John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 4 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 4 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


It must be granted that Moses, being the lawgiver and first re-
vealer of all that worship in the observation whereof the Judaical
church-state and privilege of that people did consist, had the pre-
eminency above the succeeding prophets, whose ministry chiefly
tended to instruct the people in the nature and keep them to
the observation of his institutions: but that all those things by
them insisted on were peculiar to him, it doth not appear; nor if
it did so, are the most of them of any great weight or importance.

The first is granted, and a signal privilege it was. God spake
unto him Ci''i3?"''^ C!'?, "face to face," Exod. xxxiii. 11; and
•^l'"''^ i^?, " mouth to mouth," Num. xii. 8 ; and this is mentioned as
that which was peculiar to him 'above the prophets which should
succeed liim in the ministry of that church. But that Moses saw
the essence of God, which the Jews contend from those words, is ex-
pressly denied in the text itself; for even then when it was said that
God spake to him face to face, it is also affirmed that he did not
nor could see the face of God, Exod. xxxiii. 20. See John i. 17, 18.
Both those expressions intend only that God revealed himself unto
him in a more clear and familiar way than he had done unto other
prophets, or would do whilst that administration continued; for
although the things which he revealed to and by other prophets were
more clear, evident, and open to the understanding of believers,
than they were in the revelation made to Moses (they being in-
tended as expositions of it), yet in the way of the revelation itself,
God dealt more clearly and familiarly with Moses than with any
other prophet of that church whatever.

The second difference assigned is vain. Of the times and seasons
wherein the prophets received their visions there can be no deter-
minate rule assigned. Many of them were at ordinary seasons,



VER. 1, 2.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.



27



■whilst tbey were waking, and some were about the employment of
their callings, as Amos, chap. vii. 15.

The third also, about that consternation of spirit which befell
other prophets, is groundless. Sometimes it was so with them, as
the instance of Daniel proves, chap. vii. 28, x. 8 ; and so it befell
Moses himself, Heb. xii. 21 ; which if we attain to that place, we shall
prove the Jews themselves to acknowledge. Ordinarily it was other-
wise, as with him so with them, as is manifest in the whole story of
the prophets.

There is the same mistake in the last difference assigned. Moses
did not so receive the Spirit of prophecy as that he could, at liis own
pleasure, reveal those things which were not discoverable but by that
Spirit, or speak out the mind of God infallibly in any thing for the
use of the church, without actual inspiration as to that particular;
which is evident from the mistake that he was under as to the man-
ner of his government, which he rectified by the advice of Jethro,
Exod. xviii. 19. And likewise in other instances did he wait for
particular answers from God, Num. xv. 34t. To have a comprehen-
sion at once of the whole will of God concerning the obedience and
salvation of the church, was a privilege reserved for Him who in all
things was to have the pre-eminence. And it seems that Maimo-
nides himself in his exaltation of Moses excepted the Messiah; for
whereas in the Hebrew and Latin copies of More N«;buch., part. ii.
cap. xlv., there are these words, hir\'C'^ '•yv'' nJllD p DJ ^1, which Bux-
torf renders, " Est gradus hie etiam pra:'stantissimoium con-iliario-
rum Israelis," "This is the degree" (in prophecy) "of the counsellors
of Israel;" the Arabic or original hath, "And this also is the degree
of the Messiah of Israel, who goeth before" (or "excelleth") "all
others;" that is, in point of prophecy.

Not to follow them in their imaginations, the just privileges of
Moses above all other prophets lay in these three things:— (1.) That
he was the lawgiver or mediator by whom God gave that law and
revealed that worship in the observation v/hereof the very being of
the Judaical church did consist. (2.) That God in the revelation
made unto him dealt in a more familiar and clear manner, as
to the way of his outward dealing, than with any other prophets.
(3.) In that the revelation made unto him concerned the ordering of
the whole house of God, when the other prophets were employed
only about particulars built on his foundation.

In these things consisted the just and free pre-eminence of Moses;
which whether it was such as would warrant the Jews in their ob-
stinate adherence to his institutions upon their own principles shall
be inquired i-^to. But before we manifest that indeed it was not,
the revelation of the mind of God in and by the Son, which
is compared with and preferred before and above this of Moses,



28 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. T.

must be unfolded; and this we shall do in the ensuing observa-
tions: —

1. The Lord Jesus Christ, by virtue of the union of his person,
was from the womb filled with a perfection of gracious light and
knowledge of God and his will. An actual exercise of that prin-
ciple of holy wisdom wherewith he was endued, in his infancy, as
afterwards, he had not, Luke ii. 52; nor had he in his human nature
an absolutely infinite comprehension of all individual things, past,
present, and to come, which he expressly denies as to the day of
judgment, Matt. xxiv. 36, Mark xiii. 32 ; but he was furnished with
all that wisdom and knowledge which the human nature was cap-
able of, both as to 'principle and exercise, in the condition wherein it
was, without destroying its finite being and variety of conditions, from
the womb. The Papists have made a vain controversy about the
knowledge of the human soul of Christ. Those whom they charge with
error in this matter affirm no more than what is expressly asserted
in the places of Scripture above mentioned ; and by their answers
unto those places, it is evident how little they care what scorn they
expose the Scripture and all religion unto, so they may secure their
own mistakes. But this wisdom, whatever it were, is not that
whereby God so revealed his mind unto him as thereby to be said
to speak to us in him. He had it by his union, and therefore im-
mediately from the person of the Son, sanctifying that nature by the
Holy Ghost, which he took into subsistence with himself But the
revelation by which God spake in him unto us was in a peculiar
manner from the Father, Rev. i. 1 ; and, as we have showed, it is
the person of the Father that is here peculiarly spoken of And
hence the inquiry of some on this place, how the second person re-
vealed himself to the human nature, is not to the purpose of it; for
it is the person of the Father that is spoken of So that, —

2. The commission, mission, and furnisliing of the Son, as incar-
nate and mediator, with abilities for the declaration of the mind and
w^ill of God unto the church, were peculiarly from the Father. For
the whole work of his mediation h6 received command of the Father,
John X. 18, and what he should speak, chap. xii. 49; accorduig to
which commandment he wrought and taught, chap. xiv. 31. Whence
that is the common periphrasis whereby he expresses the person of
the Father, "He that sent him;" as also, "He that sealed and
anointed him." And his doctrine on that account, he testified, was
not his, his own, that is, primarily or originally as mediator, but his
that sent him, John vii. 16. It was from the Father that he heard
the word and learned the doctrine that he declared unto the church.
And this is asserted wherever there is mention made of the Father's
sending, sealing, anointing, commanding, teaching him; of his doing
the will, speaking the words, seeking the glory, obeying the com-



VER. 1, 2.] EnSTLE TO THE HEBREWS.



29



mands of him that sent him. See John viii. 26, 28, 40, xiv. 10 xv.
ir,, Rev. i. 1; and in the Old Testament, Zech. ii. 8; Isa. xl'viii.
15-17, 1. 4. That blesped " tongue of the learned," whereby God
spake in and by him the refreshing \Yord of the gospel unto poor
weary sinners, was the gift of the Father.

o. As to the manner of his receiving of the revelation of the will
of God, a double mistake must be removed, and then the nature uf
it must be declared: —

(1.) The Socinians, to avoid the force of those testimonies which
are urged to confirm the deity of Christ, from the assertions in the
gospel that he who spake to the disciples on earth was then also in
heaven, John iii. 13, vi. 38, 51, vii. S3, 34, viii. 29, 41, 42, 57, 58,
have broached a Mohammedan fancy, that the Lord Christ before
his entrance on his public ministry was locally taken up into heaven,
and there instructed in the mystery of the gospel and the mind of
God which he was to reveal, Cat. Rac, cap. iii., de Ofhc. Cii. Pro-
phet., qurest. 4, 5; Smalcius de Divinit. Christi, cap. iv.; Sucin.
Resp. ad Paroen. Vol. pag. 38, 39.

But, — [1.] There was no cause of any such rapture of the human
nature of Christ, as we shall evidence in manifesting the way whereby
he was taught of the Father, especially after his baptism. [2.] This
imaginary rapture is grounded solely on their vpurov -^ivbo;, that the
Lord Christ in his whole person was no more than a mere man.
[3.] There is no mention of any such thing in the Scripture, where
the Father's revealing his mind and will to the Son is treated of;
which had it been, ought not to have been omitted. [4.] Tiie fancy
of it is expressly contrary to Scripture: for, — \st. The Holy Ghost
affirms that Christ " entered in once into the holy place," and that
ajter he had "obtained eternal redemption," Heb. ix. 12; wliich
would have been his second entrance had he been taken thither before
in his human nature. So that coming of his into the world which
we look for at the last day is called his second coming, his coming
again, because of his first entrance into it at his incarnation, Heb.
ix. 28. 2dli/. He was to suffer before his entry into heaven and his
glory therein, Luke xxiv. 26. And, Bdly. As to the time of liis
ascension which these men assign, — namely, the forty days after his
baptism, — it is said expressly that he was all that time in the wil-
derness amongst the wild beasts, Mark i. 13. So that this figment
may have no place in our inquiry into the way of the Father's
speaking in the Son.

(2.) Some lay the whole weight of the revelation of tlie will of
God unto Christ upon the endowments of his human nature by vir-
tue of its personal union with the eternal Word. But this is wholly
inconsistent with the many testimonies, before rehearsed, of the
Father's revealing himself unto him after that union. Where-



30 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. I.

fore, to declare the nature of this revelation, we must observe
further, —

4. That Jesus Christ in his divine nature, as he was the eternal
Word and Wisdom of the Father, not by a voluntary communication,
but eternal generation, had an omnisciency of the whole nature and
will of God, as the Father himself hath, because the same with that
of the Father, their will and wisdom being the same. This is the
blessed Gv/xTipixuipricig, or in-being of each person, the one in the other,
by virtue of their oneness in the same nature. Thus, as God, he had
an absolute omniscience. Moreover, the mystery of the gospel, the
eternal counsel and covenant of it concerning the redemption of the
elect in his blood, and the worship of God by his redeemed ones,
being transacted between Father and Son from all eternity, was
known unto him as the Son, by virtue of his own personal transac-
tions with the Father in the eternal counsel and covenant of it. See
what we have elsewhere delivered concerning that covenant.

5. The Lord Christ discharged his office and work of revealing the
will of the Father in and by his human nature, that nature wherein
he " dwelt among us," John i. 14; for although the person of Christ,
God and man, was our mediator, Acts xx. 28, John i. 14, IS, yet his
human nature was that wherein he discharged the duties of his office,
and the " principium quod" of all his mediatory actings, 1 Tim. ii. 5.

6. This human nature of Christ, as he was in it " made of a
woman, made under the law," Gal. iv. 4, was, from the instant of its
union with the person of the Son of God, a " holy thing," Luke i.
85, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners;" and radi-
cally filled with all that perfection of habitual grace and wisdom
which Avas or could be necessary to the discharge of that whole duty
which, as a man, he owed unto God, Luke il 40, 49, 52; John viii.
46; 1 Pet. ii. 22. But,—

7. Besides this furniture with habitual grace, for the performance
of all holy obedience unto God, as a man made under the law, there
was a peculiar endowment with the Spirit, without and beyond the
bounds of all comprehensible measures, that he was to receive as the
great prophet ot the church, in whom the Father would speak and
give out the last revelation of himself This communication of the
Spirit unto him was the foundation of his sufficiency for the dis-
charge ot his prophetical office, Isa. xi. 2, 3, xlviii. 16, Ixi. 1-3;
Dan. ix. 24. As to the reality and being of this gift of the Spirit,
l.e received it from the womb; whence in his infancy he was said to
be vXrjpou/j.svog ffo(piag, Luke ii. 40, "filled with wisdom;" wherewith
he confuted the doctors to amazement, verse 47. And with his
years were these gifts increased in him: n^rtsxcrrg ecpici xai jjX/x/a xai
X"-P'^i' — " He went forward in wisdom and stature and favour,"
verse 52. But the full communication of this Spirit, with special



VER. 1, 2.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.



ni



reference unto the discharge of his public office, witli the visible
pledge of it in the Holy Ghost descending on him in the shape of a
dove, he was made partaker of in his baptism, Matt. iii. 16; when
also he received his first public testimony from heaven, verse 17-
which, when again repeated, received the additional command of
hearing him, Matt. xvii. 5,— designing the prophet that was to be
heard on pain of utter extermination, Deut. xviii. 18, 19. And
therefore he was thereupon said to be Uv'sv,(LaTo? ayiov tXjjVjjs, Luke
iv. 1, " full of the Holy Ghost," and sealed to this work by the sifn
foretold of God, John i. 33.

This was the foundation of the Father's speaking in the Son as
incarnate. He spake in him by his Spirit; so he did in the pro-
phets of old, 2 Pet. i. 21. And herein in general the propiiecy of
Christ and theirs did agree. It remaineth, then, to show wherein
his pre-eminence above them did consist, so that the "word sj)oken"
by him is principally and eminently to be attended unto; which is
the argument of that which the apostle hath in hand in this place.

8. The pre-eminences of the prophecy of Chriht above that of
Moses and all other prophets were of two sorts: — (1.) Such as arose
from his ]i&'>^son who was the prophet; (i^.) Such as accompanied
the nature and manner of the revelation made unto him.

(1.) They arise from the infinite excellency of his j)&'>^son above
theirs. This is that which the apostle from the close of this verse
insists upon to the very end of the chapter, making his discourse
upon it the basis of his ensuing exhortations. I shall therefore
remit the consideration of it unto its proper place.

(2.) There were sundry excellencies that attended the very revela-
tion itself made unto him, or his prophecy as such; for, —

[1.] Not receiving the Spirit hy measure, John iii. 34, as they all
did, he had given unto him altogether a comprehension of the whole
will and mind of God, as to whatever he would have revealed of
himself, with the mystery of our salvation, and all that obedience
and worship which in this world he would require of his church.
" It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell," Col.
i. 19^ — that is, of "grace and truth," Johni. 17: not granting him a
transient irradiation by them, but a permanency and constant abode
of them with him in their fulness, all "treasures of wisdom and hnow-
ledge" being hid in him. Cob ii. 8, as their home and proper abiding
place; which made him of "quick understanding in the fear of the
Lord," Isa. xi. 3. All the mysteries of the counsel between the
Father and the eternal Word for the salvation of the elect, with
all the way whereby it was to be accomplished, through his own
blood, were known unto him; as also were all the bounds, the whole
extent of that worship which his church was to render unto God,
with the assistance of the Spirit that was to be afiforded unto them

VOL. XII.— 3



32 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. I.

for that end and purpose. Hence the only reason why he did not
at once reveal unto his disciples the whole counsel of God was, not
because all the treasures of it were not committed unto him, but
because they could bear no other but that gradual communication
of it which he used towards them, John xvi. 12. But he himself
dwelt in the midst of those treasures, seeing to the bottom of them.
All other prophets, even Moses himself, receiving their revelations by
transient irradiations of their minds, had no treasure of truth dwell-
ing in them, but apprehended only that particular wherein they
were enlightened, and that not clearly neither, in its fulness and per-
fection, but in a measure of light accommodated unto the age wherein
they lived, 1 Pet. i. 11, 12. Hence the Spirit is said to "rest upon
him," Isa. xi. 2, 3 ; and to "abide upon him," John i. 32 ; wdio did only
in a transient act affect the minds of other prophets, and by an actual
motion, which had not a habitual spring in themselves, cause them
to speak or write the will of God, as an instrument of music gives
forth a sound according to the skill of him that strikes it, and that
only when it is so stricken or used. Hence, —

[2.] The prophets receiving their revelations as it were by num-
her and tale from the Holy Ghost, when they had spoken or written
what in particular at any season they had received from him, could
not add one word or syllable of the same infallibility and authority
with what they had so received. But the Lord Christ having all
the treasures of wisdom, knowledge, and truth hid and laid up in
him, did at all times, in all places, with equal infallibility and autho-
rity, give forth the mind and will of God even as he would, what he
so spake having its whole authority from his speaking of it, and not
from its consonancy unto any thing otherwise revealed.

[3.] The prophets of old were so barely instrumental in receiv-
ing and revealing the will of God, being only servants in the house,
Heb. iii. 6, for the good of others, 1 Pet. i. 11, 12, that they saw not to
the bottom of the things by themselves revealed; and did therefore
both diligently read and study the books of them that wrote before
their time, Dan. ix. 2 ; and meditated upon the things which the
Spirit uttered by themselves, to obtain an understanding in tliem,
1 Pet. i. 10-12. But the Lord Jesus, the Lord over his own house,
had an absolutely perfect comprehension of all the mysteries revealed
to him and by him by that divine wisdom which always dwelt in
him.

[4.] The difference was no less between them in respect of the
revelations themselves made to them and by them; for although the
substance of the will and mind of God concerning salvation by the
Messiah was made known unto them all, yet it was done so obscurely
to Moses and the prophets that ensued, that they came all short in the
light of that mystery to John the Baptist, who did not rise up m a



VEK. 1, 2.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. H'^

clear and distinct apprehension of it unto the least of the true dis-
ciples of Christ, Matt. xi. 11 ; whence the giving of the law by Moses,
to instruct the church in that mystery by its types and sliadows, is
opposed to that grace and trutli whicli were brought l>y Jesus Christ,
Johni. 17, 18. See Eph. iii. 8-11; Col. i. 26, 27; Tit. ii. 11; 2 Tim!
i. 9, 10.

In these, and sundry other things of the like importance, had the
Father's speaking in the Son the pre-eminence above his speaking
in Moses and the prophets. For which cause the apostle placeth
this consideration in the head of his reasonings and arguments, for
attendance unto and observation of the things revealed by him: for
even all these things have influence into his present argument, though
the main stress of it be laid on the excellency of his person; of which
at large afterwards.

9. We must yet further observe, that the Jews, with whom the
apostle had to do, had all of them an expectation of a new signal
and final revelation of the will of God, to be made by the Messiah
in the last days; that is, of their church-state, and not, as they now
fondly imagine, of the world. Some of them, indeed, imagined that
great prophet promised, Deut. xviii., to have been one distinct from
the Messiah, John i. 20, 21; but the general expectation of the church
for the full revelation of the will of God was upon the Messiah,
John iv. 25. Of the same mind were their more ancient doctors,
that retained any thing of the tradition of their fathers, asserting
that the law of Moses was alterable by the Messiah, and that in some
things it should be so. Maimonides is the leader in the opinion of
the eternity of the law ; whose arguments are answered by the author
of Sepher Ikharim, lib. iii. cap. xiii., and some of them by Nach-
manides. Hence it is laid down as a principle in Neve Siialom,
mtj'n ''3x^o» r\2i) hb'do Ne':i nmnxo dit- n-'tro "i^o ;— " Messiah the
king shall be exalted above Abraham, be hiqh above Moses, yea, and
the ministering angels." And it is for the excellency of the reve-
lation to be made by him that he is so exalted above Moses. Whence
Maimonides himself acknowledgeth, Tractat. de Regibus, that at the
coming of the Messiah, b^ D^l^J D^ioyni D^J^jnsn onmn vn^—
" hidden and deep things" (that is, of the counsel of God) " siiall be
revealed" (or "laid open") "unto all." And this persuasion they built
on the promise of a new covenant to be made with them, not like
the covenant made with their fathers, Jer. xxxi. 31-34. Whence
the author before mentioned concludes that it was the judgment of
the ancient doctors that they should receive a new covenant from
the mouth of God himself ; ar.d all their worship being annexetl and
subservient unto the covenant that was made with them in Horeb,
upon the removal of that covenant, there was of necessity a upw
kind of worship, subservient tliereuuto, to ensue.



S4 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. I.

From all these observations we may evidently perceive wherein
the force of the apostle's argument doth lie, which he insists upon
in this veiy entrance of his discourse, rather insinuating it from
tJieir own principles than openly pressing them with its reason,
which he doth afterwards. They acknowledged that the Messiah
was to come; that he was to be in a special manner the Son of
God (as we shall show) ; that in him God would ultimately reveal
his mind and will unto them; and that this revelation, on many
accounts, would be far more excellent than that of old made to and
by Moses; — which that it was all accomplished in the ministry of
Jesus Christ, and that unto themselves in the latter days of their
church, according to what was long before foretold, he asserts and
proves; whence it was easy for them to gather what a necessity of
adhering to his doctrine and institutions, notwithstanding any con-
trary pleas or arguings, was incumbent on them.

But, moreover, the apostle in these words hath opened the spring
from whence all his ensuing arguments do flow, in fixing on him
who brought life and immortality to light by the gospel; and from
thence takes occasion to enter upon the dogmatical part of the
epistle, in the description of the person of Christ, the Son of God,
and his excellency, in whom God spake unto them, that they might
consider with whom they had to do; wherein he proceeds to the
end of this chapter.

But before we proceed we shall stay here a little, to consider some
things that may be a refreshment to believers in their passage, in
the consideration of those spiritual truths which, for the use of the
church in general, are exhibited unto us in the words we have con-
sidered.

And the first is this, —

I. The revelation of the will of God, as to all things concerning
his worship, our faith and obedience, is peculiarly and in a way of
eminency from the Father.

This is that which the apostle partly asserts, partly takes for



Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 4 of 70)