John Owen.

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

. (page 11 of 46)
Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the faints into the receptacles of their heavenly reft, [Luke
xvi. 22.] fo, doubtlefs, alfo Ihall they accompany them in
their joyful return to their beloved former habitation,
(their bodies) that they may be rebuilt and adorned with
glory. By them alfo will the Lord Redeemer at length
bring all the heirs of lalvation triumphant into the full
poflelhon of their inheritance.

§ 22. To what has been faid, let the following obfer-
vations be added :

I. That we ought to be very careful to ufe fobriety
in our fpeculations and meditations about this matter.
Herein doth the apoftle's caution apply in an efpecial
manner, that we fhould be ' wife to fobriety,' and not
^Q think ourfelves * wife about what is written.* Thi^
foipe negle£ting of old, and endeavouring to intrude



thcmfclves into the * things which they had not fecii.*
[Col. Ji. 1 8.] that is, boafting of a knowledge and ac-
quaintance with angels, which they had no fate revealed
grownd for, fell into pride, fupcrilition, and idolatry, as
the apoftle declareth. And alinoll: in all ages of tlie
church, men have failed on this account.

2. Danger Ihould not deter us from duty. Becaufe
fome have failed in this matter, we ought not, therefore,
wholly to neglcft it ; there being fa great a concernment
of the glory of God, and our own good involved therein.
Had others erred, becaufe they had neither way to walk in,
or guide to attend to, it had been fufficient to reflrain us
from attempting any thing in this matter; but whereas it
is evident, that they wilfully neglc£led or tranfgrelTed the
way, and dcfpifed their guide, following their own ima-
ginations, fhall others be difcouraged in their duty, while
the5^ may avoid their mifcarriages ? Wc have the word
of God for our way and guide ; if we go not hejidcs it,
and if we go not beyond it, we are as fafe when we treat
of angels, as if we treated of worms. And it is pride to
the height, not to inquire after what may be known, be-
caufe there are many things that we may not know nor
comprehend. If that take place, it will debar us from
all fcarch into the myfleries of the gofpel \ for upon our
■utmofl attainments we know but in part. God's reve-»
lation is the obje£t of our knowledge ; and fo far as that
is made and given, fo far wc may inquire and learn. Be-
iides, it is the height of ingratitude not to fcarch after
what may be known of tliis great privilege and mercy,
whereof we are made partakers, in the miniil;ry of angels.
God hath nrither appointed nor revealed it for nQthing.
He cxpefts a revenue of praife and glory from it; and
how can we blefs him for what we know nothing of? Let
us on this account glorify God and be thankful. Great
38 the privilege, manifold are the blcflings and benefit*
that wc are hereby made partakers of. Now what fliall
we render for the exalted privilege, and to whom ? Shall
wc go and {>ow ourfelves down to ^he angels thcmfclves,
and pay to them our homage and obedicjice ? They all cry


out with one accord, * fee you do it not,' we are your
fellow fervants. What Ihall we then do ? They unaili-
moufly reply, * worfhip God ;' glorify and praife him,
who is the God of all angels, who fends and employs

3. The fancy of one iingle guardian angel attending
every one, is both a real impeachment of the confola-
tion of believers, and a great inducement to fuperftitioii
and idolatry.

4. Behevers obtain heaven by inheritance ; by a free
gift of their Father, and not by any merit of their own.
Heirs among men claim their inheritance {jure nafcendi,)
becaufc they are born to it, not bccaufe they deferve it
better than others. Believers look for thdirs {jure adop-
iionisj) by right of adoption, whereby thev become fons^
heirs of God, and co-heirs with Jefus Chrift.

Verse i.


§ I. Introdu&ton. § 2 — 4. (I.) Expojition of the words.
§ 5 — 10. (11.) The fubjeft improved by pratlkal obfcr-

§ I. An this fecond chapter the apoftle declares his de-
lign and fpecial aim, which was not merely for inftrudion
or information, though that alfo was iu his eye, but chiefly
to prevail with the Hebrews to fledfaftnefs in the faith
of the gofpel, and diligence in attending to all thofe
ways and means whereby tliey might be eftablilhed. The



foundation of bis exhortations to this purpofc, he lavs
in the incomparable cxcL-llency of the author of the gof-
pel. Hence naturally flow juft and cogent inferences to
conftancy in the profefTion of his do£lrines, and obedi-
ence to him, both abfolutcly, and in rcfpeft of the com-
petition fet up againll the fame by the Mofaical ini\itu-
tions. We fhall, according to our ufuai method,

I. Give the expofltion of the words ; and

II. Draw fuch obfervations from them as may be mod

§ 2. (I.) From the confideratlon of the glory and ex-
cellency of Chrift, as the author of the goipel, he draws
the inference, {'^ic/. tSto) * therefore ought we ;' that is,
for the reafons and caufes infifted upon. And thus the
word (iTCi^j<zcioi'CjoiL'zv) flow out, exprelFeth their lo/in^ by
any ways or means the dodrine of the gofpel wherein
they had been inllrufted, and the benefits thereof. See-
ing the gofpcl hath fuch a blcfTcd Author, we ought to
take care that \\c forfeit not, or lofc not, our intereft in it.
(AT/ yjuccg) * Ought zve ;' the apoftle joins himfelf here
with them, to manifcll that the duty he exhorts them to,
is of general concernment to all to whom the gofpel is
preached, fo that he lays no fingular burden on them ;
and that he might not as yet difcover to them any jealoufy
of their inconllancv, or that he entertained any fcvcrc
tlioughts concerning tliem : appreheniions whereof are
apt to render exhortations fufpe£led ; the minds of men
being ready enough to dllVcgard that which they are per-
fuaded to, if they fufpe£t that undeferved blame lies at
the bottom of the exhortation. The word (7rzpio-a-ci:-pxg}
mere ahundayitly, is joined to {%lcc Tif.'c) thertfore, or, * tor
* this caufe,' and feems immediately to refped it ; and fo to
intimate the excellent and abundant reafon we have to
attend to the gofpel. But if we tranfpofe the word>,
Sj/ %lJ^.g TT-^tG-croTipcjug iTpco-C'XStv) then the word {TTipia-c-c
1-pu^g) * more abundantly,* refpc(n:s the following word
{TTpoo-c^^tv) * to attend unto,' and fo cxprefTeth fomewhat
of the mamicr of the performance of the duty propofed.
And tliis application of the word is mofl commonly re-


ccived. The reader may embrace what feiife he judgeth
mod agreeable to the fcope of the palFage.

§ 3. In reference to the duty exhorted to, there is ex-
prelfcd the ohjeft of it, ' the things heard.* Thus the
apoflle chufeth to exprefs the dodrine of the gofpel, with
refpc6l to the way and manner whereby it was commu-
nicated, namely, by preaching ; for ' faith cometh by

* hearing,' and hearing is of the word preached, [Rom. X.
14, 15.] And herein doth he magnify the great ordinance
of preaching, as every where elfe he maketh it the great
means of begetting faith in men. So that the apoftle jn-
lifls upon, and commends to them, not only the things
themfelves, wherein they had been inftruded, but alfo the
way whereby they were comniunicated ; this as the means;
of their believifig, as the ground of their profeflion, they
were diligently to remember, confider, and attend to. The (■
duty itfelf, and the manner of its performance, are ex-
prefled in the word (Tfooa-E'x^siv) * to attend or give heed/

It is an attendance with reverence, affent, and readinefs
to obey, [fee A6ls xvi. 14.] God opened the heart o£
Lydia (™crf^t/j/) * to attend unto the things that were

* fpokeii ;' not to give them the hearing only; there was no
need of the opening of her heart for the mere attention o£
her ear ; but llie attended with readinefs, humility, and
refolution to obey the word. To attend, then, to the
word preached, is to confider the author of it, the matter,
the importance, and the ends of it, with faith, fubjec*
tion of fpirit, and conftancy.

§ 4. The duty exhorted to being laid down, a motive
or enforcement is fubjoined, taken from the danger that
would enfae from the negle£l of it. And this is either
from the fin, or from the punifhment, that would attend
it, according to the various interpretations of the word
(TrapccoDVcouicv) fiow out, or fall. If it fignifies to * fall,'
or * perilb,' then the punijhment of tlic negle£l is inti-
mated. We fliall perilh as water that is poured on the
earth. This {c\\{q of the word is embraced by few ex-
pofitors, yet is it not altogether unv/orthy our notice ;
though ftri^lly it is our finful lofin^ of the word, and the

Vol. IL R ' be-


benefits thereof, which the apoille intciuleth And this
appears further if we remark, that in the next verfes he
dotli not proceed to prove what he had aflcrted in this
vcrfe, but goes on to other arguments to the fame pur-
pofe. The exprclTion is fuppofcd generally to allude to
leaking vejjchy which let the water, poured into them one
way, to ru!\ out many ways. The word relates to the
perfonsj not to the things, becaufe it contains a crime.
It is our duty to retain the word which we have hcnrd ;
and, therefore, it is not laid that the water tlows out,
but that wc, as it were pour it out. And this crime is de-
noted by the addition of the prej)oiition [iroi'^oi) to the
verb {I'jfiv.) For as the fimple verb denotes the * paf-

* ling away' of any thing, as water, wlicthcr it dcfcrvcs
to be ret: ined or no ; fo the compound doth the lofing of
that pcyjctjely which we ought to have retained. And
there is an elegant nivtaphor in the word \ for as the drops
of rain falling on the earth, water it and make it fruitful,
\'o does tlic ccleftial doctrine make fruitful unto God the
fouls of men, upon whom it defccnds. And in refpect to
the word of the gofpcl it is, that the Lord Chrill is faid
to comedown * as the fliovvers on the mown grafs, [Pfalni
Ixxii* 6.] fo the apollle calls the jireaching of the gofpcl
to men, the waiaing of them, [I. Cor. iii. 6, 7.] and
clfewhcre compares them, to whom it is preached, to the

* earth that drinkcth in the rain,' [Heb. vi. 7.] Hence,
in the words wc arc upon, men are faid to pour out the
word preached, when by their negligence they lofc, in*
llead of retaining, the benefit of the gofpel. So when
our Saviour had compared the fame word to (ccd^ he fcts
out men's falling from it by all the ways and means where-
by {t:i:(.\ into the earth may be loft or become unpro-
fitable, [Matt, xiii.] And as he Ihews this h done various
ways ; fo there arc many times and fcafons, ways and
means, by which wc arc in danger of lofnig, or of pouring
out, through mifimprovemcnt, (as a vellel that docs not
anfwer the end for which it is made,) the water or rain
of the word which we have received. And this is referred
to in thatexprelhon, ' left at any time.'

2 ' § 5-

Ver.i. epistle to the HEBREWS. 121

§ 5. (II.) From the words thus explained, we may-
proceed to the following obfervatjons :

Obf. I. Diligent attendance to the word of the gofpel
is indilpcnfably necellary for perfeve ranee in the profelfion
of it ; fuch a profeflion, I mean, as is acceptable to
God, or will be ufeful to our own fouls. The profef-
fion of moil is a merely not renouncing the gofpel in
word, whilft in their hearts and lives they deny the power
of it every day. A faving profeflion is that which ex-
prelleth the efficacy of the word to falvation, [Rom. x. 10.]
This will never be the effe£l of a lifelefs attendance ; for
it implies,

( J.) A due ^^luation of the grace tendered in it, and
of the word itfelt on that account. Thus the original
word (7J"pocri%c/v) denotes fuch an attendance to any thing,
as proceeds from an eftimation and valuation of it an-
fwerable to its worth. If we have no fuch thoughts of
the gofpel, we can never attend to it as we ought ; and
if we confider it not as that wherein our chief interefl lies,
we conlider it to no profit. The field wherein is the
pearl of great price, js fo to be ' heeded,' as to be valued
above all other poffelTions whatfoever, [Matt. xiii. 45, 46.]
They who efteemed not the marriage feall of the king ■
above all avocations and wordly concerns, were fhut out as
unworthy, [Matt. xxii. 7.] If the gofpel be not more to
us than all the world befides, we fhall never continue in
an ufeful polTeffion of it. Conflant high thoughts, then,
of the neceffity, worth, glory, and excellency of the
gofpel, cfpecially on account of the author of it, and the
grace difpenfed in it, is the firfl ftep in that ' diligent heed-
' ing' of it, which is here required, that we may keep
our faith firm unto the end.

(2.) Diligent iludy of the gofpel and fearching into
the mind of God in it, that fo we may grow wife in
its holy myfleries, is another part of this duty. The
gofpel is the wifdom of God, [I. Cor. i. 24.] and in it
are laid up all the ilorcs and trcafures of that wifdom,
[Col. ii. 2, 3.]- It is to be fought for as filver, and to be
iearched after as hid treafures, [Prov, ii. 4.] that is, a?

R, 2 \vorthy


worthy tlic utmofl pains and diligence. Men with inde-
fatigable pains, and often with great danger, pierce into
the bowels of the earth in fearch of hidden treafurcs.
Such treafures are not gathered, by every lazy pafTenger
on the furfacc of the earth. They mud dig, feek, and
fearch, who intend to be made partakers of them ; and
fo mud we do for thefe treafures of heavenly wifdom.
The mvAery of the grace of the gofpel is great and deep,
fuch as the angels defirc to bow down and look into,
[I. Pet. i. 12.] ; and which the prophets of old, not-
vithllanding the advantage of infpiration, ' inquired di-
* ligcntly' after, [verfe i i.] Without this, no man will
hold fail his profeffion. Nor doth any man ncgled the
gofpel, but he that knows it not, [II. Cor. iv. 3, 4.]
This is the great principle of apoftafy in the world, that
men have owned the gofpel, but never knew wliat it was ;
and therefore fooliflily leave the profefTion of it, as they
lightly took it up. Studying the word is the fecurity of
our faith.

(3.) Mixing the word with faith is alfo required in
this attention. [See chap. iv. 2.] As good not hear, as
not believe; believing is the end of hearing, [Rom. x.
II.] and therefore Lydia's faith is called her attention,
[A£^s xvi. 14.] I'o hear, and not believe, is, in the
fpiritual life, what to fee meat, and not to cat it, is in the
natural ; it will plcafc the fancy, but will never nourilli
the foul. Faith alone realizeth the things fpoken to thq
heart, and gives them fubfiflcncje in it, [Heb. xi. i.]
without which, as to us, they hover in loofc and uiiccrr
tain notions.

(4.) Labouring to exprefs the word received, in a con-
formity of heart and life to it, is another part of this at-
tention. This is the next proper end of our hearing;
and to do a thing appointed for a certain end, without
aiming at that end, is no better than the not doing it at
'A\y in fome cafes much worfe. The apofllc fays of the
Romans, that they were cafl: into the mould of the gof-
pel do(!^rine, [chap. vi. 13.] It left upon their hearts an
imprcffion of its own likencfs, or produced in them an



txprefs image of that holinefs, purity, and wifdom,
which it revealeth. This is * to behold, with open face,

* the glory of the Lord, as in a glafs, and to be changed

* into the fame image,' [IL Cor. iv. i8.] that is, the
image of the Lord Chrift, maniicfted to us, and reflefted
upon us by means of the gofpel. When the heart of the
hearer is animated with g fpel truths, and is thereby
moulded and falliioned into their likenefs, and expreffetli
that likenefs in its fruits, or a converfation becoming the
gofpel, then is the word attended to in a right manner.
This, and this alone, will fecurc to the word a ftation ia
our hearts, and give it a permanent abode.

(5.) Watchfulnefs againft all oppofition to the truth,
or power of the w^ord ^n us, belongs alfo to this duty.
And as thefe oppofitions are fo many, powerful, and dan-
gerous, fo ought this watchfulnefs to be great and dili-
gent. Hence,

§ 6. Obf. 2. There are fundry times and feafons, kvc^

ral ways and means, men are in danger of lofing the word

that they have heard, if they attend not diligently to pre-

ferve it. (M'W-O * ^f ^^y ^^>''^^' ^r * by any way or

* means.' This our Saviour teacheth us at large in the

parable of the feed, which was retained but in one fort of

ground out of the four into which it was caft, [Matth,

xiii.] And this is confirmed by the experience of all ages.

Yea, few there are at any time, who, when they have

heard the gofpel, keep it as they ought. We may briefly

name the feafom wherein, and the ways whereby, the

hearts and minds of men are made like * leaking vefTels,'

(contrary to the ufe for which they were made) to pour

out, or let flip, the word of truth. ^ -3

(I.) Some lofe it in a time of peace ^nd profperity.
That is a feafon which flays the foolilh. ' Jefliurun wax-
* edfat, and kicked.' According to men's paflures, fo
are they filled, and then forget the Lord. They fill their
lulls, until they loath the word ; and thus qua'ils often
make a lean foul. A profperous outward eflatc hath
{lifted many a promising convidion, yea, and weakens
faith and obedience often in many of the faints. The




warintli ot prorperity breeds fwaniis of apoftatcs, as the
heat of" the fun doth infedts in the fpring.

(2.) Some lofe it in a time o( pet fccution. * When per-
* fecufion arifeth,' faith our Saviour, * they fall away.*
jMany go on apace in profeffion, until they come to fee
the crofs. The iight of this puts them to a iland, and
turns them quite out of the way. They thought not of
it, and do not like it.

(3.) Some lofe it in a time o^ temptation. It pleafeth
God, in his wildom and grace, to fuffer fometimes an
hour of temptation to come upon the church for trial,
[Rev. iii. 10.] that the members may be made thereby
conformable to Chrill their head, who had his fpccial
hour of temptation. In this trying {late, many lofe the
-word. They have been caft into a negligent flumber, by
the ffcret power of temptation ; aiid when they awake,
and look about them, the whole efficacy of the word is
loft and gone.

§ 7. The "jua^s and means alfo, whereby this woefu]
efr^«St is produced arc various, ven, iniiumerable. For
inftance, the love of this pre ft nt world. This made Demas
a * leaking vellel,' [II. Tim. iv. ic] ; and this choaked
one iourth part of the feed in the parable, [Matth. xiii.]
IVIanv might have been rich in grace, had they not made
it their end and bufmefs to be rich in this world, [Tim.
vi. 9.] Again, z/;^ love of fin. A fecret luft cherilhcd
in the heart will make it (plenum r'lmarum), * full of

* chinks,' fo tliat it will never retain the Ihowers of the
word ; and it will alTu;edly open thofe chinks again as
faft as convi6lions mav ftop them. Moreover, falfe doc-
trines, falfe worfhipy r\u\ fupetfitious fancies will do the fame.
1 place thefe things together, as thofe which work in the
fnne kind upon the curioiity, vanity, and darkncls of
the human mind. Thelc break the velfei, antl at once
pour out all the benefits received.

§ 8. Ol'l. 3. The gofpel heard is not loll: without great
fm, as well as the incvitalilc ruin of the fouls ot men.
And loft it certainlv is, when it is not ' mixed with

* faith,' when wt- receive it nut into * good and honeft:

* hearts/


* hearts,' and when the end of it Is not accomplifhed in
lis. But this, undoubtedly, befalls us not without our
lin, and woful ncglecl of duty. The word, of its own
nature, is apt to abide, to incorporate itfelf with us, and
to take root ; but we call it out, and pour it forth from
us. Surely, then, they have a woful account to make,
on whofe fouls (Oh fliuddcring thought !) the enor- ;
mous guilt thereof Ihall be found at the lalt day.

§ 9. Obf. 4. It is in the nature of the gofpel to water
dry and barren hearts, and to make them fruitful unto
God. Where this word comes, it makes * the parched

* ground a pool, and the thirfty land fprings of water,'
[Ifa. XXXV. 7.] Thefe are * the waters of the fanduary,

* that heal the barren places of the earth, and make them

* fruitful,' [Ezek. xlvii.] the * river that makes glad the

* city of God,' [Pfal. xlvi. 7.] that ' river of living wa-

* ter that comes forth from the throne of God,' [Rev.
xxii. I.] and the places and perfons which are not heal-
ed or benefited by thofe waters, are left to barrennefs and
burning for evermore, [Ezck. xlvii. 11. and Heb. vi.
8.] With the dew hereof doth God water his church
every moment, [Ifa. xxvii. 3.] and then doth it ' grow

* as a lily, and cafl forth its roots as Lebanon,' [Hof.
"xiv. 5 — 7.] Abundant fruitfulnefs to God follows a
gracious receiving of this dew from him ; and bielTed are
they who have it diftiUing on them every morning, who
arc watered as the garden of God, or as a land for which
he careth.

§ 10. OhJ, 5. The confideration that the gofpel is re-
vealed by the Son of God himfelf, is a powerful motive ^"^
to that diligent attention which is here inculcated. This
is the apoftle's inference, which he purfues through the
greateft part of the enfuing chapter. And the divine re-
quifition, that * we ought to give the more carneft heed

* to the things which we have heard,' is moil reafonable
"upon many accounts.

(I.) Becaufe of \\\^ authority wherewith Chrlfl: fpake
the word. Others fpake and delivered their meifage as
fervants, he as the Lord over his own houfe, [chap. iii.



6.] The Father himfelf proclaimed from heaven, that
if any one would have any thing to do with God, they
were * to hear him,' [Matth. xvii. lo. II. Pet. i. 17.]
The whole authority of God was with him ; for him did
God the Father feal, or upon him did he put the ftamp
of all his authority. It cannot then be ncglcfled, with-
out the contempt of all the incontcilable authority of
God ; which cannot be but a fore and tremendous ag-
gravation of the fins of unbelievers and apoftates at the
lafl day.

(2.) Becaufe of the love that is in it. There is in it
the love of the Father in fending the Son ; and there is
alio in it the love of the Son himfelf, condefcending to
teach and inftru£t the fons of men, who, by their own
fault, were caft into error and darknefs. What greater
love (except his dying for us) could the eternal Son of
God manifeft unto us, than that he Ihould undertake, in
his own perfon, to become our inftrucftor, [See I. John
T. 20.] He that Ihall confidcr the brutifn ignorance and
flupidity of the generality of mankind in the things of
God ; the mifcrable, fluctuating, and endlcfs uncertain-
ties of the more inquiring part of them ; and withal th<?
importance of their being brought into the knowledge of
the truth, cannot but, in fome meafure, fee the great-
ncfs of the love of Chriil: in revealing to us the whole
cou>nfel of God. Hence his words arc faid to be ' gra-
• cious,* [Luke iv. 22.] and grace is faid to be poured
into his lips, [Pfal. xlv. 2.] and this is no fmall mo«
tive to our earneil attention to the gofpcl.

(3.} The fulnefs of his revelation is alio of the great-
eft importance. He came not to declare merely a parr,
but the -whole will of God ; all that we ihould know, all
that wc Ihould do, and all that we Ihould believe. In
him arc hid all the treafurcs of wifdom and knowledge,
[Col. ii. 3.] He opened all the dark fcntences of the
will of God, hidden from the foundation of the world.
There is in his do£lrine all wifdom, all knowledge, as
all light is in the fan, and all water in the fca. Now if
every word of God be excellent, if every part of it, de-


livcred by bis fcrvants of old, was to be attended to upon
penalty of extermination out of the number of his people ;
how much more miferable will our condition be, and
how much more deplorable is ourblindnefs and obftinacy,
if we have not a heart to attend to this full revelation of

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 46)