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the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, may be again entangled therein and overcome; turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them; and so like the dog return to his vomit, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire, 2 Pet. ii. 19-22. And our Lord in the parable of the sower shews, that men may receive the word with joy, and for a while believe, who in time of temptation fall away." Luke viii. 13. These and such passages shew, that men may not only know the truth, but believe and have joy in it, and that it may have a considerable influence on their conduct for a time, and yet, after all, sin wilfully and fall away irrecoverably.
judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 3. When the apostle says "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought wor thy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God"-he appeals to their own judgment, whether he who sins wilfully against the grace of the covenant, does not, from the higher degree of his guilt, deserve sorer punishment than he who presumptuously despised Moses' law. To give them a deep impression of the more heinous nature of this sin, consequently of the justice of its being more se verely punished, he describes its nature and aggravations in the most striking terms. He had said in general that it was to sin wil fully after having received the knowledge of the truth;" and indeed without this knowledge it cannot be committed at all; but here he proceeds to shew them directly the nature of it, and represents him who is guilty of it as
2. It should be observed, that the apostle is not here speaking of the unbelieving Jews who had never been enlightened so as to profess the faith of Christ; but of those of them only who had received the knowledge of the truth and once professed to believe it; having, xalaralnoas, trodden under who had seen the miraculous foot the Son of God." An expresevidence by which it was at first sion which signifies to treat him confirmed as a revelation from with the greatest disdain and conGod, and had themselves, some of tempt, as men do with the most them at least, been partakers of the worthless and vilest of things, such extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, ch. as the filth or mire of the street on vi. 4, 5. and yet, in the face of all which they trample. See Isa. xxvi. that evidence, turned out wilful 6. Mic. vii. 10. Mal. iv. 3. It also apostates, and determined enemies imports their treating him with the to Christ, his cause and people, utmost rage and fury; for when a and so rejected the only effectual man tramples upon another, and sacrifice which God had appointed stamps upon him with his feet, it and accepted; now, for such as is looked upon, as a sign of the thus sin wilfully, we are told, greatest rage; and in this sense "there remaineth no more sacri- the expression is used, Isa. lxiii, fice for sins." The only sacrifice 3, 6. Dan. viii. 10. And this remaining under the gospel is the answers to what he had said before sacrifice of Christ, and as they of such wilful apostates, "They wilfully despise and renounce the crucify to themselves," (or in thembenefit of that sacrifice, they have selves, i. e. in the rage and enmity no sacrifice for sin whatever re- of their hearts and blasphemies, maining to them; consequently," the Son of God afresh, and put must be destitute of every reason-him to an open shame," ch. vi. 6. able and revealed ground of hope, This is their treatment of him and nothing is left them. "But whom they once acknowledged to a certain fearful looking for of be the true Messiah, the beloved
Son of God, and Saviour of the world! Surely the punishment of such must be infinitely more severe than that which was inflicted on the despisers of Moses' law.
4. The "blood of the covenant" is the blood of the Son of God, called "the blood of the everlasting covenant,” ch. xiii. 20. It is Christ's "blood of the new covenant, which was shed for many for the remission of sins," Matt. xxvi. 28. and by which he ratified the covenant and sanctified the people, Heb. xiii. 12. This precious blood of Christ which hath procured the new covenant and all its blessings, the apostate esteems no better than common or unclean blood, a thing of no more value, or efficacy, than the blood of a common malefactor; and to aggravate his guilt it is added, "wherewith he was sanctified."Some have a doubt if these words belonged originally to the text; for they are not in the Alexandrian copy, and Chrysostom omits them; but as they are to be found in the greater part of ancient MSS. it would be unsafe to leave them out. Commentators, however, who admit them to be genuine differ as to their meaning. Some understand the words to signify "the blood of the covenant wherewith he," that is, Christ," was sanctified," which they think agrees with what he says, "For their sakes I sanctify myself," John xvii. 19. Christ indeed sanctified himself, that is, he dedicated, devoted, or set himself apart to God as a sacrifice for the sins of his people, and that, on the ground of his oblation once offered, he might officiate as their High priest in heaven. But ayage, to sanctify, in this epistle, signifies to cleanse or purify from the guilt of sin by the blood of sacrifice, ch. ii. 11. ix. 13. xiii. 12. And as Christ was without sin, and knew no sin, though he was made a sinoffering for us, 2 Cor. v. 21. Heb. iv. 15. he could not in that sense
sanctify himself, as he needed not, like the legal high-priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's, ch. vii. 27. I am therefore of opinion, that the person who is here said to have been sanctified is not Christ but the apostate; and that this is stated as a most dreadful aggravation of his guilt and ingratitude, that he should count the blood of the covenant wherewith he himself was sanctified a common or unholy thing.
5. But it will be asked, In what sense can it be said, that one who turns out an apostate was ever sanctified? In answer to this let it be observed, That the scriptures speak of men according to their profession and outward appearance. The apostles, in writing to the churches, address them as saints, elect, faithful, and sanctified, 1 Cor. i. 2. 1 Pet. i. 2. that being their professed and visible character. When individuals of them apostatized from the profession of the faith, it is not attributed to their having never known the gospel, nor experienced any benefit from it; on the contrary, it is ad-. mitted that they have, and that thereby their guilt is highly aggravated, 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21. The Lord of the wicked unmerciful servant is represented as having forgiven him all his debt, Matt. xviii. 27, 32. The fruitless blind professor is said to have beek purged from his old sins, 2 Pet. i. 9. and the false teachers to deny the Lord that bought them, 2 Pet. ii. 1. The apostate is supposed to have been once enlightened in the knowledge of the truth, Heb. vi. 4. x. 26. to have received the word with joy, and believed for a while, Luke viii. 13. and to have tasted of the heavenly gift, and of the good word of God, Heb. vi. 4, 5. Though there may be an essential difference between such attainments and those of true Christians, yet we cannot distin
guish them in their abstract nature, but only by their concomitants and effects. The things specified seem to imply, that the apostate had been once sanctified by the blood of Christ, so far as to experience its efficacy in relieving and purging his conscience from the guilt of sin and fear of wrath, and to give him some degree of joy and peace, as well as to produce some partial reformation on his life: But that he now despises the sanctifying blood of the covenant, accounting it a common or unholy thing.
6. To complete the description of this dreadful sin, the apostle adds, "and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace." The Holy Spirit is the author of every gracious disposition of heart, which is called the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. v. 22, 23.; but I apprelrend he is here called the Spirit of grace, as being the author of those miraculous powers and spiritual gifts which are termed grace, Rom. xii. 6. Eph. iv. 7. and which in the first age were conferred on believers for the spread and confirmation of the gospel; When therefore any apostatized from the faith of Christ to Judaism, after having witnessed those miraculous gifts, and especially after having been possessed of them himself, as is supposed, Matt. vii. 22. Heb. vi. 4, 5. he could not possibly evade the force of such proofs, but by joining issue with the Scribes and Pharisees in absurdly ascribing them to the agency of evil spirits. Matt. xii. 24. than which a greater indignity and more malicious insult could not be offered to the Spirit of God. And this is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which our Lord declares shall never be forgiven either in this world, or in the world to come, ver. 31, 32. Therefore the punishment of such a sinner must be inexpressibly greater than that death without mercy which was inflicted
on the despisers of Moses' law, which was only the death of the body by the hands of men; whereas the punishment of such audacious apostates is to be inflicted by the immediate hand of God himself.
7. The account which the apostle here gives of wilful apostacy, as doing despite to the Spirit of grace, seems to be much the same with what our Lord says of the sin against the Holy Ghost, in his caution to the Pharisees when they ascribed his casting out devils to the agency of the prince of devils; for it is not clear that he is there charging them with having actually committed that sin, or that they were capable of committing it before the full and complete testimony of the Spirit was given to Christ, which was not till after his resurrection and glorification. Compare John vii. 39. xv. 26. xvi. 8-15. with Acts ii. 33, 36. v. 32he on that occasion declares, that "the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men," Matt. xii. 31. But some have endeavoured to soften his words, and would have him to mean, that it shall not be forgiven without repentance; which would imply, either that other sins may be forgiven without repentance, or that there is no difference between this and any other sin in respect of repentance or forgiveness; whereas this sin is distinguished from all other sins in both these respects. As to repentance, the apostle says, that "it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance," Heb. vi. 4, 6. And with respect to forgiveness, while our Lord admits that " all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men," he absolutely declares, that "the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come." Matt. xii. 31, 32. Mark iii. 28, 29. But as some weak Christians, from ignorance of
the nature of the unpardonable sin, and of the real state of their own minds, or perhaps from a tincture of melancholy, are apt to suspect that they have committed it, it may be proper, before we dismiss this subject, to observe,
8. That no sin, however great, which men may commit through ignorance and unbelief, or previous to their having received the knowledge of the truth, is the unpardonable sin. The crucifixion of Christ was certainly a sin of the first magnitude; yet, amidst the tortures of the cross, he prayed for his murderers, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," Luke xxiii. 34. which prayer was undoubtedly answered. Peter charged home on the Jews their having killed the Prince of life; yet as he knew that through ignorance they did it, as did also their rulers, he calls them to repent and be converted that their sins may be blotted out, Acts iii. 11, 17, 19. Saul of Tarsus was a cruel persecutor of Jesus, compelling his disciples to blaspheme; yet he obtained mercy, because he did it ignorantly in unbelief, 1 Tim. i. 13.
oaths; yet he obtained repentance and forgiveness, Matt. xxvi. 69– 75. The churches of Galatia after they had been called into the grace of Christ, were in a great measure subverted from the faith by false teachers; yet the apostle travailed in birth of them again until Christ was formed in them, Gal. i. 6. iii. 1, 3, 4. iv. 9, 15, 19. In short, there may be many grievous occasional sins committed by real Christians, after having received the knowledge of the truth, and tasted of the good word of God, which, though highly aggravated, are none of them that wilful sin which the apostle describes, nor what our Lord calls the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which shall never be forgiven.
10. From the scripture account of this sin it may easily be distinguished from all others-1. It is a wilful sin, and committed not through mistake, or reluctantly through the overbearing force of temptation, but of design, and from a deliberate determination of mind; which, considering the knowledge they have of the truth, must involve in it the most daring presumption.-2. It is termed a fall9. No act of sin, however hein- ing away, or drawing back; not ous, and even though committed merely a partial decline or backafter being once enlightened, if sliding; but a total apostacy from the word of God calls to repent the faith of the gospel; openly and of it, and contains any instance of avowedly renouncing Christ, the repentance or forgiveness for that profession of his name, and all part or such like sin, can be considered and interest in him, and disclaimas the unpardonable sin. A calling all allegiance and subjection to to repentance always supposes him.-3. This is clear, from the that there is place for it. It im- hatred, malice, and contempt with plies, that upon repentance and which they treat him: They are application to the blood of Christ represented as crucifying to themfor cleansing, pardon will be grant-selves the Son of God afresh, putted; and this is expressly promised, ing him to an open shame, treadProv. xxviii. 13. 1Johni. 9. David, ing him under foot, and counting though enlightened by the Spirit his blood an unholy thing. And and an inspired prophet, fell into because the Holy Spirit bore witthe sin of adultery and deliberateness to him by his miraculous murder; yet he repented and was operations and spiritual gifts, thereforgiven, 2 Sam. xii. 7-14. Psal. fore they spitefully insult the Spirit xxxii. 5. Peter, after his faith had of grace, by blasphemously ascribbeen approved of, denied his Lording these to evil spirits. thrice, with imprecations and 11. From this account of the
the unpardonable sin, it will have the most pernicious effects upon him. For though he should still highly prize the gospel salvation, and think them happy who par take of it, (which does not consist with this sin;) yet the apprehension that he has forfeited that salvation, and is himself cut off from any part or interest in it, must overturn his faith in the atone.
fill him with terror and despair, and militate against every principle of love and obedience.
unpardonable sin we may see, that it is not a simple transient act, or occasional transgression of a particular precept, but a wilful, total and avowed apostacy from the faith of the gospel, and that in the face of all the supernatural evidence by which its truth is confirmed; in opposition to all the motives to stedfastness which it holds forth, and in violation of all the obligations which they have come un-ment, and hope in divine mercy, der: This can be accounted for upon no other principle than a deep rooted and settled enmity of heart against Christ, his holy character, and the way of salvation through him. As there is no remission of sin without a sacrifice, and no effectual sacrifice for sin, but that which they despise and reject; so nothing remains for them but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, ver. 27. which instead of disposing them to re- | pentance, only serves to increase their enmity, it being a desperate hopeless fear of him as their enemy, such as devils have.
12. The design of the apostle in setting before the Hebrews the awful consequences of apostacy, was to put them upon their guard against every approach towards it, and to make them take heed lest there should be in any of them an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God; which is always a necessary caution, especially in times of particular temptation, or when symptoms of that sin begin to appear. But it was far from his design to drive any of them into despair, or even to discourage them, but the very reverse. Therefore persons ought to beware that they charge not this sin either on themselves or others, without a due consideration and knowledge of its nature as described by the apostle, and having the fullest evidence that the description really applies to the case. When a man through mistake imagines that he has committed
PARTICULARS OF THE DEATH
OF MR. HOWARD, THE PHI-
[From Dr. E. D. Clarke's Travels,