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 unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves
the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
This scripture is often used to contradict the final perseverance of the saints: and it is said, that "The doctrine of the possibility of the final departure of true believers and penitents from the faith, is fully contained in these words; that it is evident they are spoken of such from the word fwtiaqe>ntev, enlightened, used by the same apostle, speaking to the same persons, in Hebrews 10:32, who were so enlightened as to know they had an inheritance in heaven; and from the words, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, which imply, that they had once truly repented, and were once truly in that state to which they were to be renewed, and their loss of it; and that these must fall totally and finally, because the apostle does pronounce it a thing impossible to renew them to repentance, and, on this account, that they crucified to themselves afresh the Son of God, and put him to an open shame. But,
1. Admitting that these words are spoken of true believers, they will bear such a version and sense as will be so far from furnishing out an argument against the saints’ perseverance that they will conclude one for it; for they may be rendered thus: it is impossible that there should be any who have been once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, parape>sontav, and yet all away, that is, it is impossible that such should fall away; agreeable to which is the Syriac version of the words, it is impossible, etc,. ˆfjn bwtd, that they should sin again, so as to die spiritually, or lose the grace of God, and stand in need of a new work of grace upon them, which would require the crucifying of Christ again, and a re-exposing him to public shame which latter things are impossible; and, therefore, the former, namely, that they should sin in such a manner; for, according to this version, the several other things mentioned, are connected with the word impossible, as it is impossible that they should be renewed again to repentance, that they should again crucify the Son of God, and put him to shame. This sense of the words is also confirmed by the Arabic version. Moreover, should we read the words, if they fall away, they do but at most contain a supposition of the saints falling; et suppositionil ponit in esse, a supposition puts nothing in being, proves no matter of fact; nor can it be concluded from hence that any such have fallen away, and are, at most, only expressive of the danger they are in, and of the difficulty of restoring them when fallen even partially; a total and final falling away being prevented by the grace and power of God.
2. It is not evident, from the characters of those persons, that they were true believers; they are said to be once enlightened, which some understand of their being once baptized; and it is certain, that fw>tismov and fw>tisma, illumination, were used by the ancients for baptism, and fwtizo>menoi, enlightened once, for baptized persons; accordingly, the Syriac version reads the words thus, who once atydwm[ml wtjn have descended into baptism, the Ethiopic, after they are baptized; and it will not be denied that some such, as Simon Magus, may totally and finally fall away; but not to insist on this sense of the words. There are two sorts of enlightened persons, some who are savingly enlightened by the Spirit of God, to see their lost state and condition, their need of salvation by Christ, and their interest in it, who shall never perish; others are enlightened only into the doctrines of the Gospel, and some to such a degree as to be able to preach them unto others, and yet entirely destitute of the grace of God; and when such fall away, they are no proofs nor instances of the apostasy of real saints. The enlightened persons in Hebrews 10:32, are not the same with these here mentioned; for the believing Hebrews are manifestly distinguished from these (v. 9); But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak; and therefore, though the Hebrews were so enlightened as to know that they had an inheritance in heaven, it does not follow that these were enlightened in the same manner, and so sincere Christians and true believers. They are also said to have tasted of the heavenly gift, by which, whether we understand eternal life, or any of the blessings of grace, as a justifying righteousness, or, with the Greek fathers, a[fesin tw
, the remission of sins; the meaning is, that they had some speculative notions about these things, and some desires after them, arising from a natural principle of self love; or should Christ himself he intended by it, tasting of it, stands opposed to eating his flesh and drinking his blood, which is proper to true believers, who feed upon him, internally receive him, and are nourished by him; while hypocrites, and formal professors, only taste of him, have a superficial knowledge of him, and gust for him. In the same sense are they said to have tasted the good word of God, the Gospel, in the bare form and notion of it, and the powers of the world to come, meaning either the state of the church, and the glorious things relating to it, after the first resurrection, which they might have some notional apprehensions of, or the joys and glories of heaven, on which they might be able to make some natural and pleasing reflections; or rather, the duna>meiv, miracles and mighty works in the former part of the Gospel dispensation, or times of the Messiah, the Jews, akh slw[ world to come, which many, as Judas and others, were able to perform, who were not sincere Christians, nor true believers, and yet might be said to be partakers of the Holy Ghost; not of his person, nor his grace, but of his extraordinary gifts, in which sense not only Dr. Hammond but Dr. Whitby himself, understand the phrase. Now it may be observed, that here is nothing said of these persons but what may be applied to hypocrites, nor any thing that is peculiar to true believers; these are not said to be regenerated, nor sanctified, nor justified, nor adopted, nor sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, all which are true of real saints. Besides, true believers are in the context, manifestly distinguished from them, and are compared to the fruitful earth, when others are only likened to the barren land, verse 8, 9; their case is mentioned with a view to stir up the saints to industry and diligence (vv. 11, 12); and so be the means of their final perseverance, which they had reason to expect and believe, from the immutability of God’s counsel, the safe refuge in Christ, the nature of hope, the anchor sure and steadfast, and the entrance of Christ, their forerunner for them, into heaven (vv. 17-20).
3. The phrase, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, does not imply that they had once truly repented, and their loss of true repentance; that cannot be lost, it is inseparably connected with life and salvation, and therefore is called repentance unto life, and unto salvation. The repentance of these persons, like that of Cain, Pharaoh, and Judas, was only a show of one, a counterfeit one; and consequently, the renewing them again to repentance designs a renovation of them to that which they only seemed to have, and to make pretensions to.
4. It will be granted, that these persons might, and such as these may, fall finally and totally; but inasmuch as it does not appear that they were true penitents and believers, they are not to be mentioned as, nor allowed to be, instances of the final departure of such from the faith.
 Remonstr, in Coll. Hag. art. 5:p. 18; Act. Synod. circ. art. 5:p. 235, etc.; Limborch, p. 710.
 Whitby, p. 404 - 406; ed. 2. 394 - 396.
 Justin Martyr Apolog, 2. p. 94; Clem. Alexandr. Paedagog. 1. 1, c. 6, p. 93.
 In loc.
 Page 211; ed. 2. 206.