Hardened by Sin

For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
~ Romans 11:21

Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
~ Acts 11:23

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
~ Hebrews 3:7-8

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
~ Proverbs 28:26

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
~ James 1:14

He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
~ Isaiah 44:20

The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
~ Obadiah 1:3

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
~ Hebrews 3:1

Exposition of Hebrews 3:12-14, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from his work.

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 To day; 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 stedfast unto the end;
~ Hebrews 3:12-14

Obs. 1. There is need of great care, heedfulness, watchfulness, and circumspection, for a due continuance in our profession, to the glory of God and advantage of our own souls. A careless profession will issue in apostasy open or secret, or great distress, Matthew 13:5-6, Song of Solomon 3:1; Song of Solomon 3:5. Our course is a warfare; and those who take not heed, who are not circumspect in war, will assuredly be a prey to their enemies. Be their strength never so great, one time or other they will not avoid a fatal surprisal.

And there is a necessity of this heedful attendance in us, from the manifold duties that, in all things and at all times, are incumbent on us. Our whole life is a life of duty and obedience. God is in every thing to be regarded by us. So that we are to be attentive unto our duty on all occasions, Psalms 16:8; Genesis 17:1. If we fail in matter or manner, what lies in us we spoil the whole; for “bonum oritur ex integris, malum ex quolibet defectu.” Any one defect is enough to denominate an action evil; but unto that which is good there must be a concurrence of all necessary circumstances. See Ephesians 5:15-16. And who is sufficient for these things? God alone by his Spirit and grace can enable us hereunto. But he works these things by us as well as in us, and gives heedful diligence where he gives success.

But it is with especial reference unto difficulty, oppositions, dangers, temptations, that this caution is here given us to be cautious. And who can reckon up the number or dispose into order these things, and that whether we consider those that constantly attend us or thee that are occasional? Among oppositions, snares, and dangers, that we are constantly exposed unto, and which without heedfulness we cannot avoid, the apostle here instanceth in one, namely, that of “an evil heart of unbelief,” which must be spoken unto. And he giveth an instance in those that are occasional, Ephesians 5:15-16, “Walk circumspectly,… because the days are evil.” There is an especial evil in the days wherein we live, which we cannot avoid without great circumspection. Now this taking heed consisteth,

(1.) In a due consideration of our danger. He that walks the midst of mares and serpents, and goes on confidently, without consideration of his danger, as if his paths were all smooth and safe, will one time or other be entangled or bitten. Blind confidence in a course of profession, as if the whole of it were a dangerless road, is a ruining principle, 1 Peter 1:17; Proverbs 28:14; “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished,” Proverbs 22:3. It is the highest folly not to look out after dangers, and which usually ends in sorrow, trouble, and punishment. Fear is necessary in continual exercise; not a fear of distrust or diffidence, of anxious scrupulosity, but of care, duty, and diligence. Continually to fear dangers in all things, brings a useless, perplexing scrupulosity, where men’s principle of duty is only a harassed, convinced conscience, and the rule of it is the doctrines and traditions of men. But where the principle of it is the Spirit of grace, with all this fear there is liberty; and where the rule of it is the Word, there is safety, peace, and stability. Men at sea that are in the midst of rocks and shelves, and consider it not, will hardly avoid a shipwreck. Livy tells us that Philopoemen, that wary Grecian commander, wherever he went, though he were alone, he was still considering all places that he pained by, how an enemy might possess them and lay ambushes in them to his disadvantage, if he should command an army in those places. Hereby he became the most wary and expert captain of his age. So should a Christian do: he should always consider how, where, by what means, his spiritual adversaries may ensnare or engage him, and so either avoid them or oppose them; and not be like the simple, pass on heedlessly and be punished, Ephesians 6:11-12, etc.

(2.) In a due consideration of the especial nature of those and dangers that we are exposed unto. It is not enough that in general we know and reckon on it that we are obnoxious unto dangers, but we must learn what are the especial dangers, as things are circumstanced in our lives, callings, ways, times, and seasons, that are apt easily to beset us. To know and continually ponder their nature and advantages, this is wisdom, the greatest wisdom we can exercise in the whole course of our walking and profession, 1 Peter 5:8. He that takes heed in this will not likely fail in any other instance. But here custom, security, false-pleasing, confidence of our own strength, negligence, and sloth, all put in to delude us And if we are here imposed on, that we weigh not aright the nature and efficacy of our own peculiar snares and temptations, we assuredly at one time or another fail and miscarry in the course of our obedience. This was David’s wisdom when “he kept himself from his own iniquity,” Psalms 18:23. God would have us cast all our care about earthly things on him, but be watchful ourselves, through his grace, about spiritual. But we are apt to fail on both hands.

(3.) It is so to heed them as to endeavor to avoid them, and that in all their occasions, causes, and advantages, in their whole work and efficacy. We are not only to consider them when they assault us, but to watch against all ways whereby they may so do. This is the duty of a man that stands armed on his guard. He is very regardless of his enemy who never seeks to avoid him but when he sees him or feels him. Men will consider the lion’s walk, so as not without good means of defense to be found in it. The lion is in all the especial oppositions we are exercised with. We had need continually to be “fenced with iron and the staff of a spear,” as 2 Samuel 23:7, and yet to avoid them what we are able. God expresseth his great dislike of them that “walk contrary, to him,” as we have rendered the words, Leviticus 26:21, וְאִם תֵּלְכוּ עִמִּי קֶרִי ; ‘If you walk with me at a peradventure, or at all adventures, carelessly, negligently, without due consideration of your duty and your danger,’ this God will not bear.

(4.) Consider them so as to oppose them. And this consisteth in these things:

1st. In being always ready armed and standing on your guard, Ephesians 6:13; Mar 13:37 ; 2 Samuel 23:7.

2dly. In calling in help and assistance, Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:16.

3dly. In improving the supplies granted us with faith and diligence, Hebrews 12:0.

And these are some of the things that belong unto this duty; and they are but some of them, for it is diffused through the whole course of our profession, and is indispensably required of us, if we would abide in the beauty and glory of it unto the end. And therefore the negligence and sloth of many professors can never enough be bewailed. They walk at all adventure, as if there were no devil to tempt them, no world to seduce, ensnare, or oppose them, no treachery in their own hearts to deceive them. And hence it is that many are sick, and many are weak, and some are fallen asleep in sin. But what our Savior said to all of old, he says still to us all, “Watch,” Mark 13:37.

(2.) There are the persons concerned in this duty, Μή ποτε ἔσται ἔν τινι ὑμῶν , “Lest there be in any of you.” Μή ποτε is somewhat more emphatical than the “lest,” whereby alone we render it. “Ne forte,” say some translations, “Lest perchance,” with respect unto a dubious event. Others,” quando,” “Lest there be at any time,” “lest so, that there should be,” ἔν τινι ὑμῶν , “in any of you.” The apostle doth not seem in these words strictly to intend every individual person, as if he had said, ‘ Let every one of you look to himself and his own heart, lest it be so with him;’but he speaks unto them collectively, to take care that there be none such amongst them, that none be found amongst them with such a heart as he cautions them against. And this, consequently, falls on every individual; for where all are spoken unto, every one is concerned. The same kind of expression is used to the same purpose, Hebrews 12:15-16, ᾿Επισκοποῦντες μή τις ὑστερῶν , “Watching,” overseeing mutually, “with diligence, lest any” among you “fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau.” Here the caution is evidently given unto the whole church, and the duty of the whole is expressed thereon. So is it likewise in this place, as appears from the direction that he gives for the right performance of this duty, in and by mutual watchfulness and exhortation, in the next verse. This, then, is proposed,

(1.) To the whole church, to the whole society, and consequentially to every member thereof; so that we may hence observe,

Obs. 2. Godly jealousy concerning, and watchfulness over the whole body, that no beginnings of backsliding from Christ and the gospel be found amongst them, is the duty of all churches of believers.

He that first put in an exception to this rule was the first apostate from God, who did it to cover a former sin. הַשֹׁמֵר אָחִי אָנֹכִיּ says Cain, Genesis 4:9, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” ‘Is it my duty to look after him, to take care of him, or what becomes of him?’God proposed the question so unto him as it was apt in its own nature to lead him to confession and repentance. But he was now hardened in sin, and having quarrelled with God and slain his brother, he now casts off all the remaining dictates of the law of nature, accounting that one brother is not bound to take care of the welfare of another. Mutual watchfulness over one another by persons in any society is a prime dictate of the law of our creation, which was first rejected by this first murderer; and every neglect of it hath something of murder in it, 1 John 3:11-12; 1 John 3:15. In a church relation the obligation unto this duty is ratified by institution. Upon the officers of the church it is incumbent by the way of office; on all believers, as members of the church, in a way of love: Leviticus 19:17, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.” He that doth not watch over his brother to prevent his sin, or recover him from it, as much as lies in him, he hates him, and is so far a murderer. And the necessity of this duty is expressed in the word used to declare it, and the manner of its usage: הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ “rebuking thou shalt rebuke him;” that is, plainly and effectually, and that with such rebukes as consist in arguings, reasonings, and pleadings, to bring on a conviction. So the word signifies, and is used as to the pleadings or reasonings of men with God to prevail with him: Job 13:3, “Surely I would speak to the Almighty, I desire הוֹכֵחַ אֶלאּאֵל ,” “to reason” (argue, plead) “with God, until I can prevail with him.” And it is used of God’s pleading with men, to bring them to conviction, Isaiah 1:18, וְנִוָּכְחָה לְכואּנָא “Go to” (or “come now”), “and let us plead together.” So that an effectual dealing with a brother about sin is included. And this is enforced in the latter clause of the words, חֵטְא וְלִאֹאּתִשָּׁא עָלָיו ; which may well be rendered, “And thou shalt not bear iniquity for him,” that is, make thyself guilty of his sin, by not reproving him. And for that jealousy which is to accompany this watchfulness, and the effects of it, our apostle gives in an example in himself, 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy:… for I fear,” ( μή πως , as here μή ποτε ,) “lest by any means… your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” This belongs to their watch, as they watch for the souls of their people, “as they who must give account,” Hebrews 13:17. The discharge of this duty will be required of them on the account of their office, and that when, I fear, some will be hard put to it for an answer. For the Scripture is full of threatenings and denunciations of sore judgments against those that shall be found neglective herein.