John Owen.

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

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trouble, fear, difquietment, and anguifh of mind ; but all
is removed by the gofpel ; for being juftified by faith wc
have peace with God, [Rom. v. i.] Jefus Chrift then is
our peace, who hath reconciled us to God by the crofs,
having flain the enmity thereby, [Ephef. 11. 14, 15.]

2. There is in all men before the coming of the gof-
pel, a luant of acqulefcency and fatisfaftlon in God. This
is produced by the corrupt principle and power of fin,
which, having turned off the foul from God, caufeth it
to wander in endlcfs vanities, and to purfue various lufts
and pleafurcs, feeking after reft which always flees from
it. This is the great real a£tlve principle of difquietment
to the fouls of men, which makes them like a ' troubled
* fca that cannot reft ,* and is there, can there be any
peace or happinefs in fuch a condition ? But this alfo is
removed by the gofpel, for its work is to deftroy and ruin
that power of fin, which hath thus turned off the foul
from God, and to renew his image in it, that it may
irakc him its ultimate and eternal reft. This is the glori-
ous effeil of the gofpel, to take men off from their prin-
ciple of alienation from God, to turn their minds and af-
fedlons to him as their rpft, fatisfaftion, and reward ;
and other way under heaven for thefe ends there is none.

Vol. II. K k k 3. To


3. To peace with God, and acquiefcency in him, a
way of rcourfc and communion is required to com^Jctc
a ftatc oFlpiritual reft ; auc'tliis, ai it was ioit by fiii, is
alfo rellored by tlie gofpel.

§ 12. It is true v.- are told, Tliat in the world wc fhall
fiiid trcLh/cy but ir is alfo told us. That in Ciiriil wc
•fliall have peace, [John xvi. 33.] The rell we treat of^
h fp'i ritual ; God's rell:, and our reft in Goa ; and there-
fore is not inconfiftent with outward irrubiCy [ivoin. viii.
35 — 39] * Who fhcTJl feparatc us from the love of

* Chriil V Shall tribulation, ';r dt!lref<?, or pcrfecution, or

* famine, or nakednefs, or peril, or fword ? Nay, in all

* thefe things we are more than conquerors through him
' tliat loved us: for I am pe^fuaded, that neittitr death,

* nor life, nor a: gels, nor principalities, nor powers,

* nor things prefcnt, nor things to come, nor height,

* nor dfpth, nor any other creature, Ihali be able to Ic-
' parate ns from the love of God which is in Chrift Jefus
< our Lord.' The fum of all is this, that no outward
thing, no pofHble oppoiition, fliall prevail to call us out
of that refl which wc have obtained, or impede our future
entrance into eternal reft with God. And as cur peace
with God in Chrift can neither be weakened or impaired
by outward troubles ; fo it fuppiies us with fuch prefcnt
joys, a'ld infallible future expectations, as enables us
both to glory in them, an.d triumph over them, [Rom. v.
o — 5.] * If ye be reproached for the name of Chrift,

* happy arc ye ; for the fpirit of glory and of God rcftcth

* upon vou,* [I. Pet. iv. 14.] \\hatever evil and trouble
may befal u:^ on account of the gofpel, adds to that blclfcd
ftatc of reft whcreinto we arc entered ; for therein * the

* Spirit of glory and of God rcfteth on us ;* the fpccial
work of the Spirit of God, who works glor'ioujly in them,
fupporting, comforting, and powerfully enabling them to
profcrvc their fouls in this ftatc of reft, which cannot be
impeached with any outward troubles.

§ 13. But how docs it feem inwardly and fpirituallr
to anfvvcr the dcfcription now given of it ' For arc thee


Veii.3. epistle Tn THE HEBRl^WS, 433

not many true believers wl^n :\\l tl'cu days never corns to
any abiding knk of peace vvidi God, but are filled with
trouble, and exerciicd with fearb and perplexities, fo that
they go mourning and heavily ail tJieir days ? But we
fliould not forget that it is one thing to be in a fiate of
reft, and another to hioiv that a man is pofTeffed of it.
Believers are by faith inuated ia reft, being reconciled to
God by the blood of the crofs ; but all may not have
affual reil in all particulars ; nay, a flate of reft in general
may admit of much a(ftual di'.quietment ; wliereby the
ftate itfelf is not overthrown, nor the intercfts of any in
it difannulied. There is a great diiFerence between a ftatc
itfelf, and ir.en's participations of that ftate. This gofpel
Hate of itfelf is an cftatc of complete peace and reft ; but
our participation o^ it is various and gradual. A full reft
in it is provided and exhibited ; but this vvc receive accord-
ing to our feveraj meafures and attainments. Let it be
remembered, that our whole intereft in this reft is called
^ our entrance ;' we do enter, and we do but enter; we
are fo polleifed of it, as that v.'e are continually entering
into it.

§ 14. 01?/. 2. There is a mutual Inhcing of the pro-
mifes and threatenings of the, covenant, fo that in our
faith and confideration of them they ought not utterly to
be feparated. Wherever there is a promife, there a
threatening in reference to the fame matter is tacitly un-
derftood ; and wherever there is a threatening, be it never
fo fevere, there is a gracious promife included in it. Yea,
fometimes God gives out an exprefs threatening for no
other end but that men may lay hold on the promife tacit-
iy included. The threateTiing that Nineveh Ihould perifh,
was given out that it might not pe.rijlj \ and John the Bap-
tift's preaching, that the ' axe was laid to the root of the
* tree,' was a call to repentance, that }ionc m'lght be cut
down and caft into the hrc. And the reafoiis hereof are,
— becaufe both promifes and thre'nteninns ticw from the
fame fourcc, and are expreftive of the holy gracious nature
of God, with refpeft to his airings towards men in cove-
nant with himfelf. — Both of them, as annexed to the cq-

K k k 2 venan^


vcnant, have the y^zw^ end. The ufe of divine threatcn'mp^
for inllancc, is no other than to make fuch a rcprefenta-
tion of God's holincfs and righteoufnefs to men, as that
being * moved by fear/ they rhay be flirrcd up to faith
and obedience. So Noah, upon God's warning, tliat is,
his threatening the world with dcftru(^;on, being ' moved
' by fear, prepared an ark,' [Hcb. xi. 7.] — Tb- fame grace
is adminijlered in the covenant to make the one and the
other efle(SluaL Men are apt to think that the promifes of
the gofpel are accompanied towards the c\c^^ with a fup-
ply of effcclual grace to render them iifcful, to enable
them to believe and obey ; this makes them to hear thcni
willingly, and attend to them gladly ; they think they can.
never enough conlider or meditate upon their contents ;
but as for the thrcatenings of the golpcl, they fuppofe they
have no other end but to make them afraid. This, how-
ever, is a great miftake ; threatenings are no lefs fanftitied
of God, for the ends mentioned, than promifes are ; nor
arc they, when duly ufed and improved, lefs efTeflual to
that purpofe : and there can be no reafon why men fhould
diflike the preaching and confideration of them, but be-
caufe they too well like the fins and evils againfl which
they arc levelled.

§ 15. Ohf. 3. God hath fliewed us in his own exam-
ple, tiiat work and labour is to precede our reft. This
he plainly declares in the fourth commandment, where
the reafon he gives w^hy we ought, in a returning courfe,
to attend to 11 x days of labour before we fanclify a dav of
rell, is becaufe he wrought himfelf fix days, and then
entered into his reft, [Exod. xx. 9 — 11.] But now tlicrc
is an alteration under the gofpel. The day of reft under
the law, as a pledge of final reft with God, was the /t-
veyith dav ; but under tlic gofpel it is x\\z fiyjl day of the
ii:\Q.\\. Then the week of labour went hcjorc^ now it fol-
lows after ; and the iciibn hereof feems to be taken from
the dificrcnt ftate of the church ; for of old, under the
covenant of works, men were ablblutely to labour, with-
out any alteration of their condition, hcfcrc they entered
into reft ; they would have had only a continuance ot therr



ilate wherein they firft fctout, but no reft until they had
wrouc^ht for it ; tlie iix days of labour went before, and
the day of reft followed : but now it is otherwife ; the
firfl: tiling that belongs to our prefcnt ftatc, is an entering
into reft initially, for we enter in by faith ; and then our
working enfues, that is, the obedience of faith. Reft is
given us to fet us on work ; and our works are fuch, .sbC
for tne manner of their performance are confiftent with a
ftate of reft ; hence our day of reft goes bfore our days oF
labour ; and t'^ofe who contend now for the obfervation of
the fcvcnth^ do endeavour to bring us again under the
covenant of works ^ that we fliould do all our works before
we Ihould enter into any reft at all.

§ I 6. Ejt it will be obje'^ed, * That this is contrary to

* our former obfervation, that after the example of God
*■ we mrft w^ork before we enter into reft.' — To this I an-
fwer : I'he reft intended in the propofttion is abfolutely
complete ami perfect ; the reft which is to be enjoyed with
God for ever. Now, antecedent to the enjoyment of
that, all our works performed in a ftate of initial reft rauft
be wrought ; and although we are here in a ftate of reft,
in comparifon of what went before, yet this alfo is a ftatc
of w^orking with refpcdl to that fulnefs of everlafting reft
enfuing. We are not only to do, but alfo to fuffcr ; this
way is marked out for us ; let us purfue it patiently, that
we anfwer the example, and be like our heavenly Father.

§ 17, Obf. 4. All the works of God are perfeft : he
finifhed them, and faid that they were good ; ' He is the.

* rock, and his work is perfcft,' [Deut. xxxii. 4.] His
infinite wifdom and pov*^er require that it ftiould be fo,
and make it impolftble that it fliould be otherwife. The
conception of them is perfe£l in the infinite counfel of his
will ; and the operation of them is perfcft, through his
infinite power. Nothing can proceed from him, but what
is fo in its own kind and meafure, and the whole of his
works is ^o abfolutcly, [fee Ifa. xl. 27, 28.] As when he
undertook the work of creation, he finifhed it in fuch a
yiianner, that it w^as in his own eyes exceedingly good ; fo



the works of grace and provjudiitc-, w}>ich arc yet, as i^
were, upon the wheel, fhali ii. 'ikt manner bt accom-
plifncJ. And this may teach uz ac ail times to trult hiii>
viith liis own works, and all ov.r concerns in them, whe*
ther they be the works of his grace in our hearts, or the
works of his providence in the world. * He wi.l perfcd

* that which concerneth us, becaul'e his mcrcv endureth

• for ever, and will not fcrfake the works of his own
Miaads/ [Ffalm cxxxviii. 8. J

Ver. 4, 5.

for he spake in a certain place of the sen
venth day on this wise, and god did rest
the seventh day from all his works. and
in this place again, if they shall enter.
into my rest.

f I. (I.) 'The iL'crds explained. The manner and fuhje^ of
the .^rcfcut tcflimony. § 2. l^hc tejtimony i^jclf. § 3*
Another corrohoraUn^ te/lhnonv. § 4. (II-) Ohiervations.
I . Jl hatever the fcripturc Ja'ith, in any place, is a firm
foundation of faith. § 5. 2. Eucry thuig in the "JL'orJhif
if Godfhould rej} on divine authority.

i I- (I.) ' 1 OR he fpakc In a certain place.' (E/('>;J6.-,.
dixit) fuid \ the nominative cafe is not expreffcd ; cither
the firipture hatii faid, which is not dead and mute, but
living and vocal, even the voice of God, to them who
have cars to hear ; or, it may be (7/f ) a certain man faid ;
or, he hath faid, that is, God himfelf, the Holy Ghoft :
or it is taken impcrionally, for fdiciturj it is faidj (7ri<,
fi/icul'ii in quodam LucoJ fomojuhcrey in a certain place. Tlir




fum is, that there was a reft of God and his people, and
aifo a day of reft, from the foundation of the world, v^'hich
was no! the reft here mentioned by the pfahiiift, as'he al-
ledgeth not his author exprejlly, neither doth he the parti-
cular place where the words are recorded, referring the
Hebrews to the fcripture, which was the common acknow-
ledged principle of truth between them, which he and they
would acquiefce in, and wherein they were verfed ; at
leaft in the books of Mofes, and particularly in the hif-
tory of the creation* whence thcfe words are taken,
[Gen. ii. 2.]

(II;p/ 7T,g 5/(3Sc^/j^, de die fept'ima, or, de fcptlmaj
of the feventh day. The jevcnth (cjS^o^'/j) may be ufed
cither naturally and abfolutely for (;^ TfUi^a, vj £J2^oul-/j) the
feventh day^ that is, from the beginning of the creation,
wherein the firft complete returning courfe of time was
liniihed ; after which, a return is made to the firft dav
again ; or, it may be ufed artificially^ as a notation of a
certain day peculiarly fo called i or,»as the name of one day,
as moft nations have given names to the weekly courfe of
days ; for at that time (-^^ :-l3lo{j.a2ri) the feventh was the
name whereby the Hellenifts called the fabhath day. So it
is always termed by Philo, as others have obferved ;
which (by the way) is no fmall evidence that this epiftlc
was originally written in the Greek tongue. So in the
gofpel (ijua. (ra[^&aTCA)v) one^ or, the firft of the zveck, is the
notation of the Lord's day. We fhould remember that it
is the fahhath of which the apoftle is fpeaking, and it re-
fpe(fi:s both the reft of God, and the reft ?.ppornted for us
thereon. God made way for his creatures to enter into
his reft, and gave them a day as a pledge thereof. {{O'\j]uoq)
on thh vj'ife, or, to this purpofc, either as precifely denotinp*
t\\t ^vordsy or, as rcfpedling they^^'^;2r/r of them.

§ 2. The teftimony itfelf enfues ; * And God did reft
• the feventh day from all his works.* The apoftle in-
tends not only to ufe the mere words he cites, but in them
he dire£ls us to the whole pafjage whereof they are a part ;
for it would not anfwer his purpofe to Ihcw merely that
God reued fiom his works, which thefe words aftirm ;



his aim is to manifcil, tliat tiK-rcoii tb.,rc was a refl pro-
vided ior us to enter into, ana a^'' y of reft appointed as
a pledge thereof; and this is fully expicir*.' i:i the place
referred to, for God upon his own rtll bklfed the fcvenlli
Jay and fan£tilied it. '

(K«/.-7r^'j(rfv Q:og) ^ Gnd reftcd.' A cclTation from
work, and not a refreiliment upon wcarincfs, is intended.
God is not weary, he is no more fo in the work of crea-
tion, than he is in the work of providence, [Ifa. xl. ?.o.]

• The creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, nor is

• weary :' he laboureth not in working ; and therefore
nothing is intended but a ccifaticn from exerting his
creating power to the produdion of more creatures, with
bis fatisfa£tion in what he had already done. Junius
renders it, fcum autcm pcrfec'ifjct Deus die fept'imo cpus fuum
quod fcccraty quicvitj *' When God had perfected his
'* work, on the feventh day, he refted ;'* thus the feventh
day is not exprefled as a time wherein any work was done,
bat as the time immediately prefent after it was finiflicd ;
and the word here ufed (n^3) doth not properly iignify to
vjo)k, or efFcdl, but to * complete,* perfect, or accbm-
plifh ; * wlien he had perfcclcd his work ;* fo that on the
feventh day there was no more work to do. — This then
is the fum of what is here laid down ; 7'hat from the be-
ginning, from the foundation of tlic world, there was a
work of God, and a reft cnfuing thereon ; and an entrance
propofed to 7ncn into that rcil, and a day of reft, as a
pledge thereof; which yet was not the reft intciuled l)y
the pfalmift, as in the next verfe.

§ 3. * And in this place again, if they (hall enter into

• my reft.' (K^^/ .-v t^!.^^,) and in this. The cxprellion is
elliptical, and the {cnfc is to be fupplicd from the begin-
ning of the fourth verfc ; * F'or he fj^ake in a certain

• place ; and again, he fpake in this place.' — ' If they

• fliall enter into my reft.* — He takes it for granted,
that an entrance into the reft of God for fome is
intended in thofe very words, whereby others were ex-
cluded. This prefent argument is from the ti/nc when,
and place where thcfe words were fpoken, which include

2 a r(/f


« reji of God to be entered Into. Now this was the time of
Mofes, and in the wiWrnefs, fo that they cannot intend
the fabbatlcal reft from the foundation of the world ; for
the works, faith he, were finifhed in fix days, and the
feventh was blefled and far n:ified for a day of reft, as
Mofes teftifieth G^w, ii. i — 3. And as this was tendered^
and entered into by fome, from the foundation of the
world ; it muft, therefore, of neceftity be another rejly
that is fpoken of by the pfalmift, and to which the people
were afrejh invited. This is therefore his purpofe in the
repetition of this teftimony, that the reft mentioned there-
in, was not that which was appointed from the beginning of
the world ; but another, the propofal of which yet remained.
So then, upon the whole, there was another reft of God^
befides that upon the creation of all, as is evident from this
place, which he farther coniirms in the next verfe.

§ 4. (ir.) The obfervations that offer themfelves are
the following :

Obf. I. Whatever the fcripture faith in anyplace, being
rightly underftood and applied, is a firm foundation for
faith to reft upon : and for arguments or proofs, in mat-
ters of divine worfliip, to be deduced from. Thus the
apoftle here confirms his own purpofe and intention. His
aim is to fettle the judgement of thefe Hebrews in things
pertaining to the worfliip of God \ and to fupply them
with a fujficient authority, which their faith might be re-
folved into. This he doth by referring them to ' a cer-
' tain place of fcripture,' where the truths he urgeth ar.e
confirmed ; for he defigned to deal with thefe Hebrews,
not merely upon his apoftolic authority, and the revela-
tion he had received from Jefus Chrift, as he ufed
to deal with the Gentile churches, but on the common
principles of the Old Teftament fcriptures, which were
mutually acknowledged by him and them. It is utterly
impolfible that, in things concerning religion and the
worftiip of God, we can ever be engaged in a caufe at-
tended with more difficulties, and liable to more fpecious
oppohtion, than that which our apoftle was now managing.
He had the pra^ice of the church, continued from the

Vol. II. L 1 1 firft


firft foundation of it, rcfolvcd into the authority of Gocf
himfclf as to its inllitution, and attended with his accep-
tance of the worlhippers in all ages, with other feeming
difadvantages and prejudices innumerable, to contend with ;
yet this he undertakes on the fole authority of the fcrip-
tures, and teftimonics to his purpofe deduced thence, and
glorioufly accompliflieth his defign. Certainly, whilfl wc
have the fame warranty of the word for what we avow and
profefs, we need not defpond for thofc mean artifices and
pretences wherewith we are oppofed, which bear no pro-
portion to thofe difficulties, which by the fame word of
truth have been conquered and removed. For inftancc,
■what force is there in the pretence of the Roman church, in
their profefTion of things found out, appointed, and com-
manded by themfelves, in comparifon of that of the
Hebrews for theirs, begun and continued by the autho-
rity of God himfelf ? And if this hath been taken away
by the light and authority of the fcnpturcs, how can Hit
other, hay and flubble, Hand before it ?

§ 5- ^'V* ^' I^ ^^ ^^ "o purpofe to prcfs any thing in
the worfhip of God, without producing the authority of
God for it in his word. Our apoflle ilil! minds the Hebrews
what is * fpoken * in this and that place to his purpofe.
And to what end fervcs any thing elfe in this matter? Is
there any thing elfe that we can refolve our faith into, or
that can influence our confcienccs into a reli2;ious obc-
dience ? And are not thefe things the life and foul of wor-
Ihip, without which it is but, as it were, a dead carcafc ?



Verse 6.

seeing, therefore, it remaineth that some
must enter therein, and they to whom it
was first preached, entered not in because
o^ unbelief.

§ I . Connexion of the words. § 2 , The argument recapitu-^
latcd. § 3. Qhfcrvation, § 4. Farther obfervations and
rules to elucidate the general obfervation, 1 . Promlfes refer
either to the grace only, or the outward admlniftration of
the covenant. § 5. 2. Some may be accompUfhed when few
know it. § 6. 3. Some confined to a certain time, §7.4.
Some not limited. § 8. 5. Some for a fime fufpended,
§ 9. Inferences.

§ i.jLjlAVING thus removed an objeftion that might
arlfe agaiiifl the new propofal of a re/? of God, from the
fabbatical refl which was appointed from the foundation
of the world ; and manifefted that — although there was
in the ftate of nature, or under the law of our creation,
a working and jr/? of God, and a reft for men lo enter into,
and a day fet apart as a pledge of that reft ; yet — this was
not the reft which he inquired after ; the apoftle, in this
and the following verfes, proceeds to improve his tcfti-
monies already produced to a farther end ; namely, to
prove, that — although after the original reft was mentioned,
there was a fccond reft prom i fed and propofed to the peo-
ple of God ; yet — neither was that it which is propofed
in this place of the Pfalm ; but a third that yet remain-
ed for them, and was now propofed, under the fame pro-
mifes and thrcatenings with the former. The wo^ds con-r
tain an affertion, and a particular ajjumption fro/n it ; the
ojjcrtion is, that * fome muft or fhall enter into the reft of
' God ;' which he concludes as evinced by his former ar-
gument? and tcftimonies : fo the words prove, tha; there

L 1 1 i^ k


is yet a remaimng entrance into a rejl of God. A promifc
being included in every conditional threatening, the fcnfc
ot thcfc words then is, that from what hath been fpokea
it is evident, that fomc mufl yet enter into another rell: of
God, befidcs that which was in the fabbath appointed
from the foundation of the world. — His afjumptlon is, that
thofe to whom that reft was firft preached entered not in^
becaufe of their difobcdicncc. It is nianifeft that the
apoftle intends, in thcfc words, thofe who came out of
Egvpt under the conduct of Mofes, whofc fin and punilli-
mcnt he had lb fully cxpreffed in the foregoing chapter.
Now^ to thrfe was the reft of God firfl declared \ they were
fiyjl evangelized with it. And hereby the apoftle Ihews,
which reft it is that he intends ; not abfolidcly the fpirhual
rcjl of the promife, for this was preached to believers from
the foundation of tlie w^orld ; but the church rcjl of the
land of Canaan, that is, the accompUpjment of the promife
upon their faith and obedience, was firft propofed to them,
for otherwife the promifc itfef wzs firft given to Abraham,
but the a£lual accomplilhmcnt of it was never propofed
to him on any condition.

§ 2. This, therefore, is the fubftance of this verfe ;
bcfide the reft of God from the foundation of the world,
and the inft.itution of the feventh day fabbath, as a pledge
thereof; there was another reft for men to enter into, the
reft of God and his worfliip in the land of Canaan. This
being propofed to the people of old, they entered not
into it by reafon of unbelief; therefore there nuift be yet
that otlicr reft remaining, which he provokes the Hebrews
to ]a!)our for an entrance into. And the ground of hi,^
argument lies here ; in that the reft of Canaan, although it
was a diftin6\ reft of itlllf, was typical of that reft which
he is inquiring after ; and the good things of this new reft
were obfcurcly rcprcfented to the people therein ; fo that
by reie£ling tlie one, they rcjeded the virtue and benciit
of the otlicr alio. Hence,

. § -;. O/ff. The fiithfulncfs of God in his promifcs is
not !o he mcafurcd bv the faiih or obedience of men, at
any one fcafon, in any one generation, or their fins

where by


whereby they come fiiort of tliem, nor by any providen-
tial dilpenfation towards them. Tlie people in the wil-

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 39 of 46)