We are here told that the Lord is not slack—he does not delay beyond the appointed time; as God kept the time that he had appointed for the delivering of Israel out of Egypt, to a day (Exod. 12:41), so he will keep to the time appointed in coming to judge the world. What a difference is there between the account which God makes and that which men make! Good men are apt to think God stays beyond the appointed time, that is, the time which they have set for their own and the church’s deliverance; but they set one time and God sets another, and he will not fail to keep the day which he has appointed. Ungodly men dare charge a culpable slackness upon God, as if he had slipped the time, and laid aside the thoughts of coming. But the apostle assures us,
I. That what men count slackness is truly long-suffering, and that to us-ward; it is giving more time to his own people, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world, many of whom are not as yet converted; and those who are in a state of grace and favour with God are to advance in knowledge and holiness, and in the exercise of faith and patience, to abound in good works, doing and suffering what they are called to, that they may bring glory to God, and improve in a meetness for heaven; for God is not willing that any of these should perish, but that all of them should come to repentance. Here observe, 1. Repentance is absolutely necessary in order to salvation. Except we repent, we shall perish, Luke 13:3, 5. 2. God has no delight in the death of sinners: as the punishment of sinners is a torment to his creatures, a merciful God does not take pleasure in it; and though the principal design of God in his long-suffering is the blessedness of those whom he has chosen to salvation, through sanctification of the spirit, and belief of the truth, yet his goodness and forbearance do in their own nature invite and call to repentance all those to whom they are exercised; and, if men continue impenitent when God gives them space to repent, he will deal more severely with them, though the great reason why he did not hasten his coming was because he had not accomplished the number of his elect. “Abuse not therefore the patience and long-suffering of God, by abandoning yourselves to a course of ungodliness; presume not to go on boldly in the way of sinners, nor to sit down securely in an unconverted impenitent state, as he who said (Matt. 24:48), My Lord delayeth his coming, lest he come and surprise you;” for,
II. The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, 2 Pet. 3:10. Here we may observe, 1. The certainty of the day of the Lord: though it is now above sixteen hundred years since this epistle was written, and the day has not yet come, it assuredly will come. God has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, and he will keep his appointment. It is appointed to men once to die, and after this the judgment, Heb. 9:27. “Settle it therefore in your hearts that the day of the Lord will certainly come, and you shall certainly be called to give an account of all things done in the body, whether good or evil; and let your exact walking before God, and your frequent judging yourselves, evidence your firm belief of a future judgment, when many live as if they were never to give any account at all.” 2. The suddenness of this day: It will come as a thief in the night, at a time when men are sleeping and secure, and have no manner of apprehension or expectation of the day of the Lord, any more than men have of a thief when they are in a deep sleep, in the dark and silent night. At midnight there was a cry, Behold, the bridegroom comes, (Matt. 25:6), and at that time not only the foolish, but also the wise virgins slumbered and slept. The Lord will come in a day when we look not for him, and an hour when men are not aware. The time which men think to be the most improper and unlikely, and when therefore they are most secure, will be the time of the Lord’s coming. Let us then beware how we in our thoughts and imaginations put that day far away from us; but rather suppose it to be so much nearer in reality, by how much further off it is in the opinion of the ungodly world. 3. The solemnity of this coming. (1.) The heavens shall pass away with a great noise. The visible heavens, as unable to abide when the Lord shall come in his glory, shall pass away; they shall undergo a mighty alteration, and this shall be very sudden, and with such a noise as the breaking and tumbling down of so great a fabric must necessarily occasion. (2.) The elements shall melt with fervent heat. At this coming of the Lord it shall not only be very tempestuous round about him, so that the very heavens shall pass away as in a mighty violent storm, but a fire shall go before him, that shall melt the elements of which the creatures are composed. (3.) The earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up. The earth, and its inhabitants, and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up. The earth, and its inhabitants, and all the works, whether of nature or art, shall be destroyed. The stately palaces and gardens, and all the desirable things wherein worldly-minded men seek and place their happiness, all of them shall be burnt up; all sorts of creatures which God has made, and all the works of men, must submit, all must pass through the fire, which shall be a consuming fire to all that sin has brought into the world, though it may be a refining fire to the works of God’s hand, that the glass of the creation being made much brighter the saints may much better discern the glory of the Lord therein.
And now who can but observe what a difference there will be between the first coming of Christ and the second! Yet that is called the great and dreadful day of the Lord, Mal. 4:5. How much more dreadful must this coming to judgment be! May we be so wise as to prepare for it, that it may not be a day of vengeance and destruction unto us. O! what will become of us, if we set our affections on this earth, and make it our portion, seeing all these things shall be burnt up? Look out therefore, and make sure of a happiness beyond this visible world, which must all be melted down.
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