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tion. He dwells in his church by his especial and glorious presence,
as a man in his own house, Rev. xxi. 3. Both which are springs of
care, love, and delight. In this house was Moses faithful. And
this commendation of Moses is on all occasions celebrated by the
Jews. So they do in their hymns in the rituals of the Sabbath, in
Machzor, part, i., fol. 49, noya nn: itj'xns mx2n h'h:^ i^nxip pxj nny ^3
nnK'm"'»c'nn ainai iT-a n'-iin D''j3i< mm^ •'j^i •'j^d nn hv I'JS^; — "Thou
calledst him thy faithful servant; and didst put a glorious crown on
his head, when he stood before thee in mount Sinai, and brought
down tlie two tables of stone, wherein was written the observation
of the Sabbath," etc.

3. As to the comparison in these words, " as Moses," we may con-
sider, —

(1.) That the apostle was now entering upon the greatest
strength of the Hebrews, and that wherein they were most warily
and tenderly to be dealt withal; for although they would allow that
the angels were in some respect above Moses, yet they adhered
unto their old institutions principally on his account, as one who
was so eminently testified unto by God himself He was the visible
internuncius and mediator between God and their forefathers when
their church-state was erected, and they were brought into the
enjoyment of those privileges wherein they were exalted above all
the nations of the world. The apostle, therefore, deals not with
them in this matter directly until he had made such a declaration
of the person of Christ, and proved him to be so incomparably ex-
alted above the angels, that they could not be justly prejudiced if he
preferred him before Moses also; and which that he should do was
of indispensable necessity unto his design.

(2.) That whereas, ti-eating concerning the angels, he urgetli
those testimonies concerning them which respect their service and
subjection, coming to speak of Moses, he produceth the highest and
most honourable testimony that is given concerning him in the
whole Scripture. And hereby he both at once grants all that they
had to plead concerning him in this matter, and removes all suspi-


cion from himself, as though he intended to derogate any thino
from him; under a jealousy whereof he suffered much, as is known,
amongst the Jews. Moreover, he discovers a consistency hetween
the true honour of Moses and the exaltation of Christ, which as yet
many of them did not understand, but thought that if Christ and
the gospel were established, Moses must be cast off and condemned.

(3.) In this comparison he minds them that the Lord Jesus
was the great promised prophet of the church, whom they were to
attend unto on pain of being cut off from the people of God. God
says unto Moses, Deut xviii. 18, "I will raise up a prophet ^^^9,"
" like unto thee," " as thou art." And yet it is said, Deut. xxxiv.
10, that " there was no prophet in Israel >^f^^," " like unto Moses,"
or, " as Moses." One signal prophet there was to be raised up that
should be like unto him; that is, who should give new laws and
ordinances unto the church, which no other prophet was to do.

And thus doth the apostle make an entrance into his intended
proof of the preference or pre-eminence of Christ above Moses: —
1. He grants that they were both prophets, both apostles of God,
sent by him to declare his mind and will; 2. That they were both
faitiiful in the discharge of their office and trust; 3. That this tru.'st
extended itself to the whole church, and all that was to be done
therein in the worship of God. Wherein the difference lay he de-
clares in the next verse.

And in these two verses we may observe much of that wisdom
which Peter ascribes unto Paul in his writing of this epistle. He
is, as was said, entering upon the strongest hold of the Jews, that
whereon they abode most pertinaciously in the observation of their
ceremonial institutions, namely, the dignity and fidelity of Moses.
At the entrance, therefore, of this discourse, he useth a compellation
manitesting his intense love towards them and care of them, calling
them his "brethren;" and therewithal minds them of that eminent
privilege whereof by Jesus Christ they were made "partakers," even
the " heavenly calling," which by the gospel they had received. Then,
entering upon his designed comparison between Christ and Moses,
wherein he was to be preferred above him, he doth it not l)efore he
had evinced not only that he was more excellent than the angels,
but also far exalted above the whole creation of God, and, besides,
the author of such incomparable and unspeakable mercies as no
otherwise were or could be communicat i unto men. Again, he
lets them know that he was so far from derogating any thing from
the honour and authority of Moses, as he was falsely accused to do,
that he grants as much concerning him, and ascribes as much unto
him, as any of themselves could justly grant or ascribe. And there-
fore, in the entrance of his discourse, he declares him to have been
the legate, apostle, or ambassador of God unco the people, in the


sense before declared ; and that in the discharge of his office and
duty, he behaved himself with that fidelity which God himseli ap-
proved of. This being the sum of what was pleaded by the Jews
on the account of Moses, it is all granted and confirmed by the
apostle. How suitable this course of procedure was to the removal
of their prejudices, to inform their minds, to endear their affections,
and consequently what wisdom was used in it, is open and evident.
It remains that we consider the observation which is principally
intended in the words, leaving others to be afterwards expressed.

XI. A diligent, attentive consideration of the person, offices, and
work of Jesus Christ, is the most effectual means to free the souls
of men from all entanglements of errors and darkness, and to keep
them constant in the profession of the truth.

These are the ends for which it is here called for by the apostle.
These Hebrews were yet entangled in their old Judaism, and by
reason of their temptations, prejudices, and persecutions, w^ere ready
to decline from the truth. To free them from the one, and to pre-
vent the other, the apostle calls them to the consideration of what
he had delivered, and what he was yet to deliver, concerning the
person, offices, and work of Christ. This being the principal inten-
tion of the place, we shall abide a little in the confirmation and
application of our observation.

What is in this duty considered subjectively was declared in the
exposition of the words; what is in its manner of performance, and
especial object, must be now further unfolded. And, — •

1. There are in it these things ensuing: —

(1.) A diligent searching into the word, wherein Christ is re-
vealed unto us. This himself directs unto, John v. 39. The Scrip-
tures reveal him, declare him, testify of him. To this end are they
to be searched, that we may learn and know what they so declare
and testify. And this Peter tells us was done by the prophets of
old, 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. They "searched diligently" into the revelation
made in them by the Spirit of the person, sufferings, and grace of
Christ, with the glory that ensued thereon. Christ is exhibited
iu;ito us in the gospel; which is therefore called "The gospel of
Christ," and " The word of Christ," — that is, concerning him, as our
apostle declares, Rom. i. 1—3. Both the prophets of old, saith he,
and the gospel also, treat concerning the Son of God, Jesus Christ
our Lord. Herein, then, consists the first part of this great duty.
'' Search the Scriptures," with all the advantage of help afforded,
that you may find out, discern, and understand, what is revealed
concerning him in them, as he is the end of the law and the ful-
ness of the gospel, the centre in whom all the prophecies, pro-
mises, rules, and precepts of them do meet. Without this aim in
Ouir leading, hearing, searching the word, we labour in vain, and


contend uncertainly, as men beating the air. Unto him, and the
knowledge of him, is all our study of the Scripture to be referred
And the reason why some, in the perusal of it, have no more light,
profit, or advantage, is, because they have not more respect unto
Christ in their inquiry. I^^he be once out of our eye in searching
the Scripture, we know not what we do, nor whither we go, no
more than dotli the mariner at sea without regard to tlie pole-star.
Truths to be believed are like believers themselves. All their life,
power, and order, consist in their relation unto Christ; separated
from him, they are dead and useless.

(2.) Meditation upon what is discovered unto us is also in-
cluded in this duty. When a revelation was made of Christ and
his work unto the blessed virgin his mother, it is said, she kept the
sayings, " and pondered them in her heart," Luke ii. 19; as Eliphaz
adviseth all to do. Job xxii. 22. And the apostle bids us take care
that "the word of Christ may dwell in us richly," Col. iii. 16; — that
it may not pass through our minds with some transient effects, as it
doth in reading and hearing, if it only casts some glances of light
upon the understanding, some motions on the atfectious; but make
its abode and dwell with us, that is, by constant meditation. But
this duty is by many spoken unto, and the evil of the neglect of it
sufficiently declared.

(3.) A spiritual endeavour, in this search and meditation, to
bring the soul unto a conformity with that revelation which is made
of Christ in the word. This is the genuine effect of them, if duly
attended unto, 2 Cor. iii. 18. The glory of Christ is revealed in tlie
gospel, as a face is represented in a glass. This we behold by a spiii-
tual search into it, and meditation on it. By this intuition we are
assimilated unto the glory so revealed. The Holy Ghost thereby
brings upon our hearts that very likeness and image which we so
contemplate. And although properly this be rather an effect of the
duty treated of than any part of it, yet because it is that which we
ought continually to aim at, and without the attainment whereof
we labour in vain, 1 reckon it thereunto. When the image of Christ
is wrought upon our hearts, and the dying and life of Christ made
manifest in us, 2 Cor. iv. 10, then hath this duty its perfect work.

2. The object of it is to be considered. This in our proposition,
following the apostle, is confined unto his person, his offices, and his
work. These he dealeth with the Hebrews about.

(1.) He treateth about his person, and concerning that pro-
poseth two things especially unto consideration; — [I.] His glorious
excellency; [2.] His condescension and grace. The one is the
sole subject of tlie first chapter; the other the principal subject of the
second. [1.] He calls them to consider the glorious excellency of the
person of Clirist. He had instructed them how in his divine nature


he was the eternal Son of God, " the brightness of his glory, and the
express image of his person," by whom the worlds were made; and
therefore deservedly exalted, even as mediator, being incarnate, in-
comparably above the most glorious beings of all God's creation.
This he would have us especially to regard in our consideration of
him. So did the apostles of old. They considered his glory as " the
only-begotten of the Father," therefore "full of grace and truth,"
John i. 14. This excellency of the person of Christ brancheth it-
self into many instances, not here to be recapitulated. It may suffice
in general that this is to be the principal olject of our meditation.
The revelation which he made of himself under the old testament
had an especial respect unto this glory. Such is the description of
him, Ps. Ixviii. 17, 18, applied unto him, Eph. iv. 8; as that also, Isa.
vi. 1-3, applied unto him, John xii. 41. And it is a signal promise,
that under the gospel we shall " see the king ia his beauty," Isa. xxxiii.
1 7, or see by faith the uncreated excellencies and glory of this king
of saints. And indeed the faith of the saints of the old testament
did principally respect the glorious person of the Messiah. In other
things they were very dark, and little can be gathered from the
Scripture of what spiritual apprehension they had concerning other
things whereby they were instructed; but their minds and faith
were distinctly fixed on his person and his coming, leaving his work
and the mystery of redemption unto his own wisdom and grace.
Hence had they so many glorious descriptions of him granted unto
them ; which were always to keep up their hearts in a desire and expec-
tation of him. And now under the new testament, it is the greatest
trial of faith, whether it be evangelical, genuine, and thriving, namely,
by the respect that it hath to the person of Christ. If that be its im-
mediate and principal object, if it respect other things with regard
unto liim and in subordination unto him, it is assuredly of a heavenly
extract; if otherwise, it may justly be suspected. This is that head
of gold which the spouse admires in her beloved. Cant. v. 11. And
unspeakable is the influence which the consideration of this glorious
excellency of Christ, attended with infinite wisdom and power, hath
into our preservation in tlie truth. [2.] His grace and condescen-
sion. This the apostle insists upon, Heb. ii. His design therein
is to show what this glorious and excellent person submitted himself
unto, that he might save and deliver sinners. And this he greatly
presseth, Phil. ii. 5-8. This glorious one huml)led himself into the
form of a man, of a servant, unto death, the death of the cross. A
due mixture of greatness and grace or goodness is the most power-
ful attractive and loadstone of affections. Hence God, who is infi-
nitely great and infinitely good, is the ultimate object of them. In
the person of Christ it is incomparably and inimitably, so that there
is nothins: in the creation to shadow it out unto us. See Kev. i.


5, 6, 11, 13-16. He who is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,
the prince of the kings of the earth, even he loved us, and washed
us in his own blood. Hence unto a believing soul, he becomes "white
and ruddy, the chiefest of ten thousand," Cant. v. 10. See Ps. xlv
2-4. This is a means of preservation. Hence the apostle wonders
at the Galatians, that they should depart from the truth, after that
Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth before their eyes, crucified
amongst them, Gal. iii. 1 ; for an evident declaration of him, and
representation of his love in the preaching of the gospel, is a suffi-
cient means to preserve men from such miscarriages. We see what
a warm, natural, blind devotion will be stirred up in the Papists by
tlie superstitious pictures of Christ which they have amongst them.
And if a false means shall be effectual to stir up a false love and
devotion, shall not the true, proper, instituted means of the repre-
sentation of the glory of Christ, in the gospel, be effectual to beget
constancy and perseverance in faith and obedience? These things
the apostle minds them off concerning his person, to be improved
unto the ends proposed.

(2.) Consider him as to his offices. In these verses the apostle
minds the Hebrews of his proplietical and sacerdotal ; but he di-
rects them to his regal also, which he had treated of, chap. i. Nei-
ther doth he mind them so directly of the offices themselves, as
the qualifications of his person on their account. His authority as
a king, his mercifulness as our high priest, and his faithfulness as a
prophet, or God's apostle, are the things he would have them con-

[1.] His authority, as king, lord, and heir of all, chap. i. 1-3
His dealing with the Hebrews was principally about the institution
of new ordinances of worship, and abolishing of the old. This, sove-
reign authority was required unto. This the Lord Christ was fur-
nished withal, as the Son, as the heir and lord of all. A due
consideration hereof would thoroughly remove all doubts atid scruples
in this matter. And the neglect hereof is the cause of all that con-
fusion and disorder that is at this day in the world about the worship
of God. Men not considering the authority of Christ, either as in-
stituting the ordinances of the gospel, or as judging upon their neglect
and abuse, are careless about them, or do not acquiesce in his plea-
sure in them. This hath proved the ruin of many churches, which,
neglecting the authority of Christ, have substituted their own in the
room thereof. The consideration, therefore, of this kingly, legisla-
tive authority of the Lord Christ by men, as to their present duty
and future account, must needs be an effectual means to preserve
them in the truth and from backslidings. See Rom. xiv. 9-12;
2 Cor. V. 9, 10.

[2.] His mercifulness, as the high priest of his church. This he had


asserted, chap. ii. 17, and that upon a full and evident previous de-
monstration. Consider him that is so, and as he is so. This, because
of its importance, he often presseth, chap. iv. 14-16, vii. 25-28, ix.
11-14 X. 21, 22. And this is of singular use to preserve believers
from decays and fainting in the profession of the truth ; for from
his mercifulness, unspeakable encouragement, strength, and conso-
lation, in obedience and profession of the gospel, may be educed, as
in our progress, God assisting, we shall manifest. Want of a due
improvement of this encouragement, and the assistance that may be
obtained thereby, is the occasion of all the decays and backslidings
that are found among professor-s. What can thrive in the soul, if
the love, care, kindness, and ability to save, that are in Christ, — all
which are included in this mercifulness, — are neglected?

[o.] Hia faithfulness. This relates unto his office prophetical,
which is by the apostle ascribed unto him, and confirmed to be in
him in these verses. Yea, this is that which he would have them
immediately and in the first place to consider, and which being once
fixed on tlieir minds, those other things must needs have the more
effectual influence upon them. For if he be absolutely faithful in
his work, his authority and mercy ought surely diligently to be
heeded. To this end the apostle compares him in particular with
Moses in these verses, and in the next exalts him above him. And
no better medium could be used to satisfy the Hebrews, who were
sufficiently persuaded of the faithfulness of Moses. He being, then,
ultimately to reveal the will of God, and being absolutely faithful in
his so doing, is to be attended unto. Men may thence learn what
they have to do in the church and worship of God, — even to observe
and to do whatever he hath commanded, and nothing else, Matt.
xxviii. 20; Rev. i. 5, iii. 14.

(3.) As his person and offices, so his tuork also is proposed
unto our consideration, for the ends mentioned. This the apostle
fully discourseth, chap. ii. 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, 18. The specialties of
this work are too many to be here so much as recounted. In gene-
ral, the love and grace that were in it, the greatness of it, the benefit
we receive by it, the glory of the wisdom, goodness, grace, holiness,
and righteousness that shines forth in it, are the principal immediate
objects of our faith and consideration.

These things we have instanced in particular, as those which,
being of great importance in themselves, we are likewise directed
unto by the series of the apostle's discourse ; but we mention them
not exclusively unto other concernments of the Lord Christ. Whole
Christ, and all of him, is by us diligently to be considered, that we
may attain, and we shall attain, the ends laid down in the precedent
observation: for, —

1. Our faith and our obedience are our walking with God, Gen.


xvii. 1, or our walking in the truth, 2 John 4; 8 John 4 : and that
which is principally incumbent on them that would walk ariyht, is
to have a due regard unto their way. This way is Christ, John
xiv. 6. " I am the way/' saith he ; " no man cometh unto the
Father but by me:" such a way as wayfaring men shall not err in,
Isa. XXXV. 8 ; such a "living way" as is also a guide. In attendance,
therefore, unto him, we shall neither err nor miscarry. And as all
mistakes in faith arise from a want of a due respect unto him as
the real way of going unto God, so all aberrations in doctrine or
worship spring out of a neglect of a due consideration of his person
and offices, wherein all truths do centre, and whereby they are made
effectual and powerful.

2. They that consider him in the way and manner explicated,
cannot but take him for their only guide in the things of God. See
John i. 14, with chap. vi. 68, 69. To whom else should they go or
betake themselves? This is foretold concerning him., Isa. xlii. 4.
And for this duty we have the command of God, Matt. xvii. 5,
" Hear him." This they will do who consider him. And to them
who do so, he is given to be a guide and a leader, Isa. Iv. 4; and a
light, chap. li. 4; and a shepherd, to direct them in the fresh pas-
tures of the gospel with care and tenderness, chap, xl, 11. And no
soul shall miscarry under his conduct, or wander into danger under
his care. But here lies the root of men's failings in this matter,
— they seek for truth of themselves and of other men, but not of
Christ. What they can find out by their own endeavours, what
other men instruct them in or impose upon them, that they receive.
Few have that faith, love, and humility, and are given up unto
that diligent contemplation of the Lord Christ and his excellencies,
which are required in those who really wait for his law so as to
learn the truth from him.

If it be yet inquired whether those who duly consider Jesus
Christ may not yet mistake the truth and fall into errors ? I answer,
they may; but, —

(1.) Not into any that are pernicious. He will assuredly pre-
serve such persons from destructive errors. As he hath not prayed
that they may be taken out of the world, but preserved in it, so
he doth not take them out of all possibility of errors or mistakes,
but from such only as may prejudice the eternal condition of their

(2.) They shall not act their mistakes and errors with a spirit
of envy, malice, and disquietment against the truth ; for none that
duly considereth Jesus Christ can be captivated under the power
of such a frame of spirit, seeing there is nothing more unlike unto

(3.) Even their mistakes are from failures in their consideration


of the Lord Christ, either in the matter or manner of it. Either
they search not after him with that spiritual dihgence which they
ought, or they meditate not on the discoveries that are made of
him in the word, or they labour not after assimilation and conform-
ity unto him ; and upon these neglects it is no wonder if errors and
mistakes do arise.

3. Because " all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid
in Christ,' Col. ii. 3; and therefore from him alone are they to be
received, and in him alone to be learned. Now, wisdom and know-
ledge have both of them respect unto truth. Where they are ob-
tained, there truth itself doth dwell. In the due consideration of
the Lord Christ are these treasures opened unto us. And although
we may not at once clearly and fully discern them, yet we are in
the proper way to know them and possess them. There is not the
least line of truth, how far soever it may be extended, and how
small soever it may at length appear, but the springs of it lie in the
person of Christ. And then we learn it aright, when we learn it in
the spring, or as it is in him, Eph. iv. 21; which when we have
done, we may safely trace it down, and follow it unto its utmost
extent. But he that looks on gospel truths as sporades, as scattered
up and down independently one of another, — who sees not the root,
centre, and knot of them in Jesus Christ, — it is most probable that
when he goes about to gather them for his use, he will also take up
things quite of another nature. They say that all moral virtues are
knit up in one, that is, righteousness ; so that he who hath that hath
all the rest, at least radically and virtually. This I know, that all
spiritual truths are knit up and centred in him who is "the truth;"
and they who have "learned him," as the apostle speaks, Eph. iv. 20,

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 64 of 70)