John Owen.

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

. (page 20 of 46)
Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

is here placed in the midfl, as the end of one thing, and
the means or caufe of another ; the end of his own in-'
carnation, and the means of the children's deliverance.

§ 5. (IV.) There yet remains in the vcrfes the efFe£ls
of the death of Chrifl ; * that he might deflroy him who
* had the power of death, and deliver,' &c. wherein wc
mufl briefly confider — who it is that had the power of
death — wherein that power of his confifled — how he was
dcflroyed — how by the death of Chrifl — and what was the
happy deliverance for the children of God.

1. He that * had the power of death' is (0 ^i(z[3oXog)
the devil \ the great enemy of our falvation ; the great ca-
lumniator and falfe accufer ; the firebrand of the creation ;
the head and captain of all apoflacy from God, and of all
defertion from his righteous law : the old ferpent, who
firfl falfely accufed God to man; and continues to accufc
men falfely to God.

2. His ' power over death is varioufly apprehended.
All however confent, that the devil had no abfolute or
fovereign power over death ; nor any (z^H'Tkz) or authority
about it, de jure, in his own right, or on grant, fo as to
aft lawfully about it, according to his own will ; nor any
judging or determining power, as to the guilt of death,
which is peculiar to God, the fupreme reftor and judge
pf all, [Gen. ii. 17. Deut. xxxii. 39. Jlcv. i. 18.] But

F f 2 wh^rcij^


wherein this power of Satan doth pofuively confift, they
are not ngrccd. Some place it in his temptations to fin,
^hich bind to death ; fome in the execution of the fcntence
of death. There cannot well, however, be any doubt,
but that the whole intereft of Satan, in reference to death,
is intended in this expreffion. Hewrs the means of bring-
ing it into the world ; then fin and death being thus en-
tercd, and all mankind being guilty of the one, and ob-
noxious to the other, Satan became thereby to be their
prince^ as being the prince and author of that ftate and
condition whereunto they are brought ; he is therefore
called * the prince of this world,' [ John xii. 32.] Now
God having pafTed the fentence of death againft fin, it was
in the po-n^ei- of Satan to terrify and affright the confcienccs
of men with the e^pe£lation and dread of it ; fo bringing
them into bondage. And many God gives up to him to
be agitated and terrified, as it were, at his pleafure. And
to this we may add, that God hath ordained him to be the
executioner of the fentence of death upon ftubborn finncrs
to all eternity ; partly for the aggravation of their punifli-
ment, when they fhall always lee, and without relief be-
wail their folly in hearkening to his allurements ; and
partly to punifli himfclf in his woful employment. And
for thefe fcveral rcafons is Satan faid to have * the power
•* of death.* Let us next inquire,

3. How he was drjirovcd. * That by death {KcPiOi'^yy,a-y)

* he might dejhoy him, 5cc." This word is almofl pccu-
culiar to Paul ; and what he ufually intends by it, is, to
make a thing or perfon to ccafc as to its prefcnt conditiotiy or
to be Tfl/r/as to its former power and efficacy ; but implies
not to remove, to annihilate, or to dcflroy the ejpftcc or
being of it. Hence it is not here applied to tlie nature or
being of the devilj but to his po-ivcr over death ; as it is
clfcvvhere declared, [John xii. 32.] * Now is the judge-

* ment of this world, now is the prince of this world cajl

* cut.^ That which is here called the * deflroying the de-

* vil,' is there called the * calling out the prince of this
' world.* It is the cafting him out of hi? power from his
princedom and rule, [Col. ii. 15.] Having fpoiled prin-

2 cipalitics


cipalltics and powers he made an open lliew of them, tri-
umphing over them inhiscrofs ; as conquerors iifed to do.
When they ilew not the perfons of their enemies, they de-
prived them of their rule, and led them captives. In
Ihort, the de{lru£tion here intended of him that had the
power of death, is the diiTolution, evacuation, and re-
moving that power which he had in and over death, with
all the efFe£ts and confequences of it.

4. This deilruftion of Satan was efFe£led by the ^leatb
of Chrifl ; which of all others feemed the moll unlikely
wa}'-, but, indeed, was not only the bell, but the onlv
way whereby it could be accomplifhed. The pcwer of
Satan, before mentioned, was all founded in Jin, or the
iinner's obligation and obnoxioufnefs to death, was that
which gave him all his power. The taking away then of
that obligation mull needs be the diflblution of his
power. The foundation being removed, all that is built
upon it mull needs fall to the ground. Now this, in re-
ference to the children for whom he died, was done in the
death of the Meffiah ; virtually, in his death itfelf ; a<5lu-
ally, in its application to them. When the linnerceafeth
to be obnoxious to death, the power of Satan ceafeth alfo.
And this is the happy cafe of every one who hath an in-
terell in the death of Chrill : for * there is no condemna-
* tion to them that are in Chrill Jefus,' [Rom. viii. i.]
And this becaufe he died for their fins, and took that death
upon himfelf which was due to them ; which being there-
by conquered, and their obligation thereunto cealing, the
power of Satan is dilTolved with it.

5. And hence it lallly appears, what was the delivery
procured for the children by this diiTolution of Satan's
power. It refpe6ls both what they /cared, and what en-
fued on their fear ; that is, death and bondage. They were
obnoxious to death on the guilt of lin as penal, as under
the curfe, as attended with hell or everlalling mifery.
This he delivers the children from, by making an atone-
ment for their fins by his death, virtually lofmg their obli-
gation to it, and procuring for them eternal redemption.
Herein alfo they are delivered from the bondage before de-



fcribcd. The fear of death being taken away, the bon-
dage that cnfues thereon vanifhed.

§ 6. Obf. I. All finners arc fubje£l to death as it I?
pnal. 71ic firfl fentcncc reached them all, [Gen. ii. 17.]
And thence they arc f;iid to be children of wrath, [Ephef.
ii, 3.] obnoxious to death, to be inflicted in a way of
wrath and revenge for fin ; this paflcd upon all, inafniuch
as all have fmncd, [Rom. v. 12.] This all men fee and
know ; but ail do not fufficiently confider what is con-
tained in the fcntence of death, and very few fcrioully in-
quire how it may be avoided. Moll: men look on death
as the common lot and condition of mankind, as though
it belonged to the natural condition of the children, and
not the m'-jyal \ and were a confequent of their being, and
not tlic demerit of their lin. They condder not, that al-
though the principles of our nature are inthemfelves fub-
je£l to diiTolution, yet if we had kept the law of our crea-
tion, it had been prevented by the power of God, engaged
to continue life during our obedience, life and obedience
arc to be commenfurate, until temporal obedience ended
in life eternal. Death is penal, and its being common to
all, hindcis not but that it is the puniflimcnt of every
one. All mankind is condemned as foon as born ; life
is a reprieve, a fufpenlion of execution, and if during
that time a pardon be not effeclually fued out, the fcn-
tence will be executed according to the fcverity of julVice.
XJndcr this law men are now born, this voke have they
pulled on themfclves by their apoftacy from God : neither
is to any purpofe to repine againil it, or to conflict with
it ; there is but one way of deliverance.

§ 7. Ohf. 2. Fear of death, as it is penal, i^^ infcparable
from iin before the finner be delivered by the death of
Chrift ; thcv were * in fear of death.' There is a fear
of death taut is natural, and which is but nature's dillikc
of its own diirolution ; and this hath various degrees, oc-
cafioned bv the differences of mens' natural conftitutions,
and other accidental occafions ; fo tliat fome fecm to fear
death too much, while others fear it too little. But x\\\%
difference is from occafions foreign and accidental ; there.


Ver. 14, 15. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, izi

is in all naturally the fame horror of it, which is a guilt-
iefs infirmity like our wearinefs and ficknefs, infeparably
annexed to the condition of mortality. But finners in
their natural ftate fear death as a punifhment, an ilTue of
the curfe, as under the power of Satan, as a dreadful en-
trance into eternal ruin. There are indeed a thoufand
ways whereby this fear is for a feafon ftifled in the minds
of men ; fome live in brutiih ignorance, never receiving
any full conviction of fin, judgement, or eternity. Some
put off the thoughts of their future ftate, refolving to
fhut their eyes and ruih into it, when they can no longer
avoid it. Fear prefcnts itfelf as the forerunner of death,
but they avoid the encounter, and leave themfelves to its
mercilefs power. Some pleafe themfelves with vain hopes
of deliverance, though they know not how, nor why,
they fhould be partakers of it. But let men forego thefc
belplefs fliifts, and fuffer their innate light to be excited
w^ith means of conviction, and they will quickly find
what a judgement is formed in their fouls concerning
death. They will foon conclude, that * it is the judge-

* ment of God, that they who commit fin are worthy of

* death ;' [Rom. i. 32.] and then, that their own con-
fciences accufc and condemn them, [Rom. ii. 14, 15.]
Whence, unavoidably, fear and dreadful terror will feize
upon them.

§ 8. Ohf. 3. Fear of death, as penal, renders the
minds of men obnoxious to bondage \ which is a ftatc of
trouble that men diflike and cannot avoid. It is a penal
difquietudc arifing from a fenfe of future mifery : fain
w^ould men quit themfelves of it, but are not able ; there
is * a chain of God' in it not to be broken ; men may
gall themfelves with it, and if it be taken from them with-
out a lawful relcafe, it is to their farther mifery. And
this is in fome meafure or other the portion of every one
that is convinced of fin, before they are freed by the gof-
peL Some have difputed what degrees of it are necefTary
before believing ? In anfwer to which w^e may obferve ;
that w^iich is necellary for any one to attain to, is his
duty ; but this bondage can be the duty of no man, be-



caufe it is involuntary. It will follow conviclion of fin,
but it is no man's duty ; rather, it is fach an effe£l of the
law, as every one is to free hinilclf from as foon as poflibic
in a right manner.

§ 9. Ol?f. 4. That the Lord Chrifl, out of his inex-
preflible love, willingly fubmittcd to every condition of
the children to be faved, and to every thing in every con-
dition, Irn only excepted. They being of flelli and blood
which mull be attended with many infirmities, and ex-
pofed to all forts of temptations and miferics, he himfelf
would alfo partake of the fame. He rejoiced to do the
will of God, in taking the body prepared for him, be-
caufe * the children were partakers of fiefh and blood.*
Though he was in the form of God, yet that mind, that
love, that affecStion towards us was in him, that to be like
us, and thereby to favc us, he emptied himfelf, took on
him the form of a fervant, our form, and became like
unto us, [Phil. ii. 5 — 8.] He would be like usy that he
might make us like himfelf \ he would take our flcfh, that
he might give us of his fpiric. He would join himfelf to
us, that we might be joined to him, and become one
fpirit with him.

§ 10. Obf 5. It was only in flcfli and blood, the fub-
fiance and elfence of human nature, and not in our per-
fonal infirmities that the Lord Chrill was made like unto
us. He took to himfelf the vaturc of all men, and not
the/>^r/o« of any man. Wc have not only human nature
in common, but we have, every one of us, particular in-
firmities and wcakncllcs, as exilling in our finful perfons.
Such arc the ficknelfes and pains of our bodies from in-
ward dillcmpcrs ; and the difordcrs of the palfions of our
minds. Of thefe the Lord Chrill did not partake ; it
was not needful, nav, it was not polfihle that he Ihould
do fo ; not wtiv/////, bccaufe he could provide for their
cure without them ; not po[fih!cy for they can have no
place in a nature innocent and holy. And therefore he
took (jur nature, not bv an immediate 7:eio creation out
of nothing, or of the duft of the earth like Adam ; for
if fo, though he might have been like us, yet he would


Ver. 14, 15. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 223

have been no /•/;/ to us, and fo could not have been our
God to whom the right oF redemption belonged ; nor by
natural generation^ which would have rendered our nature
in him obnoxious to the fin and punilhment of Adam,
but by a miraculous conception of a virgin, whereby he had
truly our nature, yet not fubjc£l, on its own account,
to any one of thole evils, whereunto it is liable as pro-
pagated from Adam \\\ an ordinary courfe. And thus,
though he was joined to our nature, yet he was holy,
harmlefs, and undehled, in that nature, and feparate
from linners, [Heb. vii. 25.] vSo that although our na-
ture fuffered more in his perfon, than it was capable in
the perfon of any mere man, yet, not being debafed by
any Ihiful imperfection, it was always excellent, beautiful,
and glorious.

§ II. Ohf. 6. That the firft and principal end of our
Lord's alluming human nature was not to reign in it,
but to fulFer and die in it. He was indeed from of old
defigned for a kingdom, but he was firll to fafTer, and
fo 'to enter into his glory;' [Luke xxiv. 26.] And he
fpeaks of his coming into the world, to fu iter, to die, to
bear witnefs to the truth, as if that had been the only
woik that he was incarnate for. A kingdom was ta
follow, but fufferi ng and dying was the principal work
he came about. He had glory with his Father before the
world was, [John xvii. 5.] and therein a joint rule with
him over all the works of his hands. He need not have
been made partaker of fiefli and blood to have been a king,
for he was the king immortal, invifible, the King of kings
and Lord of lords, the only potentate from everlalling. But
he could not have died if he had not been partaker of our
nature. And therefore when the people would have taken,
him by force, and have made him king, he hid himfclffrom
them, [John vi. 15.] But he hid not himfelf when they
came to take him by force, and put him to death ; but
affirmed, that ' for that hour,' or bufinefs, he came into
the world, [John xviii, 4, 5 — i i.] And this farther lets
forth his love and condefcenlion ; he faw the work tliat
'^vas propofed to him ; how he was to be expofed tq

Vol. 11. G § ^lifcvips,


mifcrlcs, affli6tions, and pcilccutions, and at length to
innkc his foul an offering for iin ; yet becaufe it was all
for the falvation of the children, he was contented with
it, and even delighted in it. And how tlun ought we to
be contented with any diificultics, fonows, and affli(Stions
which for his fake we may be expofed to, when he on
puipof>; took our n:iturc, that for our frkcs he might be
fubjeft to incomparably more than j^'c are called to ?

§ 12. Obf. 7. All th- p v\cr of Satan in the world
ever any of the fons of men, is founded in fin and the
guilt of death attending it. Without fin he could
have no more to do on eartli, than he hath in heaven, and
according ns fin abounds, or is fubdued, fo his power is
enlarged or ihaightcncd. And hence all fmncrs out of
Ciirifl arc under the power of Satan. They belong to
that kingdom of death whereof he is the prince and ruler.
The w^hole world lies (iv ro) 'Kovmbd) * in the power of

* this wicl^nl one.' If the guilt of death be not removed
from any, the power of the devil extends to them. A
power indeed rcilrained, both as to times and degrees,
clfe he Vvould continually devour ; yet it is great and
anfwerablc to his titles, * the prince, the God of this

* world.' And however men may flatter themfelves, as the
Jews did of old, that they zxq frec^ if they are not freed
by an intcrcfl in the death of Chrift, they are in bondage
to this hateful tyrant ; and as he works cfFe£f ually in them
here, he will with malicious rage inflift vengeance on
them hereafter.

§ 13. Obf. 8. The death of Chrid, through the wife
and righteous difpofal of God, is vi£torious, all-con-
quering, and prevalent. The aim of Satan was fo alfo ;
who thereby fuppofed he fhould have fecurcd his own king-
dom. And what could worldly or fatanical wifdom have
imagined otherwife ? He that is flain is conquered. His
own followers were ready to think fo ; * we trufled, fay

• they, that it had been he who fhould have redeemed

• Ifracl,' [Luke xxiv. 21. j but he is dead; and their
hopes are with him in the grave. What can be expected
from him who was taken, flain, and crucified i Can he


Ver. 14, 15. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 22^

fave others, who, it feems, could not favc himfelf ? Is
it not a foolifli thing to look for life by the death of ano-
ther ? This was what the pagans of old reproached the
Chriflians with, that they believed in one who was cru-
cified and put to death ; and what could they exped from
him? And our apoflle tells us, that this death, this crofs,
was a flumbli ng block unto the Jews, and folly to the
Greeks, [I. Cor. i. 18. 23.] And fo it would have bcem
in itfelf, [A£ts ii. 13. chap. iv. 28.] had not the will,
and wife counfel, and matchlefs grace of God been in it.
But, through confunimate v/ifdom, he ordered things fo,
that the death of Chrill iliould pull out that pin, w^hicli
kept together the whole fabrick of lin and Satan ; that,
like Sampfon, he fliould in his death, glorious atchieve-
ment ! pull down the palace of Satan about his ears, and
that in dying he fliould conquer and fubdue all things to
himfelf. All the angels of heaven flood looking on, to
fee what w^ould be the end of this great trial. Men and
devils w^ere ignorant of the great work that God had in
his hand ; and whilfl his enemies thought they were de-
llroying Jefus, God was deflroying them and their
power. Whilil his heel was bruifed, he brake their head.
And this fiiould teach us to leave all God's works to him-
felf. He can bring light out of darknefs, and meat out
of the eater. He can difappoint his adverfaries of their
greateft hopes and faireft profpeds, and raife up the hopes
of his defponding children out of the grave. He can.
make fufFering to be faving, death victorious, and heal
us by the ftripes of his Son. And fliould not this flir us
up to meditate on this myjlermis ivork of his love and
wifdom ? We can never fearch into it enough whilft our
inquiry is guided by his word. New myfteries, all foun-
tains of rcfreflinient and joy, will continually open them-
felves to the inquiries of faith, until wc come to be fa-
tisfied with its incxhauflible fulnefs to eternity.

G g 2 Verse


Verse i6.

ror. verily he took not on' iiim the ^:ature 01^
angels, but he took. on him the seed of


^ I. Connccl'ion of the vjords. § 2, 3. T'he principal terms
explained. § 4. Obfcrvat'ions^ l. "Jhe Redeemer is God
and man in one perfon. § 5. 2. T'he redemption of man-
kind, by the ajfumption of our nature, is of mere fovereign

^ I. XIAVING aflcrtcd the incarnation of our Lord,
and (hewn its neceliity from the ends which were to be ac-
complilhcd by it ; and therein given the reafon why he
was for a feafon made lefs than the angels ; the apoflle
proceeds in this verfe to confirm what he had taught be-
fore, and adds an efpccial amphlication of the grace of
God HI this whole difpenfation, from the confideration
that the angels were not made partakers of fimilar love
and nicicy. * For, verily, not any where doth he take
* angels, but he takes the feed of Abraham.*

§ 2. ('O'j ycc'a ^r.Trn) * For, verily, not any zvhere ;*
that is, what he denicth in the following words, is no
where taught in the fcripturc. And tbu^ alfo the aiTirin?-
tive claufc of his propoiition, * but he taketh the feed of
* Abraham,' is to be referred to the fcripturc. There it
is promifcd, there it is I'poken, and therein is it done by
him. And our being thus referred to the fcripturc in proof
of this point, gives full light iiUo the meaning of ths
words. For how doth Chrift in tl.c fcripturc ' take tliC

* feed of Abraham,' in fuch a fcnfc as that therein no-
thii^is fpokcn of him in rcfeicnce to angels ? Eccaufe he
was of the pol\erity of Al^raham, according to the ilelh ;
lie w:!.>^ promifcd to Abrnham that he Ihould be * of his

• feed,' yea, that he Ihould be * his i^Q.^}i," [Gal. lii. 6.]



and this was the great principle, the great cxpe£latioii of
the Hebrews, that the Meffiah fliould be * the feed of

* Abraham ;* which promife accordingly was accom-
pli fhed. And he is here fa id to ' take the feed of Abra-

* ham,' becaufe in the fcripturc it is fo plainly, fo often
affirmed he fliould do fo ; when not one word is any
where fpoken that he fhould be an angel, or take their
nature upon him. And this, I fay, gives us the true
meaning of the words.

§ 3. (Ov — STTiXcziJLloccyricci) ' He took not on him •/
that is, fay fome, by his participation of flefh and blood
brought help and relief, not to angels, but to men, ' the

* feed of Abraham.* And they fuppofe, to fupport this
purpofe, that the word here ufed' {z7riKoi,^(z)Ccv^cci) is put
for another, {avocKcc^foccv^oci) that fignilies to help^ to
fuccour^ to relieve, &c. The Socinians endeavour to con-
firm this expofition, for a manifeft re:ifon ; for if the
words exprefs that the Lord Chrift afjumcd human nature,
which neceffarily infers his pre-exiflence in another nature,
their perfuaiion about the perfon of Chriil is quite over-
thrown. It is acknowledged that the other word (ava.-
XocufDOivPjcci) doth frequently fignify, as here alledged, to
help and aj/iji, as it were, by putting forth the hand. But
if that were intended by the apoftle in this place, what
reafon ci\n. be affigned why he fhould wave the ufe of a
word proper to his purpofe, and frequently fo applied by
himfelf in other places, and make ufe of another, which
— fignifying no fuch thing, nor being any where ufed by
him in that fenfe — muft needs obfcure his meaning, and
render it unnecefTarily ambiguous ? Whereas, therefore,
the lafl mentioned word {a,ya,Xa^iJ,(occyfl(y.i) fignifies to he'p
and relieve^ and is conilantly ufed by our apoille in that
fenfe ; but employs another ('=77iXuiji(oa.\s]oti) which figni-
lies no fuch thin^^ nor is ever ufed by him to that purpofe,
the fenfe contended for, of help and relief, is plainly ex-
cluded. — Therefore the word in queftion is properlv (af-

fumo, accipioj to take unto, or to take upon ; and the apoille
teacheth us by it, that our Lord took unto hiin, or took
«u him, our nature of the feed of Abraham.

§ 4. Obf.


.. Ubjf. I. The Lord Jcfus Clirifl is God and man
ia one pcxlbn. For there is fuppofcd in tliefe words, (i.)
His pre-exiitcncc in anotlicr nature, than that which he
is fa id here to afp.imc. He fubfijlcd before, elfc he could
not have taken on him what he had not before, [Gal. iv. 4.
John i. 14. I. Tim. iii. 16. Phil. ii. ^, 9.] That is,
the Son, the word of God, eternally prc-cxifting, be-
came incarnate. (2.) He took, to himlllf another nature,
* of the feed of Abraham,* according to the promife ; fo,
continuing what he was, he became what he was not ;
for (3.) He took this to be his ozvn nature; fo took it, as
to become truly ' the feed of Abraham.' And this could
no otherwife be done, but (4.) By raking that nature into
perjonal fubfijlence \s\\\\ himfelf, in the hypoftatis of the
Son of God ; feeing the nature he allbmed could no
otherwife become his. For if he had by any ways or
means taken the per [on of a man in the ilrit^cfl union that
two pcrfons arc capable of, in that cafe the nature had
{lill been the nature of that other pcrfon, and not his own.
But he took it to be his ovjn nature^ which, therefore,
mull be by a perfonal union caufmg it to fubfiil: in his
own perfon : and, therefore (5.} He is a true and -perfctl
man ; for no more is required to make a complete and
perfe6l man, but \\\^ entire nature of man fubiifting, which
Chrifl: hath ; the human nature having a fubilftcnce com-

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 46)