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but those only who labour and are heavy laden with the burden of their sin, perceiving its burden.* Whence he says, he came to save that which was lost, in order to mark the character and condition of those who will be saved, but not all that which was list. He designates the quality, not the pumber of those whom he would save.
It is one thing to perish in reality, and that finally, another to receive from a brother an occasion by which he might perish, through the disorderly walk of a fellow-mem-. ber of the church; and for any exertions which his brother makes to prevent him from perishing. When the apostle Paul speakst concerning the perishing of a brother, for whom Christ died; he does not intend actual perdition, as if he meant to teach that one for whom Christ died might perish in reality, for none can snatch Christ's sheep out of his hand;£ nor can anv one of those perish whom the Father has given him, to be redeemed. “ They are kept by the power of God through faith."|| The apostle, when treating of a brother, cannot surely be understood to say that he shall finally perish; for though very weak in faith, he is yet established or stands by the assistance of the Lord.) The apostle intends to develope the mischievous consequences of an improper, and preposterous use of liberty in things which are in themselves indifferent, to shew that it wounds and offends the conscience of a weak brother, and thus gives an occasion, as far as in us lies, to his injury, and exposes him, as far as we can expose him, to the danger of perishing. The scriptures often use words which naturally signify effects and actions, when nothing more is intended, than to point out those occasions, and motives which may lead to the effects and actions mentioned. Thus he is said to be guilty, as far as in his power, of adultery, who only looks upon the wife of another man to lust after her.** He is said to "make God a liar, who believes not the record,
* Matt. xi. 28.
John xvii. 12.
† Rom. xiv. 15. and 1 Cor. viii. 10, 11.
|| 1 Pet. 1, 5. | Rom. xiv. 1-4.
# John X. 28. ** Matt. v. 28.
which God has given of his Son."* By which nothing more can be meant than that the unbeliever, does every thing in his power to make God a liar, or that he esteems God a liar. No one will say that he does so in reality. In this way a weak brother is said to perish by our knowledge, when we do nothing to preserve him; as it is expressed Rom. xiv. 15. “ do not destroy thy weak brother by thy meat."
When heretical, apostate teachers are said “ to deny the Lord that bought them;"| we are not to understand the buying to mean that kind of purchase which is made by paying a price to divine justice, and thus redeeming the sinner from the wrath and curse of God, and from eternal death. No one is so redeemed, but those who were given by the Father to Christ to be redeemed, and who consequently will be kept by Christ and saved with an everlasting salvation, as the members of his body and his peculiar treasure. It is respecting deliverance from error and idolatry that Peter here.speaksma deliverance effected by an outward exhibition of the gospel, and a setting apart to the ministry, for which these false teachers were in a certain respect bought by Christ as Lord of the church. Christ had acquired a peculiar title to them, as his own, by calling them into his church, the house which he owns, as masters for. merly bought servants for the discharge of domestic duties. That this is the intention of Peter is collected from the following considerations:--1. He uses the word dirtorns, which signifies a master or an owner rather than a Saviour, to which redemption properly so called belongs. 2. The word ayopálem is that which the apostle here employs to express the buying that he intends, and it is used generally to express that kind of buying which is practised in markets, and often to express simple deliverance. 3. The kind of buying here contemplated, is that through which those bought, are said “ to have escaped the corruptions that are in the world.” v. 20.-and this, “ through the knowledge of God our Saviour," by which “ they have known the way of righteous
* 1 John v. 10.
1 2 Pet. ii. 1.
ness. All these belong to deliverance from pagan errors and idolatries, and to a calling to the knowledge of the truth, from which, through apostacy and the introduction of most pernicious heresies, they make defection. Hence they are said to deny their master who bought them, and called them to the work of the ministry. 4. The denying of the Lord here mentioned, is a sin which is spoken of as peculiarly aggravated; and that which constitutes the peculiar aggra. vation is, that they deny their master who bought them. But if Peter intends by the purchase here mentioned, that atonement which Christ in his death made for sin, then there was nothing in the conduct of these teachers peculiarly wicked; the same thing might be affirmed of every man, upon the hypothesis of our opponents; for they maintain that he bought every man. On the supposition, however, that the buying here iotended is the calling of these false teachers out of the darkness of heathen superstitions, to a knowledge of the glorious gospel of God, and making them teachers of that gospel; then their denial of a master who had done such great things for them, was a crime aggravated by the foulest ingratitude.
Sanctification by the blood of the covenant may be understood, in a twofold sense. One internal, spiritual, and real, which belongs to those who are actually redeemed and regenerated by the blood of Christ: another external and apparent only, which consists in a profession of the truth. The former necessarily presupposes that Christ died for those who are thus sanctified. The latter kind of sanctification does not presuppose this at all. Many hypocrites obtain that internal sanctification, by an external calling to membership in the church, and the enjoyment of its privileges, especially baptism and the Lord's Supper; to whom, notwithstanding, Christ with his saving benefits does not belong; because they are destitute of justifying faith. When Paul speaks of those who profane the blood of the covenant (testament) wherewith they had been sanctified;* we
• Heb. x. 29.
cannot suppose (upon the hypothesis of the Reformed churches) that he intends the internal and real sanctification of which we have spoken. We must understand him to mean external sanctification, such as belongs to those who profess their adherence to the church and a belief of the doctrines of the gospel, and who enjoy its ordinances, especially baptism, by which they are sanctified, or set apart from the world, by the sprinkling of water which represents the blood of the covenant, and who renounce it by denying Christ and apostatizing from his gospel. In this manner, those who eat and drink unworthily, at the sacrament of the supper, are said to be guilty of the body and blood of Christ.* Besides, the apostle speaks hypothetically, not absolutely. He points out the connection between an antecedent and consequent. He shows those, who thus transgress, what they are to expect. He asserts nothing more respecting those who are really redeemed and true believers, than what is elsewhere asserted respecting himself and angels from heaven. “ Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other doctrine, let him be accursed.” But no one will infer from this, that the apostle, or an angel from heaven will be accursed.
What every one is bound to believe absolutely and simply, directly and immediately, without any thing previously supposed, we grant is true. But the case is different in relation to those things which one is bound to believe mediately, and in consequence of some acts supposed to be previously done. It is false, however, that all men are bound to believe that Christ died for them simply and absolutely. In the first place, those to whom Christ has never been preached, to whom he has never been made known, are not surely bound to believe that Christ died for them. This can be af. firmed of those only who are called in the gospel. “How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how can they hear without a preacher?”# Secondly, even all those who hear the gospel are not bound to believe directly
* 1 Cor. xi. 27. 29.
Gal. i. 8.
Rom. x. 14
and immediately, that Christ died for them, but mediately. The acts of faith and repentance are presupposed; they must precede a belief that Christ died for one's self; for Christ's death belongs to those only who believe and repent. So far is it from being true that unbelievers are bound to believe that Christ died for them, that he who persuades them so to believe, mocks them in a solemn manner, while the wrath of God abides on them, and they are bound to believe them. selves condemned already.* Nor if they are bound to believe that Christ will be found to have died for them, provided they will believe, does it follow that this is simply and absolutely true whether they believe or not. Hence those who are bound to believe that Christ died for them, are not simply and absolutely all men; it is all those only who are weary and heavy laden with their sins;t all who thirst and sensibly feel their need of drink;or those who are penitent and feel their misery.
It will not avail here to object, " that faith in Christ is demanded of all who hear the gospel, and that not an undefined faith, but a faith true and justifying, and that it cannot be true and justifying unless it terminates on Christ as dying for them.” For although faith in Christ is so demanded, and that true and justifying faith, yet we may not infer that it is required that all its acts are immediately and at the same time to be exercised; and especially its ultimate and special act, that of believing in Christ as having died for me. For although this is included in the acts of justifying faith; yet it is not its first act which is immediately and in the first instance demandedof the person called in the gospely it is its last, and presupposes others preceding it. That this remark may be well understood, I shall proceed to distinguish various acts of faith. First, one act of faith is direct, which has for its object the offer of the gospel. By this act of faith I embrace his promises. Again another act of faith is reflex, and has for its object the direct act of faith. By this act I discover that I have indeed believed, and that the promises of the gospel belong to me. The direct act
* John iii. 36.
† Matt. xi. 28.
# Isai. lxi. 1.