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should remember, that whenever the Jews prevailed on a Christian to apostatize, they required him to declare, in express terms, and that in the public assembly, that Jesus of Nazareth was a deceiver of the people ; and that he had suffered no more punishment than his crimes justly deserved. This is the sin which St. Paul, in the first passage, terms emphatically
falling away;" “ crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame." This is that which he terms in the second, “ counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, treading under foot the Son of God, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace.” Now, which of you has thus fallen away? Which of you has thus “ crucified the Son of God afresh ?" Not one: Nor has one of
put him to an open-shame." If you had thus formally renounced that “only sacrifice for sin," there had no other sacrifice remained; so that you must have perished without mercy. But this is not your case. Not one of you has thus renounced that sacrifice, by which the Son of God made a full and perfect satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Bad as you are, you shudder at the thought: Therefore that sacrifice still remains for you Come then, cast away your needless fears ! 6. Come boldly to the throne of grace !” The way is still open. You shall again “ obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
V. 1. “ But do not the well-known words of our Lord himself cut us off from all hope of mercy ? Does he not say, “ All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him : But whosoever speaketh a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall never be forgiven him ; neither in this world, nor in the world to come ?' Therefore, it is plain, if we have been guilty of this sin, there is no room for mercy. And is not the same thing repeated by St. Mark, almost in the same words ? •Verily I say unto you,' (a solemn preface ! always denoting the great importance of that which follows,) 'All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is under the sentence of eternal damnation.""
2. How immense is the number in every nation throughout the Christian world of those who have been more or less dis
tressed on account of this scripture! What multitudes in this kingdom have been perplexed above measure upon this very account! Nay, there are few that are truly convinced of sin, and seriously endeavour to save their souls, who have not felt some uneasiness for fear they had committed, or should commit, this unpardonable sin. What has frequently increased their uneasiness was, that they could hardly find any to comfort them. For their acquaintances, even the most religious of them, understood no more of the matter than themselves ; and they could not find any writer who had published any thing satisfactory upon the subject. Indeed, in the “ Seven Sermons " of Mr. Russell, which are common among us, there is one expressly written upon it; but it will give little satisfaction to a troubled spirit. He talks about it, and about it, but makes nothing out: He takes much pains, but misses the mark at last.
3. But was there ever in the world a more deplorable proof of the littleness of human understanding, even in those that have honest hearts, and are desirous of knowing the truth! How is it possible, that any one who reads his Bible, can one hour remain in doubt concerning it, when our Lord himself, in the very passage cited above, has so clearly told us what that blasphemy is? “He that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.” (Mark iii. 29, 30.) This then, and this alone, (if we allow our Lord to understand his own meaning,) is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost: T'he saying, he had an unclean spirit ; the affirming that Christ wrought his miracles by the power of an evil spirit ; or, more particularly, that “ he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.” Now, have you been guilty of this ? have you affirmed, that he cast out devils by the prince of devils ? No more than you have cut your neighbour's throat, and set his house on fire. How marvellously then have you been afraid, where no fear is ! Dismiss that vain terror; let your
fear be more rational for the time to come. Be afraid of giving way to pride; be afraid of yielding to anger; be afraid of loving the world, or the things of the world; be afraid of foolish and hurtful desires ; but never more be afraid of committing the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost! You are in no more danger of doing this, than of pulling the sun out of the firmament.
4. Ye have then no reason from Scripture for imagining that “the Lord hath forgotten to be gracious." The arguments drawn from thence, you see, are of no weight, are utterly inconclusive. Is there any more weight in that which has been drawn from experience or matter of fact ?
5. This is a point which may exactly be determined, and that with the utmost certainty. If it be asked, “Do any real apostates find mercy from God? Do any that have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, recover what they have lost? Do you know, have you seen, any instance of persons who found redemption in the blood of Jesus, and afterwards fell away, and yet were restored,—renewed again to repentance ?"" Yea, verily; and not one, or an hundred only, but, I am persuaded, several thousands. In every place where the arm of the Lord has been revealed, and many sinners converted to God, there are several found who “ turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” For a great part of these “it had been better never to have known the way of righteousness." It only increases their damnation, seeing they die in their sins. But others there are who “look unto him they have pierced; and mourn," refusing to be comforted. And, sooner or later, he surely lifts up the light of his countenance upon them; he strengthens the hands that hang down, and confirms the feeble knees; he teaches them again to say, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour.” Innumerable are the instances of this kind, of those who had fallen; but now stand upright. Indeed, it is so far from being an uncommon thing for a believer to fall and be restored, that it is rather uncommon to find any believers who are not conscious of having been backsliders from God, in a higher or lower degree, and perhaps more than once, before they were established in faith.
6. “But have any that had fallen from sanctifying grace been restored to the blessing they had lost ?" This also is a point of experience; and we have had the opportunity of repeating our observations during a considerable course of years,
and from the one end of the kingdom to the other.
7. And, First, we have known a large number of persons, of every age and sex, from early childhood to extreme old age, who have given all the proofs which the nature of the thing admits, that they were “sanctified throughout;” “cleansed from all pollution of the flesh and spirit;" that they “ loved the Lord their God with all their heart, and mind, and soul, and strength;* that they continually “presented” their souls and bodies “à living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God;" in consequence of which, they “rejoiced evermore, prayed without ceasing, and in every thing gave thanks.” And this, and no other, is what we believe to be true, scriptural sanctification.
8. Secondly. It is a common thing for those who are thus sanctified, to believe they cannot fall; to suppose themselves “pillars in the temple of God, that shall go out no more." Nevertheless, we have seen some of the strongest of them, after a time, moved from their steadfastness. Sometimes suddenly, but oftener by slow degrees, they have yielded to temptation ; and pride, or anger, or foolish desires have again sprung up in their hearts. Nay, sometimes they have utterly lost the life of God, and sin hath regained dominion over them.
9. Yet, Thirdly, several of these, after being thoroughly sensible of their fall, and deeply ashamed before God, have been again filled with his love, and not only perfected therein, but stablished, strengthened, and settled. They have received the blessing they had before with abundant increase. Nay, it is remarkable, that many who had fallen either from justifying or from sanctifying grace, and so deeply fallen that they could hardly be ranked among the servants of God, have been restored, (but seldom till they had been shaken, as it were, over the mouth of hell,) and that very frequently in an instant, to all that they had lost. They have, at once, recovered both a consciousness of his favour, and the experience of the pure love of God. In one moment they received anew both remission of sins, and a lot among them that were sanctified.
10. But let not any man infer from this longsuffering of God, that he hath given any one a license to sin. Neither let any dare to continue in sin, because of these extraordinary instances of divine mercy. This is the most desperate, the most irrational presumption, and leads to utter, irrecoverable destruction. In all my experience, I have not known one who fortified himself in sin by a presumption that God would save him at the last, that was not miserably disappointed, and suffered to die in his sins. To turn the grace of God into an encouragement to sin is the sure way to the nethermost hell !
11. It is not for these desperate children of perdition that the preceding considerations are designed; but for those who feel “the remembrance of their sins is grievous unto them, the
burden of them intolerable.” We set before these an open
door of hope : Let them go in, and give thanks unto the Lord ; let them know that “the Lord is gracious and merciful, longsuffering, and of great goodness.” “ Look how high the heavens are from the earth! so far will he set their sins from them.” “He will not always be chiding; neither keepeth he his anger for ever.” Only settle it in your heart, I will give all for all, and the offering shall be accepted. Give him all your heart ! Let all that is within you continually cry out, “ Thou art my God, and I will thank thee; thou art my God, and I will praise thee.” “ This God is my God for ever and ever! He shall be my guide even unto death.”
END OF THE SIXTH VOLUME.
James Nichols, Printer, 2, Warwick-Square, Newgate-Street, London.