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.
~ Hebrews 4:1
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
~ Hebrews 6:11
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
~ Matthew 7:13
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
~ Matthew 11:12
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
~ Matthew 11:28-30
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
~ Hebrews 3:12
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
~ Hebrews 3:18-19
For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
~ Romans 11:30-32
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
~ Ephesians 2:2
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
~ Ephesians 5:6
For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
~ Colossians 3:6
They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
~ Titus 1:16
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
~ Titus 3:3
An Exposition of Hebrews 4:11, by John Owen.
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
~ Hebrews 4:9-13
In this verse we have a return made unto, and an improvement of the principal exhortation which the apostle had before proposed. In the first verse he laid it down in these words, “Let us fear, lest, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Here he declares how that fear there recommended is to act itself, or how it is to be improved and exercised. It appears, therefore, hence, what we observed before, namely, that it was not a fear of dread, terror, or doubting, that might weaken, discourage, or dishearten them, which he enjoined them; but such a reverential respect unto the promises and threatenings of God as might quicken and stir them up unto all diligence in seeking to inherit the one and avoid the other. Here, therefore, the same exhortation is resumed and carried on, and that on sundry suppositions, which he had laid down, explained, and confirmed in his preceding discourse, being all of them effectual enforcements of it. Now these are,
1. That there is a rest promised unto us, and yet remaining for us, which is foretold and described in the 95th Psalm; for he hath showed that the rest mentioned therein was not a rest that was past, or enjoyed by any that went before us in any state of the church from the foundation of the world, but it is that which is now declared and proposed in the gospel.
2. That others had a rest typical hereof proposed unto them, seeing God never ordained his church in any state without a rest, and a day of rest as a token thereof.
3. That some by sin, or unbelief and disobedience, fell short of the rest proposed to them, and did not enter into it, but were destroyed in the just indignation of God against them.
4. That in their sin and God’s displeasure, with the event of the one and effects of the other, there was an example set forth of what would be the event with them, and God’s dealings towards them, who through unbelief should neglect the rest now declared and proposed unto them. Unto all these propositions he subjoins a description of this new rest, in the cause, original, and nature of it, with that day of rest wherein it is expressed. Having, therefore, proved and confirmed these things in his expositions and discourses upon the 95th Psalm, he lays them down as the foundation of his exhorting the Hebrews to faith and perseverance, keeping himself unto the notion of a rest, and of entering into it, which the testimony he had chosen to insist upon led him unto.
Hebrews 4:11 . Σπουδάσωμεν ου῏ν εισελθεῖν εἰς ἐκείνην τὴν κατάπαυσιν· ἵνα μὴ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τις ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ τῆς ἀπειθείας .
Σπουδάσωμεν . Vulg. Lat., “festinemus;” and the Rhemists, “let us hasten,” that is, σπεύδωμεν . The words are both from the same original; but σπουδάζω is never used for” to hasten;” nor is σπεύδω , for a rash, precipitate haste, such as is condemned by the prophet in the things of God: Isaiah 28:16, “He that believeth shall not make haste;” that is,with such a kind of haste as causeth men to miscarry in what they undertake, and gives them disappointment and shame. Hence the apostle renders these words, המַּאֲמִין לֹא יָחִישׁ , “He that believeth shall not make haste,” by ῾Ο πιστεύων ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται , Romans 9:33, “Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed,” expressing the cause by the effect. Syr., נֶתְחַפַט , “enitamur, operam demus,” “let us endeavor it” “do our endeavor.” Ours, “let us labor;” Bez., “studeamus,” properly, “let us study,” or “studiously endeavor,” “sedulously apply our minds.”
Εἰσελθεῖν εἰς ἐκείνην τὴν κατάπαυσιν . These words have been all opened before; nor do translators vary in the rendering of them.
῝Ινα μὴ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τίς ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ τῆς ἀπειθείας . Vulg. Lat., “ut ne in id ipsum quis incidat incredulitatis exemplum.” Rhem., “that no man fall into the same example of incredulity;” somewhat ambiguously· Beza, “ne quis in idem incidat contumacies exemplum;” “that no man fall into the same example of stubborn disobedience,” that is, into the like sin. Erasm., “ne quis concidat eodem incredulitatis exemplo;” to the same purpose: as ours also, “lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” Syr., “that we fall not after the manner of them who believed not, בדִמוּתָא , “ad similitudinem,” “like unto them.” And in all these translations it is left somewhat ambiguous whether it be the sin of the people or their punishment that is proposed to consideration. Μή τις πέσῃ or μὴ τις , “lest any;” and of what is therein included we have spoken before. Πέσῃ , “cadat,” that is, into sin; “incidat,” into punishment; “concidat,” “do fall.”
Τῷ αὐτῷ ὑποδείγματι . ῾Υπόδειγμα is sometimes as much as παράδειγμα , an “exemplary punishment;” or an example instructive by the evil which befalls others. Of the sense of the words afterwards.
Hebrews 4:11 . Let us labor therefore [or, diligently endeavor ] to enter into that rest; lest any should fall in the same example of unbelief.
In the words three things may be observed: First, The illative particle ου῏ν , “therefore;” denoting an inference from and dependence upon what was before discoursed. The things he now introduceth arise from the consideration of what was before alleged and proved, with an especial respect unto that part of the example insisted on which consisted in the sin and punishment of the people of old; “therefore.” Secondly, An exhortation unto duty ensues. Thirdly, A motive thereunto is proposed. In the exhortation there is the duty itself exhorted unto, which is, to “enter into that rest;” and the manner of its performance, it is to be done with labor and diligence, “Let us labor to enter into that rest.”
First, The duty exhorted unto is expressed in terms whose use is taken from the example before insisted on, “entering into rest,” The things intended may be considered two ways, as to the act of the duty, or the duty itself and the effect of it, both included in the words. The duty itself intended is faith and obedience unto the gospel; these were represented of old by the people’s applying themselves to enter into the promised land of Canaan. Here, therefore, he exhorts them unto their present duty under these terms. And the effect of this duty, which is a participation of the rest of God, is also included.
And indeed glorious advantages are comprised in all gospel duties. To know God in Christ is “life eternal,” John 17:3; to believe, is to enter into the rest of God. Again, for the further explication of these words, we may observe that the apostle changeth his expression from what it was in the preceding verse. He tells us, verse 9, that “there remaineth σαββατισμός ” (a “sabbatism”) “for the people of God;” but here he doth not exhort them to enter εἰς ἐκείνον τὸν σαββατισμόν , (“into that sabbatism,”) but changeth it into κατάπαυσιν , that is, מְנוּחָה , as the other is שָׁבַּתוֹן . And the reason is, because by that word, “sabbatism,” he intended to express the rest of the gospel not absolutely, but with respect unto the pledge of it in the day of rest, which is given and determined unto them that believe, for the worship of God and other ends before recounted: but the apostle here returns to exhort the Hebrews to endeavor after an interest in and participation of the whole rest of God in the gospel, with all the privileges and advantages contained in it; and therefore resumes the word whereby he had before expressed the rest of God in general.
Secondly, For the manner of the performance of this duty, the word σπουδάσωμεν doth declare it. Let us “diligently study,” “endeavor,” or “labor” to this purpose. If we suppose “labor” in our language to be the most proper word (though I had rather use “endeavor”), such a laboring is to be understood as wherein the mind and whole soul is very intently exercised, and that upon the account of the difficulties which in the performance of this duty we shall meet withal. For the apostle, expressing our faith and gospel obedience, with the end of them, by “entering into the rest of God,” a phrase of speech taken from the people’s entering into the land of Canaan of old, he minds us of the great opposition which in and unto them we shall be sure to meet withal It is known what difficulties, storms, and contrary winds, the people met with in their wilderness peregrinations. So great were they, that the discouragements which arose from them were the principal occasions of their acting that unbelief which proved their ruin. Sometimes their want of water and food, sometimes the weariness and tediousness of the way, sometimes the reports they had of giants and walled towns, stirred up their unbelief to murmurings, and hastened their destruction. That we shall meet with the like opposition in our faith and profession the apostle instructs us, by his using this phrase of speech with respect unto the occasion of it, “entering into the rest of God.” And we may observe hence,
Obs. 1. That great oppositions will and do arise against men in the work of entering into God’s rest; that is, as unto gospel faith and obedience.
First, The very first lessons of the gospel discourage many from looking any farther. So when our Savior entertained the young man that came to him for instruction with the lesson of self-denial, he had no mind to hear any more, but “went away sorrowful,” Matthew 19:22. And the reasons hereof may be taken partly from the nature of the gospel itself, and partly from our own natures to whom the gospel is proposed. I shall but instance in that general consideration, which alone would bear the weight of this assertion; and this is, that in the gospel there is proposed unto us a “new way” of entering into the rest of God, of acceptation with him, of righteousness and salvation, which is contrary to our natural principle of self-righteousness, and seeking after it “as it were by the works of the law;” for this fills our hearts naturally with an enmity unto it and contempt of it, making us esteem it “foolish” and “weak,” no way able to effect what it proposeth and promiseth. But this would be too large a field to enter into at present, and I shall therefore insist only on some particular instances, giving evidence to the proposition as laid down These I shall take from among the precepts of the gospel, some whereof are very difficult unto our nature as it is weak, and all of them contrary unto it as it is corrupt.
1. Some gospel precepts are exceeding difficult unto our nature as it is weak. This our Savior takes notice of when exhorting his disciples to watchfulness and prayer in an hour of temptation; he tells them that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41; where by “the flesh” he intendeth not that corrupt principle which is in us, that is often called by that name, but our nature in its whole composition with respect unto that weakness whence it is apt to succumb and sink under difficult duties. To fix on one instance among many, of this nature is self-denial, so indispensably required of all in the gospel. The denial of our lusts and corrupt inclinations falls under another consideration, and must on other accounts have violence offered unto them, as afterwards; but in the first place we may weigh this precept as it extends itself unto things in themselves lawful, and which have an exceeding suitableness unto our natures as weak and infirm. We are but dust, and God knows that we are but dust, Psalms 103:14. And he hath in his providence provided many things, and allowed us the use of them, which are fitted and suited to our refreshment and relief in our pilgrimage. Such are houses, lands, possessions, the comfort of relations and friends, which he hath given us a right unto and an interest in. And as we are persuaded that, through the weakness and frailty of our natures, we do greatly stand in need of these things, so it is known how our hearts are apt to cleave unto them. But here this gospel precept of self-denial interposeth itself, and requireth two things of us:
(1.) It requires an undervaluation of them, or at least introduceth a new affection over them and above them, which shall put the heart into a continual readiness and preparedness to part with them at the call and upon the occasions of the gospel, Matthew 10:37. Our acceptance of Christ on gospel terms is like a man’s entrance into a marriage relation. It introduceth a new affection, that goes above and regulates all former affections; for “a man must forsake both father and mother, and cleave unto his wife.” All others are to be steered and regulated hereby. And he that by his acceptance of Christ would enter into rest, must subordinate all former affections to lawful things unto this new one, which will not abide in any heart but where it is supreme.
(2.) On sundry occasions which the profession of the gospel will present us withal, actually to relinquish and forego them, and to trust our persons, with all their weaknesses and frailties, to the provision that Christ will make for them, Mark 8:34-37. This is difficult unto our nature, because of its weakness. It is apt to say, ‘Let me be spared in this or that,’ to make an intercession for a Zoar. ‘What shall become of me when all is lost and gone? What shall I do for rest, for ease, for liberty, for society, yea for food and raiment?’Yet are all these to be conquered by faith, if we intend to enter into the rest of God. We condemn them of old who were afraid of giants and walled towns, which made them murmur and withdraw from their duty. These are our giants and fenced cities; and, alas! how many are hindered by them from inheriting the promise! The like may be said of that particular branch of the great duty of self-denial, in “taking up the cross,” or willingness to undergo all sorts of persecutions for the sake of Jesus Christ. Many of these are exceeding dreadful and terrible to our nature as mortal weak, and infirm. Peter knew how it is with us in all our natural principles, when he advised his Lord and Master to spare himself, as he was foretelling of his own sufferings. Here the weakness of our nature would betake itself to a thousand pretences to be spared; but the gospel requires severely that they be all discarded, and the cross cheerfully taken up, whenever by the rule of it we are called thereunto. And they do but deceive themselves who engage into a profession of it without a readiness and preparation for these things. It is true, God may spare whom he pleaseth and when he pleaseth, as to the bitterness of them; and some, in his tenderness and compassion, are little, it may be, exercised with them all their days; but this is by especial dispensation and extraordinary indulgence. The rule is plain, we must be all ready in the school of Christ to say this lesson, and he may call forth whom he pleaseth unto its repetition. We are, it may be, loath to come forth, loath to be brought to the trial; but we must stand to it, or expect to be turned out of doors, and to be denied by the great Master at the last day. We are, for the most part, grown tender and delicate, and unwilling to come (so much as in our minds) to a resolved conversation with these things. Various hopes and contrivances shall relieve our thoughts from them. But the precept is universal, absolute, indispensable, and such as our entrance into the rest of God doth depend on its due observance. By the dread hereof are multitudes kept in the wilderness of the world, wandering up and down between Egypt and Canaan, and at length fall finally under the power of unbelief. These and the like things are very difficult unto our nature as it is weak.
2. All the commands of the gospel are opposite and contrary to our nature as it is corrupt. And this hath so large an interest in all men, as to make those things very difficult unto them which are wholly opposite thereunto. A sense hereof hath made some endeavor a composition between the gospel and their lusts, so “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness,” by seeking countenance from thence unto their sins, which have no design but to destroy them. From the corruption of our nature it is that the things which the gospel in its precepts requires us severely to cast off and destroy have a treble interest in us, that it is not easy to overcome, an interest of love, an interest of usefulness, and an interest of power.
(1.) An interest of love. Hence we are commanded to pull out right eyes, if they offend us, Matthew 5:29, things that are as dear unto us as our eye, as our right eye. And it is a proverbial expression to set out the high valuation and dear esteem we have of any thing, to say that it is unto us as our eye; as God himself, to express his tender care over his people, says, “he that toucheth them toucheth the apple of his eye,” Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8. And such are the lusts of the flesh naturally to men; whence the precept of the gospel, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,” immediately subjoined to that doctrine of purity and chastity, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,” Matthew 5:28. Now there cannot but be great difficulty in cutting off and casting away from us such things as have so great an interest of love in us, as these lusts have in corrupted nature. Every one is unwilling to part with what he loves; and the more he loves it the less willing is he to part With it, the longer and the more earnestly will he hold it. And there is nothing that men naturally love more than their carnal lusts. They will part with their names, their estates, and venture their lives, all to satisfy them.
(2.) An interest of usefulness. Nature, as corrupt, would persuade a man that he cannot live nor subsist in this world without the help and advantage of some of those things which the gospel forbids to all them that will enter into the rest of God. Hence is the command to cut off the right hand, if it offend, Matthew 5:30; that is, things apprehended as useful unto us as a right hand is to the common services of life. Of this kind is that inordinate love of the world, and all the ways whereby it is pursued, which the gospel doth so condemn. These things are to many what Micah’s gods were unto him, who cried out upon the loss of them, when they were stolen by the Danites, “Ye have taken away my gods, and what have I more?” Take away from men their love of this world, and the inordinate pursuit of it, and they think they have no more; they will scarce think it worth while to live in the world any longer. And this interest also is to be overcome, which it cannot be without great difficulty; and a cleaving unto it is that which hinders multitudes from entering into the rest of God.
(3.) An interest of power. Hence sin is said to have “strongholds” in us, which are not easily cast down. But hereof I have treated in a peculiar discourse.
Secondly, Another reason of the difficulty of this work ariseth from the combined opposition that is made unto it; for as the Egyptians, the Canaanites, and the Amorites, did all of them their utmost to hinder the Israelites from entering into Canaan, and what they could not effect really by their opposition, they did morally, by occasioning the people’s unbelief through their fighting against them, which proved their ruin, so do our spiritual adversaries deal in this matter. If the work of the gospel go on, if men endeavor by it to enter into God’s rest, Satan must lose his subjects, and the world its friends, and sin its life. And there is not one instance wherein they will not try their utmost to retain their interest. All these endeavor to hinder us from entering into the rest of God; which renders it a great and difficult work.
It will be said, ‘That if there be all these difficulties lying before us, they must needs be so many discouragements, and turn men aside from attempting of it.’I answer,
1. Of old, indeed, they did so. The difficulties and discouragements that lay in the way of the people quite took off their hearts and minds from endeavoring an entrance into the promised land. But what was the event? The apostle declares at large that on this account the indignation of God came upon them, and “their carcasses fell in the wilderness.” And no otherwise will it be with them who are afraid to engage in those spiritual difficulties we have now to conflict withal. They will die and perish under the wrath of God, and that unto eternity. He that shall tell men that their entering into the rest of Christ is plain, easy, suited to nature as it is weak or corrupt, will but delude and deceive them. To mortify sin, subdue our bodies, and keep them in subjection, to deny ourselves, not only in the crucifying of lusts that have the secretest tendency unto things unlawful, but also in the use of things lawful, and our affections to them, pulling out right eyes, cutting off right hands, taking up the cross in all sorts of afflictions and persecutions, are required of us in this matter: and they are not at present joyous, but grievous; not easy and pleasant, but difficult, and attended with many hardships, To lull men asleep with hopes of a rest in Christ, and in their lusts, in the world, in their earthly accommodations, is to deceive them and ruin them We must not represent the duties of gospel faith and obedience as the Jesuits preached Christ to the Indians, never letting them know that he was crucified, lest they should be offended at it. But we must tell men the plain truth as it is, and let them know what they are to expect from within and from without, if they intend to enter into rest.
2. Notwithstanding all these difficulties, the promise of God, being mixed with faith, will carry us safely through them all. After the unbelieving generation was destroyed in the wilderness the hardships and difficulties still remained; yet their children, believing the promise, passed through them and entered into rest. The power of God, and his faithfulness amongst them and unto them, conquered them all. And it will be so with them infallibly that shall mix the promise with faith in reference unto this spiritual rest. God will both supply them with strength and subdue their enemies, so as that they shall not fail of rest. Whatever, therefore, may be pretended, it is nothing but unbelief that can cause us to come short of rest; and this will do it effectually. Faith in the promise will engage the power of Christ unto our assistance; and where he will work none shall let him. To this end we might consider the various ways whereby he will make mountains become plains, dry up rivers, yea, seas of opposition, and make all those things light and easy unto us which seem so grievous and insupportable unto our nature, either as weak and frail, or as corrupt and sinful. But we must not too far digress into these things, And I say, thirdly, which is a second observation from the words,
Obs. 2. That as the utmost of our labors and endeavors are required to our obtaining an entrance into the rest of Christ, so it doth very well deserve that they should be laid out therein.
‘Let us,’saith the apostle, ‘endeavor this matter with all diligence,’as the word imports. Men are content to lay out themselves unto the utmost for other things, and to spend their strength for “the bread that perisheth,” yea, “for that which is not bread.” Every one may see how busy and industrious the world is in the pursuit of perishing things; and men are so foolish as to think that they deserve their whole time and strength; and more they would expend in the same way, if they were intrusted with it. “This their way is their folly.” But how easy a thing were it to demonstrate, from the nature of it, its procurement and end, with our eternal concernment in it, that this rest deserves the utmost of our diligence and endeavors. To convince men hereof is one of the chief ends of the preaching of the gospel in general, and so needs not here to be insisted on.
Obs. 3. Again, there is a present excellency in and a present reward attending gospel faith and obedience.
They are an entrance into the rest of Christ, or they give us a present interest therein. They are not only a present means of entering into future eternal rest with God, but they give us a present participation of the rest of Christ; which wherein it doth consist hath been before declared.
Thirdly, The latter part of this verse yet remaineth to be explained and applied. Therein unto the precedent exhortation a motive is subjoined: “Lest any fall after the same example of unbelief.” These words, as was in part before intimated, do express either the sin to be avoided, or the punishment whereby we should be deterred from it.
The word, “to fall,” is ambiguous, and may be applied to either sense; for men may fall into sin, and they may fall into the punishment due to their sin, when that word is used in a moral sense. Matthew 15:14, “The blind lead the blind, ἀμφότεροι εἰς βόθυνον πεσοῦνται ,” “both shall fall into the ditch,” of sin or trouble. See Romans 11:22, James 5:12. For the prime use of the word is in things natural, and is only metaphorically translated to express things moral. And ὑπόδειγμα is most commonly “a teaching example.” So ὑποδείκνυμι is “to teach,” or “to instruct” by showing: Matthew 3:7, “O generation of vipers, τίς ὑπέδειζεν ὑμῖν ,” “who hath warned” (taught, instructed) “you.” Thence ὑπόδειγμα is “documentum.” Ταῦτα ὑποδείγματα ἔσται τῷ Πολυδάμνῃ ὧν δεῖ ἐπιμεληθῆναι· “These are instructions for Polydamnes, about the things that are to be provided for.” But it is also often used as παράδειγμα , “an exemplary punishment;” as ῾Υπόδειγμα τῷ πλήθει ποιῶν αὐτόν· “Making him an example to the multitude;” that is, in his punishment. And so among the Latins, “exemplum” is often put absolutely for “punishment,” and that of the highest nature. Now, if ὑπόδειγμα in this place be taken merely for a “document” or “instruction,” which is undoubtedly the most proper and usual signification of the word, then the sense may be, ‘Lest any of you should fall into that unbelief whereof, and of its pernicious consequents, you have an instructive example in them that went before, proposed on purpose unto you, that you might be stirred tap to avoid it.’If it be taken for παράδειγμα , as sometimes it is, and so include in its signification “an exemplary punishment,” then the meaning of the word is, ‘Lest any of you, through your unbelief, fall into that punishment, which hath been made exemplary in the ruin of those other unbelievers who went before you.’ And this I take to be the meaning of the words: ‘You have the gospel, and the rest of Christ therein, preached and proposed unto you. Some of you have already taken upon you the profession of it, as the people did of old at mount Sinai, when they said, “All that the LORD our God shall command, that we will do.” Your condition is now like unto theirs, and was represented therein. Consider, therefore, how things fell out with them, and what was the event of their sin and God’s dealing with them. They believed not, they made not good their engagement, they persisted not in their profession, but were disobedient and stubborn; and God destroyed them. They “fell in the wilderness,” and perished, not entering into God’s rest, as hath been declared. If now you, or any amongst you, shall be found guilty of their sin, or the like answering unto it, do not think or hope that you shall avoid the like punishment. An example of God’s severity is set before you in their destruction. If you would not fall into it, or fall under it, labor by faith and obedience to enter into the rest of Christ.’And this I take to be the true sense and importance of the words, answering in their coherence and relation unto them that go before; for these words, “Let us labor to enter into that rest,” are no more but, ‘Let us sincerely believe and obey; wherein we shall find, through Jesus Christ, rest to our souls.’Hereunto this clause of the verse is a motive: “Lest any of you fall in the same example of unbelief.” Now, if their sense should be, ‘Lest any of you, after their example, should fall into unbelief;’then that of the whole must be,
‘Let us labor to believe, that we fall not into unbelief,’ which is a mere battology, and remote from our divine author. Hence observe,
Obs. 4. Precedent judgments on others are monitory ordinances unto us.
They are so in general in all things that fall out in the providence of God in that kind, whereof we may judge by a certain rule. This is the use that we are to make of God’s judgments, without a censorious reflection on them in particular who fall under them; as our Savior teacheth us in the instances of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices, and those men on whom the tower in Siloam fell But there are many things peculiar in the examples of this kind given us in the Scripture; for,
1. We have an infallible rule therein to judge both of the sins of men and the respect that the judgments of God had unto them; besides,
2. They are designed instances of the love and care of God towards us, as our apostle declares, 1 Corinthians 10:11.
God suffered their sins to fall out, and recorded his own judgments against them in his word, on purpose for our instruction; so that as he declared his severity in them towards others, he makes known by them his love and care towards us. This gives them the nature of ordinances, which all proceed from love. To this end, and with a sense hereof, are we to undertake the consideration of them. So are they exceedingly instructive; to which purpose we have treated somewhat on the third chapter, whither we refer the reader. Again,
Obs. 5. It is better to have an example than to be made an example of divine displeasure; yet this will befall us if we neglect the former: for,
Obs. 6. We ought to have no expectation of escaping vengeance under the guilt of those sins which others, in a like manner guilty of, have not escaped.
We are apt to flatter ourselves, that however it fared with others, it will go well with us; like him who blesseth himself, and says he shall have peace, when he hears the words of the curse. This self-pleasing and security variously insinuates itself into our minds, and tenaciously cleaves unto us; but as we have any care of our eternal welfare, we are to look upon it as our greatest enemy. There is no more certain rule for us to judge of our own condition, than the examples of God’s dealings with others in the same. They are all effects of eternal and invariable righteousness; and “with God there is no respect of persons.” I might here insist on the ways and means whereby this self-flattery imposeth false hopes and expectations on men; as also on the duties required of us for to obviate and prevent its actings, but must not too often digress from our main purpose and design.