John Owen.

An exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) online

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^|theological seminary,!

X Princeton, N. J. ?^ — ^S

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Search the Scriptures.' — John v. 39.


L^ O N D O N :

Printed for T. Pitcher, No. 44, Barbican;

And fold alfo by C. Dilly, Poultry; T. Parsons, Paternofter-

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r(£ntcrcn at ©tationets^Jball.l



Chap. I. Ver. i, 2.


§ I. Tbe apjlk' s dcjlgn, § 2. The fnhjsSf jtiUd. § 3. (I.)
The lazv and gofpel both agree iri havhig God for their au-
thor. § 4 — 6. (II.) The difference as to their revelation
conjijls I. Lithe times of their prormdgation. § 7 — 9. 2.
The manner of it, § 10, 11. 3. Perfons employed. § 12.
(III.) fcvjifh prejudices againjl the gofpel obviated^ by at'
tending to. § 13' !• The jufl ftatemcnt of God' s reveal-
ing his will by his Son. § 14. 2. Several excellencies at-
tending the revelation if elf. § 15. 3. The concefjlons
bf the Jevus. § 16. 4. The dignity and glory of Chriji
the revealcr^ who is^ § 17 — 20. (i.) Heir of all,
§ 2 1. (2.) By appointment. And § 22 — 24. (3.)
Maker of the world. ^ 25 — - 36. (IV.) Dotirinal and
pr apical obfervations.

§ I. J. HE apofllc's grand clcfign, throughout this epiflle,

is, to engage the Hebrews to conllancy and perfeverance

in their attachment to the gofpel with its fundamental

Vol. II. B doc-


clo£\rliic> , and his niaiu argument, for that purpofc, is
taken from the immediate, author^ the promifed Meliiah,
the Son of God. Him, therefore, in this chapter, he
dcfcribcs at large, declaring what he is abfdutclyy in his
pcrfon and otRccs, and compayativcly^ with rcfpe6t to other
miniflcrial rcvcalers of the mind and will of God ; prin-
cipally infilling on his excellency and pre-eminence above

§ 2. A compart fon being intended in thcfe verfes be-
tween the Mofaicnl law and the gofpel-, and particularly
in reference to their revelation and inilitution, the apoille
llicws ;

I. Wherein tlic law and gofpel in that view do both

I I . Wherein the gofpel differs from the law. And then,
HI. He obviates the great Jewifh prejudice againft the

gofpel, by the confidcration of Chrill's fuperior exctl-
Icncv. After the difculfion of thefc points, we Ihnll ,

IV. Make fomc doctrinal and practical obfervations.cMi
tlie whole.

§ 3. (I.) That wherein the law and gofpel, as to thcv|^
promulgation, do both <7rrtv, is, (J ^^cg) God was the
author of each. About this there Svas no difference,
as to mod of them to whoni the apoille immediately
wrote; which, therefore, he take* for granted. For the
profelfmg Jews did not adhere toMofaical inilitutions, be-
caufe God was the author of thcfc, and not of the gofpel ;
but becaufc, as they apprehended, they were given from
C7od by Mofcs as unalterable. Now Gcd being here
fpokcn of in diftinflion from the Son, cxprcflly, and
from the Holy Ghoft, by evident implication; that term,
be it obfervcd, is not taken to denote primarily the e;'-
fince or being of the Deity, but one certain pcrfon^ and the
divine nature only as fubfilling in that pcrfon, which is,
the Father ; fo that he, by way of cmincncy, was the pe-
culiar author of the law and gofpel. Befidcs, he imme-
diately adigns divine properties and excellencies unto anz-
ther pcrfon, evidently dillinguiflied from him whom he de-
note* by the name God in this place ; which he could not



do, did that name abfolutely exprefs the divine na-
ture. From this head of their agreenunty the apoflle

§ 4. (II.) To the inilances of d'lfcrence that "was Be-
tween the law and the gofpel, as to their revelation ; and
thefe refer to the Umes^ the manners^ and perfons employ-
ed. Let us,

I. Confider that which concerns the tines of their pro-
mulgation, feveral of the other inflances being regulated

With reference to the law it is faid that God fpakc
{ttuKul) foynicrly^ or of old. Some fpace of time is de-
noted in this word, which had then received both its be-
ginning and end. Take the word abfolutely, and it com-
prlfes the whole fpace of time from the giving out of the
firfl promife, to the end of the Old Tellament Revelations.
Take it as relating to the Jews (which the apoille hath
refpe£l to) and the date is the giving of the law by
Mofes in the wildernefs. So that this difpcnfation of
God's *' fpeaking in- the Prophets," continued for the
fpace of twenty-one jubilees, or near eleven hundred
years. After the death of the latter prophets, Haggai,
Zechariah, and Malachi, as the Jews freely confefs, the
Holy Spirit was taken from Ifrael. The fathers, there-
fore, to whom God fpake in the Prophets, were all the
faithful of the Jewifli church from the giving of the law
until the ceafing of prophecy.

§ 5. The revelation of the gofpel is afhrmed to be
made, {i7r\(rxpcla}y loov i^jJLSpMV tovtccv) in thcfe loft days.

Mod expositors fuppofe this phrafe, " the lall days,"
is a periphrafis of the times of the gofpel. But it doth
not appear that thefe are any where fo called ; nor were they
ever known by that name among the Jews, upon whofe
principles the apoftlc proceeds. Some feafons, indeed,
under the gofpel, in reference to fom.e churches, are
called ** the laft days," but the whole time of tlie gofpel,
abfolutely, is no where fo termed. It is therefore, the lafl
days of the Jewifh church and flatc, which were then
drawing to their linal abolition, that are' here intetided.



'The apoftlc takes it for grantcJ, tljat the JewiHi church
Hate did yet continue ; and proves that it was drawing to
its period, [chap. viii. ult.J having its prcCcnt Handing in
the turbcarance of God. Again, the pcribiial miniilry of
tlie Son of God, whihl on earth, is here eminently, thougii
not folcly intended. For fo tlie contrail runs — As God
cf old fpakc by the prophen, fo in thcfe At/? djys he fpakc
by his Son. His pcrfonai miniftry was confined to the
loft fheep of the houfc of Ifraeh [Matt. xv. 24.] to
whom alone at flrft he font his apoftlcs, [Matt. x. 5, 6. "5
and is therefore faid to be a " miniller of the circumcifion
for the truth of God," [Rom. xv. i.l The wordbi,
[Matt. xxi. 37.] * Laji cf all he fcnt unto them hh Son,' ex-
plain the apofllc's meaning. Thus Jacob alfo, [Gen
xhx. I.] * I will tell you that which fhall befall yoa
(iT cjyu\L'yj {jjji-pcAjyy Si pi.] ' in the laJl days \ the words
here ufcd by the apoftle. The days pointed out ()y Jacob
are evidently thofc wherein the Meffiah Ihould come, be-
fore Judah was utterly deprived of fcepter and fcribe.
The fum is, tliat fincc the end of thei; church llate was
toretold to be a perpetual dcfolation, [Dan. ix. 27.] and
the laft days were now come upon tlicm, they might un-
dcrllriiid what they were ihortly to expeft. The important
end ot the Jews being a people, a church, and kingdom,
was to bring forth the Melliah, whofe coming and work
mull of nccclTity put an end to their old flate and con-

§ 6. This makes it evident who were the pcrfons fpokcn
to in thcfe laft days. To us ■ that is, the members of the
Jewilh church, who lived in the days of our Lord's per-
lonal miniftry, and afterwards under the preaching of the
gofpel to that day [chap. ii. 3.] The Jews of thofe times
were very apt to think, that if they had lived in the days
of the former prophets, and had heard them deliver their
mcflage from God, they would have received it with a
cheerful olKdiencc. Their otUy unhappinefs, as they
thought, was, that they were *' born out of due time,"
as to prophetical revelations, [Matt. ;cxiii. 30.] Now
the apoftle, aware of this prejudice, informs them, that



God, in the revelation of the gofpel, had fpokeu to them-
ielves what they fo much deiired. If then they attend not
to this word, they mull needs be fclf-condemncd. Be-
fides, that care and love which God manifeiled towards
them, in fpeaking to them in this immediate manner, re-
quired the mofl indifputable obedience, efpcciallv conli-
dering how far this mode excelled what he had before
ufed towards the fathers. This leads to

§ 7. 2. The next difference, which refpe£ls the man-
ner of thefe feveral revelations of the will of God, and
that in tvv^o particulars ; for,

§ I. The former was made {ttoKvimzdmc) by many and
•divers parts^ one after the other, and confequently at ** fun-
dry times." The branch of the antithefis anfwering
hereunto is not cxprefled, but is evidently implied to be
(•ira^ or s'pa.Tru^J at once. The expreffion intends the
gradual difcovery of the mind and will of God, by the ad-
ditions of one thing after another at feveral feafons, as
the church could bear the light of them, and as it was
fubfervient to his main deiign of preferving all pre-emi-
nence to the MelTiah. How all this is argumentative to
the apoftle's purpofs will inilantly appear. Take the ex-
preffion abfolutely, to denote the whole progrefs of divine
revelation from the beginning of the world, and it com-
prifeth foiir principal parts or degrees, with thofc that
were fubfcrvient to them. The firji of thefe was made
to Jdam, whicli was the principle of faith and obedience
to the antediluvian fathers ; and to this were fubfervient
all tlic confequent particular revelations before the fiood.
The fecond to Noah, after the flood, in the renewal of
the covenant and eilablifliment of the church in his fa-
mily, [Gen. viil. 21. ix. 9, 10] whereunto were fubfer-
vient the revelations made to Melchifedcch [Gen. xiv. 13.I
and others, before the calling of Abraham. The third to
Abraham, with a peculiar refl:ri<?tion of the promife
to his feed, and a fuller illuftration of the nature of it,
[Gcn.xii. I — 4. XV. 1 1,1 2. and xvii. 1,2.] coniirmedin the
revelations made to Ifaac, [Gen. xxvi. 2. 4.] Jacob [Gen.
xlix.] and others of their pofterity. ^\\^ fourth \o Moles,
in ;he giving of the law, and crc£\ion of the Jev/ifh church



in the wiUlcrncfs, to which was principally fubfervicnt the
revelation made to David, which was peculiarly dcfigned
to perfcd tlic Old Teflament worfhip, [i Ciiron. xxiii.
25 — 28. xxviii. I I — 9.] I'o which wc may add Solo-
mon, with the reft of the prophets in their rcfpcdive days ;
particularly thofc who before and during the captivity
pleaded with the people about their defedlion by fcandalous
fins and fnlfc worlhip ; and Ezra, with the prophets that
aflifted in the reformation of the church after its return
from Babylon, who, in an eminent manner, excited the
people to expc£l the coming of the Alelliah.

§ 8. Thefc were the principal parts and degrees of divine
revelation from the foundation of the world to the com-»
ing of Chriil, at lead until his forerunner, John the Bapti/},
And this the apoitle reminds the Hebrews of; that the
will of God concerning his worPnip, was not formerly
all at once revealed to his church by Mofes or any other ,
but by fcvcral parts and degrees, by new additions of light,
as in his infinite wifdom and care he £aw meet : and herjby
he clearly convinces them of their miftakc in their obili-
nate adherence to the Mofaical inftitutions. It is as if lie
had faid, Confidcr the way whereby God revealed his v;ili
to tlie church hitlicrto, hath it not been by parts and de-
grees ? Hath he at any time Ihut up the progrefs of reve-
lation ? H.ith he not always kept the church in expcclation
of new difcovcrics of his will r Did he ever declare that
he would add no more to what he had commanded, or
make no alteration in what he had inftituted \ I'here-
fore Mofcs, when he had iinifhed all his work in tlie Lord's
boufc, tells tiic church, God would raife up another pro-
phet like unto him ; that is, who Ihould reveal new laws
and inftitutions as he had done, whom they were to hear
and obey, on the penalty of utter extermination, [Deut.
xviii. 13.] In oppofition to this gradual revelation, the
apoftlc intimates that now, by Jefus the Melliah, the Lord
hath, ut once begun and fmiihed the whole revelation of
his will, according to their own hopes and cxpc(ftations.
So Judc iii. the faith was ** once dd'ivacd to the Saints ;'*
not in one day, or by one perfon, but at oncjeafoft, or under



one difpenfation, comprifing all the time from the entrance
of the Lord Jefus Chrift upon his miniftrjn to the doling
of the canon of fcripture, which period was now at hand.
This feafon being once pafl and iinifhed, no new revela-
tion is to be expeded to the end of the world, nor any
alteration in the worfliip of God.

§ 9. (2.) God fpake in the prophets (TToKvlpoTrcAjg) after
divers forts and manners. Now this refpefits either the
various ways of God revealing himfelf to the prophets by
(breams, viiions, infpirations, voices, and angels ; or,
tlie ways of his dealing with the fathers, through the
miniftry of the prophets, by promifes, threats, fpecial
melTages, prophecies, public fermons, and the like. The
latter is principally intended, though the former be not
excluded, it being that from whence this latter variety
principally arofe. \\\ opposition to this, the apoftle inti-
mates that the revelation by Chrift was accomplifhed
{^(^vi&'jog) in one only ivay and manner — by his preaching
the everlafting gofpel.

§ 10. (3,) The lad difference in the comparifon is»
that of old, God fpake (sy ^oig TTpo'p'/ijcK'ig) in the prophets,
but now (ev too vioc) (in the Son/^

Now the prophets, in whom God fpake of old, were
all thofe who were divinely infpired, and fent to reveal
die mind and will of God, whether by word of mouth
or by writing. That which made any revelation to be
prophecy, in that i^enk fo as to be an infallible rule for the
church, was not the means of its communication to the
.prophets, but that infpiration of the Holy Gholl which
implanted in their minds, what God would have theui
utter. [2 Pet. i. 24, 28.]

§ 1 1. Anfvverable to this fpeaking of God in the pro-
phets, it is afTerted, that in the gofpel revelation God
fpake by or in his Son. This is the main hinge on which
all the apoftle's after arguments throughout the epiftle
turn ; and this bears the {Ircfs of all his inferences. And,

* Ev here anfwcrs the Hebrew n, [Numb, xii.] God fpake
no^DH in Mofes. The exprelTioii intiinates the certainty of the re-
velation, and the prefence of God with his word.

Vol. U, C there.


thcrffore, having mentioned it, he proceeds immediately
to that dcfcription ol" him» which gives evidence to all he
deduces from this coiifidcration. That the Son of God
did moftlv appear to the fathers under the Old Teflament,
is acknowledged by the ancients, and evident in fcrip-
turc : [See Zach. ii. 8 — i i."] The divine Mediator hav-
ing, from the foundation of the world, undertaken the
care and falvation of the church, he it was who imme-
diately dealt with it in what concerned its inll:ru£lion and
edification. This, however, doth not hinder but that
God the Father is the fountain of all divine revelation.
There is a confiderablc dilfcrence between the Son of God
revealing the Father's will in his divine perfon to the pro-
phets, and the fame divine perfonage as incarnate, reveal-
ing it immediately to the church. Under the Old Tefla-
mcnt he inllruclcd the prophets, and gave them that Spi-
rit on whole infpiration their infallibility depended ;
[i Pet. i. II.] but now under the gofpel, taking our
nature as hypoflatically united to himfelf, he becomes
the immediate teacher, in the room of all the 'ir.iiDiunciiy
or prophetical melfcngers, he had before employed, whe-
ther human or angelic, from the foundation of the world.
—We come now,

§ 12. [III.] To obviate the great Jcwifh prejudice
againft the gofpel, to which end obferve, That though
the apoftle mentioi^s the prophets ii\ general, yet it is
Mofcs whom he principally intends. This is evident
from thr application of this argument wliich he ureses,
(chap. iii. 3.) wIktc he cxprclslv prefers the Lord jcfns
before Mofis by name, in this matter of miniftnng to the
chuulj. For, wlurea'. tho apoftlc manages this poiiil
with excellent wifdoni, and confidc-riiig the inveterate pre-
judices of the Hebrews in f.ivoiir of iMolcs, he could not
mention him in particular, until he had proved Jefus,
whom he had preferred above Inm, to be fo excellent nnd
gloricus,^ fo far exalted above men and angels, tint it was
no dilpar;»gement to Mofc^ to be efleemcd inferior to him.
Again, tlic great rcnfon why the Jews adhered (o pcrti-
:i.c>..i^rv !•>, Mofn. lillanit .»in',,, ',vas their pcrfuaiion of



the unparalleled excellency of the revelation made toMofes.
This they retreated to, and boallcd of, when preifed with
the doctrine and miracles of Chrift, [John ix. 28, 29.]
And this was the main foundation of all their contelis
with the apolllcs, [A£ts xvi. xxi. 21. 28.] The Ia\y and
all legal obfervances, according to them, w^cre to be con-
tinued for ever, on account of the incomparable excellency
of the revelation made to Mofes. Not to follow tlicm in
their imaginations, the juil privileges of Mofcs above all
other prophets lay in thefe three things: (i.) That he
was a lawgiver, or mediator, by whom God gave that law,
and revealed that worfhip, in the cbfervance of which the
very beginning of the Jewifh church coniiiled. (2.) That
God, in revealing his will to him, dealt in a more familiar
and clear manner, than with any other prophet. (3.) In
thac the revelation made to him, concerned the ordering
of the whole houfe of God, when the other prophets were
employed only about fome particulars built upon this
foundation. Herein confifted the juft and free pre-emi-
nence of Mofcs ; but of no force, v;hcn urged againft our
divine prophet and his gofpel, if we conlider — the jull
ftatement of the gofpel revelation by the Son, and particu-
larly his qualifications as a prophet, — the incomparable
circumllances attending the revelation itfclf — the con-
cellions of the Jews — and efpecially the glory and excel-
lency of the revelation of the gofpel.

§ 13. (i.) Let us attend to the juft ftatemcnt of the
mind and will of God, revealed to us by the Son. To
this end obfcrve, (i.) That the Lord Jefus Chrift, by
virtue of the perfonal union, was furnilhed with all the
treafures of wifdom and knowledge which the human
nature was capable of, both as to principle and excrcife.
He pofTcffed it by his union, and therefore immediately
from the perfon of the Son, fan^lifyingby the Holy Gholl
that nature which he took into fubfiftencc with himfclf.
But the revelation, by which God fpake in h'lm unto us,
was ultimately from the Father, [Rev. i. i.] So that,

(2.) The miflion and furniture of the Son, as the in-
carnat-e mediator, for declaring the holy pleafure of God to

C % the


the church, were peculiarly from the Father. He re-
ceived command of the Father concerning the whole work
of his mediation, [John x. 18.] and what he fhould fpeak,
[John xii. 4.] according to that commandment he wrought
and taught, [John xiv. 31.] Whence that is the com-
mon pcr>phraiis whereby he exprelfed the perfon of the
Father, he that fcnt him, as alfo he that failed and anointed
him. And his do(5\rine on that account, he tellificd, was
not his originally as mediator, but his that fent him,
(John vii. 16.] That blelFcd tongue of the learned
wliereby he fpake the refrelhing word of the gofpel to poor
weary iinners, was the gift of the Father.

(3.) As to the manner of his receiving the gofpel re-
velation, a popular miilakc mull be difcarded.

The Sociniiinsj to avoid the force of thefe teflimonics
which are urged to confirm the deity of Chrift, from the
afTcitions in the gofpel that he who fpake to the dilciples
on e:\rth was then alfo in heaven, have broached a Maho-
metan fancy, that the Lord Chrift, before his entrance on
hi^ public miniftry, was locally taken up into heaven,
and there inllrudtcd in the miniftry of the gofpel which
he was to reveal.

But this imaginary rapture is grounded folely on their
(ttqmIov •■^sv^og) fundamental crrDr, that the Lord Chrift, in
his whole perfon, was no more than a mere man. There
is no mention of any fiich thing in the fcrlpture ; where
the Father's revealing his will to the Son is treated of, and
the fanciful hypothcfis is exprcllly contrary to the fcrip-
ture : for the Holy Ghoft alfirms, that Chrift entered oncf
into the holy place, and that after he had obtained eternal
redemption for us, [Hcb. ix. 12.] But that ffiould have
been Xw^ jecond entrance, had he been taken thither before,
in his human nature. As to the time of his afcenfion,
which tliefc men alTign, namely, the forty days after his
baptifm, it is faid cxprellly, that he was all that time in the
wildcrnefs among the wild beafts, [Mark i. 13.] fo that
tins figment muft have no place in our inquiry into the
way of the l^ulier fpcakin^ ia the Son. AVhercfore, to


Vef.1,2. epistle to the HElfREWS. it

declare the nature of this revelation we niuft obferve.
fu rther,

(4.) That Jefus Chri{>, as he was the eternal word and
wifdom of the Father, had an omnilciency of the wliole
nature and will of God, as the Father himfelf hath, their
wllJ and wifdom being the fame. This is the blelfcd
((TL^yTTcp/x^p'^^^a) ^'^^^^^^ in-bcing of each perfon, by virtue
of their onenefs in the fame nature. Moreover,

(5.) The myilcry of the gofpel, the fpecial counfcl and
covenant concerning the redemption of the eledt in his
blood, and the worfhip of God by his redeemed ones,
tranfafted between the Father and the Son from all eter-
nity, were known to him as the Son. Although the perfon
of Chrift, God and man, was our mediator; [A£ls xx. 8.
2 John i. 14, 18.] yet his human nature was that wherein
he difcharged the duties of his office, and (the principhim
quod J the immediate or proximate fource of all his me-
diatory a6lmgs, [I. Tim. ii. 5.]

(6.) T'his human nature of Chrift, in which he was
made of a woman, made under the law, [Gal. iv. 4.] was
from the inftant of its nnion with the perfon of the Son
of God, an holy th'mg, [Lukei. ^S-^ holy, harmlefs, unde-
filed, and feparate from finners, and radically filled with
all that perfe«^ion of habitual grace which was necelTary
to the difcharge of that whole duty which, as man, he
owed to God. But,

(7.) Befides this furniture with habitual grace for the
performance of holy obedience as a man made under the
law, he was peculiarly endowed with '* the Spirit without
meafure," which he was to receive as the great prophet of
the church ; and this communication of the Spirit was the
foundation of his fufficiency for the difcharge of his pro-
phetical office, [Ifaiah xi. 2, 3. xlviii. 16. Ixi. i — 3.
Dan. ix. 24.] As to the reality and being of this gift,
he received it from the womb ; whence in his infancy he
was faid to be (7r7\.rip€V^s\^cg (rcpiag) filled with wifdomy
[Luke ii. 40.] wherewith, in a very early period, he con-
futed the dodors to their amazement, [vcr. 47.] And
with his years were thefe gifts incrcafcd in hmi ; he zvcnt



forward, in wifdom, andjlaturc^ and favour , [ver. 52.] but
the full communication of this Spirit, v/ith fpecial reference
to the difchargc of his public office, and the vifiblc pledge
of it, he was made partaker of at his baptifm, [Matt.iii. i 6.)
It remaincth, then, for us to Ihew, wlicrein ilill more
cfpccially his pre-eminence above all the ancient prophets
did confift, fo that the word fpoken bv him is principally
and eminently to be attended to, which is the apoille's ar-
gument in this place. To which end obftrve, that,

§ 14. (2.) There were fundry excellencies and incom-
parable circumftances that attended the revelation itfelf
made to Chrifl: as a prophet. For,

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