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him, which will not submit, either to be saved or governed in so mysterious a way. In other sins he beholds only a resistance to his authority; but in this, a contempt of all the wonders of his wisdom and love. A person who has never received the knowledge of the truth, cannot commit this sin, or any sin of equal malignity. It is the resisting of light that has been imparted, and the acting contrary to it to such an extent as to call it darkness; this it is which makes the guilt so great, that, humanly speaking, it can never be forgiven. Were it indeed repented of, and were mercy sought through the blood of Jesus, even this sin, great as it is, might be forgiven: but the commission of it implies such desperate wickedness and obduracy, that it never can, without a miracle of mercy, be repented of".]
Hence then may be seen,
II. The danger of it
This is declared,
1. From the very nature of the sin itself—
[Consider what the sin is: it is a discarding of the only remedy which God has provided for the necessities of fallen man. Under the Mosaic dispensation, God revealed himself to the Hebrews as the only true God; and entered into covenant with them to be their God, if they would serve him in sincerity and truth. But, if any one made void that law, and departed from him to worship other gods, he appointed, that, upon the fact being proved by two or three witnesses, the offender should be stoned to death; and it was expressly forbidden to any person to conceal the crime: if it should have been committed by a man's dearest friend or relative, he must reveal it to the constituted authorities, and take the lead in executing sentence on the offenders. In this law the Hebrews had acquiesced as holy, and just, and good. (Here let me suggest, by the way, that the illustration here brought by the Apostle farther shews, what the sin was of which he spake; namely, that it was not every wilful sin, but a wilful renunciation of the Gospel of Christ.) Now, says the Apostle, if so severe a sentence was executed, without any mercy, on the contemner of the Mosaic covenant, and the judges themselves declared the offender to be "worthy of ith," " of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who has renounced the Christian covenant; since he has trodden under-foot the Son of God, &c.?" Here he appeals to them, and makes them judges in their own cause.
d Heb. vi. 4-6.
g Deut. xiii. 6-9.
• αθετήσας, ver. 28. f Deut. xvii. 2-7.
h Deut. xvii. 6.
And to you also do I appeal. If they who renounced that legal covenant, the provisions of which were chiefly of a temporal nature, and the engagements of it ratified only with the blood of beasts, were counted worthy of such a tremendous punishment as death; of how much sorer punishment must he be worthy, who renounces the covenant of grace, in which all the blessings of grace and glory are made over to us, and which has been ratified and confirmed with the blood of God's only dear Son? I consent that you shall be judges in your own cause, and the arbiters of your own fate. They who renounced the law were guilty of most egregious folly and ingratitude: but their impiety was not to be compared with yours for whilst, as renouncing the only means of salvation, you resemble them, your impiety is greater than theirs, in proportion as the covenant which you despise is more glorious than theirs, and the mercies which you reject have been purchased for you at a dearer rate.
Know then, that to such persons "there remains no more sacrifice for sins." Under the law, the sacrifices were repeated from year to year; but not so under the Gospel: Christ will never die for your sins again; nor will any other offering be made in his stead: and therefore, having renounced him, "nothing remains for you but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment," whilst you continue here; and "of fiery indignation," when you go hence, "that shall devour all the adversaries" of God and his Christ. Even here, I say, the punishment of such persons is awful: for, to say the least, they are in a state of uncertainty what shall be their fate in the eternal world; and they have frequently in their minds and consciences such an anticipation of their doom, as appals their souls, and terrifies their spirits, and forms a very hell within them and the moment they go hence, the wrath of an incensed God comes upon them to the uttermost.]
2. From the fixed determination of God to punish it
[God has said, "Vengeance belongeth unto me; and I will recompense." And again, "The Lord shall judge his people." Now if he, as the moral Governor of the universe, has determined to execute justice, as well as to shew mercy; and if the administering of justice be no less necessary to his own glory than the dispensing of mercy, what have the contemners of his Gospel to expect? He has said, he will thus display his righteousness at the last day: and "we know him who has said it:" we know that he is almighty, and therefore able to inflict punishment; and we know he is true, and
i Deut. xxxii. 35.
k Deut. xxxii. 36.
therefore will fulfil his word. It is in vain to think that he will change: for" he is not a man, that he should lie; or the son of man, that he should repent." Seeing then that he will take the matter into his own hands, judge ye, whether it be not a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Were it only a mortal man that was incensed, and you had no way of escape from him, it were a terrible state for you to be in: but what must it be to be exposed to the wrath of the living God, who, whilst he ever lives to execute vengeance, will preserve you in existence, that you may eternally endure it? Think of enduring "the wrath of the Lamb," which will be so much the more terrible, in proportion as his mercy in submitting to be slain for you has been slighted and despised.] "Suffer ye then, brethren, a word of EXHORTA
1. Watch and pray against every wilful sin
["Keep thy servant from presumptuous sin," said David; "then shall I be innocent from the great transgression'.' Now, though it is true that every wilful sin, or every presumptuous sin, does not involve us in all the guilt of apostasy, yet it leads to apostasy as its natural end and issue; because it hardens the heart, and sears the conscience, and grieves the Holy Spirit, and provokes God to leave us to ourselves: and, if once God say of us, "They are joined to idols; let them alonem;" our doom is sealed, and our perdition sure. Let me then affectionately entreat you to guard against every wilful sin, whether of commission or omission. A man does not become an apostate all at once: he first indulges some secret lust, some filthiness either of the flesh or spirit. Then he declines into formality in his secret walk with God: then his besetting sin gets an ascendant over him: then he becomes indifferent to public ordinances; and so, from opposing the Gospel in his heart and life, he comes to abandon it even in profession, and to relapse into avowed infidelity, and a contempt of all true religion". The misery which such persons frequently endure in this life, is sufficient to make us dread such an event as this But that which the apostate soul shall endure in the eternal world, surpasses all conception. It would have been better for such an one never to have known the way of righteousness, than, having known it, to desert it, and make shipwreck of his faith.]
2. Bear in mind your obligations to Christ and to his Holy Spirit
1 Ps. xix. 13.
m Hos. iv. 17.
• 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21.
[Why did the Lord Jesus Christ die under the load of all your guilt? Was it that you might continue in your sins? Why did the Holy Spirit undertake to renew and sanctify your souls; and why has he begun a work of grace in your hearts? Was it that you might " return again with the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to a wallowing in the mire?" Let then the Lord Jesus Christ behold in you the fruits of his love— and let the Holy Spirit rejoice in beholding in you the efficacy of his grace Then it will be no formidable thing to "fall into the hands of the living God:" on the contrary, you may then with joyful hope look forward to the time of your departure, and, after the example of that Saviour in whom you have believed, you may say in your dying hour, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."]
THE BENEFIT OF PAST EXPERIENCE.
Heb. x. 32. Call to remembrance the former days.
TO take a retrospect of our past lives, is the duty of every child of man. Without a frequent revision of the past, no man can repent, no man believe, no man be saved. We must be sensible of our guilt and helplessness, before we can ever come aright to Christ for mercy and grace; and such a consciousness of our need of him can proceed from nothing but self-knowledge, the fruit of much self-examination and of a diligent inquiry into our own state. But it is not in this general view that we are now to consider the subject before us. The words were addressed to those who "had been illuminated" with Divine truth, and had "endured a great fight of afflictions" in the service of their Divine Master. is to such therefore that we propose chiefly, if not exclusively, to limit our attention, whilst we notice. the exhortation,
I. As given to the Jewish converts
They were subjected to cruel persecutions throughout the world: and they were in danger of yielding to intimidation, and of making shipwreck of their faith.
To fortify their minds and encourage their hearts, he bids them "call to remembrance the former days." These days deserved remembrance
[They had been days of heavy trial to all who had embraced the Christian faith. Every convert was an object of hatred and contempt both to Jews and Gentiles. No reproaches were too bitter to cast upon the followers of Christ, no injuries too heavy to inflict upon them. Their persons were assaulted, their property destroyed-their lives menaced, and in many instances sacrificed to royal edicts, to popular fury, or to legal form. The community of interest which all felt in the welfare of the whole body, greatly augmented the sufferings of every individual. Wherever one member suffered, all the members suffered with it.
Yet in the midst of all these afflictions, the believing Jews, as a body, had maintained their steadfastness, and held fast their profession. They had not only submitted to the loss of all things for the sake of Christ, but "had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods;" "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Redeemer's sake."
To this measure of firmness they had attained by keeping their eye steadily fixed upon the heavenly state, where their portion was, and where an infinitely "better and more enduring substance" was treasured up for them. They had no doubt but their trials would be richly recompensed in the eternal world; and therefore they made light of all that they possessed below; "reckoning that the sufferings of this present time were not worthy to be compared with the glory that should be revealed in them."
Such were their former days, immediately after the light of divine truth had shone into their hearts; and]
The recollection of them would be of singular utility to them at this time
[From a review of their past experience, they would see, that, though the difficulties which they now had to sustain, or which they were daily expecting to encounter, were formidable, they were not new, nor insupportable, nor unprofitable. They were not new; since they were no other than what had come upon them from the beginning: and consequently were not to be regarded as strange" and unlooked for: nor were they insupportable; for every convert had already borne them for a long period; and consequently might, with the help of divine grace, support them still: nor were they unprofitable; since the effect of them had been to drive the sufferers to prayer,
a Rom. viii. 18.
b 1 Pet. iv. 12.