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to go on unto perfection, as to have gone, first of all to prove, that, if men who had made great progress in unholy attainments, should commit the unpardonable sin, they must inevitably perish?

For invalidating the argument in the preceding number, it may be said, the apostle's reasoning seems to imply, that those who had been once enlightened, &c. might fall away; that, therefore, they were not real saints; and that he would, otherwise, have reasoned to no purpose. The conclusiveness of all this depends, however, on its being absurd, and suited to answer no valuable

purpose, to have deduced a consequence, from a supposition of what could not consist with the faithfulness of God, and the stability of his gracious covenant with believers. As the alleged impropriety of reasoning in this sort, and its not being readily seen, that any practical use can be made of it, are the main difficulties attend. ing the construction here given, a solution of these difficulties will now be attempted.

and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak, the apostle had reference to being enlightened, tasting the heavenly gift, &c. and was persuaded better things of the Hebrews than these. This seems, however, to have been suggested by the want of more cogent and decisive proof. The better things, of which the apostle was persuaded, most naturally refer to the similitude of the earth, mentioned in the preceding verse, which is said to bring forth briars and thorns, and to be nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned; evidently denoting the character and fearful end of the ungodly. Saint Paul, therefore, was persuaded better things, than the apostasy and final destruction of such as had been savingly enlightened; tho' he took occasion to reason with them from a supposition of their falling away, that he might thence illustrate, and enforce on them, in the most impressive manner, the duty and importance of going on unto perfection.But the contested passage having reference to a peculiar description of persons, who had never known the grace of God, in truth, he must be considered, as laboring at nothing higher, than to guard such persons against falling away, from those graceless and unholy attainments, which were not the smallest approach towards sav-had recourse to the same mode ing religion; attainments, which, if rested in, would as surely leave them to perish, as if they had already committed the sin unto death. But can it be imagined, that the apostle should have so soon, and so far departed from the proposition, with which he began the chapter, viz.

Of the impropriety of reasoning in this way, we are not at liberty to judge, from any feelings, or prepossessions of our own, nor from any arguments which are not furnished by an appeal to the word of God. If it appear, on a fair examination, that the Spirit of inspiration has

of reasoning with mankind cn this, or on other important subjects, the objection, so far as respects propriety, will be suf ficiently obviated. We shall begin with what is said, Ezekiel xviii. 24. But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth


iniquity, and doth according to will doubt, whether this intends all the abominations, that the evangelical and saving repent wicked man doth, shall he live? | ance. On this, and on nothing All the 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 transted i. 20, and xxxiii. 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 iniquireferred to, are accordingly con- ty, which are of similar import trasted, as men of opposite char- to falling away, after having once 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 which is the wages of sin. It is, therefore, written, verse 20, The soul that sinneth, it shall die but verse 21, If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which 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 his 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. sings, but that repentance, out of a renewed heart, which is said in the gospel to be unto life. Hence saith the Holy One, verse 31, Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye die? It is presumed none

he shall surely die. Here then is an example, which is an exact parallel, in point of sentiment and reasoning, with that which has been considered, from the epistle to the Hebrews. Tho' what is here said of the righteous if he shall turn away from his

He shall surely die, hé shall not live. In point of propriety, therefore, there can be no objection to the apostle's having reasoned from a case, which shall never be realized in fact. This is proved, by an appeal to the things which are taught by the Holy Spirit. Other examples may be adduced from the

scriptures of truth, to the same | awful consequence of falling a



Such reasoning could have been no more improper, in any view of it, than his saying, to the Galatians, If we, (the apostles of Christ,) or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. When we consider, that the apostles of Jesus not only had his spirit for leading them into all truth, but his promise, that he would always be with them, will any regard him, as suggesting the smallest doubt, whether the faithful, and even inspired ministers of Christ, or an angel from heaven, might one day preach another gospel, subversive of that, which they had already preached? All will answer, No. But if this be not admitted, as proving the probability, nor even possibility, of the event supposed; then its being received, as infallibly certain, that none who have been savingly illuminated, shall fall away, or turn from their righteousness, so as to be finally lost, is no good reason why the apostle should not have found a fit occasion, for laying before them, what the fearful consequence must be, supposing them to fall away. Other examples of like reasoning from supposeable, but impossible events, might be adduced from the scriptures; but these are deemed sufficient.

When Paul, and those embarked with him, were shipwrecked in their voyage to Rome, and had suffered almost every thing but death, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying, Fear not, Paul, for thou must be brought before Cesar, ' and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, said he, Sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe it shall be even as it was told me. But ver. 30, As the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved. It was, however, as impossible, that any of them should be lost, as that God should be unfaithful to his promise by the angel. Still, the apostle reasoned with them, from a supposition of what he had just assured them, should not happen. This he did, for evincing the importance of such means and precautions, as were essential to their preservation. This, as to the manner of reasoning, is the same which was used for showing, that the saints, in order to being saved, must continue stedfast in the faith. The centurion did not charge Paul with reasoning absurdly, when alleging the necessity and importance of means, from their connection with the end, nor even for assuring them, that, if these were disregarded, the end would be lost. And shall absurdity be plead against the same apostle, when urging the duty of going on 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

A few things will now be added, for showing the advantage, and thence, more fully illustrating the propriety of reasoning with men, after this sort. Tho' in God's view of it, and as it res

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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. But will any urge, from this assurance, that there is no occasion for employing means, or for setting motives before men, to


The certainty of preservation to Paul and his companions was no greater, than of the means necessary to their being preserv-promote their perseverance, and ed. For showing the necessity and importance of such means, nothing could have been more pertinent, or forcible, than a view of the consequence, which must attend the neglect of them. It is certain, that men will live their appointed time, supposing it to be a given number of years. Still it is as certain, such appointment notwithstanding, that no man can live a single year, if he neither eat, drink, nor sleep. Its being a conceded point, therefore, that none will die, till the time appointed, is no reason for not urging the importance of the

to quicken them in the Christian race? Will any, on this ground, urge the inexpediency of setting before them the glorious prize of their high calling, which is sure to all who obtain the victory? They will not. But they might urge these, with as much good reason, as object to the motive, which is deduced for this purpose, from their supposed apostasy. This is peculiarly fitted to realize, both the duty and importance, of not falling away; for in the event of this, they not only cannot be renewed again unto repentance, so as to

be saved; but will crucify to themselves the Son of God àfresh, and put him to an open shame. However, as real saints regard, not merely the salvation of their own souls, but the glory of their Redeemer, and the latter more than the former, both considerations must be immensely interesting and impressive. No motives could operate with greater effect, for quickening believers, in the race set before them, and for strengthening their confidence in Him, who is able to keep them from falling, and to present them, faultless, before the presence of his glory, with exceeding and everlasting joy.

Those who hold that real saints may apostatize, or as their phrase is, fall from grace, after being once renewed unto repentance, will probably consider the foregoing construction, as agreeable, in part, to their sentiments, and as yielding them some measure of support. The consequence, however, they must admit, with great reluctance, viz. the impossibility of renewing them again unto repentance. It is hence proved, as fully as the word of God can prove it, that if believers fall away, so as to lose the divine image and favor, they must inevitably perish. The strong and emphatical term impossible is used, to fix the awful certainty, that the state of such must be absolutely hopeless!

But to denote the stability of God's gracious covenant with believers, together with the consolation and hope, which they derive from it, the apostle says, from the 16th to the 20th verse of the context, For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein

God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise, the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it, by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the vail, whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus. The hope here spoken of, which is founded on the two immutable things, the oath and faithfulness of God, is that hope of eternal life, which is enjoyed exclusively by true believers. Which hope we have, says the apostle, addressing the Hebrew saints. What is here said of it shows plainly, that it is an infallible hope that it shall never lose its hold, within the vail, nor leave the subjects of it, to disappointment and wo.

By the view here taken of the subject, the following inquiries are suggested. First, How is the Christian hope, an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, if believers may fall away, and having once fallen, must inevitably perish? This difficulty must remain, to be disposed of, by those who deny, that all true believers are kept, by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. Again, if the saints may fall away, and having once fallen, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, so that they must surely die, where is the strength of that consolation, which is derived from the oath and faithfulness of God, who cannot lie, as the unfailing support of their hope? One would naturally conclude, that,

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