John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 59 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 59 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Greek tongue will admit no other. ' IXd(ry.o/xai is of an active im-
portance, and denotes " propitium facio," " placo," as we observed
before, "to appease" and '•'atone." And this is that whereby the
heathen generally expressed their endeavours to turn away the wrath
of their gods, to appease them; and then they use it transitively,
with an accusative case of the object; as Homer, Iliad, i. 386: —

" To propitiate" or "appease God."

And Iliad, i. 443-4-15 :—

ir>'i°a) 9-' Upriv ixaroutnt

'Ps^a/ vvif Actvauv 'oi(>f IXamrcnuiff liiaxra,
Oj vuv 'Afyiioi^i TroXvffTOMO. xria-' lifjxsv —

" To offer a hecatomb uuto Apollo foi* the Greeks, and appease him ■who hath sent on
them so many sorrows," or " atone him."

And when it hath the accusative case of the person joined with it,
it can bear no other sense. So Plutarch, "iXago ^valatg ripcoug: and
Lucian, 'IXdaaro Tcv Qiov, "to appease God." Sometimes it is used
with a dative case, as Plutarch in Public, ' IXaaofisvo; rw adr], and
then it hath respect unto the sacrifice whereby atonement is made,
and anger turned away; and is rendered " piaculare sacrum facere,"
*' to offer up a piacular sacrifice." So that the word constantly hath
regard unto the anger and wrath of some person, which is depre-
cateil, turned away, appeased, by reconciliation made.
■y(2dlij.) The use of the word by the LXX. confirms it unto this
sense. Commonly they render the Hebrew "i??^ by it; which when
regarding God always signifies "atonement," and "to atone." So the
noun, Ps. xlix. 8, " No mau can redeem his brother, 2"''!'^^?? i^^"^''
^"1^3^ — " nor can he give to God his ransom," or the piice of his
redemption, i^!Aaff/j,a. And unto the verb, where it respecteth



476 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. 11.

the offence to be atoned for, they usually annex lapi. Exod. xxxii.
SO, " You have sinned a great sin, and now I will go up unto
the Lord, D?r'^^D '^'^'^ '"^"Ir'?'^. c'^^" ha £^/Xa(rw,aa/ 'rrspl rra a,waprias
x)fj,uiv, — " that I may atone for your sins." And it is God who is the
object of the act of appeasing or atoning: ' to make atonement with
God for your sin/ So Num. xxviii. 22, 30, Neh. x. 33. Once
in the Old Testament it is used transitively, and sin placed as the
object of it: Dan. ix. 24, PV"'^^r, "«' ^oJ^ k^iXdaaaOai adizlas, —
"to atone sin," or "unrighteousness;" that is, i^iXdsaedai Hv Qshv
<xipi Trie adijiiag, — " to make atonement with God for sin." And so
also they express the person with Tspi for whom the atonement is
made: ''E^ikdeasOai -Trspi aurou, a.vTU}v,-^\jyjig aurou, Exod. xxx. 15, 16,
Lev. i. 4, iv. 20, 26, Num. xv. 25, 26. And still God is re-
spected as he who is offended and is to be reconciled; as it is ex-
pressed. Lev. X. 17, xa/ i^iXdsrick mpi avTuv svavn Kuplov, — "shall
make atonement for them before the Lord." And sometimes they
add that wherewith the atonement is made, namely, offerings or
sacrifices of one sort or another, Lev. viii. 1 7. And they well give
us the sense of the word in another place: Prov. xvi. 14. "The wrath
of a king is as messengers of death, dvfip di go(pog s^iXdaerai avTov," — •
" a wise man shall appease him;" referring that to the king which
the original doth to his wrath, '^?1.??.\ " shall turn away," that is, by
appeasing him. In the use of this word, then, there is always under-
stood, — [Ist] An offence, crime, guilt, or debt, to be taken away;
\^dly.^^ A person offended, to be pacified, atoned, reconciled ; [3c?/y.]
A person offending, to be pardoned, accepted ; \^thlyJ\ A sacrifice
or other means of making the atonement. Sometimes one is ex-
pressed, sometimes another, but the use of the word hath respect
unto them all. And in vain doth Crellius pretend, ad. Grot, ad cap.
vii. p. 360, that iXdffxsffda! nva and iXdaxscrdai Tip! rivog, are the same,
and denote the same thing, the former alvvajs denoting the person
offended, the latter the person offending, or the offence itself. The
one is to atone or appease another, the other to make atonement
for another; which surely are sufficiently different.

(odly.) The Jews, to whom Paul wrote, knew that the principal
work of the high priest was to make atonement with God for sin,
whereof their expiation and freedom from it were a consequent; and
therefore they understood this act and duty accordingly, it being the
usual expression of it that the apostle applies unto it. They knew
that the great work of their high [)riest was to make atonement for
them, for their sins and transgressions, that they might not die, that
the punishment threatened in the law might not come upon them,
as is fully declared. Lev. xvi. 10, 21. And the apostle now instruct.s
them in the substance of what they had before attended unto in
types and shadows. Nor is there any mention in the Scripture of



VER. 17, 18] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 477

the expiation of sin but by atonement, nor doth this word ever in
any place signify the real cleansing of sin inherent from the sinner;
so that the latter sense proposed hath no consistency witii it.

The difficulty pretended from the construction is not of any mo-
ment. The sense and constant use of the word being what we have
evinced, there must be an ellipsis supposed, and /Xdffxsadai rag a,(j.a,f>-
Tiag is the same in sense with tXdaKsadai rhv Qehv Tspl ruv d/j,apriujv, — " to
make reconciliation with God for sins;" as the same phrase is in
other places explained.

6. There is a further double enforcement of the necessity of what
was before affirmed, concerning his being "made like unto his
brethren in all things," with reference unto his priesthood ; and the
first is taken from what he did or suffered in that condition, the
other from the benefits and advantages which ensued thereon ; — the
first in these words, *' For in that he himself hath suffered being
tempted."

'El/ w yap, " for in that." That is, say some, " in the same nature/'
he suffered in the flesh that he took, being tempted.
But the words seem rather only an illation of what '*'

the apostle concludes or infers from that which he had before laid
down: "''^^^^ "whereas," " inasmuch," " seeing that." So both i^' cJ
and h w are often used, Rom. v. 12.

Now, it is here affirmed of Christ that 'Triirovk Tsipaakk, "he suffered
being tempted;" not, "it happened unto him to be
tempted," which we before rejected. The Vulgar Latin, '^^f^* ■^*'-
and expositors following that translation, " He suffered
and was tempted." But the " and" inserted we have showed to be
superfluous; and it is acknowledged to be so by Erasmus, Estius, a
Lapide, though Tena with some others contend for the retaining of it.
It is not the suffering of Christ in general that is here intended, nor is
the end mentioned of it that of his suffering in general, which was
to make reconciliation; but the succouring and relieving of them
that are tempted, which regards the sufferings that befell him in his
temptations. It is not his sufferings absolutely considered, nor his
being tempted, that is peculiarly designed, but his suffering in his
temptation, as was before observed. To know, then, what were
these sufferings, we must inquire what were his temptations, and how
he was affected with them.

To"tempt,"and "temptations,"are things in themselves of an indif-
ferent nature, and have no moral evil in them absolutely considered.
Whatever attends them of that kind jDroceeds either from the
intention of the tempter or the condition of them that are tempted.
Hence God is said to tempt men, but not to induce them unto sin,
Gen. xxii. 1, James i. 13. What of evil ensues on temptation is
iiom the tempted themselves. Moreover, though temptation seems



478 AN EXPOSITION OF THE fcHAP. IL

to be of an active importance, yet in itself it is merely for the most
part neutral. Hence it compi'iseth any thing, state, or condition,
■whereby a man may be tried, exercised, or tempted. And this will
give us light into the various temptations under which the Lord
Christ suffered; for although they were all external, and by impres-
sions from without, yet they were not confined unto the assaults of
Satan, which are principally regarded under that name. Some of
the heads of them we may briefly recount: —

(1.) His state and condition in the world. He was poor, despised,
persecuted, reproached, especially from the beginning unto the end
of his public ministry. Herein lay one continued temptation; that
is, a trial of his obedience by all manner of hardships. Hence he calls
this whole time the time of his temptations, " Ye have continued
with me in my temptations;" or in the work that he carried on in
a constant course of temptation, arising from his outward state and
condition. See James i. 2; 1 Pet. v. 9. In this temptation he
suffered hunger, poverty, weariness, sorrow, reproach, shame, con-
tempt; wherewith his holy soul was deeply affected. And he
underwent it cheerfully, because it was to be the condition of them
Avhose preservation and salvation as their high priest he had under-
taken, as we shall see. And his experience hereof is the sirring of
their comfort and safety.

(2.) Whilst he was in this state and condition, innumerable par-
ticular temptations befell him, under all v/hich he suffered: — [1]
Temptations from bis relations in the flesh, being disregarded and
disbelieved by them, — which deeply affected his compassionate heart
with sorrow; [2.] From his followers, being forsaken by them upon
his preaching the mysteries of the gospel ; [o.] From his chosen
disciples, all of whom left him, one denied him, and one betrayed
him; [4.] From the anguish of his mother, when " a sword pierced
through her soul" in his sufferings; [5.] From his enemies of all
sorts ; — all which are at large related in the Gospel : from all which
his sufferings were inexpressible.

(3.) Satan had a principal hand in the temptations wherein he
suffered. He set upon him in the entrance of his ministry, immedi-
atel}'^ in his own person, and followed him in the whole course of it
by the instruments that he set on work. He had also a season, an
hour of darkness, allowed unto him, when he was to try his utmost
strength and policy against him; under which assault from him he
suffered, as was foretold from the foundation of the world, the
bruising of his heel, or the temporal ruin of all his concernments.

(4.) God's desertion of him was another temptation under which
he suffered. As this was most mysterious, so his sufferings under it
were his greatest perplexity, Ps. xxii. 1, 2, Heb. v. 7.

These are some of the heads and springs of those various and



VER. 17, 18.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 479

innumerable temptations that the Lord Christ suffered iu and
under.

Again ; The blessed effect and consequent hereof is expressed in
these words, "He is able to succour them that are tempted :" wherein
we have, (1.) The description of them for whose sake the Lord Christ
underwent this condition; (2.) The ability that accrued unto him
thereby for their relief; and, (3.) The advantage that they are
thereby made partakers of

(1.) They for whose sakes he underwent this condition, are those
whom he reconciled unto God by his sacrifice as a high priest, but
they are here described by an especial concernment of their obedience,
which, producing all their sorrow and trouble, makes them stand in
continual need of aid and assistance. They are o/
'K%ifa(Jt(iiyoi, "tempted ones." Notwithstanding their ' '^"/'«^*-

recouciliation unto God by the death of Christ, they
have a course of obedience prescribed unto them. In this course
they meet with many difficulties, dangers, and sorrows, all proceeding
from the teviptations that they are exercised withal. Hence is this
description of them, they are those who are tempted, and suffer
greatly on that account. Others are little concerned in temptations.
Outward, it may be, as unto danger, they have not many; and if
they have, it is the trouble and not the temptation which they
regard; — inward, as unto sin, they yield obedience unto; but the
trouble from temptation is in the opposition made unto it. It is
reconciled persons who emphatically are the tempted ones, especially
as temptations are looked on as the cause of sufferings. They are
the mark of Satan and the world, against which all their arrows and
darts are directed, the subject whereon God himself exerciseth his
trials. And besides all this, they maintain a continual warfare
within them against temptations in the remainder of their own
corruptions. So that with, in, and about them, are they conversant in
the whole course of their lives. Moreover, unto this constant and
perpetual conflict, there do befall them, in the holy, wise providence
of God, certain seasons wherein temptations grow hii^h, strong,
impetuous, and are even ready to ruin them. As Christ had an
hour of darkness to conflict withal, so have they also. Such was the
condition of the believing Hebrews when Paul wrote this epistle
unto them. What through persecution, wherein they endui-ed "a
great fight of afflictions,'' and what through the seductions of false
brethren, alluring them unto an apostasy unto Judaism and an
acquiescency in Mosaical ceremonies, they were even ready to be
utterly ruined. Unto them, therefore, and by them unto all others
in the like condition, the apostle hath respect in his description of
those whom the Lord Christ is ready to succour; they are tempted
ones. This is the proper name of believers. As Satan, from what

VOL. XII.— 31



480 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. IL

he doth, is called the tempter; so they, from what they endure,
may be called the tempted ones. Their calling is to oppose tempta-
tions, and their lives a conflict with them. /The high priest liaving
suffered the like things with them, they have an assured ground of
consolation in all their temptations and sufferings ; which he con-
firms by what is added in the second place, namely, his ability
to help the^.

(2.) AvvaTui, "he is able." Now, this ability is such
as ariseth from that peculiar mercifulness which he is
disposed unto from that experience which he had of suffering under
temptation ; — a moral power, not a natural. It is not duvocfiig
hifyriTiKy;, an executive power, a power of working or operation, not
a power of the hand, but hhvaiug c\jn,'7taQ-/]rtxrj, a power of heart and
will, an ability in readiness of mind, that is here assigned unto
Christ. It is this latter, and not the former, that was a consequent
of his temptations and sufferings. A gracious, ready enlargedness
of heart, and constant inclination unto the succour of them that are
tempted, is the ability here designed ; for as this power was originally
and radically implanted in the human nature of Christ, by the
communication of all habitual grace unto liim, soits next inclination
to exert itself in suitable effects, with a constant actual excitatioa
thereunto, he had upon the account of his suffering in temptations:
for, —

[1.] He had particular experience thereby of the weakness,
sorrows, and miseries of human nature under the assaults of tempta-
tions; he tried it, felt it, and will never forget it.

[2.] His heart is hereby inclined to compassion, and acquainted
with what it is that will afford relief. In his throne of eternal peace
and glory, he sees his poor brethren labouring in that storm which
with so much travail of soul himself passed through, and is inti-
mately affected with their condition. Thus Moses stirs up the
Israelites unto compassion unto strangers, from the experience they
had themselves of the sorrows of their hearts: "Thou knowest the
heart of a stranger." And the Jews tell us that the D''";D't^, or
officer* that he set over the people in the wilderness, were of those
elders who were so evilly entreated by the taskmasters in Egypt;
that from their own sufferings they might know how to exercise
tenderness over their brethren, now put under their rule,

[3.] This compassion moves and excites him unto their relief and
succour. This is the proper effect of mercy and compassion. It sets
power on work for the relief of them whose condition it is affected
withal. So said she,

"Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco." — Virg. Mn. i. 634.
Being exercised with evils and troubles herself, she had thence



VER. 17, 18.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 481

learned to relieve the miserable so far as she was able. This is the
ability ascribed unto our high priest,^compassion and mercy, arising
from an experience of the sufferings and dangers of human natiu'e
under temptations, exciting his power for the relief of them that are
tempted, y

(o.) Lastly, The advantage of the brethren from hence lies in the
succour that he is thus able to afford unto them. This in general,
as we have showed, consists in a speedy coming in with relief unto
them, who being in distress, do cry out or call for it. There are
three things that tempted believers do stand in need of, and which
they cry out for: — [1.] Strength to withstand their temptations, that
they prevail not against them. [2.] Consolation to support their
spirits under them. [3.] Seasonable deliverance from them. Unto
these is the succour afforded by our high priest suited. And it is
variously administered unto them ; as, \st By his word or promises.
Idly. By his Spirit; and that, (Isi.) By communicating unto them
supplies of grace or spiritual strength; (^Idly) Strong consolation;
(odlu.) By rebuking their tempters and temptations. Sdly. By liis
providence disposing of all things to their good and advantage in the
issue. And what is more in the words will be manifested in the ensu-
ing observations taken from them.

I. The principal work of the Lord Christ as our high priest, and
from which all other actings of his in that office do flow, was to
make reconciliation or atonement for sin.

This John declares, 1 Epist. ii. 1, 2, " We have an advocate with tho

Father, and he is the propitiation for our sins." What he doth

for us in heaven as our advocate, depends on what he did on earth
when he was a propitiation for our sins. This work was that which
was principally regarded in the first promise, Gen. iii. 15, namely, that
which he was to do by his sufferings. To shadow out and represent
this unto the church of old, were all the sacrifices of the law and the
typical priesthood itself instituted. They all directed believers to
look for and to believe the atonement that was to be made by bin).
And that this should be the foundation of all his other actings as a
high priest, was necessary, —

1. 0)1 the part of Jiis elect, for whom he undertook that office.
They were by nature ''enemies" of God and " chikh'en of wrath."
Unless peace and reconciliation be made for them in the first place,
they could neither have encouragement to go to him with their obe-
dience, nor to accept any mercy from him or acceptation with him;
for as enemies they could neither have any mind to serve him nor hope
to please him. Here lie the first thoughts of all who have any design
seriously to appear before God, or to have to do with him: ' Where-
with shall we come before him? how shall we obtain reconciliation
•with him ?' Until this inquiry be answered and satisfied, they find



482 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. II.

it in vain to address themselves unto any thing else, nor can obtain
any ground of hope to receive any good thing from the hand of God.
This order of things the apostle lays down, Rom. v. 8-10. The first
thino- to be done for us, was to i;econcile us to God whilst we were
"sinners" and "enemies." This was done by the death, by the blood of
Christ, when, as our high priest, he offered himself a sacrifice for us.
This being performed, as we have abundant cause of and encourage-
ment unto obedience, so also just ground to expect whatever else
belongs unto our salvation, as he also argues, Rom. viii.

2. It was so on his own part also. Had not this been first
accomplished, he could not have undertaken any other act of his
priestly office for us. What the Lord Christ doth in heaven on
our behalf was prefigured by the entrance of the high priest into the
holy place. Now this he could not do unless he had before offered
his sacrifice of atonement, the blood whereof he carried along with
him into the presence of God. All his intercession for us, his watch-
ing for our good, as the merciful high priest over the house of God,
is grounded upon the reconciliation and atonement which he made;
his intercession, indeed, being nothing but the blessed representation
of the blood of the atonement. Besides, this was required of him
in the first place, namely, that he should " make his soul an offering
for sin," and do that in the body prepared for him which all the
sacrifices and burnt-offerings of old could not effect or accomplish.
And therefore hereon depended all the promises that were made
unto him about the success of his mediation ; so that without the
performance of it he could not claim the accomplishment of them.

S. It was so on the part of God also ; for herein principally had
he designed to manifest his righteousness, grace, love, and wis-
dom, wherein he will be glorified : Rom. iii. 25, " He set him forth
to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness." The righteousness
of God was most eminently glorified in the reconciliation wrought
by Christ, when he was a propitiation for us, or made atonement for
us in his blood. And herein also " God commendeth his love toward
us," Rom. V. 8; John iii. 16; 1 John iv. 9. And what greater de-
monstration of it could possibly be made, than to send his Son to
die for us when we were enemies, that we might be reconciled unto
him? All after-actings of God towards us, indeed, are full of love,
but they are all streams from this fountain, or rivers from this ocean.
, And the apostle sums up all the grace of the gospel in this, that "God
was in Christ reconciling tfie world unto himself," and that by this way
of atonement, " making him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that
we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. v. 19, 21.
And so also he declares that this was "the mystery of his will, wherein
he abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence," Eph. i. 8-10.
So that in all things the great glory which God designed in the media-



VER. 17, 18.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 483

tion of Christ is founded alone in that act of his priesthood Avhereby
he made reconciliation for the sins of his people. And therefore, —
(1.) They who weaken, oppose, or take away this reconciliation, are
enemies to the salvation of men, the honour of Christ, arid the glory
of God. From men they take their hopes and happiness; from
Christ, his office and honour ; from God, his grace and glory. I know
they will allow of a reconciliation in words, but it is of me7i to God,
not of God unto men. They would have us reconcile ourselves unto
God, by faith and obedience; but for the reconciliation of God unto
us, by sacrifice, satisfaction, and atonement, that they deny. What
would they have poor sinners to do in this case? they are enemies
unto God. ' Go,' say they, 'and be reconciled unto him; lay aside
your enmity, and be no more his adversaries.' ' But, alas ! he is our
enemy also ; we are " children of wrath," obnoxious to the curse as
transgressors of bis law, and how shall we be delivered from the
wrath to come?' ' Take no care of that; there is no such justice in
God, no such indignation against sin and sinners, as you imagine.'
' But our consciences tell us otherwise, the law of God tells us other-
wise, the whole Scripture testifies to the contrary, and all the creation
is filled wiith tokens and evidences of this justice and indignation of
God against sin, which you deny. And would you have us to give
credit unto you, contrary to the constant dictates of our own con-
sciences, the sentence of the law, the testimony of the word, the
voice of the whole creation, and that in a matter of such importance
and everlasting concernment unto us? What if all these should
prove true, and you should prove liars, — should we not perish foi
ever by relying on your testimony? Is it reasonable we should
attend unto you in this matter? Go with your sophisms unto
men who were never burdened with a sense of the guilt of sin,
whose spirits never took in a sense of God's displeasure against it,
who never were brought under bondage by the sentence of the law,
who never were forced to cry out, in the bitterness and anguish of
their souls, " What shall we do to be saved? Wherewith shall we
come before the Lord, or bow ourselves before the high God?" and it



Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 59 of 70)