"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath." (Hebrews 6:17)
There are two things which must ever be kept apart; they are distinct. One is the law of God in man's creation, which condemns him through sin. It never gives life. The other is the gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This is the promise of eternal life which faith believes. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7)
The words in the text refer to the Lord's promise that He made to Abraham and to his seed. He gave him a promise of the blessing in the covenant of grace, and confirmed it by an oath: "For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could sware by no greater, He sware by Himself." (Heb. 6:13) There is no higher personage. He covenanted the blessing, and then sware to perform it, saying, "Surely blessing, I will bless thee." (Heb. 6:14) It would be making God a perjured Being to say He would not do it; there is extreme wickedness in such an idea. The blessing must come; because He has sworn to it.
The subject set before us is that blessing. It is eternal life. Now what is eternal life? If we can arrive at this, we may have some guide as to whether we possess it or not.
A child of God may often feel his faith is dead, his prayers are dead, his hope is dead, and in his estimation his soul is dead. But all his experience in such a state springs only from a blind understanding, a darkened mind. Satan, the father of lies, is the father of it, and a darkened mind the conceiver of it. God has promised eternal life, and promised to maintain it. The life does not mean merely an eternal existence, common to all, though denied by many. Eternal life is something different from that--that is a living death. It is something beyond all the powers of man to conceive--life. If any of you have felt the life of God flowing in such peace and heavenly light as it is impossible to describe, you have felt a something you never felt before, a liveliness in your soul, a liveliness in your praises, in your prayers. God is your God, and you are His child. You give Him body and soul, and all that is possible. That is living; it is to enjoy life, to associate with God in the life. This is promised in its fullness when we get to heaven. It will make you sometimes wish these days of mortality were over, to feel the Canaanite will never disturb your peace, to have no expectation of death seizing you, never to lose that liveliness, to be in one everlasting enjoyment. This is a standpoint; you have the blessing.
The time will come when you lose the joy, the animation; and you think you will never more feel that pleasure in prayer, in hope, in serving God. You are mistaken. That is sworn to by the oath, and promised in the covenant--to continue that. All He has sworn to do is to give life. Life is grace, and grace is life. If He has ever raised you to a hope in His mercy, it shall never be taken away from you. I mean, a well-grounded hope that God will never leave nor forsake you, that laid then a solid foundation under your feet. Though you think it is all taken away, it keeps you still from sinking in the miry clay. In that hope when life flows apace! How sweet is everything around you! Naturally, if a man sets up in business with a hope in undertaking it, how it encourages him, puts a lever under all his difficulties as he goes on! So is a good hope in the soul, the same animating power. You hope God will bring you through, and leave your foes behind; that one day you shall receive the remission of sins. That hope puts animation into your soul. It is one branch of eternal life you feel in your heart.
Again. There is prayer--life in prayer; not a detail of words with no power in them, no energy, and falling upon the speaker or hearer with dislike. It is not so with all the child of God's prayers. There is a little besides; and when it comes, it makes up for all that. It breathes after God with all the desires and affections of the soul, to serve Him better, to be more like Him, and to be with Him. Life is there.
This is the life that is promised to us--the life that makes it comfortable to serve God. It comes not by the law, but by the gospel, when least expected or deserved. When it comes, it flows over floods of deathliness, raises the soul to life, and brings it forth to the light, so as to fear no man. Here it is "the righteous are bold as a lion." They feel,
That is a spot pleasurable to the soul. You love the place, the company; it is joy and delight to your spirit. This is the life that is promised; and the full completion of it will be in eternity. You do not always feel it, nor believe it; and this is brought as a mark against you. God knew unbelief would creep in at every crack and corner. He knew His people would turn things upside down; that Satan would deny it all; and they would be full of trouble and fear. Therefore God, "willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath."
He calls them heirs of the promised blessing. It is not sold nor bartered; it goes by heirship. How vain, then, to offer it up for sale or competition! Men may offer it, but they have no power to communicate it. This is like one man offering another man's goods for sale. All God's children are heirs of salvation, heirs of promise; and the blessing comes by promise. What a mercy if you and I are heirs! Why did it come to you? Were you better than others? Were you seeking after it? Eternal life came because it was yours by inheritance; and it has found you out. (1 Pet. 1:4) How many have cursed and sworn they would have nothing to do with it; yet nothing could overcome the faithfulness of God to His covenant. He has stopped their mouths, and humbled their hearts. Look at Saul of Tarsus. That very gospel stopped him, that Christ met him in the way, and put that eternal life in his heart against which he was so mad. So too mercy came to you, being an heir. The undeservedness presents itself more and more to your eye. It was not because you deserved it or loved it; but you were an heir of promise. I want it laid down well in your minds that if you have received the blessing it came to you by heirship.
This heirship is eternal in its nature. So whatever trials you pass through, God must bring you safely to the end, victoriously through. In proof of this, we have the truth that the blessing is gone out of His mouth. "He hath blessed." (Num. 23:20) Whatever troubles you have passed through in your life, no matter how deep and terrible, God has made them part of the blessing. If the Israelites are to go through the wilderness, it must turn out to be a blessing. God may let you go to extremes; like Lazarus. He waited till all their hopes were gone; then He appeared equal to the emergency. "I am the Resurrection and the Life." (John 11:25) When you are in trials, you would never get out of yourself; but life, wherever it is, must ultimately come to a blessing. This is why "the end of a thing is better than the beginning thereof." This is how God's people grow, and have strength enough. What shatters others only binds them round more strongly, and becomes the bracings of their faith. So Israel went through the Red Sea by faith; and the Egyptians were drowned. One met with deliverance and blessing; the other with destruction. "The ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein." (Hos. 14:9)
Out text says, "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise,"--to give them something to console them by the way, to put a crutch into the hand of the lame man,--to show them "the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, etc. One is the oath of God, who cannot lie. The other has gone before--His immutable counsel. When He promised the blessing, it was done in counsel, not in haste. It is something settled. God then engaged to be their God, never to leave them, and to put His Spirit into their hearts. Jesus Christ engaged to be their Redeemer, and the Spirit engaged to be their Spirit. "I will put My laws in their hearts; and they shall not depart from Me." Come, poor sinner, all your temptations shall never drive you from Him; for "they shall not depart from Me, nor will I depart from them." This is the immutable counsel of God. He did not keep it to Himself. He made an absolute promise and published it upon the housetops. Devils heard it, angels, and men. He promised that He would bless the heirs of promise with eternal life, saying, "Surely blessing, I will bless thee."
The devil once tried to alter it; but he undertook a job he was not able to perform. "Come, and curse me them." What was the answer? "How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed?" It cannot be done. Balaam tried again; but God told him He was "not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man that He should repent." (Num. 23:18,19) Jacob may be a bad child; but says God, "I will not repent. I can overcome all his undeservedness." You may think there is enough in your heart to make God repent; but that thought is only in your heart, not in His. He is immutable, and so is His counsel. "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure." (Isa. 46:10)
The whole of His counsel is revealed in the gospel. That is the declaration of His counsel. Sometimes it is made known to us in small things; sometimes in greater. Sometimes in a persuasion that we shall get safely to heaven; that was the counsel that came to our hearts. "I will bring thee safely through, and never leave thee nor forsake thee." Sometimes we tell Him what He has said to us: "Now, Lord, there is what we had time back. It is black and dark now; but it was bright then." Well then, if so, God has sworn to us, "He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee." (Job 5:19) He has made known a little of His counsel here, and a little there, which has created faith in the soul, made us cast ourselves upon Him, and feel we shall get to heaven at last. That is the grand point before the heirs of promise. He has given them heaven by promise; so He has to make the way plain before them. "I will do it"--this was the promise; and secondly, He swore to it.
Have you felt the power of His oath in your heart, and do you think He could forswear Himself? That would be perjury. See how in the doctrine of free-will God is perjured. It is not the God of the Bible there set forth, who declares He will save out of all. When He made the promise, it cost Him a great deal. He did not get through the work He undertook cheaply; but He did it because He had sworn He would bless His people. "Surely in blessing, I will bless thee." That is the God of the Bible who gives faith, joy, and comfort into His people's hearts. That they might have strong consolation, He has sworn never to give them up, but to supply them with every need and every requirement and bring them to heaven at last. Here He has given them something to do them good, to help them along the weary path, and comfort the person beset with contradictions. They have this consolation, that God will never let Satan, men, or angels say, "There is the oath of God falsified. There is a promise not made good."