Provocation

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
~ Isaiah 55:6

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
~ Isaiah 55:3

Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers.
~ Jeremiah 7:26

Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:
~ Psalm 78:56

And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.
~ Numbers 14:33

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
~ Ephesians 4:30

And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
~ John 8:45

For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
~ Jeremiah 4:22

And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,
~ Deuteronomy 1:34-35

Observations 11 Through 16 on Hebrews 3:7-11, An Exposition on Hebrews, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from his work.

Hebrews 3:7-11 . 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: where your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their hearts; but my ways they have not known. So sware in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest.

We now proceed unto the second part of the words under consideration, comprising the example itself insisted on, and whereon the exhortation itself is founded. And this consists of two general parts: first the sin, and secondly the punishment of the people of old.

First, The sin is contained in these words: “As in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: where your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works, forty years.”

1. The first thing occurring in the words according unto our former distribution of them, relating to the sin mentioned, is the persons of the sinners. They were their “fathers,” the progenitors of them to whom the apostle wrote. And they are in the next verse further described by their multitude, they were a whole generation, “I was grieved with that generation.”

Who these were was declared before in the exposition of the words, and it is plain from the story who are intended. It was the people that came up out of Egypt with Moses; all of whom that were above twenty years of age at their coming into the wilderness, because of their manifold sins and provocations, died there, Caleb and Joshua only excepted. So the Lord threatened, Numbers 14:26-30,

“And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you; your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.”

And so it came to pass; for when the people were numbered again in the plains of Moab, it is said, “Among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai;” that is, besides those two who were excepted by name, Numbers 26:64-65. These were the fathers ofthe present Hebrews; that is, as it is expressed, Jeremiah 11:10, אֲבוֹתָם הָרִאשֹׁנִים , their “forefathers,” as we render the words; rather their “first fathers,” those whom God first took into the express covenant with himself, for the place hath respect unto that very sin which is here reported: “They are turned back to the iniquity of their first fathers, which refused to hear my words,” who hearkened not unto the voice of God. And this limits the term unto those in the wilderness, seeing the former patriarchs did not refuse to hear the word of God. But they are generally called אֲבוֹת indefinitely, πατέρες , the “fathers,” as others also that followed in succeeding generations; once by our apostle they are termed πρόγονοι , “ progenitors,” 2 Timothy 1:3. Now the psalmist mentioning (and our apostle from him) the sin of the people in the wilderness, and proposing it with its consequents unto the present Hebrews, calls them their “fathers,”

(1.) Because that people were exceedingly apt to boast of their fathers, and to raise a confidence in themselves that they must needs receive mercy from God on their account. And they had, indeed, no small privilege in being the posterity of some of those fathers. Our apostle reckons it as one of their chief advantages, Romans 9:4-5:

“Who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came.”

It hath a place in the great series of the privileges of that church. And when the church-state is made over to the Gentiles, it is promised her, that instead of these fathers she should have her children, Psalms 45:16, those that should succeed unto them in holiness and the favor of God. But this people ran into a woeful mistake, which their posterity are hardened in at this day. Their only privilege in this matter was because God had freely and graciously given his promises unto their fathers, and taken them into covenant with himself; and the due consideration hereof tended only to the exaltation of the rich and free grace of God. So Moses expressly declares, Deuteronomy 7:7-8, and elsewhere. But forgetting or despising this, they rested on the honor and righteousness of their fathers, and expected I know not what as due unto them on that account. This vain confidence our Savior frequently rebuked in them, and so did the apostle. And for this reason the psalmist and the apostle, having occasion to mention the sins of the people of old, calls them their “fathers;” minding them that many of them in whom they gloried were sinful provokers of God.

(2.) It is done to mind them of their near concernment in the example proposed, unto them. It is not taken from amongst strangers, but it is what fell out amongst their own progenitors.

(3.) To warn them of their danger. There is a propensity in children to follow the sins of their fathers. Hence some sins prove eminently national in some countries for many generations. The example of parents is apt to infect their children. The Holy Ghost, then, here intimates unto them their proneness to fall into disobedience, by minding them of the miscarriage of their fathers in the same kind. This intimates unto them both their duty and their danger. Again, these fathers are further described by their number. They were a whole “generation;” that is, all the people of that age wherein they were in the wilderness. And this contains a secret aggravation of the sin mentioned, because there was in it a joint conspiracy as it were of all the persons of that age. These are they who were guilty of the sin here reported. And we may observe from this expression and remembrance of them,

Obs. 12. That the examples of our forefathers are of use and concernment unto us, and objects of our deepest consideration.

God in his dealings with them laid in instruction for their posterity. And when parents do well, when they walk with God, they beat the path of obedience plain for their children; and when they miscarry, God sets their sins as buoys to warn them who come after them of the shelves that they split upon. “Be not as your fathers, a stiff-necked generation,” is a warning that he oft repeats. And it is in the Scripture an eminent part of the commendation or discommendation of any, that they walked in the way of their progenitors. Where any of the good kings of Judah are testified unto for their integrity, this is still one part of the testimony given unto them, that they walked in the way of David their father, in the paths that he had trod before them. And on the other side, it is a brand on many of the wicked kings of Israel, that they walked in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Their examples, therefore, are of concernment unto us,

First, because ofttimes the same kind of temptations are continued unto the children that the fathers were exercised withal. Thus we find in experience that some temptations are peculiar to a nation, some to a family, for sundry generations; which produce peculiar national sins, and family sins, so that at least they are prevalent in them. Hence the apostle chargeth national sins on the Cretians, from the testimony of Epimenides, who had observed them amongst them;

Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται , κακὰ θήρια , γάστερες ἀργαί ,

Titus 1:12, “The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” Lying, dissimulation, cruelty, and sloth, were the sins of that nation from one generation to another, children learning them from the example of their parents. So many families for a long season have been infamous for cruelty, or deceit, or the like. And these hereditary sins have proceeded in part from hereditary temptations: some are inlaid in their natural constitutions, and some are inseparably annexed unto some special course of life and conversation, wherein persons of the same family succeed one another. Now it is a great warning unto men, to consider what sad events have befallen them that went before them by yielding unto those temptations which they themselves are exercised withal.

Again, there is a blessing or a curse that lies secretly hid in the ways of progenitors. There is a revenge for the children of the disobedient unto the third and fourth generation; and a blessing on the posterity of the obedient for a longer continuance. The very heathen acknowledged this by the light of nature. Plato says expressly, Εἰς τετάρτην γενεὰν διαβιβάζει τὴν τιμωρίαν , “ Punishment falls on the fourth generation.” And they had the substance of it from their oracle:

᾿Αλλὰ κακῶς ῤέξασι δίκας τέλος οὐχὶ χρονεστὸν

῎Ηδε παραίτατον· εἰ καὶ διὸς ἔκγονοι ει῏εν

Κ᾿ αὐτῇς γὰρ κεφαλῇσι , καὶ ἐν σφετεροίσι τεκέσσιν

Εἰλείται· καὶ πῆμα δὸμοις , ἐπὶ πήμασι , βαίνει .

So is that saying common in the same case, Iliad. Υ 308:

Καὶ παίδων παῖδες , τοί κεν μετόπισθε γένωνται .

The design is what we have asserted, of the traduction of punishment from wicked parents to their posterity. But there are conditions of the avoidance of the curse, and enjoyment of the blessing. When fathers have made themselves obnoxious to the displeasure of God by their sins, let their posterity know that there is an addition of punishment coming upon them, beyond what in an ordinary coupe of providence is due unto themselves, if they continue in the same sins. So God tells Moses, in the matter of the golden calf which Aaron had made, when he had prevailed with him not immediately to destroy the whole people: “Nevertheless,” saith he, “in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them,” Exodus 32:34; that is ‘If by their future sins and idolatry they shall provoke me to visit and punish them, I will add unto their punishment somewhat from the desert of this sin of their forefather Whence is that proverb among the Jews, “That there is no evil befalls them but it hath in it some grain of the golden calf.” להניח ליירד פישעי ישראל בגיהנם שאברהם יושב על פתחי של גיהנם שלא , saith Rashi, “He will mix a little somewhat of the guilt of this sin with the rest of their sins.” And therefore the same word, of “visiting,” is here used as in the threatening in the commandment, Exodus 20:5. And when one generation after another shall persist in the same provoking sins, the weight of God’s indignation grows so heavy, that ordinarily in one part or other it begins to fall within the third or fourth generation. And doth it not concern men to consider what have been the ways of their forefathers, lest there lie a secret, consuming curse against them in the guilt of their sins? Repentance and forsaking their ways wholly intercept the progress of the curse, and set a family at liberty from a great and ancient debt to the justice of God. So God stateth this matter at large, Ezekiel 18:0. Men know not what arrears may by this means be chargeable on their inheritances; much more, it may be, than all they are worth is able to answer. There is no avoidance of the writ for satisfaction that is gone out against them, but by turning out of the way wherein they are pursued. The same is the case of the blessing that is stored for the posterity of the obedient, provided they are found in the way of their forefathers. These things render them and their ways objects of our consideration. For moreover,

Obs. 13. It is a dangerous condition, for children to boast of the privilege of their fathers, and to imitate their sins.

This was almost continually the state of the Jews. They were still boasting of their progenitors, and constantly walking in their sins. This they are everywhere in the Scripture charged withal. See Numbers 32:14. This the Baptist reflected on in his first dealing with them: “Bring forth,” saith he, “fruits meet for repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father,” Matthew 3:8-9. On every occasion they still cried out, “We have Abraham to our father,” he who was so highly favored of God, and first received the promises. For his sake and by his means they expected to be saved temporally and eternally. Hence they have a saying in their Talmud, לֹאאּתִהְיֶה אַחֲרֵיאּרַבִּים לְרָעֹת “Abraham sits at the gates of hell, and will not permit that any transgressors of Israel shall go in thither,” a great reserve against all their sins, but that it will deceive them when they are past relief. It is true they had on this account many privileges, as our apostle testifies in sundry places, Romans 3:1-2; Romans 9:4-5; and so he esteemed them to be as to his own personal interest in Philippians 3:4-5. But whilst they trusted unto them and continued in the sins of them who had abused them, it turned to their further ruin. See Matthew 23:29-32. And let their example deter others from countenancing themselves in privileges of any kind whilst they come short of personal faith and obedience. Again,

Obs. 14. A multitude joining in any sin given it thereby a great aggravation.

Those here that sinned were all the persons of one entire generation. This made it a formal, open rebellion, a conspiracy against God, a design as it were to destroy his kingdom and to leave him no subjects in the world.

When many conspire in the same sin it is a great inducement unto others to follow. Hence is that caution in the law, Exodus 23:2, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to de, evil.” The law, indeed, hath an especial respect unto judgment and causes of differences among men. But there is a general direction in the law for our whole course: הוֹי רָד אֶתאּיֹצְרוֹ ; “Thou shalt not be after many” (or “great men”) “unto evils,” ‘Take heed of the inclination of a multitude unto evil, lest thou art also carried away with their errors and sin;’and this aggravates the sin of many. It doth so also, that the opposition unto God therein is open and notorious, which tends greatly to his dishonor in the world. And what resentment God hath of the provocation that lies herein is fully expressed in Numbers 14:0, from Numbers 14:20 unto Numbers 14:35, speaking of the sin of the congregation in their unbelief and murmuring against him. In the first place, he engageth himself by his oath to vindicate his glory from the reproach which they had cast upon it, Numbers 14:21, “As truly as I live,” saith he, “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Some take these words to be only an asseveration of that which follows; as if God had said, ‘As truly as I live, and as the earth is filled with my glory, all these men shall perish;’but the words rather contain the principal matter of the oath of God. He swears that as they, by their conjunct sin and rebellion, had dishonored him in the world, so he, by his works of power and vengeance on them, would fill the earth again with his glory. And there is in the following words a representation of a great πάθος , or “commotion,” with great indignation: “They have,” saith he, “seen my miracles, and have tempted me now these ten times,” Numbers 14:22. The Hebrew doctors do scrupulously reckon up these temptations. The first, they say, is in Exodus 14:11, when they said,

“Because there were no graves in Egypt.”

The second in Marah, Exodus 15:24,

“The people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?”

The third in the desert of Sin, Exodus 16:2-3,

“The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, and said, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots.”

The fourth when they left manna until the morning, Exodus 16:19-20,

“And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank.”

The fifth was when some of them went out to gather manna on the Sabbath-day, Exodus 16:27-28, which God called a

“refusing to keep his commandments and his laws.”

The sixth was in Rephidim, at the waters of Meribah, Numbers 20:2-13. The seventh in Horeb, when they made the calf, Exodus 32:0. The eighth at Taberah, Numbers 11:1-3. The ninth at Kibroth-hattaavah, Numbers 11:31-34. The tenth upon the return of the spies, Numbers 14:0. Thus are the ten temptations reckoned up by some of the Jews, and by others of them they are enumerated with some little alteration. But whether the exact number of ten be intended in the expression is very uncertain; it seems rather to intend multiplied temptations, expressed with much indignation. So Jacob when he chode with Laban told him, “Thou hast changed my wages ten times,” Genesis 31:41; that is, frequently, which he so expressed in his anger and provocation. So doth God here, “Ye have tempted me these ten times;” that is, ‘So often, so far, that I neither can nor will bear with you any longer.’In the whole discourse (which sinners ought to read and tremble at) there is represented as it were such a rising of anger and indignation in the face of God, such a commotion of soul in displeasure (both made use of to declare an unchangeable will of punishing), as scarce appears again in the Scripture. Thus it is for a multitude to transgress against God, as it were by a joint conspiracy. Such issues will all national apostasies and provocations receive. And this is the first general part of the example proposed to consideration, namely, the persons sinning, with the observations that arise from thence.

2. The second is the matter or quality of their sin, which is referred unto two heads:

(1.) Their provocation, “In the provocation, in the day of temptation.”

(2.) Their tempting of him, “They tempted me, and proved me.”

(1.) Their sin consisted in their provoking. It seems not to be any one particular sin, but the whole carriage of the people in the actions reflected on, that is intended; and that not at any one time, but in their whole course. The word in the original, as was declared, signifies “to chide,” “to strive,” “to contend,” and that in words: Isaiah 45:9, הוֹי רָבאֶתאּיֹצְרוֹ , “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!” And how doth or maybe do it? “Shall the clay say to him that made it?” etc. It is by “saying,” by speaking against him, that he may so strive with him. But the apostle hath expressed it by a word denoting the effect of that chiding, that is exacerbation or provocation. The expression of the actions here intended, in the places before mentioned, Exodus 17:0, Numbers 20:13, the chiding of the people, as we observed before, is directly said to be with Moses, as their tempting afterwards is of the Lord. Thus Moses says unto them, “Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?” Exodus 17:2. But it is also said expressly, “They strove” (the same word) “with the LORD,” Numbers 20:13. The meaning is, that “striving” or “chiding” ( מְרִיבָה , from רוּב ) being properly an altercation with or in words, Moses, and not God, was the immediate object of their chiding; but because it was about and concerning the works of God, which Moses had no relation unto but as he was his minister, servant, and employed by him, the principal object of their chiding, as formally a sin, was also God himself. In striving with Moses they strove with him, and in chiding with Moses they chode with him. This expression, then, in general compriseth all the sinful actions of that people against God under the ministry of Moses.

There are two things to be considered in this matter of provocation;

(1.) The sin that is included in it;

(2.) The event or consequent of it, God was provoked. The former seems firstly intended in the Hebrew word, the latter in the Greek.

(1.) For the sin intended, it is evident from the story that it was unbelief acting itself by murmuring and complaints; the same for the substance of it by which also they tempted God. This the apostle declares to have been the great provoking sin, Numbers 20:19: “So we see that they could not enter in, by reason of unbelief.” That was the sin which so provoked God as that “he sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest.” Yet it is not their unbelief absolutely considered that is intended, but as it brought forth the effects of chiding with Moses and murmuring against God, which on all occasions they fell into. Though unbelief itself, especially in such a season, be a provoking sin, yet this murmuring and chiding so added unto its provocation that it is directly laid on their accounts. But they also, as the apostle says, are to be resolved into their spring or cause, that is, unbelief. They are but an especial sign, circumstance, or effect of their unbelief.

(2.) The effect of this sin was the provocation or exacerbation of God. The Hebrew word which the apostle here expresseth by πικρασμός , is כָּעַס ; which sometimes is taken actively, for “provoking,” “inciting,” “stimulating,” “imbittering;” sometimes passively, for “indignation,” “perturbation,” “sorrow,” “grief,” “trouble.” In the whole it includes the imbittering of the mind of its object, with an excitation unto anger, displeasure, and wrath. Now, these things are ascribed unto God only by an anthropopathy. Such effects being usually wrought in the minds of the best men when they are unjustly and ungratefully dealt withal, God, to show men the nature of their sins, ascribes them unto himself. His mind is not imbittered, moved, or changed; but men have deserved to be dealt withal as if it were so. See Jeremiah 8:19; 2 Kings 21:15; Isaiah 65:3; Jeremiah 25:7; Jeremiah 32:29; 2 Chronicles 28:25.

Now, this provocation of God by their unbelief, acting itself in murmuring, chiding, and complaining, is further expressed from the season of it, it was in the “day of temptation,” the day of Massah. The denomination is taken from the name of the place where they first murmured for water, and tempted God by the discovery of their unbelief. As it was called Meribah from the contention, chiding, and provoking, so it was called Massah from the tempting of God there, the “day of temptation.” In this expression, not the addition of a new sin to that of provocation is intended, but only a description of the sin and season of that sin. It was in the “day of temptation” that God was so provoked by them. How also they tempted him we shall see afterwards. Now, as this day signally began upon the temptation at Meribah, so it continued through the whole course of the people’s peregrination in the wilderness, their multiplied tempting of God made this whole time a “day of temptation.”

Now, let us consider hence some further observations:

Obs. 15. The sinful actings of men against those who deal with them in the name of God, and about the works or will of God, are principally against God himself.

The people chode with Moses; but when God came to call it to an account, he says they strove with him and provoked him. So Moses told the people, to take them off from their vain pretences and coverings of their unbelief: Exodus 16:2, “The whole congregation murmured against Moses and Aaron.” But saith he, Exodus 16:7, “The LORD heareth your murmurings against him: and what are we that ye murmur against us?” As if he had said, ‘Mistake not yourselves, it is God, and not us, that you have to do withal in this matter. What you suppose you speak only against us, is indeed directly though not immediately spoken against God.’So God himself informs Samuel, upon the repining of the people against him: “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them;” because he ruled them immediately in the name of God, 1 Samuel 8:7. They pretended weariness of the government of Samuel, but were indeed weary of God and his rule. And so what was done against him, God took as done against himself. And under the new testament, our Savior in particular applies this rule unto the dispensers of the gospel, Luke 10:16, saith he, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.” The preachers of the gospel are sent by Christ, and therefore their opposition and contempt do first reflect dishonor upon him, and through him upon God himself.

And the reason hereof is, because in their work they are representatives of God himself, they act in his name and in his stead, as his embroiders: 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then,” saith the apostle, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” They treat with men as sent of God, in his name, about the affairs of Christ. The violation of an ambassador amongst men is always esteemed to redound unto the dishonor of him by whom he is employed; for it is he unto whom the injury and affront are principally intended, especially if it be done unto him in discharge of his office Nor are kings or states ever more highly provoked than when an injury is offered or an affront done unto their ambassadors. The Romans of old utterly destroyed Tarentum in Italy, and Corinth in Greece, on that account; and occasions of the same nature have been like of late to fill the world with blood and tumult. And the reason is, because, according to the light of nature, what is done immediately against a representative as such, is done directly and intentionally against the person represented. So it is in this case. The enmity of men is against God himself, against his way, his works, his will, which his ambassadors do but declare. But these things absolutely are out of their reach. They cannot reach them nor hurt them; nor will they own directly an opposition unto them. Therefore are pretences invented by men against those who are employed by God, that under their covert they may execute their rage against God himself. So Amaziah, priest of Bethel, complained to Jeroboam the king, saying, “Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of lsrael: the land is not able to bear all his words.” It is not because he preached against his idolatry, or denounced the judgments of God against the sins of men, that Ama-ziah opposeth him; no, it is merely on the account of his sedition, and the danger of the king thereby, Amos 7:10. And when, as it is likely, he could not prevail with the king for his destruction, he deals with him personally himself, to flee away, and so to render himself suspected, Amos 7:12-13. He had used an invidious expression concerning him to the king, קָשַׁר עָלֶיךָ , “He hath conspired against thee;” that is, to take away thy life. The word is used concerning two kings of Judah, one after another, and the matter ended in their death, 2 Chronicles 24:25; 2 Chronicles 25:27. And it is mostly used for a conspiracy ending in death. And yet all this was from enmity against God, and from no affection to the king. Under the shade of such pretences do men act their opposition unto God upon his messengers. God sees that they are all but coverts for their lusts and obstinacy, that himself is intended; and he esteems it so accordingly.

Instruction lies plain herein for them who, by vainly-invented pleas and pretences, do endeavor to give countenance to their own consciences in opposition unto those who speak in the name and treat about the things of God. Let them look to it; though they may so satisfy themselves, in and by their own prejudices, as to think they do God good service when they kill them, yet they will find things in the issue brought unto another account. This lies so clear from what hath been spoken that I shall not further insist on it. But let them principally consider this, and thence what is incumbent on them, who are called to deal with others in the name of God. And,

(1.) Let them take heed that they neither do, nor act, nor speak any thing but what they have sufficient warrant from him for. It is a dangerous thing to entitle God or his name unto our own imaginations. God will not set his seal of approbation, he will not own a concernment in our lie, though we should think that it tends to his glory, Romans 3:7. Neither will he own what is done against us as done against himself, unless we stand in his counsels, and be found in the ways of his will. There is no object of a more sad consideration, than to see some men persecuting others for their errors. They that persecute, suppose them in the right as to the matter in difference between them and those whom they do oppress, yet do certainly act against God in what they pretend to act for him; for they usurp his authority over the souls and consciences of men. And they that are persecuted do sacrifice their concernments to the darkness of their own minds. God may concern himself in general to own their integrity towards himself, even in their mistakes; but in the particular wherein they suffer he will not own them. Whether, therefore, we are to do or to suffer any thing for God, it is of great concernment unto us to look well to our call or warrant. And then,

(2.) When men are secured by the word and Spirit of God that their message is not their own, but his that sent them, that they seek not their own glory, but his, they may have hence all desirable grounds of encouragement, supportment, and consolation, in all the straits and temptations they meet withal in this world. They can be no more utterly prevailed against (that is, their testimony cannot) than can God himself. So he speaks to Jeremiah:

“I will make thee a fenced brazen wall; they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee, and to deliver thee, saith the LORD,” Jeremiah 15:20.

And in what they suffer God is so far concerned, as to account all that is done against them to be done against himself. Christ is hungry with them, and thirsty with them, and in prison with them, Matthew 25:35-40. Again,

Obs. 16. Unbelief manifesting itself in a time of trial is a most provoking sin.

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