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Whereas they were but a confused multitude when they came out of Egypt, God had now formed them into a beautiful order both in church and state; this he insists on in his dealings with them, Ezek. xvi. Why should they now stay any longer in that wilderness, which was neither meet to entertain them, nor designed for their habitation? Wherefore, to prepare a way for their entrance into Canaan, spies are sent by God's direction, with excellent instructions, to search out the land, Numb. xiii. 17-20. Upon their return, the peevish, cowardly, unbelieving multitude, terrified with a false report which they made, fall into an outrageous repining against God, and sedition against their ruler.
Hereupon the Lord, wearied as it were with their continued provocations, and especially displeased with their last, whereby they had, as far as lay in them, frustrated his intentions towards them, threatened to consume the people as one man, ver. 12. But Moses pleading with him the interest of his own name and glory, prevailed to divert the execution of that commination. And yet so great was this provocation, and so absolutely had the people of that generation discovered themselves to be every way unfit to follow the Lord in that great work; that to shew the greatness of their sin, and the irrevocableness of his purpose, he sware with great indignation concerning them, in manner and form above declared.
El sloshevσortal. If they shall enter;' so in the Hebrew 1182 DN: If they shall enter.' So frequently in the place of Numbers from whence the story is taken. The expression is imperfect, and relates to the oath of God wherein he sware by himself. As if he had said, Let me not live, or not be God, if they enter,' which is the greatest and highest asseveration that they should not enter. And the concealment of the engagement is not, as some suppose, from a ades causing an abruptness of speech, but from the reverence of the person spoken of. The expression is perfectly and absolutely negative. So Mark viii. 12. with Mat. xvi. 4. 1 Sam. xiv. 44. 1 Kings xx. 10.
Eis tay xatawavtiyov. "Into my rest." The pronoun my is taken either efficiently or subjectively. If in the first way, the rest that God would give this people is intended; they shall not enter into the land which I promised to give unto Abraham and his seed, as a state of rest, after all their wanderings and peregrinations upon my call and command. Or it may be expounded subjectively, for the rest of God himself, that is, the place wherein he would fix his worship and therein rest. And this seems to be the proper meaning of the word my rest;' that is the place where I will rest, by establishing my worship therein. Hence this was the solemn word of blessing at the moving of the Ark af God. "Arise, O Lord, into thy rest," so Psalm cxxxii. 8.
2 Chron. vi. 41. "A place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob," Psal. cxxxii. 5. So he calls his worship his rest and the place of his rest, Isa. xi. 10. lxvi. 1. ·
And the Targumist renders these words, Into the rest of the house of my sanctuary,' as he speaks elsewhere. "This is my rest for ever," which place is cited by Rashi on these words.
VER. 7—11.—Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if you 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 alway err in their hearts; but my ways they have not known. So I sware in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest.
THE exhortation is here pursued which was engaged into at the beginning of the chapter, and which after some diversion is returned to at the close of the sixth verse. The argument whereby it is confirmed and carried on in these words, is taken ab eventu pernicioso, from the pernicious event' of similar disobedience in others, which the Hebrews are dehorted from. And this the apostle shews by an eminent instance, or the induction of an example to that purpose. And this was such, as those to whom he wrote knew to be so as it was by him reported; which they had special reason to attend to and consider; which had formerly been recommended to them; and which was purposely designed to be monitory to them in their present condition: which things render an example cogent and effectual. Known it was to them, as being recorded in the Scripture, wherewith they were acquainted; and it was likewise of near concernment to them, so deserving their consideration, inasmuch as it was their own progenitors or forefathers who so miscarried, as to be therein proposed to them for an example of an evil to be avoided. It had also, after the first recording of it in the history of the times wherein it fell out, Num. xiv. been resumed and recommended to their most diligent consideration, Psal. xcv. And as he afterwards informs them, there was a prophecy infolded, or a typical representation made of their present state and condition, with directions for their wise and safe deportment under it. All these things render the example proper, and the exhortation from it cogent.
Now whereas the example had been twice recorded, once materially where the fact is first expressed, and then formally as an example, where it is resumed and improved by the psalmist; our apostle takes it together with its improvement out of the latter place. It lies therefore before us under both considerations, as a fact recorded by Moses, as an example pressed by the psal
We may consider in the words,
First, The note of inference, wherein the apostle engageth the whole to his purpose," wherefore."
Secondly, The manner in which he introduces this persuasive example, both as to the fact and as to its former improvement, "as the Holy Ghost saith."
Thirdly, The manner of its proposition in way of exhortation; wherein we have,
First, The general matter of it, which is obedience to God; expressed,
1st, By a supposition, including a positive assertion of the duty especially intended, " If you will hear his voice."
2dly, By a prohibition or removal of the contrary," Harden not your hearts."
3dly, The time or season of its due performance, ❝to-day." Secondly, There is in the words, the example itself on which the exhortation is built or founded, and this consists of these two parts or branches,
First, The sin, and Secondly, The punishment of the persons spoken of.
First, The sin, on the account whereof there are mentioned, 1. The persons sinning: they were the fathers. The fathers or progenitors of them to whom he wrote, " your fathers," illustrated by their multitude; they were a whole generation.
2. The quality or nature of their sin, which consisted in two things,
(1.) Provocation, " as in the provocation."
(2.) Temptation of God, "And in the day of temptation they tempted me and proved me."
3. The aggravation of their sin.
(1.) From the place where it was committed, it was " in the wilderness."
(2.) From the means of the contrary which they had to have preserved them from it. They saw the works of God, " and saw my works."
(3.) From the duration and continuance of their sinning, and the means of the contrary," forty years."
Secondly, The punishment of this sin is expressed in the pernicious event that ensued; whence the exhortation is taken, and therein is expressed,
I. The causa procatarctica, or procuring cause,' in the sense that God had of their sin; it grieved him, " wherefore I was grieved with that generation."
II. In the expression that he made of it, containing a double aggravation of their sin.
1. In its principle," they did err in their hearts."
2. In their continuance in it; they did so always, "And said, They do always err in their hearts."""
3. In its effects, "they did not know his ways."
III. There is the causa proegoumena, or producing cause, of the punishment mentioned, in the resolution that God took and expressed concerning the persons sinning, which also hath a double aggravation,
1. From the manner of his declaring this resolution, he did it. by an oath," unto whom I sware."
2. From the frame of his spirit, it was in his wrath, "Unto whom I sware in my wrath."
The punishment of the sin itself is expressed negatively, "If they shall enter into my rest," that is, they shall not do so.
And this also hath a double aggravation,
1. From the act denied, "they should not enter," not so much
2. From the object, that was the rest of God, "they shall not enter into my rest."
We have so particularly insisted on the opening of the words of this paragraph, that we may be the more brief in the ensuing exposition of the design and sense of them, wherein also we shall interpose the observations that are to be improved in our own practice.
First, The illative wherefore, as was observed, denotes both the deduction of the ensuing exhortation from the preceding discourse, and the application of it unto the particular duty which he enters upon ver. 12. Wherefore, that is, seeing the Lord Christ who is the author of the gospel is in his legatine or prophetical office, preferred far above Moses in the work of the house of God, as being the Son and Lord over that house as his own, wherein Moses was a servant only; let us consider what duty is incumbent on us, especially how careful and watchful we ought to be, that we be not by any means diverted or turned aside from that obedience which he requires, and which on all accounts is due unto him. This he pursues ver. 11. where the hyperbaton that is in these words is issued. Hence observe, that Obs. I. No divine truth, when it is delivered, ought to be pass by, without manifesting its use, and endeavouring its improvement unto holiness and obedience.
So soon as the apostle had evinced his proposition concerning the excellency of Christ in his prophetical office, he turns himself unto the application of it unto them that are concerned in it. Divine knowledge is like a practical science; the end of all whose principles and theorems is in their practice; take that away and it is of no use. It is our wisdom and understanding how to live unto God. To that purpose are all the principles, truths and doctrines of it to be improved. If this be not done in the teaching and learning of it, we fight uncertainly as men beating the air.
Obs. II. Secondly, in times of temptations and trials, arguments and exhortations unto watchfulness against sin, and constancy in obedience, are to be multiplied in number, and pressed with wisdom, earnestness and diligence.-Such was the season now with these Hebrews. They were exposed to great trials and temptations. Seduction on the one hand by false teachers, and persecution on the other hand by wrathful adversaries, closely beset them. The apostle therefore in his dealing with them adds one argument unto another, and pursues them all with pathetical exhortations. Men are often almost unwilling to be under this advantage, or they quickly grow weary of it.. Hence our apostle closeth this hortatory epistle with that entreaty, chap. xiii. 22. "Suffer the word of exhortation." He was afraid they might have thought themselves over-burdened with exhortations. And this befals men on three accounts.
1. When they are grieved by their multiplication, as if they proceeded from a jealousy concerning their sincerity and integri ty; so was it with Peter, John xxi. 17.
2. On a confidence of their own strength which they would not have suspected; as with the same Peter, Mat. xxvi. 33.
3. From a secret inclination lying against the thing exhorted unto, or to the thing exhorted from.
But these are the ordinances of God for our preservation in such a condition. And these our necessities in it do call for. And pregnant instances hereof are given by our apostle, espe、 cially in this epistle and in that unto the Galatians, whose condition was the same with that of these Hebrews. Both of them were in danger of being seduced from the simplicity of the gospel, by inveterate prejudices, and the subtilty of false teachers. Both of them were encompassed with dangers, and exposed unto persecutions. He understood their temptations and saw their dangers. And with what wisdom, variety of arguments, expostulations, exhortations, and awakening reproofs, doth he deal with them! what care, tenderness, compassion and love do appear in them all! la nothing did the excellency of his spirit more evidence itself, than in his jealousy concerning, and tender care for, them that were in such a condition. And herein the Lord Christ set him forth for an example, unto all those to whom the work of the ministry and dispensation of the gospel should afterwards be committed. In this care and watchfulness lies the very life and soul of their ministry. Where this is wanting, whatever else be done, there is but the carcass, the shadow of it.
This then is of excellent use; provided, 1. That the arguments on which it proceeds be solid and firm, (such as in this case are every where laid down by our apostle) that our foundation fail us not in our work. Earnest exhortations on feeble principles, have more of noise than weight. When there is an ain of reaching