John Owen.

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

. (page 21 of 46)
Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 21 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


municated to it by the Son of God. And, therefore,
(6.) This is done without a multiplication of perfon s in
him ; for the human nature can have no pcrfonality of its
own, bccaufc it was taken to he tlic nature of another per-
fon who was pre-exiftent lo it, and by nlTuming it, pre-
vented its proper pcrfonalitv. Neither, (7.) Did luncc
any mixture or confuf on of natures cnfuc, or of the ef-
fcntlal properties of ihem ; for he took the * feed of
* Abrnhnm* to be his human iu:ture, which, if mixed with
the divine, it could not be : and this he hath done, (S.)
Infcparably and for ever.

§ 5. (Jbf. 2. The redemption of mankind by the tak-
ing of our nature was a work of mere lovcrcign grace.
He took the feed of Abraham, not the nature of angels.
2 And



Ver.i6. epistle to the HEBREWS. 229

And for what caufe or reafon ? Can any be afi^gned but
the fovereign grace, pleafurc, and love of God? Nor
doth the fcripture affign any otlier. And this will the
better appear if wc confidcr,

That for 7i fuming nature to be favcd, it was indifpenfa-
bly necelFary that it Ihould be affumed. The nature of an-
gels being not taken, thofe that linned in that nature niuft
perifli for ever ; and they that fancy a pollibility of faving
finners any other way but by fatisfa6lion made in the na-
ture that had finned, fceni not to have confidered aright
the nature of fin, and the juilice of God. Had any
other way been pofiible, why doth the periihing of angels
fo inevitably follov/ the non-aiTumption of their nature ?
This way alone then could it be wrought. — Let us agaia
confider,

That we were carrying away all human nature into end-
lefs dcfiirudion. For fo it is intimated when Chrifl's
aflumption of it is exprefied by (sTrtXa-iMloa-vSTa^i) his * put-

* ting forth his hand and taking hold of it,' to flop it in
its courfe of apoflacy and ruin. Of angels, only fome
individual perfons fell from God ; but our ivhoje jiature
communicated from Adam was running headlong to de-
ftruction. In itfelf there could be no relief, nor any-
thing to commend it to God.

Here fovereign grace interpofeth. As to the angels,
' he fpared them not,' [H. Pet. ii. 4.] and yet for us, * he

* fpared not his own Son,' [Rom. viii. 32.] And if we
confider rightly what the fcriptures inform 'us of, the
number and dignity of the angels that finned, and their
primitive ability to accomplifh the will of God ; and
compare therewith our own vilenefs and low condition,
we may have 'Matter of eternal admiration. And there
was infinite wifdom as well as fovereign grace in this dif-
penfation; fundry branches whereof the apofllc after-
wards exhibits.



Ver



S£S



ajo AX EXPOSITION OF THE , Chap. 11.



Vl.RSES 17, 18.



WnrREFORK IN ALL THINGS IT BLIlOVED HIM TO BK
:iIADL LIKE UNTO HIS r>Ri:TIIR;iN, THAT HE MIGHT
BE A MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST, IN
THINGS PERTAINING TO GOD, TO MAKE RECONCI-
LIATION FOR THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE. FOR IN
THAT HE HIMSELF HATH SUFFERED, BEING TEMPT-
ED, HE IS ABLE TO SUCCOUR THEM THAT ARE
TEMPTED.

§ I. Connccllon and depcndancc of the ivcrds. § 2. The
apojlle* s infer cncc. § 3 — 8. Explanation of the
words, § 9 — 1 4. Doclrliialy pra^ical, and cxpcri'm
mental obfcrvations.



§ 1. JlX AVING declared the general reafons \vhy the
M-lfiah was * for a little while,' to be made * lower thai\

* the angels,* in his incarnation and fuftcrings, the apolllc
proceeds to declare other fpecial ends of this divine dif-
pcnfation, and therein makes way for the inllruflions
nbout the priefily office of Chrift, which was the prin-
cipal foundation of the fubfequent part of his infpircd
reafoning. In thefe two vcrfes, he illuftratcs what he
had taught before ; and confirms wliat he had aflerted
concerning the Son's participation of * flefh and blood,
' in like manner with the children,* from the fpecial end
of his being an high pricft. Now, they being perfons
obnoxious to temptations and fuffcrings of all forts, he muft
in an efpcciul manner be able to ' luccour,* to help, relieve,
and favc fuch perfons.

§ 2. ' Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be

* made like unto his brethren.' * To be made like unto

* his brethren in all things,* is onlv a recapitulntion of what
the apofllc had before taught concerning his incarnation

and



V£R. i7»^S. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 231

and fufferings, in which he defigns to fhew the reafon or
end thereof; namely, that he might be * a merciful high

* priefl. And thus did Chrysostom underiland the
connexion of thefe words : * therefore was he made man,

* that he might be a facrifice able to purge our fins/ —
' Wherefore he ought.' The neceffity of the matter is ex-
preiTed in the word (ou^siX-) he ought ; it muft be fo ; it
could not be otherwife, on fuppofition that he was to be
an high prkji. God having deligned liim for that office,
and its work, it was indilpenfably neceflary for him to be
made like unto his brethren in ail things.

§ 3. * Like unto his brethren in all things:^ that ex*
preffion {-ica^cc ttccvJu) * in all things,' is capable of fun-
dry limitations ; particularly, whereas the brethren are
finners, he was not made like them in iin. The conform
mity, therefore, conliils in the following particulars :

1. He was made like to them in the ejjence of human
nature, a rational foul, and a mortal body. But that he
fhould take this nature upon him by natural generation,
after the manner of the brethren, was not necelfary ; yea,
fo to have done, would not have furthered the end of his
prieilhood, but have enervated its efficacy, and have ren-
dered him incapable of being a perfe£l prieft. Again,
it was not neceflary that this human nature fhould have
its individuation from itfelf, and a particular fubfiftence
in itfelf; for this alfo would have overthrown his prieft-
hood.

2. It was alfo neceflary, that with his human nature
he fhould take upon him all the properties and affe^ions of
it, fo that he might be made like unto the brethren. His
foul was to be freed from the affections which are co-na-
tural to a human foul, as love, joy, fear, forrow, fliame,
and the like ; nor was his body to be free from being
fabjeft to hunger, thirft, cold, pain, and death itfelf.
But now, whereas thefe things in the brethren are attended
with irregular perturbations for the moft part, and whereas
all the individuals of them have their proper infirmities in
their own perfons, partly by inordinate paffions and in-
clinations from their tempers and completions, partly in

Vol. II. H h weakueflTes



^yi AN EXrOSITION 07 THE Ci:ap.15,

weakncfTcs and ficknclurs, proceeding from either their ori-
ginal coiilVitLitions, or other following inordinacies, it \va3
no way needful, that in any of thefc he fhould be hke to
the brethren ; yea, a conformity to them therein would
have abfolutely imp'.ded his undertaken work.

3. He was like unto us in temptations^ for the reafoii
given in tlie iall verfe ; but herein alfo fome ditierence
may be obfervcd between him and us. For raoil of our
temptations arife from within us, from our own unbelief
and luHs ; and in thofe from without, there is lomewhat
in us to lake pari with tliem, which always makes us fail
in our duty of refiftance, and oftentimes leads us into
farther mifcarriages ; but from thcfe things he was abfo-
lutely free. For as he had no inward difpofition or in-
clination to the leail evil, being perfect in all graces, and
in all their operations at all times ; fo when the prince of
this world accolled him, he had no part in him, nothing
to clofe with his fuggeftions, or to entertain his terrors.

4. His fufFerings were of the fame kind with thofe of
the brethren ; yet they had far different effedls upon him,
from what they would have had on them. P'or whereas
he was perfedtly innocent and perfectly righteous, he was
free from all imprefTions of thofe linful confequents which
attend the utmoft fufferings under the curfe of the law by
iinners themfelvcs. Now thus to be ' made like unto
* them' it became him ; it was meet, juft, and neerjfaryy
that God Ihould make him fo, becaufe of the office af-
jigncd him.

§ 4. The general end of his conformltv to the brethren
is, * that he might be a faithful and merciful high prielL*
He was made man, that he might be an high priell ; he
fuffcred being tempted, that he might be merciful and
faithful. 'J'hcre was no more required than that he might
be an high pvicil, but that he Ihould partake of our na-
ture ; but that he might l>c merciful and faithful, with
that kind of mercy and faithfulnefs which the brethren
Hood in need of, it wns moreover required that he fhould
luffcr and be tempted. The qualifications for his office,

whicU



Ver. 17, i8. EPISTLE TO TPIE HEBREWS. 233

which by fiifFerings and temptations he was fumifhed
with, are two ; mercifuhicfs — and faithfulnels.

Merctfulnefs ; he was (iA - ,^^a;>) mcrc'ifuU tenderly com-
palTionate, one that lays all the milcrics of his people to
heart, fo caring for them as to relieve them. Mercy in
God is but a limple apprehenfion of mifcry, made ef-
fedlive by an ad of his holy will to relieve. Mercy in
Chrifl is a compaifion, a condolency, and hath a moving
pity of forrow joined with it. And this was in the
human nature of Chrift a grace of the fpirit in ail per-
fe£lion. But yet neither is this mercifuhiefs in general
what the apoftle intends ; but he conliders it, as excited and
drawn forth by his own temptations and fufterings. He
lufFered and was tempted, that he might be merciful ; not
abfolutely, but a ' merciful high prieft.' The relation of
the fulferings and temptations of Chrift is not to the
habit of his mercifuhicfs, but to the fpecial exercife of it
as our high prieft.

The other qualification mentioned, is, that he fhould
be {TTL^fl eg) faithful; which confifts in his exa£l, conftant,
careful, confideration of all the concernments of his
adopted brethren under their tcrrptations and fuffcrings.

§ 5. (Ta TTQog Toy 9soy) * In things pertaining to God;'
that is, either in things that were to be done for God with
or towards mcn^ as the apoftle fpeaks, ' We are ambalTa-
' dors for Chrift, as though God did befeech you by us,*
[II. Cor. V. 20.] or things that were to be done ivith or
ioivards God for men : for there were thefe two general
parts of the high prieft's office ; but the latter was the
principal part, the other being only a confequent of it.
And this the apoftle manifefts in tlie fpecial limitation
which he adjoins to this general affcrtion ; he was an
high prieft in things appertaining to God {-:ig to iXa-rrK-cr-
9<zi Ty.goiiJ.a.olia,g t8 A<%s) ' to make reconciliation for the
* ftns of the people.'

§ 6. The objcd of the prieftly action here aftigned to

Chrift, is (oXaog) the people ; that is, fay fome, the feed

of Abraham, whofe intercft in the mediation of Chrift,

jis their liigh privilege, the apoftle here reminds the He-»

H h 2 brew^



434 AN EXPOSITION OF THE Chap. II.

brews of ; not that the ele£l among the Gentiles, fay
they, arc excluded, but that he cxprellly mentions only
the firft fruits among the Jews. But the apoftlc's inten-
tion is only to iliuftrate the efFe£t of the priefthood of
Chrift from the office of the high priefc under the Old
Teftament ; for as he had a peculiar people for whom he
made atonement, fo alfo hath Chrill;, that is, all his
elea.

The a£lion afcribcd to him is, * to make rcconciliatioa
* for fms.' The Greek word (/A«crxo^«/) is properly and
ufually in all writers, facred and others, to appeafcy to,
atone, to pleafe, ^o propitiate^ to reconcile. But how can any
one be faid to pleafc, or atone, or reconcile lin ? The
difficulty pretended from the conllrudtion is not of any
moment. The fenfe and conftant ufc of the word being;
eftablifhcd, there mull: be an ellipfis fuppofed, and the
apoftle's phrafc [iKcco-y^Kr^cci rug oi^p^ic'ig) is the fame in
fenfe with {lXot(rx.-za-9iov tov 9sov TTSpi tcajv uijlcc^Iiujv) * to

* make reconciliation with God for fins ;' as the fame
phrafe is in other places explained.

§ 7. * For in that he himfelf hath fuffcred being
tempted.' (Ev :vy(zz) * For in that,' that is, whereas, in-
afmuch, feeing that. Now it is here affirmed of Chrill
that {7rc7rov9t nrn^ag 9sig) ' he fuffcred being tempted.' It
is not his fuJ^iT/riqs ahfolutely confidered, nor his being
tempted, that is peculiarly dciigned, but ' his fuffering in

♦ his temptation.' To know then what were thofe fuf-
ferings, we mull inquire, what were his * temptation^,' and
how he was atfcfted with them. Temptations are things
in themfclvcs of an indifferent nature, having no moral
evil in them abfolutcly confidered ; whatever attends them
of that kind, proceeds cither from the intention of the
tempter, or the condition of them that are tempted.
Hence God is faid to * tempt* men, but not to induce
them to fin ; [Gen. xxii. i. James i. 13.] and there-
fore whatever evil cnfues, in this cafe, is from the
tempted themfclvcs. Moreover, though temptation feems
to be of an a«5tive import, yet in itfcif it is merely, for
the moft part, neutral. Hence it comprifcth any thing.

Hate,



Ver. 17, :8. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 23-

llate, or condition, whereby a man may be tried, exer-
cifed, or tempted : and this will elucidate the various
temptations under which the Lord Chrill fuiFered. For
although they were ail external, yet they were not con-
fined to the alFaults of Satan, which arc principally re-
garded under that name ; for he was tempted even frorr^
his wcvy Jhite and condition in this world : he was poor, de-
fpifed, perfecuted, reproached, efpecially from the begin-
ning to the end of his public miniil:ry. Herein lay one
continued temptation or trial of his obedience, by all
manner of hardfl:iips. Hence he calls this whole time,
the time of his temptations ; * You have abode with me
* i.i my temptations,* or in the work that he carried on,
in a conftant courfe of temptation, ariling from his out-
ward ilate and conditions : and thence innumerable par-
ticular temptations befcl him under all which he fuiFered.
For inftance, he had temptations from his relations in the
flefli ; from his followers, his chofen difciples not ex-
cepted, all of whom left him : one denied him, and ano-
ther betrayed him ; to which we may add, the anguifh of
his mother, when a fword pierced through her foul in his
fufferings. He had temptations from his enemies of all
forts, from all which his fufferings were inexpreffible :
in thefe Satan had a principal hand, he fet upon him in
the entrance of his miniftry immediately in his own per-
fon, and followed him in the whole courfe of it, by the
inftrumcnts he fet on v^^ork ; and he had alfo a feafon>
an hour of darknefs allowed him, when he was to try his
utmoft flrength and policy againft him ; under which af-
fault he fuffcrcd, (as was foretold from the foundation of
the world) the ' bruifing of his heel,' or his temporal and
corporal ruin. And, to crown all his trials and fufferings,
the myflerious fa£l of God's dcfcrtion of him was the moll
perj^lcxing.

§ 8. Hence, * he is able to fuccour them that arc
* tempted ;' wherein we have the defcription of them for
whofe fake Chrill underwent this condition — the ability
that accrued to him thereby for their relief; and — the ad-
vantage they are thereby made partakers of. They, for

whofe



,36 AX EXPOSITION OF THE Ckap. IT.

wliofc fake he underwent this condition, arc thofc whom
lie reconciled to God by his facrificc as an high prieft ;
and arc here dcicribcd as thofc who Hand in continual
need of aid and aflifiance, (ci 7rii^cc(^o^'z';ci) * tempted ones.*
iS'otwithftanding their rcconcihation to God by the death
of Chrift, they have a prefcribcd courfc of obedience in
which they meet with many difficulties, dangers, and for-
lows. They maintain a continual inward warfare againll
thofc temptations that fpring from the rcmn'r.Jci- of their
own corruptions, during the whole cjurfc of their lives.
Moreover, btfides tliis pcri)Ci;u.;i contiict, tliere are per-
mitted, in the order of a holy and wife Providence, cer-
tein feafons wherein temptations grow high, ftrong, im-
petuous, and arc even ready to ruin them. As Chrift
liad an * hour of darkncfs' for his encounter, fo have
they. As Satan, from what he doth, is called ' the
* tempter ;* fo they, from what they endure, may be
called * tempted ones.* Their calling is to oppofe temp-
tations, and their whole lives arc a conf]i£l with them.
The high priefl having fuffcred the like things with them,
they have an allured ground of confolation in all their
temptations and fufFerings, which he confirms by what is
added of his ability to fuccour them.

(Avycilai) * He is able.* Now this al?iIJty is fuch as
arifcth from that peculiar mercifulncfs, to which he is dif-
pofed from his experience of fuffering under temptation ;
not a natural, but a moral power ; not a power of the
liand, but a companion of the heart that moves and ex-
cites him to their relief and fuccour. 'iliis is the proper
effect of mercy and compaiTion ; it fcts power on work
for the relief of them with whofe condition it is aficc^cJ :
thus Dido, in her pathetic ac'.drcfs to yiixEAs and l:i'
friends,

** Iluud ipia)a tnall mifctis fuccurroe tiifcG,"^

*• And toucliM with mifcrics mvfelf have known,
** I view, with pity, woes fo like my own "

i.aftlv;



Ver. 17, 18. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, ^^f

Lallly, The advantage of the brethren from hence lies
in the * fucconr* that he is thus able to afford them ; which
coniifts in a fpeedy coming in with relief, ftrength, con-
folation, or deliverance ; by his word, promifes, or pro-
vidence for thcm^ who, being in dilbcfs, call for it.

§ 9. Obf. I. The affumption of our nature, and his
conformity to us therein, was principally neceffary for the
Lord Jefus, on account of his being an high prieft for us.
It * behoved* him to be made like unto us, ' that he
* might be an high prieft.' Such, without the afTump-
tion of our nature, he could not be, becaufe witliout this
he had nothing to offer ; and of neceffity, faith the apof-
tle, he mull have fomewhat to offer. A prieft without a
facrifice is a king without a fubject. Had not God pre-
pared him a body, he could have had nothing to offer.
He was to have a felf to offer to God, or his prieflhood
had been vain.

§ 10. Ohf. 2. Such was the unfpeakable love ofChrift
to the brethren, that he would refufe no condition need-
ful for the difcharge of the work he had undertaken for
them. He knew what this would coft him, what trou-
ble, forrow, and fuffering he muff undergo ; what mife-
ries he muff conflid with all his life ; what a clofe was to
be put to his pilgrimage on earth ; what woful tempta-
tions he was to pafs through ; all lay naked and open
before him. But fuch was his love, fliadowed out by
that of Jacob to Rachael, that he was content to fubmit
to any terms, to undergo any condition, fo that he
might fave and enjoy his beloved church. [See Ephef. v.
25, 26.]

§ II. Ohf. 3. The principal work of Chrifl as our
high prieft, and from which all other a£lings of his in that
office flow, was to make reconciliation or atonement for
fin ; which was neceffary on the part of his tlcdl — him-
ielf— and God.

It was neceffary on the part of his ekcl, for whom lie
■undertook that office. They were by nature enemies of
God, and children of wrath ; unlcfs peace and reconci-
liation be made for them in the iirfl place, they could

neither



838 ANf EXPOSITION OF THE Chap. 11.

neither have encouragement to go to him with their obe-
dience, nor cxpe£l any mercy from him, or acceptance
with him.

It was alfo ncccfliiry on his ^ctv/ part. Had not this
been firft accompliflied, he could not have undertaken
any other a6t of his priellJy office for us. All his intcr-
ceffion for us, his watching for our good, as the merciful
high prieft over the houfe of God, is grounded upon the
reconciliation and atonement which he made : his intcr-
ceffion, indeed, being nothing but the blcircd rcprefcn-
tation of his atoning blood. Moreover,

It was equally necelTary on the part of God alfo ; for
herein principally had he dcfigned tomanifefl his righteouf-
nefs, grace, love, and wifdom, wherein he will be gloria
iied [Rom. iii. 25.] ' He fet him forth to be a propitia-

• tion to declare his rightcoufnefs ;' the rightcoufncfs of
God was moll: eminently glorified in the reconciliation
wrought by Chrifl, when he was made a propitiation for
us, or made atonement for us in his blood. All aftcr-
aclings of God towards us, indeed, are full of love, but
they are all llrcams from this fountain, or rivers from
this ocean. And the apoftle fums up all the grace of the
gofpel in this, that ' God was in Chrift re-conciling U9

• to himfelf.* And therefore,

§ 12. They who weaken, oppofc, or take away this
teconciliation, are enemies to the falvation of menj the
honour of Chrift, and glory of God ; from men they
t:ike their hopes and hnppinefs, from Chrill his office and
honour, from God his grace aFid glory. To fuch I
would thus addrcfs mvfclf : * And would you have us

• give you credit, contrary to the diflatcs of our con-

• fciences, the tcflimony of the word and the voice of

• the whole creation, and that in a matter of fuch im-

• portance and cverlafting concern ? What if all thefc

• fliouid prove true, and you Hiould prove liars, Ihould

• we not pcrilh for ever by relying on your tcflimony ?

• Is it reafona!)lc we fliould attend to you in this matter?

• (jo with your fophifms to men' who were never bur-

• dtned with a kni'z of weighty guilt, whofe fpirits never

2 * took



Ver. 17, iS. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 239

' took in a fenfc of God*s difpleafure againft it, who

* never were brought under bondage by the fentcuce of

* his law, who never were forced to cry out in the bit-

* ternefs and anguifli of their fouls, what fliall we do to

* be faved ? Wherewith fhall we come before the Lord,

* or appear before the high God ? It may be they will be

* entangled and feduced by you ; but for thofe who havt

* thus in any mcafure known the terror of the Lord, they
' will be fecured from you by his grace.' — Befides, what
ground do fuch men leave the IntercefTor to fland upon,
as it were, while appearing for us in heaven ! Do they
not take that blood out of his hand, which he is carry*
ing into the holy place ? And how do they delpoil him
of his honour, in taking off from his work ? A mifera-
ble employment ! when men fhall ftudy and take pains
to perfuade themfelvcs and others, that Chrift hath not
done that for them, which, if he hath not done it, they
mufl perifh for evermore. From whom can fuch men
look for their reward ? Are men fo refolvcd as not to be
beholden to Jefus Chrift, that rather than grant that he
hath made reconciliation for us by his blood, they will
deny that there was a?!y need that any fuch reconciliation
fhould be made. Oh the depths of Satan ! Oh the flupi-
dity and blindnefs of men that are taken alive by him,
and led captive at his pleafure ! Let in4uiring and
troubled fouls know that, if any thing clfe gives them
cafe, it gives them poifon ; if it gives them peace, it gives
them ruin. Reconciliation by the blood of Chrift is the
only relief for their fouls ; and nothing more difcovers tlic
vanity of any religion, however it may prevail in the
world, than the regardlclfnefs of its profefTors looking
after thf§, which is the foundation ftonc of all durable
building in the things of God. This they will do, and
ihat they will do ; but how they (liall have an intcreil in
the * reconciliation made for fin f' they trouble not them-
felves with it.

§ I 3. Ohf, 4. The Lord Chrift fuffercd under all his temp-
tations, but finned in none. He fiiffcrcd being tempted,
Vox. II. I i ' but



iZ40 AN EXPOSITION OF THE Chap. U.

but did notion being tempted. He had the heart and af'^
fcdions of a man, and that in the highell degree of fcnfc
and tendernefs ; whatever fufFcrings the foul of a man may-
be brought under by grief, forrow, fliame, fear, pain,
danger, and lofs ; by any afflictive pafflons within or im-
prefflons of force from without ; he underwent, he felt
them aU. All the advantage that he had above us, by
the excellency of his pcrfon, was only th:it the forrows
of his heart were enlarged thereby, and he was made ca-
pable of greater enduring, though without fm. And it
was to bj tiius with him, bccaufe, although the partici-



Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 21 of 46)