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But the Lord Jesus asserts (Matth. xii. 32), that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven, either in this world or the next?
He does indeed so assert ; but for this reason, which he tacitly assumes, that God will close against a person of this kind, who knowingly and purposely dares to rail against the Holy Spirit with contumelious language, the avenue to faith and penitence, without which he cannot obtain the remission of sins 54.
Was not the same promise of the remission of sins comprised in the Old Covenant ?
You shall hear concerning this when I come to treat of the expiation made for sins by Christ.
I have heard you concerning the remission of sins; I wish you now to explain to me the promise of eternal life?
By the eternal life promised to us by Christ, according to the meaning of holy writ, I understand not that only which the words of themselves signify, namely, a life never to terminate, or immortality, but also an existence the most replete with joy and pleasure wholly divine, passed in heaven with God and Christ, and the holy angels.
Was not eternal life promised also in the Law of Moses?
If by the word promise you understand, as you 5. It was proper to take this occasion to explain in what sense it is to be understood that sins are remitted in this world, and in that which is to come; since the notion of purgatory furnishes but an awkward exposition of the subject. On this point may be consulted Socinus on 1 John v. Op. tom. i. p. 231. -M. RUARUS. [And Brenius on Matth. xii. 32. F. C.]
ought to do, some explicit declaration of the divine will, on account of which a person may upon sure grounds hope for some good which is destined for him,--there is in the Law of Moses no promise of this kind of eternal life, which is now first revealed to us by Christ,“who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:" 2 Tim. i. 10. Hence also the Gospel is said (Heb. vii. 19) to be “the bringing in of a better hope," and (Heb. viii. 6) “a better covenant, established upon better promises," than the old,
But it appears, surely, that some hope of eternal life existed among the people of God before Christ?
Nothing prevents your hoping for something, although you have not God's promise for it, provided the thing be greatly to be desired, and such as it is credible God would give to those who serve him. Now eternal life is above all things to be desired ; and it is exceedingly credible that God will bestow it upon those who serve him, as a reward eminently suited to his majesty, without which, other blessings, though proceeding from God, are scarcely entitled to the name of a divine recompense 55.
55 It might be added, that the hope of eternal life was not a little cherished by pious men under the Old Covenant, on this account, that they perceived that the most constant worshippers under the Law were sometimes oppressed by the heaviest misfortunes. Whence they might infer, either that those persons were wholly disappointed of the reward of piety promised in the Law, or that God had wherewith to recompense them even after death. For this reason this hope of a future world
Shall they have eternal life who have hoped for it, notwithstanding it was not promised to them?
Certainly; provided only that from their hearts they worshipped God, and were obedient to his commands: for nothing hinders but that God may perform more than he has promised. And Christ clearly teaches this (Luke xx. 27, 28), when from the words of God himself he truly and acutely infers, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shall rise from the dead and live : and the author to the Hebrews, in imitation of him, (chap. xi. ver. 16) says, that “ God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city," namely, a heavenly one.
If God will give eternal life to those men, why did he not promise it?
God deferred a promise so excellent until the advent of the promised saviour Christ (Acts xxvi. 22, 23), that it might the more evidently appear to all that so precious a blessing flowed from his own good pleasure and free bounty alone 56.
Are there not in the New Covenant, besides the promise of eternal life, promiscs relating to this life also ?
The Scripture indeed testifies (1 Tim.iv.8)" that godliness even under the New Covenant has the promise
seems to have been excited in the breasts of the worshippers of God, particularly in the time of the Maccabees.-M. RUARUS.
56 This may be a general reason for all times; but the reason of its being deferred until the coming of Christ seems chiefly to have been this,--that we might be the more bound to Christ, to whom we are indebted for such glad tidings.-M. RUARUS.
not of the future life alone, but also of the present : and likewise, as we read in Mark (chap. x. 29, 30), that if any one for the sake of Christ and his gospel shall give up all things," he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life.”
Is then the New Covenant equal to the Old, as respects the promises of the present life?
Since it appears from other passages of Scripture that Christians ought to rest contented with those things which are necessary for the support of existence, it is evident that the promises relating to this life, made under the New Covenant, ought to be understood as inculcating, that Christians shall not want any thing that may be necessarily requisite for the support of this life; unless indeed God design to try their faith by want, distresses, and death. But under the Old Covenant, wealth, affluence, and pleasure, honours and dignities, were also to be looked for by those who obeyed the Law. Whence it is the more clearly seen that eternal life was not expressly promised in the Old Covenant, otherwise the New Covenant would not have “better promises" than the Old, but the latter would not a little excell the former in this respect, contrary to what I have before maintained.
OF THE PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Explain to me the other promise, and state what the Holy Spirit is ?
The Holy Spirit is a virtue or energy flowing from God to men, and communicated to them : whereby he separates them from others, and consecrates them to his own service.
Is the Holy Spirit promised to all believers in perpetuity?
Yes : It ought however to be observed that this gift, as respects its effects, is two-fold, the one continuing for a time only, the other perpetual ; whereof the former may be called visible, the latter invisible.
What is the temporary and visible gift?
It is such a divine power as operates, either in those to whom it is given, or by them, effects that are astonishing, and clearly out of the course of nature. This gift was in the beginning conferred upon believers in Christ.
Why is it that this gift has not always continued ?
Because it was bestowed for the confirmation of the gospel of Christ. When it appeared to God that this was sufficiently confirmed, this gift, by his will and pleasure, was discontinued.
What do you mean by the gospel of Christ being sufficiently confirmed?
I mean that they who were disposed to believe the gospel had sufficient evidence, in what was done for its confirmation, to believe it ever afterwards.
Who are those persons ?
They who are endued with integrity and simplicity of mind, or who are not averse from true piety. For God does not intend that they who are not of this class should have no cause for rejecting the doctrine