HEBREWS XII. 16, 17.

“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”

The birthright of Esau, as the firstborn of the patriarch Isaac, was only that which entitled him to a temporal inheritance, which consisted in earthly dominion, and worldly possessions, and in its figurative import, set forth the spiritual privileges of the saints, in the house of God, under the gospel dispensation, these privileges and rights which belong to them in the gospel organization of the church, by virture of their spiritual birthright, such as church membership, and the fellowship, and communion of the saints, as belonging to the household of faith. Esau, as we are informed, despised his birthright, and sold it to Jacob for a mess of pottage. Of course we are not to understand that the eternal inheritance of the saints in glory can be by them either bought or sold; for that inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and cannot fade away, because it is reserved for them in heaven, and they are kept for the possession and enjoyment of it, by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed at the last time. (1 Peter i. 4,5.) The apostle’s admonition in our text, implies that there are, or may be, among the saints in the christian church, while here on earth, some, who, like Esau, will barter away their spiritual privileges in the church, for carnal gratifications. This they can do to a limited extent. Those who are born of God are commanded to take Christ’s yoke, and learn of him, to deny themselves of all ungodliness, and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously and godly; and they are assured that in this course, they shall find rest to their souls. This is their peculiar birthright, so far as concerns their privileges in the Zion of God, here on earth. But if to gratify the lusts of the flesh, they will walk disorderly, in rioting, drunkenness, or in any other manner of disorder, they sell at a cheap rate, the social, substantial and spiritual privileges of their birthright, for the momentary gratification of the flesh. So also when the children of God forsake the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is, they sell a precious birthright privilege, for the accommodation of some worldly lust. It may be their desire to accumulate worldly gain, or to gratify a lazy inclination; but in all cases it is only for pottage. If our carnal natures were, as some have contended, born again, or made spiritual, there would be in us no such wicked propensities to please; but we find by experience, that in us, that is, in our flesh, dwelleth no good; while with the mind we serve the law of God, with our flesh we serve the law of sin. There is in our depraved nature, a strong craving something for a certain kind of red pottage, as near as we can describe it, like this; to build up a sort of reputation by magnifying the faults of our brethren, in the gratification of which, we are inclined to make a brother an offender for a word; to thrust with side and shoulder, by disparaging the reputation of our fellows, so that we may be ourselves considered the largest fish in the pond; but the privileges of birthright dictates the better way, to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. We have not time or space now to show in how many ways christians may exchange their most valuable birthright enjoyments for carnal gratifications.

We are requested to dwell more particularly on the seventeenth verse, wherein we are told that Esau could find no place for repentance, though he sought it with tears. The blessing in which Jacob supplanted Esau was pronounced in these words, “God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” - Gen. xxvii. 28,29. How diligently Esau sought to rescind the transaction of his foolish bargain will appear by the account given in the same chapter. But his sorrow and tears were unavailing, he could find no place for them, or for repentance; he was held strictly to his bargain; though very much against his will. Isaac said, I have blessed him (Jacob), yea, and he shall be blessed. “And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceedingly bitter cry.” But alas, all was unavailing. His appetite had been gratified with the coveted red pottage, and his birthright was irrecoverably gone. Is it not even so in the application of the figure to the saints? If they live after the flesh, shall they not die? When christians have been drawn away from the high and holy vocation wherewith they are called of God, by their carnal lusts, do they not lose the fellowship of their brethren? That fellowship and confidence is their birthright; but when sold for pottage, how hard it is to be regained. When the adversary has hailed thee to the judge, and the judge has delivered thee to the officer, and thou art cast into prison, thou shalt in no case come out thence until thou hast paid the utmost farthing. The minister, who in preaching, yields to the morbid craving for the red pottage of popular applause, and for a little taste of popularity, keeps back part of his message, or countenances that which is contrary to the word, will sink in the esteem of his faithful brethren, and finally lose the fellowship of the church of God. He may be employed as a preacher for antichrist, but his birthright has gone for red pottage. Paul does not say that the saints shall never find place for repentance, or by repentance, restoration to birthright privileges; for some wicked prodigals have been reinstated in the family; but there have been others, not a few, who have had to mourn with “exceeding bitter crying,” that they, for the gratification of their carnal propensities, have irrecoverably lost the confidence of their brethren, and birthright privileges in the church of Christ. May God grant us grace, to keep our bodies under, to walk circumspectly, and to enjoy the blessed privileges of the house of God, until we shall be delivered from the corruptions of the flesh, and awake with the likeness of our glorious and glorified Redeemer.

Middletown, N. Y.
August 15, 1855.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 239 - 242