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appears to wish to impress the idea of their hopeless case on the minds of the professing Hebrews. For their renewal to that repentance, or change of judgment and conduct they had manifested for a season, he deemed so extremely rare a case, so difficult, or next to impossible, that there was no room to expect it. Whether we ought to consider him as meaning absolutely impossible, I cannot say; because this phraseology may signify no more than an extraordinary difficulty ; one as great as that of a camel going through the eye of a needle; which, though impossible, according to human probability, is otherwise in the account of him, with whom nothing is too bard; and whose grace may recover some of those who, to us, may appear to be given up *.
It is again evident, I think, that he recites such instances of a departure from the ways of truth and the profession of the gospel, as solemn warnings and admonitions for their use, to stir them up to increasing, habitual watchfulness, prayer, and holy jealousy over themselves; and, indeed, to active, conscientious diligence in every prescribed duty : this being the way in which their profession of christianity must approve itself of a different kind, and in which they must be preserved from every approach to such an awful endt. For it was impossible for him to say whether there might not be some of them also, whose present proniising profession of the faith would be reduced to the same state of shipwreck, or want that root, which was requisite to keep it from withering away I. To this end he exhorts them: " Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left of entering into rest, any of you should seem to come short, Exhort one another daily, lest there should be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God looking diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God, as Esau," &c. - Let us hold fast the profession of our faith, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, &c, for we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast to the end ;" i, e. perseverance must be the proof of our saving interest in him.
It is, once more, equally clear that the sacred writer makes no mention, in describing these cases, of the leading characteristics of the sanctifying, regenerating influence of
the Holy Spirit, as he docs in the case of the believing Corinthians, and others *. Nor is there, I apprehend, a zealous advocate for the possibility of falling finally froin a state of salvation, who would deein a recital of such partia culars as occur in the description of these apostates, either from the pulpit or the press, sufficiently explicit to distinguish a real Christian from a mere temporary believer, or enlightened professor t. As they came over to Christianity from their Jewish or heathenish principles and practices, obtained some light into its doctrines, and some relish for them, and zealously professed to regard and maintain them, as well as those Hebrews to whom this epistle was addressed, it served the writer's purpose to allude to such characters and cases, with a view to their edification and preservation. And who does not know, that understands any thing of religion, that we may taste many good things of the word of God, of the powers of the world to come, &c. and never be effectually changed thereby ? For the truths of the Divine Will must not only be understood and tasted to constitute a true Christian, but obtain the dominion of the heart by an Almighty energy, so as to produce a new creation. A fish at the hook may nibble at and taste the bait, as truly as one that swallows it ; but the latter is more in earnest in his application, and more likely to be effectually secured : and a person may sip liquids and taste and try meats, to determine their different qualities (prove all things ) without that degree of appetite which would urge him to partake. But“blessed are they that hunger and thirst, for they shall be filled ;" because the grace which begets and produces this state of mind, has provided for its gratification in a participation which yields nothing less than a divine disposition, or nature S. And he who protesseth to have tasted and tried gospel-truth, must be tried himself, by various tribulations, temptations, &c. to be proved the workmansbip of God, and a real possessor of his image and grace.
It is further worthy of observation, that the Apostle draws the contrast between these apostates and those belieyers to whom he wrote, in terms which imply, that the latter had that evidence of a genuine work of grace which the foriner were without; and upon this evidence, founds his confidence of their continuance and perseverance. “But
• 2 Cor. i. 21, 22. vii. 9, 10, 1 Cor. vi. it. 11. 20-22. Thes, Y. 21. 2 Pet. 1.4. Rev. ill. 10.
+ Luke viija 1 3. 2 Pce
il i Put. iv. 124
we are persuaded better things of you, even things that accompany salvation ; for God is not unrighteous to forget vour work and labour of love which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister *.” By this discriminating mark of a heaven-born soul, the generality of them were essentially distinguished in his judgment, from the characters above alluded to; and he expected a different end of their profession, upon the warrant of God's faithfulness connected therewith, and even illustrated and confirmed thereby +: for, by their past and present practical love to his name, in these fruits of righteousness, he inferred the work was unquestionably genuine; and from the faithfulness of God in such cases, he concluded it would remain. The believing Hebrews had, doubtless, all that was hopeful in the case of those apostates; but they had more; for they had what was not so much as hinted at in them :-that disposition, and those fruits of a divine life, which he deemed the inseparable concomitants of salvation 1. Wherefore he is not afraid to affirm of the same characters, " We are not of them that go back unto perdition, but of them that believe, to the saving of the soul 8.” And indeed it is determined that such shall walk in the ways of the Lord to the end, though transgressors will fall therein. For “the righteous shall hold on his way, and wax stronger; and the just (or justified soul) shall live (or persevere to the end) by bis faith **.” And if any do draw back into perdition, the Apostle John supplies us with the reason, which applies to these as well as to those apostates, concerning whom he wrote: “ They went out froin us, because they were not of us; for if they had been .. of us (by the spirit of life, and union and love in Christ) they would have continued with us tt.
(cannot help remarking, that a certain writer on Pre . destination, contends for this enlightening and pare taking of the Holy Ghost I, as the certain infallible evidence of a real work of grace; and boldly concludes, from these premises, that true believers, the genuine chilo dren of light, may fall from God, and perish everlastingly. If the reader, however, should recollect that the same writer labours to prove elsewhere, that every man that comes into the world is enlightened by Christ, and has
• Ver. 9, 10. Natt. xii 23. Hosea xiy 9.
Compare ver. 13-20. and Psalm xcii. 12-14. & Compare. John vi. 66, 67. and Luke xxii. 28, 29. Hcb. x. 39. + 1 John ij. 19. Heb. vi.
a measure of his Spirit, he will probably be perplexed to know how that can be construed a certain evidence of a peculiar state of grace, which is common to all! From the consideration, however, of the Apostle's statement of the best case, of these apostates, not amounting to what he allows to be a satisfactory sign of a saving change, when speaking of others-froin its being a description which we ourselves should not deem sufficiently definitive and decisive in that view, and from the testimony of the Apostle John referred to, concerning the like characters, to wit, that " they went out from us, that they might be made manifest that they were not (really and truly) of us;" I should op. pose this conclusion with reference to the text in question, and infer the contrary from others. The reader, however, may be left to his own reflections on the subject, and will judge for bimself *
* Compare • Joho ij. 27. iii. 9. V. 17, 18. and John xv. 2.
COPY OF A LETTER FROM THE LATE W. GUY,
Lace Pastor of the Baptist Church at Sheepshead, in Leicestershire.
To J. R. jun. of Northampton. DEAR BROTHER R. W e received your kind present, and return our hearty
thanks to you and Mrs. R. for such tokens of friendshin; wishing the best of blessings may attend you both.
As to your exhortation respecting bringing forth fruit with patience, it is what I wish to do; but I find it difficult, being still in distress; and what adds to the same is, that I am now convinced I have had, till lately, wrong ideas of the law of God. I used to look upon it as an arbitrary act, proceeding more from the sovereign will of God, than founded in the reason and fitness of things. But that discourse which you delivered at Enderby, from Hosea xiv.l. convinced me, in some measure, that my ideas were wrong ; though still I bardly knew how to get them right. As I used to think the law was good, only as it discovered that which was bad, so I thought that Christ was very good in coming to deliver us, not only from sin, but also from a law which I thought, in soine measure, cruel : but, after I heard that discourse, I was satisfied that Christ, who was entirely holy, would not obey the precepts, nor sutfer the penalty, to give sanction to a law which was, in any sense, arbitrary and
cruel: and now I am brought to see that the law is holy, just, and good; and that sin is shewn by the commandment to be abominably bad. While I had wrong views of the law, I fled from it, considered as a covenant, as a slave would fly from a tyrant; but according to my present ex- . perience, the reason why I now reject the law as a covenant is, because I cannot do justice to it, by my imperfect obedience; but, at the same time, I rejoice that it is magnified in Christ..
I may observe further, that since I have had different views of the law, I find more godly sorrow for sin than ever I did before, to think that I have something so bad in me, as would influence me to violate a law which is holy, just, and good. I also find a greater love to holiness, and a greater thirst after purity of heart; so that I hope these convictions will answer a good end to myself; and I wish they, may to others; for I am well assured, that it persons have not right ideas of the law, they cannot bave right views of the gospel. For how can any person view the work of Christ as excellent, if he does not see the excellency of that law, under which Christ was made, in order that he might fulfill it? For a person to think ill of the law, and yet pretend to think well of Christ, is in effect to say, that thio' Christ was good, yet he came to honour and magnity that which is bad. But there is a deal of preaching in this part of the country, which sets forth the law, so as to give a person reason to think that Christ regarded only the penalty of the law in suffering for sin; so they contradict what Christ has said, that "heaven and earth shall pass away, but not onc jot or tittle of the law shall pass away till all be fulfilled;" and also what the apostle declares, that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness." Persons not having a proper regard for the law as a rule of lite, is, I apprehend, ile foundation of all that Antinomianism which so much abounds in the professing world : for those that love the law will be concerned to use it well; and those that do not, will break and abuse it. But we are, and I wish to be, " “ under the law to Christ." But I believe that a person may desire an interest in Christ, under the idea of being saved from wrath, merely from a principle of selt-love; and without any true love to God, or his law.
I hope you will write soon, and tell me what you think of these things – My wife joins me io love to you, Mrs. R. and all friends.
W.G. : Sheepshead, Feb. 9, 1783. . Mr. Guy died September 19th following.