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with joy, Matt. xiii. 20. as it was with the hearers of John the Baptist; John v. 35. The word, as tasted only, hath this effect on their minds, as that they shall rejoice in the things they hear; not with abiding solid joy, not with joy unspeakable and full of glory, but that which is temporary and evanid. And this ariseth from that satisfaction which they find in hearing of the good things declared; such are mercy, pardon, grace, immortality, and glory; they cannot but rejoice sometimes at the hearing of them, though they will not be at the pains of getting an interest in them.
[3.] The word only thus tasted of, will work on men a change and reformation of their lives, with a readiness unto the performance of many duties; 2 Pet. ii. 18. 20. Mark vi. 20. And,
[4.] What inward effects it may have on the minds and affections of men, in illumination, conviction, and humiliation, I have declared at large elsewhere. But all this while this is but tasting; the word of the gospel and Christ preached therein, is the food of our souls, and true faith doth not only taste it, but feed upon it, whereby it is turned into grace and spiritual nourishment in the heart. And hereunto is required; 1st. The laying it up, or treasuring of it in the heart; Luke i. 66. chap. ii. 19. No nourishment will ever be obtained by food, unless it be received into the stomach, where the means and causes of digestion and communication are placed. And if the word be not placed in the heart by fixed meditation and delight, it may please for a season, but it will not nourish the soul. 2dly. Food must be mixed and incorporated with the digestive humour, power, and faculty of the stomach, whereinsoever it consists, or it will not nourish. Give a man never so much food, if there be any noxious humour in the stomach hindering it from mixing itself with the means of digestion, it will no way profit him. And until the word in the heart be mixed and incorporated with faith, it will not advantage us; Heb. iv. 2. And there is nothing hereof where there is a taste of the word only. 3dly. Where men feed on the word, it is turned into a principle of life, spiritual strength, and growth within, which a taste of it only will not give. As food when it is digested, turns into flesh and blood and spirits; so doth the word and Christ therein unto the souls of men spiri
tually. Hence Christ becometh our life, and liveth in us, as the efficient cause of our spiritual life; Gal. ii. 20. Col. iii. 3. and we grow and increase by the word; 1 Pet. ii. 2. A mere taste, though it may yield present refreshment, yet it communicates no abiding strength. Hence multitudes relish the word when it is preached, but never attain life, or strength, or growth by it. 4thly. The word received as it ought, will transform the soul into the likeness of God, who sends us this food to change our whole spiritual constitution, and to render our natures like unto his in righteousness and true holiness; Eph. iv. 21-24. 2 Cor. iii. 18. This a taste only will effect nothing towards. Nor, to conclude, will it give us such a love of the truth, as to abide by it in trials or temptations, 2 Thess. ii. 10. nor bring forth the fruits of it in universal obedience. And I might farther discourse from hence of the deplorable condition of them who satisfy their minds in mere notions of the truth, and empty speculations about it, without once attaining so much as a taste of the goodness of the word; of which sort there are many in the world; as also shew the necessity which all the hearers of the word lie under, of a severe scrutiny into their own souls, whether they do not rest in a taste only of the word, but come short of feeding upon it, and of Christ therein; but that I must not divert from the text. What hath been here spoken, was needful to declare the true state and condition of the persons spoken of. The second proposition mentioned, hath been treated of elsewhere.
Lastly, It is added, δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος ; ‘and the powers of the world to come,' dvváμɛiç are ninaan or MINSD); the mighty great miraculous operations and works of the Holy Ghost. What they were, and how they were wrought among these Hebrews, hath been declared in our exposition on chap. ii. 4. whither I refer the reader; and they are known from the Acts of the Apostles, where sundry instances of them are recorded. I have also proved on that chapter, that by the world to come,' our apostle in this epistle intends the days of the Messiah, that being the usual name of it in the church at that time, as the new world which God had promised to create. Wherefore, these powers of the world to come, were the gifts whereby those signs, wonders, and mighty works, were then wrought by the Holy Ghost, ac
cording as it was foretold by the prophets, that they should be so. See Joel ii. compared with Acts ii. These the persons spoken of are supposed to have tasted; for the particle Tε refers to yɛvoaμévovs foregoing. Either they had been wrought in and by themselves, or by others in their sight, whereby they had an experience of the glorious and powerful working of the Holy Ghost in the confirmation of the gospel. Yea, I do judge, that themselves in their own persons were partakers of these powers in the gifts of tongues and other miraculous operations, which was the highest aggravation possible of their apostacy, and that which peculiarly rendered their recovery impossible. For there is not in the Scripture an impossibility put upon the recovery of any, but such as peculiarly sin against the Holy Ghost; and although that guilt may be otherwise contracted, yet in none so signally as this of rejecting that truth which was confirmed by his mighty operations in them that rejected it; which could not be done without an ascription of his divine power unto the devil. Yet would I not fix on those extraordinary gifts exclusively unto those that are ordinary. They also are of the powers of the world to come. So is every thing that belongs to the erection or preservation of the new world, or the kingdom of Christ. To the first setting up of a kingdom great and mighty power is required; but being set up, the ordinary dispensation of power will preserve it: so it is in this matter. The extraordinary miraculous gifts of the Spirit were used in the erection of Christ's kingdom, but it is continued by ordinary gifts, which therefore also belong unto the powers of the world to come.
From the consideration of this description in all the parts of it, we may understand what sort of persons it is, that is here intended by the apostle. And it appears, yea, is evident,
1. That the persons here intended, are not true and sincere believers in the strict and proper sense of that name, at least they are not described here as such, so that from hence nothing can be concluded concerning them that are so, as to the possibility of their total and final apostacy. For,(1.) There is in their full and large description no mention of faith or believing, either expressly or in terms equivalent. And in no other place of the Scripture are such intended, but they
are mentioned by what belongs essentially to their state. And, (2.) There is not any thing ascribed to these persons, that is peculiar to them as such, or discriminative of them, as taken either from their especial relation unto God in Christ, or any such property of their own, as is not communicable unto others. For instance, they are not said to be called according to God's purpose, to be born again not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God; not to be justified, or sanctified, or united unto Christ, or to be the sons of God by adoption, nor have they any other characteristical note of true believers ascribed to them. (3.) They are in the following verses compared to the ground on which the rain often falls, and beareth nothing but thorns and briers. But this is not so with true believers; for faith itself is an herb peculiar to the enclosed garden of Christ, and meet for him by whom we are dressed. (4.) The apostle discoursing afterward of true believers, doth in many particulars distinguish them from such as might be apostates, which is supposed of the persons here intended, as was in part before declared. For, [1.] He ascribes unto them in general better things and such as accompany salvation, as we observed, ver. 9. [2.] He ascribes unto them a work and labour of love, as it is true faith alone which worketh by love, ver. 10. whereof he speaks not one word concerning these. [3.] He asserts their preservation, 1st. On the account of the righteousness and faithfulness of God, ver. 11. 2dly. Of the immutability of his counsel concerning them; ver. 17, 18. In all these and sundry other instances doth he put a difference between these apostates and true believers. And whereas the apostle intends to declare the aggravation of their sin in falling away by the principal privileges whereof they were made partakers, here is not one word in name or thing of those which he expressly assigns to be the chief privileges of true believers; Rom. viii. 27-30.
2. Our next inquiry is more particularly whom he doth intend. And, (1.) they were such as not long before were converted from Judaism unto Christianity, upon the evidence of the truth of its doctrine, and the miraculous operations wherewith its dispensation was accompanied. (2.) He intends not the common sort of them but such as had obtained especial privileges among them. For they had received ex
traordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, as speaking with tongues, or working of miracles. And, (3.) They had found in themselves and others convincing evidences, that the kingdom of God and the Messiah, which they called the world to come, was come unto them, and had satisfaction in the glories of it. (4.) Such persons as these, as they have a work of light on their minds, so according unto the efficacy of their convictions may have such a change wrought upon their affections and in their conversation, as that they may be of great esteem among professors; and such these here intended might be. Now it must needs be some horrible frame of spirit, some malicious enmity against the truth and holiness of Christ and the gospel, some violent love of sin and the world, that could turn off such persons as these from the faith, and blot out all that light and conviction of truth, which they had received. But the least grace is a better security for heaven than the greatest gifts or privileges what
These are the persons concerning whom our apostle discourseth, and of them it is supposed by him, that they may 'fall away,' kai apaжɛσóvтaç. The especial nature of the sin here intended is afterward declared in two instances or aggravating circumstances. This word expresseth the respect it had to the state and condition of the sinners themselves; they 'fall away;' do that whereby they do so. I think we have well expressed the word, 'if they shall fall away.' Our old translations rendered it only if they shall fall,' which expressed not the sense of the word, and was liable unto a sense not at all intended. For he doth not say, if they shall fall into sin, this or that or any sin whatever that can be named; suppose the greatest sin imaginable, namely, the denial of Christ in the time of danger and persecution. This was that sin (as we intimated before) about which so many contests were raised of old, and so many canons were multiplied about the ordering of them who had contracted the guilt thereof. But one example well considered, had been a better guide for them than all their own arbitrary rules and imaginations. But Peter fell into this sin, and yet was renewed again to repentance, and that speedily. Wherefore, we may lay down this in the first place as to the sense of the words: there is no particular sin, that any man may fall into