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sage before I leave it.
And let this be recorded, therefore, that I may not be a swift witness against you in the day of judgment. The thought, to me, is somewhat appalling, that I'must meet the very characters I have just adverted to, and pointing to them say, “Lord, that is one who fell away "_" that is another who ran well for a time, but went down a precipice, and fell and broke his neck ”—“ that is another who promised fair, and I had hoped that he would have been a useful member of the Church of the living God, but he fell away, in love with the world, ensnared by temptation and sin ; and he is gone to perdition.” Oh, think of these things, beloved, and ask yourselves, seriously, what is your standing. Is there an entering into rest ? Has there been labour put forth to reach that rest, which, by believing, the people of God enter into!
But, here, I want to point out to you the obvious distinction between falling partially and falling finally; and there are examples of both in the precious Word of God. Now there are two Scriptures that have been sometimes distressing to many of God's weaker children, relative to finally falling; and the first I shall turn to, is that which you will find in the sixth chapter of the Hebrews, and which I suppose has been presented to my notice, either personally or by letter, scores of times. It is that in which the apostle says, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, 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." And mark the reason, “ Seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.'
Mark, with regard to this Scripture, that it contains no more than a full-length portrait of the hypocrite. Balaam and Demas both went as far as this, yet they both fell away and never repented. And what in this passage ought to encourage the trembling child of God to conclude that it is not a description of himself, is this, that there is not a word here about regeneration by the Holy Ghost, or of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you not both of these, poor trembling soul ? Have you not an evidence in your own souls, my hearers, that the Holy Ghost has regenerated you; that the Holy Ghost has created a new life in you? And, as the consequence of that new creation, is there not a clinging faith unto the Lord Jesus Christ? Even if it be not as strong as Abraham's, is it not a clinging faith that toucheth the hem of His garment, and refuses to be driven away by all the multitude around, until Jesus turns, flooks, and
Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." There will be no falling away here unto perdition.
This, then, is the description of the character of those who finally fall away; they have everything of Christianity that is external; they have everything of Christianity that moves the natural passions and feelings, but have no regeneration and no faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The other Scripture to which I would refer you is, if possible, still more alarming to many of the children of God. You will find it in the 10th chapter of the same Epistle, and it runs thus: “If we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin." "Then I am lost," says the poor soul, “for I have sinned wilfully, with my eyes open, many a time since I received the knowledge of the truth,' and 'there re
maineth no more sacrifice for sins, but '—still more alarming!—'a
-no repetitions-no offering of the mass no penances and payments—no priestly interference can by possibility rescue you or avert your ruin. If Jesus and His one offering, and His perfect sacrifice, be rejected wilfully, there is nothing for such sinners - but a certain fearful looking for of judgments and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries."
Oh! that the race of Baal's priests would look at that text. Oh! that the race of soul-deceivers, who would direct men to prayers, to penances, to obedience, to doings—creature doings and a variety of exercises of their own, under the control of man's free will alone, for salvation, as if Christ's sacrifice, once offered up, were not enough, would but just bear in mind that in so doing they are wilfully sinning, to the rejection of this one sacrifice, that there is no other, and that consequently they must perish in their sins.
Now I hope that, having followed me in my remarks upon these portions of Scriptures, my hearers are able to come to a decision as to what the nature of sin is, and sinning wilfully. The apostle is clearly referring to those who reject the sacrifice of Christ; and if you read the whole of the 6th and 10th chapters of the Hebrews, you will see that this is his drift under the Holy Ghost's teaching—that the souls who pretend to believe in Christianity, and profess to have received the sacrifice and atonement of Christ, as the ground of the sinner's hope and acceptance, but afterwards turn away and despise it, "sin wilfully,” and there remaineth no more sacrifice for their sins; that one being despised, there is nothing for them but a “certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries."
And now I am clear of the blood of all men. I tell you, in the name of God, that there is nothing before you who reject Christ, or set up anything to rival the atonement of Christ, or add to or take
from it, that there is nothing before you but fiery indignation, for you will be accounted the adversaries of God.
Having thus relieved my conscience upon that point, let me invite your attention, for a few moments, to what I term the partial falling. The apostle asked the question concerning the Jews, “ Have they stumbled so that they shall fall to perish?” “ God forbid." shall be grafted in again." And there are instances, not a few, of falls, grievous falls, God-dishonouring falls, which are left as marks or beacons for the Church of God unto the end of time, and yet the persons have not perished. Lot fell, awfully and solemnly, after his deliverance from Sodom, yet he was a saved man, and got to heaven by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham fell when he denied his wife, yet he did not perish. Hezekiah fell when he yielded to the spies who were sent from Babylon. David fell into sins which were almost too vile to mention, yet God sealed forgiveness to his heart. Peter fell, and fell with oaths and curses on his lips, which greatly distressed his soul afterwards. But there is this one distinction in all these cases, which make them to differ from the others I have named:- the former, who "sin wilfully," by rejecting the sacrifice of Christ, and fall away after appearing to have “received the knowledge of the truth;" they love their state, they wallow in their wickedness, they were decidedly carnal, and after their fall prove that they never had experienced the quickening operations of the Holy Ghost upon their souls. They might have been flaming professors ; they might have gone far in making a public profession, and perhaps in external usefulness too. And so was Judas, for aught I know, whilst he bore the bag and his master kept him honest. And so was Demas, until he forsook the apostles, “having loved this present world.” Such is the distinction between apostates and the falling believers in Jesus. The latter, when they fall, experience the pains which accompany broken bones. The latter, when they fall, are like a cleanly child, who tumbles into the dirt by accident. At once it rises, and gazing on the dirt on its hands and clothes, cries and begs that it may be cleansed away. So will you act, beloved, if you belong to the family of God. I know the tempter may trip up your heels; as said the psalmist, “The enemy hath thrust sorely at me that I might fall.” But then you will be led to sing, in the midst of it all, “Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, for though I fall I shall rise again. It is the Lord of Hosts who thus raises those who are cast down.
I hasten to remark what it is highly important for the latter description of persons to know, namely, that though we deal with the utmost severity, and give the most solemn warnings to the former, yet with these latter we will kindly and affectionately pick them up when they fall, meet with them, expostulate with them, ask them respectingtheir pregi ess in Divine life, point them to the blood of healing, tell them of the good Samaritan, endeavour to head their broken bones, soothe their distressed consciences, and invite and cheer them to whom God has given repentance unto life. So that we stand, as it were, in the character of Nathan. As soon as David felt the weight of his guilt, and mourned over his sin, and cried, “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." Nathan was commissioned to say to him, “ The Lord also hath put away thy sin.” That is a fine exhortation which the apostle gives in the 6th of Galatians: “ Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness ; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." I make that quotation for the purpose of showing the difference there is between being overtaken by a fault and your overtaking a fault. The apostate runs after sin, in love with it, and draws upon
himself his own perdition. But the believer is overtaken by the fault, and it harasses and distresses his soul-he is wounded and cast down for a season, yet he does not perish, “for the Lord upholdeth all who fall, who belong to His family, and raiseth up them that are bowed down.'
Surely the attempt to soothe the wounded conscience, to repair the broken bones, to restore the distressed mind, cannot be supposed to hold out any encouragement to sin ; it cannot be supposed to open the door to licentiousness, as some people would have us to believe. I know otherwise. Now if I were a skilful surgeon, and were to say to a man, “ Just let me break your leg or your arm, and I will show you how cleverly and skilfully I can set it again. It shall be as strong as ever it was; not a blemish shall be seen, or the least weakness discovered—nay, I do not know but it will be the stronger for the operation !" Tell me, think you that any man would consent to it upon the face of the earth? Yet that is just the same sort of argument as to say that a man would voluntarily run in to the perpetration of sin in order to escape from its consequences. But suppose a man has had a broken leg which has been set, and is getting strong and whole again, is it likely that in that case he would say that he did not mind running down a precipice and breaking it again, for he could easily get it reset? Do you think a man who would do so could be in his senses? Would you not say that he was mad? Yet this is the argument of those who would say that if a man knows where to obtain pardon for his sins, he need not care about running into sin. I should not have detained you so long upon this point were it not that such Infidellike sneers are common in the day in which we live. No, beloved, if you would escape those examples of unbelief; if you would know the blessedness of entering into that rest which is obtained in the exercise of living faith only, and consists in the peace, the reliance, and the opulence I have described, I pray you take the injunction, “Let us labour, therefore, to enter into that rest," for there is not the least thing there to tempt or allure us to sin.
By way of close just remark the importance of the injunction, “ Let us labour.” I pray you, therefore, let me never see any more lazy ones among you; let me never see any more idle ones; they are great nuisances in the Church of God. But “let us labour to enter into that rest." Were I to take up another hour in pointing out to you the affecting, I might say the heart-rending instances that come under my own observation relative to the examples of unbelief just named, you would not wonder at the fervour of my importunity with you. L'entréat you, therefore, in the name of the living God, if yoa value the glory of God, if you value the prosperity of the Church, and if you would have peace yourselves in your dying hour, “labour to enter into that rest” by faith. And may God Almighty bring you richly to enjoy its blessings, and His name shall have all the glory.
A Discourse, Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, Oct, 29, 1848,
BY THE REV. JOSEPH IRONS.
And the heathen shall know that I, the Lord, do sanctify Israel."
Ezekiel xxxvii. 28. The solemn, but interesting and incontrovertible fact, that all real godliness is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, is but little credited, and still less acted upon. Vain mortals have, for the more part, fallen into this fatal mistake, that Christianity is but a profession within the reach of mental powers, to be attained to by dint of mortal effort, and is not a supernatural thing. Thousands in the day in which we live, study Christianity as they would study law or physic; study Christianity' as they would study philosophy or science; just as though it were a thing within the reach of mortals, something over which man can exercise a sovereign control; and while they are thus pursuing it, uprises old lord free-will, sitting paramount, and declaring that the things of God are within the reach of all God's enemies.
My hearers, the wide contrast, expressed in the language of my text, between Israel and the heathens is scarcely believed. It is almost rejected; and, consequently, it is put to vain mortals as if it were a mere matter of their own choice what religion they shall be of; as if it were something for them to choose-quite losing sight of the
solemn fact which is recorded in the text, “I, Jehovah, do sanctify Israel.” Nor is there any sanctity-nor is there any spirituality-nor is there any godliness, where Jehovah Himself has not bestowed it as a free gift, in the most sovereign manner, and with the most permanent, immutable, eternal securities.
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