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and things that accompany sal-1 to go on unto perfection, as to vation, though we thus speak, have gone, first of all to prove, the apostle had reference to that, if men who had made great being enlightened, tasting the progress in unholy attainments, heavenly gift, &c. and was per should commit the unpardonable suaded better things of the He- sin, they must inevitably perish? brews than these. This seems, For invalidating the arguhowever, to have been suggested ment in the preceding number, by the want of more cogent it may be said, the apostle's reaand decisive proof. The better soning seems to imply, that things, of which the apostle was those who had been once en: persuaded, most naturally refer lightened, &c. might fall away ; to the similitude of the earth, that, therefore, they were not mentioned in the preceding real saints ; and that he would, verse, which is said to bring otherwise, have reasoned to no forth briars and thorns, and to be purpose. The conclusiveness of nigh unto cursing, whose end is all this depends, however, on its to be burned; evidently denot- being absurd, and suited to aning the character and fearful end swer no valuable purpose, to of the ungodly. Saint Paul, have deduced a consequence, therefore, was persuaded better from a supposition of what could things, than the apostasy and fi- | not consist with the faithfulness nal destruction of such as had of God, and the stability of his been savingly enlightened; tho' gracious covenant with believers. he took occasion to reason with As the alleged impropriety of them from a supposition of their reasoning in this sort, and its falling away, that he might not being readily seen, that any thence illustrate, and enforce on practical use can be made of it, them, in the most impressive are the main difficulties attend. manner, the duty and importance ing the construction here given, of going on unto perfection.- a solution of these difficulties will But the contested passage hav- now be attempted. ing reference to a peculiar de- Of the impropriety of reasonscription of persons, who had ing in this way, we are not at never known the grace of God, liberty to judge, from any feelin truth, he must be considered, ings, or prepossessions of our as laboring at nothing higher, own, nor from any arguments than to guard such persons which are not furnished by an against falling away, from those appeal to the word of God. If graceless and unholy attain- | it appear, on a fair examination, ments, which were not the that the Spirit of inspiration has smallest approach towards sav- had recourse to the same mode ing religion ; attainments, which, of reasoning with mankind on if rested in, would as surely this, or on other important subleave them to perish, as if they jects, the objection, so far as had already committed the sin respects propriety, will be sufunto death. But can it be ima- ficiently obviated. We shall begined, that the apostle should gin with what is said, Ezekiel have so soon, and so far depart-xviii. 24. But when the righted from the proposition, with eous turneth away from his which he began the chapter, viz. I righteousness, and committeth
iniquity, and doth according to will doubt, whether this intends all the abominations, that the evangelical and saving repente wicked man doth, shall he live? | ance. On this, and on nothing Allthe righteousness that he hath short of it, is it promised, that done, shall not be remembered : men shall surely live. The rightin the trespass that he hath tres-eous, therefore, to whom this passed, and in the sin which he promise is exclucively made, are hath sinned, in them shall he doubtless subjects of the repentdie. In this book of prophecy ance, which must here be unare two other passages, which derstood. They alone have cast are parallel with that now quo- away from them all their trans. ted: i. 20, and xxxii. 13. Togressions, and turned unto God, the present purpose it seems ne-in exercise of a new heart, and cessary to show, that, by the a new spirit. The promise of righteous, in these passages, we living is made on no inferior conmust understand real saints ; ditions. Hence it is said in the and by their righteousness, that immediate view of this direction, holiness of heart and life, which Turn ye, for why will ye die ? distinguish them from the rest But still, it is declared, that, If of mankind. The righteous and the righteous turn away from his wicked, in each of the chapters righteousness, and commit iniquia referred to, are accordingly con ty, which are of similar import trasted, as men of opposite char- to falling away, after having ence acters, in the sight of God ; the been renewed unto repentance, former, as having a divine prom- all his righteousness which he hath ise of eternal life; and the lat- done, shall not be remembered ; ter, as threatened with that death he shull surely die. Here then which is the wages of sin. It is, is an example, which is an extherefore, written, verse 20, The act parallel, in point of sentiment soul that sinneth, it shall die : and reasoning, with that which but verse 21, If the wicked will has been considered, from the turn from all his sins that he epistle to the Hebrews. Tho' hath committed, and keep all what is here said of the righteous my statutes, and do that which if he shall turn away from his is lawful and right, he shall sure- righteousness, is not expressed ly live; he shall not die. This in precisely the same terms, it turning from all his sins, and is conceived, that it admits the keeping all God's statutes, which same construction, with what is have bis promise of life, are ex- said of apostates from the Chrisplained to mean, not a mere out. | tian faith, viz. that they cannot ward reformation, which might be renewed again unto repentbe connected with temporal bles-ance. He shall surely die, he sings, but that repentance, out shall not live. In point of propriof a renewed heart, which is ety, therefore, there can be no said in the gospel to be unto life. objection to the apostle's having Hence saith the Holy One, verse | reasoned from a case, which 31, Cast away from you all your shall never be realized in fact. transgressions, whereby ye have This is proved, by an appeal to transgressed, and make you a new the things which are taught by heart and a new sfürit, for why the Holy Spirit. Other examwill ye die ? It is presumed none | ples may be adduced from the
scriptures of truth, to the same awful consequence of falling apurpose.
way? When Paul, and those em! Such reasoning could have barked with him, were ship- been no more improper, in any wrecked in their voyage to Rome, view of it, than his saying, to the and had suffered almost every | Galatians, If we, (the apostles thing but death, the angel of the of Christ,) or an angel from hea. Lord appeared unto him, say- ven, preach any other gospel uning, Fear not, Paul, for thou | to you, than that which we have must be brought before Cesar, preached unto you, let him be and, lo, God hath given thee all accursed. When we consider, them that sail with thee. Where that the apostles of Jesus not fore, said he, Sirs, be of good only had his spirit for leading cheer, for I believe it shall be them into all truth, but his promeven as it was told me. But ver. ise, that he would always be so, As the shipmen were about with them, will any regard him, to flee out of the ship, when they as suggesting the smallest doubt, had let down the boat into the whether the faithful, and even sea, Paul said to the centurion inspired ministers of Christ, or and the soldiers, Except these an angel from heaven, might abide in the ship ye cannot be sav. one day preach another gospel, ed. It was, however, as impos- subversive of that, which they sible, that any of them should be had already preached ? All will lost, as that God should be un- answer, No. But if this be not faithful to his promise by the admitted, as proving the probaangel. Still, the apostle reason-bility, nor even possibility, of the ed with them, from a supposi- event supposed; then its being tion of what he had just assured | received, as infallibly certain, them, should not happen. This that none who have been savinghe did, for evincing the import-ly illuminated, shall fall away, ance of such means and precau- or turn from their righteousness, tions, as were essential to their so as to be finally lost, is no preservation. This, as to the good reason why the apostle manner of reasoning, is the same should not have found a fit occawhich was used for showing, sion, for laying before them, that the saints, in order to being what the fearful consequence saved, must continue stedfast in must be, supposing them to fall the faith. The centurion did away. Other examples of like not charge Paul with reasoning reasoning from supposeable, but absurdly, when alleging the impossible events, might be adnecessity and importance of duced from the scriptures ; but means, from their connection these are deemed sufficient. with the end, nor even for assur | A few things will now be adding them, that, if these were ed, for showing the advantage, disregarded, the end would be and thence, more fully illustralost. And shall absurdity be ting the propriety of reasoning plead against the same apostle, with men, after this sort. Tho' when urging the duty of going in God's view of it, and as it reson unto perfection, as the neces- pects the certainty of all events, sary means of being saved, and the work of redemption was finthat, by alleging the certain and ished, from the foundation of the world ; still, the final salvation | requisite means of preservation, of believers is, in a sort, suspend-by alleging the fatal consequence ed on the condition of their en- of neglecting them. Men are during unto the end. None, often stimulated to pursue the however, who hold the certainty measures necessary, to sustainof their final perseverance, willing life, by a conviction, that the admit, that such suspension im- | neglect of them must be inevitaplies any uncertainty, as to their ble death. The curse denounced being kept, by the power of God, against any one, who should thro' faith unto salvation. This preach another gospel, though power is exerted in giving effica- the case supposed were an imcy to such proper means, as are possible one, was not only a appointed, to promote their per- | mode of reasoning, which is warseverance; and to those motives, ranted by the scriptures, and apwhich are set before them, in proved by common sense ; but the word of God, to this end.- was highly pertinent and useful. Among these, we find the cer- Perhaps nothing could have bettain consequence of apostatizing ter expressed the infinite value from the faith. This which seems of the gospel, in its native purity, to be one special object, in the nor any thing have more fully passage before us, is by no means realized to the Galatians the iminconsistent with the general portance of adhering to it, inflexscope of the scriptures. If ye ibly, and at all hazards. The do these things, ye shall never assurance, that all true believers fall. In due time we shall | will persevere unto final salvareap, if we faint not. As the tion, and the implied assurance, branch cannot bear fruit of itself, that none of them will fall away, except it abide in the vine; no are essentially the same; they more can ye, except ye abide in stand upon the same ground. me.
| But will any urge, from this asThe certainty of preservation surance, that there is no occato Paul and his companions was sion for employing means, or for no greater, than of the means setting motives before men, to necessary to their being preserv- promote their perseverance, and ed. For showing the necessity to quicken them in the Chrisand importance of such means, tian race? Will any, on this nothing could have been more ground, urge the inexpediency pertinent, or forcible, than a view of setting before them the gloriof the consequence, which must ous prize of their high calling, attend the neglect of them. It which is sure to all who obtain is certain, that men will live their the victory ? They will not. But appointed time, supposing it to they might urge these, with as be a given number of years. much good reason, as object to Still it is as certain, such appoint- the motive, which is deduced for ment notwithstanding, that no this purpose, from their supposman can live a single year, if he ed apostasy. This is peculiariy neither eat, drink, nor sleep. Its fitted to realize, both the duty being a conceded point, there and importance, of not falling fore, that none will die, till the away ; for in the event of this, time appointed, is no reason for they not only cannot be renewed not urging the importance of the I again unto repentance, so as to be saved; but will crucify to God, willing more abundantly to themselves the Son of God à- show unto the heirs of promise, fresh, and put him to an open the immutability of his counsel, shame. However, as real saints | confirmed it, by an oath ; that regard, not merely the salvation by two immutable things, in of their own souls, but the glory which it is impossible for God of their Redeemer, and the latter to lie, we might have a strong more than the former, both con- | consolation, who have fled for siderations must be immensely | refuge, to lay hold on the hope interesting and impressive. No set before us ; which hope we motives could operate with grea- have as an anchor of the soul, ter effect, for quickening believ both sure and stedfast, and which ers, in the race set before them, entereth into that within the and for strengthening their con- vail, whither the forerunner is fidence in Him, who is able to keep | for us entered, even Jesus. The them from falling, and to present hope here spoken of, which is them, faultless, before the presence founded on the two immutable of his glory, with exceeding and things, the oath and faithfulness everlasting joy.
of God, is that hope of eternal Those who hold that real | life, which is enjoyed exclusively saints may apostatize, or as their by true believers. Which hope phrase is, fall from grace, after we have, says the apostle, addresbeing once renewed unto repent- sing the Hebrew saints. What is ance, will probably consider the here said of it shows plainly, that foregoing construction, as agree it is an infallible hope ;-that it able, in part, to their sentiments, shall never lose its hold, within and as yielding them some meas- the vail, nor leave the subjects ure of support. The conse- of it, to disappointment and wo. quence, however, they must ad- I By the view here taken of the mit, with great reluctance, viz. subject, the following inquiries the impossibility of renewing are suggested. First, How is the them again unto repentance. It | Christian hope, an anchor of the is hencé proved, as fully as the soul, both sure and stedfast, if beword of God can prove it, that if lievers may fall away, and harbelievers fall away, so as to los e ing once fallen, must inevitably the divine image and favor, they perish? This difficulty must must inevitably perish. The remain, to be disposed of, by strong and emphatical term im- those who deny, that all true bepossible is used, to fix the awful lievers are kept, by the power of certainty, that the state of such God, through faith unto salvamust be absolutely hopeless! tion. Again, if the saints may
But to denote the stability of fall away, and having once falGod's gracious covenant with len, it is impossible to renew believers, together with the con them again unto repentance, so solation and hope, which they that they must surely die, wirere derive from it, the apostle says, is the strength of that consolafrom the 16th to the 20th verse tion, which is derived from the of the context, For men verily oath and faithfulness of God, swear by the greater, and an who cannot lie, as the unfailing oath for confirmation is to them support of their hope ? One an end of all strife. Wherein / would naturally conclude, that,