The

CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH.

Part 1

Section 51—Hebrews 10:26-29.

For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?


This passage is used on a double[1] account, both to prove that Christ died for some that perish — otherwise, it is asked, "in what tolerable sense can it be said, that no farther sacrifice for sin remains to them, for whom no sacrifice was ever offered or intended; and who were, by God's own decree, excluded from any interest in Christ's death before they came into the world? how were they sanctified by the blood of the covenant,from which they were inevitably excluded from the beginning of the world?" —and also to prove that true believers, such as these are said to be, from their being sanctified by the blood of the covenant,may finally and totally fall away, since they so sinned, and there remained no more sacrifice for their sin,and did despite to the Spirit of grace.But,

1. It is not evident from what is said of these persons, that they were true believers; not from the apostles speaking in the first person plural, we,which may seem to include himself, who was a true believer, and a chosen vessel of salvation; since the apostle frequently makes use of this way of speaking, not so much with regard to himself as others; that so what he delivered might come with greater weight upon them, and be more readily received by them, when they observed he entertained no hard thoughts or jealousies of them; which would greatly distress the minds of those who were truly gracious; (see Hebrews 2:1; 4:1). Besides, it may be observed, that sometimes, when the apostles express themselves in this manner, they do not design themselves at all, but others, who were under the same visible profession of religion, and belonged to the same community of believers as they did; (see 1 Pet. 4:3; Titus 3:3; Eph. 2:3; compared with Acts 22:3; Acts 26:5; Phil. 3:6). But admitting that the apostle and other true believers are included in these words, they are not a categorical but hypothetical proposition; which may be true when one or both parts of it are impossible; the truth of such a proposition consisting in the connection of the antecedent and consequent; as when our Lord said to the Jews, If I should say I know him not, I should be a liar like unto you (John 8:55); the proposition is true, when both the parts of it were impossible; it was impossible that Christ should say, he knew not the Father; and it was equally impossible that he should be a liar like unto them. So the proposition in the text is true, though it is impossible that true believers should so sin as to perish eternally; when I say impossible, I do not mean that it is impossible considering their own weakness, and the power of Satan, and should they be left to their own corruptions, and the temptations of the evil one; but impossible, considering the grace of God, the power of Christ, their security in an everlasting covenant, &c. Hence it follows, that such a proposition neither proves that they could or should, or did sin in this manner. It may be said, that then such a proposition is delivered in vain, and answers no purpose. I reply; It may be of service, though the condition is impossible, as to illustrate and certify the just punishment of apostates; for if true believers themselves would be so severely punished, should they, or were it possible they should sin after this manner; such hypocritical wicked persons, and vile apostates, could not expect to escape divine vengeance; yea, such declarations may be made use of by the Spirit of God, to stir up true believers to diligence in duty, and watchfulness, against every degree of apostasy, and so be the means of their final perseverance; and after all, it is plain that the apostle distinguishes true believers (vv. 38, 39); from these apostates, whose custom it had been to forsake the assembling of themselves together (v. 25). Nor does it appear that these were real saints, from their having received the knowledge of the truth; whether by the truth we understand Jesus Christ, or the Scriptures, or the Gospel, or some particular doctrine of it, especially the principal one, salvation by Christ; which I am inclined to think is intended; since, besides a saving knowledge of these things, which is peculiar to true believers, there is a notional one common to them with others; who may not only give their assent to them as true, but have much light into them, be able to explain them, and preach them to others, and yet be destitute of the grace of God; and therefore if such persons sin, and finally and totally fall away, they are no instances nor proofs of the final and total apostasy of real saints; nor is it manifest that such were the persons here spoken of, from their being sanctified by the blood of the covenant, supposing the words are to be understood of them; seeing they have no relation to the inward sanctification of our nature by the Spirit of Christ, as Dr. Whitby[2] himself owns; who contends that they should be understood of remission of sins, and justification by the blood of Christ, which these persons had received. It is true indeed, that the blessings of pardon and justification, are by and through the blood of the covenant; and are sometimes expressed by sanctifying, purging, and cleansing (see Heb. 9:13, 14; 10:10; 13:12; 1 John 1:7); yet cannot be designed here; for either these persons received a partial remission of sins, and a partial justification from them, or a full remission of all their sins, and a plenary discharge from them, not a partial one; for when God forgives for Christ's sake, he forgives all trespasses, and justifies from all sin: if then these persons had received the forgiveness of all their sins, and were justified from all their iniquities, they would have stood in no need of any more sacrifice for sin; (see Heb. 10:18), nor would there be any foundation for punishment of any kind, much less for one so severe as is here represented; (see Rom. 8:1, 30, 33). If then these words are to be considered as spoken of these apostates, the meaning of them is, either that they were sanctified, or separated from others, by a visible profession of religion, had given themselves up to a church to walk with them in the ordinances of the Gospel, had submitted to baptism, and partook of the Lord's Supper, and drank of the cup, the blood of the New Testament,or covenant; though they did not spiritually discern the body and blood of Christ in that ordinance but counted the bread and wine, the symbols thereof, as common things; or that they professed themselves, and were looked upon by others, to be truly sanctified by the Spirit, and justified by the blood of Christ. Persons are often described, not by what they really are, but by what they are thought to be. Thus the apostle writing to the Corinthians says of them all, that they were sanctified in Christ Jesus, and by his Spirit, because the professed themselves to be so, and in the opinion of others, were so; though it cannot be thought that they were all of them really so. But after all, it seems most probable, that not he that trod the Son of God under foot,but the Son of God himself, is said here to be sanctified by the blood of the covenant; which is mentioned as an aggravation of the wickedness of such that count that blood unholy, by which the Son of God himself was sanctified, that is, set apart, hallowed, and consecrated; as Aaron and his sons were by the sacrifices of slain beasts, to minister in the priest's office: Christ, when he had offered himself, and shed iris precious blood, whereby the covenant of grace was ratified and confirmed, was, through the blood of that covenant, brought again from the dead, and declared to be the Son of God with power; and being set down at God's right hand, ever lives to make intercession for us; which is the other part of his priestly office he is sanctified by his own blood to accomplish.

2. The crimes which are supposed of these persons, or they are charged with, such as sinning willfully; which is not understood of the common infirmities of life, even grosser acts of sin, which may be voluntarily committed by the saints after regeneration, as were by David, Peter, and others; but of a denial of the truth of the Gospel, that salvation is by Christ, against all the evidence of it, and convictions of their own minds: treading under foot the Son of God,as much as in them lay, pulling him from his throne, and trampling on him, stripping him of the glory of his person and sacrifice, denying him to be the eternal Son of God; counting the blood of the covenant an unholy or common thing,putting it upon a level with the blood of a bullock, or at most, counting it, çglkd dya, according to the Syriac version, as the blood of any other man, yea, reckoning it as unclean and abominable; and doing despite to the Spirit of grace rejecting him as a lying spirit, and his gifts, and miracles, as illusions, as Dr. Whitby observes;[3] I say such crimes as these, are what can never be thought to have been committed, or capable of being committed, by such who have truly tasted that the Lord is gracious.

3. The declaration made to these persons, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins; no more typical sacrifices at Jerusalem, nor any more real sacrifice of the same kind, that has been offered up by Christ, who will not come and die again, and repeat his sacrifice; and therefore, they having denied salvation by him, and the virtue of his former sacrifice, can never expect another; but that when he appears a second time, he will bring on an awful judgment, which will issue in the devouring flames of his wrath and indignation, and be a sorer punishment than the transgressors of Moses' law endured; which was but a temporal, this an eternal death; such a declaration of wrath and vengeance, I say, proves indeed that these persons fell finally and totally; but inasmuch as they cannot be proved to be true believers, it will not be evident from hence, either that Christ died for such as perish; or that those who have truly believed may totally and finally fall away.


ENDNOTES:

[1] Remonstr. in Coll. Hag. art. 2. p. 176, 178, and art 5. p. 18; Act. Synod. circa art. 2. p. 346, art. 5. p 235; Limborch, p. 322, 709; Curcellaeus, p. 360; Whitby, p. 140, 406, 407; ed. 2. 137, 396, 397.

[2] Pages 141, 406; ed. 2. 138, 396.

[3] Ibid.


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