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As Dr. Macknight explains, “ Deformities in the church, and causes of reproach, living in riot by means of their own corrupt doctrines, when they join you in your love-feasts.”
14. “ Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls: a heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness," &c.
We know precisely what Balaam's error was. For the love of wealth, which the great of the earth had to bestow, he would have prostituted his sacred character and office. In the great apostasy of the Christian clergy, this, too, was and ever would be a leading cause of defection.
17.“ These are wells without water; clouds that are carried with a tempest," - And let fall no fertilizing showers,
“ To whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever."
A remarkable exposure of the character of those, who for filthy lucre's sake, assume the teacher's office, and obtrude themselves into a service for which they are totally unqualified and unfit. But these same characters are some of them great boasters :
“ For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them that live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, by the same he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge
of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning: for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it has happened unto them according to the true proverb: The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
This last passage strongly marks the fall of some, whose creed was pure, and whose principles, to a certain extent, had been efficacious in their moral influence on their lives : but the allurements of a spurious liberty deceive them — or rather betray them, and undeceive
the world, respecting the supposition of any real change or conversion of soul. And we may say of this part of Scripture generally, that it describes the predicted apostasy of the Christian world, as beginning in the interested perversion of sacred institutions; and proceeding to the most undisguised licentiousness and disregard of all authority; till at length, as we read in the following chapter, the true believer, dwelling in the midst of nations enlightened by revelation, is surrounded by the sneers and scoffs of infidels. St. Peter speaks of this last temptation of Christ's church upon earth, as a matter which had often been enforced upon its attention:
“ That ye be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour. Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creatior."
Chap. iii. 2.
These 'scoffers appear in the midst of the professed church; but they cast off all subjection to the laws and institutions of Christianity, and follow their own inclinations and private opinions. There had been some talk and expectation of the Redeemer's coming ; but they mock the credulity of the waiting people of God. “ Your favourite book talks of miracles and wonders. The fathers of your religion warned and alarmed the world with a notion of its approaching ruin. They are long since gone, and the world continues just as it always was.”
Thus will they despise the expectation of the righteous. The apostle continues :
“ For this they are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water, and in the water.' Whereby, the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished."
I understand the apostle to intimate, that the possessors of the revealed word might know, that as the ancient world was so constructed that the instrument of its destruction was, by the powerful word of God, made to subsist along with it till the day of the deluge, so, in the present structure of the earth, the materials of the fire which is to consume it, are already prepared.
“ But the heavens and the earth that are now, by the same word are kept in 'store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
These words of St. Peter seem to allude to the entire
I“ Et terram, quæ ex aquis quibus undique circumfusa erat, emersit, per aquam productam, aut formam, firmitatem et solidi
tatem suam consequatam esse sola voluntate et potentia divina, &c." - SCHLEUSNIR.
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
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