cation. These things arc written with the beams of the sun in the days
wherein we live. 3. They are the especial sins whose relinquishment,
608 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CH. XII.
by sincere repentance, is most rare. Few fornicators or profane per-
sons do ever come to repentance.
It is one of these alone, namely, profaneness, whereof we have an in-
stance in Esau. The Scripture mentioneth nothing of his fornication.
His taking of wives from among the Hittites, who seem to have been
proud, evil, idolatrous persons, in that they were a grief of mind, or a
bitter provocation unto Isaac and Rebecca, Gen. xxvi. 34, 35, cannot
be called fornication, as the sense of the word was then restrained, when
the evil of polygamy was not known. There is in the words,
1. The evils to be watched against, in the way and manner before
2. An effectual motive to abstain from the latter of them, taken fr^m
the example of one who was guilty of it, which was Esau, and from the
success [consequence] of that guilt.
3. In that example we may observe, 1. That he is charged with this
sin of profaneness. 2. The way whereby he manifested himself so to
be, or. wherein his profaneness did consist. 3. The issue of it. 4. His
vain attempt to recover himself from that condition wherein he was cast
by bis profaneness ; all which must be opened.
First. The first evil mentioned, is, ' fornication,' /xjj rig iropvog. But
the caution is given as unto the church, with respect unto persons in the
first place, ' that there be no fornicator.' Reference is had unto the
former charge, ' look you to it diligently,' that there be no fornication in
your society. Take care that no persons fall into that sin ; or if they
do, let them be removed from among you. The sin is evil unto them,
but the communion of their persons is evil unto you. Now, because
the apostle placeth this evil with that which follows, at the door of final
apostasy, and doth more than intimate the difficulty, if not the moral
impossibility of the recovery of those who are guilty of them ; we must
inquire into the nature of it, and thereon its danger. And,
1. This sin is most directly and particularly opposite unto that holi-
ness which he is exhorting them unto, as that without which they shall
not see the Lord. And some do judge, that by holiness in that place,
the contrary habit unto fornication is intended. However, this is pecu-
liarly opposite unto gospel holiness and sanctification, as the apostle
declares, 1 Cor. vi. 18 — 20. And it is that sin which men who are for-
saking the profession of holiness do usually fall into, as experience tes-
tifieth. . ,
2. Though here and elsewhere, the sin of fornication be severely
interdicted, yet in this place the apostle doth not intend every such per-
son as may through temptation be surprised into that sin, nor will one
fact give this denomination ; but those who live in this sin, who are for-
nicators habitually, such as are placed at the head of them that shall
never inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. vi. 9, such as are to be ex-
cluded out of the church, as a certain pledge and token of their exclu-
sion out of heaven. It is no wonder, therefore, if the apostle intimates
a great difficulty of the recovery of such.
3. Under this name of fornicator, or fornication, all sins of the same
kind are intended. For the Scripture calls all conjunction with women,
not in lawful marriage, by the name of fornication, 1 Cor. v. 8 — 10 ;
V F.R. lfi — 17.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. ()09
Eph. v. 5; 1 Tim. i. 10. So that by 'fornicators,' whoremongers,
adulterers, as it is expressed, ch. xiii. 4, or all such as sin against their
own bodies, be it in or out of the state of wedlock, be it with single or
married persons, are intended. Wherefore the wai'ning doth not respect
the practice of the Gentiles at that time, wherein the fornication of
single persons was lightly set by ; nor the licentiousness of the Jews,
who thought it no sin to accompany with a heathen, at least if she were
not in wedlock ; but it is general, as unto all who are so guilty of un-
cleanness, as to come under this denomination.
4. This is a sin, which, when men are habitually given up unto, they
are never, or very rarely, recovered from it. When any sensual lust
hath obtained an habitual predominancy in any, it doth contract so inti-
mate a league with the flesh, as it is hardly eradicated. Such sins do
usually keep men secure unto the future judgment. Hence God, for
the punishment of idolatry, gives them up unto uncleanness, through
the lust of their own hearts, Rom. i. 24, 26, namely, that by them
they might be secured unto that eternal vengeance which they had
5. There is no sort of sinners that would be so scandalous to churches,
should they be tolerated in them, as fornicators. And therefore the
Pagans endeavoured, in the utmost of their malice and false accusations,
to fasten the charge of adulteries, incests, promiscuous lusts, and un-
cleanness, on Christians in their assemblies. For they knew full well,
that let them pretend what else they pleased, if they could fix this stain
upon them, they would be the common hatred and scorn of mankind.
For the higher men's pretences are unto God and religion, if they issue
in such vile lusts they are the more contemptible, and the more to be
abhorred. Whereas therefore the church doth make a peculiar profes-
sion of a separation and dedication unto God in holiness, purity of heart
and life ; nothing can be a greater reproach unto it, than if fornicators
should be found in its communion. And the carelessness of the visible
church herein for some ages, suffering licentiousness of life in the lusts
of the flesh to diffuse itself greatly amongst its members, being pro-
moted in the clergy by an interdiction of lawful marriage unto them,
proved its ruin. And,
Obs. I. That church which tolerates in its communion men living in
such gross sins as fornication, has utterly, as unto its discipline, de-
parted from the rule of the gospel. And it is also hence evident,
Obs. II. Apostatizing professors are prone to sins of uncleanness.
For being overcome of the flesh, and brought into bondage, as 2 Pet.
ii. 19, they are slaves and debtors unto it, to serve it in the lusts of
Secondly. The second evil to be watched against is (5t^r]\og, ' pro-
faneness ;' or that there be no ' profane person' among them. For it is
persons that are first intended, as is evident in the instance of Esau.
To be ' profane' may be taken passively or actively. In the first sense,
it is a person or place separated and cast out from the society of things
sacred. So holy things are said to be profaned, when men take off the
veneration that is due unto them, and expose them to common use or
contempt. To ' profane,' is to violate, to corrupt, to prostitute to com-
vol. iv. n it
610 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CH. XII.
mon use things sacred and holy, either in their nature, or by divine
institution. A profane person is one that despiseth, sets light by, or
contemneth sacred things. Such as mock at religion, or who lightly
regard its promises and threatenings ; who despise or neglect its wor-
ship, who speak irreverently of its concerns, we call profane persons,
and such they are, and such the world is filled withal at this day.
This profaneness is the last step of entrance into final apostasy. When
men, from professors of religion, become despisers of, and scoffers at it,
their state is dangerous, if not irrevocable.
Thirdly. An instance of this evil is given us in Esau : a profane per-
son, cog H
profane person : it doth not appear that he was such himself. But the
apostle calls him expressly, ' a profane person,' and declares how he
evidenced himself so to be, or wherein his profaneness did consist.
And the truth is, there are very few in the Scripture concerning whom
more evidences are given of their being reprobates. And this should
warn all men not to trust unto the outward privileges of the church.
He was the first-born of Isaac, circumcised according to the law of that
ordinance, and partaker in all the worship of God in that holy family,
yet an outcast from the covenant of grace, and the promise thereof.
Fourthly. The way whereby he exerted and manifested his profane-
ness is declared, 'who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.'
Many expositors, in the consideration of the sin of Esau, as it is re-
corded, Gen. xxv. 30 — 34-, reflect on many crimes in him, especially
intemperance and gluttony, as far as I can see, without cause. His
desire of food from his own brother, when he was hungry and faint,
might be harmless. But he fell into his sin on the occasion that then
fell out, which the apostle here reports as unto the matter of fact, and
chargeth on profaneness. The matter of fact is known, and we must
inquire wherein his profaneness acted itself. And it did so,
First. In a readiness to part with his birthright, with whatsoever
was contained in it, and annexed unto it. Though I suppose he was
then very young, for the story is added immediately after these words,
'and the boys grew,' ver. 21, yet being bred in the family of Isaac, he
could not but know what did belong to that birthright, and what was
annexed unto it by divine institution. And whereas, as we shall see,
this had something in it that was sacred, the undervaluing of it was a
high profaneness ; we must inquire hereon what this birthright was,
and how he sold it, and wherein he manifested himself to be profane
He sold ra iTQUiTOTOKia avrov. Suum jus primogeniti. Bez. 'His
right of the first-born.' Jus primogeniturae suae, ' the right of his own
primogeniture,' the things belonging unto him as the first-born. It is
evident in the Scripture, that there were many rights and privileges of
primogeniture in the church ; some of them arising from the light of
nature, and so common amongst all mankind, and some of them of
Among these, many of the Jews do reckon the priesthood, and are
followed herein by most of our expositors. But I am much mistaken,
if, by the priesthood of the first-born, the Jews intend any thing but
VER. 16, 17.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 611
their dedication unto God, by virtue of the law of the sanctification of
every male that opened the womb, Exod. xiii. 2, xxii. 29, xxxiv. 19.
Whence they were changed for the Levites, who were taken into sacred
office, Num. viii. 16 — 18. The priesthood therefore being settled in
that tribe, which God took in exchange for the first-born, who were
dedicated by the law of opening the womb, they called their state a
priesthood. But it doth not appear that there was any ordinary office
of the priesthood until the institution of that of Aaron, to be typical of
the priesthood of Christ ; only there was one person before extraordi-
narily called unto that office unto the same purpose, namely, Melchise-
dec. But the reader, if he please, may consult our Exercitations on
the priesthood of Christ, Vol. I. Exer. 35, where these things are
handled at large. I shall not therefore admit this among the privileges
of the birthright, and can give arguments sufficient to disprove it. But
this is not a place to insist on these things.
A double portion of the paternal inheritance was ascertained unto the
first-born by the law, Deut. xxi. 17. And this was but the determina-
tion of the light of nature unto a certain measure, for a natural reason
is given for it, ' He is the beginning of his strength, the right of the
first-born is his.' So when Reuben forfeited his birthright, the double
portion was given unto Joseph and his sons, 1 Chron. v. 1. This right
therefore was certainly sold by Esau, as far as it was in his power.
There was also in it a right of rule and government over the rest of
the children of the family, which was transferred to Judah on the for-
feiture made by Reuben, 1 Chron. v. 2. And therefore when Isaac had
transferred the birthright and blessing unto Jacob, he tells Esau, ' I
have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given unto him for
servants,' Gen. xxvii. 37.
These things did ordinarily and constantly belong unto the first-born.
But, moreover, there was a blessing that from Abraham ran in the pa-
triarchal line, which was communicated from father unto son, containing
an inclosure of all church privileges, and the preservation of the pro-
mised Seed. This, I confess, was distinct from the birthright, and so
it was distinguished by Esau, who, in his complaint of his brother,
cried out, ' He hath supplanted me these two times : he took away my
birthright, and behold now he hath taken away my blessing,' Gen.
xxvii. 36. But although it was not annexed inseparably unto the birth-
right, yet there was a. just expectation that it should be conveyed accord-
ing to the primogeniture. Hence not only Esau calls it 'his blessing,'
' he hath taken away my blessing,' ver. 36, but Isaac calls it so too,
'he hath taken away thy blessing, ver. 35. It was not his by divine
destination, as appeared in the issue ; nor had he made it his by obtain-
ing an especial interest in the promise by faith, for he had it not. But
in the ordinary course it was to be his, and in the purpose of his father
it was his, and so in his own expectation; but God cut off the line of
succession herein, and gave it unto Jacob.
Now, as Jacob, in his whole design, aimed not at personal riches
and power, wherein he was contented to see his brother far exceed him,
as he did; but at an inheritance of the patriarchal blessing, wherein
the promised seed and the church state were contained, whereinto the
612 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CH. XII,
birth-right was an outward entrance, a sign and pledge of it ; so Esau,
by selling his birthright, did virtually renounce his right unto the bless-
ing, which he thought annexed thereunto.
Secondly. It may be inquired, how he sold this birthright, or how
he could sell that which was not in his own power. The word is ccrcSoro,
' he gave away,' or ' he gave up.' But whereas he did it on a price,
which he esteemed a valuable consideration for it, and did make an ex-
press bargain about it, the sense intended in the word is, that he sold
it, as it is expressed, Gen. xxv. 33.
He could not by any contract change the course of nature, that he
who was the first-born should really not be so ; but it was his right by
virtue thereof, that he parted withal. Now, although this was not ab-
solute, or immediately vested in him, seeing the father, yet living, might
on just causes disinherit the first-born, as Jacob did Reuben ; yet he .
had a right unto it, jus ad rem, and an assured interest in it, as unto
his father's affections. This he renounced, and hereby also he virtually
parted with the blessing. But this he directly apprehended not.
Wherefore, although he never sought the recovery of the birthright,
whose renunciation he had confirmed with an oath, yet he hoped that
he might retain the blessing still.
Thirdly. It is evident how in all this action he carried it profanely.
For, 1. He discovered an easiness and readiness to part with his birth-
right, and all that was annexed thereunto by divine institution. Had
he placed his principal interest therein, had he considered ai'ight the
privilege of it, had he by faith entertained the promise that went along
with it, he would not have been so facile, nor so easily surprised into a
renouncing of it. But being a man given wholly to his pleasures, and
the love of present things, he seems scarce ever to have entertained
serious thoughts about what it was significant of, in things spiritual
and heavenly. 2. In that he did it on so slight an occasion, and
valued it at so small a rate as, bg avn fipioaEwg fiiag, 'one mess of pot-
tage,' or one morsel of meat, that is, of what was to be eaten. 3. In
that, without further deliberation, he confirmed the sale with a solemn
oath, whereby he discovered the highest contempt of what he had
parted withal. 4. In his regardlessness of what he had done, after the
power of his present temptation was over ; for it is said, ' he did eat and
drink, and rose up, and went his way,' as a man utterly unconcerned
in what he had done; whereon the Holy Ghost adds that censure,
' Thus Esau despised his birth-right.' He did not only sell it, but de-
spised it, Gen. xxv. 31 — 34.
This was the profaneness of Esau. And we may obsei've, that,
Obs. III. Evil examples proposed in Scripture light, divested of all
colours and pretences, laid open in their roots and causes, are efficacious
warnings unto believers, to abstain from all occasions leading unto the
like evils, and much more from the evils themselves. To this end is the
sin of Esau here called over.
Obs. IV. Where there is in any a latent predominant principle of
profaneness, a sudden temptation or trial will let it out unto the greatest
evils ; as it was with Esau, and we see it daily verified to amazement.
Obs. V. This principle of profaneness, in preferring the morsels of
VER. 16, 17.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 613
this world, before the birthright privileges of the church, is that which
at this day threatens the present ruin of religion. What is it that makes
so many forsake their profession in a time of trial or persecution ? It
is because they, will not be hungry for the gospel ; they will have their
morsels, which they prefer before the truth and privileges thereof.
What makes the profession of religion in some nations to totter at this
day ? Is it not because of the morsels of outward peace, with, it may be,
dignities and preferments that lie on the other side, and some present
hunger, or supposed want of earthly tilings, that they may fall into?
Let men pretend what they please, it is from a spirit of profaneness that
they forsake the privileges and assemblies of the church for any out-
ward advantage ; and what will be their success, we shall see in the
Ver^ 17. — For ye knoiu how that afterwards when he would have in-
herited the blessing, he ivas rejected, though he sought it carefully
First. The efficacy of the example proposed, consists in the clue con-
sideration of the consequence of the sin exemplified. Such was the sin
of Esau, which you ought to watch against in yourselves and others ;
for ye know what ensued thereon. This the particle, yap, ' for,' de-
clares to be the reason of the following account of it.
Secondly. The way is expressed whereby they understood this con-
sequent of Esau's sin; lare, 'ye know,' they knew it from the Scripture
where it is recorded. He supposeth them acquainted with the Scrip-
tures, and what is contained in them, in like manner as he says of
Timothy, 2 Tim. iii. 15, and as it is the duty of all Christians to be.
Besides, there is a peculiar force of persuasion and conviction, when
we argue from men's own knowledge and concessions. You know this
yourselves ; you know it full well from the Scripture, and therefore let
it be of great weight and consideration with you.
Thirdly. The general force of the exhortation, from the considera-
tion of the event of Esau's profaneness, is taken from the surprisal that
betel him, when he found what his sin had brought him unto. For
he is represented as a man under great amazement, as if he had little
thought to fall into such a condition. And thus at one time or another
it will befal all profane persons, who have refused the mercy and pri-
vileges of the gospel ; they shall at one time or other fall under dread-
ful surprisals, in life, or at death, or at the last day. Then shall they
see the horror of those crimes, which before they made nothing of.
Wherefore the Hebrews are here warned, and all professors of the gos-
pel with them, that they decline not from their profession, lest they fall
into the like surprisals, when it is too late to seek for deliverance out
Fourthly. What he did upon this surprisal, with the effects of it, is
1. The time wherein he did it is noted ; it was/utrf7raro, 'afterwards.'
This afterwards was not less perhaps than forty or fifty years. For he
sold his birthright when he was young ; now, when he designed the
614 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [dl. XII.
recovery of the blessing, Isaac was old, namely, about a hundred and
forty years old, Gen. xxvii. 2. So long did he live in his sin, without
any sense of it or repentance for it. Things went prosperously with
him in the world, and he had no regard in the least qf what he had
done, nor of what would be the end of it. »But falling now into a new
distress, it fills him with perplexity ; and so it is with all secure sinners.
Whilst things go prosperously with them, they can continue without re-
morse ; but at one time or other, their iniquity will find them out, Gen.
xlii. 21, 22.
2. What he designed ; and that was OeXw (cXrjjOovojurjerat rrjv ev\o-
yiav, i to inherit the blessing;' lie would have inherited the blessing.
He esteemed himself the presumptive heir of the patriarchal blessing,
and knew not that he had virtually renounced it, and meritoriously lost
it, by selling his birthright. So the apostle here distinguisheth be-
tween the birthright and the blessing. He sold his birthright, but
would have inherited the blessing ; esteemed it to belong unto him by
right of inheritance, when he had himself destroyed that right. So he
distinguished himself, ' he took away my birthright, and behold now he
hath taken away my blessing,' Gen. xxvii. 36. He had, no doubt, an
apprehension that there were many excellent things contained in it ; espe-
cially, a flourishing state and condition in this world; in a multiplica-
tion of posterity, and power over enemies, which were express in the
promise made unto Abraham, Gen. xxii. 17. This made him put in
his claim for the blessing, without the least sense of the spiritual privi-
leges of it ; for he was a profane person. And herein he was a type
of the unbelieving Jews at that time ; for they adhered to the outward
things of the blessing, the carcase of it, unto the rejection of him who
was the whole life, soul, and power of it. And it is not unusual for
men earnestly to desire the outward privileges of the church, who
value not the inward grace and power of them ; but they are profane
3. The event of this attempt was, that he was 'rejected.' He was
reprobated. So translators generally ; not that his eternal reprobation
is hereby intended. But this open, solemn rejection of him from the
covenant of God, and the blessings thereof, was an evidence of his
being I'eprobated of God ; whence he is proposed as the type of repro-
bates, Rom. ix. 11, 12. But the refusal of his father, to give him the
patriarchal blessing, is that which is here intended.
4. There is his behaviour under this rejection, and the event thereof.
He sought it diligently with tears, but he found no place of repentance.
For that which the apostle intends fell out after his rejection, when his
father had declared to him that his blessing was gone for ever, Gen.
xxvii. 33 — 38. It is all one whether we refer avrriv, in the close of
the verse, unto the remote antecedent, the ' blessing,' or unto the next,
which is ' repentance.' For that which he sought for in repentance,
namely, the repentance of his father, or the change of his mind, was
the blessing also. For it is now generally agreed by all, that there is
nothing in the words which should in the least intimate, that he sought
of God the grace of repentance, nor is there any thing in the record
that looks that way. And I shall rather interpret this word with Beza
VER. 16, 17.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 615
of the blessing, than of the repentance of Isaac ; because his cry in the
story was immediately and directly for the blessing.
5. The manner how he sought the blessing, is, that he did it Kanrtp
jutTa &aKpva)v f(c^»/rijaoc, ' diligently with tears.' So the apostle ex-
pressed the record, Gen. xxvii. 38, 'And Esau said unto his father,
Hast thou but one blessing, my father ? Bless me, even me also, O my
father; and Esau lifted up his voice and wept;' as those also of ver. 34.
No man, considering the intense affections that were between them, can
express that conflict of nature which was on this occasion between
Isaac and Esau. But in the one, grace and submission unto the will
of God overcame all natural reluctancy ; in the other, resolution for far-
ther sin offered itself for relief: he said in his heart that he would slay
his brother, ver. 41. So it is in all like cases. Things that are most