Charles Simeon (1759-1836) on 2 Peter 3:9

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 2 Peter 3:9



2 Pet. iii. 8, 9. 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.

THE compassion of Almighty God has in all ages been abused by ungodly men, and made an occasion of impenitence and persevering wickedness. In the minds of many it has been made a source of triumph against God, as though he were not able or willing to vindicate the honor of his law. Just as our blessed Lord s condescension in noticing an abandoned, but penitent, woman was made by his enemies a reason for doubting whether he was a prophet–since, if he had been really inspired of God, he must have known how unworthy she was of such an honor; so the forbearance of God with an ungodly world has given occasion to “scoffers to say, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” But such persons forget, that, how ever long God may have borne with the wickedness of men, he has given at the deluge a very awful testimony of his determination to punish it. And, though he now bears with sinners, he reserves the earth for a similar display of his vengeance by fire; and will surely, in due season, execute his threatenings against sin and sinners. In the mean time, how ever, he waits to be gracious to returning penitents, and will gladly lay aside his anger the very instant that they come to him in his appointed way.

The words which I have now read will naturally lead me to show,

I. In what light God s delay of his final judgment should be viewed–

God forbears to punish sinners, because he desires to save them–

[Scoffers, indeed, impute it to weakness or indifference; and take occasion from it to cast reflections on God himself, as either riot seeing, or not regarding, the wickedness of men: since, if he did see it, and did regard it as he professes to do, it would not be possible for him to pass it over from year to year in the way he does. But such persons forget, that time, which to us appears long, has, in fact, no existence before God. All things past, present, and future, are alike present with him, and form in his mind but a single point: “One day is with him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Men are afraid to suspend the exercise of their displeasure for a number of years, lest they should be considered as acting from policy, or a sense of weakness and fear. But with God there is no scope for any such views or feelings. He is able to punish whensoever he will: nor is it possible for any to escape from his hands. He, however, is averse to proceed to extremities, till he has used every possible method to re claim sinners, and to open a way for the exercise of his mercy towards them. “He is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness.” He is kept back, not by any conscious weakness, or by indifference, or by fear, or by any other motive which may be supposed to influence us: he is restrained by long-suffering alone, and by a desire to spare those who have deserved punishment.]

He desires to save every child of man–

[“He is not willing that any should perish:” no; he would not that so much as one should ever become a monument of his indignation. This he affirms in the strongest manner; yea, and confirms his assertion with an oath: “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live;”1 It is surprising, that any, after such a declaration as this, should maintain the doctrine of absolute reprobation. Were that, or any other doctrine, clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures, I should feel it my duty to receive it with the simplicity of a little child: but to receive it merely as a deduction of human reason, an inference drawn by weak and fallible man from the doctrine of election, when the whole Scriptures uniformly declare the very reverse, is, to say the least, very dangerous, arid exceeding sinful. I know it is said of ungodly men, by St. Jude, that “they were of old ordained to this condemnation.”2 I know, also, that St. Peter says of many, that they “stumbled at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed.”3 But it is not of individuals that these Apostles speak, but of characters. God has ordained, that they who will not receive the truth with humility shall stumble at it; and that they who will resist the faith which he has delivered to his saints, shall be left to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and to deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is a wise and righteous appointment. But it is a far different thing from creating any with a fixed determination to consign them over to perdition, purely of his own arbitrary will, without any fault of theirs. Such an idea as this is directly contradicted by the assertion in my text: and by the oath which I have before mentioned; and by numberless other portions of Scripture, which can admit of no doubt. Our blessed Lord said to his hearers, “Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life”4 and to the Jews, even after they were given up to the judgments they had merited, he said, “O that thou had known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.”5 And again: “How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but ye would not.”67 The whole Scripture attests, that “God would rather that all should come to repentance and live.” He “commands all men everywhere to repent.”8 He exhorts them to it also; saying, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel,”9 and he declares to all, without exception, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.”10 Now shall we, in deference to human systems, set aside all these passages of holy writ? God forbid: we dare not do so: and if we cannot mark out the precise boundaries where truths of an opposite aspect meet, we are contented to say, “What I know not now, I shall know hereafter.” If we choose to speculate on divine truths, we may soon get out of our depth: but if we will practically apply them to our own souls, we shall find them as clear as we can wish. Where is the man who has not experienced more or less the strivings of God s Spirit in his soul?11 Who amongst us has not a consciousness that he has resisted those strivings;12 and that, if he had made a due improvement of them, “God would have given him more grace?”13 The truth, then, is plain: if God forbear to execute upon the world the judgments we deserve, it is not because he is indifferent about our proceedings, but because he is long-suffering towards us, and desirous, if we would improve the opportunity, to save us all. This is the true reason why “he endures, with such astonishing forbearance, the vessels of wrath who are fitted for destruction.14]

Having seen the long-suffering of God towards this sinful world, let us consider,

II. What improvement we should make of it–

From a sense of it, we should be led,

1. To acknowledge our obligations to him–

[Who amongst us has not reason to acknowledge the long-suffering of God towards him? Who is not a sinner before God? Who has not merited his wrathful indignation? Who might not, on ten thousand occasions, have justly been cut off, and made a monument of God s righteous displeasure?

—Let us not, then, impute his forbearance to any in difference in him respecting us, but to its true source, his tender compassion, and unbounded mercy—]

2. To humble ourselves before him [“Because judgment against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of too many are fully set in them to do evil.”15 But let it not be so with us. St. Paul tells us, that the true intent of “God s patience and long-suffering is, to lead us to repentance.”16 Let it operate upon us in this manner; and let us humble ourselves before him in dust and ashes.]

3. To justify him in his judgments

[Whatever men may urge against the denunciations of God s wrath, we are sure he will be justified in every sentence which he shall pass, and be just in every judgment which he shall inflict.17 The man who had not on the wedding-garment was speechless, when called to an account for his neglect. He might have said, “Lord, I was called suddenly, and compelled to come in,” and had not time to procure the requisite apparel. But there was no room for any such excuse. The Master of the feast would have provided him with the garment; but he would not deign to ask for it. Therefore, when cast into outer darkness, he had not a word to say in vindication of himself, or to criminate his Lord. And so, when sentence shall be past on those who despise the forbearance of their God, the whole host of heaven will cry, “Righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”]

4. To improve the time that may be yet allotted to us [God is now “giving us space to repent.” But how soon his patience may come to an end, we know not. We see persons taken away at every period of life18–Let not another day pass unimproved but “today, whilst it is called to-day, turn unto the Lord, and seek him with your whole hearts.”]

Charles Simeon, ‘Horæ Homileticæ,” in The Entire Works of the Rev. Charles Simeon (London: Printed by Richard Clay, Bread-Street-Hill, 1833), 20:344-348. [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; footnote values modernized; footnotes original; italics original; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1) by “absolute reprobation,” I read Simeon as referring to equal ultimacy reprobation, where election and reprobation are seen as symmetrical decrees of God. For clarification on this, the denial of symmetrical election and reprobation, see the Election and Reprobation index. 2) By individuals versus characters, I read Simeon along the same lines, in that he means to deny that God reprobates individuals, abstracted from sin and demerit (as supralapsarianism entails), and not as sinners, fallen, and deserving of condemnation. Again see the Election and Reprobation index.]


1Ezek. xxxiii. 11.

2Jude, ver. 4.

31 Pet. ii. 8.

4John v. 40.

5Luke xix. 42.

6Matt, xxiii. 37.

7Jude, ver. 4.

8Acts xvii. 30.

9Ezek. xxxiii. 11.

10John vi. 37.

11Gen. vi. 3.

12Acts vii. 51.

13Jam. iv. 6.

14Rom. ix. 22.

15Eccl. viii. 11.

16Rom. ii. 4.

17Ps. li. 4.

18If this be a Funeral Sermon, any particulars may be mentioned here.

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