The Catholic Epistles.

The Second Epistle of Peter.

Scope and Divisions of the Second Epistle of Peter.

The second epistle is, as all such are, an appendix to the first. It is also, as we have seen in the case of Thessalonians and Timothy, something which God has given us in view of the failure and evil coming in, a merciful provision for our need which we cannot too highly estimate at the present time. The character of the epistle is, on the whole, a very simple one. We have first of all what is needed on our own part in a time of declension, needed at all times, of course, but still the need specially brought out by such days as we more and more realize to be upon us. Here we are shown that our guard from the evil, as far as we can furnish it, is in the development in us of the divine life which God has given us. The more the pressure of the current against us, the more energy must there be on our part to meet it; but this energy is not shown mainly in outward activity, or even in controversy with evil, but in the enjoyment of our own things, and in the living in them. This is what the first chapter specially dwells upon, in which we are shown the apostle writing, as we have seen before, to converted Jews. We find what the righteousness of a divine Messiah has provided for the believer, in the lapse of his own Israelitish hopes. It is in this that all things pertaining to life and godliness are found, the knowledge of God Himself, who has "called us by glory and virtue:" animating us by His "great and precious promises," which are to furnish us with the needful courage to go through that which is adverse.

The second division dwells upon the evil already coming in, the false teachers that would arise — no strange thing for an Israelite to understand, as indeed the Christian Church in its failure has but repeated the history of the people of God of former times. We have the character of these false teachers shown to us, the power of their seduction over many who had apparently been brought out from the pollutions of the world, and that "through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," and who yet are entangled therein again, and the last state becomes worse than the first.

The third division speaks of the passing away of the world itself — the death and resurrection of the earth, as we may call it; the promise remaining, which Isaiah had already given, of a new heavens and earth, in which righteousness at last shall dwell. It is in character with the scope of Peter's ministry, the completion of God's testimony to Israel, that he should give us this; while Paul carries us from earth to heaven.

The divisions, therefore, are:
1. (2 Peter 1.): What the righteousness of a divine Messiah has provided for the believer.
2. (2 Peter 2.): The progress of evil and the seduction of false teachers.
3. (2 Peter 3.): The death and resurrection of the earth itself.

Notes.

Division 1. (2 Peter 1.)

What the righteousness of a divine Messiah has provided for the believer.

The apostle has already shown in his first epistle how God has provided in Christianity a much better thing than Israel by her unbelief has lost. He does not take this up again, but he refers to it in order to enlarge upon the provision made in this way for the practical need of the soul in the revelation of God Himself through Christ; which is, as we know, the very heart of the gospel, as it is indeed of all divine teaching. The attraction of the glory is that, as already said, which is to furnish us with the needed energy to go through the circumstances of the present; and the practical result of this is insisted on, by which the very evil that has come in may only work for the blessing, under God's overruling hand, of those who are exercised by it, and who find thus around them a condition of things which calls for the full energy of the Spirit of God to meet it. If faith is that which is the very first necessity for us as Christians, then difficulties, as we have so often had to say, are no hindrances to faith, but only that which exercises and manifests it. We find here a certain difference in the way things are presented to us from that which we have had in Paul; and while the glory of Christ and the sharing of that glory are things put before us by both these, yet Paul evidently carries us more completely to heaven itself, where he had indeed seen that glory, as Peter speaks on his part of what he had himself seen upon earth, which had confirmed the message of the prophets of old. Thus, as in the first epistle Peter has carried us back to the words spoken by the Lord to him at the time when Israel's rejection had already become manifest, so here he dwells upon what had followed this, which is manifestly, more than with Paul, the glory of the Kingdom in which Moses and Elias are found, with their testimony to Christ. The special line of truth given to each of the inspired writers is manifest. We need them all, and through grace we have them all.

1. We have first of all the power of the divine call in the exceeding great and precious promises which have become our own. These are not, of course, in any wise Israel's promises. The "precious faith" of which he speaks is the faith of Christianity, which has come to replace that expectation of earthly blessing which Judaism created. It is in this way that he speaks of "the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." As Paul speaks of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, with Peter, on the other hand, there is the righteousness of Him who indeed is God, but who is also Israel's Messiah — a divine Saviour; who, if in Israel He may seem to have labored in vain and spent His strength for naught, yet only brings out, for those who have nevertheless believed in Him, a fulness of blessing unimagined before. Grace and peace are thus multiplied to them in "the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord," which the apostle therefore, desires, in fact, to be multiplied to us. Alas, as we well know, we do not always find the blessing which God would have us to know. Indeed, how many of us do find the fulness of what is in God's heart for us? And if this may perhaps not seem so wonderful, considering our own limitations and the infiniteness of the blessing, yet how shall we excuse the dullness and slowness with which we respond to the goodness which has been manifested towards us? How little coveting on our part is there of the very things in which we, nevertheless, believe all true riches, all blessings, are to be found.

"His divine power," says the apostle, "hath given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness."* His power, notice, has given them to us. For how much had to be wrought in order that these blessings might be our own! God has not merely spoken; He has acted. The new creation is a work more wonderful in power than that which God spoke so easily into being. In this He has been not only a Laboror, but a Sufferer; wonderful as it is to speak of this in connection with One who is a divine Saviour. And thus God has been manifested, as we know, in Christ, — not even in temporary manifestation, though with an eternal effect, — but in One who abides ever the Man Christ Jesus, and even, as we see in Revelation, in some sense as "the Lamb slain," and who has made the very throne of God the throne also of the Lamb. Here is found that which truly lays hold upon the heart for God. It is a revelation not limited in its effect even to the children of men, but which is that into which the angels look with adoration; sufficient surely to gather up our affections out of a world that lieth in the wicked one, the very world of the cross itself, and to which we are crucified by that cross. Thus, it is not merely a salvation that is provided, wonderful as this is, and we have not attained what God desires for us in the simple knowledge of salvation — it is God Himself who is drawing us to Himself; and the knowledge of salvation simply in the way that so many seem to know it is not sufficient to fulfil that which the apostle has in mind here. People can vaunt their salvation and go on with the world in decent forms to the very fullest extent; but if we have the knowledge not of salvation simply, but of the Saviour, it is of One who "hath called us by glory and virtue," by setting before us that which is all the blessedness of life and which is outside the world and all that is in it, while it gives us thus "virtue," the soldier's courage, to go through the world as a place merely of opposing forces, where all that is of it, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father." It is in this way that His "exceeding great and precious promises" are given to us, that thus we may become "partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." We should notice here how the power of the Word is constantly that which the Spirit uses to produce in us all His work. It is thus we become "partakers of the divine nature;" it is thus we are assimilated to Him who is revealed to us. We are changed, as the apostle Paul told us, "into the same image, from glory to glory." And thus the lust is overcome, which is the sign of the fallen creature, the expression of wants which, not having found their satisfaction in God, can find satisfaction nowhere else; and which only, therefore, debase more and more the soul that thus pursues its own gratification, drinking at every broken cistern to quench the thirst which can nowhere be satisfied except by that fountain of living waters, from which unbelief has turned. This is the first point, therefore, for us here; and it is impossible to face the condition of things around without it — to have found in God, as He has revealed Himself in Christ, that which is sufficiency and more than sufficiency, satisfaction and more than satisfaction, for every possible need. These things indeed come to us practically in the shape of "promises," which need faith in them to keep us pressing on to the fulfilment, but which thus draw our eyes away from the things around us, and develop the energy of the pilgrim and the overcomer.

{*There is an evident contrast between "life" and "godliness" — the first would include new birth, or the impartation of life and its development, until in glory it reaches its true sphere; while "godliness" refers to the practical walk. There are three pairs of expressions in this portion which have much similarity. The first is "life and godliness;" the second, "glory and virtue;" and the third, "partakers of the divine nature" and "having escaped the corruption" etc. It will be noticed that the first of each of these has to do with the divine side, and the second with the practical life. — S.R.}

2. All is grounded, says the apostle, on this with which we start. The knowledge of what is ours is to arouse in us a diligence which will make us fruitful for God. The new life which God has given us needs development, and here is the difference between one like Paul himself and the most stunted, nay, deformed, that we can find among Christians. Alas, how many are these! The very first point, the diligence, how little is it actually found to make progress in the things of God! How terrible to think that the certainty of what is ours should in so many seem rather to relax diligence than to create it! We hope, after all, to get to heaven at last; and how little do we realize, nevertheless, what eternal consequences may follow the lack of proper development on earth! The present and the future are not so widely separated as we are prone to imagine, and we must not think it a right apprehension of God's grace which can make us just content to get to heaven without having lived for Christ or honored Him on the way. Whatever heaven may be for such, we may be perfectly sure that loss here will be nevertheless eternal loss.*

{*We acquire capacity here for the enjoyment of eternal things. A narrow heart for Christ here will enter into life hindered to that extent. Solemn thoughts indeed are these. May we lay them to heart. — S.R.}

The apostle, as we see, is not thinking here of works done for Christ. These come in their place surely; but what he is thinking of now is the development of Christian character, the fruits of that acquaintance with God of which he has been speaking. They are given for us in the most orderly manner possible, and we must not miss the order; but it is not as our common version puts it, a simple addition of one thing to another that he speaks of. It is, as already said, rather the development of life of which he is speaking, which is the result, therefore, of growth, and in which blossom and fruit have their orderly succession and necessary relation to one another. Thus, it is really not, "Add to your faith, virtue," simply; but "in your faith supply virtue" — see that your faith is of that kind which produces it. Without faith first, there will be none; and so with every step of what is here. The knowledge is found in the virtue; the temperance in the knowledge, and so on; just as the bud contains within itself all the parts that are to unfold in due time, while these, nevertheless, are not merely to be unfolded, or, rather, are unfolded only by their own growth and development.

Thus he begins with faith.* Without faith there is no love, there is no beginning; and the very first thing which is to proceed from faith and to characterize it is  "virtue," as already said, the soldier's virtue, — courage, decision, — that quality that enables one to go through all opposition. This is, of course, a first necessity if we think of what the scene is in which God is finding fruit for Himself, how thoroughly His plants are exotics. Everything is naturally against us, as His people. Thus we must draw from unseen resources. We cannot draw from the soil of this world. That is impossible. We must be as Christ was, roots out of a dry ground, sustained by the influences of heaven, and not by the earth, which cannot yield sustenance. Faith in itself means the turning away from earth, from all that is for sight or sense; and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory whom the world crucified, is that which overcometh the world. Here is the first thing, therefore, that we need to satisfy ourselves that we are possessed of — an ability to go on, whatever the hindrances, counting the cost, but which counts on both sides, and which recognizes the cost of lack of communion with Christ and all that is involved in this as being that which overbalances all other.

{*It is not specified whether this faith is justifying, or that principle in the believer throughout. Would it not actually include both thoughts? Faith is the beginning and the whole substratum of the Christian life. As illustrations of the application of the "courage" to both sides of this faith might be mentioned the confession of Christ by the blind man (John 9) in face of strongest opposition, and the faith of the apostles in their service. — S.R.}

Here therefore, at the outset, the very principle of progress is given us. If earth is closed to us, we must lay hold upon heaven; and thus it is that we learn, therefore, to acquire; we find "in virtue, knowledge." We cannot learn the things of God, our own though they may be, without the honest intention to live according to them. If we want to have barren knowledge, we must not wonder if God withhold it from us. In fact, what greater injury could our souls receive than just to gain the mere outside acquaintance with things, so that we suppose we know them when there is no virtue and no blessing, no effect to be produced in us by it all.*

{*The courage is not a blind "zeal without knowledge," but an intelligent and deliberate conviction. How often does a bold ignorance meet with merited defeat, where an earnest feeding upon God's word would have fitted one to meet all opposition. — S.R.}

This knowledge, then, leads on to "temperance." Notice that as the apostle has spoken of Scripture as first of all being "profitable for doctrine," then for "correction" so it is here. The very first thing, as we learn the truth, is to recognize the claim that the truth has upon us — the discipline of it by which it divorces us from other things, gives us thus self-restraint, the power to command ourselves; as we may be sure that we can command nothing else if we do not begin here. "In knowledge," therefore, we are to find "temperance," self-restraint. The truth is to govern us, and to give us thus the power of self-government.* The heart must be in the knowledge, not the head simply; and the government of one's self, as is plain, leads on to and develops what is the next thing here, "patience."

{*Thus we will not only know how to answer every man that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us, but it will be "with meekness and fear." "For the servant of God must not strive . . . in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves." How perfectly our blessed Lord exemplified this. — S.R.}

If we have not self-command in a world like this, where everything is contrary, how impossible it will be to manifest patience! If our hearts are really withdrawn from the world, governed by unseen things in which we find, in fact, the fullest satisfaction, how easy will patience be! We have not, if even we are called to endure the loss of all things, as the apostle Paul puts it, with all this to endure the loss of one thing that is really our own. God has all this in His own keeping for us. If we recognize the government of God, therefore, and if we recognize the grace that has manifested itself toward us, it will make patience easy, make it necessary and sure.

Thus, first of all, the truth acts upon us. It delivers us from all things that are contrary to it. It makes us masters of ourselves and of our circumstances. Now the life will manifest, as the result of this, "godliness." He who in fact has command of us, will be seen in command. Circumstances will not mold us, but He who is above all circumstances. Let them be adverse as they may, we have but to be still and know that He is God. That is what is sufficient knowledge, if we know Him who is God. We see already that, of course, godliness must have been in the life all through. There could have been no faith, no virtue, no knowledge, no temperance or patience, apart from this. Nevertheless, it has to find room for its proper development. We are delivered from the things contrary to it, and thus the life gains a character which may seem, indeed, to come strangely far on here in the order of development; but we shall find, — there is no question, — if we consider it, if we think of ourselves and look around us, how much there is in Christians themselves that hinders the development of this character. How much needs to be got out of the way before there can be the serene blessedness which is implied in it — God seen in all, God owned in all, God joyed in at all times! How great an attainment is this! how greatly to be desired therefore! — not that we may have merely some rudimentary experience of it, but the full thing itself as contemplated here.

And then notice, "in godliness, brotherly love." Yet, says the apostle: "By this we know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Here, too, is something, therefore, which must have begun with the beginning in us. Yet it is plain that it is produced by godliness, and that it is found in godliness, not otherwise: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments." We are prone to make great mistakes here as to the love of God itself, to judge of what there is in us in this way more by the happy feeling produced, more or less temporarily, and gauged by the glow in our heart, rather than by the apostle's test of it: "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments:" a test under which how much of what we have counted such would not abide! In how many of most apparently lovely Christians to whom, if you bring the simple and plain command of God with regard to something, you may find even a resentment hard to be understood! How many there are who insist upon certain commands of God very strongly, and have their blind eye turned to what are His evident commands in another direction! But His commandments are His commandments. There are no exceptions, no degrees, we may even say, as to this. One plain command is just as much that as any other plain command, and we have no right to estimate the importance of one command in such a way as to make light of another. It is as the apostle says with regard to the law: you may keep every commandment but one, and if you break that, you are characterized as a law-breaker, no matter how many you may keep. God must be absolute Master. He will be satisfied with nothing else; but then, as the apostle says, "His commandments are not grievous." Even in the law the first commandment of all was, "Thou shalt love;" and the Lord sums it up as all in its essence, "Thou shalt love." What is this but the reflection of the character of Him who, as He commands this, necessarily delights in it? All other love that can be called such is but the reflection of His love, and what then are His commandments except the dictates of such perfect love towards us? But then if "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments," here is something of necessity, as the apostle teaches, by which we may gauge our love to our brethren also. It is no love to ignore evil. To seek to free each other from it is divine. To win a brother out of it, how blessed if it be accomplished! But to ignore it is dishonor to God and cruelty to our brother, both in one. Thus, then, we can understand fully how it is "in godliness" that we must find "love."*

{*May there not be also here a suggestion of the danger of becoming selfish in spiritual things? The virtues already spoken of have been personal rather than mutual. But godliness cannot be selfish; no amount of self-culture will do. All must be permeated by that love to one's brethren which considers their welfare and progress, as well as one's own. — S.R.}

There is but one thing that the apostle adds to this, and that is all in a word, as one may say: "In brotherly love, love." Love is what God is. It is the divine nature itself; and thus, as we see again here, is what has been with us from the beginning; but the full development of it is what the apostle is pleading for here. These are the steps that lead to it; and there is no other way of attainment than as we come to it thus. Here, then, is that which the truth is to work in us. Here is how the "exceeding great and precious promises" are to vindicate themselves as having in them all things pertaining to life and godliness." These are the things which alone can enable us to pass through a World which is Satan's world, where allurement on the one hand is strengthened by opposition on the other, and both would unite to make us what the apostle calls idle and unfruitful in regard to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." We have seen how the apostle of love, the disciple who in this way drew out more than any the heart of the Lord towards him, speaks of where he had acquired this character, and how alone we can acquire it. "He that sinneth," he says, "hath not seen Him, neither known Him." To be in living acquaintance with Him, walking in His company, learning from day to day in His presence — this is what will make unfruitfulness impossible to us. We shall not be occupied with ourselves either. It will be enough to look in His face, to realize our own shortcomings. It is He Himself who has said: "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples."

That "the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" should be unfruitful is a thing contrary to its very nature. The only possible way of its coming about, says the apostle, is by forgetfulness of it. "He that lacketh these things is blind, short-sighted, and hath forgotten his cleansing from his former sins." It is impossible to live in the things without corresponding fruit. It is impossible to be in the sun without reflecting its beams. If we are not reflecting them, we must have got out of them. That is the whole story; and alas for the possibility, which is most evident everywhere in Scripture, for those who have been cleansed and who once were alive to the joy and blessedness of the appreciation of divine love like this, ever forgetting what they have experienced and the price paid for their deliverance; and yet these things steal easily and quietly upon one. It is, indeed, the only possible way. An open assault of the enemy would be resisted by a soul in the joy of a Saviour's love; but that same soul may be gradually weaned from it by the pressure of other things — the call of imagined duties, the necessary occupation with the things of the world, the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, deceiving, alas, even those who are not possessors of them. The conscience is not alarmed by any open fall. God's mercy may, indeed, allow a fall, in order to wake one up with a start to what is coming upon him; but in how many cases there is nothing that alarms the conscience, nothing that is manifestly evil, — a little forgetfulness of prayer, a little disregard of meditation, a little less time for occupation with the Word, a greater pressure of things, so that the very time that may be used in this way shall be unfruitful, — how steadily and stealthily may the work of decline go on and gray hairs come upon one while he knows it not! The Spirit of God that would minister Christ is grieved, the power is gone out of the life, there is no longer the joy of the Lord which is strength, faith is no more in its proper activity. This is what "short-sightedness" means. Faith is never that. The face turned towards Egypt, there is a famine in one's own land, and then soon the steps are in that direction also, and only the mercy of God can make one realize what it all means. We have, therefore, to use diligence to make our calling and election sure, — not as if they were anything else but sure in themselves, — but to make them a steadfast realization in the soul, a motive to action, a power to devote oneself to the things for which God has called and chosen us: "For if ye do these things," adds the apostle, "ye shall never fall; for so shall entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be richly furnished to you." He is not talking of "entering" into it simply, but of an entrance richly furnished. God would not have us enter there without bringing in with us something acceptable to Him, and something that shall turn to one's own praise from Him.

Let us notice that it is of the kingdom still that Peter is talking. He could not in this way speak of entering furnished richly into the Father's house. It would not be in the same way suitable. The rewards that he has in his mind belong rather to the kingdom than the Father's house. The titles and dignities of the kingdom, whatever their value, really do not come in as a question in connection with the Father and our relationship to Him as such.* We have to avoid the confusion which is in so many minds between what is the fruit of Christ's work and what is the fruit of our own; and we have to remember that, after all, the truest, sweetest, most wonderful things, as necessarily the fruit of Christ's work must be, are just the things that we share in common. A child can never be other or less than a child in that eternal state. Distance on a child's part from the Father is impossible. The members of the body of Christ are that, not of their own striving, but of His gift. That relationship to Him, of which Scripture speaks under the image of the bride, embraces the whole Christian company, out of which none can drop who have ever belonged to it. Yet, while relationship is not and cannot be affected by our faithfulness here in the relationship, nevertheless there are things of the most precious character that can be affected. The white stone with the name written upon it, the testimony. of His approbation, that which is not for public display but for secret communion between the soul and Him, this depends manifestly upon His having somewhat to approve; and, as already said, the honors of the Kingdom, things that are bestowed by His hand in testimony of His approval, are necessarily of this character. As we think of it, if we think of it at all aright, it will promote humility in us rather than pride to think of any reward to such as we are. Yet love will bestow, and love on our part will surely value that which it bestows. His gifts will be worthy of Himself, while He Himself will be infinitely greater than all gifts. But let us remember the apostle's appeal to us here, which we cannot disregard without loss, not merely for time, but for eternity.

{*It must be remembered, however, that there is nothing transitory about this kingdom; it is "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." At present we are in "the Kingdom of Heaven" — its mystery form, during the absence of the King, and where good and bad must be allowed to grow together (Matt. 13). During the Millennium it will be the visible and outward display of the Kingdom of the Son of Man — all evil will there be kept under by immediate divine power. It has been thought by some that this is the end of the Kingdom, and the passage in 1 Cor. 15 has been quoted in proof of this, "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father . . . then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:24, 28). If it be seen that this refers to the Millennial kingdom of Christ as Son of Man, it will be understood that this in no way affects that eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour spoken of here. Some have gone so far as to speak of the close of the Kingdom as "the great renunciation," leaving the impression that our Lord resigned certain glories. But we are told that He shares forever in the reign of God; "The throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it" (Rev. 22:3.) — S.R.}

3. The apostle goes on to assure those he is addressing of his desire for them, and that thus he would be careful always to put them in mind of that which, nevertheless, they knew and were established in. How strange, when we realize the character of these things, that there should need to be this stirring up by putting one in remembrance of that which it is not only joy to remember, but which it is, in fact, all the joy we have to remember! He would therefore, as long as he was in the tabernacle of the body, seek to do this, all the more that he had intimation from the Lord Himself that he was soon to put off his tabernacle. The apostle John has told us of the intimation that the Lord had given him that when he was old another would gird him, and carry him whither he would not. This, it is added, signified what death he should die; but it does not say that Peter at that time apprehended exactly its significance in that way. He had had, apparently, a more explicit and personal word from the Lord since then.* He would therefore use diligence that after his departure they might have at any time ability to call these things to remembrance. He was providing for them in this way in this epistle, and providing for our own needs, through the goodness of God, at the same time. How wonderful is the mercy which has thus given us something that should not have the uncertainty of tradition, its liability to corruption, but a plain word which would abide within our reach at all times!

{*What a light this throws, incidentally, upon the blessed hope of the Lord's coming. That, and not death, was the normal hope of the Christian. It needed a special revelation, as here in Peter's case, to let one know he was to die. So far from the truth is the common saying, "We must all die." — S.R.}

That he and the other witnesses had not followed skilfully devised fables in making known the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ he could assure them as one of the eye-witnesses of His majesty, who on the holy mount, — hallowed forever by the wondrous memory of His transfiguration, — had received from God the Father honor and glory. The voice had come from that well-known shrine of the Godhead which had so great a place in Israel's history, and which he calls here "the excellent glory." It was the "cloud" that went with the people through the wilderness of old, that had entered into the land with them, that had dwelt in a tent and tabernacle until Solomon built the house. It was that which Ezekiel saw; at last wearied out with the unbelief and corruption of the favored people, departing finally before Nebuchadnezzar overthrew the house itself. Now indeed that glory had found a place of rest, not in a house made with hands, but in a living Person, God's beloved Son, in whom He had found His delight. What a Voice to hear now — no longer the commandments of a fiery law, but the testimony to Him who in grace companied with them, and in whom they had already found for their own souls the divine supply for their deepest need! Here was indeed the confirmation of the prophetic word in which the Old Testament bore witness to the New, the brightness shining for the soul along the track of history, amid the darkness of the world, until the day should dawn and the Morning Star arise. This is a passage of well-known difficulty to many, but the apostle does not surely mean to limit the use of prophecy as something to encourage us merely till we have the proper Christian hope. That hope those to whom he was writing certainly had. Was it not theirs already, who had the word of prophecy confirmed when they had before them the blessed One who is at once the Morning Star, which will summon His people to Himself, and the Sun of Righteousness, the bringer of day to the earth at large? It is not at all a statement that prophecy would have fulfilled its purpose when this anticipatory confirmation of it should take place; but as it pointed, so it led on to the end: its light brightening and widening from century to century, even as now it still goes on for us, the night being still around us, although in our hearts it is not night, but day, for upon us the light of that future has already risen. Prophecy, even of the Old Testament, is thus not set aside. The faith that recognizes the great end of it as that which is still to come cleaves only the more to the testimony by which, in fact, the brightness of it shines more and more upon the path until the perfect day. The proper placing of the parenthesis here removes all difficulty.

The apostle adds to this what has again had difficulty for many, but in another way. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of its own interpretation." "Its own" is the literal force of the word here, which our common version gives as "private," and which Rome has perverted, in the way well known to us, by making it mean that Scripture is not to be interpreted by the individual for himself, but he must have the consent of the Church before he can know certainly what it speaks. But the words of the apostle say nothing whatever of this kind. In the first place, he is speaking distinctly of prophecy, not of Scripture as a whole, although it is not necessary to contest that Scripture is always more and more made intelligible to us by the light of other Scripture. The habit of taking single texts apart from their context has, as we know, been often most disastrous to interpretation; but this has nothing whatever to do with the so-called "right of private judgment," which is better put as the liberty of the soul to hear for itself what is by the Spirit made known to every one. The other thought is only a dexterous way of making the voice of the Church override the voice of Scripture, and of enshrining the Spirit in a corporation only to be found for the purpose sought in certain imagined representatives of it, and which, the more earnestly we seek for it, the more escapes from us. The voice of the Church, as given in the celebrated saying, "Quod semper, quod ubique, et quod ab omnibus" — that is, "What always, what everywhere, and what by all," has been believed, has no existence in fact. As it is well known, fathers have contradicted fathers; councils have been at issue with councils; popes have clashed with popes: there is nothing that in this way one can lay hold of with confidence at all. Put it all together, and it is at best the word of men — of men not always even respectable, and the Spirit which is supposed to dwell in them is assumed, but little manifested. How blessed to turn from it all to that word of God — addressed, as it is, not to teachers, but to private Christians, which private Christians are therefore surely capable of receiving, or it stultifies itself, and which speaks in its own sweet, homely way in the language of One whose testimony it was that "to the poor the gospel is preached" (Matt. 11:5)! Here not pride of heart is nurtured by the consciousness of the divine voice speaking to man, but lowliness, which will surely believe that His word, in the very form of it, finds the most suited expression, and bears its own best witness to the truth. But, as already said, "its own interpretation" does not and cannot refer to any private judgment of any one, but simply to an interpretation isolated from all that the same Word has given elsewhere, and which would therefore necessarily run the risk of being perverted from its proper use, as a sentence more or less broken, or a page of a book detached from all the rest of it. And it is of prophecy that the apostle is speaking, not of Scripture at large, and prophecy which has for its Author in all its parts the Spirit of God alone. "Men spake from God," not otherwise; not therefore according to their own wills or according to their own thoughts, but moved by Him who sees the end from the beginning, and for whom all the depths of God are familiar realities.

This, too, one has no desire to confine in its application to prophecy. Assuredly it is true of Scripture from end to end. It is our joy to know this. Yet at the same time it is a first principle for prophetic interpretation to realize in this way the connection of every single prophecy with prophecy as a whole. We are thus saved from perverting it to a mere application to certain things which may have, after all, no importance in God's thoughts such as they have in our own, and which may be even entirely out of the sphere of God's revelation. We shall find everywhere, as we take up prophecy itself, how important is this rule which is here announced to us. It is thus things get their place and relation to one another — a relation which gives assurance to us that they do indeed belong to that place. Here alone they will be found to answer perfectly in all parts to that which is written, and we shall never have to lay upon Scripture the burden of what is due to some misfitting upon our own part, some mere human mistake.

Division 2. (2 Peter 2.)

The progress of evil, and the seduction of false teachers.

We come now, in the second division, to look at the development of evil, alas, in what is the professing Church of God on earth; the opposition of the enemy, which we have already learned to be so commonly by imitation of the truth, as well as also by weaving error and truth together, so that the truth shall attract true souls and thus put them off their guard against the error mixed with it. How essentially is the present day a day of such mixture! And how abundant are the sanctions of false prophets at the present time, whether professedly Christian or as nearly as possible assuming a Christian aspect in order to deceive! Man's will, as we shall find, throughout distinguishes the false prophet, the very thing which the apostle has carefully assured us is absolutely foreign to the true one.

1. Looking back, the apostle reminds those whom he addresses — Israelites, as we know — that there were, there always have been, false prophets among the people. This was not to cease in Christianity, as one might easily think and would surely hope; the brightness and blessedness of God's grace in it allowing no successful imitation. Nay, says the apostle, there shall be false teachers among you, and that going on to the extreme of revolt against the Master that bought them. He does not say "redeemed." He has no thought of redeemed people here. Christ has bought everything. The whole world is His, with all that is in it, and not merely as the Creator, but as the One who has paid an infinite price to get it back, as it were, to Himself.* But purchase is not redemption. What it does imply is the right over them of the One who has made this purchase, a right they may deny, as, in fact, those mentioned would deny it. They would develop a spirit of rebellion which would bring swift destruction, not upon themselves alone, but upon all who followed them. Their ways would be ways of dissoluteness, — their own way manifestly, — but which would cause, by the number of their followers, the way of truth to be blasphemed by those who were professed followers of it.** Seeking their own ends, they would be but merchantmen on their own account, making merchandise, with well-turned words, of the people of God themselves, to satisfy simply their own covetousness, their lust of power, lust of money, lust of fame, every other kind of lust that presses upon man. The judgment upon these was ordained from of old, and, as it were, ready to break forth. The patience of God was not indifference, and the seeming prosperity that they might in the meantime have would not hinder the completeness of their final destruction.

{*Thus the whole field was purchased (Matt. 13) for the sake of the hidden treasure — the world, for the sake of Israel. So also in Heb. 10:29, apostates are spoken of as having been "sanctified" (set apart) by the blood of the covenant. Of course, this is only external, and has no thought of redemption. — S.R.

**In like manner, the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles by the godlessness of the Jews (Rom. 2:24). The world is always ready to attribute to the true the excesses of the false imitation. — S.R.}

2. The apostle now exhorts those who might be in danger of being carried away by the false pretensions of such as these to remember the judgment which is already passed upon those who in former times walked in the same course of lawlessness and rebellion against the authority of God. The angels who sinned God has cast down to the pit, delivering them to chains of darkness to be kept for judgment — a company which, as it seems by what is said of them, must be kept separate from the more general class of Satan and his angels, who are, as we know, not in confinement as yet, but going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it, Satan himself being the prince of this world at the present time. These, on the other hand, are already in chains, not in hell exactly, which in the force that it has now with us would mean the final place of torment. Here, evidently, is a condition preliminary to the judgment which is at hand for them and for all else, one and the same judgment at the same time. The apostle brings forward again the judgment of that old world out of which Noah, "the eighth person," — or one among eight, — "a preacher of righteousness," was preserved, the flood being brought in upon the world of the ungodly. It is the same example that we have had in the first epistle, and evidently used in the same way: not to dilate upon God's grace to those thus perishing, but the very opposite — to emphasize their judgment, and that, out of a whole world of ungodly, only eight persons were preserved. Next, he passes on to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah which God had turned into ashes, condemning them with an overthrow, making them an example to those that should live ungodly.* Here, too, was a careful discrimination in favor of the righteous, though it might be only one man who manifested himself really as that. He, too, was in a place where manifestly he had no call from God to justify his being in it. Righteous man he was, vexed with the evil behavior of the godless, and that from day to day, as in their midst he saw and heard what was taking place. But why was he there to vex his soul with it? Yet, after all, though in Sodom, he was not of Sodom, and the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation while keeping the unrighteous to the day of judgment under punishment. Even in that preliminary prison-house of the lost there must of necessity be the sense of God's anger abiding upon those shut up there, although the time of full and final apportionment has not come. The apostle emphasizes two things especially as noted among them — the outbreak of the flesh in its grossest character, and the setting aside of all authority. These two things, of course, necessarily go together; at least, the latter will accompany the former. Thus, then, had God manifested Himself able to destroy on the one hand, able to deliver on the other, and faithful on both sides to His nature and to His word.

{*In the three instances of sin and its judgment there seems to be a development of evil: in the angels, self-will and rebellion are prominent; in those judged at the flood, violence and lawlessness are present; while in Sodom and Gomorrah, it is the abominable corruption of the flesh. Thus departure from God is the beginning of a course of sin which is fully manifested in unutterable corruption. It will also be noticed that, while not in the final place of doom, the penalty and judgment inflicted in each case is irrevocable. — S.R.}

3. We have now the full manifestation of these ungodly ones of the last days. The same general character is seen in them, only ripened in the constant resistance to the longsuffering of God, which is salvation, and to the full light which has come in. This is, in fact, what makes the last days so evil: not that, if you look at the mere outward condition, you could always say that it is worse than what the world has been ever full of; but, as we have learnt in Paul's epistle to Timothy, the evil has wrought in the presence of the truth, to which, in the first place, it had seemed indeed to be in allegiance, and which, in fact, had more or less control. Thus there was a form of godliness while the power of it was denied. Here we have a similar thing, but with a fuller description, and therefore more loathsome as seen nearer at hand. They are "bold," "self-willed, they do not fear to rail at dignities," whereas angels, so much greater in might and power, did not bring railing accusation against them before the Lord.* But these are only as animals naturally, without the constraint of reason or the fear of God, having lost the capacity for communion with Him, and thus all that implied or necessitated continuance at all. They were but as beasts "born to be caught and destroyed," much lower therefore than the beast, for man cannot sink to them without sinking lower. These, therefore, railing about things of which they are ignorant, will perish in their own corruption. There is in sin a necessary element of destruction. It has no justification of its existence, no right to live, and the perpetual degradation downward tends necessarily to the same thing. Thus they receive the reward of unrighteousness, being such as count it pleasure to revel in the daytime, not in the night, as men do usually for shame. They have learnt to face the light and defy it. Thus they can take their place even with Christians, while mere spots and blemishes upon all the Christian name; reveling at last in their very deceivings at the superior wisdom with which they trick the more credulous souls around them, their very heart going out in their restless eyes, never ceasing from sin, having the heart practiced in ways of personal gain, following Balaam in his path of old, who loved the reward of unrighteousness and walked, with the very hand of God upon him, in the folly of his own self-seeking. Thus the dumb ass was used of God in fitting rebuke to him — a human voice, yet with a beast's nature; but the beast rebukes the man, as even beast nature does. These, then, are "springs without water," those to whom men look for something but find nothing of what they want — "obscuring mists," driven by the storm of their own passions, with divine judgment at the back, unto whom the gloom of darkness is reserved forever. Such is the description of those of whom God's warning voice would remind men during the time of His longsuffering endurance of them. None must think that He is deceived, or that the judgment which He predicts is a thing that may be slighted or trifled with.

{*Note the contrast here between the unfallen angels and Satan, and presumably all his hosts. He is the "accuser of the brethren." Man, alas, shows his kinship with this arch railer by doing what the mighty angels do not dare to do. — S.R.}

4. And now the effect of all this upon others is specially marked. "Speaking great swelling words of vanity, they allure with the lusts of the flesh those just escaping from those that live in error," men under a certain power of the truth, convicted in their own conscience, while, after all, the heart is not drawn to or satisfied with the things of God. Men are forced from evil by the conviction of judgment at hand, and this is the well-known character of so many apparent conversions under the chastening hand of God. They are, after all, driven, not drawn; and thus the lusts of the flesh still allure them. They would love to have the liberty which these men promise them, although, indeed, they are but themselves the mere slaves of corruption, least their own masters when they think most surely that they are that. But thus those who "have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" may be again entangled and overcome, men at heart halting between two opinions, although the truth has so far prevailed with them as to compel their separation from the very things that still invite them. We must note carefully here that those of whom the apostle has spoken in the first chapter are those who have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. This is the real Christian character. The heart is satisfied, and satisfied with Christ; and thus they have in them a principle of stability which those spoken of here have none of. They have escaped the pollutions of external things. They have never had their own inner malady healed. Thus, though it be the "knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" that has done this, they are but dogs that turn back to their forsaken vomit, and, like the washed sow, which one surely knows, spite of her washing, will go back to the mire she loves. It is plain, therefore, that the apostle is, in all this, not contemplating that which could be a possibility to any real Christian. They have reformed, as men say; they know the way of righteousness. They are convinced of that which the light has thus discovered to them; but that is all, and it is plain how in such a condition, when in spite of this they turn back to that which they have left, their last state has become worse than the first. Such, then, is the spreading character of this canker of evil, while at the same time we are made carefully to know how God, has provided for and shields His own.

Division 3. (2 Peter 3.)

The death and resurrection of the earth.

And now we come to what has been noticed as peculiar to Peter among the writers of these inspired epistles, although the apostle John will treat of it more in detail in the prophecy which closes the books of Scripture. We may expect from the apostle of the circumcision a reference to that which was already a promise in the Old Testament itself, and which has to do with the judgment, and yet the renovation, of that earth with which Israel's promises are always connected. The whole fashion of this world is to pass away. As the earth, as we know it now, has had already its baptism of water, so it is yet to have its baptism of fire. The scene of sin and corruption and death must itself be purged from all that reminds of this. And this, as we have already seen in Titus, lies beyond that which we have learnt to speak of as the millennial time of blessing, which is but, after all, "the regeneration," and not the perfect state, which alone satisfies God. Peter gives us, indeed, but a mere glimpse of this; and the description of the after-prophecy is little more than such a glimpse; yet there is that in it which has the deepest interest and instruction as to the ways of God, ways which are the necessary outcome of His own nature.

1. First of all here, the apostle once more brings before us the lawless ones of the last days, now, indeed, in another character, as infidel scoffers against all that threatens their own security in evil. In stirring up the minds of those he addresses, by putting them in remembrance of the words both of Israel's holy prophets and of the later commandment of the Lord and Saviour by the apostles, he would have them understand and note especially the coming of mockers in the last days, their infidelity taught them by the lusts they seek to gratify. These have an argument which is already, in certain quarters, beginning to show itself. They ask: "Where is the promise of His coming?" and they assert that all things continue, in fact, as they were from the beginning of the creation. It is the argument of "uniformity," only thoroughly carried out; and the judgment of God by the flood is ignored as men have of late been seeking to ignore it. What proof have we of the flood that can be derived from the great teacher, science? Science has, in fact, been giving its voice of late in correspondence with Scripture, but it is not welcome to those who desire no supernatural interference of God with the machinery of this world. This is hidden from them, says the apostle; really hidden, so that they may be sincere in it, and yet by the subtlety of their own wills, which so often deceive the keenest. The dependence of the heavens of old upon the word of God, how far is this to be admitted? The earth "subsisting out of water and in water" presents itself as readily in accordance with the fate of that old world overflowed with water. Did it, in fact, perish? or is there some partial flood or a tradition of many different ones that has been mistaken for this? Are there not races that came through it, after all? Are there not races that have no such tradition? Raise a question here, and it is enough. A question, as against Scripture, is always available. We will believe it, if we must, but we must show our readiness, at least, not to believe, if another theory may better approve itself. Let the record of the past be out of the way, and what need we fear as to any prophecy of a fiery judgment which these invalidated memoirs of an old time have preserved for us? It is by the same Word, and no other, that the heavens that are now and the earth have been stored up, reserved for fire against that which has its character as a day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. A moral character, as we see, attaches to these things, and will surely loose the tongues of immoral men against them. Yet conscience prophesies too of a judgment to come, a testimony which it costs men much to be able to silence; while the world, as we look at it, spite of all reforms and all outward embellishments of it, is not such that one can readily even believe in a holy God going on with it forever. An anger that vents itself in the destruction of the very material scene which everywhere bears witness of the evil that has defiled it, is, after all, not without its approval in the heart that knows God.

2. But what about this long waiting time, which, as we know, science would enormously protract, in which God has been going on with such a world as this? The apostle has a word to say about this. "Let this not be hidden from you, beloved," he says, "that one day, with the Lord, is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." In the presence of God's eternity we must not reckon things just as we are prone to do. After all, how can one compare all the length of time that might be granted, and the largest claim that could be made, with that immeasurable eternity which can furnish no proportion whatever to it? But there is another thing. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some account slackness." His slackness is but His longsuffering. He "wills not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." This is what is in His heart, His desire for men, however little they may respond to it. Yet that day of the Lord, so slow to come, will yet surely come, and come as a thief, stealing unwelcome upon men who put the thought of it willingly away from them, and thus invite deception. "But the day of the Lord will come,." "in which the heavens will pass away with a rushing noise, and the elements burning with heat shall be dissolved; the earth also, and the works in it, shall be burned up." We must not confound this with the coming of the Lord for His saints, nor even with His after-appearing with them, and the judgment which will take place upon the earth when He appears. We have, as we know in the after-revelation, the very interval measured which will be between this judgment of the living and the judgment of the dead before the great white throne; and it is in connection with this last, as Peter also speaks here, that the earth and its works will be burned up. We must realize the difference, too, between "the day of the Lord" and "the coming of the Lord," and must not wonder if "the day of the Lord" stretch over 1,000 years or more, if it do not reach on, indeed, to eternity. It is the day when the Lord will be once more manifestly supreme, and all opposition to Him be put down with a strong hand. Thus it may begin from the time of that appearing of the Lord itself, and so in its first beginning come as a thief, surprising the world; while, in the course of it further, the earth itself is subjected to His power and things are put into that condition, ready for the coming eternity which the reign of Christ as Man over the earth is ordained to bring about. Every enemy is to be put down, and death itself and Hades cast into the lake of fire; and then, at last, with no enemy or evil occurrent, "the day of the Lord" shall be peace, and nothing else but peace. Christ as "the Father of eternity" shall introduce the reign of peace forever.

3. We come now to the fulfilment of that promise for which we wait. If we are looking for things to be in this way dissolved, "what manner of persons ought we to be, in holy behaviour and godliness," waiting for and even hastening, with desire, the coming of that day of God when all this shall take place! Beyond it, according to His promise (we can have no evidence of it except that sure and blessed promise, that Word which we must learn to trust here or we shall be beggared forever), there remains for us the cheer of new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. This is manifestly a reference to Isaiah's word: "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered nor come into mind." It is but a glance, for the prophets of the Old Testament, apart from this, never seem to go beyond that kingdom which we, indeed, have learned to call "millennial," as having its limits defined for us in this way. For Israel, there was no such necessary limitation; there was a bright scene before them upon which their eyes should rest, assured that whatever might be beyond could only be additional blessing; and the prophet here goes on immediately to speak of God's creating "Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy," in terms which very plainly imply the presence of sin, and therefore not an earth upon which dwelleth righteousness, not characterized by that. But we must not on that account lose sight of the distinct character of that which the apostle here, with divine insight, brings forward as what was to be really final — an absolutely "new heavens and new earth." We have one more reference to it in Isaiah, and that is where the Lord promises that as the new heavens and the new earth which He will make shall remain before Him, so Israel's seed and their name shall remain. This is naturally taken by many to imply that therefore the new earth itself only speaks here of a temporary, that is, of the millennial condition. If so, it is plainly contrary to what Peter gives us of it here, for it is plain that the dissolution of the heavens and earth that are now is in order to the bringing in of a perfect condition which is to follow it. The picture that we have in the book of Revelation is in complete accordance with this. We have only the alternative, therefore, that this is an absolute promise of God that not only the blessed of Him in Israel shall remain amongst those blessed forever (which, of course, will be true), but that their very seed and name would remain. Here then, of course, is the assertion that Israel has not merely a temporary place as a special people of His upon the earth, but that it will have such a place forever.

But this will involve a difficulty for many. It has often been dwelt upon that when, in the new earth, "the tabernacle of God shall be with men and He will dwell with them," nations shall have disappeared, with all the distinctions incident to this. It is now henceforth only God and men. Can we, however, press this so far? Exactly the same thing has been thought with regard to the company of the redeemed in heaven, as we know. It has been thought and contended that they are all one company. Spite of the distinctions that we see in such a passage as that in the twelfth of Hebrews, where "the spirits of just men made perfect" (clearly by resurrection) are distinguished from "the assembly of the first-born ones whose names are written in heaven," it is so generally considered that the Church, which is Christ's body, is that which has continued through all generations, and which embraces in it all that have ever believed from the beginning, that to speak of any such distinction as is implied here has been thought unwarrantable. Yet very many now have learned to think otherwise, and the passage itself which speaks of "the assembly of first-born ones" must necessarily imply some after-born, who are, therefore, not of this assembly. It may be said, perhaps, that these are millennial saints. Even so, there is a distinction admitted amongst the redeemed. But it may be questioned whether the first-born are that in time, or in place, rather. Israel has been, as we know, God's first-born upon the earth, and these "first-born ones registered in heaven" are plainly in opposition to the "first-born ones written upon earth." When God says of Christ even, prophetically, "I will make Him My first-born, higher than the kings of the earth," it is plainly prerogative and dignity that are in question, rather than time. Again, among the angels, although they are in this passage in Hebrews spoken of as "the universal gathering," yet we are accustomed to recognize distinctions — authorities, principalities and powers, whatever may be implied in these. The distinction between earthly and heavenly saints must abide. If there be a new earth for those upon earth, the heavenly saints have not their portion there. Thus there is no antecedent argument against Israel's name remaining forever in connection with the new earth. The redeemed will be all redeemed. The children of God will all be children; but if it please God that all that He has wrought in Israel should be preserved in this way, as a memorial forever, what is there to stumble any in such a thing? In any case, if the "new heavens and the new earth" mean just what the apostle is speaking of here, then it is positively declared by the prophet that Israel's seed and name shall remain as long as these do. We have no reason whatever to say that the new heavens and the new earth are millennial, simply. To what other promise can Peter refer here than that in Isaiah? There is no other; and the apostle gives this distinctly, not as a new revelation, but as the fulfilment of God's word of old. Thus we have no alternative, surely, but to take it as it stands. Distance on the part of any from God will indeed be over. Those words of revelation, "The tabernacle of God shall be with men, and He will dwell with them," are assurance that now, what has always been in God's heart, what we have seen as revealed in Christ Himself among men,Immanuel, — will be at last fully effectuated. There will be no distance anywhere; but that does not imply that there will be no differences, which, if it be maintained, must be insisted on in the fullest manner — no difference between the Church and Old Testament saints; no difference between the heavenly saints and the earthly; and this would naturally end in what is the thought of many, that the new earth will be the final abode of all these, and that the New Jerusalem itself, therefore, must lose finally its distinctly heavenly character. Scripture surely does not lead to this, nor justify it. The blessing of all will be perfect, but there will be distinct circles of blessing, none the less.

Just a word as to the expression itself, "new heavens and a new earth." The heavens here are simply the heavens of the earth itself, that is to say, all that is connected with the firmament of the second day. The heavens have too manifestly to do with the earth to be omitted in any description of the final change. The heavens rule the earth, and thus are naturally changed in order to the new condition of things upon it. As we find them connected in the creative account in Genesis, so we find them connected again here at the close. The new earth, let us remember, is new in the same sense that the man in Christ is a new man — not a new individual. It is the same person who was the sinner and is now the saint, but there is a new condition altogether. The millennium, as we have seen in Titus, is the regeneration of the earth; but that is not the prelude to its mere destruction. On the contrary, it is the first step towards abiding blessing and the change of the heavens and the earth; for the coming in of that which is new is as the change upon the body for the saint, when the body itself may be dissolved and everything seem to pass away, the very elements of it dispersed in every direction; and yet there is a resurrection of the dead. The great condition of blessing is announced. Righteousness must be the basis of all, and abiding righteousness upon the new earth means abiding blessing.* Whose heart that has known what it is to "hunger and thirst after righteousness" but must look with expectation for that time? "Wherefore," says the apostle, "seeing that ye wait for these things, be diligent to be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless." How unsuitable for the looking for this condition of perfect righteousness would be the least laxity with regard to it now!

{*We have three distinct relationships of righteousness in connection with three ages. During the present age, it is the basis upon which grace reigns — "Even so might grace reign through righteousness" (Rom. 5:21). In the cross and the resurrection of our Lord, God's righteousness has been manifested and vindicated, and a divine basis laid upon which grace may reign. During the Millennium, righteousness will reign (Isa. 32:1). No longer will forbearance wait upon the ungodly, but swift and sure retribution will fall upon the disobedient. During the eternal age there will be no need for the repression of evil, for there will be no evil, save in the eternal prison house of Satan and the lost. But righteousness will dwell, have its house, in the new heavens and new earth. — S.R.}

4. But the apostle closes still with the word of warning. We are to account, as he reminds us again, that the longsuffering of the Lord is salvation. That is His meaning in it. It is not tolerance of evil in any wise, and we must not use it as an argument for any tolerance on our part of what is contrary to Him. The fruit of this longsuffering we are, every one of us: therefore we may well rejoice in it. And Peter has here a tender reference to that beloved brother, Paul, to whom the gospel of salvation was in an eminent way committed. It is the only passage, perhaps, in the New Testament in which we find the commendation of one inspired apostle by another. How suited here, where there had been, as we know, for a moment an apparent breach, which men have worked, after their manner, into a strife between two contradictory systems — Christian both, and which had finally, by some way of compromise, to be brought together and welded into one. Peter's words here are surely intended in divine wisdom to meet any such thought, and the very letter to the Hebrews is what Peter refers to in this case. "According to the wisdom given unto him," he says, he "hath written unto you." Yet here, above all, were, as we know, some of those things hard to be understood which would be found especially by Jews, more or less, in all his epistles. That does not, in Peter's eyes, evidently, diminish the wisdom of them. There are those who wrest them to their own destruction, but they have to wrest them in order to this, and those who do so are the untaught and ill established — the people who, therefore, have not bent their hearts really to the establishing truth, and have not submitted their souls to the discipline of it. Destruction could not come otherwise to any from the blessed Scriptures, the witnesses of the fulness of God's love for men; yet even those truly His might need the admonition. God works in this way, by His admonitions; and the apostle bids them, knowing these things before, to beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, they fall from their own steadfastness. He returns in his last words here, to that with which he had begun the epistle. If they would not fall or be carried away, they must "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." They must learn more and more the grace expressed in Christ; for growth in grace is surely, on the other side of it, but growth in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour. In that knowledge he has told us at the beginning, all things are found that pertain to life and godliness. "To Him," therefore, "be glory, both now and forever."*

{*Most have noticed the marked similarity between the second chapter of second Peter and the Epistle of Jude. Unbelief would put a slight upon inspiration, claiming that one was but the copy of the other. Faith, however, sees only perfection in the word of God, and where there are difficulties, looks for special reasons for them. Most likely, one of the writers may have had the words of the other before him, and in speaking of the same state, would be led by the Spirit of God to use the same illustrations. But the differences between the two portions are also clearly marked. — S.R.}