John Owen.

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

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ccrity, th.erc will be a continual ca'-e about thefe things,
on account of the concernment of Ci.riii i \ them. And
farther : — We may do well to remember that he fo fees
all our negle(^>s and decays, as in an efpecial manner to
take notice of their Jinfulnefs and demerit ; there is no
omiffion of duty, no negiedl of the a£ling or ftirring up
of any grace, no finful mifcarriage, or worldly compli-
ance, wherein the beginning of our decays may conlift ;
but — together with all their caufes and occalions, their
aggravating cirrumftances, their end and tendency — are
all under the eye o^ Chrill:, and fo their whole guilt is fpread
before him. And oftentimes there is a more provoking
guilt in fome chcumjlanccs of things, than in the things
themfelves : he fees all the unkindnefs and unthankful-
iiefs from whence our decays proceed ; all the contempt

.of him, his love and grace, wherewith they arc attended ;
the advantage of Satan and the world in them ; and the
great end of iinal apollacy whercunto they tend, if not by
grace prevented. All thefe things greatly aggravate the
guilt of our fpiritual dccavs ; and the whole provocation
lies continually under his eye. Hence his thouglits of
thefe things arc not as our thoughts commonly arc ; but
it is our wifdom to make his rule, the rule and mcafure of
ours. — Again ; He fees all things of this kind in fuch a
manner, as that he vj'iW fyafs judgement accordingly. Alas I
it is not the world we arc to be judged by ; if it were,
men micrht hide their from it ; nor is it the fnnts or
angels, who difcovcr not the fecret frames of our hearts,



but it is * he who is greater than our hearts, and knoweth

* all things.' And how (hall backflidcrs in heart elbape
his righteous judgement r

§ 19. Obf. 9. A due confideration of the omnifcience
of Chrift is a great encouragement to the meaneft and
weakeft believers, who are upright and fmcere. Hence he
fays of himfelf, that ' he will not break the bruifed reed,

* nor quench the fmoaking fiax^' [Matt. xii. 20.] Be our
ftrength like that of a * bruifed reed,' which is next to
none at all, he will not bruife it ; nay, he will take care
tocherifh and add ftrength to it. Nor fliall the * fmoaking

* flax,' the leall degree imaginable of grace^ be quenched
while under his eye and care^ Grace in its firft commu-
nication is new to the foul, w^hich it knows not how to
try, or meafure ; Satan and indwelling corruption ufe all
means poffible to darken the mind, that it may not aright
apprehend the work of grace upon it ; the many felf-de-
ceivings which they either obferve in others, or read of in
fcripture, make them (and that juftly) jealous over their
own hearts, left they fliould deceive themfelves with hy-
pocrify. With many other reafonings of the fame nature
they are entangled ; but againfl all thefe perplexities much
relief may be adminiflered from this confideration, viz.
that the Lord Chrift with whom we have to do, fees,
knows, and approves of the leajl fpark of heavenly fire that
is kindled in us by his Spirit. The leail feed of grace
that is planted in us, is under his eye and care, to pre-
ferve, water, and cherifli it. He takes notice of the leaft
endeavours of grace in the heart againft the power of fin ;
he perceives the principle and agings of grace in that very
forrow and trouble wherewith the foul is even over-
whelmed in apprehenfion of the want of it ; he knows
that much of many a foul^s trouble for ivanl of grace ^ is
from grace ; he fees the love that works \\\ trouble for
want of faith ; and the faith that works in trouble for
want of holinefs. Thefe things he takes care of. How
fmall foever that grace be which he difcerns in the fouls
of his children, he accepts of it, and takes care for its
prefervation and incrcafe.

R r r a Verses


Verses 14 — 16.


§ I. 7'he fuhjeSl propofcd, § 2 — 12. (I.) TJje words ex-
plained. § 13. (II.) Olf/lrvations. l. Great oppojition
ivUl be made to the permayicncy of believers In their pyofef^
fion. § 14. 1. It Is our duty y In the mldjl cf all oppoj:^
tionsy to hold our projcjfion firm and Jledfajl unto the end.
§ 15 — 18. 3. Belle jers have great eneouragement, in the
conjiancy of their profcjfion, from the prlefihcod of fcfu$
Chrlj}. § 19 — 2 2. 4. The church hath a perpetual ad'
vantage in the union of our nature to the perfon of the Sen
of God y as our high prlcfi. § 23, 24. 5. There is many
a feafon^ In the courfe of our profjfion, "juhereln iL'e fhad
need f pedal aid. § 25. Other objcrvatlons.

§ i.XN thcfc vcrils the apoftic gives us a fummary im-
provement of all tlie foregoing difcourfes ; and makes a
tranfition to his great dclign.
Let us,

I. Attend to the feveral parts of the words, and

II. Improve the fubjeft by fuitablc obfcrvations.

§ 2. (I.) \\yj:)^\:q if'jy Idabcntes Igltur) having therefore;
or, as ours, * feeing then that we have ,* denoting a con-
fcijuence, not by way of argument, but of duty. * Seeing
* then that we have ,' ('A''y;.:;t\: uyai-, Fontlfcem magnum J

* a great

Ver. 14—16. El'ISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 4^1

* a great high -pr'icfi: (Af^x^ijsvg) * High Priefl,' refers to
Aaron or his fuccelTor, and therefore the epithet {[Jisyccg)
great, is added by way of eminencv, and is accumulative
with refpeft to Aaron ; he is a great High Prieft in com-
parifon of him, and exalted above him ; more excellent,
more glorious than he. For the fpccial deiign of the
apoftle is to compare him — not with any niferior priefls,
but — with Aaron, as we fliall farther fee. Therefore, a

* great High Prieft,' is one eminently, excellently, glo-*
rioufly fo.

§ 3. * That is paiTed into the heavens.' The verb is
\^icG%ou.aL<, pcrtranfco) to pafs THROUGH ; that is, one
place into another ; w^hich interpretation alone anfwers
the apoftle's defign. The * heavens' are taken two ways ;
Firjiy for the refti ng place of bleiled fouls, and palace of
the great King, where is his throne, and where thou-
fands of his holy ones ftand miniftcring before him. This
heaven the Lord Chrift did not pafs through, but into, when
he was * taken up iiito glory,' [I. Tim. iii. 16.] There he
fits on the right hand of the Majefty on high ; and thefe
heavens muft receive him until thetimeof reftitution. [Ads
iii. 27.] Secondly,thQ 'heavens'* are taken for the <2zV, as when
mention is made of the ' fowls oi heaven,'' And concern-
ing them our apoftle fays again of our High Prieft, [chap*
vii. 26.] * made higher than the heavens;' he pafled
through them, and was exalted above them* Towards
thefe aetherial regions the difciples looked when he was
taken up into glory, [A£ts i. 9, lo, fo Ephef. iv. 10.]

* He afcendcd up far above all heavens. "" He pafled through
them, and afcended above them, into that which is called
the * third heaven,' or the * heaven of heavens.'

The allufton is evidently made to the high prieft, and
to what he typically reprefented to the church of old ; the
moft ftgnal part of whofe office confifted in his annual
entrance into the moft. holy place, on the day of expiation.
Thus Jefus, anfvverably, pafted through the veil of thefe
heavens into the glorious prefcnce of God, to appear there
as our intcrcelTor. {\iT'<iv ilv woV 7^ 0.-5) ' Jcfus the Sen cf

* GacJ.' Tranllations do not well exprcfs the emphafis of

2 thefe


thcfc words by reafon of the article {lov viov) THE Son,
cuiiiiciulv, peculiarly; that Son of God, that is, the
natural, only begotten Son of the Fatlicr. The name

* Jtjus,' doth not in this piacc fo much denote him by his
work of javlng^ according to the flri6t fignification of
that term, hut rather denotes his human nature^ by par-
taking of which he became a merciful high prielK

§ 4. (¥^ooc]u)^iv 7y]g ojJiO^yiocg) * Let us hold fad the
prcfcjfion \ that is, which we make, or have made, ai^d
fo ow profcirion, as we properly fupply the words ; which
is ' our profcjjcd fuhjeBlon to the gofpcl of Chrift,' [II. Cor.
ix. 13.1 or, the fubje£lion of our fouls in the acknow-
ledgement of the power and authority of Jefus Chrifl in
the gofpel. To complete this, there is required that we
make 2. folcmn declaration of our fubjeflion to the gofpcl ia
thefe things, with prudence, humble confidence, and con-
flancy ; for with the mouth confclfion is made unto fal-
vation. [Rom. x. 10.] Our pyofcjjion is to be turned into
ccnfejjiony or we lofe it. I'he open avowing of the Lord
Chrif}, his ways and worfhip, under pcrfecution, is the
touch-Jlone oi all profcffion. [Matt. x. 3 , 33. I. Cor. iii.
I :;.] This is the profefTion wc are to * hold faj},'' {yj^c^ujixy/)
which intimates a fevcre endeavour ; to hold a thing (tatis
z'irilfusj * with all our ilrength,' by all lawful means,
with rcfulution and coiitention of mind. For the word
is from {}iz<y7;cg) poivcr, Arength, efficacy, which are to be
exerted in thus holding faft. [Rev. ii. 25.] * That which
you have, (xpociy;rr(xjc) ' hold fajl,' with all care, againft all
oppofition, * till I come,' [foRcv. iii. 12. Kca]3i c-xsig,]
' HQldfdJl, that which thou hai\, that no man take thy

* crown ;' that is, witii all tliv might, with all diligence
and contention of mind, as a man would hold fait his
crown Ihould any attempt to take it from him. So then
this vcrfe containcth the prcfcription of a di.ty, with .1
motive and encouragement to the due performance of it :
feeing then we have a great High Pricll, which is pafTcd
through tlic heavens, Jcfus the iiow of God, * let us hold

* fail,"' 6cc.



§ 5. * For wc have not an High Priefl that cannot.*
The double negation lirongly affirms, he is fuch a one as
can he offered. * We have an High Priefl;.' The apofllc
Jets the Hebrews know, that in the gofpel ftate there is no
iofs of privilege in any thing. Had they an High Pricfl,
who, with his office, was the life and glory of their pro-
felfioii and worlhip ? We alfo, faith he, have an High
Prieli, who is, in hke manner, the life and glory of our
profeffion and worlliip. He allures the Jews that they loft
no advantage by the gofpel, but had all their former pri-
vileges anfpeakably heightened and increafed.

§ 6. The church never loil ^\vj privilege once granted,
by anv change or alteration that God made in his ordi-
nances of worfhip, or difpenfation towards it ; but ftill
keeping what it had before, it was carried on towards that
completenefs and perfection which it is capable of in this
world, and which it hath received by Jefus Chrifl:. Pre-
fently upon the giving of tht firji promife, God inftituted
fome kind of worfhip, ^'^ Jacrlfices^ to be a m.eans of in-
tercourfe between him and finners, by the grace and truth
of that promife ; after this he made fundry additional or-
dinances of worfhip, all of them inftru£live in the nature
of that promife, and directive towards the accomplifh-
ment of it. And ftiil there was an increafe of grace artd
privilege in them all ; * they were mountains of myrrh
* and hills of frankincenfe,* on which the church waited
till the day break, and the fhadows fled awav, [Cant, iv,
6.] All along the church was flill a gainer. But when the
time of the adual accomplilhment of the promife came,
then were all the former privileges realized to believers,
new ones added^ and nothing lojl. We have neither loft:
facrifice nor High Prieft ; but have them all in a more
eminent and excellent manner. And this is enough to
fecure the application of the initial feal of the covenant to
the iyif ant feed of believers. For whereas it was granted
to the church under the Old Teftament, as a fignal favour
and fpiritual privilege ; it is derogatory to the glorv of
Chrift and honour of the gofpel, to fuppofc that the
phurch i§ now deprived of it ; for in the whole fyftem and



frame of worlhip, * God liad the I)cttcr things for us,
* that tliey without us fhould not be made pcrfed.'

§ 7. * That cannot be touched vjith a fcelhw \ \vhocar\-
jiot be ajjciled with a faife ; who cannot fufft^r ivhh, or
fympathizc. This word, {Q-v^7:cc^ioc) includes,

1. A concern in the troubles, fufferings, or evils of
Others, on account of any cjmmon ittterejl wherein perfons
arc united. As in tlic natural body, fomctimes whti^ one
part is afRi(^ed with a dilcafe, another part is offetied with
it, although it cannot be abfolutely faid to be ill-ajftiled -^
for no part of the difeafc is in it ; but it may be faid
(<rviJi7ro:o-yjiv) ' not to be free from being alleged,' though
not upon its own account. This fuffcring is by conkiit,
or, in virtue of the harmony there is in the fame nature ,
fo we liave a lenfe of the fufferings of human nature lu
any man whatever.

2. It includes a prcpcnjity to reliezc fuch in thofc trou-
bles or fufferings, whether we have power to efltd that
relief or no. We may not be able to relieve in fome
cafes where we are concerned ; and in fome it may not be
iAU'/ui i but if there be no fuch inclination, there is no

3. Properly it contains in It a ccr/imotion of affe^lons
which we exprefs by (condohniia) * condolence ;' a moving
ofafTeclions in ourfelves upon the fufferings of others.
And thcfc things are afcribcd to our High Prieft, on ac-
count of his union with us, both in his participation of
our nature, and the conmiunication of a new nature to
us, whereby we become members ot his body, and evoii
otiQ with him. Thus he is deeply concerned in all our
infirmities, forrows, and fulferings ; and this is attended
with a propcnfity to relieve us, according to the rule and
tcnour of the cov<.n;int , and herewith, during the time
of our trials, he hath a real motion of affeflions in his
holy nature, which he took on him for that very q.\\(\^
(chap. li. 17, 18.] — [iczk; a(T^z\iiuq) ^ Our hifinnn'iei.^
\Vilcrcas it is here mentioned generally^ without relhi£lioii
to any fpeciul kind of inlirmitics, it may jullly he extended
to all wcakncjfis^ or any prcflTurcs wc may be lenfiblc gf.


Ver. 14—1^. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 495 -

Bat whereas, in the following words, the reafon of the
abihty of Chrift our High Priell to be afFeflcd with a fen fe
of infirmities, is pjaccd in his ' being teiijpted ;' it is ma-
iiifeft that the weaknelTes here chiefly intended are fuch
as refpe6l afflictions, temptations, or perlecution for the

§ 8. In the next words a fpecial reafon is alTigned of
this merciful ability of our High Pricft : ' but w^s in all
' points tempted as we are, yet without fin.' The par-
ticle (Si) but^ is contradictory to what was before denied;
he is not fuch a one as cannot be afFefted; * but,' one
who was himfelf tempted ; that is, he can he affe^ied with
a i(i\\{t of our infirmities, bccaufe he was tempted. —
[WcTicLooi^cVO-j) tempted; that is, tried, exercifed ; for no ,
more doth the word originally import. Whatever moral
evil is in temptation, proceeds from the depraved invention
of the tempter, or from the finful weaknefs of the tempt-
ed. In itfelf, and materially confidercd, it is but a trial
which may have a good or bad cfFed. — * Every way, (?6«7^
TTccfjc/.) in all things ; that is, from all means and inftru^
ments of temptations, by all ways of it, and in all things
w-herein as our High Prieft he was concerned. * Like as
* we are,' (kcc9^ cuLOiojyflcc, fecundum fimilitudinem) in like
manner : there is a plain reference to the temptation of
others ; for whatever is like^ is of neceffity like to fomewhat
elfcy fomething that anfvvers it ; that is, trials and temp-
tations of believers, what prefs on them by reafon of their
weaknefs. — (Xwp/f oc^oiojiocg) without Jin ; fin, with re-
fpeft to temptation, may be confidered, either as the
principle, or the cffcfl of it ; in the firji fenfe men are
tempted to fin, by fin itfelf; to actual, by habitual fin;
to outward, by indwelling fin, [James i. 14, 15.] and
this is the greateft fource of our temptations. In they^-
cond fenfe, fin is what temptation tends to ; what it de-
figns and producetli. Now in what refpefl was our High
Priefl tempted ' without fin ?' If the denial of fin relate to
x\\c former, then the apoftle preferves in us due apprehen-
fions of the purity and holinefs of Chrift, that we may not
imagine he was liable to any temptations to fin from

Vol. II. S f f withiiii


witliin. ir the latter he intended^ then all fuccefs of tempta-
tion upon our High Pricit is denied. AVe are tempted by
Satan, the world and our own lulb, that conflantly aim
to bring us more or lei's to fin and j^uiit; and their temp-
tation, efpecially if vigorous and prclfing, hath, alas ! too
often its hateful efft^. It was quite othcrwife with our
High Prieil ; wliatever temptation he was expofed to, or
cxercifcd with, had not, in the leafl: degree, any bad if eel
on him; he was ftill, in all things, abfolutely ' without

* fin.* Now the exception being abfolute, 1 fee no reafon
why it fliould not be applied to iin in both refpe£ts. He
neither was tempted by fin, fuch was the holinefs of hrs
nature ; nor did his temptation produce arty fin, fuch was
t])e perfeftion of his obedience.

§ 9. * Let Us therefore come boldly.* Seeing we have
an High Pried, fuch a one as we have defcribed ; (ttzc-
a-pycLL^ya) let us come; the word hath refpcfl to the
accefs^ cither of the people with their facrifices to the altar,
or of the priefls to the holy place, w ith prayers and fup-
plications ; {^fioc 7r_ul^YiG-f(zc) ivith holdnefs. This, as it
hath a fpecial oppofition to the i-nil that was on the Jews,
and is to this dav, keeping tlicm in darkncfs and fear, de-
notes boldncfs and confidence of mind, freedom from fear,
Ihamc, and difcourngcments. There are therefore two
things that the apoftle would have us delivered from, in
our drawing near to the throne of grace with our prayers
and fupplications, on account of our High Pricft.

I. A fptrh of bondave working fear, which was upon
the people under the Old Teilament in the worlhip ot
(rod. Chrift was made under the law, to us deliver from
the dread and bondage of it; vvherebv alfo we receive * the

* ndoption of ciiildrcn,' and therewith * the Spirit of

* C'hriil.' We draw near to God with the liberty, — the
unlhacklcd (though rcfpe<^ful) boIc\nefs, and ingenuouf-
ncfs of children, crvini:;, * Abba Father,' with the genuine
actings of faith and love.

?.. A dijhelief of acceptance arifing from a fenfe of our
own \nnvorthinefs. From an apprchenfion of God*s
rrf>p.fMrfN a''d terror there arifcs a dread in pcrfons under


Vtj?. 14— 16. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 497

the law, and from the confidcration of their own vilenclk,
there arifes a dillruil: in fianers accompanied with fear and
defpondency, as if there were no hope for them. This
alfo tlve apolllc would remove on the account of the pricjl-
ksod of Ch rill.

§ 10. {'Yoo 9roi'(') T'/jg 'YjZu'lJoc) To the throne of grace,
A ' throne' is the place from whence judgcmcyit is exer-
cifed, and wi^rcj/ admin ifle red; and therefore our coming
to God, in his worfliip, for grace or mercy, is faid to be
coming to his throne. Or, there may be an allulion to
the mercy-feat which, being laid on the ark with a coro-
net of gold round about it, and Ihadowed with the cheru-
bim, was as the * throne,' or feat of God in that moil
folemn reprefentatioii of his prefence among his people.
For that which the apoftle cails here our * coming to the

* throne of grace,' he [chap, x. 19.] exprefTeth by * draw-

* ing nigh with boldnefs unto tlie holiefl ;' the place
where the ark and mercy-feat were placed. The Lord
Chrill is not propofed as the objetl of our coming to the
throne of grace, but as the means of it ; ' for through him we
*■ have an accefs by one Spirit unto the Father ^^ [Ephef. ii.
18.1 On account of his undertaking for us, the atone-
ment he hath made, his appearance before God on our
behalf, we may come m his name with confidence of accept
tance to the throne of God ; that is, to God as gracious in
Chrift ; as exerciiing grace and mercy towards them who,
through the Lord Jefus, come unto him.

§ II. {\v<z 7\.ufooo^-v eXiov) * That we may receive

* mercy ;' the word (Aqj/x/S^^w) doth Ibmctimes lignify to

* obtain,' to acquire ; and fo by moft interpretters it is
here rendered, fid ohtineamus^ ut confcqimmur,) as by ours ;
but the firll and moft ufual fignification of the word is
only to ' receive,'' or take ; and I fee no reafon whv that
{tnk of it may not be moft proper in this place. For the
apoftlc feems to intimate that mercy is prepared for vis ;
only our accefs to God by Clirift with boldnefs is requi-
red to our being made actual partakers of it. And this
anfwers his prefcription oi boldnefs, or fpiritual contidence,
in our approaches to the throne of grace for reeciving that

J) f f 2 mercy


mercy which, through Chrifl, is already prepared for us.
* That wc may receive {'zXicg) mercy;' which mull intend
tlie principle or caufe of our affillance and deliverance. In
fliort, to * obtain mercy,* is to be made partakers of gra-
cious help and fupport from the kindncfs and benignity
of God in Chrill, when we are in ftraits and diltr^lles,
which fprings indeed from the fame root with pardoning
grace, and is therefore calkd * mercy.*

§ 12. (K«/ xoc^iv cVpu'iJ^cv) ' And that wc 'may Jind
' grace,' or rather okairt grace; for fo is the word oftea
ufed. And to * obtain grace,' implies, to find or obtain
favour, ox favourable acceptance with God, particularly with
a view to that fpecial affiflance, which upon particular
addreilcs to him we obtain ; which is farther determined
by the next words : (^zig (^orfisiav ivyjociaog) ' for help in
' time of need,' that is, fuccour and aid afforded to any
upon their cry. (0i7y cig /So'/jv) to run in to ajjiji upon the
cry of any, is the original and genuine fignification. And
this help is, {zvyjx.ipog) feafonable, in its proper time or
feafon. [Prov. xv. 23.] * A word in its time, or its fea-

* fon, how good it is r' Help,' that is fit, fuitable, ' fea-

* fonahle,' — on the part of God that gives it, of the per-
fons that receive it, of the time wherein it is afforded, and
of the end for which it is bellowed — is intended by the
word. This kind of help, it becomcth the wifdom and
greatncfs of God to give ; and it is an impreifion on the
minds of men by nature, that luch kind of help is from
God. Grace therefore effc£lual for our afTiftance, * in

* evory time of need,' upon our cry to God in Chrift, is
here intended.

§ 13. (II.) Obf. I. Great oppofition will be made to
the permanency of believers in their profclfion. This the
word of exhortation to it plainly intimates. It i? (inje^ia
yi:anu forl'iter ret'inere) * to lay hold of a thing, and to retain

* it with all our might,' as if it were ready every moment
to be taken from us with a violent and firong hand. It
is to keep a thing as a man keeps his treafurc, when it is
ready to be fcized on by thieves and robbers. This ar-
gues great oppofition, and no fmall hazard. So our Saviour


Ver. u— i6. epistle to THE HEBREWS.


informs us, [Mat. vii. 25.] When men hear, they
' build an houle' by profelTion ; and when this houfe is
built, the rains will defccnd, ai^ the floods will come, and
the winds will blow and beat upon it : profefTion will be
alTaulted and preired by all manner of hazardous and dan-
gerous oppolitions ; and if this houfe be not well fccured,
it will fall, if our profeilion be not well guarded, it will be
loft. What our Lord Jefus told Peter with refpe£l to this
very matter, holds true concerning all profelfors. When
he ventured to fpeak with much confidence, (from prefent
conviflions of duty, no doubt, and refolution for its per-
formance, that he would abide in his profefhon) and

* never forfake him,' whatever other men might do : our
Lord anfwershim: 'Simon, Simon, Satan hath fought

* to winnow thee,' [Luke xxii. 31, 32.] He minds

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 44 of 46)