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terly prevent it, as having done so formerly in others: "Harden. not your hearts." To clear his intention herein, we must inquire, 1. What is intended by heart; and, 2. What by the hardening of it. The heart in the Scripture, spoken of in reference unto moral obedience, doth not constantly denote any one especial faculty of the soul, but sometimes one, sometimes another, is intended and expressed thereby. What is peculiarly designed, the subject-matter treated of, and the adjuncts of the word, will discover. Thus sometimes the heart is said to be wise, understanding, to devise, to be filled with counsel; and on the other side, to be ignorant, dark, foolish, and the like; in all which places, it is evident that the mind, the ro yover, the guiding, conducting, reasoning faculty, is intended. Sometimes it is said to be soft, tender, humble, melting, and on the other side hard, stubborn, obstinate, and the like; wherein principal regard is had to the will and affections. The word therefore is that whereby the principle of all our moral actions, and the respective influence of all the faculties of our souls into them, are expressed.
Secondly, By the sense of the object, is the meaning of the act prohibited to be regulated, " Harden not." The expression is metaphorical, and it signifies the unfitness and resistancy of any thing to receive a due impression from that which is applied unto it, as wax, when it is hard, will not receive an impression from the seal that is set unto it, nor mortar from the trowel. The application that is made in the matter of obedience unto the souls of men, is by the Spirit of God in his commands, promises and threatenings; that is, his voice, the whole revelation of his mind and will. And where a due impression is not made hereby on the soul, to work it to an answerableness in its principles and operations thereunto, men are said to resist the Spirit, Acts vii. 51. that is, to disappoint the end of those means which he makes use of in his applications to them. By what ways or means soever this is done, men are thereby said to harden their hearts. Prejudices, false principles, ignorance, darkness and deceit in the mind, obstinacy and stubbornness in the will, corruption and cleaving unto earthly and sensual objects in the affections, all concur in this evil. Hence, in the application of this example, ver. 12. the apostle exhorts the Hebrews to take heed that they be not hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Now deceit first and principally respects the mind; and therein consists the beginning and entrance into the sin of hardening the heart. A brief consideration of the condition of the people in the wilderness upon whom this evil is charged, will give much light into the nature of the sin that here comes under prohibition. What the dealings of God with them were, is generally known, and we have elsewhere declared. As he gave them instruction from heaven in the revelation and delivery of the law, and intrusted them with
the singular benefit of the erection of his worship amongst them; so he afforded them all sorts of mercies, protections, deliverances, provision and guidance; as also made them sensible of his severity and holiness in great and terrible judgments. All these, at least the most part of them, were also given out unto them in a marvellous and amazing manner. The end of all these dispensations was to teach them his will; to bring them to hearken to his voice; to obey his commands, that it might be well with them and their's. In this state and condition sundry things are recorded of them.
As first, That they were dull, stupid, and slow of heart in considering the ways, kindness and works of God. They set not their hearts to them to weigh and ponder them, Deut. xxxii. 28, 29. 2. What they did observe and were moved at, (as such was the astonishing greatness of some of the works of God amongst them, such the overpowering obligations of many of his dealings with them, that they could not but let in some present transient sense of them upon their minds), yet they soon forgot them and regarded them not, Psal. Ixxviii. 11, 12. 3. That their affections were so violently set upon earthly, sensual, perishing things, that in comparison of them they despised all the promises and threatenings of God, resolving to pursue their own hearts lusts, whatever might become of them in this world and to eternity, Psal. lxxviii. 18, 19. All which are manifest in the whole story of their ways and doings. By this means their minds and spirits were brought into such a frame and condition, that as they did not, so they could not hearken to the voice of God, or yield obedience unto him. They became a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their hearts aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God," Psal. lxxviii. 8. For by these ways and degrees of sin, they contracted a habit of obstinacy, perverseness and uncircumcision of heart; neither did the Lord in his sovereign pleasure see good by his effectual grace to circumcise the hearts of the persons of that generation, that they might fear and serve him, whereby they came to be hardened unto final unbelief and impenitency. It appears then, that unto this sinful hardening of the heart which the people in the wilderness were guilty of, and which the apostle here warns the Hebrews to avoid, there are three things that do concur. First, the mind's sinful inadvertency and neglect, in not taking due notice of the ways and means whereby God calls any unto faith and obedience. Secondly, a sinful forgetfulness and casting out of the heart and mind such convictions as God by his word and works, his mercies and judgments, deliverances or afflictions, at any time is pleased to cast into them and fasten upon them. Thirdly, an obstinate cleaving in the affections unto carnal and sensual objects, practically preferring them above the motives unto obedience that God proposeth to us.
Where these things are, the hearts of men are so hardened, that in an ordinary way they cannot hearken unto the voice of God. We may hence also take some observations for our instruction.
Obs. VIII. Such is the nature, efficacy and power of the voice or word of God, that men cannot withstand or resist it, without a sinful hardening of themselves against it.-There is a natural hardness in all men before they are dealt withal by the word: or, this spiritual hardness is in them by nature. Hardness is an adjunct of that condition, or the corruption of nature, as is darkness, blindness, deadness and the like; or it is a result or consequent of them. Men being dark and blind and dead in trespasses and sins, have thence a natural hardness, an unfitness to receive impressions of a contrary kind, and a resistency thereunto. And this frame may be increased and corroborated in men by various vicious and prejudicate habits of mind, contracted by custom, example, education and the practice of sin. All this may be in men antecedent unto the dispensation or preaching of the word unto them. Now unto the removal or taking away of this hardness, is the voice or the word of God in the dispensation of it designed. It is the instrument and means, which God useth unto that end. It is not (I confess) of itself absolutely considered, without the influencing operation of the Spirit of grace, able to produce this effect. But it is able to do it in its own kind and place; and is thence said to be able to save our souls,” Jam. i. 21. " able to build us up, and give us an inheritance amongst them that are sanctified," Acts xx. 32. "being also that immortal seed whereby we are begotten unto God," 1 Pet. i. 23. By this means doth God take away that natural darkness or blindness of men;" opening the eyes of the blind," Acts xxvi. 18. “turning them from darkness to light; shining into their hearts, to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 6. as also "quickening them who were dead in trespasses and sins ;" and thereby he removes that hardness which is a consequent of these things and God doth not apply a means to any end, which is unsuited to it or insufficient for it. There is therefore usually such a concomitancy of the Spirit, with every dispensation of the word of God, that is according to his mind and will, as is able and sufficient to remove that hardness which is naturally upon the hearts of men.
Every one therefore to whom the word is duly revealed, who is not converted unto God, doth voluntarily oppose his own obstinacy unto its efficacy and operation. Here lies the stop to the progress of the word in its work upon the souls of men. It stays not unless it meet with an actual obstinacy in their wills, refusing, rejecting and resisting of it. And God in sending of it, doth accompany his word with that power, which is meet to help and save them in the state and condition wherein it finds them.
they will add new obstinacy and hardness to their minds and hearts; if they will fortify themselves against the word with prejudices and dislike; if they will resist its work through a love to their lusts and corrupt affections, God may justly leave them to perish and to be filled with the fruit of their own ways. this state of things is variously expressed in the Scripture. As 1. By God's willingness for the salvation of those unto whom he grants his word as the means of their conversion, Ezek. xviii. 23. 32. Jer. xiii. 11. 2 Pet. iii. 9. 1 Tim. ii. 4. 2. By his expostulations with them that reject his word, casting all the cause of their destruction upon themselves, Mat. xxiii. 37. Now as these things cannot denote an intention in God for their conversion, which should be frustrate, for this were to ascribe weakness and changeableness unto him; nor can they signify an exercise towards them of that effectual grace whereby the elect are really converted unto God, which would evert the whole nature of effectual grace, and subject it to the corrupt wills of men: so they express more than a mere proposal of the outward means, which men are not able savingly to receive and improve. There is this also in them, that God gives such an efficacy unto these means, as that their operation doth proceed on the minds and souls of men in their natural condition, until by some new acts of their wills, they harden themselves against them. And 3. so the gos pel is proposed to the wills of men, Isa. lv. 1. Rev. xxii. 14.
Hence it is that the miscarriage of men under the dispensation of the word, is still charged upon some positive actings of their wills in opposition unto it, Isa. xxx. 15. Mat. xxiii. 37. John iii. 19. v. 40. They perish not, they defeat not the end of the word towards themselves, by a mere abode and continuance in the state wherein the word finds them, but by rejecting the counsel of God made known to them for their healing and recovery, Luke vii. 30.
Obs. IX. Many previous sins make way for the great sin of finally rejecting the voice or word of God.-The not hearing the voice of God which is here reproved, is that which is final, which absolutely cuts men off from entering into the rest of God. Unto this men come not without having their hearts hardened by depraved lusts and affections, and that it is their nature so to do, shall be afterwards declared. Here we only respect the connexion of the things spoken of. Hardening of the heart goes before final impenitence and infidelity, as the means and cause of it. Things do not ordinarily come to an immediate issue between God and them to whom the word is preached. I say ordinarily; because God may immediately cut off any person, upon the first refused tender of the gospel. And it may be he deals so with many, but ordinarily he exerciseth much patience towards men in this condition. He finds them in a state of nature, that is, of
enmity against him. In this state he offers them terms of peace, and waits thereon during the season of his good pleasure to see what the event will be. Many in the mean time attend to their lusts and temptations, and so contract an obdurate senselessness upon their hearts and minds, which, fortifying them against the calls of God, prepares them for final impenitency. And this is the first thing that is considerable, in the general matter of the exhortation in hand.
Thirdly, The time and season for the performance of the duty exhorted unto is expressed: "To-day."-" To-day if you will hear his voice." The various respects of the limitation of the season of this duty, have been spoken to in the opening of the words. The moral sense of it is no more, but the present and proper season of any duty, which what is required unto, in this case of yielding obedience to the voice of God, shall be afterwards declared. And in this sense the word is generally used in all authors and languages. So is frequently in the Hebrew in other places, as in this. And proper season they called a good day, a meet season, 1 Sam. xxv. 8. It may be only a day of feast is there intended, which they called Dr, 1 a good day; a day of mirth and refreshment, Lev. xxiii. And so it is commonly used by the Rabbins; especially for the feast which the high priest made for his brethren after the day of expiation. For on that day they were obliged to many observances under the penalty of excision. This begat fear and terror in them, and was part of their yoke and bondage. Wherefore when that service was over, and they found themselves safe, not smitten by the hand of God, they kept a good day, wherein they invited all the priests that ministered, unto a feast. But most frequently they so express a present opportunity or season. So the Greeks use onusgov, as in Anacreon,
Σήμερον μέλει μοι, το di
αυριον τις οιδε.
My care is for to-day, (the present season,) who knows to-morrow,' or the time to come. To the same purpose are juga and aug used in the gospel, Mat. vi. 34. Μη εν μεριμνήσητε εις την αυριον, n γας αυριον μεριμνήσει τα ἑαυτης, αρχείον τη ήμερα ή κακια αύτης. "Take no care for the morrow" (things future and unknown) "the morrow shall take care for the things of itself," (provision shall be made for things future according as they fall out) "sufficient unto the day" (the present time and season)" is the evil thereof." To the same purpose do they use hodie in the Latin tongue, as in those common sayings.
Sera nimis vita est crastina, viv' hodie :-and
With many other sayings of the like import. This then is the