And David inquired of the young man who had brought him the report, "Where are you from?" "I am the son of a foreigner," he answered. "I am an Amalekite."
2 Samuel 1:13-16. - (ZIGLAG.)
I. THE CRIME which was laid to his charge, viz. the intentional and unjustifiable taking away of the life of another:
1. Proceeding, like every act of murder, from indifference to the sacredness of human life and the dignity of human nature, created in the image of God.
2. Aggravated in guilt by irreverence toward the person of the king, "the Lord's anointed," who ought, on account of his high position, to have been held in special honour (1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 26:11; 1 Samuel 31:5). "When the Israelites were under royal authority, it would appear to have been a maxim of their law that the person of the king was inviolable, even though he might be tyrannical and unjust; and, in fact, this maxim is necessary, not only to the security of the king, but also to the welfare of the subject; for it is the dread of assassination and treacheries that usually makes kings tyrants, and novices in tyranny absolute despots" (Michaelis).
3. Exhibiting disobedience to the command of God. "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13), i.e. do no murder (Exodus 21:12). With this law the Amalekite was probably acquainted. He knew, at least, that it was wrong to take away life without adequate reason. Hence he sought to justify the act by pleading the request of Saul (ver. 9), and his suffering condition, which it was mercy to terminate. But how could Saul authorize another to do to him what he had no right to do to himself? Genuine loyalty and mercy would have prompted a different course of conduct; and malice and selfishness were clearly the motives of the deed. There was in it nothing praiseworthy, but everything to be abhorred and condemned (ver. 14).
II. THE EVIDENCE on which he was convicted. "Thy mouth hath testified against thee," etc. (ver. 16). His confession was:
1. Voluntarily made; not extorted from him by the infliction or threatening of suffering, or the promise of reward.
2. Confirmed by the signs of his connection with the death of the king (ver. 10).
3. A sufficient ground, under the circumstances, for judgment, without further inquiry. Even if, as is probable, he did not actually commit the deed, he took upon himself the responsibility, and justly incurred the consequences thereof. But why did he not retract and repudiate his confession? Perhaps he thought that it would be of no avail; and he would thereby have acknowledged his falsehood and mercenariness. Possibly he did retract, and was not believed. For "a liar is not believed though he speak the truth." Considered in relation to his times, the evidence on which David acted was sufficient; but the incident affords an illustration of the uncertainty which often pertains to the crime of murder and the fallibility of human judgment.
III. THE AUTHORITY by which he was condemned. Although David was not yet publicly recognized as civil ruler, to whom the right of judging properly belonged, yet he was fully justified in assuming the office, inasmuch as:
1. It had been virtually conferred upon him by the appointment of the Divine King of Israel.
2. The chief hindrance to its exercise was removed by the death of Saul. There was no higher authority than his in the land, and it had been acknowledged by the Amalekite himself (ver. 10).
3. Its assumption was necessary to the fulfilment of the purpose of his appointment, the manifestation of the justice of God, and the promotion of the welfare of the people. He may have wished to clear himself from the suspicion of complicity in the king's death, to show that he entertained no feeling of revenge against him, and to gain the esteem of the people of Israel; but his main motive was of a higher nature. He acted on theocratic principles, as on a subsequent occasion (2 Samuel 4:9-12).
IV. THE PUNISHMENT which he suffered (ver. 15). "When the sentence of death was pronounced by the king, it was executed by his body guard" (2 Samuel 15:18; 2 Samuel 20:23). Capital punishment may be upheld on the ground of:
1. The claims of justice. It has been generally felt, even from the most ancient period (Genesis 4:10, 14), that the murderer deserves to die.
2. The teaching of Scripture. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood," etc. (Genesis 9:6). "This was the first command having reference to the temporal sword. By these words temporal government was established, and the sword placed in its hand by God" (Luther). It gave the right and imposed the duty of inflicting death; and it is of permanent obligation (Leviticus 24:17; John 19:11; Acts 25:11; Romans 13:4).
3. The welfare of society. It exalts the principle of justice; declares the dignity of man in the most impressive manner; effectually prevents the offender from repeating his offence; powerfully deters others from following his example; and thus conduces to the security of human life. Severity to one is mercy to many. On the other hand, it may be said that:
1. The claims of justice are adequately satisfied by a lifelong penal servitude.
2. Scripture, rightly interpreted, does not justify the infliction of death. The Noachic precept (if it be such) was adapted only to an early stage of society, its literal fulfilment is no longer required, and the principle on which it rests (the dignity of man) is preserved and more fully maintained by the revelations and influences of Christianity. The whole spirit of the New Testament is in favour of seeking the reformation rather than effecting the destruction of the offender. "Mercy glorieth against judgment." Even the fratricide Cain was spared (Genesis 4:5), as if to show the possibility and propriety of sparing the life of the criminal.
3. The welfare of society is more fully promoted by sparing his life than by taking it away. Hardened criminals and persons under the influence of strong passion are not deterred by the fear of death; other persons are more powerfully affected by other motives. The possibility of the innocent suffering a penalty which is irreversible causes hesitation in its infliction where there is the least doubt, and so the guilty often escape, punishment becomes uncertain, and men are tempted to commit crime in the hope of impunity. As a matter of fact, crime does not increase in those countries where capital punishment is abolished. "After the Divine permission to inflict capital punishment which had been given for a considerable period of time, had displayed itself as the most extreme madness in the execution of Christ, the question of its abolition has become only a question of time. The question is whether Christ may not have done enough for this" (Ewald, 'Antiquities,' p. 174). - D.
This they willingly are ignorant of.
The Study.Nelson, at St. Vincent, putting the telescope to his blind eye, and swearing that he could not see the signal to cease firing, affords an apt illustration of ninny who, for less worthy motives, will not, because they wish not, see the truth.
I. THE AVOWED INFIDELS AND ATHEISTS. They are willingly ignorant —
1. Of the teachings of the Bible which they affect to despise.
2. Of the evidences of its Divine origin and inspiration.
3. Of the evidences of the being, wisdom, and love of God.
4. Of the evidences of the Divine origin of Christianity.
II. MANY MEN OF SCIENCE AND CULTURE.
III. MULTITUDES WHO PROFESS AND CALL THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS. All those who habitually neglect the sanctuary, and to whom the Bible is an unknown book.
The world that then was,... perishedI. A MALEFACTOR. "The world that then was." Locally, a piece of it perished: the earth; materially, a great deal of it perished: all the riches and commodities of the earth; principally considered, all perished but eight persons: formally, there was nothing left. Only God's quarrel to the world was for the men of the world; and His quarrel to the men of the world was for their sins. The world itself was, in this, like the sea; and sins, like the winds: the sea would be calm and quiet if the winds did not trouble it; if iniquities, like storms, had not put the course of nature into an uproar, the world had not perished.
II. AN EXECUTIONER. "Being overflowed with water." This is an excellent servant to us, so God made it; but an ill master, so our sins make it. Nothing is so sovereign, which being abused by sin, may not, of a blessing, become a curse.
III. THE CONVENIENCY OF THE EXECUTION. The water was not far to fetch; either with danger, as David's water from the well of Bethlehem, through an army of Philistines; or with labour, as Jacob's water from a deep well in the bowels of the earth; but near at hand, ready.
I. HE REGARDS IT AS ORIGINALLY PRODUCED BY THE DIVINE WORD. "By the Word of God the heavens were of old," etc. It had an origin — it is not eternal; it arose not from chance, but from the Divine Word.
II. HE REGARDS IT AS DEPENDENT EVERY MOMENT UPON THE DIVINE WORD. "The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store."
1. That the past changes of nature are to be referred to the Divine Word. Peter here refers to one tremendous catastrophe. "The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." The deluge was no accident. "I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth," etc. The earthquake, the tornado, the blight, the pestilence, all these things in nature come from the Word of God. His will is in all.
2. That the present existence of nature is to be referred to His Word. "But the heavens and the earth which are now by the same Word kept in store" — are preserved in their present state. If this is a right view of material nature, we may infer three important considerations.(1) That it is absurd to cite the so-called laws of nature against the fulfilment of God's revealed purposes. This is just what the scoffing sceptics did in the days of Peter. The laws of nature seemed against the deluge; but God purposed that these things should take place, and the laws of nature yielded. The laws of nature may seem against a resurrection, etc., but the purpose of God will be fulfilled. If material nature was originally produced by, and is ever dependent upon, the Word of God, we infer —(2) That there can be no real contradiction between its facts and those of the Bible. Moreover, if material nature was originally produced by, and is ever dependent upon, the Divine Word, we infer —(3) That its relation to the soul should be especially realised. As the Word of God is thus in material nature, material nature has a meaning. It is the voice of God to the human heart, a Divine appeal to the human conscience. Nature has a moral meaning, God's Word is in it.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
One day is with the Lord as a thousand yearsI. First, take this statement AS A GENERAL PRINCIPLE, "that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years," etc.
1. In opening up this general principle we remark that all time is equally present with God. Childhood, manhood and old age belong to creatures, but at the right hand of the Most High they have no abode. Growth, progress, advancement, all these are virtues in finite beings, but to the Infinite the thought of such change would be an insult. Yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, belong to dying mortal, the Immortal King lives in an eternal to-day. This is a subject upon which we can only speak without ourselves fully understanding what we say, but yet, perhaps, a metaphor may tend to make the matter a little simpler. There is a river flowing along in gentle slope toward the sea. A boatman is upon it; his vessel is here; anon it is there; and soon it will be at the river's mouth; only that part of the river upon which he is sailing is present to him. But up yonder, on a lofty mountain, stands a traveller; as he looks from the summit he marks the source of the river and gazes upon its infant stream, where as yet it is but a narrow line of silver; then he follows it with his clear eye until it swells into a rolling flood, and he tracks it until it is finally absorbed into the ocean. Now, as the climber stands upon that Alp, that whole sparkling line of water adorning the plain is equally present to him from its source to its fall; there is not one part of the stream that is nearer to him than another; in the long distance he sees the whole of it, from the end to the beginning. Such, we think, is the stream of time to God. From the altitude of His observance He looketh down upon it and seeth it at one gaze; taking in, not at many thoughts, but at one thought, all the revolutions of time and all the changes of ages, and seeing both the thousands of years that have gone, and the thousands that are yet to come, as present at one view before his eye.
2. The text teaches us next that all time is equally powerless with God to affect Him. A day does not make any particular change in us that we can notice. But if you take fifty years — what a difference is perceptible in any of us! But as a day seems to make no change with us, so, but far more truthfully, a thousand years make no change with God. Ages roll on, but He abideth the same. We need be under no apprehension that God will ever be affected with weakness through the revolutions of time. The Ancient of Days, ever omnipotent, fainteth not, neither is weary. And as time brings no weakness, certainly it shall bring no decay to God. Upon His brow there is ne'er a furrow; no signs of palsy are in His hand. And as no weakness and no decay can be brought to God by time, so no change in His purpose can ever come through revolving years. To that whereto He hath set His seal He standeth fast, and what His heart decrees, that will He do. Moreover, as there can be no change in His decree, so no unforeseen difficulties can intervene to prevent the accomplishment of it. As long as there is a work to do, He shall do it; as long as there is an enemy to conquer, that enemy shall be overcome.
3. Yet further — no doubt the text intends to teach that all time is insignificant to God. Within the compass of a drop of water we are told that sometimes a thousand living creatures may be discovered, and to those little creatures no doubt their size is something very important. There is a Creature inside that drop which can only be seen by the strongest microscope, but it is a hundred times larger than its neighbour, and it feels, no doubt, that the difference is amazing and extraordinary. But to you and to me, who cannot even see the largest creature with the naked eye, the gigantic animalcule is as imperceptible as his dwarfish friend, they both seem so utterly insignificant that we squander whole millions of them, and are not very penitent if we destroy them by thousands. But what would one of those little infusorial animals say if some prophet of its own kind could tell it that there is a creature living that could count the whole world of a drop of water as nothing, and could take up ten thousand thousand of those drops and scatter them without exertion of half its power; that this creature would not be encumbered if it should carry on the tip of its finger all the thousands that live in that great world — a drop of water; that this creature would have no disturbance of heart, even if the great king of one of the empires in that drop should gather all his armies against it and lead them to battle? Why, then the little creatures would say, "How can this be; we can hardly grasp the idea?" But when that infusorial philosopher could have gotten an idea of man, and of the utter insignificance of its own self, and of its own little narrow world, then it would have achieved an easy task compared with that which lies before us when we attempt to get an idea of God.
4. I think we ought also to learn from the text that all time is equally obedient to God. You and I are the servants of time, but God is its sovereign Master.
II. GOD'S ESTIMATE OF A DAY. He can make a day as useful, and to Him it shall be as long as a thousand years. I think this is one of the most brilliant of the Church's hopes. We have been saying," How many converts have been made by the Missionary Society during fifty or sixty years?" and we have said, "Well, at this rate, how long will it be before the world is converted?" Ah! "At this rate"; but how do you know God's rate? God can do as much in a day as has been done in a thousand years that are past, if so He wills it. Only let Him will it, and there shall be one day written in the records of the Church that shall be equal in achievements, and in triumphs, to any thousand years of her history recorded aforetime. This should lead us to remember that when God speaketh of judging the world at the day of judgment, He will find no difficulty in doing it. Two hundred judges might find it difficult to try in one day all the cases that might be brought before them in a single nation, but God, when He holdeth the great assize, shall be able to convict every guilty one, and to absolve every penitent, and that, too, in one day.
III. GOD'S ESTIMATE OF A THOUSAND YEARS. A day is to Him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. "How long, how long?" the saints under the altar cry. "How long?" and the saints at the altar here to-day take up the same wailing notes, "How long?" But He answereth, "I am not long. What if I have waited and the time is long to you; yet it is not long to Me." God bids you think for a moment, that if you really measure aright, it is no lengthened period of time that He has made the vision to tarry. For see you first, the time that has elapsed since Christ's crucifixion is not long compared with eternity. Then, again, when ye say that God is long in the accomplishment of His great purposes, remember that He has no need to be in hurry. Whatsoever you and I find to do, we must do it with all our might: for there is neither work nor device in the grave whither we are hastening; but God liveth for ever. Besides, there is an advantage in His being slow — it tries our faith. To win a fight when it lasteth but for an hour, what is there in it? One gallant charge and the foemen have fled. Comrade, but that is a battle worthy to be written with your Waterloos and your Marathons, when hour after hour, and day after day, valour disdains to succumb, and patience endures the fight while foot to foot the soldiers stand. Further, it is well that God should thus be long, because He is unravelling revelation. The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to loose the seals, and to open the book for us, and year after year He reads another page, and yet another in the Church's history. If Christ should come to-day, if we should have no more conflicts, no more trials, then we might suppose that the book had come to its brilliant golden finis; but if it keepeth on a thousand years to come, so much the better: the glowing eyes of angels wish not for the end of the story, and the bright eyes of immortal spirits before the throne, when it shall be all over, shall not regret that it was too long. No, let it go on, great Master; let a thousand years run on; our loving hearts will patiently bear it, as though it were but one day. And more: the victory of Christ at the end will be all the greater, and the redemption all the more glorious, because of this long time of strife and confusion.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. I ask you to reflect, first, THAT TIME IS A GIFT OF GOD TO THE CREATION. Time is a bequest from the Eternal conveyed and secured in the constitution of the creation. These visible, revolving worlds are by nature temporal. Time is the rate of motion determined by the Creator in His own thought of the worlds. Now, inasmuch as time itself is an original gift of God to the creation, we may well stop to reflect upon the value of this gift. It is one of the primal evidences of the benevolence of the Creator. This original providence of perfect time for the world, true to the infinitesimal of a second through the ages of ages, is evidence of the far-seeing thoughtfulness of the Creator. It is the first condition and means of conveyance of all other good gifts of God. Time is the magna charta of all man's rights upon the earth. The ancient order of the heavens is the surety that our God is not a Sovereign who has made us of His mere pleasure, but one who has made all things according to His good pleasure; and whether man's works upon the earth be good or evil, this solar system which God made shall keep true time without variableness, or shadow of turning, until the end comes and time shall be no longer.
II. Keeping in mind this fact that time is a gift of God to the creation, reflect, secondly, THAT WHAT WE KNOW AS TIME IS ONLY THE PARTICULAR RATE OF MOTION TO WHICH OUR LIFE ON THIS EARTH HAS BEEN ADJUSTED. For example, you can easily imagine that the human race might have been put to school upon a planet of swifter revolutions than our earth, and all our vital powers adapted to the more rapid succession of day and night upon that orb — our pulses made to beat proportionally quicker, and the whole mechanism of life and thought made to run more swiftly — so that the same human history might be lived through upon that faster world. So, on the other hand, God might have graduated our rate of living and thinking to the motions of a slower planet than this earth, and still our consciousness of the duration of the years, our sense of time, have remained precisely the same. Time, then, is only a relative thing, the rate of motion of the mechanism; nothing of absolute determination or worth in itself. God has chosen this earth for our time-keeper, and adjusted our consciousness of life to its rate of motion; God has determined the existing time-rate of human history for us, out of many possibilities of different time-rates, for reasons which He thought best, and which we do not know. I may make this idea of the relative nature of time still plainer by reminding you how often in our own experiences we escape from the ordinary course of the world's time, and in a sense make our own time for ourselves, as we live in memory or in anticipation. Fear and hope, sorrow and joy, thought and action, when intense, have a certain witchery and mastery over our time; and not the revolutions of the earth, but the beatings of our spiritual pulses, and the life of our hearts, make our days short or long upon the earth. We mortals are all of us swept along in the flood of the years; yet it seems as if we have power in sudden upspringings of thought to leap, as it were, out of this stream of time and change, and to catch some gleam upon our spirits of a higher element of existence, like God's eternal light, and then we fall back again into the hurrying stream which is our proper element of existence now. All this superiority of soul to time in memory, thought, and hope, means that there is something timeless and deathless within us — something of the being of the Eternal in the living soul of man. You and I are made of the dust of the earth; but within these bodies bound to the earth, and destined to-morrow to return to its dust, is a godlike something which refuses to measure its life by the revolutions of the stars; a something which sinks back into its own consciousness of being, and in its brooding thought and love forgets the passing hours and separations of this mortality; a mystery of spirit within man which by its own thought of God and immortality proves itself to be above the course of nature, and possessed of a Divine birthright. First of all, let us take the help for faith in God's character which the text was intended to give. We wonder how God can live these long ages in the calm blessedness of His presence around our human history of sin and death: where is the promise of His coming? But be not ignorant of this one thing — God does not measure His times by our clocks; a thousand of our years is as one day to Him. Everything depends upon the point of view from which things are judged; and God looks from eternity to eternity! You look out in the morning, and see a cloud overhanging the top of a mountain. At noon you glance up, and the south wind still leaves its vapours upon the mountain. At evening you may notice that the cloud is still there, though beginning to be changed by the setting sun into a glory. It has been a short day to you in your business and your pleasures. But had you been on the mountain waiting for the cloud to lift, and hoping for a clear broad view, the hours would have lengthened, and as you watched the time and the shiftings of the mists, the day would have seemed almost endless. We are now under the cloud — a very little cloud of sin and sorrow, it may be — a passing cloud — in the large, bright universe of God! We are waiting for the hour of clear revelation; and this world-age seems long. But what is it to Him who inhabiteth eternity — who sees all around? Again, these reflections may serve to teach us afresh the real value of time to us. Time, I have said, is simply the rate of the mechanism; hence it is worth in any life simply what it is used for — what is worked out in it. We should look upon our lifetime as a means towards an end — time the means, and a Christlike character, worth God's keeping in His own eternity, the end of our life here. The one thing needful is that the soul go hence clothed in Christ's wedding garment; not how long a time God gives us to dress our souls for that perfect society. Has He not already given us time enough?
(Newman Smyth, D. D.)I. ENDEAVOUR TO ILLUSTRATE THEIR IMPORT, AND ESTABLISH THE TRUTH OF THE PROPOSITION WHICH THEY CONTAIN. These words are designed as an answer to the objections which irreligious scoffers advance against the certainty of the accomplishment of the Divine declarations, founded on its long delay.
1. Every portion of duration is something real, and has a true and proper existence; but the epithets great and small, when applied to this (as well as to anything else), are merely comparative. We should consider fifty years as forming a very large portion of human life; but the same number of years in the history of an empire would be justly considered small. Thus is the same quantity either great or small, as you place it by the side of something much inferior to it in magnitude, or much superior.
2. Hence it results that absolute greatness belongs only to what is infinite; for whatever falls short of this, however great it may appear, its supposed greatness is entirely owing to the incidental absence of another object that is greater.
3. In duration, absolute greatness belongs only to eternity.
4. We must then conceive that He who has subsisted throughout eternal ages; who knows "no beginning of days, nor end of years"; who possesses eternity; to whom all its parts (if we may be allowed so to speak) are continually open, both past and future; must have a very different apprehension of that inconsiderable portion of it we call time, from creatures who are acquainted with no other. Nor let any one object, and say it must appear as it is, and therefore there is no reason to suppose it appears to Him different from what it does to us. No doubt it appears to Him exactly as it is. His apprehensions are, unquestionably, agreeable to the nature of things; but it does not follow from thence that it must appear in the same light as it does to us. That each portion of duration appears to Him real, we admit: we are not contending for its being annihilated in His view. Something it is, and something it appears, unquestionably, in His eyes. The measure by which God estimates time is, consequently, quite different from that which we are compelled to apply in its contemplation. We measure one portion of duration by another; He measures time by eternity. How inconceivably different must be the apprehension arising from these different methods of considering it!
II. THE USE TO WHICH THE DOCTRINE OF THE TEXT MAY BE APPLIED.
1. It removes the ground of objection against the fulfilment of the Divine declarations, arising from the accomplishment being long delayed.
2. It accounts for the peculiar cast of Scripture language, when employed in announcing the coining of Christ, and the end of all things.
3. Though we cannot immediately change our senses, let us endeavour to conform our ideas and convictions to the dictates of Infallible Wisdom on this subject. Let us consider the whole duration of things here as very short.
(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
The Lord is not slack... but is long-sufferingI. THAT MEN MAY RE BROUGHT TO A SENSE OF THEIR CONDITION, and led to use those methods which may serve to avert God's anger.
II. That in many cases READY PUNISHMENT CANNOT BE INFLICTED ON BAD MEN WITHOUT LAYING A CONSIDERABLE SHARE OF IT ON THE GOOD, and therefore God spares them for the present that the righteous may not be involved in the calamities of the wicked.
III. THE AGENCY OF ILL MEN MAY BE MADE USE OF IN ORDER TO LIKING ABOUT MANY GREAT DESIGNS OF PROVIDENCE, and, in particular, the delays of vengeance on some ill men may serve for the chastisement of others.
IV. BUT IT IS MUCH ONE, WITH RESPECT TO THE DIVINE BEING, WHEN PUNISHMENT IS INFLICTED ON ILL MEN IF IT BE INFLICTED AT ALL: one day is with Him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Nor can the sinner, if he reflects, take any great satisfaction in thinking that those punishments are distant which are yet certain.
V. THAT THE PRESENT DELAYS OF VENGEANCE, IF THEY DO NOT WORK THEIR PROPER EFFECTS AND LEAD MEN TO THAT REPENTANCE THEY WERE INTENDED TO PRODUCE, WILL BUT AGGRAVATE THEIR RUIN.
(Bp. John Conybeare.)I. I AM TO GIVE SOME ACCOUNT AND TO ASSIGN SOME REASONS OF GOD'S FORBEARANCE TO SINNERS.
1. That the delay bears no proportion either to the eternity of His own or to the future continuance of our being.
2. God never intended this world for the place of our final recompense, and therefore is the less concerned to interpose with frequency for the immediate punishment of the sinner.
3. We may presume it designed in much mercy to sinners that He does not catch at every advantage.
4. It is designed to lead us to repentance. There are critical junctures in religion, as well as in life and fortune.
II. THE LONG-SUFFERING OF GOD IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE HE WILL NEVER TAKE VENGEANCE. The reasons which account for His forbearance destroy that inference.
1. If the end of the world and the dissolution of all things be the vengeance expected, it was no way proper to raise so vast a fabric except it had been designed for some ages' continuance.
2. For if sin could never be committed without immediate vengeance closely pursuing it, there could be no proper foundation of reward to our obedience.
3. Whatever continuance the world may seem made for, yet the lives of particular men are short and uncertain.
III. THE DELAY OF HIS VENGEANCE CAN BE NO JUST REASON FOR OUR CONTINUANCE IN SIN. It does not lessen the danger; it gives no colour to the notion that God is an unconcerned spectator of wickedness. But now His present forbearance makes proof that He will hereafter pursue the wicked with His vengeance.
IV. HIS LONG-SUFFERING IS MUCH RATHER AN ARGUMENT TO US TO FORSAKE SIN, AND TO PROCEED HENCEFORWARD IN ALL HOLY OBEDIENCE.
1. It is so in point of gratitude, because we have seen that it is an effect of His mercy.
2. But if the motives of gratitude fail of persuading us, we should at least consider that our interest is very deeply concerned in this matter. For it is a very great aggravation to turn the means of grace into occasions of sin.
(N. Marshall, D. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. CONSIDER THE PATIENCE AND LONG-SUFFERING OF GOD TOWARDS MANKIND, AS IT IS AN ATTRIBUTE AND PERFECTION OF THE DIVINE NATURE: "God is long-suffering to us-ward."
1. The patience of God is His goodness to sinners in deferring the punishment due to them for their sins; and the moderating as well as the deferring of the punishment due to sin is an instance likewise of God's patience; and not only the deferring and moderating of temporal punishment, but the adjourning of the eternal misery of sinners is a principal instance of God's patience; so that the patience of God takes in all that space of repentance which God affords to sinners in this life — nay, all temporal judgments and afflictions which befall sinners.
2. It is not necessarily due to us, but it is due to the perfection of the Divine nature; it is a principal branch of God's goodness, which is the most glorious perfection of all other; and therefore we always find it in Scripture in the company of God's milder attributes.
3. Give some proof of the great patience and long-suffering of God to mankind.And this will evidently appear if we consider these two things —
1. How men deal with God. Every day we highly provoke Him; we grieve and weary Him with our iniquities (Isaiah 43:24).
2. The patience of God will farther appear if we consider how, notwithstanding all this, God deals with us. He is patient to the whole world. He "presents us daily with the blessing" of His goodness, prolonging our lives and vouchsafing many favours to us. But the patience of God will more illustriously appear if we consider these following particulars —(1) That God is not obliged to spare and forbear us at all.(2) That God spares us when it is in His power so easily to ruin us.(3) That God exerciseth this patience even when we are challenging His justice to punish us and provoking His power to destroy us.(4) That He is so very slow and unwilling to punish and to inflict His judgments upon us.(a) God's unwillingness to punish appears in that He labours to prevent punishment; and that He may effectually do this He endeavours to prevent sin, the meritorious cause of God's judgments; to this end He hath threatened it with severe punishments that men may fear to offend.(b) He is long before He goes about this work. Judgment is, in Scripture, called "His strange work"; as ii He were not acquainted with it and hardly knew how to go about it on the sudden (Deuteronomy 32:41).(c) When He goes about this work He does it with much reluctance (Hosea 11:8). He is represented as making many essays and offers before He came to it (Psalm 106:26). God withholds His judgments till He is weary of holding in, as the expression is (Jeremiah 6:11), until He can forbear no longer (Jeremiah 44:22).(d) God is easily prevailed upon not to punish, as in the case of Nineveh. With what joy does He tell the prophet the news of Ahab's humiliation!(e) When He punisheth He does it very seldom rigorously and to extremity, not so much as we deserve (Psalm 103:10).(f) After He hath begun to punish, and is engaged in the work, He is not hard to be taken off (2 Samuel 24.). Nay, so ready is God to be taken off from this work, that He sets a high value upon those who stand in the gap to turn away His wrath (Numbers 25:11-13).
5. The patience of God will vet appear if we consider some eminent instances of it. His forbearance is so great that He hath been complained of for it by His own servants. Job, who was so patient a man himself, thought much at it (Job 21:7, 8). Jonah challengeth God for it (Job 4:2).
II. THAT THE PATIENCE OF GOD AND THE DELAY OF JUDGMENT IS NO GROUND WHY SINNERS SHOULD HOPE FOR IMPUNITY: "God is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness."
III. THE TRUE REASON OF GOD'S PATIENCE AND LONG-SUFFERING TO MANKIND: "He is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." This is the primary end of God's patience to sinners; and if He fail of this end through our impenitency He hath other ends which He will infallibly attain; He will hereby glorify the riches of His mercy and vindicate the righteousness of His justice; for God does not lose the glory of His patience, though we lose the benefit of it, and He will make it subservient to His justice one way or other. Lessons:
1. That nothing is more provoking to God than the abuse of His patience.
2. That the patience of God will have an end.
3. That nothing will more hasten and aggravate our ruin than the abuse of God's patience.
(Abp. Tillotson.)I. THAT MAN'S EXTERNAL UNIVERSE IS MAINTAINED BY GOD.
1. However long He may continue to uphold it, He does not overlook the claims of His justice. There are before Him "a day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
2. However long He may continue to uphold it, duration is nothing to Him. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." He is not limited to time as we are.
3. However long He may continue to uphold it, He does not forget His promise. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness."
4. However long He may continue to uphold it, His forbearance is manifest through the whole. He "is long-suffering to us-ward."
II. THAT MAN'S EXTERNAL UNIVERSE IS MAINTAINED BY GOD FOR A MORAL PURPOSE. "Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." What is the purpose? Why is this world kept in existence for so many ages? Is it that men might luxuriate amidst animal gratifications, revel amidst the elements which minister to the senses, and pander to the passions? Is it that they might train the intellect to think, and to fill the mind with knowledge? Not even this. It is the moral restora tion of man. "That none should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
1. This moral restoration of man requires "repentance."
2. This moral restoration of man is according to the Divine will.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
That all should come to repentance1. The first is this, implore repentance at the hands of God (2 Timothy 2:25).
2. Have due regard to the sacred Word. Suppose we were travelling in the dark, what could we do better in such a case than procure a light to guide us? Naturally we are in the darkness of ignorance and mists of error, and want to be illuminated in the right way (Psalm 119:105; 2 Peter 1:19). And that the Holy Scripture has a peculiar efficacy to purify from sin, which is done by repentance, is evident (Psalm 119:9).
3. Consider the nature of God. As His word rightly heard, so His nature duly contemplated, will be not only a mighty antidote against sin, but as strong an inducement to repentance. Now the nature of God we may best learn from His glorious name (Exodus 34:6, 7). God in His nature is holy and even essentially and infinitely holy (Isaiah 60:3). And can we endure to rest in wilful sin when it is an evil abominable to God, and makes us as odious to Him as it is in its own nature? Reflect then seriously again, that He is just too. And as His perfect purity sets Him against sinners, so His absolute justice inclines and constrains Him to punish all that persist in it. And then we may consider further that He is powerful too, and armed with omnipotence. And so He is able to punish us (Psalm 76:7).
5. Fix your thoughts upon Christ's sufferings. They were various, sharp, and terrible; but all for our sins.
(R. Warren, D. D.)I. THAT GOD IS "NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH," APPEARS BY HIS OWN POSITIVE DECLARATIONS.
II. THAT GOD "IS UNWILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH," IS ILLUSTRATED BY THE INVITATIONS WITH WHICH THE SACRED SCRIPTURES ABOUND.
III. THE SAME TRUTH IS STILL FURTHER ILLUSTRATED BY THE ENCOURAGEMENT GOD EVERYWHERE PRESENTS TO THOSE WHO SHOW AN INCLINATION TO RETURN.
IV. THE SAME TRUTH IS ILLUSTRATED BY THE THREATENINGS AND WARNINGS WHICH ARE GIVEN TO PERSONS AND NATIONS BEFORE DESTRUCTION COMES ON THEM.
V. THE DELAY OF JUDGMENT ILLUSTRATES MY TEXT.
VI. THE MOST NOTORIOUS CHARACTERS ARE SPECIFIED IN THE OFFERS AND INVITATIONS OF MERCY WHICH WE FIND IN SACRED SCRIPTURE.
VII. THE DEATH OF CHRIST IS AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE PROPOSITION IN THE TEXT.
VIII. THE MEANS EMPLOYED TO KEEP UP THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST BEFORE THE WORLD AND THE CHURCH DECLARES THE SAME TRUTH.
IX. THE PAINS TAKEN TO REMOVE DISTRUST PROVE THAT GOD IS "NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH." He not only gives us His declaration that He is not willing that any should perish, but He gives us His oath.
X. THE PROPOSITION CONTAINED IN THE TEXT IS ILLUSTRATED BY MANY EXAMPLES: Manasseh. Thief on cross.
(W. Freeland, LL. D.)
The Evangelist.I. What does the apostle mean here by the expression "PERISH"? What is it to perish? This will be most appropriately answered in the words of Holy Scripture. Paul called it "Being punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" (2 Thessalonians 1:9). "Sudden destruction" (1 Thessalonians 5:3). "Swift destruction" (chap. 2 Peter 2:1). "The vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7).
II. WHAT REASONS HAVE WE TO CONCLUDE THAT ANY WILL THUS PERISH?
I. Fallen angels have perished (Jude 1:6).
2. Sodom and Gomorrah have "suffered the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7).
3. Other men deserve to perish. "The Scripture hath concluded all under sin."
4. That part of the punishment which consists in natural death is daily being inflicted before our eyes.
5. God has said that some characters shall perish. "He that believeth not shall be damned."
III. But WHO are thus in danger?
1. "Despisers" (Acts 13:41).
2. profane persons, and all who "forget God" (Psalm 9:17).
3. All the impenitent (Luke 13:5).
4. All unbelievers (Mark 16:16).
IV. How are we to understand the expression God is NOT WILLING that any should perish? Hell does not exist without His permission! Death is His messenger! The judgment of the great day will be held by His appointment! But then —
1. God will not punish without occasion. Nor
2. Till the guilt of man has rendered it necessary. Nor
3. Without having provided a remedy: — the best possible remedy. Nor
4. Without having authorised the publication of that remedy. Nor
5. Without having implored men to accept it. Nor
6. Without having given space for repentance.
7. Nor will He inflict eternal judgment on one soul which has not proved its filial enmity to Him, to truth, to holiness.
V. WHAT EVIDENCES HAVE WE THAT GOD IS "NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD THUS PERISH"?
1. The evidence arising from His character.
2. From His word.
3. From His oath (John 3:16).
4. From the gift of His Holy Spirit.
5. From the revelation of His truth.
6. From the exaltation of Christ as a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance.
7. From the promise of the personal help of the Holy Spirit — to them that ask it.
8. From every instance of true repentance which has occurred.
9. From sparing mercy from day to day.
10. From warnings, exhortations, invitations, directions, promises, etc., without number.
VI. WHAT is the imperative and only ALTERNATIVE that men may not perish? We answer, "repentance."
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