John Owen.

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

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* lliou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,' [A£ls
^^'^- 33-] Therefore the Lord Chrift entered into his reft,
after he had finiflied and ceafedfrom his works on the morn-
ing of the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, when he arofe
from the dead, the foundntion of the -new creation being
O o o 2 laid


laid r.nd pcrfc6led. There lieth the foiiiidatlon of thf
' fabbatlfni that remains for the people of God.' I'hc
apolllc had before aflertcd it, and there remained no more
for him to do, but to manifci]:, that as thofe other reJIs
nhicli were palled, the one at the beginning of the world,
the other at the giving of the law, had their foundation
in the zvciks mid rejls of God, whence a day of reft was
given to the church ; fo had this new rejl a foundation in
tlie iKJcrks and rcjh of Chrijly who built all thefe things,
and is God ; determining a day for our ufe, by that where-
on himfcif entered into his reft, the first day of the

§ 8. Hence we may obferve, as irrefragable corollaries^

1. The whole church, all the duties, worfhip, and pri-
vileges of it, are founded in the pcrfon, authority, and
anions of Jefus Chiift.

2. Tht firfl day of the week, the day of the refurrec-
tion of Chrift, when he refted from his works, is ap-
pointed and determined for a day of reft, or fabbath to
the church, to be conftantly obferved in the room of the
ftvcnth day, appointed and obferved from the foundation

of the world under the Old Teftament. — From the whole,
and particularly the ninth verfe, another obfervation offers.
§ 9. Obf. Believers under the New Teftament have loft
nothing, no privilege that was enjoyed by them under
the Old. Many things have xh^j gained, and thofe of un-
fpeakable excellency, but they have loft nothing at all.
\\ hatevcr they had of prrjlUge in any ordinance, that
is continued ; and whatever was of burden or bondage,
that is taken away. All that they had of old was on this
account, that they were ' the people of God ;' to them,
ns fuch, did all their advantages and privileges belong ; but
tlicy were fo the people of God, as to be kept like fcrvants
under the fevere difciplineof the law, [Gal. iv. i.] Into
this ^r^^x. fountain f^riz'ilfge hc\\e\crs under the gofpel have
now luccceded ; and what was of fervitude in reference to
the law is removed ; but whatever is of advantage is con-
tinued to them, ' as the people of God.' This I fuppofe
>> unqueftionable, — That God, making them to be his
2 people


people who were not his people, would never cut them
Ihort of any privilege, which belonged before to his peo-
ple as fuch, [Rom. ix. 25, 26.] Beiides, the ftate of the
golpel is a, ftate of 77ioye grace and favour from God, than
that under the law ; [John i. 18.] the whole gofpel is an
enlargement of divine favour to God's people ; and fo it is
a better ftate than that which went before ; is accompanied
with better promifes, and more liberty. Nothing then of
this nature can be loft to gofpel believers, but all privi-
leges at any time granted to the people of God, are made
over to them. Let men but give one hifiance to this pur-
pofe, and not beg the matter in queftion, it fliall fuffice.
Aloreover, God hath fo ordered all things in the difpen-
fation of his grace, and the inftitution of his worfnip, as
that Jefus Chrift Ihould have the pre-erninence in all ; and
is it poffible that any man fhould be a lofer by the coming
of Chrift, or by his own coming to Chrift ? It is againfb
the vjhole gofpel once to imagine it in the leaft inftance.
Let it now be inquired, whether it was not a great privi-
lege of the people of God of old, that their uf ant feed
were taken into covenant with them, and were m.ade par-
takers of the initial feal thereof ^ Doubtlefs, it was the
greaiefl they enjoyed, next to the grace they received for
the faving of their own fouls. That it was lb granted
them, and fo efteemed by them, might be eafily proved.
And without this, whatever they were, they were not
A PEOPLE. Believers under the gofpel are, as we have
before noticed, ' the people of God ;' and that with all
ioxX.z of advantages annexed to that condition, above what
were enjoyed by them who of old were fo ; how is it then
that this people of Gcd, made fo by Jeius Chrift in the
gofpel, fliould have their charter upon its renewal, r a zed,
with a deprivation of one of their choiccft riphts and pri-
vileges ? Aftliredly it is not fo ; and thercTore, if be-
lievers are m%v, as the apoftle lays they are, * the people of
' God,' their children have a right to the initial fcal of the
covenant, — To the foregoing we may add fome farther
obfervations ;

§ 10.


§ 10. I. It is 'the people of God' alone who have a
right to all the privileges of the gofpel ; and who in a due
manner can perform all the duties of it. Let any become
the * people of God,* by entering into covenant with him
in Jcfus Chrifl, and all other mercies will be added to

2. The people of God, as fuch, have work to do, and
labour incumbent on them. Roll and labour are cor-
relates, the one fuppoleth the other ; alhrming, therefore,
that there is a reft for them, includes in like manner that
they have a work to do. None that know, in any mea-
fure, what is their condition in themfclvcs, what their
Hation in the world, what enemies they have to confliiSt
with, what duties arc continually incumbent on them,
but know there is work and labour required of them.
Thus our Saviour cxprefleth his approbation of hischurche3
by, * I know thy work and thy labour,' [Rev. ii. 3.]

3. God hath gracioully given his people an entrance
into reft, during their llate of work and labour, to fweeten
it to them, and to enable them for it. The flate of fm
is a flate of all labour^ and no reft, for * there is no peace»
« or reft, to tliC wicked,' faith God, f Ifa. Iviii.] the future
flate of glory is all reft \ the prcfent Itate of believing and
obedicHce is a mixed ilate, partly of labour, partly of rcil ;
of /i^Z'CZi/- in ourfelvcs, in the world, againft fm, under
affli6lion and pcrfccution ; of rcj} in Chrift, in his love,
in his worfliip and grace. And thefc things have a great
mutual refpect to one another ; our labour makes our reft
fweet i and our reft makes our labour cafy. So is God
pleafcd to fill us, and cxercife us ; all to prepare us duly
for eternal reft and glory with liimfcJf.


Ver.ii. epistle to the HEBREWS. 469

Verse i i>


§ I. (I.) The comicxio7t of the ivords. The apoftlis rcafon for
changing the exprejjion, § 2. 3. The pa ffage farther explain^
ed, § 4. (II.) Obfervat'ions^ i. That great oppofitlons will
rife agalnji men In entering into God'' 5 reft, § 5. 2. It very
well defervcs our endeavours, § 6. Additional obfcrva-

§ I. xN this verfe we have a return to, and an improve-
ment made of, the principal exhortation which the apoflle
had hefore propofed. In the iirft verfe he laid it down
in thofe words, * Let us fear, left a promife being left of
' entering into his reft, any of you fhould feem to come
* Ihort of it ;' here he declares, how that fear is to be
improved and exercifed : to believe, is to enter Into the refh
of God. Again, for the farther explication of thefe words,
we may obferve, that the apoftle changeth his exprellioii
from what it was in the preceding verfe ; there he tells us
that, there remainetli {(rulS^ocTKruog) a fabbatlfm for the
people of God, but here changes it into (KOiTc&TToiva-ig)
re/i, in general ; and the reafon is, becaufe by the former
he intended to exprefs the reft of the gofpel — not abfo-
lutely, but — with refpe£l to the pledge of it, in the day of
refl. But the apoftle here returns to exhort the Hebrews
to endeavour after an intercft in, and a participation of,
the whole reft of God in the gofpel, with all the privi-
leges and advantages contained in it, and t'nereforc refumes
the word whereby he had before exprefTed the reft of God
in general.

§ 2. ' Let us labour, therefore, to enter into that reft.'
{^n^a.^L'j^iv) Let us diligently ftudy, or endeavour ; I liad



rather ufc * endeavour,' than * labour / for fuch a labour-
ing is to be underflood, as wherein the mind, the whole
foul, is very intently exercifcd, on account of the dif-
ficulties that await us. The apoflle cxprclTing our faith
and gofpcl obedience, with the end of theni, by * entering
* into the rcll of God,' a phrafe of fpeech taken from the
people's entering into the land of Canaan of old, he rc-
rninds us of the great oppofition wc fliall be fure to meet
with. It is well known what difhculties and llorms th»
people met with in their peregrination through the wilder-
iiefs. So gieat were they, that the difcouragemcnts which
arofe from them, were the principp.l occalions of their
a6Ung that unbelief which proved their ruin. Sometimes
their waiit of water and food, fomctimes the wearincfs
and tedioulncfs of the way, fometimes the reports they had
of giants and walled towns, {lirred up their unbelief to mur-
murii>gs, and haftencd their deflru£lion. And that zve
fhall meet with the like oppofitions in our faith and pro-
fellion, the apoflle inilruds us by his uiing this phrafe of
fpeech — * entering into the reil of God.'

§ 3. The word {TriTr]^) to fally is ambiguous ; for
men may fall into^/7, and they may fall into the pai'ijh-
mcnt due to their fin. Now if {viro^^ciy^a,) example, in
this place, be taken merely for a document y or inftruftion,
which is undoubtedly the moft proper and ufual fignifica-
tion of the original, then the fenfe may be : Left any of
you lliould fall into that unbelief of which, and its per-
nicious confcquences, you have an inftru^ive example
in them that went before, propoied on purpofe, that you
might be llirred up to avoid it. But if the word be taken
for another kindred term (7r<zpaS3iy^) as fometimes it
is, and fo including the iignification of an * exemplary

* punifhment,' then the meaning of the words is, Lcll
any of you through your unbelief fall into ' that punifli-

* ment, which hath been made exemplary,' in the ruin of
thofe unbelievers who went before you. And this I take
to be the meaning of the words : * You have the gofpcl,
' and the reft of Chrift therein, preached and propofcd to

* you i fomc of you have already taken upon you the pro-

* feflion


* feflion of it, as the people did of old at mount Sinai,

* when they faid, all that the Lord our God Ihall com-

* mand, that will we do. Your condition is now like

* theirs, and was reprefented therein ; confider, therefore,
' how things fell out with them, and what was the event

* of their lin, and God's dealing with them. They be-

* lieved not, they made not good their engagements ; they

* perlifled not in their profellion, but were difobedient and

* itubborn, and God deftroyed tham. They fell and pe-

* rifhed in the wildcrnefs. If now you, or any amongft

* you, Ihall be found guilty of the like fin, do not think

* that you fhall avoid the like puniihment. An awful ex-

* ample of God's feverity is fet before you in their deftruc-

* tion ; and if you would not fall into it, or under it, la-

* hour by faith and obedience to enter into the reilof Chrift.*

^ 4. (IL) Obf. I. That great oppofuions will rife againft
men in the work of entering into God's refl ; that is, as
to gofpel faith and obedience. The v^xy firft lejjons of the
gofpel difcourage many from looking any farther ; fo when
our Saviour entertained the young man that came to him
for inflru£lion, with the lelTon of felf-demal, he had
no mind to hear any more, but went away forrowful,
[Matt. xix. 22.] And the reafons hereof may be taken
partly from the nature of the gofpel itfelfy and partly
from our own natures. \\\ the gofpel there is propofed a
nevj way of * entering into the refl of God,' of accep-
tance with him, of righteoufnefs and falvation, which is
contrary to our natural principle of felf- righteoufnefs.
This fills our hearts naturally with enmity and contempt,
'making us efteem it foolilh and weak, no way able to efFei^
what itpromifeth. And if the work of the gofpel go on,
if men endeavour by it to enter into God's reft, Satan mud
lofe his fubjefts, and the world its friends, and fin its life;
and there is not one inftance wherein they will not try
their utmoft to retain their intereft, which renders our
* endeavour to enter,' a great and difficult work. He
that ihall tell men that it is plain, eafy, fuited to nature^
as weaker corrupt, will but delude and deceive them. To
mortify fin, to keep our bodies in fubje£tion, to deny

Vol. TL P P P ourfelves


ourklvc?;, pulling out our right eyes, cutting off right
bands, taking up tlie crofs in all forts of affiidions and
perfccutions — thcfe, all tlitrfc, are required of us in
this matter ; and furely they arc not at prcfent joyous, but
grievous ; not eafy and plcajant, but difficult, and attend-
ed with many hnrdlhips. To lull men aflcep with hopes
of a refl in Chrill, and alfo in their luils, in the world,
in their earthly accommodations, is to deceive and ruin
them. V/e muft not rcprcfent the duties of gofpcl faith
and obedience, as the Jcfuits preached Chrift to the Indians^
never letting them know^ that he was crucified — left they
fl.ould he oflendcd at it ! But we muft tell men the plain
truth as it is, and let tlicm know what they arc to expc£l
from within and from without, if they intend to * enter
* into reft.'

§ 5. Ohf. 1. That as the utmoft of our labours and
endeavours are required to our obtaining an entrance into
the reft of Chrift, fo it very well defervcs them. * Let us,'
faith the apcftlc, ' endeavour this matter with all diligence,'
rs the word imports. Men arc content to lay out them-
fielvcs to the utmoft for other things, and to fpend their
ftrcngth for * the bread that periiheth ;' yea, for * that

* which is not bread.' Every one may fee how bufy and
induftrious the world is in purfuit of perifhing things ;
^\m\ men are fo foolifh as to think that they deferve their
whole time and ftrength ; and more they would expend in
the fame way, if they were entrufted with it. * This

* their way is their/c//}.* A few other obfcrvations muft
not be omitted.

§6. I. Preceding judgements on others are monitory
ordinances to us. This is the ufe we arc to make of
God's judgements*, without a cenfovious reflexion on
them in particular who fall under them, as our Saviour
tcacheth us.

2. Jt is better to have an example, than to be rr.ade an
example of divine difpkafurc ; yet this will bcfal us if
\vc ncgk£l the toimcr ; for,

3. We ought to no expc^ation of efcaping that
ven£;r?j cc which othcu, being g^iilty in like manner,


Ver. 12, 13- EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 473.

have not cfcaped. We are apt to flatter ourfelves,
that however it fared with others, it will go well with
us ; like him who blelTeth himfelf, and lays, he jfhall
have peace when he hears the words of the curfe. This
felf-pleafing and fecurity varioufly infinuates itfejf into
our minds, and tenaciouHy cleaves to us ; but as we have
any care of our eternal welfare, we are to look upon it as
our greatell enemy. There is no more certain rule for us
to judge of our own condition, than the examples of God's-
dealing with others in a fimilar condition ; they are all
effeds of eternal and invariable righteoufnefs; and with
God there is no refped of perfons.

VpRSE 12, 13.


^ I. Introdu^ion. \ 2 — 10. (I.) Ihe phrafe — the word
of GoJ — refers to the pcrfcn of Chrijl. 7loe various
parts of the words explained. § II, 12. (II.) Obferva^
tions. § 13. I'he power of Chrifi in his word is irrefifiU
hle^ as to hs defigned effe^s, § 1 4— 19. Other imp or -.
tant Ohfervations.

§ I. X HESE verfes contain a new enforcement of the
preceding exhortation. Two things are apt to rife in the
minds of men for their relief againil ttie fear of luch com-

P P p 2 minations ;


minations; cither that their failing in point of duty may
not be Vdkcn notice of; or that threatenings arc propofcd
fin terror em) for terror only ; not with a mind of putting
them into execution. But thcfe vain pretences and de-
ceiving reliefs, our apoftle in thefe verfes obviates; letting
them know that they are to be tried by H:my who both
a(ftaally difcovers all the fecret frames of our hearts, and
"will deal with all men accordingly. Moreover, herein he
informs them how it behoves them to attend to his exhor-
tation, not by a mere outward profeflion, but with an
holy jealoufy and watchfulncfs over their hearts, and ail
their intimate recciTes, feeiiig all thefe things are open to
his cognizance, and fubjeft to his trial.

§ 2. The whole expofition of thefe words deperids on
the fubje(St fpoken of, verfe 12. {0 "^.cyog m Q-a) the word
of God. To elucidate this matter, I would remark ;

1. I grant, that this name is afcribed fometimiCS to
the cl]etitial word of God, and fometimcs to his enuncia-
tive word, or the Holy Scripture.

2. It is granted, that the attributes and effcdls here
afcribed to * the word of God,' may in feveral fcnfes be
applied to the one or the other.

3. It mud be acknowledged, that if the things here
menMoned be afcribed to the written word, yet they do not
primarily and abfolutely belong to it upon its own account,
but by virtue of its relation to Jefus Chrill:, whofe word it
is, and by rcafon of the power and efficacy that is by him
communicated to it. And on the other hand ; if it be the
Son, or the eternal word of God that is here intended, it
will be granted, that the things here afcribed to him are
fuch as, for the mod part, he effe£ls by his w^ord upon the
Jicarts and confciences of men. Hence the difference be-
tween the various interpretations in the ifjue concurs,
though the fuhjc£l primarily fpoken of be varioufly appre-

^ 3. On the whole, I judge, — that the eternal word
of God, or the per/on of Chriji, is the fubje£\ hero fpoken
of, for the enfuing rcafon? •

I. {^.oyog

Ver. 12, 13- EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 475

1. [hoyog and 7\oyog ra 0is?) the ivordy and the zvord
rf God^ is the proper name of Chrift in refpedl of his
divine nature, as the eternal Son of God, exprelHy. [John
i. I, 1. Rev. xix. 13.]

2. His name is thus called, or, this is his name^ * the
* word of God ;' tlicicfore this being the name of Chrift,
and all things fpoken of agreeing to him, and there being
no cogent reafons in the context to the contrary, he is
prefumed to be fpoken of; nor will any rule of interpre-
tation give countenance to another {z\\{z.

3. Our apoftle accommodates himfelf to the apprehen-
fions and expreflions in ufe among the Hebrews, fo far as
agreeable to the truth, reftifying them under miftakes, and
arguing with them from their own conceffions and per-
fuafions. Now at this time there was nothing more ufual
among the Hebrews, than to denote the fecond fubfiftencc
in the Deity, by the name of the * word of God.' They
were now divided into two great parts ; the inhabitants of
Canaan with the regions adjoining, and many old rem-
nants (fo to fpeak) in the Eaft, who ufed the Syro-Chal-
dean language, being but a diale£l of the Hebrew; and —
the difperfions under the Greek empire, who are com-
monly called Hellcnijis, who ufed the Greek tongue ; and
both thefe at that time, ufually in their feveral lan-
guages defcribed the fecond perfon in the Trinity by the
name of * the wc^d of God.' We have an eminent proof
of the former in the tranflation of the fcripture, which,
at leaft fome part of it, was made about this time amongft
them, commonly called the Chaldee paraphrafe : in the
whole of it the fecond perfon is mentioned under the name
of (VT «n)3D Alemra da'iovaj ' the word of God ;' to whom
all perfonal properties, and all divine works, are iji that
tranfliition aiTigned — an illuftrious tcftimony of the faith
of the old church concerning tlie diftin£l fubiiftcnce of a
plurality of perfons in the divine nature! And the Hel-
lenifis^ who wrote in the Greek tongue, ufed the name of
(0 Xoyog T«0jy) * the word of God,' to the fame purpofe ;
as I have elfe where manifcftcd out of the writings of
JPiiiLO. And this one cojifidcration is to me abfolutelv




fatisfai^ory as to the intention of the apoftlc in uflng this
^xpreirion i efpccially feeing that all the things mentioned,
may far more properly and regularly he afcribed to the
pcrfonoi the Son, than to the woid as written or preached.
And wholbevcr will take the pains to confider what occurs
in the Targums concerning (vt micd) * the word of God,'
and compare it with what the npofile here fpcak5, and tl>c
manner of its introduftion, will, if I do not greatly mif-
takc, be of the fame mind witli myfelf.

A. l^\\t at tribute i here afcribed to the word, [vcr. 12.]
do all of them properly belong to the perfon of Chrifl ,
and cannot primarily and dircilly be afcribed to the gofpel.
This fhall be manifeflcd in the eniuijig explication of the

^ 4. It is faid to be {(^xv^ vivia, vivcns,) living, which
we have tranflated ambiguoufly, ' (]uick.' The word
((^a;) is applied to God himfclf, as exprelTing a property
of his nature; [Matt. xvi. 16. I. Tim. iv. 10. Heb. iii,
12.] and it is alio peculiarly afcribed to Chrifl the Medi-
ator, [Rev. i. 18.] * the living one.* And two things
are intended in it. — That he who is fo hath life in Jimfdf,
and — That he is the Lord of ife to others. Borh wliich
are emphatically fpoken of the Son ; he hath * life in him-

* fclf/ [John V. 26.] and he is the ' prince of life, [Ads
iii, 15.] or the author oi \t. He hath the difpofal of the
Jife of all, whereon all our conccnin'ievits, temporal and
eternal, depend. [See John i. 4.] And it is evident ho^y
fuitable to the pUi pofc of our apoftlc, the mention hereof
at this time was. He minds the Hebrews, that ' he with

* whom they have to do,' in this matter, is the living onc\^
as in like manner he had before exliortcd them to take
heed of de})artlp.g from the * livin][^ God ;' and after .v.irds
j^arns them how frarful a thing it is to fall into t'/.e hands
of the 'living God,' [chap, x, 31.] So here, to dill jade
them from tiie one, r;ul to awethrni from tlie other, he
minds them that the * v.ord c: God,' with wh^-m in an
cfpecial manner they had to do, is ' living.' Now this
cannot /ro/)o7r be a^' vibed to the word of the gofpcl ; it is
indeed the uilVuuiCi.ul means of t;uick^ninjg tlie fouls of


V£ft. 12,23- E^^ISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 477

men with fplritual life ; but in itfclf it is not abfolutely

* living,' it hath not lite in itfelF, as Chrifl has. * In him

* is life, and the life is the light of men,' [John i. 4.]
and this one property of — * him with whom we have to do*
— contains the two great motives to obedience; namely,
that he is able to fupport and reward the obedient, and to
avenge the difobedient ; the one will not be unrewarded,
nor the other unrevenged, for he is the * living one' with
whom in thcfe things we have to do.

§ 5. (EvspyTic) powerful. Power for operation is an
aft of life ; and fuch as is the life of any thing, fuch is its
poivcr and operation ; life, power, and operation anfvver
one another ; and this word fignifies a^ual power, power
exerted, or power that is efFc6lual in aftual operation.
Having therefore firft affigned * life,' to the word of God,
that is, the principle of all power, our apoftle adds, that he
exerts that principle in aftual operation, according to his
fovereign pleafure.

The word {cVzoyi'do) is, I confefs, a common word,
iignifying the efficacy of any thing in operation according
to its principle and power; but it is that alfo whereby
our apoille moil frequently cxprefleth the almighty, effec-
tual, operating power of God in fpiritual things. And

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 42 of 46)