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yet thus far I shall make use of it ; that God who only hath the power, he only can make the judgment, whether the sinner be a worthy penitent or not. For there being no express stipulation made concerning the degrees of repentance, no ‘taxa pænitentiaria,' 'penitential tables' and canons consigned by God, it cannot be told by man, when, after great sins and a long iniquity, the unhappy man shall be restored, because it wholly depends upon the divine acceptance.

33. In smaller offences, and the seldom returns of sin intervening in a good or a probable life, the curates of souls may make safe and prudent judgments. But when the case is high, and the sin is clamorous, or scandalous, or habitual, they ought not to be too easy in speaking peace to such persons, to whom God hath so fiercely threatened death eternal. But to hold their hands, may possibly increase the sorrow, and contrition, and fear, of the penitent and returning man, and by that means make him the surer of it. But it is too great a confidence and presumption to dispense God's pardon, or the king's, upon easy terms, and without their commission.

34. For since all the rule and measures of dispensing it, is by analogies and proportions, by some reason, and much conjecture; it were better, by being restrained in the ministries of favour, to produce fears and watchfulness, carefulness and godly sorrow, than by an open hand to make sinners bold and many, confident and easy. Those holy and wise men, who were our fathers in Christ, did well weigh the dangers, into which a sinning man had entered, and did dreadfully fear the issues of the divine anger; and therefore, although they openly taught, that God hath set open the gates of mercy to all worthy penitents, yet concerning re . pentance they had other thoughts than we have; and that, in the pardon of sinners there are many more things to be considered, besides the possibility of having the sin pardoned.

SECTION IV.

Of the Sin against the Holy Ghost ; and in what Sense it is or

may be unpardonable. 35. UPON what account the primitive church did refuse to admit certain criminals to repentance, I have already discoursed; but because there are some places of Scripture, which seem to have encouraged such severity by denying repentance also to some sinners, it is necessary that they be considered also, lest by being misunderstood, some persons, in the days of their sorrow, be tempted to despair.

36. The Novatians denying repentance to lapsed Christians, pretended for their warrant those words of St. Paule ;" 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 to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to open shame;" and parallel to this are those other words. “ For if we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment, and a fiery indignation, which shall consume the adversaries f." The sense of which words will be clear upon the explicating what is meant by παραπεσόντες, what by ανακαινίζειν, and what by αδύνατον.

37. “If they shall fall away 5,” viz. from that state of excellent things in which they had received all the present endearments of the Gospel, a full conviction, pardon of sins, the earnest of the Spirit, the comfort of the promises, an antepast of heaven itself; if these men shall fall away from all this, it cannot be by infirmity, by ignorance, by surprise; this is that which St. Paul calls εκουσίως αμαρτάνειν, , to sin wilfully' after they have received the knowledge of the truth:” malicious sinners these are, who sin against the Holy Spirit, whese influences they throw away, whose counsels they despise, whose comforts they refuse, whose doctrine they scorn, and from thence fall, not only into one single wasting c Heb. vi. 4-6.

1 Heb. 8. 26, 27. 8 Παραπεσόντας.

sin, but raparitrovot, they'fall away' into a contrary state; into heathenism, or the heresy of the Gnostics, or to any state of despising and hating Christ; expressed here by "crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame;" these are they here meant; such who after they had worshipped Jesus, and given up their names to him, and had been blessed by him, and felt it, and acknowledgedit, and rejoiced in it,--these men afterward, without cause or excuse, without error or infirmity, choosingly, willingly, knowingly, called Christ an impostor, and would have crucified him again if he had been alive, that is, they consented to his death, by believing that he suffered justly. This is the case here described, and cannot be drawn to any thing else but its parallel, that is, a malicious renouncing charity, or holy life, as these men did the faith, to both which they had made their solemn vows in baptism; but this can no way be drawn to the condemnation and final excision of such persons, who, after baptism, fall into any great sin, of which they are willing to repent.

38. There is also something peculiar in åvakakvileLv, "renewing such men to repentance:" that is, these men are not to be redintegrate, and put into the former condition ; they cannot be restored to any other gracious covenant of repentance, since they have despised this. Other persons who hold fast their profession, and 'forget not that they were cleansed in baptism,' they, in case they do fall into sin, may proceed in the same method, in their first renovation to repentance, that is, in their being solemnly admitted to the method and state of repentance for all sins known and unknown. But when this renovation is renounced, when they despise the whole economy; when they reject this grace, and throw away the covenant, there is nothing left for such .but a fearful looking-for of judgment:' for these persons are incapable of the mercies of the Gospel, they are out of the way. For there being but one way of salvation, viz. by Jesus Christ, whom they renounce,-neither Moses, nor nature, nor any other name, can restore them. And, 2. Their case is so bad, and they so impious and malicious, that no man hath power to persuade such men to accept of pardon by those means, which they so disown. For there is no means of salvation but this one, and this one they hate, and

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will not have; they will not return to the old, and there is none left, by which they can be avakalvisóuevol, renewed ;' and therefore their condition is desperate.

39. But the word ådúvatov, or impossible,is also of special importance and consideration: “It is impossible to renew such." For impossible' is not to be understood in the natural sense, but in the legal and moral. There are degrees oof impossibility, and therefore they are not all absolute and supreme. So when the law hath condemned a criminal, we usually say it is impossible for him to escape, meaning, that the law is clearly against him.

Magnus ab infernis revocetur Tullius umbris,

Et te defendat Regulus ipse licèt :

Non potes absolvi:That is, your cause is lost, you are inexcusable, there is no apology, no pleading for you: and that the same is here meant, weunderstand by those parallel words, oỦk ÉTi amodelTTETAL Suola, there is left no sacrifice for him ;' alluding to Moses's law, in which for them that sinned {v Xripi útrepnpavias, 'with a high hand,' for them that despised Moses's law,' there was no sacrifice appointed i; which Ben Maimon expounds, saying, that for apostates there was no sacrifice in the law. So that it is impossible to renew such,' means, that it is ordinarily impossible, we have in the discipline of the church no door of reconciliation; if he repents of this, he is not the same man; but if he remains so, the church hath no promise to be heard, if she prays for him ; which is the last thing that the church can do. To absolve him,' is 'to warrant him ;' that in this case is absolutely impossible : but 'to pray for him' is 'to put him into some hopes, and for that she hath in this case no commission. For this is the sin unto death,' of which St. John speaks, and gives no encouragement to pray. So that impossible does signify.in sensu forensi,'a state of sin, which is sentenced by the law to be capital and damning; but here it signifies the highest degree of that deadliness and impossibility, as there are degrees of malignity and desperation in mortal diseases : for of all evils, this state here described is the worst. And therefore here is an impossibility.

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40. But besides all other senses of this word, it is certain, by the whole frame of the place, and the very analogy of the Gospel, that this impossibility here mentioned, is not an impossibility of the thing, but only relative to the person. It is impossible to restore him, whose state of evil is contrary to pardon and restitution, as being a renouncing the Gospel, that is, the whole covenant of pardon and repent

Such is that parallel expression used by St. John: “He that is born of God, sinneth not; neither indeed can he k;” that is, it is impossible ; he cannot sin,” for the seed of God remaineth in him.' Now this does not signify, that a good man cannot possibly sin, if he would ; that is, it does not signify a natural, or an absolute impossibility; but such as relates to the present state and condition of the person, being contrary to sin: the same with that of St. Paul;“ Be ye led by the Spirit; forthe Spirit lusteth against the flesh; so that ye cannot do the things which you would",” viz. which the flesh would fain tempt you to. A good man cannot sin, that is, very hardly can he be brought to choose or to delight in it; he cannot sin without a horrible trouble and uneasiness to himself: so on the other side, such apostales as the Apostle speaks of, “cannot be renewed;" that is, without extreme difficulty, and a perfect contradiction to that state, in which they are, for the present, lost. But if this man will repent with a repentance proportioned to that evil, which he hath committed, that he ought not to despair of pardon in the court of heaven, we have the affirmation of Justin Martyr. Τους δε ομολογήσαντας και επιγνόντας τούτον είναι τον Χριστόν, και ότινούν αιτία μεταβάντας επί την έννομον πολίτειαν, άρνησαμένους ότι ούτός έστιν ο Χριστός, και πριν τελευτής μη μεταγνόντας, ουδόλως σωθήσεσθαι αποφαίνομαι. “They that confess and acknowledge him to be Christ, and for whatsoever cause go from him to the secular conversation,” (viz. to heathenism or Judaism, &c.) “ denying that he is Christ, and not confessing him again before their death, they can never be saved m.” So that this impossibility concerns not those, that return and do confess him; but those that wilfully and maliciously reject this only way of salvation as false and deceitful, and never return to the confession of it

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