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and " the world to come are contrasted, it should seem that the Mosaic and the Christian æras are spoken of; and then, “ the powers of the world to come” would signify the powerful, or miraculous, works of the Christian age. Others * again, of high authority as Commentators on the language of Scripture, doubt whether the phrase, aiòv peixwv, is ever used to denote the age of the Gospel on earth; but consider the phrase "world to come bearing the sense, which is commonly assigned to it in our language. If this interpretation be adopted ; the meaning is, “ those who have been made acquainted with the consoling doctrine of a future state, and who have experienced its power in smoothing the inconveniences and dispelling the anxieties of this life ;-who have thus had a foretaste of future bliss.”
“ If they shall fall away,” seems to imply apostacy from the religion once professed-and to " renew them again unto repentance”-is, the being restored by repentance to the same degree and favour with God, the same experience of blissful consciousness in themselves, as they possessed before they fell away.
One passage only remains for the purpose of explanation, and that will be given in few words. Those are said to “ crucify the Son of God 'afresh and put him to open shame," who act towards Him and the Gospel which He delivered, as if they thought He deserved the sentence that was passed upon Him : they expose Him again to public shame; or, so far as in them lies, treat Him as an impostor ; for in fact they maintain the very principles, by which those were actuated, who inflicted upon Him painful and ignominious punishment.
a See Le Clerc, Slade.
It is plain that two different classes of persons may be included under the appalling description of those, who “ crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame”; namely, such as avowedly disbelieve the testimony, upon which the truth of the Christian Revelation is founded; and such, as affect to believe its Divine origin, yet live in an habitual disregard of its precepts. Of these it must be acknowledged that the former may claim the merit of consistency, though they justly forfeit all pretension to the possession either of fairness or judgement. Seldom, if ever, has it happened that any one of sound mind has refused his assent to that astonishing accumulation of evidence, upon which the Gospel rests, after full and dispassionate inquiry; and fearful indeed is the condition of such, as presume to reject it without such inquiry.
Scarcely less awful is the state of those, who receive the Gospel as a Divine law; yet act continually in opposition to its pure and holy commandments; by the dissoluteness of their lives, the uncharitableness of their feelings, or their habitual and contemptuous neglect of the ordinances of religion, of those means of grace which are afforded us here, for the very purpose of qualifying us for the enjoyment of happiness hereafter. Scarcely less awful, I
say, is the state of these practical unbelievers, than of the avowed and unblushing infidel. Still it is not quite
so hopeless; because the flame of truth, which has so long been dormant, may haply revive'; the heart, which has once been touched by the celestial influence of the Holy Spirit, may bé visited by compunction; may recur to its former and better thoughts, and once again be permitted to “ taste the good word of God, and the powers of the world to
That such may be the case ; although it be a case of extreme difficulty and of very rare occurrence; it will be my object to shew in the next Discourse.
THE GRANT OF REPENTANCE NOT TO BE DENIED TO
SUCH, AS FALL INTO SIN AFTER BAPTISM.
LIGHTENED, AND HAVE TASTED OF THE HEAVENLY GIFT, AND WERE MADE PARTAKERS OF THE HOLY GHOST, AND HAVE TASTED THE GOOD WORD OF GOD, AND THE POWERS OF THE WORLD TO COME, -IF THEY SHALL FALL AWAY, TO RENEW THEM AGAIN UNTO REPENTANCE; SEEING THEY CRUCIFY TO THEMSELVES THE SON OF GOD
AFRESH, AND PUT HIM TO AN OPEN SHAME.
Many disputes took place in the ancient Church about the exact meaning of the proposition here intended to be enforced. The Novatians in particular were distinguished by their adherence to the strict and severe sense of the words ; insomuch, that they not only denied the possibility of any act of repentance availing such, as fell off from their Christian profession after baptism ; but withdrew from the communion of the Church, because they thought it defiled by the re-admission of apostates. Our own Church considered a mistake in this point of doctrine of so serious a nature, that one of her Articles, the sixteenth, is employed in defining the real sense of Scripture upon this important subject. I cannot assign graver reasons than these for directing your
thoughts to it upon the present occasion. But I occupy myself with this question the more readily, because some observations, which I formerly made upon one of the passages connected with it, were misunderstood in consequence of the brevity, with which I was then constrained to express myself. On these several accounts, a detailed examination of the text, and of two other passages in the Epistles, expressed in similar terms, and intended to convey the same meaning, will
appear you, not only desirable, but even necessary.
The two other passages, connected with this subject, occur in the 10th chapter of this Epistle, v. 26, and the 2d chapter of the Second Epistle General of St. Peter, v. 20.
The former of these passages, being that, to which I once adverted, is conceived in these terms: “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 judgement 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
in St. Peter's Epistle runs thus ; “ If, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour,