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2. Those who are conflicting with their spiritual enemies
[Much has already been spoken to you both in a way of caution and direction: we beg leave to add a word of encouragement. The thing against which you are chiefly guarded, is unbelief; because that is the true source of all apostasy. We now would say, Be strong in faith, giving glory to God. "Faith is the shield wherewith you are to quench the fiery darts" of your enemies. Only believe; and Omnipotence will come to your support. Only believe; and you shall experience "the mighty working of his power, who raised Christ from the dead." Commit yourself to him "who is able to keep you from falling; and he will present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."]
CANAAN TYPICAL OF THE BELIEVER'S SPIRITUAL AND
Heb. iv. 1. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
THE histories of the Old Testament are very instructive to us. The divine interpositions, as well in a way of judgment as of mercy, shew us what to expect from God. The Apostle has been recording the destruction of the Jews in the wilderness: and from thence he takes occasion to urge us to holy fear and diligence
I. What is that rest which God has promised usThe rest promised to the Israelites was the land of Canaan but the Israelites had already for many hundred years possessed that land. The rest therefore, which David speaks of as yet future, must be a rest, of which Canaan was only a type or shadowIt includes,
1. A present rest in Christ
a 1 Cor. x. 11.
b Heb. iii.
[A soul ignorant of Christ, can have no rest; but "by believing in Christ it has peace with God:" this is that rest which our Saviour promises to troubled souls.]
2. A future rest in heaven
[The rest of the soul is never perfect in this life: tribulations are the way through which we are all to pass; but in heaven our happiness will be complete: that therefore must be the rest in which our labours shall terminated.]
Of this rest God has left us a promise in his word—
[It is called his, because he has prepared it for us from the beginning: it is his also, inasmuch as it is the gift of his sovereign grace: it is his moreover, as enjoyed in and with him; nor has he only revealed it as an object worthy our pursuit, but promised it to every penitent and believing sinner.] It becomes us then to inquire,
II. What effect the promise of this rest should have upon us?
The news of any great and unexpected acquisition immediately produces strong emotions in our minds. The prospect therefore of present and eternal rest should surely excite much solicitude respecting it—
[We should endeavour to ascertain our title to it: we should fear lest by any means we be deprived of it; nor should we account any thing too much to do in order to obtain it: our vigilance and zeal should be proportioned to its value.]
The danger of coming short of it should increase our diligence in the pursuit of it
[Of six hundred thousand that came out of Egypt, only two entered into Canaan: the others "could not enter in by reason of their unbelief." And how much unbelief is there in our hearts! Yet, if we live under its power, we in vain hope for this rest: nor will the numbers of those, who are so circumstanced, afford security to us, any more than it did to those who perished in the wilderness. Surely then we should "fear lest we perish after their example."]
The misery of coming short of it should also stimulate our exertions
[There is no intermediate state between heaven and hell; nor will there be any other state of probation afforded us. They who rest not in Christ, can never know solid peace in
c Matt. xi. 28.
d Rev. xiv. 13.
e Acts ii. 39.
this world; nor will they experience any thing but tribulation. to all eternity: there will be an impassable gulf between them and heaven. What fear and caution should this thought excite !]
We should fear lest we even of it
66 seem" to come short
[To be in suspense about our eternal state is dreadful: God's honour, as well as our happiness, is affected by it. We should seek to be "always triumphing in Christ," and at last to have "an abundant entrance into his kingdom."]
1. To those who have no fears about their souls
[Your rest, such as it is, is by no means to be desired: it will soon vanish in the prospect of death and judgment, and it will speedily terminate in everlasting woe. Seek then the true rest, while yet it may be found: seek it in Christ, who alone can impart it to you; nor doubt but that it will abundantly recompense your labours.]
2. To those who are filled with slavish fears
[These are not fears which you ought to entertain: they are calculated to rob you of the heavenly rest, rather than to bring you into it. The fear you should cultivate, is a jealous and watchful fear: to live under the influence of this, is to be truly blessed this well consists with even a present rest in the Lord Jesus. Lay hold then on the promise which is left you in the Gospel, and expect that "He who has promised will also perform:" they "who trust in the Lord, shall never be confounded."]
3. To those who maintain a godly fear and jealousy
[Disputes about the doctrine of perseverance are unprofitable and vain; but to unite a jealousy over ourselves with a confidence in God, will guard us against mistakes on either hand. Go on then in this good way, in which there is no danger of error or excess: thus will your soul be kept at an equal distance from presumption and despondency, and the attainment of your rest be perfectly secured.]
f 2 Thess. i. 8, 9. Rev. xiv. 10, 11.
g Prov. xxviii. 14.
THE REASON WHY MEN ARE SO LITTLE PROFITED BY
Heb. iv. 2. Unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
IN these words there is a peculiarity of expression, which, till it is explained, seems almost unaccountable. Had the Apostle said that the Gospel was preached unto the Jews, as well as unto us, it would have been intelligible enough: but the text, as it stands, seems to give the preference to them, as if they had enjoyed a pre-eminent display of God's favour, and a clearer revelation of his will than ourselves. But the true meaning of the Apostle will appear from a due attention to the context. The Apostle is shewing the superiority of Christ to Moses, Moses being a servant only in God's house, but Christ being a Son and Lord over his own house. "That house are we," says he, "if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of our hope, firm unto the end." To impress this idea the more strongly on our minds, he, in the language of David, urges us to guard against a departure from God, lest, like the Israelites of old, we provoke God to cut us off from his promised rest. But, regarding the very passage which he quotes as needing some explanation, since, though all the adults who came out of Egypt perished in the wilderness, their children did enjoy the promised rest, he intimates, that the very expression of David shewed that Canaan was only a shadow of the rest promised to Israel, and that the true rest was common to all the children of Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles. Of this rest he exhorts us not to come short for that the promise relating to it belonged to us as much as to the Jews in the time of Moses and, as they came short of it in consequence
a Heb. iii. 6.
of their unbelief, so shall we, if we mix not faith with the truths we hear.
Now this view of the Apostle's words limits the term "Gospel" to that which alone is mentioned in the context, the promised rest. Hence, to compare the Gospel, as revealed to the Jews by Moses and the Prophets, with that which is revealed to us by Christ and his Apostles in a general view, would be beside the proper scope of our text. It would be profitable indeed to see how the moral law shuts us up to Christ, and how the ceremonial law shadows forth his work and offices; and how the Prophets also declare the fulness and excellency of his salvation; or, in the words of the Apostle, how "the righteousness which is by faith in Christ is witnessed by the Law and the Prophets" but we prefer confining our views to the precise idea that was in the Apostle's mind, because we then have more clearly the mind of the Holy Ghost. This then we shall do, whilst we endeavour to shew,
I. What is that Gospel which is preached to us in common with the Jews
To the Jews were sent "the glad tidings" of a promised rest
[The promise given them included three things, deliverance, preservation, rest; deliverance from Egypt, preservation in the wilderness, and rest in Canaan. Their deliverance was to be by the blood of the paschal lamb, which, being sprinkled on their door-posts, was to protect them from the sword of the destroying angel, whilst all the first-born of Egypt were slain. That it was which burst their bands asunder, and caused their former masters not merely to liberate them from their bondage, but to thrust them out from amongst them: and from that time they were in all future ages to kill and eat the paschal lamb in remembrance of that great deliverance. From thenceforth, committing themselves to the Divine guidance and protection, they were to subsist entirely on the manna given. them from the clouds, and on the water that issued from the rock. At the expiration of the time appointed for their sojourning in the wilderness, they were to enter into Canaan, there to serve and enjoy God as their God to the latest generations.
b Rom. iii. 21, 22.