John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 23 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 23 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

in his kingdom, and is frequently used metonymically for tiie king-
dom itself, and that applied unto God and man. See Dan. vii. 9;
1 King viii. 20. Angels, indeed, are called " thrones," Col. i. 16; but
that is either metaphorically only or else in respect of some especial
service allotted unto them; as they are also called "princes," Dan.
X. 13, yet being indeed " servants," Rev. xxii. 9, Heb. i. 14. These
are nowhere said to have thrones; the kingdom is not theirs, but the
Son's. And whereas our Lord Jesus Christ promiseth his apostles
tiiat they shall at the last day sit on thrones judging the tribes of
Israel, as it proves their participation with Christ in his kingly
power, being made kings unto God, Rev. i. 5, 6, and their interest in
the kingdom which it is his pleasure to give them, so it proves not


absolutely that the kingdom is theirs, but bis on whose throne theirs
do attend.

Neither doth the throne simply denote tlie kingdom of Christ, or
his supreme rule and dominion, but the glory also of his kingdom.
Being on bis tlirone,he is in the height of bis glory. And thus, because
God manifests bis glory in heaven, be calls that his throne, as the
earth is bis footstool, Isa. Ixvi. 1. So that the throne of Christ is bis
glorious kingdom, elsewhere expressed by bis "sitting down at the
right hand of the Majesty on high."

2. To this throne eternity is attributed. It is '^V] ^^'^^, — " for
ever and ever." So is the throne of Christ said to be in oppo-
sition unto the frail, mutable kingdoms of the earth: " Of the
increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon
the throne of David, and upon bis kingdom, to order it, and to
establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth and for
ever," Isa. ix. 7. "His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which
shall not pass away, and bis kingdom that which shall not be
destroyed," Dan. vii. 14; Micah iv. 7; Ps. Ixxii. 7, 17, cxlv. 13.
It shall neither decay of itself, nor fall through the opposition of its
enemies: for he must reign until all bis enemies are made his foot-
stool, 1 Cor. XV. 24-27. Nor is it any impeachment of the perpetuity
of the kingdom of Christ, that at the last day he shall deliver it up
to God the Father, 1 Cor. xv. 24, seeing that then shall be an end
of all rule. It is enough that it continue until all the ends of rule
be perfectly accomplished, — that is, until all the enemies of it be
subdued, and all the church be saved, and the righteousness, grace,
and patience of God be fully glorified ; whereof afterwards.

3. The second " insigne regium" is his " sceptre." And this,
though it sometimes also denotes the kingdom itself, Gen. xlix. 10,
Num. xxiv. 17, Isa. xiv. 5, Zech. x. 11; yet here it denotes the
actual administration of rule, as is evident from the adjunct of
"uprightness" annexed unto it. And thus the sceptre denotes both
the laws of the kingdom and the efficacy of the government itself.
So that which we call a righteous government is here called a "sceptre
of uprightness."

Now, the means whereby Christ carrieth on his kingdom are his
Word and Spirit, with a subserviency of potver in the worlds of his
providence, to make way for the progress of his Avord to avenge its
contempt. So the gospel is called, "The rod of his strength," Ps.
ex. 2. See 2 Cor. x. 4-6. "He shall smite the earth with the rod
of his mouth, and with the breath of bis lips shall be slay the
wicked," Isa. xi. 4. And these are attended with the " sword" of his
power and providence, Ps. xlv. 3, Rev. xix. 15, or bis "rod," Ps. ii. J),
or " sickle," Rev. xiv. 18. lu these things consists the sceptre of
Christ's kingdom.


4. Concerning this sceptre it is affirmed that it is a " sceptre
of uprightness." Evdvn^c, or "li^^P, denotes either the nature of the
sceptre, that it is straight and right, or the use of it, that it is lifted
up or stretched out, as was showed in the opening of the words. In
tlie first sense it denoteth righteousness, in the latter mercy. Ac-
cording to the first sense, the following words, "Thou hast loved
righteousness," discover the habitual root of his actual righteous
administration ; according to the latter, there is a progress made in
them to a further qualification of the rule of Christ, or of Christ in
his rule. But the former sense is rather to be embraced ; the latter
metaphor being more strained, and founded only in one instance
that I remember in the Scripture, and that not taken from
among the people of God, but strangers and oppressors, Esther
V. 2.

The sceptre, then, of the kingdom of Christ is a sceptre of "righte-
ousness," because all the laws of his gospel are righteous, holy, just,
full of benignity and truth, Tit. ii. 11, 12. And all his administra-
tions of grace, mercy, justice, rewards, and punishments, arcordingto
the rules, promises, and threats of it, in the conversion, pardon,
sanctification, trials, afflictions, chastisements, and preservation of
his elect; in his convincing, hardening, and destruction of his ene-
mies; are all righteous, holy, unblamable, and good, Isa. xi. 4, 5,
xxxii. 1, Ps. cxlv. 17, Rev. xv. 3, 4, xvi. 5; and as such will they be
gloriously manifested at the last day, 2 Thess. i. 10, though in this
present world they are reproached and despised.

5. The habitual frame of the heart of Christ in his regal ad-
ministrations: "He loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity." This
shows the absolute completeness of the righteousness of God's king-
dom, and of his righteousness in his kingdom. The laws of his
rule are righteous, and his administrations are righteous; and they
all proceed from a habitual love to righteousness and hatred of
iniquity in his own person. Among the governments of this world,
ofttimes the very .laws are tyrannical, unjust, and oppressive; and if
the laws are good and equal, yet ofttimes their administration is
iinjust, partial, and wicked ; or when men do abstain from such ex-
orbitancies, yet frequently they do so upon the account of some self-
interest and advantage, like Jehu, and not out of a constant, equal,
unchangeable love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity. But all
these are absolutely complete in the kingdom of Jesus Christ: for
whereas the expression, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, seems
to regard the time past, " Thou hast loved righteousness and hated
iniquity," yet the constant present frame of the heart of Christ in
his rule is denoted thereby; for the Greek translation exactly fol-
io weth and expresseth the Hebrew. Now, there being no form of
verbs in that language expressing the present time, there is nothing


more frequent in it than to denote that which is present and abidinc/
by the preterperfect tense, as it doth in this place.

6. The consequence of this lighteous rule in Christ is his " anoint-
ing with the oil of gladness;" wherein we may consider, — (1.) The
author of the privilege conferred on him, — that is, God, his God.
(:^.) The jjrivilege itself, — unction with the oil of gladness. (3.) The
connection of the collation of this privilege with what went before,
■ — " wherefore," or " for which cause."

(1.) For the author of it, it is said to be God: 6 Qsog, 6 Qioc gov, — ■
" God, thy God." Many, both ancient and modern expositors, do
suppose that 6 ©so^ in the first place, or " God," is used in the same
sense as 6 &iog in the verse foregoing, and that it ought to be ren-
dered " God," and the words to be read, " Therefore, God, thy
God hath anointed thee;" but ns no old translation gives countenance
to this conception, so that reduplication of the name of God, by an
application of it in the second place, as " God, my God," " God, thy
God," ''God, the God of Israel," being frequent in the Scripture, there
is no cogent reason why we should depart in this place from that
sense of the expression. The name God in the first place denotes
him absolutely who conferred this privilege on the Lord Christ, that
is God; and in the second place a reason is intimated of the colla-
tion itself, by an appropriation of God to be his God in a peculiar

God is said to be the God of the Son upon a threefold account:
[1.] In respect of his divine nature. As he is his Father, so his
God ; whence he is said to be " God of God," as having his nature com-
municated unto him by virtue of his eternal generation, John i. 14.
[2.] In respect of his human nature, as he was " made of a woman,
made under the law." So God also was his God, as he is the God of all
creatures, Ps. xvi. 2, xxii. 1. [3.] In respect of his whole person,
God and man, as he was designed by his Father to the work of me-
diation; in which sense he calls him his God and his Father, John
XX. 1 7. And in this last sense is it that God is here said to be his
God, that is his God in especial covenant, as he was designed and
appointed to be the head and king of his church ; for therein did
God the Father undertake to be with him, to stand by him, to carry
him through with his work, and in the end to crown him with glory.
See Isa. xlix. 1-12, 1. 4-9.

(2.) For the privilege itself, it is "unction with the oil of gladness.*'
There may be a double allusion in these words: — [1.] To the co7n-
mon use of oil and anointing, which was to exhilarate and make the
countenance appear cheerful at feasts and public solemnities, Ps. civ.
15; Luke vii. 37. [2.] To the especial use of it in the unction uf
kings, priests, and prophets, Exod. xxx. That the ceremony wa.s
typical is evident from Isa. Ixi. 1-3 • and it denoted the collation of the


gift of the Holy Ghost, whereby the person anointed was enabled
for the discharge of the ofHce he was called unto. And in this sense
there is commonly assigned a threefold unction of Christ: — 1st. At
his conception, when his human nature was sanctified by the Holy
Spirit, Luke i. 35, and radically endowed with wisdom and grace,
which he grew up in, Luke ii. 40, 52. ^dly. At his baptism and en-
trance into his public ministry, when he was in an especial manner
furnished with those gifts of the Spirit which were needful for the
discharge of his prophetical office. Matt. iii. 16; John i. 82. Zdly. At
his ascension, when he received of the Father the promise of tlie
Spirit, to pour him forth upon his disciples, Acts ii. 33. Now,
though I acknowledge the Lord Christ to have been thus anointed,
and that the communication of the gifts and graces of the Spirit
unto him in fulness is called his unction, yet I cannot grant that
any of them are here directly intended. But that which the apostle
seems here to express with the psalmist is the glorious exaltation of
Jesus Christ, when he was solemnly instated in his kingdom. This
is that which is called the making of him " both Lord and Christ,"
Acts ii. 36 ; when " God raised him from the dead, and gave him
glory," ] Pet. i. 2L He is called Christ from the unction of the
Spirit; and yet here, in his exaltation, he is said in an especial man-
ner to be made Christ, — that is, taken gloriously into the possession
of all the offices, and their full administration, whereunto he was
anointed and fitted by the communication of the gifts and graces of
the Spirit unto him. It is, I say, the joyful, glorious unction of his
exaltation, when he was signally made Lord and Christ, and declared
to be the anointed one of God, that is here intended. See Pliil. ii.
9-11. Which also appears, —

From the adjunct of this unction, — he is " anointed with the oil
of gladness;" which denotes triumph and exaltation, freedom from
trouble and distress: whereas, after those antecedent communications
of the Spirit unto the Lord Christ, he was a man of sorrows, ac-
quainted with grief, and exposed to innumerable evils and troubles.

(3.) The relation of this privilege granted unto the Lord Christ
unto what went before, " He loved righteousness, and hated iniquity,"
expressed by W^V and bia rouro (the tiiird thing considerable in this
last clause of the testimony), doth plainly declare it. The Lord
Christ's love to righteousness and hatred to iniquity proceeded from
his unction with the graces and gifts of the Spirit ; and yet they are
plainly intimated here to go before this anointing with the oil of
p;ladness; which is therefore mentioned as the consequent of his dis-
charge of his office in this world, in like manner as his exaltation
everywhere is, Phil. ii. 9-11 ; Rom. xiv. 9. And if this anointing
denote the first unction of Christ, then must he be supposed to have
the love to righteousness mentioned from elsewhere, as antecedent


thereunto; which is not so. Wherefore th(!se words, ]^~^V nnd dia
TovTo, do declare at least a relation of congi'uency and conveniency
unto an antecedent discharge of office in the Lord Christ, and are of
the same importance with di6, Phil. ii. 9; and so can respect nothing
but his glorious exaltation, which is thus expressed.

The last thing considerable in the words is the prerogative of the
Lord Christ in this privilege, — he is " anointed above his fellows."
Now, these " fellows,'" " companions," or " associates," of the Lord
Christ, may be considered either generally for all those that partake
v\^ith him in this unction, which are all believers, who are co-heirs
with him, and thereby "heirs of God," Rom. viii. 17; or more espe-
cially for those who were employed by God in the service, building,
and rule of his church, in their subordination unto hirn, — such as
were the prophets of old, and afterwards the apostles, Eph. ii. 20. In
respect unto both sorts, the Lord Christ is anonited with the oil of
gladness above them; but the former sort are especially intended,
concerning whom the apostle gives an especial instance iu Moses,
chap, iii., affirming the Lord Christ in his work about the cliurch to
be made partaker of more glory than he. In a word, he is incom-
parably exalted above angels and men.

And this is the first testimony whereby the apostle confirms his
assertion of the pre-eminence of the Lord Christ above angels, in
that comparison which he makes between them; which also v/ill
afford the ensuing observations: —

I. The conferring and comparing of scriptures is an excellent
means of coming to an acquaintance with the mind and will of God
in them.

Thus dealeth the apostle in this place. He compareth what is
spoken of angels in one place, and what of the Son in another, and
from thence manifesteth what is the mind of God concerning them.
This duty lies in the command we have to " search the Scriptures,"
John v. 39, sps-jvars rag 'ypa<pdg: make a diligent investigation of the
mind of God in them, " comparing spiritual things with spiritual,"
• — what the Spirit hath declared of the mind of God in one place,
with what in like manner he hath manifested in another. God, to
try our obedience, and to exercise our diligence unto a study in his
word day and night, Ps. i. 2, and our continual meditation thereon,
1 Tim. iv.l5, {TaZra fis'/.sra, h ToCroig 'kSi, — "Meditate on these things,
be wholly in them,")^hath planted his truths with great variety up
and down his word; yea, here one part, and there another of the
same truth; which cannot be throughly learned unless we gather
them together into one view. For instance, in one place God com-
mands us to circumcise our hearts, and to make unto ourselves U'-w
hearts, that we may fear him; which at first consideration seems so
to represent it, not only as our duty, but iil^^ v.'thiu our power, as


though we had no need of any help from grace for its accomplish-
ment. In another lie promiseth absolutely to circumcise our hearts,
and to give us new hearts to fear him; as though it were so his
work as not to be our concernment to attempt it. But now
these several places being spiritually compared together, make it
evident that as it is our duty to have new and circumcised hearts, so
it is the effectual grace of God that must work and create them in
us. And the like may be observed in all the important truths that
are of divine revelation. And this,—

1. Discovers the root of almost all the errors and heresies that
are in the world. Men whose hearts are not subdued by faith and
humility unto the obedience of the truth, lighting on some expres-
sions in the Scripture, that, singly considered, seem to give coun-
tenance to some such opinion as they are willing to embrace, without
further search they fix it on their minds and imaginations, until it
is too late to oppose any thing unto it; for when they are once fixed
in their persuasions, those other places of Scripture which they should
with humility have compared with that whose seeming sense they
cleave unto, and from thence have learned the mind of the Holy
Ghost in them all, are considered by them to no other end but only
how they may pervert them, and free themselves from the authority
of them. This, I say, seems to be the way of the most of them who
pertinaciously cleave unto false and foolish opinions. They rashly
take up a seeming sense of some particular places, and then obsti-
nately make that sense the rule of interpreting all other scriptures
whatever. Thus in our own days we have many who, from the
outward soiind of these words, John i. 9, " He is the true light,
which lighteth every man that cometh into the world," having
taken up a rash, foolish, and false imagination that Christ is that
light which is remaining in all men, and therein their guide and
rule, do from thence either wrest the whole Scripture to make it
suit and answer that supposal, or else utterly slight and despise it;
when, if they had compared it with other scriptures, which clearly
explain and declare the mind of God in the things which concern
the person and mediation of the Lord Christ, with the nature and
works of natural and saving spiritual light, and submitted to the
authority and wisdom of God in them, they might have been pre-
served from their delusion. It shows also, —

2. The danger that there is imto men unskilled and unexercised
in the word of truth, when, without the advice, assistance, or direc-
tion of others who are able to guide them and instruct their inquiry
after the mind of God, they hastily embrace opinions which it may
be some one text or other of Scripture doth seemingly give coun-
tenimce unto. By this means do men run themselves into the fore-
mentioned danger every day, especially where any seducing spirit


applies himself unto theni with swelling words of vanity, boasting
of some misunderstood word or other. Thus have we seen multi-
tudes led, by some general expression, in two or three particular
places of Scripture, into an opinion about a general redemption of
all mankind and every individual thereof; when, if they had been
wise, and able to have searched those other scriptures innumerable
setting forth the eternal love of God to his elect, kis purpose to save
them by Jesus Christ, the nature and end of his oblation and ran-
som, and compared them with others, they would have understood
the vanity of their hasty conceptions.

S. From these things it appears what diligence, patience, wait-
ing, wisdom, are required of all men in searching of the Scriptures,
who intend to come unto the acknowledgment of the truth thereby.
And unto this end, and because of the greatness of our concernment
therein, doth the Scripture itself abound with precepts, rules, direc-
tions, to enable us unto a rif/ht and profitable discharging of our
duty. They are too many here to be inserted. I shall only add,
that the diligence of heathens will rise up in judgment and condemn
the sloth of many that are called Christians in this matter: for
whereas they had no certain rule, way, or means to come to the
knowledge of the truth, yet they ceased not with indefatigable dili-
gence and industry to inquire after it, and to trace the obscure foot-
steps of what was left in their own natures or implanted on the
works of creation ; but many, the most of those unto whom God
hath granted the inestimable benefit and privilege of his word, as a
sure and infallible guide to lead them into the knowledge of all use-
ful and saving truth, do openly neglect it, not accountmg it worthy
their searching, study, and diligent examination. How wofully will
this rise up in judgment against them at the last day is not diflicult
to conceive. And how much greater will be their misery who, un-
der various pretences, for their own corrupt ends, do deter, yea, and
drive others from the study of it!

II. It is the duty of all believers to rejoice in the glory, honour,
and dominion of Jesus Christ.

The church in the psalm takes by faith a prospect, at a great dis-
tance, of his coming and glory, and breaks out thereon in a way of
exultation and triumph into these words, " Thy throne, God, is
for ever." And if this were a matter of such joy unto them, v/ho
had only an obscure vision and representation of the glory which
many ages after was to follow, 1 Pet. i. 11, 12, what ought the full
accomplishment and manifestation of it to be unto them that believe
now in tie days of the gospel ! This made them of old " rejoice with
joy unspeakable and full of glory;" even because they saw and heard
the things which kings, wise men, and prophets, desired to see, and
saw them not, " God having provided some better things for us,


that they without us should not be made perfect," Heb. xi. 40.
For —

1. Herein God is glorified. The kingdom of Christ is the glory
of God; thereby is his name and praise exalted in the world: and
therefore upon the erection and setting of it up are all his peoi)le so
earnestly invited to rejoice and triumph therein, Ps. xcv. 1-3, xc^'i.
1-4, xcvii. 1, 2, etc. This, I say, is a cause of eternal joy unto all
his saints, that God is pleased to glorify himself and all the in-
finite excellencies of his nature in the kingdom and rule of Jesus

2. Herein doth the honour and glory of Christ as mediator con-
sist; which is a matter of great rejoicing unto all that love him in
sincerity. He tells his disciples, John xiv. 28, that if they loved
him, they would rejoice because he said he went unto the Father.
Tiiey considered only their own present condition and distress, be-
ing filled with sorrow because he had told them of his departure
from them. 'But/ saith he, 'where is your love to me? ought you
not to have that in your hearts as well as care of yourselves? For
your condition I shall take care, and provide for your securitjj; and
if you love me, you cannot but rejoice because I go to my Father to
receive my kingdom.' Tbat he who loved us, that gave himself for
us, tliat underwent every thing that is reproachful or miserable for
our sakes, is now exalted, glorified, enthroned in an everlasting, im-
movable kingdom, above all his enemies, secure fi'om all opposition,
is a matter of inexpressible joy, if we have any love unto him.

8. Our own concernment, security, safety, present and future
happiness, lies herein. Our all depends upon the kingdom and
throne of Christ. He is our king if we are believers; our king, to
rule, govern, protect, and save us, — to uphold us against opposition,
to supply us with strength,- to guide us with counsel, to subdue our
enemies, to give us our inheritance and reward : and therefore our
principal interest lies in his throne, the glory and stability thereof.
Whilst he reigneth we are safe, and in our way to glory. To see by
faith this king in his beauty, upon his throne, high and lifted up,
and his train filling the temple; to see all power committed unto
him, all things given into his hands, and him disposing of all and
ruling all things for the advantage of his church ; must needs cause
them to rejoice whose whole interest and concernment lies therein.

4. The whole world, all the creation of God, are concerned in
this kingdom of Christ. Setting aside his cursed enemies in hell,
the whole creation is benefited by his rule and dominion; tor
as some men are made partakers of saving grace and salvation
thereby, so the residue of that race, by and with tliem, do receive
unspeakable advantages in the patience and forbearance of God, and
the very creature itself is raised as it were into a hope and expec-


tation thereby of deliverance from that state of vanity wherounto

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 23 of 70)