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hath trespassed;" or as it may more literally be rendered; "in his falling away in which he fell away," or to lay aside the Hebrew idiom," in his grievous, or total falling away, he shall die.” The Hebrew word by in this place the LXX sometimes render by αποςτασισ.
What great difficulty then attends the construction of this passage? You, indeed, present one difficulty in the following words; "Will it be said, that by falling away the apostle did not mean simply falling away, however complete, but an irrecoverable falling away? Then the text will amount precisely to this; Those, who fall irrecoverably, it is impossible to recover." This, as you observe, is not much in the apostle's way of writing. According to him, their being irrecoverably lost is the consequence of the particular sin mentioned. "If they fall away;" if they turn from their righteousness, or totally apostatize from God; this is the sin designed; "it is impossible again to renew them to repentance." This is the dreadful consequence, which the righteousness of God has threatened.
The falling away here designed is extremely different from the sins, into which believers daily fall, or into which they are surprised by sudden temptation. From these, covenanted mercy will recover them. Falling away differs also from the sins of those, who have never been renewed to repentance. For good men to apostatize from the kingdom of Christ and become again the servants of sin, would be widely different from the conduct of those, who have never
tasted the heavenly gift. And God has judged it proper to guard his people against falling away by the most alarming commination.
The sins of wicked men in general may be repented of and forgiven. But the sin of falling away, fixing men absolutely in impenitence, would, if committed, be irremissible, and exclude them forever from the covenant of grace. How momentous, then, how interesting to Christians, and how conducive to their persevering in holiness, is the apostle's premonitory address!*
5. Toward the close of your observations you inform us, that "the Calvinist tells a professor,
Since Luther finished his reply to J. C. and transmitted it to the Editors of the Panoplist, the observations of a learned friend have excited his attention to the following criticism.
The hypothetical expression, "If they shall fall away," is not, it is asserted, a just translation of the orig inal.
The words, nai agaπITOVTAS, are evidently used to complete the description of the characters before introduced. The proper rendering of the passage is obviously this: For it is impossible to renew again to repentance those, who have been once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and have fallen away. The last clause, και παραπέσοντας, is no more hypothetical, than the one, which precedes, και καλον γευσαμενους Θεου ζημα, &c. If this criticism be valid, the falling away mentioned actually belongs to the persons described, whom, on that very account, no Calvinist will consider as true believers. Accordingly, there will remain, it is said, no further controversy re
specting this passage among those,
who hold the doctrine of the saints' perseverance.
if you entirely lose holiness you are lost." As you professedly embrace the principles of a Calvinist, I wish, Sir, without questioning the propriety of such an address, to make a little inquiry as to your meaning, when you use it. You tell a professor," if you entirely lose holiness, you are lost." Do you consider the professor thus addressed, as a sincere godly professor, or a false professor? Or do you leave it to be applied to either, without determining which? If you mean a false professor, then the naked sentiment conveyed is this; if you entirely lose the holiness, which you never had, you are lost. If you mean a godly professor, then the address agrees perfectly with the construction of Heb. vi. 4-6, which has just been defended. If you would leave it to apply to either, without determining which; then you leave us at liberty to adopt either of the two meanings, which have been mentioned, and the spirit of the address is plainly this; whether you are a true, or a false professor, if you entirely lose holiness, you are lost.
As to the evidence of persons' being in the covenant of grace, or not, I would briefly remark, that their finding in themselves, at present, no exercise of piety, is no certain proof against their being saints. As far, as sin prevails in believers, it sensibly obscures the evidence of their being heirs of glory. But their being conscious at any time, of nothing but sin, is no infallible proof against their saintship. If they always perceived themselves to be the subjects of holiness, they might always feel assured of salvation. But it is to
be most seriously remembered, that the only evidence of our being in the covenant of grace is to be found in the exercises and fruits of holiness.
6. I cannot willingly close without observing, that every attempt to account for the perseverance of saints on any ground, but the gracious purpose of God, and the promised agency of his Spirit, appears antiscriptural, and tends to keep them from the rock of their confidence. The hypothesis of a principle or seed of holiness, inherent in believers, is wholly inadequate to the purpose. Admitting there is a principle in the renewed hearts of believers, distinct from actual conformity to God's law, and antecedent to good affection, which is nevertheless the foundation or spring of good affection; that principle or substratum of good affection cannot be supposed to operate independently of divine influence. So that perseverance must still be considered, as resulting wholly from the unfailing energy of divine grace. After the writings of Reid, Stewart, and others, it is too late to depend on any analogical or hypothetical reasoning respecting the operations of the mind. In the present case such reasoning appears quite unnecessary. Man possesses the faculties of a rational, moral agent. He is capable of right, and of wrong affection, of holiness and sin. When, as a moral agent, he is under the sanctifying influence of the Spirit, or in the words of Scripture, when God worketh in him both to will and to do, his moral feelings and acts are holy. When he is governed by a depraved heart, his moral feelings and acts are
unholy. The regenerate are habitually, and on the whole, progressively under the influence of God's spirit, and consequently they are habitually and progressively holy. But they are not always guided and sanctified by God's Spirit. Sometimes they are governed by a spirit, which is in direct opposition to the Spirit of God. Thus far we keep free from useless hypotheses, and stand upon the ground of certainty. Scripture teaches, that the holy affections of believers are the special effect of God's gracious Spirit. But Scripture and experience teach also, that their affections are not uninter ruptedly holy.
You are pleased to assert that, according to Luther's scheme, the saints cannot with any pro priety be said to persevere, unless persevering, and not persevering, are terms of the same import. Again, you signify that Luther's scheme does not make perseverance in well doing ne cessary to salvation. But does not this all spring from mis apprehension? For it is a prominent truth in Luther's scheme, that, although the salvation of real believers is certain, their perseverance in well doing is indispensably necessary, as the means of obtaining it. He indeed holds that their perseverance in well doing does not imply, that they are always engaged in well doing. A man's persevering in a journey to a certain city does not necessarily suppose, that he is always in motion towards the place. He may sometimes stop; and sometimes turn aside from the right way, and lose himself in bye paths and dismal swamps, or be greatly hindered by robVol. II. No. 10. Mм m
bers. At other times he may perhaps be discouraged by the difficulties he meets, and even begin to go back. Yet, after all, he may perseveringly pursue his journey, and safely arrive at the intended place. Though a man, engaged in the pursuit of any science, is sometimes entirely negligent of his study, and spends whole days in a manner, which directly tends to prevent his success; he may, on the whole, persevere. In like manner, Christians persevere in well doing, although at times they entirely neglect well doing, and fall into great sin. Their perseverance is, indeed, the consequence, not of any secret princi ple or spring of holiness in them, but of God's special agency. Their persevering is altogether the effect of divine preservation. "They are kept by the power of God." The Lord is their Shepherd. He watches their steps; strengthens them when they are weak; raises them when they fall; reclaims them from all their wanderings, and guides them by his own right hand. All their springs are in him. Though in themselves. feeble, erring creatures, liable to fall, backslide, and perish; yet, with such a keeper and guide, they are safe. Thus, dear Sir, have I been taught by the Scriptures to view the character and condition of believers in this life; thus to charge all weakness, all imperfection, all sin to them; and to ascribe wholly to God the beginning, the continuance, and the consummation of their holiness.
AN EXPLANATION OF HEBREWS vi. 4, 5, 6.
In the place above referred to, we find 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 the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves afresh the Son of God, and put him to an open shame.'
It is manifest, that the words recited can have no reference to the defectibility of true saints; for all, who suppose that such may fall away, believe that it is possible for them to be renewed again to repentance. But of the apostates, mentioned in the pas sage before us, the apostle says, "It is impossible to renew them again." It will not help the matter to say, that by impossible the apostle means extremely and peculiarly difficult; for then it will follow, that the recovery of an offending and backsliding saint is more difficult and doubtful, than the conversion of an habitual and customary sinner. This certainly is not true. David and Peter, when they had fallen, whatever we suppose their fall to have been, were more easily brought to repentance, than habitual, unrenewed sinners. David, when the prophet reproved him, immediately declared his iniquity,
and professed his sorrow for his sin. Peter, as soon as Christ turned and looked on him, went out and wept bitterly. Whether, therefore, real saints be secured, by the tenor of the covenant, from total apostasy, or not; the apostates here described, were not of that class. They were persons endued with supernatural gifts; not with spiritual graces. The gifts and the graces of the Spirit had no certain connexion. Some, possessing the former, were destitute of the latter. Our Saviour tells us, "Many will come to him and plead, that they had cast out devils, and done wonderful works in his name; but he will say to them, I know you not; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity." Paul sup
"that a man may have all knowledge, may understand all mysteries, may speak with the tongue of angels, and may have faith to remove mountains, and not have charity."
The descriptive terms, used in the passage under consideration, relate to those supernatural gifts, and miraculous powers, which were dispensed in the apostolic times, and of which many unsanctified men were partak
These persons are said to have been enlightened, or "to have received the knowledge of the truth," perhaps by inspiration as well, as by hearing and by study; for knowledge in the mysteries of religion is mentioned among the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. They are said to have tasted, i. e. to have had a measure of the heavenly gift. They had received those endowments, which were the gifts of the Holy Ghost; such as prophecying, speaking with tongues,
interpreting of tongues, &c.; which gifts were bestowed after Christ's ascension by the Holy Ghost, sent down from heaven. In reference to these gifts, the apostle adds, They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. It is farther said, They had tasted the good word of God; i. e. had seen the evidence of its truth; felt a conviction of its importance; been in some measure reformed by its influence; and perhaps preached it to others with some success. St. Peter speaks of some, who through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour escape the pollutions of the world, and yet are again entangled therein and overcome." These apostates are farther said to have tasted the powers of the world to come. The world or age to come, is a phrase used in prophecy for the times of the Messiah. The same and similar phrases are used in the New Testament. The powers of the world to come are the miraculous powers, dispensed in the time of Christ and his apostles. To taste these powers is to have a portion of them.
In this description there is nothing, which implies a renovation of heart, or any thing more, than what an unsanctified person might, in those days of miraculous gifts, be supposed to possess.
The persons here described, the apostle supposes, might fall away; and so fall away, as totally to reject, and virulently to oppose the gospel of salvation. Of these apostates, he says, "They crucify to themselves afresh the Son of God, and put him to an open shame." He afterward describes them,
"as sinning wilfully, after they have received the knowledge of the truth; as treading under foot the Son of God; as counting the blood of the covenant, wherewith he," (the Son of God)
was sanctified," (proved to be the Messiah) "an unholy thing; and as doing despite to the Spirit of grace."
The persons then, here described, are such as had been guilty of the sin unto death; the sin, which our Saviour denominates, "speaking against, or blaspheming the Holy Ghost," and which, he says, " shall never be forgiven." The reason, why it cannot be forgiven, the apostle here assigns, "It is impossible to renew them again to repentance; for they have malignantly rejected the highest evidence that can be given in favour of the gospel; and have impiously trampled on the last means, which God will use for their conversion; and have not only resisted, but blasphemed, and despitefully treated the Spirit of grace.
As this subject has been particularly illustrated, in the Panoplist, Vol. I. page 442, the writer begs leave thither to refer the reader for farther satisfac tion.