John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 25 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 25 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Christ sat down at the right hand of God, he was made more excel-
lent than the angels; whereto the afQrming that he made heavea
and earth doth no way conduce/'

Ans. (1.) Suppose that to be the scope of the apostle which is
intimated, how doth this author know that it suits not his purpose
to show that the Lord Christ is God, by whom heaven and earth
were made, seeing it is manifest that himself thought otherwise, or
he had not produced this testimony thereof? (2.) The testimony
is not unsuited unto the scope pretended; for whereas, in tiie ad-
ministration of his office, the Son was apparently for a while made
lower than the angels, he may in these words discover the equity of
his after exaltation above them, in that in his divine nature and
works he was so much more excellent than they. (3.) The true
and proper design of the apostle we have before evinced; which is to
prove the excellency of the pei'son by whom the gospel was revealed,
and his pre-eminence above men and angels; which nothing doth
more unquestionably demonstrate than this, that by hitn the world
\yi\s created, whence the assignation of a divine nature unto him
doth undeniably ensue.

(2.) To promote this observation, he adds a large discourse about
the use and application of testimonies out of the Old Testament iu
the New; and says that " they are made use of by the writers of it,
either because of some agreement and likeness between the things
intended in the one and the other, or because of some subordina-
tion. In the former way, that wliich is spoken of the type is applied
unto the antitvjoe: and sometim« s, for likeness' sake, that which
was spoken of one thing is applied unto another; as, Matt. xv. 7, 8,
our Saviour applies those words of Isaiah to the present Jews which
were spoken of their forefathers."

Ans. (1.) That which is spoken in the first place of an instituted
type is also spoken of the antitype, or thing prefigured by it, so far
as it is represented by the type, so that one thing teaches another ;
and thereon the words have a double application, first to the type,
ultimately to the antitype. But herein such testimonies as this have
no concernment. (2.) The Scripture sometimes makes use of alle-
gories, illustrating one thing by another, as GaL iv. 21-25. Neither
hath this any place here. (3.) That what is spoken of one person
should, because of some similitude, be affirmed to be spoken of an-
other, and in nothing agree })ropeily unto hiiu, is untrue, and not to
be exemplified with any seeming instance. (4.) The words of Isaiah,
chap. xxix. ]3, which our Saviour makes use of. Matt. xv. 7-9, were
a prophecy of the Jews who then lived, as both our Saviour ex-
pressly affirms and the context in the prophet doth plainly declare.

" Some things," he adds, "are applied unto others than they are


spoken of, because of their subordination to him or them of whom
they are spoken. Thus things that are spoken of God are appHed
unto Christ, because of his subordination to him ; and of this," saith
he, " we have an instance in Acts xiii. 47, where the words spoken
of the Lord Christ, Isa. xlix. 6, ' I have set thee to be a Hght of the
Gentiles, that thou shouklest be for salvation unto the ends of the
earth,' are ai^plied unto the apostles because of their subordination
unto Christ. And in this case the words have but one sense, and
belong primarily unto him of whom they are first spoken, and are
secondarily applied unto the other."

Atis. According to this rule there is nothing that ever was spoken
of God but it may be sjjoken of and applied unto any of his crea-
tures, all things being in subordination unto him ; at least, it may
be so in that wherein they act under him and are in a peculiar sub-
ordination to him. And yet neither can such a subordination, ac-
cording to this man's opinion, be applied unto Clirist, who in the
creation of h' aven and earth was in no other subordination to God
than any other things not yet made or existing. So that this rule,
that what is spoken of God is applied unto them who are in subor-
dination unto him, as it is false in itself, so it is no way suited to the
present business, Christ bqing, in this man's judgment, in no subor-
dination to God when the world was made, being absolutely in all
respects in the condition of things that were not. Nor doth tiie
instance given at all prove or illustrate what is pretended. The
apostle, in the citing of those words to the Jews, doth not in the
least apply them to himself, but only declares the ground of his
going to preach the gospel unto the Gentiles; which was, that God
had promised to make Him whom he preached to be a light, and to
bring salvation unto them also.

Wherefore he adds, (3.) what is direct to his pretension, " That all
the words, or things signified by them, in any testimony, which are
firstly spoken of one, and tiien ai-e, for some of the causes men-
tioned" (that is, conveniency, similitude, or subordination), "ap-
plied unto another, are not to be looked on as proper to him to
whom they are so applied; but so much of them is to be admitted
as agrees to the scope of him by whom the testimony is used: as in
the testimony produced, verse 5, ' I will be unto him a father, and
he shall be to me a son,' the words immediately following are, ' If
he shall offend against me, I will chastise him with the rod of men;'
which words, being spoken of Solomon, can no way be applied unto

Arts. What is spoken of any type and of Christ jointly is not so
spoken for any natural conveniency, similitude, or subordination,
but because of God's institution, appointing the type so to represent
and shadow out the Lord Christ, that what he would teach con-


cerning him should be spoken of the type whereby he was repre-
sented. Now, no person that was appointed to be a type of him
being in all things a type, it is not necessary that whatever was
spoken of him was also spoken of Christ, but only what was spoken
of him under that formal consideration of an instituted type. This
we showed the case to have been with Solomon, of whom the words
mentioned were spoken as he bare the person of Christ. Other
tilings are added in the same place, that belonged unto him in
his own ijersonally inoral caj)acity; and therefore those things (as
that, " If he offend against me") are not at all mentioned by the
apostle, as not being spoken of him as a type. And this plainly
overthrows the pretension of our commentator; for if the apostle
would not produce the very next words to the testimony by him
brought, because they did not belong unto him of whom he spake,
it proves undeniably that all those which he doth so urge and pro-
duce were properly spoken of him. And I cannot reach the strength
of this inference, ' Because in a place where all that was spoken was
not spoken of Christ, the apostle makes use of what was so spoken
of him, and omits that wdiich was not ; therefore of that which he
doth produce in the next place, somewhat does belong to him, and
somewhat does not/ If any thing be offered to this purpose, it
must be in an instance of a testimony produced, in the words where-
of — which are produced, and not in what may follow in the same
chapter and psalm — there is that affirmed which doth now no moie
bflong unto Christ than the making of heaven or earth belongeth
to this writer; which is the case in hand.

Having premised these general considerations, he makes applica-
tion of them in particular to his interpretation of this testimony used
by the apostle.

" These words," saith he, *' being first expressly spoken of God,
and here by this writer referred unto Christ, we must consider wdiat
in them makes to his scope and purpose, what is agreeable to the
nature and condition of Christ, who certainly was a man; and such,
certainly, is not he which the psalm speaks of ahout the creation of
heaven and earth. And this was well known to them with whom
the apostle had to do."

But any one may perceive that these things are spoken gratis,
and upon the supposition that Christ was a mei'e man, and not God
hy nature, when the words themselves, ascribing a pre-existeuce to
the world and omnipotency unto him, do prove the contraiy. What
is the scope of the apostle in the whole discourse under consideration
hath been showed, as also how directly this whole testimony tends
to the proof of what he had proposed. It is true that the words
are spoken of him who is God ; but no less trae, the apostle being
judge, that it is the Son of God who is that God. It is irue that


he also was man, and nothing is ascribed unto him but what belongs
unto him who was man, but not as he was man; and such was the
creation of heaven and earth.

The opinion of tliese men is, that whereas two things are men-
tioned in the words, the creation of the world, which was past, and
tiie dissoIutioQ or destruction of it, which was to come, tliat the
hitter is assigned unto Christ, but not the former ; and for this division
of the words, which confessedly is not in the least intimated by the
apostle, he gives tliese reasons: —

1. " All the words of the psalm being manifestly spoken of the
high God, and no word in the psalm declaring Christ to be that God,
yet of necessity, if these words be applied unto Christ, he must be
supposed to be the high God there spoken of. But if this divine
writer had taken this for granted, he hatl been eminently foolish to
go about to prove by arguments and testimonies that the Creotor
does excel all creatures. He should use, in a matter no way doubt-
ful, witnesses no way necessary."

This is the first reason whereby he would prove that the apostle
did not apply the words to Christ, though himself says plainly that
he does ; for his preface to them is, " But to the Son he saith :" or,
that if he doth so, he doth it wondrous foolishly, — for such liberty do
poor worms take to tli£mselves. That the psalm so speaketh of ti)e
high God, that it directly and peculiarly intends Christ the Son of
God, hath been in part declared, and shall further afterwards be
evinced. And the eulogium in these words given unto him proves
him to be so. And though he affirms that it was a foolish thing in
the apostle to prove from the works of him that is God that he is
above the angels, the most glorious of made creatures, yet God him-
self most frequently from these his works, his omniscience, omni-
presence, and other attributes declared in them, proves his excellency
in comparison of idols, which have no existence but in the imagina-
tion of men. See Isa. xli. 21, etc.

By this testimony, then, the Holy Ghost with infinite wisdom
proves that he who was made less for a little while than the angels,
in one respect, was absolutely and in his own jjerson infinitely above
them, as being the creator of heaven and earth.

2. He adds, " Those Hebrews to whom he wrote were either
persuaded that Christ was God, the creator of heaven and earth,
or they were not. If they were, what need of all these arguments
and testimonies? One word might have despatched this whole
controversy, by affirming that Christ was the creator, angels crea-
tures, between whom there could be no comparison, nor any reason
to fear that the law given by the administration of angels should be
preferred to the gospel, whereof he Avas the author. If we shall say
the latter, that they did not yet believe it, now do we suppose that


he takes a great deal of pains to little purpose; for he asstimos and
takes for granted tlmt that was true Vv'hich was alone in qnostiou.
What need he, then, to prove by so many arguments that Christ-
was more excellent than the angels, and to take that for granted
which would have put it out of question, namely, that he was God,
v;ho made heaven and earth T'

Ans. This dilemma hath as much force against the otlier testi-
monies produced in this chapter or elsewhere by the apostle as it
hath against this; so that the using of it doth scarce argue that re-
verence to the holy word of God which is required of us. But the
truth is, grant whether of the suppositions you please, nothing of
inconveniency as unto the apostle's argumentation will ensue. Let
it be granted that they did believe, and that expressly, Christ to be
God, have believers no need to have their faith confirmed by testi-
monies out of the word that may not so readily occur to themselves?
Have they no need to be strengthened in the faith, especially in
such points as were in those days greatly opposed, as was this of tlie
eternal glory of the Messiah, concerning which the believing He-
brews had to do with learned and stubborn adversaries continually?
And if the apostle might have ended the whole controversy by
plainly affirming that he was the creator of all things and the
angels creatures, might he not as well have ended the dispute about
his pre-eminence above angels with one word, without citing so
many testimonies to prove it ? But had he then unfolded the mys-
teries of the Old Testament to the Hebrews, which was his design ?
Had he manifested that he taught nothing but what was before
revealed (though obscurely) to Moses and the prophets; which he
aimed to do, thereby to strengthen and confirm in the faith those
that did believe, and convince gainsayers? Again, suppose some of
them to whom he wrote did not yet expressly believe the deity of
Christ, — as the apostles themselves did not for a while believe his
resurrection, — could any more convincing way be fixed on to per-
suade them thereunto, than by minding them of those testimonies
of the Old Testament wherein the attributes and works of God are
ascribed unto him? Nor was it now in question whether Christ
were God or no, but whether he were more excellent than the angels
that gave the law; and what more effectual course could be taken
to put an end to that inquiry than by proving that he made the
heaven and earth, — that is, producing a testimony wherein the
creation of all things is assigned unto him, — is beyond the Avisdom
of man to invent.

8. He adds, " That Christ might be spoken of in this place either
in respect of his human nature or of his divine. If of the former,
to what end should he make mention of the creation of heaven and
earth ? Christ as man, aud as made above the angels, made not


heaven and earth. If as God, how could he be said to be made
above the angels ?"

But the answer is easy. Christ is said to be made above and
more excellent than the angels, neither absolutely as God, nor
absolutely as man, but as he was God-man, the mediator between
God and man ; in which respect, as mediator, for the discharge of
one part of his office, he was a little while made lower than they;
and so the creation of heaven and earth does demonstrate the dig-
nity of his person, and the equity of his being made more excellent
than the angels in his office. And this fully removes his following
exception, that the remembering of his deity could be no argument
to prove that the humanity was exalted above the angels; for it is
not an argument of the exaltation of his humanity, but the demon-
stration of the excellency of his person, that the apostle hath in

4. He allegeth, " That it is contrary to the perpetual use of the
Scripture, to affirm absolutely of Christ that he created any thing.
"When any creation is ascribed unto him, it is still applied to him
as the immediate cause, and is said to be made by him or in him;
he is nowhei'e said absolutely to create. And if he created the
world, why did not Moses as plainly attribute that unto him as the
tv'riters of the New Testament do the new creation ?"

Ans. Were it affirmed in this place only that Christ made oil
things, yet the words being plain and evident, and the thing itself
agreeable to the Scripture in other jjh'ices, and not repugnant to
any testimony therein contained, there is no pretence, for them who
truly reverence the wisdom and authority of the Holy Ghost in the
word, to deny the words to be spoken properly and directly; nor, if
we may take that course, will there be any thing left sacred and
uxivnrov in the Scripture. Besides, we have showed already the
vanity of that distinction, of God's making things by Christ, as
though it denoted any subordination in causality; nor will the Soci-
nians themselves admit of any such thing, but confute that notion
in the Arians. But this is not the only place wherein it is affirmed
that Christ made all things that are in the heaven and the earth.
John i. 1-3, Col. i. 1 6, verse 3 of this chapter, with sundry other
places, affirm the same. For what they exact of Moses, did we not
believe that God knew what revelation of himself became that dark
dispensation better than they, we might consider it. But yet there
are even in Moses himself, and his expositors the prophets, many
more testimonies of the creation of the world by the Word, that is
the Son of God ; which have elsewhere been opeued and vindicated.

5. He concludes, " That the order and method of the apostle's
procedure doth evince that this creation of heaven and earth is not
attributed unto him. For we see that he proves the excellency of


Christ above angels from his name, — that he is by the way of emi-
nency called the Son of God; and then he proceeds to his adoration
by angels; and in the third place he goes on to the kingly honour
and throne of Christ; after which he produceth the testimony we
insist upon ; and then adds the end of that kingdom which Christ
now administereth in the earth. To what end in this discourse
should he mention the creation of heaven and earth, when, if that
be omitted, all the series of the discourse agrees and hangs well
together? For having declared the kingdom of Christ, with the
continuance of his throne for ever, he asserts an eminent effect of
the kingdom in the abolition of heaven and earth, and then the
end of that kingdom itself."

But this analysis of the apostle's discourse agreeth not to the
mind of the apostle or his design in the place, nor to the principles
of the men that formed it, nor is indeed any thing but vain words,
to persuade us that the apostle did not say that which he did say,
and which is written for our instruction. It is not, first, agreeable
to their own principles; for it placeth the naming of Christ the
Son of God, and his adoration by the angels, as antecedent to his
being raised to his kingly throne; both which, especially the latter,
they constantly make consequent unto it and effects of it. Nor is
it at all agreeable to the apostle's design, which is not to prove by
these testimonies directly that Christ was exalted above angels, but
to show the dignity and excellency of his person who was so exalted,
and how reasonable it is that it should be so; which is eminently
proved by the testimony under consideration. For the proof of
this excellency, the apostle produceth those testimonies that are
given unto him in the Old Testament, and that as to his name, his
honour and glory, and his works in this place. Neither is there
any reason of ascribing the destruction of heaven and earth unto
the kingly power of Christ, excluding his divine power in their
creation: for the abolition of the world (if such it is to be), or the
change of it, is no less an effect of infinite power than the creation
of it; nor doth it directly appertain to the kingdom of Christ, but
by accident, as do other works of the providence of God.

Tliese exceptions, then, being removed, before we proceed to the
interpretation of the words, we shall see what evidence may be
added unto what we have already offered, from the psalm, to evince
and prove that this whole testimony doth belong unto him; which,
were there no other (as there are very many) testimonies to this
purpose, were abundantly sufficient to determine this controversy.

1. We have the authority of the apostle for it, ascribing it unto
him. The word "and," in the beginning of verse 10, relates con-
fessedly unto, "But unto the Son he saith," verse 8: as if he had
Baid, " But unto tiie Son he saith, Thy throne, God, is for ever and


ever; and to the Son he said, Thou, God, in the beginning hast
founded the earth/'' 2. Again, the whole testimony speaks of the
same person, there being no colour of tlirusting another person
into the text not intended in the beginning; so that if any part of
what is spoken do belong to Christ, the whole of necessity must do
so. To suppose that in this sentence, "Thou hast laid the founda-
tion of the earth, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up,"

one person is understood in the former place, another in the latter,
no such thing being intimated by the psalmist or the apostle, is to
suppose what we please, that we may attain what we have a mind
unto. One person is here certainly and only spoken unto. If this
be the Father, the words concern not Christ at all, and the apostle
was deceived in his allegation of them; if the Son, the whole is
sjwken of him, as the apostle affirms. 3. Nor can any reason be
assigned why the latter words should be attributed to Christ, and
not the former. They say it is because God by him shall destroy the
world, which is the thing in the last words spoken of. But where
is it written that God shall destroy the world by Christ? If they
say in this place, I say then Christ is spoken to and of in this place;
and if so, he is spoken of in the first words, " And thou, Lord," or
not at all. Besides, to whom do these closing words belong, " But;
thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail?" If these words
are spoken of Clirist, it is evident that all the foregoing must be so
also; for his enduring the same, and the not failing of his years,
— that is, his eternity, — is opposed to the creation and temporary
duration of the world. If they say that they belong unto the
'F-,\th.ei- primarily, but are attributed unto Christ, as that of chang-
ing or abolishing the world, because the Father doth it by him, I
desire to know what is the meaning of these words, ' Thou art the
same by Christ, and thy years fail not by Christ?' Is not the
Father eternal but in the man Christ Jesus ? If they say that they
belong not at all to Christ, then this is the sum of what they say :
' The beginning of the words, and the close of them, if spoken of
Christ, would prove his infinite power, eternity, and divine nature.
One passage there is in the words which we suppose will not do so,
therefore we will grant that that passage concerneth him, but not
the beginning nor end of the testimony, though spoken undeniably
of the same person;' — which whether it becomes men professing a '
reverence for the word of God is left to themselves to judge. Be-
sides, should we grant all these suggestions to be true, the apostle
by his citing of this testimony would prove nothing at all to his
purpose, no, not any thing toward that which they affii'm him to
aim at, namely, that he was made more excellent than the angels;
for how out of these words shall any such matter be niade to
appear? They say, in that by him God will fold up the heavens as


a vesture. But, first, no suck thing is mentioned or intimated.
He who made them is said to fold them. And if they say that from
other places it may be made to appear that it shall be done by
Christ, then as this place must be laid aside as of no use to the
apostle, so indeed there is nothing ascribed to Christ but what the
angels shall have a share in, and that probably the most principal,
namely, in folding up the creation as a garment; which is a work
that servants are employed in, and not the King or Lord himself.
Indeed, he that shall without prejudice consider the apostle's dis-
course will find little need of arguments to manifest wliom he
applies this testimony unto. He calls him Kvpiog in the beginning,
using that word which perpetually in the New Testament denotes
the Lord Christ, as j)lainly expounding the text so far as to declare
of whom it speaks. Nor doth this testimony ascribe any thing to
him but what in general he had before affirmed of him, namely,
that by him the worlds were made. Nor was it ever heard of, that
any man in his right wits should cite a testimony to confirm his
purpose, containing words that were never spoken of him to whom
he applies them; nor is there scarce any thing in them that can

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 25 of 70)