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and shall cast them into a furnace of fire ; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”. And that by “ the world to come” he meant the eternal state, the world of retribution, clearly appears by the parallel passage in Mark 3: 28: “He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” In the fol. lowing passage, Christ speaks of these two states or worlds by way of contrast, and in terms which cannot easily be misunderstood. “The children of this world marry and are given in marriage; but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Luke 20: 34, 35. In like manner, Paul, speaking of the exaltation of Christ, says that God “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that also which is to come.” How absurd it would be to interpret this last expression in such way as to limit the dominion of Christ to his reign on earth, when every impartial reader must see that it was designed to give us the largest and grandest idea of his exaltation! The phrase“ world to come” is used in the New Testament generally, and I believe universally, in the same sense in which Christian writers and speakers commonly employ it now, to express the future state, the world of spirits. And so it ought to be understood in our text.
If then we understand this phrase, “the world to come,” to mean the eternal state into which souls enter after death, what is meant by tasting of its powers ? The term dúvquis, in the singular, expresses ability, strength, or force. It is spoken of the essential power, the true nature and efficacy, the reality of any thing. The Apostle, Phil. 3: 10, expresses a strong desire that he might know Christ and the power of his resurrection; or, in other words, that this fact might have its due influence on his mind and conduct. In its plural form, the term is sometimes used to signify those who are invested with power, and sometimes for the mighty deeds performed by them, especially by the workers of miracles. The sun, moon and stars are repeatedly called the powers of the heavens, inasmuch as they are not only monuments of divine power, but have a mighty influence on the earth and its inhabitants. Of Christ it is said (1 Peter 3: 22): “ He is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." Here SECOND SERIES, VOL. VII. NO. I.
the term powers, being used to express more than either of those preceding it, seems to include all things which have power. And so in our text, by “ the powers of the world to come,” we may understand whatever in that world is powerful, either in reality or by influence.
To taste of these powers, is to have a view of eternal things, and feel the impressions and emotions which such a view is suited to produce on the mind and heart of man. It is to know by the test of experience the power and efficacy of the revelation which God has given to man, respecting invisible and eternal things in the world of spirits. Having the eyes of their understanding enlightened, they had looked beyond this present state, and felt that the soul of man is immortal; had contemplated the judgment seat of Christ, and felt that they must appear before it, to give an account of all their moral actions ; they had surveyed the state of lost souls, and shuddered in view of their unutterable agonies; they had seen the glory of God. as it is in the face of Jesus Christ, and having found him precious, and having been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, they must have had affecting apprehensions of the joys of the heavenly world, and felt, as the Apostle expresses it in this same epistle, that they had “ come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Of these divine realities they had not merely been informed, but were convinced by what they themselves had experienced. Having that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, they had felt the power of these things on their hearts and conduct; and so had tasted of the powers of the world to come.
Most of those who understand the gospel dispensation by “ the world to come,” suppose that by tasting of the powers of that world is meant that they were endowed by the Spirit of God with miraculous powers ;-a sentiment much more naturally implied in the preceding clause, in which they are expressly said to have been“ made partakers of the Holy Ghost.”
6. These persons had once been renewed unto repentance. Though this is not directly affirmed, it is plainly implied;
since it is said to be impossible, “if they shall fall away, to renew them again (rchiv) unto repentance.” When our Saviour says : “ Whosoever drinketh of this water shall never thirst again," do not his words imply a previous thirsting? And when the Apostle says to the Philippians : “ Again I say rejoice," does it not import that he had so said before ? So when he speaks of these being renewed“ again unto repentance," it is manifest that they are supposed to have already repented. Some, feeling the force of this argument, but being unwilling to admit that the persons spoken of were true Christians, have said that their former repentance could not have been of the right kind, that it must have been merely a worldly sorrow. To this it may be replied, that the original word for repentance (ustovolov) is one which nowhere else is used in this sense, but is the distinguishing term to denote that repentance which the gospel requires. It is the same word which is used in the first verse of this chapter, where the Apostle speaks of “ the foundation of repentance from dead works.” Besides, if nothing but a worldly sorrow were meant, wherein would consist the difficulty of bringing them to the exercise of it again? All men, even the most infidel and hardened, will doubtless exercise such sorrow sooner or later. It must then have been true, godly sorrow, evangelical repentance which those of whom the Apostle was speaking had exercised.
This interpretation given to these passages is perfectly agreeable to the context, and indeed necessary to preserve the unity and strength of the discourse. Those whom the Apostle was addressing were “ holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." His object in this chapter is to persuade them not to rest in their present attainments, but to press forward in the divine life. “Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God.” “ And this will we do if God permit.” Then occur the words of our text, by way of assigning a reason why they should endeavor thus to go on : “ For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.” Now if the persons described in the text are those whom the Apostle was exhorting to perseverance, what is said in reference to their apostasy is directly to his purpose, and certainly presents one of the most awakening and forcible considerations imaginable to induce his Hebrew brethren to go on unto perfection; since if such persons as they should fall away, there would be no further hope in their case. But if they were quite a different class of persons from those whom he was addressing, what is said of them is irrelevant; and, instead of strengthening, quite enervates his exhortation. As if he should say: “ Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, let us go on unto perfection; for if those who have received great light, but were never true Christians, as I trust we are, should fall away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.” Such was not the manner of Paul.
In the verses immediately succeeding the text, the Apostle presses his exhortation in a different way: “ The earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for those by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God; but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” These last expressions do not imply, as some would have them, that he hoped better things of his brethren than that they had been enlightened, etc. ! or were like the good soil which bringeth forth useful herbs and receiveth blessing from God; but he hoped better things of them than that they should apostatize, and be like the ground which bringeth forth briers and thorns, whose end is to be burned.
In view of reasons so various, so consentaneous, coming so directly to the same result, we must believe that the persons characterized by the Apostle in our text were true believers in Christ. Probably no other opinion would ever have been advanced had it not been for what is subsequently said of their falling away.
II. WHAT IS SUPPOSED WITH RESPECT TO THESE PERSONS ? The hypothesis is contained in these words : “ If they shall fall away.” Some have found fault with the translators for having rendered the passage in this way. They say that the original word nopanegóvtas being in a past tense, as the other words in connection with it are,ought like them to have been rendered in past time, “ And yet have fallen away.” It is admitted that this would be more literal, but not that it would make any material alteration in the sense. For in case of the proposed rendering, the phrase ought not to be considered as declaring a historical fact, but only as furnishing a statement for the sake of an argument.
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Examples of this mode of reasoning, expressed both in present and future time, are very common. It is equally proper, whenever it better suits the connection, that such statements should be made in terms denoting time past. “But the younger widows refuse; because, when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.” 1 Tim. 5: 11, 12. Here the verb nhérnoav, “ have cast off," is in the indicative form, and past tense, and yet it must evidently be taken hypothetically, not as declaring that they had then already cast off their first faith, and received damnation, but that it would be so when they should have begun to wax wanton against Christ. So in Heb. 10: 29, where the Apostle says: “Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot (xatonatoas) the Son of God,” etc. It is not a declaration that any one had done so, however true that might be; but is only a case supposed, to show the guilt and danger of so doing. We may therefore safely allow, that our translators have given the true sense, though not the precise form of the original term. Beza has it : “ Si prolabantur," —if they have fallen away ; Castalio: “ Et tamen relabuntur,"_and yet relapse. They did not suppose the Apostle to be declaring a historical fact, but, as has been said, supposing a case.
What then is meant by this falling away? It must mean something more than such falling as all Christians have daily occasion to lament; else none can be saved. It must mean something more than to fall as David and Peter did; for they both were renewed again unto repentance. It is evident that a complete defection or falling away from the state described must be intended. If they should shut their eyes against the light of divine revelation; cease to be illuminated by the Spirit, and revert to their former state of darkness; lose their relish for the heavenly gift, and no longer esteem Christ to be precious ; should so resist and grieve the Holy Ghost as to deprive themselves of his inhabitation and miraculous powers; lose all delight in the word of God, and no longer be influenced by the realities of the world to come; and relapse into their former state of impenitency, unbelief and hardness of heart;—then would they be in the state supposed ;—then might it be said, with the strictest propriety, that they had fallen away.
Some perceiving that this must be what is meant by falling away, and yet believing that God has promised that none of his