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men's exertions in the pursuit of them: and though the Disposer of all events sees fit, on some occasions, to vary his dispensations, loading the slothful with opulence, and suffering the industrious to be in want, yet for the most part we behold diligence rewarded, and indolence put to shame. In spiritual things none are disappointed ; labour is invariably attended with success: no one asks without receiving, or seeks without finding : God uniformly shews himself a rewarder of such as diligently seek him. “To him that studies to improve his talent, more is uniformly given; and he is made to possess abundance.” The experience of the saints in all ages fully corresponds with this. No one ever suffered loss, but in consequence of his own remissness : nor did ever any one devote himself unfeignedly to God, without receiving grace sufficient in the time of need. The author of this epistle confirms these observations: for, having spoken of those who apostatize from the truth, he tells the Hebrews, that he was persuaded better things of them, and things that accompany salvation; for that they were active in every labour of love; which was to him a convincing evidence of their conversion to God. He then takes occasion to exhort them all to use the same diligence; and recommends them, if they would possess an assurance of hope, and enjoy it to the end, to press forward in the way which the patriarchal saints had trodden with such success.
In his words we see,
I. A caution
There is scarcely any evil more universally prevalent than spiritual sloth
(In worldly concerns, sloth is often overcome by the force and influence of other propensities: the predominant affection of the mind, whatever it be, will often gain such an ascendency, as to subdue the workings of less powerful corruptions: yea, to such a degree will interest or ambition lead us to mortify our love of ease, that we shall scarcely be sensible of the existence of sloth in our hearts. But, when once we turn our attention
to spiritual things, this evil disposition will discover itself, and prove, that notwithstanding it has hitherto been concealed from our view, it had taken deep root in our souls. In temporal things, our exertions are all on the side of nature. And, though we may feel some reluctance from contrary principles within us, we shall on the whole not find it so difficult to surmount their opposition. But, in spiritual things, we do not advance one step without conquering the united force of all our natural inclinations. Hence the evil, against which the Apostle cautions us, extends its empire over the whole world, and is to be resisted by every individual of mankind.]
As Christians, we have very abundant reason to mortify and subdue it1. It is repugnant to our duty
[A life of godliness is represented as a race, and a warfare, in order to convey to us some idea of the activity and perseverance necessary for a right discharge of our duty. Do persons a race find time to loiter? Have they their attention diverted by every trifle around them? Do they not press forward with unremitting ardour, and exert themselves the more as they approach the goal? Do they not bear in mind the prize, and strain every nerve to gain it? Look at those who are engaged in war, and arrived upon the field of battle ; do they indulge security? Do they not watch the motions of the enemy, and animate one another to the combat, and endure almost insupportable fatigues, and expose themselves to the most imminent dangers, to defeat their enemies? If these then be fit images to represent the Christian's duty, what must we think of sloth? What propriety is there in these images, as applied to those who live regardless of eternity ? Surely they rather form the strongest contrast to the whole life and conduct of such persons.] 2. It is inconsistent with our profession
[Every one who calls himself a Christian professes to value his soul, to serve his God, to be seeking heaven. But what value has he for his soul, who prefers every vanity before it, and cannot be prevailed upon to seek its interests? What regard has he for God, who will not put forth all his powers to please and honour him? What desire after heaven has he, who will not renounce his sins, and fulfil his duties to secure it? And how absurd is it to call ourselves Christians, when the whole of our conduct so flagrantly contradicts our profession!] 3. It is subversive of our welfare
[Let the effects of sloth be viewed in those, who, in the judgment of charity, are not altogether destitute of true religion : how little victory have they over the world and their own corruptions, in comparison of what is attained by more diligent Christians! How little do they know of heavenly consolations! For the most part they are full of doubts and fears; and instead of enjoying that peace which passeth all understanding, they are harassed with the accusations of a guilty conscience. Their lamps being but seldom trimmed, they afford but a dim light to the world around them, and experience but little of the light of God's countenance in their souls. Moreover, at the close of their day, they frequently set as the sun behind a cloud; and instead of having abundant entrance into the kingdom of their Lord,” they leave the world, uncertain whither they are going, and what shall be the issue of the future judgment. If we inquire into the cause of all this, we shall find it was sloth: they too often slumbered and slept, when they should have been watching unto prayer with all perseverance. If such then be the effects of sloth, where it gains only an occasional ascendency, what must be the consequence of an habitual subjection to its dominion? Alas! its willing captives can expect nothing, but to perish under the wrath of an offended God]
Having given us this salutary caution, the Apostle
II. What line we should pursue
He proposes to our imitation the patriarchs and saints of oldThese are described as “ inheriting the promises”.
[They had not indeed received the promised Messiah, having died long before he came into the world; but they had partaken in all the fruits and benefits, which he was in due time to purchase with his blood. When on earth, they, like minors, had enjoyed as much of the inheritance as had been judged proper for them; but now they were of full age, and had attained the full possession of all the promises : having been adopted into the family of God, and been begotten by his word and Spirit, they were heirs of God, and had God himself, together with all the glory of heaven, as their unalienable portion.]
The way by which they attained to this inheritance was “by faith and patience"
[They had no claim whatever to it upon the ground of their own merit: they all looked to that “ Lamb of God that was slain from the foundation of the world.” They all lived and “ died in faith.” “ To their faith they added patience.' They, no doubt, as well as we, had “ fightings without, and fears within ;” and sustained many sore conflicts, both with the world around them, and with their own hearts. But they “ran their race with patience,” and “ endured unto the end."]
a Matt. xxv. 26.
b Heb. xi. 39.
These therefore we should propose to ourselves as patterns.
We should imitate, 1. Their faith
[If we begin not here, we can never stir one step in the way to heaven.
We must “ have like precious faith with them,” renouncing all dependence on ourselves, and "making Christ our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption."] 2. Their patience
["' If we set ourselves to seek the Lord, we must prepare our hearts for temptation.” Cain and Ishmael have their followers in every age. We must not be offended and turn aside on account of persecution, but must “possess our souls in patience.” Nor must the love of this present world, or the difficulties of our spiritual warfare, be permitted to divert us from the path of duty: having "put our hand to the plough, we must never look back," " lest, having a promise left us of entering into God's rest, we should come short of it" at last.] 3. Their diligence
[It is in this view more especially that we are called to follow them; “ Be not slothful, but imitate them.” Even those amongst them, who, like Moses and David, had a kingdom to govern, were yet exceeding diligent in every duty of religion, devoting themselves entirely to the service of their God. Let us then tread in their steps: let us " walk, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Let us “give all diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end ;” and “whatever our hand findeth to do, let us do it with all our might."] If any motives be wanting to enforce the Apostle's
advice, consider further, 1. The effects of diligence in this life
[The more earnest we are in serving God, the more will our hearts be comforted, our fellow-creatures benefited, and God glorified. Let us place ourselves more especially on a death-bed, and look back from thence, not with pride and selfcomplacency, but with gratitude and thanksgiving, on a life devoted to God: and let us contrast our state with that of one who has never done any thing but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, or one, who, though on the whole, pious, has filled his dying pillow with thorns by his remissness; and surely we shall want no other motive to fight a good fight, and war a good warfare.] 2. The consequences of it in the world to come
[There can be no doubt but that the greater our labour here, the richer will be our reward hereafter: and “ one star will differ widely from another star in glory.” It is true, the most eminent saint might well be satisfied, and magnify the Divine goodness, if he be admitted to the lowest place in God's kingdom: but if our capacity for happiness will be enlarged by all that we do for God, and every man will be filled according to his capacity, should we not be encouraged to exert ourselves? Should we not " forget what is behind, and reach forward unto that which is before ?" Should we be contented to suffer loss in heaven, merely because we do not lose heaven altogether? “ Let us look to ourselves then, that we lose not the things that we have wrought, but that we receive a full rewarda."] c 1 Cor. iii. 15.
d 2 John, ver. 8.
THE CITY OF REFUGE.
Heb. vi. 17, 18. God, willing more abundantly to shew unto
the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath : that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.
THE multiplying of oaths is a dreadful snare to the consciences of men ; and a light method of administering and of taking them is amongst the most heinous of our national sins. But they run to a contrary extreme who affirm all oaths to be sinful: on many occasions they were prescribed to the Jews by God himself: the most eminent saints also, under the Christian dispensation, as well as under that of the Jews, have, on many occasions, appealed in the most solemn manner unto God. In the passage before us