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from a vast multiplicity of sources. They are tried by the world, outwardly; and, inwardly, by their own corruptions. A believing man's greatest foes are often those of his own house; and, especially, the many evils that are in his own heart. How pathetically did St. Paul complain of the body of sin and death, which he carried about him; and how deeply did he groan, being burdened! The Christian is frequently, like Gideon's men, faint, yet pursuing. God is pleased sometimes to hide his face; then are the souls of his people cast down, and disquieted within them. But a great (perhaps the greater) part of their trouble and distress arises from a consciousness of their own barrenness, ingratitude, and want of fervour in their Redeemer's service; although,
2. They are enabled to wash their robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.
By their robes, I presume, we are not here to understand the robe of imputed righteousness, in which they are justified, and stand perfect before God: for that robe does not need washing, being no less than the complete obedience of God incarnate. Their own best duties, services, and religious performances, of any and of every kind, were the robes, in which they visibly appeared before men, and by which their faith was made manifest to the world. For though good works do not procure (so far from it, they have no share in procuring) a believer's justification in the sight of God; yet they follow after the grace of Christ, and are pleasing to God, and profitable to men. So just is that remark of St. Austin: Bona opera non faciunt justum, sed justificatus facit bona opera. This is also agreeable to St. Peter's strain of arguing: 1 Pet. iii. 3, 4. Moreover, the blood of the Lamb, in which the righteous wash their robes, is and must be a very different thing from the robes themselves. May. not this be the simple meaning? "True believers, after all they do and suffer, trust not in their
doings and sufferings, either in whole or in part; but in the atonement made by Immanuel's blood; and in that work of vicarious righteousness, which Immanuel accomplished by his obedience unto death."
3. Their bliss and exaltation are described in these charming words: Therefore are they before the throne of God. Not because they came out of great tribulation; but because they and their robes were washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Being freely interested in Jesus, they are saved by grace; and the God of grace has all the glory.
HEB. vi. 4, 5, 6.
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
I HAVE been solicited to give an elucidation of the above-mentioned text: and the rather, because that awful passage may seem, at first view, and in the eyes of a mere English reader, to carry a dubious aspect, as though the faith of God's elect might ultimately fail; and as though God himself might break his covenant, and alter the thing that is gone out of his lips.
It is impossible for those who were [1.] once enlightened, and [2.] have tasted of the heavenly gift, and [3.] were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and [4.] have tasted the good word of God, and [5.] the powers of the world to come; if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance: seeing they (1.) crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and (2.) put him to an open shame.
I. It is said concerning these possible apostates from the Christian profession,
[1.] That "they were once enlightened:" ara palioderlas, once (a) baptized into the visible church of
(a) Eos qui ad baptismum descenderunt: versio Syriac. Havalıy Teorελnλuloras Calioual. Theodoret.-Vide Millii N. T.
Christ. Every person who is at all acquainted with ecclesiastical antiquity, knows, that Barious and palms were, very frequently, put for each other, and used as reciprocal terms. Nor need we observe, that, amongst the classical distinctions, which obtained in the primitive churches, were the following distributions of professors, into these different ranks of church-membership. 1. The xalxs, or Catechumens; i. e. those adults, who were not deemed sufficiently instructed and matured in the things of God, to be yet admitted to baptism.-2. The Teplouvor, i. e. enlightened, or baptized; those who had actually been initiated, by their susception of that ordinance.-And, 3. the ago, or rersλheoμevor, i. e. the perfect; viz. such as had not only been baptized, but who were likewise partakers of all the privileges of God's house, and who were considered as stablished, strengthened, settled in the faith of Christ, and fully entitled to unlimited citizenship in the church below. It follows, that "they who were once enlightened," or "baptized," might indeed make total and final shipwreck of their profession: and many of them actually did so. They were (as another apostle expresses it) twice dead: i. e. naturally dead, or unregenerate; and professionally dead. According to those words of our Lord, From him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have, Luke viii. 18.
[2.] They are described, as having "tasted of the heavenly gift:" or, as having been admitted to a participation of the Lord's Supper.
[3.] They were "partakers of the Holy Ghost:" i. e. of gifts, qualifying them for temporary usefulness in the church, and enabling some of them even to preach the gospel with success. There is, I apprehend, no part of scripture, which forbids us to suppose, that Judas himself might have been, in this sense, a partaker of the Holy Ghost;" i. e. furnished with ministerial talents, for the benefit of
others. And yet, it is certain, that Judas never was a regenerated man, John vi. 64. and xiii. 10, 11.
[4.] They have "tasted the good word of God:" or had some acquaintance with the scripture, and some relish for its doctrines. To this class, Herod, and Simon Magus, may be referred, Mark vi. 20. Acts vii. 13.
[5.] They shared in "the powers of the world to come.' By that phrase, the world to come, aw & Meλλ (which may be better rendered, the future age, or dispensation), the ancient Jews universally meant, the times of the Messiah. And St. Paul, in other parts of this very epistle (the whole of which he particularly designed for the instruction of the Hebrew proselytes), makes use of this same term, and evidently in their own sense of it. Consequently, by the duvaus, i. e. powers, or miracles, of the Messiah's dispensation;" is meant, the ability of working miracles in proof of the gospel.-This ability a man might have, without a grain of saving grace in his heart. St. Paul, elsewhere, supposes it possible for a person to be endued with, what is commonly called, "the faith of miracles ;" and yet to be totally void of charity, or real love to God, 1 Cor. xiii. 2.
On those parts of this passage, which we have hitherto considered, the following words of our Lord may stand as the best explanation that can possibly be given. Many will say to me, in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity, Matth. vii. 22, 23. With all their retinue of useful gifts, these possessors of them, were never, themselves, in a state of grace. Christ never knew them, i. e. never loved and never acknowledged them, as true members of that mystic body which he died to save. And, in answer