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with you in the house of prayer, and hear the preaching of his gospel, and feel the strivings of his Spirit, and yield not to their influence? As you look around on your friends and kindred, and fix an eye upon your beloved offspring, yet unsanctified, and remember the opportunities they have enjoyed, and the grace they have resisted, while your tears fall, and your prayers ascend in their behalf, is it not the language of your grief, O that thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace?
Will you not aspire to follow after the example of your Lord, in taking a wider view of the interests of his kingdom ? and with hearts affected with the desolations which sin has spread abroad on the earth, and with lively apprehensions of the abundance of that grace by which the souls of men are redeemed, and the richness of their inheritance, if they make that grace their refuge, will you not gird yourselves anew in gospel armor, and urge on the conquering car of your Redeemer ?
I have one motive, by which to urge the impenitent to give their hearts to God. Jesus Christ desires it. I see before me sinners, hardened under the influence of the gospel, those who though guilty have been bought with blood, and have heard the proclamations of pardon, and have felt the strivings of the Spirit. And while, my friends, I could weep over your condition, I would hope that the things of your peace are not already hid from your eyes. And knowing what are the feelings of my Lord, whose commission I bear, I am constrained to make one more effort to persuade you to repent. Though guilty, condemned, and in danger of eternal death, there is a refuge in the arms of Jesus, and by repentance and faith you secure pardon, and life, and blessedness. And I would persuade you to repent, for Christ desires it. I present before you the bleeding Lamb of God, weeping over the sins and follies of men, being grieved that they are so reluctant to come to him for cleansing.
I might use other arguments. I might tell you of the command of God, and urge you by the authority of him who reigns in heaven. I might tell you of the joys which flow when sin is pardoned, and the sweet peace of conscience secured by the humble penitent in the day of his conversion. I might tell you of the blessedness of living under the approving smile of Heaven, and having God for your friend in the hour of death, and of the happiness of that world where no sor
I might bring before you friends and parents and dearest kindred, and cause you to hear their prayers and see their tears, and tell you of the floods of joy with which they would greet you as a child of God. I might refer you to the desires of angels, who hover around you while you hear the truth, anxious to bear to the court of heaven the joyful tidings which swell the eternal anthem over a returning penitent. But I pass by these considerations, often urged—I pass them all by, and point you to the tears of Jesus. He who had compassion on you, and shed his blood to redeem you, wept over those in your condition. O let him gratify the feelings of his benevolent heart in
salvation. You know but little of sin and its consequences. But he who knows the length and breadth of the evil, who bare our sins in his own body on the tree, proposes your
deliverance. You know little of the riches of his grace. But he who paid the ransom proposes to wash you in his blood. You know little of the future glories of the kingdom. But he who fills its throne and conducts its interests proposes that you become an instrument of his glory, and live and reign with him for ever and ever. Will you withhold your confidence and refuse
your consent to his gracious purposes? Will you refuse to let him bless you? If Jesus were to come down again from his heavenly throne, and have his dwelling with men, may we not suppose that he would labor and preach, and pray and weep, as he did in the walks of Judea and the streets of Jerusalem? May we not suppose, that, coming into the assemblies of those who hear the gospel, he would repeat the history of his dying love, and show them the wounds in his hands and in his side, and in his infinite tenderness urge his proffered grace. And when he should see their unbelief, would he not, with a heart ready to break, lament over them and say, How shall I give thee up? O that thou hadst known—at least in this thy day—when probation is enjoyed, and the truth is proclaimed, and the Spirit is urging-0 that thou hadst known the things which belong unto thy peace! And remember, impenitent hearers, the day may come, when it shall be added, But now they are hid from thine eyes ! You may be abandoned, as were the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to walk in your own ways and receive the fruit of your own devices. And it may be said to you, When I called ye refused—Behold your house is left unto you desolate. The compassionate Jesus will shortly be the enthroned Judge, and you may be compelled to hear from his lips, “ Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." 0 that you were wise, that you understood these things, that you would consider your latter end !
By Rev. S. L. POMROY,
PRACTICAL EXAMINATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF
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 to repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Divers opinions are entertained respecting this passage. Some maintain that the persons here described are doubtless true Christians, and that the paragraph plainly proves that such not only may, but sometimes actually do, fall from grace, and become altogether impenitent and unbelieving; and thus overthrow, as they think, the doctrine of the saints' perseverance in holiness. On the other hand, it is contended by some, that the description of character here presented does not necessarily imply the possession of true religion, and is therefore irrelevant to the question of the saints' perseverance. That selfdeceived persons and hypocrites should fall away from the appearance of piety, say they, is nothing strange. Some have thought that the word " impossible” ought to be understood, not in an absolute, but in a limited sense, as meaning
exceedingly difficult ; while others understand it as designed to convey the idea that God cannot consistently, and of course will not, renew again to repentance such apostates as are here spoken of. Such being the diverse and clashing opinions respecting this passage, many good men have been perplexed, and found it difficult, if not impossible, to determine what is truth. With the hope of throwing a little light on the obscurities and difficulties of the text, we shall propose, and endeavor to answer, the following inquiries.
1. Does this paragraph relate to real Christians ? This question we are inclined to answer in the affirmative, for the following reasons. In the first place, the whole epistle is addressed to Hebrews who had made a public profession of Christianity. The writer calls them “ holy brethren"_" partakers of the heavenly calling.” He exhorts them to “ consider attentively the Apostle and High-priest of their profession"—to “ hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering.” Indeed, it is the principal object of the epistle to guard those addressed against the danger of apostacy from their religion. This being the case, it is reasonable to suppose that the apostle considered them Christians. For surely he would not have taken so much pains to warn a company of hypocrites and unbelievers against defection from a faith which they had never received. Such a course would have proved, beyond a doubt, that he was “beside himself,” and verily “mad.” If then the epistle, as a whole, was addressed to Christians, it would seem not at all improbable, to say the least, that the portion of it under consideration has reference to the same class of persons.
Furthermore, that this passage has reserence to real Christians seems quite evident from the language itself. The persons spoken of are described as having been “enlightened,” i. e. instructed with regard to the true nature, doctrines, and duties of the Christian religion. They are said to have a tasted the heavenly gift;" i. e. to have known by experience the kindness and love of God as exhibited in the truths, promises, and privileges of the gospel. “Partakers of the Holy Ghost.” “I understand this,” says a learned commentator, “of the extraordinary gifts and influences of the Spirit." “ Tasted the good word of God;" i.e. “ enjoyed the consolations administered, or the hopes excited, by the divine promises of the gospel.” For, according to scriptural usage, “ good word” signifies promise'; and “tasted,” in its metaphorical sense, means “known by experience." To "taste of death,” for instance, is to experience death. Certainly, then, the persons here described had the fullest evidence of the divine origin and nature of the religion of Christ. And if experimental knowledge of the truths, promises, and hopes of the gospel does not make a man a Christian, what does ? Besides, it is added, “ If they shall fall away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” This must put the question at rest. For if the writer does not suppose them to have exercised genuine repentance, why does ħe speak of the impossibility of their being renewed again—i. e. a second timeto repentance? It is then sufficiently evident that the persons referred to in the text were considered by the apostle as real Christians, and not mere professors.
2. What are we to understand by the supposition, “ If they shall fall away ?" The answer is at hand. For a Christian to “ fall away" in such a sense, and to such a degree, as to render his recovery again to repentance " impossible,” it
is certain that he must renounce and totally dispossess himself of all true
3. Why is it impossible to renew them again to repentance ? This inquiry the apostle has answered in the last clause of the text : “ seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame,”-i. e: because they treat the Savior with the greatest ignominy and contempt, and expose him to public shame. If a Christian should “fall away” in the manner which has been described, he would virtually and publicly pronounce the Son of God an impostor, worthy of the crucifixion which he suffered, and would at the same time do despite to the Spirit of grace. And we are here taught that his sin in so doing would be too great and heaven-daring ever to be forgiven. The Scriptures in various places intimate, not obscurely, that there is a point in the progress of sin from beyond which there is no return—where the curse of eter: nal death reigns without the possibility of its removal. Of those who pass this terrible crisis in their moral being, God is represented as saying, “they are joined to idols, let them alone"-" there remaineth" for them “no more sacrifice for sin.” The persons spoken of in the text are said to have been “enlightened” in regard to the doctrines, duties, and privileges of Christianity ; to have "tasted" or experienced the power of religion in their hearts; to have known the joy and peace which the good word of God can impart; in short, to have had the fullest and most indubitable evidence which it is possible to have of the divine origin, truth, and glory of the gospel. If, therefore, they should reject this light, eradicate these holy affections, and return to a state of active enmity to God, it is plain that their guilt would be aggravated and heinous in the highest conceivable degree. If left to themselves they would never repent. As for motives, they have already rejected the most powerful of which we have any knowledge or conception. And God, it would seem, intends here to inform us, that it would be inconsistent with the honour of his character and government—in other words; morally "impossible to renew them again to repentance.” Whether, there: fore, we look at the individuals themselves, at the power of motives, or at the grace of God, their case is utterly hopeless. Such apostates have never forgiveness, either in this world, or that which is to come. But,
4. Is it possible, in the nature of things, for a Christian thus totally to apos
" kept not their first estate" of holiness—they sinned—and were cast down to hell. Adam was originally holy ; but he was seduced from his allegiance, and became an apostate from God. Why then is it impossible, in the nature of things, for a Christian to “fall away ?" If angels and our great ancestor could apostatize, what is there in the nature of a Christian, imperfectly sanctified, to make it impossible for him to “fall away?" He was once in a state of hostility to God. But the divine Spirit has breathed upon him-a ray of heavenly light has beamed upon his soul. He has some love to God-a degree of true holiness; though it seems to him, not unfrequently, like a drop of oil in a tumultuous ocean; he can with difficulty get sight of it. He is still a great sinner. He has a treacherous heart, which cannot be trusted. He is besieged by a numerous and powersul host of enemies and temptations. Without are fightings, within are fears, and dangers everywhere. In himself he is weak and entirely defenceless. If left to his own strength, he knows that he shall fall and perish. When he looks at himself, he is very far from thinking it impossible for him to fall away. When he considers that the whole current of an ungodly world is against him; that there is in his very soul a strong tide of evil affections bearing him away from God; and that in himself he is altogether helpless, he, at times, cannot but feel that he is in danger of apostacy and final ruin. To a Christian in such circumstances, how appropriate the fearful warnings and threatenings of the Bible ! They suit his case—are just what he needs. And truly, what can be the meaning of those numerous warnings against apostacy, if there is any thing in the nature of the Christian character itself which renders such apostacy impossible ? What propriety can there be in holding up to view the awful consequences of defection from the religion of Christ, if, from the nature of the case, such a thing cannot be? Why tell a man to take heed lest he fall from yonder precipice, and be dashed in pieces, when in fact no precipice is there? Can such warnings be sincere? Can they proceed from a God of truth? Besides, is not the possibility of apostacy implied in the very nature of moral agents in a state of probation ? For myself, I can see nothing in the nature of holiness, or of moral agency, or of the Christian character; nothing, in short, in the nature of things which should render it impossible for a Christian totally to apostatize from God. Indeed, if left to himself, there is sufficient reason to believe that he would actually “ draw back to perdition."
5. Have we reason to believe that any real Christian ever did, or ever will, fall away, and finally perish? The answer to this inquiry must depend on the question, Wheiher God has promised by his grace to prevent such a catastrophe ? That there is nothing in the nature of things which renders it impossible for the believer to “fall away" has already, we think, been shown. Indeed, it seems quite probable, that he would apostatize and perish, without the intervention and sustaining power of Divine grace. So that the Christian's hope of final per. severance must be in God. If God has promised to defend him from the dangers to which he is exposed, why then he will be defended and kept ; otherwise, he may stumble and fall. The question then before us is simply, What saith the Scripture ?
I shall not now enter into an extended discussion of this subject, but will endeavor to present some of the more prominent passages of Scripture which have a bearing upon it. “ My sheep,” says Christ, “ hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life ; and they shall