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punishments from causing them to fall into apostacy.
This design is apparent, from the illustrious character he gives of the Lord Christ, to whom they had devoted themselves by embracing the Christian religion. He is not a mere man, not an ordinary prophet, not an angel; but the Lord of men, and of angels. "For God," says the apostle at the commencement of this epistle, "who spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels, said he, at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" Heb. i. 1-5.
This design is farther apparent, as the apostle apprizes the Hebrews concerning the difficulty, and even the impossibility of obtaining mercy after an abjuration accompanied with certain aggravating circumstances, which time does not permit me here to enumerate. The sense is asserted in these words: 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 of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they fall away to renew them again unto repentance," Heb. vi. 4-6. To "fall away," here signifies, not the repetition of a criminal habit we had hoped to reform, (and who could expect salvation if this were the meaning of the apostle?) but professing again the errors we had renounced on becoming Christians, and abjuring Christianity itself.
This design appears likewise, from the care the apostle takes to exalt the Christian economy above that of Moses: hence he infers, that if the smallest offences, committed against the Levitical economy, were punished with rigour, there cannot be punishments too severe for those who shall have the baseness to abjure Christianity. "If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries," Heb. x. 26, 27. The sin into which we wilfully fall, does not mean those relapses, of which we spake just now, as the ancient fathers believed: whose severity was much more calculated to precipitate apostates into the abyss from which they wished to save them, than to preserve them from it. But to sin wilfully, in this place signifies apostacy; this is the sense of the words which immediately follow the passage. "He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Heb. x. 28, 29. The whole is descriptive of apostacy. The Jews,
having prevailed with any of their nation, who had embraced Christianity to return to Judaism, were not satisfied with their abusing it; they required them to utter blasphemies against the person of Jesus, and against his mysteries, as appears from the ancient forms of abjuration which the learned have preserved.
All these considerations, and many more, of which the subject is susceptible, demonstrate, that the grand design of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, was to prevent apostacy, and to prompt them to confess the truth amidst the most cruel torments to which they might be exposed by the profession. This is the design of my text. "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us; that is, let neither persecutions the most severe, nor promises the most specious, be able to induce you to deny Christianity, nor any consideration deter you from professing it.
On this first design of the apostle, we shall merely conjure those, with whom there may remain some doubt as to the horrors of apostacy, and the necessity imposed on all Christians either to leave the places which prohibit the profession of the truth, or endure the severest tortures for religion; we shall conjure them seriously to reflect on what we advance; not to content themselves with general notions; to compare the situation of those Hebrews with that in which some of the reformed Christians are placed; to compare the abjurations required of the first, with those required of the latter; the punishments inflicted on the one, with those inflicted on the other; and the directions St. Paul gave the faithful of his own time, with those which are given to us. If, after sober and serious investigation, we still find casuists who doubt the doctrine, by affirming, that those of our brethren, who still remain in France, ought to make their choice, between flight and martyrdom, we will add no more; feeling ourselves unable to persuade men, with whom arguments so strong are incapable of conviction.
Perhaps some of you think, that we insist too often on the same subjects. But we frankly avow, that, so very far from thinking we preach too often, it seems to us we by no means resume them sufficiently. We are also fully resolved to insist upon them more powerfully than we have ever done before. Yes! while we shall see the incendiaries of the Christian world, men, who under the name of the meek and lowly Jesus cherish the most ambitious and barbarous sentiments, holding the reins of government in so large a space of Europe, making drunk, if I may use an expression in the Revelation, and an expression by no means hyperbolical, "making drunk the kings of the earth with the wine of their fornication:" while we shall see edicts issued anew, which have so often made to blush every one who has a vestige of probity in the community from which they proceed; while we shall see fresh faggots kindled, new gibbets erected, additional galleys equipped against the Protestants; while we see our unhappy brethren invariably negligent to the present period in which they promised to give glory to God, alleging, as an excuse, the severity of the persecution, and the fury of the persecutors; that when peace shall be restored to the churches, they will return to devotion; while we see a
IV. We shall point to the different classes of persons who compose this congregation, the various consequences they should draw from this doctrine, and the sentiments with which it should actuate their minds.
I. We shall remove what is equivocal in the term perseverance, and in the expression, "let us run with patience the race that is set before us." We may take the term in a double sense; or, to express myself more clearly, there are two ways in which we may consider the course Jesus Christ prescribed to his disciples. We will call the first, losing the habit of Christianity; and the second, doing actions incom patible with its design. By the habit of Christianity, we mean that disposition of a believer, in consequence of which, notwithstanding the weakness he may feel in virtue;-the defects with which he may have cause to reproach himself;-and the daily warfare between the flesh and the Spirit, or even some victories which the flesh may obtain over the mind;all things considered, he gives God the preference to the world and the flesh; and has a consciousness in his own breast, that divine love prevails in his heart over every other love. We may also turn aside from the course prescribed by Jesus Christ to his disciples, by doing things incompatible with the design of Christianity. It would discover a defective knowledge of man to conclude, that he has lost a habit the moment he does any action contrary to it. One act of dissipation no more constitutes a habit of dissipation, than a single duty of piety constitutes the habit of piety; and we have no more reason for inferring, that, because a man has discovered one instance of attachment to the world, he is really earthly
million of men bearing the Christian name, contenting themselves to live without temple, without public worship, without sacraments, without hope of having on their death-beds the aids of ministers of the living God to comfort them against that terrific period; while we shall see fathers and mothers, so very far from sending into the land of liberty the children, whom they have had the weakness to retain in the climates of oppression, have even the laxity, shall I say, or the insanity to recall those who have had courage to fly; while we shall see exiles looking back with regret to the onions of Egypt, envying the condition of those who have sacrificed the dictates of conscience to fortune: while we shall see those lamentable objects, we will still enforce the doctrine of St. Paul in the epistle whence we have selected the text. We will still enforce the expressions of the apostle, and in the sense already given. "Take heed, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.—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 of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves afresh the Son of God, and put him to an open shame. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punish-minded, than we have to say, that, because a ment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace." And in our text, "Seeing we also." To what do these words refer? To what the apostle had said a little before respecting the faithful, who, for the sake of religion, " had been stoned, had been sawn asunder, had been killed with the sword:" after enumerating these, he adds, Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
2. Enough having been said concerning the first sense of the text which regards but few Christians, we shall proceed to the second; which concerns the whole body of Christians, who are still in a world which endeavours to detach them from the communion of Jesus Christ. St. Paul exhorts them to "run with patience the race that is set before them;" that is, to persevere in fellowship with him. Perseverance is a Christian virtue. On this virtue shall turn the whole of our discourse, which shall be comprised under four classes of obser
I. We shall remove what is equivocal in the term perseverance, or running the race.
II. We shall enforce the necessity of perse
III. We shall remove certain systematical notions which excite confusion in this virtue. VOL. II.-35
man has discharged a single duty of piety, he is really a pious man. In what sense then, does the Holy Spirit exhort us to persevere? Is he wishful to preserve us from doing any thing incompatible with the design of Christianity? Is he wishful to preserve us from losing the habit?
Doubtless, my brethren, his design is to preserve. us from doing any thing contrary to the object of Christianity; because it is by a repetition of this sort of actions that we lose what is called the habit of Christianity. That disposition of mind, however, which induces a Christian to fortify himself against every temp tation, is a mean rather to obtain the virtue which our Scriptures called perseverance, than perseverance itself. When we say, according to inspired men, that, in order to be saved, we must endure to the end, we do not mean, that we should never in the course of life have committed a single fault; but that, notwithstanding any fault we have committed, we must be in the state just mentioned; that, all things being considered, we give God the preference over sensible objects, and feel divine love in our hearts predominant over every other love. Where indeed should we be, if we could not be saved without undeviating perseverance, without running with patience the race in the rigorous sense, I would say, so as never to commit an action incompatible with the design of Christianity? Where should we be, were God to scrutinize our life with
rigour; if he waited only for the first offence we commit, to plunge us into the abyss reserved for the wicked? Where would be the Jobs, the Moseses, the Davids, and all those distinguished offenders, whose memory the Holy Spirit has immortalized, to comfort us under our falls? One of the greatest motives to comply with a law is the lenity of the legislator: I will cite on this subject a passage of Justin Martyr. "How could Plato," says he, "censure Homer for ascribing to the Gods placability by the oblation of victims? Those who have this hope, are the very persons who endeavour to recover themselves by repentance and reformation: whereas, when they consider the Deity as an inexorable being, they abandon the reins to corrupt propensities, having no expectation of effect from repentance."
Distinguish then the virtue we enforce from one of the principal means of its acquisition. If you ask me what is perseverance? I answer, it is that disposition of mind which enables us, as I have more than once affirmed, and which is still necessary to repeat; it is that disposition of mind which enables us, all things considered, to give God the preference over every sensible object, that divine love may predominate in our heart over every other love. If you ask me, what are the surest means of acquiring that disposition? I say, it is to watch against every temptation to which you may be exposed. I say, in order to preserve the habit of Christianity, you must use your utmost endeavours never to do any thing incompatible with its design.
II. Having removed the ambiguity of the term perseverance, we shall prove in the second article that we cannot be saved without this virtue. 1. The passage we have explained is not solitary. It is a passage which coincides with many other texts of Scripture. The truth, resulting from the sense here given, is not a truth substantiated solely by the text. It is an explanation which a great number of express texts establish beyond the possibility of doubt. Weigh the following: "Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall," 1 Cor. x. 12. "Thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold, therefore, the goodness and the severity of God: on them which fall severity; but towards thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off," Rom. xi. 20-22. "I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, that it might be well with them, and their children for ever," Deut. v. 28, 29. "He that endureth unto the end shall be saved," Matt. x. 22. "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown," Rev. iii. 11. "Thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, the righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for
* Ad Græcos exhort. p. 28. Ed. Colon.
his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. When I say to the righteous, that he shall surely live: if he trust to his righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed he shall die," Ezek. iii. xviii. xxxiii. 12, 13. Such is the morality of our Scriptures. Such is the vocation of the faithful. It is not enough that we keep, for a few years, the commandments of God; we must continue to keep them. It is not enough that we triumph for awhile over the old man, we must triumph to the end; and if we have wandered by weakness for a season, we must steadfastly return to piety and religion.
2. Consider on what principle the Scripture characters founded their assurance of salvation. Was it on some speculative notions? On some confused systems? No: it has been on the principle of persevering in the profession of their religion, and in the practice of virtue. I will adduce but one example, which seems to me above all exception: it is he, who, of all the sacred authors, has furnished us with the most conclusive arguments on the doctrine of assurance of salvation, and the inamissibility of grace; I would say, the example of St. Paul. He never doubted but that he should always persevere in piety, and in the profession of religion. The love of God was so deeply rooted in the heart of this apostle, as to remove all scruple on that head. When, however, St. Paul, by abstraction of mind, considered himself as having lost the disposition which we shall call the habit of Christianity;-when he considered himself as falling under the temptations which exposed him to the flesh, to hell, and the world;-what did he expect considering his state in this point of view? What did he expect after the acquisition of so much knowledge; after preaching so many excellent sermons; after writing so many excellent and catholic epistles; after working so many miracles; after achieving so many labours; after encountering so many dangers; after enduring so many sufferings to exalt the glory of Christ; after setting so high an example to the church? What did he expect after all this? Paradise? The crown of righteousness? No: he expected hell and damnation. Did he expect that his past virtues would obtain the remission of his present defects? No: he expected that his past virtues would aggravate his present faults. “I count not myself to have apprehended," Phil. iii. 13. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached unto others, I myself should be a cast-away," 1 Cor. ix. 27. In what situation did he place himself to lay hold of the crown of righteousness, and to obtain the prize? He placed himself at the close of his course. It was at the termination of life, that this athletic man exclaimed, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness," 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
3. Consider what have been the sentiments of the most distinguished Scripture characters, when they recollect themselves in those awful moments, in which, after they had so far offended against divine love as to suppose the habit lost, or when their piety was so far
eclipsed as to suppose it was vanished. Did they oppose their past virtues to their present faults? Hear those holy men: "O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed: my soul is also sore vexed," Ps. vi. 2. "Mine iniquities are gone over my head, as a heavy burden: they are too heavy for me," Ps. xxxviii. "I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me," Ps. li. 3-11. "Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Cast me not away from thy presence; restore me unto the joy of thy salvation. Will the Lord cast off for ever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies!" Ps. lxx. 8-10. What ideas do these words excite in your minds? Is it the presumptuous confidence which some men, unhappily called Christians, evince after committing the foulest offences? Are these the sentiments merely of an individual, who by a simple emotion of generosity and gratitude, reproaches himself for having insulted his benefactor? Or are they sorrows arising in the soul from the fears of being deprived of those favours in future? Magnanimous sentiments, doubtless are found in the characters of those distinguished saints. A repentance, founded solely on the fear of hell, can never obtain a pardon: it may do well enough for a disciple of Loyola; but not for a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is respect for order; it is the love of God; it is sorrow for having offended a being we sincerely love, which is the basis of true repentance. It is fully apparent that the expressions you have heard, are the language of a soul persuaded of this truth, that we cannot obtain salvation without persevering till death in the habit of holiness, which it fears to have lost. They are the language of a soul, which reproaches itself, not only for a deviation from order, but which fears, lest it should have forfeited its salvation.
the inamissibility of your faith, and sure pledges of your salvation. But, my brethren, was this indeed the system of those saints of whom we have spoken? They were not more convinced of this principle, that a sincerely good man cannot fall from grace, than of this which follows: that a man who cannot fall from grace, cannot fall from piety. They have trembled on doing an action contrary to piety; fearing lest the habit was lost.
5. In a word, our last proof of the necessity of perseverance is founded on the necessity of progressive religion. It is a proposition already established on other occasions, that there is no precise point of virtue, at which we are allowed to stop. If a man should take for his model one of the faithful, whose piety is least of all suspected: if a man should propose to himself so fine a model, and there restrict his attainment, saying, I will go so far, and no farther: such a one would have mistaken notions of religion. The Christian model is Jesus Christ. Perfection is the sole object of a Christian; and, the weaker he feels himself in its acquisition, the more should he redouble his exertions to approach it. Every period of life has its task assigned. The duties of youth will not dispense with those of riper age; and the duties of riper age will not dispense with those of retiring life. "Be ye perfect as your Father who is in heaven is perfect," Matt. v. 48. This is the command of Jesus Christ. "Be perfect," 2 Cor. xiii. 11. This is the precept of St. Paul. What do you infer from this principle? If we are condemned for not having advanced, what shall we be for having backslidden? If we are condemned for not having carried virtuous attainments to a more eminent degree, what shall we be for having debased them to a degree so far below the standard?
III. But a doctrine of our churches seems to frustrate all our endeavours to prompt you to perseverance, and to warn you that salvation is reserved solely for those who do persevere. It is this. We fully believe, that the most illustrious saints were guilty of offences, directly opposed to Christianity; but we profess to believe, that it was impossible they should lose the habit. We conceive indeed the propriety of exhorting them not to commit those faults which it is impossible they should commit. But why exhort them not to lose a habit which they cannot lose? Where is the propriety of alarming them with a destruction on the brink of which grace shall make them perfect? This is the difficulty we wish to solve; and this is the design of our third head.
4. Consider the absurdities, arising from the opinion we attack. The commencement of a life, sincerely consecrated to the service of God, is a sufficient barrier against all the fears arising from crimes with which it may in the issue be defiled. The children of God can never fall from grace. And none but the children of God can be sincerely consecrated to him in the early period of life. On this principle, I will frame you a system of religion the most relaxed, accommodating, and easy, even at the bar of corruption the most obstinate and inveterate. Consecrate sincerely to God a sin- But I would indeed wish to illustrate the gle hour of life. Distinguish by some virtue subject without reviving the controversies it the sincerity of that early period. Then write has excited. I would wish conformably to the with a pen of iron on a tablet of marble and views of a Christian (from which especially a brass, that, In such a day, and in such an gospel minister should never deviate.) to assohour, I had the marks of a true child of God. ciate as far as the subject will admit, peace After that, plunge headlong into vice; run un- and truth. If the wish is not chimerical, we bridled with the children of this world to the cannot, I think, better succeed, than by availsame excess of riot: give yourself no concerning ourselves of a point unanimously allowed about your passions; if the horrors of this state should excite any doubts of your salvation, comfort yourself against the anathemas of legal preachers; comfort yourself against remorse of conscience, by casting your eyes on this tablet of brass and marble;-monuments of
by the divines divided on this subject, in order to harmonize what seems calculated still to divide them.
It is a received maxim in every system, I would say, in every system of those who are divided on the doctrine of the inamissibility of
grace; that, to preserve the habit of holiness, without which they unanimously agree, we cannot be saved, we must use all the means prescribed in the sacred Scripture to preserve so valuable a disposition. Divines, whom difference of opinion has irritated against one another, reciprocally accuse their brethren of weakening this principle; but there is not one among them who does not sincerely embrace it, and complain of the reproach, when charged with having rejected it. Those who exclaim against the doctrine of the inamissibility of grace, are so far from rejecting it, that they pretend to be the only persons who establish it upon a sure foundation; and maintain that it cannot exist in systems opposed to the first. They say, that the doctrine of the inamissibility of grace is so far from opposing this principle, that it constitutes its foundation. And who among the advocates for this doctrine, ever affirmed that we can preserve the grace of perseverance, if we frequent the haunts of infamy; if we keep company with persons who tempt us to adultery and voluptuousness, and so with regard to other virtues? This then is a principle such as I would seek. It is a principle inculcated by every system, that in order to retain the habit of holiness, without which it is impossible to be saved, we must use all the means pointed out in the sacred Scriptures for the preservation of such an individual temper of mind.
This being granted, it is requisite in every system, to represent the calamities we incur by losing the habit of holiness, because it is the dread of incurring the calamities consequent on our fall, which the Scriptures point out as the most usual and powerful preservatives from apostacy. Hence they exhort us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Hence they make one part of a good man's happiness to consist in fearing always. Hence they require us to rejoice with trembling. Each of you may collect a variety of parallel passages.
Our divines, to illustrate this subject, have sometimes employed a comparison, which, in my opinion, is well calculated to answer their purpose. It is that of a wise man at the top of a tower, who has all the necessary means of preserving himself from falling into the abyss open to his view. We may properly say, it is impossible such a man should fall. Why? Because, being a prudent man, and having all the necessary means, it is impossible his prudence should not prompt him to avail himself of their support. But in what consists one part of this means of safety? It is the faculty suggested by his prudence, of knowing, and never forgetting the risk he runs, should he neglect the means of safety. Thus fear, so circumstanced, is one part of his safety, and his safety is inseparable from his fear. The application of this comparison is easy; every one may make it without difficulty. It is sufficient, not indeed to remove all the difficulties of which the loss of grace is susceptible; but to answer the objection I have made of its being useless, on a supposition of the impossibility of falling from grace, to warn a real Christian of the calamities he may incur, should he lose his habit of piety,
IV. Three classes of people have conse quences to deduce from the doctrine we have now advanced. We first address ourselves to those who seem least of all interested; I would say, those who have no cause to fear falling from grace; not because they are established, but because they never entertained the sincere resolutions of conversion. If people of this description would pay serious attention to their state; if they would read the Scriptures with recollection; if they would listen to our sermons with a real, not a vague and superficial design of reducing them to practice, I think the doctrine we have delivered would rouse them from their indolence; I think it would hinder them from going so intensely into the world, on withdrawing from devotion, as not to hear the voice of their conscience. What! the people of whom we speak should say, What! Christians of the first class; what! those distinguished saints who have devoted the whole of their life to duty; what! those who have "wrought out their salvation with fear and trembling;" can they promise themselves nothing from past efforts? What! are all the sacrifices they have made for Christianity useless, unless they persevere in piety; and, for having failed to run only a few steps of their course, will they fail of obtaining the prize promised to those only who finish the whole? And I, miserable wretch, who am so far from being the first of saints, that I am the chief of sinners;-I, who am so far from having run the race which Christ has set before his disciples, as to have put it far away;—I, who have been so far from working out my salvation, as to have laboured only by slander, by calumny, by perjury, by blasphemy, by fornication, by adultery, by drunkenness;-I, who have done nothing but obstruct the work, yet I am composed, I am tranquil! Whence proceeds this peace? Does it not proceed solely from this circumstance, that, my sins having constrained the Deity to prepare the sentence of my eternal condemnation, he has (among the calamities prepared for me by his justice,) the fatal condescension to make me become sensible of my misery, lest I should anticipate my condemnation, by the dreadful torments which the certainty of being damned would excite in my soul. Oh, dreadful calm! fatal peace! tranquillity to which despair itself is perferable, if there be any thing preferable in despair! Oh! rather, thou sword of divine vengeance, brandish before my eyes all thy terrors! Array in battle against me all the terrors of the mighty God, as in the awful day of judgment; and striking my soul with the greatness of my misery, give me, at least, if there be time, to emancipate myself! If there be yet time? And, if there be not time, why do you yet breathe? Why are there still open to you the gates of this temple? Why is the gospel still preached, if it is not that you may be recollected; if it is not that you may renounce the principles of your past folly; if it is not that you may yield to calls of grace, which publish to you the consoling_declarations of the merciful God? "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he hath