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The second passage is,—“For if we sin wilfully 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 under foot 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 ?"* It is clearly of apostates that the apostle is speaking in this as in the former passage. It cannot be on every wilful sin that he pronounces the awful denunciation, which is here recorded; but the wilful desertion of the truth and people of God—the forsaking of the public assemblies, under the influence of the fear or the love of the world. This involved the abandonment of hope in the last, and, now, the only remaining sacrifice for sin. Judaism, with all its sacrifices, could afford no remedy to such ; the virtue of all its provisions was extinguished for ever; the blood of its victims might now be shed and applied in vain. For the despiser of the Mosaic law, that law made no provision of mercy; because it provided no atonement for the men who renounced it. For the despiser of the Gospel, Christianity provides no remedy. The man who treads under foot the Son of God, who
* Heb. x. 26-29.
treats as a profane thing the blood of the covenant, and who insults the Spirit of God, must be left to that indignation which shall devour all its adversaries.
Here again, it is evident, what is the ground of the sinner's exclusion from mercy. It is not the mere enormity of his offence, dreadfully aggravated as it is; but his final impenitence, and his deliberate rejection of the glorious remedy. The only antidote to the bane of his nature is refused; his eye is closed against, not the feeble ray, but the full blaze of the divine mercy; and his soul having once professed to appreciate, at last loathes and rankles at God's unspeakable gift.*
The only other passage I shall notice, is in the first Epistle of John,—“If any man his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.”+ This passage, if I understand it aright, relates to a different matter altogether. I think the apostle John is treating of those temporal visitations, by which, in the apostolic age, professors were sometimes severely punished for their improper conduct. To such events, Paul refers in his Epistle to the Corinthians. I It did not follow that all the individuals who were thus
* See Note [1.] + 1 John v. 16, 17.
# 1 Cor. xi. 30.
punished, were eternally lost. John does not forbid praying for the offender, but for the removal of the temporal penalty of death. It might be the will of God that an individual should die as the punishment of his offence, while his spirit should be saved in the day of the Lord. This passage then has nothing to do with the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.*
The grand conclusion to which I would now draw your attention, is—That no sin repented of, and turned from, is beyond the reach of that forgiveness which the Gospel proclaims; and, therefore, whatever may have been the past thoughts of any, or the past words of any, or the past conduct of any, if repentance be now felt, and mercy iinplored through the blood of the cross, that mercy will be found, and that blood will wipe away
the stain. This must be so, if there be any justice in the declarations of Scripture respecting the sacrifice of Christ, and any truth in its general and unlimited declarations of forgiveness. Of the atonement of Jesus, it is affirmed, that it was made “for the sins of the world,” —that it was offered through the Eternal Spirit," and that its value is derived from the infinite dignity of Him who died upon Calvary. In his work, the justice of the Father hath found rest, the smiles of his complacency ever dwell upon Him who accomplished it; and for his sake, and to promote his glory, the
* See Note (K.]
Father hath presented an unlimited amnesty, an unclogged overture of pardon to every sinner who believeth on him.
Let it be observed, that the unhappy persons referred to, are excluded from salvation, not because there is not value in the propitiation of Jesus to atone for their guilt; but because the propitiation is rejected. They are cast off, not because the range of Heaven's proclamation of mercy is too narrow to comprehend them; but because its unlimited, unconditional promise, they are too proud to stoop to receive, or hardy enough to scorn. They are refused eternal life, not because the bosom of God is unwilling to embrace them, and heaven too circumscribed to admit them; but because they pour contempt on the boon, and insult Him who proffers it.
The existence of the state of mind which feels the evil of sin, the loss of the divine favour, and those compunctious visitings, which enter into the nature of repentance unto life, is the best evidence that the crime we have been considering, does not attach to the anxious and painfully-exercised inquirer. These feelings are the very opposite of those, which involve the threatened exclusion from hope and salvation. They are the effect of the inworking of God himself on the sinner's soul. They are proofs that he is still striving with him, and waiting to be gracious. I have no hesitation in saying, that it is impossible for God to disregard this state of mind. What is his own production, he must behold with approbation;
what is according to his own mind, he must contemplate with delight. The prayer which is breathed out for pardon through the mediation of Christ, must be heard. The repenting sinner who turns unto God must live.—“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes ; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.-Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel ? \For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.—Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your
sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."*
While our views of this solemn subject lead us to beseech men not to indulge in the feelings of despair, or from past sins to give themselves over to hopelessness; as this would only be filling up the measure of iniquity, and putting the extinguisher on the light of Jehovah's mercy, by adding to their other transgressions, last of all, habitual and final unbelief. We would, at the
* Isaiah i. 16–18. Ezek. xviii. 31–32. Acts iii. 19.