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tion and birth, the angels adored his person as their Lord, yet in the
outward condition of his human nature he was made exceedingly be-
neath that state of glory and excellency which the angels are in a
constant enjoyment of.

(odly) There is a space of time, a duration, intended for this con-
dition. He n)ade him lower, ^V'O^ ^poLyJj n, " for a little while," or,
" a short season." That ^V^ is often used in that sense, and that
that is the proper notation of ^poi-)(Jj n, we have showed before. But
that which renders that sense of the words here unquestionable, is
the apostle's precise restraining them thereunto in verse 9, as we
shall see. It was but for a little while that the person of Christ in
the nature of man was brought into a condition more indigent than
the state of angels is exposed unto; neither was he for that season
made a little, but very much lower than the angels. And had this
been the whole of his state, it could not have been an effect of that
inexpressible love and care which the psalmist so admires ; but
seeing it is but for a little continuance, and that for the blessed ends
which the apostle declares, nothing can more commend them unto us.


2dly. There is another effect of God's visitation of man, in his
exaltation ; expressed, (IsVj In the dignity whereunto he advanced
him; and, {2dly.) In the rule and dorniiiionthsLt he gave unto him.
(1st.) For the first, he "crowned liini with glory and honour."
n~Dj; is " insigne regium," the badge and token of supreme and
kingly power. Hence when David complains of the straitening
and diminution of his power or rule, he says, his "crown was pro-
faned unto the ground," Ps. Ixxxix. 89; that is, made contemptible
and trampled on. To be crowned, then, is to be invested with sove-
reign power, or with right and title thereunto ; as it was with Solo-
mon, who was crowned during the life of his father. Nor is it an
ordinary crown that is intended, but one accompanied with "glory
and honour." To be crowned with glory and honour, is to have a
glorious and honourable crown, or rule and sovereignty: "ilvil. li^?.
The first denotes the weight of this crown ; ''^^?, " weight of glory,"
from *!??, " to be heavy;" ^dpog do^yjg, " a weight of glory," as the
apostle speaks in allusion to the primitive signification of this word,
2 Cor. iv. 17: the other, its beauty and glory: both, authority and
majesty. How Christ was thus crowned, we have at large showed
on the first chapter.

(2dly.) This sovereignty is attended with actual rule; wherein,
[Ist] The dominio7i itself is expressed; and, [2cZ/_i/.] The extent of
it. [1st.] " Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy
hands." 1'^.?^^'?^> " madest him to rule ;" xarlffrjjffas avrov i'Tri, " ap-
pointedst him in authority over." He had actual rule and dominion
given him upon his coronation. And, [2c?/?/.] The extent of this
dominion is "the works of God's hands." And lest any, from this in-
definite expression, should think this rule limited either to the
things mentioned before by the psalmist, verse o, called " the work
of God's fingers,"' — that is, the heavens, the moon, and the stars; or in
the following distribution of things here below, into sheep, oxen,
fowls, and fish, verses 7, 8, — that is, all the creatures here below ; he
adds an amplification of it in a universal proposition, Uavrot
vmra^s, " He hath put all things" without exception "in subjection
unto him." And to manifest his absolute and unlimited power, with
the unconditional subjection of all things unto him, he adds, that
they are placed Woxaro; ruv '?roBuv uItoZ, " under his" very "feet;" — an
expression setting forth a dominion every way unlimited and ab-

Ver. 8. — The apostle having recited the testimony which he in-
tends to make use of, proceeds in the eighth verse unto some such
explications of it as may make it appear to be proper and suited
unto the end for which it is produced by him. And they are two;
— the first whereof respects the sense of the words, which express
the extent of this dominion; the second an instance of some person


or persons unto whom this testimony as thus explained cannot be

(1.) For the explication of the objective extent of the rule and
dominion mentioned, he adds, " For in that he hath made all sub-
ject unto him, he hath left nothing that is not put under him;" for
whereas it might be objected, that there is no mention in the psalm
of the world to come, whereof he treats, he lets them know that that
cannot be excepted, seeing the assertion is universal and unlimited,
that all things whatsoever are put under him. It is true, our
apostle making use of this very testimony in another place, 1 Cor.
XV. 27, adds there, that there is a manifest exception in reference unto
him who so put all things under him. And it is evident that it is
so indeed; for the psalmist treats not of God himself, but of the
works of God; and among them, saith the apostle here, there lies
no exception, — they are all brought into order, under this rule. And
so by this testimony, thus explained, as necessity requires it should
be, he hath fully confirmed that the world to come, being one of the
especial works of God, and not put in subjection unto angels, is
made subject unto man; which was that he undertook to demon-

(2.) To direct this testimony unto its proper end, and to make
way for its application unto him who is especially intended there-
in, he declares negatively unto whom it is not applicable: "But
now we zee not yet all things put under him." Man it was con-
cerning whom the words are spoken, "What is man!" This must
denote the nature of man, and that either as it is in all mankind
in general and every individual, or in some especial and peculiar in-
stance, in one partaker of that nature. For the first, he deni<^s
that this can belong unto man in general, all or any of them, on the
general account of being men. And in this negation there are two
circumstances considerable : — [1,] The manner of his asserting it,
by an appeal to common experience: " We see;" — ' This is a mat-
ter whereof every one may judge:' *We all of us know by experi-
ence that it is otherwise:' ' We need neither testimony nor argument
to instruct us herein; our own condition, and that which we be-
hold other men in, are sufficient to inform us.' And this is a way
Avhereby an appeal is made as it were to common sense and experi-
ence, as we do in things that are most plain and unquestionable.
[2.] There is a limitation of this experience in the word "yet:"
" We see not as yet." And this doth not intimate a contrary state
of things for the future, but denies it as to all the time that is past:
* A long space of time there hath been since the giving out of this
testimony, much longer since the creation of man and all other
things, and yet all this while we see that all things are far enough
from being put under the feet of man.' Or if there be in the word


a reserve for some season whereiu this word shall in some sense be
fulfilled in mere man also, it is for that time wherein they shall be
perfectly glorified with Him who is principally intended, and so
be admitted as it were to be sharers with him in his dominion, E,ev.
iii. 21. These thuigs make plain what is here denied, and in what
sense. All mankind in conjunction are very remote from being in-
vested with the dominion here described, from having the whole
creation of God cast in subjection under their feet. It is true, there
was given unto man at first, in his original condition, a rule over
those creatures here below that were made for the use and sustenta-
tion of his natural life, and no other. And this also is in some
measure continued unto his posterity, though against the present
bent and inclination of the creatures, which groan because of the
bondage that they are put unto in serving of their use and neces-
sity. But all this at first was but an obscure type and shadow of
the dominion here intended, which is absolute, universal, and such
as the creatures have no reason to complain of, their proper condi-
tion being allotted unto them therein. Hence we ourselves, by our
own observation, may easily discern that this word respects not prin-
cipally either the first man or his posterity; for we see not as 3'et,
after this long space of time since the creation, that all things are
put into subjection unto him.

Having thus unfolded the testimony insisted on, before we pro-
ceed unto the apostolical application of it unto the person to whom
it doth belong, we may stay here a little, and gather something from
it for our instruction. And it is, in general, that — ■

The consideration of the infinitely glorious excellencies of the
nature of God, manifesting themselves in his works, doth greatly set
out his condescension and grace in his regard and respect unto man-
kind. This the occasion of the words, and the words themselves, do
teach us.

This the method of the psalmist, I say, leads us unto. He
begins and ends his consideration of the works of God with an ad-
miration of his glorious excellency -by whom they were made, verses
1, 9, " Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name!" — ' How glo-
rious art tliou! and thou manifestest thyself so to be.' And from
thence doth he proceed to the consideration of his condescension in
his regard and love to man, verse 4. And to direct us in this duty,
with the psalmist we may observe, —

First, That the works of God, those especially which were the
peculiar subject of his meditation, the heavenl}/ bodies which we
behold, are indeed in themselves exceedingly glorious. Their frame,
greatness, beauty, order, course, usefulness, all speak them admirable
and fflorious. The naked view of them is enouo-h to fill the mind of
man with ad miration and astonishment. And the more we contemplate


on them, the more skilful we are in the consideration of their nature,
order, and use, the more ex»ellenfc do they appear unto us: and yet
it is tlie least part of their greatness and beautiful disposition that
we can attain a certain knowledge of; so that still they remain more
the objects of our admiration and wonder than of our science.
Hence the wisest among the heathen, who were destitute of the
teachings of the word and Spirit of God, did with one consent as-
ciibe of old a deity unto them, and worshipped them as gods; yea,
the very name of God in the Greek language, ©sog, is taken from
Ss/i/, " to run," which they derived from the constant course of the
heavenly bodies. They saw with their eyes how glorious they were;
they found out by reason their greatness and dreadful motion. Ex-
perience taught them their use, as the immediate fountains of light,
warmth, heat, moisture; and so, consequently, of life, growth, and all
useful things. It may be they had some tnidition of that rule and
dominion which was at first allotted unto the sun and moon over
day and night. Gen. i. 16. On these and the like accounts, having
lust the knowledge of the true and only God, they knew not so well
whither to turn themselves for a deity as to those things which they
saw so full of glory, and which they foimd to be of so universal a
communicative goodness and usefulness. And in them did all idola-
try in the world begin. And it was betimes in the world, as we
Si'e in Job, where it is mentioned and condemned, chap. xxxi. 26, 27,
" If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in briglit-
ness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath
kissed my hand." He condemns the idolatry, but yet withal shows
that the lustre, brightness, and glory of those heavenly lights had a
great influence on the hearts of men to entice them unto a secret
adoration, which would break out into outward worship, whereof
salutation by kissing the hand was one part and act. And there-
fore God cautions his people against this temptation, Deut. iv. 19,
" Lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest
the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven,
shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the
Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole hea-
ven." If men forget the true God, and then lift up their eyes unto,
or fall into the contemplation of the heavenly bodies, such is tlieir
glory, majesty, and excellency, that they will be driven and hurried
unto the adoration and worship of them. And so universal was this
folly of old, that from these latter words, " which the Lord thy God
hath divided unto all nations," the Jews affirm that God hath given
the suti, moon, and stars, to be the deities of the Gentiles, for them
to worship ! But the distribution there mentioned is as unto their
common use unto all nations, and not as to their veneration. Nor
. is God the author of idolatry, as they blasphemously imagine; but


this their glory and excellency led them unto. And when any of
tliem ascended higher, to apprehend living, intelligent spirits for tht- ir
deities, they yet conceived at least that they had their glorious habi-
tation in the heavenly bodies. Yea, and some Christians have fallen
into vain imaginations, from a false translation of the latter end of
the fourth verse of Psalm xix. by the LXX. and the Vulgar Latin,
which read the words, " He hath placed his tabernacle in the sun,"
instead of, " He hath set in them,^' that is, in the heavens, " a taber-
nacle for the sun," as the words are plain in the original. Why
sliould I mention the madness of the Manichees, who affirmed that
Christ himself was gone into, if not turned into the sun? I name
these things only to show what influence upon the minds of men
destitute of the word the glory and excellency of these heavenly
bodies have had. And what inestimable grace God showeth unto
us in the benefit of his word ! for we are the posterity of them, and
by nature not one jot wiser than they, who worshipped those things
which are not God. But exceeding glorious works of God they are ;
and the more we consider them, the more will their glory and great-
ness appear unto us. And as the children of Israel said of the sons
of Anak, " We were before them in our own sight as grasshoppers,
and so we were in their sight," may we not much more say concern-
ing ourselves, compared with these glorious works of the hands of
God, ' We are all but as grasshoppers in comparison of them, and
whence is it that God should set his heart upon us?'

Secondly, These glorious works of God do indeed show the infi-
nite glory of him that made them. This is the use that men should
have made of their contemplation of them, and not have chosen
them for their gi^ds, as they did when "their foolish hearts were dark-
ened," and "they waxed vain in their imaginations." This use the
psalmist here makes of them, and this the Scripture everywhere
directs us unto. This David brings them in preaching unto all the
world, Ps. xix. 1-6. They have a voice, they speak aloud unto all
the world; and by their beauty, greatness, order, usefulness, they
make known the incomprehensible glory of him that made them.
The TO yvuarov Tou Qiov, " that which may be known of God," is ma-
nifest in them, saith Paul, Rom. i. 19. And what is that? "Even
his eternal power and Godhead," verse 20 ; that is, his infinite power,
all-sufficiency, and self-subsistence. These things are clearly seen
in them. Being all made and created by him iu their season, doth
it not manifest that he was before them, from eternity, and that ex-
isting without them, in perfect blessedness? And that he hath made
them so beautiful, so glorious, so excellent, and that out of nothing,
doth it not declare his infinite power, wisdom, and goodness? Do
they not all lead us to the contemplation of his infinite excellencies?
And whence is it that he who made all these things of nothinsr


should have such regard to the weak, frail nature of man? But that
this ctnsideration may be the more effectual, let us take a little weak
view of some of those excellencies of the nature of God which his
works declare, and which set an especial lustre on his condescension
unto us; as, — /

First, His greatness. '^" His greatness is unsearchable," saith the
psalmist, Ps. cxlv. 3; that is, it is infinite. The immensity of his
nature is his greatness. " The heaven of heavens," saith Solomon,
" cannot contain him," 1 Kings viii. 27. The infiniteness and ubi-
quity of his essence are beyond all that the understanding and inva-
gination of man can reach unto. If men would set themselves to
think and imagine a greatness, they can reach no higher than hea-
vens above heavens, and that as far as they can fancy ; but this ex-
presseth not immensity. Those heavens of heavens cannot contain
him. Our thoughts of greatness are apt to consist in adding one
thing unto another, until that which we think on be extended unto
the utmost of our imagination. But this hath no relation unto the
immensity of God, which is not his filling of all imaginary place or
space, but an infinite existence in an infinite space. So that as he
is present with, indistant from the whole creation, — for saith he, " Do
not I fill heaven and earth?" Jer. xxiii. 24, — so is he no less present
where there is no part of the creation. And if he should produce
thousands of worlds (which he can do by his power), he would be no
less present in them all, indistant from every thing in them, than he
is in and unto this which he hath already created ; and this not by
the extending of his essence and greatness, but by the infiniteness of
his being. Neither are there parts in this immensity ; for that which
hath parts cannot be infinite or immense. Somewhat of God is not
present in heaven, and somewhat in earth ; but God is wholly pre-
sent in his whole being everywhere. This leaves no place for the
imagination of men, but calls us for pure acts of understanding and
faith to assent unto it. And tlms far reason will go, that it will
assent unto the truth of that which it cannot comprehend, because
it is convinced that it cannot be otherwise. What remains it leaves
to faith and reverential adoration. Reason having, by the help of
divine revelation, led the mind and soul thus far, that God is im-
mense, not only present unto the whole creation, but existing in his
infinite being where no creature is, and that in his whole essence
equally, there it gives them up to admiration, reverence, adoration,
and the improvement by faith of this excellency of God, wherever
they are. So doth the psalmist, Ps. cxxxix. 7-11. Thoughts of
God's omnipresence are of singular use to the soul in every condi-
tion. And who can sufficiently admire this excellency of the nature
of God? How astonisliable is this his greatness! How are all the
nations of the world as the '* drop of a bucket," as the " dust of the


balance," as "vanity," as "nothing" before him! What is a little
dust to an immensity of being? to that whose greatness we cannot
measure, whose nature we cannot comprehend, whose glory we can
only stand afar off and adore? What is a jwor worm unto him wlio
is everywhere, and who is everywhere filled with his own excellencies
and blessedness? The issue of all our thoughts on this property of
God's nature is admiration and holy astonishment. And whence is
it that he should take thought of us, or set his heart upon us? And
this greatness of God doth he set forth, by showing what a mean
thing the whole creation which we behold is unto him: "Who
hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out
heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a
measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a

balance? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and

are counted as the small dust of the balance : behold, he taketh up

the isles as a very little thing All nations before him are as

nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and va-
nij/y," Isa. x\. 12, 15, 17.

^/ Secondly, His infinite self-sufficiency doth manifest itself in his
v/orks; for all these things are the absolute product of his power,
and wisdom, and goodness. From the infinite stores and treasures
of them did he bring them all forth. They had no previous matter
whereof they were made; no reason, cause, or end was there why
they should be made, but only what was in himself and from him-
self, Kom. xi. SG, Rev. iv. 11. Now, this could not have been with-
out an infinite self-sufficiency in himself, from whence it is that all
things begin and end in him. And had he not been every way
self-sufficient before the existence of all things, out of nothing no-
thing C(iuld have been produced. And this ariseth from his fulness
of being, which he declareth l)y his names '^i'^] and ^''J}^; which de-
note his self-being, his self-existence, his self-sufficienc3\ All tlie
properties of his nature, being infinite, have that which satisfies them
and fills them. " His understanding is infinite." And as nothing
could comprehend the infinite nature of God but an infinite under-
standing, God could not know himself if his understanding were not
infinite. So nothing could satisfy an infinite understanding but an
infinite object; the understanding of God could not be blessed and in
rest if the object of it, the nature of God, were not infinite. God by
his understanding knows the extent of his infinite power, and so
knows not only what he hath wrought by his power, but also what-
ever he can so do. And this suitableness of the properties of God
one to another, as it makes them, because infinite, not really to differ
from one another, or from his nature itself, so it gives them all rest,
blessedness, satisfaction, and self-sufficiency: as, to continue in our
former instances, the blessedness of the understanding of God con-


sists iu its comprehension of the whole nature of God, nor is capiilile
of more, because it can comprehend no more. Hence is God all-
sufHcient, and eternally blessed in the contemplation and enjoyment
of his own excellencies; for self-sufficiency is the fountain of blessed-
ness. Where any tiling is wanting, there is no absolute blessed-
ness. And hence is the blessedness of God absolute, eternal, and
essential unto him, because it hath its rise and spring absolutely in
himself, his own fulness of being, his own sufficiency unto and for
himself All the blessedness of the creatures that we shall or may
ever attain unto is but dependent, derivative, and communicate(i ;
because, though nothing shall be wanting unto us, yet the spring of
our supplies shall never be in ourselves, but in God. His blessed-
ness is absolute, because it is from himself and in himself, in his
being every way self-sufficient. This it is to be absolutely blessed.
Hence God made not these things because he had need of them, for
if he had had need of them he could not have made them ; or that
they should add any thing unto him, for that is not infinite unto
which any thing can be added; or that he might settle that rest
and satisfaction in them which he had not in himself before, for that
alone which is infinite must necessarily and unavoidably give eternal
satisfaction unto that which is infinite: but only by a most free act of
his will, he chose by the creation of all things to express somewhat
of his power, wisdom, and goodness in something without himself.
Absolutely he was self-sufficient from all eternity, and that l)oth as
to rest, satisfaction, and blessedness in himself, as also in respect of
any operation, as to outward works, which his will and wisdom
should incline him unto; being every way able and powerful in and
from himself to do whatever he pleaseth. And this infinite satisfac-
tion and complacency of God in himself, arising from that fulness of
divine being which is in all the properties of his nature, is another
object of our holy admiration and adoration. 'This God was, this
God did, before the world was created.' Now, what is man, that this
every way all-sufficient God should mind, regard, and visit liim ?
Hath he any need of him or his services? Duth his goodness extend
to him? Can he profit God, as a man profiteth his neighbour? '• If
he sin, what doth he against him? or if his transgressions be multi-
plied, what doth he unto him?''' that is, to his disadvantage. "If

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 42 of 70)