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the writings of St. Luke, will at once explain and confirm the distinction. Acts xxiv. 15. emtida cxov εις τον Θεόν... ανάστασιν μέλλειν έσεσθαι νεκρών, δικαίων τε και αδίκων. “and have hope towards God... that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Here the Greek article is wanting before both words, because the resurrection spoken of was to comprehend both just and unjust. But take a passage, in which the resurrection is confined to the former, and you will not fail to see the definite article introduced. Such a passage is to be found, Luke xiv. 14. and the expression conforms exactly to the hypothesis. ανταποδοθήσεται γάρ σοι εν τη αναστάσει των δικαίων. «For thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
The sacred writer proceeds in the fourth verse to assign his reason for not insisting upon the principles of Christian doctrine ; and commences his statement thus. “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened.” As I am anxious for the present to consider only the signification of various expressions employed in this passage, I wish to reserve all explanation of the doctrine conveyed by them, as a separate branch of my subject. Yet the meaning of any one expression may bear very strongly upon the nature of the proposition intended to be enforced; as is the case with the word “impossible :” because the assertion of the Sacred Writer necessarily bears a different aspect, according to the degree of force, which the term “impossible” may be thought to possess. Even in common conversation, the word “impossible” is used with us, and probably other nations, to con
vey a notion of what is extremely difficult and highly improbable, as well as undesirable. But it does not necessarily denote a striet physical impossibility; although such no doubt is its original meaning. In the eighteenth verse of the chapter before us, in which it was impossible for God to lie,"—in the fourth verse of chapter x. “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins;"—and in the sixth of the with. "without faith it is impossible to please Him,"—the adjective ådúvatos, impossible, is taken in its literal signification, and applied to things, which in their own nature cannot possibly be done. Nevertheless, the same word is used by sacred, as well as profane, writers in the milder and more limited meaning of things extremely hard to be accomplished ; very difficult to perform, and very improbable to happen. When the disciples inquired, in the case of the young rich man, who questioned our Lord on the requisitesto salvation, "Who then can be saved?” the reply was, “ with men this is impossible : but with God all things are possible. The intention of our Lord by this expression was to point out the extreme difficulty, with which worldly-minded men could, in the infancy of the Gospel, be prevailed upon to embrace it. That this was his meaning, is clearly proved by the parallel passage of St. Luke, where the same term “impossible" appears, but where it is also explained as equivalent to this; “how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.”* A similarly qualified use of
the term “impossible” prevailed in other ancient writers. It may be sufficient to mention that Cicero, in translating two different passages from Plato, renders ådúvátov difficillimum factu, and nefas * ; "what is extremely difficult," and,“ what is highly improper."
These inquiries, as I have had occasion to remark, become very important, when they bear upon a question of doctrine; and it does appear, that the interprétation of this single word had great weight with the Roman Church in the dispute, whether they should admit, or reject from the Sacred Canon, this Epistle to the Hebrews. Novatus argued from this passage, that repentance for sins committed after baptism was not to be allowed by the Church; nor were such as lapsed to be admitted to communion :
if men fell off from their profession of faith in times of persecution, they were to be shut out from all communion of the saints. The Roman Church very properly adopted the negative of that propo sition; and, because this passage was vehemently urged against their practice, were the more inclined to deny its authority as an inspired composition.
The Apostle proceeds to mention “those” who were, or had been, "once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.”—The metaphorical adaptation of
light” to the improvement and enlargement of the intellectual powers; to the dissipating of the clouds and darkness of ignorance ; is at once so happy and familiar, as to require little, if any, remark. The first
· See Stephens' Thes.
Sykes in l.
c Rosenmull. in l.
and third chapters of St. John's Gospel plainly shew the application of this expressive image to, and by, our Lord himself; and in times subsequent, the term potlodevtes, “illuminated” or “enlightened,” was synonymous with “baptized.” We must not however imagine that such a flood of light, as was poured upon the human mind by the grand discoveries of the Gospel, was intended to be adequately expressed by the ideas which are commonly affixed to the word “ tasted.” With us, and with the Latins too, the word " ste” conveyed the notion of a superficial acquaintance or faint perception of any object. But in Greek writers it denotes, besides, an intimate and thorough knowledge; an experimental conviction. And in this sense no doubt it is used both in this and the following verse. - What “ the heavenly gift” denoted in particular, it is not so easy to determine. Dr. Sykes thinks it is "the Gift of God, as emphatically stated by St. Paul to be “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord;" and he interprets “to taste "as signifying to perceive, to be sensible of, the truth of such gifts of God. Perhaps it may refer more generally to the gift of the Gospel, and all the benefits of which mankind were thereby rendered partakers. It has also been made a question, in what sense the converts of that time were considered to have become partakers of the Holy Ghost. It is however a question, neither easy nor necessary to determine. Many of the early converts, we know, were endued with special gifts of the Holy Spirit, and had various supernatural powers confided to them for the benefit and edification of the Church.
It is moreover probable, that the ordinary gifts of the Spirit were vouchsafed to the early converts in more abundant strength; as their peculiar situation, under the circumstances of previous ignorance and present discouragement, rendered spiritual illumination and comfort far more necessary. But, in whatever degree and in whatever manner such aid or instruction was imparted, the heinousness of subsequent sin was aggravated in the same degree, and the difficulty of returning to the path of Christian truth and Christian virtue increased proportionably.
To “ taste the good word of God” is, to understand from actual proof how excellent is the doctrine, and how useful the precepts, delivered in the Gospel. The expression is of a like kind with that of St. Peter; “ If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious”a; and the origin of such expressions is to be traced to Psalm xxxiv. 8. “O taste and see that the Lord is good : blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” It iş not so easy to explain, what was in the mind of the Sacred Writer, when he combines, with “ tasting the good word of God” “ the powers of the world to come.”
The difficulty rests in the precise meaning of the latter words. Some understand by “ the world to come," the Christian dispensation, the age of the Messiah; principally because he is called in the Alexandrine version of the Bible, Esai. ix. 6. math pédovtos aiôvos, “ the father of the world to come.” According to this interpretation, when “ this world,"
a 1 Pet. ii. 3.
þ Hammond, Sykes.