2 Peter 3:11

I. REFERENCE TO GOD IN OUR CONDUCT. "Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness?" The catastrophe that is to accompany the second coming is here put down in time present in the original, to raise an impression of its certainty: "Seeing that these things are thus all dissolved." If the conclusions of some scientific men are to be accepted, this is literally true, inasmuch as they say that there are processes going on which must end in the material fabric being worn out. It is in the condition of a clock that, if not wound up, must run out. The catastrophe thus vividly presented is here made a reason for our attending to ourselves. "What manner of persons," Peter exclaims, "ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness?" Holy living is the living of those who are set apart to the service of a holy God. Godliness points to this living as based on our relation to God. By the use of the plural in the original there is brought out the manifold workings and forms of a godly life. There is the feeling of dependence on God and of fear toward him, desire for the blessing from God and trust in him for the blessing, the feeling of love toward God for what he is and of gratitude toward him for his mercies, knowledge of God's will and the resolution to do his will, - all this finding expression in worship, self-command, and sacrifice for others.

II. ATTITUDE TOWARD THE SECOND COMING. "Looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God." This is the only instance of the day being called "the day of God." We must think of the Father ordering the day and its events, that the Son after his mysterious Passion may be magnified. "As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will. For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." Our attitude to the day of God is to be that of expectancy. We are to look for its coming or presence. We are to allow it to dwell in our minds, so as to call forth our earnest desire after it. The first Christians looked for it to come in their day. They were nearer the Divine intention than those who, because it may not be for thousands of years, do not think of it at all. But our attitude is also to be that of active preparation. The proper translation is neither "haste unto" nor "earnestly desire," but "hasten on." The idea of hastening on the coming is unusual; but it is remarkable that it is elsewhere expressed by Peter. "Repent ye therefore," he said to the assembly in Solomon's porch, "and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things." It is thus Petrine and scriptural to think of the coming as an event which may be accelerated by our repentance and prayers and efforts for the diffusion of the gospel.

III. WHAT IS NECESSITATED BY THE SECOND COMING OUTWARDLY. "By reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." It is said that the heavens are not clean in God's sight. The idea here is that even the heavens have been defiled, by reason of those who have lived under them, and upon the earth. Once Christ did not shrink from dwelling on this earth, being on his saving mission; but when he is to come in his judicial character, he is to be a consuming fire, at his approach, even to material things. It is said in Revelation 20:11, that from the face of him that sat upon the great white throne the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. So here it is taught that even the heavenly world is to be subjected to fire, not merely to the breaking up of its order, but even to the melting of its elements.

IV. WHAT IS LOOKED FOR AT THE SECOND COMING OUTWARDLY. "But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." This is in accordance with Revelation 21:1, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away." The most striking promise is in Isaiah 65:17, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered." The newness does not necessarily refer to the materials of which the present heavens and earth are Composed; these may be transformed so as to constitute new heavens and earth, just as our bodies are to be transformed so as to constitute new bodies. The new heavens and new earth are to correspond to newness of character - a correspondence of the outward to the inward never to be disturbed. It is said in Isaiah 66:22, "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I shall make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain." The expression of the idea here is, "wherein dwelleth righteousness" - has its permanent abode, from which it will never take flight. It will be a world where there is no superstition or infidelity, where there is a correct, bright conception of what God is, and a due appreciation of the work of Christ. It will be a world where there is nothing to interfere with social well-being, where jealousies and antipathies are unknown. "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord! Is not, then, the institution of this order of things to be much thought of by us, and to be earnestly desired? We may regret that much that is beautiful in the present order of things is to vanish. Shall we never again look upon that beautiful sky, those beautiful landscapes, the beautiful flowers? But there is ample compensation in the higher beauty to which the present is to give place. When we have got the glorious resurrection-body, there will be no regret that we have left the present body behind. So when we see the new heavens and the new earth, there will be no regret that the former things have passed away. In their higher forms they will have a greater power of lifting the soul to God. The teaching of Peter regarding the heavens and earth agrees with what Paul teaches in the eighth of Romans, "For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God." Peter emphasizes fire as the liberating element; Paul simply notes the liberation. Peter, again, thinks of a fit abode for righteousness; Paul thinks of an abode that shadows forth the liberty of the glory of the children of God. There is use in looking forward to new heavens and a new earth. We feel that the present arrangement is not independent of God. He made it, and he can alter it. He can make a world suitable to a probationary state, and a world suitable to a state of attained righteousness, He can make a world suitable for his people in their present imperfect state, and a world suitable to them when he puts glory on them.

V. PERSONAL CONCERNS AT THE SECOND COMING. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight." We look for a great catastrophe at the end of time as that which has been certainly foretold. We do not look for that alone, but for that as introducing a great reconstruction in the production of new heavens and earth. This is connected with our seeing God on the day formerly referred to. Our personal anxiety must be to be found in peace on that occasion - to have God as our Friend, so that the catastrophe shall not reach us, and so that the new heavens and new earth shall be for our blessed and eternal abode. We can only expect this consummation by our being without spot and blameless. Spots and blemishes attract the fire of Divine judgment. This very earth and even the heavens have to be subjected to fire because they have been connected with man's sin. Let us not think, then, that we can stand in God's sight with hearts defiled. We must give diligence to have all spots and blemishes removed from us, in the use of the means of grace, in a constant recourse to the blood of Christ, in a constant endeavour to conform our life to the Divine will.

VI. INTERPRETATION OF PRESENT DELAY. "And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation." In explanation of the delay of the second coming, it was said formerly that "the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, but is long-suffering." Here long-suffering is asserted of our Lord, apparently the Lord Jesus Christ, as the absolute Manifestation of the disposition of the Father. Here also there is connected with long-suffering its end, viz. salvation. Christ makes to us the offer of salvation; but he does not reject us so soon as we refuse his offer. He would teach us even from our experience of the bitterness of sin, he would disabuse our minds of false ideas of life, he would make us tired of a life of sin, he would make us turn in desire to a life of holiness. He has no quarter for sin; but he has patience for the sinner, he heaps mercies upon him; there is the continual mercy that he is not treated according to his desert. Thus by his continual goodness would he lead us to repentance, by his long-suffering he would compass our salvation, by his gentleness he would make us great. But for patience extended over years, Paul would never have lived to be a preacher of righteousness, and John Bunyan would never have lived to write the 'Pilgrim's Progress.' And so it is with the race as a whole. The offer of salvation has yet to be made to all. And even when the offer has been made, means have to be used to secure the acceptance of salvation. Therefore it is that the coming is delayed. Let us not, then, misinterpret the delay; let us not mistake what is long-suffering for slackness in promising, or indifference to sin.

VII. REFERENCE TO THE WRITINGS OF PAUL. "Even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his Epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." Peter refers to Paul by whom, on one occasion, he had been withstood, as his beloved brother, i.e., not ministerial associate, but brother to the readers and to himself alike, and alike dear to them. He also recognizes him as possessing a wisdom which was not his own. Paul had written to the same circle on the subject of the coming. If we think of the Asiatic circle, we turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians. In it the nearest approach to what Peter has been saying is to be found in chapter Ephesians 5:27, "That he might present the Church to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." When Peter passes to other Epistles, we at once think of the Epistles to the Thessalonians. In these Paul expressly treats of delay in the second coming, and points out the attitude to be taken up. And this naturally suggests "some things hard to be understood." What he had in his mind was probably the revelation of the man of sin. Of other things hard to be understood in Paul's Epistles we may particularize the gathering up of all things in Christ, the doctrine of election especially as set forth in the ninth chapter of Romans, and the filling up of that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ in Colossians. Peter notes the bad use made of these things hard to be understood, in common with other Scriptures, by the ignorant and unsteadfast, i.e., those who had not the essentials of Christian instruction, and did not hold to the Christian position once taken up by them. They "wrested them" as by a hand-screw, i.e., from their natural meaning to their own destruction. There is no support here to the Roman Catholic idea of withholding the Bible from the people. Because Scriptures, especially difficult Scriptures, are abused by the ignorant and unsteadfast, that is no argument against the good use of them by those who are exhorted in this same chapter to "remember the words spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through the apostles." Let us, even when we (in company with Peter) do not thoroughly understand, humbly seek to get profit.

VIII. CAUTION. "Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own steadfastness." What they knew beforehand was what Paul and Peter said about the second coming. The conclusion of the verse points especially to the foretold appearance of errorists before the coming. These were condemned by their lawless conduct. Let them not, then, as they valued his love in the gospel, be carried away with their error. They had firm footing; let them not be carried off their feet. Let them not be like Barnabas, the companion of Paul, who, when at the coming of some from James to Antioch, the Jews dissembled with Peter, he also was carried off his feet with their dissimulation (Galatians 2:13).

IX. PARTING COUNSEL. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." A tree is not a complete reality at once; but from a beginning there is progress toward an end. So we are not complete beings at once; but from a beginning there is a progress intended for us toward the end of our being. There may be growth in a wrong direction: what we are here exhorted to grow in is what of Divine assistance as sinners we need in order to come to the goal of our being. "Grow in grace," which is to be taken as an independent conception. If we are not growing under gracious influence, then we have only a name to live. Our faith grows as it becomes more ample and conquering. Our love grows as it becomes more fervent and diffusive. Our hope grows as it becomes more calm and bright. We are to grow in self-abasement, in power of work, in power of concentrating the mind on the truth, in power to bear hardships and injuries. We are to grow especially in that in which we find ourselves to be deficient. We are further exhorted to grow in "the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." This is in keeping with the great importance which is attached to knowledge in this Epistle. It is that by which we grow. The knowledge which is thus nutritive is knowledge of Christ as opening up and dispensing the treasures of Divine grace, and as showing in his own life what grace would bring out in ours. Let us, then, have a worthy conception of Christ in our minds; it is upon this that our growth in grace depends.

X. DOXOLOGY. "To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen." It is to Christ that the adoration is offered. To him be glory now; for it is to the knowledge of him that we owe all of grace that we have. To him be glory for ever, literally, "to the day of the age" - the day on which eternity, as contrasted with time, begins, and which is never to be broken up, but is to be one long day. To him we are indebted, as for all that we have now, so for all that we hope to have hereafter. Thus does the Epistle end without the customary salutations, simply with the carrying forward of Christ into our eternal life. It becomes every one who has followed out the thought of the Epistle to add his devout "Amen." - R.F.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved.
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.)

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.)

I. 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.

II. 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!


IV. 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.)

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.

I. 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?

II. 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.

III. 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
I. 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.

II. 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.

III. 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.)

I. ZEALOUS AND IN EARNEST AS TO THE CONCERNS OF RELIGION. "What shall it profit a man, if," etc.




1. Their sufferings less than they deserve.

2. Christ suffered more for them.

3. They suffer for their profit.

V. BENEVOLENT, CONDESCENDING, AND MERCIFUL. Because Christ has been so to them (2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 John 3:16, 17),

VI. CIRCUMSPECT. Because their danger is great.

VII. GRATEFUL. Because all their blessings are undeserved.

VIII. HOPEFUL. Because what God has done for them ensures everything.


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
I. 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.



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.)

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.)

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.

I. 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.

II. "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.

III. "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.)

I. 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.

II. 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.

III. 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.)

Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.
I. 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.

II. 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.


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.)

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