John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 69 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 69 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of the Father in his work, and is in the Scripture often so called,
and accordingly he constantly professed that as he was sent by the
Father, so he came to do his will and not his own.

Ans. First, The comparison here made is not between the persons
of Ciu'ist and Moses absolutely, but with respect unto their relation
unto the church or house of God in their offices. Moses was indeed
a son of God by adoption (for "the adoption" belonged unto believers
under the old testament, Rom. ix. 4) ; he was so in his own person ;
but he was not a son in reference unto the house, but a servant by
his office, and no more. And the Lord Christ, who was the Son of
God upon a more glorious account, even that of his eternal ge-
neration, is not here thence said to be a son, he is not as such
here spoken of, but as one that had the rule as a son over the
house.

Secondly, It is true, Christ was the servant of the Father in his
work, but he was more than so also. Moses was in the house a ser-
vaiit, and no more. The Lord Christ was so a servant as that he
was also the son, lord, and heir of all. And this, as to the eqiiity
of it, is founded originally in the dignity of his person, for he is
" over all, God blessed for ever," Rom. ix. 5. He was God and Lord
by nature, a servant by condescension ; and therefore made a son or
lord by the Father's constitution, as our apostle declares at large,
Piiil. ii. 6-9. This, then, is the economy of this matter: being in
himself God over all, he became by voluntary condescension, in the
susception of human nature, the servant of the Father; and upon
the doing of his will, he had the honour given him of being the son,
head, and lord over the whole house. So that no scruple can hence
arise against the force of the apostle's argument



558 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP, TIT.

Two things are in general contained in the words, as they report
the relation of Moses to the house of God, — 1. His ministry, 2.The
end of that ministry, as was observed.

1. "Moses verily was faithful as a servant in his whole house/' The
office ascribed unto him is that of a servant, a servant of God and of

the people; ^spaTuv, a "servant," "minister," or "officer"
eparav. ^( .^ sacris," in things belonging to religious worship.
This was his place, office, dignity, and honour. And this is accom-
panied with a threefold amplification:— (1.) In that he was "faithlul"
in his service; which wherein it consisted hath been declared. (2.)
In that he was a servant in the house of God ; not in the world only,
and in compliance with the works of his providence (as all things
serve the will of God, and Avicked men, as Cyrus and Nebuchad-
nezzar, are called his servants), but " in his house," — in that service
Avliich is of nearest relation and of greatest concernment unto him.
It is an honour to serve the will of God in any duty, but in those
especially which concern his house and his worship therein. (3.) In
that he was not thus employed and thus faithful in this or that part
of the house of God, in this or that service of it, but " in all his
liouse" and all the concernments of it. Herein was he differenced
from all others whom God used in the service of his house under
the old testament. One was employed in one part of it, auotlier in
another; — one to teach or instruct it, another to reform or restore it;
one to renew a neglected ordinance, another to give a new instruc-
tion: none but he was used in the service of the whole house. Ail
things, for the use of all ages, until the time of reformation should
come, were ordered and appointed by him. And these things greatly
speak his honour and glory; although, as we shall see, they leave
hiui incomparably inferior to the Lord Christ.

2. " For a testimony of those things which should be spoken
after." The end of the service and ministry of Moses is expressed

in these words. It was to be elg [lapTM/tav, " for a testi-
r f • j^Qjjy " "jj^e word and ordinances of God are often
called his " testimony," that whereby he testifieth and witnesseth his
will and pleasure unto the sons of men: ^'^'^}l, "that which God
testifieth." Some therefore think the meaning of the words to be,
that Moses in his ministry revealed the testimony of God; and that
these words, " Of the things that should be spoken," are as much as
' In and by the things that he spake/ that God would have spoken by
him, wherein his testimony did consist. But this exposition of the
words is perplexed, and makes a direct coincidence between the
testimony and the things spoken^ whereas they are distinct in the
text, the one being subservient unto the other, the testimony unto
the things spoken. Others take ''testimony" to be put for a witness,
he that was to bear testimony ; which it was the duty of Moses to



VER. 3-6.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 559

be and to do. He was to be a witness unto the word of God which
was given and revealed by him. And both these expositions suppose
" the things spoken" to be the things spoken by Moses himself.
But neither doth this seem to answer the mind of the Holy Ghost;
for, —

(1.) This being a testimony, refers to the whole faithfulness of
Moses, which was not confined or restrained unto the things that
were spoken, but extended itself unto the whole service of the house
wherein he was employed, as well in the building of the tabernacle
and institution of ordinances as revealing the will of God in liis law.

(2.) AaX?i^)](ro/xsvi;v respects things future unto what
he did in his whole ministry. This our translation ,^"'^'" '^"''
rightly obst-rves, rendering it, "The things which were
to be spoken after." And this as well tlie order of the words as
the importance of them doth require. In his ministry he was a
testimony, or by what he did in the service of the house he gave
testimony. Whereunto? To the things that were afterwards to be
spoken, namely, in the fulness of time, the appointed season, by the
Messiah, — that is, the things of the gospel. And this, indeed, was
the proper end of all that Moses did or ordered in the house of God.

This is the importance of the words, and this was the true and
proper end of the whole ministry of Moses, wherein his faithfulness
was tried and manifested. He ordered all tilings by God's direction
in the typical worship of the house, so as that it might be a pledge
and testimony of what God would afterwards reveal and exhibit in
the gospel : for " Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to
every one that believeth," Rom. x. 4. And it was revealed unto him,
as unto the other prophets, that not unto themselves, but unto us,
they did minister in the revelations they made of the things testified
unto them by the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, 1 Pet. i. 11,
1 2. And whereas it is frequently said that Moses bare witne.ss unto
the Lord Christ and the gospel, he did it not so much by direct
prophecies and promises of him, as by the whole constitution and
ordering of the house of God and all its institutions, especially lu
the erection of the tabernacle and the appointment of the sacrifices
annexed to it: for as the first witnessed and represented the assump-
tion of our human nature by Christ, whereby isKyivuffsv, "he taber-
nacled amongst us,". John i. 14, — and therefore after the tabernacle
was built, God spake only from thence. Lev. i. 1, — so did the latter
that great sacrifice whereby the Lamb of God took away the sins of
the world. Herein was Moses faithful.

And here the apostle takes his leave of Moses, — he treats not about
him any more ; and therefore he gives him as it were an honourable
burial. He puts this glorious epitaph on his grave, "Moses, a faithlul
servant of the Lord in his v/hole house."
VOL. XII.— 36



.560 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. IIL

Ver. 6. — "But Christ as a son over his own house." The term
"faithful" is here to be repeated, "Was faithful as a son over his own
house." Every word almost proves the pre-eminence asserted. He
is a son, Moses a servant; he over the house, Moses in the house;
he over his own house, Moses in the house of another.

In what sense the Lord Christ is said to be the son over his
house hath been so fully declared in our exposition of the first chap-
ter, that it need not here be insisted on. Absolute and supreme
authority over all persons and things is intended in this expression.
All persons belonging unto the house of God are.at his disposal, and
the institution of the whole worship of it is in his power alone.
Which things, as was said, have been already spoken unto.
^ ^ , , "Whose house are we." Having confirmed his argu-

V oiKos .(Tfiiv. j^gj^|.^ ^j-j^ apostle returns, after his manner, to make

application of it unto the Hebrews, and to improve it for the
enforcement of his exhortation unto constancy and perseverance.
And herein, first, he makes an explanation of the metaphor which
he had insisted on. *I have,' said .he, 'spoken these things of a
house and its building; but it is the church, it is ourselves that I
intend.' "Whose house are we." Secondly, That they might know
also, in particular, whom it is that he intends, he adds a further
description of them, "If we hold fast our confidence and the glorying
of hope unto the end."

"Whose house are we;" that is, believers, who worship him
according unto the gospel, are so. And the apostle frequently, both
in exhortations and applications of arguments and threatenings,
joineth himself with the professing Hebrews, for their direction and
encouragement. Now, believers are the house of Christ upon a
treble account: —

1. Of their persons. In them he dwells really by his Spirit.
Hence are they said to be "living stones," and on him to be built
into a " holy temple," 1 Pet. ii. 5. And as such doth he dwell in
them, Eph. ii. 20-22, 1 Cor. iii. 16, 2 Cor. vi. 16, John xiv. 17.

2. Of their being compact together in church-order according to
his institution, whereby they are built up, cemented, united, and
become a house, like the tabernacle or temple of old, Eph. iv. 16,
Col. ii. 19.

3. Of their joint worship performed in that order; wherein and
whereby he also dwells among them, or is present with them unto
the consummation of all things, Rev. xxi. 3, Matt, xxviii. 20.

"If we hold fast our confidence and the glorying of hope firm unto
the end."

These words may have a double sense: First, to ex-
press the condition on which the truth of the former
asotiUuu doth depend: 'We are his house, but on this condition.



VER. 3-6.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 561

that we hold fast," etc. Secondly, to express a description of the
persons who are so the house of Christ, by a limitation and distinc-
tion amongst professors, showing that in the former assertion he in-
tends only those who hold fast their confidence firm to the end.

According unto these several interpretations the words are seve-
rally employed. Those who embrace the first sense make use of
them to prove a possibility of the falling away of true believers,
and that totally and finally, from Christ; for, say they, without the
supposition thereof, the words are superfluous and useless. Those
who cleave to the latter sense suppose the words irrefragably to
confirm the certain permanency in the faith of those who are truly
the house of Christ, they being such alone as whose faith hath the
adjuncts of permanency and stabiUty annexed unto it. For others,
whatever they may profess, they are never tndy or really the house
of Christ; whence it undeniably follows that all true believers do
certainly persevere urto the end.

I shall not here engage into this controversy, having handled it
at large elsewhere. Only, as to the first sense contended for, I shall
briefly observe, — first, that the supposition urged proves not the
inference intended ; and, secondly, that the argument from this
place is not suited unto the hypothesis of them that make use of it.
For, as Paul puts himself among the number of those who are spoken
of, whose faith yet none will thence contend to have been liable
unto a total failure ; so such conditional expressions of gospel-com-
minations, although they have a peculiar use and efiicacy towards
believers in the course of their obedience, as manifesting God's
detestation of sin, and the certain connection that there is by God's
eternal law between unbelief and punishment, yet they do not
include any assertion that the persons of believers may at any time,
all things considered, on the part of God as well as of themselves,
actually fall under those penalties, as hath been at large elsewhere
evinced. Again, this argument suits not the hypothesis that it is
produced in the confirmation of; for if it be the condition of the
foregoing assertion, whereon the truth of it doth depend, then are
none at present the house of God, but upon a supposition of their
perseverance unto the end. But their opinion requires that persons
may be really this house by virtue of their pi'esent faith and obedi-
ence, although they afterwards utterly fall from both, and perish for
evermore. This, then, cannot be the sense of the words according
to their principles who make use of them for their ends: for they
say that men may be the house of Christ although they hold not
fast their confidence unto the end ; which is directly to contradict
the apostle, and to render his exhortation vain and useless.

The words, therefore, are a description of the persons who are the
house of Christ, from a certain effect or adjunct of that faith whereby



SQi^ AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. III.

the}^ become so to be. They are such, and only such, as "hold fast
their confidence and glorying of hope firm unto the end," whereby
they are distinguished from temporary professors, who may fall away.

Two things are observable in the words; — first, what it is that
the apostle requires in them that are the house of Christ, namely,
"confidence" and "glorying in hope;" secondly, the manner of
our retaining them, — we must hold them "fast" and "firm;" where-
unto is subjoined the continuance of this duty, — it must be "unto
the end." First, for our "confidence," most understand by it
either ftiith itself or a fiduciary trust in God, which is an inseparable
effect of it. This grace is much commended in the Scripture, and, they
say, here intended by our apostle. A reliance they mean, resting
and reposing our hearts upon God in Christ, for mercy, grace, and
glory ; this is our Christian confidence. And the "rejoicing of hope,"
is the hope wherein we rejoice. Hope of eternal life, promised
by God, purchased by Jesus Christ, and expected by believers, fills
them with joy and rejoicing; as Rom. v, 5, 1 Pet. i. 8.

These things are true; but whether peculiarly intended in this
place by the apostle is questionable, yea, that the words are of
another importance, a,nd require anotlier interpretation, is manliest
from them and the context. For, —

First, The word 'rapprjoia, translated " confidence," although it
frequently occurs in the New Testament, yet it is never
' f '" ' used to signify that fiduciary trust in God Avhich is an
efi'ect of faith, and wherein some have thought the nature of it to
consist; for, unless where it is used adverbially to signify "openly,"
"plainly," "notoriously," as it doth always in the Gospel of John (see
chap, xviii. 20), it constantly denotes a freedom, liberty, and con-
stancy of spirit, in speaking or doing any thing towards God or men.
See Acts ii. 29, iv. 13, 29; 2 Cor. iii. 12; Phil. i. 20; 1 Tim. iii. 13.
And we have l)efore manifested that this is the genuine and native
signification of the word.

Secondly, The "confidence" here intended doth refer unto our
"hope" no less than the zav'/^yj/j^a, or " rejoicing," that folio weth. The
words are not rightly distinguished when "confidence" is placed dis-
tinctly as one thing by itself, and "rejoicing" only is joined with
"hope." And this is evident from the construction of the words; for
iStQaiav, "firm," agrees not immediately with iXirihog, "of hope," which
is of another case, nor with nalyriiLa^ "rejoicing," which is of another
gender; but with irappnsia.v it agrees in both, and is regulated there-
b}-, which it could notbe unless "confidence" were joined with "hope"
also, " confidence of hope."

Thirdly, Not our hope itself, but the xavyjuia, " glorying," or "re-
joicing" in it and of it is intended by the apostle ; and therefore no
more is our faith in the former expression.



VER. 3-6.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBRKWS. 5G3

The genuine sense, then, of these words will best appear from tlie
consideration of the state and condition of the Hebrews, and what
it is that the apostle invites and encourageth them unto. This con-
dition, as hath been frequently declared, was a condition of perse-
cution, and danger of backsHding thereon. How, then, are men at
such a season usually prevailed upon sinfully to fail and miscarry in
their profession? It is not at first by parthig directly and openly
with faith and hope, but by failing in the fruits of them, and the
duties which they require. Now, of that hojie which we have con-
cerning a blessed immortality and glory by Jesus Christ, there are
tv/o proper effects or duties, or it requires two things of us: — First,
A free, bold, and open profession of that truth which our hope is
built upon, and that against all dangers and oppositions; for we
know that this hope will never make us ashamed, Rom, v. 5. This
is the 'xapprjsia rrjg iX'rlhog here mentioned; — a confident, Ojien, pro-
fession of our hope. This we are exhorted unto, 1 Pet. iii. 15, "Be '
ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a rea-
son of the hope that is in you." This iroiiiacia -Trphg d-oXoyiav, this
promptitude and alacrity in apologizing, avowing, defending, plead-
in<4 for the grounds of our hope, is the 'rrappTicia, the "confidence," or
rpvther" liberty" and "boldness"of profession here intended. Secondly,
An open opposing of our hope, or that which is hoped for, unto nil
difficulties, dangers, and persecutions, with a holy boasting, glory-
ing, or rejoicing in our lot and portion, because the foundation of our
hope is sure, and the things we hope for are precious and excellent,
and that to the contempt of every thing that riseth against them, is
also required of us. This is the na.\jyjf\ii.a Ty\c, I'k'wthig in-
tended. In these thinr^s men are apt to fail in temp- ,, 'f.^^"'"* '^"^
tations and persecutions; and when any do so faint as
that they take off from the confidence of their profession, and wlien
they cannot with joy and satisfaction oppose the foundation and end
of their hope unto these dangers, they are near unto backsliding.
And these things also are inseparable from that faith whereby we
are made the house of Christ; for although they maybe intercepted
in their acts for a season, by the power of some vigorous temptation,
as they were in Peler, yet radically and habitually they are inse-
parable from faith itself, Rom. x. 10.

These, therefore, are the things which the apostle intends in these
words; and by showing them to be indispensable qualifications in
them who are the house of Christ, he tacitly persuades the Hebrews
to look after and to secure them in themselves, unto the end of his
general exhortation before laid down.

In the last place, the apostle declareth the manner how tliese
things are to be secured: " If we hold fiist our confidence firm unto
the end." The duty itself, relating unto the maimer of our retain-



564 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CIIAP. III.

ing these things, is to "hold them fast;" the state of them, wherein
they are to be retained, is "firm" or "steadfast;" and their duration
in that estate is "to the end."

The first is expressed by the word xarac^w/Agv, which

araffx'^i/.iit. gjgj-jj£gg ^ car-eful, powerful holding any thing to it
against opposition. Kad^s/i' rh ir7JYi&og, is eftectually to retain the
multitude in obedience when in danger of sedition. And xari-xin
(ppovpaTc, to hold, retain, or keep a place with a guard ; as in Latin,
"Oppidum preesidio tenere." Two things, therefore, are represented
in this word. First, That great opposition will arise against this duty,
against our firmitude and constancy in profession. Secondly, That
great care, diligence, and endeavour are to be used in this matter, or
we shall fail and miscarry in it. Because of the oi^position that is
made against them, because of the violence that will be used to wrest
them from us, unless we hold them fast, — that is, retain them with
cai-e, diligence, and watchfulness, — we shall lose them or be deprived
of them.

Secondly, They are to be kept "firm." The meaning of this word
the apostle explaineth, Heb. x. 2o, " Let us hold fast the
profession of our faith without wavering;" jSiQalav, that
is, a.y.'kivj), — without declining from it or shaking in it. It is not
enough that we keep and retain, yea, hold fast our profession ; but
we must keep it up against that uncertainty and fluctuating of mind
which are apt to invade and ])ossess unstable persons in a time of
trial. * .

Thirdly, Herein must we continue "unto the end ;" that is, whilst

, ^ , we live in this world, — not for the present season only,
but in all future occurrences, until we come unto the
end of our faith, or the end of our lives and the salvation of our
souls. The observations from these verses ensue : —

II. The building of the church is so great and glorious a work as
that it could not be effected by any but he who was God. "He that
built all things is God." To him is it ascribed, Acts xx. 28, 1 John
iii. 16. And it requires God to be the builder of it, —

First, For the wisdom of its contrivance. When God appointed
Bezaleel to the work of building the tabernacle, he says, that he
had " filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in under-
standing, and in knowledge," Exod. xxxi. 3; and none were to be
employed in the work Avitii him but such as were " wise-hearted,"
and into whom God had put wisdom, verse 6. And yet this was but
for the building of an earthly tabernacle, and that not to contrive
it, but only to make and erect it according to a pattern which God
himself did frame. This they could not do until they Avere filled
with the Spirit of God in wisdom. What, then, must needs be re-
quired unto the contrivance of this glorious, mysterious, spiritual,



YER. 3-G.l EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 665

heavenly house of God? Nothing could effect it but infinite wis-
dom. Yea, " the manifold wisdom of God" was in it, Eph. iii. 10;
"all the treasures of his wisdom and knowledge," Col. ii. 3. In this
infinite wisdom of God was the mysterious contrivance of this build-
ing hid from the foundation of the world, Eph. iii. 9 ; and its break-
ing forth from thence in the revelation of it made in the gospel was
accompanied with so much glory that the angels of heaven did
eMrnestly desire to bow down and look into it, 1 Pet. i. 12. We
have a very dark view of the glories of this building; and where it
is mystically represented unto us, as Isa. Ix., Ezek. xl.-xlviii., Rev.
xxi. 22, we may rather admire at it than comprehend its excellency.
But when we shall come to see how the foundation of it was laid,
at which all the sons of God shouted for joy; how, by the strange
and wonderful working of the Spirit of grace, all the stones designed
from eternity for the building of this house were quickened and
made living in all ages and generations; and how they are, from
the beginning of the world unto the end of it, fitly framed together
to be a temple unto the Lord ; and what is the glory of God's inha-
bitation therein, — we shall be satisfied that divine wisdom was re-
quired thereunto.

Secondly, For the power of its erection. It is the effect of divine
power; and that whether we respect the opposition that is made
unto it, or the preparing and fitting of the work itself Those angels
who left their first habitation had drawn all the whole creation mto
a conspiracy against the building of this house of God. Not a per-
son was to be used therein but was engaged in an enmity against
this work. And who shall prevail against this opposition? Nothing
but divine power could scatter this combination of principalities and
powers, and defeat the engagement of the world and the gates of
hell against this design. Again, for the work itself; the sins of men
were to be expiated, atonement for them was to be made, a price
of redemption to be paid ; dead sinners were to be quickened, blind
eyes to be opened, persons of all sorts to be regenerated ; ordinances



Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 69 of 70)