John Owen.

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

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and glorying in hope — and the manner of our retaining
them, we muft hold them fa/I and //V/;: unto the end. Let
us here confidcr,

1 . / the apoftle requires in thefe fpiritual domeftics
— the confidence — and the glorifying of hope. The word
{ri:ccy^)yj-i'x) tranflated confidcncCy although it frequently
occurs in the New Teftamsnt, yet is never ufed to fignify
that fiduciary trufl in God which is an effcdl of faith, and
wherein foine have thought the nature of it to confill,
For, unlcfs where it is ufed adverbially to fignify openly^
plainly, notorioufly, as it doth always in the gofpel of
of John, [See chap, xviii. 20.] it conflantly denotes
liberty^ and conftancy of fpirit in fpeaking or doing any
tiling towards God or man, which is the genuine and
native iigniiication of the word.

The confidence here intended refers to our * hope,* no Icfi
then the {yjocvx^iiLu) rejoicing that followeth. The wordi
arc not rightly dillinguifhed, when confidence is placed
diilinclly as one thing by itfclf, and rejoicing is only
joined with hope. And this is evident from the conll:ruc-
tion of tlic words. For {lZ:(^ix.ioc';) firm, agrees not im-
nicdiatcly with [iKivi^og) of hpe^ which is of another
caf" ; nor with (Kccv^yiwx) rejoicing, which is of another
gander ; '^'^ 'n"»^ '-.- ' -,.>;■ co'fidcncc it agrees in both,



and is regulated thereby ; which it could not be, unlefs
confidence were joined with hope alfo. ' The confidence
' of hope ;' not our hope itfeJf, but the {Kocv'Xj/iu.a,) giory^
ing or rejoicing in it, is intended by the apoflle ; and
therefore no more is our faith intended in the former
expreflion. The meaning then is — ' tlie confidence of

* hope, and the rejoicing of hope.'

§ 9. Now that hope which v\e have concerning a blef-
fed immortahty and glory by Jefus Chrift, requires two
things of us :

1. A free, bold, and open prof cjjlon of that truth which
our hope is built upon, and that againfl all dangers and
oppofitions ; for we know that this hope will never make
us afhamed. [Rom. v. 5.] This is the * confidence of

* hope' here mentioned ; and this we are exhorted to elfe-
where, [I. Pet. iii. 11.] * Be ready always to give aa
' anfwer to every man that afketh you a reafon of the hope

* that is in you.' This {-z\OL^oi(na, vrpog cjiroXoyictv) promp-
titude and alacrity In apologlxlng, avowing, defending, or
pleading for the grounds of our hope, is the ' confidence,'
or rather liberty, or boldnefs of profeflion here intended.

2. An open oppofing of our hope, or that which is hoped
for, to all difficulties, dangers, and perfecutions, with an
holy boaftlng^ glorying, or rejoicing in our lot and portion,
becaufe the foundation of our hope is fure, and the things
we hope for are precious and excellent in comparifon of
every thing that rifeth againfl them.

§ 10. 2. The apoflle next declares the manner how
thefe things are to be fecurec^ ; if we ' hold fafl our con-

* fidence firm unto the end.'

(i.) The duty itfclf relating to the manner of our re-
taining thefe things is to hold them f aft ; exprelTed by a
w^ord [yia\u(TyjJOY^zv) which fignifics a careful, powerful
holding of any thing, againfl oppofition. The Greek
phrafe {}Lo']iyj:iv to 7rX'/j9og) is ' efFedlually to retain the

* multitude' in obedience, when in danger of fedition.
And the following (xaj-yjiv (p^i^paig) implies ' to hold,
retain, or keep a place with a guard.' Great care, dili-
gence, and endeavours mufi: be ufed in this matter, or we

Vol. II. P p Hiall


tail ill it ; bccauic of the oppofition and violence that will
he ulccl to wrell them from us. Uiilcfs \vc ' hold them
' tall,' that is, retain them with care, diligence, and
watch fulnefs, we Ihall lofc them, or be forcibly deprived
of them.

(2.) They arc to be kept in a Jum manner. The
meaning of this word the apoflle explaineth, chap. x. 23.
' Let us hold fall the profclhon of our faith vsithout waver-
' ing ;' that is, without declining from it, or being fliakeu
in it. It is not enough that we keep and retain, yea,
* hold fall' our profclfion ; but we mull: keep it up againfl
that fluctuating uncertainty of mind, which is apt to in-
vade andpolfcfs unliable perfons in the time of trial.

(3.) Herein mull we continue to the cnd^ that is,
whilll we live ; not for the prefent feafon only, but in all
future occurrences, until we come to the end of our faitli
— the falvation of our fouls.

§ II. (II.) Obf. I. The building of the church is fo
great and glorious a work, as that it could not be effected
by any but by him who was God. This obfervation may
be illullrated by confidering the following particulars :

(l.) The zvljdom of its contr'rjancc. Nothing could
cffc£t it but infinite wifdom ; yea the manifold wifdom of
God was in it, [Ephcf. iii. ic] i\\[ the treafures of his
wifdom and knowledge ; [Col. ii. 3.] In this eternal wif-
dom of God was the myflerious contrivance of this
building hid from the foundation of the world ; [Ephel".
iii. 9.] and its manifeflation in the gofpel was accom-
panied with fo much glory, that the angels of heaven did
earneftly defirc to bow down and look into it. We mav
rather admire it than comprehend its excellencv. But
when we Ihall come to fee, how the foundation of it wai
laid, at which all the fons of God ib.outed for jov ; how
by the firange and wonderful working of the Spirit of
grace, all the Hones deiigned from eternity for thii
builJing were made living ones in all ages and gc-
ncrationx ; and how they are from the foundation of
the world to the ci;d of it, litlv framed together to be a
temple to the Lord ; and what is the glory of God's in-



habitation therein, we fliall be fatisfied that divine wifdom
was ablblutely requilitc.

2. The power employed in its crcci'ion. It is the efFe£l
of divine power, whether we refpcft the oppojhion made to
it, or the execution of the work itftlf. lliofe angels who
left their firft habitation, had drawn the whole creation
into a confpiracy againft the building of this houfe of
God ; not a perfon was to be ufcd therein, but what was
engaged in an enmity againft the undertaking. And who
fliall prevail againft the oppofttion ? Nothing but Divine
power could fcatter the combination of principalities and
powers, and defeat the inceflant engagements of the
world, and the gates of hell, againft the deiign. — Again,
for the execution of the work itlelf, the fins of men were
to be expiated, atonement for them was to be made, a
a price of redemption to be paid, dead finners were to be
quickened, blind eyes to be opened, perfons of all forts
to be regenerated, ordinances and inftitutions of wor/hip
renounced for beauty and glory to be ere£led ; fupplies of
the fpirit at all times and places for its increafe in grace
and holinefs were to be "ranted, with other thincrs innume-
rable, which nothing but Divine power could effecl. Con-
fider but this one thing ; whereas all the parts of it are
fubje£l to difiblution, the perfons of whom it confifts all
die, he that builds this houfe, muft be able to raifc theni
all from the dead, or elfe his whole work about the houfe
itillf is all loft. Now who can do this but he that is
God ? They who think this is the work of mere man,
know nothing of it ; indeed nothing of God, of them-
fclves, or any reality of the gofpel as they ought. It is
but a little dark view I can take of the wifdom and power
that is laid out in this work, and yet — I am not more
fatisfied that there is a God in heaven, than I am, that he
that built this thing is God. And herein alio may wc
fee, whence it is that this building goes on, notwith-
ftanding all the oppofitions that are made to it. Take any
one fingle believer from the foundation of the world, and
confidcr the oppofition that is made by fin, Satan, and
tjie world, in temptations and perfccutions, to his in-

r p 2 tereft


tcrefl ill the houfe of God , and doth it not appear mar-
vellous that he is preferved, that he is delivered ? How-
hath it b^eu in tliis matter with our own fouls, if we be-
long to this houfe ? That we fhould be called out of dark-
nels into marvellous light ; that we fiiould be preferved
hitherto notwithrtanding our weaknefs, faintnefs, mani-
fold infirmities and fiiis ? Is there not fome facred, hidden
power, that cffe£lually, in ways unknown to us, puts
forth itfclf in our behalf? Confider the whole church,
with all the individual perfons belonging thereunto
throughout all generations ; and think what it requires
for its prefcrvation in its inward and outward condition ;
does not Divine power Ihinc forth in all thefe things 'i
Not one flone of this building is loft or caft to the ground,
much lefs fhall ever the ijuhole fabrick be prevailed againft.
§ 12. Obf. 2. The greatcft and moft honourable of
the fons of men that are employed in the work of God
in his houfe are but fervants and parts of the houfe itfelf ;

* Mofes verily as a fervant.* So did the principal builders
of the church under the New Teftament declare con-
cerning tliemfclves. * Servants of Jefus Chrift,' was
their only title of honour. And they profefTed themfelves
to be fervants of the churches, as being only * helpers of

* their joy,' [I. Cor. i. 24.] Not as Lords over God's he-
ritage, but as * enfamples to the flock,' [I. Pet. v. i.] ail
according to the charge laid upon them by their Lord and
Mafter ; [Matt. xx. 25 — 27.] and this appears,

( I.) Bccaufe no man hath any thing to do in this houfe
but by virtue of ccmyr.ijjion from him, who is the only Lord
and ruler of it ; this befpeaks them fervants. They arc
all taken up in the market place, from amongft the num-
ber of common men, by the Lord of the vineyard, and
fcnt into it by him. Neither are they fcnt to reft or fleep
there, nor to cat the grapes and iill themfclvcs ; much
lefs to tread down and fpoil tlie vines ; but to work and
labour until the evening, when they fliall receive their
wages. All things plainly prove them to be * fervants.'
[Matt, xwiii. 18 — 20.]


(2.) It is required of them as fervants to obferve and
obey the commands of the Lord. It is required of tliein
that they be ' faithful ;' and their faithfuhiefs confifls ii\
their difpenfation of the mylleries of Chrift, [I. Cor. iv.
1,2.] Mofcs himfelf, who received fuch a teftimony to
his faithfuhiefs from God, did nothing but according to
the pattern fhewn him in the mount. This is the duty
of a faithful fcrvant, and not to pretend his own power
and authority to ordain things in the houfe for its wor-
fliip and facred ufe, not appointed by his Lord and
Mafter. There is a llrange fafcination in this matter,
or men could not at the fame time profefs themfelves
fervants, and yet not think that their whole duty confifls
in doing the will of their Lord, but alfo in giving out
commands of their own to be obferved. This is the
work of Lords, and not of fervants ; and if it be not
forbid them by Chiift, I know not what is.

(3.) As fervants they are accountable. They muft give
an account of all they do in the houfe of their Lord.
This their mailer often warns them of, [See Matt. xxiv.
45 — 48. Luke xii. 42.] An account he v;ill have of
their talents, and of the fouls committed to their charge ;
an account of their labour, diligence, and readinefs to dp
or fufFer according to his mind and will. [Heb. xiii. 14.]
It is to be feared that this is not much in fome men's
thoughts, who yet are greatly concerned in it. They
count their profits, preferments, and wealth ; but of the
account they are to make at the laft day, they feem to
make no great reckoning. But what do fuch men think ?
Arc they lords or fervants ? Have they a mafler or have
they not ? Are they to do their own will or the will of
another? Do they fight uncertainly and beat the air, or
have they fome ctxt2i.\x\ fcope or aim before them ? If they
have, what can it be, but how they may give up their ac-
count with joy ? Joy, if not in the fafety of all their
flocks, yet in their own faithfuhiefs, and the tefiimony of
their confcienccs.

(4.) As fervants they fliall have their reivard, every
pne his penny, what he hath laboured for. For although



they arc but fervants, yet they fcrvc a good, jull, great
and gracious Lord, who will not forget their labour, but
give them a crown at iw appearance. [I. Pet. v. 4.]

Sec hence the boldne!: of the man of fni, and his ac-
complices, whofc defcription we have exactly, [Matt. xxiv.
48, 49.] ' An evil fcrvant who fays in his heart that his
' Lord dclayeth his coming, and fo fmites his fellow fer-

* vants, and eats and drinks with the drunken.' He pre-
tends, indeed, to be a servant of skrvants, but
under that fpecious title, and fliew of voluntary humility,
takes upon him to be an abfolute Lord over t!ie houfe of
God. — Others alio would do well to ponder the account
they are to make ; and well is it with thofc, happy is
their condition, whofc greateil joy in this world is, on
folid grounds, that they arc accountable fervants.

§ 13. Ohf, 3. The great end of Mofaical inllitutions
was to pre-figure and give teftimoiiy to the grace of the
gofpel by Jefus Chrifl. To this end was Mofcs faithful
in the houfe of God, and the denionllration of this prin-
ciple is the main fcope of our epiftle, fo far as it is
dodrinal ; and the particular conlidcration of it will
occur to us in a more convenient place.

§ i^. O/)/. 4. It is an eminent privilege to be a part
of the houfe of Chrifl:. ' \\ hole houfe arc we.* This
the apoflle judly fuppofcs, and reminds the Hebrews of,
that a fenfe of fo great a privilege might prevail with
them in favour of the duties he had before urged. And
it is an eminent privilege.

( I.) Bccaufe this houfe is God's binldln^::;, [I. Cor. iii. g.]
an houfe thai he built, and that in an admirable manner,
'i'he tabernacle of old was thus far of God's building, thnt
it was built by his appointment, and according to the
pattern he gave of it to Mofcs. But this building is far
more glorious ; [chap.ix. i i.] * a great and pcrfe£l tabernacle

* not made with hands, that is to fay, not of this build-

* inp.' Again, it is of * God's building,' that none is
emplovcd in a way of authority for the carrying of it on,
but the Lord Chrifl alone ; the Son and Lord over liis own
houfe. And he takes it upon himfclf, [Matt. x\i. i8.|

* ; will


' I will build my church.* This houfe wliereof we fpeak
excelleth, on many accounts, the whole fabrick of heaven
and earth ; for it is a facred temple : ' Ye are built upon

* the foundation of the apoflles and prophets, Jefus Chrifl

* himfelf being the chief corner flone ; in whom all the

* building fitly framed together growing into an holy tem-

* pie in the Lord,' [Ephef. ii. 20, 2 i.] This is Jehovah's
manjion ; when ail other things of the world are let out
to farm to the fons of men, as cottages for flefli and blood
to dwell in, this is God's place of conflant and fpecial

(2.) It is D. fpiritual hou^c, [T. Pet. ii. 5.] made up of
living ftones in a flrange and wonderful manner. A tem-
ple not fubjed to decay, but fuch as grows continually,
as to every flone in particular that is laid in it, and in
tlie daily accumulation of new ones. And although
fome are continually removed from the lower rooms in
grace, to the higher apartments in glory, yet not one
flone of it fhall be lofl.

(3.) The manner of God's habitation in this houfe Is
peculiar alfo. He dwelt indeed in the tabernacle and
temple of old ; but how ? By facrifices, carnal ordinances,
and fome outward appearances of glory. In this houfe
he dwells by his Spirit : * Ye are builded together an habi-

* tation of God through the Spirit,' [Ephef. ii. 22.] And

* know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that

* the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' [I, Cor. iii. 16.]
Unfpeakable therefore is the privilege, and the confequent
advantages !

§ 15. Obf. 5. The greatnefs of this privilege requires
an anfwerablenefs of duty. Becaufe we are this houfe of
God, it becometh us to hold fail our confidence to the
end. It is incumbent on us to cultivate univerfal holi-
ncfs, fpecial purity of foul and body, becoming an ha-
bitation of the holy Spirit. How fliould w^e endeavour ta
fill up the place w^e occupy, and relation we fuflain in
this houfe, for the good of the whole.

§ 16. 01?/. 6. In times of trial and pcrfecutlon, free-
dom, boldnefs, and conflancy in profcflion, are a good




evidence to oiirfelves tliat we are living floncs in the houfc
of God. Hold Faft, faith the apolUc, your liberal pro-
fclTion of the gofpcl, and your exultation in the hope of
the great promifes it contains. This duty God hath fet
a fmgular mark, upon, as what he indifpcnfably requircth,
and that whereby he is peculiarly glorified. A blelEed in-
ftance we have hereof in the three companions of Daniel.
They beheld, on one fide, (vultum injlantis tyrann'i) a
threatening tyrant, the form of whofe vifage was changed
with fury ; on the other, a ' flaming fiery furnace,' into
which they were inflantly to be call, if they let not go
their profcihon. But behold their [nr 01/^7,0- lav) boldnefs
and confidence in their profelTion, [Dan. iii. 16 — 18.]
They anfwered and faid to the king, ' O Nebuchadnezzar,

* we are not careful to anfwer thee in this matter, if it be

* ['o, our God whom we ferve is able to deliver us from

* the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of

* thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee,

* O king, that we will not ferve thy gods, nor worfliip the

* golden image which thou haft fct up.' They do not alk
a moment's fpace to deliberate in this matter ; and a blef-
fcd end they had of their confidence. So Basil anfwered
Julian when he would have given him fpace to confult ;

* Do, fays he, what you intend, for I Ihall be the fame

* to-morrow as I am to-day.' So it is obferved of Peter
and John, [A6ls iv. 13.] The Jews were aftonifhcd, ob-
fcrving their {ttcc^^jW ^ocv) * confidence,' the word in the
text which we there tranflatc holdnefs, that is, their readi-
nefs and promptitude of mind and fpeech in their confef-
fioiiof the name of Chrift, when they were in prifon,
and under the power of their adverfarles. Hence all they
that fail in this duty arc termed (hiXoi) fearful ones , and
arc in the firft rank of them who are excluded out of the
new Jcrufalcm, [Rev. xxi. S.]

§ 17. Ohf. 7. Intereft in the gofpcl gives fufficicnt
caufc of confidence and rejoicing in every condition.

* Hold fail: the confidence and rejoicing of your hope.'
The riches of it arc invaluable, eternal, peculiar ; fuch as
out-bahncc all earthly things, fatisfaaocy to the foul,

1 and


and terminating in endlefs glory ; and he that is duly in-
terefted in them, cannot but have abundant caufe of joy
unfpeakable at all times.

§ 18. Obf. 8. So many and great are the inconveni-
ences, hinderances, and temptations that lie in the way of
our prcfelTion, fo great is the number of them that decay in
it, or apoftatize from it, that the principal difcovery of its
truth and fincerity is to be taken from its permanency.
Whofe houfe are we, if we hold fail the confidence, the pro-
fcfllon, and the rejoicing of our hope^ firm unto the end.

Verses 7 — 11.


§ I. Introdu^ion. § 2. 2 — li. (I.) "The feveral claufes of
the zuords explained. § 12 — 2 2. (II.) Obfcrvations,
§ 23 — 26. Special fcafons of grace and obedience are in an
tfpecial manner to be obferved atid improved. § 27 — 32.
Other obfervations. § 33 — 35. There is commonly a
time when unbelief rifeth to its height of provocation^
^36 — 51. Remaining obfervations.

\ I. JriAVING dcmonftrated the pre-eminence of

Chrift before Mofes in their refpedlive miniftrics, the

apoftle, according to his dciign and ufual method, proceeds

Vol. IL Q^q td


to the application of tlic trutli he had evinced, in an ex-
hortation to liability and conuancy in faith and obedience.
And this he doth in a way that adds double force to his
exhortation ; in that lie firll prclfeth them with the words^.
teftimonics, and cxampLs recorded in the Old Teflamcnt,
to which they profcfTcd a fpecial deference and fubjcdtion ;
and then the nature of the example whicli he iniifts upon
is fuch, as fupphcs hiin with a new argument for his
purpofe. Now this is taken from the dealing of God •
with them, who were difobedicnt under the miniflry and
rule of Moles ; which he farther explains, [verfc 15 — 19.]
For if God dealt in fcverity with them, who were un-
believing and diibbedient, with rcfpc£t to him who was'
but Tijcrvant in the houfe ; they might cafily underftand
what liis difplcafure towards us would be, who fhould bc-
liave fo with reipe^l to the Son and his work, who is
Lord over the whole houfe, and whofc houfe we arc.
Let us,

I. Attend to the expofition of the words in their feve-
ral parts, and then,

II. We fhall deduce fuch obfervations as appear mofl
profitable and important.

§ 2. (I.) * Wherefore, as the Holy Ghoft faith. To-

* day, &c. (A/(j) 14'heycforc^ exprelfeth an inference from
what was fpokcn before, manifelling the enfuing ex-
hortation to be deduced from it, which exhortation it-
felf the apollle dirc6lly enters upon ver. 12. There is,
therefore, an Hyperbaton, or tranfpofition, in the dif-
courfe ; the words that agree in feiife being feparated by
an interpoiing digrcffion (contained in a parenthefis) for
the better enforcement of tlic exhortation itfelf. — ' As

* the Holy Ghoft faith,* or, that I may refpeft the words
of the Holy Ghoft. There is an emphafis in the manner
of cxprcirion, (79 7r;jL^.a to uyic) * Tliat holy Spirit/
fo rr.llcd {Kuf c-i^oxYiv) by way of emincncy ; the third
perfon in the trinity, who in an cfpecial manner fpakc in
the penmen of the facrcd fcriptures, (H. Pet. i. 21.] — •
y^s hf faith ; this may intend either his firft immcciiute
fpcaking in Iiis infpiration of the pfalmifl, as cxpretfed,



chap. iv. 7. (Xsycov iv AafS:^) * Saying in David,' where
thcfe words are again repeated ; or, his continuing ftill to
fpeak thofc words to us all, in the divine records ; for
being given out by his infpiration, and his authority
always accompanying them, he ftill fpcaketh them. The
words are taken from Pfalm xcv. 7 — ij. He mentions
not the place, as fpcaking to thofe who either were, or
were fuppofcd to be exercifed in the word. The leaving
therefore of an uncertainty, whence particular quotations
are taken, is ufeful to make us more fedulous in our in-
quiries. A certain day or fpacc of time is limited or de-
termined, as the apoftle fpcaks in the next chapter ; limited^
becaufe a day ; prefent, became to-day. And this fpacc
may denote in general the continuance of men's lives in
this world ; but yet, this depending on the divine plcafure,
it is Cod's day that is intended, not oii?s^ which we may
outlive, and lofe the beneiit of, as will afterwards ap-
pear ; [verfe 13.] ' exhort one another daily, whilft it is

* called (C3vn a-rijjLSpoy) to-day ;' that is, whilil: the Jea/o^ of
the duty is continued to you. So was it alfo originally ufed
by the pfalmift, and applied to the duties of the feaft of
tabernacles, or fome other feafbn of tlie performance of
God's folemn worfhip.

§ 3. * If ye will hear his voice ;' (i(p;vj //*, a mere con-»
ditional term, as commonly ufed ; {77,g (pujv7,g a^jja
w/jdrcc^.-) ' Ye will hear his voice ;' the effc£lual doing of
the thing fpoken of is intended. So Numb. xiv. 22.

* They have tempted me thefe ten times, and have not

* heard my voice ;' that is, have not yielded obedience to
my cominand. It is frequently obfcrved, that * to hear*

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 26 of 46)