John Owen.

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

. (page 5 of 46)
Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


or be independent on himfelf. When wc name a crea-
ture, \vc name that which hath a dtiived and dependent
being. And that. which cannot fublift in and by itlclf,
cannot act fo neither. He did not create the world ta
leave it to an uncertain event ; to fland by and to fee
what would become of it ; but the fame power and wif-
dom that produced, doth ftill attend it, powerfully poi-
vading every particle thereof. To fancy a divine provi^
dence without a continual energetic operation, or a di-
vine wifdom without conilant care and infpec^ion of the
works of his hands, is not to form apprehenfions of the
living God, but to cretl au idol in our own imagina-



lions.



§ 14. This work is peculiarly affigned to tl.e .^on, not
only as he is the eternal power and wifdom of God, but
ilfo becaufe by his intcrpofition, as undertvVicing the work
of mediation, he reprieved the world from an immediate
difTolution upon the iirll entrance of fin ; that it might
continue, as it were, the great ftage for the mighty work?^
of God's grace, wifdom, and love to be wrought on it.
Hence the care of the continuance of the creation, and thu
difpofal thereof, is delegated unto him, a.-N having under-
taken to bring forth and confummate the gloiy oi God
in it, notwithflanding the hideous breach made upon
it by the fm of angels and men. When the work of the
reconciliation of all things to God Ihall be accomplilJi-
<d, the glory of God will be t'uily retrieved a:id cftablhh^d
for ever.

(i.) Wc may fee from licnce the vanity of expei\ing
any thin^; from the creatures, but what the Lord Chriit
is plcafcd to communicate to us by them. They that
cannot fuflain or actuate thcmfelvcs, by any power or
virtue of their own, arc very unlikely of thcmfeivcs to
afford any real relief or help to others. I'hcy all abide

I arii



Ver,3' epistle to THE HEBREWS. 47

andexifl fcverally and coiifift together, in their order and
operation, by the powerful word of Chrifl ; and what lie
will communicate by them, that, and that alone, they
will aixord us. In themfelvcs they are broken ciilcrns
that will hold no water ; they who depend upon them,
without the coniideration of their conflant dependence
on Chrift, will find at length all their hopes difappointed,
and all their enjoyments vaniili into nothing.

(2.) Learn hence alfo the full felf-fufficiency, and ab-
folutc fovereignty of the Son of God our Saviour. A
king bears rule over the fubje£ts of his kingdom, but he
d^oth not give them cxljicncc ; he doth not uphold and ac-
tuate them at his pleafure ; but every one of them Hands
upon an equal bottom with himfclf. He can, indeed, by
the permiHion of God, take avjay their lives, but cannot
continue their lives at his pleafure one moment, or make
theaii fo much as to move a finger. But with the Lord
PvCdeemer it is otherwife ; he not only rules over the
whole creation, difpofing of it according to the rule of
his own counfel and pleafure ; but they all derive their
beings, natures, inclinations, and lives from him : and
as this argues his all-fufFiciency, fo it demonftratcs his
abfolute fovereignty over all other things. Let this teach
us our conftant dependence on him, and our univerfal
fubjedion to him.

(3.) And this abundantly difcovers the vanity and
folly of them, who make ufe of the creation in oppoli-
tion to Chrill, and his peculiar intereft in this world.
His own power is the very ground that they ftand upon in
their daring oppofition to him ; and all things which
they ufe againfl him, ' coniift in him.' lliey hold their
lives abfolutely at the pleafure of him whom they oppofe :
and they a6t againft hhn^ without w^iofc continual fup-
port and influence they could neither live nor a£l one
moment ; v/hich is the greatefl madncfs, and mofl con-
temptible folly im?.ginable.

§ 15. Qbf. 4. So great wa5 the work of freeing us
from fin, that it could no otherwife be efre<^eJ but by
the felf-facrifice of the Son of God, Our apoftle makes

Vol. IL H ic



43 AN EXPOSITION OF THE Chap. I.

it Ills dciign ifi fevcral places to evince, that none of thofe
things, from whence mankind tifually expc£l relief in
this cafe, would yield them any at all. The bcft that
the Gcutilcs could attain, all that tlicy had to truft to,
was but the improvement of natural light and reafon,
under the condud of which they fought for reft, glory,
and immortality. How miferablv they were difappoint-
ed in their aims, and w^hat a woeful ilfuc all their en-
deavours had, the apoftlc fliews at large Rom. i. The
Jcws^ who enjoyed the benclit of divine revelation, hav-
ing lofl for the mofl: part the true fpiritual import of them,
fought for the fame ends by the law, and their own diligent
obfcrvancc of it; ' Theyrcrtcdin the law ;' [Rom. ii. 17.]
Now w^ithin the compafs of thcfe three, natural light,
the moral law, and the inflitution of facrifices, coniill all
the hopes and endeavours of finncrs after deliverance and
acceptance with God. And if all thefc fail them, as
alluredly they will, it is certaiii there is nothing under
licaven that can yield them the leafl relief. Jehovah is
the fupcrior governor of all, and as fm dilfolvcth the de-
pendence of the creature upon him, fhould he not avenge
that defection, his whole rule and government would be
difannullcd. But now" if this vengeance and punifliment
Ihould fall on the iinners thcmfelves, they muft perifli
\indcr it eternally ; not one of them could efcape, or ever
be freed from their fins. A commutation then there muft
be ; that the punilhment due to lin, which the holinefa
and righteoufncfa of God exa6leth may be inrii£lcd, and
mercy and grace fliewed to the finner. And this Ihould
teach us to live in an holv admiration of this mighty and
wonderful produift of the wifdom, rightcoufnefs, and
grace of God, which appointed this way of delivering
linncr.-, and ^loiloullv accomplifhcd it in the facrilicc of
the Son of God. The Holy Ghoft every where propofeth
this to us, as a myiUry, a hidden mvHery, which none
of the great, or wife, or dlfputers of the world, ever
cotwc to the hall ac(juaintance witli. And three things
lie alleris concerning it :

(1.) That



Ver. 3. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 49

(i.) That it is revealed in the gofpcl, and is thence
alone to be learned. Whence we are invited, again and
again, to fearch and inquire diJigcntly, to this very ^w^^
that we may become wife in the knowledge and acknow-
ledgement of this fublirae myflery.

(2.) That we cannot in our own ftrength, and by
our own mofl diligent endeavours, come to an holy ac-
quaintance with it, notwithftanding the revelation that is
made of it in the letter of the word ; unlefs moreover we
receive from God, the fy'irit of w'lfdom^ knowledge, and
revelation ; opening our eyes, making our minds fpiri-
tual, and enabling us to difcover thefe depths of the Holy
Ghoft in a fpiritual manner.

(3.) That we cannot, even by thefe helps, attain in
this life to a perfect knowledge of this unfathomable
truth ; but muft Hill labour to grow in grace and fpiritual
knowledge.

The fcripture every where fets forth the blelTednefs and
happinefs of them, who by grace obtain a fpiritual infight
into this grand myflery, and themfelves alfo find by ex-
perience the fatisfying excellency thereof with the apoftlc,
[Phil. iii. 8.] All which considerations are powerful mo-
tives to this profitable duty, wherein we have the angels
themfelves for our afibciates.

§ 17. We may alfo confider the unfpeakable love of
Chr'ifl in this work of his delivering us from fin. And
this he did, when we were finncrs^ when we were loft,
when we were children of wrath, under the curfe, when
no eye did pity us, when no hand could relieve us. And
if John mourned, greatly mourned, when he thought
there was none found worthy in heaven or earth to open
his book of vifions, and to unloofe the feals thereof ; how
juflly might the whole creation mourn and lament if there
had been none found to yield relief, when all were ob-
noxious to this fatal ruin ! And this is an exceeding com-
mendation of the love of Chrift, that he fct his hand to
that work which none could touch; and put his fhouldcrs
under that burden which none elfc could bear, when all
iay in a dcfpcratc condition. — Again : it is a deliverance

W X from



56 AN EXPOSITION OF THE Chap. I.

from eternal 'x-rath and vengeance, not from a trouble or
danger of a few clays continuance; not from a momen-
tary fuffering ; but from evcrlafting wratli, under the
curie of God and power of Satan. — And farther : confi-
der the zvay whereby he did it ; not by his word, whereby
he made the world ; not by his power, whereby he fullains
all things ; not by paying a price of corruptible things ;
Jiot by merely revealing a way to us, whereby we our-
fclvcs might efcape that condition wherein we were, as
fome foolifhly imagine ; but by the ' facrilicc of him-
* felf,' making his foul an offering for fin through the eter-
nal fpirit, by laying down his life for us ; and greater
love can no one manifeft. — Confider, moreover, his in-
finite condffcenjion to put himfelf into that condition where-
in, by himfelf^ he might purge our lins. For this purpofe,
tiiough he was in the form of God, he emptied himfelf of
his glory, made himfelf of no account, was made flcfh,
took on him the form of a fervant, that he might be obe-
dient unto death, the painful and ignominious death of the
crofs. — Once more ; rctieft on the end of his undertaking
for us ; which was the bringing of us unto God, into his
love and favour here, and the eternal enjoyment of him
hereafter. All thefe things, I fay, doth the fcripture infift
frequently and largely upon, to fet fortli the excellency of
the love of Chrift, to render it admirable and amiable unto
us : and thefe things Ihould we lay up in our hearts, that wc
may continually ponder them, and give due acceptance and
entertainment to this wonderful love of the Son of God.
§ I 8. 0/'/".^5. That there is nothing more vain, fool-
ilb and fruitlefs, thnn the oppolition which Satan and his
agents yet nuike to the Lord Melliah and his kingdom.
Can they afccnd into heav( n r Can thcv pluck the divine
regent from his throne r A little time will manifefl: eternally
this extreme madncfs. Moreover, the fervice of the
Lord Chrifl is both fafe and honourable. He is both a
good and a glorious mailer ; one that fits at the right hand
of God ; and great is the fpiritual and eternal fecurity of
all that truly believe in him.

Versjj



Ver.4. epistle to THE HEBREWS.



Verse 4.

being made so much better than the angels,
as he hath by inheritance obtained a more
excellent name than they.

^ I. Connexion of the words. § 2. (I.) 'The excellency of
Chr'rft above angels, § 3. (11.) I-Fhcn fo exalted. •§ -4.
(III.) To what degree. § 5. (IV.) How he obtained iti
§ 6. The pertinency of the comparifon. § 7. Obferva-'
tion.

§ I. JljLAVING proceeded thus far in general, the
apoftle defcends now to the confidcratlon of particular in-
fiances, in all thofe whom God employed in the minlf-
tration of the law and conftitution of the Mofalcal wor-
fhip : and takes occafion from them all to fet forth the
dignity and incomparable excellencies of Chrill, whom
in all things he exalts. Firft, then, he treateth concern-
ing angels, as thofe who were the moft glorious creatures
employed in giving of the law. The Hebrews held that,
befides the mediation of Mofes, God ufcd the miniftry of
angels in the giving of the law and in other occalional in-
ilru6lions of their forefathers. Holy Stephen, upbraiding
them with their abufe and contempt of their greatefl pri-
vileges, tells them, that they received the liw by the dif-
pofition or miniftry of angels. This then might leave a
fpccial prejudice in their minds, that the law being fo de-
livered by angels, muft needs have therein the advantage
above the gofpel, and be therefore immutable. To re-
move this prejudice, and farther to declare the univerfal
excellency and pre-eminence of Chrift, the apoftle proves
to them out of the fcriptures of the Old Teftament, that
lie is exceedingly advanced and glorious above the angels

them-



^1 AN EXPOSITION OF THE CjfXr. T.

thcmfclvcs ; and to this purpofc procluceth four flgnal tcf-
timonics one after another. The apofllc hath no dcfign
to prove by arguments and tcflinionies the excellency of
the {ihine nature above the angelicah Neither is the
comparifon between the human nature of Chrift and the
nature v>i angels. The apoflle then treats of the per/on
of Chrift, God and man, as the revealcr of the gofpel,
and mediator of the New Teftamcnt ; and concerning
liim, as Inch, arc the cnfuing teflimonics to be interpreted.
There arc fcveral things coniiderablc in thefe words. —
Tarticuhrly, -what it is that the apoftle affcrts in them as
his gcru-Tal propofjtion — zuhcn he was fo preferred above
tliem — -the dcp-ce of this preference of him above the
angels intimated in the comparifon — the proof of the af-
feriion, taken from his name — and the iL'ay ivhercbs he
came to have this name : he obtained it as his lot and in-
heritance.

§ 2. (1.) He is {x^3i7]cAjv yivoiJL-vcg) made more cxccU
lent than the angels ; is preferred above them, exalted, ac-
tually placed in more power, glory, and dignity. This
John the Baptift affirms of him, * he was preferred be-
' fore me, bccaufe he was before me.* Preferred before
him ; called to another manner of office than that in
which John miniflcred : made before or fuperior to him
in dignity, becaufe he was before him in nature and exif-
tcncc. And this is the proper fcnfe of the words wl^ea
Ticrc applied to the angels.

§ 3. (II.) And this gives us light into our fccond in-
quiry, (viz.) when it was, that Chrift was then exalted
above the angels ? Some fay, that it was in the time of
his incarnation ; for then the human nature, being taken
into pcrfonal fuSfiftencc with the Son of God, became
more excellent than that of the angels. Some fay that
it was at the time of his buptifmy when he was anointed
with the Spirit, for the difcharge of his prophetical office ;
but it is the lime of his refurrcclicn, afcenfion, and exal-
tation at the right hand of God which enfued thereon that
is here dcfigncd, as evidently appears from the text and
context, hor^ that was the time when he was glorioufiy



Ver.4- epistle to THE HEBREWS. ^j

vefled with all power in heaven and earth. The order
alfo of the apofllc's difconrfe leads us to fix on this fea-
fon. After he had by himfclf purged our fins, he fat
down, &c. being then made fo much more excellent. Be •
fides, the firll tcllimony produced by the apoflle in con-
firmation of his aficrtion, is cxpreflly applied to his refur-
re£tion and the glory that enfued. And this unrivalled
preference is plainly included in that grant of all power
which our Lord himfclf mentions, (Matt, xxviii. 13.) and
which Saint Paul expounds, (Ephef. i. 21, 22.) to which
we may add, that the firfl teflimony ufed by the apoftle is
the word that God fpake unto his king, when he fet him
upon his holy hill of Sion, [Pfalm ii. 6, 7, 8.] which
typically exprelTeth his glorious enilalment in his heavenly"
kingdom.

§ 4. (III.) In this preference and exaltation of the
Lord Chrifl, there is a degree intimated ; being made * fo
' much more, &c.' Now our conceptions here are wholly
to be regulated by the name given him. Confider, faith
the apoflle, how much the name given the Mefiiah, ex-
cels the names given to angels j fo much doth he him-
fclf excel them in glory, authority, and power ; for their
names are feverally given them of God, to fignify their
fi:ate and condition. Obferve, faith he, how they are
called of God, by what names and titles he owns them,
and you may learn the difference between them. This
7iame he mentions in the next verfe ; God faid unto him,
* Thou art my fon, this day have I begotten thee.' It
is not abfolutely his being the Son of God that is intended ;
but that by the teftimony of the Holy Ghoft, God faid
thcfe words unto him. * Thou art my Son ;' and there-
by declared his flatc and condition, to be far above that of
the angels.

§ 5. (IV.) The lafl thing confiderable is, how the
Lord Chrift came by this name ? (Ks;iA'/7Gc:o^av;x.i) He
' obtained it by inheritance,' as his peculiar lot and por-
tion for ever. As he was made the heir of all, fo he
inherited a more excellent name than the angels. Now
he was made heir of all, in tliat all things being made and
I formed



54 AN EXPOblTlON OF THE Chap. L

formed by him, the Father con)mlttcd unto him as mediae
lor a pccuUar power over all things, to be dilpofed of by
bun for all the ends of his mediation : fo alfo being the
natural and eternal Son of God, upon the difcliarge of his
-vkork, the Father declared and pronounced that to be his
name , [Sec Luke i. 35. Ifa. vii. 14. ix. 6.] His bcin^
the Son of God is the proper foundation of his being
called Jo \ and his dilcharge of his oflkc the occajion of its
declaration ; fo he came unto it * by right of inheri-

* tancL*,* when he was * declared to be the Son of God

* with power, by the refurreclion from the dead,' [Rom.

i. 4-]

§ 6. This difcourfe of the apoftle, proving the pre-
eminence of the MelTiah above the angels, was peculiarly
neceflary to the Hebrews ; and it is to this day a traditioii
amongft them, that " the Melliah Hiall be exalted above
Abraham, and Mofes, and the miniikring angels." Be
fides, they acknowledged the fcripturcs of the Old Tcila-
meiit wherein the apoille ihews them this truth was con-
tained. But they were dull and ilow in making the pro-
fitable application of thefc principles for the contirmatioa
of their faith in the goi'pel, as the apoftle chargeth them,
[chap. V. II, 12.] We may farther remark, that they
bad at that time great fpeculations about the gloiy, digm
uity, and excelleney of angels, and were fallen into a
kind of worlhippingof them. And it is not improbable,
that this vain curiolity, and dangerous fupcrdition, was
heightened by the cojitroverfy agitated between the Pha-
rifecs and Saduccs about them ; the latter denying their
exigence, thc/sr;^;, whom the body of the people fol-
lowed, exalting them above meafurc, and inclining to an
idolatrous vcticration of them. It was nccclfary, there-
fore, in ore' r to take them off from tliis idolatrous fupcr-
llition, to inflruft them in the pre-eminence of tlie Re-
deemer above them all ; that fo their thoughts might be
difcdcd to, and their trull placed in him alone.

§ 7. ObJ. All pre-eminence and exaltation of one
above others depends on the fupreme counfel and will ot
C#oJ. Chrift, as mediator, is a pattern of all privileges

and



Ve^. 5. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 55

a«id pre-eminence in others. Grace, mercy, and glory,
i'piritual and eternal things, arc thole wlierein really there
is any difference among the Ions of men ; and that any
one in this refpecl is preferred before another, depends
merely 01:1 the fole good pleafure of God ; feeing no one
in thefe things makes himfelf to differ from another,
neither is he poffcffed of any thing that he hath not re-
ceived. And this difcrimination of things by the fu-r
preme will of God, efpeciaily fpiritual and eternal, is the
fpring and rule of all that gloiy which he will manifeil j
and in which he will be eternaliv exalted.



Verse 5.
for unto which qf the angels said he at any

TliME, THOU ART iMY SON, THIS DAY HAVE I BE-
GOTTEN THEE ? 4ND AGAIN, I WILL BE TO HIM
A FATHER, AND HE SHALL BE TO ME A SON ?

§ I. Introduci'ion. § 2. The apDjllc' s manner of producing
the te/iimony. § 3 — 5. (II.) The tcjiimony itfc If produ-
ced. § 6 — 8. (III.) The genuine fenfe of the pajfage.
§ 9 — ^3* Obfervations.

§ I. X HE apoflie here proceeds to confirm his propo-
jition concernmg the pre-eminence of the Meffiah above
the angels, by fundry teftimonies produced out of the Old
Teflament ; two of which are contained in this verfe.
Let us coniider,

I. The manner in which the apoftle produces the tef-
timony ; * Unto which of the angels faid he at any
' time ?'

II. The teft'imony itfelf * Thou art my Son, this day
t have I begotten thcc.' ^vVc fhall then,

Vol. IL 1 III. Li-



S6 AX EXPOSITIOX OF THE Chap. I,

III. Inquire into tlic genuine lenfe of the pafTiige,
and,

IV. Make foinc obfcrvations.

§ 2. (1.) In the fonner tlircc things may be obferved :

1. That the tellimony infiikd on being a matter ol"
faith^ is that of l\\c jcriptuye.. Our apoflle here confidently

refers the Hebrews to the acknowledged rule of their taith
:l\\l\ worlliip ; whofe authority he knew they would not
decline, [Ifa, viii. 21,]

2. That the apoflle argues yicgni'ivcly from the aullio-
rity and ]>erfe6lion of the fcripture in things relating to
faith and the worlhip of God, It is no where faid in
the fcripture to angels ; therefore they have not the name
fpoken of, or not in Uiat manner wherein it is afcribed to
the MelHah. An argument taken negatively from the
authority of the fcripture in matters of faith, or what re-
lates to the worfhip of God, is valid and efleftual, and
liere confccralcd for ever for the ufc of the church.

3. That the apoftle either indeed grants, or clfc, for
argument fake, condcfcends to the apprchenlions of the
Hebrew?, that there is a diilin^lion of degrees and pre-
eminence amongft the angels thcmfelves. * To which
* of the angels faid he ?' This refpefts not only the com-
inunity of tlicm, but any or all of the chief or princes
among tiiem.

§ 3. (II.) W'q now proceed to the icjllmany itfelf \\(t\c
produced. Three things arc required to make it perti-
nent to the t\\i\ propofcd — I'hat the IMcffiah is intended
■ — that a signal name be appropriated to liim^ — that this
be a proot of his pre-eminence above angels.

I. That it is the Aitjjluh who is prophcfied of in tiic
fecond Pfalm, from whence the words are taken. This
with all Chriftians is put bevond difputc by its applica-
tifiii to Chriil in fcv^ral places of the Xcw Tcilament,
.is Av\s iv. 2 5 - -2 7. A(fls xiii. 33. lleb. v. ^. It is
certain alfo, that the Jews cilcemed that Pfalm to relate to
the Melljah. Eut it was not enough for tl»e apuOle, tlmt
thofc with whom he dealt cuknox'lfagru thcfc thing., un-
jefs they were really fo ; lln^ his argument mii^ht pro-
ceed



D*



EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 57



ceed (ex vnis) from wlnt wns true, as well as {ex cojicrjjis)
from what was granted. There is no corent reafon why we
Ihoukl acknowledge David and his kingdom to be at ail
intended in this Pfalm. The apoilles, we fee, apply it to
the Lord Chrill without any mention of David, and that
four feveral times ; twice in the Afts, and twice in this
epiflle. We may indeed grant that conlideration was
had of David and his kingdom typically, but not abfolute-
ly. When the thing lignificd is principally aimed at, it
is not necelLiry that every thing fpoken ihould be ap-
plicable properly to the type itfe-lf ; it being fufficient that
there was in the type fomewhat that bore a general refem-
blance to what was principally intended. On the contra-
ry, where the type is principally intended, and an appli-
cation made to the thing iigniiied only by way of general
allufion, there it is not required that all the particulars
affigned to the type fhould belong to the anti-type. Hence
though in general David, and his deliverance from trouble,
with the eilablifhment ol his throne, might be refpefted in
this Plalm, as an obfcUre reprefcntation of the kingdom of
Chrill ; yet fundry particulars in it, and among them this
mentioned by oUr apoftle, fcem to have no rcfpc<!:1 to him,
but direftly and immediately to intend the Mefhah. If it
yet he fuppofed that what is hence fpoken, * Thou art
* my Son, this day have I begotten thee,' is alfo to be ap-
plied to David-, yet it is not afcribed to him perfonally
and abfolutely, but merely confidered as the type of Chrift:
what then is principally and dire<flly intended in the
"Words, is to be fought for in Chrift alone ; it being fuffi-
cient to preferve the nature of the type, that there was in
David any refemblance or reprefcntation of it. Thus,
w^hcthcr David be admitted here as a type of Chrifl or nr,
the apolllc's purpofe ftands firm, that the words weie
principally and properly fpoken of the Mcffiah.

§ 4. 2. It is required tliat in the tc-flimony produced a
fignal name be appropriated to the Mcffiah, fo as that he
may inherit it exclufively. It is not being calkd by this
or that name, in common with others, that is intended;



Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 46)