Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
I. IN ITS NATURE IT DOTH INVOLVE AN AFFECTED BLINDNESS AND IGNORANCE OF THE NOBLEST AND MOST USEFUL TRUTHS; a bad use of reason, and most culpable imprudence; disregard of God's providence or despite thereto; abuse of His grace; bad opinions of Him, and bad affections towards Him.
II. THE CAUSES AND SOURCES FROM WHENCE IT SPRINGETH.
1. Negligence, or drowsy inobservance and carelessness; when men being possessed with a "spirit of slumber," or being amused with secular entertainments, do not mind the concerns of their soul, or regard the means by God's merciful care presented for their conversion; being in regard to religious matters of Gallio's humour, "caring for none of those things."
2. Sloth, which indidposeth men to undergo the fatigue of seriously attending to the doctrine propounded, of examining its grounds, of weighing the reasons inducing to believe; whence at first hearing, if the notions had not to hit their fancy, they do slight it before they fully understand it, or know its grounds; thence at least they must needs fail of a firm and steady belief, the which can alone be founded on a clear apprehension of the matter, and perception of its agreeableness to reason.
3. Stupidity, or dulness of apprehension, contracted by voluntary indispositions and defects; a stupidity rising from mists of prejudice, from streams of lust and passion, from rust grown on the mind by want of exercising it in observing and comparing things; whence men cannot apprehend the clearest notions plainly represented to them, nor discern the force of arguments, however evident and cogent; but are like those wizards in Job, who "meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noonday, as in the might."
4. Bad judgment; corrupted with prejudicate notions, and partial inclinations to falsehood.
5. Perverseness of will, which hindereth men from entertaining notions disagreeable to their fond or froward humour.
6. This is that hardness of heart which is so often represented as an obstruction of belief.
7. Of kin to that perverseness of heart is that squeamish delicacy and niceness of humour which will not let men entertain or savour anything anywise seeming hard or harsh to them, if they cannot presently comprehend all that is said, if they can frame any cavil or little exception against it, if every scruple be not voided, if anything be required distasteful to their sense; they are offended, and their faith is choked.
8. With these dispositions is connected a want of love to truth, the which if a man hath not. he cannot well entertain such notions as the gospel propoundeth, being nowise grateful to carnal sense and appetite.
9. A grand cause of infidelity is pride, the which doth interpose various bars to the admission of Christian truth; for before a man can believe, every height [every towering imagination and conceit] that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, must be cast down." Pride fills a man with vanity and an affectation of seeming wise in special manner above others, thereby disposing him to maintain paradoxes, and to nauseate common truths received and believed by the generality of mankind. A proud man is ever averse from renouncing his prejudices and correcting his errors, doing which implieth a confession of weakness, ignorance, and folly. He that is wise in his own conceit, will hug that conceit, and thence is incapable to learn. A proud man, that is big and swollen with haughty conceit, cannot stoop down so low, cannot shrink in himself so much, as to "enter into the strait gate, or to walk in the narrow way, which leadeth to life": he will be apt to contemn wisdom and instruction.
10. Another spring of infidelity is pusillanimity, or want of good resolution and courage. Christianity is a warfare; living after its rules is called " fighting the good fight of faith"; every true Christian is a "good soldier of Jesus Christ"; the state of Christians must be sometimes like that of the apostles, who were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears; great courage therefore, and undaunted resolution, are required toward the undertaking this religion, and the persisting in it cordially.
11. Infidelity doth also rise from sturdiness, fierceness, wildness, untamed animosity of spirit; so that a man will not endure to have his will crossed, to be under any law, to be curbed from anything which he is prone to affect.
12. Blind zeal, grounded on prejudice, disposing men to stiff adherence unto that which they have once been addicted and accustomed to, is in the Scripture frequently represented as a cause of infidelity. So the Jews, being "filled with zeal, contradicted the things spoken by St. Paul"; flying at his doctrine, without Weighing it: so "by instinct of zeal" did St. Paul himself persecute the Church; being " exceedingly zealous for the traditions delivered by his fathers."
13. In fine, infidelity doth issue from corruption of mind by any kind of brutish lust, any irregular passion, any bad inclination or habit; any such evil disposition of soul cloth obstruct the admission or entertainment of that doctrine, which doth prohibit and check it; doth condemn it, and brand it with infamy; doth denounce punishment and woe to it: whence "men of corrupt minds, and reprobate concerning the faith"; and "men of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth," are attributes well conjoined by St. Paul, as commonly jumping together in practice; and "to them," saith he," that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled"; such pollution is not only consequent to, and connected with, but antecedent to infidelity, blinding the mind so as not to see the truth, and perverting the will so as not to close with it.
III. THE NAUGHTINESS OF INFIDELITY WILL APPEAR BY CONSIDERING ITS EFFECTS AND CONSEQUENCES; which are plainly a spawn of all vices and villainies, a deluge of all mischiefs, and outrages on the earth for faith being removed, together with it all conscience goeth; no virtue can remain; all sobriety of mind, all justice in dealing, all security in conversation are packed away; nothing resteth to encourage men unto any good, or restrain them from any evil; all hopes of reward from God, all fears of punishment from Him being discarded. No principle or rule of practice is left, beside brutish sensuality, fond self-love, private interest, in their highest pitch, without any bound or curb; which therefore will dispose men to do nothing but to prey on each other with all cruel violence and base treachery. Every man thence will be a god to himself, a fiend to each other; so that necessarily the world will thence be turned into a chaos and a hell, full of iniquity and impurity, of spite and rage, of misery and torment.
(I. Barrow, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.