Two Impossibles: Part 2

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In reading the Epistle to the Hebrews, we can hardly fail to notice the way in which the most solemn words of warning stand side by side with words of deepest comfort and consolation. Thus, for example, chapter iv. opens with, "Let us therefore fear;" and closes with, " Let us therefore come boldly" When we think of who we are, what we are, and where we are, we have reason to fear. But when we think of God—His grace, His goodness, His tender mercy, His faithfulness—we may cherish the most fearless confidence. When we think of the world, with all its dangers, temptations, and snares, we may well be on our guard. But when we think of "the throne of grace," with its exhaustless provisions, and of our most merciful, faithful, and sympathizing High Priest, we can draw nigh with holy boldness, and find an ample supply to meet our deepest need.
So also, in chapter x., we have the same striking contrast—the warning voice, and the sweet accents of comfort and encouragement. Hearken to the former. " If we sin willfully 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' 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 unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
How awfully solemn is all this! How searching! Should we seek to blunt the edge of the warning? God forbid! We should only see that it has its true direction, its proper application. Can it ever touch an anxious inquirer, or a true-hearted, earnest, follower of Christ? Assuredly not, save indeed that it may deepen the earnestness of the one, and quicken the pace of the other. For only see, reader, how close the word of comfort and encouragement stands to the awful note of warning and admonition. " But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions, partly whilst ye were made a gazing-stock, both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."
Thus we see how the inspiring Spirit connects, in this epistle, the most precious consolation with the most solemn warning. Both are needed, and therefore both are given; and it will be our wisdom to seek to profit by both. We need never be afraid to trust scripture. If we find a difficulty, in place of puzzling over it, let us quietly wait on God for further light, meanwhile calmly resting in the assurance that no one part of the word of God can ever contradict another. All is in the most perfect harmony; the apparent discrepancies are entirely owing to our ignorance; and hence, instead of putting forth our gratuitous efforts to reconcile things, we should just allow each passage of scripture to come home in all its moral force to the heart and conscience, and produce its divinely appointed result in the formation of our character. Thus, when we read such words as these, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one," it is our sweet privilege to take them in, in all their divine simplicity and heavenly clearness, and rest in them in calm confidence. There is no difficulty, no obscurity, no vagueness about them. All Christ's sheep are as safe as He can make them, as safe as He is Himself. The hand that would touch them must touch Him. They are divinely and eternally secure. Persons may imagine, or profess themselves to be, His sheep who are not so in reality; they may fall away from their mere profession, bring much reproach on the cause of Christ, cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of, and lay a stumbling-block in the way of honest inquirers, by leading them to think that true Christians can fall away, and be lost. All this may be true, but it leaves wholly untouched the precious and most comforting words of our good and faithful Shepherd, that His sheep have eternal life, and shall never—can never, perish. No passage of holy scripture can, by any possibility, contradict the plain statement of our Lord.
But then there are other passages designed to search the conscience, to make us watchful, to produce holy circumspection in our ways, to lead us to judge ourselves, to superinduce self-denial. Take the following weighty and most searching scripture: " Know ye not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 1 Cor. 9:24-2724Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:24‑27).
Now, will any one attempt to place 1 Cor. 9 in opposition to John 10? Far be the thought! What then? Why we are simply to receive both, in all their divine force, and allow them to act upon us according to the divine purpose in giving them to us—the latter on our hearts, for comfort and consolation; the former on our consciences, for admonition and warning. How terrible it would be for any one to say or to think that, because he is a sheep of Christ, he may walk in self-indulgence—because he can never perish, he need not seek to keep his body under—because nothing can separate him from the love of Christ, he may give a loose rein to his desires! Surely such an one would afford most melancholy evidence that he is anything but a sheep of the flock of Christ.
But we must return to Heb. 6, and dwell for a moment upon our second "Impossible." The first, as we have seen, had respect to man; the second has respect to God. Man, with the very highest advantages, with the very rarest privileges, with the most powerful array of evidence, will turn his back upon God and Christ; he will deliberately apostatize from Christianity, give up the truth of God, go back into darkness, and plunge into a condition, from which the Holy Ghost declares "it is impossible to renew him again to repentance."
But, as usual, in this marvelous epistle, the " strong consolation" stands in close and most gracious proximity to the awful warning. And, blessed be God, this same strong consolation is designed for us in connection with the very smallest measure of living faith in the word of God. It is not a question of great attainments in knowledge, experience, or devotedness; no, it is simply a matter of having even that measure and character of faith, and earnestness, typified by the man-slayer as he flew to the city of refuge to escape the avenger of blood. How precious is this for every true and earnest soul! The very feeblest spark of divinely-given faith secures eternal life, strong consolation, and everlasting glory, because '' it is impossible for God to lie." He cannot, and will not, deny Himself, blessed forever be His name! He has pledged His word, and added His oath, the "two immutable things;" and where is the power, human or diabolical, that can touch these two things?
We close with a passage from a volume referred to in our paper for November.
"Another point of interest which may be remarked here (in Heb. 6) is the intimation at the end, compared with the beginning, of the chapter. We have seen the highest external privileges"—and they were merely external—" not only the mind of man, as far as it could, enjoying the truth, but the power of the Holy Ghost making the man, at any rate, an instrument of power"—not a subject of grace—" even though it be to his own shame and deeper condemnation afterward. In short, man may have the utmost conceivable advantage, and the greatest external power, even of the Spirit of God Himself, and yet all come to nothing."
How solemnizing! "But the very same chapter, which affirms and warns of the possible failure of every advantage, shows us the weakest faith that the whole New Testament describes coming into the secure possession of the best blessings of grace." How consolatory! How truly encouraging! " Who but God could have dictated that this same chapter should depict the weakest faith that the New Testament ever acknowledges? What can look feebler, what more desperately pressed, than a man fleeing for refuge? It is not a soul as coming to Jesus; it is not as one whom the Lord meets, and blesses on the spot; but here is a man hard pushed, fleeing for very life (evidently a figure drawn from the man-slayer fleeing from the avenger of blood), yet eternally saved and blessed according to the acceptance of Christ"—the very lowest character of faith met by the very fullest, richest, and most permanent blessing!
" There was no reality found in the persons referred to in verses 4 and 5, though so highly favored; and hence it was, as there was no conscience before God, no sense of sin, no cleaving to Christ, that everything came to naught. But here, in the end of the chapter, there is the fruit of faith, feeble indeed, and sorely tried, but in the light that appreciates the judgment of God against sin. Hence, although it be only fleeing in an agony of soul for refuge, what is it that God gives to one in such a state? Strong consolation, and that which enters within the veil. Impossible that the Son should be shaken from His place on the throne of God. And it is as impossible that the very least and weakest believer should come to any hurt whatever! The weakest of saints more than conqueror is."1
Well may we exclaim, in view of all this surpassing grace, " Hallelujah!” Beloved christian reader, may our whole life be spent in praising our ever blessed and most gracious Savior-God!