« PreviousContinue »
way that the persons to whom the apostolical epistles are addressed are designated, 'saints,' 'elect,' &c., because as members of the church they profess to be such, and, while they do nothing to belie their profession, we are bound in charity to suppose them what they profess to be; and that some who thus profess to be brethren may perish, is perfectly possible. Besides, the peace or comfort of a person's mind may be destroyed, without supposing the destruction of the soul; and it is not improbable that, in the former of the passages on which we are commenting, this may be the thing that is meant, as a contrast is manifestly designed between the untender conduct of the uncharitable brother, and the grace of Christ in giving himself unto the death for us.—Or rather, the true explanation of these passages seems to be, that the tendency of the wicked conduct denounced is what is pointed out. The tendency is to destroy, or make to perish, the brother for whom Christ died. All sin tends to the destruction of the soul; and such, in every case, would be its effect, were there nothing to prevent it. This is the case with the sins of the people of God, as well as those of others; and nothing but the justifying righteousness of the Redeemer in which they are interested by faith, prevents this end from supervening. Such, of course, is the case with the temptations to sin to which they are exposed from others; the tendency of these temptations is to bring about their destruction, to cause them to perish. Because such a consummation shall not be permitted to take place, it is
not less true that it is the tendency of the conduct in question to lead to it. And, in speaking of a line of evil conduct, and setting forth its enormity with a view to deter from pursuing it, what more natural or fitting than to describe it by its evil and pernicious tendency! It is thus that he who believeth not God is said to make God a liar. The tendency of the conduct is to such an end; but the end itself can never be in reality. So in the case before us; the tendency of the conduct described is to cause the brother to perish for whom Christ died, although such is the grace of God that this consummation shall never be permitted to take place.
'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. The apostle is showing the aggravated criminality of apostasy from the gospel. One aggravating circumstance is, that the apostate treats with contempt the blood of the covenant; which blood is said to be, as magnifying still more the crime, that 'wherewith he was sanctified.' The question here is, who is it that is referred to by the pronoun 'he'? Who is it that was sanctified? Is it the apostate himself? or is it the Son of God? The former is, of course, understood by those who adduce the passage as an objection to the doctrine of a definite atonement.
63 Heb. x. 29.
But this we are disposed to question; the immediate antecedent is the Son of God; thus understood, the passage is rendered more strongly expressive of the writer's object; and this is the view which is taken of it by some of our best writers. That the blood, which apostates from the gospel profane, is that by which the Son of God was himself consecrated or set apart to his mediatorial offices, is surely a consideration fitted to deepen their crime. But, admitting that the apostate himself is meant, the passage presents no opposition to our doctrine. In the first place, the word 'sanctified,' often means nothing more than consecration to the service of God, which may apply to hypocrites as well as true saints, in respect of their profession of the gospel; making that profession, they avowedly set themselves apart to the service of the Most High. And in the second place, supposing the word sanctified to be used in its more frequent acceptation to mean inward purification of the soul, may we not understand the apostle here to reason regarding the guilt of apostasy, on supposition of the truth of what the apostate professes? The hypocrite professes to be sanctified by the blood of the covenant, claims the character of one who has felt the cleansing virtue of the blood of the Son of God, and, supposing it for a moment to be true, how does it aggravate his guilt, that he by his apostasy counts this very blood, wherewith he professes to be sanctified, a common thing? Nothing can be more natural than such a train of reasoning; and, in this light, the passage presents no
opposition to the view of Christ's death for which we contend.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." Some are of opinion that 'the Lord' here does not refer to Christ; and certainly the original term (deσTóτny) is not that by which the Saviour is commonly designated. Others, again, think that the buying here does not refer to the meritorious purchase which Christ made of the church with his blood, but to the redemption from Egypt or some other thing of inferior importance. But we are willing to admit that Christ is 'the Lord' spoken of, and that the purchase of redemption by his blood is what is meant by the word 'bought:' and yet we see nothing in the text that opposes our doctrine. It is not necessary to suppose that the false teachers who were to bring on themselves swift destruction, were actually bought with the blood of Christ. It is enough for the apostle's purpose that they were professedly so. He argues against them on their own principles, and shows thus that their conduct was heinous and dangerous in the extreme. And in doing so, he only follows the example of the Saviour himself, who confuted the Pharisees who professed to be righteous and were not, on their own acknowledged principles:-'I say unto you, that likewise joy
64 2 Pet. ii. 1.
shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.' Are we to conclude, from this, that there were any such just persons who needed no repentance? Surely not; but there were persons who made pretensions to this character; and against these was the reproof contained in the passage directed. Neither are we, from the expression under consideration, to conclude that the persons spoken of were actually 'bought' with the price of Christ's blood; but there were persons who pretended to be so and yet acted inconsistently with the supposition; and such pretension certainly tended to enhance the enormity of their guilt.
Thus have we brought to a conclusion the argument respecting the extent of Christ's atonement. We have endeavoured clearly to exhibit the state of the question; have stated, it is hoped, with fairness, the difficulties with which the subject is beset; and have brought forward what has seemed to us sufficient to refute what we conceive to be error, and to support what we conceive to be the truth on this important point. It is to be feared that, in the case of many, the opposition shown to a definite atonement, springs from objections to the doctrine of divine sovereignty, and we have reason to be on our guard against this fruitful source of error. Let us beware, too, of being carried away with the mere
65 Luke xv. 7.