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fession of that faith which they had embraced ; and to arm them against that temptation which Christians were then exposed to, viz. the fierce and cruel persecutions which threatened those of that profession.
And to this purpose he represents to them the excellency of that religion above any other former revelation that God had made of himself to the world, both in respect of the author and revealer of it, who was the Son of God; and in respect of the revelation itself; which as it contains better and more perfect directions for a good life, so likewise more powerful and effectual motives thereto, better promises, and more terrible threatenings, than were annexed to the observation of the Jewish law, or clearly and certainly discoverable by the light of nature. From these considerations, he earnestly persuade3 them, all along throughout this epistle, to continue constant in the profession of this faith, and not to suffer themselves to be frighted out of it by the terror of persecution : chap. ii. I. Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, left at any time we should let them slip; and chap. iv. 1. Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his reft, any of you should seem to come sort of it; and y 23. of this chapter, Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering : and to encourage them to constancy, he sets before them the glorious rewards and recompences of the gospel, v 35. Cast not away therefore your confidence, TÀU Tapongiar uuwv, your free and open profession of Christiani-. ty, which haih great recompence of reward.
And then, on the other hand, to deter them from apostasy from this profession, he represents to them the horrible danger of it here in the text, But if any man draw back, my foul shall have no pleasure in him.
I shall briefly explain the words, and then profecute that which I mainly intend in them. If any man draw back, ’Esiv u mor TeanTou: these words, with the foregoing, are cited out of the Prophet Habakkuk, chap. ii. 3. 4. and they are cited by the Apostle, according to the translation of the LXX, which differs fomewhat from the Hebrew; and the difference ariseth from the various readings of the Hebrew word, which is rendered by the LXX, to draw back ; but, by the change of a letter,
signifies to be lifted up, as we render it in the Prophet : but however that be, the Apostle follows the translation of the LXX, and accommodates it to his purpose. 'Edv uworteiantou, if any man draw back; the word signifies to keep back, to withdraw, to sneak and sink away out of fear, to fail or faint in any enterprize. And thus this word is rendered in the New Testament: Acts xx. 20. öllès UwiSETnewmv, I did not with-hold or keep back any thing that was profitable for you : and so it is said of St. Peter, Gal. ii. 12. u mesta asv exutòv, he sunk away, or withdrew himself, fearing them of the circumcifion; and the Hebrew word which is here rendered by the LXX, to draw back, is rendered elsewhere exact wélv, which is to fail, or faint. From all which it appears, that by drawing back 'the Apostle here means, mens quitting their profession of Christianity, and linking out of it, for fear of suffering for it.
My foul shall have no pleasure in him : these words are plainly a ueteris, and less is said than is meant; for the meaning is, that God will be extremely displeased with them, and punish them very severely. The like figure to this you have, Psal. v. 4. Thou art not a God that hast pleasure in wickedness; which in the very next verfe is explained by his hatred and detestation of those who are guilty of it, Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity. So that the plain sense of the words is this, That apostasy from the profession of God's true religion, is a thing highly provoking to him, and will be most severely punished by him.
In speaking to this argument, I shall consider these four things.
1. The nature of this fin of apostasy from religion.
4. The great danger of it, and the terrible punishment it exposeth men to. And when I have spoken to these, I shall conclude all with a short exhortation, to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.
I. We will consider the nature of this fin of apoftafy from religion. And it consists in forsaking or renouncing the profession of religion, whether it be by an open declaration in words, or a virtual declaration of it by our
actions : actions : for it comes all to one in the fight of God; and the different manner of doing it, does not alter the nature of the thing. He indeed that renounccth religion by an open declaration in words, offers the greatest and boldest defiance to it; but he is likewise an apoftate, who silently withdraws himself from the profession of it, who guits it for his interest, or for fear disowns it, and sneaks out of the profession of it, and forsakes the communion of those who own it. Thus Demas was an apostate, in quitting Christianity for some worldly interest : Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world, faith St. Paul, 2 Tim. iv., 10.
And those whom our Saviour describes, Matth. xiii. 20. 21. who received the word into Stony ground, were apoftates out of fear: They heard the word, and with joy received it; but having 110 rool in themselves, they endured but for a while; and when tribulation and persecution arifeth because of the word, presently they fall of
And there is likewise a partial apostasy from Christianity, when some fundamental article of it is denied, whereby, in effect, and by consequence, the whole Christian faith is overthrown. Of this Hymeneus and Philetus were guilty, of whom the Apostle says, that they erred concerning the truth, saying, that the resurrection was pas already; and thereby overthrew the faith of fome, 2 Tini. ii. 17. 18.; that is, they turned the resurrection into an allegory, and did thereby really destroy a most fundamental article of the Christian religion.
So that, to make a man an apostate, it is not necessary that a man should solemnly renounce his baptism, and declare Christianity to be false : there are feveral other ways whereby a man may bring himself under this guilt; as, by a silent quitting of his religion, and withdrawing himself from the communion of all that profess it; by denying an essential doctrine of Christianity, by undermining the great end and design of it; by teaching do&trines which directly tend to encourage men in impenitence, and a wicked course of life; nay, to authorise all manner of impiety and vice, in telling men that whatever they do, they cannot fin : for which the primitive Christians did look upon the Gnosticks as no better than apoftates from Christianity; and though they retain
ed ed the name of Christians, yet not to be truly and really so. And there is likewise a partial apostasy from the Christian religion, of which I shall speak under the
II. Second head I proposed; which was, to consider the several sorts and degrees of apostasy. The highest of all is, the renouncing and forfaking of Christianity, or of fome essential part of it, which is a virtual apostasy from it. But there are several tendencies towards this, which they who are guilty of, are in some degree guilty of this fin : As,
1. Indifferency in religion, and want of all sort of concernment for it; when a man, though he never quitted his religion, yet is so little concerned for it, that a very small occasion or temptation would make him do it: he is contented to be reckoned in the number of those who profess it, so long as it is the fashion, and he finds no great inconvenience by it; but is so indifferent in his mind about it, (like Gallio, who minded none of those things), that he can turn himself into any other shape, when his interest requires it: so that, though he never actually deserted it, yet he is a kind of apostate in the preparation and disposition of his mind. “And to fuch persons, that title which Solomon gives to some, may fitly enough be applied, they are backsliders in heart.
2. Another tendency to this sin, and a great degree of it, is, withdrawing from the publick marks and testimonies of the profession of religion, by forsaking the arsemblies of Christians for the worship and service of God; to withdraw ourselves from those, for fear of danger or suffering, is a kind of denial of our religion. And this was the case of some in the Apostles time: when persecution grew hot, and the open profession of Christianity dangerous; to avoid this danger, many appeared not in the assemblies of Christians, for fear of being observed, and brought into trouble for it. This the Apostle taxeth some for in this chapter, and speaketh of it as a letting go our profession, and a kind of deserting of Christianity, v 23. 25. Let us hold fast the profesion of our faith without wavering ; not for saking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is. He doth not say, they had quitted their profession; but they had but a-loose hold of it, and were silently stealing away from it.
3. A light temper of mind, which easily receives impressions from those who lie in wait to deceive and seduce men from the truth. When men are not well rooted and established in religion, they are apt to be inveigled by the crafty insinuations of feducers, to be moved with cvery wind of doctrine, and to be easily maken in mind, by every trifling piece of sophistry that is confidently obtruded upon them for a weighty argument.
Now, this is a temper of mind which disposeth men to apostasy, and renders them an easy prey to every one that takes a pleasure and pride in making proselytes. It is true indeed, a man should always have a mind ready to entertain truth, when it is fairly proposed to him : but the main things of religion are so plainly revealed, and lie so obvious to cvery ordinary capacity, that every man may difcern them; and when he hath once entertained them, ought to be stedfast and unmoveable in them, and not suffer himself to be whiffled out of them by an insignificant noise about the infallibility of a visible church ; much less ought he to be moved by any man's uncharitableness and positiveness, in damning all that are not of his mind.
There are some things so very plain, not only in scripture, but to the common reason of mankind, that no subtilty of discourse, no pretended authority, or even infallibility of any church, ought to stagger us in the least about them : as, that we ought not, or cannot believe any thing in direct contradiction to sense and reason; that the people ought to read and study the holy scriptures, and to serve God, and pray to him, in a language which they understand ; that they ought to receive the facrament as our Saviour instituted and appointed it, that is, in both kinds; that it can neither be our duty, nor lawful, to do that which God hath forbidden; as he hath done the worship of images in the second commandment, as plainly as words can do it. Upon any one of these points, a man would fix his foot, and stand alone ae gainst the whole world.
4. Another degree of apostasy is, a departure from the purity of the Christian doctrine and worship, in a gross and notorious manner. This is a partial, though not a total apostasy from the Christian religion ; and there have