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Thomas Adams on 2 Peter 2:1

August 28, 2007

Thomas Adams

2 Peter 2:1:

“That bought them.” This last aggravation is derived from the consideration of the unspeakable good which this Lord hath done them; in that were delivered by the most excellent benefit that ever came to mankind, which is redemption by the blood of Christ. For howsoever it was a singular work and favour of God, to give us by creation a blessed being; yet was it no otherwise given us, than with a possibility to keep it or lose it: but redemption hath instated us to a blessedness never to be lost. Here then is a doubt to be resolved: how they may perish from Christ if they were redeemed? how were they redeemed if they can perish?

First, we must lay this ground of truth, that no soul which Christ hath truly bought can perish eternally. This is the Father’s will, that of a11 which he hath given me I should lose nothing,” John vi. 39. But all they are given to Christ whom he hath purchased:” I give unto them eternal life ; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,” John x. 29. If I give them eternal life, nothing shall bring them to eternal death; and to pluck them out of his land that is Almighty, requires an adversary stronger than himself. And our Saviour there adds, My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand,” ver. 29. Hereupon Paul makes a free challenge to all the actors, and pleaders, and powers that ever damnation had: “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth,” (and if all this be not enough,) “nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus,” Rom, viii. 39: none can do it. And whether they be Romish or Arminian, that seek to weaken the grace of God, and permit the redeemed ones of the Lord to perish; let us know them for the brokers of Satan, the seminaries of despair, and deniers of Christ. But against this doctrine is opposed, “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died?” Rom. xiv. 15. “Through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish, for whom Christ died,” I Cor. viii. 11. But those places may be understood not “kat’ aletheian”: not that they can perish through thy default, but that thou dost what thou canst to make them perish. But here it seems most lain, that they may be lost in denying Christ, whom He bought. To clear this, we say that reprobates may be said to be redeemed in divers respects.

1. In regard of the all-sufficient price paid for them. So Christ is said to be that Lamb which taketh away the sins of the world. Though he meant nut to save all, yet he died for all, performing his part. (Chrysost.) For he doth not really take away all sin from the world; and this himself declares by not praying for the world, “I pray not for the world,” John xvii. 9. Otherwise the two main parts or offices of his priesthood were disjoined, and he should sacrifice for them for whom he doth not supplicate. Now for his mediation, it concludes his own in it, excludes the world out of it; “I pray not for the world.”

[Edit: Adams says 2., they were redeemed in outward appearance (p., 222), and 3., they were redeemed with respect to their opinion (p. 223), and 4., they were redeemed with respect to the judgement of charity (p., 223). After this he engages in homiletic pericope:]

This truth then remains, that Christ only bought his church, and salvation for his church. “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” Acts xx. 28. & Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it,” Eph. v. 25. His name is Jesus, yet he shall save only his own people, Matt. I. 21. For the rest, “they went out from us, but they were not of us,” 1 John ii. 19; howsoever, the price was paid for them, and there was a sufficient ransom in the blood of Jesus, if their faithful apprehension had made it theirs. The king hath granted a pardon for all malefactors at the parliament; we say, they are all pardoned: yet perhaps some afterwards are condignly punished, because they never sued out this pardon, nor took the benefit of it. First, therefore, consider what God hath done for them, then what they have done against him: the height of his mercy adds to the weight of their iniquity. God in his love redeemed us by the blood of his Son. Now there are four kinds of redemption: First, when a slave is freely released to liberty: we could not be so discharged; for, besides that God is just, and his debts must be aid, Satan would not so art with us. Secondly, when a man is set free by commutation or exchanging another into his room: we could exchange no creature to supply our servitude. Thirdly, when a man is rescued by a forcible surprisal; Abraham redeemed Lot: but herein God was far too strong for us. Fourthly, by a price paid; and thus were we bought with a price, even the blood of that unspotted Lamb. His payment consisted in suffering for our relinquishments, and in performing a sufficient obedience to God for us.

Here admire we the infinite love of God. The Egyptians in their hieroglyphics, or expressions of morality by pictures, used to paint Love naked, Minerva veiled; to show that wisdom may be concealed, love cannot be smothered. ‘The cherubims covered their faces, which is the seat of wisdom; but not their breasts, which is the seat of affection. David by his dissembled madness kept his wisdom unseen from Achish; but spying Bathsheba from the battlements of his palace, Re could not smother his affection. God reserves his wisdom to himself, and the reason of his actions ; but his love is visible, breaking forth, and read by every running eye. “Many waters cannot quench love,” Cant. viii. 7. It is an unsuppressible fire; much water cannot quench it; water and blood could not put it out. Now whom did God thus love? The world: not the frame of heaven and earth, but the little world, man; the compendium and abridgement of all creatures: that whatsoever is imprinted with capital letters in that large volume, as in folio, is sweetly and harmoniously contracted in decimo-sexto, in the brief text of man, who includes all. Planets have being, not life ; plants have life, not sense ; beasts have sense, not reason ; angels have being, life, reason, not sense: man hath all; being with planets, life with plants, sense with beasts, reason with angels. Therefore he is called the world. This world God loved, affective before all time, effective in time.

But what good could man do to him, to induce this love? None; our well-doing extends not unto him, Psal. xvi. 2. When are were made, we added nothing to God; if we were dissolved to nothing, we take nothing from God. That which the Lord saw in us, was apostacy and rebellion. Every creature obeys God, in running that course which he disposed to them. But how was this true, when the sun, being appointed to move his incessant race, did yet stand still in Gibeon? when the sea, being charged to keep within his bounds, doth yet burst out with inundations? I answer, God bade them do so, dispensing with his former command, and they obeyed him. Well, yet man, rebellious man, he loved: what did he give for him? Paradise, large kingdoms, or mines of gold? No, they are but a farthing token to the price of this purchase. He gave his only begotten Son: as he says, What could I do more for my vineyard? Isa. v. 4; so, what could I give more for my vineyard? This Son he gave for unthankful men, that offered not so much as a prayer for him; for unrighteous men, that denied Him that was not denied to them. Here was a “sic dilexit“: no man could ever find a “sicut” for it. Augustine supposes that some great prince had a poor desertless subject, maimed in mind, without reason or honesty; leprous in body, without any soundness; yea, so full of stench that none could endure him; yea, more than all, so arrant a traitor to the same prince, that he would vex him, kill him. He hath one only son, a sweet and hopeful prince, the joy of his heart, the light and delight of his eyes, the singular heir of his kingdom; yet when nothing will cure this forlorn wretch of his leprosy, but only this young prince’s blood, he freely gives that to bathe and cleanse him. This is much, and such as never was found, yet still short of this precedent. For if the life of a prince was giver for a gnat, it is not so much as for God’s Son to be given for man. He is worth ten thousands of us, more worth than all: O unspeakable love, gift, price!

St. Peter tells us what was the price of this purchase, the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish, 1 Pet. I. 19. Had he emptied the veins of the earth, and spoiled them of their richest ores; had he plucked the spangles from heaven, and impoverished the firmament of her sparkling beauties; had he given the whole inheritance of the world ; yet all had been infinitely less. When David said to Mephibosheth, “Thou and Ziba divide the land;” he answered, “Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace,” 2 Sam. xix. 29, 30. This was much, yet Mephibosheth’s content was for David, a friend, a king: but God parts not with an inheritance, but with his Son ; and this for man, an enemy, a servant. Let death seize on my Son, that my servant may come a ain in peace. Oh never was so poor a purchase at so high a price! That he might show love to us, he forbore love to himself. Now see, O renegade, whom thou refuses: thou knows not whom thou deniest, therefore thou deniest. If thou hast bought honour by thy valour, thou callest it thine; if endeared a friend by thy loyalty, thou callest him thine; if purchased a house with thy money, thou callest it thine: Christ hath bought thee with his blood, and yet thou deniest to be his. This ransom is paid, and now in a merciful offer he tenders it to thee; wilt thou in a peevish sullenness refuse it? Conceive this dialogue between the Redeemer and the denier. Red[eemer]. Open to me. Den[ier]. No, I know not whence thou art. Red. Rise and see. Den. No, I am in my warm bed of pleasures and carnal satisfactions, I will not rise: who art thou? Red. I am Jesus, thy Redeemer: wilt thou still swear and forswear, I know none such? I bought thee, thou art mine: I come to embrace thee, deny me not. Den. Yes, take me, when all other delights forsake me; let me be thine when I am not mine own: till then keep thy cheer to thyself, I have married my pleasure, and I cannot come. Oh obstinate hearts, whom the King of heaven must buy with his blood, woo with his grace, wait upon with his patience, enrich with proffers of mercy, and yet at last be denied! Lord, turn to such as love thee; we deny not thee, deny not us, O good Lord Jesus. Amen.

This is the latitude and dimension of their wickedness; wherewith I will have done, when I have declared the penalty of it. Their punishment is proportioned to their fault : they denied him that bought them, and he that bought them will deny them ; “If we deny him, he also will deny us,” 2 Tim. ii. 12. How, where, and when will he deny them? They surfeit on pleasures, and enjoy the wish of their own hearts; how then doth he deny them? Doth not God bless whom he loves, and love whom he blesses? Alas, those blessings to such men prove curses ; wealth is granted, but mercy is withholden. The earth seems their own, the world applauds them; and is not the voice of the people the voice of God? No, for the whole world lieth in wickedness. But here they are honoured, where then shall they be denied? The echo answers, Here : even where Saul would be honoured, there was he denied, before the people. They spend their days in peace, their minds are not bled, they sit not sighing and blubbering for their offences; sure God is not angry with them; when shall they be denied ? Now; even in that they lament not, their case is most lamentable: their pulse hath left beating, this argues God’s dereliction; that their life-breath is panted out, and they have given up the (Holy) Ghost. Will you hear how, where, and when? Take it from Christ’s own mouth: “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven,” Matt. x. 33. For the manner how : I will deny him ; not conceal him, nor excuse him, not hold my peace and silence it, but deny him. For the place where: before my Father, where my word will be taken; for I have the key of heaven, to let in and keep out whom I please. Before my Father, who has committed all judgment to me, and set me to sentence every man according to his works. Before my Father: if it had been only before men where thou deniest me, they would approve my justice if before the devils, they would be glad of thy company, and with a hasty rape hurry thee to perdition; if only before the angels, (which is also expressed,” “He that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God,” Luke xii. 9,) they would witness how often I have sent them to guard thee, how little thou didst regard me. But what is the detestation of men, the rejection of angels, the derision of devils, to the loss of my Father’s love? This “before my Father” shall strike thee with horror. When the Father sent Christ, he said, “They will reverence my Son ;” but they conspired, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him,” Matt. xxi. 37, 38. Reject them, O Father, for they rejected me. Away must their faces be turned, from joy, from light, from blessedness; to wander in horrid darkness, to lie bound in chains of torment; where unquenchable fire and unsatiable death shall not be denied them, that denied everlasting life. For the time when: in heaven. When they knock with hope to be let in at that gate, when they shall see millions of confessors enter in and be made welcome; in heaven I will deny them, that is, in the day of judgment. On earth they sake their pleasures, their tongues were their own, they denied me without control; but when I have denied them in heaven, and they have acknowledged me in hell, then shall they gnaw those tongues for pain, Rev. xvi. 10, and wish that they had been born dumb, never to have denied him that bought them.

This is a fearful plague, when God will suffer men to fall off from Christ, and to reject their Redeemer; alas, they do no less than split and sink that ship in the midst of the sea, which alone should save them. Whom shall they trust to make them righteous? none can do this but Christ, and they have denied him. Who shall condemn? it is Christ that justifieth, Rom. viii. 33: so who shall justify, when Christ condemns? They have sinned, and God is offended, who shall make an atonement for them? Only Christ can do this: if any man sin, he is our Advocate and propitiation, 1 John ii. 1, 2; and this Advocate they have denied. Whom shall they call upon for love and favour? there is none to be had but in Christ, and him they have denied.” I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love,” Rev. ii. 4. He that hath once broken his faith, will not easily be trusted. Him that hath I once vowed love to a virgin, and after fallen off with breach of covenant, no wise maid will ever admit within distance of liking. They “wax wanton against Christ, having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith,” 1 Tim. v. 11, 12. Whom shall they call upon in the day of trouble? the Lord. This was the voice of Elijah in his agony, of Jonah in his fury; “Lord, take away my life:” of the apostles in their fear; ” Lord, save us; we perish,” Matt. viii. 25: of the malefactor dying on the cross; “Lord, remember me in thy kingdom,” Luke xxiii. 42: of Stephen under the stones ; “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” Acts vii. 59: of Saul cast down from his horse; “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? ” Acts ix. 6. This is the echo of misery, the suppliant for mercy: but alas, how shall they call on this Lord, that have denied him? “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed,” Rom. X. 14; yea, whom they have denied? What wonder is it, if God doth not hear, where he hath not been heard? if he shut against them, that would not open to him? Complainest thou, Why hast thou forsaken me, O Lord? he replies, Why hast thou denied me, O servant? There is grievous punishment for them that fear not God; Pour out thine indignation upon them that: fear thee not, saith the prophet. Grievous for them I that seek him not; “The wicked will not seek after God,” Psal. x. 4, therefore are lost in the devices of error. Grievous, for them that call not on him; for he will be a stranger to their acquaintance. Grievous, for them that trust not on him; for they shall be left to themselves. Grievous, for them that love him not; for they shall be written in the dust. But most grievous for them that deny him here, for they shall be denied for ever hereafter.

An Exposition upon the Second Epistle General of St. Peter, by Rev. Thomas Adams, Rector of St.Gregory’s, (London: 1633, revised by James Sherman, reprinted: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), 222, 223-225.

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