John Owen.

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

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abfolute completenefs of the righteoufnefs of Chrifl's
kingdom, and of his righteoufnefs in his kingdom.
Among the governments of this world, oft-times the
very laws are tyrannical, unjuil, and oppreffive, and if the
laws are good and equal, yet oft-times their adminiflra-
tion is unjuft, partial, and wicked ; orv*4ien men do ab-
llain from fuch exorbitances, yet frequently they do {o
on nccount of fomc fclf-intercft and advantage hke Jehu,
and not out of a conftant, equal, unchangeable love of
rigliteoufnefs, and hatred of iniquity ; but all thcfe are
al)folutely complete in the kingdom of Jefus Chrifl:.

§ 9. The conlequence of this righteous rule in Chrift
is. his being * anointed with oil of gladnefs.' ' God, thy
.* God hath anointed tliec.' God is (aid to be the God of
tlie Son, in refpcft of his zvhole po-fon^ God-man, as he
iv'vas dcfigncd by his Father to be the head and king of the

IV I 2 church ;


church ; for thcreui did God the Father undertake to be
witli him, to "ftand by him, to carry liim through with
his work, and in the end to crown him with glory. —
• Thv God hath anointed thee with oil of gladncfs.^ Thefc
words may allude, cither to the common ufe of anointing
with oil, which was to make the countenance appear
cheerful at feafts and public folemnities ; or, to the fpe-
cial ufc of it in the un£tion of kings, pricfts, and pro-
phets. I'hat the ceremony was typical, is evident ; and
it denoted tlie collation of the gifts of the Holy Ghofl,
whereby the perfon anointed was enabled for the difchargc
of the office he was called to, [Ifaiah Ixi. i.] And in this
fcnfc there is commonly alTigned a threefold un6\ion of
Chrill ; at his conception^ at his haptifm^ and at his afcen-
Jion, when he received from the Father the promife of
the Spirit, to be poured forth upon his difciples, [A£t$
ii. 33.] But that which the apoftle fcems here to exprefs
with the pfLihnill, is the glorious exaltation of Chrifl,
when he was folemnly enflated in his kingdom : this is
that which is called the making of him both Lord and
Chrift, [A£ls ii. 36.] Wl^cn God railed him from the
dead, and gave him glory, [1. Pet. i. 21.] He is called

• Chriil' from the un£lion of the Spirit ; and in his
rxnltation, he is faid in an efpecial manner to l)e * made

• Chrift ;' that is, taken glorioufly into the poflefTion of
all the offices and tiieir full adminiftration, whcrcunto he
was fo anointed. * 7he oil of gladmfs,'' denotes triumph
and exaltation, freedom from trouble and diflrefs.

§ 10. Finally, we have the prerogative of Chrill iii
|his privilege ; * He is anointed ahovc hisfe/Iozvs.* Now
thefe fellows, companions, or aflbciates, may denote-
either all believers, partaking with him in this un£\ion»
who arc co-htirs with him ; or, more cfpecially thole
who wi re employed by God in the fcrvicc and rule of
his church ; fuch as the prophets of old, and aftcrwardiJ
the apoftlcs, [Kphef. ii. 20.] With refpe£l to both thclc,
Chrill is anointed with oil of gladncfs * above them,*
but the latter fort arc efpecially intended ; concerning
whom the apollle gives un efpecial iuilance in Moles,
1 [chap.

[chap, ili.] In a word, he is incomprchenfibly exalted
above angels and men.

§ 1 1. (II.) Let us now advert to fuch obfervations as
the words naturally afford. ^ ^

Obf. I. The comparing of fcripture with Icripture is
an excellent means of becoming acquainted with the
mhid and will of God therein. Thus the apoftle com-
pareth what is fpoken of angels in one place, and what
of the Son in another, and from thence manifefteth what
is the mind of God concerning them. And this difcovers
the root of almoft all the errors and herefies that are in
the world. Men whofe hearts are not fubdued by faith
and humility to the obedience of the truth, lighting on
fome expreffion in fcripture, that fingly confidered feems
to give countenance to fome fuch opinion as they are wil-
ling to embrace ; without farther fearch, they fix it on
their minds and magnify the importance of- it in their ima-
gination. Hence it appears what diligence, patience, and
W'ifdom are required of all in fearching the facred oracles,
who defire an accurate and profitable knowledge of the
truth. And as to thofe who openly and habitually ne-
glea the ineftimable privilege of this word, as the infil-
lible guide to all ufeful and faving truths, how woefully
will it rife up in judgement againft them ! And how great
will be their mifery, who, under various pretences fub-
fervient to their own corrupt ends, deter others from ths

(ludy of it !

§ 12. O^/ 2. It is the duty of all believers to rejoice
in the glory, honour, and dominion of Jefus Chrift. The
church (in the xlvth. Pfalm) takes by faith a profpeft at
a great diftance of his coming and glory ; and then breaks
out with exultation and triumph, into thefe words, * Thy
« throne, O God, is for ever.' And if this was a matter
of fo great joy and tranfport to them, who had only an
obfcure reprefentation of the glory which was to follow
many ages after, what ought the full accomplifhment,
and clear manifeftation of it be to us! This made
them of old ' rejoice with joy unfpeakable and full of
* glory,' even becaufe they faw and heard the things which



king. «-ire n,cn, and prophets dcfircd to fee, and faw them
not; God having provided fomc better tiling for us
that they wuliout us ihould not be made perfeft/ [chap'
^d^Mo "7','; ';^'°'' S'°-fied ; herein doth the honou;
and glory of Chnft as mediator con.ill ; and ihM not tliis
be a matter of great rejoicing to all that love him in fin-
cerity rl hat he „ho loved us. that gave himfelf for „ .

cu ^"T 7'' ''""' '•^P - '-'''^ o^ -iferable fo
our fakes ; that he is now exalted, gloriiied, enthroned
m an everlartmg immoveable kingdom, above all his ene-
mies, and fccure from all oppotition; this, furcjv is ,
matter of niexpreflible joy. Our own fecuritv and' iatety!

>". W h,m he reigneth we are fafe ; and are fure to be in
our never-failmg way to glory. To fee by faith this kin. „,

Idhng the temple; to iec all power committed to him all
tmngs given into his hands, difpoling of all, and rulin<.'all
for the advantage of Iiis church-how exhilarating, liov^
joyful the profpeft ! The whole world, all the creation of
(.od, are concerned in this kingdom of Chrift. Settin-. afide
his enemies under the curfe in hell, the whole creation
IS benehtted by this mediatorial dominion : for as fome
men arc made partakers of faving grace and falvation
thereby, fo the rehdue of that race receive unfpeakable
advantages m the patience and forbearance of God ■ ind
the very creature itfelf is raifed, as it were, into an expec-
tation thereby of deliverance from that Hate of vnnitv
^hereunto it is now fubjcfted, [Rom. viii. 20 -^ i | So
that if we arc capable of being moved with the glo'rv of
God, the honour of Jefus Chrift, our own etern'al inte-
rcK, the advantage of the whole creation— have we
not caufe to rejoice in this throne and kingdom of the Son '
V 'I y''(\3- '^1' tl'c laws, and the whole adminillra-
tion of the kmgdom of Chrift, by his word and fniiit
are e^ual, righteous, and holy. His foepter is a fccptc^
o nghtoou.nefs. The world, indeed, like, them not ;
M thing, in his lulc feem to it weak, al.luid. and foolilh ■
■I.Cor- ,. 20, 21,] but, the Holy Gholl being judge,


Ver.8,9. epistle TO THE HEBREV/S. 85

they are otherwlfe ; and fuch they appear to them that
believe ; yea, whatever is requiiite to make laws and ad-
miniftrations * righteous' here concur. Is authority, a
juft and full authority, requiiite to make laws righteous?
He has it fupremely. Is luifdom, the eye of authority,
fo requifite that no legiflator ever obtained juft renown
without it? The Lord Chrifl is abundantly furnifhcd
with wifdom for this purpofe. He is the foundation-ilone
of the church, that liath * feven eyes upon it.' [Zech.
iii. 9.] A perfection of wifdom and underftanding in all
its affairs. But it defcrves particular attention, that his
Liws are righteous in fuch a i'cnic as to be eajj', gentle, and
not burdenfome. The righteoufnefs and uprightnefs here
intended doth not denote flria, rigid, fevere jufticc, ex-
tending itfelf to the utmoil of what can be required of
the fubjeas ; but equity mixed with gentlenefs, tender -
ncfs, and condefcenfion ; ' His yoke is eafy and his bur-
' denhght,' [Matt. xi. 30.] and ' his commandments are
f not grievous,' [L John v. 3.] His commands are all rea^
fonable, fuited to the principles of that natural obedience
we owe to God ; and fo not grievous to any thing in us,
but that principle of fm and darknefs which is to be de-
iiroyed. He hath not multiplied ^precepts merely arbi-
trary, to exprefs his authority ; as might be evinced by
the particular confideration of his inlHtutions. Hence
our obedience to them is called our ' reafonable fervicc,'
[Rom. xii. i.] His commands are eafy, becaufe all of
them are fuited to that principle of the new nature, which
he worketh in the hearts of all his genuine difciples. This
principle likes them, loves tliem, delights in them, which
makes them eafy. His commands are eafy, becaufe he
continually gives out fupplies of his fpirit, to make his
fubjeas yield obedience to them. That is it which above
all fets a luftre upon his rule. This adminiftration of
Chrift's kingdom is righteous, becaufe ufeful and piotitable,^
freeing the foul from the power of luft, the fervice of
fin, the fear of death, hell, and the world ; guiding it
in the truth, making it fruitful amongft men, and ami-
able to God himfelf. How righteous alfo their end ' A
•■ • jnorQ


more worthy and exalted cannot be conceived. Hence it
appears — that our fubmiflion to this fceptcr, and our obc*
dicnce to thefe laws, mull needs be very righteous and
reafonable. What can be farther defired to provoke us
to it ? On the other hand, does it not awfully follow,
that the condeninatiou of thofe who refufc the reign of
Chrift over them, that will not yield obedience to his
laws, is moft juft and righteous ? How will the equity of
his government flop the mouth of every rebel for ever,
when he comes to deal with them wjio know not God,
and obey not the gofpel I

Verses 10 — 12.

an'd thou, lord, in the begikning hast laid
the foundation of the earth *. and the hea-
vens are the work of thine hands. they
6hall perish, but thou remainest : and they
all shall wax old as doth a garment ; and
as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, anq
they shall be chanced: but thou art the
same and thy years shall not fail,

^ I — 4. Eryoficous IntcrprctaUofts refuted. § 5 — 7. (T.)
Ihe iL'ords explained. §8 — 10. (II.) Fiaiticidobfct^

^ i.lN thefe vcrfcs the apoftlc by another lUuftrlous
teftimony, (taken out of Pfalm cii.) confirms his princi-.
pal aflTcrtion. There is no qucftion but that thefe words
do fufficiently prove the pre-eminence of him of whom
they are fpoken, incomparably above all creatures what-
ever. Some fav that the words arc only accommodated to
Chiift, * thou haft laid the foundation of th^ cavth,' that


is, <' the world was made for thy fake." But this inter-
pretation, or rather violcFit dctortion of the words defboys
itfelf. For if they are fpoken of God abfolutely, and not
of the Mcifiah to whom they arc accommodated, how can
it be faid that the ' world was made for his fake,' and not
by him P Both fenfes of the words cannot be true. Bat
this is, indeed, plainly to deny the authority of the

§ 2. The Socinians — who cannot deny but that thefe
.words fome way or other belong to Chrift, yet plainly
perceiving that if they ^re vjholly underftood of him, there
is an end of all their religion — fix here upon a new and
peculiar evafion. Some words of this tcftimony, fay they,
.belong to Chrift, (fo much they will yield to tlie authority
of the apoftle) but not all of them. "■ Thefe words,"
they urge, being firft exprellly fpoken of God, and here
referred to Chriji, we muft confidcr what in them is
agreeable to the nature and condition of Chrift, who
certainly was a man.'''* But this is meanly to beg the quef -
tion, *' That Chrift was a mere man, and not God by na-
ture.'^ It is true, as here granted, that the words were
firft exprellly fpoken of God ; but it is no lefs true, the
apoftle being judge, that it is the Son of God who is that
God. It is true alfo, that he was man, and nothing is
afcribed to him but what belongs to him who was man,
but not as he was man. And fuch was the creation of
heaven and earth. By this teftimony, then, the Holy
Ghoft proves, that he who was * made lets for a little
* while than the angels,* in one relpc»fl, was abfolutcly
and in his whole perfon infinitely above them, as being
the creator of heaven and earth.

§ 3. There is another fpecious cavil that has been fomc-
times urged to this effect : ** The Hebrews were either
perfiiaded that Chrift was God, the creator of heaven
and earth, or they were not; if they were, what need of
all thefe arguments and teftimonics r one plain word might
have fufticed. If they did not yet believe it, wliy (\oti
he take for granted what, if direftly urged, that he was
the maker of heaven and earth, would }iive put all out of
Vol. 11. N doubt."


doubt.'* Wc reply ; let it be granted that they did ex-
preHIy believe Chrifl to be God; have believers no need
to have their faith confirmed by teftimonics out of the
word, that may not fo readily occur to themfelvcs ? Have
they no need to be ftrengthened in their faith, efpecially
in fuch points as were in thofe day* greatly oppofed, as was
this of the eternal glory of the Mclllah ; concerning
which the believing Hebrews had to do with learned and
•flubborn adverfaries continually. And if the apoftlc
might have ended the whole controverfy, as thcfe object-
tors pretend, bv plainly affirming, that he was * the crea-
* tor of all things,' a»ld that the angels are his creatures ;
we retort, might he not as well have ended riie difputc
about * his pre-eminence above angels,' which it is al-
lowed he here defigns to prove, with * one word,' without
citing fo many teftimonies to prove it ? But would he then
have unfolded the myllcrics of the Old 'i'eftament to the
Hebrews, which was his grand defign ? Would he then have
manifeftcd that he taught nothing but what was before re-
vealed (though obfcurclv) to Mofes and the prophets, which
he allidtjoufly aimed to do, thereby to ftrcngthen and con-
firm believers and convince gainfayers ? Again, fuppofe
fome of them to whom he wrote did not yet expreifly be-
lieve the Deity of Chriff, (as the apoflles themfclves did not
for awhile believe his rcfurrci-ilon ;) could any more con-
vincing way be fixed on to perfuade them thereto, than by
minding them of thofe tcftimonie* of the Old Teftament,
wherein the attributes and works of God are afcribcd to
him r But unto the Son, he faith, * thv throne, O God, is

* for ever — and, thou hall laid the foundation of the earth/

^ 4. Were it affirmed in this piacc onhy, that * Chriil

* made all things,' yet the words being plain and evident,
and the thing Itfelf agreeable to fcripture in other places,,
and not repugnant to any one facred teilimony, there is
no pretence for anv who truly reverence the wildom and
authority of inf[)iratIon, to deny the words to be fpoken
of him properly and dlrc^ly. If not, will there be ony
t^'in^ left tliat we can call a facred and unlhakcn bafis ot
faith in all the facred volume ? Befidcs, we have Ihewed al-

j ready


ready the vanity of that diftindion of God's making
things hy Chr'iji^ as though it denoted any fubordinatioii
in cafualjty ; nor will the Socinians themfelves admit of
any fuch thing, but confute that notion in the Arians.
But this is not the only place wherein it is affirmed that
Chrifl niade all things that are in the heaven and the
earth, [Jghni. 1,2, Col. i. 16, &c.] To fuppofe that in
thefe fentences, * thou liaft laid the foundation of the
^ earth,' and, * thou fiialt fold them up as a garment,'
one perfon is underftood in i\\t former, and another in the
latter^ no fuch thing being intimated by the pfalmift or
the apoflle, is to fuppofe what vye pleafe, that we may
eftablifh what vy^e have a mind. One perfon» and only
one, is here certainly and only fpoken to ; if this be the
father, the words concern not Chrift at all, and the
apoftle w^as deceived in his allegation pf them \ if the Son,
the whole is fpoken of him, as the apoflle affirms. Can
any fhew of reafon be affigned, why the latter words
fliould be attributed to Chpfl, and not th^ former ? If it
be faid, becaufe God by him fhall deflroy the world,
which is the thing in the laft words fpoken of; we afk,
where is it \yritten that God fhall deflroy the \yorld by
Chrifl ? If they fay in this place ; I fay then Chrifl is
fpoken of in this place ; and if fo, he is fpoken of in the
iirfl words, * And thou, Lord,* or not at all : befides, to
whom do thofe clofing words belong, but to thefe, ' Thoi;

* art the fame and thy years fail not?' If thefe words are
fpoken qf Chrifl, it is evident that all the foregoing mufl
be fo alfo j fpr his enduring, ai>d the not failing of his
years ; that is, his eternity, is oppofed to the creation
and temporary duration of the wprld. If they fay, that
they belong tq the Father primarily, but are attributed
to Chrill, becaufe the Father doth it by him \ I dclire to
know, what is the meaning of thefe words, ' Thou art the

* fame hy Chriji y^ and ' lliy years fail not Ify Chr'ijl ?^
What ! is not the Father eternal, except in the man
Chrifl Jefus ? He who made them, is faid to fold thcni
\ip. Who then can but believe, on this tcflimony of the
apqf^le, tliat Chrifl the Lord made heaven and earth,

N % and


and if the apoftlc intended not to aflert it, what is there
in the text, or near it, to warn men from running on a
Ihclf, where fo fair an harbour appears to them ? From
all that has been faid, it is evident, that the whole tcfti-
mony belongs to Chrift, and is by the apoftle expreflly
applied to him.

§ 5. *(I.) Proceed we now to the interpretation of the
words, * Thou haft laid the foundation of the eartli.*
In coniidering the works of God, to admire his greatncfs,
power, and wifdom in them, or to fet forth his praifes for
them, it is ufual in fcripture to difti ibute tlicin into parts.
So, for inftancc, the Pfalmifl does when furveying the
vorks of God*s providence in bringing the children of
Ifrael out of Egypt, [Pfalm cxxxvi.] and fubjoins this
inference of praife to every one of thcni, ' for his mercy
• enJureth for ever,' and fo he does with refpecl to the
works of creation, [Pfalm xix.] — In the palTage under
confideration, the earth is faid to be * founded,' bccaufe
of its ftability and immovcablencfs. He fet it faft, he ef-
tablilhed it, that it Ihould not be moved for ever. The
whole fabrick of heaven and earth is compared to an edi^
ficc or building ; whereof the earth, as the loweft and
moft deprelfcd part, is as it were the foundation of the
wliole ; but the ftability, immoveablenefs, and firmnefs of
it is what the word denotes, and what is here moft pro-
perly intended. * yind the heaz'ens are the works of thy

* hands,'* This alludes to the curious framing and gar-
nilhing of the vifible heavens. The (nnau^ Job xxvi.
13.) cxquifite Inaut'ifidncfi and ornament of the heavens,
is what the Pl'almift ain>s to exprefs. * The hca\Tns arc

• the works of thy hands;* that which thy hands, thy
power joined with infinite wifdom, have framed, fo as to
fet olf, and give luftrc and beauty to the whole fabrick ;
as a maftcr workman doth the upper and moft noble parts
of his Imilding. Thus the founding of the earth, and
parnilhliig of the heavens, is the firft thing alligned to the
Lord Redeemer in this tcftimonv of his glorv.

§ 6. The next part of the tclliinony is not lefs illuf-
trious and decifivc. The mutation or abolition of rl'>tfc


Ter, io*-ia. EPISTLE TO THE JiJlBRKWS. 9;

things is no Icfs an efFeft of infiiiite p.owcr than the for-
mer ; yet this is alcribcd to the Lord Chrifl. ' They iliall

* perilh and they Ihall all wax old as dath a garment : and

* as ?, vefturc llialt thou fold them up, and they Ihall be

* changed.' Whatever the change be, he compares the
things to be changed to a garment no more to be ufed, or
at leall not to be ufed. in the fame manner as it was be-*
fore ; and the work itfelf to the folding up of fuch a gar-
ment ; intimating the greatncfs of him by whom this
work (hall be performed, and the facility with which he
docs it. The whole creation is as a garment ; \vhereii"\
the Great Supreme Ihcws his power to men, as it were
cloathed. ^Vhence l;e is faid to cloath himfelf with light;
as with a garment ; and in it is the hiding of his power:
it is hid as a man is hid with a garment ; not that he
fhould not be {cen at all, but that he Ihoald not be feeii
perfe£lly, and as he is ; it fliews the man and he is known
by it, but alfo it hides him that he is not perfectly or
fully {cen. So are the works of creation with
God : he fo far makes them his garment or cloathing, as
in them to give us foirje notices of his power and Vv'ifdom;
but he is alfo hid in them, in that by them no creatures can
come to the full and perfed knowledge of him. Now
when this work fliall ceafe, and God fliall uncloath or
unvail all his glory to his faints, and they lliall know him
perfeftly, fee him as he is, fo far as a created nature is ca-
pable, Vhen will he lay them afide, at leall as to that ufe,
and fold them up with as much eafc as a mqm lays ?ifidc
his garment that he will wear or ufe no more.

§ 7. On this aiTertion the apoflle infinuates a comparifon
between this glorious fabrick of heaven and earth and
him that made them, as to durablenefs and liability —

* They Ihall perifh — and wax old as doth a garment.'
By their penjhhig r^ioft unJerftand their being changed
from their prefent condition and ufe, others, their utter
abolition. And, to fay the truth, it is hardly fuppofable
that an alteration only, and that for the hcitc)\, fliould be
thus exprelTcd ; that word (ccTroXovfja.i) being always ufed
'^i\ the worfl fcufe, for a perhhing by a total dellrudion.



1'hclr * waxing old as a garment' is their tendency to
this condition, and may denote the gradual decay ot tlic
heavens and cartli as to their worth and ufc ; and a near
approximation to their final period. In this fcnfe ovn*
npoftlc affirms, that die difpenfation of the covenant,
which cftablilhed the Judaical worlhip and ceremonies,
waxed old and decayed, (chap. viii. 13.) not tliat it had
Ujl any of its firfl vigour and efficacy before its abolition.
And it may be, that it fhall be with thefe heavens and
earth at the lafl day, as it >vas with the heavens and the
earth of Judaical inftitutioi^s ; (for fo are they frequently
called, cfpccially when their diffolution or abolition is fpo-
kcn of) for though the ufe of them, and their power of
obliging, was taken away and aboliflicd, yet arc they kept
in the world as venerable monuments of the goodnefs and
\\ifdom of God in teaching his church of old. So may-
it be with the heavens and earth of the old creation ;
though they fliall be laid afide at the lafl day from their
ufe, yet may they be preferved as everlafling monuments
pf divine power and wifdom. In oppoiitiou to this it is
faid of Chrifl^, * Thou remaineft — thou art the fame, and
• thy years fhall not fail,' both expreflions intending his
eternal and abfolutcly immutable exiflence. Eternity if?
not improperly called (yiunc Jlans) a prcfcnt cxijloicc^ with
Tcfpc6l to which nothing is pafl or future : it being al-
ways wholly prcfcnf. * Thy years fail not.* He who i^
the fame eternally, hatli properly no years, which are a
meafure of tranfient time denoting its duration, its be-
ginning and end.

§ 8. (II.) Hence we may with great propriety make
the two following obfcrvations :

Ohf. I. All the properties of God, confidcred in the
pcrfon of the Son, the head of the cluncli, are fuitcd to
give relief and confolation to believers in all their diflreffes.

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews; with the preliminary exercitations (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 46)