Once Saved Always Saved? Jesus Said, God says (2Tim.3:16):
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7: 13,14
Only Relatively Few Going To Heaven
Harold Pittman was allowed to go into the second heaven and at the gates of Paradise (3rd heaven) explains in his book, Placebo ( free book ) and what he saw confirms the above scripture. He writes:
As the saints were being admitted, I was wondering why I was not
being allowed to do what I came to do. I was so impatient to get my
request before God that I missed the whole point of what I saw. This
point was so important that the Holy Spirit told me Himself. I watched
the fifty saints enter Heaven but the point I missed was the time
frame involved. It was explained to me that at the same time those
fifty saints died on Earth, 1,950 other humans also died; or only 50
out of 2000 made it into Heaven. That other 1,950 were not there.
Where were they? That was only 2 ½ percent going to Heaven!
Ninety seven point five percent did not make it! Is that representative
of the entire world today? If so, 97 and ½ percent of the population
of this world today is not ready to meet God. The sad part, my friend,
is that is exactly representative of this Laodicean Church Age in
which we live today. We are now in the time when the great majority
of church goers are only “mouth–professors” and not “heart–
Matthew Henry, an early 17th century Bible Scholar and one of, if not the most respected accurate Bible Interpreters from Genesis through Acts and his peers beyond Acts give the following accurate comment on the Authorized King James Bible.
Matthew Henry writes on the above scripture Matthew 7:13,14
Observe here,1. The account that is given of the bad way of sin, and the good way of holiness. There are but two ways, right and wrong, good and evil; the way to heaven, and the way to hell; in the one of which we are all of us walking: no middle place hereafter, no middle way now: the distinction of the children of men into saints and sinners, godly and ungodly, will swallow up all to eternity.Here is,(1.) An account given us of the way of sin and sinners; both what is the best, and what is the worst of it.[1.] That which allures multitudes into it, and keeps them in it; the gate is wide, and the way broad, and there are many travelers in that way. First,“You will have abundance of liberty in that way; the gate is wide, and stands wide open to tempt those that go right on their way. You may go in at this gate with all your lusts about you; it gives no check to your appetites, to your passions: you may walk in the way of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; that gives room enough.” It is a broad way, for there is nothing to hedge in those that walk in it, but they wander endlessly; a broad way, for there are many paths in it; there is choice of sinful ways, contrary to each other, but all paths in this broad way.Secondly, “You will have abundance of company in that way: many there be that go in at this gate, and walk in this way.” If we follow the multitude,it will be to do evil: if we go with the crowd, it will be the wrong way. It is natural for us to incline to go down the stream, and do as the most do; but it is too great a compliment, to be willing to be damned for company, and to go to hell with them, because they will not go to heaven with us: if many perish, we should be the more cautious.[2.] That which should affright us all from it is, that it leads to destruction. Death, eternal death, is at the end of it (and the way of sin tends to it), —everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. Whether it be the high way of open profaneness, or the back way of close hypocrisy, if it be a way of sin, it will be our ruin, if we repent not.(2.) Here is an account given us of the way of holiness.[1.] What there is in it that frightens many from it; let us know the worst of it, that we may sit down and count the cost. Christ deals faithfully with us, and tells us,First, That the gate is strait. Conversion and regeneration are the gate, by which we enter into this way, in which we begin a life of faith and serious godliness; out of a state of sin into a state of grace we must pass, by the new birth, John 3:3, 5. This is a strait gate, hard to find, and hard to get through; like a passage between two rocks, 1 Samuel 14:4. There must be a new heart, and a new spirit, and old things must pass away. The bent of the soul must be changed, corrupt habits and customs broken off; what we have been doing all our days must be undone again. We must swim
against the stream; much opposition must be struggled with, and broken through, from without, and from within. It is easier to set a man against all the world than against himself, and yet this must be in conversion. It is a strait gate, for we must stoop, or we cannot go in at it; we must become as little children; high thoughts must be brought down; nay, we must strip, must deny ourselves, put off the world, put off the old man; we must be willing to forsake all for our interest in Christ. The gate is strait to all, but to some straiter than others; as to the rich, to some that have been long prejudiced against religion. The gate is strait; blessed be God, it is not shut up, nor locked against us, nor kept with a flaming sword, as it will be shortly, Matthew 25:10.Secondly, That the way is narrow. We are not in heaven as soon as we have got through the strait gate, nor in Canaan as soon as we have got through the Red Sea; no, we must go through a wilderness, must travel a narrow way, hedged in by the divine law, which is exceedingly broad, and that makes the way narrow; self must be denied, the body kept under,corruptions mortified, that are as a right eye and a right hand; daily temptations must be resisted; duties must be done that are against our inclination. We must endure hardness, must wrestle and be in an agony,must watch in all things, and walk with care and circumspection. We must go through much tribulation. It is hoods tethlimmene — an afflicted way,a way hedged about with thorns; blessed be God, it is not hedged up. The bodies we carry about with us, and the corruptions remaining in us, make the way of our duty difficult; but, as the understanding and will grow more and more sound, it will open and enlarge, and grow more and more pleasant. Thirdly, The gate being so strait and the way so narrow, it is not strange that there are but few that find it, and choose it. Many pass it by, through carelessness; they will not be at the pains to find it; they are well as they are, and see no need to change their way. Others look upon it, but shun it;they like not to be so limited and restrained. Those that are going to heaven are but few, compared to those that are going to hell; a remnant, a little flock, like the grape-gleanings of the vintage; as the eight that were saved in the ark,
". . . Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.Matthew 22:13.14
Matthew Henery writes on Matthew 22: 13,14
" Lastly, The parable is concluded with that remarkable saying which we
had before Matthew 20:16), Many are called, but few are chosen, v.
Of the many that are called to the wedding feast, if you set aside all
those as unchosen that make light of it, and avowedly prefer other things
before it; if then you set aside all that make a profession of religion, but
the temper of whose spirits and the tenour of whose conversation are a
constant contradiction to it; if you set aside all the profane, and all the
hypocritical, you will find that they are few, very few, that are chosen;
many called to the wedding feast, but few chosen to the wedding garment,
that is, to salvation, by sanctification of the Spirit. This is the strait gate,
and narrow way, which few find."
". . . Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
God says (2Tim.3:16): Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. Luke 13: 23-30
Matthew Henry writes on Luke 13:23-30:
THE DOOM OF SINFUL PROFESSORS
We have here,
I. A question put to our Lord Jesus. Who it was that put it we are not told, whether a friend or a foe; for he both gave a great liberty of questioning
him and returned answers to the thoughts and intents of the heart. The
question was, Are there few that are saved? v. 23: ei oligoi hoi sozomenoi
— “If the saved be few? Master, I have heard thou shouldest say so; is it true?”
1. Perhaps it was a captious question. He put it to him, tempting him, with a design to ensnare him and lessen his reputation. If he should say that many would be saved, they would reproach him as too loose, and making salvation cheap; if few, they would reproach him as precise and straitlaced. The Jewish doctors said that all Israel should have a place in the world to come; and would he dare to contradict that? Those that have sucked in a corrupt nation are ready to make it the standard by which to measure all men's judgments; and in nothing do men more betray their ignorance, presumption, and partiality, than in judging of the salvation of others.
2. Perhaps it was a curious question, a nice speculation, which he had
lately been disputing upon with his companions, and they all agreed to
refer it to Christ. Note, Many are more inquisitive respecting who shall be saved, and who not, than respecting what they shall do to be saved. It is commonly asked, “May such and such be saved?” But it is well that we may be saved without knowing this.
3. Perhaps it was an admiring question. He had taken notice how strict the law of Christ was, and how bad the world was, and, comparing these together, cries out, “How few are there that will be saved!” Note, We have reason to wonder that of the many to whom the word of salvation is sent there are so few to whom it is indeed a saving word.
4. Perhaps it was an enquiring question: “If there be few that be saved,
what then? What influence should this have upon me?” Note, It concerns us all seriously to improve the great truth of the fewness of those that are saved.
II. Christ's answer to this question, which directs us what use to make of this truth. Our Saviour did not give a direct answer to this enquiry, for he came to guide men's consciences, not to gratify their curiosity. Ask not, “How many shall be saved?” But, be they more or fewer, “Shall I be one of them?” Not, “What shall become of such and such, and what shall this man do?” But, “What shall I do, and what will become of me?” Now in Christ's answer observe,
1. A quickening exhortation and direction: Strive to enter in at the strait gate. This is directed not to him only that asked the question, but to all, tous, it is in the plural number: Strive ye. Note,
(1.) All that will be saved must enter in at the strait gate, must undergo achange of the whole man, such as amounts to no less than being bornagain, and must submit to a strict discipline.
(2.) Those that would enter in at the strait gate must strive to enter. It is a hard matter to get to heaven, and a point that will not be gained without a great deal of care and pains, of difficulty and diligence. We must strive with God in prayer, wrestle as Jacob, strive against sin and Satan. We must strive in every duty of religion; strive with our own hearts, agonizes the — “Be in an agony; strive as those that run for a prize; excite and exert ourselves to the utmost.”
2. Divers awakening considerations, to enforce this exhortation. O that we may be all awakened and quickened by them! They are such
1605 considerations as will serve to answer the question, Are there few that shall be saved?
(1.) Think how many take some pains for salvation and yet perish because they do not take enough, and you will say that there are few that will be saved and that it highly concerns us to strive: Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able; they seek, but they do not strive. Note, The reason why many come short of grace and glory is because they rest in a lazy seeking of that which will not be attained without a laborious striving. They have a good mind to happiness, and a good opinion of holiness, and take some good steps towards both. But their convictions are weak; they do not consider what they know and believe, and, consequently, their desires are cold, and their endeavours feeble, and there is no strength or steadiness in their resolutions; and thus they come short, and lose the prize, because they do not press forward. Christ avers this upon his own word: I say unto you; and we may take it upon his word, for he knows both the counsels of God and the hearts of the children of men.
(2.) Think of the distinguishing day that is coming and the decisions of
that day, and you will say there are a few that shall be saved and that we are concerned to strive: The Master of the house will rise up, and shut to the door, v. 25. Christ is the Master of the house, that will take cognizance of all that frequent his house and are retainers to it, will examine comers and goers and those that pass and repass. Now he seems as if he left things at large; but the day is coming when he will rise up, and shut to the door. What door? [1.] A door of distinction. Now, within the temple of the church there are carnal professors who worship in the outer-court, and spiritual professors who worship within the veil; between these the door is now open, and they meet promiscuously in the same external performances. But, when the Master of the house is risen up, the door will be shut between them, that those who are in the outer-court may be kept out, and left to be trodden underfoot by the Gentiles, <661102>Revelation 11:2. As to those that are filthy, shut the door upon them, and let them be filthy still; that those who are within may be kept within, that those who are holy may be holy still. The door is shut to separate between the precious and the vile, that sinners may no longer stand in the congregation of the righteous. Then you shall return, and discern betwixt them. 1606 [2.] A door of denial and exclusion. The door of mercy and grace has longstood open to them, but they would not come in by it, would not be beholden to the favour of that door; they hoped to climb up some other way, and to get to heaven by their own merits, and therefore when the Master of the house is risen up he will justly shut that door; let them not expect to enter by it, but let them take their own measures. Thus, when Noah was safe in the ark, God shut the door, to exclude all those that depended upon shelters of their own in the approaching flood.
(3.) Think how many who were very confident that they should be saved
will be rejected in the day of trial, and their confidences will deceive them, and you will say that there are few that shall be saved and that we are all concerned to strive. Consider, [1.] What an assurance they had of admission, and how far their hope carried them, even to heaven's gate. There they stand and knock, knock as if they had authority, knock as those that belong to the house, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us, for we think we have a right to enter; take us in among the saved ones, for we joined ourselves to them.” Note, Many are ruined by an ill-grounded hope of heaven, which they never distrusted or called in question, and therefore conclude their state is good because they never doubted it. They call Christ, Lord, as if they were his servants; nay, in token of their importunity, they double it, Lord, Lord; they are desirous now to enter in by that door which they had formerly made light of, and would now gladly come in among those serious Christians whom they had secretly despised. [2.] What grounds they had for this confidence. Let us see what their plea is, v. 26. First, They had been Christ's guests, had had an intimate converse with him, and had shared in his favours: We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, at thy table. Judas ate bread with Christ, dipped with him in the dish. Hypocrites, under the disguise of their external profession, receive the Lord's supper, and in it partake of the children's bread, as if they were children. Secondly, They had been Christ's hearers, had received instruction from him, and were well acquainted with his doctrine and law: “Thou hast taught in our streets — a distinguishing favour, which few had, and surely it might be taken as a pledge of distinguishing favour now; for wouldest thou teach us, and not save us?”
[3.] How their confidence will fail them, and all their pleas be rejected as frivolous. Christ will say to them, I know you not whence you are, v. 25. 1607 And again (v. 27), I tell you, I know you not, depart from me. He does not deny that what they pleaded was true; they had eaten and drunk in his presence, by the same token that they had no sooner eaten of his bread than they lifted up the heel against him. He had taught in their streets, by the same token that they had despised his instruction and would not submit to it. And therefore, First, He disowns them: “I know you not; you do not belong to my family.” The Lord knows them that are his, but them that are not he does not know, he has nothing to do with them: “I know you not whence you are. You are not of me, you are not from above, you are not branches of my house, of my vine.” Secondly, He discards them: Depart from me. It is the hell of hell to depart from Christ, the principal part of the misery of the damned. “Depart from my door, here is nothing for you, no, not a drop of water.” Thirdly, He gives them such a character as is the reason of this doom: You are workers of iniquity. This is their ruin, that, under a pretence of piety, they kept up secret haunts of sin, and did the devil's drudgery in Christ's livery.
[4.] How terrible their punishment will be (v. 28): There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, the utmost degree of grief and indignation; and that which is the cause of it, and contributes to it, is a sight of the happiness of those that are saved: You shall see the patriarchs and prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. Observe here, First, That the Old-Testament saints are in the kingdom of God; those had benefit by the Messiah who died before his coming, for they saw his day at a distance and it reflected comfort upon them. Secondly, That New-Testament sinners will be thrust out of the kingdom of God. It intimates that they will be thrusting in, and will presume upon admission, but in vain; they shall be thrust out with shame, as having no part or lot in the matter. Thirdly, That the sight of the saint's glory will be a great aggravation of sinner's misery; they shall thus far see the kingdom of God that they shall see the prophets in it, whom they hated and despised, and themselves, though they thought themselves sure of it, thrust out. This is that at which they will gnash their teeth, <19B210>Psalm 112:10. (4.) Think who are they that shall be saved, notwithstanding: They shall come from the east and the west; and the last shall be first, v. 29, 30.
[1.] By what Christ said, it appears that but few shall be saved of those
whom we think most likely, and who bid fairest for it. Yet do not say then that the gospel is preached in vain; for, though Israel be not gathered, 1608 Christ will be glorious. There shall come many from all parts of the Gentile world that shall be admitted into the kingdom of grace in this world, and of glory in the other. Plainly thus, when we come to heaven, we shall meet a great many there whom we little thought to have met there, and miss a great many thence whom we verily expected to have found there. [2.] Those who sit down in the kingdom of God are such as had taken pains to get thither, for they came from far — from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south; they had passed through different climates, had broken through many difficulties and discouragements. This shows that they who would enter into that kingdom must strive, as the queen of Sheba, who came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. They who travel now in the service of God and religion shall shortly sit down to rest in the kingdom of God.
[3.] Many who stood fair for heaven came short, and others who seemed cast behind, and thrown quite out of the way, will win and wear this prize, and therefore it concerns us to strive to enter. Let us be provoked, as Paul desires the Jews might be, to a holy emulation, by the zest an forwardnessof the Gentiles, <451114>Romans 11:14. Shall I be outstripped by my juniors?Shall I, who started first, and stood nearest, miss of heaven, when others, less likely, enter into it? If it be got by striving why should not I strive?
God says (2Tim.3:16): He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Rev. 3:5
Matthew Henry's comment on Rev. 3:5
A great reward promised to the conquering Christian (v. 5), and it is very much the same with what has been already mentioned: He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment. The purity of grace shall be rewarded with the perfect purity of glory. Holiness, when perfected, shall be its own reward; glory is the perfection of grace, differing not in kind,but in degree. Now to this is added another promise very suitable to the case: I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Observe, Christ has his book of life, a register and roll of all who shall inherit eternal life. The book of eternal election. The book of remembrance of all those who have lived to God, and have kept up the life and power of godliness in evil times. Christ will not blot the names of his chosen and faithful ones out of this book of life; men may be enrolled in the registers of the church, as baptized, as making a profession, as having a name to live, and that name may come to be blotted out of the roll, when it appears that it was but name, a name to live, without spiritual life; such often lose the very name before they die, they are left of God to blot out their own names by their gross and open wickedness. But the names of those that overcome shall never be blotted out. Christ will produce this book of life, and confess the names of the faithful who stand there, before God, and all the angels; he will do this as their Judge, when the books shall be opened; he will do this as their captain and head, leading them with him triumphantly to heaven,presenting them to the Father: Behold me, and the children that thou hast given me. How great will this honor and reward be! The demand of universal attention finishes the message. Every word from God deserves attention from men; that which may seem more particularly directed to one body of men has something in it _____________________________________________________
God says (2Tim.3:16): But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 1 Peter 4:15-18
Matthew Henry comment: on Peter 4:15-18
He intimates the irremediable doom of the wicked: If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear, v. 18. This whole verse is taken from Proverbs 11:31, Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; how much more the wicked and the sinner? This the Septuagint translates exactly as the apostle here quotes it. Hence we may learn. The grievous sufferings of good people in this world are sad presages of much heavier judgments coming upon impenitent sinners. But, if we take the salvation here in the highest sense, then we may learn. It is as much as the best can do to secure the salvation of their souls;there are so many sufferings, temptations, and difficulties to be overcome, so many sins to be mortified,the gate is so strait and the way so narrow,887 that it is as much as the righteous can do to be saved. Let the absolute necessity of salvation balance the difficulty of it. Consider, Your difficulties are greatest at first; God offers his grace and help; the contest will not last long; be but faithful to the death, and God will give you the crown of life, Revelation 2:10. The ungodly and the sinner are unquestionably in a state of damnation.Where shall they appear? How will they stand before their Judge? Where can they show their heads? If the righteous scarcely be saved, the wicked must certainly perish. That when called to suffer, according to the will of God, they should look chiefly to the safety of their souls, which are put into hazard by affliction, and cannot be kept secure otherwise than by committing them to God, who will undertake the charge, if we commit them to him in well doing;for he is their Creator, and has out of mere grace made many kind promises to them of eternal salvation, in which he will show himself faithful and true, v.19. Learn. All the sufferings that befall good people come upon them according to the will of God. It is the duty of Christians, in all their distresses, to look more to the keeping of their souls than to the preserving of their bodies. The soul is of greatest value, and yet in most danger. If suffering from without raise uneasiness, vexation,and other sinful and tormenting passions within, the soul is then the greatest sufferer. If the soul be not well kept, persecution will drive people to apostasy, Psalm 125:3. The only way to keep the soul well is to commit it to God, in well doing. Commit your souls to God by solemn dedication, prayer, and patient perserverence.
God says (2Tim.3:16): And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Matt 10-22
Matthew Henry Commentary on Matt. 10:22
That he that endures to the end shall be saved, v. 22. Here it is very comfortable to consider, First, that there will be an end of these troubles; they may last long,but will not last always. Christ comforted himself with this, and so may his followers; The things concerning me have an end, Luke 22:37. Dabit Deus his quoque finem — These also will God bringto a termination. Note, A believing prospect of the period of our troubles, will be of great use to support us under them. The weary will be at rest,when the wicked cease from troubling, Job 3:17. God will give an expected end, Jeremiah 29:11. The troubles may seem tedious, like the days of a hireling, but, blessed be God, they are not everlasting. Secondly, That while they continue, they may be endured; as they are not eternal, so 335they are not intolerable; they may be borne, and borne to the end, because the sufferers shall be borne up under them, in everlasting arms: The strength shall be according to the day, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Thirdly,Salvation will be the eternal recompence of all those that endure to the end. The weather stormy, and the way foul, but the pleasure of home will make amends for all.A believing regard to the crown of glory has been in all ages the cordial and support of suffering saints, 2 Corinthians 4:16;17, 18; <581034>Hebrews 10:34. This is not only an encouragement to us to endure, but an engagement to endure to the end. They who endure but awhile, and in time of temptation fall away, have run in vain, and lose all that they have attained; but they who persevere, are sure of the prize, and they only. Be faithful unto death, and then thou shalt have the crown of life. _____________________________________________________
God says (2Tim.3:16): But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Matt. 24:13 Mathew Henry Commentary on Matt. 24:133.
Comfort administered in reference to this offense of the cross, for the support of the Lord's people under it (v. 13); He that endures to the end,shall be saved.(1.) It is comfortable to those who wish well to the cause of Christ in general, that, though many are offended, yet some shall endure to the end. When we see so many drawing back, we are ready to fear that the cause of Christ will sink for want of supporters, and his name be left and forgotten for want of some to make profession of it; but even at this time there is aremnant according to the election of grace, <451105>Romans 11:5. It is spoken of the same time that this prophecy has reference to; a remnant who are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but believe and persevere to thesaving of the soul; they endure to the end, to the end of their lives, to the end of their present state of probation, or to the end of these suffering trying times, to the last encounter, though they should be called to resist unto blood.(2.) It is comfortable to those who do thus endure to the end, and suffer for their constancy, that they shall be saved. Perseverance wins the crown, through free grace, and shall wear it. They shall be saved: perhaps they may be delivered out of their troubles, and comfortably survive them in this world; but it is eternal salvation that is here intended. They that endure to the end of their days, shall then receive the end of their faith and hope, even the salvation of their souls, 1 Peter 1:9; Romans 2:7;Revelation 3:20. The crown of glory will make amends for all; and a believing regard to that will enable us to choose rather to die at a stake with the persecuted, than to live in a palace with the persecutors. _____________________________________________________
God says (2Tim.3:16): For 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. Hebrews 10:26-27
Matthew Henry’s Comment on Hebrews 10:26-27.
Having mentioned these means of establishment, the apostle proceeds,in the close of the chapter, to enforce his exhortations to perseverance, and against apostasy, by many very weighty considerations, v. 26, 27, etc.1. From the description he gives of the sin of apostasy. It is sinning wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, sinning willfully against that truth of which we have had convincing evidence. This text has been the occasion of great distress to some gracious souls; they have been ready to conclude that every willful sin, after conviction and against knowledge, is the unpardonable sin: but this has been their infirmity and error. The sin here mentioned is a total and final apostasy, when men with a full and fixed will and resolution despise and reject Christ, the only Saviour, — despise and resist the Spirit, the only sanctifier, — and despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life; and all this after they have known, owned, and professed, the Christian religion, and continue to do so obstinately and maliciously. This is the great transgression: the apostle seems to refer to the law concerning presumptuous sinners,Numbers 15:30, 31. They were to be cutoff. 2.From the dreadful doom of such apostates. (1.) There remains no more sacrifice for such sins, no other Christ to come to save such sinners;they sin against the last resort and remedy. There were some sins under the law for which no sacrifices were provided; but yet if those who committed them did truly repent, though they might not escape temporal death, they might escape eternal destruction; for Christ would come, and make atonement. But now those under the gospel who will not accept of Christ, that they may be saved by him, have no other refuge left them.(2.) There remains for them only a certain fearful looking for of judgment, v. 27. Some think this refers to the dreadful destruction of the Jewish church and state; but certainly it refers also to the utter destruction that awaits all obstinate apostates at death and judgment, when the Judge will discover a fiery indignation against them, which will devour the adversaries; they will be consigned to the devouring fire and to everlasting burnings. Of this destruction God gives some notorious sinners, while on earth, a fearful foreboding in their own consciences, a dreadful looking for it, with a despair of ever being able either to endure or escape it. From the methods of divine justice with those who despised Moses's law, that is, sinned presumptuously, despising his authority, his threatenings and his power. These, when convicted by two or three witnesses, were put to death; they died without mercy, a temporal death. Observe, Wise governors should be careful to keep up the credit of their government and the authority of the laws, by punishing presumptuous offenders; but then in such cases there should be good evidence of the fact. Thus God ordained in Moses law; and hence the apostle infers the heavy doom that will fall upon those that apostatize from Christ. Here he refers to their own consciences, to judge how much sorer punishment the despisers of Christ(after they have professed to know him) are likely to undergo; and they may judge of the greatness of the punishment by the greatness of the sin.(1.) They have trodden under foot the Son of God. To trample upon an ordinary person shows intolerable insolence; to treat a person of honor in that vile manner is insufferable; but to deal thus with the Son of God, who himself is God, must be the highest provocation — to trample upon his person, denying him to be the Messiah — to trample upon his authority, and undermine his kingdom — to trample upon his members as the off scouring of all things, and not fit to live in the world; what punishment can be too great for such men?(2.) They have counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing; that is, the blood of Christ, with which the covenant was purchased and sealed, and wherewith Christ himself was consecrated, or wherewith the apostate was sanctified, that is, baptized, visibly initiated into the new covenant by baptism, and admitted to the Lord's supper.Observe, There is a kind of sanctification which persons may partake of and yet fall away: they may be distinguished by common gifts and graces, by an outward profession, by a form of godliness, a course of duties, and a set of privileges, and yet fall away finally. Men who have seemed before to have the blood of Christ in high esteem may come to account it an unholy thing, no better than the blood of a malefactor, though twas the world's ransom, and every drop of it of infinite value.(3.) Those have done despite unto the Spirit of grace, the Spirit that is graciously given to men, and that works grace wherever it is, — the Spirit of grace, that should be regarded and attended to with the greatest care, this Spirit they have grieved, resisted, quenched, yea, done despite to him, which is the highest act of wickedness, and makes the case of the sinner desperate, refusing to have the gospel salvation applied to him. Now he leaves it to the consciences of all, appeals to universal reason and equity, whether such aggravated crimes ought not to receive a suitable punishment, a sorer punishment than those who had died without mercy? But what punishment can be sorer than to die without mercy? I answer, To die by mercy, by the mercy and grace which they have despised. How dreadful is the case when not only the justice of God, but his abused grace and mercy call for vengeance!4. From the description we have in the scripture of the nature of God's vindictive justice, v. 30. We know that he has said, Vengeance is mine. This is taken out of Psalm 94:1, Vengeance belongs unto me. The terrors of the Lord are known both by revelation and reason. Vindictive justice is a glorious, though terrible attribute of God; it belongs to him, and he will use and execute it upon the heads of such sinners as despise his grace; he will avenge himself, and his Son, and Spirit, and covenant, upon apostates. And how dreadful then will their case be! The other quotation is from Deuteronomy 32:36, The Lord will judge his people; he will search and try his visible church, and will discover and detect those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan; and he will separate the precious from the vile, and will punish the sinners in Zion with the greatest severity. Now those who know him who hath said, Vengeance belongeth to me, I will recompense, must needs conclude, as the apostle does (v. 31): It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of theliving God. Those who know the joy that results from the favour of God can thereby judge of the power and dread of his vindictive wrath. Observe here, What will be the eternal misery of impenitent sinners and apostates: they shall fall into the hands of the living God; their punishment shall come from God's own hand. He takes them into the hand of his justice; he will deal with them himself; their greatest misery will be the immediate impressions of divine wrath on the soul. When he punishes them by creatures, the instrument abates something of the force of the blow; but,when he does it by his own hand, it is infinite misery. This they shall have at God's hand, they shall lie down in sorrow; their destruction shall come from his glorious powerful presence; when they make their woeful bed in hell, they will find that God is there, and his presence will be their greatest663terror and torment. And he is a living God; he lives for ever, and will punish for ever. _____________________________________________________
God says (2Tim.3:16): That faith without works will not profit, and cannot save us. What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? James 2:14
Matthew Henry Commentary on James 2:14-26. Faith and Works
In this latter part of the chapter, the apostle shows the error of those who rested in a bare profession of the Christian faith, as if that would save them, while the temper of their minds and the ten our of their lives were altogether disagreeable to that holy religion which they professed. To let them see, therefore,what a wretched foundation they built their hopes upon, it is he reproved at large that a man is justified, not by faith only, but by works. Upon this arises a very great question, namely, how to reconcile Paul and James. Paul, in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians, seems to assert the directly contrary thing to what James here lays down, saying if often, and with a great deal of emphasis, that we are justified by faith onlyand not by the works of the law. Amicae scripturarum lites, utinam etnostrae — There is a very happy agreement between one part of scriptureand another, notwithstanding seeming differences: it were well if thedifferences among Christians were as easily reconciled. “Nothing,” says Mr. Baxter, “but men's misunderstanding the plain drift and sense of Paul's epistles, could make so many take it for a matter of great difficulty to reconcile Paul andJames.” A general view of those things which are insisted on by the Antnomians may be seen in Mr. Baxter's Paraphrase: and many ways might be mentioned which have been invented among learned men to make the apostles agree; but it may be sufficient only to observe these few things following: —1. When Paul says that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law(Romans 3:28), he plainly speaks of another sort of work than James does, but not of another sort of faith. Paul speaks of works wrought in obedience to the law of Moses, and before men's embracing the faith of the gospel; and he had to deal with those who valued themselves so highly upon those works that they rejected the gospel (as Romans 10, at the beginning most expressly declares); but James speaks of works done in obedience to the gospel, and as the proper and necessary effects and fruits of sound believing in Christ Jesus. Both are concerned to magnify the faith of the gospel, as that which alone could save us and justify us; but Paul magnifies it by showing the insufficiency of any works of the law before faith, or in opposition to the doctrine of justification by Jesus Christ;James magnifies the same faith, by showing what are the genuine and necessary products and operations of it.2. Paul not only speaks of different works from those insisted on by James, but he speaks of a quite different use that was made of good works from what is here urged and intended. Paul had to do with those who depended on the merit of their works in the sight of God, and thus he might well make them of no manner of account. James had to do with those who cried unfaith, but would not allow works to be used even as evidence; they depended upon a bare profession, as sufficient to justify them; and with these he might well urge the necessity and vast importance of good works. As we must not break one table of the law, by dashing it against the other, so neither must we break in pieces the law and the gospel, by making them clash with one another: those who cry up the gospel so as to set aside the law, and those who cry up the law so as to set aside the gospel, are both in the wrong; for we must take our work before us; there must be both faith in Jesus Christ and good works the fruit of faith. 3. The justification of which Paul speaks is different from that spoken of by James; the one speaks of our persons being justified before God, the other speaks of our faith being justified before men: “Show me thy faith bythy works,” says James, “let thy faith be justified in the eyes of those that behold thee by thy works;” but Paul speaks of justification in the sight of God, who justifies those only that believe in Jesus, and purely on account of the redemption that is in him. Thus we see that our persons are justified before God by faith,but our faith is justified before men by works. This is so plainly the scope and design of the apostle James that he is but confirming what Paul,in other places, says of his faith, that it is a laborious faith, and a faith working by love, Galatians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Titus3:8; and many other places.4. Paul may be understood as speaking of that justification which is inchoate, James of that which is complete; it is by faith only that we are put into a justified state, but then good works come in for the completing of our justification at the last great day; then, Come you children of myFather — for I was hungry, and you gave me meat, etc. II. Having thus cleared this part of scripture from every thing of a contradiction to other parts of it, let us see what is more particularly to be learnt from this excellent passage of James; we are taught,1. That faith without works will not profit, and cannot save us. What dothit profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Canfaith save him? Observe here, (1.) That faith which does not save will not really profit us; a bare profession may sometimes seem to be profitable, to gain the good opinion of those who are truly good, and it may procure in some cases worldly good things; but what profit will this be, for any to gain the world and to lose their souls? What doth it profit? — Can faith save him? All things should be accounted profitable or unprofitable to us as they tend to forward or hinder the salvation of our souls. And, above all other things,768 we should take care thus to make account of faith, as that which does not profit, if it do not save, but will aggravate our condemnation and destruction at last.(2.) For a man to have faith, and to say he has faith, are two different things; the apostle does not say, If a man have faith without works, for that is not a supposable case; the drift of this place of scripture is plainly to show that an opinion,or speculation, or assent, without works, is not faith; but the case is put thus, If a man say he hath faith, etc. Men may boast of that to others, and be conceited of that in themselves, of which they are really destitute.2. We are taught that, as love or charity is an operative principle, so is faith, and that neither of them would otherwise be good for any thing; and, by trying how it looks for a person to pretend he is very charitable who yet never does any works of charity, you may judge what sense there is in pretending to have faith without the proper and necessary fruits of it: “If abrother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of yousay unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled,notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to thebody, what doth it profit? v. 15-17. What will such a charity as this, that consists in bare words, avail either you or the poor? Will you come before God with such empty shows of charity as these? You might as well pretend that your love and charity will stand the test without acts of mercy as think that a profession of faith will bear you out before God without works of piety and obedience. Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead,being along,” v. 17. We are too apt to rest in a bare profession of faith, and to think that this will save us; it is a cheap and easy religion to say, “We believe the articles of the Christian faith;” but it is a great delusion to imagine that this is enough to bring us to heaven. Those who argue thus wrong God, and put a cheat upon their own souls; a mock-faith is as hateful as mock-charity, and both show a heart dead to all real godliness. You may as soon take pleasure in a dead body, void of soul, or sense, or action, as God take pleasure in a dead faith, where there are no works. 3. We are taught to compare a faith boasting of itself without works and a faith evidenced by works, by looking on both together, to try how this comparison will work upon our minds. Yea, a man may say, Thou hastfaith, and I have works. Show me thy faith without thy works, and I willshow thee my faith by my works, v. 18. Suppose a true believer thus 769pleading with a boasting hypocrite, “Thou makest a profession, and sayest thou hast faith; I make no such boasts, but leave my works to speak for me. Now give any evidence of having the faith thou professest without works if thou canst,and I will soon let thee see how my works flow from faith and are the undoubted evidences of its existence.” This is the evidence by which the scriptures all along teach men to judge both of themselves and others. And this is the evidence according to which Christ will proceed at the day of judgment. The dead were judged according totheir works, Revelation 20:12. How will those be exposed then who boast of that which they cannot evidence, or who go about to evidence their faith by any thing but works of piety and mercy!4. We are taught to look upon a faith of bare speculation and knowledge as the faith of devils: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well;the devils also believe, and tremble, v. 19. That instance of faith which the apostle here chooses to mention is the first principle of all religion. “Thoubelievest that there is a God, against the atheists; and that there is but one God, against the idolaters; thou doest well: so far all is right. But to rest here, and take up a good opinion of thyself, or of thy state towards God, merely on account of thy believing in him, this will render thee miserable: The devils also believe, and tremble. If thou contentest thyself with a bare assent to articles of faith, and some speculations upon them, thus far the devils go. And as their faith and knowledge only serve to excite horror, so in a little time will thine.” The word tremble is commonly looked upon as denoting a good effect of faith; but here it may rather be taken as a bad effect, when applied to the faith of devils. They tremble, not out of reverence, but hatred and opposition to that one God on whom they believe. To rehearse that article of our creed, therefore, I believe in Godthe Father Almighty, will not distinguish us from devils at last, unless we now give up ourselves to God as the gospel directs, and love him, and delight ourselves in him, and serve him, which the devils do not, cannot do. 5. We are taught that he who boasts of faith without works is to be looked upon at present as a foolish condemned person. But wilt thou know, O vainman, that faith without works is dead? v. 20. The words translated vainman — anthrope kene, are observed to have the same signification with the word Raca, which must never be used to private persons, or as an effect of anger (<400522>Matthew 5:22), but may be used as here, to denote a just detestation of such a sort of men as are empty of good works, and yet770boasters of their faith. And it plainly declares them fools and abjects in the sight of God. Faith without works is said to be dead, not only as void of all those operations which are the proofs of spiritual life, but as unavailable to eternal life: such believers as rest in a bare profession of faith are dead while they live.6. We are taught that a justifying faith cannot be without works, from two examples, Abraham and Rahab.(1.) The first instance is that of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and the prime example of justification, to whom the Jews had a special regard (v. 21): Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offeredIsaac his son upon the altar? Paul, on the other hand, says (in ch 4 of the epistle to the Romans) that Abraham believed, and it was counted to himfor righteousness. But these are well reconciled, by observing what is said in Hebrews 11, which shows that the faith both of Abraham and Rahabwas such as to produce those good works of which James speaks, and which are not to be separated from faith as justifying and saving. By what Abraham did, it appeared that he truly believed. Upon this footing, the words of God himself plainly put this matter. Genesis 22:16, 17,Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thineonly son; therefore in blessing I will bless thee. Thus the faith of Abraham was a working faith (v. 22), it wrought with his works, and by works wasmade perfect. And by this means you come to the true sense of that scripture which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed untohim for righteousness, v. 23. And thus he became the friend of God. Faith, producing such works,endeared him to the divine Being, and advanced him to very peculiar favours and intimacies with God. It is a great honour done to Abraham that he is called and counted the friend of God. You see then (v. 24) how that by works a man is justified (comes into such a state of favour and friendship with God), and not by faith only; not by a bare opinion, or profession,or believing without obeying, but by having such a faith as is productive of good works. Now besides the explication of this passage and example,as thus illustrating and supporting the argument James is upon, many other useful lessons may be learned by us from what is here said concerning Abraham.[1.] Those who would have Abraham's blessings must be careful to copy after his faith: to boast of being Abraham's seed will not avail any, if they do not believe as hedid.771[2.] Those works which evidence true faith must to works of self-denial,and such as God himself commands (as Abraham's offering up his son, his only son, was), and not such works as are pleasing to flesh and blood and may serve our interest, or are the mere fruits of our own imagination and devising. [3.] What we piously purpose and sincerely resolve to do for God is accepted as if actually performed. Thus Abraham is regarded as offering up his son, though he did not actually proceed to make a sacrifice of him. It was a done thing in the mind, and spirit, and resolution of Abraham, and God accepts it as if fully performed and accomplished.[4.] The actings of faith make it grow perfect, as the truth of faith makes it act.[5.] Such an acting faith will make others, as well as Abraham, friends of God. Thus Christ says to his disciples, I have called you friends, <431515>John 15:15. All transactions between God and the truly believing soul are easy, pleasant, and delightful. There is one will and one heart, and there is a mutual complacency. God rejoice th over those who truly believe, to do them good; and they delight themselves in him. (2.) The second example of faith's justifying itself and us with and by works is Rahab: Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them outanother way? v. 25. The former instance was of one renowned for his faith all his life long,This is of one noted for sin, whose faith was meaner and of a much lower degree; so that the strongest faith will not do, nor the meanest be allowed to go without works. Some say that the word here rendered harlot was the proper name of Rahab. Others tell us that it signifies no more than a hostess, or one who keeps a public house, with whom therefore the spies lodged. But it is very probable that her character was infamous; and such an instance is mentioned to show that faith will save the worst, when evidenced by proper works; and it will not save the best without such works as God requires. This Rahab believed the report she had heard of God's powerful presence with Israel; but that which proved her faith sincere was, that, to the hazard of her life, she receivedthe messengers, and sent them out another way. Observe here, [1.] The wonderful power of faith in transforming and changing sinners. [2.] The regard which an operative faith meets with from God, to obtain his mercy and favour.[3.] Where great sins are pardoned, there must prefer the honour of God and the good of his people before the preservation of her own country. Her former acquaintance must be discarded, her former course of life entirely abandoned, and she must give signal proof and evidence of this before she can be in a justified state; and even after she is justified, yet her former character must be remembered; not so much to her dishonour as to glorify the rich grace and mercy of God. Though justified, she is called Rahab theharlot.7. And now, upon the whole matter, the apostle draws this conclusion, Asthe body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also, v. 26. These words are read differently; some reading them, As the bodywithout the breath is dead, so is faith without works: and then they show that works are the companions of faith, as breathing is of life. Others read them, As the body without the soul is dead, so faith without works is deadalso: and then they show that as the body has no action, nor beauty, but becomes a loathsome carcass, when the soul is gone, so a bare profession without works is useless, yea, loathsome and offensive. Let us then take head of running into extremes in this case. For, (1.) The best works, without faith, are dead; they want their root and principle. It is by faith that any thing we do is really good, as done with an eye to God, in obedience to him, and so as to aim principally at his _____________________________________________________
God says (2Tim.3:16):Ezekiel 33:11-19 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.. . . Ezekiel 33:11-19 . . .
Matthew Henry comment on Ezekiel 33:11-19
Those that despaired of finding mercy with God are here answered with a solemn declaration of God's readiness to show mercy, v. 11. When they spoke of pining away in their iniquity God sent the prophet to them, with all speed, to tell them that though their case was sad it was not desperate, but there was yet hope in Israel.(1.) It is certain that God has no delight in the ruin of sinners, nor does he desire it. If they will destroy themselves, he will glorify himself in it, but he has no pleasure in it, but would rather they should turn and live, for his goodness is that attribute of his which is most his glory, which is most his delight. He would rather sinners should turn and live than go on and die. He has said it, he has sworn it, that by these two immutable things, in both which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation. We have his word and his oath; and, since he could swear by no greater,he swears by himself: As I live. They questioned whether they should live,though they did repent and reform; yea, says God, as sure as I live, true penitents shall live also; for their life is hid with Christ in God.(2.) It is certain that God is sincere and in earnest in the calls he gives sinners to repent: Turn you, turn you, from your evil way. To repent is to turn from our evil way; this God requires sinners to do; this he urges them to do by repeated pressing instances: Turn you, turn you. O that they would be prevailed with to turn, to turn quickly, without delay! This he will enable them to do if they will but frame their doings to turn to the 403Lord, <280504>Hosea 5:4. For he has said, I will pour out my Spirit unto you,<200123>Proverbs 1:23. And in this he will accept of them; for it is not only what he commands, but what he courts them to. (3.) It is certain that, if sinners perish in their impenitency, it is owing to themselves; they die because they will die; and herein they act most absurdly and unreasonably: Why will you die, O house of Israel? God would have heard them, and they would not be heard.2. Those that despaired of finding justice with God are here answered with a solemn declaration of the rule of judgment which God would go by in dealing with the children of men, which carries along with it the evidence of its own equity; he that runs may read the justice of it. The Jewish nation, as a nation, was now dead; it was ruined to all intents and purposes. The prophet must therefore deal with particular persons, and the rule of judgment concerning them is much like that concerning a nation, <241808>Jeremiah 18:8-10. If God speak concerning it to build and to plant, and it do wickedly, he will recall his favours and leave it to ruin. But if he speak concerning it to pluck up and destroy, and it repent, he will revoke the sentence and deliver it. So it is here. In short, The most plausible professors, if they apostatize, shall certainly perish for ever in their apostasy from God; and the most notorious sinners, if they repent, shall certainly be happy for ever in their return to God. This is here repeated again and again, because it ought to be again and again considered, and preached over to our own hearts. This was necessary to be inculcated upon this stupid senseless people, that said, The way of the Lord is not equal; for these rules of judgment are so plainly just that they need no other confirmation of them than the repetition of them. (1.) If those that have made a great profession of religion throw off their profession, quit the good ways of God and grow loose and carnal, sensual and worldly, the profession they made and all the religious performances with which they had for a great while kept up the credit of their profession shall stand them in no stead, but they shall certainly perish in their iniquity, v. 12, 13,18.[1.] God says to the righteous man that he shall surely live, v. 13. He says it by his word, by his ministers. He that lives regularly, his own heart tells him, his neighbours tell him, He shall live. Surely such a man as this cannot but be happy. And it is certain, if he proceed and persevere in his righteousness, and if, in order to that, he be upright and sincere in it, if he404 be really as good as he seems to be, he shall live; he shall continue in the love of God and be for ever happy in that love.[2.] Righteous men, who have very good hopes of themselves and whom others have a very good opinion of, are yet in danger of turning to iniquity by trusting to their righteousness. So the case is put here: If he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, and come to make a trade of sin— if he not only take a false step, but turn aside into a false way and persist in it. This may possibly be the case of a righteous man, and it is the effect of his trusting to his own righteousness. Note, Many eminent professors have been ruined by a proud conceitedness of themselves and confidence in themselves. He trust to the merit of his own righteousness, and thinks he has already made God so much his debtor that now he may venture to commit iniquity, for he has righteousness enough in stock to make amends for it;he fancies that whatever evil deeds he may do hereafter he can be in no danger from them, having so many good deeds beforehand to counterbalance them. Or, He trust to the strength of his own righteousness, thinks himself now so well established in a course of virtue that he may thrust himself into any temptation and it cannot overcome him, and so by presuming on his own sufficiency he is brought to commit iniquity. By making bold on the confines of sin he is drawn at length into the depths of hell. This ruined the Pharisees; they trusted to themselvesthat they were righteous, and that their long prayers, and fasting twice in the week, would atone for their devouring widows' houses.[3.] If righteous men turn to iniquity, and return not to their righteousness,they shall certainly perish in their iniquity, and all the righteousness they have formerly done, all their prayers, and all their alms, shall be forgotten.No mention shall be made, no remembrance had, of their good deeds; they shall be overlooked, as if they had never been. The righteousness of therighteous shall not deliver him from the wrath of God, and the curse of the law, in the day of his transgression. When he becomes a traitor and a rebel, and takes up arms against his rightful Sovereign, it will not serve for him to plead in his own defence that formerly he was a loyal subject, and did many good services to the government. No; he shall not be able tolive. The remembrance of his former righteousness shall be no satisfaction either to God's justice or his own conscience in the day that he sins, but rather shall, in the estimate of both, highly aggravate the sin and folly of his apostasy. And therefore for his iniquity that he committed he shall die, 405v. 13. And again (v. 18), He shall even die thereby; and it is owing to himself.(2.) If those that have lived a wicked life repent and reform, forsake their wicked ways and become religious, their sins shall be pardoned, and they shall be justified and saved, if they persevere in their reformation. [1.] God says to the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die. The way that thou art in leads to destruction. The wages of thy sin is death, and thy iniquity will shortly be thy ruin.” It was said to the righteous man, Thou shalt surelylive, for his encouragement to proceed and persevere in the way of righteousness; but he made an ill use of it, and was emboldened by it to commit iniquity. It was said to the wicked man, Thou shalt surely die, for warning to him not to persist in his wicked ways; and he makes a good use of it, and is quickened thereby to return to God and duty. Thus even the threatenings of the word are to some, by the grace of God, a savour of life unto life, while even the promises of the word become to others, by their own corruption, a savour of death unto death. When God says to the wicked man, Thou shalt surely die, die eternally, it is to frighten him, not out of his wits, but out of his sins.[2.] There is many a wicked man who was hastening apace to his own destruction who yetis wrought upon by the grace of God to return and repent, and live a holy life. He turns from his sin (v. 14), and is resolved that he will have no more to do with it; and, as an evidence of his repentance for wrong done, he restores the pledge (v. 15) which he had taken uncharitably from the poor, he gives again that which he had robbed and taken unjustly from the rich. Nor does he only cease to do evil, but he learns to do well; he does that which is lawful and right, and makes conscience of his duty both to God and man — a great change, since,awhile ago, he neither feared God nor regarded man. But many such amazing changes, and blessed ones, have been wrought by the power of divine grace. He that was going on in the paths of death and the destroyer now walks in the statues of life, in the way of God's commandments, which has both life in it Proverbs 12:28) and life at the end of it,Matthew 19:17. And in this good way he perseveres withoutcommitting iniquity, though not free from remaining infirmity, yet under the dominion of no iniquity. He repents not of his repentance, nor returns to the commission of those gross sins which he before allowed himself in.406 [3.] He that does thus repent and return shall escape the ruin he was running into, and his former sins shall be no prejudice to his acceptance with God. Let him not pine away in his iniquity, for, if he confess and forsake it, he shall find mercy. He shall surely live; he shall not die, v. 15. Again (v. 16), He shall surely live. Again (v. 19), He has done that whichis lawful and right, and he shall live thereby. But will not his wickednesses be remembered against him? No; he shall not be punished for them (v. 12): As for the wickedness of the wicked, though it was very heinous, yet he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turns from hiswickedness. Now that it has become his grief it shall not be his ruin. Now that there is a settled separation between him and sin there shall be no longer a separation between him and God. Nay, he shall not be so much as upbraided with them (v. 16): None of his sins that he has committed shallbe mentioned unto him, either as a clog to his pardon or an allay to the comfort of it, or as any blemish and diminution to the glory that is prepared for him.Now lay all this together, and then judge whether the way of the Lord benot equal, whether this will not justify God in the destruction of sinners and glorify him in the salvation of penitents. The conclusion of the whole matter is (v. 20): “O you house of Israel, though you are all involved now in the common calamity, yet there shall be a distinction of persons made in the spiritual and eternal state, and I will judge you every one after hisways.” Though they were sent into captivity by the lump, good fish and bad enclosed in the same net, yet there he will separate between the precious and the vile and will render to every man according to his works. Therefore God's way is equal and unexceptionable; but, as for the childrenof thy people, God turns them over to the prophet, as he did to Moses Exodus32:7): “They are thy people; I can scarcely own them for mine.” As for them, their way is unequal; this way which they have got of quarreling with God and his prophets is absurd and unreasonable. In all disputes between God and his creatures it will certainly be found that he is in the right and they are in the wrong.
To Be continued: