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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 74 - 2 Peter 3:9 - The Sincerity of the Divine Long Suffering Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




The Sincerity Of The Divine Long Suffering.


"The Lord is long suffering to us ward not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."-2 Peter 3:9.



     Holy Scripture, once and again, makes statements which man calls contradictory to each other; nor does it seem to take any pains to reconcile them,-moving on in consciousness of integrity, knowing that the things are quite reconcilable, and that the day is coming when they will reconcile and vindicate themselves. Let us imitate Scripture in this procedure, and not be too anxious about the clearing up of difficulties, lest we involve ourselves in yet greater difficulties. Let us leave the solution in God's hands against the great day, assuring ourselves that all truth, at least all revealed truth, is twofold, and has two sides, and that one of the marks of its inspiration is this very two-sidedness to which these apparent contradictions may be traced.

     We find in Scripture God's eternal purpose, His infinite supremacy or sovereignty, His electing grace, the substitution of Christ for His Church; and we also find the largest utterances of sincere and earnest compassion to the sons of men. 'As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;' 'How shall I give thee up?'  'Whosoever will;' 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.' And we have Christ weeping over Jerusalem in her impenitency; and Paul's words, 'Who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth;' and Peter's words, 'Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.' Let us take all these words on both sides as we find them. Our chance of error lies not in taking the words simply and literally, but in trying to dilute or explain away either one set or the other.

     Let us hear, then, what the apostle has to tell us of God. He has tasted that the Lord is gracious; that His tender mercies are over all His works; that His mercy endureth forever; and he speaks of Him as one whose pardoning love he knew. The long delay of judgment was not weakness, nor vacillation, nor forgetfulness; it was compassion,-profound and unutterable compassion to this sad world of lost humanity. It was 'longsuffering,'-longsuffering to an extent which we can neither comprehend nor measure; longsuffering that has outlived provocation, and hatred, and dishonour, and contempt, showing itself daily by words and deeds which have but one meaning,-deep concern for the welfare of our unhappy race,-the concern of one 'not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.' We may take the words under these two heads: (1) The longsuffering; (2) The longing.

     I. The longsuffering.-This divine longsuffering beareth all things, hopeth all things, never faileth. There is no amount of provocation that it does not patiently endure: the provocation of years, in the case of individuals; the provocation of ages and nations, in the case of our world. It bears with human guilt to the uttermost; human crime in all its variety and enormity; human rebellion, in all its stout-heartedness and deliberate rejection of Christ; it bears with all this, and with infinitely more than we can conceive or describe. It is not wearied out with so many sins and so many sinners; but calmly sits, in its unruffled and unwearied tenderness, unprovoked and unmoved, yearning, or, it may be, weeping, over a world of sinners. This longsuffering, or tender pity to the lost, is not forgetfulness, or slackness in promise, or indifference to sin, or weakness, or relaxation of law, or good-natured connivance at evil. It remembers alike threatenings and promises, it does not trifle with sin; yet it is compassion of the truest and tenderest kind. It sees the unworthiness of the object, yet loves in spite of all. It spares instead of smiting; it entreats instead of denouncing; it allows not any amount of transgression to damp its interest in the poor, sad object of its pity. Oh, what a depth of tender, gracious meaning is there in that word 'longsuffering!' And what sinner is there on this earth that, in the day of his despair and wretchedness, may not betake himself to it, and, like the prodigal, throw himself into his Father's arms?

     Let us note some of the reasons for this longsuffering on the part of God. Apart from His own infinitely gracious nature, there are such considerations as the following:-

     (1.) The preciousness of the soul.-He made it, and He made it precious, the most precious of His handiworks. It is priceless.

     (2.) The capacity of the soul for joy and sorrow.-It is a vessel of vast dimensions, and it must be filled. It must be either sorrowful or joyful.

     (3.) The eternity of the soul.-It must live for ever. It cannot be extinguished or annihilated. Eternity is its portion. It cannot die. In joy or in sorrow it must live forever.

     (4.) The glory of heaven.-It is His own heaven, His own kingdom; and He knows its blessedness, and perfection, and joy. He knows what it will be to lose such a heaven, and to lose it forever. Therefore He is longsuffering,-He would fain not shut us out of such glory.

     (5.) The woe of hell.-He knows the sorrow, the endless, hopeless sorrow of the lost; He can realize it to the full and He knows what it must be to be the endurer of such a weight of woe for ever. Therefore He is longsuffering,-He postpones the judgment as long as possible.

     All these things God takes fully into account in dealing with the wretched sinner. Therefore He bears long with him. Oh the days, and months, and years of longsuffering towards our world on the part of the loving God! He is in earnest with this sad world of ours.

     II. The longing.-He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Let no one say, 'Why, then, does He not save, seeing He is almighty?' Who art thou that repliest against God? Whether we can reconcile the apparent contradiction or not, it is true that He has no pleasure in the sinner's death, nay, longs for his return. This longing is sincere and deep. No parent's yearnings over a prodigal child were ever more honest and true. 'How shall I give thee up?' is one of the sincerest as well as the most touching of divine utterances. God means what He says, and He speaks only what He feels. Christ's tears over Jerusalem were as true as they were tender; and His heart still yearns with the same unutterable compassion over our sad and impenitent world. He stretches out His hands to the sinner; He beseeches him to turn and live; He pleads with him to accept His pardon and His love.