John Owen.

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

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that they might g^o free.

4. This dying of Chrifl is faid to be (uTT^p iroi-nog)
< for all.' The word is either of the mafculine or neuter
gender ; and is put for the plural, [7:ccvi'jqv) by an enal-
lage of number, ■ for all m,en,' that is, all thofe many
Jons, which God by his death intended to bring into
glory, [ver. 10,] thofe fanftified by him, whom he calls
his brethren^ [ver. 10, I I.] and children given him,
[ver. 13.] whom by death he delivers from the fear of
death, [ver. 15.] even all the feed of Abraham, [ver. 16.]

§ 8, In reply to any exceptions that might be urged
againft our interpretation, I grant that the pfalmift's de-
lign, in general, is the goodnefs, kindnefs, love, and care
of God towards mankind : but then it is in the fpecial
inftance of the perfon of the IVIcfliah alone, he undertakes
to make good his aflertion of mankind's pre-eminence,
I alfo grant that he hath refpcft to the dignity and honour
conferred on the firft man at his creation ; not dire6lly
a\\d ;ntcnti9nally as his chief fcope, but by way of allu-

Y 2 lion,


fion, as prc-figuring and obfcurcly rcprcfciiting that great
glory and Iionour, which manknid was to be advanced
to ill the pcrfon of the Meffiah, of whom the whole
pfnlni is prophcticah The general Icopc of the pfalm
will admit of no other interpretation. Now the phjc6t of
the pfalmifl's admiration could not be either the llatc of
man as fallen by fin, which is far enough from a matter
of exultation and joy; nor yet the flate of Adam in in-
uocency, in no privilege whereof, without a rcflitution by
Chrift, have we any ihare or intercft. There are not
any words in the tellimony that can properly be applied
to, or verified in any other man. Not in Jdam at his
lirll creation ; for how was he d'lmhujhcd and made lefs
than angels, and therein dcprcjjed from another flate and
condition, when, on the fuppolition, it was the firft ?
Or how can this be faid of ynankind in general, or of
believers in an efpecial fenfe ? and how could this be
fpoken of them for a little while, feeing the nature of
mail in itfelf confidered, is for ever beneath the angelical ?
Again ; the world to come was never put in fubje£lioii
to Adam, nor any other man, the man Chriil Jefus ex-

§ 9. Ohf. I. This is the great privilege of the gofpel
church, that it is made fubjeft to, and immediately de-
pends upon the Lord Jefus Chriil, and not any other,
angels or men.

I. The Lord Chrift is our head. The fcveral parts of
liis church were all fcattered and difordered bv fin, but
are now all collefted again, and brought into order under
one head. Him hath he given to be ' head over all things
* to the church.' 'J'hc whole fovereignty over all the
creation that is committed to him, is only for this end —
that he may be the more pcrfe£l head unto the church.
AVhat greater honour can we have, than to be freemen
of the corporation whereof lie is the head ? than to be
lubje<5^s of that kingdom of which he is the fovcrcign ?
What greater fafety than to be infepnrablv united to him,
who is invel\ed witli all power and authority over the



whole creation of God, even every thing that may do us
good or evil !

2. He is our only head. The church is fo put in fubr
jeftion under him, as not to be fubje<5l to any other. If
any other were or might be fuch a head, they mufl be an-
gels or men. As for angels, we have it here plainly tef-
tified, that the church ' is not made fubjefl' to them.
And amongfl men, the apofties of all others might feem
to lay the julteft claim to this privilege and honour ; but
they openly difclaim any pretence thereunto. So doth
Paul, [H. Cor. i. 24.] ' We have no dominion,' or head-
ship, ' over your faith,' or any thing that concerns your
obedience to God, and yoqr worfhip of him, * but arc
' helpers of your joy.' And again: ' We preach not our-
' felves but Chrifl Jefus the L,ord,' the only Lord ' and

* ourfelves your fervants for Jefus fake,' [H. Cor. iv. 5.]
And Peter (as if forefeeing, that fome who fhould come
after would pretend to fuch pre-eminence) warns the el-
ders that they fhould not think themfelves * lords over

* God's heritage, [I. Pet. v. 3.] And Chrifl is not only
thus the only head, in general, to the whole church, but
alfo to every individual believer. * The head of every

* man is Chrifl,' [T. Cor. xi. 3.]

He is the head of infaience and of government. — He is
the only head of vital hifluence. As from the natural head
all the influences of life, for fubfiflence, motion, afting,
guidance, and direction are communicated to the whole
body, and to every member thereof; fo from the Lord
Chrifl alone, as he is the fpiritual vital head of the church,
in whom arc the fprings of life and all quickening grace,
^re communicated to the whole church, and every be-
liever, both the firfl quickening principle of fpiritual life
itfelf, and all fucceeding fupplics and influences. If any
man think he may have grace from any but Chrifl alone,
be they angels or men, let him turn himfcif to them ; but
\yithal let him know afTuredly, that he forfakes the

* fountain of living waters/ for ' broken ciflerns,' which
yieW him uo relief.

^' Hi


He Is the only head of rule and government. The fcrlpture
tells us, that he was faithful ia the whole houfe of God,
as was Mofcs, and that as a Lord over his own houfe, to
^re£l rule and eflablifh it ; and himfclf when he gives coin-
miflion to his apoilles, bids them teach men to do and ob-
ferve all that he had commanded them ; and accordingly
they tell us, that they delivered unto us what they received
from the Lord ; and commanded us not to be wife above
tvhat is written. Therefore to add any thing in thq .
worfhip of God to the laws of the church, is to exercifc
authority and dominion over its faith ; and to pretend
that this ' world to come,' this bleifcj gofpel church-ilatc
is put in fabje£lion ' unto them,' although it be not fo to
angels. A vain and proud pretence ! His own authority,
and that alone, fhould immediately afFe£l the foul and con-
fcience of every believer. He that fubjefts himfelf aright
to them, doth it not upon the authority of the church by
whom they are taught, but upon the authority of Chrill;
by whom they are enabled.

3. As he is our only head, fo he is our hnmedlaie head.
We have our immediate dependence upon him, and our
accefs to him is alfo immediate. He hath, indeed, ap-
pointed means for communicating his grace, and for ex-
crcifing his authority- but this belongs only to the it.'ay.
of our dependence, and hinders not but that our depen-
dence is immediately on himfclf, he being the irjitncdiate oh-
jeil of our faith and love.

§ 10. This privilege is greatly augmented, in that he
will affuredly take care of all its concernments, feeing
xmto him only doth it betake itfelf. The church made
it of old part of her plea, that flie was as one * fatherlefs,^
[Ilof. xiv. 3.] Uiat is, every way helplefs, one that had
none to fuccour, none to relieve her. And Chrift givcth
this as a reafon why he llirreth up himfclf to the aflillancc
of his people, hjecaufe '. ^here was no man that appeared
* for their help, no interceffor to interpofe for them.'
[Ifaiah lix. 16. J Now God haying placed the church in
this condition, lb as to be ofttimes. altogether orphans ia
this world, to have none to give them the Icull counte-

4 ^lancQ

Ves.5-9. epistle to THE HEBREWS; 16^

nance or afliilance, and tlie church itfelf chufing this con-
dition, to renounce all hopes and expe£lations from any
elfe, betaking itfelf to the power, grace, and faithfulnefs
of the Lord Chrift alone, he will moft certainly take
care of it, and provide for it at all times infallibly* They
are members of his body, and he alone is their head ; they
are fubjedls of his kingdom, and he alone is their king i
they are children and fervants in his family, and he alone
is their father, Lord, and mafler ; and can he forget them,
can he difregard them ? Had they been committed to the
care of men, it may be fome of them would have fought
and contended for them ; though their faithfulnefs is al-
ways to be fufpe£led, and their ftrength is as a * thing of
* nought.' Had they been put in fubje£lion to angels^
they would have watched for their good, though their
wifdom and ability be ^greatly limited ; and fhall not the
Lord Jefus Cbrift, now they are made his fpecial care,
fvhofe power and faithfulnefs are infinitely above thofe
of any other mere creatures, excel them alfo in care and
watchfulnefs for our good ? And this fhould teach us,

§ II. The equity and neceffity of our univerfal obe-
dience to God in Chrift* He hath freed us from * fub-
' jc6lion' to men and angels, that we might ferve him,
and live unto him. He hath taken us to be his peculiar
ones, his lot and portion, from whom he experts all his
revenue of glory out of this world. And he hath left us
no excufe, no pretence, for the negled of any duties of
obedience that he requireth of us. We cannot plead that
we have other work to do, other lords and maflers to
ferve ; he hath fet us free from them all, that we might
be his. If a king take a fcrvant into his family, and
tliereby free and difcharge hiwi from being liable to
any other duty or fervice, may he not jullly expeft that
fuch a one will be diligent in obferving all his commands ;
cfpccially confidering alfo the honour and advantage that
he hath by being taken near to his royal mafter, and em-
ployed in his affairs ? And fliall not God much more ex-
pect the like from us, confidering how exceedingly the
privilege we have by this relation unto liim furpaflcth all



ttiat men can obtain by the favour of earthly princes r And
if we will choofe other lords of our own to fcrvc, if
we are fo rcgardlcfs of ourfclvcs as that we will fcrve our
lufls and the world, when God hatli fuch a refpc£l for us,
as that he would not fuffcr us to be made fubjedl to the
angels of heaven, how inexcufablc fhall we be in our
fin and folly ? You fliall be for me, faith God, and not
for any other whatever. And are we not miferable if wc
like not this agreement ?

§ 12. Olf. 2. The confideration of the infinitely glo-
rious excellencies of the nature of God, manifefling thcm-
letves in his works, doth greatly fet out his condefcenfiou
and grace, in his regard and refpe£l to mankind. The
heavenly bodies which wc behold are indeed in tlierrifelves
excecdhigly glorious. Their frame, greatnefs, beauty,
order, courfe, and ufefulnefs, befpeak them admirable
and glorious : the naked view of them is enough to
fill the mind of man with admiration and aflonifliment.
And the more we contemplate them, the more Ikilful we
arc in the confideration of their nature, order, and ufc, the
more excellent they appear ; and yet it is but a fmall part
of their greatnefs and beautiful arrangement that we can
attain a certain kriowledge of ; fo tliat they flill remain
more the objefts of our admiration and wonder, than of
our fcicncc. Hence the wifcfl among the heathens who
were dcflitute of the teachings of the word and fpirit of
tlie Lord, worfhippcd them as gods. *

The more wc confiJcr them, the more will their glory
and greatnefs appear to us. As the children of Ifrael faid


* I fence the very name of God in the Greek language (Gio:) is
taken (according to fomt) from (Si^v) to ru/i, which they derive
fnnn tlie cunlhmt tt)Ui fe of the heavenly bodies. They faw with
their eyes how glorious they were ; they found by reafon their
grcii'iiefbancl dreadful motion ; expeiienee t.uight them their ule,
us the immediate fountains of light, warmth, atmofphcrical moif-
ture and rain, and fo confcijuently of life, growth, and all uletul
things. It may be they had foiiic tradition of that dominion v.hich
wa. at firft allotted to the hin and moon over day and niLjht. [Cicn.
i, i(t.] On thclc and l!\c like r.i-counts, \i:\\'nv^ loft the knowledge


of the fons of Anak, * Wc were before them in our own
• light as grafshoppers, and fo we were in their fight.*
May we not much more fay concerning ourfelves, com-
pared with thcfe glorious works of the Moll High, wc
arc all but as grafshoppers in comparifon of them ? And
whence is it, that God fhould fet his heart upon us ? That
he hath made them fo beautiful, fo glorious, fo excellent,
and that out of nothing, doth it not declare his infinite
power, wifdom, and goodnefs ? Do they not lead us to
the contemplation of his infinite excellencies ? And whence
is it, that he who made all thefe things of nothing,
Ihould have fuch regard to the weak frail nature of man?
§ 13. To illuflrate the divine condefcenfion, behold
the grcatnefs of God ! * The heaven of heavens,' faith
Solomon, * cannot contain him,' [I. Kings viii. 18.]
Our thoughts of greatnefs are apt to confifl in adding
one thing to another, until the obje£t be extended to the
ntmofl of our imagination. But this hath no relation to
the immenfity of God ; which is not his filling of all
imaginary places or fpace, but an infinite exiftence in an
infinite being ; fo that as he is prefent with or indiflant
from the whole creation ; for faith he, * Do not I fill
heaven and earth ? [Jer. xxiii. 24.] So is he no lefs pre-
fent, where there is no part of the creation. And if he
fhould produce thoufands of Vv^orlds, which he can do
by his power, he would be no lefs prefent in them all.
And this not by extending his eflence and greatnefs, but
by the infinitenefs of his being. Neither are there parts
in this immenfity ; for that which hath parts cannot be
infinite or immenfe. God is wholly prefent every where.
And thus far reafon will go ; it will alTent to the truth of
that which it cannot comprehend, becaufe it is convinced
that it cannot be otherwife. What remains, it leaves to

of the true and only God, they knew not fo vrell whither to turn
thenifelves tor a Deity, as to thoie things which they faw fo full of
glory, and which they found to be of fo univerfal and communi-
cative a goodnefs and ufcfulnefs. And in them did all the idolatry
in the world be^in.

Vol. n. 2 faitk


faith and reverential adoration. Who can fufficiently ad-
mire tliis excellency of the nature of God ? How aflonilli-
ing tliis greatnefs ! How are all the nations of the world,
as the drop of a bucket, as the dud of a balance, as va-
nity, as nothing before him ! What is a little duj] to the
immcnlity of being? To that whole greatnefs we cannot
mcafurc, whofe nature wc cannot comprehend, wliofe
glory w^c can only adore ? What is a poor worm to him
who is every where, and who is every where filled with
his own excellencies and blelfcdnefs ! * Who hath mea-
' furcd the waters in the hollow of his hand, and mea-

* furcd out the heaven with a fpan, and comprehended the

* duft of the earth in a mcafurc, and weighed the moun-

* tains in fcaks, and the hills in a balance ? Behold the

* nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the

* fmall dufl of the balances. Behold he taketh up the

* illes as a very little thing ; all nations before him are as

* nothing, and they are counted unto him Ids than no-

* thing and vanity,* [Ifaiah xl. 12 — 17.]

§ 14. Behold his infinite fclf-fufficicncy ! Had he net
been every way felf-fufEcient, before the exiflence of all
other things, nothing could have been produced. All
the properties of his nature being infinite, have that which
fills and fatisfies them. His underllanding is infinite : and
as nothing could comprehend the infinite nature of God,
but an infinite underllanding, (for God could not know
hlmfclf if his underflanding were not infinite,) fo nothing
could fatisfv an infinite underllanding, but an infinite
obje^l. y\nd this fuitablenefs of the properties of God
one to another, as it makes them, becaufc infinite, not
really to dilMr from one another, or from his nature it-
fcJf ; fo it gives them all rcfl:, blelTednefs, fatisfa6lion, and
fch^-fufficiencv. Hence is God all-fufficicnt, and eter-
nally blclfcd in tlic contemplation and enjoyment of his
own excellencies. For fcIf-fufFicJency is the fountain of
Llciredncfs. Now what is man, that this every way r.ll-
fiiriicicfu God (hould vuml^ regard, and v'ljit him ? Hath
lie any need of him, or his fervices ? Doth his goodiiels
extend to him r Qwi\ he profit God as a man profitcth



his neighbour. If he fin, what doth he do againft him ?
Or if his tranfgreflions be multiplied what doth he againft
him ? If he be righteous whatgiveth he unto him ? or what
rccciveth he at his hand ? [Job xxxv. 6, 7.] Nothing
but infinite condefceniion and grace is the ancient foun-
tain of all God's regard to us.

§ 15. Behold his infinite and eternal power ! If the
power of God in making this or that creature which we
behold, be fo admirable declaring his fovereignty and the
infinite diflance of man from him in his belt condition,
how glorious is it in the whole univerfe ; and in the
creation of all things vifible and invifible, and that by
the fecret emanation of omnipotency in a word of com-
mand. The art of man will go confiderably far in the
framing, fafhioning, and ordering of things ; but the
creating energy that is difplayed in the leaft of God's
creatures infinitely differs from all limited and finite
power. There is a peculiar imprefs of omnipotency
upon all the works of God. And what is man that this
Almighty Being fhould be mindful of him 1 The fame re-
flections may be made on his wifdoni and goodnefs, that
iliine forth in the works of his hands.

§ 16. On the other hand, ' what is man,' as to his
extrad ? A little duft, one made of * the duft of the
' ground ;' that may fay to corruption, < thou art my fa-

* ther, and to the worm, thou art my mother, and my
^ filter,' [Job xviii. 14.] His fabrick was not one jot of
any better materials than theirs. That God put this
honour upon him, to breathe into the duft whereof h&
was made, that he fhould become ' a living foul,* is part
of that goodnefs wherein he is fo much to be admired.
Otherwife we are what God faid to Adam, * duft thou art;'
poor creature that wouldft be like to God, thou art but
duft and no more ! and in a becoming fenfe of this their
extraction did holy men of old abafe themfelves in the
the prefence of God, as Abraham, [Gen. xviii. 32.}

* How fhall I fpeak unto the Lord that am but duft and
*. afhes ?' Poor proud man ! who fcorncft to touch that o-f
\Yjfi9h thou art made, and thinkeft thyfelf I know not

Z ?. what^


what, whilft the remainder of thcc lies under the feet of
all the creatures which thou dcl'pifcrt. What is this
handful of dull that God Ihould regard it ? But yet thix
fabrick. being ercfted, perhaps is durable, ftrong, and
abiding, and fo maybe confiderable on that account. But
alas ! Lis frailty alfo is inexprellible, [Pfalm xc. 5, 6.]
' Thou carricft them away as with a flood ; they are as

* afleep ;''in the morning they are like gr^fs that grow^eth

* up ; in the morning it lioui ifheth and growcth up , in the

* evening it is cut down and withercth,' [Job xiv. i. 3.]
And dofi: thou open thine eyc.> upon fuch a * one,' regard
fuch a poor frail pcrifhing creature ? From within, from
without, from himielf, from all other creatures, and
principally from the rage and cruelty of thofe of the fame
nature as himfclf, his mifery is great, and his life of
fliort continuacc. And God abundantly fliews what little
weight is to be laid on that duration which man has in
this world, in that he takes many from the very womb,
who fcarce ever beheld the light, into a participation of
his own eternal glory.

^17. But flill more : this earthly frail man hath made
himfelf yet more unfpeak ably zvV^ by fin, that fets him
at the moft awful d fiance from the glory of God.- — All
thefe things being put together, they make the condefccn-
lion of God in remembering man, and fetting his heart
"upon him, exceedingly to be admired and adored. And
this alfo will farther appear, if we might confider what arc
the bleflld eflcMfis of this mindfulnefs. But here our duty
lies ii\ fludying what God hath revealed of himfclf; not
with curious fearchings and Ipeculations, but with holy
admiration, revc.encc, and fear. When thefe have filled
us with wonder, when they have proflrated our fpirits bc-
foic him, anil laid our mouths in the dull, when the
glory of them Ihincs round about us, and our whole fouls
are iilLd with an holv allonilhmcnt; then lot us take a
view of ourfelvcs, our extra«fl, our frailtv, oi^r vilencfs on
every accour.t. How poor, how undeferving are we !
What is there in u<, what is there belonging to us, that



is not fuitcd to abafc us ? Alive one day and dead another I
Quiet one moment, troubled another ; fearing, caring,
rejoicing cauflellly ; always linning, and * in our beft
' condition altogether vanity !' Would we be wife P We
are * like the wild afs's colt ;' would we be honourable f
We are * like the bealls thatperifh.' Would we hcjhong?
We arc as ' a reed Ihaken with the wind.' In fliort, let
the refult of thefe thoughts be an holy admiration of
God's infinite love, care, grace, and condefcenfion in hav-
ing any regard for us, as the pfalmifl hath given us an ex-
cellent example.

§ 1 8. Ohf. 3. The refpe£l:, care, love, and grace of
God to mankind, expreiTed in the perfon and mediation of
Jefus Chriil, is a matter of fingular and et rnal admira-
tion. That is what the admiration of the pfalmifl rc-
ipe£ts and refls in ; and this way of his grace towards us
in the perfon of his Son, afluming our nature into union
with himfelf, is that wherein the exceeding and unfpeakablc
riches of his glory and w-ifdom are made manifefl, [Ephef.
1. I 7 — 23.] God hath in other things fet forth his glory;
but yet in a very partial manner ; one thing hath declared
his powder, another his goodnefs and wifdom, and that
in part, with reference to that particular about w^hich they
have been exercifed. But in this he hath drawn forth and
difplayed all the riches and treafures of his glory, fo that
his excellencies feem capable of no great exaltation. Now
therefore whereunto doth all this tend? Why it is all to
give a bleffed and eternal inheritance to believers, for the
hope and expectation of which they are called by the gof-
pel. And by w^iat way or means is all this brought about }
Even by the mighty working of God in Jefus Chi ill, in
his humiliation unto death ; and his after exaltation,
putting all things under his feet, crowning liim with glory
and honour. So full of glory, fuch an object of eternal
admiration, is this work of the love and grace of God \
which as Peter tells us, the very angels themfelves defire to
look into, (I. Pet. i. 12.)

§ 19. And this further appears,

I. Be-


1. Bccaufe all God's regard of man in this way is a
fruit of mere foijcrcign grace and condcfccnlion. It wa^
all of grace, both towards the head and members. The
human nature of Chrift, neither did, nor could merit the
livpoflatical union; and this being of inconceivable grace
and the foundation of all the confcqucnt fruits of God's
regard to us; ib mull thefc fruits be alfo ; which therefore
leave place for nothing but eternal admiration and thank-

2. Had not God been thus mindful of man, and vifltcd
him in the pcrfon of the Son incarnate ; all partakers of
that nature mull: have utterly pcrilhed in their loll condi-
tion. And this alfo renders the grace of it an objcdl of
admiration. We arc not only to look what God takes us
to by this vifitation, but to conhdcr alfo what he delhcrs us
from. Now a great part of that vile and bafe condition

which the pfalmifl wonders tluit God fhould have a regard
to, is, that we have * finned and come Ihort of his glorv,'
and thereby expofed ourfelves to eternal mifcrv. In that
condition we mufl have periflied for ever, had not God
freed us by this vifitation. It had been great grace to have
taken an innocent, a linlcfs man into glory; fingular grace
to have freed a linner from mifery, though he fhould never
be brought to the enjoyment of the Icaft pofitive good ; but
to free a finner from the moft inconceivable mifery in eter-
nal ruin, and to bring him to the higheft happinefs in eter-

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