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REMARKS ON HEB. 12:15,16.

Covington, GA., March 1, 1859.

This Epistle is one of the most argumentative, clear, and explanatory of any written by Paul. He in a very able manner, contrasts the former dispensation, and all its rites, and ceremonies, with the Gospel Church and its doctrine, laws, and ordinances. He treats upon several things which were formerly practiced by God’s ancient people, as figures, types, and shadows of something which had their fulfillment and consummation in the person of Jesus Christ, the great Antitype, and which were closely connected with the Gospel Church in its order, form, and glorious development. But those Hebrew brethren were like some in our day, they were dull of hearing. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Chap. 5:12. This Epistle is alone applicable to the saints, and especially to that class, who are not fully established in the faith of the Gospel, and who are hankering after things forbidden by the Scriptures, for the gratification of a fleshly mind.

God spake in times past unto national Israel by the prophets, but in these times, He hath spoken unto his church and people by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, and by whom also he made the worlds. If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression, and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, so also in the gospel church and kingdom, every violation of the law of Christ, any departure from the faith in precept or example, a neglecting, or turning away from this salvation in doctrine or practice by any of the saints, will receive merited punishment from a just and holy God. The Lord is faithful to correct his children, to sorely chastise them for their sins and iniquities. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. He will not countenance, nor approbate sin any more in his people, than among the workers of iniquity in general. Though their eternal salvation is secure in Jesus Christ, yet God deals with them upon the principle of righteousness, truth, and justice. See the context from the 5th to the 11th verse, inclusive.

After exhorting his brethren to obedience, and admonishing them in a faithful manner, the Apostle introduces the words of our text in the following manner: “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 word lest signifies for fear that there might be, &c. Hence the necessity that those brethren should take heed and be guarded against anything of the kind as expressed in the text. If there was not a liability that something of the kind might take place, the Apostle would not have expressed himself in the manner he did. We learn the necessity, and importance of a faithful ministry to warn, reprove, and admonish the saints of God.

We do not understand the word fornicator, as used in our text, to have reference, simply, to a literal violation of chastity, but it expresses the same in part at least as apostate: One who has forsaken the church, sect, profession, or party to which he before adhered. The Jews are represented as whores, harlots and adulteresses, because in apostasy from God they prostituted themselves to a dependence on the Assyrians, Egyptians, Chaldeans, and others, instead of God, and copied after their idolatries. Jeremiah 3, Ezek. 16 & 23. The papal hierarchy is called the great whore and mother of harlots and abominations, because of its noted apostasy and idolatry, and decoying others into it; and such apostasy is called fornication, whoredom, or adultery. Rev. 17 & 19:2. The word profane, in this case signifies despising that which is good and sacred. The example of Esau is referred to by the Apostle as a fornicator, and as a profane person.

Esau was the eldest son of Isaac, and a twin-brother to Jacob. In Gen. 25:29-34, inclusive, we have an account of his selling his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage. Esau being the first-born, was entitled, according to the custom of that age, to the first, primary, and greatest blessing. He apostatized, and sold, and despised his birthright, which was a sacred thing. He was supplanted by his brother, who by subtility, and also by right, as he had bought Esau’s birthright, obtained the blessing of the first-born. When Esau found what Jacob had done, he was in great trouble, and cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry unto his father, but it was of no avail. Jacob had supplanted him, and there was no repentance, or change of mind with Isaac. To use the words of Isaac, “I have blessed him; yea, and he shall be blessed.” Gen. 27:33.

We dissent from the view of many in relation to Esau’s character in its use and application in our text. Some speak of it in the following manner. A person who has passed from death unto life, and made a profession of the name of Christ in the church, and who, after retaining his profession for a season, sells his inheritance in heaven for worldly gain, renounces his profession, and pursues a wicked course, is an abominable apostate. And that after a season, having sinned away the day of grace, as it is called, he comes to himself, and finds that it is impossible for him to inherit the blessing, being rejected, and that the door of mercy is closed against him forever. And though he may sorrow, sigh, weep, and cry, and seek diligently for a place of repentance, he cannot find it, simply because he has committed the unpardonable sin, and therefore the gate of heaven is shut against him, and he is doubly-damned for his wickedness, to all eternity.

Others suppose that Esau’s character illustrates that of a false professor only, who under the pretence of great love to the cause of Christ, joins the church, maintains his standing for a season, then forsakes his profession, and becomes openly more vile than before, hardened in sin and wickedness, and sinks to hell with an accumulation of aggravated sins upon his soul.

We will investigate, and give our views, as we understand the subject. Those Hebrew brethren did not fully understand that all the Jewish rituals with all the ceremonies of that national covenant, were abrogated, and that they as the real children of God, were now under law to Christ, to obey, and follow him as Prophet, Priest, and King. Furthermore, as the children of God, they had a birth-right claim, or a right by birth, to all the privileges and blessings of their heavenly Father’s house, the church of the Most High God. Each of them was entitled to the blessing of the first-born, being begotten, and brought forth in the Son-ship of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though the saints in the new birth, receive the spirit of adoption, and possess within themselves a new and heavenly principle, yet in their fallen nature they are sinful and vile. This sinful and vile nature renders them liable, at times, to lust after evil things, as the Israelites of old lusted, and justly received the reward of their deeds. As a warning to his brethren, and by way of exhortation he says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Not fail of that grace which saves with an everlasting salvation, but fail of that grace which is bestowed upon the saints in the blessings, privileges, fellowship, and communion of the saints in the visible church of God. If any root of bitterness springs up, {for it never comes down,} something of an evil nature, many become defiled, and the confidence of brethren in each other is very much shaken.

He now introduces the character of Esau, as an example, and as a warning to them in the following manner: First, they should not apostatize from their profession, nor despise their right by birth in the house of God for a morsel of bread. If any one of you {is Paul’s argument,} should sell your birthright privilege in the fellowship of the saints, for worldly gain, or any bribe which may be put in your hands, and thereby dispose of that which is sacred and honorable as a follower of Christ, you practically apostatize, and show that you despise your profession, and love the world better than the cause of the Redeemer. Have we not seen this practically illustrated? Have we not seen those we esteemed as brethren, for the gratification of their own lusts, sell all that they were entitled to in their profession, out of love to the honor, riches, and pleasures of this world? Have we not seen the blessed cause of Christ dishonored, and disgraced by the unworthy; yea, wicked course of such persons? Just think for a moment of brethren sacrificing all the privileges, and blessings they were entitled to as the sons of Zion, for the purpose of gratifying the flesh. Alas! Too many have done and still continue to do it. And when reproved, and admonished by the ministers of Christ, and by faithful brethren, they heed it not, but persist in their course. They practically prove themselves to be fornicators, or apostates, by associating with some of the harlot daughters of mystery Babylon, or embark with those who practice usury for gain and seek some high place of honor among men for notoriety, or step into the path of licentiousness for sensual indulgence. In this way they despise their birthright.

Secondly, after Esau had sold his birthright, and Jacob had obtained the blessing, he was in deep distress. By his own folly he had deprived himself of the birthright, and now charges Jacob with supplanting him. Many such instances, in principle, have been known in a church relation. Some, after pursuing a course of folly for a time, find they have lost the confidence of the church, but instead of acknowledging their faults, they are ready to charge the church with pursuing a wrong course with them. They have a disposition to inherit the blessing, but show no desire to confess their faults. With many tears, as Esau did, they seek carefully a place of repentance {change of mind} in the church, but find it not. They have gone so far, and done so wickedly that they cannot be restored to the confidence of the church. They feel a sorrow that they are rejected by the church, but like Esau, there is no repentance of their sins, no real sorrow of soul for having grieved the brethren by bringing an open disgrace upon the cause of truth. But having forfeited their standing in the church, the loss of character and reputation by an ungodly course, and not finding the church disposed to change her course, and restore them to her confidence; they, like Esau {Gen. 27:41} are disposed in heart to injure those of the church that they think have done them the most harm.

This will serve to illustrate our views as far as we have expressed. The question at issue is not whether such ones are really the children of God, or not. The scope of Paul’s argument, as we understand it, is to illustrate the low, mean, dishonorable course of some who might be disposed to follow the example of Esau. Hence the Apostle exhorted, warned, and admonished his brethren.

We are aware that some suppose if any of the people of God, forfeit their standing in the visible church of Christ, they also forfeit their spiritual interest, and standing in Christ Jesus. This is a mistaken view of the subject. No such thing can possibly take place. The text will admit of no such construction. All the promises in relation to eternal salvation are absolute and unconditional. In relation to the enjoyment of the privileges and blessings, which appertain to, and are connected with the church of Christ in her order and practice, they are experienced only by obedience to Christ in keeping his commandments.

As we have no acquaintance with our friend J.C. Carter, who requested our views on Phil. 1:15-18, and also the text treated upon in this article, we will submit our views at a venture, whether satisfactory to him or not. If our views are correct, we hope, however, that he may be profited by them.

J.L. Purington.