John Owen.

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

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fe£llv, and excluiively kjiows what fin defervcs, and there-
fore the feveral degrees of punilhment that ought to be,
and that fliall be inflicted.

§ 13. In the final punilhment of fin, there Is no rnix^

ture of mercy ; nothing to alleviate, or take off from the

uttermoft of its defcrt. This world is the time and place

for mercy. While here God caufeth his fun to lliine, and

his rain to fall on the worft of men, filling their hearts

with food and gladnefs. Here he endures them with

much patience and forbearance, doing them good in a

Avay unfpeakably various, and to many of them making a

daily tender of mercy, which might make them blefl for

€ver. But the feafon for thefe things is paft in the

day of recompence. Sinners fliall then hear nothing but,

* go ye curfed.* They fliall not have the leafl: effect of

mercy. ihewed them to all eternity. They fhali then have

judgement without mercy who fliewed no mercy. Cries

will do nothing at the lafl day ; not obtain the leafl drop

of water to cool the tongue in its torment. Some men

doubtlefs have fecret referves, that things will not proceed

at the laft day, as they are now urged to believe they will.

They hope to meet with better quarter than what is talked

of; that God will not be inexorable, as is pretended.

Were not thefe their inward thoughts, it were not pofTible

they fhould fo neglcd the feafon of grace as they do.

But alas ! how will they be deceived ? God indeed is

gracious, merciful, and full of compalTion ; but this world

is the place, and now the time wherein he will eicercifc

them. They will be for ever fliut up from unbelievers

at the laft day. This is the acceptable time ; this is the

day of falvation ; if this be defpifed, if this be neglected,

expe6l no more to hear of mercy through eternal ages.

§ 14. Ghf. 3. Every concernment of the law and gof-
pel, both as to their nature and promulgation, is to be



weighed and considered by believers, to beget in their
hearts a right and due valuation of them. To this end
are they here fo diilindtly propofed ; as of the law, that
it was * fpoken by angels ;* and of the gofpel, that it is

* a great falvation,* the word * fpoken by the Lord,' con-
firmed with ' iigns and miracles ;' all which the apoflle
would have us to weigh and diftin£lly confider. As God
doth nothing in vain, fo neither fpcaks he any thing in
vain ; much lefs would he do fo in the things of his law
and gofpel, wherein the great concerns of his own glory,
and the fouls of men, are fo eminently involved. There
is in all thofe concernments of the law and gofpel, a mix-
ture of divine wifdom and grace ; and from this foun-
tain they all proceed, and the living waters of it run
through them all. There is in them all — a gracious con-
defcenlion to our weakncfs. God knows that we ftand
in need of fpecial marks, as it were, to be fet on every
important truth. Such is our weaknefs and our ilowncfs
to believe, that we have need the word fliould be to us,

* line upon line, and precept upon precept ; here a little

* and there a little.' The momentous truths contained in
the law and gofpel have their various influences and fuc-
cefles on the fouls of men. Some have been wrought
upon by one confideration, fome by another. In fome
the holinefs of the law, in others the manner of its admi-
niftration, has been cfFedual. Some have fixed their hearts
principally on the grace of the gofpel ; and fome on the
pcrfon of its author. And the fame perfons, at feveral
times, have had profitable afliilancc from thcfc fcvcral
confidcrations of the one and the other. Hence it is
manifeft, that in thefc things God doth nothing in vain ;
infinite wifdom is in all, and infinite glory will be the
rcfult of all.

And how fhould this ftir us up to a diligent fcarching
of the word, wherein God hath recorded all the weighty
affairs of his law and gofpel for our ufc and advantage !
That is the cabinet wherein all thefe jewels arc laid up
and difpofcd, according to his wifdom and the profound
couaftl of his will. A general view of it will but little



fatisfy, and not at all enrich our fouls. A very little in-
light into the word is apt to make men think they fee
enough ; but the reafon of it is, bccaufe they like not
what they fee, as men will not like to look farther into a
fhop when they like nothing that is at lirft prefented to
them. But if indeed we find profit, fwectnefs and life,
in the dilcoveries that are made to us in the word, efpe-
cially about the /aw and go/pel, we fhall be continually
aiming after a farther acquaintance with them.

§ 15. Ol^f. 4 What means foever God is pleafed to ufc
in the revelation of his will ; he gives it a certainty, 7?^^-
fajincfs^ and evidence, which our faith may reft upon, and
which cannot be negledled without the greatefl fin. —

* The word fpoken was fledfafl.' If the word be not a
firm foundation for the faith and obedience of men, they
cannot be juflly puniflied for the negledt of it ; but there
is X\\2X Jledfaftnefs in the word itfelf, that evidence of its be-
ing from God, that it makes it the duty of men to believe
it with faith divine and fupernatural, and that {lability
will never deceive them.

§ 16. Ohf. 5. The gofpel is ' great falvation,' and the
' negledlers' of it fhall therefore * unavoidably perifh' with-
out remedy.

By the * Gofpel' we are to underfland wMth the apoflle
the * word preached,' or recorded ; and it may be called

* falvation' upon a double account :

(i.) Dcclaratively \ in that the falvation of God by
Chrift is declared, taught, and revealed thereby. And
therefore under the Old Teflament, the gofpel is c-aWt^
a * bringing of glad tidings,' a * publilhing or declaring
' of peace and f^ilvation,' [Nahum. i. 15. Ifa. lii. 7.] and
is defcribed as a * proclamation of mercy,' peace, pardon,
and falvation for finners ; [Ifa. Ixi. 1,2.] And life and
immortahty are laid to be ' brought to light' thereby, [II,
Tim. i. 10.] Every word and promife in the whole book
of God, that intimateth or revealeth any thing belonging
to this falvation, is itfelf a part of the gofpel.

(2.) It is falvation efficiently ; in that it is the great
tnjirument which God is pleafed to ufe, in beftowing fal-


-nation upon the clc<tl. And therefore Paul commits be-
lievers to • the word of grace,' as that which is able to
buikl them up, and give them an inheritance among all
them that are fanctificd, [A6ts xx. 32.] And James calls
it ' the ingrafted word/ whicli is able to fnvc our fouls,
[chap. i. 21.] the mighty pov^'cr of Chrift being put
forth to accompany'it for that purpofc. 1 his efficiency
is obfervable in fomc of the principal parts of falvation.
In the regeneration and fcuicfijication of the elcft, for in-
llance, the firft external a6t of this falvation is wrought
by the word, [I. Pet. i. 23.] We are * born again, not

♦ of corruptible feed, but of incorruptible, by the word

* of God.' It is true, it doth not this by any power refi-
dent in iticlf, and always neceffarily accompanying its
adminiftration ; for then all would be fo regenerated to
whom it is preached ; and there would be no negleders
of it. But it is the diftinguilhed injhument of God for
this end , and in that refpeft is mighty and powerful.

Again : By the gofpel and its promifcs, as the moil
exalted inftruments or means, are believers a£lually and
really made partakers of the Spirit, as to his gifts and
graces, his indweling prefcncc and abode. Gofpel pro-
mifes are (zchicula SpiritusJ the chariots that bring his
holy Spirit to our fouls, [II. Pet. i. 4.] Bcfidcs, the
gofpel is eminently efficacious in our juJI/ficntlon, which
hath fo great a fliarc in this * falvation,' that it is often
called falvation iticlf. 'J'hcy that arc jufilticd, are faid
to hc^ favcd, [Kphef. ii. 8.] and tliis is by the gofpel,
becaufc therein is conllituted the true law of julViiicatioii
for a fmner ; becaufe therein is held forth a linner's righ-
tcoufncfs ; and hereby docs faith come, by which we be-
come a£lually intercfted in ChrilV, and in all the fruits
and benefits of his mediation ; for it cometh by hearing,
and hearing by the word of God, [Rom. x. 17.] More-
over, there is in this falvation a growth in ' fpiritual wif-

• dom, and an acquaintance witli tl»c niyllcry of God,

* ev'j'i the Father and the Soi\,' whicli is nlfo an cffe(5t of
the gofpel. Finally, it is the * word of promife,' or the
gofpel, whereby God gives * fliong confolation,' [Heb.

2 iv.


vi. 17, 18.] not only fupport and comfort in bearing
troubles, but glorious exaltations and ccflacies of joy arc
oftentimes wrought in the hearts of believers by the gof-
pel. Now they can endure, now they can fufFer, now
they can die ; joy is upon their heads and in their hearts,
and forrow and fighing flee away. Here is rell, here is
peace, here are refrelhments, here are pleafurcs, here is
' life to be defned.' The good Lord fweeten and feafon
all our hearts with all thefe confolations, thefe joys of
his kingdom, and that by the blefTed word of his grace !
And in thefe refpe^ts is the gofpel a * word of falva-
* tion.*

§ 17. But it is faid to be * great falvation.' Now we
have fcen that the gofpel is called falvation metonymi-
callv, the caufe being called by the name of the eftefV.
But in this adjunct of grcat^ * fo great,' the efFeft itfelf,
falvation itfelf, preached and tendered by the gofpel, is
principally intended. It is ufual in the fcripture, where
it would fuggefl to our thoughts an inconceiveable great-
nefs to ufe fome fuch cxprefTions as plainly intimate fome-
what more than can be exprelTed. * So great ;' that is,
abfolutely fo, and comparatively fo with refpeft to the
benefits received by the law; and inexpreflibly, inconcei-
vably fo. There ought then to be no expectation that we
Ihould declare the real greatnefs of this falvation, which
the apoflle intimates to hQ incxprejjtblc ; we fhall only point
out fome of thofe coniidcrations wherein the greatnefs of
it doth principally confifl and appear.

I. It is ' great' in the eternal contrivance of if«, When
fin had defaced the glory of the firft creation, and the
honour of God feemed to be at a {land, no way remained
to carry it on to that tnd to which all things at firfl tended ;
all creatures were, and for ever would have been, igno-
rant of a way for recovering things into the former, or a
better order, or bringing forth a falvation for * that which
' waslofl;' for befides that there were fuch horrible con-
fufions, and fuch inextricable entanglements, brought
upon the creation, and the feveral parts of it, which none
could difcern how they could be jointed and fet in order

Yoj^. IL y agaiiH



again ; there appeared a repugnancy in the very proper-
ties of the Divii^e nature to any lalvation for finners.
Let fuineis be faved, and what fliall become of the juf-
ticc, hohncfs, and wrath of God, all which are <;ngaged
to fee a * meet recompcncc of reward' rendered to every
tranfgre;i:on ? And this was enough eternally to filence
the whole creation, bv reafon of that indifpenfable obli-
gation which is on them always, and in all things, to
prefer the honour and glory of their Maker, before the
being or well-being of any creature whatever. Here
therefore infinite wifdom, infinite grace, infinite goodnefs,
and infinite holincfs, difcover themfelves in that contri-
vance of falvation, which fully fo Ives all •thofe diificulties
and ieeming contradidions \ keeps entire the ^lory of
God's attributes, repairs the honour lofi: by fin, and re-
duccth the whole creation into a iinu c^v/.r and fubfer-
viency to tlie glory of its Maker.

2. The falvation preached in the gofpcl is ' great,' on
account of the ivay and means whereby it was accom-
}>li[]jed ; or the great effect of the infinite wifdom and
grace of God in the mediation, incarnation, and fufier-
jngs of his Son. It mufi: aifuredly be ' great' falvation
w-hicli he came hhnjclf to work out. And how doth he
do it ? Is it bv the mighty power of his word, as he made
all things of old ? No, this work is of another nature,
and in another manner mull be accomplilhed. For to
this purpofe he muft be * made fiefh,' [John i. 14.]
* made of a woman,' [Gal. iv. 4.] Though he was in the
form of God, and equal to God the Father, yet he was
to humble and <7/7/>/v hiinfelf, to appear in the form of a
man, of a fervant, [Phil. ii. 6, 7.] This is that great
myfl:ry of godlinefs. ' God manifcll: in the ficfh,' that
angels defirc to look into. I'hat the Son of God fliould
take the nature of man into fubfillence with himfelf in
the fame peifon, which was necelT.irv for the efi*e£\ing
this falvation, is a thing that the whole intelligent crea-
tion mull eternally admire. In this nature he muft be
made under the law, fubjetfl to its commands, and bound
to the obLclicncc which it required. It bccanic him to ful-


fil all rlghteoufnefs, that he might be our complete Sa-
viour ; tor though he was a Sori^ yet he was to learn and
yield obedience, without which our I'alvation could not be
perfected. And as the Son of God mull obey, that we
may be accepted and crowned ; fo he mull: dit\ Ihed his
blood, and make his foul an offering for Ihi. If he will
be a captain of falvation to bring many fons to glory, he
niuft himfelf be made perfe<St by fufferings, [Heb. ii. 10.]
And herein affuredly was the love of God manifcfl, that

* he laid dovv^i his life for us,' [John iii. 16.] He rofe
from the dead, and now lives tor ever to make intercef-
fion for us, and to ' favc to the uttermoil ail them that

* come to God by him.* By thcfe means was the falva-
tion preached in the gofpel obtained, which furely mani-
fcft it to be a ' great falvation.' Would God have fent
his Son, his only Son, and that in fuch a manner, were
it not for the accomplifliment of a work, as well great
and glorious in itfelf as indifpenfably nccelfary with re-
ference to its end ? Would the Son himfelf have fo emp-
tied himfelf of his manifeftative glory, condefcended to io
low a condition, wreilled with fuch difEcultics, and un-
dergone at length fuch a curfed and fliameful death, had
not the work been great wherein he was employed ? O
the blindnefs and Ihipidity of the fons of men ! they
profefs that they believe thcfe things to be true, at Icaft
they dare not deny them to be fo ; but for the cffe£l of
them, for the falvation wrought by them, they value it
the leafl of all things ! Hear and behold, ye defpifers,
and wonder and perilh ! Shall the Son of God (for what
you care) fhed his blood in vain : Shall he obey, and
fuffer, and bleed, and pray, and die for a thing of nought ?
Is it nothing unto you that he fliould undergo all thcfe
things ? Was there want of wifdom in God, or of love
to his Son, fo to employ him, fo to treat him, in a bu-
finefs which you efteem of fo very fmnll concernment, as
that you will fcarce turn afide to inquire after it ? Affure
yourfelves that thefe things are of greater moment, Iclt
one day you find it fo to your eternal ruin.

U 2 3. Thi^


3. This falvation will appear to be * great,' if \vc con*
lidcr what by it we arc delivered from.

What arc we delivered from by this falvation ? In a
word, every evil in this world, or that which is to come.
And all evil maybe referred to two heads: (i.) Ihat
which corruptcth and depravcth the principles of our na-
ture in their being and operation. And, (2.) That which
is dcjlrudive of our nature as to its well-being and hap-
pinefs. The iirfl of thefc isyT/;, the latter is pumjhment ;
and both of them take up the whole nature of evil. Now
from both thefe, with all their efFe£\s and confcquences,
are believers delivered by this falvation ; namely, from
fm and death. The Lord Chrift was called * Jefus,' be-
caufc he faves his people from their Jins^ [Matt. i. 22.]
And he is alfo the Saviour that delivers them from the

* "jurath to come :' [I. ThelT. i. 10.] And this is * great

* falvation.' What is the Ikknefs of the body, to the dif-
cafe, vea, the death of the foul? What is the imprifon-
ment of the outward man, under the wrath of poor
worms like ourlelves, and that for a few days, to the
chains of everlafling darknefs ? What is a little outward
tcinporary wan'J, to the want of the favour, love, and
prcfcnce of God to eternity ? What is death temporal,
pail in a moment, an end of troubles, an entrance into
reil, to death eternal, an eternal dying, unclcr the curfe,
wrath, and righteous vengeance of the Holy God ? Thefe
things have no proportion one to another. So inexpref-
iibly * great' is the fiUvation, that there is nothing left
which is adequate to furnilh an illuftration of it.

4. This falvation is * great,' on account of the end of
it, or that which it brings believers to. The excellency
of the inheritance which we obtain thereby, is fuch as no
tongue can exprcfs, no heart conceive. It brings us to
the iavour and love of God, to the adoption of children
into durable reft and yjcacc ; in a word, the enjoyment
of God in eicr.ial glory. Oh ! the blelTednefs of thii
reil, the glory of this inheritance, the excellency of thij^
trown, the eternity and unchangeablcnefs of this condi-
tion, the greatnels of this falvation ! How weak, how

I low,


low, how unworthy In every refpedl are our apprehen-
iions of it ! Yet, furcly, through the blelTed revelation
of the fpirit of grace by the word of the gofpel, we
fee, we feel, we experience fo much of it, as is fuffici-
cnt to keep us up to an holy admiration and longuig
nfter it all the days of our earthly pilgrimage.

§ 18. It rcmaincth now, that we declare the una-
voidablenefs of their dcjiriiflion^ who ' negled' this fo great
falvation. There are three things that make the punifu-
ment or dellrudtion of any perfon to be unavoidable :
I. That it be juil and equal. 2. That there be no relief
or remedy provided for him. And, 3. That he to whom
it belongs to inflict punifhment, be able and rcfolved fo
to do : and they all concur to the height in this cafe.
For it is juft and equal that fuch perfons fhould be dc-
flroyed ; whence the fentence concerning them is fo dif-
cretionary and abfolute, * He that believeth not, (hall be
* damned,' [Mark xvi. 16.] And the Holy Ghoil fup*
pofcth this cafe fo clear and undeniable, that he refers the
proceedings of God therein to the judgement of finners
themfelves, [Heb. x. 29.] And they who are judged on
this account at the laft day will be fpeechlefs ; have no-
thing to reply, nothing to complain of. And the fen-
tence denounced againfl them will appear to all to be
righteous, becaufe they defpife an overture of a treaty
about peace and reconciliation between God and their
fouls. Now what greater indignity can be offered unto
him, than to reje£l his tenders, without fo much as an
inquiry after what his terms are, as the moft do to whom
the gofpel is preached ? Is not this plainlv to tell him,
that they defpife his love, fcorn his offers of reconciliation,
and fear not in the leaft what he can do unto them ? And
is it not juft that fuch perfons fliould be filled with the
fruit of their own ways ? Let men deal thus with their
rulers v/hom tlicy have provoked, that have power over
them, and fee how they will fare with them. Neither
will God be mocked, nor fliall his grace always be defpifeJ
with impunity. When men fliall fee and learn by woful
experience what pitiful worms they are, and have fome



beams of the greatncfs, inajelly, and glory of God fhi-
ning upon them, how will they be filled with fhame, and
forced to fubfcribe to the righteoufnefs of their own con-
demnation, for refufing his treaty and terms of peace !

Thefe terms contain ' falvation ;* and men in the ne-
gleiH: of them, ncgledl and refufe ' their ov:n falvation /
z{\\<\ can any periih more juiliy than they who refufe to
be faved f If God's terms had been great, hard, and dif-
iicult, yet, confidcring by whom tlicy were propofed, and
to whom, there was all the reafon in the world why they
Ihould be accepted ; and their deftruftion would be juft
that fliould net endeavour to obfcrve them to the ntmoft.
Lut now it is life and falvation that he tenders, on the
neglc£l of which he complains, that men ' will not come
' to him that they might have life/ Certainly tlicre can
be no want of righteoufnefs in the ruin of fuch pcrfons :
but that which the apoftle principally build3 the righteouf-
nefs and inevitablcnefs of the dcfiru^tion of the gofpel ne-
glc(^ers upon, is the ' greatnefs' of the falvation tender-
ed unto them ; * How fliall we efcape if we negleft fo
* great falvation ?* And if this be defpifed, is it not righte-
ous that men Ihould pcrifh «• If wc know not, yet God
knows how to fet a value upon this great effed of his
love, wifdom, and grace, and how to proportion puniih-
mcnt to its contempt. The truth is, God alone is able
fufhciently to revenge the greatnefs of this fin, and there-
by, the indignity done to him. Is it meet that God
fliould be mocked, his grace be defpifed, his juilice vie-
lated, his glory lofl ; and all, that iinners may go un-
punifhed ? Let them think fo whilil they pleafe, God
thinketh otherwife, all the angels in heaven think other-
wife, ail the faints from the beginning of the world to
tlie Qn(\ of it, think otherwife, and will glorify God to eter-
nltv for the righteoufnefs of his judgements on them that
o!)^v not the gofpel.

§ 19. 2. Suppofe the deftruAion of thefe pcrfons be
in itfelf righteous, yet may there not be fome remedy ^^^^
relief provided for them, that they may not a£tually fall
under it ' Mav there not yet be fomc wav of cfcapc for



them, and {o their ruin not be fo unavoidable as is pre-
tended ? No ; there neither is, nor can be any reHef
provided for them that lin againil the gofpcL For, from
what fpring, what fountain fhould it proceed? Mercy
and grace are principally finned againft, and if the gofpel
be jicgle£led, their whole defign is defeated ; nay, the ut-
»z^ of mercy and grace is already finned againll in it,
and what remaineth now for the relief of a finner ? Is
there any other property of the Divine nature, the conli-
-deration of which will adminiller to men any ground of
hope ? Is there any thing in the mmc of God, in that
revelation that he hath made of himfclf by his works, or
in his word, to give them encour?.gcment ? doubtlefs no-
thing at all. But yet fuppofe that God had not laid out
all the riches and treafurcs of his wifdom, grace, love,
and goodnefs in gofpel falvation by Jefus Chrifl, (which
yet he affirms he hath) fuppofe that in infinite mercy
there were yet a rcfcrve for pardon ; by what way and
means fhould it be brought forth and made effedlual?
We have k^w that God neither would nor could ever
have exercifed pardoning mercy towards finners, had not
way been made for it by the blood of his Son : what
then ? Shall Chrifi: die again that defpifers of the gofpel
may be faved ? Is the blood of Chrift fuch a * common
' thing,' as to be fo cafl away upon the lufts of men ?
Bendes : when fliould he make an end of dying ? They
who have once neglefted the gofpel may do fo upon a
fccomi trial, nay undoubtedly would do fo, and thence muft
Chrifi often die, repeatedly be offered, and all fi:ill in
vain. Neither hath God any other Son to fend to die
for finners, he fent his only-begotten Son once for all;
and he that bcHcvcth not on him niufi: perifli for even
All the mercy and grace that God hath for his creatures
(if we believe himfelf) is engaged in gofpel falvation only ;
and if that be defpifed, in vain fliall men look for any
other. As for a provifion of mercy for them that defpifc
ilie gofpel, where is any one word recorded concerning it ?
Nay, doth not the fcripture in all places fully and plainly
witnefs againfi: it ? * He that bclievcth not, fhall be

* damnf d.j


* damned.' * There remains no more facrificc for fin.'

* He that bcllcvcth not, the wrath of God abideth on

* him.' In fhoi;t, they who ncgleft the gofpel muil
pcrifli, and that eternally, for the mouth of the L,ord hath

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 46)