John Owen.

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

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pation of human nature w^as only neccfTarv, that he might
be ' an high priefb,' yet his fufFerings under temptation
were fo, that he might be * a merciful high prieft for
' tempted fufFecers.' Such have need not only to be faved
by his atonement, but to be relieved, favoured, and com-
forted by his grace. They did not only want one to un-
dertake for them, but to undertake for them with carc^
pity, and tendernefs. He bears flill in his holy mind
the fcnfe he had of his forrows wherewith he was prelfcd
in the time of iiis temptations ; and feeing his brethren
contlicling with the like difficulties, he is ready to help
them i and becaufe his power is proportioned to his will,
it is faid he is ' able.' And whatever may be the real
efre<5\s on the mind of Chrift from his temptations and
fufFerings, now he is in heaven ; I am fure they ought to
be great on our faith and confolation, when wc confidcr
him undergoing them for this very end and purpofe.

§ 14. Ol'f. 5. Temptations call fouls into danger ; but
the great duty of ' the tempted,' is to cry out to the Lord
Redeemer for help and relief. To fuccour any one, is to
come to his help upon his cry and call ; and this being
promifed by Chriil: to thofc that arc tempted, fuppofeth
their earncll cry unto him. If wc be flothful, if v.e be
negligent under our temptations, if we look other ways
for alfidance, if we trull to, or reft in our own endeavours
for a conqueft over them, no wonder if v.e arc wounded,
cr fail under them, proilratc and vanquill'.ed. 1 his is

I the

Ver. 17, 18. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 241.

the great arcanum for the cure of this difeafe, the only-
means for fupport, dehverance, and conqueft ; namely,
that we earnelUy and conflantly apply ourfelves to Chrift
iox fuccour as our ' merciful high prieft,' who has had ex-
perience of them. Were this more our pra£lice than it is,
we fliould find more freedom from them, or more fuccefs
againil: them than ufually we have. Never any foul mif-
carried under temptation, that cried to the Lord for fuc-
cour under a real apprehenfion of danger, with faith and
expectation of relief. O what encouragement is here given
us, by his matchlefs qualifications ! he is faithful, he is
merciful, and, as the efFe«^ of both, he is able, he is
every way fufficient to relieve and fuccour poor tempted
fouls. He hath a fufficiency of care, of wifdom, and of
faithfulnefs, to obferve and know the feafons wherein
fuccour is neceffary. Lo ! here, tempted foul, a fuffici-
ency of tendernefs, mercy, and compaflion ; a fufficiency
of effisClual power ; a fufficiency of acceptance at the
throne, to prevail for fuitable fupplies and fuccours. Yes,
(let the afflifted church hear it and rejoice !) he is every
way * able to fuccour them that are tempted ;* to him be
praife and glory for evermore.

I i 2 CHAP.



VlR'ES I, 2.


^ I. Conned ion of the ivords, § 2—^7. (I.) The frjtral
parts of them explained. § 8. (11.) Obferi'atlons and
improvements. 1 . All ^of pel do^rines are to be pra^'ically im^
proved. § 9. 2. Go fpe I Afhiijlersfhould ufe holy prudence.
§ 10. 3. Believers are firlJIly and equally related. §11.
4. True Chrifiians are fan^ified. § 12. 5. The know-
ledge of Chrifl comes by an heavenly callhig. § 13. 6.
Heavenly vocation is a great privilege. § 14. 7. T^he
mv/i tries of the go fpe I require attentive confederation. § I 5
— 17. 8. God'' s bufincfs vjith finncrs could not be tranj-
aBed but by the embafjy of his Son. § 18. 9, Special
privileges iL'ill not prof t without fpecial grace. § 19 10.
Chrif is all in all to his church. § 20 — 2 2. I I. >^ di-
ligent coff deration of Chrift's frees from entanglements and
error, § 23. Lfes.

§1. i HE general nature of this epiflle, and the doc-
trines It contains, arc conftantly improved to enforce prac-
tical cxiiortations. Wherefore our apoftic, liaviiig in
the foregoing chapters nianiferted the excellency of Chrift,
its divine author, both in his pcrfon and work, here ac-
quaints the Hebrews to what end he infilled on thef«



things, that by the confidcratlon of them they might be
conftant and perfevering in the gofpel faith and worlhip.

Let us improve this verfc, which begins an application
of the do6lrine before flated, by

L Explaining the fevcral parts of it. And

IL Making fome obfervations upon them.

§ 2. (L) * Wherefore, holy brethren.' The firft word
(o^3v) wherefore^ refpe£ls that which went before. Where-
fore, ov feeingy that he of whom I fpeak. is fo excellent,
and fo highly exalted above all ; and that his being hum-
bled for a feafon was for the benefit and unfpeakable ad-
vantage of the church, it cannot but be your duty to
coti/ider both what he is in himfelf, and what he is to us.
His grand defign is to prefs upon them his general exhor-
tation to conftancy and perfeverance in their profeflion of
the gofpei ; and an intermediate duty fubfervient to this
defign is — their diligent confideration of Jefus Chrifl.

This term of relation, (a^-X(^ci) * brethren,' is vari-
oufly ufed in fcripture ; for, befide the flri£l acceptation,
it is taken more largely for near kinfmen^ and even for all
the branches of one common flock, though a whole na-
tion ; and fometimcs it exprefTeth ^. j obit -prof ejjiofi of the
fame religion, on which account the Jews called them-
felves * brethren' all the world over, [A6ls xxviii. 21.]
as alfo z. fplr it ual relation, having one Father, and being of
one family, * All ye are brethren, and one is your Father
* which is in heaven,' [Matt, xxiii. 8, 9.] I am apt to
think, that in the ufc of this exprefTion to the Jews, the
apofllc had refpe£t to that brotherhood which they had
among themfelves in their njicient church-ftate ; but prin»
cipally their nr,v relation in Chrifl, which farther appears
from the annexed compellation * Holy.'

This word {ocyioi) * holy,' is the ufaal epithet wherewith
our apoftle honours and adorns believers. He accounted
ihem ' holy,' as pofTelTed of real fanftification, and asr
being called by an holy calling ; whereby he manifcflcd
his high regard and tender aflc£tion for them. Belides,
by this endearing treatment, he gives them the greatefl
evidence of his fincerity in dealing with them ; for how-


could they fear that lie would arbitrarily impolc any thii\:^
on pcrfons whom he honoured as holy, and loved as
brethren ?

§ 3. He next dcfcribcs them from their * calling ,*

* partakers (KX/jcrjw^ cTracMvia) of the heavenly caliing.^
And he calls the vocation * heavenly,* from x\\t founta'm
and principal caufe of it, even * tlic Father who is in

* heaven ;' for as our ?le6tion, fo our callirig is in an efpecial
nianner afcribcd to him ; for no man can come to the
i^on, iinlcfs the Father draw him. Again, it is fo called
\n refpe£t of the means whereby this calling is wrought,
the word and fpirit, which are both * from above ; as alfo
the end, wliich is to heaven and heavenly things, wherein
lies the hope of our calling.

The apoftle, moreover, affigns to thcfe Hebrews a par-
ticipation ; (ixfjoy^Ci) ' partakers of the heavenly calling.*
And this he doth, that he might manifell: wherein their
great privilege confillcd. Thcv were apt to boall of the
privileges they enjoyed in their Judaifm, which indeed
were great, but they are all of no efteem in comparifoii
of what thcv had no'w obtained by the grace of Jefus
Chiifl. On the other hand, he nifinuates that they were
not to make an cnclofure of this privilege, like thofe
wherewith they had been formerly entruOed, the Gentiles
being nov: fcliow- heirs with them in this heavenly calling.
Hence he both declares his own communion with them in
that great privilege, and reminds them of their duty
thence rcfultiiig. Being partakers of this calling and
accefs to Chrii\, it muft needs be their duty diligently to
conjider him.

§ 4. (Kc/^uvOf](rcyJ:) * Confidcr the apoftlc and high

* piieil of our profelhon, Chriil Jcfus.' The words may
be read either, Conlidcr Chriil Jefus, the apoftle and
Jiigh pricll of our profelfion ; and fo the perfon of Chriil
is placed as the immediate object, and the other words arc
added only as a defcrlption of him by his offices : or,
Conlidcr the apoftle and high pricft of our profeflion,
Chrift Jefus ; and then the opajlie and high pricj} of our
profcilion are the proper objects of conlidcralion, and



tht name ndded doth but notify the individual perfon who
was inveiled with thofe offices. The original word
(KcTiiXyO-ou) denotes * a diligent intention of mind,' or,
' to fet the mind diligently to mark and coniider, fo as to

* vmderfland the thing conlidered.* Hereby he feems to
intimate, that they had not lulhciently adverted to the
nature and quality of the perfon and oiiices of Chriir, and
tor that reafon were kept in the entanglements of Judaifm;
therefore he exhorts them to fix their minds for a! diligent,
rational, fpiritual conlideration of the fublime fubjeft,

Chrill is here laid to be {roy cc7TO(f]oXcv) * the apojllc of

* our profellion.' An apoftle is ' one fent;' a legate, am-
balTador, or public melfenger ; and the Meiilah is one
fent of God, fent upon his all-important errand to the
children of men. And becaufe God had promifed from
the beginning thus to fend him hence, * he whom God
*■ would fend,' or (0 zpyj)^cVOQ) * he that v/as to come,'
became a periphrahs or prijicipal notation of him. Two
things are then included in this exprelfion, or title: firil-,
the auikor'itv he liad for his work ; he came not of him-
{t\U but \N^s, fent of God the Father ; and therefore fpake
in his name. Secondly, his work in itfelf, which was to
reveal the will of the Father to nien ; to declare the Fa-
ther himfelf, his name, and the myilery of his grace. It
is therefore a title of honour as well as of office that is here
given him.

Hereunto is added [tov oioy^ic-psa-) 'the high py'icf}.^ Both
offices meet in one ; as the kingdom and prieflhood are
alfo promifed, [Zech. vi. 13.] Both the Hebrews and wc
are now to look for all in him. Thefe offices of old were
in feveral perfons ; Mofes was the apoftle or ambaffiidor
of God to declare his will and law to the people, and
Aaron was the high prieil: to niinifter in the worlhip of
God. This was the poverty of types, that no one perfon
could fo much as reprefent the work between God and the
church. To manifeft, therefore, to the Hebrews how
Cln-ift hath the pre-eminence in all things, he inO:ru(5ts
rhcm, that both the offices, that of an apoftle, which of
old was executed by Mofes, aiul tiiat of the high prieft-



hood committed unto Aaron, were vcftcd in him alone ;
intending afterwards to evince how far be excelled them
both, and how excellent were his offices in comparifon of
theirs, thoii:;h they bore the fame name.

The limitation adjoined is (T/jg o^xcKcyiag r,iJ,wj^ * of

• <Jvr profffJJofi.'* The words may be taken cither objec-
tively and pallivcly — the apoillc and high pricft whom
we profefs ; or a£livelv, denoting the author of our pro-
fcfTion, the apoftle and high pricll who hath revealed and
declared the faith which v.'c profefs, the religion which
wc own, and therein excrcifcth in his own perlbn the of-
fice of the pricfthood. And Chrilc is the apoftle of this
profefTion, as he brought life and immortality to light by
the gofpel, teaching and inftru£ling us in the whole will
of God, as Mofcs did the Jews. He is alfo the high
prieft of our profciTion, inafmuch as he himfcif offered tlie
one and the only fiicrificr, which in our religion wc own
and profefs ; and continues alone to perform the whole
office of a pricft therein, as Aaron and his fuccefTors did
in that of the jews. It belonged not to the office of the
high pricll to inflitutc and appoint any thing in the wor-
fliip of God, but only to execute his own duty, in offer-
ing facrlfices, and interceding for the people. So the
Lord [efus Chrift, who, as the apoftle of our profeffion,
inftitutcd the whole worfhip of God as our hi^h prnft^
only offers the facrilice of the church, and intercedes for
the people.

§ 5. * Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as

• alfo Mofes was faithful in all his houfe.' — The facrcd
penman entering upon a comparifon between Mofcs and
Chrifl, as he was the apofllc of God, or cne fcnt by him
to reveal his will ; he recommends him to the faith of tlic
Hebrews under the principal qualification of a perfon in
ihat office: * he was /^///^/w/ ;' and this being a term of
relation, he farther defcrihes it by its refpeft to that ad
of God whercunto it anfwered ; * to him that appohited

• him :* and then in general he exprelfeth the comparifon in-
tended by naming the pcrfoll with whom he is compared,

* evcix

Vbr. I, (i, EPISTLE to THE HEBREWS. 1247

* even as Mofes ;' and the fubje£l df his employment, the

* whole houfc of God.*

§ 6. The chief qualification of an apoftle, or an am-
balTador, is, that he be ' faithful.' God's apoftle is the
chief flevvard, or difpenfer of his myfteries : and it is prin-
cipally required in ftevvards, that a man be found faith-
ful. Now the fidelity of a legate, ambafTador, or apof-
tle, conlifls principally in the full declaration of the mind
and will of him who fent him, as to thofe ends for which
he is fent. Faithfulnefs refpe£ls truji. Our Lord, there-
fore, muft have had a truft committed to him wherein he
was faithful. Accordingly he fought not his own glory,
but the glory of him that fent him ; declaring, that he
came not in his own, but in his Father's name, [John v.
43.] He moreover fealed that truth with his blood,
which he came into the world to bear witnefs to, [John
5cviii. 37.] And greater faithfulnefs could not be cx-

^ To him that appointed him.* This appointment of
Chrift, or his being made the apoftle of God, coniifts in
the eternal defignation of him to his work and office ; in
the folemn promife made from the beginning to fend him
for this purpofe ; in fending him actually into the world
to be the light of men, [John i. 4.] and to manifeft that
eternal life which was with the Father; [L John i. 2.]
and, by a vifible iign, in the defcent of the Holy Ghoft
upon him. To thefe a6ls of appointment , God added his
commandy and publifhed it from heaven to all, that they
hear and obey him, [Matt. xvii. 5.]

§ 7. * As alfo Mofes was faithful.* Thefe words ex-
prcfs the farther fidelity of Chrift in comparifon with
Mofes. The apoftle feems diredly to exprefs the Words,
ufed by God himfelf concerning Mofes, [Numb. xii. 7.]

* He is faithful in all my houfe.* It is true he failed per-
fonally in his faith, and was charged of God that he be-
lieved him not, [Numb. xx. 12.] but this was no im-
peachment of his faithfulnefs in the fpecial office intended.
As he was to reveal Jehovah's mind, and inftitute his
^'orfhip, he was univerfally faithful by an infallible tefti-

VoL, II, K k mony,


mony, [Exod. xl. 16.] * according to all that God ap-

* pointed him, fo did he'

The extent of his faithfulnefs (jy 'iy.M tm oiku:) to * the

* whole boufe of God ;' that is, faith Chrysostom,
(iv 'o}.(aj tm T^oioo) * in the whole people ;' his houfcliold,
his family, his church, by way of appropriation ; his
lot, his portion, as a man's houfc is to him, [Dcut.
xxxii. 9.] * The Lord's portion is his people, Jacob is
' the lot of his inheritance.' He dwells in his church by
his fpecial and glorious prefcnce, as a man in his own
houfc, [Rev. xxi. 3.] which denotes care, love, and
delight. In this houle was Mofcs faithful; he was the
vifible mediator between Jehovah and the Hebrew tribes
when their church ftatc was eredcd, and they brought
into the enjoyment of thofe privileges, whereby they were
exalted above all the nations of tlic globe. It is worthy
of notice, that the apoille deals not with them in this
matter dire£lly, until he had made fuch a declaration of
the perfon of Chrift, and proved him to be fo incom-
parably exalted above angels, that they could not be juilly
prejudiced, if he preferred him bctore Mofcs alfo ; which
was indifpenfably neceflary to his delign. He produceth
the highell and moft honourable tcllimony that is given
Tilofes in the whole Icripturc \ whereby he at once grants
all that they had to plead concerning him in this matter,
and removes all fulpicions of his derogating any thing
from his real excellence. Moreover, he difcovcrs a con-
fiftency between the true honour of Mofes and the exalta-
tion of Chrill, wliich ns yet many of them did not under-
ftand ; but thought, that if Chrift were exalted and the
gofpel cftablilhcid, Mofcs mui\ be call off and condemned.
In this comparifon he rennnds them, that the Lord Jefus
Chriil was the great promifcd prophet of the church, to
whom they were to attend on pain of being difowned of

How fuitablc this procedure was to the removal of
their prejudices, is to inform their minds, and to endear
their all'ections ; and, Lunlc«[ucntly, what wifdom was



ufed in it, needs no proof. — We now proceed, as pro-

§ 8. (II.) To make fome obfervations on the words
thus explained.

Ohf. I. All the do£lrincs of the gofpel, cfpecially thofe
concerning the perlbn and offices of Chrift, are to be
prafticallv improved, for the important ends of their reve-
lation — faith and obe-dience. We are fo to know Chrill,
as to live in the ftrength of his grace, to the praife of his
glory. * If ye know thefe things,' faith the Redeemer,
* happy are yc if ye do them.' It is our privilege, our
great privilege, to knozv them, but it is our bleflednefs to
do them. When men content themfelves with the notion
of fpiritual things, without endeavouring to exprefs their
efficacy, in the pradlical conformity of their minds and
fouls to them, it proves their ruin. That word which is
preached to us, ought to divell in us. It is a miferable
profeffion, when fome preach without application, and
others hear without practice. To hear and to learn are
good,, not for their own fake, but for the fake of prac-
tice. The apoflle tells us of forrie who are always learning,
(perhaps make it their bufinefs, and fcarce do any thing
clfe) but are never able to come to the knoivledgc of the
truth, [II. Tim. iii. 7.] that is, to have an impreffion of
its power and efficacy on their fouls. Gofpel truths are
(mcdicina ayiirriie) phyfic for a fin'-lick foul ; now what ufe
is it to get (lore of medicines and cordials, and never to
take them ? No more is it to colleft, with whatever dili-
gence, fermons and do£lrines, if we apply them not.
Some contraft, as it were, a dropfy in hearing ; th^ more
they hear the more they defire : but they are only pleafed
with it at prefent, and fwclled for the future ; are neither
really rcfrefhed nor flrengthened. But every truth hath,
as the Hebrews exprefs it, * meat in its mouth,' fome-
thing for our own nourifhment. We fliould regard fer-
mons, as Elijah did the ravens, that brought him bread
and flefh in the morning, and bread and flefh in the even-
ing ; [I. Kings xvii. 6.] they bring food with them for
our fouls, that we may feed on it. When the Ifraelites

K k 2 gathered


gathered manna to eat, it was bread from heaven, an-
gels meat, food excellent and precious ; but when they
]aid it by, it became otfcnfivc and bred worms, [Exod.
xvi. 20.] When God fcatters truths amongfl; men, if they
gather them to feed on, they are tlic bread of heaven, an-
gels food ; but if they only board them up in their books,
cr notionally in their mind, they will breed the worms of
pride anu hvpocrily, and make them an offenlivc favour
imto God. When, therefore, any truth is propofed to you^
learn what is your great concern therein, and let it have »
its proper and pcrfeA work upon your fouls.

§ 9. Ohf. 2. Difpenfeis of the gofpcl ought to ufe
holy prudence in dealing with thofe whom tiiey are to
inflru£V. Next to our Lord himfclf, Paul is the moft ad-
mirable example of holy wifdom, tendernefs, compafTion,
and zeal, to all miniflers of the gofpel. This, the in-
i^rudlions given to his two beloved fons, Timothy and
Tijtus, fufficiently teflify. His care, pains, travel, and
watchfulnefs ; his patience, love, compaflion, and zeal,
who can declare, or worthily admire ! By thefc means he
removed, or at leaft rendered ineffedual, the great preju-
dice in favour of Judaifm -, kept up in his hearers a be-
coming caution againfl tlie inlinuations of ieducers and
falfe apoftles ; railed their attentions, prepared them every
way for inflrudions, and won them over to Chrift.
Bleiled Jefus ! what caufe have we to mourn, when we
Qonfider the pride, covetoufnefs, ambition, negligence,
fclf-feeking, and contempt of thy flock, which arc found
amongil many of them who take upon themfelves to be
difpenfcrs of thy word, whereby the fouls of men arc
filed with offences againfl thy holy ways !

§ 10. Ohf. 3. Believers are all related to one another
in the Ari£>tfl bond of an equal relation. They are all
brethren, holy brethren ; and what the reproaching world
calls ihcm in fcorn, the Holy Spirit calls them in mercy
and in truth. They have one Father, one elder brother,
who is not afliamcd to call x.\\cm hrithrcn \ and one fpirit,
who being a fpirit of adoption, gives them all an intereft in
the fame fannly, whereby tlnv become joint-heirs with



Chrlft. The duties of unity, love, and compaflion, vvhicli
depend on their relation, are more known than praftifed.
Of old, indeed, the Pagans fpake proverbially of the
Cliriflians, * See how they love one another !' by way of
admiration. The contrary obfervation hath now pre-
vailed, to the fhamc and foul {lain of the profellion of
thefc latter days. Through difTentions and divifions
amongft them who are interefted in the privilege of fon-
Ihip, and through various vifible defeats in moil that arc
called Chrifliians, we have loil the thing intended, and
the fame is become a term of reproach. When iniquity
abounds, love will wax cold. In the mean time, it were
yvcU if thofe who are brethren indeed, could live as
brethren, and love as brethren, and ap-ee as brethren ;
for the motives to it are great and many.

§ 1 1. Obf. 4. All true and real profciTors of the gofpel
are fan£lified by the Holy Ghoil, and made truly and
really holy. So Paul here terms thofe Hebrews, exercifing
the judgement of charity; declaring what they ought to
be, and what they profefTed themfelves to be, what he
believed them to be, and wdiat if living members of
Chrifl they really w^ere.

§ 12. Obf. 5. No man comes to an ufeful faving
knowledge of Jefus Chrifl in the gofpel, but by virtue of an
cfFeftual heavenly calling. Thefe Hebrews came to be holy-
brethren, children of God, -united to Chriil, by their
participation of this heavenly vocation. We arc called
out of darknefs into his marvellous light, not only with
the outward call of the word, which many partake of
who never attain the faving knowledge of Chrifl, but
with that effeflual call according to God's purpofe of elec-
tion, [Rom. viii. 28.] which is accompanied with the
energetic power of the Holy Ghofl ; [Eph. ii. 5.] giving
eyes to fee, ears to hear, and hearts to obey the word ac-
cor(iing to the covenant promife, [ Jer. xxxii. 33, 34.]

§ 13. Obf, 6. The effeclual heavenly vocation of be-
lievers is their great privilege, wherein they have caufe to
rejoice, and which ought always to remind them of their
jduty to Jiim who liath called them. To this end the



apoillc reminds the Hebrews of their participation of the
heavenly calling, that they might confidcr the privilege
they enjoyed by the gofpel, above whatever they boaftcd
of under the law ; and that he might ftir them up to the
performance of their duty in faith and obedience, as tliofe
who were called to light, life, liberty, and the peace of
God ; to his kingdom, rightcoufnefs, and eternal glory.

§ 14. Obf, 7. The fpiritual myilcries of the gofpel,

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