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There is one thing yet whereof I must advise those readers which are pleased to concern themselves in any writings of mine. The publishing of this exposition of some verses of the sixth chapter of the Epistle unto the Hebrews, may have an appearance of my deserting that continued exposition of the whole epistle, which I had designed. But as I know not what I may attain unto, in the very near approach of that season, wherein I must lay down this tabernacle, and the daily warning which through many infirmities I have thereof, so I am resolved whilst I live, to proceed in that work as God shall enable, and other present necessary duties will allow. And the sole reason added unto the seasonableness (as I supposed) of this discourse, why this part of the exposition is singly proposed unto public view, was, because the thoughts which arose thereon were drawn forth into such a length, as would have been too great a digression from the context and design of the apostle.
NATURE AND CAUSES
FROM THE GOSPEL.
The nature of apostacy from the gospel declared, in an exposition of HEB. vi. 4-6.
INTENDING an inquiry into the nature, causes, and occasions of the present defection that is in the world from the truth, holiness, and worship of the gospel, I shall lay the foundation of my whole discourse, in an exposition of that passage in the Epistle of Paul the apostle unto the Hebrews, wherein he gives an account both of the nature of apostacy, and of the punishment due unto apostates. For as this will lead us naturally unto what is designed, so an endeavour to free the context from the difficulties wherewith it is generally supposed to be attended, and to explain the mind of the Holy Ghost therein, may be neither unacceptable nor unuseful: and this is chap. vi. 4-6. whose words are these that follow.
̓Αδύνατον γὰρ τοὺς ἅπαξ φωτισθέντας, γευσαμένους τε τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐπουρανίου, καὶ μετοχόυς γενηθέντας Πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ καλὸν γευσαμένους Θεοῦ ῥῆμα, δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος, καὶ παραπεσόντας,πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν, ἀνασταυροῦντας ἑαυτοῖς τὸν ὑἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ παραδειγματίζοντας.
'Adúvarov yap. 'Impossibile enim ;' that is, 'est;' it is impossible.' Syr. пown н NN, 'But they cannot." This respects the power of the persons themselves, and not the event of things; it may be not improperly as to the sense. Beza and Erasmus; fieri non potest;' 'it cannot be.' The same with 'impossible.' But the use of the word adúvarov in
the New Testament, which signifies sometimes only what is very difficult, not what is absolutely denied, makes it useful to retain the same word, as in our translation; 'for it is impossible.'
Those: הנון דחדא זבן למעמודיתא נחתו ;Tour drag portosvrag
who one time,' or 'once descended unto baptism;' of which interpretation we must speak afterward. All others, 'qui semel fuerint illuminati,''who were once enlightened.' Only the Ethiopic follows the Syriac; some read 'illustrati,' to the same purpose.
Γευσαμένους τε τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐπουρανίου. Vulg. Lat. 'Gustaverant etiam donum cœleste;' etiam,' for 'et.' Others express the article by the pronoun, by reason of its reduplication. Et gustaverint donum illud cœleste;' and have tasted of that heavenly gift;' Syr. The gift that is from heaven.' And this the emphasis in the original seems to re quire. And have tasted of that heavenly gift.'
Καὶ μετόχους γενηθέντας Πνεύματος ἁγίου. ‘Et participes facti sunt Spiritus sancti;' Vulg. Lat. And are made partakers of the Holy Ghost.' All others, facti fuerint ;' 'have been' made partakers of the Holy Ghost. Syr. NTP x17, the Spirit of holiness.'
Kaì kadòv yɛvoaμévovs Oεov óñμa. Vulg. Lat. 'Et gustaverunt nihilominus bonum Dei verbum.' Rhem. 'Have moreover tasted the good word of God.' But 'moreover' doth not express 'nihilominus' and have 'notwithstanding,' which hath no place here, кaλòv óñμa, verbum pulchrum.'
Δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος. ‘Virtutesque seculi futuri.’ Syr. virtutem;' the 'power.' Vulg. 'seculi venturi.' We cannot in our language distinguish between 'futurum' and 'venturum,' and so render it, the world to come.'
Kai TаρаTEσóvτaç. Vulg. 'Et prolapsi sunt.' Rhem. And are fallen.' Others, si prolabantur,' which the sense requires: if they fall,' that is, 'away,' as our translation; properly. Syr. on an 'that sin again,' somewhat dangerously; for it is one kind of sinning only that is included and expressed.
Πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν. Vulg. ‘Rursus renovari ad pœnitentiam;' 'to be renewed again to repentance;' rendering the active verb passively. So Beza also, ut denuo renoventur ad resipiscentiam:' that they should again be
renewed to repentance.' The word is active, as rendered by ours, to renew them again to repentance.'
̓Ανασταυροῦντας ἑαυτοῖς τὸν ὑἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ. ‘Rursum crucifigentes sibimetipsis filium Dei. Καὶ παραδειγματίζοντας. Vulg. Et ostentui habentes.' Rhem. And making him a mockery.' Eras. Ludibrio habentes.' Beza, 'Ignominiæ exponentes.' One of late, Ad exemplum Judæorum excruciant;' torment him as did the Jews.'
'For 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,' (for any) 'to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify again to themselves the Son of God, and put him to open shame' (or treat him ignominiously).
That this passage in our apostle's discourse hath been looked upon as accompanied with great difficulties, is known to all. And many have the differences been about its interpretation. For both doctrinally and practically, sundry have here stumbled and miscarried. It is almost generally agreed upon, that from these words, and the colourable but indeed perverse interpretation, and application made of them by some in the primitive times, occasioned by the then present circumstances of things, to be mentioned afterward, the Latin church was so backward in receiving the epistle itself, that it had not absolutely prevailed therein in the days of Jerome, as we have elsewhere declared. Wherefore it is necessary, that we should a little inquire into the occasion of the great contests which have been in the church almost in all ages, about the sense of this place.
It is known that the primitive church, according to its duty, was carefully watchful about the holiness and upright walking of all that were admitted into the society and fellowship of it. Hence, upon every known and visible failing, they required an open repentance from the offenders, before they would admit them unto a participation of the sacred mysteries. But upon flagitious and scandalous crimes, such as murder, adultery, or idolatry, in many churches they would never admit those who had been guilty of them into their communion any more. Their greatest and most signal trial was with respect unto them, who through fear of death com
plied with the Gentiles in their idolatrous worship, in the time of persecution. For they had fixed no certain general rule whereby they should unanimously proceed, but every church exercised severity or lenity, according as they saw cause, upon the circumstances of particular instances. Hence Cyprian in his banishment would not positively determine concerning those of the church in Carthage, who had so sinned and fallen, but deferred his thoughts until his return; when he resolved to advise with the whole church, and settle all things according to the counsel that should be agreed on amongst them. Yea, many of his epistles are on this subject, peculiarly; and in them all, if compared together, it is evident, that there was no rule agreed upon herein; nor was he himself well resolved in his own mind, though strictly on all occasions opposing Novatianus, wherein it had been well if his arguments had answered his zeal. Before this the church of Rome was esteemed in particular more remiss in their discipline, and more free than other churches in their readmission unto communion of notorious offenders. Hence Tertullian, in his book de Pœnitentia, reflects on Zepherinus the bishop of Rome, that he had 'admitted adulterers unto repentance, and thereby unto the communion of the church. But that church proceeding in her lenity, and every day enlarging her charity, Novatus and Novatianus, taking offence thereat, advanced an opinion in the contrary extreme. For they denied all hope of church, pardon, or of a return unto ecclesiastical communion, unto them who had fallen into open sin after baptism; and in especial peremptorily excluded all persons whatsoever who had outwardly complied with idolatrous worship in time of persecution, without respect unto any distinguishing circumstances. Yea, they seem to have excluded them from all expectation of forgiveness from God himself. But their followers, terrified with the uncharitableness and horror of this persuasion, tempered it so far, as leaving all persons absolutely to the mercy of God upon their repentance, they only denied such as we mentioned before a readmission into church communion, as Acesius speaks expressly in Socrates; lib. 1. cap. 7. Now this opinion they endeavoured to confirm, as from the nature and use of baptism, which was not to be reiterated; whereon they judged, that no pardon was