1 Timothy 1:19, 20.
Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck; of whom is Hymeneus and A1exander.
Among the instances of the saints’ apostasy, stand,
I. Hymeneus, Alexander, and their associates, who are here said to put away a good conscience and make shipwreck of faith. "Now," it is said, "to put away a good conscience belongs to them alone who once had, and ought to have retained it; and to make shipwreck of the faith, so as to blaspheme the doctrine which they once professed, is surely to fall off from the in profession of it." And these instances are represented as a sufficient confutation of all the arguments produced from Scripture for the doctrine of perseverance. But,
1. It should be proved that these men were once good men, and had the truth of grace in them; otherwise they are no instances of the apostasy of saints. Hymeneus and Alexander, who are mentioned by name, were vile, wicked men; the one was a profane and vain babbler, who went not from the truth of grace to a course of sin, but from a lesser degree of impiety (1 Tim. 2:16, 17) to more ungodliness; the other, who seems to be the same with Alexander the coppersmith (1 Tim. 4:14, 15) did the apostle Paul much evil, and not only withstood his words and doctrines, but also those of others.
2. Their putting away a good conscience, does not necessarily imply that they formerly had one, since that may be rejected and put away which was never had. Thus of the Jews, who contradicted and blasphemed the word of God, never received it, nor gave their assent to it, the apostle says, ye put it from you, pwqei~aqe (Acts 13:45, 46), ye rejected it; the same word which is here used, and signifies to refuse, reject anything with detestation and contempt. These men always had an abhorrence to a good conscience among men, and to a good life and conversation, the evidence of it, and at last threw off the mask, and dropped the faith they professed, as being contrary to their evil conscience and practices. But admitting that this phrase does suppose that they once had a good conscience, this is not to be understood of a conscience really purged and cleansed by the blood of Christ; but of a good conscience in external show only, or in comparison of what they afterwards appeared to have. Besides, some men, destitute of the grace of God, may be said to have a good conscience in some sense, or with respect to some particular facts, or to their general conduct and behavior among men; so the apostle Paul, whilst unregenerate, lived in all good conscience (Acts 23:1) and it is said of the unenlightened heathens, that their conscience also was bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another (Rom. 2:15). Now, these persons had put away, rejected, and acted contrary to the very dictates of natural conscience; theirs was become seared with a hot iron, and so spoke lies in hypocrisy, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1, 2).
3. It will be granted, that to make shipwreck of faith, so as to blaspheme the doctrine which they once professed, is to fall off from the profession of it; but then to fall from the doctrine of the Gospel, and a profession of it, and to fall from the grace and favor of God, or from the grace of faith, are different things. Man may fall totally and finally from the one, but not from the other; and it is not the grace, but the doctrine of faith, that is here designed, and is the sense in which it is often used in this epistle; (See 1 Tim. 3:9; 4:1; 5:8; 6:21.) though supposing faith as a grace was intended, the phrase, to make shipwreck of it, is not strong enough to prove the total and final falling away of true believers, could such be thought to be here meant, since persons may be shipwrecked and not drowned or lost. The apostle Paul thrice suffered shipwreck (2 Cor. 11:25), and yet was each time saved. Besides, as there is a true and unfeigned, so there is a feigned and counterfeit faith, which may be in persons who have no true grace, and may be shipwrecked so as to be lost.
II. The next instances of the saints falling away are Hymeneus and Philetus, of whom the apostle says, that they erred concerning the truth, and overthrow the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:18, 19). Now,
1. As was before observed, it should be proved that these men were once good men, true believers in Christ; whereas, on the contrary, it appears that they had only a form our godliness, but denied the power thereof, were evil men and seducers, who waxed worse and worse.
2. When it, is said of them, who, concerning the truth, have erred; or, as Dr. Whitby renders the words, have fallen off from the truth, for about such a rendering we will not contend; the meaning is not that they fell from the truth of grace in their hearts, which it doth not appear they ever had, but from the truth of the gospel in the profession of it, and particularly from that branch of it which respects the resurrection, saying, that the resurrection is past already.
3. When they are said to overthrow the faith of some, this is not to be understood of the true grace of faith, the end of which is the salvation of the soul, and is not to be overthrown by men or devils, but of a doctrinal faith, or an historical one, which is a bare assent of the mind to some doctrinal proposition, as here, to the resurrection of the dead, and which had a place in some nominal professors, who were ever learning and never able to come to the saving knowledge of the truth; and after all these instances of falling from the truth, and of the subversion of faith, the apostle says, Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his: so that these are no instances of the apostasy of real saints.
III. Many Judaizers in the church of Galatia, appear next much suspected to be in the black list of apostates, of whom it is said (Gal. 5:4), that they were fallen from grace; from whence it is argued, that they therefore must have been formerly in a state of grace, and consequently, that such who were once known of God might fall from his grace and favor. But it should be observed,
1. That as on the one hand, all that is said in this epistle, to that church in general, is not to be applied to every member in particular; as that they had received the Spirit through the hearing of faith, were all the children of God, and the like; so, on the other hand, it is not to be thought that all of them were fallen from grace, but only whosoever of them were justified by the law, that is, who sought for justification by the, works of it; so that they were not the same individual persons who fell, to whom the best characters in the epistle belong.
2. The grace from whence they fell was not the grace and favor of God in his own heart towards them, nor any grace of God wrought in their hearts; but the doctrine of grace, particularly that of justification by the grace of God, through the righteousness of Christ, which they had formerly professed, but were now going off from it, and embracing the doctrine of justification by works.
IV. To this head of instances of apostasy are referred the predictions of the Scripture concerning persons who should fall away; such as,
1. The words of our Lord, in Matthew 24:12, 13, are thought to be, because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold; but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Now these many are either hypocrites and formal professors, liable to be deceived by false teachers, verse 11, and so not the elect of God, who cannot be seduced (v. 24), and their love is no other than a flashy zeal for religion, which in time, through the subtlety of false teachers, the corruptions of men, and persecutions of the world, abates, waxes cold, and at last disappears, and so no instance of the falling away of the saints; or else these many are true believers whose love to Christ, though it may wax cold in bad times, yet shall not be lost even as the church at Ephesus left, abated in the fervency of her first love, though she did not lose it; which, though a proof of declension, yet not of final and total apostasy.
2. The words of the apostle Paul, in 1 Timothy 4:1, are produced for the same purpose; Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith; but this is to be understood, not of a falling away from the true grace of God, but of a departure from the doctrine of faith; since it follows, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats; which manifestly point at the general falling away (2 Thess. 2:3) from the truths of the gospel, when the man of sin, and son of perdition, the Pope of Rome, was revealed.
V. This would be a proper place to consider the instances of David, Solomon, Peter, Demas, and others, who are usually alleged as proofs of the saints’ apostasy; but these are not mentioned by the celebrated writer I chiefly attend to. However, I shall just observe, that as to David, though, by his fall, his bones were broken, and the joy of salvation was gone, yet his salvation was safe and secure; and though the graces of the Spirit might lie unexercised by him, yet the Spirit itself, was not taken from him, as appears from his own words, when most sensible of his case: Take not thy Holy Spirit from me; restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit (Ps, 51:11, 12). As for Solomon, though his backsliding was great, and attended with aggravating circumstances, yet it does not appear to be total, from some qualifying expressions in the account of it; as, that his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father; and that he went not fully after the Lord as did David his father (1 Kings 11:4, 6); nor was it final; which is not reasonable to suppose of one who was so eminent a type of Christ: and besides would be contrary to the promise God made concerning him, saying, I will be his father, and he shall be my son: If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men but my mercy shall not depart away from him (2 Sam. 7:14, 15); Besides, he had repentance for his sins, and the book of Ecclesiastes was penned by him in his old age, as an acknowledgment and retraction of his former follies: and after his death, some persons are spoken of with a commendation for walking in the way of David and Solomon (2 Chron. 11:17). As for Peter, his fall was not total; Christ prayed for him, that his faith failed not; nor final, for he was quickly restored by repentance. And as for Demas, who, very probably, was a good man, since he is mentioned with such who were so, Colossians 4:14, Philemon 4:24; what the apostle says of him (2 Tim. 4:10), as that he had forsaken him, having loved this present world, is not sufficient to prove him an apostate, any more than Mark’s departure from Paul, as others at Pamphylia; or that too much love of the world, which is to be observed in many otherwise valuable good men, would prove them to be so; however, these instances are recorded in Scripture for our admonition; that he that thinks he stands, should take heed lest he fall.
 Vide Remonstr. in Coll. Hag. art. 5 p. 17; Act. Synod. p. 266; Limborch, 50:5. c. 82, sect. 15, p. 716.
 Whitby, p. 411,412; ed. 2. 402.
 The Septuagint render the Hebrew word µam, by it in Job 34:33, Jeremiah 2:37, Hosea 4:6, and elsewhere, and also the word l[g, in Ezekiel 16:45; both which signify to refuse or reject any thing with loathsomeness and contempt.
 Whitby, p. 513; ed. 2. 403.
 Whitby, p. 413, 414, 440; ed. 2. 403, 404, 428.
 Remonstr. in Coll. Hag. art. 2:p. 134; Act. Synod. circa art. 2:p. 321, etc.; Curcellaes, p. 364; Limborch, p. 332; Whitby, p. 29, 30, 74. 120, 121; ed. 2. 29, 30, 33, 117, 118.