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explained consistently with the rejection of the individual's genuine Christianity, to whom it is applicable; but the whole taken together is rather staggering. Still the supposition that the apostle is speaking only of those who never were real partakers of the grace of God, seems to me the easiest method of meeting and removing the difficulties which attach to the passage. Those who wish to examine the subject fully, would do well to consult Dr. Owen's work on Apostacy. To others, the following passage from that work will furnish, in short space, satisfactory reasons in support of our interpretation :
“ The persons here intended, are not true and sincere believers in the strict and proper sense of that name, at least they are not described here as such, so that from hence no. thing can be concluded concerning them that are so, as to the possibility of their total and final apostacy. For, (1.) There is in their full and large description no mention of faith or believing, either expressly or in terms equivalent. And in no other place of the Scripture are such intended, but they are mentioned by what belongs essentially to their state. And, (2.) There is not any thing ascribed to these persons, that is peculiar to them as such, or discriminative of them, as taken either from their especial relation unto God in Christ, or any such property of their own, as is not communicable unto others. For instance, They are not said to be called according to God's purpose, to be born again not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God; not to be justified, or sanctified, or united unto Christ, or to be the sons of God by adoption, nor have they any other characteristical note of true believers ascribed to them. (3.) They are in the following verses compared to the ground on which the rain often falls, and beareth nothing but thorns and briars. But this is not so with true believers; for faith itself is an herb peculiar to the enclosed garden of Christ, and meet for him by whom we are dressed. (4.) The apostle discoursing afterwards of true
believers, doth in many particulars distinguish them from such as might be apostates, which is supposed of the persons here intended, as was in part before declared. For, 1. He ascribes unto them in general better things, and such as accompany salvation, as we observed, ver. 9. 2. He ascribes unto them a work and labour of love, as it is true faith alone which worketh by love, ver. 10, whereof he speaks not one word concerning these. 3. He asserts their preservation, (1) On the account of the righteousness and faithfulness of God, v. ll. (2) Of the immutability of his counsel concerning them; ver. 17, 18. In all these and sundry other instances doth he put a difference between these apostates and true believers. And whereas the apostle intends to declare the aggravation of their sin in falling away by the principal privileges whereof they were made partakers, here is not one word in name or. thing of those which he expressly assigns to be the chief privileges of true believers, Rom. viii. 27-30.–Owen's Works, vol. xvii. pp. 313, 314.
The remarks made by Mr. Maclean in his work on the Hebrews, on the impossibility of renewing apostates to repentance, are exceedingly judicious, and correspond with the sentiments of the discourses on the other subject:
But, it may be asked, How comes it to be impossible to renew such apostates again unto repentance? Not, I apprehend, because it is impossible with men to do it without the concurring grace of God; for that is equally true in ordinary cases: nor because it is impossible for the power of God to do it; for his Almighty power can effect every thing that he pleases, or is not inconsistent with his own perfections: nor is it because the blood of Christ is insufficient to obtain pardon for this sin if applied to by faith and repentance; for God never refuses pardon to the greatest sinners upon their repentance and faith in the atonement; and this is what we are assured of by innumerable promises.
To account for this impossibility we may observe-1. That they have had the advantage of the highest evidence of the truth of the Gospel that God ever intended to give. They have been enlightened and tasted of the good word of God, and have not only been eye-witnesses of the miraculous operations of the Spirit, but have themselves been partakers of them; yet having, under such circumstauces, renounced the Gospel, and as there remains no higher evidence or stronger motive to persuade them to repentance, so their case in that respect must appear desperate.—2. The nature of their sin appears to preclude repentance. It is not a single act through the force of temptation, or the fear of their lives, as was the case with Peter when he denied his Master; but a wilful, voluntary, and deliberate apostacy, after having received the knowledge of the truth, arising from a rooted enmity against Christ and his canse. This, in its very nature, is opposite to repentance, and to every thing that leads to it. — 3. This impossibility may also be resolved into the righteous judgment of God, in giving them up to impenitence and hardness of heart. If God thus gave up with many of the Jews in our Lord's time, before the evidence of the Gospel was completed, John xii. 37—12. and if it is foretold that he would permit others to fall under the strong delusions of the man of sin, that they should believe a lie, and be all damned, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, 2 Thess. ii. 10--13, there must certainly be good reason for such a judicial proceeding of God against those in the apostolic age, who, after having had the highest evidence of the truth, wilfully renounced it, and turned out its inveterate opposers." - Maclean's Works, vol. v. pp. 192, 193.
Note [I] page 41.
Heb. x. 26.-On this very awful passage, I know nothing better or more satisfactory than the exposition of Mr. Archibald Maclean, from which I have quoted in the preceding Note. As the book is not so well known as its importance deserves, I shall be excused for giving another extract.
“ To sin wilfully does not mean every sin which we commit with the consent of our will; for it will be hard to mention any sin in which the will is not more
or less concerned. We find in scripture many of the approved children of God falling into such sins as necessarily implied
consent of the will for the time; yet they are not said to siu (EKBOWS) wilfully. Paul was a blasphemer of Christ, and compelled others to blaspheme him; he was a persecutor and injurious, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, Acts ix. 1. xxvi. 10, 11. 1 Tim. i. 13. Yet it is not said that he did this wil. fully, but ignorantly, in unbelief. Peter though he had much to learn, was a sincere lover of Christ, and resolved to die with him; yet he denied him with imprecations and oaths, not wilfully, but through fear. Matt. xxvi. 74. The expression to sin wilfully seems to refer to Num. xv. 30, 31. where it is described as doing ought presumptuously, or with an high hand, and as reproaching the Lord, and despising or contemning the word of the Lord : but the apostle shews that to sin wilfully against the gospel is a more heinous sin, and deserves sorer punishment than was inflicted on those who despised Moses' law, ver. 29.
“ This sin cannot be committed till 6 after we have re" ceived the knowledge of the truth ;' hence Paul could not commit it ignorantly in unbelief. The knowledge of the truth
here is the same with being once enlightened, chap. vi. 4. (See the Notes there and on ver. 5.) Peter admits, that some, after they have known the way of righteousness, and escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, may be again entangled therein and overcome; turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them; and so like the dog return to his vomit, and as the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire, 2 Pet. ii. 19–22. And our Lord in the parable of the sower shews that men may may “receive the word with joy, and for a while believe, who in time of temptation fall away,” Luke viii. 13. These and such passages shew, that men may not only know the truth, but believe and have joy in it, and that it may have a considerable influence on their conduct for a time, and yet, after all, sin wilfully and fall away irrecoverably.
“ Let it be observed, that the apostle is not here speaking of the unbelieving Jews who had never been enlightened so as to profess the faith of Christ; but of those of them only who had received the knowledge of the truth and once professed to believe it; who had seen the miraculous evidence by which it was at first confirmed as a revelation from God, and had themselves, some of them at least, been partakers of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, chap. vi. 4, 5. and yet, in the face of all that evidence, turned out wilful apostates, and determined enemies to Christ, his cause and people, and 80 rejected the only effectual sacrifice which God had appointed and accepted; now, for such as thus sin wilfully, we are told, “ there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” The only sacrifice remaining under tho gospel is the sacrifice of Christ, and as they wilfully despise and renounce the benefit of that sacrifice, they have no sacrifice for sin whatever remaining to them; consequently, must be destitute of every reasonable and revealed ground of hope, and nothing is left to them."