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TH E Apostle towards the close of the former chapter, sharply reproves these believing Hebrews., for their Jlothfulness in following after, negligence in hearing, and dulness in apprehending that great salvation of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord: And because they had spent much time already, and made but little progress in the knowledge of Christ; he now counsels them (leaving five. first principles or rudiments of the doctrine of Christ) to advance, and press forward unto a further knowledge of Christ, and practical conformity to his example; to the end
that that they might be confirmed and established: Yea, he urges and stirs them up to make a continual progress therein; that being strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus, and abounding in their love one towards another, and towards all men; they, as Christians, might arrive to their full stature, even to a full assurance of hope unto the end: And hence he saith, Let us go on unto perfection.
The perfection of Christians, is without all dispute a Scripture doctrine, the right know ledge of which is of great importance to the disciples of Christ; especially as there have been so many palpable mistakes and dangerous errors advanced under the name and notion of perfection, that some persons seem to abhor the very name itself, as if there was no such thing: altho' the Scripture very clearly, fully, and particularly speaks of it. I (hall theresore attempt, by divine assistance, to explain this much controverted and important doctrine.— And,
First; I shall endeavour to settle the meaning of the word perfection.
Seconds ; Shew wherein the perfection of a Christian doth properly consist.
Third/y; Point out some of the principal mistakes and errors concerning it: And, I Lastly; Conclude with an application.
First then, I am to explain the word perfection:
This word, when applied to a race., engagement, -work, or building, means the finishing, or end of a thing.—Thus Paul counted his life not dear unto himself if he might but finish his course with joy; and when he was ready to be offered up, he laid, 1 bave finished, that is, perfected * my course f :— Thus Christ also, a little before he suffered, faith to the Father, 1 have finished the work wbkb thou gaveft me to do:—And Moses, speaking of the salvation of God, faith •, bis work is perfecl: For, as Solomon testifies, Whatsoever Cod doth shall be for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor can any thing be taken from it: For that which is properly and absolutely perfect, admits of no addition whatsoever. Therefore when Christ upon the cross had received the vinegar that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, he said // is finished, and bowing his head he gave up the Ghost: And thus likewise in th» days of the seventh angel's sounding, he assures us, that the mystery of God shall be finished.
But this word is not only used in a good but also in a bad sense, for that which is finished i$ perfect; whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto life: When the iniquity of the Amorites was full, they were given up to destruction; and when the Jews had filled up the measure of their sin, they were destroyed without mercy: In
• Tirifeca. f Compare Acts xx. 24. with 2 Tim. iv. 7.
which sense the'Apostle James assures us, that fin
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The Greek word for perfection in some passages of
godliness, he is then said to be pafecl, thoroughly furnished unto all good works*. This is a minister's compleatness or perfection, for the thorough performance of the work of the ministry in all things unto the glory of God; and the salvation of them that hear him: And the special means of his being furnished with this grace and knowledge, is by diligently searching and regarding the pure word of God; for this man shall be blessed in his deed.—The fame word is also used to denote the complete fitting up, or uniting together of the vessels of wrath prepared for dcjli ullion -f-, as of several members compacted together, and fitly placed in one body: For verily they go hand in hand in iniquity, and are confederate together against God and his Christ-, and therefore it is meet that they should be punished, and perish together, for God is just. ■
Secondly ; I proposed to shew wherein the perfection of a Christian, that is, of each believer in particular as a member of Christ, doth properly con* fist.
From the Scripture I think it plainly appears that a Christian is therein said to be perfect in three respects:
1. He is perfect in sincerity:
2. He is perfect in parts :—And,
3. He is perfect in degree
M m And,
• z Tim. iii. 17. t Rom. ix. 2*.