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rupteth and depraveth the principles of our nature in their being
and operation; and, (2.) That which is destructive of our nature as
to its well-being and happiness. The iirst of these is sin, the latter
\% punishment ; and both of them, take up the whole nature of evil.
Tile particulars comprised in theni" may not here be dislihcfly and
severally insisted ou.^The former containeth our apostasy from
God, with all the consequences of it, in darkness, folly, filth, shame,
bondage, restlessness, service of lust, the world, and Satan, and
therein constant rebellion against God, and diligence in working out
our own everlasting ruin; all attended with a senseless stupidity
in hot discerning these things to be evil, hurtful, noisome, corrup-
tive of our natures and beings, and, for the most part, with brutish
sensuality in the approbation and liking of themy But he who
understands no evil in being fallen off from God, the first cause,
chiefest good, and last end of all, — in being under the power of a
constant enmity against him, in the disorder of his whole soul and
all the faculties of it, in the constant service of sin, the fruit of bond-
age and captivity in the most vile condition, — will be awakened
imto another apprehension of these things when a time of deliver-
ance from them shall be no more. The latter of these consists in
the wrath or curse of God, and compriseth whatever is or may be
penal and afflictive unto our nature unto eternity. Now, from
both these, with all their effects and consequences, are believers
delivered by this salvation, namely, from sin and wrath. The Lord
Christ was called Jesus, because he "saves his people from their sins,"
Matt. i. 21 ; and he is also the Saviour who "delivers them from the
wrath to come,'' 1 Thess. i. 1 0. And this is "great salvation.'' If a man
be but the means of delivering another from poverty, imprisonment,
or a dangerous disease, especially if such a one could be no otherwise
delivered but by him, how great is the kindness of it esteemed to
be, and that deservedly ! Providential deliverances from imminent
dangers of death temporal are looked on as great salvations, and
that by good men, and so they ought to be, 2 Cor. i. 10. But what
are all these unto this salvation? What is the sickness of the body
unto the disease, yea, the death of the soul? What is imprisonment
of the outward man, under the wrath of poor worms like ourselves,
and that for a few days, unto the chains of everlasting darkness ?
What is a little outward want and poverty, to the want of the
favour, love, and presence of God unto eternity? What is death
temporal, past in a moment, an end of troubles, an entrance into
rest, unto death eternal, an eternal dying, under the curse, wrath,
and righteous vengeance of the holy God? These things have no
proportion one to another. So inexpressibly great is this salvation,
that there is nothing left us to illustrate it withal. And this excel-
lency of the gospel salvation will at length be known to them by



308 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. IL

whom at present it is despised, when they shall fall and perish under
the want of it, and that to eternity.

2. This salvation is great upoa the account of the end of it,
or that which it brings believers unto. The deliverance of the
people of Israel of old out of Egypt was great salvation ; so doth
God everywhere set it forth, and so did the people esteem it, and
that justly. They v/ho murmured under it, they who despised the
pleasant land, fell all of them under the sore displeasure of God.
But yet as this deliverance was but from a temporal, outward bond-
age, so that which it brought them unto was but outward rest for
a few days, in a plentiful country, — it gave them an inheritance of
houses, and lands, and vineyards, in the land of Canaan; but yet
there also they quickly died, and many of them perished in their sins.
But as we have seen what we are delivered from by this salvation,
so the excellency of the inheritance which we obtain thereby is
such as no heart can conceive, no tongue can express. It brings us
into the favour and love of God, unto the adoption of children, unto
durable rest and peace; in a word, unto the enjoyment of God in
glory eternal. Oh the blessedness of this rest, the glory of this in-
heritance, the excellency of this crown, the eternity and unchange-
ableness of this condition, the greatness of this salvation! How
mean, how weak, how low, how unworthy, are our apprehensions of
it ! Yet surely, through the blessed revelation of the Spirit of
grace by the word of the gospel, we see, we feel, we experience so
much of it as is sufficient to keep us up unto a holy admira-
tion and longing after it all the days of our pilgrimage here on
earth.

It remaineth now, thiedly, that we declare the unavoidahleness
of their destruction who neglect this so great salvation. There are
three things that make the punishment or destruction of any person
to be unavoidable: — 1, That it be just and equal; 2. That there be
no relief nor remedy provided for him; and, 3. That he to whom
it belongs to inflict punishment he able and resolved so to do. And
they all concur to the height in this case; for, —

First, It \sjust and equal that such persons should be destroyed ;
whence the sentence concerning them is so decretory and absolute :
." He that believeth not shall be damned," Mark xvi. 16. And the
Holy Ghost supposeth this case so clear, evident, and undeniable,
that he refers the proceedings of God herein unto the judgment of
sinners themselves, Heb. x. 29. And they who are judged on this
account at the last day will be speechless, have nothing to reply,
nothing to complain of. And the sentence denounced against them
will appear unto all to be righteous, —

1. Because thej/ despise an overture of a treaty about peace and
reconciliation between God and their souls. There is by nature an



VER. 2-4.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. SOD

enmity between God and them, a state and condition whereby them-
selves alone would be losers, and that for ever. God, who hath no
need of them, nor their obedience or friendship, tenders them a
treaty upon terms of peace. What greater condescension, love, or
grace could be conceived or desired? This is tendered in the gos-
pel, 2 Cor. V. 19. Now, what greater indignity can be offered unto
him than to reject his tenders, without so much as an inquiry after
what his terms are, as the most do to whom tlie gospel is preached?
Is not this plainly to tell him that they despise his love, scorn his
offers of reconciliation, and fear not in the least what he can do unto
them? And is it not just that such persons should be tilled with
the fruit of their own ways? Let men deal thus with their rulers
whom they have provoked, that have power over them, and see how
it will fare with them. Neither will God be mocked, nor shall his
grace always be despised. When men shall see and learn by woful
experience what pitiful poor worms they are, and have some beams
of the greatness, majesty, and glory of God shining upon them, how
will they be filled with shame, and forced to subscribe to the right-
eousness of their own condemnation for refusing his treaty and terms
of peace !

2. These terms contain salvation. Men in the neglect of them
neglect and refuse their own salvation; — and can any man perish
more justly than they who refuse to be saved? If God's terms had
been great, hard, and difiicult, yet considering by whom they were
proposed, and to whom, there was all the reason in the world why
they should be accepted; and their destruction would be just that
should not endeavour to observe them unto the utmost. But now
it is life and salvation that he tenders, on whose neglect he complains
that men will not come unto him that they might have life. Cer-
tainly there can be no want of righteousness in the ruin of such
persons. But, —

S. That which the apostle principally builds the righteousness and
inevitableness of the destruction of gospel neglecters upon, is the
greatness of the salvation tendered unto them : " How shall we
escape if we neglect so great salvation?" How it is so, and wherein
the greatness and excellency of it doth consist, have been before de-
clared. Such and so great it is, that there is nothing which a sinner
can fear or suffer but it will deliver him from it; nothing that a
creature can desire but it will bring him to the possession of it.
And if this be despised, is it not righteous that men should perish ?
If we know not, yet God knows how to set a value upon this great
effect of his love, wisdom, and grace, and how to proportion punish-
ment unto its contempt. The truth is, God alone is able sufficiently
to revenge the greatness of this sin and indignity done unto hiui.
We have beiore showed how meet it was that the transgression of



SIO AN ExrosiTiox OF THE [chap, il

the law should he punished with punishment eternal and yet the
];iw li'ad provided no relief for any in distress or misery, only taking
men as it found them, in the first place it required obedience of
them, and then promised a reward. And a good, holy, and right-
eous law it was, both in its commands and in its promises and
threatenings. It found men in a good estate, and promised them a
better on their obedience; wherein if they failed, it threatened them
with the loss of their present condition, and also with the super-
addition of eternal ruin. And in all this it was a clear effect of the
1 ighteousness, holiness, and faithfulness of God, But the gospel
finds men in quite another state and condition, — in a condition of
misery and ruin, helpless and hopeless, and is provided on purpose
both for their present relief and future everlasting happiness. And
shall they escape by whom it is despised? Is it not just and equal
that it should prove "a savour of death unto death" unto them? Is it
meet that God should be mocked, his grace be despised, his justice
violated, his glory lost, — all that sinners may go unpunished? Let
them think so whilst they please, God thinketh otherwise, all the
angels in heaven think otherwise, all the saints from the beginning
of the world unto the end of it think otherwise, and will glorify
God to eternity for the righteousness of his judgments on them that
obey not the gospel. But, —

Secondly, ' Suppose the destruction of these persons be in itself
righteous, yet there may be some remedy and relief provided for them,
that they may not actually fall under it; there may yet some way of
escape remain for them ; and so their ruin not be so unavoidable as is
pretended. It hath been showed that it was a righteous thing that
the transgressors of the law should perish, and yet a way of escape is
provitled for them, God is mercii'ul, and things may be found at
the last day otherwise than now they are reported ; at least, all
that faith, diligence, obedience, and holiness which are spoken of, are
not required to free men from being neglecters of the gospel. So
that they who come short of them may nevertheless escape,' I an-
swer, that we are not now discoursing of the nature of that faith and
obedience which are required to interest men in gospel salvation.
But certain it is that it will be found to be that which the word re-
quires, and no other; even that faith which purifieth the heart, that
faith which reformeth the life, that faith which is fruitful in good
works, that faith v/hich bringeth forth universal holiness, " without
which no man shall see God, ' A faith consisting with the love and
service of sin, with neglect of gospel duties, with inconformity to
the word, with a sensual, profane, or wicked life, will stand men
jn no stead in this matter. But this is not the subject of our pre-
sent discourse. It may suffice in general, that the faith and obedi-
ence which the gospel requireth are indispensably necessary to free



VER. 2-4,] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 311

men from being gospel despisers. What they are is all our con-
cernment to inquire and learn; for where they are wanting there ig
no relief nor remedy, whatever wind and ashes of vain hopes men
may feed upon and deceive themselves withal. It is true, there
was a remedy provided for the transgression of the law, and this
remedy was, 1. Reasonable, in that there was no mixture of mercy
or grace in that dispensation, and God saw meet to glorify those
properties of his nature, as well as those which before shone forth in
the creation of all things and giving of the law. Pardoning mercy
was not sinned against in the breach of the law, and therefore that
might interpose for a relief; which was done accordingly. And yet,
2. Neither would this have been either reasonable or righteous, if
that only and last way of satisfying the righteousness of the law,
by the sufferings and sacrifice of the Son of God, had not intervened.
AVithout this, mercy and grace niust have eternally rested in the
bosom of God, without the least exercise of them; as we see they
are in respect unto the angels that sinned, whose nature the Son of
God assumed not, thereby to relieve them. And, 3. This reli f
Was declared immediately upon the entrance of sin, and the pro-
mise of it renewed continually until it was wrought and accom-
plished. And hereby it became the subject of the whole Book of
God, and the principal matter of all intercourse between God and
sinners. But all these things fully discover that there neither is nor
can be any relief provided lor them that sin against the gospel; for,
• — (1.) From what spring, what fountain should it proceed ? Mercy
and grace are principally sinned against in it, and the whole design
of it therein dt^feated. The utmost of mercy and grace is already
sinned against, and what remaineth now for the relief of a sinner?
Is there any other property of the divine nature whose considera-
tion will administer unto men any ground of hope? Is there any
thing in the name of God, in that revelation that he hath made of
himself by his works, or in his word, to give them encouragement?
Doubtless nothing at all. But yet suppose that God had not laid
out all the riclies and treasures of his wisdom, grace, love, and good-
ness, in gospel salvation by Jesus Christ, which yet he affirmeth that
lie hath, — supjjose that in infinite mercy there were yet a reserve for
pardon, — (2.) By what way and means should it be brought forth and
made effectual? We have seen that God neither would nor could
ever have exercised pardoning mercy towards sinners, had not way
been made for it by the blood of his Son. What then? Shall
Christ die again, that the despisers of the gospel may be saved?
Why, besides that the Scripture affirms positively that henceforth he
" dieth no more," and that " there is no more sacrifice for sins," this is
the most uni'easonable thin<f that can be imao-ined. Shall he die ajjaia
for them by whom his death hath been despised? Is the blood of



312 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. II.

Clirist such a common thing as to be so cast away upon the lusts of
men? Besides, when should he inake an end of dying? They who
have once neglected the gospel may do so upon a second trial, nay,
undoubtedly would do so, and thence should Christ often die, often
be offered, and all still in vain. Neither hath God any other son to
send to die for sinners; he sent his only-begotten Son once for all,
and he that believeth not on him must perish for ever. In vain,
then, will all men's expectations be from such a mercy as there is
nothing to open a door unto, nor to make way for its exercise. Nay,
this mercy is a mere figment of secure sinners; there is no such
thing in God. All the mercy and grace that God hath for his crea-
tures is engaged in gospel salvation; and if that be despised, in vain
shall men look for any other. (3.) Neither is there any word spoken
concerning any such relief or remedy for gospel neglecters. Pardon
being provided for transgressions of the law, instantly it is promised,
and the whole Scripture is written for the manifestation of it; but
as for a provision of mercy for them that despise the gospel, where
is any one word recorded concerning it? Nay, doth not the Scrip-
ture in all places fully and plainly witness against it? " He that
believeth not shall be damned." " There remaineth no more sacrifice
for sins." " He that believeth not, the wrath of God abideth on hiin."
And will men yet feed themselves with hopes of mercy whilst they
neglect the gospel? Well fare them who, being not able to se-
cure sinners against this light and evidence of the want of any re-
lief reserved for them, have carried the whole matter behind the
curtain, and invented a purgatory for them, to help them when they
are gone from hence, and cannot return to complain of them by
whom they were deceived. But this also, as all other reliefs, will
prove a broken reed to them that lean on it; for they who neglect
the gospel must perish, and that eternally, for the mouth of the
Lord hath spoken it.

Thirdly, Then all hopes of escaping must arise from hence, that
he whose right it is, and on whom it is incumbent to take ven-
geance on them that neglect the gospel, will not be able so to
do, or at least not to such a degree as to render it so fearful as is
pretended. This need not much be insisted on. It is God with
whom men have to do in this matter. And they who allow his
\)eiug cannot deny him to be omnipotent and eternaL Now what
cannot he do who is so? It will at length be found to be " a fearful
thing to fall into the hands of the living God." There is unto
wicked men the same everlasting cause of being and punishment.
The same hand that upholds them shall afflict them, and that for
ever. What his righteousness requires, his power and wrath shall
execute unto the uttermost, so that there will be no escaping. And
these are the holy foundations on which all gospel threateuings and



VER 2-4.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 313

comminations are built; which will all of them take place and be
accomjilislied with no less certainty than the promises themselves.

Now, from all that hath been spoken unto this prouosition, we
may learn, —

1. To admire the riches of the grace of God, which hath provided
so great salvation for poor sinners. Such and so great as it is, we
stood in need of it. Nothing could be abated without our eternal
ruin. But when divine wisdom, goodness, love, grace, and mercy,
shall set themselves at work, what will they not accomplish? And
the effect of them doth the Scripture set forth in these expressions :
" So God loved the world;" " God commendeth his love unto us;"
" Greater love hath no man than this;" " Riches of grace;" " Trea-
sures of wisdom;" "Exceeding greatness of power;" and the like.
In this will God be glorified and admired unto all eternity. And
in the contemplation hereof are we to be exercised here and here-
after; and thereby may we grow up into the image of God in Christ,
2 Cor. iii. 18. Which way soever we look, whatever we consider in
it, here is that which will entertain our souls with delight and satis-
faction. The eternal counsel of God, the person of Christ, his
mediation and grace, the promises of the gospel, the evil and wrath
we are Ireed from, the redemption and glory purciiased for us, the
privileges we are admitted unto a participation of, the consolations
and joys of the Spirit, the communion with God that we are called
unto, — how glorious are they in the eyes of believers! or assuredly
at all times they ought so to be. How can we enough bewail that
vanity, whence it is that the mind suffereth itself to be possessed
and filled with other things ! Alas, what are they, if compared with
the excellency of this love of God in Christ Jesus! Here lies our
treasure, here lies our inheritance; why should not our hearts be
here also? Were our minds fixed on these things as they ought,
how would the glory of them cast out our cares, subdue our fears,
sweeten our afflictions and persecutions, and take off our affections
from the fading, perishing things of this world, and make us in every
condition rejoice in the hope of the glory that shall be revealed!
And, indeed, we lose the sweetness of the life of faith, the benefit
of our profession, the reward that is in believing, and are made a
scorn to the world and a prey unto temptations, because we dwell
not enough in the contemplation of this great salvation. To stir us
up, then, hereunto we may consider, — (1.) The excellency of the
things themselves that are proposed unto our meditations. They
are the great, the deep, the hidden things of the wisdom and grace
of God, Men justify themselves in spending their time and specu-
lations about the things of nature: and indeed such employment is
better and moi^e noble than what the generality of men do exercise
themselves about; for some seldom raise their thoughts above the



814 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CIIAP. 11.

dunghills whereon they live, and some stuff their minds with such
filthy imaginations as make them an abomination to God, Mic. ii,
], 2, — they are conversant only about their own lusts, and making
provision to fulfil and satisfy them. But yet what are those things
which the better and more refined part of mankind do search and
inquire into? Things that came out of nothing, and are returning
thitherward apace; things which, when thej^are known, do not much
enrich tlie mind, nor better it at all as to its eternal condition, nor
contribute any thing to the advantage of their souls. But these
things are eternal, glorious, mysterious, that have the character of
all God's excellencies enstamped upon them, Avhose knowledge gives
tlie mind its perfection and the soul its blessedness, John xvii. 3.
This made Paul cry out that he accounted all things to be " but loss
and dung" in comparison of an acquaintance with them, Phil iii. 8;
and the prophets of old to "search diligently" into the nature of them,
1 Pet. i. 10-12, as the things which alone deserved to be inquired
after; and which inquiry renders them "noble" in whom it is, Acts
xvii. 11, and is that which alone differenceth men in the sight of
God, Jer. ix. 23, 24.

(2.) Our inter-est and propriety in them. If we are believers,
these are our things. The rich man is much in the contemplation
of his riches, because they are his own; and the great man, of his
power, because of his propriety in it. Men take little delight in
beinof conversant in their minds about thinQ-s that are not their own.
Now, all these tilings are ours, if we are Christ's, 1 Cor. iii. 22, 2.j. This
salvation was prepared for us from ail eternity, and we are the heirs
of it, Heb. i. 14. It was purchased for us by Jesus Christ; we have
redemption and salvation by his blood. It is made over unto us by
the promise of the gospel, and conferred upon us by the Spiiit of
grace. Are these things to be despised? are they to be cast aside
among the things wherein we are least concerned? or can there be
any greater evidence that we have no propriety in them than that
would be, if our hearts should not bfe set upon them? Wliat! all
these riches ours, all these treasures, this goodly inheritance, this
kingdom, this glory, and yet not be constant in thoughts and medi-
tations about them! It is doubtless a sign, at least, that we question
our title unto them, and that the evidences we have of them will
not endure the trial. But woe unto us if that should be the end of
our profession! and if it be otherwise, why are not our minds fixed
on that which is our own, and which no man can take from
us?

(3.) The profit and advantage which we shall have hereby, which
will be much every way; for, [1.] By this means we shall grow up
into a likeness and conformity unto these things in our inward
man. Spiritual meditation will assimilate our minds and souls uuto



VER. 2-4.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREV/S. ,S1 5

tliiit which is the object of it. So the apostle tells the Romans that
they were delivered into the form of the doctrine preached unto
them, chap. vi. 1 7. Obeying it by faith, the likeness of it was brought
forth upon their souls; and, by the renewing of their minds, they were
transformed quite into another image in their souls, chap. xii. 2. This
the apostle most e.xcellently expresseth, 2 Cor. iii, 18. A constant
believing contemplation of the glory of God in this .salvation by
Clirist, will change the mind into the image and likeness of it, and
that by various degrees, until we attain unto perfection, when " we
shall know even as we are known,'' Accustoming of our minds unto
these things will make them lieavenly; and our affections, which will



Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 38 of 70)