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tiary ; for those words in the psalmist, (Spa^^v ti, as applied unto man,
they make to denote quantity or quality, — as unto Christ, time or
duration; which that in the same place they cannot do both is need-
less to prove. But, as we said, our exposition is wholly free from
these entanglements, answering the words of the psalmist, and suited
to the words and context of the apostle throughout.

Schlichtingius or Crellius, in his comment on these words, would
fain lay hold of an objection against the deity of Christ, p. 112.
" Hinc videmus," saith he, "cumD. Auctor adeo sollicite laboret,
et Scripturse dictis pugnet eum qui angelis fuerit ratione natures
minor, nempe Christum debuisse suprema gloria et honore coronari,
angelosque dignitate \ongh siiperare; nee ipsi auctori nee cuipiam
Christianorum ad quos scribit, divinae prseter humanam in Christo
naturae in mentem venisse, nam si banc in Christo agnovissent,
nullo negotio etiam Christum angelis longe prsestare, natiiramque
humanam ei minime obstare vidissent: quid qiiaiso tanto molimine,
tantoque argumentorum apparatu ad rem omnibus apertissimam
persuadendam opus fuisset ? Quid argumentis aliunde conquisitis
laborat auctor, cum uno ictu, unica naturae istius divii)a3 mentione
rem totam conficere potuisset?" The whole ground of this fallacy
lies in a supposition that the apostle treateth of the person of
Christ absolutely and in himself considered; which is evidently
false. He speaks of him in respect of the office he undertook as
the mediator of the new covenant; in which respect he was both
made less than the angels, not only on the account of his nature,
but of the condition wherein he discharged his duty, and also made
or exalted above them, by grant from his Father; whereas in his
divine nature he was absolutely and infinitely so from the instant
of the creation. And whereas those to whom he wrote did hear
that he was, in the discharge of his office, for a little while made
much lower than the angels, it was not m vain for him to prove, by
arguments and testimonies, that in the execution of the same office


he was also exalted above them, that part of his work being finished
for which he was made lower than they for a season. And most
needful it was for him so to do in respect of the Hebrews, who,
boasting of the ministry of angels in the giving of the law, were to
be convinced of the excellency of the author of the gospel, as such,
in the discharge of his work, above them. And the express men-
tion of his divine nature was in this place altogether needless and
improper, nor would it have proved the thing that he intended;
for how easy had it been for the Jews to have replied, that not-
withstanding that, they saw in how low an outward condition he
ministered upon the earth, and therefore that would not prove his
exaltation above angels in the discharge of his office, seemg not-
withstanding that he was evidently made lower than they in that
office ! It would also have been improper for him in this place to
have made any mention thereof, seeing the proof of the excellency
of his person, absolutely considered, was nothing unto the business
he had now in liand. And it was likev/ise every way needless, he
having so abundantly proved and vindicated his divine nature in the
chapter foregoing. Now, to take an argument against a thing from
the apostle's silence of it in one place, where the mention of it was
improper, useless, and needless, he having fully expressed the same
matter elsewhere, yea, but newly before, is an evidence of a bad or
barren cause. Of the like importance is that which he afterwards
adds, p. 115, " Quemadmodum autem Jesus homo verus, et natural!
conditione cseterishominibus similis esse debuit; neque enim eorum
servator est, qui natura et dii sunt et homines, sed hominum trm-
tum; " for we shall demonstrate that it was needful he should have
a divine nature v/ho was to suffer and to save them who had only
a human. And if this man had acknowledged that end and
effect of his suffering, without which we know it would have been
of no advantage unto them for whom he suffered, he also would
believe the same.

We say not any thing of the sense of the Jews on this place of
the psalmist. They seem wholly to have lost the design of the
Holy Ghost in it, and therefore, in their accustomed manner, to
embrace fables and trifles. The Talmudists ascribe those words,
" What is man V unto some of the angels, expressing their envy
and indignation at his honour upon his first creation. The later
doctors, as Kimchi and Aben Ezra, make application of it unto man
in general, wherein they are followed by too many Christians, unto
whom the apostle had been a better guide. But we may here also
see what is further tendered unto us for our instruction ; as, — ■

I. The respect, care, love, and grace of God, unto mankind, ex-
pressed in the person and mediation of Jesus Christ is a matter of
siuQular and eternal admiration.


We liave before showed, from the words of the psalmist, that such
in general is the condescension of God, to have any regard of man,
considering the infinite excellency of the properties of his nature, as
manifested in his great and glorious works. That now proposed
followeth from the apostle's apjilication of the psalmist's words unto
the person of Christ; and consequently from the regard of God unto
us in his mediation. And this is such, as that the apostle tells us that
at the last day it shall be his great glory, and that he will be "admired
in all them that believe," 2 Thess. i. 10. When the work of his
grace shall be fully perfected in and towards them, then the glory
of his grace appeareth and is magnified for ever. This is that which
the admiration of the psalmist tends unto and rests in, that God
should so regard the nature of man as to take it into union with
himself in the person of his Son, and in that nature, humbled and
exalted, to work out the salvation of all them that believe on him.
There are other ways wherein the respect of God towards man cloth
appear, even in the effects of his holy, wise providence over him.
He causeth his sun to shine and his rain to fall upon him. Matt.
V. 45. He leaves not himself without witness towards us, " in that
he doth good, and gives us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,
filling our hearts with food and glmluess," Acts xiv. 17. And these
ways of his providence are !^ill!:ll,;(liy admirable. But this way of
his grace towards us in the pei.-un of his Son assuming our nature
into union with himself, is that wherein the exceeding and un-
speakable riches of his glory and wisdom are made manifest. So
the apostle expresseth it, Eph. i. 17-23. He hath that to declare
unto them, which, because of its greatness, glory, and beauty, they
are no way able of themselves to receive or comprehend. And
therefore he prays for them that they may have the spirit of wis-
dom and revelation, to give them the knowledge of Christ, or that
God by his Spirit would make them wise to apprehend, and give
them a gracious discovery of what he proposeth to them; as also,
that hereby they may enjoy the blessed effect of an enlightened
understanding, Avithout which they will not discern the excellency
of this matter. And what is it that they must be helped, assisted,
prepared for to understand, in any measure? what is the great-
ness, the glory of it, that can no otherwise be discerned ? ' Why,'
saitli he, 'marvel not at the necessity of this preparation: that wliich
I propose unto you is the glory of God, that wherein he will princi-
pally be glorified, here and unto eternity; and it is the riches of that
glory, the treasures of it.' God hath in other things set forth and
manifested his glory; but yet as it were by parts and parcels. One
thing hath declared his power, another his goodness and wisdom,
and that in part, with reference unto that particular about which
they have been exercised ; but in this he hath drawn forth, dis-


played, manifested all the riches and treasures of his glory, so that
his excellencies are capable of no greater exaltation. And there is
also in this work the unspeakable greatness of his power engaged,
that no property of his nature may seem to be uninterested in this
matter. Now whereunto doth all this tend ? Why, it is all to
give a blessed and eternal inheritance unto believers, unto the hope
and expectation whereof they are called by the gospel. And by
what way or means is all this wrought and brought about ? Even by
the working of God in Jesus Christ; in his humiliation, when he
died ; and in his exaltation, in his resurrection, putting all things under
his feet, crowning him with glory and honour; which the apostle
shows by a citation of this place of the psalmist : for all this is out
of God's regard unto man ; it is for the church, which is the body
of Christ, and his fulness. So full of glory, such an object of eter-
nal admiration, is this work of the love and grace of God; which,
as Peter tells us, the very angels themselves desire to look into,
1 Pet. i. 12. And this further appears, —

First, Because all God's regard of man in this way is a fruit of
mere sovereign grace and condescension. And all grace is admirable,
especially the grace of God ; and that so great grace, as the Scripture
expresseth it. There was no consideration of any thing without
God himself that moved him hereunto. He had glorified himself,
as the psalmist shows, in other works of his hands, and he could
have rested in that glory. Man deserved no such thing of him,
being worthless and sinful. It was all of grace, both in the head
and members. The human nature of Christ neither did nor could
merit the hypostatical union. It did not, because being made par-
taker of it fiom the instant of its conception, all antecedent opera-
tions that might procure it were prevented ; and a thing cannot be
merited by any after it is freely granted antecedently unto any
deserts. Nor could it do so; hypostatical union could be no reward
of obedience, being that which exceeds all the order of things and
rules of remunerative justice. The assumption, then, of our nature
into personal union with the Son of God, was an act of mere free,
sovereign, unconceivable grace. And this is the foundation of all
the following fruits of God's regard unto us; and that being of grace,
so must they be also. Whatever God doth for us in and by Jesus
Christ as made man for us, — which is all that he so doth, — it must,
I say, be all of grace, because his being made. man was so. Had there
been any merit, any desert on our part, any preparation for or dis-
position unto the efi'ectsof this regard, — had our nature, or that por-
tion of it which was sanctified and separated to be united unto the
Son of God, any way procured or prepared itself for its union and
assumption, — things had fallen under some rules of justice and
equality, whereby they might be apprehended and measured; but
voii. xn. — 24


all being of grace, they leave place unto nothing but eternal admi-
ration and thankfulness.

Seconilly, Had not God been thus mindful of man, and visited
him in the person of his Son incarnate, every one partaker of that
nature must have utterly perished in their lost condition, ^nd this
also renders the grace of it an object of admiration. We are not
only to look at what God takes us unto by this visitation, but to consi-
der also what he delivers iisf7'07n. Now, this is a great part of that
vile and base condition which the psalmist wonders that God should
have regard unto, namely, that we had sinned and come short of his
glory, and thereby exposed ourselves unto eternal misery. In that
condition we must have perished for ever, had not God freed us by
this visitation. It had been great grace to have taken an innocent,
a sinless man into glory; great grace to have freed a sinner from
misery, though he should never be brought to the enjoyment of the
least positive good : but to free a sinner from the utmost and most
inconceivable misery in eternal ruin, and to bring him unto the
highest happiness in eternal glory, and all this in a way of mere
grace, this ']£ to be admired.

Tliirdly/Because it appeareth that God is more glorified in the
humiliation and exaltatioQ of the Lord Christ, and the salvation of
mankind thereby, than in any of or all the works of the first crea-
tion. How glorious those works are, and how mightily they set
forth the glory of God, we have before declared. But, as the
psalmist intimates, God rested not in them. /He had yet a further
design, to manifest his glory in a more eminent and singular manner;
and this he did by minding and visiting of man in Christ Jesus.
None almost is so stupid, but on the first view of the heavens,
the sun, moon, and stars, he will confess that their fabric, beauty,
and order, are wonderful, and that the glory of their framer and
builder is for ever to be admired in them. But all this comes short
of that glory which ariseth unto God from this condescension and
grace. And therefore it may be the day will come, and that
speedily, wherein these heavens, and this whole old creation, shall
be utterly dissolved and brought to nothing; for why should they
abide as a monument of his power unto them who, enjoying the
blessed vision of him, shall see and know it far more evidently and
eminently in himself? However, they shall undoubtedly in a short
time cease as to their use, wherein at present they are principally
subservient unto the manifestation of the glory of God. But the
effects of this regard of God to man shall abide unto eternity, and
the glory of God therein. This is the foundation of heaven, as it
is a state and condition, — it denotes the glorious presence of God
among his saints and holy ones. Without this there would be no
Buch heaven i all that is there, and all the glory of it, depend thereou.


Take away this foundation, and all that beauty and glory disappears.
Nothhig, indeed, would be taken from God, who ever was and ever
will be eternally blessed in his own self sufiSciency. But the whole
theatre which he hath erected for the manifestation of his glory
unto eternity depends on this his holy condescension and grace;
which assuredly render them meet for ever to be admired and

This, then, let us exercise ourselves unto. Faith having infinite,
eternal, incomprehensible things proposed unto it, acts itself greatly
in this admiration. We are every wliere taught that we now know
but imperfectly, in part; and that we see darkly, as in a glass: not
that the revelation of these things in the word is dark and obscure,
for they are fully and clearly proposed, but that such is the nature
of the things themselves, that we are not in this life able to cornpre-
liend them; and therefore faith doth principally exercise itself in a
holy admiration of them. And indeed no love or grace will suit
our condition but that which is incomprehensible. We find our-
selves by experience to stand in need of more grace, goodness, love,
and mercy, than we can look into, search to the bottom of, or fully
understand. But when that which is infinite and incomprehensible
is proposed unto us, the.n all fears are overwhelmed, and faith finds
rest with assurance. And if our admiration of these things be an
act, an effect, a fruit of faith, it will be of singular use to endear
God unto our hearts, and to excite them unto thankful obedience ;
for who would not love and delight in the eternal fountain of this
inconceivable grace? and what shall we render unto him who hath
done more for us than we are any way able to think or conceive?

II. Observe also, that such was the inconceivable love of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, unto the souls of men, that he was free and
willing to condescend unto any condition for their good and salva-

That was the end of all this dispensation. And the Lord Christ
was not humbled and made less than the angels without his own
will and consent. His will and good liking concurred unto this
work. Hence, when the eternal counsel of this whole matter is
mentioned, it is said of him, as the Wisdom of the Father, that " he
rejoiced in the habitable part of the earth, and his delights were
with the sons of men," Prov. viii. 31. He delighted in the counsel
of redeeming and saving them by his own humiliation and suffer-,
ing. And the Scripture makes it evident upon these two consider-
ations: —

First, In that it shows that what he was to do and what he ^cas
to undergo in this work were proposed unto him, and that he will-
ingly accepted of the terms and conditions of it. Ps. xl. 6, God
says unto him, that sacrifice and offering could not do this great


work, — burnt-offering and sin-offering could not effect it ; that is, no
kind of offerings or sacrifices instituted by the law were available lo
take away sin and to save sinners, as our apostle expounds that
place at large, Heb. x. 1-9, confirming his exposition with sundry
arguments taken from their nature and effects. What, then, doth
God require of him, that this great design of the salvation of sinners
may be accomplished? Even that he himself should "make his soul
an offering for sin," " pour out his soul unto death," and thereby
"bear the sin of many," Isa. liii. 10, 12 ; that seeing " the law was weak
through the flesh," — that is, by reason of our sins in the flesh, —
he himself should take upon him " the likeness of sinful flesh," and
become "an offering for sin in the flesh," Rom. viii. 3; that he should
be "made of a woman, made under the law," if he would "redeem them
that were under the law," Gal. iv. 4, 5 ; that he should " make himself
of no reputation, and take upon him the form of a servant, and be
made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man,
humble himself and become obedient unto death, even the death
of the cross," Phil. ii. 7, 8. These things were proposed unto him,
which he was to undergo, if he would deliver and save mankind.
And how did he entertain this proposal? how did he like these
conditions? " I was not," saith he, " rebellious, neither turned away
back," Isa. 1. 5. He declined them not, he refused none of the
terms that were proposed unto him, but underwent them in a way
of obedience; and that with willingness, alacrity, and delight. Ps.
xl. 6-8: "Mine ears hast thou opened," saith he; or ' prepared a
body for me, wherein I may yield this obedience,' (that the apostle
declares to be the sense of the expression, Heb. x.) This obedience
could not be yielded without a body, wherein it was performed.
And whereas to hear, or to have the ear opened, is in the Scripture
to be prepared unto obedience, the psalmist in that one expression,
" Mine ears hast thou opened," compriseth both these, even that
Christ had a body prepared, by a synecdoche of a part for the
whole, and also in that body he was ready to yield obedience unto
God in this great work, which could not be accomplished by sacri-
fices and burnt-offerings. And this readiness and willingness of
CJnist unto this work is set out under three heads in the ensuing
words: — 1. His tender of himself unto this work. Then said he,
" Lo, I come, in the volume of thy book it is written of me;" —
, ' This thou hast promised, this is recorded in the head, beginning of
thy book,' namely, in that great promise. Gen. iii. 15, that the seed
of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent; ' and now thou
hast given me, in the fulness of time, and prepared me a body for
that purpose; lo, I come, willing and ready to undertake it.' 2. In
the frame of his mind in this engagement. He entered into it
with great delight; "I delight to do thy will, O my God." He


did not delight in the thoughts of it only of old, as before, and then
grow heavy and sorrowful when it was to be undertaken ; but he
went unto it with cheerfulness and delight, although he knew what
sorrow and grief it would cost him before it was brought unto per-
fection. 3. From the principle whence this obedience and delight
did spring; which was a universal conformity of his soul, mind,
and will, unto the law, mind, and will of God: " Thy law is in my
heart," — "in the midst of my bowels;" — 'Every thing in me is com-
pliant with thy will and law; there is in me a universal conformity
thereunto,' Being thus prepared, thus principled, he considered the
glory that was set before him, — the glory that would redound unto
God by his becoming a captain of salvation, and that would ensue
unto himself. He "endured the cross and despised the shame," Heb.
xii. 2. He armed himself with those considerations against the
hardships and sufferings that he was to meet withal ; and the apostle
Peter adviseth us to arm ourselves with the like mind when we are to
suffer, 1 Epist. iv. 1. By all which it appears that the good-will and
love of Jesus Christ were in this matter of being humbled and made
less than angels; as the apostle says expressly that " he humbled
himself, and made himself of no reputation," Phil. ii. 7, 8, as well as it
is here said that God humbled him, or made him less than angels.

Secondly, The Scripture peculiarly assigns this work unto the love
and condescension of Christ himself; for although it abounds in
setting forth the love of the Father in the designing and contriving
this work, and sending his Son into the world, yet it directs us unto
the love of the Lord Christ himself as the next immediate cause of
his engaging into it and performance of it. So saith the apostle. Gal.
ii. 20, " I live by the faith of the Son of God," — that is, by faith in him,
■ — " who loved me, and gave himself for me." It was the love of
Christ that moved him to give himself for us; which is excellently
expressed in that doxology, B-ev. i. 5, 6, " Unto him that loved us,
and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us
kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and
dominion for ever and ever. Amen." All this was the fruit of his
love, and therefore unto him is all praise and honour to be given and
ascribed. And so great was this love of Christ, that he declined no-
thing that was proposed unto him. This the apostle calls his "grace,"
2 Cor. viii. 9, " Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that,
though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye
through his poverty might be rich." He condescended unto a poor
and low condition, and to suffer therein, for our good, that we might
be made partakers of the riches of the grace of God. And this was
the love of the person of Christ, because it was in and wrought
equally in him both before and after his assumption of our nature.

Now, the Holy Ghost makes an especial application of this truth


unto us, as unto one part of our obedience: Phil. ii. 5, " Let tl\is
mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus;" and what that
mind was he declares in the ensuing verses, laying out his infinite
condescension in taking our nature upon him, and submitting to all
misery, reproach, and death itself for our sakes. If this mind were
in Christ, should not we endeavour after a readiness and willingness
to submit ourselves unto any condition for his glory? " Forasmuch,"
saith Peter, " as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm your-
selves likewise with the same mind," 1 Pet. iv. 1. Many difficulties
"will lie in our way, many reasonings will rise up against it, if we
consult with flesh and blood; but, saith he, "Arm yourselves with
the same mind that was in Christ;" get your souls strengthened and
fenced by grace against all oppositions, that you may follow him and
imitate him. Some that profess his name will suffer nothing for
him. If they may enjoy him or his ways in peace and quietness,
well and good; but if persecution arise for the gospel, immediately
they fall away. These have neither lot nor portion in this matter.
Others, the most, the best, have a secret loathness and unwillingness
to condescend unto a condition of trouble and distress for the gos-
pel. Well, if we are unwilling hereunto, what doth the Lord Christ
lose by it? Will it be any real abatement of his honour or glory?
Will he lose his crown or kingdom thereby? So far as suffering m
this world is needful for any of his blessed ends and purposes, he
will not want them who shall be ready even to die for his name's sake.

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 45 of 70)