8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
Impenitent sinners cannot shun the threatened punishment; so neither can they do any thing to deliver themselves from it, or to relieve themselves under it. This is implied in those words of the text, Can thine hand. be strong? It is with our hands that we make and accomplish things for ourselves. But the wicked in hell will have no strength of hand to accomplish any thing at all for themselves, or to bring to pass any deliverance, or any degree of relief.
The folly and presumption of poor souls herein can never be enough lamented. But it is one thing to embrace a cloud, a shadow, another to have the truth in reality. I shall hereafter show the true nature of forgiveness and wherein it doth consist, whereby the vanity of this self-deceiving will be discovered and laid open.
This discovery of forgiveness in God is great, holy, and mysterious, and which very few on gospel grounds do attain unto. All men, indeed, say there is; most men are persuaded that they think so.
Only men in great and desperate extremities, like Cain or Spira, seem to call it into question. But their thoughts are empty, groundless, yea, for the most part wicked and atheistical. Elihu tells us, that to declare this aright to a sinful soul, it is the work of “a messenger, an interpreter, one among a thousand.