And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:
When we think of the prevalence of idolatry and superstition we are apt to ask, Where is the wisdom, justice, or mercy of suffering whole nations for centuries and millennia to know not the worship of the true God? But all such questions are silenced in the text. God will not call the men who lived in them to such a reckoning as He will call us: they had not the revelation you now have. But though "the times of this ignorance God winked at; He now commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
I. WHAT GOD COMMANDS. All men "everywhere to repent," now. He addresses idolaters that they should abandon their false gods and become worshippers of the true God. You and I have not to repent in that sense: our forefathers had. But now there is not an altar of Druidical worship to be found. Yet idolatry may exist in the heart notwithstanding. Now, the radical meaning of repentance is change.
1. Of mind.
(1) As to God. As to the law of God.
(2) As to sin.
(3) As to Christ.Some persons accuse preachers of disturbing the minds of our hearers. But we do not bring the things there that are discovered — it is the light that reveals them.
2. Of disposition consequent upon a change of view. That which before was hated is now loved — the Bible, the Saviour, religion.
3. A change of conduct, for if the mind and disposition are changed, the behaviour is changed. Hence the Baptist, when he preached to the people in the wilderness, told them to "bring forth fruits meet for repentance." God, then, commandeth men to repent. He commandeth all men — the poor and the rich — kings and their subjects — the young, the middle-aged, and the old.
II. THE REASON THE COMMAND IS GIVEN.
1. The certainty of a day of judgment is taught by —
(1) Reason. We observe the conduct of men around us: we sometimes see that the virtuous are rewarded; but we often see the reverse of that, and if we believe in the Divine government we must suppose there is some state after this in which all these discrepancies will be adjusted.
(3) The general belief of the Church of God in all ages.
(4) The Word of God.
2. The period "appointed." The time is fixed; nothing can postpone it or antedate it. A day is a measured period — so long, and no longer. We know not how long this day will be: "One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." There will be time enough for a determinate examination of every individual to be judged. The actual arrival of this day is unknown to us. This is wise. The wicked, who presume as it is, would then presume much more; the good would then, in all probability, relax in their zeal and assiduity and painstaking. "Watch, therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh." In one sense, the day of our death will be a sort of rehearsal of the judgment. But the last day is distant, and will take place at the end of the world. If every man were to be judged on his committing a single act of sin, it would throw everything into confusion, and society would be disturbed. All nations of men have certain fixed days — assize days — in which the majesty of law and order are vindicated. It is so in the government of God.
3. The Person who is to preside over the solemnities of that day. The sinner cannot object, because the Man Christ Jesus died to save him; and if He condemns him, he must, indeed, deserve to be condemned. The saint cannot object to that, because he has actually obtained his fellowship with Christ on earth; and, therefore, he sees in the Person of the Judge, his Brother, his Friend, his Redeemer. That is the occasion on which the human nature of Christ will be exalted; that is one part of the reward which the Father will give to the Son for His mediatorial acts. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." Whoever presides over the solemnities of the judgment day must be omniscient; He must be capable of estimating the motives and principles which actuate us; He must be a person of perfect equity and absolute perfection; He must, in short, be God. Therefore, the human nature that must sit on the throne of judgment will be the human nature in connection with one of the persons of the Godhead.
4. The process — "in righteousness." There will be —
(1) Scrutiny. Those eyes that are like a flame — those eyes that see into all the depths of the human heart will scrutinise every individual character. Oh, what an unfolding of history, character, and conduct.
(2) Separation — the good from the bad. And the separation will be so complete that not one sinner will be found in the congregation of the righteous, nor one righteous in the congregation of the wicked.
(3) Decision. The sentence upon the righteous shall be, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." This intimates to you the vastness of our future felicity. But then the other sentence is equally strong, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." It is a solemn fact that the sentence which will determine our fate for ever and ever is not unknown; we know it beforehand.Conclusion: We learn a lesson of —
1. Confirmation of our faith.
2. Self-examination. Are we prepared for this process.
(J. Beaumont, M. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: