John Owen.

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

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of himfelf, that he is the bread that came down from
lieaven, that his flcfli is meat indeed, and his blood drink
indeed. Now faith is the eating of this provifion ; and
as in eating the food is received, and by^digeftion turned
into the very fuhjionce of the body ; fo the word being
prepared as fpiritiial food for the foul, is received by faith,
and by a fpiritual eating and digeftion is turned into an
incrcafe and ilrcngtljening of the vital principles of fpiri-
tunl obedience ; and then doth the ' word profit* them
that hear it. Hence is the word of Chrift faid to diveli in
us, [Col. iii. I 6.] ' Let the word of Chrift dwell richly
* in you in all wifdom ;' and that inhabitation is from
this fpiritual incorporation or mixing ivith faith.

Without this it may indeed have various effc£ls upon
the mind, afFedions, and conkicnce ; but it comes to no
abiding habitation. Into the jnlnJs of ibme, for inftancc,
it cajls its rap for a fcafon, (tar,:-;) but is not rccciz'cd nor
comprehended, [John i. 5.] and therefore (hk avya^si)
it doth not enlighten them ; it comts and departs almoft
like lig^.tning, which rather amazcth than guidcth. On
the affetiions of fomc it makes a tranfient imprelTion, fa
that they hear it, and admit of its difpenfation with joy,
and feme prefent fatisfaclion. [Matt. xv. ao.] Yet it is
but like the firoke of a fkilful hand upon the ftrings of a
muilcal infirument, that makes a plcafant found for the
prcfcn", which infcniibly fmks and dies away. It lays
hold on the confciences. of fome, and preflcth them to a
reformation of condu£>, until they do many things gladly ;
[Mark xvi. 20.] but this is only in virtue of an efficacious
Jmpre/Tion from without; for tlie word doth not dwell in
t!»em, except i: Lath :i fidyijUfux in the foul, by its incor-


Veii.1,2. epistle to the HEBREWS. 43^

^oration with faith, in the manner defcribed. And alas •
\\o\v few thus improve the word ; it is but in one fort of
ground, where the feed incorporates fo with the earth, as
to take root and bring forth fruit, wliich fhould give us
all a godly jealoufy over our hearts in this matter^ that vv«
be not deceived.

§ 17. It is therefore worth our inquiry, by what means
faith is allifled in this work of profitably mixing the word
with itfelf ? And among thefe we place,

I. Conftant meditation, wherein faith itfelf is exercifed,
and its a£ls are multiplied. Conftantly fixing the mind
by fpiritual meditations on its proper object, is (KocjoTrlpi'
^zcr^ai) to behold fedfajily the glory of God in Jefus Chrift,
expreiTcd in the gofpel, asinaglafs, [II. Cor. iii. 18.] For
the meditation of faith is an intuition into the things be-
lieved, which operates a change into the fajne image, which
is but another exprefTion of the incorporation infifted on.
As when a man hath an adequate idea or model in his
mind of any thing to be cfFefted, he cafteth the image
framed in his mind upon his work, that it fhall exa£tly
anfwcrit; and fo when a man diligently contemplates any
thing without him, it begets an idea of it in his mind,
or calls it into the fame image. And this meditation by
which faith operates, is to be intuitive, conftant, looking
into the nature of the things believed. The apoftle James,
by a fimile, not lefs appofite to his purpofe than beautiful
and elegant, tells us, that he who is a mere hearer of the
word, is '• like a man conlidering his natural face in a glafs,

* who goeth away and immediately forgetteth what manner
*" of man he was/ [chap. i. 24.] What a ftriking pifturc
of a man that ufes but a flight and pcrfunflory confidera-
tion of the word ! But, faith he, the perfon (0 TroipoiKv^^oig)

* who diligently bows down,* and looks into the perfect
law of liberty, or the word of truth, and continuetii
therein by meditation and inquiry, is bleffed in all his ways.
The foul by faith meditating on the word of promife, and
the fubje^t matter of it, Chrift and his righteoufnefs,
Chrift is thereby formed in it ; [Gal. iv. 19.] and the word
itfelf is infcparably ' mixed with faith/ {9 as to fubfift



tvith it in the foul, and to produce therein its proper
tfFcds. This is to be * fpiritually minded ; and {<pc/)vsiy rot
U'yCd) [Col. iii. 2.] 'to mind the things that arc above,'
as thofc which yield the bell rehlh and lavour to the

§ iS. 2. Faith ft'ts loye at work upon the objci^s pra-
pofcd to be believed. There is in the gofpcl and its pru-
mifes not only the truth to be affented to, but alfo its
goodncfs^ excellency, and fuitablenefs. Under this con*
lidcration of them, they are proper objefts for love to ii:i
on, and faith worketh by hve, not only in aOs and duties
of mercy, righteoufnefs, and charity towards men, but
alio in adhering to, and delighting in the tilings of God
which are revealed as lovely. Faith makes the foul in
love with fpiritual things , love engages all other affec-
tions, and fills the mind continually with thoughtfulnefs
about them and defircs after them ; and this mightily helps
on the fpiritual * mixture of faith and the word.' It is
known that love is greatly efFe£lual to work an affimila-
tion between the mind and its proper object ; it will in-
troduce its idea unto the mind, which will never depart
from it. So will carnal love, or the impetuous working
of men's lufts by that affedtion ; hence Peter tells us, that
fonie men have * eyes full of adultery ; therefore are tlrey
conflantly unquiet, and * cannot ceafe from fin.' There
is fuch a mixture of luft and its object in their minds,
that they continually commit levvdnefs in themfelves. In
aiimilar manner fpiritual love, fet on work by faith, will
bring in an idea of the beloved object into the mind, until
the eye be full of it, and the foul is contlnuallv convcr-
fant with it. Our apoille cxpreirth his great love to
Chrift above himfclf and all tiie world, as a fruit of his
faith in him ; [ 8, 9.] The fuflcrings, death, and
rcfurreftion of Chrift, lie knew and bchcvco before ; but
he aims at more, he would have a farther inward ex-
perience of tlic power of his rcfurrc£tion , that is, he
would fo ynix it with faith by love to Chrlfl, as that it
might produce in him its proper cfTcfts, an increafe of
fpiritual life, all holinefs and obedience. He would alfo


Ver.3- epistle to THE HEBREWS. 4*3

be yet farther acquainted with xS\t fellowjhip oi his fuffer-
ings ; or obtain communion with him in them ; that the
fufFerings of Chrift, fuhfijl'mg in the Spirit by faith ^ might
caufe lin to fufFcr in him, and crucify the world to him,
and him to the world. By all which he aimed to be made
completely conformable to Chrift ; that his life, fuffer-
ings, and death might fo abide in him, that his whole
fcul might be cafl into his image and likenefs^

Verse 3.

for w^e which have believed do enter into rest,
as he said, as i have sworn in my wrath, if
they shall enter into my rest ; although
the works were finished from the founda*
tion of the world.

§ I — 9. (L) "The words explained. § 10 — I 3. (ll.) Oh^
fervations. I. The Jlate of believers under the gofpel is
a Jlate of blcjjed reft ; God's reft and theirs. § 1 4. There
is a mutual inbeing of the promifes and threatenings of thi
covenant. § 1 5 — I 7 . Othn cbfervatlcns,

§ I. (I.)xIaVING declared the danger of unbelief,
from the fm and punifhment of others, he proceeds from
the fame words and example to give them encourage-
ments to faith and obedience. But withal forefeeing that
an objedion might be raifed againll the very foundation
of his arguments and exhortation ; he diverts to the re-
moval pf it, and therein wonderfully ftrengthens and
confirms his whole dcfign. The foundation of the whole
cnfuing difcourfe lies in this, that there is a promife left us
§f ejitering into the reft of God \ [ver. I.] we ought, there-
fore, to take heed, that we come not fhort of by un-
belief The Hebrews might objedt, that they were now
Vol. II. I i i con-


concerned in the promifc, cfpccially in wliat is fnid of it
in the Pfalms. He, therefore, manifeOs that tlicre was
yet another reft remaining for the people of God, and was
referred to even in the words of the pfahnift, Tifphitual
reft yet abiding for believers, to which wc arc called, and
into which we are urged to feck an entrance.

This rell: then, we fay, primarily and principally, is
that fpiritual reft of God, which believers obtain bv Jcfus
Chrift, in the faith and worlliip of the gofpcl ; and is not
to be rcftrained to their eternal reft in heaven. This, there-
fore, is the import of the apoftle's alTcrtion. We who have
believed in Jefus Chrift, have through the gofpei an en-
trance given us, into that blefted ftate of reft in the vvor-
fhip of C^od which was of old promifed. [Luke i. 69 — 73.]
And as for thofe who will not take up their reft herein,
that accept not of the work he hath wrought, and the
atonement he hath made by faich, there remains no more
facrificc for their fin, but perifh they muft for ever.

§ 2. There only remains, for the full explicr.tion of
this aiTertion, that wc fliew what it is to enter into this
reft. And,

1. It is an cjitrance^ which denotes a riglit executed.
There was a right propofcd in this promife, but it is not
executed, or polFcfiion is not given but by believing. It
h faith v/hich gives us fjus in re J a right in poftclTion, an
aftual pcrfonal intercfi, both in the promifes and in the
reft contained in them, with all the privileges wherewitli
it is attended.

2. It is 6ut an entrance into reft ; — bccaufc the reft itfclf
is not abfolutc and complete. Look to what is pajl^ what
■wc are delivered from, and it is a glorious reji ; but look
to what \i future y and it is itfclf but a pnjjagc into a more
glorious reft. — Another rcafon is, bccaufc we meet with
contcfts and oppofitions in this ftate. As the Ifraelites
after they had paffed over Jordan, and according to the
promife were entered into the reft of God, yet had great
work to do, in fecuring and prcfcrving the polfcHioii
which they had taken by faith ; fo is our entrance into
the reft of God in this world : wc have yet fpiritual ad-



verfaiics to coriflid with, and the utmoft of our fpiritual
endeavours arc required to fecure our pofTefTion, and to
carry us on to perfed reft.

§ 3. As he faid, as I have fworn in my wrath, if they
* fhall enter into my reil.' How is it proved that we who
hzWiWQjball enter mio reft? Bccaule God fware concerning
ctbtrs, that tXityJhould not do fo. The apoftlc's argument
depends upon a known rule ; that to things immediately
contrary, contrary attributes may be certainly alcribed ;
fo that he who afi^rms the one, at the fiime time denies
the other ; and he that denies the one, affirms the other.
He that fays it U day, doth as really fay it is not night, as if
he ufed thofe formal words Now the propoiition laid
down by the apoftle in proof of his afiertion is this,
they v*^ho believed not, did not enter into God's reft ;
for God fware that they fliould not, becaufc they believed
not. Hence it follows inevitably, in a juft ratiocination,
that * they who do believe, do enter into that reft ;' for the
promife being the fame, if unbelief exclude, faith gives
entrance. And here, by the way, we may take notice of
the ufe of rcafon, or logical dedudions, in proposing and
confirming o( fupernatural truths, or articles of faith. For
the validity of the apoftle's proof in this place, depends oil
the certainty of the logical maxim before mentioned, the
confidcration of which removes its whole difficulty. And
to deny this liberty of deducing confequences according to
the juft rules of ratiocination, is quite to take away the
vfe of the fcriptures, and t ♦ banifh reafon from thofe
things wherein it ought to be principally employed. — Be-
lides, the covenant of God is adminiftered to us in pro-
mifes and threatcnings ; they all have the fame ^«^ allotted
them, and the y2?^^ ^r^r^ to make them effeclual. Hei\ce
every threatening includes a promife in it, and every pro-
mife in its propofal hath alfo the nature of a threaten-
ing. There is a natural inbeing of promifcs aiKi threaten-
ings, in reference to the ends of th'; covenant; God ex-
prelfing his mind in various ways, hath ftill the fame end
in them all. The firft covenant was given out in a mere
word of threatening ; ' the day thou eateft thou flialt die ;'

I i i 2 yet


yet no one doubtcth but that there was a promife of hfc
\ipon obedience included in threatening, yen and principally
intended. So there is a threatening in every promife of
the gofpel. Whereas, therefore, there is a great theatcn-
ing confirmed with the oath of God in thefc words, that
thofc who beheved not, flioiild not enter into his refl ;
there is a promife included in the fame words, no Icfs
folcmnly confirmed, ' that beHevers JJjould enter Into reJlJ*

§ 4. * Although the works were finiflicd from the
* foundation of the world,' — It is evident that the apoftlc
here undertakes to confirm what he had laid down in the
foregoing verfcs, viz. that there is yet under the gofpel a
promife of entering into the reft of God remaining for
believers, and that they do enter into that reft, by mixing
the promife of it with faith. This he proves by a tefti-
mony out of the ninety-fifth P faint. * But that reft, it might
' be faid, feems to have been long fince pq/l 2nd enjoyed /
to remove this objection, he proceeds to the expofition
and vindication of that teftimony, in which he flievfs,
that no other reft is intended in them, but the reft of God
and of his people in the gofpel ; and which he proves by
various arguments, laying fingular weight upon this mat-
ter. For if there was a w^xf refl promifcd, and they mixed
not the promife of it with faith, during the continuance
©f God's patience towards them, they muft perifh eter-
nally. The general argument he infifts on, confifts in an
enumeration of the fevcral refls of God, and of his people,
mentioned in fcripture ; i»T,d from the confideration of
them ally he proves, that no other refl could bt principally
intended in the words of David, but of the gofpel into
which Chriftian believers enter, and of which all others
were ftriking rcprefentations. In purfuit of his dcligij
thd apoftlc declares in particular,

I. That the reft mentioned in the Pfalm, is not that
■which cnfued immediately on the creation ; becaufc it is
fpoken of a long tiine after, and to another purpofc,
[vcrfc 4, 5-]

9.. That it is not the reft of the land of Canaan, becaufc
lliat wav not entered into by them to whom it was pro-
mifcd ;


miied ; for they came fhort of it by their unbelief, and
perilhed in the wiidcrncfs ; but now this rcll is oiFered
afrelh, [ver. 6, 7.]

3. Whereas it may be obje£led, that * although the

* wilderncfs-generatioii entered not in, yet their poflaitj

* did, under the conduct of Jofhua,* [ver. 8.] He anfwcrs,
that this reft being promifed and propofed by David, fo
long a time (above 400 years) after the people had quietly
poflelled the land into which they were conducted by
Jofhua, it muft needs be, that anotlier reft yet to come was
intended in thofc words, [ver. 9.] And,

4. To conclude his arguments, he declareth, that this
new reft hath a new peculiar foimdatlon ; the author of it

* ceaftng from his own work,' and * entering into his reft/
[ver. 10.]

§ 5. But we are yet farther to inquire into the nature of
the feveral refts here referred to, with their mutual re-
lation ; and fome light into the whole may be given in the
cnfuing proportions :

1. The reft of God is the foundation and principal
caufe of our reft ; * if they fhall enter into my reji' It
is on fome account or other God' i reft before it is ours.

2. God's reft is not fpoken of abfolutely with refpeft
to himfclf only ; but with reference to that which enfued
thereon for the church. Hence it follows, that the refts
here mentioned are as it were double ; for inftance, at the
finifhing of the works of creation, which is iirft pro-
pofed, God ceafed from his work and reftcd ; this was his
•wn reft ; * he rcfted on the fevcnth day.' But that was
not all ; he blefled it for the reft of man^ as an cxpreftivc
rcprcfcntation, and a means, of our being taken into a
participation of the reft of God.

3. The apoftic propoleth to coniideration, the three-
fold Jiate of the church — that under the law of nature, or

creation — that under the law of inflitution, or carnal or-
<linances — and that now introduced under the gofpel. To
each of thefe he alfigns a diftinft reft of God \ and a reft of
the church entering into God's reft \ and a day of reft as a
means and pledge thereof.


§ 6. I. lit' coiifulcrs tlic cliurcii and the {late of it
under the luio of naiuvc^ before the entrance of lin. And
htrciii he lliews, firft, that there was a rcil of God ; * for

* the uoiks, faith he, were fmillied from the foundation of

* the world,' and ' God did rell from all his works/ [verfc
^, 4.] This was God's own reft, and was the foundation
of the church' s reil. For it was the duty of man hereon,
to enter into the reft of God, that is, to make God his
ref:., here in fiiith and obedience, and hereafter in imme-
diate fruition ; hence a day of reft, the feventh day, was
blclild and fandlilied for the prcfcnt means of entering
into the reft oi God, in the performance of his worfhip,
snd as a pledge of its eternal fuhicfs and continuance,
[verfc 3, 4.] So til at in this ftate of the church, there
were three thiiigs coniiderable, — God' s rcjl — Alaii s entci -
iNg inio that rcji — a day of rejl^ as a remembrance of thx
one and a pledge of the other ; in all which there was a
type of our reft under the gofpel, wherein Immanucl
(God with us) doth ceafe from his zvorky and therein lays
the foundation of the refts enfuing. Again,

§ 7. 2. He confide rs the cliurch under the b'-ju of injVi'
tut'ion ; (and herein he reprefenteth the reft of Canaan \)
¥;hcrcin alfo the three diftinct refts before mentioned
occur — there was in it a reft of God ; this gives deno-
mination to the whole ; for he ftill calls it * my reft \ and
God wrought, with refpe£t to it, great and mighty works,
and ceafcd from them when they were finiihed, which
anfvvcred the work of creation, to which it is compared
by himfclf, [IGi. li. 15, 16.] * I am the Lord thy God

* that divided the fea, whofe waves i oared : the Lord of
« hofts is his name. And I have put my words in thy
' mouth, and 1 have covered thee in the fliadow of mine

* hand, that 1 may plant the lieavcns, and lay the foun-

* dation of the earth, and fay unto Zion, thou art my

* people.' On the llnilhing of tliis work, he * entered

* into his reft ;' for after the eredion of his worlhip in
the land of Canaan, he faid of it, * Ihis is nnrejiy and

* here will I dwell.' [Pfal. cxxxii. 14.] Hence, God being
thus watered into hh reft, in like manner as before, two



things enfued ; — that the people are invited to enter into
the fame, that is, by faith and obedience to participate of
his appointed worlhip, wherein he relied ; which though
fome came fho. t of by unbelief, yet others entered into it
under the conduct of Jolhua. Hence alfo enfued — a day
of reft ; that it might be a token and a pledge of his own
reft in his inftituted worPaip, ai-id be a means in the
folcmn obfervance of it, to farther their entrance into the
reft of God ; and this became a peculiar yTj;: that he was
ihcir God, and that they were his people. It is true, this
day was the fame, in the order of the days, from the
foundation of the world ; but yer it was now re-eftablifned
upon new confiderations. The time of altering the day-
was not yet come ; for this work was but preparatory for a
greater ; and whereas, both the refts were dellgned to rcr^
prefent the reft of the gofpel, it was meet they Ihould
agree in the common pledge and token of them. Befides,
the covenant whereunto the /event/? day was originally an^
nexed, was not yet abolifhed ; and therefore, that day-
was not yet to be changed. Hence the feventh day fell
under a double confideration ; — As it was a requiflte pro-
portion of time for the worfliip of God, and appointed
as a pledge of his reft under the law of creation, wherein
it had refpetl: to God's reft from the works of creation
alone ; — And, as it received a new inftitution, with fi;pcr~
added ends and figniiications, as a token and pledge of
God's reft under a law of inftitutions. But materially
the day was to be the fame, until that work was done,
and that reft was brought in, which both of them did
iignify. Thus, in each of thefe ftates of the church there
Avas — A rcji cf God for their foundation ; — A rejl in ohe^
d'lence and worHiip for the people to enter into; — And a
day of reft, as a pledge and token of both the other.

§ 8. The apoftlc farther prove-, from the w^ords of the
pfalmift, tliat yet there v;as to be a third ft ate of the church,
an efpccial ftate under the Mc(iiah, of which the others
were only types and fliadows. Now to the conftitutioji
of this reft, as before, tlirec tilings are required. — That
there be ioait Ji[^nal ivtrk of God i and this being finifhcd



- — That there mufc be a fpintual reft arifing thence, for
believers to enter into ; and — That there be a renevjcd day
^f ycfty to exprcfs the reft of God to us, and to be a means
and pledge of our entering into it. And that all thclc
concur in this new Ibtc of the church, it is the apoftle's
defign to demonftrate. And to this end lie fhcwcth ; —
that there is a great in'ork cf God finiflicd, for the founda-
^on of the whole. As God wrought in the creation of
all ; fo Chrift, who is God, vj} ought in the fctti ng up of
this new church ftate ; and, upon his completing it, he
entered into his rejl\ cealing from his works, as God alfo
did from his creation-work, [ver. lo.] — That hence fol-
lows a rcji for the people of God ; and — That there muft
be a neiv day of reft, fuited to this new church ftate, which
muftarifc from the reft that Chrift entered into, when he
had finifhed the work, whereby that new church-ftate was
founded. This is the fabbath keeping which the apoftlc
concludes he had evinced from tlic former difcourfcy
[ver. 9.]

§ 9. And concerning this day we muft obferve,

1. That this, in common with the former days, is a
Jcihbat'ifm^ or one day in feven, for this portion of time to

be dedicated for the purpofes of reji, having its foundation
m the law of nature, was equally to pafs through all ftatc^
of the church.

2. That whereas both the former ftatcs of the church
had one and the fame day, though varied as to fome ends
in the latter inftitution ; now the day itfelfis, changed, be-
caufe it refpe«5ls a work quite of a different nature, as it^i
foundation, than that day did which went before.

3. That the obfervation of it is fuited to the fpiritual
fJatc of the church under the gofpel, delivered from the
flavifh frame of Ipirit wherewith it was obferved under
the law. Thefe the rcfts the apoftlc here treats of; a
three- fold reft under a three-fold ftate of the church ; and
i.^ any of thefe be left out of our confideration, the whole
flrufturc of the difcourfe is dilfolved.

§ 10. (II.) Ohf. I. The ftate of believers under the
gofpel, is a ftate of bleiTcd reft ; it is God's icft and



theirs. God created man In a flate of prefent reft ; and,
as a token of it, iniututed the feventh day, that man by
his example and command might improve it. Now this
reft conlifted in peace with God, fatisfadion and commu-
nion ; which were loft by the entrance of ftn, and all
mankind were brought thereby into an eftate of trouble
and difquietment. In the reftoration of thefe, in a better
and more fecure way, doth this gofpel ftate of behevers

1. Without it our moral ftate, in refpe6l to God, is
an eftate of enrnity and trouble ; and there is no peace be-
tween God and Tinners : they exercife enmity againft God
by fin, [Rom. viii. 7.] and God cxecuteth righteous en-
mity againft them by the threats and curfes of the law,
[John iii. 36.] Hence nothing enfues to the guilty but

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 38 of 46)