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

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afcnbcd to him in tlie fcriptures, that he may not appcap
to aiguc merely in a negative manner from what is 7iot
fnid concerning them — adds, in this laft verfe, fuch a.
defcription of their natures and office, or work and em-
ployment, as fiievv, that indeed no fuch tiling can h
rightly affirmed concerning them^ as he hath before ma-
nikfied to be fpoken and lecorded concerning the Son.

§ 2. As to their tiaturey they are {TDfivu-cojoc} fpni^
ritual fuhjlances ; npt qualities or natural faculties, as th^
Sadducees imagined : and as to their offiecs^ they are
(7rvi'jju,of/« X'zilH'^yiKe/^) mhnjlerhig fpirits. So are they
tern^ed, Pfahn ciii. 21. * Blefs ye the Lord, all ye his
* hofls : {Sipt. Ki'iji^rjyiis ccviki) ye mmifters of his that do
' his pleafurc.' Now what kind of ollicc or minillry it
is that is afcribed to them, the word itfclf (ma^) partly
deciures, as it iignifxs to mlmjlcry principally about holy
things ; and it is performed with honour and cafe, as ©p-
pofed to another word, (naj?) which is, * to miniiler witlv
labour and but den.' And hence it is, that the church and
they make up but one family; [Rphcf., iv. 15.] and ir>
it they arc all fcllow-fcrvants with thciu that keep the tef-



timony o£ Jefus, [Rev. xxii. 9.] The defcription of
this fuperior part of tlie family of God is given us, [Dan.
vii. 10.] ' Thoufand thoufauds minijicred unto hiin, and
* ten thoufand times ten thoufand ficod before him,' [Rev.
V. 1 1.] So concerning the lower part of it, [Deut. xviii.
5.] God (jhofe the Prieils and the Levites to m'mijicr in
the name of the Lord.

§ 3. As to the execution of their office, they are mi-
niflering fpirits, (sig ^la^KGyia^y (Z7ro(r]sXKo^cy<z) * fent out
unto a miniftry ;' fent out, that is, they are daily fo, con-
tinually fo ; the word denoting the prefent time, which-
is perpetual. They ftand before the prefence of God,
and are fent forth, fometimes thefe, fometimes others,
but always thofe that are fufficient for the deflined
work. And their work is exprelTed by two words,
which comprife the whole miniftry of the church,
((X7ro(rj oKvj) apojllcjhif^ and Qnccy^^oviu) labouring m'lmftry ;
and therein the harmony fublifting between both parts of
the family is ftill preferved. And as in the fervice of the
church, the minillers thereof do not minillier to men, but
to the Lord in the behalf of men, [Ac^s xiii. 2.] fo is it
with thefe fpirits alfo, they are fent out to minifler for
the good of men, but properly, it is the Lord to whom
they minifter : his fervants they are, not ours, [Pfalni
ciii. 21.] rather ihey are our fellow - ferva}its. As all the
fervants of a king, though otherwife they greatly differ,
agree in this, that they are all fervants to the fame per-

§ 4. Their miniflry is reflri6led to the fpecial objecl of
their work and employment ; it is * for them that Ihall
' be heirs of falvation ;' for them.^ for their fakes, for their
good, in their behalf, who fliall inherit falvation. Heirs
they are at prefent, and hereafter fhall inherit, or
actually obtain falvation, by virtue of their heirlhip.
This privilege, amongil others innumerable and inex-
preffibly great, we have by our adoption ; being admitted
into the family of God, thofe blelfed angels have us un-
der their conllant care. It is true, that the minillry of
aiigcls is not always abfolutely reflrained to the church.,

P 2 for


for they are employed alfo in the government of the
world , yet be it obfcrvcd, notwithilanding, that even
this is ultimately for the church.

§ 5. But It may be objected, that this their miniilry
will no*- clearly evince their inferiority and fubordmatioii
to Chrift, feeing he himfelf alfo was fent for fie good of
them who Ihall inherit falvation, and is thus called, 'the
* apoftle of our profcflion.' But the difference between
him and them, in their being ' fent,' is fo great and ma-
iiifefl, that his fuperiority and pre-eminence are not in
the leall impeached. He was fent by his own prevjous
choice and condefceniion ; they are fo, in purfuit of the
ilate and condition of their creation. He was fent to
miniftcr, in the form of a fervant, only for a fhort feafon,
in the days of his flefh ; they continue to be fo from the
beginning to the end of the world. He was fent to the
great and mighty work of mediation, which none was
worthy to undertake, none able to go through, but him-
felf alone, the only-begotten Son of God ; they are fent
about the ordinary concernments of the faints. He, as
the Son ; they, as fcrvants. He, as the author of
the whole work of the redemption and falvation of the
church ; they, as fubordinate affiflants. in the particular
promotion of it. Hence,

§ 6. Obf. I. The higheft honour of the moil glo-
rious fpirits in heaven is to miniller to the Lord in the
fervice whereunto he appoints them. This is the work
of angels, and this is their honour and glory. For what
greater honour can a creature be made partaker of, than
to be employed in the fervice of his Creator? What
greater glory, than to ftand in the prefence, and to exe-
cute the pleafure, of the King of Heaven ? If it be ai>
honour on earth to ftand before princes, dying, perifn-
ing men, who, as to nature and kind, {land on a level
with themfelvcs, what muft it be for them, who by na-
ture arc at an infinite diflance from the glorious God, to
i\and before him ? And how inconceivably vvoful will
it be to poor fouls at the lall day, to find how they de-
fpifcd in tlm world a Ihare and intercfl in that fcrvicc,



which is, and ever was, the glory and hlghefl honour of
angels !

§ 7. Ohf. 2. Such is the love and care of God to-^
wards his faints labouring here below, that he fends the
moll glorious attendants on his throne to rainifler unto
them, and to take care of them. Re who gave his only
^)on for them, will not fpare to fend his holy angels^
Heaven and earth fhall be witnefles of his care, and of
the value that he puts upon them. Now, this being a
matter of fo great importance, as it evidently is, and the
do£lrine diredlly taught in the text, we may a little far-
ther inquire,

I. Wherefore God is pleafed to ufe the miniftry of
angels, in the difpenfation of his care and good will to
the heirs of falvation, feeing he could, by an almighty
facility, produce the fame effedt by his own immediate
power. And,

IL To what fpecial ends and purpofes doth God
make ufe of their miniftry in behalf of believers.

§ 8. (I.) As to the firft, it is to be refolved princi-
pally into his own fovereign wifdom and pleafure. God
hath appointed it. Neverthelefs, the fcripture fuggeils to
us other fubordinate reafons ; as,

I . God doth it for prefcrving and manifefling the glo-
rious order of his kingdom. God is pleafed to rule his
creatures in the chara£ler of Supreme Lord and King ;
and thereby he difplays his fovereignty, and makes way
for the manifeflation of his glory. Now to a kingdom
there are three things efTential ; rule, obedience, and or-
der. In this kingdom, the fovereign rule is in the hand
of God alone — the monarchy is his — while obedience is
the work and duty of the fubjefts of his dominion. Now
the glory of both thefe lies in ordcr^ to which the miniftry
of angels eminently contributes.

§ 9. 2. God is pleafed to do this, to exercife the
obedience of the angels themfelves, and particularly to pre-
ferve and rule them in a manner fuitable to their ftate
and condition — and that in them he might give an ex-
ample of ready obedience to the church. Thefe angels

' \ 9X


of God, being ill tlieir nature excellent, and great in
power ; always ready, watchful, and free from all avo-
cations ; eminent in light and holinefs, as always behold-
ing the face of God, and fiUed with his grace, are pro-
pofed to us, in their obedience and readinefs to do the
will of God, as an example and pattern which we are llu-
dioully to imitate : and thence are we direftcd to pray,
that we may ' do the will of God on earth as it is done in
♦ heaven.'

^ lo. 3. God employeth them in an efpccial manner
in this miniltry, to manifcil: to the heirs of falvation tho
greatncfs and glory of the work of rcdcmptian. For as of
thcmfelvcs they defire particularly to look into thefe things,
which in general appear to them fo glorious ; fo, by
God's dealing with his church, in whofe behalf they arc
employed, they learn the manifold wifdom of God, and
the riches of his grace, [Ephef. iii. 10.] And thus, in
all their employments about the faints, for whofe fake
they are fent out to miniiler, they learn much of the
wifdom and love of God, and arc thereby excited to ho-
nour, glorif^% and praife him. Somewhat of this they fee
in the leaft and meaneft work that is committed to tliem ;
and ihcy muft needs eternally rejoice in the ovcrtlowings
of the love and grace of God, taking care of all the con-
cernments of the poorefi: and meanelt of his I'ervants.

§ I I. 4. This is done, that God may thereby, in an
efpecial manner, give glory and honour to Jc/hs Chr'ift^
This is his will, ' that all men Ihould honour the Son
as they honour the F.thcr,' [John v. 23.] He hath
therefore railed him, and given him honour and glory ;
and, in particular, exalted him far above the angels, puttinjr
them in fubjcftion to him, as their head, prince, and gover-
nor, ( Kphef. i. 21, 22.] Neither is it a Ihew of glory, or
a titular kingdom and dominion, that is given him, but a
real fovcrcigiuy, wherein all things, fubjec> to him, arc
at his ahfolute difpolal ; and therefore nmft the angels
thcmfclves be at his fervice in the affairs of his kingdom,
which thev acknowledge themfelvcs to be, and the fellow^
(crvants of (hem that keep his t^flimony, [Kcv. xx. 9.3



Kow the heart and love of Jefus Chrift is greatly fixed
tipon that part of his church and people which is labour-
ing witli fin, affliction, and pcrfecution, here below,
[Hcb. ii. 57. iv. 15.] It is then greatly for his honour,
that the glorious angels lliould be employed for the good
of all his poor labouring faints. How diilinguifliing and
deferved the honour done to Jefus Chrift in heaven, when
all the attendants of the throne of God fee what care ia
taken about the meaneft that believe in him !

§ 12. 5. The love, and care, and condefcenfion of
God to his faints is hereby manifefted to the faints'
thcmfelvcs. God eniployeth the angels for their good, that
they may know how he careth for them, and be comforted
thereby, [Pfalm xci. 10—12.] The faints of God con-
fefs, that they are lefs tlian all his mercies, and unworthy
that he fliould have any regard for them, on account oi
their manifold fins and failings. Of the glorious angels,
their thoughts and apprehenfions are high and honourable.
Their nature, their ftate and condition, their power and
greatnefs, their holincfs and enjoyment of the prefence
of God, do all prefent them to their minds as polTelfed of
much excellency and glory— a glory which fome have
been fo weak and fuperftitious as to adore. Now, when
they conlider that God is pleated to employ thcfe glorious
ipirits to watch over them, and to do them good ; to en-
camp round about them, and to keep them from all evil ;
this fills them with an holy admiration of his infinite love-y
and unparalleled condefcenfion. They alio dcfervedly ad-
mire the excellency of the mediation of the Lord Mefiiah,
who hath brought them into this condition of favour.

§ 13. 6. Hereby a blefied intcrcourfe 2i\\A fdlo^vfblp
ate maintained between the feveral parts of the family oi
God, confiding of angels and men. Now it is the will
of God, that for the honour of our Lord Jefus -Chrift,
the immediate head of this family, there fhouid be a!i in-
tercourfe and an helpful commuifion between the feveral
parts of it ; for to this are we brought into the foc'ety of
the innumerable company of angels, [Hcb. xii. 22.] And
becaufc ourgoodnefs, our helpfuinefs, is coniuied to the



iiiints that are in the earth, [Pfalm xvi. 3.] not extend-
ing itfclf to God, or any of liis holy ones above, nor do
they ftand in need of our aid, hence God employs them
about the affairs and concernments of believers, that fo a
becoming fcllcBvlhip may be kept up in the family of
Chrill:, which otherwife could have no place.

§ 14. 7. Perhaps we may add, that God makes ufe
of the miniftry of angels, in the fervice of the church, to
reproach, awe, and reflrain the devi/. It is a continual
reproach call upon Satan, when he fees thofe to whom he
is like in nature, and with whom he had been a companion
in glory, willingly, cheerfully, and triumphantly obey
the will of God in the fervice of Chrift ; while he, on
the contrary, by his wickednels, has call out himfclf from
tht fiiue honourable employment, and enflaved himfelf to
the vilcll ferviccs that any part of the creation of God is
debalcd to. The whole work of the angels, therefore, is
a continual reproach to Satan for his fin and folly. It
cries to him, " This might have been thy work, thi3
might have been thy condition." And hereby God
alfo, in manv things, fruflrates his endeavours, reflrains
his power, and dilappoints his malice. It is inconceiv-
able what havock he would make of the lives, and liber-
ties, and ellates, of the faints, did not thefe watchers
from the Holv One difappoint him. He fees the church,
and every member of it, which he fceks to devour, en-
camped about, protected, and defended, by this heavenly
holl ; nay, he fees he cannot touch the foul of any one
of them, nor caufc an hair of his head to perilli. This
fills him with felf-devouring envy and wrath.

§ I 5. (II.) The fccond quellion is, To what ends and
purpolbs doth God make ufe of the minillry of angels in
behalf of believers ? In general, God doth it to commu-
nicate by them the eff'cfts of his care and love to the
church. This God rcprefentcd to Jacob in the vifion he
gave him of the ladder, which flood upon the earth, and
whole top readied unto heaven, [Gen. xxviii. 12, 15.]
For altliougli the jews fay fomewhat to the purpofe, when
they affirm this ladder to have denoted the dependence of



all things here below on them above, under the rule of
Divine Providence, yet they faw not all that was lignified
thereby. Our Saviour tells us, [John i. 51.] that from
thence his dlfciples fhould * fee heaven opened, and an-
* gels afcending and defcending upon the Son of man ;*
plainly alluding to this vilion of Jacob. They afcend and
defcend on his mediation, fent by his authority, aiming
at his glory, doing his work, and carrying on his inteiefts.

§ 16. I. They are fent in an extraordinary manner,
to make revelations of the will of God about things tend-
ing to the obedience and fpiritual advantage of believers.
Hereof we have many inftanccs in the Old Teftament, ef-
pecially in God's dealing with the patriarchs before the
giving of the law ; which alfo was confirmed under the
New Teftament, in many inftances, [fee efpeciaily Rev. i.
I.] How far God is pleafed to continue this part of the
miniftration of angels to the prefent period of the church,
is hard to determine. For, as many have pretended to
revelations by angels, which have been mere delufions of
Satan, or imaginations of their own brains ; fo to af-
firm, that God doth not, or may not, fend his angels to
any of his faints, to communicate his mind with refpe£l
to fome particulars of their own duty, according to his
word, or to forefliew fomething of his own approaching
work, feems, in my judgement, unwarrantably to limit
the Holy One of Ifrael. Howbeit, fuch things, in their
particular application, are to be duly weighed, with fo-
briety and reverence.

§ 17. 2. God, bv them, fuggefts good motions into the
minds of his faints. As the devil fet himfelf on work to tempt
them to evil, by fuggcftions fuited to the principles of fin
withiii them ; fo God employs his holy angels to provoke
^hem to that which is good, by fnggefting what is fuit-
able to the principle of their fpiritual life and grace. And
as it is difficult to dlfcover the faggeftions of Satan in mod
cafes, from the workings of our own minds, their opera-
tions becoming efTcdlnal only as they mix themfelves with
•ourdarkncfs and lufts ; fu, on the other hand, it is no

Vol. II. CL Icfs


lefs difiicult diflinftly to take notice of thefe angelical
motions for a fimilar reafon. For, being fuitable to the
inclinations of that principle of grace which is in the
liearts of believers, and producing no cfFcd but by
them, they are hardly difcerned. So that we may have
the benefit of many angelical fuggeftions of good
things, which we ourfelve^ take no notice of. And it
it be inquired, how thefe good motions from angels are,
or may be diftinguilhed from the motions of the Holy
Cthoft, and his aftings in believers ? I anfwer, that they
diiTer fundry ways -, as,

(i.) Thefe angehcal motions are (qI extra) from witly
cut. Angels have no inbeing, no relidence in our fouls,
but work upon us as an external principle ; whereas tl>c
Holy Spirit abideth with us, and dwelleth in us, and
works (ah intra) from within^ influencing the very prin-
ciples of our minds. Whence it follows,

(2.) That thefe angelical motions confifl in occafional
Imprcjfions o\\ the mind and imagination ; and are made by
advantages taken from outward obje£ts, and the prefent
difpofition of the foul ; whereas the Holy Ghoft, in his
operations, engages all the faculties of the foul, really
and immediately citing them to gracious aAings> accord-
ing to their nature and quality. Whence alio it appears,
(3.) That angelical fuggeflions communicate wo Jhcngth
or abihty to perform the good which they guide and di-
rect to ; only they flir up men to a£t and exert the
ilrength they have. But the Holy Ghoft, in his gracious
motions, does really communicate Ipiritnal power to the
faculties of the foul, enabling them rightly to perform tlie
duties propofcd. And,

(4.) Whereas angelical impreftlons are tranjicnt, and
abide only in the effcfts which the mind, excited by them,
product-s ; on the contrary, there is a conftant, abiding
effectual work of the Holy Giioft in the hearts of belie-
vers, enabling them to will and to do, according to his
good plcafure.

§ 18. 3. God fends forth his angels on this miniftr\v

to prefervc believers from many dangers, and ruinous ca-

fualtic.; that would othcrwife befal them. One great dc-

I figii


fign of Pfalm xci. is to acquaint its with this important
particular. And to this purpoic alfo it is faid, that * the
* angel of the Lord cncampeth round about tliem that
' fear him,* as they did about Elifha to prefcrve them from
the danger to which they are expofed. Nor is this im-
peached by the evils ^nd calamities thatbefal the righteous,
for God hath given commillion to his angels only to adt
according to his good picafure : and this does not hinder
but that his faints fhould be cxercifed with various trou-
bles and calamities for the trial of their faith arid obe-
dience. But yet, in the ordering and managing of thefe
calamities or troubles, they have no lefs benefit by the
niiniflry of angels, than they have in refpe(ft of thofe
from which they are preferved by them. For, inafmuch
as they alfo are defigned for their good, their being ex-
pofed to them in the bed feafons, their fupport under
them during their continuance, and deliverance from them
in the appointed time, are all iignal mercies which they
receive by the minillry of angels.

§ 19. 4. By this miniflry of angels doth God parti-
cularly preferve us from the fudden and violent incuriions
of Satan. Satan in the fcripture is called a * ferpent,*
from his fubtility and lying in wait to do mifchief ; and
a * lion,' from his rage and dellru6live fury : and as the
one, and the other, he continually feeks the harm and
ruin of the whole man ; not only of our fouls in fin and
punifliment, but of our bodies, in our lives, health, and
welfare. Hence we find fo many in the gofpel troubled
with bodily infirmities from the aflaults and impreifion of
Satan. Hereto alfo belong all thofe hurtful terrors, af-
frightments, and furprifals which he endeavours by him-i
felf and his agents to call upon us. Had he his defired
liberty, he would, at Icaft, make our whole lives full of
difappointments, horrors, vajn fears, and perplexities, if
he could proceed no farther. Now in all thcfe defigns
it is more than probable that he is prevented by the mi-»
jiiftry of angels, [fee Job i.]

§ 19. 5. They arc appointed in their minillry to be
wiUieffcs of the obedience, fufferings, and worfhip of the

0.2 4if-


difclplcs of Chrift ; that they may give tcftimony con-
cerning them before God, and m the great ailembly of the
laft day ; fo glorifying God for the grace beftowcd upon
believers, and the aHirtance afforded them. I'hus Paul
tells us, that the apofties in their preaching and fufferings,
were * made a fpeftacle to angels,' [I. Cor. iv. 9.] The
holy angels looked on, rejoicing to behold how glorioufly
they acquitted themfelves in the work of their minillry.
And to this end doth he charge Timothy, * before the cleft
* angels,* to difcharge aright the work of an evangclill:,
[I. Tim. V. 2.] becaufe they were appointed of God to
be witnclTcs of his faithfulnefs and diligence. And it is
not improbable but he hath refpc£l to the prefence of an-
gels in the alTcmblies of the faints for the worfliip of God,
where he enjoins modefly and fobriety to women on their
account, [I. Cor. xi. 10.] And from that particular in-
flance, a general rule may be drawn, for the obfervation
of comtlincfs and order in all our aflcmblies, for thcfe
holy witiieffes arc prcfent at all our folemn worfhip*
Church aflcmblies are the court, the dwelling place, the
throne of Jefus Chrift, and therefore in them he is in an
cfpccial manner attended by thefe glorious miniftcrs of his
prefence. And although an holy regard to God, and our
Lord Jcfus Chrift, be the firft and principal motive to
a right and holy acquitment of ourfelves in all our obe-
dience, fufferings, and worfliijv ; yet, in fubordinatioii
thereunto, wc may alfo have refped to the angels, as
thofe who are employed by him to be witnclTes of out
ways and carriage. Such a refpeft, I mean, as may ad-
minifter occafion to them to glorify God in Chrift on our
behalf; that lb all the honour may finally redound to h'nn

§ 20. 6. God iifeth the miniftrv of angels, to avenge
his cleft of their enemies and perfccutors. Thus by an
angel he deftroycd the army of Sennacherib, when he ir^
tended and threatened the deftruftion of Jcrufalem ; and
by an angel he fmote Merod in the niidft of his pride and
perfecution ; [A(f^s xii.] and this minillry of theirs is in
an efpecial manner pointed at in fcveral places of the



Revelation, where the judgements of God are foretold to
be executed on perfecutors. And this work they v/ait for in
an holy admiration of the patience of God towards many
a provoking generation ; and are in continual readinel's
to difcharge it to the uttermofl, whenever they ihali re-
ceive their commilhon for that purpofe.

§ 21. 7. Laftly, the miniftry of angels refpe£ls th©
general refurreftion and day of judgement. The Lord
Chrill is every where defcribed coming to judgement at
tlie lafl day, attended with all his holy and glorious an-
gels. And great fhall be their work towards the eledl ia
that day, when the Lord Jefus ihall be admired in all that
believe. For although the work of the refurre£tion, lika
that of the creation, is to be efFe£led by the immediate
operation of almighty power, without the intervention
of any fecondary agents, limited in their power and ope-
ration ; yet many things preparatory thereunto, and con«
fequent upon it, fliall be committed to the miniftry of
angels. By them are the figns and tokens of it to be
proclaimed to the world ; to them is committed the
founding of the laft trumpet and the giving out the ge-
neral fummons for all flelh to appear before Jefus Chrift:,
with all the glorious folemnity of the laft judgement*.
And as they carry and accompany the departed fouls of

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 46)