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taught were in the first place addressed to the understandings of his audience; and then pointed to their hearts and consciences, that they might feel what they were, what God is, and what they must become, to enjoy his blissful presence.
that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified. Has not this been the case in a greater or less degree, in every age since the promulgation of Christianity? Does not the history of the church from its com mencement sufficiently justify the observations which have been made? Will not the age in which we live, clearly confirm them? Particularly, when we find the same truth taught from the highest authority. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
When those important and interesting truths of the gospel were illustrated before their eyes, and pressed home upon their consciences, with the apostle's usual, conclusive and forcible manner of reasoning; could they avoid reflecting upon their condition in a moral view? that without an influence from the divine Spirit they should never 1. We may infer that it is the yield to take their seats at the immediate duty of every one, footstool, and place God on the who has heard the gospel, tơ, throne in their affections? The embrace it. If the offer of life conclusion must be, in their and salvation has been made to moments of cool reflection, that us, to Jews, or heathen, and the they were justly in the hands of conditions upon which they are an holy God, and at his disposal. attainable have been clearly exAre not such means calculated plained and illustrated in our in the best manner to bring sin- hearing, can it be otherwise than ners to see and feel that they reasonable, and true, that all are encompassed on every side such ought immediately to comby an holy God, and their only ply with those conditions? Is it hope, is immediately to surren- not their reasonable duty to make der their whole souls to him, a surrendry of their whole through Jesus Christ? Better souls to God through Jesus means cannot be devised to awa- Christ immediately; and present ken sinners, to open their eyes, their bodies living sacrifices, hoand to turn them from darknessly, and acceptable? To repent of to light, and from the power of sin, to believe on the Lord Jesus Satan unto God. Christ, and love God with all their hearts?
Again, the divine blessing and success which have attended the administration of the words of eternal life, show their fitness and propriety. This is a strong evidence that such means were appointed of heaven, therefore were blessed; and they carry their own evidence with them, that they were devised in the highest wisdom to accomplish the purpose mentioned in the text, VOL. VI. No. 1.
A review of our subject naturally shows us the obligations men are under to embrace the gospel plan with the most cordial affection; especially, from this consideration, that the Most High has extended his arm of mercy to rebellious subjects, when there was none to pity, nor any other possible way of escape. Redemption for sinners was proB
cured, at no less expense than | place to place, from country to precious blood; in this, was in- country, preaching the word of
finite benevolence displayed; a view of which ought to inspire | every man with gratitude, and lead all to feel the force of the obligations they are under to become immediately religious.
2. From the light in which this subject hath been consider ed, and the wonderful events of the present day, may we not conclude there is some resemblance between the present and the apostolic age? From the information given us in our text, men were raised up soon after Christianity had beamed on the world, and sent to preach good tidings of peace and salvation to perishing sinners. Is not this the case at the present day? Those who were raised up in the apostles' days, for this benevolent purpose, were not confined within the limits of Jerusalem nor Judea, but were sent among the Gentiles, to carry them good news from heaven; that good will was proclaimed to mankind through Jesus Christ. Barnabas and Saul appear to have been among the first, who were purposely sent to preach the gospel among the Gentiles. Previously to this there had been a small church formed at Antioch in Syria; and these pious men were members of the same, and by direction of the Holy Ghost, were set apart for this important work. They sailed first to Cyprus, and preached the word of God, at Salamis, then they went to Paphos, to Perga in Pamphilia, from thence to Pisidia. In these places they preached the gospel, but not without much opposition from the Jews who dwelt in those parts. In this nanner they proceeded from
God with great success, gathering churches and ordaining them Elders in every church. At the appointed time, they returned, and rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. Is there not an high resemblance of these things, in what has, and does still take place in the present age? Particularly in many parts of Christendom, and in parts on which the light of the gospel had never beamed. Many are sent on missions, not only into new and destitute settlements, but into heathen lands. Turn your eyes northerly, southerly, easterly, and westerly, and what pleasing scenes will unfold to view? God is carrying on his work, not only in America and Europe, but in South Africa, and the East Indies. Are not these tidings that God has opened the door of faith unto the heathen?
But another prominent feature in this resemblance is the opposition which the apostles met, and which is now met from the enemies of religion. Is this any thing more than is to be expected from the human heart, if it be as it is described in the pa ges of inspiration? Has not this always been the case, and will it not continue while the impenitent heart remains the same? Have not error and infidelity always made rapid progress, notwithstanding the increase of light and knowledge, and the clear manner in which divine truth has been illustrated? Was not this the case in the days of the apostles, when the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles
and made their minds evil affected against the brethren ?
3. When we candidly reflect on the manner in which Christianity has been promulgated among mankind, may we not rest assured, that its author and supporter must be divine, and that all the promises of good to the church, which are found in the record of God, will be accomplished. No other weapons have been used to overcome the opposition made by the depraved heart than light and truth; and these, attended by the divine efficacy, will eventually prevail and be completely victorious. Many promises of good to the church have been accomplished, and others are now accomplishing, which may be considered as the earnest that those which remain shall be fulfilled.
Has not Jesus come in the flesh, and did not the Jews do unto him as it had been foretold? Do they not now answer the very description given of them by Moses their leader, and lawgiver under God? When we cast our eyes upon the heathen world, does not the wilderness begin to blossom, and Ethiopia to stretch out her hands unto God? Behold, Philistia, and Tyre with Ethiopia, this man was born there. Is it not true that the heathen now testify that they are given to the Son for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession? Is it not evident that he is saying to the north give up, to the south keep not back, bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth? That the river Euphrates is drying up, and the way preparing for the kings of the east to come in? That the time
is approaching when the Jews shall have an hearing ear given them, and an understanding heart, and shall be gathered in with the fullness of the Gentiles, and the appearance of this world, in moral things, shall be like a new creation of God?
From this view of things as they are now directed by infinite wisdom, will not every one be animated with the pleasing prospects of Zion's prosperity, and readily lend his aid by prayer, and giving liberally as God has enabled him, remembering that the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; that all having freely received ought freely to give; for the cause is the Lord's, and the boundless bliss belongs to men. May we not when we look forward to the future prosperity of the church, adopt the language of the prophet, Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak, the apostle had reference to being enlightened, tasting the heavenly gift, &c. and was persuaded better things of the Hebrews than these. This seems, however, to have been suggested by the want of more cogent and decisive proof. The better things, of which the apostle was persuaded, most naturally refer to the similitude of the earth, mentioned in the preceding verse, which is said to bring forth briars and thorns, and to be nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned; evidently denoting the character and fearful end of the ungodly. Saint Paul, therefore, was persuaded better things, than the apostasy and final destruction of such as had been savingly enlightened; tho' he took occasion to reason with them from a supposition of their falling away, that he might thence illustrate, and enforce on them, in the most impressive manner, the duty and importance of going on unto perfection. But the contested passage having reference to a peculiar description of persons, who had never known the grace of God, in truth, he must be considered, as laboring at nothing higher, than to guard such persons against failing away, from those graceless and unholy attainments, which were
to go on unto perfection, as to have gone, first of all to prove, that, if men who had made great progress in unholy attainments, should commit the unpardonable sin, they must inevitably perish?
For invalidating the argument in the preceding number, it may be said, the apostle's reasoning seems to imply, that those who had been once enlightened, &c. might fall away; that, therefore, they were not real saints; and that he would, otherwise, have reasoned to no purpose. The conclusiveness of all this depends, however, on its being absurd, and suited to answer no valuable purpose, to have deduced a consequence, from a supposition of what could not consist with the faithfulness of God, and the stability of his gracious covenant with believers. As the alleged impropriety of reasoning in this sort, and its not being readily seen, that any practical use can be made of it, are the main difficulties attending the construction here given, a solution of these difficulties will now be attempted.
Of the impropriety of reasoning in this way, we are not at liberty to judge, from any feelings, or prepossessions of our own, nor from any arguments which are not furnished by an appeal to the word of God. If it appear, on a fair examination, that the Spirit of inspiration has smallest approach towards sav- had recourse to the same mode ing religion; attainments, which, of reasoning with mankind cn if rested in, would as surely this, or on other important subleave them to perish, as if they jects, the objection, so far as had already committed the sin respects propriety, will be sufunto death. But can it be ima- ficiently obviated. We shall begined, that the apostle should gin with what is said, Ezekiel have so soon, and so far depart-xviii. 24. But when the righted from the proposition, with eous turneth away from his which he began the chapter, viz. righteousness, and committeth
iniquity, and doth according to I will doubt, whether this intends evangelical and saving repent ance. On this, and on nothing short of it, is it promised, that men shall surely live. The right
all the abominations, that the wicked man doth, shall he live? All the righteousness that he hath done, shall not be remembered:
in the trespass that he hath tres-eous, therefore, to whom this passed, and in the sin which he promise is exclucively made, are hath sinned, in them shall he doubtless subjects of the repentdie. In this book of prophecy ance, which must here be unare two other passages, which derstood. They alone have cast are parallel with that now quo- away from them all their transted: i. 20, and xxxiii. 13. To gressions, and turned unto God, the present purpose it seems ne- in exercise of a new heart, and cessary to show, that, by the a new spirit. The promise of righteous, in these passages, we living is made on no inferior conmust understand real saints; ditions. Hence it is said in the and by their righteousness, that immediate view of this direction, holiness of heart and life, which Turn ye, for why will ye die ? distinguish them from the rest But still, it is declared, that, If of mankind. The righteous and the righteous turn away from his wicked, in each of the chapters righteousness, and commit iniquireferred to, are accordingly con- ty, which are of similar import trasted, as men of opposite char- to falling away, after having once acters, in the sight of God; the been renewed unto repentance, former, as having a divine prom- all his righteousness which he hath ise of eternal life; and the lat- done, shall not be remembered ;~ ter, as threatened with that death he shall surely die. Here then which is the wages of sin. It is, is an example, which is an extherefore, written, verse 20, The act parallel, in point of sentiment soul that sinneth, it shall die and reasoning, with that which but verse 21, If the wicked will has been considered, from the turn from all his sins that he epistle to the Hebrews. Tho' hath committed, and keep all what is here said of the righteous my statutes, and do that which if he shall turn away from his is lawful and right, he shall sure- righteousness, is not expressed ly live; he shall not die. This in precisely the same terms, it turning from all his sins, is conceived, that it admits the keeping all God's statutes, which same construction, with what is have his promise of life, are ex- said of apostates from the Chrisplained to mean, not a mere out- tian faith, viz. that they cannot ward reformation, which might be renewed again unto repentbe connected with temporal bles-ance. sings, but that repentance, out of a renewed heart, which is said in the gospel to be unto life. Hence saith the Holy One, verse 31, 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 ? It is presumed none
He shall surely die, hé shall not live. In point of propriety, therefore, there can be no objection to the apostle's having reasoned from a case, which shall never be realized in fact. This is proved, by an appeal to the things which are taught by the Holy Spirit. Other examples may be adduced from the