صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

quently less tolerable than those of the body, so powerfully apply our minds to each indivisible space of time spent in pain, that we think our sufferings have been long, when we have scarcely begun to suffer But God is always happy, and always supremely happy; he always enjoys that perfect felicity, which makes a thousand years, ten thousand millions of years, vanish with an inconceivable rapidity. It would be unhappy not to enjoy this kind of felicity more than ten or twelve millions of years, because the impression, which that felicity would make on the soul would be so powerful and lively, that it would render him who enjoyed it insensible to time; time would expire, and he would hardly perceive he had enjoyed any thing, even when he had possessed happiness as long as I have supposed. God would be unhappy (allow me this expression) if his felicity were not eternal. But this is one of the subjects which must intimidate a preacher through the difficulty he meets with in furnishing matter. We must have ideas beyond human. We must have terms, which mankind have not yet invented. We ourselves must have participated the felicity of God; we must speak to men who also had partaken of it; and afterwards, we must have agreed together on a new language to express each idea excited by the happiness, of which we had made so blessed an experience. Represent to yourselves a Being, or rather think, think, my dear hearers, on the difficulty of representing a Being, who, having in the infinite capacity of his intelligence all possible plans of this universe, hath preferred that which appeared to him the wisest, the best, and the most conformable to the holiness of his attributes: represent a Being who hath executed this plan, a Being who hath created in this vast extent which our imagina tion fancies, in that which our whole mind, more capable still of conceiving grand objects than our imagination alone, or our senses admires : represent to yourselves a Being who hath created whatever is most capable of contributing to perfect felicity; represent a Being who loves and who is beloved by, objects worthy of his esteem; a Being who knows how to repress the madness of those who rebel against his empire; a Being who shares his felicity with spirits whom he esteems, and by whom he is esteemed above all things; a Being who hath the pleasure of rendering the objects of his esteem happy, and who acknowledge that all their happiness comes from him: spirits continually praising the author of their felicity, casting their crowns at his feet, and incessantly cry


ing, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of thy glory, Isa. vi. 3. Represent to yourselves a Being who is approved by intelligences skilful in virtues, in grandeurs, in objects worthy of praise; a Being who loves only order, and who hath power to maintain it; a Being who is at the summit of felicity, and who knows he shall be so for ever. O ages! O millions of ages! O thousands of millions of ages! O duration the longest that can be imagined by an intelligence composed (if I may speak so) of all intelligences, how short must ye appear to so happy a Being! There is no time with him; there is no measure of time. One thousand years, ten thousand years, one quarter of an hour, one instant, is almost the same. A thousand years are with him as one day, and one day as a thousand years. We have considered our text in itself; we will now shew the end of the Apostle in proposing it, and that it was very proper to answer that end. This is our second part..

St. Peter, as said before, St. Peter meant to refute the odious objections of some profane persons of his own time, who pretended to make the doctrine of an universal judgment doubtful, and who said, in order to obscure its truth, or enervate its evidence, Where is the promise of his coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things remain as they were? verse 4. I am aware that this comment is disputed, and some have thought the destruction of Jerusalem' was the subject of this whole chapter, and not the end of the world: but, however averse we are to the decisive tone, we will venture to demonstrate that the Apostle had far greater objects in view than the fatal catastrophe of the Jewish nation. This I think clearly appears.

1. By the nature of the objection, which libertines made, Where is the promise of his coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things remain as they were? These libertines did not mean, that from the beginning of the world the commonwealth of Israel had suffered no considerable alteration; they did not mean from that false principle to draw this false consequence, that Jerusalem would always remain as it then was. How could they be such novices in the history of their nation, as not to know the sad vicissitudes, the banishments, and the plunderings, which the Jews had undergone? They meant, that, though some particular changes had happened in some parts of the world, the generality of creatures had always remained in the same state; thence they pretended to conclude that they would always remain so. К


2. This

[ocr errors]

2. This appears further by the manner in which the Apos tle answers them in the verses preceding the text. He alledges against them the example of the deluge. This, says he, they are willingly ignorant of, that the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished, ver. 5, 6. To this he adds, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the things that are therein shall be burnt up, ver. 10. On which we reason thus: The world, that was formerly destroyed with water, is the same which shall be destroyed by fire; but the world that was destroyed with water, was not the Jewish nation only: St. Peter then predicts a destruction more general than that of the Jews.

[ocr errors]

3. This appears further by this consideration. The people, to whom St. Peter wrote, did not live in Judea, but were dispersed through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These people could have but little to do with the destruction of Jerusalem. Whether Jesus Christ terminated the duration of that city suddenly or slowly, was a question that regarded them indirectly only; but the day of which St. Peter speaks interests all Christians, and St. Peter exhorts all Christians to prepare for it, as being personally concerned in it.

4. Add a fourth consideration, taken from what follows our text: Even as our beloved brother Paul also speaks of these things, in which are some things hard to be under stood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest unto their own destruction, ver. 15, 16. What are these things hard to be understood? Many interpreters, ancient and modern, have thought that the doctrine of justification was intended; a doctrine established by St. Paul, and wrested by many to their own destruction, as from thence they concluded that good works were useless. But, methinks, it is more probable that St. Peter designs some parts of the first epistle to the Thessalonians, (ch. iv. 13, &c. and v. 1, &c.) where the Apostle had spoken as if the day of judgment was very nigh; and from which many concluded that it would immediately appear, and the mistake caused a general subversion of society. Since then, St. Paul had spoken of the day. of judgment, and St. Peter speaks of the same things, it follows, that St. Peter designed to establish the truth of a gene ral judgment, against those infidels who had endeavoured to subvert it.


But how is what the apostle says, one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; how is such a proposition proper to refute the odious objection of infidels, who said, Where is the promise of his coming? If a man who possesseth great riches promise a small sum to an indigent person, if he defer the fulfilment of his promise, in vain you endeavour to exculpate him by saying, the promiser is so opulent that a small sum with him is as great riches, and great riches are as a small sum.

In like manner, to say that a thousand years with God are as one day, and one day as a thousand years, is that to answer the objection? The question is not what the time of delay is to the eternal Being; the question is, what that time is to poor mortals, who are fastened to the earth loaded with miseries, aud to whom one day is as a thousand days, and not a thousand years as one day.

This difficulty is solved by the connection of our text with the following verses: Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This answer is conclusive, as you will more fully perceive by the following paraphrase. The delay of the day of judgment may be considered either in relation to men who must be judged, or to God himself who will judge them. If you consider it in regard to men who must be judged, they have no room to complain that God defers this important period; on the contrary, they ought to consider the pretended slackness, of which they complain, as an effect of the adorable love of their judge, who invites them to repentance, The manner, in which God ordinarily takes men out of this life, is much more proper to incline them to repentance than the terrible retinue of his coming to judgment. How terrible will his appearance be! What eye will not be dazzled! Whose conscience will not be alarmed! Here blow the trumpets, the dreadful sounds of which proclaim the approach of the Judge of this universe. There, the heavens, which once opened to receive the Son of God, open again that he may return to the earth to execute his threatenings on rebellious men. Here, earth and sea restore the bodies which they have devoured. There, those thousand thousands, those ten thousand times ten thousand, who are con

[blocks in formation]

tinually before God, Dan. vii. 10. offer their ministry to him, and are the witnesses, admirers, and executors of his judgment. Here, open the eternal books, in which so many unrighteous thoughts, so many unprofitable words, so many criminal actions are registered. There, sentences are preparing, destinies determining, final decrees just pronouncing. Who then could have presence of mind enough to recur to genuine repentance, even supposing there were yet time for repentance? Men then have no reason to complain that the day of judgment is not yet come. The Lord is patient towards all men, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

If you consider the pretended delay of judgment in regard to God, as we have considered it in regard to men, you will readily acknowledge that what appears delay to you does not appear so to him. Why? Because a thousand years are with him as one day, and one day as a thousand years; because this long term that offends you is but as an instant to the perfect Being.

It seems to me that this reasoning is conclusive. This shall suffice for the present. Let us conclude, and let us employ the few moments which remain to infer from the doctrine of the general conflagration, secured against the objections of libertines, such motives to piety as the apostle intended we should draw from them. Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burnt up. This is the doctrine that the apostle establisheth. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God? This is the consequence which he deduces ; the justness of which inference will appear by five descriptions, which the general conflagration traces before our eyes: 1. A description of the power of our Judge: 2. A description of the horrors of vice: 3. A description of the vanity of the present world: 4. A description of the beauties of the


« السابقةمتابعة »