Time a Rate of Motion
2 Peter 3:5-7
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old…

The apostle evidently wishes us to look upon the flight of the years more as God in His eternity looks down upon them. We are to approach the idea of eternity not by multiplying years together in indefinite figures of time, but more truly by remembering that with the Eternal our measurements of time have no importance.

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.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

WEB: For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth formed out of water and amid water, by the word of God;

The Rules and Directions for the Right Performing the Duty of Repentance
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