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saints shall thus fall, have thought the supposition here made to be proof that the persons spoken of could not be true Christians. But if we search the Scriptures, we shall find that such suppositions in regard to believers, and warnings founded on them, are frequent, especially in the writings of Paul. In this very epistle, which was undeniably addressed to supposed Christians, we find numerous examples. Indeed, to warn his brethren against apostasy, and excite them to go forward in the divine life appears to have been the Apostle's main design. “How shall we escape,” he says, “ if we neglect so great salvation ?” “Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.” If then the Apostle does, in other passages, address true Christians in this manner, the supposition of apostasy in our text can be no proof that those concerning whom it is made, are not true Christians.
Some have maintained that the supposition of apostasy, in this passage and others like it, implies that the salvation of those concerning whom it is made, -of true believers, if these were such,-cannot be certain, even in the purpose of God. But the inference is not legitimate. For how does it appear that God might not from eternity have purposed that this very warning against falling away should be the effectual means of preventing it? When God said: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off the seed of Israel for all that they have
Jer. 31: 12. He did not mean that the thing supposed was possible for man, but the contrary. When the Apostle said: “ If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto
you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed,” it is plainly a case supposed, which was not expected ever to occur. And so when he said to the centurion, with respect to those who were about leaving the foundering vessel : “Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved,” it did not imply that God had not purposed to save them; for he had said before: “ There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not Paul; thou must be brought before Cesar, and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” God had determined to save
them, and carried that determination into execution by warning them effectually against all measures inconsistent with his purpose. The supposition that the persons described were true believers, militates in nowise against the doctrine of the saints perseverance. If God has determined that his saints shall persevere unto the end, he of course has determined to preserve them from apostasy ; and this not by absolute force, but by means of motives addressed to them as intelligent beings, and made efficacious by the agency of his Spirit on their hearts. God can effectually incline his people to obedience without the least infringement of their free agency. “I will make,” he says, “an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me.” Jer. 32: 40. Warnings to Christians, and God's determination that true Christians shall regard them, surely are things perfectly consistent with each other. III. WHAT IS
OF THESE PERSONS ON THE SUPPOSITION THAT THEY SHOULD THUS FALL AWAY ? 'Αδύνατον-πάλιν ανακαινίζειν εις μετάνοιαν,-it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. The repentance here spoken of is that which is evidential of regeneration. This has been already shown. Some translate the passage: “It is impossible to renew them again by repentance.” But this rendering of eis is very unusual, and, in this place, manifestly unnecessary. Man, in his unregenerate condition, being destitute of all gracious affections, never exercises godly sorrow for his sins, until renewed by the Spirit of God. And if those who had been once renewed should so fall away as to lose all holiness, and become a second time dead in trespasses and sins, it would be impossible to renew them again to the exercise of this gracious affection; to bring them any more to the exercise of godly sorrow for their sins. The terms employed evidently refer to some agency from without. For whom, then, would it be impossible to renew them again unto repentance? For the apostles and their fellow servants in the ministry of the gospel ? Such a work never was possible for them. They never pretended, in any circumstances, to be able to renew the hearts of men. They always ascribed this work to God. What then can be the meaning of the declaration! That it would be impossible for God to renew them if they should thus fall away? This, it would seem, must be the neaning. But in what sense would it be impossible for God to do this? As it regards physical force, with him all things are possible. But still God cannot act inconsistently with his nature, his purposes, or his honor. It is impossible for him to do what is wrong. And if impossible to renew those who should fall away, it must be because it would be contrary to his will, incompatible with his plans and his glory, to renew and pardon those who sin against so much light, and cast such contempt on the scheme of redemption. Some have suggested that the term å8ývatov, rendered impossible, denotes here, not absolute impossibility, but only great difficulty. But this, if understood of the apostles, would imply that though difficult, it still was possible for them to renew even apostates ; and that they could renew ordinary sinners with comparative ease;—a most unscriptural representation. And if God be regarded as the agent, as he undoubtedly should be, this meaning of the term in question would imply that it is more difficult even for God to renew some than others; which no one can believe. Besides, when adóvatov is used impersonally, as it is here, it is the appropriate and most expressive term in the language to express what is absolutely impossible. In this sense the Apostle uses it again in this very chapter ; and repeatedly in the course of this epistle. “ It is impossible for God to lie.” “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away
Without faith it is impossible to please God.” So must the expression be understood in the text. If they should fall away, it would be impossible for God to renew then again, because contrary to his purpose and inconsistent with his glory. Having committed a sin which could never be forgiven them, they would be utterly and forever lost.
The only reason assigned for this “ severity of God” is expressed in these words : “ Seeing they crucify unto themselves the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame.” Some maintain that the term dvastavpowytas, rendered “crucify afresh,” simply means having crucified; and that the qualifying word, afresh, is gratuitously supplied by the translators. But when it is considered that the Greek particle åvà in composition not unfrequently implies repetition, like re in Latin, (see Robinson's Lexicon,) and that this is the only instance in the New Testament in which it is joined with the radical word σταυρόω, , as if with design to qualify its meaning, and that the sense given by the translators entirely suits the connection, it is to be preferred.* He had once been crucified by their brethren at
* It has been said, that “this is not conformable to Greek
Jerusalem, and they are warned against becoming partakers in their enormous guilt by doing the same thing afresh ; not literally, for that was impossible, but virtually, by manifesting a like spirit of hostility and malevolence. The qualifying phrase “ unto themselves" (savross) undoubtedly means, to their own injury. It is an example of dativus incommodi. In Matt. 23 : 31 we have a parallel example : wote uaptvpeite savrois,“thus ye testify against yourselves.” Campbelì. See also Rom. 13: 2: ‘Eavrois xoiuc àńyovtai,—“they shall receive to themselves damnation."
Should they thus fall away, it might be said of them, not only that they had crucified afresh the Son of God, but that they had put him to an open shame, or exposed him to public ignominy and contempt. Having once publicly professed faith in him, and been received by him as his true disciples, been highly exalted in religious privileges, if they should fall away, renounce their faith in Christianity, and, consequently, virtually declare Christ to have been an impostor, who deserved crucifixion; they would, so far as their influence might extend, bring 'reproach on his name, on his gospel, and encourage others to despise and avoid him. They would declare by their conduct, that having made trial of Christianity, having possessed all the light respecting it which can be obtained in this world, having received Christ by faith, been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, they were convinced that all these things were delusive and contemptible; and that Christ himself, the professed Son of God, was an impostor. They would as really make an ignominious example of him, as those did who literally crucified him, and bowed the knee in derision before him. They did it ignorantly, in unbelief. But if these should apostatize, they would do it understandingly; contrary to their own consciences, to their own experimental and certain knowledge of the truth ; and would, therefore, be permanently and unpardonably guilty. To treat the glorious Son of God in this manner would therefore seal their eternal damna
usage.” The student may easily satisfy himself by examina. tion. In some cases ovą produces no apparent change in the meaning of the verb with which it is compounded. In others it increases its intensity. And again, it denotes repetition of the motive. In proof of this many examples might be cited.
tion. That nothing less is intended is apparent from other passages in this same epistle. “That which beareth thorns and
iers is nigh unto cursing ; whose end is to be burned.” “ For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. This declaration then, that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame," gives an awful emphasis to the Apostle's warning against apostasy, and renders it one of the most alarming and efficacious, ever pronounced. It is one which true Christians cannot disregard. God will cause them to fear and heed it, and so work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
1.-History of the Great Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in
Germany, Switzerland, etc. By J. H. Merle d'Aubigné,
Brooklyn : Robert Carter. 1841. pp. 390, 400. The present attitude of Protestantism is altogether anomalous. If we had spoken in praise or in defence of the Reformation, a few months ago, we should have regarded ourselves as giving utterance to acknowledged truisms. But now Protestants are renouncing their birth-right; and, not content with this, they are striving to wrest from others an inheritance which is hallowed by the associations, and enriched by the improvements of centuries. Amid all the light and piety of the nineteenth century, the Reformation is assailed in the house of its friends. Learning, talent and influence are leading on the attack, with the confidence which is inspired by anticipated victory. We are about to be driven back to the stormy times of Luther, Melancthon and Zwingle. Soon we shall be forced to muster ourselves on the old battle-field ; and though we shall meet a new enemy, the question at issue will be the same.