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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Peter 2

 

 

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Verse 1

2 Peter 2:1. But there were false prophets The false apostles, prophets, and teachers among the Christians, gave rise to the sects of the Ebionites, Cerinthians, Nicolaitans, Carpocratians, and Gnostics, of whom the primitive fathers have said so many dreadful things. They were not only exceedingly corrupt and vicious themselves, but great corrupters of others: they now began to shew themselves; but afterwards waxed worse and worse. Their character is drawn in this chapter in very livelycolours, and it was highly proper to guard the Christians against such pernicious men. As their heresies were foretold, such a disagreeable event would be the accomplishment of a prophesy, and thereby become an evidence of the truth of the apostolic doctrine. The clause who privily shall bring in, &c. may be rendered, who will privately or subtily introduce destructive heretics. The word Δεσποτην, rendered Lord, signifies a sovereign, or arbitrary monarch, and consequently, applied to Jesus Christ, is a high testimony of his Divinity. See Jude, 2 Peter 2:4. Observe, these wicked men brought perdition upon themselves; it was not God who did it by his eternal and unconditional decrees, or by withholding effectual grace, or by making impossible conditions of acceptance:—no: it was their own fault alone; by their vices they brought upon themselves swift destruction. Again, from the text it appears, that those may perish, whom the Lord hath bought, or for whom Christ hath died. See Matthew 13:21. Romans 14:15. 1 Corinthians 8:11. In this and the two following verses it would be better to read will than shall, where that word occurs; as the original will full as well bear to be translated will as shall.


Verse 2

2 Peter 2:2. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, &c.— The absurd doctrines and wicked practices of professed Christians have done infinite harm, and often caused the enemies of religion to blaspheme. The Judaizers much infested the first Christians, and perverted many in the Churches of Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, and Crete. The Nicolaitans, Carpocratians, and Gnostics succeeded them, being exceedinglyimpious in their principles, and obscene in their lives; and they occasioned great scandal to the Christian name. As the Jews and Heathens took little pains to distinguish between Christians who did or did not live according to the rules of the gospel, hence mankind were imposed upon, and both the populace and governors greatly incensed against them. The church of Rome has succeeded them, and caused Jews and all manner of Infidels to speak evil of Christianity. It was highly proper that the apostles should forewarn the Christians of this event, that they might not give heed to licentious doctrines, nor be shocked when such things happened; but be the more confirmed in the faith, when the accomplishment so exactly answered to the prediction.


Verse 3

2 Peter 2:3. With feigned words, &c.— The phrase, πλαστοις λογοις, means, words formed to deceive; smooth and artful speeches, such as covetous merchants or unfair traders make use of, to put off bad goods. "They will make merchandize of you; use you like cattle or slaves brought to market to be sold." Judas sold his Master for what the Jews would give him: false teachers sell their doctrine for what they can get by it; so did the Gnostics, &c. in the first ages; so have all false teachers done in all ages. But, above all, the church of Rome, with the smooth and plausible words of unity, uniformity, a catholic church, universality, antiquity, and the like, has traded in all kinds of merchandise; and, among other things, in the souls ofmen: hence they are called the merchants of the earth: Revelation 18:11; Revelation 18:24. The character of the Bishops of Rome has answered much more exactly to this prediction of St. Peter, than to that character which they have assumed of the successor's of St. Peter, and the vicars of Christ upon earth. Whose judgment now of a long time, is rendered much better by Heylin; But their condemnation long since resolved or threatened. In Jude, 2 Peter 2:4 they are spoken of as persons who had been described of old as liable to, or deserving this condemnation: see Deuteronomy 32:35. Mr. Blackwall observes, that the latter part of this verse contains a most beautiful figure, representing the vengeance which shall destroy such incorrigible sinners, as an angel of judgment pursuing them upon the wing; continually approaching nearer and nearer, and, in the mean time, keeping a watchful eye upon them that he may at length discharge an unerring blow.


Verse 4

2 Peter 2:4. For if God spared not the angels Some think the sense is suspended till we come to 2 Peter 2:9 and the reddition to be looked for there; that is, If God spared not the angels who sinned, &c. the Lord also knoweth how to deliver the godly, &c. This may possibly be the connection; or, if the words ει γαρ are taken affirmatively for since—inasmuch as—there will be no occasion for a reddition afterwards. From this verse to the end of 2 Peter 2:8 are contained three remarkable instances of divine judgments formerly inflicted upon transgressors; which are mentioned by the apostle here in confirmation of what he denounces against those heretics who then infested the Christian churches. The literal translation of the latter clause of this verse is; But confining them in Tartarus, in chains of darkness, he hath delivered them to be reserved unto judgment. The word Ταρταρουν, in St. Peter, is the same as Ριπτειν ες Ταρταρον, to throw into Tartarus, used by Homer; only rectifying the poet's mistake of Tartarus being in the bowels of the earth; and recurring to the true sense of the word, namely, the thick darkness that bounds this created system; which, when applied to spirits, must be interpreted spiritually. And thus the word ταρταρωσας will import, that God cast the apostate angels out of his presence into that blackness of darkness, (Jude 1:13.) where they will be for ever excluded from the glorious light of his countenance. See Parkhurst on the word Ταρταροω .


Verse 5

2 Peter 2:5. Spared not the old world, This is put by a metonymy for the persons who lived before the flood, and perished in it; by way of opposition to the new world, or to mankind restored after that spreading desolation. Bishop Pearson would render the next clause, Noah, the eighth preacher of righteousness, but it seems very difficult, if not impossible, to make out that Noah was the eighth preacher. The Bishop adds, that if we are not disposed so to translate, it may be understood as denoting, not the order in which Noah was ranked, but merely the number of persons who were with him: Noah, with seven others; or Noah, one of the eight. And as this is true, so the calling him theeighth, in this sense, may be illustrated by authorities taken from several Greek writers. Heylin reads it, and preserved only eight persons, whereof the principal was Noah. God made more account of one righteous family, than of a whole generation of wicked persons. How could the false teachers and their wicked disciples hope to escape, when neither strength nor multitudes could defend the ungodly of former ages?—Or what need was there for the faithful to be terrified, when they were under the protection of that God, who had formerly delivered the righteous, how weak or few soever?


Verse 6

2 Peter 2:6. And turning the cities, &c.— Strabo says, that all the ground thereabouts, was τεφρωδη, reduced to ashes or cinders. Condemned is here put for punishment, which commonly follows condemnation, and is no more than a carrying of the sentence into execution. Some read this, condemned them to a total destruction. Doddridge renders the verse, And he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with destruction, reducing them to ashes, &c.


Verse 7

2 Peter 2:7. And delivered just Lot And rescued righteous Lot, &c.


Verse 8

2 Peter 2:8. Vexed his righteous soul The word ' Εβασανιζεν signifies the torment of the rack. It is here used as a strong figure whereby to express the unspeakable grief and anguish of mind of the righteous, at the overspreading wickedness of the times and places where they live; especially the debauchery of bad men, their open profaneness, and their rage against the just. Grotius takes notice, that after Lot parted from Abraham, he lived sixteen years in Sodom;—a long time to abide in the most outrageously wicked city in the world, and not be tainted with their vices.


Verse 9

2 Peter 2:9. The Lord knoweth how to deliver, &c.— We have already taken notice, that some have thought the sense is suspended from 2 Peter 2:4 to this verse. This then would be the connection, "If God spared not the angels that sinned,—nor the old world, nor the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; and if, on the other hand, he saved the holy angels, and also Noah and Lot who were righteous men; then the Lord knoweth how to deliver, &c." Dr. Heylin, beginning each of the verses foregoing with Since—Since God did not spare, begins the present verse: It appears from these instances, that the Lord will deliver, &c. From the distinction which God hath already made in many cases between the righteous and the wicked, the apostle infers a righteous judgment to come, or a state of universal and exact retribution.


Verse 10

2 Peter 2:10. But chiefly them that walk after the flesh The Lord knoweth how to keep all the wicked unto the day of judgment, to be then punished: but (though none oftheunrighteousshallescapeunpunished,)he will more especially punish those who are debauched, &c. In 2 Peter 2:1 the prophesy is mentioned concerning the rise of false teachers in the Christian church: that prophesyhad been delivered some time before by our Lord and his apostles. See chap. 2 Peter 3:2-3. Matthew 24:24. Now from this and the following verses it appears, that some of these false teachers began to rise up and fulfil the prophesy;for here is a description of persons who now existed. What is here called flesh, is by St. Jude, 2 Peter 2:7 called other, or strange flesh: by which may be meant all the foul and unnatural crimes of uncleanness. It appears abundantly from Josephus and other writers, that the Jews despised dominion, and spoke evil of all the dignities or magistrates, but those of their own nation; — notions which the Judaizing teachers were very apt to infuse. From which it seems most probable, that the word κυριοτητος, both here, and in Jude 1:8 is used in its proper sense for dominion or government; and that the word Δοξας, which follows, is by a metonymy put for the persons, as it is in other places. So that the meaning seems to be, "They despised dominion or government, as thinking themselves in all, respects sui juris, or not subject thereto, but at liberty to indulge their vicious appetites: as a consequence of which, they speak evil of magistrates, who restrain them by laws, which threaten to punish such immoralities as break in upon civil order. Whereas the good angels pay a regard to the divine order and regulation appointed among themselves, and use no indecent expressions towards the evil angels; not even when they see reason to oppose them." So that what is here said of the angels, is spoken by way of comparison, and brought in only for illustration.


Verse 11

2 Peter 2:11. Whereas angels It is a rule of interpretation, that the plainer and larger account of any thing should be taken, to explain that which is more brief and obscure. Accordingly, Jude, 2 Peter 2:9 ought to be consulted in order to interpret this text. For, havingcondemnedsomewhopretendedto be Christians, for despising dominion, and railing against dignities, as St. Peter does in the preceding verse, he adds, Whereas, when Michael the archangel, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he dared not to bring against him a railing accusation; but said, The Lord rebuke thee: and as what follows in Jude agrees with what follows here, 2 Peter 2:12 there can be no doubt of their treating of the same thing. This therefore seems to be the connection: "If the holy angels, who are greater in strength and power than the fallen angels, dare not allow themselvesto rail against them, when they justly reprove and condemn their wicked actions, but behave with the greatest modesty and decency; how unjust is it, that men, who are possessed of no power or authority, should allow themselves such a liberty of railing against princes and magistrates, who are exalted to power and dignity, and are the ministers of God set over men for the common good?"—See Jude 1:9.


Verse 12

2 Peter 2:12. But these, as natural brute beasts, But these, as animals, by nature void of reason, born for capture and destruction, railing against things in which they are ignorant, shall be utterly corrupted [or perish] in their own corruption. Benson. Dr. Whitby would render it, But these are as animals void of reason, &c. Indeed it is evident, that it must be explained as a general assertion relating to some violence of temper; as no sin of the tongue (which is immediately afterwards spoken of) could be the resemblance of a brute. It may refer to their running headlong into extremedanger,towhich their licentious manner of speech, especially when attacking the characters of governors, might very naturally expose them. See Jude, 2 Peter 2:10. The word φθοραν, corruption, is twice used in this verse: in the first place, for a natural corruption, or destruction: in the last for moral corruption, or vice. Their moral corruption, if persisted in, would bring on their natural corruption; or, in other words, vice would lead them to misery and ruin, They were like brute animals in being governed by sense and appetite; and, like them, they would fall into a snare. They were like brutes, and were, in respect to the present life, to perish like brutes.


Verse 13

2 Peter 2:13. As they that count it pleasure to riot, &c.— Some understand St. Peter as intimating, that they lived in riot and luxury every day. Others suppose the meaning to be, that they took pleasure in that riot, which "endureth only for a day, or for a short season." The apostle seems to allude to the proverbial saying, 1 Thessalonians 5:7. They that are drunken, are drunken in the night: whereas these wicked Christians had cast off all shame, and were so abandoned, as to practise their vices in the open daylight. Isaiah 3:9. They are called spots and blemishes, in allusion to a spot upon a garment, or a blemish in the human body. These words are applied to moral stains or blemishes. See Deuteronomy 32:5 and 1 Peter 1:19.


Verse 14

2 Peter 2:14. Having eyes full of adultery, There is a prodigious strength in the original; it properly signifies their having an adulteress continually before their eyes;—having eyes full of an adulteress. Instead of cannot cease from sin, the original should be rendered, and that cease not from sin: if they could not have ceased from sin, it would have been no crime in them; but they were men of most insatiable desires, and in their eyes one might have read the wickedness of their hearts. In this sentence the apostle represents them as wicked in their own practice; in the next, as laying baits for unstable souls. He paints them in lively colours, and gives all their remarkable features, that true Christians might easily know and carefully avoid them. See on 2 Peter 2:18 ch. 2 Peter 3:16 and the note on James 1:14. As the word πλεονεξιαις, rendered covetous practices, is in the plural number, Wolfius and others would understand thereby every immoderate desire, whether of riches or sensual pleasures. So understood, it will connect with what goes before and what follows: for in what goes before, they are charged with debauchery of heart and life; and, in what follows, with covetous practices. Cursed children, or children of a curse, means exposed to a curse, as being vicious themselves, and endeavouring to ensnare others into vice. See Matthew 25:41. 1 Peter 1:14 and Longinus on the Sublime, sect. 4: ad fin.


Verse 15

2 Peter 2:15. Which have forsaken the right way, It is called the way of righteousness, 2 Peter 2:21 which leads to happiness; but turning aside to error and vice, is wandering out of the way into forbidden paths, which lead to misery and destruction. Perhaps the apostle here alluded to Numbers 22:32 when the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, Thy way is perverse before me. The wages of unrighteousness are called the rewards of divination, Numbers 22:7 namely, the riches and honour which he sought by wicked methods. When God would not allow him by the Spirit of prophesy to curse Israel, he gave Balak the most diabolical advice; namely, that by the beautiful Midianitish women he should tempt the Israelites, first to debauchery and then to idolatry, as the most likely way to expose them to a curse. Jude, 2 Peter 2:12. Revelation 2:14. Now as Balaam, through covetousness, corrupted the people of Israel, and thereby exposed them to the judgment of God, so did those false teachers, through covetousness, corrupt the Christians, giving them liberty to indulge the lusts of the flesh; and thereby exposed them to the righteous judgment of God.


Verse 16

2 Peter 2:16. The dumb ass speaking, &c.— When Balaam laid aside his reason, and acted like a brute, then the brute animal, the ass on which he rode, υποζυγιον, though naturally dumb, was, by the miraculous power of God, endued with a voice, like that of a man, to rebuke the madness of his master. The madness of the prophet, signifies, his mad attempt to oppose the divine will. The Jerusalem Targum and Ben Uzziel, on Numbers 22:30 introduce the ass saying to Balaam, "Woe unto thee, Balaam! thou art mad!" His madness was voluntary, and consequently criminal; and all wickedness will in the end, according to the degree and aggravation of it, appear to be madness; for in every act of wickedness, men so far oppose the will of God. See on Numbers 22:28.


Verse 17

2 Peter 2:17. These are wells without water, &c.— When a thirsty person goes to a fountain to drink, and finds it dried up, and there is nothing but an empty pit, he is greatly disappointed. These false teachers pretended to be fountains of deeper knowledge and greater purity than any others; but when a man came thirsting after truthandrighteousness,howgreat must be his disappointment when he found nothing but emptiness and vanity! In this comparison is pointed out their ostentation and hypocrisy: they made a show of something profitable and refreshing; but it was only a mere show. They were altogether empty and unprofitable; all appearance, but no reality. They made great pretences to extraordinary holiness, but were very wicked. Theyinvited men to come and drinkat the inexhaustible fountain of their knowledge, but not one drop of the water of life could be found there. 2 Timothy 3:5. Again, he compares them to light or small clouds, carried about with a whirlwind: so the Arabs compare persons who put on the appearance of virtue, when yet they are destitute of all goodness, to a light cloud, which makes a show of rain, and afterwards vanishes. When clouds arise in a dry and thirsty land, they give men hopes of refreshing showers; but when the promising appearance ends in a tempest, it proves hurtful, and destroys the fruits of the earth: in like manner these false teachers promised to be fruitful clouds, and to refresh men with their uncommon knowledge and piety; but they were only empty and delusive promises, and ended in the harm of such as regarded them. In this comparison the apostle might probably intend to denote their levity and inconstancy, as well as their hypocrisy. They were carried about with every wind of doctrine: they were dark as a mist, light as a cloud, empty as a thin vapour; shadow without substance; pernicious, instead of being profitable and useful. The mist of darkness, means the thickest and most horrible darkness. The allusion here seems to be to a most dark and dismal prison or dungeon. They were like dark clouds, and they were to be punished in extreme darkness: they endeavoured to spread darkness over the minds of others, and darkness was to be their portion. See 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude, 2 Peter 2:6; 2 Peter 2:13.


Verse 18

2 Peter 2:18. For when they speak great swelling words For, while they utter high swelling words of vanity, they, by the lusts of the flesh, lay a bait for those who had really escaped from them that live in error. See Jude, 2 Peter 2:16. By swelling words of vanity, we are to understand the most vain and boasting, proud and high sounding words. It is observed, that here, and in many other places, these heretical teachers are represented as seducing their followers, not by the power of miracles, but by the art of address. By their artifices they laid a bait for those, who, by embracing the Christian religion, had been reformed from idolatry and vice, not almost, or a little, but really, truly, and experimentally. See 2 Peter 2:20. 1 Peter 4:3-4. These false teachers boasted that they delivered men from error and vice; whereas theyseduced into them, those who had escaped from the idolatry and wickedness of the unbelieving world.


Verse 19

2 Peter 2:19. While they promise them liberty, Nothing is more sweet or desirable than liberty; and therefore in order to allure men to become their disciples, they promised them liberty: by which they meant licentiousness, or a liberty to gratify their lusts, and to do any thing, whatever they pleased, without any fear of an invisible Governor, and a future punishment. That, as they pretended, was the true Christian liberty: God saw no sin in those who understood and believed aright. If they had true knowledge, or right faith, they were free to do any thing; they were restrained by no laws of marriage; the civil magistrate had nothing to do with them; the fear of God was superstition and the greatest servitude. See Irenaeus, lib. 1. 100: 5. Thus they turned the grace of God into wantonness, and, promising liberty, were themselves the slaves of corruption. See Galatians 5:13. 1 Peter 2:16. Jude, 2 Peter 2:4.

Heylin renders the last clause very well; For every one is a slave to that which subdues him. Benson's paraphrase is, "For by whatever a man is conquered, to that he may very properly be called a bond-slave."


Verse 20

2 Peter 2:20. For if after they have escaped, &c.— For inasmuch as having escaped. See on 2 Peter 2:4. The pollutions of the world, were idolatry, superstition, and vice. By the world we may understand here the unbelieving and wicked world; and more especiallythe idolatrous Gentiles. ΄ιασματα, pollutions, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. It was used by the ancient physicians for the pestilential infection in the plague, which spreads secretly and insensibly, and affects many. Nothing pollutes or infects the minds of men like vice and wickedness: the world, or multitude, being generally infected, is apt to infect others. The knowledge of Jesus Christ, here implies not only knowledge in the Christian religion, in a general sense, but in Christian experience and practice. They who live in vice, do not know Christ; but by the true knowledge of Christ men are freed from vice. John 8:36. The Christian religion is, through divine grace, of a purifying nature: ch. 2 Peter 1:4. John 15:2-3. The word ευπλακεντες, rendered entangled, signifies taken in a toil, or snare; see Proverbs 28:18 in the LXX. and 2 Timothy 2:4. Through a pretence of Christian liberty, they were again entangled in the vices of the heathen world. In the word overcome, there is a reference to what is said, 2 Peter 2:19. St. Peter, in the last clause, is not speaking of the false teachers alone, but of those Christians also who were seduced by them; and in this verse, compared with 2 Peter 2:18; 2 Peter 2:21-22. Ezekiel 33:12; Ezekiel 33:33 and many other texts of scripture, it is plainly supposed to be a possible thing for true believers, or those who have been once regenerated and purified, totally and finally to fall away: so far is it from being true, "that God sees no sin in believers;" that, if they fall away, they will be involved in greater guilt, and exposed to a severer punishment than the ignorant or unbelieving.


Verse 21

2 Peter 2:21. It had been better for them not to have known, &c.— By the word better, is meant the lesser evil: which, when two evils are compared together, is accounted the greatest good. Righteousness in this place does not stand for justice alone, but comprehends all the graces and virtues of the Christian life. See 1 Peter 2:24. The two evils here compared are, their having remained idolatrous Heathens, in ignorance, infidelity, and vice; and their having once been enlightened and regenerated by the Spirit of God, and afterwards relapsing into the greatest and most scandalous vices. The latter is reckoned the greater evil, and therefore it is said, that they had better have continued in their former state. The commandment was called holy, because the observation of it rendered men holy, through divine grace, or freed them from the pollutions of the world. The holy commandment is that great commandment which runs through the whole gospel, and which insists upon holiness of heart and life as absolutely necessary to everlasting salvation: for the gospel is not a collection of unconditional promises; it contains commandments also, which, through almighty grace, must be obeyed by all those who would inherit the promises.


Verse 22

2 Peter 2:22. But it is happened unto them The connection is, "It had been far better for them not to have done so:—but they have relapsed into their old vices; and that is agreeable to some ancient proverbs; nothing new, or unheard of, hath happened unto them." The ancients used to sum up their wisest and most useful observations in short, nervous, and expressive proverbs; which are more easily understood, and better remembered, than long, laboured discourses. The two following proverbs teach us, that a well-regulated life can proceed from nothing but constant watchfulness, through grace, over our tempers and actions, and a steady regard to the divine law. The former of these is found, Proverbs 26:11 the latter is said to have been also a common proverb among the ancients. Gataker takes these two proverbs to have a poetical turn, and to have been a distich of Iambics. Horace has a plain reference to both these proverbs, lib. 1: Ephesians 2 line 26 where he is speaking of the travels of Ulysses, and says, "If he had been conquered by the charms of Circe,

Vixisset canis immundus, vel amica luto sus.

He had lived like an impure dog, or a sow that is fond of the mire." Surely these proverbs will not be thought coarse or unpolite in the holy apostle, when some of the most elegant writers of classic antiquity have made use of, or referred to them

Inferences.—There is no church so pure, but some false members, and even false teachers, may insinuate themselves into it; yet it is our duty to watch and pray, that the churches to which we respectively belong, may be guarded against their pernicious insinuations, and especially against the destructive heresies of those who deny the Lord who bought them. As we regard the edification of the church, and the salvation of our own precious and immortal souls, let us guard against whatever may justly deserve such an imputation as this. Woe be to those teachers who are actuated with a covetous spirit, who teach things which they ought not for the sake of filthy lucre, and make merchandise of the souls of their hearers! How swiftly does their damnation approach, though they perceive not the gradations by which it advances; and with what irresistible terror will it at length overwhelm them!

That our hearts may be preserved under an awful impression of the Divine judgments, let us often meditate on those displays of them of which the scripture informs us. And let us, in particular, reflect on the fall of the apostate angels, who were precipitated from heaven, and reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day; and while we contemplate this awful dispensation, let us adore that grace and compassion which laid hold on apostate man, and provided an all-sufficient Saviour for him. Let us call to remembrance the dissolution of the old world by a deluge of water, and the tremendous destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven; and let us fear Him, who can at pleasure break open the fountains of the great deep, and open the windows of heaven, and emit from these his various magazines, deluges of water, or torrents of burning sulphur, to execute his vengeance. Who can flee from his pursuing hand? or who can be secure and happy but under his almighty protection? Yet awful as the terrors of his indignation are, his eyes are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.—What a noble support and encouragement may it therefore be to the truly pious, who from day to day are vexing their righteous souls at the ungodly deeds of the wicked among whom they dwell, to reflect on the deliverance of Noah, and of Lot, from that general destruction with which they were surrounded. A more perfect and complete deliverance will be at length accomplished for all the faithful servants of God, and there will be no possibility of doubting any more his ability, or his willingness, to rescue them from every evil; for he will make the day of his vengeance on his enemies, a day of complete and everlasting salvation to his saints. And the Lord grant that we may all find mercy of the Lord in that important day.

Again. It is matter of grievous lamentation, that such wretches as those who are described in this chapter, should be any-where found in the Christian church. Let us be the less surprised, if any such spots and blemishes are discovered among us, on whom the ends of the world are come; but let the licentious character, here drawn, be noted with a just abhorrence, that if any such persons are found, they may with becoming indignation be put away. Many there are who seem to be as irrational and ravenous as brute beasts, and are far more pernicious to society than the race of savage or poisonous animals. They are indeed children of a curse, and they will inherit the curse, who thus contrive to make their lives one scene of iniquity; whose eyes, and lips, declare more wickedness in their hearts than they have power to execute. But it should be remembered, they are accountable to God, not only for all they do, but all they desire and wish to do; and they are incessantly aggravating that terrible account. These disciples of Balaam will surely receive his reward; those dark clouds will quickly, if they continue thus to obscure with their crimes the horizon in which they ought to shine as stars, be doomed to blackness of darkness for ever. May persons of such a character, how specious soever the form which they wear, be universally detected and disgraced; may none of their swelling words of vanity entice and ensnare those who appear just escaping from the delusions of error and the fetters of vice; and may none permit themselves to be seduced by promises of liberty from such mean and miserable slaves of corruption!

Finally, let us learn, by the awful conclusion of this chapter, to guard against all temptations to apostasy; may we never, after having long escaped the pollutions of the world, be entangled again, and overcome by them! Those expressive similes, taken from such loathsome and detestable animals, would not be sufficient to paint out the degree, in which we should ourselves be loathsome and odious, in the sight of that God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13.). May we therefore, with the righteous, hold on our way; and, taking care to preserve the cleanness of our hands and hearts, may we daily wax stronger and stronger, (Job 17:9.) and shine with an increasing lustre! for the path of the just should be as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. (Proverbs 4:18.)

REFLECTIONS.—1st, False teachers in the church have ever been more dangerous and destructive than all the persecutions of the enemies without. Against those the apostle warns the people.

1. He describes them. But there were false prophets also among the people of Israel of old, even as there shall or will be false teachers among you, who privily shall or will bring in damnable heresies, craftily perverting the word of God, and adulterating the doctrines of the gospel; even denying the Lord that bought them, disowning him as over all, God blessed for ever, or otherwise impugning his merit, dignity, and offices; as the others denied him who redeemed them from Egypt with his mighty hand, and by a long succession of miracles repeatedly delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, Deuteronomy 32:6 yet they both doctrinally and practically renounced and disowned him: and, as the dreadful consequence of their disobedience, these latter apostates, like the former, bring upon themselves swift destruction, which shall quickly come upon them to the uttermost. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, seduced by their cunning and ill examples; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of, and blasphemed by the enemies of the Christian name: and through covetousness shall or will they with feigned words make merchandize of you, influenced by the detestable principles of avarice, and, amidst all their specious professions, making religion their trade, and designing wholly their secular advantage.—Note; They who enter the ministry for gain, must needs be deceivers, and perish in their wickedness.

2. He foretels their destruction. Whose judgment, now of a long time suspended, yet lingereth not; and their damnation slumbereth not, but soon shall it terribly overtake them in the midst of their security and sensuality. Note; Vengeance against sinners is often slow, but always sure. Three awful instances are here produced of God's judgments.

(1.) The fallen angels. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, though creatures of a higher rank than men; and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment at the great day: much less will he spare these obstinate offenders.

(2.) The antediluvian world. And God spared not the old world, when abandoned to wickedness; but saved Noah, the eighth person, with whom only seven more escaped in the ark, a preacher of righteousness, both of the righteousness of faith, and that moral righteousness to which he exhorted the men of his generation, calling them to repent of their iniquities: and, when they continued obstinate against his warnings, God issued forth the dread decree, opening the windows of heaven, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly, and swallowing them up in the mighty waters. If therefore he executed such vengeance upon them, let not other incorrigible sinners think at present to escape.

(3.) The destruction of Sodom. And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, he condemned them with an overthrow, raining fire and brimstone upon them; making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly, that, taking warning by their fearful punishment, they may avoid or repent of their crimes before it be too late; otherwise, the same wrath shall still seize upon the ungodly and the sinner.

3. For the encouragement of the faithful, he mentions the wonderful escape of Lot from the flames. When God destroyed the cities where he dwelt, he delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, grieved for the dishonour brought thereby upon God, and for the ruin which must infallibly descend upon their devoted heads: for that righteous man, dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds, enduring the most painful reflections, in the view of their wickedness, and the vengeance which hung over them. The Lord knoweth, as is evident by this instance, how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and he will do it in his own good time; and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished, who, though they should escape any signal stroke of divine vengeance in this life, are reserved unto the last dreadful day, when their iniquities shall receive their just reward.

2nd, The apostle,

1. At large describes the seducing teachers, whose practices were similar to those of the vilest of those ungodly workers of former times, and who with them must perish. But chiefly them will God reserve unto judgment, that walk after the flesh, in the lust of uncleanness, like the men of Sodom; and despise government, seditious, refractory, unwilling to submit to any restraint: presumptuous are they, and self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities, reviling both the ministers and apostles of Christ, and the civil magistrates set over them for the restraint of evildoers. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might than every earthly potentate, yet bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord, reviling their persons and government. But these, despisers of God's ordinances, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed by men for whose use they were created, speak evil of the things that they understand not, reviling persons and things civil and religious, of whose excellence they have not the least knowledge; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption, abandoned to their wicked hearts, and left to their ruin: and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day-time, daring and impudent in sin, not even waiting for the night to cover their shame. Spots they are, and blemishes, a reproach to the name of Christian which they presume to bear; sporting themselves with their own deceivings, while they feast with you; they live in the indulgence of their sins, while they outwardly appear to maintain communion with you; having eyes full of adultery, whose wanton looks bespeak the impurity of their hearts; and that cannot cease from sin, enslaved by their sensual appetites, and insatiate in the indulgence of them; beguiling unstable souls, as Satan beguiled Eve through his subtilty, and tempting them to comply with their corrupt desires. An heart they have, exercised with covetous practices, all their contrivances and pursuits being to amass wealth: cursed children, under the wrath of a holy God; which have spoken the right way of salvation by Jesus Christ, and are gone astray from the paths of truth and holiness, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and, notwithstanding his specious professions to Balak's messengers, really coveted the king of Moab's offers; but was rebuked for his iniquity in a very signal manner; the dumb ass, on which he rode, speaking with man's voice, by miraculous power, forbad the madness of the prophet, in presuming to go, after the warnings to the contrary which he had received, or to attempt the cursing of that people whom the Lord had blessed. These are wells without water, pretending to piety, but disappointing those who, like the thirsty traveller, come to them for the water of life; clouds that are carried with a tempest, that promise rain, but prove noxious vapours: to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever, going from the darkness of sin and error to the horrible and eternal darkness of hell. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, pretending to high flights of science, and boasting their vast attainments, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, by temptations suited to the corrupt inclinations of their hearers, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error—who had experienced a real reformation and renovation of heart, but now relapse into their former abominations. While they promise them liberty, a carnal liberty to do as they list, without restraint, they themselves are the servants of corruption, the veriest slaves in nature to base and vile affections: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage; and no bondage is so dreadful as that of sin and Satan. Note; (1.) The sins of lewdness are the dreadful rocks, on which multitudes of unstable souls make shipwreck of the faith. (2.) They who have hearts set on their covetousness, are hardly turned away from their vile pursuits, though conscience, like the faithful monitor of Balaam, often startles and accuses them. (3.) None are so far escaped from the world, but they have need to watch and pray that they fall not into temptation. (4.) However speciously the snare may be laid, and whatever liberty we may promise ourselves in sin, we shall find the dire delusion to our cost, if we yield to temptation; and shall prove how fearful is the bondage of corruption.

2. He warns them, by all the dreadful consequences of apostacy, to beware of these seducers. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—have embraced and received the gospel in its divine power and efficacy—they are again entangled therein and overcome, so as to become again slaves to their lusts and appetites, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning, and their state more guilty than when they lay before in utter darkness, ignorance, and error. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, or to have received Christ and his salvation, than, after they have known it,—have experimentally enjoyed it,—to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them, according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and, the sow, that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire. Note; None perish with such aggravated guilt, as those who were once cleansed from their guilt and renewed in grace, and afterwards fail in their course, and relapse finally into iniquity. Woeful will be the end of apostates.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Peter 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-peter-2.html. 1801-1803.

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