John Owen.

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

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cfpecially thole which concern the pcrfon and offices of
Chrift, require diligent and attentive confidcration. Their
uatur^y and worthy with our own condition^ call for this
duty; for — in their nature they are mvjlcrlcs \ that is,
things deep, hidden, and full of divine wifdom, [I. Cor.
ii. 7.] The wifdom of God in a myfterv ; luch as the
Angels defire to bow down (not by way of condefceniion,
but of endeavours) and look into, [I. Pet. i. 12.] for in
Chrifl, and through him in the gofpel, are hidden all the
treafures of wifdom and knowledge, [Col. ii. 3.] and
hence are we direfted to crv after knowledge, to apply our
hearts to underftanding, to feek her as iilvcr, to fcarch
for her as hid treafures, [Prov. ii. 3, 4.] Thefe things
are not eafily difcovcred by every wanderiiig eye or lazy
palTcnger ; fuch pcrfons find not mines of filver, or the
hidden treafures of former generations. Of this dili-.
gent fcarch the prophets and holy men of old arc propo-
fed for o\\x example ; [I. Pet. i. 10, i i.] carnal lloth is
not the way to be acquainted with fpiritual things, or
facred myilcries. — Again, the ivorth and 'nr.porta}u:e of
thefe things bcfpcak the fame duty. Things may be dark
and myftcrious, and yet not weighty and worthy ; fo tiiat
they will not defray the charge of a diligent fcarch after
them. Solomon's merchants would not have gone to
Ophir had there not been o-oA/, as well as apes and pea-
cocks. There are unfcarchable treafures in tlicfc myflc-
ries ; no tongue can fully cxprefs, no mind perfciSlly
conceive them. There is in them an exceedingly va-
luable pearl, which, though by fome rejc£led, is yet ef-
trcmc of God, ele£l and precious ; and fo alio by all
believers, [I. I^ct. ii. 6, 7.] * The merchandize thereof ii
2 * Uettcif


* better than, the merchandize of filver and the gain there-

* of than fine gold ; it is more precious than rubies.' —
Moreover, our own condition calls for diligence in the
dil'charge of this duty. We arc ior the moft part Hke
thefe Hebrews, [chap. v. 11.] flothful, or dull of hear-
ing : we have a natural backwardncfs to that hearing
whereby faith cometh, and therefore have the greateih
need to Itir up our minds to this important duty of con-
fideration ; while at the fame time we have an ohjci-1 in-
finitely worthy of it, Jesus Christ, w^ho is the apoflk
and high prieft of our profeflion.

§ 15. Ohf. 8. The bufinefs of God with finners could
not be tranfaded but by the negotiation and embairy of
his fon. He muft become our apojlle. He did, indeed,
at fundry times, fend fervants and meiTengers into the
world about this momentous affair, but there was a
threefold greatnefs in it, which none was fit to manage
effe6lually but the Son of God himfelf. And this was,
(i.) A greatnefs of love, grace, and condefcenfion. That
the great and holy God fhould fend to treat with fmners
about peace and reconciliation, is a thing which all the
rational creation mull eternally admire. He is in him-
felf holy, good, righteous, and blelTed for evermore ; he
ftood in no need of finners, of their fervice, of their obe-
dience, of their being ; but he was juilly provoked by
their apoflacy and rebellion. His juflice and law required
their punifhment and deflru£lion, which he could have
inflifted to his own eternal glory ; nor had they either
inclination or ability to avert the deferved vengeance.
Yet God will fend a mefTage to thefe poor perifhing rebels ;
an embafTy to treat with them about peace and reconci-
liation. But this is fo great a thing, includes fuch in-
finite grace, love, -.ind condefcenfion, that linners know
not hov/ to believe it. And, indeed, who is fit to an-
nounce the flupendous melTage ? Objc6lions ^.rife againfl
it that are able to Ihake the credit and reputation of any
angel from heaven. Wherefore God comifiits this mef-
fage to his Son, his only Son ; makes him his apoftle ;
fends him with thefe tidings, that they may be embraced.
' The Son of God came and %p<SQ us this undcrflanding.'



It is true tliat God fpake by the mouth of hrs holy prophets
from rlie beginning of the world ; [Luke i. 70.] but
yet, as the firll promifc was given out bv the Son of God
himfclf, fo all the mellligcs of the prophets about this
matter depended on that confirmation of them, which he
was aftcrxsrards to give in his own pcrfon. So faith our
apoftic, [Rom. xv. 8.] * Now I fay, that Jcfus Chrill:

* was a iifiniflrer of the circumcifion for the truth of God,

* to conlirm the promifes made unto the Fathers/

§ 16. (2.) There is a greatncfs in the woj k itfr(f,
which required that the Son of God fiiould be engaged
therein. For, as the amballiidor, he was pcrfecflly to rc-
prefcnt the pcrfon of the Father. An ambalFador rcpre-
fents the perfon of him by whom he is fent. Other mcf-
fcnigers were but (antcambulones) * forerunners,' to give
notice of the coming of this great apoflle, or chief ambaf-
fador of God : but the fe were not to reprefeivt his perfon^
nor could they, (fee Matt. iii. i.] Who could fully rc-
prefcnt the pcrfon of the Father to finners, but he who is
the brightnefs of his glory, and the exprefs image of his
pcrfon ? Hence he tells his difciples, that he who hath feea
him hath fecn the Father, [John iv. 9.] and that becaufc
he is fo in the Father, and the Father in him, that he re-
prefcnts hiin fully unto men. He is * the image of the
*invHible God,*" [Col. i. 16.] The Father, who in his
own perfon dwells in light unapproachable, hath exhibited
and cxprefled the glorious properties of his nature to us in
Tlie perfon of his Son, [II. Cor. iv. 4.] None clfe, then,
was fit to be this great a{)oftle.

Again ; the greatncfs of the work requires, that he who
Bndertakcs it be intimately acquainted with all the
Iccrct counfcis ot God, thiofc counfcls tliat lay hid in his
infinite wifdom ai\d will from all ctcrnitv. None clfc
€ould,*undcrrakc fo weighty a charge. But wlierc Ihall we
find a pcrfon thus' qualiiicd ? It is true, God was plealcd
tp reveal fundry particulars, the effecfls of his counfcls, to
his fcrvants the prophets y but yet it is concerning thofe
that the Holv Ciholl fpeaks, [John i. r8.] * No man

* hath iixu Goi at anv time ;' Who dien Ihall do it ?

• The


* The only begotten Son, vvlio is in the bofom of the Fa-

* ther.' ht his hojom ; not only a fharer in his fpecial
love, but alio a partaker of his moll intimate counfels.
He hath declared him ; made him known, in his nature, his
name, his will, his grace. He, and he alone, hath ex-
hibited the eternal Father to our adoring faith.

Likewife ; it was not enough that originally, as he
was God, he knew all the deep things of Jchovali, but
alfo as he was fent ; for the wifdom and knowledge of
Chrill as mediator, excrcifed in the human nature, was
dillin6l from his knowledge, as he w^as in himfelf God
over all blclled for ever. And without this mediatorial
knowledge, who could have been a meet apollle from
God to iinners ? For how elfe Ihould he reveal to them
the will of God, according to all emergencies and occa-
fions ? But as this was needful, fo it was found in Jefus
Chriil the Son of God. The Spirit of the Lord rcjled
upon him, not came upon him at times, but remained on
him, [John i. 32, 33.] * The fpirit of wifdom and un-

* derflandi ng, the fpirit of counfel and of might, the fpi-
' rit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord \ [Ifa. xi.
2, 3.] It may be faid, he poiTefled it in fome remark-
able degrees only above others. Nay, it is exprellly af-
firmed, ' God gave not the Spirit to him by meafure ;
[John iii. 34.] Not in fuch way as that he fliould only
have a greater meafure of the Spirit than others ; but in a
way vjholly different ; he pofleiled the fame Spirit in ano-
ther kind : for * it pleafed the Father that in him fhould

* all fulnefs dwell:* [Col. i. 19.] all fulncfs \ not only
of rich grace, but alfo of wifdom and connfcl : and, ac-
cordingly, * in him are hid (laid up fafely) all the trea-

* fures of wifdom and knowledge,' [Col. ii. 3.]

Moreover ; the nature of the work required, that the
ambafTador oi God to fnincrs fhould be able to make his
mellagc fuccefsful. It is not fufficient to fiiy, that the
meffagc itfelf is fo great and fo advantageous to finners,
that there is no doubt but upon the firll: propofal they
will embrace it ; for we find the contrary by multiplied
experience : and Jiot only fo, but it is a certain facl that

Vol. II. L 1 n»


no fiiiner is able of himfclf to receive it. For faith is not
of ourklvcs, it is the gift of God. Now if this ambalTa-
dor hath not power to enable men to receive it, however
otherwifc excellent and glorious, it niuft needs be fruf-
tratcd. But who fliah effect this arduous talk? Is it the
work, of man to quicken the dead, to open the blind eyes,
to take away the ilony heart, to create fpiritual light in
the mind, and life in the will ? All this is nccelTary to
infure faving lucccfs to God's meflage to finncrs, and to
this the Son of God alone was equal. For ' no man

* knowcth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the

* Son will reveal him ;' [Matt. xi. 27.] and this he doth
by the effcftual working of his holy Spirit, the difpcnla-
tion whereof is wholly committed to him. Let it be
farther confidered, that,

§ 7. (3.) The dcfign of this work was no lefs than to
proclaim and eftablifli peace between God and man. He
only who made this peace was meet to make 7^. full dcclara-
ticn of it : he is our peace, and he came and preached
peace, [Ephcf. ii. 14 — 17.] on which account he is
called * the word of God,' he by whom God was de-
clared ; the angel of God's prefcnce, the ijucrpretcr, the
great interpreter of Jehovah's mind, tlie counfellor, and
the melTcnger of the covenant, as well as the apolUc of
our profcliion. And hence we fee our great obligations
to hearken to this mefTage ; not only on account of the
meiiagc itfclf, which is worthy of all acceptation, but alfo
on account of him that brings it : and everlalling woe
will be to them bv whom thcfe glad tidings are rcjeftcd.
He that rcfufcth peace with God fhall have war and his
eternal wrath, and that mofl defervedly. It may be fomc
men think in their hearts, that if they had heard Chrift
hlmjtlf delivering this mefTage, if they had lieard him
preaching this peace, they would undoubtedly have re-
.ccived and embraced it. So indeed thought tlic Jews of
old, that if they had lived in the days of the former pro-
phets, they would not have dealt with them as their fore-
fathers did, but would h.ivc believed their words and
obeyed tlicir commands. So the rich man tliouglit, that



his bretlireii would repent, if one might rile from the
dead and preach to them. All have pretences for their
prefent unbelief ; and fuppofe, that were it not for this
or the other circumllance, they fliould do otherwife.
But thcfe pretences are all vain and fooliih in any cafe,
but there is no pretence of this nature that can take place
here : for this great apoftle and ambaiTador of God con-
tinucth vet to fpeak to us, and prefs hi*^ meffage upon us.
So faith our apoftle, [chap. xii. 25.] * See that ye refufe

* not him that fpeaketh ; for how fhall we efcape, if we

* turn away from him that fpeaketh from heaven ?' He
did not only fpeak of old, but he cotn'mueth to fpeak in
the word of the gofpel. When we are prefled to believe,
to accept the appointed terms of peace, and yet refufe
them ; wc rejed this great, this divine and compailionate
apoftle. And what will be the end of fuch men ? What
will be the end of us all, if the guilt hereof fhould be
found upon us ?

§ 18. Obf, 9. Special privileges will not profit men
w^ithout fpecial grace. The Lord Chrift was in an efpe-
cial manner an apoftle to the Jews ; to them was he i^nt
immediately ; and to tliem was his miniftry in the fle(h
confined. Greater privileges could none partake of; and
what was the iflue? * He came unto his own, and his

* own received him not,' [John i. i i.] by far the greateft
part of them reje£ted both him and the tidings of peace he
brought. This is worthy your coniideration who are fa-
voured with precious gofpel privileges. They will not
fave you ; but, on the contrary, they may ruin you.
Look for grace to make them effedual, left they prove
the * favour of death unto death' to any of you. Once

§ 19. Obf. 10. The Lord Jefus Chrift is all in all to
his church ; the king, pricft, and apoftle (or prophet) of
it; all in one \ fupplying all wants, anfwering all pri-
vileges, the fpring of all grace, cfFcfling all mercy ; fo
that in him alone believers are complete, [Col. ii. 10.]
*"J'he Old Teftamcnt faints had no one that was king,
pricft, and prophet to tlie church ; nor could any be after
L 1 2 ' ;hc


tlic giving of tlic law ; the kingdom being promircd to
the tribe of Judah, and the prieilhood confined to the
tribe of Levi, and the houfc of Aaron. \V ho fees not
then herein the great privilege of the New Tcllament
CL'Conomy, feeing we have all thcfe things really, which
they had onlv in type ; and all things centering in om-j
which were iniperfcftly dillributcd among fo many? And
ihall we not feck for all in him, who was reprcfcntcd by
them all ? Shall we not feck to be perfectly juftiiicd by
him who is really and fubllantially all in one r Yes, all
our defects, wcakncllcs, and troubles arife from hence,
that we make not our applications to him for that allill-
ance whicli he is able, ready, and willing to atford us.

§ 20. Ohf. II. A diligent attentive confidcrdtion of the
pcrfon, ofhces, and works of Jelus Chrill is the moft ef-
feftual means to free the fouls of men from all entangle-
ments of error and darkncfs, and to keep them conflaiU
in the profeiiion of the truth. Thefe Hebrews were as
yet entangled in their old Judaifm, and ready to decline
from the truth. To free them from the one, and to pre-
vent the other, the apodle calls them to the conlideration
of what he had delivered, and what he was vet to deliver
concerning the perfon, offices, and works of Chrift. This
being the principal intention of the place, we Ihall ll:ay a
little to contirm and apply our obfervation.

§ 21. * Conjtdcr Chrift.* And here we Ihall take notice
of both the manner and the ohjcd of this conlideration.
As to the manner of attending to the means propofed, it is
our incumbent duty,

I. To make a diligent fi-urch into the facred -vcordy
wherein Jefus Chrill is revealed to us, (which is there-
fore called tlic gofpcl of Chrifl) that we may find out and
underfland what is revealed concerning him, as he is the
f nd of the law, and the fulncis of the gofpel ; in whom,
as in their common center, all the prophecies and pro-
mifcs meet. Without this aim in our hearing, reading,
and fearching of the word, we labour in vain, and con-
tend unc'.itainiy, as men beating the air. Unto him,
and the knowledge of him, is all our lludy of the fcrip-



til re to be referred : and the rcafon why Ibme in the pc-
riii'al of it, have no more light, profit, or advantage, is,
becaufe they have no more refpeft to Chrift in their in-
quiry. If he be once out of our eye in fcarching the
icripture, we know not what we do, nor whither we go,
no more than doth the mariner at fea without regard to the
pole liar. Truths to be believed are like believers them-
ieives ; all their life, power, and order confill in their
relation to Chrilt ; feparated from him they are dead and

2. Meditat'iott upon what is difcovered to us concerning
Chrift, is alfo included in this duty. When a revelation
was made of Chrift and his work to the blellcd Virgin his
Mother, it is faid Ihe kept the fayings and * pondered
*■ them in her heart,' [Luke ii. 17.] as Job advifeth all to
do ; [chap. xxii. 2,2.] and the apoftle bids us take care
that ' the word of Chrift dwell in us richly in all wifdom;*
[Col. iii. 6.] that it may not pafs through our minds with
ibme tranfient efle(5ls ; as in reading and hearing, if alone,
it often only calls ibme glances of light upon the under-
ftanding, or Ibme motions on the alFeclions ; but may
make its abode with us by conftant meditation.

3. A fpiritual endeavour in this fearch and meditation
to bring the foul to a real coyiformUy with that revelation
which is made of Chrift in the word. And this would
be the genuine eiTed of them, if duly and properly at-
tended, [H. Cor. iii. 18.] The glory of Chrift is revealed
in the gofpel, as a face is reprefcntcd hi a glafs \ this wc
behold by a fpiritual fearch and meditation. By this in-
tuition we are ailimilated to the revealed glory of the Lord.
The Holy Ghoft thereby brings upon our hearts that very
likencfs and image which we fo contemplate.

§ 22. The object oi this confideration Is the Redeemer,
in his perfon, his offices, and his work. ' Confider

I. The apoftle trcatcth about hisperfon as the principal
object of bur conlideratlon. It is a lignal promife that
under the gofpel we Ihall fee the King Meftiah in his
beauty, [Ifa. xxxiii. 17.] or, by faith fee the ui^creatcd

I excellent


excellencies and glories of this King of faints. And in-
deed the faith of the Old Tcflamcnt faints did princi-
pally rcfpc£l the glorious pcrfon of the Alclfuih, and his
comng, leaving his work, and the myftery of redemp-
tion, ^o his own wifdom and grace. Hence had they fo
many glorious defcriptions of him to excite their defirc
and expectation concerning him. And now under the
New Tcflamcnt it is the grcatelV trial of faith, whether it
be evangelical, genuine, and thriving, to know what re-
fpcft it hath to the pcrfon of Chrifl : if that be its im-
mediate and principal o^/Vc?, if it refpcft other things with
regard to him, and in fubordination to him, it is alfurcdly
of an heavenly cxtra£t ; if otherwife, it may juftly be
fufpcftcd. How glorious this objeft of faith ! he, though
the lofty one inhabiting eternity, humbled himfclf into
the form of a man, of a fervant, unto death, the death
of the crofs. A due mixture of greatncTs and grace, or
goodnefs, is the mofl: powerful attra<rtive of virtuous and
gracious affections. Hence God, who is infinitely great
and infinitely good, is their ultimate objcd. In the
perfon of Chrifl this is inimitably difplayed, fo that there
is nothing in the vafl creation adapted to reprefent him
to us, (fee Rev. i. 5, 6, 11, 13, 16.) He who is Alpha
and Omega, the firil and the lafl, the prince of the kings
of the earth, even he hath loved us, and waihed us in his
own blood ! Hence to a believing foul he becomes white
and ruddy, the chiefefl of ten thouland, [Cant. v. 2.]

2. Confidcr him as to his officrs. His authority as a
king, his mcrcifulnefs as our high pricll, and his faith-
fulnefs as a prophet, or God's apofllc, arc the important
particulars that call for our believing and aileClionate con-

His autbsrlty as King, Lord, and Heir of all. His
dealing with the Hebrews was principally about the in-
flitution of new ordinances of worlhip and abolifliing tho
old. This fovcrcign authority the Lord Mclliah was
completely furnifhcd with, and a due confidcration hereof,
uould thoroughly remove all doubts and fcruplcs in this
liiatlcr i whereas the neglect of it is the caufc of all thai

mn '


confufion and diforder which at this day fill the pro-
feffing world about the worfliip of God.

His merc'ifulnefs^ as the high prieil of his church. This
is of lingular ufe to preferve believers from decays and
faintings in the profeflion of the truth. Want of a due
improvement of this encouraging confideration, and the
affillance that may be obtained thereby, is the occafion of
all the decays and backflidings that are found anion gpro-
fefTors. What can thrive in the foul, if the love, care,
kindnefs, and ability to fave, that are in Chrift, all which
are included in this merciful nefs, are neglefted ? His
faithfulnefs ; this relates to his prophetical office ; if he
be abfolutely faithful in his work, his authority and mercy
ought furely to be diligently heeded. Men may thence
learn what they have to do in the church and worfhip of
God, even to obferve and to do whatever he hath com-

3. As his perfon and offices, fo his work alfo is pro-
pofed to our conjideratlon. The particulars of this work
are too many to be here fo much as recounted ; in gene-
ral, the love and grace that beam in it, its greatnefs, the
benefits we receive from it, the glory of the wifdom, good-
nefs, holinefs, and righteoufnefs that fliine therein with
fuperior luflre, are the principal immediate obje£ls of our
faith and coniideration. And although we may not at
once clearly and fully difcern them, yet we are in the
proper way to know and poflefs them. There is not the
leafl line of truth, how far foever it may be extended, and
how fmall foever it may at length appear, but the fprings
of it lie in the perfon and work of Chrift ; and then wc
learn it aright when we learn it in the fpring ^ or * as it
* is in hini ;' [Eph. iv. 21.] which when we have done,
we may fafely trace it to its utmoft extent. But he that
looks on gofpel truths as fcattercd up and down indepen-
dently one of another, who fees not the root and center
of them in Jefus Chrift, it is moft probable that when he
goes about to gather them for his ufc, he will alfo take
lap things quite of another nature. They fay that all
moral virtues are knit ia oije. that is, right eaufnefi^ f»


j6» an exposition OF THE Chaf. III.

that lie who hath that, liath all the reft, at leait radically
and virtually. This I know, that all Ipiritual tiutlis arc
centered in him who is the truth. And they wlio have
* learned him,' as the apoftlc fpcaks, [Kph. iv. 20. J have
with him received the feedt: of the trutli, which i>eing
watered and attended as they ought, will in due time
flourilh in all tlicir proper branches and tVoits. Thus in
particular \^ faith increafed. For according as the objc6t
of it is cleared and manifefted, or truly reprcfentcd as
Jnitablc and dcfirable to the foul, fo is faith excited and
ftrengthencd. Now this is no otherwifedone, but whea
the foul is enabled gracioufly to confider the pcrfon and
oiHces of Chrifl. Inhere it finds all that is needful to
make it happy and biefled, to procure pardon and peace,
righteoufnefs and glory. — Hence,

^2'^. We may deduce fomc profitable ///tj for infor-
mation — caution — and dirctltion.

I, For information', wc niav fee. hence the rcafon why
fo many turn afide and fall off from the truth and ways
of the gofpel. Thcv have given over a due coniideration
of Jefus Chrill, and fo have loil the ineans of their pre-
fervation. They have been weary of him, not feeing a
form or lovelinefs in him for which he Ihould be delhed.
For when men have neglc<SVcd the perfon of Chrill, is it
any wonder if they dcf})ife his ways and ordinances, as
is their manner ? Indeed the ordinances of the gofpel,
its worfliip and inftitutions, have no excellency, no
l>cauty in them, but what arifeth from their relation to
the perfoii and offices of Chrifl: ; and if thefe are neg-
Icfted, thefc muil: needs be burdenfome and grievous. And
a> it is with gofpel worfliip, fo it is with all the articles of
faith, or the important truths we arc to believe. The
center and knot of them all is in the perfon of Chrill, if
they are once loofed from thence, if their union in him
be once diirjlvcd, if men no more endeavour to learn the
truth as it is in fcjuSy or to acquaint thcmfelves with the
will of God, as he hath gathered all things unto an head in
him, thcv fcatter, as it were, of tlicir own accord from
their minds ; fo that it may be thcv rctaii\ no one of

them ;


them ; or if they do, yet not in a -right manner, fo as to
have the experience of the power of them in obedience.
This is the caufe of the apoflacies amonglt us ; Chrifl: is
negle£led, not confidered, not improved : if vvc fearch
into the root of our diflempers, we fliall find that our
hearts and fpirits have not been exercifed with that con-
fideration of the perfon and offices of Chriil which our
duty calls for. We have not been kept in a conftant
adoration of his majefty, admiration of his excellency,

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 23 of 46)