Lawrenceburg, Ky., March, 1877.
MY DEAR BRETHREN EDITORS: - I will endeavor to answer the request made in the present volume of the SIGNS, No.5, which is as follows:
“Will Elder J.F. Johnson please give his views on Hebrews 6:4-6?”
I have no special light on the subject referred to, nor can I have, unless it comes from “the Father of lights.” The connection reads, “For 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 to repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to open shame.” In order to a correct understanding of these verses, I think it well to refer to both the preceding and following connection.
Commencing the chapter, the apostle says, “Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do if God permit.” verses 1-3. Now we cannot suppose for a moment that the apostle would leave all these important matters with the view of abandoning them, not to return to them any more, but he leaves them simply for the sake of the cogent and convincing argument that follows. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,” &c., “if they shall fall away,” &c. Ah, there is the little transitive verb if. “If they shall fall.” He does not say that it is possible for them to fall away, but if they shall. But what if they should fall away? Why, it would nullify, wipe out, and make void all that he had done for them. His crucifixion, his enlightening, giving them to taste the heavenly gift, to partake of the Holy Ghost, and taste the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; his painful, shameful, ignominious death on the cross a total and entire failure, the light that he gave them would be merged in sable darkness, the beneficent gift of that life a total loss, the Holy Ghost of which they were made partakers piteously paralyzed, the good word of God tasted once with all its sweetness is lost in insipidity, the powers of the world to come, with all their potency, completely enervated – lost in imbecile debility. And what if he should be crucified afresh, or again? What evidence could we have of success then? If the first crucifixion was a failure, might not the second, the third, or an indefinite number be, as often as we should “fall from grace,” or fail to “use the means?” Surely this would be putting him to an open shameful death continually. How shameful to the name of Jesus! To think that he could not finish his work at once and forever. He said, “It is finished,” and we know that “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.” “He speaks, and it is done; he commands, and it stands fast.” Workmongers endeavor to press this scripture into their conditional falling from grace theory; but it proves too much for them; for when their subjects “fall from grace,” as they say, they use great efforts to renew them again to repentance; but this shows the impossibility of their success. Their theory represents the Savior as being like poor, fallen, feeble man, often failing to accomplish his work at the first trial, and as necessarily using the Yankee motto, “Try, try again,” to complete his work.
But the apostle does not finally leave those important principles of the doctrine of Christ, but retakes them in the 9th and following verses, to show the impossibility of their falling away. He says, “But, brethren, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end. That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his promise, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec.”
I make this lengthy quotation to show that the apostle, in leaving those important “principles of the doctrine of Christ” for the time being, was for the purpose of making one of the most convincing and irrefutable arguments in favor of them that we can possibly conceive of, and to show in the most palpable manner the futility and fallacy of the Arminian theory. But after exposing that absurdity, he returns to those principles, and their concomitant appendages, and shows unquestionably that where those principles and their adjuncts are found, the impossibility of falling away, because their standing rests not upon works like those of men, which are done and undone, and then have to be done over again, but upon the immutable promise and oath of God, in which it was impossible for him to lie, therefore our consolation may appropriately be called “a strong consolation.” Then, when we can flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us, what a hope! Well might the apostle say, on another occasion, that the Lord had “given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace.” And what a refuge, too! “The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” That hope serves as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered. That forerunner is Jesus, the “Rock of Ages;” and the anchor grapple into that Rock serves as an all-sufficient safeguard against the winds, the tempests, the waves and the fire, and insures our safe, triumphant entrance into the heavenly harbor, the ecstatic haven of a peaceful, perpetual, eternal rest.
“We trust upon the sacred word,
The oath and promise of the Lord;
And safely through the tempest sail;
The christian’s hope shall never fail.”
The effectual work of this Apostle and High Priest of our profession is an ample and efficient guarantee, and secures to us forever all the promises, gifts and graces that make up and constitute the “doctrine of Christ.”
“I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever; nothing shall be added to it, nor anything taken from it.” If he enlightens us, then, none can add anything to that super-human light, none can diminish it. If he has bestowed upon us a spiritual gift, none can add to, not take from it. If the gift of the Holy Ghost, “He shall abide with us forever;” no addition, no taking from him. If we have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, cursed be he who adds to or takes from that word, and palsied be the arm that attempts to add to or take from that power. Our High Priest, to secure all this to us, has “done marvelous things; his right hand and holy arm have gotten him the victory;” and now let incessant beams of praise break from every tongue, and emotions of joy swell every heart.
Now, brother Riggs, I have tried very briefly to answer your request, and submit the result to our brethren editors. Yours to serve,
J. F. JOHNSON.