John Owen.

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

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him, that although he had called him ' Peter,' for the
unmoveablenefs of that rock which his faith v/as fixed on ;
yet he would appear in himfelf to be but ' Simon' ftill ;
a man expofed to danger and eafy to be prevailed againft :
and therefore he might do well in the midft of his confi-
dence, to conlider his dangers, and the furprifals that he
might be overtaken with. No otherwife is the condition
of all profefTors, the beft and meaneft, the ftrongefl and
weakeli. Could we but take one viezv of that conftant
preparation there is amongft principalities and powers,
thofe fpiritual wickednelTes in high places, and in the
deceitfulnefs of lin that dwellcth in us, to oppofe our pro-
feflion, we would either conftantly ftand upon our guard
to defend it ; or prefently give it up as that which is not
tenable. [See Eph. vi. 10 — 13.]

§ 14. 0/^fi 2. It is our duty, in the midft of all oppo-
fitions, to hold our profcffion firm and ftedfaft unto the
end. The principle of this profcflion is, faith in God bv
Jefus Chrift ; the /r:iits of it arc — tlie whole obedience of
faith, or a convcrfation becoming the gofpel, whereby we
adorn tlie dodrine of God our Saviour in all hollnefs and
godlinefs ; a conftant obfcrvaijc.^ of all the ordniances and
ini i utions of worfhip appo'n^^d by divine authority;
with an open confefilon of him iX all times. We are to

' hold*


* hold' it, as before noticed, with watchfulneis, diligence,
conllancy, and our utmoll endeavour in all. And this
duty hath rcrpc(fl to the contrary fins of — apojlacy^ or a
total defcrtion of our profefTion ; and of — dtclcr^Jioyi^ or
going back gradually from our diligence and progrefs. —
Where growth is not, profeflion is not held firm.

§ 15. Ohf 3. Believers have great encour.'gement and
afTiilance in the conftancy of their profclTion, from the
-pr'ujihood of Jefus Chrift. For,

(i.) The Lord Chriil: is an High Prieft ; and we have
a relation to him, he is ' our High Prieil,' tlie High Prieft
of * our profeinon ;' not only to d'lred us in cur profellion,
but alfo to ajfijl us in it. The difficulty of duty lies
in the oppojltion that is made to it by fm, and Satan, and
the world, as we have Ihcwn ; and he that hath not
found it, never yet knew what it was to * profcfs' the
gofpcl. And we can never be jealous enough of our owi\
hearts and ways, left we fliould be an example unto others,
as others have been to us : but herein lies our help ; whilll
we are in this condition, our High Prieft compaflionatcly
. pitieth u?. [Chap. ii. 17, 18. J From the habitation of
his holincfs he looks on his labouring, fuftcring difciples ;
is afflifted in all their alili£lions, and is full of compalTion
towards them. ' So, faith he, was I tempted, fo was I

* oppofed ; and what thus befalls them is for my fake ^ and

* not for their own,' Whofe heart will not the con-
fideration of this refrefh r Whofe fpirit will it not revive ?
P)Ut he does more ; he gives us atlual help and alTiftance in
this cafe. Our faith will be violently oppofed by Satan ;
faith's overthrow is his priiicipal dclign, [Luke xxi. 31,
32.] No fuch irreconcilcable enemies as faith and the
devil. But our High Prieft hath contended with him —
conquered him — bound him — fpoilcd him — bruilcd iiis
head, and triumphed over him. [Gen. iii. 1 v Col. ii. i ^
Heb. ii. 14, 15.] And Ihall we fufter ourfclves to be
deprived of our profelfion by one thus dealt with in our
behalf? No; Chrift afTifting, he fliall not prevail in W\<^
attempt. Again, do our own corruptions * light againft

* our fouls,' [L Pet. ii. 11.] and tend to death? [ fam. i.


Ver. I4~i6. epistle TO THE HEBREWS. 50!

14.] Againll thefe alfo there is relief in our High Priefl.
For lie was manifeiled to deilroy the works of the devil,
[I. John iii. 8.] or all the effe^s of his tirft temptation 'u\
our hearts ; there is a remedy provided in his grace, his
blood, and Holy Spirit. Moreover, does the world op-
pofe ? He hath overcome it for us, and he will overcome
it in us. Who, therefore, would not be encouraged to
contend carneilly, to perfevere in that profeflion wherein
they are fure they fhall be affifted ? Finally ; is their faith
alTaulted with the thoughts of the finfulnefs and un-
worthinefs of their perfons ? Or do they find th^t even the
duties themfelves, wherein their profeflion confifts, are fo
weak, fo mixed, and imperfeft, that it is hard for them
to conceive how they Ihould find acceptance with God ?
Againft all thefe conliderations believers have relief \i\
their High Prieft ; for in this matter lies the principal part J
of his office, having undertaken to render our perfons and \
duties accepted with God, both in his oblation and inter- ^

§ 16. (2.) He is a * great High Prieft:' he is fo, not
only in compaffion of others fo called, but alfo abfolutelv.
If, therefore, God appointed deftrudion to him who for-
fook the worfhip and fervice of the law, under the
guidance of Aaron and his fons, what muft their portion
be who Ihall defert the worfliip of the New Teftament,
when we have an High Prieft far more excellent and
glorious ? — Our High Prieft is ' great,' becaufe he is one
who hath triumphantly * pqfft^d through the heavens,^ and
who hath been received into the fpecial prefence of God,
or, as our apoftle exprefleth it, [I. Tim. iii. 16.] * Re-
' ceived up into glory.' — He left the earth from the Mount
of Olives. This was the mountain to which ' the glory
* of the Lord went up,' [Ezek. xi. 23.] when it left the
temple and city oi Jerufalem. And to this he who is the
brightnefs of divine glory, went itp ; there was his laft
bodily prefence on the earth ; with him the glory of God
utterly departed from the temple and city. Here he was
taken up, while his difciples were (uTrVin^'^-g) earnejlh^
with care and love<, with diligence and delight, looking on.
2 Thofe


Thofc who had not long before Iccn him hanging on the
crofs, between two thieves, bleeding and dying, n«w faw
him glorioufly and triumphantly taken up into heaven. —
He liad now finilhcd his work, having fully conquered
the lirlt opoftatey the great enemy of God, and fpoilcd
him of his power ; and was returning into that glory
which he had left for a feafon to engage in the difficult
and perilous fervicc of fubduing all tlic aJverfaries of*
God. And now was all heaven prepared for his tri:/m~
phant reccptkn ! As when a great conqueror of old returned
from a far country, when he had fubdued the enemies of
his people, and brought home the leaders of them captives,
all his citizens went forth with applaufes, and ihouts of
joy, to meet him; [Col. ii. 15.] fo was it with the
glorious inhabitants of heaven, upon the return of this
vidlorious Captain of Salvation. The everlal^ing gates were
opened, and this King of Glory entered in. The pfalmift,
w]ien treating of the glorious afcenfion of Chrift into his
kingdom and throne, [Pfal. Ixvii. 5, 6.] expretleth it
thus : * God is gone up with a lliout, the Lord with the
' found of a trumpet. Sing praifcs to God, ling praifes ;

* iing praifes to our King, fing praifes.' His attendants
in his * paffage through the heavens,' are alio dcfcribed :
[Pfal. Ixviii. 17, 18.] ' The chariots of God are twenty

* thoufand, even thoufands of angels ; the Lord is among

* themias in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou haft afcended

* on high, thou haft led captivity captive.' And this our
apoftle expreireth, [Col. ii. 15.] * He fpoiled principalities

* and powers,' all the fallen apoftate angels, * making a

* Ihew of them openly in his triumph.' He took them
along with him in chains, tied, as it were, to his chariot
wheels, making a ihew of them to the citizens of heaven.
He fliewed them openly, as conquered and fully fubdued,
remanding them to their prifon, until the time of their
iinal doom. Thus did he * pafs through the heavens,'
and all the glory of God laid open for his reception ;
all faints and angels coming forth to meet him, to con-
gratulate that fuccefs, the fruits of which they had before
cnjoved. He was received glorioufly into the higheft


Ver. 14—16. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 1:03

heavens, the habitation of the blelTed ; there had he his '^
entertainment and refrcfliment, after the travail of his '
foul ; then was the time of his efpoufals, the day of the
gladnefs of his heart. This was the time of heaven's
triumph ! There is joy in heaven upon the repentance of i
one finner ; and what may we fuppofc was there wheii \
HE, the author of the old, and the head of the new I
creation, was received into his glory ! No heart can con- \
ceive, much lefs can a tongue exprcfs, the glorious re- |
ception of his human nature in heaven, and its confequent
exaltation !

§ 17. But who is this High Prieft ? He is * Jefus the
' Son of God.' Here is another fource of his * greatnefs,*
the conlideration of his name and perfon. Before the
entrance of fin, there was no need of the office of pi left -
liood between God and man ; if man, therefore, had
continued in that flate wherein he was made, there would
have been no fuch office. For it is the ofhce of a Priell
to reprefent them acceptably to God, who in their o\n\\
perfons might not appear before him. But fin being-
entered into the world, there was no more worfhip to be
performed by the finner immediately to God. Two cannot
walk together, unlefs they be agreed, [Amos iii. 3.] That
the worfliip of God might be rejicrcd in the world,
it was indifpenfably necelTarv, that fome one muil inter-
pofe between finners and the Holy God. Should they
approach him immediately, in their own names, he w^ould
be to them a * confuming fire,' [Ifa. xxvii. 4, 5.] Anci
here, becaufc God would not lofe the glory of his grace,
and other lioly excellencies of his nature, but would have
a revenue of glory continued to hlmfelf from tlie worlhip
of his creatures here on earth, and becaufe in his love he
would not have all finners to perifh under the curfe of
the old covenant v/hich they had broken, he found out,
in the deep counfel of his will, the office of pricfthoociy
viz. til at there fliould be o:^;E to tranfacl the whole worlliip
of finners in the prefcnce of God for them, and render
^vhat they ihould do themfelves acceptable unto him. In

Vol. IJ. Ttt this


this condition, no creature could undertake tlic office of
being a Piieil ; for the iiril thing he undertakes rrjull bs
to make atonement.

The Son of God undertakes to be this Pried for
finncrs. * We have a great High Pried, Jefus the Sou of
* God.* The words are exprejfivc of his whole per/on, and
each juiture therein is alfo dillindlly fignitied.

I ' The Son of God' denotes his d'rjine pcrfon and
nature. Here the facrcd truth of the Trinity of Perfons
in the divine cilence opcneth itfelf to the creatures. — '
The nature or being of God is abfolutely or numerically
cm ; all his natural properties are elfentially the fame ;
and all his operations are undivided^ as being the efte£ls of
one principle, one power, one wifdom. Hence it could
not by any fuch atfs be manifefled, that there was more
than one pcrfon in that one nature or being. But now, in
thefc aftings of the perfons in the Trinity, ad intra^ where
one pcrfon is as it were the objcLi of the other perfons
afting, the facred truth of the plurality of perfons^ in the
fame lingle undivided effcncci is glorioufly manifeded.
The Son undertaking to become an High Pried for finncrs,
openly declares the eternal Word to be didinft from the
pcrfon of the Father. And in thefe diilin^t and mutual
actings of the divine perfons is the myderious truth of
tlic Holy Trinity mod fafely contemplated. — Here alfo
the myderious fountain of drj'inc grace^ the fprings of life
and falvatioii which arc WMth God, are opened. Thefe
things flow from the counfel that was bctwxcn the Father
and Son, when he undertook to be an High Pried for us.
Grace and mcrcv arc the accomplilhmcnt of thofe coun-
fels. On the divine pricdliood of Chrid alfo depended
all that religion, and all thofe inditutions of worlhip,
which were of old in the church. Upon tlie entrance of
\\\\, there was an end put to all the religion that was in
the world, as to any glorv to God, or advantage to the
fouls of men. How came it then to he rcdored ? Where-
fore did God appoint a priedhood, facrifices, and worlhip?
\Vhat wab aimed at. or wliat could be cflcOed thereby ?


Men were flill finners, obnoxious to the law and its
curfe ; and of what fignification could their fervice be ?
Here lay the invilible foundations of this new order of
things : the Son of God had made an interpofition for
linnerS) undertaken to be their High Pri£st, to recon-
cile them to God, and therefore to make their worfliip

§ 18. 2. This Son of God is ' Jefus,' which denotes
his human nature. Jefus is the name of a man ; * She

* fhall bring forth a fon, and thou Ihalt call his name

* Jefus.' [Mat. i. 21.] Every High Prieft, faith our
apoille, is ordained to offer gifts and facrifices unto God ;
and therefore of neccllity he who would be our High
Prieft mull have fo7neivhat to offer ; fomewhat of his ozvn.
And what had the * Son of God,' ablblutely confidered,
as his ov/ii to ofFer ? All things neceflarily required in the
matter and form of an offering, arc eternally incompatible
with the infinite excellency of the divine nature. Shall
he then take an offering out of the works of creation ?
Shall he take the blood of bulls and goats for this purpofe,
as did Aaron ? The offering indeed of tliefc things might
reprefent the facrifice that fhould take away fin ; but take
away fin itfelf it could not. For what wifdom or equity
is there in this, that whereas man had finned, other brute
creatures, which were none of his own, (having forfeited
his right to them) fhould be an acceptable facrifice in his
ftead ? Belides, what proportion did the blood of bulls and
goats bear to the juflice of God, that fatisfaaion for fin
ihould be made to it thereby ? Should then the Son of
God have taken and appointed any one man to be a facrifice
for others ? But every man is a Jinner ; the facrifice of
any one would have been a provocation to God. And
(hall we fuppofe that he would allow of a real expiatory

facrifice, which was leprous all over ? It would have been
fo far from yielding a fweet favour to God, from being
an atonement for all men, for any one man, for the man
himfelf that fliould have been offered, that it would have
been the higheft provocation to the eyes of his glory.

T t t 2 Where-


Wherefore this * Son of God,' became himfclf * 'J^'J^^ ;*
took, human nature, the feed of Abraham, into union
with himfeJf, that he m>ght have of his cwn to offer unto
God. And this, by its oncnefs with our nature that had
tinned, being; itlclf not touclicd with fm, was meet to be
oiTercd for us ; and fo God redeemed his church • with

* his own blood.* [Ads xx. 28,] Thus our High Prieil
is Jefus the Son of God ; which the apoflle propofcth for
our encouragement to ftedtailncfs in our profefTion.

^ I 9. Olff. 4. The church of God hath a {landing per-
petual advantage, in the union of our nature to the perfon
of the Son of God, as our High Priefl. We all acknow-
ledge til is, on account of the facrifice he offered for us ;
hut are apt to think, that this work being well over, what
yet rerr.ains to be done for us may be as well difcharged
by him who is only God ; for iince Jefus dies no more,
what profit is there in his flefli ? On the contrary, many
and great are the advantages of the refurrcfl'ion of the body
of Chrifl, and therein of his human nature ; for he re-
vived, ' that he might be Lord both of the dead and

* living,* [Rom. xiv. 9.] And this was the tejlimony, that
he was difcharged from" the penalty of the law, and the
whole debt for which he had undertaken to make fatif-
faction. [A6ls ii. 24. Rom. xiii. 33, 34.] Without this
we could have faid of him only as the difciplcs did, when
^hcy knew not of his rcfurrcftion ; ' we trufled it had been
' he who fhould have redeemed Ifrael,' [Luke xxiv. 21.]
A.nd hereby he had an illuflrious and uncontroulablc
ttilimony given to his being ' the Son of God,* [Rom. i.
4.] Hereby alio he laid the foundation^ and gave an in-
fallible pledge of the future blefTcd rcfurrcftion, which
ail that believe in him fliall obtain. The exaltation of
our tujture m glory was needful for the fupport and con-
folation of the church ; and, what dcfervcd particular
notice, hence his ability to he offctlcd luith a fcnfe of our
Infryniiies and fufferings, for this is appropriated to him
on accQunt of his human nature. * He can be touched with
* the feeling of our infirmities.*

§ 20.


§ 20. This pafTion of his may be coafidered four
ways :

1. As it is an eminent virtue in human nature, as abfo-
lutely innocent ; Jefus being ' holy and undeliled, and
' feparate from finners.' Now, though in that bleiled
Itate wherein we were created, there was no a^ual obje£t
on which we could exercife compaffion, feeing every
thing was at reft, in its proper place and order ; yet was
there no virtue more inlaid in our natural conftitution,
as being abfolutcly infeparable from goodnefs and benig-
nity upon a fuppoiition of a fuitable obje<Sl.

2. As <3 grace of the Spirit. For, befides the fpotlefs
innocency and purity of our nature in him, there was a
fuper-addition of all grace to it, by virtue of its union,
with the perfon of the Son of God, and the undion it
had from the Holy Spirit. Hence there was an all-fulnefi
of grace communicated unto him ; for he received not the
Spirit and his graces by meafure. [John iii. 34.] Of this
fulnefs, ' compaffion' is an eminent part ; for of this kind
are all the principal fruits of the Spirit, [Gal. v. 22, 23.]
and by this, in a peculiar manner, did he make a repre-
fentation of God's nature to us, as full of pity, compaffion,
and tender affedions. And here,

3. He had 2l peculiar furniture of graces, virtues, habits,
and inclinations, fuited to the worthy difcharge of his-
office in our behalf. The Spirit of the Lord was upon
him, and peculiarly anointed him to that end. [Ifa. xi.
2 — 4. chap. Ixi. I — 3.] Thus was he every way fur-
nifhed, as to his nature, for mercy and compaffion.

4. He took an experience of fuch infirmities and fufFer-
ings in himfelf, as are the proper obje£ls of compaffion
when found in others.

§ 21. By thcfe means is the nature of our High Prieft
filled with tendernefs and fympathy. The foundation of
their exercife towards us lies in the oncncfs of his natare
and ours ; and thefe things belonging to the pure confti-
tution of his nature, and receiving their improvement by
the undion of the Spirit, arc not lelfened by his prcfent



glorification. For they all belong to him, on account of
his office^ and, therefore, he continuing llill in the excrcif«
of the fame office, their continuation is alfo nccelfary. —
And hence it is, that he gave fo many particular infiancts
of his retaining the fume human nature wherein he {^xU
fered ; [A£ts i. 2.] providing particularly, that they Ihould
not think him now to be a mere fpirit, and fo to have
loll: his natural human conftitution. [Luke xxiv. ?q.]
To confirm our faith in this matter, he appeared after-
wards in the fame nature to Stephen, [Ads vii. 56.] zu^
to our apoflle, tclhng him that he was Jefus whom he
perfecutcd, [chap. ix. 5.] and all to aflure us, that he is
fuch an High Pricll as is able to be affeded with a fcnfc
of our infirmities.

§ 22. Herein lies a great advantage of the church, a
great encouragement and fupport to believers under their
infirmities, in their trials and temptations. For,

1. It is fome relief to be pitied in diftrcfs. The want
of this Job pathetically bewailed, [chap. xix. 21.] * Have

* pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye m.y friends ; for

* the hand of God hath touched m.c.' It went to his
heart to find that his friends were not afteL>ed with a
fenfe of his fufrerings ; and it added exceedingly to their
weight. Such was the complaint of David, as a type of
Chrifl, [Pfal. Ixix. 20.] * Reproach hath broken my
' heart, and I am full of heavlnefs ; I looked for fome
' to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters,

* but there was none.' There is relief in compallion ;
fome going to the flake have been much refrelhed with
only a companionate word vvhifpcrcd to them. And how
can it fail to be a cau fc of great rcfrefliment to believers,
in all their hardlhips and weakncfs, that they fliarc in
tiie compaffion of their High Frieft ? He is in himfelf
exceedingly great and glorious ; is nearly allied to u?, able
to rclicNC us, beini^ far fuperior to our iroubler?, for
they arc all under his feet.

2. Hcieiii lies a great encouragement to make our ad-
drefs to him in all our ilraits and vvcaknelfcs. For if


he be lo concerned, fo affe£led in himfelf with a fcnfe
of them, and have in his holy nature, and on the account
of his ofhce, fuch a propenfity and ability to relieve;
what fhould hinder us from making our addrcHcs to him
continually for help, and fupplies of liis aifilling grace,
as our ncceiTitics require ?

3. Here lies no fmall warning, how heedfully we
fliould take care that we faint not in our trials. He
looks on us with concern, and his honour is engaged in
our properly acquitting ourfeives. If we have a due
regard to him and his love, it will excite us to all care
and diligence in the difcharge of every duty we are called
to, notwithflanding the diificulties it may be attended

§ 23. Ohf. 5. There will be a fcafon, many a feafon
in the courfe of our profeilion, wherein we fhall {land in
need of fpecial aid and affiftance, — ' Help in time of
* need.' This I fhall a little enlarge upon : our condi-
tion is univerfally indigent. If we intend to live fpiri-
tually, it mull be in a conftant dependance on God in
Chrill for fupplies ; without which we cannot well fubfiil
one moment. But belides that want, whicli always attends
our condition in this world, and which God conftantly
fupplies according to the tenor of his covenant, there arc
fpecial ftraits and difficulties to which we are expofed at
feveral feafons.

(i.) A time of affliction is fuch a feafon. And the
rule of the covenant in fending relief is upon the coming
up of the cry of the afPxifted unto God. [Pfal. i. 15.
Exod. ii. 23 — 25.] Let men's ilock of wifdom, grace,
experience, and refolution be what it will, they are not
able to go through with the leaft nciv affl'id'ion to the glory
of God, without nc%v ajjijiance from him.

(2.) A time of pcrfccuiion is fuch a feafon; yea, it
may be the principal feafon here intended. And this is
the greatefl trial that in general God exercifcth his church
with. In fuch a feafon, fome feed quite decayeth, fome
|lars fall from heaven, fome prove fearful and unbelieving



to their eternal ruin. Carnal tears, with carnal wifdom
and counfcls, are apt to be at work in fuch a feafori ; and
all tlic fruit that comes from thofe evil roots is bitter.
Hence many make it their only dcfign, in fuch a feafon,
to creep througli it and live. To be flrong in the Lord,
and the power of his grace, to the performance of all
tlie duties which tlie gofpel requires, and as it rec^uires,
they have no defign. But by this means as God hath no
revenue of glory from them, nor the church advantage,
fo they will fcarce find inward peace when outward trou-
ble is over. This then is a feafon wherein, if ever, an
cfpecial addrefs is needful for fpecial aid.

(3.) A time of temptation is fuch a feafon. Our
apolllc found it fo, w^hen he had the mclTcngcr of Satan
f^nt to buffet him. Thrice did he pray, and cry out for
afTifcance and deliverance, and he got afTurance of them
both. In reference to this feafon doth our apoflle give
that great caution ; * Let him that thinketh he ftandeth

* take heed left he fall;' [L Cor. x. 12.] And wherein
doth this heedfulncfs principally confift ? In an application
to him who is faithful, who will not fuffer us to be
tempted above what we are able, but will with the temp-
tation alfo make a way to efcape, that we may be able to

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 45 of 46)