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displeasure, this binds them all upon us, and precludes, as long as it is in exercise, all hope and possibility of obtaining mercy. See its operation as marked in our text. Methinks we have here the veil of the invisible world drawn aside. We are in the habit of sending all to heaven; but here we see how few in comparison do really attain the promised rest. Of all the six hundred thousand Israelites that were advanced to manhood, two only were suffered to enter into Canaan. All the rest (with the exception of the Levites) fell short through unbelief. And this is recorded as a warning to us, that we buoy not up ourselves with delusive expectations, in reference to our final state'. We can never alter that word, "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." I entreat you therefore to "mix faith with what you hear" from the infallible records of God's word. Mix faith with it, I say, in the same intimate and influential manner as you mix reason with the deductions of reason. Your reason soon makes you flee from a house that is on fire, and to run to a place of safety from one that seeks your life: let your faith operate in like manner, without delay; stimulating you to flee to Christ for safety, and to lay hold upon the hope that is set before you in the Gospel.]
r 1 Cor. x. 1-6, 11. Jude, ver. 5.
THE REST THAT REMAINS FOR GOD'S PEOPLE.
Heb. iv. 9. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
THE servants of God possess many distinguished privileges. Their state in this world is far happier than that of the ungodly; but there is an infinitely richer portion reserved for them hereafter. To this David. had respect in that awful denunciation, whence it appears, that though prefigured by other rests, it remains yet to be enjoyed".
a Ps. xcv. 11.
b The Apostle's argument seems to be this: God instituted a day of rest in commemoration of his having ceased from his works of creation. And many centuries afterwards he promised a rest to his people in the land of Canaan. But that rest was only typical of a more glorious sabbath, of which David spake a long time after the other had been enjoyed. From hence the Apostle concludes that there
I. Who are the people of God?
This title cannot belong to all indiscriminately
[The greater part of the world are idolatrous heathens. The generality of those who are called Christians are ignorant of God. Impiety and profaneness abound in every place: this indisputably proves the Apostle's assertion. The sinful works of men plainly shew whose people they ared; nor do all who "profess godliness" really belong to God. There are many who deceive both themselves and others.]
Those who alone have a right to it are described by God himself".
They "worship God in the Spirit"
[It is the characteristic of God's enemies that they neglect prayer: nor will formal services prove us to be God's people'. No worship is acceptable to him but that which is spiritual. His faithful servants are importunate at the throne of grace'.] They "rejoice in Christ Jesus"—
[They do not merely acknowledge him to be the Messiah: they make daily application to him as the only ground of their hopes. Their hearts are lifted up with devout affection towards him. They delight in him as their all-sufficient Redeemer m.]
They "have no confidence in the flesh"
[They are deeply convinced that "in them dwelleth no good thing." They see the folly of trusting to their own strength or wisdom". They acquiesce fully in Solomon's direction. They look for every thing in Christ alone P.] To these belong many glorious privileges. II. What is the rest which remaineth for them? They have already in some respect entered into
[They are freed from the terrors of a guilty conscience'.
must yet be a rest, or Σαββατισμὸς (for he changes the word which he had before used, in order more strongly to intimate the analogy between the different rests there spoken of) remaining for the people of God.
They feel a delight in ordinances and Sabbaths. Their minds are fully satisfied with the Gospel salvation. They experience the truth of our Lord's promise3 —.]
But the rest which awaits them is far superior to that they now possess
They will enjoy a freedom from all labours and
[They are constrained to labour as long as they are in the world. Their whole life resembles a race or warfare. They can obtain nothing without strenuous exertions: and of necessity they are encompassed with many sorrows". But in heaven they will cease from their labours: nor will their happiness have any intermission or alloy.]
They will be exempt from all influence of sin or temptation
[Sin now defiles their very best services. Satan is also unwearied in his endeavours to corrupt them2. These are sources of much pain to them at present. But the souls of all in heaven are made perfecta: nor can any unclean thing enter to defile them. Their triumph will be complete and everlasting.]
They will dwell in the immediate presence of their God
[Their capacity of enjoying God will be wonderfully enlarged they will behold him not darkly, as now, but face to face. The Saviour's glory will be the object of their devoutest admiration. Their delight in him will surpass their present conceptions. They shall know that their happiness will be eternal. Then will every desire of their heart be fully satisfied.]
1. How desirable is it to be numbered among God's people!
[The rest described is the portion of them alone. God himself declares that the wicked have no part in it: their portion will be very different, and its duration also will be
endless'. Who then would not wish to be numbered with the saints? Who does not desire to participate their inheritance? But we must first be conformed to their character. We must renounce self-confidence, and believe in Christ. It was unbelief which excluded the Israelites from Canaan. Let us fear lest the same evil principle rob us of the heavenly rest".] 2. With what delight may God's people look forward to death!
[The hour of death is often an object of terror to the godly, but it should be welcomed as a season of joy. Does not the husbandman rejoice in his wages, the mariner in his haven, the soldier in the spoils of victory? Much more should the Christian rejoice in the approach of his rest. Let us then long after it, like the holy Apostle°; and let us labour to attain it in full confidence of success P.]
1 Rev. xiv. 11. 。 2 Cor. v. 2.
m Heb. iii. 18, 19.
p 2 Cor. v. 6, 8, 9.
n Heb. iv. 1, 11.
THE WORD OF GOD QUICK AND POWERful.
Heb. iv. 12. The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
THE state of a Christian's mind should be alike distant from slavish fear and from presumptuous confidence. He is authorized to entertain a confidence, because he has Omnipotence for his support, and the veracity of God pledged to supply him with all that is needful for his spiritual welfare. But he has need of fear also; because he is in the midst of temptations, and has a deceitful heart, ever ready to beguile him. In the view of his privileges, he may rejoice but in the view of his dangers, he should tremble. In a word, he should, as David expresses it," rejoice with trembling." This frame of mind is supposed by many to be unsuited to that full liberty into which we are brought under the Christian dispensation. But St. Paul continually inculcates the
necessity of it in order to a safe and upright walk: "Be not high-minded, but fear:" "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." But in no place of Scripture is this mixture of diffidence and affiance more strongly insisted on than in this and the preceding chapters. We are taught the indispensable necessity of " holding fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of hope, firm unto the end;" and yet we are again and again warned by the example of the Israelites, who were excluded from the promised land, lest we also should "fall after the same example of unbelief." It is in this view that the declarations in our text are introduced. There is an abruptness in them which renders the meaning of the Apostle somewhat difficult at first: but when the connecting link is supplied, the sense of the passage is clear, and very important. It speaks to this effect: The Israelites thought they had sufficient grounds for their unbelief; yet it ruined them. You also may be deceived by an evil heart of unbelief: but, however you may vindicate yourselves, that word, which you now disobey, will judge you in the last day; and will both expose your self-delusion, and justify God in passing against you a sentence of exclusion from the promised land.
The scope of the passage being thus explained, we propose to consider,
I. The description here given of the word of God
Many able commentators have given it as their opinion, that, by "the word of God," we are to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, who is frequently called by that name in the Holy Scriptures. But St. Paul never speaks of Christ by that name: nor is there any mention of Christ in the context. On the contrary, the word of revelation is mentioned, as that which the Israelites would not believe; as that also which excluded them from the promised rest; and as that which speaks to us precisely as it did to them".
a Heb. iii. 6.
b ver. 1, 11.
c ver. 2.