John Owen.

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

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1 . A declaration of the ftate and condition of the Mef-
iiah, which is fuch, as that he is a meet obje£l of religious
adoration to the angels, and attended with peculiar mo-
tives to the difcharge of their duty. The former he hatli
from his divine nature, the latter from his work, with his
flate and dignity that cnfued thereon.

2. An intimation of the pleafurc of God to the angels —
not merely that divine worfliip was abfolutely due to the
Son of God, for that thev knew from the firrt iiiHant o^
their creation, but — that all honour and glory wore due
to him on account of his work and office, as mediator and
king of his church.

§ 6. (III.) It remalneth only, that w^e hint how this
teftimony, thus explained, was fuitable to the apollle's
defign and purpofc. Now^ it is impoHible that there



fliould be any more clear or full demonftration of thiy
truth, that the Lord Chrifl hath an unfpcakable pre-emi-
nence above the angels, than this, tiiat they are all ap-
pointed and commanded by God himfclf to adore him
with divine and religious "jcorjh'ip. We may now, there-

§ 7. (IV.) Confider what obfervations the words will
afford us for our own inftru<fllon.

Ohf. I. The authority of God fpcaking in the fcripturc
is that alone which divine faith refls upon, and is to be
refolvcd into. ' He faithJ' For as faith is an a<ft of reli-
gious obedience, it refpefts the authority of God requiring
it ; and as it is a religious infallible aflent of the mind, it
regards the truth and veracity of God as its objcft. On
this alone it rcfls, * God faith.' And in whatever God
fpeaks in the fcripture, his truth and authority manifeft
themfelvcs to the fatisfacSlion of faith, and no where elfe
doth it find reft.

§ 8. Obf. 2. For the begetting, incrcafing, and ftrength-
cning of taith, it is ufcful to have important and funda-
mental truths confirmed by many tcftimonics of fcripturc.
* Again he faith.' Any one word of God is lufricicnt to
cftablifh the moft important truth to eternity, fo as to
uphold the falvatlon of all mankind if fufpended thcrcoiv^
neither can any thing impeach or weaken what is fo con-
firmed. Rut God dealeth not upon ftri6l terms. Infinite
condcfccnfion lies at the bottom of all his dealings with
us. He rcfpc£\s not what the nature of the thing ftriftjy
requires, but what is needful to our infirmities. Hence he
multiplies his commands and promifes, and confirms a4l
by his oath, fwcaring to his truth by himlcU, to take
away all pretence of diftriKT: and unbelief. For this caufe,
alfo, he multiplies teftimonics to the truth, wherein the
concerns of his glory and our obedience lie ; what is (it
may be) obfcure in one, is cleared in another ; and fo
what doubts and fears remain on the confidcration of one
teftimony, are removed by another, whereby the fouls of
believers are carried on to a full all'urance : and, therefore,
becaufe fuch is our wcakncfs that there is great need
2 thereof


thereof in ourfelves, fuch is the goodnefs of God that
there is no want of it in the word. And this fhould
teach us to abound in the ll:udy and fcarch of the fcrlp-
tures, that we may thereby come to be eftabhfhcd in the
truth. God hath thus left us many teilimonies to each
important truth, and he hath not done it in vain ; he
knows our need of it ; and for us to neglect this great
efled of divine wifdom, grace, and love, is unfpeakable

s^ 9. Ohf. 3. The whole creation is deeply concerned
in God's bringing forth Chrifl into the world, and his
exaltation in his kingdom,

(1.) Becaufe in that work confifled the principal ma-
iilfcilation of the wifdom, power, and goodnefs of God.
The very inanimate parts of the v/orld are introduced, bj^
a figure, rejoicing, exulting, fhouting, and clapping their
hands, vvlien the glory of God is manifefled ; in all which,
their fuitablenefs and propenfity to their proper end is
declared ; as alfo, by their being burdened and groaning
under fuch a ilate and condition of things, as doth any
way eclipfe the glory of their Maker. Now in this work
©f bringing forth the firfl-born is the glory of God prin-
cipally and eminently exalted : for the Lord Chrifl is the
brightnefs of his glory; and in him the treafures of wif-
dom, grace, and goodnefs are laid up.

(2.) The whole creation receiveth a real advancement
and honour in the Son being made ' the firfl-born of
* every creature,' that is, the fpecial heir and Lord of
them all. Their being brought into a new dependence
on the Lord Chrifl, is their honour, and they are exalted
by becoming his pofTeflion. And however any part of it be
violently, for a feafon, detained under its old bondage, yet
it hath fubflantial grounds of an earnefl expectation of a
full and total deliverance, a glorious liberty, by virtue of
this primogeniture of Chrifl.

(3.) Angels and men, the inhabitants of heaven and
earth, the principal parts of the creation, on whom God
hath in an efpeciai manner cnflamped his own likenefs
and iniage, are hereby made partakers of fuch ineftimable

Vol. IL ' L benefits


benefits, as indifpenfably call for rejoicing, thankfulnefs,
and gratitude. And if this be the duty of all without
exceptions, it is cafy to difcern in what a fpccial manncr
it is incumbent on believers, whofc benefit and glory was
principally intended in the whole of this ftupendous work.
Should they be wanting in this duty, God might as of
old call heaven and earth to witnefs ngalnd them.

§ 10. Ohf. 4. The command of God is the ground
and rcafon of all religious worfliip. He faith, * Worfliip
* him, all ye angels.' Now the command of God is two-
fold, formal and vocal ; or real and interpretative. The
very nature of an intelligent creature made for the glory
of God, and placed in a moral dependence upon him, and
fubje£lion to him, hath in it the force of a command, as
to the worfliip and fervice that God requireth. But this
law in man being blotted and impaired through fin, God
hath in mercy to us collefted and difpofcd all the directions
and commands of it in vocal formal precepts, recorded in
his word ; whereunto he hathy/z/oW^^'^^fundry new com-
mands in the inllitutions of his worfhip. With angels it
is otherwife. The ingrafted law of their creation requi-
ring of them the worfhip of God, and obedience to his
whole will, is kept and preferved entire ; fo that they
have no need to have it exprcfled in v seal formal com-
mands. And by virtue of this law were they obliged fo
conftant and everlafling worfliip of the eternal Son of
God, as being created and upheld by him. But now*
when God brings forth his Son into the world, and placctli
him in a new condition of being Incarnatey and fo be-
coming the head of his church, there is a ticzo modification
of the worfliip that is due to him brought in, and a new
rcfpc£l to things not confidcred in the firft creation.
Hence God gives a new command to the angels for that
peculiar kind of worfliip and honour which is due to him
in that ftate. I'hus in one way or other command is the
ground and caufc of all worfliip. For,

All worfliip is obedience; obedience rcfpc£ls authority;
^nd authority exerts itfcif in commands. And if this au-
tliority be not the authority of God, the worfliip per-




formed in obedience to it, is not the worfliip of God, but
ofhimorthem whofe commands and authority are the
reafon and caufe of it. It is the authority of God alone
that can make any worfliip to be religious, or the per-
formance of it to be an a«Sl of obedience to him.

§. II. We might hence alfo farther obfervc,

(i.) That the mediator of the new covenant is, in
his own perfon, * God blefled for ever,' to whom divine
or rehgious worfliip is due from the angels themfelves.
As alfo that,

(2.) The Father, upon the account of the work of
Chrift in the world, and his kingdom thence enfuing,
gives a new command to the angels to worfhip him, his
glory being greatly concerned therein. And that,

(3.) Great is the church's fecurity and honour, when
the head of it is worfhipped by all the angels in heaven.
And alfo that,

(4.) It can be no duty of the faints to worfhip angels,
who are their fellow fervants in the worfhip of Jefus

Verse 7.

and of the angels he saith, who maketh his
angels spirits, and his ministers a flame


§ I. The fuhjc^ JlatccL § 2, 3. (I.) Who they are of whom
the Pfalmijl /peaks. § 4. (II.) What it is that h^
affirmeth of them. § 5, 6. (III.) Obfcrvations.


§ i.xiAVING in one teflimony from the fcripturcs^
exprefling the fubjedion of angels to the Lord Chrift,
iignally proved hij main dciign ; the apoftlc proceeds ta

L 2 hiii


his third argument in proof of tlie fame point. And here
ve Ilia 11 inquire,

I. IFho they are of whom the Pfalmifl fpeaks ?

II. If hat it is that he affirmeth of them r And then,

III. Improve the fubjeft by fuitablc obfcrvations.

§ 2. The modern Jews deny tl;at there is any mention
made of angels ; and affirm, that the Pfalmifl: treats of the
winds, with thunder and lightning, which God employs
as his mcjjlngcrs and miniflers to acconiplilTi his will and
pleafure. But as this opinion is diredly contradictory to
the authority of the apollle ; fo is it alfo to the dcfign of
the Plalmift, the fcnfe of the words, and the confvnt of
the antient fcws ; and fo is not admiffible. — Some aver
that the winds and meteors are pruiclpally intended, but
yet fo, as that God affirming, that he makes the winds his
mcircngers, doth alfo intimate that it is the work and em-
ployment of his angels above to be his meflcngers alfo ;
and that becaufc he maketh ufe of their minifrry to caufe
thofc winds and fires, whereby he accomplifheth his will,
and this they illuftrate by the fire and winds caufed by
them on IMount Sina, at the giving of the Law. But
this interpretation, whatever is pretended to the contrary,
doth not rearly differ from the former, denying angels to
be intentionally fpoken of, and only hooking in, as it were,
a rcfpe£l to them, not lo be feen to contradid the apoflle.
■ — Others grant, that it is the angels of whom the apofllc
treats, but make fpirits to be the lubjc£l of what is affirm-
ed, and angels to be the predicate. In this fenfe, God
is faid to make thofe fpiritual fubftancts, thofe inhabitants
of heaven, his mrjjcngers^ employing them in his fervice —
them whofc nature is a tlaming tire, that is, the feraphims,
to be his minijiers to accomplifh his pleafurc ; making the
term * angels' to denote merely an employment, not

§ 3. But neither of thcfe interpretations appears fatif-
fa£lory. On the contrary, that the winds and tcm-
pclls and their ufe in the earth arc not intended, either by
the pfalmifl or the apoflle, and that the angels are pro-
perly dcfigned by both, might be flicwn from the fcope



and dcligii of the palTagcs— -the confent of the ailticiit
Jews-— from the common ufe of the word (cdo«V») ren-
dered angels, feeing no reafon can be given why it fliould
not denote them here— -from the apoftle and Sept, fixing
the articles before the words {(xyy-Xovg and Xstjov^yevg)
angels and minyicrs, which plainly determine them to be
the fubjed fpoken of. Not to iniift particularly on thefe
things, let it be only obferved, that the apoflle's intention
is to prove by this tellimony, that the angels are employ-
ed mfuch vjorks and fes vices, and in fuch a manner, as thati
t!)ey are no way to be compared to the Son of God, ia
refpe£l of that office which, as Mediator, he hath under*
dertaken ; which the fenfe and conflruflion now con-
tended for, but no other, evidently prove,

§ 4. (II.) Our next inquiry is after what is affirmed
concerning thcfe angels and miniilers fpoken of, and that
is, that God makes them * fpirits' and a * flame of
* fire.* Some fuppofe that the creation of angels is con-
tended, and the nature whereof they were made. He
made them fpirits \ that is, of a fpiritual fuhjlance \ and
his heavenly miniflcrs quick, powerful, agile, as a flaming
Jire. But the pfalm evidently refers to the providence of
God employing angels, and not to his power in making
them. And the apoftle in this place hath nothing to do
with the elTence and nature of the angels, but with their
dignity, honour, and employment. Wherefore the pro-
vidence of God in difpofing and employing of them in his
fervice is intended in the words, and fo they may have a
double fenfe ; either,

I. That God employeth his angels and heavenly mi-
nifters in the produftion of thofe tuinds (nimn) and Jir^^
{^rh ir«) thunder and lightning, whereby he executeth many
judgements in the world. Or,

(2.) A note of fimilitude may be underflood to com-
plete the fenfe ; which is exprefTed in the Targum on the
pfalm ; he maketh or fendeth his angels like the wind, or Ills
a flaming fire ; maketh them fpeedy, fpiritual, agile, pow-
erful, quickly and efFe£lually accomplilhing the work ap-
t)ointed them. Either way this is the plain intendment of

2 thtt


x\\Q pfalm ; that God cmploycth his angels in cffc£ting the
"ivorks of his providence here below, in that way and man-
ner. This, faith the apoflle, is the teflimony which the
Holy Ghoft gives concerning tbem ; but now confider
>vhat the fcripture fiith concerning the Son, how it calls
him Gody how it afcribcs a throne and a kingdom to him,
(tcllimonics whereof he produccth in the next verfes)
and you will callly difccrn his pre-eminence above tliem,

§ 5. (III.) The words thus explained, let the follow-
ing things be obfcrved:

Olf, I. Our conceptions of the angels, their nature,
Qffice, and work are to be regulated by the fcripture. This
\\'i\\ keep us to that becc.ning fobricty in things above us,
which both the fcripture greatly commends, and is ex-
ceeding reafonablc. And the rule of that fobriety is given
us for ever, (Deut. xxix. 28.) * Secret things belong

• unto the Lord our God, but revealed things to us and

* our children.' Divine revelation alone is the rule and
meafureof our knowledge in thefe things, which bounds
and determines our fobricty. And hence the apofdc con-
demning the curjolity of men in this very fuoje£t about
angels, makes the nature of their {in to coniirt in exceed-
ing thefe bounds. This alone will bring us into nny cer-
tainty ajud truth. If men would keep themfclves to the
ijiTord of God, they would have allu ranee and evidence of
truth in their conceptions, without which, pretended high
^nd raifcd notions arc but the ihadow of a dream, and
worfe than profcilcd ign ranee.

§ 6. O/^f. 2. We may hence obfcrvc that the glory,
pr true honour of angels, lies in their fubferviency to the
providence of God ; it lies not fo much in their nature^ as
in their work and fovlce. God hath endowed the angels
with a very excellent nature, furnilUed them with many
eminent propeii cs of wifdom, power, and agility; but
their gIoi\ v nfifts — not merely in their nature itfclf, and
its cflciuial pro \rtics, all which abide in the mofl: horrid
And dctcftcd part of the whole crci^tion — tlie devils \ but —
in their conforniity to \\w mind and will of God, their a£\ive
niuiii eiidownKnts : thefe make them amiable, glorious,


Ver.7. epistle to THE HEBREWS. 77

excellent. Hence remark, that the greatefl glory that any
creature can be made partaker of, is to ferve the pleafure,
and fct forth tLu praifes, of its creator. It is glorious, even
in the angels, to f^rve the God of glory ; and what is there
above this for a creature to afpire to, that its nature is capa-
ble of ? Thcfc among the angels who, as it feems, attempted
fomewhat farther, fomewhat higher, attained nothing but
endlefs ruin, fhame, and mifery. Men are ready to faficy
ilrange things about &ie glory of angels ; and little confider
that all the difference in glory, in any part of God's cre-
ation, lies merely in wiUingnefSf ability, and readinefs to
ferve God their Creator. And, doubtlefs, the works
wherein God employs them in fubferviency to his provi-
dence, as the meflengers of judgement or of mercy, are in
an efpccial manner, glorious works. And they dif J^arge
their fervice in a very glorious manner ; w^ith great power,
wifdom, and uncontrolable efficacy. Thus one of them
ilew * a hundred and fourfcore and five thoufand' of the
enemies of God in one night. And of like power and
expedition are they in all their fervices ; in all things to
the utrnoll capacity of creatures anfwering the will of God.
Now if this be the great glory of angels, and we fK)or
worms of the earth are invited, as indeed we are, into a
participation with them therein, what unfpeakable folly-
will it be in us, if we be found negligent ! Oar future
glory confifls in this, that we fliall be made like unto the
angels ; and our way towards it is to do the will of oqr
Father on earth, as it is done by them in heaven. Oh !
in how many vanities doth vain man place his glory ! no-
thing fo fliameful that one or other hath not gloried in -,
whilli the true and only glory of ' doing the will of God/
is iiegleded by almoll all.



Verses 8, 9.

but unto the sos he saith, thy throne, o goit,
is for ever and ever ; a iickpter of righte-
ousness is the scepter ok thy kingdom. thou
hast loved righteousness, and hated iniqui-
ty ; therefore god, even thy god, hath
anointed thee with the oil of cladn£bs
above thy fellows.

§ I, ConncHlon of the vjords. § 2. The Mcjfiah intended by
the PfalmiJI. § 3. fVhat the apoJIU's dcjign. § 4. (I.)
llhc words explained. Chr'ijl called God, bccaufe fo by na^
ture. § 5. His throne. §6. Its perpetuity. §7. Hi:
fcepter, § 8. His difpojttion. ^ 9. His unction. § 10.
His fupcrior prerogative therein, § li — 13. (II. j Ob^

§ 1. JLA AVING given an account of what the fcrip-
ture teaches and teftifieth concerning angels — in the fol-
lowing vcrfcs he flieweth how much more glorious things
are fpoken of the Son, by whom God revealed his will in
the gofpel. This teftimonyis produced by the apollle in
anfwer to that foregoing concerning angels. 7l?ofe word*^
faith he, were fpoken by the Holy Ghoft of the angels,
wherein their oflicc and employment under the" providence
of God is defcribed ; thefe are fpoken by the fame Spirit
of or to the Son, denoting his prior cxiilcncc to the pro-
phecies thcmfclves.

§ 2. 'Ihcre is little or no dilTiculty to prove that this
tcftimony [Pf xlv. 6, 7.] belongs /);-5/)<.77y to the Mcliiah.
The ancient Jews granted it, and the prcfent do£tors can-
not deny it. The Tar?um wholly applies it to the Melliah ;
nor is there fcarce any thing in the Pfalm that can with
propriety of ipccch be applied to Solomon. Two things



are efpeclally inlUled on in the former part of the Pfalm ;
tlie y'lghteouftiefs of the perfon fpokeu of, ia all his ways
and adminillrations ; and the perpctuhy of his kingdom.
How the former o( thefe can be attributed to him, whofe
tranfgreffions and fins were fo public and notorious ; or
the latter to him who reigned but forty years, and then
left his kingdom, broken and divided, to a wicked foolifli
fon, is hard to conceive. As all, then, grant that the
MefTiah is principally, fo there is no cogent reafon to prove
that he is not fokly intended in the Pfalm. I will not
contend, but that fundry things treated of in it might be
obfcurely typified in the kingdom and magnificence of So-
lomon ; yet it is certain, that mod of the things men-
tioned, do fo immediately and direftly belong to the Lord
Mefiiah, as that they can in no fenfe be applied to the
perfon of Solomon ; and fuch are the words here produced
by our apoftle.

§ 3. We mufl then, in the next place, confiderwhat it
is that the apoftle pretends to prove by this teflimony,
whereby we fhall difcover its fuitablenefs to his defign.
Now this is not, as fome have fuppofed, the Deity of
Chrifl, (although the teftimonies produced do eminently
mention his divine nature) but that whom they faw for a
time made lower than the angels, [chap. ii. 10,] was yet
in his whole perfon fo far above them, as that he had
power to alter and change thofe inftitutions which were
given put by the roiniftry of angels. And this he doth,
undeniably, by the teftimonies alledged. For whereas
the fcrlpture teftifies concerning angels, that they arc all
fervants, and that their chief glory confifts in the dif-
charge of their duty in that relation, to him are afcribed
a throne, rule, and everlafting dominion, admlniftered
with glory, power, and righteoufncfs : whence it is evi-
dent, that he is exceedingly exalted above them, as ^
king on his throne is above the fervants that attend \\\n\
to perform his plej^fure. Let us,

I. Explain the feveral parts of the words, and lhei\
^ay will be made for,

IL The obfervations,


§ 4. (I.) The fir ft thing to be attended to is the ex-
planation of the words,

' Thy throne, O God.* Some would have Elohhn
(oOzog) to be a name common to God with angels, and
judges ; and in that large acceptation to be here afcribcd to
Chrift ; fo that though he be expreilly called Eloh'im^ and
(0 0ioc) Gody yet that proves him not to be God by Jia-
tu>t\ but only to be fo termed in rcrpc£t of his ofHce,
dignity, and authoritv. ]>at this glol's is contrary to the
perpetual uTe of ficrcd fcripture ; tor no one place can
be inftanced in, where the name Elohim is ufed abfolutclv,
and rcftrained to any one pcrf^ju^ wherein it doth not un-
deniably denote the true and only God. Magilliratcs, in-
deed, are faid to be Elohim, in refpefl of their cJJJcc^ but
no rjic magiftratc was ever fo called : nor can a man lay
without blaiphemy to any of them, ' Thou art Elohim,'
or God. It is Chrift the Son, therefore, that is fpokeii
to, and denoted by that name, as being the true God
by nature ; though wiiat is here affirmed of him be not
as God, but as the king of his church and people ; as \\\
another place, God is faid to redeem his churcii with
his own blood.

§ 5. Among the injigma regalia, the royal enfigns of
the Melfiah's kingdom, is liis * throne.' A throne
Ari£lly is the feat of a king in his kingdom, and is fre-
quently ufed metonymically for the kingdom itfelf. Nor
does it here funply denote the kingdom of Chrift, or hii
fupreme rule and dominion, but the glory alfo of his
kingdom ; being on his throne, is to be in the height of
his glory, and becanfe God manifefts his glory in heaven,
lie calls that his throne, as the earth is his footftool,
[Ifaiah Ixvi. 1.] So that the throne of Chrift is his glo-
rious kingdom, elfcwhere cxpreffcd by his fitting down at
the right hand of the Majefty on high.

§ 6. 'Vo this throne eternity is attributed ; it is ' for

* ever and ever.' The throne of Chrirt is faid to be * for

* ever,' in oppofition to the frail and mutable kingdoms of
the earth. * Of the incrcafe of his government and peace,

* there (ball be no <:i\l\, upon the throne of David, and

' upoi^


' upon his kingdom to order it, and to cftablifh it with

* judgement and with juilice from hc]iccfortIi and for

* ever,' [Ifaiali ix. 7.] His dominion is an everlalling do-
minion which fliall not pafs away, and his kingdom that
which fliall not be deftroyed. It fliall neither decay, of
itfclf, nor fail through the opposition of its enemies: for
' he muft reign until all his enemies are made his foot-

* flool,' [I. Cor. XV. 24 — 27.] It is alfo intimated that
the divine nature of Chrill: is what gives eternity, liability,
and unchangeablenefs to his throne and kingdom. ' Thy
' throne, O God, is for ever.*

§ 7. The * fcepter of righteoufnefs,* denotes both
the laws of the kingdom and the efficacy of the govern-
ment. So that what we call a righteous government,
is here called ' a fcepter of righteoufnefs.' The king-
dom of Chrift is ' a fcepter of righteoufnefs,' becaufe
all the laws of his gofpel are righteous, holy, and jufi ;
full of benignity and truth, [Titus ii. 11, 12.] And all
his adminillration of grace, mercy, juftice, rewards and

§ 8. The habitual frame of the heart of Chrift, in
his legal admlniflrations, is next defcribed: ' He loveth
' righteoufnefs and hateth iniquity.' This fliews the

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 7 of 46)