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by a course of penance, such as was prescribed in S ERM..
CXXI. the ancient church to great offenders; and then they understand by á dúvalov, not a natural, but a moral impossibility ; that which cannot be done according to the orders and constitutions of the church; that is, the church did refuse to admit apostates, and some other great offenders, as murderers and adulterers, to a course of penance, in order to their reconciliation with the church; this Tertullian tells us was the strictness of the church in his time, neque idololatriæ, neque fanguini pax ab ecclefia redditur ; " they “ admitted neither idolaters, nor murderers, to the 6 reconciliation of the church.” Though they were never so penitent, and shed never so many tears, yet he says they were jejunæ pacis lachrymæ, their tears were in vain, to reconcile them to the peace and communion of the church. He says indeed they did not absolutely pronounce their case desperate in relpect of God's pardon and forgiveness ; sed de veniâ Deo refervamus, u for that they referr'd them to God:” but they were never to be admitted again into the church; so strict were many churches, and that upon the authority of this text; though the church of Rome was more moderate in this matter, and for that reason callid the authority of this book into question.
But I fee no reason why these words should primarily be understood of restoring men to the communion of the church by penance : but they seem to be meant of restoring men to the favour of God by repentance; of which indeed their being restor'd to the communion of the church was a good sign.
This the apostle says was very difficult, for those who after baptism, and the several benefits of it,
in apostaly, that way of aggrav an open Thame
SER M. did apoftatize from christianity, “ to be recover'd
" again to repentance.”
“ Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of
God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” This is spoken by way of aggravation of the crime of apoftasy, that they who fall off from christianity, in effect and by interpretation do crucify " the Son of « God” over again, and expose him to shame and reproach, as the Jews did; for by denying and renouncing of him, they declare him to be an impoftor, and consequently worthy of that death which he suffered, and that ignominy which he was exposed to; and therefore, in account of God, they are said to do that, which by their actions they do approve; so that it is made a crime of the highest nature, as if they should “ crucify the Son of God," and use him in the most ignominious manner, even “ tread under foot the Son of God," as the expression is to the same purpose, chap. X. 29.
Thus I have endeavour'd, as briefly and clearly as I could, to explain to you the true meaning and importance of the several phrases and expressions in the text; the sense whereof amounts to this, that if those who are baptized, and by baptism have received remission of fins, and do believe the doctrine of the gospel, and the promises of it, and are endow'd with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, if such persons as these shall after all this apostarize from christianity, it is very hard, and next to an impossibility, to imagine how such perfons should recover again by repentance, seeing they are guilty of as great a crime, as if in their own perfons they had put to death and ignominiousy used the Son of God, because by rejecting of him,
they declared to the world that he suffered de-SERM. servedly.
CXXI; hos Having thus explained the words, in order to the E further vindication of them from the mistakes and
misapprehensions which have been about them, I - shall endeavour to make out these five things:
ist, That the sin here mention'd is not “ the fin " against the Holy Ghost.”
2dly, That the apostle does not declare it to be absolutely impossible, but only that those who are í guilty of it are recover'd to repentance with great ti difficulty. = 3dly, That it is not a partial apoftasy from the
christian religion by any particular vicious practice.
4thly, That it is a total apoftasy from the chriftian religion, and more especially to the heathen idolatry, which the apostle here speaks of.
sthly, The reason of the difficulty of the recovery continue of those who fall into this sin.
ift, That the sin here mention'd is not the fin ni " against the Holy Ghost," which I have here
tofore discoursed of, and shewn wherein the particular i nature of it does consist. There are three things it which do remarkably distinguish the fin here spoken
of in the text, from the sin against the Holy E “ Ghost” described by our Saviour.
ift, The persons that are guilty of this sin here in the text, are evidently such as had embraced chriftianity, and had taken upon them the profession of it: whereas those whom our Saviour chargeth with “ the sin against the Holy Ghost,” are duch as constantly opposed his doctrine, and resisted the evidence he offer'd for it.
SER M. . 2dly, The particular nature of “the sin against the
“ HOLY GHOST' consisted in blaspheming the Spirit, whereby our Saviour wrought his miracies, and saying he did not those things by the Spirit of God, but by the assistance of the devil, in that malicious and unreasonable imputing of the plain effects of the Holy Ghost to the power of the devil, and consequently in an obstinate refusal to be convinced by the miracles that he wrought: but here is nothing of all this so much as in:imated by the apostle in this place.
3dly, “ The sin against the Holy Ghost" is declared to be absolutely “ unpardonable, both in this « world, and in that which is to come." But this is not declared to be absolutely unpardonable; which brings me to the .: 2d thing, namely, That this fin here spoken of by the apostle, is not said to be absolutely unpardonable. It is not “the sin against the Holy GHOST;" and whatever else it be, it is not out of the compass of God's pardon and forgiveness. So our SAviour hath told us, “ that all manner of fin what.“ soever that men have committed is capable of par.“ don, excepting only the fin against the Holy " GHOST.” And though the apostle here ufes a very severe expresion, that “ if such persons fall " away, it is impossible to renew them again to re• pentance ;" yet I have shewn that there is no neceflity of understanding this phrase in the strictest sense of the word “ impossible ;” but as it is elfewhere used, for that " which is extremely difficult.” · Nor indeed will our Saviour's declaration, which
I mentioned before, that all sins whatsoever are pardonable, except“ the sin against the Holy Ghost,"
Euffer us to understand these words in the most rigo- SERM. cous sense.
3dly, The sin here spoken of, is not a partial apoItaly from the christian religion by any particular viscious practice. Whosoever lives in the habitual pracLice of any sin plainly forbidden by the christian law, may be said so far to have apoftatized from christianity ; but this is not the 'falling away which the apostle here speaks of. This may be bad enough, and the greater sins any man who professeth himself a christian lives in, the more notoriousy he contradicts his profession, and falls off from chriftianity, and the nearer he approaches to the fin in the text, and the danger there threatned :' but yet for all that, this is not that which the apoitle speaks of.
4thly, But it is a total apoitaly from the christian religion, more especially to the heathen idolatry, the renouncing of the true God, and our Saviour, and the worship of falle gods which the apostle here speaks of. And this will be evident, if we consider the occasion and main scope of this epistle. And that was to confirm the Jews, who had newly embraced chriftianity, in the profession of that religion ; and to keep them from apostarizing from it, because of the persecutions and sufferings which attended that profession. It pleased God, when christianity first appeared in the world, to permit the powers of the world to raise a vehement persecution against the professors of it, by reason whereof many out of base fear did apo. ftatize from it, and in testimony of their renouncing it, were forced to sacrifice to the heathen idols. This is that which the apostle endeavours to caution and arm men against throughout this epistle. Chap. ii. 1, “ Therefore we ought to give the more earnest .