John Owen.

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

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or ' to hearken,' figniiies in fcripture, to * obev,' or to yicl4
obedience to the things heard ; as, ' to fee,' doth * to un,-

* derftand,^ or believe ; and to * taftc' denotes * fpiritual

* experience.' Words o{ fenfe being ufed tQ exprefs the
fpiritual a Fls of the mind. His voice; the * voice' of the
i.ord is fomctimcs taken for his * power ;' inafmuch as by
his -.t'orr/, as an intimation and fignification of the power
wliich he puts forth therein, he created and difpofcth of
aJi; thing?;. Sec Pfalm xxix. 3 — -9. where the mighty

Q^q 2 v^ork^


works of God's power and providence arc afllgned to his
'uoice. See alfo Mic. vi. 9. Sometimes it is ufed for the re-
velation of his will in his commands and promifes ; hut
it is withal certain that the Hebrew and Greek, words
('^ip and (Lucy),) arc ufed principally if not folcly for a fud-
dcn tranflcnt voice or fpeaking. Wherefore the pfaimiil: in
thefe words, as to their hiftorical and typical intendment,
recalls the people to the remembrance T^.nd confideration of
God's fpeaking to them in the giving of the law at Horeb ;
and exhorts them to obedience, from the folcmn cir-
cumflance that the will of God was uttered to them in a
marvellous manner. And as to X.hc\v prophetical dc{\g\\^ he
intimates another extraordinary reveUtion of the divine
will to be made by the MefTiah.

§ 4. * Harden not your hearts as in the provocation,'
(M/J crKKvipwcfjc Tag Koc^hccg viJ^Ujy) harelen not your hearts ;
this expreflion occurs not in other waiters, and therefore
may be ttxmtA facreei. To * harden the heart' has a pe-
culiar reference to the obedience which God requires of
us. The fingle term ((rxA>jpo7/;c) hardnefss is indeed fomc-
times ufed in heathen writers (or Jinbbornnefs of mind and
manners ; but the verb {fTnKr/^V'.oc) to harden^ is fcarcely
ever ufed except in the Septuagint and the New Tcilament,
[A£ls xix. 9. Rom. ix. 18.] and in each of the IrJtcr
onlv by Paul. Therefore, to ' harden the heart,* in a
moral fenfe, is peculiar to holy writ, and, with refpec^ lo
the New Tcfiament, peculiar to Paul ; and it ever denotes
a voluntary perverfenefs of mind, in not taking notice of,
or not applying the foul to the revealed will of God, in
order to do and obferve it.

Clg ;V to; TrapccTTixccicriJLU') * As in the provocation.'
The fimplc term (Trtxcog) from which the compound is
derived, fip;nifies properly, bittery in oppofition to another,
(y?^vy,vc) {^gn\(y'n^g fweety plcafant. ?o alfo thefe two verbs
(ttixlclo and TrtxparAc) fignify tc make bitter to the taftc
or knfe : but their metaphorical ufe in a moral icnfc is
fiequcnt for cxaccrbo provcco. The flory which this prin-
cipally refers to is recorded Exod. xvii. 2 — 7 ; and ano-
ther flory to the like purpofc wc have, of what befel the



people ill the wildernefs of /« near forty years afterwards,
when, in their murmuring fpr water, another rock was
fmitten to briiig it forth ; on which is added, * This is

* the water of Merihahy bccauie the children of IfraeJ
^ Jlrove with the Lord,' [Num. xx. 13,] It is alfo faid ou
the fame accafioa, that ' the people did chide with'Mofcs/
[ver. 2.]

§ 5. * As in the aay (t« 77:i^a(r^ii) of temptation \n the

* wildernefs ;' the other name given to the place before
mentioned in Exodus, from thence it feems the apoftlc
takes his example, where both the names are mentioned ;
^nd where the place is faid to be called Mcribn and Ma(Ja^
[Exod. xvii. 7.] whereas in that of Numbers, [chap. xx.
13.] it is only faid, * This is the water of Meviba,* or

Jirife ; and yet it may not be without refpedl to the latter
alfo. The firil infiance was at the beginning, the latter
a< theclofe of their provocation : as they began, fo they
pndcd. * And Mofes faid unto the people, why do you

* chide with me \ and why do you tempt the Lord r' This
fnatter, as a thing exceedingly remarkable, is often called
over in fcripture, fometimes to reproach the people and
to b^'rden them witli their (ins, [Deut. ix. 22.] * And at

* MaJJa ye tempted the Lord to wrath ;' and fometimes to
warn them of the like mifcarriagcs ; [chap. vi. 16.]

* You fhall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted

* him at AJaJJa.'' So alfo in the xcvth Pfalm, from whence
the apollle takes thefe words ; ' In the wildernefs,' or
defert of Midian, whrre into that people entered upon
^heir coming through the Red Sea. In their way towards
Horeb, their fourth ftation was at Rephidim, where the
above things happened, and where they received rcfrcfli-
ment in a type, the fplritual rock, feme days before the
giving of the iiery law.

§ 6. * Where your fathers tempted mc, proved. me,
* and faw my works.' Your fathers ; the whole congre-
gation in the wildernefs, whofc poflerity they were,
{cd^yuiJ.oicrcKy us) proved me ; this word is fcldom ufed in
an ill fcnfe, as the former (zTru'^uo-cn.',) is almofc conti-
nually, and Ijgnifies to have experience upon fearch, in-



vcftigation and trial. In Ffalm cxxxix. 2, 3. the gxpc-
r'tencc which they had of the power of God is intended ;
* They proved me,' and found by trial that I was in the
nnidft of them. — .^nd favj my iL'orks ; The original par-
ticle (CDJ) ill the IM'alm, fignifies morecver^ fomewhat
above a mere conjunction ; and fomc fuppol'e it may be
here taken for (r//7, ctlaynfi^) although. I'hey tempted me,
proved me, * although' they faw my works. And fo thcfe
words arc placed as an aggravation of their fin in tempting
and diftrufling him after fuch experience of his power
and goodncfs in thofe mighty works tliey faw. For gene-
rally all the works of God in the wildcrncfs, whetlier of
mercy or judgement, were confequcnts of the pcoplc'i
tempting him.

^ 7. * They faw my w o\-\is forty years. "* The pfalmiil
placeth thefc words at the beginning of the next vcrfe,
and makes them to refpedt the feafon of God's indigna-
tion againft them for their iins ; * forty years was I grieved ,'
but by the apall'e, the fpace of time mentioned is applied
to the people's feeing the works of God. But thefe things
being abfolutely commenfurate in their duration, it is
altogether indifferent to which of them the limitations of
time Ipeciiied is formally applied. Every year in the
whole forty was full of iins, provocation, temptations,
and unbelief; and every year was alfo filled with tok^;is of
God's dilpleafurc and indignation ; until the clofe of the
whole difpenfation came, wherein that generation, which
came out of Egypt under Mofes, was confumed \ and the
indignation of God refted in that confumption. And \t
IS not unljk.cly but that the apoftlc reminds the Hebrews
<»f this fpacc of time granted to their forefathers in tlio
wildcrnefs after their coming up out of Egypt, with their
^buTe of it, bccaufe a like fpace of linxc was now in the
patitncc of God allotted to the whole Jewifli churcli and
I'cople, between the preaching of Chriil and that walling
dtilruvhon that was now approaching : and which ac-
cordingly took place. For as, after tlieir forefathers,
wib.o came up umler Mofes out of J'lgvpt, were confumed
i'.i forty years in. tlic wildcriiels, a new generation untk^




the condu£l of Jofliua entered into the refl of God ;
fo, within forty 5Tars after the preaching of fpiri«
tual dehvcrance was rejected by them that whole genera-
tion was cut olf in wrath, and a new church of Jews .and
Gentiles, under the condud of the true Jofhua, enters
into the reft of God.

§ 8. ^ Wherefore I was grieved with that generation
(oiO 7rr)OG-cjoy^9i<Ta,) Wherefore I was grieved; the apoftl«
here alters the tenor of the difcourfe in the pfalmift, by
interpofing a reference to the caufe of God's being grieved
with the people, in the word (ho) wherefore, that is, be-
caufe of their manifold temptations and provocations being
not cured, not healed, although for fo long a feafon they
beheld his works. The word (7rf.o<rouyJiQ-(z} is generally
thought to be derived from (oyj'/j or oyjoc) * the bank of

* a river/ a rifing hill or bank by the water iide. Thence
is the verb (oyjscu) * to be oiTended,' to bear a thing with
difficulty, tedioufnefs, and vexation, fo as to rife up with
indignation againfl it, like the ground that rifeth againft
the waters. This word {Trpoa-oy^ 1(^00) is the fame with an
addition of fenfe ; to be greatly grieved.' And as the word

* grieved' is ambiguous in our language, importing either
(dolore affic'i) to be affcHed with forrow and grief; or a
being wearied accompanied with indignation ; as we fay*
fuch or fuch a thing is * grievous ;' that is, (grave moleftum)

* troublefome ; fo is the word here ufed, ' grieved,^ that is,
burdened, offended, provoked. The appointed time of God's
patience was worn out with their continued provocations, fo
that he was wearied with them, and weary of them, he could
bear them no longer, (r^i yivzu Ikhvy/) * with that genera-

* tion ;' (-in) * a generation,' is the age of man, or rather
the men of one age, [Eccl. i. 4.) * One generation paffeth

* away and another generation cometh ;' that is, the men of
one age. [See Deut. xxxii. i.] The term * generation' here
denotes no limited feafon, but comprifeth all the perfons
that came out up of Egypt above twenty years of age, v/ho
all died w^ithin the fpace of forty years afterwards.

§ 9. [Kii 77Acx::^-/jui t>j xa^h:^:) * They always err In

* heart ;' always, on all occafions, in every tria,l ; not in
•ne condition did they give glory to God : neither in

th cjr


their freights nor in their dehvcrances ; neither in their
wants nor in their fuhicfs ; but continually tempted and
provoked him with their niurmurings and unbchef. The
nord then denotes not a fpeculative error of the mind, a
miftaUe or mifapprchenfion of what was propofed to them,
in which fenfe the term * error* and * erring* are moll com-
ruonly ufcd, but a pra^lcal aberration, or wandering by
chiicc from the way of obedience made known to them,
and therefore are tliey faid to err * in their heart.' For
though that be commonly taken in fcripture for the entire
principle of moral operations, and fo comprifcth the mind
n.i>d undcrllanding ; yet when an immediate refpe^t is had
to duties and fms, it hath an cfpecial regard to the aff'e^lons
and defircs of tlie foul : fo that * to err in heart* is,
through the fcduftions and impulfes of corrupt affedlions,
to have the mind and judgement corrupted, and then to de-
part fiom the ways of obedience.

§ 10. (Aur:: ^5 Hit ^yvcjoo-a,v Tccg o^isg [jm,} * And they
• have not k lown my ways.* The apoflie renders the
Hebrew particle (l) by (S.-) ' And,* as in our tranflation ;
yet an oppafition may alfo be intimated, but they have not
known. It is faid before, they faw the works of God,
which were part of fiis wnys ; and his laws were made
known to them. Of thefe two parts do his * ways* con-
lift ; the ways of his providence, and the ways of his
commands ; or the ways wherein he walketh towards us,
and tlic ways wherein he would have us walk towards him.
And yet it is faid of this people, that they knew vat his
ways. As we faid before concerning their * error,' fo we
niuft now fay concerning their * ignorance ;' that it is not
a fimplc ncfc'ience that is intended, but rather an effe^^ual
SJiike of what tliey faw and knew. They did not fplri-
tuallv and prafticallv know the mind and intention of
Gcni which is required in the law, and promifed in the
covenant. In that light and knowledge which they had
of the ways of God, they liked them not, they delighted
not in them. And this is the conflant intention of that
word * to know/ where the objcft of k is God, bis ways^
or his wiJl.

I ^11.


§ II. * So I fwear in my wrath if they fhall enter
• into my reft.' God is faid to * fwear in his wrath^
becaufc he declared the purpofe of it under a particular
provocation. The whole matter is recorded Numb. xiv.
21 — 23. ver. 25 — 28. Why fhould they now flay
any longer in that v;ildernefs, which was neither meet to
entertain them, nor deligned for their habitation ? Where-
fore, to prepare a way for their entrance into Canaan,
fpies are fent by God's direftion, with excellent inllruc-
tions to fearch out the land. [Numb. xiii. 17 — 20.]
Upon their return, thepeevifh, cowardly, unbelieving
multitude, terrified with a falfe report they made, fall into
an outrageous repining againfl God, and fedition againfl
their ruler. Hereupon the Lord — wearied as it were with
their continued provocations, and efpecially difpleafed with
this laft inflance, whereby as far as in them lay, they had
fruftrated his intentions towards them — threatened to
confume the people as one man, [ver. 12.] But Mofes,
fixing on the noblell topic, earneilly pleading the interefl
of Jehovah's glorious name, prevailed to divert the exe-
cution of that threatening. And yet fo great was this
provocation, and fo abfolutely had the people of that ge-
neration difcovered themfelves every way unfit to follow
the Lord in that great work ; that to fhew the greatnefs
of their lin, and the irrevocablenefs of his purpofe, he
' fware with great indignation' againft their entering into
his reft.

(E/ :-icrcK£vo'cv]ai) If they Jhall enter ; the expreffioa
relates to the oath of God, wherein he fwear by himfelf ;
as if he had faid, ' Let me not live,' or ' let me not be
' God,' if ye enter ; which is the greateil and highefl alle-
veration that they fliould not enter. And the fuppreflion
of the full fentence is not, as fome fuppofe, from an
abruptnefs of fpeech, but from reverence ; and the ex-
prcffion is abfolutely negative. (Elg Try xulci7rocv(rp ^a)
into mv rcjl ; the pronoun * my' is taken either efficiently
or fubjeftively. If the former, the reft that God would
give this people is intended ; they ftiall not enter into the
land I promifed to give to Abraham and his feed, as a

Vi)i. II. R C ftatc


ilatc of reft, after all their peregrinations. Or it mav be
expounded lubjunc^ively, tor the rcll of God liimfelf, that
i^, the plac, wherein he would fix his worlliip and there-
in rell. And tliis iecms to be the proper meaning of the
word * my rell,' that is, the place where I will reft, by
cftablifhing my worlhip therein. Hence this was the
iolemn word of blelfnig at the moving of the ark of God.

* Arifc, O Lord, into thy reft ;' [fee Pfalm cxxxii. 3.
11. Chron. vi. 41.] * A place for the Lord, an habitation

* for the mighty God of Jacob,' [Pfalm cxxxii. 5.] So he
calls his worihip ' his reft,' and the place of his reft, [Ifa.
xi. 10. and Ixvi. i.]

§ 12. (IL) From tlic words thus particularly iniifted
on, the following obfcrvations mny be made :

Q/yf. 1. No divine truth when delivered ftiould be palled
bv without manifefting its ufc, and endeavouring its im-
provement for promoting holincfs and obedience. So foon
as the apoftlc had evinced his propofition concerning the
excellency of Chrift in his prophetical oft'ice, he* turns
lumfelf to the application of it. Divine knov/ledge is
like a practical fcicnce, the end of all the principles and
rheoiems of which is their praiiice ; take that away, and
it. is of no ufe. It is our wifdom and underftanding to
know how^ to live to God ; to that purpofe are all the
principles, truths, and doclrines of religion to be impro-
ved. If this be not done in the teaching and hearing of
it, wc iight unccrtainlv, as men beating the air.

§ 13. Ohf. 2. Ill times of temptations antl trials, ar-
guments and e'chortations to watchfulnefs againft iin, and
to conftancy in obedience, aie to be multiplied in number,
and prelied v. ith wifdom, carneftnefs, and diligence. Such
was the feafon now with tliefc Hebrews. They were ex-
pofed to great trials and temptations. Seduction on the oj.e
hand by falft teacher^, and perfecution on the other hand
by wrathful advtrfaries, clolcly bekt them. 1"hc apoftlc
tlicrcfore adds one argunicnt to anutl»or, and purfucs them
ull with pathetic exhortations. He iindcrftood their
t.mjnations and faw the ir dangers, and with what wifdom.



variety of arguments, cxpoflulatlons, exhortations, an.d
awakening reproofs, doth he deal with them? What care,
tendernels, compallio^i, and love appear in them all ? In
nothing did the excellency of Spirit more evidence itfelf
than in his holy jealoufy, and tender care for perfons in
fucli a condition. And herein Chrift fet him forth for an
example to all thofe to whom the difpenfation of the gofpcl
Ihould afterwards be committed ; in this care and watch-
fulnefs lies the very life and foul of. their minillry. Where
this is wanting, whatever elfe be done, there is but the
carcafe or fhadow of it. This then is of excellent ufe,

(i.) That the argument be folid ar;d firm, tliat our
foioidcitlon fail us not in our work. Earncfl: exhortations
on feeble principles have more of noifc tlian weight-
When there is an aim of reaching men's affediojis, with-
out poiTeliing their minds with due reafons of the things
treated of, it defervedly proves moft cvanid.

(2.) That the exhortations itfelf be grave and iveightw
Duty ought to be cloathed with words of wifdom, fuch as
may not by their weaknefs, unfitnefs, and uncomeiinefs,
expofc the matter to contempt or fcorn. Hence the
apollle requires a fingular ability for the duty of admoiii-
tion, [Rom. xv. 14.] ' Filled with ail knowledge, and able
' to admoniih one another.'

(3.) That the love, care, and compaffion of thofe v;ho
give fuch exhortations and admonitions be made to appear.
Prejudices are the bane and ruin of mutual warnings ;
aiiJ thefe nothing can remove but a dcmonlbation of love,
tendernefs, and compafiion. TvlQrofe, pecvifh, wiathful
adjnonitions, as they bring guilt upon the admonilhei-,
fo they fcldom free the admonifhed from anv.

§ 14. Ohf. 3. Exhortations to dutv ougiit to be re-
folvcd into an authority which may influence the con-
fcience. Without this they w^iil be weak and ridicuoufly
nervelcfs ; efpecially if the duties exhorted to be difficult,
burdenfome, or any way grievous. Authority is the formal
reafon of duty ; when God gave out his law of command-
r.icnts, he prefaced it with a fignifiration of his fovereign

R r 2 aiuhority


authority over the people ; * I am the Lord thy God.*
And it is our duty in giving our exhortations and com-
mands from him, to manifcft his authority in them.

* Teach men,* Taith our Saviour, * to do and obfcrve what-

* foever I have commanded you,* [Matt, xxviii. 20.] His
commands arc to be propofed, and his authority in them
to be applied to their fouls and confciences. To exhort
men in the things of God, and to fay, this or that man
faith fo, be he the pope or who he will, is of no ufe or
efficacy. That which we are to attend to, is what the
Holy Ghoji faith, from whofe authority there is no appeal.

§ 15. Obf. 4. Whatever was given by infpiration of
the Holy Ghoft, and is recorded in fcripturc for the ufe
of the church, he continues therein to fpeak it to us,
•unto this day. As he lives for ever, fo he continues to
/peak for ever ; that is, whilfl his voice or word fhall be
of eftabliflied ufe to the church. ' As the Holy Ghoft
* faith,' that is, fpeaks now to us ; and %vhcre doth he
fpeak it ? In the ninety-fifth Pfalm. Many men have in-
vented feveral ways to leiTen the authority of the fcrip-
turc ; and few are willing to acknowledge an immediate
fpeaking of God to them therein. Various pretences are
"ufed to fubduiSl the confciences of men from a fcnfe of
his authority in it. But whatever authority, efficacy, or
power, the word of God was accompanied with, whether
to evidence itfelf, to be divine, or otherwife to affe£l the
minds of men to obedience, when it was firfl fpokcn by
the Holy Ghoft, the fame it retains now it is recorded in
fcripture, feeing the fame Divine Spirit yet continues to
fpeak therein. The pfalmift fpeaks to the people, as if
the voice of God was then founding in their ears. It
being not only materially his revealed will and command,
but alfo accompanied with that fpecial imprclhon of his au-
thority, with which it was at iirft attcftcd. And on this
ground (the facrednefs of the means by which they arc
transferred) all the miracles wherewith the word of old
was confirmed, are of the fame validity and efficacy to-
wards us, as they were towards thofc who faw them.

§ 16.


§ 16. Obf. 5. The formal reafoii of all our obedience
conlifts in its relation to the voice or authority of God.
If we do the things that are commanded, but not with
refpe£t to the authority of God by whom they are com-
manded, what we fo do is not obedience properly fo called.
It hath the matter of obedience, but the formal reafon,
which is the life and foul of obedience, it hath not : what
is fo done is but (allow the exprellion) the carcafe of duty,
no way acceptable to God. In all our concerns with him,
God is to be regarded as our fovereign Lord and only
lawgiver. By this, therefore, let our fouls be influenced
to duty in general, and to every fpecial duty in particular.
Let this be the reafon we render to ourfelves and others,
of all our obedience. If it be ailced, why we do fuch or
fuch a thing ? We anfwer, becaufe we mufl obey
the voice of the Lord our God. And many advantages
we have by a conftant attendance to this authority, for this
will keep us to the proper rule and compafs of duty, and
will not fuffer us to omit any thing that God requires of
US ; it will flrengthen and fortify the foul againft all
dangers, difficulties, and temptations that oppofe it in the
way of obedience ; and it will not be ftcrrlta monfty'is)
frightened or deterred by any thing that lies in its way,
it will have a readinefs wherewith to anfwer all obje£lions,
and oppofe all contradictions.

§ 17. Obf. 6. Every thing in the commands of God,
relating to the manner of their promulgation is to be
retained in our minds, and conlidered as prefent to us.
The pfalmift * after fo long a feafon/ as the apoftle fpeaks,
calls the people to hear the voice of God, as it founded
on mount Sinai at the giving of the law. Not only the
law itfelf, and the authority of God therein, but the
manner alfo of its delivery by the great and terrible voice
of God is to be regarded, as if God did flill continue fo
to fpeak to us: fo alfo is it in refpeft to the gofpel. In the
iirft revelation of it, God fpake immediately * in the
* Son,' and a reverence for that fpeaking we fhould con-
tinually maintain. He continues yet to fpeak from heaven,
f Heb. xii. 2 c.] The gofpel is his voice and word no-x\



no Icfs than it was when in peifon lie fpcak on earth.
And God being thus both in his commands and the man-
ner of their promulgation, rendered prcfcnt to us by
faith, is a great incitement to obedience.

§ 1 8. Qbf. 7. Confidcration and choice are a {lablc
and permanent foundation of obedience. The command
of God is here propofcd to the people's undcrftanding,
that they may confider it ; to their will that they may
chuie and embrace it : 'If you will hear his voice.' Con-
lider this matter thoroughly, whofe command it is, in
what manner given, v/hat is the matter of it, and what
are its ends. Men that are engaged in a courfc of pro-
fcflion or obedience, as it were by chance or cuftom, w^ill
leave it by chance, or as the cuilom changes, at any time.
Thofe who are compelled to it by fomc pungent galling
convi<£tions, fo that they yield obedience, not becaufc
they like or chufe it, but becaufc they dare not do other-
wife, will foon lofe all refpefts to it, as the force of their
convictions wear off. But a deliberate choice of the wavs
of God, upon a due confideration of all tlieir concern-
ments, powerfully fixeth the foul to obedience. And it
is the moft eminent cfTcCl of the grace of Chriil:, to make
Jiis people iv'illhig in the day of his power.

§ 19. Obf. 8. Such is the nature, clhcacy, and power
of the voice and word of God, that men cannot with-
Hand it without a fmful hardening of themfelves. It is
The choice inflrunicnt, which God ufcth to remove our
linful hardnefs. It is not of itfelf, 1 confcfs, ablblutely
confidered, without the opercition of the Spirit of grace,

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 27 of 46)