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own place, being emphatically called the son of perdition? yea, had it not been good for him, had he never been born? Indeed, we may think so, even though it had not been so asserted in scripture. For what can be conceived more dreadful, than after obtaining and receiving part in the glorious gospel ministry, so grievously to transgress and fall therefrom, as to become a devil, and betray into the hands of sinners the Lord of life and glory; the author of that very ministry!
I conceive a great degree of the sin of Judas, and that which was a very peculiar and dreadful aggravation of it, was his having been once in grace and highly favoured; he knew far better things; and yet, mournful to think, the reward of iniquity prevailed against his knowledge of the truth, and drew him from his duty, after all his happy experience. And it is true of all others, who have known a good state, and fall from it, as well as of Judas ; their guilt is abundantly increased by their having been once living partakers of the divine nature; their condemnation is proportionably great, and the inveteracy and malignancy of their fallen condition, are so much the more incurable, by how much more they have known of the good things of the heavenly kingdom. Hence, says the apostle, “ 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; seeing they crucify unto themselves the son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Heb. vi. 4, 5, 6. We cannot reasonably doubt but that some such do fall away; for why else did the apostle declare the impossibility of their renewal; or how could he assert positively, “ they crucify to themselves, the son of God afresh ?” and how could they crucify him to themselves, unless they had livingly known him in themselves? But that this was their experience, is evident from their having “ tasted the heavenly gift, been partakers of the holy ghost, the good word of God, and powers of the world to come:" these knew the “substance of things hoped for," and so had the true faith; but like those mentioned, they “made shipwreck of it;" which could not be if they never had it. By all which it is evident, that man may fall from a state of faith and grace, even to an impossibility of renewal unto repentance; these with Judas, must go to their own place, and receive the reward of their backslidings, as such who have turned the grace of God into wantonness.
Some insinuate that none can ever make shipwreck of true faith, but only of a seeming or false faith; but the apostle adds a good conscience; " holding faith, (says he,) and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith, have made shipwreck." Their faith was with a good conscience, else they could not have put it away from them, nor could they ever have had the good conscience in the sight of God, with only a seeming, or false faith; hence it is clear that they had true faith, and a good conscience, and made shipwreck thereof.
Peter speaks of false teachers, and of their bringing in “damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them;"> bringing “upon themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter ii. 1. Now, let such as hold the impossibility of falling finally away from grace, upon
the argument that none are ever in a state of grace but a certain elect number, and who therefore cannot finally fall, consider whether Christ has bought any that were in an eternal decree of reprobation: if he has not, but has bought only a small number, who belong to an eternal decree of election, how came any of these to bring in damnable doctrines ? how can they deny the Lord that bought them? and above all, how can they bring upon themselves “ swift destruction ?" If Christ bought none, but such as he brings into a real state of grace, and if such as were once in such a state, are always so, then a man may bring in damnable heresies, deny the Lord that bought him, and even bring upon himself swift destruction, and yet be in a state of grace at the same time!
But the apostle goes on describing the dreadful and forlorn state and condition of such seducers, and those who follow their ways: he calls them “ cursed children, which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray.” 2 Peter ii. 14, 15. It seems they had known the right way: and if they forsook it, and strayed from it, well might he say " the mist of darkness is reserved for such as these forever.” 2 Peter ii. 17. But he adds, “ For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.” 2 Peter ji. 18. ver. &c. And he declares, that " if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” It is asserted, that they had clean escaped, and were again allured, and that being thus again entangled in the pollutions of the world, after they had escaped them by the knowledge of the Lord and saviour, their latter end was worse than their beginning. It seems they had the true knowledge of the saviour, and had thereby escaped those pollutions, and known the way of righteousness, and yet turned from the holy commandment. And as it were to confirm it in the fullest man. ner, that men might do all this, and absolutely fall from a state of grace and real cleansing, the apostle winds up the subject with these positive assertions: " But it happened unto them, according to the true proverb, the dog is returned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” What more could he have said, to evince the possibility of falling from grace, and that individuals actually did fall, even after they were washed, and had clean escaped from them who live in error. Well therefore might be, and with great propriety he did, (after having thus fully and clearly established the possibility and danger of falling, and put the believers in mind what manner of persons they ought to be, in all holy conversation and goodliness, looking for, and hastening unto, the coming of the day of God, &c.,) conclude his last epistle to them with this pressing exhortation : " Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory, both now and forever. Amen." 2 Peter iii. 17, 18.
Let us mark his words : “ lest ye also being led away." The word also seems to refer to the example of those he had spoken of, as having been already led away and allured; having turned from the holy commandment like the dog that greedily swallows again what he had vomited up, and like the sow, that though ever so thoroughly washed, returns to her wallowing in the mire.
The good apostle was anxious that others’ harms should prove a warning to his brethren, and pressed them by the example of such as had actually forsaken the right way, after once walking in it, to see well to their standing, lest like these, they might by any means " be led away by the error of the wicked, and after all their good experience, fall from their own steadfastness.” And we need not marvel that he concludes his address to them with this wholesome advice, seeing he was so far from a vain hope of once in grace, always in grace, that he knew the latter end of those once in grace was worse than their beginning if they turned from it, and viewed them in a worse state, than those who never knew the right way, or the way of true righteousness, and so had not forsaken it.
The apostle to the Hebrews says: “ 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 judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses's 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 to the spirit of grace?" Now, if such as have really received the knowledge of the truth may sin wilfully, so as that there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but on the contrary a fearful looking for of judgment, and of fiery indignation, that will devour the adversaries; if there is a much sorer punishment than was death, without mercy, under the law; if some who were once even sanctified by the blood of the everlasting covenant, may and do even tread under foot the son of God, and count the blood of the covenant, whereby they have
been sanctified, an unholy thing, and do despite to the spirit of grace; and if these are worthy of this much sorer punishment, what becomes of the doctrine of once in grace always in grace?
Is he in a state of grace and acceptance, that is treading under foot the son of God ? Is that a state of grace, wherein the blood of the covenant is counted unholy, and wherein despite is done to the spirit of grace? Perhaps, scarce any crime can be named, that may not be included in this description. Perhaps there may be no kind, or degree of wickedness, alienation, or depravity, that is not here comprised; and yet this is the very person that was once sanctified, by that very blood of the covenant, which he now counts an unholy thing. Oh! sorrowful apostacy! I marvel not at all, that the apostle, in the following words, put such in mind of " him that hath said, vengeance belongeth unto me, I will repay, saith the Lord.” For surely, if ever he can justly take vengeance on any, it must be on such as these, who were once his peculiar and sanctified servants and people; but who have thus vilely forsaken him ; so the apostle adds," and again, the Lord shall judge his people.” And if he judge them in righteousness, as he surely will, he can never acquit such notorious offenders as these. Hence, awfully pertinent is the next solemn sentence: “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Further, it is evident, that when Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians, he thought it possible even for himself to become a castaway: 1 Cor. ix. 27. and that from a feeling sense of his danger, he carefully kept " under his body, and brought it into subjection, lest by any means he should have been drawn away from the gospel; and even after he had preached it to others, have been himself a castaway." Rom. viii. 38, &c. And yet he afterwards knew a state, in the course of his experience, in which he felt firmly persuaded, that neither death, nor life, &c. would be able to separate him from the love of God. For though the epistle to the Romans is placed before those to the Corinthians, I find by the arrangements of some writers, it is believed Paul wrote his epistles to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Corinthians, before he wrote that to the Romans; and I entertain no doubt, but that Paul and others have attained to a