John Owen.

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

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And in what way foever tlie word is u fed, it no where
denotes the receiving of tlie gofpel in the pvjcr of it, by
them who are evangelized ; that is, it includes not the
faith of the hearers, but only exprelTeth the acl of preach-
ing, and the outward enjoyment of it. The gofpel, and
therein the promife of entering into the refl of God, is
preaching to us, (tcc^^^ttjo -noi KSivoi) even as they ; they
who had, who d'ljhcl'icved, and rejeaed the promife of God,
and fo came fliort of entering into his reft. The com-
parifon therefore intended, is merely between the per-
fons, THEY and we. As they enjoyed the gofpel, fo do
we; as it was preached to them, fo to us. The promile
made to Abraham, contained the fubflance of the gofpel,
and was confirn7ed to his poflerity ; all the typical infli-
tutions of the law, afterwards introduced, had no other
end but to inftrud the people in the nature and accom-
plifnment of the promife, and to this purpofe they all
ferved until the time of reformation. To the fpiritual
part of the promife made to Abraham, there was annexed
a promife of the inheritance of the land of Canaan, that
it might inftrua: him and his feed in the nature of faith,
to live in the expeaation of what is not theirs in profef-
f^on ; that it might be a pledge of the love, power, and
faithfulncfs of God, in accomplidiing the fpiritual part of
^Jie promife \ that it might be a place of reft for the

Q 1% % Pbuiql^i


church, wherein it might attend fglemnly to the obfcr-
vance of all thofe inllitutions of worlhip, which were ap-
pointed to dire6t them to the promifc. Hence the decla-
ration of the promife of entering into Canaan, and the
reft of God therein, became, in an cfpecial manner, the

* preaching of the gofpcl' to them ; the land itfelf and
their profcfTion of it was facramcntal. It is worthy of
remark, that the words, * for unto us was the gofpel

* preached even as unto them,* fcem to import, that we
are no Icfs concerned in the gofpel declaration, and the
promife made unto them, than they were ; othcrwife the
apoflle would have rather faid, the gofpel was preached to
them even as to us ; feeing of its preaching to the pre-
fent Hebrews there could be no queftion. Paul reminds
his brethren, that their progenitors had a promife given
them of entering into the reft of God, which, becaufe of
\inbelief, they came fliort of, and periflied under his dif-
ple<ifure ; now, whereas, they might reply, what is that
to us, wherein are we concerned in it ; can we rejed a
promife which doth not belong to us ? The apoftle replies,
to us, to all the pofterity of Abraham in all generations
was the gofpel preached, in the promife of entering into the
reft of God ; and may no lefs be finned againft at any
time by unbelief, than it was by them to whom it was at
firft granted ; when it was preached to them, it was alfo
preached to us, fo that the obligation to faith and obe-
dience was no lefs on the one than on the other genera-
tion ; for the prcfent difpenfation of the gofpel was but
the continuation of the fame gracious promife.

§ 8. * The word preached did not profit them \ {o Kcycg
T'/jg uKorig) the word of hearing, which exprclTion, being
general, is limited by {i7myyi7\icc) the promfe, in the
verfc foregoing. The word [o Xoyoq) may be [ir.ccyyh'Kicc)
a promife in itfelf, but if it be not the word of hearing, that
is, fo man.'!gcd by tlic appointment of God as that we may
hear it, wc could have no advantage by it. In fliort, the
phrafc (Q'kQyoq'^y\q ot-iLor^q) imports, ' the promife preached/
and us preached. Of this word it is faid, * it profited
* them not/ they had no advantage by it \ for it was a



notorious faft, that notwithllandiiig the promife given of
entering into the reft of God, they entered not in. And
there Teems to be a meiojts in the words alfo ; it was fo far
from benefitting them, that it became the innocent occaiioa
of their ruin. As if he had faid, conlider What befell
them, how they pcrilhcd in the wildernefs under the in-
dignation of God, and you will fee how far they were
from having any advantage by what they heard ; and fuch
will be the iilue with all that Ihall negledl the word in like

§ 9. * Not being mixed with faith in them that heard.
* it.' The word not being mixed (^vi a-vyKcX,pa,jji-vog) taken in
a natural fenle, denotes to mix or mingle one thing with.
another, as water and wine ; or to mix compofitions \j\
cordials, or in poifons. This mixture which Wd.s properly
of a cup to drink, was fometimes fo made as to give it
Jlrength and efficacy to inebriate, or give it any pernicious
effect ; and hence a cup oi mixture is exprefled as an ag-
gravation. Sometimes the mixture was made to temperate
and alleviate, as water mixed with ftrong inebriating wine j
hence a cup without mixture is an expreffion of great in-
dignation ; [Rev. xiv. 10.] nothing being added to the
wine of fury and aflonifliment to take off its fiercenefs.
This being the import of the word, expofitors illuflratc
the whole fenfe by various allufions, whence they fuppofe
the expreffion to arife : fome to the mixture of things to
be eaten and drank, that they may be made fuitable and
•qfeful to the nourifhment of the body; fome to the mix-
ture of the natural ferment of the flomach with meat ancl
drink, caufing digeltion and nouriffiment ; and this laft
allufion fcems well to reprefent the nature of faith in thi^
matter. The fum is, fpiritual truths, being faviiigly bc,-
lieved, are miitcd with that faith which receives them ; {<t
incorporated with it, as that they come to be realized im
the foul, and to be turned into the principle of that new
nature whereby we live to God. The fame promife being
left to us as to them, and they came Jhort of it for want of
mixing faith with it, we have rcafon to be watchful againft
the like mifcarriagcs in ourfclves.

§ 10.


§ 10. (II.) The fubjcd will be farther cleared by the cii-
fuing obfcrvations :

Obf. I. Fear is the proper objeO' of gofpel communi-
cations, which ought to be anfwerabic to our feveral con-
ditions, and grounds of obnoxioufnefs to thrcatenings.
This is that which the apofllc preiTeth us to, on the con-
fideration of the fcverity of God againft unbelievers, pe-
remptorily excluding them out of liis rcll, after they had
reie(fted the promife ; * Let us,' faith he, ' fear therefore.*
As the fum of all promifes is enwrapped ii* thofe words,

* He that bclieveth Ihall be faved ; [Mark xvi. i ).] fo
the fum of all threatenings is in the following : * He that

* believeth not fhall be damned.* And a liue fummary
of gofpel promifes and threatenings we have again, [John
iii. 36.] * He that bclieveth Son the on hath everlaHing

* life, and he that believeth not the SiO:-\ fhall not fee life ;

* but the wrath of God abideth on him.' The law (as
tliflinguifhed from the gofpel) knows no more of gofpel
threatenings than of gofpel promifes ; for the tlircaten-
jngs of the law lie againll finners for fins committed ; the
threatenings of the gofpel are againfl fmners, for refaling
the remedy provided and tendered to them, l^hey are

Jupcradded X.O thofe of the law, and in them doth the gofpel
when rejec^led become * death unto death ;' [II. Cor. ii.
16.] by the addition of that punifliment contained in its
threatenings, to that which was contained in the threaten-
ings of the law. And this duty is always incumbent on
them to whom the difpenfation of the gofpel is commit-
ted ; for not onlv mav they jullly fuppoie that fuch there
arc, and always will be, in all churches, but alfo many
do continually declare thcmfclvcs to be in no better f\atc ;
and the difcovcry of it to them by the word is a great
part of our miniftcrial duty ; for they have a refpe<ft to
the nature of God, and are declarative of his condemn-
ing, liating, and forbidding that which the threatening is
denounced againfl ; thcv have a rcfpc*5> to the avV/of God,
and declare the connection there is, by God's inflitution,
between the fin prohibited and the punilhmcnt threatened ;
as in^t}iat v.ord, ' lie that bclieveth not fhall be dami^.ed,'




in which God declares the infallible connexion there is,
by virtue of his conltitution, between infidelity and dam-
nation. Wherever the one is final, the other Ihall be in-
evitable : and in this {cn{e they belong undoubtedly and
properly to believers; that is, they are to be declared and
preached to them, or preiied upon their confcienccs ; for
they are annexed to the difpenfation of the covenant of
grace, as an injlltuted means to render it efFeftual, and to
accomplifli the ends of it. Noah when he was warned of
God concerning the deluge, being moved with fear, pre-
pared an ark, [Hcb. ii. 7.] A due apprehenlion of the ap-
proaching judgement due to fin, and threatened by the
Lord againft it, made him wary ; {c\)7\u'^r$iLg) he was

* moved by this careful fear,* to ufe the appointed means
for his deliverance and fafety. The nature of this fear,
as difcovering itfelf in its effects, confifts principally in a
fedidous watchfulnefs againft all fin, by a diligent ufe of

inftituted means ; and to promote this is the dired de-
fign of God in his communications. What is the mind
and intention of God in any of his communications,
either as recorded in his word, or as declared and preached
to us by his appointment ? It is this ; that, confidering
the terror of the Lord, and the defert of fin, we fhould
apply ourfelves to that conftancy in obedience, which we
are guided to, under the condud of his good Spirit,
whereby we may avoid it.

And hence followeth, a conftant watchfulnefs againft
all carnal confidence and fecurity ; * Thou ftandeft by
' faith,' faith the apoftle, * be not high-minded, but fear,'
[Rom. ii. 20.] And whence doth he derive the caution?
From tht feverity o^ God in dealing with other profelTors,
and the virtual threats contained therein : * For if God

* fpared not the natural branches, take heed left he fpare

* not thee.' [ver. 2 i.] This fear is the great preventive of
carnal fecurity ; it ftands upon its watch to prevent the
mind from being influenced by the floth, or negligence, or
any other lufts of the flefh ; or by pride, prcfumption,
elation of heart, and other lufts of the fpirit. And,
therefore, this fear is not fuch a dread ai may take a fudden



tmpreiTJon on believers by a furprifal, or under fome fpc-
tial guilt contraftcd, but tiiat Which ought to accompany
VIS \\\ our whole courfe, as the apoftle Peter advifcth us ;

* Sec,* faith he, * that you pals the tiuie of your fojourning

* here with fear.* [I. Pet* i. 17.]

§ I I. O/y! 2. It IS a matter of great and tremendous
confcquence, to have the promifes left and propofcd to us.
When Mofcs had of old declared the law to the people, he
aflarcd them that he had fct life and death before them,
X)ne whereof would be the unqueftionable confequent of
that propofaL Much more may this be faid of the pro-
mifes of the gofpel ; they are ' a favour of life unto life,*
or * of death unto death,' to all to whom they are re-
vealed, as containing and exhibiting the whole love, good-
Ticfs, and grace of God towards mankind ; the infinite
•wifdom of the counfel of his will about their falvation.
Now even amongft men, it is a thing of fome hazard and
confequence, for any to have any offer made them of the
favour, love, and kindnefs of potentates or princes ; for
they do not take any thing more unkindly, nor ufually
revenge more fcverely, than the negleft of their favours ;
though their favour be of little worth, and not at all to
be confided in ; [Pfalm cxlvi. 3, 4.] And what (hall we
think of this amazing tender of all this grace, love, and
iciadnefs, exhibited in the promifc ! Everlafting blelle'd-
nefj, or cverlafting woe, will be the inevitable iifue.

§ 12. Ohf. 3. The failing of men through their un-
belief doth no way caufe the promife of God to fail or
ceafe. Thofe, to whom the promife here mentioned was
iirfl propofcd, came fliort of it, believed it not, and fo had
tin benefit by it. What then became of the promife itfclf ?
did that fail alio and become of none eflc«^ ? God forbid ;
it ftill remained and was left for others. This our apoftle
more fully declares elfcwherc, [Rom. Ix. 4 — 6.] For
having Hicwn that the promifes of God were given to the
poftcrity of Abraham, he forcfaw an ohjc^ion that might
be taken from the!\ce againft the truth and efficacy of the
promllls thcmfclves, which he anticipates and anfwcrs ;
[vcr. 6.] * Not as though the word of God,' that is, the



word of promifc, ' hath taken none cfFed ;' and fo pro-
ceedeth to fhew, that vvhofoever, and how many foever,
rejea the promife, yet they do it only to their own ruin ;
the promife fhall have its effed in others : ' for what if

* fome did not believe, fhall their unbelief make the faith

* of God of none efFeft ? God forbid.' The faith of ^God^
that is, * his glory in his veracity,' as the apoftle fhews in
the next words, * Yea, let God be true and every man a

* liar,' HE is engaged for the accomplifhment of his pro-
mifes. Men by their unbelief may difappoint themfelves
of their expedation, but cannot bereave God of his
faithfulnefs. And the reafon on the one hand is, that
God doth not give his promife to all men to have their
gracious efFed upon them, whether they will or no,
whether they believe or rejed them : and on the other
hand, he can and will raife up them, who fhall through
his grace mix his promife with faith, and enjoy the bene-
fit of it. If the natural feed of Abraham prove obflinate,
he can out of ftones raife up children unto him, who
fhall be his heirs to inherit the promifes. And therefore.
When the gofpel is preached to any nation, or city, or af-
feiilbly, the glory and fuccefs of it depend not^ upon the
wills of them to whom it is preached ; neither Is it fruf-
trated by their unbelief: for the falvation contained in it,
fliall be difpofed of to others, but they and their houfe
Ihall be deftroyed. This our Saviour often threatened
upon the obftinate Jews, which accordingly came to pafs.
And God hath blefTed ends in granting the outward dif-
penfation of the promifes even to them by whom they are
rejeaed; hence our apoftle tells us, that thofe who preach
the gofpel are * a fweet favour of Chrift unto God, as
• well in them that perifh, as in them that are faved,' [11.
Cor. ii. 15.] Chrift is glorified and God in him, in the
difpenfation of it, whether men receive or rejed it.

§ 1 3. Ohf 4. Not only baclifliding through unbehef,
but all appearances of tergiverfation in profei^ion, and oc-
cafions of them in times of difficulty and trials, ought to
be carefully avoided by profeflbrs : ' Left any of you

Vol II. H h h * ^<?^l<i


* (hould fcemJ' Not only a profefTion, but alfo the beauty
and glory of it is required of us. Now there arc two parts
of our profelTion that we arc to heed, left we fhould fccm
to fail when times of difficulty attend us: the one is per-
fonal holinefs, righteoufncfs, and univerfal obedience ;
the §they is the due obfervance of all the commands, or-
dinances, and inftitutions ofChiiftin thegofpel. There-
fore, we fhould have an equal relpcft always to both thefc
parts of profeffion, left failing in one we be found at
Ifngth to fail in the whole. For example, left while wc
arc fedulous about the due and ftridt obfervance of the
duties of wjlituicd ixjorjhip^ a neglcd or decay fhould
grow upon us, as to holinefs or moral righteoufnefs. For
whilft the mind is deeply exercifed about thofe duties,
cither out of a peculiar bent of fpirit towards them, or
from the oppofition that is made to them, the whole
man is oftentimes fo engaged, as that it is regardlefs of
pcrfonal holinefs and righteoufnefs. Such perfons have
fccmed like keepers of a vineyard, but their own vine-
yard they have not kept ; whilft they have been intent on
one part of the profeffion, others far more important have
been ncgle£ted. Corrupt nature is apt to compenfatc,
in the confcience, the negle£l of one duty with diligence
in another ; and if men engnge in a prefcnt duty, a
duty as they judge exceeding acceptable with God, and
attended with difficulty in the world, they are apt enough
to think that they may give themfclves a d'lfpenfation in
fome other things ; that they need not attend to univerfal
liolinefs and obedience, with the ftridtcft circumfpec-
tion and accuracy, as feems to be required : yea, this
is tiic ruin of moft hypocrites and falfc profcflors \\\
the world. — The other part of our profcffiDn confifts
in our adherence to a due obfervance of all gofpcl in-
•ftitutions and commands, according to the charge of
Chrift ; [Matt, xxviii. 20.] and the ncceftity of this
part of our profeffion appears from its comparative im-
fortance^ for the vifiblc kingdcm of Chrift in this world
depends upon it.


§ 14. Obf. 5. It is a fignal privilege to be evangelized.
This the prophet emphatically expreflcth ; [Ifa. ix. i, 2.]

* Neverthelefs the dimnefs fhall not be fuch as was in her

* vexation, when at the firft he lightly affli£led the land

* of Zebulon, and the land of Naphtali, and afterwards

* did mofl grievouHy afflidl her by the way of the fea bc-

* yond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations ; the people

* that walked in darknefs, have feen a great light i they

* that dwelt in the land of the fhadow of death, upon

* them hath the light fhined/ Ghrift in the preaching of
the gofpel is called the * fan of righteoufnefs,' as he who
brings righteoufnefs, * life and immortality to light by

* the gofpel.' Now what greater privilege can fuch as
have been kept all their days in a dungeon of darknefs
under the fentence of death be made partakers of, than to
be brought out into the light of the fun, with a tender of
life, peace, and liberty made them ? And this is in pro-
portion as fpiritual darknefs, inevitably tending to eternal
darknefs and death, is more miferable than any temporal
darknefs ; and in proportion as fpiritual light, the ' light

* of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of

* Jefus Chrift,' excelleth the outward light which direfts
the body. Hence Peter expreileth the efFe£l of the gofpel
by God's caUing us * out of darknefs into his marvellous
< light,' [I. Pet. ii. 9.] It is the gofpel alone that brings
the light of God, or life and blelTednefs, to men, who
without it are ur^der the power of darknefs here, ^nd re-
fer ved for everlafting darknefs and mifery hereafter.

§ 15. Obf. 6. I'he gofpel is no new dot^rinc: it
was preached to the people of old, as well as unto us.
The great prejudice againft the. gofpel at its firft preach i,ng
was, that it was generally efteemed {KaAVvi aioccyji) a neixx
dodrine, [A6ls xvii. 18.] a matter never known before
in the world. And fo was the preacbjng of Chrift him-
felf charged to be, [Mark i. 27,] But we may fay of
the gofpel, what John fays of the commandment of love ;
it is both a w^if commandment, and it is an a/^one, which
was from the beginning, [I. John ii. 7, 8.] In the
preaching pf the gofpel by the Lord Jefus Cbrift tiijnfelf,
H h U ^ <^^<4


and his apoftles, it was new in refpeft of the mannsr of its
adminiftration with fundry circumftanccs of light, evi-
dence, and power ; and fo it is in all ages, in refpcdl to
any frejh difcovcrics of truth from the word, formerly
hidden or eclipfcd: but whatever new declarations have
been made of it, whatever means have been ufed to in-
llruft men in it, yet the gofpel itfelf was Hill the famo
throughout all times and ages. What John the Baptift
faid of Chrifl and himfclf, may^ be accommodated to the
law and the gofpel, as preached by Chrift and his apoftles ;
tliougli it came after the law, yet it was preferred above it,
becaufe it was before it. It was, in the fubilance and effi-
cacy of it, revealed and promulgated long before thcgiv-
irtg of the law, and therefore in all things was to be pre-
ferred before it. It appears then from iirft to laft, the
gofpel is, and ever was, the only way of coming to God;
and to think of any other way for that end is both high-
ly vain, and exceedingly derogatory to tlic glory of God's
wifdom, faithfulnefs, and holinefs.

§ I 6. Ohf. 7. The great myflery of profitable believing
confifls in the mixing, or incorporating of truth and
faith in the minds of believers. I'ruth, as truth, is the
proper obje£l of the underftanding : hence, as it can alTent
to nothing but under the notion of truth ; fo what is fo
indeed, being duly propofed, it embraceth and cleaveth
to ncceffarily and unavoidably. For truth and the under-
flanding arc as it were of the fame nature, and being
orderly brought together, do abfolutely incorporate. It
implants a type and figure of itfelf upon the mind ; and
knowledge is the relation, or rather the union that is be-
tween the mind and truth, or the things that the mind
apprehends as true. And where this is not, when men have
only fluctuating conceptions about things, their minds are
filled indeed with opinions, but they have no true knczv*
led^c of any thing: as the mind a6t.s vuturally by its reafon^
to receive truths that arc natural and fuited to its capacity ;
fo it afls fpirituoth and fupcrnaturally hy faith, to receive
truths f|)iritu:d and fupcrnatural. Htrcwith arc thefe
truths to be mixed and incorporated. Believing doth not

con fill

Ver.1,2. epistle to the HEBREWS. 419

confiil ill a mere ojfcnt to the truth of the objc£ls, but in
fuch a reception of them, as gives them a real fubftjlence
in the foul; and this in~be'ing of the things believed really
operating and producing their immediate effed, love, joy,
and obedience, is their fpiritual mixture and incorpora-
tion, whereof we fpeak. And here lies the main diffe-
rence between faving faith, and the temporary perfuaiions
of convinced perfons ; the latter gives no fubfiflence to
the things believed in the minds of men, fo as to produce
their proper effects. It may be faid of them as it is of the
law in another cafe ; tliey have Xhtjhadow of good things
to come, but ncx^ the very image of the things. There is
not a real refleclion of the things they profefs to believe,
made upon their minds: for inilance; the death of Chrift,
or Chrifl crucified, is propofed to our faith in the gofpel;
now the proper cffed of genuine faith in this obje6l, is to
dcflroy, to crucify, or mortify fin in us ; but where it is
apprehended by a temporary faith only, this efFed will
not at all be produced in the foul. Sin will not be mor-
tified, but rather fecretly encouraged ; for it is natural to
men of corrupt minds to conclude, that they may ' con-
* tinue in fin becaufe grace doth abound.' — On the con-
trary, where faith gives the fubfiftence before mentioned
to the death of Chrifl in the foul, it will undoubtedly be
the death of fin. [Rom. vi. 3, 4.] A man may think well
of that which is tendered him, and yet not receive it; but
what a man receives duly, and for himfelf, becomes pro-
perly his own. This work of faith then, in receiving
the word of promife, with Chrifl and his atonement, con-
flfls in its giving them a real admittance into the foul, to
abide there as in their proper place. And how is it to
be received ? As a word, this is to be (-riMpvjog) ingrafted
into the mind. Now we all knovv^ that by ingrafting
there becomes an incorporation, a mixture of the Jiatures
of the flock and graft into one common principle. As
the fcion, being inoculated or grafted into the flock, turns
the natural juice of the flock into another kind of fru6li-
fying nutriment than it had before ; fo the word being by
its mixture with faith ingrafted into the foul, changetli



the natural operation of it, to the pr-duftion of fpiritual
clTcifis, which before it h'.J no virtue for; and it trans-
forms alio the whole mind, according to another allufion,
[chap. vi. ly.] into a new Ihape, as wax is changed by
the imprefnon of a feal into the likencfs of it. The
word is faid to be food» ftrong meat, and milk, fuitcd to
the refpcdtive ages and coi^.ftitutions of believers ; and
Chrifl, the principal fubjcft of the gofpcl revelation fays

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