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be glorified". Admirable was the lesson which the Jews were taught in the wilderness: if the pillar and the cloud moved for several days and nights together, they continued to follow it and if it was stationary for a year together, they were stationary also. Thus it should be with us: we should move when, and where, and as the Lord prescribes, and in that way alone, to the latest hour of our lives.]
2. Let us endeavour to approve ourselves to him in our respective spheres
[He walked amongst the seven golden candlesticks, the seven Churches of Asia, and declared to each of them, "I know thy works." And still are his eyes as a flame of fire to penetrate the inmost recesses of our hearts. We must not therefore be satisfied with walking irreproachably before men, but must labour to approve ourselves to Him who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins. We must be attentive not to our actions only, but to our motives and principles, that, if possible, every thought may be brought into captivity to his will. We must seek to obtain from God that testimony which he bore to Moses, that we are "faithful in all our house." Let us look to it, that as parents and children, masters and servants, rulers and subjects, we do all that he has required of us. Let us labour to 66 serve him with a perfect heart;" so that in all our commerce with men, and in our secret walk with God, we may have" the witness of his Spirit that we please him";" and may receive from him in the last day that testimony of his approbation, “Well done, good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord."]
3. Let us expect from him all that he has undertaken for us
[Still does he superintend the concerns of his Church: and though he has wrought much for us, yet is there much that yet remains to be done, and much that he has promised to be accomplished. But "his promises are sure to all his seed":" not one of them shall ever fail: nor shall even the least member of his house ever have occasion to complain that he was disappointed of his hope. Joshua's testimony shall be that of all the Church in the last day, that " of all which God has promised, not one thing has failed." Take hold then of his promises, and plead them before him. If they appear too great to be fulfilled," stagger not at them, but hope against hope, and be strong in faith, giving glory to God'.'
P Rom. iv. 16.
tribulations be great, let them not for a moment obstruct your rejoicing in him; but "maintain your glorying firm unto the end." See the utmost desires of a bleeding soul all concentrated in one short prayer; and, for the accomplishment of them, rest not merely on the love and power of Jesus, but on his fidelity: and when you have been praying that the very God of peace would sanctify you wholly, and that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, then add, "Faithful is He that hath called me, who also will do it."]
s 1 Thess. v. 23, 24.
AGAINST DEPARTING FROM GOD.
Heb. iii. 12-14. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.
THE consideration of the fulness and sufficiency of Christ, is that which animates the believer in all his conflicts: yet it is on no account to supersede our own care and watchfulness: on the contrary, it affords us the greatest encouragement to watch, because it ensures success to us in our endeavours, which, without his Almighty aid, would be of no avail. In this view it is that the inspired writer calls us to "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was not merely a servant, like Moses, but a son, the Heir and Lord of all, yea, the very builder of that spiritual house, of which we profess ourselves to be a part." On this truth he grounds the exhortation in the text, in which he suggests,
I. A solemn caution
Difficult as it is to come to God, we find it but too
a All the words between "wherefore," in ver. 7, and the text, are a parenthesis: we must therefore connect the text thus; "Wherefore," "take heed," &c.
easy to depart from him. We should therefore be on our guard,
1. Against any departure from him
[While men are yielding to temptation, and turning aside from the ways of God, they cherish a hope that they may still preserve their interest in his favour, though they be not studious to do his will. But a departure of any kind, whether from the faith or practice of Christianity, is nothing less than a departure from God himself, even from him who is the only source of life and happiness. We cannot therefore be too much on our guard against any secret declensions, which are so dishonourable to him whom we profess to love, and so destructive of our present and eternal welfare.]
2. Against that unbelief from whence all declensions arise
[As faith is that which brings us to God, and keeps us steadfast in our adherence to him, so unbelief separates us from him, and, in proportion as it is harboured, invariably alienates us from the life of God. Whatever be the more immediate object of that unbelief, whether we attempt to lower the strictness of God's precepts, or question the veracity of his promises or threatenings, it proceeds equally from “an evil heart," and brings with it the same pernicious consequences: it is a root of bitterness, which, if it be permitted. to spring up, will cause every devout affection to wither and decay. We must therefore labour to eradicate it, if we would not eat for ever its bitter fruits.]
That his caution may have its due effect, the Apostle prescribes,
II. The means of improving it
Sin is of a deceitful and hardening nature
[When "a backslider in heart" commits a sin, many thoughts will arise in his mind to palliate the evil, and to make him think that it will not be attended with any important consequences. Soon he begins to doubt whether the thing be evil at all; and, ere long, to justify it from the peculiarity of his circumstances. At first he felt some remorse; but presently his conscience becomes less tender, till at last it is altogether seared and callous; so that, notwithstanding he be miserably departed from God, he is regardless of his loss, and insensible of his danger. Who that has ever noticed the workings of his own heart, has not found what a bewitching and besotting thing sin is? yea, who has not often seen reason to bewail its deceitful, hardening effects?]
To guard effectually against it we should watch over each other
[Sin, from the foregoing qualities, naturally hides itself from our view, and renders us inattentive to the means of prevention. But ignorant as we often are of our own spirit, we see clearly enough the defects of others; yea, perhaps we condemn with severity in others the very things which we allow in ourselves. To watch over each other therefore, and to warn each other of those declensions which we either see or apprehend, is a most valuable service; and, if performed with discretion and love, it can scarcely fail of producing the happiest effects. This is a duty to which God has solemnly called us in his word; and it is to be a part of our daily work. Our time for it will be very short: either we or our brother may be speedily removed; and our opportunity of benefiting his soul may be lost for ever. We should exhort one another therefore "daily, while it is called To-day;" and, though it is often an unpleasant office, we should use all fidelity in the execution of it. By this means we may restore a brother before he has relapsed too far, and preserve him from that departure from God, which would otherwise terminate in his destruction.]
Still further to enforce the caution given us, the Apostle adds,
III. A motive to regard it
Our final participation of Christ's benefits depends on our steadfastness in the pursuit of them
[Without entering into the question, whether God have decreed the final perseverance of the saints, we may be fully assured, that none can attain salvation but by persevering in the way of holiness to the end of life: the Scriptures continually speak this language, "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved:' "but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." It is true that believers are already in a measure "partakers of Christ:" but the complete enjoyment of his benefits is reserved for the future life: and we must not only have a scriptural and well-founded confidence at first, but must keep it steadfast even to the end, in order to attain that full possession of our inheritance. You may call yourselves "brethren," and may boast of "your confidence in Christ:" but it is to you, yea, to all of you, that the caution is addressed; and to you I address myself, saying, "Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of c Matt. xxiv. 13. Heb. x. 38.
b Lev. xix. 17.
unbelief," and "lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."]
If any thing can stimulate us to caution, surely this must
[Eternity is at stake, and depends on our present conduct: according as we approve ourselves to the heart-searching God, will our state be fixed for ever. Is it not madness to be remiss and careless under such circumstances? Would any one, who should have reason to think his house were on fire, sit still without endeavouring to find out the latent grounds of his alarm? And shall we know our proneness to unbelief, and not guard against its operation, lest it prevail against us, and lead us to apostasy? Shall we acknowledge the deceitful, hardening nature of sin, and not exhort each other to mortify and subdue it? Surely, if we have the smallest concern for our own souls and the souls of others, we shall not only regard the caution given us in the text, but shall labour to improve it in the way prescribed.]
1. Those who have never come to God at all
[The foregoing subject is in itself applicable to those only who profess religion; but it may be accommodated to those also who make no such profession: for, if they who have come to God are in danger of departing from him, and they who have enjoyed a scriptural confidence, may lose it; if they, who have believed, may "make shipwreck of their faith," and they, who have "begun in the Spirit, may end in the flesh;" if they, who have begun to run well, may be hindered," and they who have "escaped the pollutions of the world, may again be entangled therein and overcome;" and, lastly, if they who "have been enlightened, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, may so fall away as never to be renewed unto repentance;" what must become of those who have never experienced any of these things? Can they be safe? Can they have any scriptural hope of heaven? If the strongest have so much need of caution, and the most circumspect such reason to fear the deceitful, hardening effects of sin, surely the careless have need to tremble, lest they "die in their sins," and "be driven away in their wickedness." If all, except two, of those who came out of Egypt, perished in the wilderness, can they hope to enter into the heavenly Canaan, who have never once come forth from their spiritual bondage? The point is clear; may God enable us to lay it to heart, and to consider it with the attention it deserves!]