We have seen that Jesus Christ is a priest, that, as such, He was prophesied of under the Old Testament and declared so to be in the New. The origin of this office is, in the next place, to be inquired after. This, in the general, all will acknowledge to lie in the eternal counsels of God, for “known to Him are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15.18). But these counsels, absolutely considered, are hid in God, in the eternal treasures of His own wisdom and will. What we learn of them is by external revelation and effects: “the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the things of this law” (Deuteronomy 29.29). God frequently gives bounds to the curiosity of men, like the limits fixed to the people in the station at Sinai that they should not gaze after His unrevealed glory nor pry into the things which they have not seen. It was well said that “the one who scrutinizes majesty is swallowed up by glory.” Our work is to inquire wherein, how, and whereby God has revealed His eternal counsels to the end that we may know His mind and fear Him, for our good. And so, even the angels desire to bow down and to look into these things (1 Peter 1.12) – not in a way of condescension, as into things, in their nature, beneath them, but in a way of humble diligence, as into things in their holy contrivance above them. Our present design, therefore, is to trace those discoveries which God has made of His eternal counsels in this matter, and that through the several degrees of divine revelation whereby He advanced the knowledge of them, until He brought them to their complement in the external exhibition of His Son, clothed in human nature with the glory of this office and discharging the duties thereof.
From: The Priesthood of Christ by John Owen; edited by Philip Ross (Fearn: Christian Heritage, 2010), pp. 39-40. This work, originally entitled Concerning the Sacerdotal Office of Christ, originally appeared as one of the introductory essays (“exercitations”) to Owen’s massive (approximately 3,000 pages) commentary on Hebrews.
John Owen (1616-1683) was an English Puritan Bible scholar, theologian, and voluminous writer.