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by all who professed it; and when the ordinary wants of its ministers were to be supplied by the special care of Divine Providence; but these cannot be applicable to a state of things entirely different.
Some perhaps will not be prepared to rank in the number of passages, which are not intended to regulate the conduct, or bind the conscience of Christians at the present day, that well-known and terrible denunciation concerning “ blasphemy against the Holy Ghost;” which is contained in the xüith chapter of St. Matthew, v. 31, and in the parallel passages of the other Gospels. Nevertheless we have the high authority of Bishop Burnet®, as well as other eminent churchmen, for so considering it. “ All things of extreme severity” (says this learned Prelate) “ in a doctrine that is so full of grace and mercy as the Gospel is, ought to be restrained as much as may be. From thence we infer, that these dreadful words of our Saviour ought to be restrained to the subject to which they are applied, and ought not to be carried further. Since miracles have ceased, no man is any more capable of this sin.”
Now I confess it appears to me, that the very same principle of interpretation may be transferred to these terrific passages in the Epistle before us : because the sin referred to is plainly that wilful and complete defection from the cause of the Gospel, aggravated by a contemptuous disregard of the supernatural evidence, by which it was in those days demonstrated; and which those who were thus guilty
had themselves experienced, inasmuch as they had been made partakers of the Holy Ghost. Now this is a sin which, in all its aggravations, no one can be guilty of in the present day. But if any one now be so hardened, as actually to forsake his religion, or to disgrace it by a depraved life and impenitent heart, let him understand that " for these things God will bring him to judgement.” But to return to the text: this additional reason may be assigned for the peremptory declaration of the Sacred writer ; namely, that the day of vengeance was approaching ; in which the apostates from Christianity, together with the unbelieving Jews, would be involved in that awful destruction, which was about to fall on their devoted country; and in consequence of which, time even would not be left for repentance; nor would aught remain, but“a certain fearful looking for of judgement and fiery indignation, which should devour the adversaries."
While however I would thus remove from a timid, but well-disposed, Christian, all cause for unfounded alarm on account of these appalling expressions, I would strongly urge upon the more presumptuous, that they supply not the smallest ground for overweening confidence. If any doctrine, applicable to the present day, be collected from these passages, it must be this ; that the death of Christ cannot possibly afford encouragement to sin; that no extent of faith, or communication of grace, will be an effectual security against the effects of natural corruption, if those, who have been enlightened, and been partakers even of the Holy Ghost, have placed too great a reliance upon their own strength, and have not sufficiently felt the necessity of imploring the Divine assistance. I
doctrine be collected from this
passage, it must be conclusive against the Calvinistic position of the indefectibility of grace.
To conclude ;-Although neither the words of the text, nor of the other passages which have been brought forward, appear to be intended as parts of the general scheme of the Gospel, so as to bear with equal weight upon all Christians of all ages, yet are we, indirectly at least, confirmed by them in this practical and important truth:
That we should every one of us take heed to our ways, because we are never secure from the danger of falling ; and because, if we once fall, the difficulty of recovering our lost ground is extreme.
The explanation now given removes indeed all occasion of unnecessary fear, yet it leaves a salutary warning against religious presumption; against that audacious hypocrisy, which would pluck the mote from a brother's eye, while a beam obscures its own; and that extravagance of hope, which recurs to motives once pure, and to actions once laudable, at a time when the heart has lost its purity, and when conscience has ceased to approve.
GREATER DILIGENCE REQUIRED IN OUR SPIRITUAL
1 Cor. ix. 24, 25.
KNOW YE NOT THAT THEY WHICH RUN IN A RACE RUN ALL,
BUT ONE RECEIVETH THE PRIZE? SO RUN, THAT YE MAY OBTAIN. AND EVERY MAN,
THAT STRIVETH FOR THE MASTERY, IS TEMPERATE IN ALL THINGS. NOW THEY DO IT TO OBTAIN A CORRUPTIBLE CROWN; BUT WE AN INCORRUPTIBLE.
AMONG those expedients, which antient Greece employed to produce some bond of union between its own separate and discordant States, and at the same time to infuse a spirit of pride and independence as a safe-guard against all other nations, their public contests of bodily strength and dexterity force themselves upon our observation. These celebrated games were held in four different places at the recurrence of stated periods; and were open to all inhabitants of Greece and its dependencies. They were ushered in with all the solemnities of religion; they were sanctioned by the attendance of the venerable and noble, the brave and the wise. The animosities of war were suspended; the most generous spirits eagerly mixed in the various contests; and the successful champion not only reaped his meed of applause in the field of contention, but peculiar privileges were awarded him in his native country; while his praise was sounded in distant lands, and even in remote ages, through the minstrel's harp and poet's song. The return of these magnificent spectacles was eagerly anticipated; and the most anxious care was manifested by the several champions to make suitable preparations for the approaching contest. Every expedient was employed to brace the nerves, give vigour to the muscles, and suppleness to the joints. No privation was considered too great, no abstinence too rigid, for accomplishing such a desirable end. The extremes of heat and cold, of hunger and thirst, were voluntarily endured; the body was trained by continual exercise, suited to the respective kinds of trial; and thus, by unremitting perseverance and resolute adherence to the discipline prescribed, it became capable of sustaining the hard shock of the cæstus, of grappling with the sturdy limbs and nimble motion of the wrestler, hurling the javelin, guiding the chariot, or running the race.
Yet, in return for this long-continued and laborious exertion, the only immediate and visible reward was a perishable and, for intrinsic worth, contemptible crown-or rather a wreath, or garland composed of leaves, whose freshness and beauty would not survive the day; or at the very best, of some tree not doomed to such rapid extinction, the olive or the bay. Such a prize must in itself have been despicable to the victors themselves, as the recompense of such persevering temperance and patient endurance. But no doubt the real reward was the generous consciousness felt within the victor's bosom,