combination of deceivers and corrupters, which, continuing its hurtful operations till the very coming of the Lord from heaven, would be then judged in his presence :
4. “ For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation."
-“Who long ago have been before written to this very punishment:"1 that is, they have been marked out by the ancient prophets, as being to subsist in the church in the latter days, and being to be punished in this very manner. St. Jude designates them much as St. Peter :
“ Ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Saviour Jesus
I will, therefore, put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having once saved the
corporation aggregate, the other is a corporation sole; both are deathless. Whatever becomes of the individuals or individual, the corporation dies not, till dissolved by a superior authority. What is said, therefore, in these Scriptures to churches and to ministers, is said to all churches and to all ministers.
The Manifestation of the Sons of God, Rom. viii. 18., 8c. The next passage we have to quote, which is found in the eighth chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, respecting “ the manifestation of the Sons of God,” will appear with great interest in this connexion. The apostle had been comforting those who suffered here with Christ, by assuring them “ that they should be glorified also together with him;" he proceeds in the eighteenth verse :
« For I reckon" - or, “I conceive, indeed, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”
We have here the apostle's calculation of what deduction ought to be made from his former estimate of a Christian's happiness, on account of those present sufferings, which he had just acknowledged to be his frequent portion. And the apostle made his calculation at a time when the sufferings of Christians were abundant, and himself had also very largely partaken of them : yet, he says, he reckons that the afflictions of the believer in this present world, as well what he endures for Christ in the way of persecution, as those troubles with which it pleases God to visit him, in