Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
1. It strikes against all the perfections of the Divine nature. All these are illustriously displayed and infinitely glorified in the work of man's salvation. If you reject the Son of God, you are chargeable with practical blasphemy against each of the Divine attributes. You in effect call the wisdom of God foolishness. It is not to you the wisdom of God. Nor is it the power of God. For by your unbelief you say that it was exerted, even in this great salvation, for no great end. You also insult His holiness, as if it were a needless regard to trifling offences. By rejecting the Saviour you materially say that sin is a light matter, and that Christ died in vain. You brand His justice as if it were a groundless severity; for by refusing to accept of the obedience and sufferings of Christ, as in your stead, you practically declare that He obeyed and suffered without any real necessity. You virtually deny His faithfulness; for he that believeth not in God hath made Him a liar. His very love, which is the great source of salvation, you dare to treat as if it were unmeaning compassion; as being exercised about those who have no need of it; mercy extended to those who are not miserable, offering salvation to those who can easily save themselves.
2. It does injury to all the Persons of the adorable Trinity. The Father declares Christ to be His beloved Son; and this is His record, that in Him there is eternal life: yet sinners by their unbelief refuse to give it credit. The Son testifies concerning Himself; yet they reject His testimony. They will not allow Him to be the faithful and true witness. The Holy Spirit hath attested the excellency of that salvation exhibited in the gospel, not only as the Spirit of inspiration but by signs, and wonders, and divers miracles. He still attests it by common and saving operations on the hearts of men. Though God reveals Himself in the gospel under the endearing character of love, and though He describes the scheme of redemption as the most glorious of all the Divine councils, yet unbelief refuses Him all honour in this gracious revelation.
3. The great evil of this sin appears from the dignity of the person of Christ, and especially from the truth of His Divine nature. He is the more immediate object of faith; for by Him we believe in God: therefore unbelief is more immediately committed against Him.
4. Unbelief is greatly aggravated from Christ's relation to us as our Kinsman-Redeemer. The greater the condescension of any person, the greater is the evidence of his love, and the more inexcusable is our ingratitude if we make not a proper return. And behold I what infinite condescension is here.
5. The atrocious nature of this sin appears from the dignity of the mediatory office of Christ. The honour conferred on Him by His mission, as well as that essentially belonging to Him in His person, is often mentioned as a valid reason of faith, and as a striking proof of the evil of unbelief. This is the work of God, a work of the greatest importance, that work in the success of which He is especially concerned, "that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent."
6. The sin of unbelief is greatly aggravated by the reason of various relations in which the Son of God offers Himself in the gospel to sinners. That no person whatsoever may have excuse for rejecting Him from a pretended unsuitableness to his necessities in the character that Christ bears, in unspeakable love He reveals Himself in every character with which the necessity, nay, the misery of man, can in any respect correspond. Is the sinner in a widowed state, is he desolate and forsaken like a wife of youth? In great mercy this Kinsman-Redeemer saith, "Thy Maker is thy Husband." Is he, in a spiritual sense, an orphan? He reveals Himself as a Father to the fatherless, in His holy habitation. And in Him, indeed, the fatherless findeth mercy. Is he friendless and destitute? Here is "a Friend born for adversity, a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother," a Friend who hath laid down His life for His enemies. Is he foolish and ignorant? Christ proclaims Himself as the Counsellor. Hath he gone astray, and is he altogether unable to recover himself? He appears as a compassionate Shepherd, who "gathers the lambs with His arm, carries them in His bosom," and "brings back the hundredth sheep that was lost, on His shoulders, rejoicing." Is he weak? He is the Strength of Israel. Is he in a starving condition? Then Christ declares that He is the Bread of Life. Is he dead in trespasses and sins? The God-man is the Resurrection and the Life. Where then is thy excuse, O unbelieving man? There is no want in thyself but may be amply supplied in Christ, and will be amply supplied by a believing application to Him.
7. This sin is greatly aggravated from the work which Christ hath performed, and the blessings that He hath purchased.
8. A consideration of the variety of means and ordinances with which the hearers of the gospel are favoured tends to illustrate the great guilt of this sin. The greater the tenderness of a parent, and the more various the plans he pursues in order to reclaim a rebellious child, the greater is his guilt if he persists in rebellion. And how various are the means of grace which sinners enjoy — means of conviction, illumination, conversion, comfort, confirmation, and edification!
9. Under the power of this sin men refuse the influence of every consideration that hath weight with them in other things. In human affairs they are generally engaged by the reasonableness of any proposal. The proposals which God makes to us, in the Word, are highly reasonable. He offers eternal life, through Jesus Christ, without money and without price. He assures us that we cannot save ourselves. Yet the sinner prefers death to life.
10. This is a sin that can never be committed by heathens. For " how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?" Although their sin is declared to be inexcusable, yet their doom is more tolerable.
11. This is a sin that could never be committed by devils. Unspeakable is their guilt indeed. But they have never added, and never can add, to their other sins that of rejecting salvation through Jesus Christ.
12. This is a sin against the very remedy. "If ye believe not," saith Christ, "that I am He, ye shall die in your sins."
13. This sin, in some sense, lays bonds on Omnipotence. It does not so absolutely. It is impossible that the creature can ever defeat the purpose of the Creator, whatever it be, for He will do all His pleasure. But sinners may, and often, do counteract the operations of God as to their tendency in themselves. Thus they oppose their natural tendency, though they do not defeat the immutable purpose of God, but actually accomplish it.From these considerations we learn —
1. That unbelief attempts a second time to undo all that God hath done for His own glory and for the happiness of man. According to its nature, it is determined to war against God in all His works, though at the dreadful expense of warring against the soul.
2. The source of the ruin of many hearers of the gospel. Whatever attention they pay to the sins of their conversation, they are under no apprehensions about those of the heart. They endeavour to reform their lives, to deliver themselves from the more gross pollutions of the world. But oh! consider, that this is only to wash the outside of the cup, and of the platter; and that how much soever it please men, however beneficial it be to society, it comes far short of pleasing God.
(John Jamieson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.