Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
I. We may improve it for INSTRUCTION.
1. We may learn, in general, the great reason of the unprofitableness of the bearers of the gospel. It is their want of faith.
2. It may be inferred that we ought to view every sin in its natural tendency. This particularly applies to unbelief. Therefore the apostle holds up this sin in its genuine scope, in departing from the living God. This is one great object of the deceitfulness of sin to conceal its true spirit, design, and end. But we ought to tear off the veil, and then shall we see that its ways lead down to death.
3. A departure from the ordinances of the gospel is a departure from God. The Hebrews might be apt to excuse themselves for renouncing the gospel dispensation in the hour of trial by pretending that they still secretly adhered in heart to God, trusted in the Messiah, and retained a respect to ordinances formerly enjoined. But the apostle shows that, by departing from the gospel, they really apostatised from the living God. Others may endeavour to excuse themselves in like manner from their inward respect to God, while they refuse attendance on the means of grace. But all who habitually do so renounce the authority of God, who hath an undoubted right to appoint what religious ordinances soever He pleases. Unless we acknowledge His authority in this respect, our hearts do not submit to Him; we rise up in actual rebellion against Him.
4. The great danger of speaking irreverently of the Holy Spirit, either as to His person or operations.
5. We may learn that even the partial exercise of unbelief in the hearts of God's people is highly provoking to Him. Therefore we are so earnestly dehorted from it. We have an instance of His displeasure in this respect with two eminent saints, Moses and Aaron, although Moses was the principal actor.
II. This subject affords ground of TRIAL. Let every one put this important question to his own heart, "Do I really believe in Christ, or am I still under the power of this evil heart of unbelief?"
1. If your faith be saving, you are convinced that it is the work of God.
2. It is attended with evangelical repentance. "They shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn." Have you never been made to abhor yourselves? Has all your sorrow for sin been confined to its consequences? If so, you are yet strangers to the faith of God's elect.
3. The heart is purified by means of it. This grace always produces holiness. It instigates to, and is instrumental in, the mortification of all known sin.
4. It worketh by love. It produces a supreme love to God. For "he that loveth not, knoweth not God." It works by love to the brethren. For "hereby do we know that we are passed from death to life," &c.
5. It overcometh the world. The Church is represented as having the moon under her feet. This may be understood of the present world, of which, because of the uncertainty of all its enjoyments, the moon in her many waxings and wanings, in her constant changes, is a very proper emblem. Faith overcomes the world in its allurements.
6. It produces a high esteem of Christ; for to them that believe He is precious.
7. Faith receives and improves Christ in every respect in which He is revealed. It embraces Him in His person as God-man. Therefore believing is called receiving Him. Indeed, faith is, on our part, the great instrument of union to Christ. Faith embraces His righteousness. Therefore it is called the righteousness of faith, and said to be unto all and upon all them that believe It receives Him in all His offices, as made of God to us wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification.
8. Faith purifies the life. "As the body without the spirit is dead, even so faith without works is dead also." That faith which does not influence the practice is deceitful and destructive.
(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.