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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 12 - Verse 14
The connexion here requires us to understand this mainly of persecutors. The apostle is referring to the trials which those whom he addressed were experiencing. Those trials seem to have arisen mainly from persecution, and he exhorts them to manifest a spirit of kindness towards all, even though they were engaged in persecuting them. This is the temper of the gospel. We are to make war with sin, but not with men; with bad passions and corrupt desires, but not with our fellow-worms.
And holiness. Instead of yielding to contending passions and to a spirit of war; instead of seeking revenge on your persecutors and foes, make it rather your aim to be holy, Let that be the object of your pursuit; the great purpose of your life. Men might in such cases counsel them to seek revenge; the spirit of religion would counsel them to strive to be holy. In such times they were in great danger of giving indulgence to evil passions, and hence the special propriety of the exhortation to endeavour to be holy.
Without which no man shall see the Lord. That is, shall see him in peace; or shall so see him as to dwell with him. All will see him in the day of judgment; but to "see" one is often used in the sense of being with one, dwelling with one, enjoying one. See Barnes "Mt 5:8".
No one has ever been admitted to heaven in his sins; nor is it desirable that any one ever should be. Desirable as it is that lost men should be happy, yet it is benevolence which excludes the profane, the impious, and the unbelieving from heaven—just as it is benevolence to a family to exclude profligates and seducers, and as it is benevolence to a community to confine thieves and robbers in prison. This great principle in the Divine administration will always be adhered to; and hence they who are expecting to be saved without holiness or religion are destined to certain disappointment. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God will not admit one unrepenting and unpardoned sinner to heaven. It was the importance and the certainty of this principle which made the apostle insist on it here with so much earnestness. Amidst all their trials, when exposed to persecution, and when everything might tempt them to the indulgence of feelings which were the opposite of holiness, they were to make it their great object to be like God. For this they were to seek, to strive, to labour, to pray. This with us, in all our trials, should also be the great aim of life. How deeply affecting, then, is the inquiry, whether we have that holiness which is indispensable to salvation! Let us not deceive ourselves. We may have many things else—many things which are in themselves desirable, but without this one thing we shall never see the Lord in peace. We may have wealth, genius, learning, beauty, accomplishments, houses, lands, books, friends—but without religion they will be all in vain. Never can we see God in peace without a holy heart; never call we be admitted into heaven without that religion which will identify us with the angels around the throne!
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