John Owen.

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

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' The glory of God Ihines forth in him,' [II. Cor. iv. 6.]
Now in thefe and the like places, the glory of the divine
nature is fo intimated, as that we are directed to look to
the glory of the abfolutely invifible and incomprehenfible
God, in him hicarnatc. And this is the apoftle's general
meaning; the Son, in whom God fpeaks to us in the re-
velation of the gofpel, doth in his own perfon fo every
way anfwer the excellencies and perfections of God the
Father, that he is in him cxpreffly reprefented to our faith
and contemplation.

§ 3. 2. It remains then, that we confider the ex-
preffions feverally, with the reafons why the apoflle thus
cxprefTes the divine glory of Jefus Chrift.

("0$- wy ( ryjg ^o^Yjg) *^ Who being tI:o
brightnefs," light, luilre, majefty *' of glory." The apof-
tle, in my judgement, (wliich is-innrrbly^'fabmitted to-eon-
^lideratidii) alludes to fomething that the people were in-
^ruCled by, typically, under the Old Teflament, with
»efpe£l to this great myflery, the manifeftation of the
glory of God to them by the Son, the fecond perfon in
the Trimty. The ark, which was the mpft fignal reprc-
Ivntation of the prefence of God amongft them, was
called '' his glory.'* So the wife of Phineas, upon the
taking of the ark, affirmed, that the glory was departed,
[I. Sam. iv. 22.] ' The glory is departed from Ifrael, for

* the ark of God is taken.* And the pfalmifl, mentioning
the fame thing, calls it * his glory* abfolutely ; (Pfahn
Ixxviii. 61.) * He gave his glory into the hand of hii

* enemies,' that is, the ark. Now, on the filling of the ta-
bernacle with the iigns of God's prefence in cloud and
fire, the Jews affirm, that there was a conftant (oi7ra,i'
yao-jjun, a nnwan) or majcjik^ Jlnning glory refling on tbe
ark ; which was the {aivocvyaT^cc rvig ^o^'.^g) the fplendcur
of the glory of God in that typical rcprefcntation of his
prefence; and this was to inflruCl them in the way and
manner whereby God would dwell amongft them. The
apoflle, therefore, cal}ing them from the types, by which



they had been obfcurely iiiftrufted ia thcfe niyfleries, to
the tilings thcmlcives reprcfVntcd, acquaints them with
what that typical glory and fplcndour iignificd ; namely,
the eternal glory of God, with the eflential beaming and
hrightnefs oi* it in the Son, in and by whom the glory of
the Father Ihincth forth to us.

§ 4. The apoftlc adds, that he is (yy.cocKlyjp VTrocflaa-cOog
d'Sji) * the exprcfi figure or image of his pcrlbn ,' that is,
of the perfon of God the Father. Hence obfcrve, that,

The hypojlajis of the Father, is the Father himfelf. Of
him is the Son faid to be the exprefs image. As is the
Father, fo is the Son. And this agreement and likenefs
between the Father and the Son is eiTential ; not acci-
dental, as thofe things are between relations finite and
corporeal. What the Father is, doth, hath ; that the Son
is, doth, hath ; or elfe the Father, as the Father, could
not be fully him, nor reprefented by him.

By charader two things feem to be intended. /V;y?,
that the Son hi himfelf is (5'y \Lo^ty\ 0iS) * in the likenefs

• of God*, [Phil. ii. 6.] Secondly, that unto us he is {ukmv
0ry) *the image of God,' reprefenting him to us, [Col. i. 6.]
For thcfe words {^oppn, siKMy, yjx.^ciy?i7,'j) are ufed of the
Lord Chrill with rcfpeft to God the Fatlicr ; and they
feem to be thus diflinguifhed by their ufe : (iv u.oz'p)] 0i«
VTTcczy^CA^v) being ox fuhfiftingin the form of God — implies that
lie is eifentially fo ; for there is no (^op(pjy). or form in the
Deity, but what is cffcntiaL This he was abfolutcly, an-
tecedently to his incPTnation; the whole nature of God
being in him, and confequcntly was in the form of God.
In the manifeftation of God to us, he is faid to be (uxm','
I'd 0.i< dofojcVi Col. i. 6) * the image of the invifible

* God,' bccaufe in him, as partaker of the natuife of the
lather, do the power, goodnefs, hoHnefs, grace, and all
other glorious properties of C^od Ihinc forth, [II. Cor. iv.
6.] — aiul bs?th thcfe feem to i)e compriied in this word
{yjx OiKJ fi{j) exprefs inrcgc, both that tl'.e whole nature of
God is in him, as ajfothat by him God is declared andex-
preflcd to us; ^rhc ordinary engraving of ring«^ or feak,
or Hones, is generally tliought to be alluded to. It may-

Ver.3. epistle to THE HEBREWS, 37

be alfo that the apoftle had rcfpeft to fome reprefentatioii
of the glory of God by engraving amongil the inflitutions
of Mofes. Now there was fcarcely any thing of old that
more glorioullv reprefented God, than that of engraving
his name on a plate of gold, to be worn on the front of
the mitre of the high-prieil:, (Exod. xxviii. 36.] ' Thou

* fhalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like

* the engraving of a lignet (riMi^b \i^ip) ' Holinefs to Je-

* hovah/ Here was that name of God which denotes
his elfence and being characleyized^ and engraven to re-
prefent his holinefs and glory to the people. And thus
alfo when God promifeth to bring foith t)je Son, as the
corner flone of the church, he promifeth * to engrave
' upon him the feven eyes of the Lord,' [Zech. iih 9.] or
the perfeftion of his wifdoni and power to be exprefled
unto the church in him. There having been, then, this
reprefentation of the pre fence of God, by the character,
or engraving of his glorious name upon the plate of gold
which the high-priefl was to wear that he may bear ini*-
quities, the apoftle lets the Hebrews know, that in Chrift
the Son is the real accomplifhment of what was typiHed

§ 5. (H.) After the dcfcriptlon of the perfon of ChriH,
the apoflle returns to fliew what h& doth ox did, and begins
with aflerting his poiver. He fliewcd before, that by him
the worlds were created : he adds,

( I .) That he continues to uphold, or to yule and difpofe of
all things which he fo made. For the explication of thefe
words, two things are to be confidered ; Firft, In what
fenfe Chrift is faid to uphold all things ; and, Secondly,
How he doth it by the word of his power.

(i.) How Chriit is faid to uphold all things. The terra
((Pipwv) upholding, is taken by expofitors in a double {'n\{^,
and accordingly is varioufly rendered. Some render it by
upholding, fupportlng, hearing, carrying. And this, faith
Chrysostom on the place, is ** a greater work than that
of the creation." By \hQ former all things were brought
forth from nothing ; by the latter are they preferved front
that return to nothing j which their own nature, not ca-
X pablc


pabic of exiftence without dependence on their firft caufc,
would precipitate them into. Others take the word to
exprcfs his rulifi^^ gozrrrning, and difpo/tng of all things
which he made ; and fo it may denote, either the putting
forth that power over all things which is given to the Son
as Mediator ; or ellc that providential rule over all, which
he hath with his Father ; which feems rather to be in-
tended, bccaufe of the way expreded whereby he excrcifcth
this rule, ** by the word of his power." But I fee no
reafon why we Ihould fuppofe an inconflancy in thef©
fenfes, and not rather conclude that they are both implied.
For, as abfolutcly, it is the fame divine power and provi-
dence which is exercifed/in upholding, as in d'lfpojing of all
things ; fo alio rule and government is a matter of weight
and burden, [Ifa. ix. 6.] ' The government Ihali be on his

• fhoulder.* Among men this is done with much labour
and travel ; but he doth it with inexpreflible facility * by

* the word of his power.' And to take the expreffion
in its mofl comprehenfive fenfe, is moil fafe.

§ 6. (2.) Our next inquiry is after the w^ww^r whereby
the Son upholdeth and diipofcth of all things — (t:*) oy/fJiccJi
T'/jg dvyccuyjcgj * by the word of his power.* (P>j^^) 'x'oid,
in the New Teflament, is ufed in the fame latitude and
extent with (121) dahar m the Old. That which in this
'place is denoted by it, with its adjunft (t>)$- dv^oc^-ocq) of
power, is the divine power executing the counfels of the
will and wifdom of God ; or, the efficacy of God's provi-
dence, whereby he worketh and effe£let}i all things ac-
cording to the counlcl of his will. Now the efficacy of
divine providence is called * the word of God ;' to inti-
mate, that as rulers accomplifli their will by a word of
command, about things fubjcft to their pleafurc ; [Matt,
viii. 9.] fo doth God accomplifh his whole mind and will
in all things by his power. And therefore, of his power,
is here added by way ot" diftinOion, to ihcw what word
it is that the apoflle intends. It is not {Koycg ^fTix^;]g)
the ejjentialword of Ciod, who is the perfon fpoken of, nor
{Xoycg'K^o^ocuxog) the word fp'^kenhs him in the revelation
ofbimfelfi but a word that is cflcL^ual and operative —


Ver.3* epistle to THE HEBREWS. 39

the putting forth of his divine power accomplifhing with
eafe and authority his will and purpofe in all things. —
This, in the vifion of Ezekiel, is the communication of a
fpirit of life to the cherubs and weels, to a6t and to move
them as feems good to him, by whom they are guided. And
tiiis exprelfion of upholding or fupporting of all things
by the word of his power, doth fully declare the glorious
providence emblematically exprefled in that vilion. The
Son being over all things made by himfelf, as on a thronp
over the cherubims and w^els, influenceth the whole crea-
tion with his power, communicating unto it refpedivcly
fubiiftence, life, and motion, acting, ruling, and difpofmg
of all according to the counfel of his own will. And
hence will follow his power and authority to change the
MofaicaJ inflitutions, as alfo his truth and faithfulnefs in
revealing the will of God.

§ 7. 2. He hath by himf elf purged our fins. Two thing?
are here included-^What he did, purged our fins — and hout
he did it, by himfef. And what he fuppofeth as the
foundation of both thefe is, that he was the great high-
prieil of the church, they with whom he dealt knowing
full well that this matter of purging fins belonged only
unto the priell.

IVhcn he had purged our fins. The Greek word {yjx^oc-
glIoo) moft frequently denotes real, atlual purification^ either
of outward defilements, by healing and cleanfmg, or fpiri-
tual defilements of fin, by fan£lifying grace. But it \% alfo
frequently ufcd in the f^ie fenfe with [noiSjctif^'jo^ and ?c«-
Scciooucx-i) to purge by expiation o\' atonement, [Hob. ix. 22,
23.] But (}iCi9apio-^ov TTOiTjo-cci) to make a purgation or puri-
fication of our fins, cannot here be taken for real and in-
herent fan£lification ; becaufe it is fpoken of as a thing
already pafl and pcrfeflcd ; having purged our fns. He did
it hj hiiTif If alone, without the ufe or application ot any
other medium; but real inherent fandlification is witU
< wafhing of v/ater by tlie Word,' [Ephef. v. 26.] or by
* regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghoft,' [Titus
iii. 5.] That is alT^.gned to the death of Chrift really and

Vol. II. G effedvialiy


cffe£>ually which was done typically of old in the legal
iacrificcs by the pricfts ; as is evident from the antithefis
couched m that exprcfTion * by himfclf.* The word {xoi-
SuDia-LLcg) then imports fuch a purgation as is made by ex-
piation and atonement. And therefore is he faid * to
* purge our Jjnsy^ and not ' to purge us from our fins.' And
wherever yJ;/.r, not Jinncrsy are made the objeft of any me-
diatory a6l of Chrift, that a6l imn-vcdiately rcfpeOcth Gofi
and not the finner, and intends the removal of fin, fo as
that it Ihould not be imputed.

And this the apoftle farther declares by manifefting the
'u.'ijy whereby he did it, {It Ic/.v;'^) ly himfe/f; by the facri-
fice and offering of himfelf. The high-prieft of old made
atonement, and typically purged the fms of the people, by
facrifking of henjh according to the appointment of the
law ; but [Levit. xvi.) this high-prieil by the facriiice of
himfelf, by his blood-fhedding and death on the crofs, with
liis antecedent preparatory fuHerings. He himfelf was
both pried, facriflce, altar, and inccnfe ; and he perfected
his whole facrifice at once, making an atonement tor our
fins, that to believers they fliould not be imputed.

§ 8. (in.) The apoftle having thus affertcd in generaJ
the facerdotal ofRce of Chrift, and the cfrc6lual facrifice he
offered, and becaufe that could not be doi>e without tlic
j^reatdt humiliation and abaU-ment of the Son — he in-
iVantly removes onr gloomy apprehenlion«^, by adding the
blcffed €'i:£nt of his all-important undertaking. He fat
rioivn on the right hand of the A'luff/iy on h'r^h. The Lord
MefTiah undertaking to purge our lins, did by the one of-
fering of himfelf perfcj^ly ctfe^fl it, which the blcifed ////>?
of his undertaking demonftiates ; for he in^mediately en-
tered into tlic glorious condition here cxprcfl'ed ; as a lignal
pledge and evidence not onlv that his work was perfc(^ed,
but alfo that God was fully fatlsfied and well pleafed with
what he had do^ic.

The righvhand^ in fcrlpturc language, confrantly denotes
dignity and pre-eminence. Th(j inftance of Jacob's blefling
jofcph's children teftifics alfo the conftant ufage of thofc
anticnt times from the intimation of nature itfe^f, [Gen.


Ver.3.. epistle to the HEBREWS. 41

xlviii. 17, 19.) and the difpofal of the flieep and goats at
the laft day, to the right hand and left, gives the privi-
lege to the for miT. So Basil, *' The right hand place
denoteth a quality of dignity." And Chrysostom, "If
he would have iignified any diminution, he would not
have faid, fit on my right hand, but on my left." Solo-
mon placed his mother, when flie came unto him, on his
right hand, as a token of honour ; while he himfelf fat
down on the throne of the kingdom; [I. Kings ii. 19.]
and the church is faid to be at the right hand of Chrift,
f Pfalm xlv. 9.] It is not unlikely but there may be an
allulion in this expreffion to the Sanhedrim, the higheft
court of judicature among the Jews. He who prefided
in it was called, the Father of judgement , cr Father of the
houfe of judgement ; who fat next to, and at the right hand
of the prince of the Sanhedrim, to whom belonged the
execution of the fentence of the court. Agreeable to
that are thefe words, ** the Father judgeth no man, but
bath committed all judgement to the Soil." The great-
eft honour that can be done to any one among the fons
of men, is for the chief ruler to fet him next: himfelf on
}iis right hand : fo is the Son of God as mediator, made
partaker of the greateft glory that God hath to beftow
in heaven. Nor is the ' right hand of God' here taken
abfolutely for the po-ivcr and ftrength of God ; but, with
the adjun£l o^ fitting at it, it reprefents a place and cmi-
nency of glory, as he is confidered on his throne of ma-
jefty : and therefore it is here termed the right hand of
majcfty and not of power,

§ 9. Two things are particularly intended in this ex-
prellion :

I. The fccurity of Chrift from all his adverfaries anci
fuffcrings for the future. Now he is, in pcrfon, cvcr-
laftingly free from all oppofition ; for where he is, thither
his adverfaries cannot come. He is above their reach,
beyond their power, fecure in the throne and prefence of
God. Thus the fruit of the church being delivered from
the rage and perfecutiori of Satan^^ is faid to be caught
up unto God, and to his throne, [Rev. xii. 5.] Hence

G 2 t;hougl\


though men do, and will continue their malice and
wrath againft the Lord Chriil to the end of the world,
as if they would crucify him afrelli, yet * he dies no more,'
being triumphantly fecure at the right hand of God.

2. Hi!^ inexprclfible majefty and glory. God on his
throne, is God in the full maniRiVation of his own gk)-
rious mnjcdy. On his right hand fits the Mediator ; yet
fo, as that he alfo is * in the midil of the throne'
[Rev. V. 6.] How little can our weak underilandings com-
prehend of his majtfty ! It is not his rule and authority,
hut his fafetv, mn.jefty, and glory which accompany them,
that are here intended, as reprefented by the magnificent
throne of Solomon. Bciides, the apollle is not treating
of the kingly power of Chriil, but of his facerdotal
office ; and the glory that enfued upon the difcharge
thereof. That, therefore, which he Iccms to refpec^,
was the high-priefi's entrance into the holy place, after
liis offering of the folemn annivcrfary facrifice of expia-
tion. Then alone was he admitted into that auguft and
holy place, that heaven below ; where was the fokmn
rcprefcntation of t!ic prefcnce, the throne, and glory of
God. And what did he there ? He llood with all humi-
lity and holy reverence miniilcring before the Lord, whofe
prcfence was there reprefented. He did not go and irt
down between the cherubims, but worfliipping at tlte
footl^ool of the Lord, he departed. It is not, faith the
apoftlc, fo with Chriit ; but as his facrifice was infmitely
more excellent and efit^lual than theirs, fo upon the of-
fering of it he entered into heaven itfelf above, and into
tlie real glorious prefence of God ; not to miniflcr in hu-
mility, but to participate of the throne of majefty and
glory. He is a * king and prieil upon his throne,' [Zech.
vi. I ;^.]

^ lo. (IV,) We now proceed to the following obfer-

Ohf. 1 . All the ::lorious perfections of the Deity belong
to, and dwell :n the perfon of the Son. Were it not fo,
Jic could not glorioully rcprcfent to us the pcrfon of the
1 aihcr. Thi:; X\\z apollle hcjc teachcth us, ns wc liave


Ver-s- epistle to the HEBREWS. 43

manlfefted in the explication of the words ; and the fami
truth will again occur to iis.

§ II. Ohf. 2. The whole manifcftation of the nature
of God unto us, and all communications of grace, arc
immediately through the perlbu of the Son. There arc
lundry fignal indances wherein God reveals himlelf, and
communicates from his own infinite fullnefs to his crea-r
tures; and in all of them he doth it immediately by th«

(i.) In the creation of all things, God both gave them
their being, and imparted unto them of his goodnefs, and
manifefled his nature to thole that were capable of an
holy apprehenlion of it. Now all this God did imme-
diately by the Son ; not as a fubordinate inilrument, but
•as the principal efficient, being his own power and v/ifdom.
The Son, as the power and wifdom of the Father, * mad^
^ all things;' fo that in that work, the glory of the
Father fhines forth in him, and no otherwife: by hi;m
■was the communication of being, goodnefs, and exigence
to the creation.

(2.) In the pr&vidt'htial rule and difpofal of all created
things, God farther manifefts himfelf to his creatures,
and makes farther communications of his goodnefs to
them, through the fame imcreated medium.

(3.) The matter is yet more plain, as to the revelation
of his will, and the inftitution of ordinances from firll
to laft. This is the fubflance and grand defign of the
gofpel — to reveal the Father in and by the Son ; to
declare that through him alone we can be made partakersr
of his grace and goodnefs ; and that no other way can we
have cither acquaintance or communion with him, (fee
Jolm i. 18.] The whole end of the gofpel is to give us
• the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jefus
« Chrift.' [II. Cor. iv. 6.]

As the Father is the originpl and fountain of the whole
Trinity as to fubfiflence, fo alfo as to the operation he
works not but by the Son ; who, having the divine na-
ture communicated unto him by an ineffable eternal gene-
rat;ion, is to communicate the effects of the Divine power,



' fcrifdom, and goodncfs by temporary operation. AnJ
thus he becomes the * brightncl's of his Father's glory,

* anJ the cxprefs image of his pcrfon.'

§ 12. In the difpcnfation and counfcl of grace, God
hath determined, that all communications of himfelf to
us ihall be by the Son as incarnate. This the whole
gofpcl abundantly tcll:iiics; which difcovers to us the nc^
tcility of coming unto God only by Chrlft. God m
himfelf is faid to be in * thick darkncfs,' as alfo to dwell
in ' light whercunto no creature can approach ;' which
txprcilioiis, tliough feemingly contrary, teach us the
/^mc thing, (viz.) the infinite diftance of the Divine
nature from our apprehenfions and conceptions ; no man
iiaving feen God at any lime. But this God, invifiblc,
eternal, incomprehenfjbly glorious, hath imprefled fundry
characters of his excellencies, and left footileps of his
Jjlfllcd properties, on the things that he hath made, that
by the conilderation and contemplation of them, wc
might come to fqme fuch acquaintance with him as might
encourage us to fear and feive him, and to make him.
our utmoll: end. But all thefe exprellions of God in other
things, bofides his Son Chrifl Jefus, are partial and ob-
fcurc: pait'ial-y not what is necellary to be known, that
we may live unto him lierc, and enjoy him hereafter : —
obfcure , net leading us to any perfcft or fettled knowledge
o^' him. And hence it is tliat thofc who have attempted
|o come to God any other way than in Chrifl Jefus, have
r.]I failed and come fliort of his glory. But feeing tho
I^rd Chrifl is the * brightnefs of his glory,' in whom his
glory fhines out of the immenfe darknefs that his nature
is enwrapped in with rcfpefl to us, and beams out of that
inacceffible light which he inhabits ; and * the cxprefs

* iinagc of his p(?rfQn,;,reprefenting to us all the pcrfec-
ti()?!s of his pcrfon fully and clearly — it follows, that ii\
%ht Redeemer alone can "we attain a faving aci]uaintance
m\X\\ Deity. On this account he tells i'hiiip, [John
y»v. 9.] * Ht* -that Uatji kaw me, liath feeji the Father.'

. Woulid we know hi.s love and grace, would we adniiro
his irifdoin %ud ji^linelii ? LiC^ u^ iubo.u.i to s:p,mc to an,



intimate gracious acquaintance with his Son Jcfus Chrift,
in whom all thefe excellencies dwell in their fulnefs, and
by whom alone they are revealed and exhibited to ns.
Seek, the Father in the Son ; for out of him not one pro-
perty of the divine nature can be favingly apprehended,
or rightly underflood ; but in him all are difplaycd to
our faith and fpiritual contemplation. This is at once
our greateft wifdom, and moft exalted privilege.

§ 13. Ohf. 3. Our Lord Jefus Chrill as the Son of
God fupports the weight of the whole creation and dif-
pofeth of it by his adorable power and wifdom. Such
—awful yet charming thought i — fuch is the nature and
condition of the univerfe, that it could not fubfill a mo-
ment, nor could any thing in it ad regularly to its
appointed end, without the continual fupport, guidance,
influence, and difpofal of the Son of God. Created
things can no more fupport, adt, and difpofe themfelves,
than they could at firfl: make themfeives out of nothing..
The greateft cannot preferve itfelf by its greatnefs, power,
or order ; nor the leaft by its diftance from oppof tion.
Were there not a mighty hand under all and each one of
them, they would fink into confufion ; did not an effec-
tual force impel them, they would become a flothful
heap ; remove fuftaining power and adlive influence, and
they inftantly precipitate into their primitive nothing.
It is true God hath in the creation of all things implanted
i\\ every particle o-f the creation, a fpecial natural incli-
nation and dilpofition, according to which it is ready to
tt£^, move, or wo-rk regularly ; but he hath not placed
this nature and power abfolutcly in them, and indepen-
dently of his own power and operation. The Son is en-
dued with a nature to produce all the glorious effects of
light and heat, the lire to burn, the wind to blow, &c.
But yet neither could fun, or fire, or wind preferve
themfeives in their being, or retain the principles of their
operations, did not the Son of God, by a continual ema-
nation of his eternal power upheld and preferve them ;
nor could they produce any one effc£t, did not he work in
them, and by them ; nor are the fons of men excepted,



or any other agents, however fice \\\ their clioice ?ji(j
operations \ for ' by him all things conlill.' It is ut-
terly repugnant to the very nature and being of a God,
that he lliould produce any thing without himfelf, that
fliouJd have either a fclf-fubfiftencc or a I'elf-rufFiciency,

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 46)