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with us. That therein which was needful thereunto, this assimila-
tion or conformity extends unto; that which was otherwise it sup-
poseth not. And as the first part of this double limitation is made
evident in the instance of sin, so the truth and necessity of the latter
will appear in the consideration of the things wherein this confor-
mity doth consist; as, —

(1.) He was made like unto them in the essence of human nature,
a rational spiritual soul, and a mortal body, quickened by its union
therewithal. This it was necessary he should be like the brethren
in, and not have a fantastical body, or a body animated by the Deity,
as some have fancied of old. But that he should take this nature
upon him by natural generation, after the manner of the brethren,
this was not necessary; — yea, so to have done would not have
furthered the end of his priesthood, but have enervated the efficacy
of it, and have rendered him incapable of being such a priest as he
was to be; for whereas the original contagion of sin is derived by
natural procreation, had he been by that means made partaker of
human nature, how could he have been "holy, harmless, undefiled,
separate from sinners," as it became our high priest to be? chap. vii.
2(j. Again, it was not necessary that this human nature should have
its individuation from itself, and a particular subsistence in and by
itself; — yea, this also would have overthrown his priesthood; for
whereas the efficacy thereof depends on the excellency of the divine
nature, this could not have given its influence thereunto, had not
the human nature been taken into the same personal subsistence
with itself. Only, as we said, that he should have a human nature,
truly and really as the brethren, and therein be like unto them, this
was necessary, that he might be an offering priest, and have of his
own to offer uuto God.

(2.) It was also necessary, that in and with his human nature he
should take upon him all the properties and affections of it, that so
he miffht be made like unto the brethren. He was not to have aa
ubiquitarian body, a body commensurate to the Deity, — that is, im-
mense, and consequently no true body at all; nor was his soul to be
freed from the affections which are connatural to a human rational
soul, as love, joy, fear, sorrow, shame, and the like; nor was his body
to be free from being obnoxious unto hunger, thirst, cold, pain, death
itself. But now, whereas these things in the brethren are attended
with irregular perturbations for the most part; and whereas all the


individuals of them have their proper infirmities in their own per-
sons, partly by inordinate inclinations from their tempers and com-
plexions, partly in weaknesses and sicknesses, proceeding either from
their original constitutions or other following inordinacies ; it was no
way needful that in any of these he should be made like unto the
brethren; — yea, a conformity unto them therein would have abso-
lutely impeded the work he had to do.

(3.) He was also like unto us in temptations, for the reason which
the apostle gives in the last verse. But herein also some difference
may be observed between him and us; for the most of our temptations
arise from within us, from our own unbelief and lusts. Again, in
those that are from without, there is somewhat in us to take part
with them, which always makes us fail in our duty of resistance, and
ofttimes leads to further miscarriages. But from these things he
was absolutely free; for as he had no inward disposition or inclina-
tion unto the least evil, being perfect in all graces and all their ope-
rations at all times, so when the prince of this world came unto him,
he had no part in him, — nothing to close with his suggestions or to
entertain his terrors.

(4.) His sufferings were of the same kind with them that the
brethren underwent, or ought so to have done; yet they had far dif-
ferent effects on him from what they would have had on them. For
whereas he was perfectly innocent and perfectly righteous, no way
deserving them in his own person, he was free from all impressions
of those sinful consequents which attend the utmost sufferings under
the curse of the law by sinners themselves.

Thus the o/xoiuffig xara voivTa, the " likeness in all things," here
asserted, is capable of a double limitation; — the first concerning
some things themselves, as sin; the other, the mode or manner of
the things wherein the conformity doth really consist.

Now, thus to be made like unto them it " became him." It was
meet, just, and necessary that God should make him so, because of
the oftice, duty, and employment that he had assigned him unto;
which, as the end hereof, is nextly to be inquired after.

4. The general end of his conformity unto the brethren is, that he
" might be a merciful and faithful high priest." Two things are
comprised herein: first, The office that he was designed unto, — he
was to be a " high priest ;" secondly, His qualifications for thsit office,
— he was to be " merciful and faithful." His conformity unto the
brethren, as we have seen, consisted in two things : first. His partici-
pation of their nature; secondly. His copartnership with them in
their condition of suffering and temptation. The first of these was
necessary unto his office; the latter unto his qualifications. He was
made man, that he might be a high priest; he suffered being
tempted, that he might be merciful and faithful There was no


more required, that he might be a high priest, but that he shou^-l
partake of our nature; but that he might be merciful aiul faiiiilul,
with that kind of mercy and faithfulness which the brethren stood
in need of, it was moreover required that he should suffer and be
tempted : which things must be distinctly considered.

(1.) That he might be a high priest, it was necessary that he
should be partaker of the nature of them for whom he was to admi-
nister in the things of God. So the apostle informs us, chap. v. 1,
" Every high priest for men must be taken from among men." Tiiis
is not work for an angel, nor for God himself as such. And there-
fore, although the benefits of the priesthood of Christ were commu-
nicated unto all believers from the foundation of the world, by virtue
of the com[)act and agreement between the Father and him for the
undertaking and execution of that office at the time appointed, yet
he was not actually, nor could be a high priest, until he was clothed
with flesh, and made partaker of the nature of the children. The duty
which, as a high priest, he had to perform, — namely, to " offer gilts
and sacrifices" unto God, chap. viii. 3, — with the especial nature of
that great sacrifice that he was to offer, which was himself, his body
and soul, prepared and given him for that purpose., chap. x. 10, re-
quire and make necessar}' this conformity. For this cause, then, was
he made like unto the brethren in a participation of human nature.

(2.) That in this nature he should be perfectly holy, and exactly
discharge his duty according unto the mind and will of God, was all
that was required of him as to his being a high priest. But this
was not all that the estate and condition of the brethren required.
Their sorrows, tenderness, weakness, miseries, disconsolations, are
such, that if there be not a contemperation of his sublime holiness,
and absolute perfection in fulfilling of all righteousness, with some
qualifications inclining him to condescension, pity, compa.ssion, and
tender sense of their condition, whatever might be the issue of their
safety in the life to come, their comfort in this life would be in con-
tinual hazard. For this cause, therefore, was he made like unto
them in the infirmities of their nature, their temptations aiid suffer-
ings, from whence all their disconsolations and sorrows do arise.
Hence was the necessity of the qualifications for his office which by
his sufferings and temptations he was furnished withal; and they
are two: —

\\.^ Mercifulness. He was iXe^j/^wi/, " merciful," " tenderly com-
passionate," as the Syriac version renders the word ; " misericoi .«?,"
one that lays all the miseries of his people to heart, so caring for them,
to relieve them. Mercy in God is but a naked simple apprehension
of misery, made effective by an act of his holy will to relieve.
Mercy in Christ is a compassion, a condolency, and hath a moving
of pity and sorrow joined with it. And this was in the human nature


of Christ a grace of the Spirit in all perfection. Now, it being such a
virtue as in the operation of it deeply affects the whole soul and body
also, and being incomparably more excellent in Christ than in all
the sons of men, it must needs produce the same effects in him
wherewith in others in lesser degrees it is attended. Thus we find
him at all times full of this compassion and pity towards all the sons
of men, yea, the worst of his enemies, expressing itself by sighs and
tears, intimating the deep compassion of his heart. And this made
him as it were even forget his own miseries in his greatest distress;
for when, seeing the daughters of Jerusalem mourn for him, as he
was going to his cross, he minds them of that which his com-
passionate heart was fixed on, even their approaching misery and
ruin, Luke xxiii. 28, But yet neither is this mercifulness in general
that which the apostle intends; but he considers it as excited, pro-
voked, and drawn forth by his own temptations and sufferings. He
suffered and was tempted, that he might be merciful, not absolutely,
but a merciful high priest. The relation of the sufferings and tempta-
tions of Christ unto his mercifulness, is not as unto the grace or habit
of it, but as unto its especial exercise as our high priest. And this
mercifulness of Christ is the gracious condolency and compassion of
his whole soul with his people, in all their temptations, sufferings,
dangers, fears, and sorrows, with a continual propensity of will and
affection unto their relief, implanted in him by the Holy Ghost, as
one of those graces which were to dwell in his nature in all fulness,
excited and provoked, as to its continual exercise in his office of
high priest, by tlie sense and experience which he himself had of
those miseries which they undergo: whereof more on the last verse.
[2.] The other qualification mentioned is, that he should be vlcrog,
" faithful."' Some understand by Tiarog, " verus," " legitimus,"
" true and rightful," — made so in a due manner; whereof the apostle
treats expressly, chap. v. 5: others, his general faithfulness, inte-
grity, and righteousness, in the discharge of his office, being " faith-
ful unto him that appointed him," as chap. iii. 2. But neither of
these senses answers the especial design of the apostle, nor his refer-
ring of his qualifications unto his conformity with the brethren in
sufferings and temptations. It must also answer that mercifulness
which we have before described. It consists, therefore, in his exact,
constant, careful consideration of all the concei'nments of the breth-
ren, under their temptations and sufferings. This he is excited
unto by his own experience of what it is to serve God in such a con-
dition. It is described, Isa. xl. 11. Not his faithfulness, then, in
general, whereby he discharged his whole oflSce, and accomplished
the work committed unto him, mentioned John xvii. 4, but his con-
stant care and condescension unto the wants and sorrows of his suf-
Itiuig and tempted brethren, is here intended.


Before we proceed unto the explication of the remaining passages
of these verses, what offers itself from what hath been already dis-
coursed unto our instruction, n)ay be observed; as, —

I. The promised Messiah was to be the great high priest of the
people of God.

This the apostle here presumes, and proves elsewhere. And this
we have elsewhere confirmed. The especial office of priesthood, for
one to perform it in the behalf of others, came in after sin, upon
the first promise. In the state of innocency every one was to be
priest for himself, or perform in his own name the things which
with God he had to do, according unto the law of his creation. This
privilege failing by sin, which cut off all gracious intercourse between
God and man, a new luay was provided, and included in the first
promise, for the transaction of things between God and sinners. This
was by Christ alone, the promised seed. But because he was not
to be immediately exhibited in the flesh, and it was the will of God
that sundry sacrifices should be offered unto him; partly for his
honour and glor\f in the world, and to testify the subjection of his
people unto him; partly to teach and instruct tl-em in the nature
and benefits of the priesthood which he had designed for them, and
to exemplify it in such representations as they were capable of; he
did at several seasons institute various sorts of temporary, fading
typical priests. This he did both before and after the law. Not
that ever there was amongst them a priest properly and absolutely
so called, by whom the things of men might be completely and
ultimately transacted with God; only those who were appointed
to administer before the Lord in the behalf of others were called
priests, as rulers are called gods, because they represented the true
Priest, and outwardly expressed his actings unto the people. The
true, proper, and absolute high priest is Jesus Christ alone, the Son
of God; for he alone had all the solemnities that were necessary for
the constitution and confirmation of such a priest: as, in particular,
the oath of God was necessary hereunto, that his priesthood might be
stable and unchangeable. 1. Now, none was ever appointed a priest
by the oath of God but Christ alone, as the apostle declares, chap,
vii. 20, 21. And how this differences his office from that of others
shall on that place be made manifest. 2. He alone had somewhat
of Ids ovm to offer unto God. Other priests had somewhat to offer,
but nothing of their own; they only offered up the beasts that were
brought unto them by the people. But the Lord Christ had a body
and soul of his own prepared for him to offer, which was properly
his own, and at his own disposal, chap. x. 5. 3. He alone was set
over the whole spiritual house of God, the whole family of God iu
heaven and earth. This belongs unto the ofiice of a high priest, to
preside in and over the house of God, to look to the rule and dis-


posal of all things therein. Now, the priests of old were, as nnto
this part of their office, confined unto the material house or temple
of God ; but Jesus Christ was set over the whole spiritual house of
God, to rule and dispose of it, chap. iii. 6. 4. He alone abides for
ever. The true and real high priest was not to minister for one age
or generation only, but for the Avhole people of God unto the end
of the world. And this prerogative of the priesthood of Christ the
apostle insists upon, chap. vii. 23, 24. 5. He alone did, and could
do, the true and proper work of a priest, namely, " make reconcilia-
tion for the sins of the people." The sacrifices of other priests could
only represent what was to be done, the thing itself they could not
effect ; for " it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats
should take away sins," as the apostle shows, chap. x. 4; but this
was done effectually by that " one offering " which this high priest
offered, verses 11-14. All which things must be afterwards insisted
on in their proper places, if God permit. This, then, is his prero-
gative, this is our privilege and advantage.

II. The assumption of our nature, and his conformity unto us
therein, were principally necessary unto the Lord Jesus on the ac-
count of his being a high priest for us.

It behoved him to be made like unto us, that he might be a
high priest. It is true, that, as the great prophet of his church, he
did in part teach and instruct it whilst he was in the flesh, in his
own person; but this was in a manner a mere consequence of his
assuming our nature to be our high priest: for he instructed his
church before and after principally by his Spirit, and this he might
have done to the full though he had never been incarnate. So
also might he have ruled it with supreme power as its king and
head. But our high priest witliout the assumption of our nature he
could not be, because without this he had nothing to offer; and ' of
necessity,' saith the apostle, *he must have somewhat to offer unto
God.' A priest without a sacrifice is as a king without a subject.
Had not God prepared him a body, he could have had nothing to
offer. He was to have a self to offer to God, or his priesthood had
been in vain ; for God had showed that no other sacrifice would be
accepted or be effectual for that end which was designed unto this
office. On this, therefore, is laid the indispensable necessity of the
incarnation of Christ.

III. Such was the unspeakable love of Christ unto the brethren,
that he would refuse nothing, no condition, that was needful to fit
liini for the discharge of the work which he had undertaken for

Their high priest he must be; this he could not unless he were
made like unto them in all things. He knew what this would cost
him, what trouble, sorrow, suffermg, in that conformity unto them


he must undergo; what miseries he must conflict withal all his life;
what a close was to be put unto his pilgrimage on the earth; what
woful temptations he was to pass through: all lay open and naked
before him. But such was his love, shadowed out ui"kCo us by that
of Jacob to Rachel, that he was content to submit unto any terms,
to undergo any condition, so that he might save and enjoy his
beloved church. See Eph. v. 25, 26. And surely he who was so
intense in his love is no less constant therein; nor hath he left any
thinof undone that was needful to brinsf us unto God. But we are
yet further to proceed with our explication of the words.

5. The apostle having asserted the priesthood of Christ, describes
in the fifth place the nature of the office itself, as it was vested in
him: and this he doth two ways. (1.) By a general description of
the object of it, or that which it is exercised about:
To; 'zpog rov Qtov, " The things pertaining unto God." g^,^" '^'"'' '"'"
(2.) In a particular instance taken from the end of his
priesthood, and the great work that he performed thereby: "To make
reconciliation for the sins of the people."

(1.) He was to be a high priest in "the things pertaining unto
God;" — that is, either in things that were to be done for God with
men, as the apostle speaks, " We are ambassadors for Christ, as
though God did beseech you by us," 2 Cor. v. 20 ; or in things that
were to be done with God for men. For there were two general
parts of the office of the high priest: the one, to preside in the house
and over the worship of God, to do the things of God with men.
This the prophet assigns unto Joshua the high piiest, an especial
type of Christ, Zech. iii. 7, " Thus saith the Lord of hosts, If thou
wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou
shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts;" and
to Christ himself, "Even he shall build the temple of the Lord;
and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne;
and he shall be a priest upon his throne," chap. vi. 13, — that is, " the
high priest of our profession," Heb. iii. 1. He was set authorita-
tively over the house of God, to take care that the whole worship
of it were performed according unto his appointment, and to de-
clare his statutes and ordinances unto the people. And in this sense
the Lord Christ is also the high priest of his church, ra irphg rov
Qsov, feeding and ruling them in the name and authority of God,
Mic. V. 4. Yet this is not that part of his office which is here
intended by the apostle. The other part of the high priest's office
was to perform the things toward God which on the part of the
people were to be performed. So Jethro adviseth Moses, Exod.
xviii. 19, Q'ri^^i'] '^^^ °V^ ^^^ ^'.\}„ — "Be thou unto the people before
God:" which words the LXX. render, Yivov au ra Xauj ra rrphg rhy
QiCv, in the phrase here used by the apostle, " Be thou unto the


people in things appertaining unto God." And this was the prin-
cipal part of the office and duty of the high priest, the other being
only a consequent thereof. And that it was so as to the office of
Christ, the apostle manifests in the especial limitation v/hich he
adjoins unto this general assertion; he was " an high priest in things
pertaining unto God, slg to /XdexiGdai rag aiMapriag roD AaoD," — " to
reconcile" (that is, "make reconciliation") "for the sins of the

(2.) Two things are to be considered in these words: — [1.] The ob-
ject of the priestly action here assigned to the Lord Christ; [2.] The
action itself which with respect thereunto he is said to perform.

[1.] The first is, 6 Xao'g, "the people." That is, say some, the
seed of Abraham, whose interest in the mediation of Christ, and
their privilege therein, the apostle here minds them of, to provoke'
the Hebrews to constancy in their faith and profession. And so also
they limit the term " brethren" before used; not, as they say, that
the elect among the Gentiles are excluded, but that he expressly
mentions only the first-fruits in the Jews. But this sense is not
necessarily included in the words. The intention of the apostle in
the expression, is only to give some light into the effect of the pi'iest-
hood of Christ, from the office of the high priest under the old tes-
tament and the discharge thereof; for as he had a peculiar people
for whom he made atonement, so also hath Christ, — that is, all his

[2.] The action ascribed unto him is expressed in these words,

E/'c 70 iXdoTiioOai rag a-iJ^apriag, which want not their

. ^^T*"' "' difficulty, the construction of the verb being inconsistent

tcfiaprias. ... ...

with its native and proper signification. 'iXdaxofxai is pro-
perly and usually, in all writers, sacred and others, to "appease," " to
atone," "to please," "to propiticxte," "to reconcile." But the following
word seems not to admit of that sense in this place, rdg d/xaprla;' for
how can any one be said to please, or atone, or reconcile sin? Where-
fore some, laying the emphasis of the expression on the construction,
do regulate the sense of the verb by the noun, of the act by the ob-
ject; and so will have it signify to expiate, cleanse, and do away sin,
to cleanse the sins of the people, to do away the sins of the people.
The Vulgar Latin renders the word " repropitio," " ut repropitiaret ;"
which, as Anselm tells us (and he hath those that follow him), is
composed of " re," "prope," and "cieo," — a barbarous etymology of a
barbarous word. " Propitio" is a Latin word, and used not only by
Plautus, but by Suetonius and Pliny, and that to "appease," "atone,"
"please," or "turn away anger." Most translations render it by "expio,"
"ad expiandum peccata;" but the signification of that word is also
doubtful. It is, indeed, sometimes used for " to cleanse," " make pure,"
and " to take away sin;" but never in any good author but with refer-


ence unto atonement, to take it away by sacrifice, by public punish-
ment, by men's devoting themselves to destnictiou. So Livy, lib. i. cap.
xxvi., speaking of Horatius who killed his sister, "Ita ut cogdes mani-
festa aliquo tamen piaculo lueretur, imperatum patri, ut filium expi-
aret pecunia j)ublica." '"Expiare" is the same with "luere piaculo,"
which is to take away the guilt of a crime by a commutation of pun-
ishment. There may, then, be a double sense of these words; — ]st.
To make atonement and reconciliation for sin, appeasing the anger
and wrath of God against it; 2cUy. To remove and take away sin,
either by the cleansing and sanctifying of the sinner, or by any
means prevailing with him not to continue in sin. Against the first
sense, the construction of the word with ra; a/j.apr!a;, " sins," is ob-
jected; against the latter, the constant sense of the word itself,
which is not to be deserted. It is the former sense, therefore, which
we/do embrace, and shall confirm.

'^(Ist.) The constant use of the word in all good authors of the

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 58 of 70)