John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 18 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 18 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the reason for their assertion they take from the words which im-
mediately follow those insisted on by the apostle, namely, " If lie
commit iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men;" which
cannot be applied unto Him who did no sin, neither was there guile
found in his mouth. They say, therefore, that the apostle applies
these words unto Christ only by way of an allegory. Thus he deals
with the law of not muzzling the ox which treadeth out the corn,
applying it to the provision of carnal things to be made for the dis-
pensers of the gospel; as he also in another place representeth the
two testaments by the story of Sarah and Hagar.

That which principally is to be insisted on for the removal of this
difficulty, and which will utterly take it out of our way, will fall in
with our confirmation of the third interpretation, to be proposed.
For the present, I shall only answer, that as the words cited by the
apostle do principally concern the person of Christ himself, yet being
spoken and given out in form of a covenant, they have respect also
unto him as he is the head of the covenant which God makes wiih
all the elect in him. And thus whole mystical Christ, head aud
members, are referred unto in the prophecy; and therefore David,


in his repetition and pleading of this oracle, Ps. Ixxxix. 30, changeth
those words, " If be commit iniquity," into " If his children forsake
iny law." Notwithstanding, then, a supposition of transgression in
him concerning whom these words are spoken, the Lord Christ may
be intended in them; such failings and transgressions as disannul
not the covenant often falling out on their part for whom he under-
taketh therein. But I offer this only "in majorem cautelam," to
secure the testimony insisted on unto our apostle's intention ; the
difiiculty itself will be clearly afterwards assoiled.

8. We say, therefore, with others, that both Solomon and the
Lord Christ are intended in thi# whole oracle ; Solomon literally, and
nextly as the type; the Lord Q\msi principally and mystically, as
he who was typed, figured, and represented by him. And our sense
herein shall be further explained and confirmed in the ensuing con-
siderations: — •

(L) That there never was any one type of Christ and his offices
that entirely represented him and all that he was to do : for as it
was impossible that any one thing or person should do so, because
of the perfection of his person and the excellency of his office, which
no one thing that might be appointed to prefigure him as a type,
because of its limitedness and imperfection, could fully represent; so
had any such been found out, that multiplication of types which
God in his infinite wisdom was pleased to make use of, for the reve-
lation of him intended in them, had been altogether useless and
needless. Wherefore, according as God saw good, and as he had
made them meet and fit, so he designed one thing or person to figure
out one thing in him, another for another end and purpose.

(2.) That no type of Christ was in all things that he was or did a
type of him, but only in that particular wherein he was designed
of God so to be, and wherein he hath revealed him so to have been.
David was a type of Christ, but not in all things that he was and did.
In his conquests of the enemies of the church, in his throne and
kingdom, he was so; but in his private actions, whether as a man,
or as a king or captain, he was not so. The like must be said of
Isaac, Melchizedek, Solomon, and all other personal types under the
okl testament, and much more of other things.

(3.) That not all things spoken of him that was a type, even
therein wherein he was a type, are spoken of him as a type, or have
any respect unto the thing signified, Imt some of them may belong
unto him in his personal -capacity only. And the reason is, because
he.wlio was a type of God's institution might morally fail in the per-
formance of his duty, even then and in those things when and
wherein he was a type. Hence somewhat may be spoken of him,
as to his moral performance of his duty, that may no way concern
tlie antitype, or Christ prefigured by him. And this wholly removes


the difficulty mentioned in the second interpretation of the ^vor(ls,
excluding the Lord Christ from being directly in the oracle, U|h)u
that expression, "If he commit iniquity;" for these words relating to
the moral duty of Solomon in that wherein he was a type of Christ,
— namely, the rule and administration of his kingdom, — may not
at all belong to Christ, who was prefigured by God's institution of
things, and not in any moral deportment in the observance of them.

(4.) That what is spoken of any type, as it was a type, and in
respect of its institution to be such, doth not really and properly
belong unto him or that which was the type, but unto liini who was
represented thereby. For the type itself, it was enough that there
was some resemblance in it of that which was principally intended,
the things belonging unto the antitype being affirmed of it analo-
gically, oh the account of the relation between them by God's insti-
tution. Hence that which follows on such enunciations doth not at
all respect or belong to the type, but only to the antitype. Thus,
at the sacrifice of expiation, the scape-goat is said to bear and carry
away all the sins of the people into aland not inhabited, not really,
and in the substance of the matter, but only in an instituted repre-
sentation; for "the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth
came by Jesus Christ.'^ Much less may the things that ensue upon
the Lord Christ's real bearing and taking away of our sins be ascribed
to the devoted beast. So is it in this case. The words applied by
the apostle to prove the Son to have a more excellent name than
the angels, and consequently to be preferred above them, do not at
all prove that Solomon, of whom they were spoken merely as he
was a type, should be esteemed to be preferred above all angels, see-
ing he did only represent Him who was so, and had these words
spoken unto him, not absolutely, but with respect unto that repre-
sentation. And this removes the fourth objection made in the be-
half of the first interpretation, excluding Solomon from being at all
intended in the prophecy; for what was spoken of Inm as a type re-
quired not a full accomplishment in his own person, but only that
he should represent him who was principally intended.

(5.) That there is a twofold perpetuity mentioned in the Scrip-
ture, the one limited and relative, the other absolute; antl both
these are applied unto the kingdom of David. First, there was a
perpetuity promised unto him and his posterity in the kingdom, as
of the priesthood to Aaron, — that is, a limited perpetuity, — namely,
during the continuance of the typical state and condition of that
people; whilst they continued, the rule by right belonged unto the
house of David. There was also an absolute perpetuity promised to
the kingdom of David, to be made good only in the kingdom and
rule of the Messiah. And both these kinds of perpetuity are ex-
pressed in the same words, giving their sense according as they are

VOL. XII.— 10


applied. If applied to the successors of David, as his kingdom
was a type of that of Christ, they denote the limited perpetuity be-
fore mentioned, as that which respected an adjunct of the typical
state of that people, that was to be regulated by it and commensu-
rate unto it; but as they are referred to the kingdom of Christ re-
presented in the otlier, so an absolute perpetuity is expressed in
them. And this takes away the third reason for excluding Solomon
from being intended in these words, the perpetuity promised being
unto him limited and bounded.

These considerations being premised, I say, the words insisted
on by the apostle, " I will be to him a father, and he shall be to
me a son," belonged first and nextly unto Solomon, denoting that
fatherly love, care, and protection that God would afford unto him
in his kingdom, so far forth as Christ was represented by him
therein; which requires not that they must absolutely and in all just
consequences from them belong unto the person of Solomon. Prin-
cipally, therefore, they intend Christ himself, expressing that etern:d,
unchangeable love which the Father bore unto him, grounded on
the relation of father and son.

The Jews, I confess, of all others, do see least of typicalness in
Solomon. But the reason of it is, because that his sin was the occa-
sion of ruining their carnal, earthly glory and wealth; which tilings
alo!ie they lust afcer. But the thing was doubtless confessed by the
church of old, with whom Paul had to do; and therefore we see that
the writer of the Books of the Chronicles, written after the return of
the people from their captivity, when Solomon's line was failed, and
Zerubbabel of the house of Nathan was governor amongst them, yet
records again this promise, as that wdiich looked forward, and was
yet to receive its full accom|)lishment in the Lord Christ. And some
of the rabbins themselves tell us that Solomon, because of his sin,
bad only the name of peace, God stirring up adversaries against him ;
the thing itself is to be looked for under Messiah Ben David.

The allegation of these words by the apostle being thus fully and
at large vindicated, I shall now briefly inquire into the sense and
meaning of the words themselves.

It was before observed, that they are not produced by the apostle
to prove the natural sonship of Jesus Christ, nor do they signify
it; nor were they urged by him to confirm directly and immediately
that he is more excellent than the angels, of whom there is no-
thing spoken in them, nor in the place from whence they are taken.
But the apostle insists on this testimony merely in confirmation of
his former argument for the pre-eminence of the Soti above angels
taken from that more excellent name which he obtained by inherit-
ance ; which being the name of the Son of God, he hereby proves
that indeed he was so called by God himself.


Thus, then, do these words confirm the intention of the apostle;
for to which of the angels said God at any time, " I will be to him
a father, and he shall be to me a son?" The words contain a
great and signal privilege; they are sjjoken unto and concerning
the Messiah ; and neither they nor any thing equivalent unto them
were ever spoken of any angel; especially the name of the Son of
God, so emphatically, and in way of distinction from all others, was
never assigned unto any of them. And this, as hath been ali-eady
showed, proves an eminency and pre-eminence in him above all
that the angels attain unto. All this, I say, follows from the pecu-
liar, signal appropriation of the name of the Son of God unto him,
and his especial relation unto God therein expressed.

Briefly, we may adjoin the intention of the words as in them-
selves considered, and so complete the exposition of them. Now,
God promisetli in them to be unto the Lord Christ, as exalted into
his throne, a father, in love, care, and power, to protect and carry him
on in his rule unto the end of the world. And therefore upon his
ascension he says that he went unto his God and Father, John xx.
17. And he rules in the name and majesty of God, Mic. v. 4. Tliis
is the importance of the words. They intend not the eternal and
natural relation that is between the Father and Son, which neither
is nor can be the subject of any promise, but the 'paternal care of
God over Christ in his kingdom, and the dearness of Christ himself
unto him.

If it be asked on what account God would thus be a father unto
Jesus Christ in this peculiar manner, it must be answered that the
radical, fundamental cause of it lay in the relation that was between
them from his eternal generation; but he tnanifested himself to be
his father, and engaged to deal with him in the love and care of a
father, as he had accomplished his work of mediation on the earth
and was exalted unto his throne and ride in heaven.

And this is the first argument of the apostle, whereby he proves
that the Son, as the revealer of the mind and will of God in the
gospel, is made more excellent than the angels; whose glory was a
refuge to the Jews in their adherence to legal rites and administra-
tions, even because they were given unto them " by the disposition
of angels."

According unto our proposed method, we must in our progress
draw hence also some instructions for our own use and edification ;
as, —

I. Every thing in the Scripture is instructive. The apostle's
arguing in this place is not so much from the thing spoken, as from
the manner wherein it is spoken. Even that also is highly myste-
rious. So are all the concernments of it. Nothing in it is need-
less, nothing useless. Men sometimes perplex themselves to find


out the suitableness of some testimonies produced out of the Old
Testament unto the confirmation of things and doctrines in tlie
New Ly the penmen of the Holy Ghost, when all the difficulty
ariseth from a fond conceit that they can apprehend the length and
breadth of the wisdom that is laid up in any one text of Scripture,
when the Holy Ghost may have a principal aim at those things
which they are not able to dive into. Every letter and tittle of it
is teaching, and every thing that relates unto it is instructive in the
mind of God. And it must be so, because, —

1. It proceeds from infinite wisdom, which hath put an impress
of itself upon it, and filled all its capacity with its blessed effects.
In the whole frame, structure, and order of it, in the sense, words,
coherence, expression, it is filled with wisdom; which makes the
commandment exceeding broad and large, so that thei'e is no abso-
lute comprehension of it in this life. We cannot pei'fectly trace the
footsteps of infinite wisdom, nor find out all the effects and char-
acters of it that it hath left upon the Word. The whole Scripture
is full of wisdom, as the sea is of water, which fills and covers all
the parts of it. And, —

2. Because it was to he very comprehensive. It was to contain,
directly or by consequence, one way or other, the whole revelation
of God unto us, and all our duty unto him; both which are marvel-
lous, great, large, and various. Now this could not have been done
in so narrow a room, but that every part of it, and all the concern-
ments of it, with its whole order, were to be filled with mysteries
and expressions or intimations of the mind and will of God. It
could not hence be that any thing superfluous should be put into it,
or any thing be in it that should not relate to teaching and instruc-

8. It is that which God hath given unto his servants for their
continual exercise day aoid night in this world; and in their inquiry
into it he requires of them their utmost diligence and endeavours.
This being assigned for their duty, it was convenient unto divine
wisdom and goodness to find them blessed and useful work in the
whole Scrij)ture to exercise themselves about, that everywhere they
might meet with that which might satisfy their inquiry and answer
their industry. There shall never be any time or strength lost or
misspent that is laid out according to the mind of God in and about
his Word. The matter, the words, the order, the contexture of
them, the scope, design, and aim of the Holy Ghost in them, all and
every one of them, may well take up the utmost of our diligence, —
all are divine. Nothing is empty, unfurnished, or unprepared for
our spiritual use, advantage, and benefit. Let us then learn hence, —

(1.) To admire, and, as one said of old, to adore the fulness of
the Scri})ture, or of the wisdom of God in it. It is all full of divine


wisdom, and calls for our reverence in the consideration of it. Ami
iiideed a constant awe of the majesty, authority, and holiness of
God in his Word, is the only teachable frame. Proud and careless
spirits see nothing of heaven or Divinity in the Word; but the hum-
ble ai'e made wise in it.

(2.) To stir up and exercise our faith and diligence to the ut-
most in our study and search of the Scripture. It is an endless
storehouse, a bottomless treasure of divine truth; gold is in every
sand. All the wise men in the world may, every one for himself,
learn somewhat out of every word of it, and yet leave enough still
behind them for the instruction of all those that shall come after them.
The fountains and springs of wisdom in it are endless, and will
never be dry. We may have much truth and power out of a word,
sometimes enough, but never all that is in it. There will still be
enough remaining to exercise and refresh us anew for ever. So
that we may attain a true sense, but we can never attain the full
sense of any place ; we can never exhaust the whole impress of in-
finite wisdom that is on the Word. And how should this stir us
up to be meditating in it day and night! And many the like in-
ferences may hence be taken. Learn also, —

II. That it is lawful to draw consequences from Scripture asser-
tions; and such consequences, rightly deduced, ai'e infallibly true and
" de fide." Thus from the name given unto Christ, the apostle
deduceth by just consequence his exaltation and pre-eminence above
angels. Nothing will rightly follow from truth but what is so also,
and that of the same nature with the truth from whence it is de-
rived. So that whatever by just consequence is drawn from the
Word of God, is itself also the Word of God, and truth infallible.
And to deprive the church of this liberty in the interpretation of
the Word, is to deprive it of the chiefest benefit intended by it.
This is that on which the whole ordinance of preaching is founded;
which makes that which is derived out of the Word to have the
power, authority, and eflficacy of the Word accompanying it. Thus,
though it be the proper work and effect of the Word of God to
quicken, regenerate, sanctify and , purify the elect, — and the Word
primarily and directly is only that which is written in the Scrip-
tures, — yet we find all these effects produced in and by the preaching
of the Word, when perhaps not one sentence of the Scripture is
verbatim repeated. And the reason hereof is, because whatsoever
is directly deduced and delivered according to the mind and ap-
pointment of God from the Word is the Word of God, and hath
the power, authority, and efficacy of the Word accompanying it.

III. The declaration of Christ to be the Son of God is the care and
work of the Father. He said it, he recorded it, he revealed it.
This, indeed, is to be made known by the preaching of the gospel ;


but that it shall be done, the Father hath taken the care upon liim-
self. It is the design of the Father in all things to glorify the Son ;
that all men may honour him even as they honour the Father.
This cannot be done without the declaration of that glory which he
had with him before the world was; that is, the glory of his eternal
sonship. This he will therefore make known and maintain in the

IV. God the Father is perpetually present with the Lord Christ,
in love, care, and power, in the administration of his office as he is
mediator, head, and king of the church. He hath taken upon him-
self to stand by him, to own him, to effect every thing that is need-
ful unto the establishment of his throne, the enlargement of his
kingdom, and the ruin and destruction of his enemies. And this
he will assuredly do to the end of the world, —

1. Because he hath promised so to do. Innumerable are the
promises on record that are made unto Jesus Christ unto this pur-
pose. God hath engaged to hold him in his hand, and to hide him
as a polished shaft in his quiver, to give him a throne, a glorious
kingdom, an everlasting rule and government, and the like. Now,
what he hath promised in love and grace, he will make good with
care and power. See Isa. xlix. 5-9, 1. 7-9.

2. All these promises have respect unto the obedience of the
Lord Christ in the work of mediation; which, being performed by
him rightly and to the utmost, gives him a peculiar right unto
them, and makes that just and righteous in the performance which
was mere sovereign grace in the promise. The condition being
absolutely performed on the part of Christ, the promise shall be
certainly accomplished on the part of the Father. By this is the
covenant of the Redeemer completed, ratified, and established. The
condition of it on his part being performed unto the uttermost, there
shall be no failure in the promises, Isa. liii. 10-12.

8. The Lord Christ makes it his request that he may enjoy the
presence and power of his Father with him in his ivork and the
administration of his mediation; and the Father always hears him.
Part of his covenant with his Father was like that of Barak (who
was a type of him) with Deborah the prophetess, who spake in the
name of the Lord, Judges iv. 8: "If thou wilt go with me, I will go,"
against all the enemies of the church, Isa. 1. 8, 9. And accordingly,
upon his engagement to go with him, he requests bis presence; and
in the assurance of it professeth that he is not alone, but that his
Father is with him, John viii. 16. To this purpose see his requests,
John xvii.

4. The nature of his work and kingdom requires it. God hath
appointed him to reign in the midst of his enemies, and mighty
opposition is made on ail hands to his whole design, and every par-


ticular act of it. The whole work of Satan, sin, and the world, is
both to obstruct in general the progress of his kingdom, and to ruiu
and destroy every particular subject of it; and this is carried on
continually with unspeakable violence and unsearchable stratagems.
This makes the presence of the authority and power of the Father
necessary to him in his work. This he asserts as a great ground of
consolation to his disciples, John x. 28, 29. There will be a great
plucking, a great contending to take believers out of the hand of
Christ, one way or other, to make them come short of eternal life;
and though his own power be such as is able to preserve them, yet he
lets them know also, for their greater assurance and consolation, that
his Father, — who is overall, is greater, more powerful than all, greater
than he himself, in the work of mediation, John xiv. 28, — is also en-
gaged with him in their defence and preservation. So also is he as
to the destruction of his adversaries, all opposing power whatever,
Ps. ex. 5, 6. The Lord stands by him, on his right hand, to smite and
tread down his enemies, — all that arise against his design, interest,
and kingdom. Be they never so many, never so great, he will ruin
them, and make them his footstool every one. See Mic. v. 4.

Verse 6.

The apostle proceeds to the confirmation of the same important
truth by another testimony, wherein we shall meet with some diffi-
culty, both in the manner of the citation and the importance of the
testimony itself.

Ver. 6. — "Otkv 8s TaXiv s/saydyyi rov Tpoiroroxov ilg rriv oixov/xsvriv,
"hkyir Kai TpoaxvvriffdrMaav aurfi 'jra.vng ayyiXoi 0£oD.

V. L., ''Et cum introducit priraogenitum in orbem terrae, dicit, Et adorent eum
omnes antreli Dei;" oniittin,!? vctKiv, " again."

Syr., ^f^?"! ■''7-?!! T?. •^'^^: " Rursum auti m cum inducit;" — "And again when
he bringeth in." E/j tiv oiMvi^ivnv, '*^?^'?) — " into the world."

lict.'hiv, " again," is omitted in the Arabic, as in the Vulgar Latin.

Beza, "Rursum autem cum inducit primogenitum in orbem' terrarum, dicit, Et
ddorent" (Eras., "adorabunt") "eum omnes angeli Dei;" which is exactly ex-
pressed by ours, " And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world,
he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him."

There is not much of difficulty in the words themselves.

"Orotv 0£, " cum autem," " quando autem;" — " but when."

lla.'hiv, " rursum" " again," as in the former verse. "What sense it is here
used in, and what word it is to be joined withal, shall be afterwards declared.

E/ffistyoey?;, " inducit," or " inducet," or " introducit." — " he bringeth in," or
'' leadeth in," or " shall bring in ;" of which difference also afterward.

ToV ■TrpuToroK.ou, "the first- begotten," "the firstborn," he before whom none
is born, nor necessarily after whom any is so. Under the law there was a sac-

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 18 of 70)