John Owen.

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

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this was neceffary to be added to the property of ' life/
to manifeft, that Chrift would effeftually put forth his
power in dealing with profeflbrs according to their deport-
ment, and that the power of Chrift lies not idle, is not
ufelefs, but is continually exercifing itfelf towards us, as
the matter requires. There is alfo, I acknowledge, an
energy, an operative powder in the word of God as written,
or preached ; but it is in it only as a confequent of its being
his word, who is ' the living one.'

% 6. The original of the power of Chrift in life, and it*:
efficacy in operation, being laid down, he farther declares it
by its properties and cffefts:

Flrft, this power is defcribed by its prober<ics. It is

endued with a cufthiF power, in the compau^t ve degree.

(To^Ml:-Qog) JJjurper, more piercing, {vtts^ Tratrav) than

Any. The prepoiition added to the comparative degree,

a increafeth


incrcafeth the fignification ; the conllrudlioii exprcfling
the grcatcft diftancc between the things compared — * Thau

* any tvjo-cdg:d fiuord^^ (^:,yui::,u', li' jouo,', that is, u^Pkjt^

• loy^O'j, g/adius biceps, anceps, utrbiquc incidcns -J double edged, or
mouthed, cutting every way. (mn 'd) * the mouth ot' the

* fword,' is an hebra'ijm, but the allufion is fo elegant, that
moil languages have admitted it. The metaphor is doubt-
Icls taken from wild bcaih, whom mankind firft feared,
tliat devoured with their mouths, which, when the fworJ
began to be ufed for dcftrun'ion, gave them occafion to call
its edge by the name of its ' mouth :' {oiticij.:^) double
mouthed, cutting each way, that leaves nothing unpicrced
whcrtunto it is applied. Chrill:,in the exercifc of his power,
is * more piercing than any two-edged fword.* God often-
times fcts forth hlmfelf and his power, with allullon to
things fenlible, the better to convey fome notion of them
to our dull and contracted undcrftandings : fo he is faid
to be a * confuming fire,' and that he will be * as a lion ;'
things of great terror. This of a ' fword,' is often
mentioned with rcfpccl to Cbr'ift, [I fa. xlix. 2. Rev. i.
16.] * Out of his mouth went a lliarp two-edged fword ;'
principally with refpeft to the cxercife of his power by
his word, which is called the ' fword of the Spirit,' [Eph.
.vi. 17.] the fword on his thigh, [Pfalm xlv. 5, 6.]
when he gocth forth to fubdue the fouls of men to him-
fclf ; which is alio the ' rod of his power,' [Pfalm ex. 2. J
But it is Chrift hlmfelf, as the principal efficiency, who
makes the word powerful and Jharp. And whereas there
is a two-fold ufe of a fword ; the one natural, to cut or pierce
through all oppofition, and as an armour of defence ; the
other moral, to execute punlflimcnts, whence the fword is
taken for the authority of punilliing, and /or punifliment it-
fclf : [Rom. xiii. 4.] fo the Lord Ciuiil by his word and
fpirit pierces inco the fouls of men, (as in the next claufe,}
notwithftanciing all the defence of pride, fccurity, obfti-
nacy, and unbelief, which they wrap thcmfelvcs in ; and
executes judgcmciUs on wicked men, lalfe proteflbrs, and
apoftates. * He fmites the earth with the rod of his

* mouth, and flavs the wicked with the breath of hi^ lips/


Ver. 12, 13. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 479

[Ifa. xi. 4.] he cuts off the life of their carnal hopes, falfe
peace, and wordly feCurity, by tlie two-edged fword that
proceeds out of hii mouth.

§ 7. Secondly, this power of the word is defcribed bv its
efftdJi {ouKyi^,tJiS]'L;, prrvemcns, penetrans J piercing, is here
elegantly ufcd, in purluit of T:he former alluiion, to ex-
prefs the power Chrift, as a fword, ' piercing' into the in-
mod recelles, and, as it were, the fecret chambers of the
raind and heart. — The object of this ' piercing' is the foul
and fpirit. Some think that by (v|/u%»7)yo«/, the natural
and unregenerate part is intended ; and by (ttvcVUm) fpirit,
that which is in it renewed and regenerate ; but whereas
our apolUc makes a diflindtion between foul and fpirit, as
he doth in other places, he moft probably intends by
{•]/'jyji, the foul, the afFcdions, appetite, and defires ; and
by (tt'^svixcz) the fpirit, the mind or underftanding, the
(to Yr/c^j.oynioy) conducing part of the foul. For fetting
out the penetrating power of the word of God, with re-
ference to the fouls of men, he diflributes the * foul' into,
as it were, its principal conftituent parts, or faculties ;
that is, the mind, that condu6ts and guides it ; and the
fajjions that fleer and balance it ; wherein all the mofl
lecret recelTes, and fprings of all its a6lings lie. And
this icw'iQ, is confirmed from the following words, wherein
the fame thing is alTerted under a different notion. ' The
* joints and marrow.* That then which in all thefe ex-
preffions is intended, is the abfolute power and ability of
the Son of God, to judge of the re£litude and crooked-
iiefs of the ways and walkings of the fons of men under
their profelTion, from the inward frames of their minds
and hearts, to all their outward duties and performances,
either in perfevcrance or backfliding.

§ 8. The lail expreflion, ' a difcerncr of the thoughts
*■ and intents of the heart,' is plainly declarative of what
is elfewhere afcribed to him ; namely, that he is (naodio*
yvcAjo-j/jg) ' He that knowcth and fearchcth the hearts of men.*
This is a peculiar property of God, and is affirmed to be
fo ; [Jcr. xvii. 10. I. Sam. xvi. 7. Pfal. vii. 9.] and in
an efpecial manner is afjribed to the Lord Chrifl, [John

Vol. 1L dq cj ii.


ii. 24, 25. and xxi. 17. Rev. ii. 23.] This is eminently ex-
prcfled in that confcflion of Peter, * Lord, thou knowcft

* all things, thou knowcft that 1 love thcc ;* by virtue of
thy omnifciencc, whereby thou knoweft all things, tliou
knoweft my heart, and the love therein which 1 have to
thee. * And is a dlfctrncr^ {Kc>i]iyjJCy jud.-Xy dijcrctor) one
that upon accurate infpeftion and conlideration, judgcih
and givcth fcntcncc. It differs from (>co/; 7;) a jiidgc^ as
adding tlic ail of judging to the right and power of judge-
ment ; which is lufFicicnt to evince, that the ^c^Jm of
Chrift is here principally intended.

By [y^cc^2i(yx) the * heart,' the whole foul and all its
faculties, as conftituting one rational principle of moral
adions, is intended ; and fo includes the ' foul and fpirit'
before mentioned. Here two things arc afcribed to it :

1. (Evfiup/jcTJ/g-) Thoughts, cogitations ; whatever is in-
wardly conceived (vj tcc 9v^oc) in the mhid^ with a peculiar
Tefpe£t to the irafcible appetite, [Gen. vi. 5.] ' The fig-

* ment of the cogitations of the heart ,-' the thoughts which
arc fuggefled by tlie inclinations of the affedtions, with
their commotions in the mind.

2. (E;'Vo/«/) Defigns, or purpofes inwardly framed
(^v 7(Mi vojc) in the underftandlng ; the principles that men
afe guided by in their adlings, according to which they
frame their a(!lual purpofes and intentions. Upon the
whole, the apoftle's dcfign in thefc words is, to declare
the intimate and ahfolutc acquaintance * the word of God*
hath with the inmoft frames, purpofes, defires, rcfolution?.
and a«Elings of the minds of profeffors ; and the furc un^
€r ring judgement which he makes of them.

§ 9. * There is not a creature that is not manifefl ;'
that is, every creature is eminently, illuftrioully manifell.
(Oi;c Jcr]/ 7i7i(n;) * Tijere is not a crcatuye^' any thing created,
perfons or things, — angels, men, devils, — profelfors and
perlccutors, as well as the fincere, — and all things con-
cerning them, their inward frames of mind and heart,. their
various inclinations and affections ; their ftate and con-
dition, their temptations and fecrct aflings, 5cc. — (Apocyr,g)
' That is not irnwiifcj],^ I'lie Creek word {lutfUj} is to
I appear


appear^ \q Jhine forth \ and the expreflion (oc^awig) not ma^
n'lfeji^ is oppofed to {ii: il^c^Y^g) Ulufinous, petfpkuous, emi-
nently manifeft. It is more than (oCpocvlog) ' merely one

* out of fight.' [Li:^ke xxiv. 31.] The negation, therefore,
includes a plain, clear, iliuflrious appearance, nothing
ilirovvding, hiding, or interpoling itfelf to obfcure it ;
(si/caJTTIov ccvla) before him ; (in CQnfpe£l.u ejus) in his fight.
Every creature is continually under his view.

§ 10. * But all things are naked and opened unto the
*. eyes of him with whom we have to do.' AH agree that
this term {TST'^ayjiKio-^zVoc) opened, is as much as (ttc'^o,-
VzBM^^zV(x.) ahfolutcly o/)^;? or manifeft. {T^ccyj{kog) the neck^
is a word of common ufe ; and thence {r^ccyj/iXi^oo^cci)

* to be manifeft,' muft derive its fignification from fomc
poflure of the * neck ;* and as joined here with {yv^yoc)

* naked,' it may allude — -either to wrefllers and contenders
in games, who were llript of their clothes ; whence
comes {yvu^voc^oo) ' vigoroufly to, exercife ;' and {yv^va.a-iov\
*. a place of fuch exercife,' Then in contending, whea
one was thrown on his back (refupinatus) he was [^^a.yji"
"hdQjo^ivog) expofed, laid open, with his throat and neck up-
wards ; and hence the word comes to iignify things that
are open^t naked, evident, manijeft ; — or, rather, the alJufion
may be to beafts, which,, when flain. and flripped of their
fkins, are hanged with the * neck opened and expofed,' fo
^hat all may fee them. Some add, that the expreffiori
(r^ocyyiXifiiv) is as much as {^r^ojo^siy) to divide into parts;
or (ha T'/jg oayjoog o-%i^5iv) to cut, cleave, or divide,
through the backbone, that all may be difcovered. How-
ever, it is evident tha,t the apoftle, while inftruding the
Hebrews, l^ath a great regard to the cuftoms in ufe among
theinfelves ; which coniideration makes it probable thai
here he alludes to the beafts that were facrificed. Whei;
ilain, the beaft vj^s, fayed by the priefts, whereby its car-
cafe was made {yvu^vcv) naked, laid open to the view of all ;
rhen were all its entrails expofed by opening the belly and
the neck ; after which the body was cut through the chine-
bone, whereby it became (TSTpccyjiKta-^^vov) opened and
divided; every part of it expofed tc view. Thence the

Qj{ q ^ ;;poftle


apoftle — liaving compared the word of God before in its
operations to a ' two-edged fword,' that * pitrccth to the

* dividing afunder of the joints and marrow,' as did the
fliarp knife or inflrumcnt of the facriiiccr — here affirms
that all thmgs wliatever, and fo confequently the hearts
and ways of profelfors, were evident, * open and naked*
before him, as the body of the facriticcd bcail was to the
pricds, when flayed, opened, and cut to pieces — * Unto

* the eyes of him, with whom we have to do.' He con-
tinues the former allufion, and in both the metaphorical
exprelhons, the omnifcience of Chrill is defcribed, {7100^
cv yj^iv oXoyog} * With whom we have to do;' to luhom
we niufl: give an account ; or, before whom our account is
to be made. This interpretation perfectly anfwcrs the
«^c(ign of the apoflle ; for evidencing to us the efficacy
and omnifcience of the ' word of God,' trying all things,
and difccrning all things, he reminds us of our near con-
cernments in thefe matters ; that we mud all give up our
final accounts to, and bcff^e him, who is fo intimately ac-
quainted with what we are, and whatever we do. Hence
we may draw the following obfervations :

§ I I. (11.) Obf. I. it is the way of the Spirit of God
to excite us to fpccial duties by propollng to us, and re-
minding us of fuch divine properties as, when duly con-
fidercd, may in an efpecial manner incline us to thofe
duties. Here the Hebrews are told, that * the word of

* God' is * living ;' to imprefs their hearts with that awe
and reverence of him, which might deter them from back-
fliding. To ftir us up to carefulncfs, diligence, and fpi -
ritual watclifulncfs, that we give not place to decays in
our profclhon, we arc cfpeciailv put in mind that he is

* the living one,' who continuallv cxcrcifitb aiis of ///!• to-
wards us. And, indeed, with regard to all duties of obe-
dience, it will be our wifdom always to consider — what
icfpcct the divine properties have to thofe duties.

§ 12. Ohf, 2. The life and poiucr of Chrill are con-
tinually exercifcd about the concernments of the fouls of
profelTors ;. are alwavs and a£\ua!lv cihcacioiis, by his
word and fpirit. Though the word of the gofpcl fceiu



weak and dcfpifed, yet it is accompanied with the hidden
power of Chrift, which will not fail in its end ; [I. Cor,
i. 18.] A preached gofpel is the conveyance of dhhiepoiver
to the fouls of men ; and every imprelTion it makes on
the heart is an effe6t of that power. This may teach us,
how to value and efteem it ; feeing it is the honoured and
only way whereby the Lord Chrill exercifeth his mediatory
power towards us.

§ 13. Obf. 3. The power of Chriil in his word is ir-
refiftiblc, as to its deligned effefts. [Ifa. Iv. 10, 11.] By
many it is exceedingly flighted ; few feem to have any real
effects of it upon them, and thofe who preach it in lin-
cerity are ready to cry out, * Who hath believed our re-

* port ?' But does not ail arife from a miftake, as though
it had but one end to anfwer ? Had the Lord Chrifl no other
end to accomplifh by his w^ord but merely the converfion
of fouls, it might be faid to fail towards the far greater
number of them to whom- it was preached ; but it was
with him in his word, as it was in his own perfon ; he
was ' fet for the fall as well as the rifingof many in Ifrael;

* and for a fign that fhould be fpoken againft.' [Luke ii.
34.] As he was to be to fome for 3. fan^uary \ fo * for a
*- lione of flurabling, and rock of offence to both the houfes

* of Ifrael ; for a gin and a fnare to the inhabitants of Je-

* rufalcm,' among whom many were to llumble at him,
and fall and be broken, [Ifa. viii. 14, 15.] All to whom
he is preached, are either raifed by him out of their ftate
of fin and mifery, and take fancluary in him from fin and
the law, or they flumble at hi u through unbelief, and
perilh eternally. They mufl all be either faved by his
grace, or pcrifh under his wrath. The power of Chrill
in the word will reach and fearch out all, for ' it pierccth

* to the dividing afunder of the foul and fpirit, and the

* joints and marrow.' So that,

§ 4. Obf. 4. Though men may hide things from them-
ielves and others, yet they cannot exclude the power of
Chrifl in his word from piercing into them. Men arc apt
Urangely to hide, darken and confound things between
their foul and fpirit, that is, their affctllons and their

minds i.


w/W.> -, bcrc);i confiils no fiiiall part of the deceitfulnefs
of fin , but where he deiigns the conviction of men, he
makes his word poiuerful to difcover the fccrct foUics of
thcirminds andafledions, the hidden recefles of fin, w^ith
the nioft artful clofc refcrvcs , and fprcada them before
their eyes to their own amazement. [Pfah iv. 21.] So our
apoAlc tells us, that by prophefying, or expx)unding the
word of Chrift, the fecrets of men's hearts are difcovered ;
that is, to d'emfclvcs ; tjhey lind the word dividing afunder
between their fouls and fplrits, wherein they fall down and
give glory to God. [I. Cor. xiv. 24, 25.] Let men arm
themfelves never fo ftrongly, or their fins be covered with
the fairell pretence of profcfiion, Chrifl by his word will

• pierce tluough all' into their very hcartSy and having dif-
covered, divided, and fcattered all Uicir vain imaglnatjons,
he wmU * judge' them, and decidedly determine their ftate
and condition. Men are apt to plcafe themfelvcjs in their
fpiritual condition, though built on very fandy sbunda-
lions ; and although all their confiderations fail tJiem, yet
they will maintain a life of hopes, however unwarrantable;
[Ifa. Ivii. 10.] But when the word of Chrifl, by his
powTr, enters into their fouU and conlciences, it utterly
cafts down all their confiden.ces, and deflroys their hopes
and expcftations. And hereon they either betake them-
felves wholly to their fins, fo to free themfelves from their
convi6tions and fears ; or finccrely give themfelves up to
liim for relief. To this purpofe again it is added, that
this • word of God,' is * a difcerncr of the thoughts and

• intent's of the heart ;' that is, one that fo difcerns tiicm,
as to put a ^/.^ar//cv between them, and to pafs judgement

§ I V bhf. 5. The Lord Chrift clifccrmth all inward
and fpiritual things, in order to his prefent and future
jud?;ement of thofe things, and the perfons in whom they
arc found. Our difcerning, and our judging, arc things
tlilVnu't and fcparate ; difcerning every thing imperfef^ly
;nui i)y parts, we cannot /W.^r expcditioufly, if we intend
to iudgc wifely ; for we niul\ * judge after the light of our

• eyes, a:\d reprove after the hearing of our cars ;' that is,



according as we can, by zvcak means, underftand that on
which we are to form a judgement. Witluhe word, or Son
of God, it is notfo ; for he, at once difccrning all things
perfectly and abfolutclv) in all their caufes, circumftanccs,
tendencies and ends, in the fame inftant approvcth or con-
demneth them. For this caufc, he is faid to be of' quick
' underflanding in the fear of the Lord,' fo as not to

* judge after the fight of his eyes, nor reprove after the

* hearing of his cars,' that is, according to the outward
appearance of things, or the profefTion that men make,
which is fcen and heard ; but he * judgeth with righteouf-

* nefs, and reproves with equity,' according to the true
7iaturc of things which Kieth hidden from the eyes of mt!l.
Let men not pleafe themfelves in their fecret referves ; there
is not a thought in their hearts, though but tranfient, and
never ariiing to the confiftcncy of purpofe> a pleafing
imagination in their minds, but lies continually under the
eye of Chrifl ; and at the fame inftant, that very judge-
ment is paffed on them, which fhall be pronounced at the
laft dav. Oh, that we could always confider, with what
awe and reverence, with what care and diligence, we ought
continually to walk before this holy all-fcclng one 1 ' His

* eyes are as a flame of fire.' [Rev. i. 14.]

§ 16. Ohf. 6. It is a great and difficult matter really
and praftically to convince profeflTors of the judging omnl^
fciency of Jefus Chrift, ' the word of God.' All pro-
felTors are ready enough to clofe with Peter in the firft part
of their confeffion, * Lord, thou knoweft all things ;' but
when they come to the other ; ' thou knoweft that / love

* thee,* they fliil. If their minds were fully pofleiTed with
the perfuafion of it ; were they continually under the
power thereof, it would certainly influence them to that
care, diligence, and watch fulnefs, which arc evidently
wanting in moft of them : kut the love of prefent things,
the deceitfulnefs of fm, the power of temptation, the
caufes and bufineffes of life, vain and uncertain hopes,
effe<^ually divert their minds from a due conflderation of
it ; though nothing be of more ufe to them in the whole
courfe of their walking with God.


§ 17. OhJ. 7. That the beginnings of the dcclenfions
in profcliion, or backflidijigs from Chiiil and the golpel,
aix; lecret, deep, and hardly d'lfcovcrable by us, being open
and naked only to the all-dirccrning eye of Chrift. Hence
all thofe cautions which the goTpcl gives the profcfling
Hebrews againfl this evil, and concerning the lubtilties
and lurprir.ils wherewith it is attended ; [lec chap. iii. 13.
and xii. 15.] Every where he retjuires more than ordinary
watch fulne Is and dihgcnce in this matter ; and intimates,
that unlels they are exceeding heedful, there will be no
preventing a furprifal and feduflion into fome degrees, at
Icaft, of dcclenlion and backlliding from the gofpcl ; one
way or other, there will be fome lofs or decay — in faith^
love, or works.

The Afian churches are a fad exemplification of thi?
truth ; in a Ihort time the moil: of thofe churches were
gre^t]v fallen off, and yet ?!o one of them fcemcd to have
liad the leail fenfe of their own decays. In this Hate the
Lord Chrift comes to form a judgement concerning them,
as all things lay ' open and naked' under his eye. He
will fo deal with them, that all the churches Ihall know it
)S he vAio Jurchcih the rtins and hcr.rts, [Rev. ii. 23.] And
what work doth he make among thefe fccure churches ?
one is charged with lofs of love andfaith^ another oi ivorhs^
a third with lukcivarmncfs and carnal pride, a fourth with
fph-'ttual death, as to the generality of its members, and
mod of them with various decays and mifcarriages which
themfelvcs took no notice of. But hh eye — flaying not
upon the outfide of things, be they never fo gay or glo-
rious, but piercing to the fecrct and firil conceptions of
iln and dcclenfions from himfelf — found them out, and
palled judgement on them in rightcoufnefs and equity.^
The fubtihy and dcceitfulncfs of indwelling fm, Satan,
und the world ; the fallacious reafonings of deceitful prin-
ciples, — extenuating duties, aggravating dilHculties, and
fuggelling fall'c rules of profclhon — are the principal
caul'cs of backfliding.

The beginnings of dcclenfions from Chrill and the
gofpcl arc deep and hidden, bccaufc oftentimes they arc


Ver. 12, 13. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, 487

carried ou by very fecret and imperceptible degrees, Soime
men are plunged into apoflacy by Ibme notorious crimes,
or by the power of fome great temptations. In thefe it is
cafy to difcover the beginning of their fall ; as it was with
Judas when the devil entered into him, and prevailed with
him, for the fake of money, to betray his Mafter. And
many fuch there are in the worjd, who, for the fake of
money^ o: what ends in money, part with their profelTed in-
terell in Chrift and the gofpel. And if they get more
than Judas did, it is becaufe they meet with better chap-
men in the world than were the priefts and pharifces, The
f^ll of fuch men from their profellion is like the dying of
a man by 2ifcver ; the lirfl incurfion of the difeafe, with
its whole progrefs, is manifefl, The fpiritual decays of
others is like an hedic dlftemper, which at firfl is hardly
known, and in its progrefs hardly cured. Small negli-
gences and omilTions are admitted, and the foul is habi-
tuated to them, and fo a progrefs is made to greater evils.
Befides, revolters and backfliders do their utmoll endea-
vour to hide the beginnings of their fails from themfclves
and others. By falfe and corrupt reafonings they labour
* to blind their own eyes,' and to hide thefe evils from
thcmfelves. Their * own hearts feduce them, before they
' feed on afhes.'

§ I 8. Ohf. 8. A due and holy confideration at all times
of the all-feeing eye of Jefus Chrlji is a great prefervative
againft backflidings and declenlions. Some with Sardlsy
are ready to plcafe themfclves whilil they keep up fuch a
profefTion as others, with whom they walk approve of, or
at leall cannot blame ; others, with Laodlcea, think all is
well whlHl they approve themfclves, and have no trouble-
some accu Cations riling againfl their peace in their own
confciences, when it may be their confcienccs themfclves
are dcliauched, bribed, or fecure. For many regard not
Imallcr things;, which neither others obferve to tlicir dif-
reputation, nor themfclves arc alFefled with to their dif-
quiet, aiid thereby are infenlibly betrayed into apoflacy \
one neglc£l follows another, and me evil is added to ano-
ther, until a breach be made upon them * great like the

Vol. II. R r r » f^^a^*


• fc.i/ that cannot be healed. Herein then lies a great pre-
fervative ; lot usconlidcr conftantly that the eye ot Chnii,
with whom we have to do, and to whom an account of all
mud one day be given, is upon us ; and it cannot but
keep us jealous over ourfclves, left there fhould any

* defihng root of bitttrntl's' fpring up in us. — Let U3
mbreover rct"Ie<5^, that the Lord Chrift doth not behold
thefe evils by tmrc intuition ; but as one deeply co>iccr7iedj
and as it were troubled with thtm ; for by thefc tilings his
good Spiiir is grieved and vexed \ and great reproach is
caft upon his name. Where, therefore, there is any fin-

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 43 of 46)