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the present day regard the description as not strictly applicable to believers. I look upon the entire passage as furnishing an actual illustration of cases in the primitive times of Christianity. Surely the apostle would not have entered into so minute a detail of the condition and experience of individuals, for the sake of a mere supposition. He deals with matter of fact. He delineates characters not uncommon at the period in which he lived ; characters generated in a great measure by the circumstances of the times. However vivid the description may appear to many, and however forcible the terms employed, they do not necessarily imply saving knowledge of the Redeemer and true faith in the testimony. Taking the passage by itself, or in connexion with the context, it would be unwarrantable to infer that it contains a description of true Christians. It is only by a forced, unnatural exegesis, that this opinion can be educed. The alchymy of a peculiar sect may indeed extract from it an argument in favour of its peculiar dogmas ; but the true Christian philosopher dare not thus handle the word of God. It is abundantly evident, I conceive, from Scripture, that those who have really tasted of the graciousness of God will never be utterly abandoned. Jesus loves his own unto the end. However darkened their minds may be for a time, or however disgracefully they may fall into sin, God has only hid his face from them for a season; partial unbelief has been permitted to take possession of them, doubtless for wise and good purposes ; and the light of joy is obscured by the cloud of transgression. But their former condition is restored, and their backsliding healed. Such seems to me the doctrine of the word of God; and it is objectionable besides, to bring proof from a passage of Scripture confessedly obscure, to the support of a favourite dogma.
But Arminians do not err alone in their treatment of the place. I am inclined to believe that Calvinists also overlook one important circumstance belonging to it, viz., that it is inapplicable to the controversy respecting the doctrine of the saints' perseverance. This will be obvious from the description given of those who are here said to fall away from the Christian faith. They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. If these words be rightly expounded of the extraordinary operations of the Spirit, they are altogether inappropriate to Christians living in the present day. Miraculous attestations to the truth of Christianity and the Divine mission of its founder have wholly ceased; and the maintainers of the contrary betray a foolish credulity. Superstition, indeed, has attempted to uphold the notion, that mighty wonders are still wrought by such as possess powerful faith; but the ignorant and bigoted alone listen to the falsehood. The purposes for which miraculous proofs of the truth of Christianity were exhibited have been accomplished, and God employs other instrumentality for effecting his gracious designs towards men. The age of miracles has passed away ; and the impious claimants of such wondrous powers delude the superstitious alone. That Christian men should ever have attended to the insane utterances of persons imagining that the Holy Ghost spake through them, and by them is a phenomenon which these times have witnessed ; times in which Satan seems to try every method of distracting the churches and invading the territories where the standard of the cross has been erected. But I must not be led away from the passage by any lengthened allusion to scenes enacted in our own memory, and almost before our eyes.
In consequence of the clause just mentioned, it is impossible to apply the passage to Christians, either nominal or real, in the present day. None can now lay claim, with any appearance of truth, to extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. Hence the description is inapplicable, at least in this particular. Neither is it right to subtract the one portion from the surrounding particulars, and then to dispute respecting the support or demolition of any doctrine, to which the remainder is applied. All the parts are closely linked together. The particular evidences or attainments specified in them should by no means be disjoined. If we attempt to remove, or set aside, one phrase exclusively belonging to the primitive time of Christianity, while all the rest are allowed to remain as a subject of exposition and argument, we handle the word of God in a manner highly improper. We sever from its just locality what the Divine Being has planted; and argue from the remainder as if it were unimportant whether a particular phrase be included in the texture of our reasoning. But the whole description must go together. The lineaments pourtrayed in the entire passage are drawn from the life, and set forth to the eye in vivid colours. And if any one be removed from the picture, we cannot tell the result. The probable effect we are not warranted to calculate. Thus, if we take away the single clause in question from the passage, and reason from the description apart from this one item, we tread on insecure ground. Should we say, in the words before us, that it is impossible to renew again unto repentance such persons as exactly correspond to all the statements save one,
should be uttering language for which there is not a shadow of proof in the passage itself, or in any other part of the Divine word. Hence may be seen the inadvertency of such as apply the present passage in polemic theology to the doctrine of the saints' perseverance. Till Christians be found possessing all the attainments enumerated, disputants lose their labour, and contend for nothing. Or, till it be shown that the amount of meaning contained in the whole is not lessened or changed by the inapplicability of a part to modern times, it is rain to have recourse to the description for polemic purposes.
These remarks are based upon the fact that some of the clauses should be referred to those endowed with miraculous gifts. I have thus explained μετόχους γενηθέντας Πνεύματος αγίου, whilst some take δυνάμεις μέλλοντος αιώνος as referring to the same thing. Few espound
all the parts of the passage without thus applying one of its clauses. They overlook, therefore, the circumstance, that the whole description suits no character in these times. When the epistle was written, there were doubtless many to whom it was applicable ; for the writer would not have drawn an imaginary picture to deter the Hebrews from the sin of apostacy.
But if this locus vexatissimus of the Divine word be erroneously interpreted to depict such persons in the present day as have proceeded a certain length in Christianity, and bid fair for the reward of the true believer, is it put on record for no purpose ? Does it afford no salutary lesson? It must have been designed by the Holy Spirit to inculcate some useful doctrine, or to administer wholesome reproof; for it is written, “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The ministers of the Gospel may take occasion from the passage, to warn professing Christians against the danger of receding; of renouncing the faith to which they are attached ; and of becoming opposers of Christianity. There may be some to whom much of the description will apply. These may be exhorted to go forward, by the representations of religious teachers setting forth the dreary and dismal prospect of such as abandon their faith. It is well to depict the dangers of relapse ; and thus, by the terrors of the Lord, to persuade men. But nothing should be said of the impossibility of renewing them again unto repentance, because none of us can be sure that he has presented all the evidences which the characters here pourtrayed possessed. While we teach the general truth of the danger of apostacy, to which ignorance especially leads, we tread on safe ground, because supported by Scripture. But this is all that can be deduced from the place, with any degree of certainty. The general truths derivable from it, are such as the following : it is a most dangerous thing to go back in religion ; to fall behind in spiritual knowledge; to feel no aspiration after higher attainments. Individuals so circumstanced cannot remain long in their present condition ; for, if they do not advance, they will insensibly relapse into total apostacy. These are truths sanctioned by experience, as well as the word of God. All cases of religious relapse present such points of analogy
This portion of the New Testament has been supposed by some to describe those who commit the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. To this opinion, however, I cannot assent. The cases are not identical. The descriptions do not resemble each other. Even granting that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is final impenitence or unbelief, (which I am far from doing,) we shall easily discover that the guilty sinners are not the same. The sin against the Holy Spirit is essentially and chiefly a sin of speech. It is characterised by some fearful utter
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ON THE BLESSED EFFECTS OF “LOOKING TO JESUS.”
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL MAGAZINE. Dear Sir,- In a late communication, I attempted to describe the state of mind by which alone the Christian duty of “ Looking to Jesus” can be performed. I now, in agreement with my pledge, transmit to you a statement of some of the blessed effects, which continuance in such a state of mind cannot fail to ensure.
It was observed, that faith, a pure and spiritual condition of the affections of the heart, and an enlightened and fervent love to Christ, are the requisites indispensable to such a state of mind. On reading the whole paragraph in Heb. xii., whence the words, “ Looking to Jesus," are taken, its design will appear to be, to urge believers of the Gospel to a patient endurance of the labours and sufferings to which their profession exposed them : for this purpose, they are urged to a steady and unwavering attention to the conduct of our blessed Saviour, and to the pregnant example afforded by him of patience and fortitude, lest they should faint, and abandon their glorious hope. It is not requisite to confine the present observations to the sole purpose which I have noticed. No good reason can prevent the extension of our view, so as to enable us to take something like a comprehensive glance at the effects which will assuredly flow from a stedfast compliance with the injunction of “Looking to Jesus ;” nor can any one, who reverences the truth of revelation, doubt the certainty with which this practice will accomplish its inestimable purposes. “He giveth more grace ;” and an abundant effusion of heavenly influence may justly be hoped for, by the maintenance of the "spiritual mind,” which is “life and peace.”
The first effect to which I wish to direct attention is, the establishment and enlargement of faith, for the various exercises of mind, of which the life of God in the soul of man consists. No objection to this arrangement arises from the representation that has been made of faith, as a requisite to the state of mind that has been delineated. The faith of a Christian has many most essential uses, and is to be brought into action, not merely at the commencement of the spiritual life, but also at every step of its progress. “We walk by faith.” Every correct conception of the nature of faith shows it to be a principle capable of indefinite increase ; but the increase can arise only from the use of it. Where acts of faith succeed each other with constancy and vigour, there must be, from the laws of our mental constitution, a strengthening of the principle itself; as the most difficult exercises of our faculties, mental and corporeal, gradually become easy by practice, till the habit is formed, when difficulty ceases entirely, or in a great degree.
Such an increase of faith will be productive of deliverance from the corrupt prejudices which unhappily exist in our bosoms, adverse to the simplicity and purity of the Gospel. Hosts of such prejudices result
from ignorance, from self-righteous pride instinctive to man, from reasonings opposed to the express declarations of inspired wisdom, and from the native restlessness of the soul, prompted by vanity, unbelieving speculation, and the diversified influence of sense and fancy. The business of faith is to subdue these foes to the obedience of revelation; to crush and vanquish every high thought that sets itself in opposition to the will and words of God; and to bring into harmonious concurrence with them, the understanding, the passions, and the imaginations of the soul. Faith achieves not its perfect work until it exhausts all the fancied sufficiency of man, and renders him docile and acquiescent, in lowly subjection to supreme truth and wisdom. This celestial principle will gather strength from action ; fixing its continued regard on the Divine testimony, and contemplating the dignity, wisdom, and love of the exalted Redeemer, it will gradually weaken and subdue every exercise of the corrupt affections, and assimilate the soul to the perfect example on which its renewed understanding and purified sentiments dwell with growing delight. By such a process, every latent obstacle to the triumph of the Gospel in the heart will be displaced ; the reign of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, will be immoveably confirmed ; and the language of the advanced believer will be, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
A second effect of the course now advocated will be found to consist in a closer acquaintance with Christ, and a more entire confidence in his truth and love. Confidence in the character and professions of those with whom we are conversant, is the result of experience, and is oftentimes of slow growth. In proportion to the magnitude of the interests which we are invited to transfer from our own care to that of others, will be our anxious solicitude to ascertain the worth and fidelity of the persons to whom we commit ourselves. This is but the dictate of ordinary prudence. When the interests of an immortal nature are in question, and the inquiry is to be solved, into what hands that inestimable deposit is to be committed, it would be passing strange if no solicitude were felt on such a topic. The first step to be taken, in order to ascertain the power and sufficiency of Christ, “ To save all who come unto God by him,” is to become conversant with the various evidence, by which the truth of his pretensions to the character of the Messiah is supported. At present, I must suppose this to have been accomplished; and what we have to contemplate is, the closer acquaintance with him, and the more entire confidence in his truth and love, that will result from the habitual practice of “Looking to Him."
The knowledge of Christ is an attainment which admits of perpetual improvement; hence the apostle's prayer, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth, and length,