DR. OWEN’S INSTRUCTION IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD, BY WAY OF QUESTION AND ANSWER; WITH AN EXPLICATION AND CONFIRMATION OF THOSE ANSWERS (1667).
Q. 1. What doth God require of us in our dependence on him, that he may be glorified by us, and we accepted with him?
A. That we (a) worship him (b) in and by the ways of his own appointment.
(a) Matt. 4:10, Rev. 14:7, Deut. 6:13 & 10:20.
(b) Lev. 10:1-3, Exod. 24:3, Gen. 18:19, Joshua 23:6, 8 & Zach. 14:16.
By the worship of God inquired after, not that which is natural or moral, which is required in the First Commandment is intended. Such is our faith and confidence in him, our fear of him, our subjection of soul and conscience unto him, as the great Sovereign Lord, first cause, last end, judge and rewarder of all men; the law whereof was originally written in the heart of man, and hath been variously improved and directed by new revelations and institutions. And this worship is called natural, upon a double account.
First, because it depends on the nature of God, a due perception and understanding whereof, makes all this worship indispensably necessary: for none can know God, but it is his duty to glorify him as God, that is, to believe in him, love him, trust him, and call upon him, which all are therefore cursed that do not, Psalm 79:6 & 2 Thess. 1:8.
Secondly, because it was in the principle of it consecrated with the nature of man, as that which suited, directed, and enabled him to answer the law of his creation, requiring this obedience of him in his dependance on God. And this worship is invariable: but it concerneth those outward ways and means whereby God hath appointed that faith, and love, and fear of him to be exercised and expressed unto his glory. And this kind of worship though it depend not upon the nature of God, but upon his free and arbitrary disposal, and so was of old liable unto alterations; yet God did ever strictly require in the several states and conditions that his Church hath gone through in the world. And this is that, which most commonly in the Scripture is called by the name of the worship of God; as that whereby all the acceptable actings of the souls of men towards him are expressed, and the only way of owning and acknowledging him in the world, as also of entertaining a visible intercourse with him. This therefore he calls for, and requires indispensably of all that draw nigh to him, and that because he is the Lord our God, Rev. 14:6-7, Matt. 4:10, & Deut. 10:12-13. For his observance hereof, doth he so approve of Abraham, Gen. 18:19. And sets it down as an everlasting law unto all others, that in a holy observation thereof, he will be sanctified in all that draw nigh unto him, Lev. 10:1-3 his commands also concerning it, are multiplied in the Scripture, with the approbation of all those that attend unto them. We may not think to find acceptance with God, or to inherit the promises, if supposing our selves to adhere unto him in worship internal and natural, we neglect that which is external and of his free appointment: for besides, that we renounce thereby our inward dependance on him also, in not observing his commands, as Adam did in transgressing an institution, we become wholly useless unto all the ends of his glory in the World, which is not the way to come to an enjoyment of him. Neither, do we only express and profess our inward moral natural worship of God hereby, by which means it becomes the principal way and instrument of faith and trust exerting themselves in our obedience, but also it is a most effectual help and assistance unto the principle of that natural worship, strengthening the habit of it, and exciting it unto all suitable actings, unto its increase and growth.
Q. 2. By what means do we come to know that God will thus be worshipped?
A. That God is to be worshipped, and that according to his own will and appointment, is (a) a principal branch of the law of our creation, written in our hearts; (b) the sense whereof is renewed in the Second Commandment; but the ways and means of that worship, depend merely on God’s (c) sovereign pleasure and institution.
(a) Rom. 1:21, 2:14-15, Acts 15:16-17 &17:23-29.
(b) Exodus 20:4-6.
(c) Jer. 7:31, Exod. 25:40, Heb. 3:1-6 & John 1:18.
These two things all men see by nature.
First, that God, however they mistook in their apprehensions of him, would be and was to be worshipped with some outward solemn worship. So that although some are reported to have even cast off all knowledge and sense of a divine being, yet never any were heard of, that came to an acknowledgement of any God, true or false, but they all consented, that he was constantly and solemnly to be worshipped. And that not only by individual persons, but by societies together, that so they might own and honour him whom they took for their God. And thus far outward worship is required in the First Commandment; namely, that the inward be exercised and expressed. When we take God for our God, we take him to worship him, Deut. 10:12-13. Other thoughts, namely of inward worship, without outward expression at all, or any time, or in any way, are but a covert unto Atheism.
Secondly, this also they are lead to an apprehension of, by the same light whereby they are a law unto themselves, Rom. 2:14 that God would be worshipped in the way, and by the means that he himself appointed and approved, whence none among the Heathen themselves undertook to appoint ways and ceremonies of worship, but still they pretended to derive the knowledge of them from the gods themselves, of whom they reckoned that every one would be worshipped in his own way. And because notwithstanding this pretence, being left of God, and deluded of Satan, they did invent false and foolish ways of worship, not only not appointed of God, but such as were unsuited unto those inbred notions which they had of his nature and excellency, the Apostle convinces and disproves them, as men acting against the light of nature, and principles of reason, Rom. 1:21 they might have seen, that, in their idolatry they answered not their own inbred conceptions of the Divine power and Godhead, so as to glorify him as God. And in the like manner doth he argue at large, Acts 17:23 but beyond this, the inbred light of nature could not conduct any of the sons of men. This alone is contained in the First Precept, that God was to be worshipped they knew, and that he was to be worshipped by ways and means of his own appointment they knew; but what those ways and means were, they knew not. These always depended on God’s sovereign will and pleasure, and he made them known to whom he pleased, Psalm 147:19-20. And although some of the ways which he doth appoint, may seem to have a great compliance in them unto the light of nature, yet in his worship he accepts them not on that account; but merely on that of his own institution; and this as he hath declared his will about in the Second Commandment; so he hath severely forbidden the addition of our own inventions unto what he hath appointed: sending us for instruction unto him alone, whom he hath endowed with sovereign authority to reveal his will, and ordain his worship, John 1:18, Matt. 17:5 & 1 Chron. 16:13.
Q. 3. How then are these ways and means of the worship of God made known unto us?
A. In and by the written word only; which contains a full and perfect revelation of the will of God; as to his whole worship, and all the concernments of it.
John 5:39, Isa. 8:20, Luke 16:19, 2 Tim. 3:15-17, 1 Pet. 1:19, Deut. 4:2 & 12:32, Joshua 1:7, Prov. 30:6, Rev. 22:20 & Isa 29:13.
The End wherefore God granted his word unto the Church, was, that thereby it might be instructed in his mind and will, as to what concerns the worship and obedience that he requires of us, and which is accepted with him. This the whole Scripture itself everywhere declares and speaks out unto all that do receive it; as 2 Tim. 3:15-17 with the residue of the testimonies above recited do declare. It supposes, it declares, that of ourselves we are ignorant how God is, how he ought to be worshipped, Isa. 8:20. Moreover it manifests him to be a jealous God, exercising that holy property of his nature in an especial manner about his worship; rejecting and despising every thing that is not according to his will, that is not of his institution, Exod. 20:4-5.
That we may know what is so, he hath made a revelation of his mind and will in his written word, that is, the Scripture; and to the end that we might expect instruction from thence alone in his worship, and act therein accordingly.
First, he sends us and directs us thereunto, expressly for that purpose, Isa. 8:28, Luke 16:19 & John 5:39 and not once intimates in the least, any other way or means of instruction unto the End.
Secondly, he frequently affirms, that it is sufficient, able, and perfect to guide us therein, 2 Tim. 3:15-17, 1 Pet. 1:19 & Psalm 19:7-9. and whereas he hath expressly given it unto us for that end, if there be any want or defect therein, it must arise from hence, that either God would not, or could not give unto us a perfect revelation of his will; neither of which can be imagined.
Thirdly, he hath commanded us to observe all whatsoever he hath appointed therein, and not to make any addition thereunto, Joshua 1:7, Deut. 4:2 & 12:32, Prov. 30:6 and Rev. 22:20.
Fourthly, peculiarly interdicted us the use of any such things, as are of the institution or appointment of men, Isa. 29:13-14. So that from the Scriptures alone, are we to learn what is accepted with God in his worship.
Q. 4. Have these ways and means been always the same from the beginning?
A. No! But God hath altered and changed them at sundry reasons, according to the counsel of his own will, so as he saw necessary for his own glory, and the edification of his Church.
Gen. 2:16-17, Gen. 17:10-11. Exod. 12:3-5. & Ch 20 & Ch 25:9, Heb. 1:1 and Heb. 9:12.
The external worship whereof we speak, being as was shewed before, not natural or moral, arising necessarily from the dependance of the rational creature on God, as its first cause, chiefest good, last end, and sovereign Lord, but proceeding from the mere will and pleasure of God, determining how he will be honoured and glorified in the world, was always alterable by him, by whom it was appointed. And whereas ever since the entrance of sin into the world, God had always respect unto the promise of the Lord Christ, and his mediation, in whom alone he will be glorified, and faith in whom he aimed to begin and increase in all his worship, he hath suited his institutions of the means thereof, to that dispensation of light and knowledge of him, which he was pleased at any time to grant. Thus immediately after the giving of the promise, he appointed sacrifices for the great means of his worship; as to glorify himself expressly by men’s offering unto him of the principal good things which he had given them, so to instruct them in the faith, and confirm them in the expectation of the great sacrifice for sin that was to be offered by the promised seed, Gen. 4:3-4 & Heb. 11:4. These were the first instituted worship of God in the world after the entrance of sin. Hereunto he next added Circumcision, as an express sign of the Covenant, with the grace of it, which he called Abraham and his seed unto by Jesus Christ, Gen. 17:10-11. And to the same general end and purpose, he afterwards superadded the Passover with its attendant institutions, Exod. 12:23-24. And then the whole law of institutions contained in ordinances, by the ministry of Angels on Mount Sinai, Exod 20.
So by sundry degrees, he built up that fabric of his outward worship, which was suited in his infinite wisdom, unto his own glory, and the edification of his Church, until the exhibition of the promised seed, or the coming of Christ in the flesh, and the accomplishment of the work of his mediation, Heb. 1:1 for unto that season were those ordinances to serve, and no longer, Heb. 9:10-12. And then were they removed by the same authority whereby they were instituted and appointed, Col. 2:14, 18, 19, 20. So that though God would never allow, that men, upon what pretence soever should make any alteration in the worship appointed by him by adding unto it, any thing of their own, or omitting ought that he had commanded, either in matter or manner, notwithstanding that he knew that it was to abide but for a season, but commanded all men straitly to attend to the observation of it whilst it was by him continued in force, Mal. 4:4 yet he always reserved unto himself the sovereign power of altering, changing, or utterly abolishing it at his own pleasure: which authority he exerted in the Gospel as to all the mere institutions of the Old Testament. Whilst they continued, he enforced them with moral reasons, as his own holiness and authority; but those reasons prove not any of those institutions to be moral, unless they ensue upon those reasons alone, and are no where else commanded: for being once instituted and commanded, they are to be enforced with moral considerations, taken from the nature of God, and our duty, in reference unto his authority. So, saith he, Thou shalt reverence my Sanctuary, I am the Lord, which no more proves that a moral duty, than that enjoined upon the same foundation, Lev. 11:44. I am the Lord your God, ye shall therefore sanctify your selves, and ye shall be holy, for I am holy, neither shall ye defile your selves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Not defiling our selves with the touching, or eating of creeping things, is now no moral duty, since the institution is ceased, although it be enforced by many moral considerations.
Q. 5. Is there any farther alteration to be expected in, or of those institutions and ordinances of worship, which are revealed and appointed in the Gospel?
A. No! The last complete revelation of the will of God being made by the Son, who is Lord of all, his commands and institutions are to be observed inviolably unto the end of the World, without alteration, diminution, or addition.
Heb. 1:1 & 10:25-27, Matt. 28:20, 1 Cor. 11:26 and 1 Tim. 6:14.
It was shewed before, that all the institutions of the Old Testament had respect unto the coming of Christ in the flesh, who was the end of the Law, Rom. 10:4 and thereupon they were subject to alteration or abolition upon a twofold account.
First, because that which they were appointed principally to instruct the Church in, and to direct it unto the expectation of, was upon his coming accomplished and fulfilled, so that their end was absolutely taken away; and they could no more truly teach the mind and will of God: for they would still direct unto that which was to come, after it was past and accomplished. And this is that which the Apostle Paul so variously proves, and fully confirms in his Epistle to the Hebrews, especially in the 7, 8, 9 and 10th Chapters.
Secondly, the Lord Christ during their continuance, was to come as the Lord over his whole house, with more full and ample authority, than any of those, whom God had employed in the institution of his ordinances of old, were entrusted withal, Heb. 1:1-3. He spake in former days by the Prophets, but now by the Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all, Chap. 3:5-6. Christ as a son over his own house, whose house are we. And therefore they are all to be at his disposal, to confirm or remove, as he saw reason and occasion. And this he did virtually in the sacrifice of himself, or the blood of his cross, fulfilling and finishing of them all, John 19:30. Breaking down the middle wall of partition, abolishing in his flesh the enmity, even the Law of Commandments contained in Ordinances, blotting out the hand-writing of Ordinances, he took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross, Eph. 2:15 and Col. 2:14.
Secondly, Authoritatively, by his Spirit in the Apostles, and the doctrine of the Gospel preached by them, Acts 15:10, 11. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear, but we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they, Gal. 3:24-25. Wherefore the Law was our Schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith; but after that faith is come, we are no longer render a Schoolmaster, Chap. 5:2-4. and Eventually or Providentially, when he caused sacrifice and offering to cease, by the Prince of the people, that came with an army making desolate, to destroy both city and sanctuary, Dan. 9:26-27 according to his prediction, Matt. 24:2. But now under the New Testament, the worship that is appointed in the Gospel, is founded in, and built upon what is already past and accomplished, namely the death and life of Jesus Christ with the sacrifice and atonement for sin made thereby, 1 Cor. 11:23-26. which can never be again performed; neither is there any thing else to the same purpose, either needful or possible, Heb. 10: 26. So that there is not any ground left for any new institution of worship, or any alteration in those that are already instituted.
Secondly, nor can any one be expected to come from God with a greater and more full authority for the revelation of his mind, than that wherewith his only Son was accompanied; which yet must be, if any alterations were to be made in the appointments of worship that he hath instituted in the Gospel.
For no inferior, nor an equal authority, can abolish or alter that which is already appointed, so as to give satisfaction unto the consciences of men in obedience unto such alterations. And therefore because there arose not a Prophet like unto Moses under the Old Testament, there could be no alteration made in his institutions, but the Church was bound severely to observe them all until the coming of Christ, Mal. 4:4. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb, for all Israel with his statutes and judgments; and that because there arose not a Prophet afterwards in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, Deut. 34:10. And our Apostle to prove the right of Christ to alter the ordinances of the Law, lays his foundation in manifesting that he was above the Angels, Heb. 1:4 being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they, and that because the Law was given by the ministry of Angels, Chap. 2:2. and so also that he was greater than Moses, Chap. 3:3. For this man was accounted worthy of more glory than Moses, in as much as he who hath builded the house, hath more honour than the house; Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, but Christ as a Son over his own house: Because Moses was the Law-giver, and the Mediator between God and Man in the giving of the Law. Now if this be the sole foundation and warrant of the alteration made of Mosaical Ordinances by Christ, namely that he was greater and exalted above all those whose ministry was used in the dispensation of the Law, unless some can be thought to be greater, and exalted in authority above the Son of God, there can be no alteration expected in the institutions of the Gospel.
Q. 6. May not such an estate of faith and perfection in obedience be attained in this life, as wherein believers may be freed from all obligation unto the observation of Gospel institutions?
A. No! For the Ordinances and Institutions of the Gospel being inseparably annexed unto the evangelical administration of the Covenant of Grace, they may not be left unobserved, disused, or omitted, whilst we are to walk before God in that Covenant, without contempt of the Covenant it self, as also of the wisdom and authority of Jesus Christ.
Heb. 3:3-6, Rom. 6:3-6, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:24-26, Heb. 10:25 and Rev. 2:5 & Ch 3:3.
All our faith, all our obedience in this life, what ever may be obtained, or attained unto therein, it all belongs unto our walking with God in the Covenant of Grace, wherein God dwells with men, and they are his people, and God himself is with them to be their God. Other ways of communion with him, of obedience unto him, of enjoyment of him on this side Heaven and Glory, he hath not appointed nor revealed. Now this is the Covenant that God hath made with his people; That he will put his laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, and will be to them a God, and they shall be to him a people, and he will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins and their iniquities will he remember no more, Heb. 8:9-12. And what ever men attain unto, it is by virtue of the grace of that Covenant, nor is there any grace promised in the Covenant to lead men in this life, or to give them up unto a state of perfection short of glory. Unto this Covenant, are the institutions of Gospel Worship annexed, and unto that administration of it which is granted unto the Church upon the coming and death of Christ. Without a renunciation and relinquishment of that Covenant, and the grace of it, these institutions cannot be omitted or deserted. If men suppose that they have attained to an estate wherein they need neither the grace of God, nor the mercy of God, nor the blood of Christ, nor the Spirit of Christ, it is not much material, what they think of the ordinances of worship. Their pride and folly, without that mercy which is taught, promised and exhibited in those ordinances, will speedily be their ruin. Besides, the Lord Christ is the absolute Lord over his own house, Heb. 3:4-6. And he hath given out the laws whereby he will have it guided and ruled whilst it is in this world. In and by these laws, are his ordinances of worship established: for any persons on what pretence soever, to plead an exemption from the obligation of those laws, it is nothing but to cast of the Lordship and dominion of Christ himself. And yet farther, to secure our obedience in this matter, he hath expressly commanded the continuance of them until his coming unto judgement, as in the places above quoted will appear.
Q. 7. What are the chief things that we ought to aim at in our observation of the institutions of Christ in the Gospel?
A. (a) To sanctify the name of God; (b) To own and avow our professed subjection to the Lord Iesus Christ; (c) To build up our selves in our most holy faith; and (d) To testify and confirm our mutual love, as we are believers.
(a) Lev. 10:3, Heb. 12:28-29.
(b) Deut. 26:17, Josh. 24:22, 2 Cor. 8:5.
(c) Eph. 4:12-16, Jude 20.
(d) 1 Cor. 10:16-17.
That we may profitably and comfortably, unto the glory of God, and our own edification, be exercised in the observation of the institutions and worship of God, we are always to consider what are the ends for which God hath appointed them, and commanded our attendance unto them, that so our observance of them may be the obedience of faith. For what ends soever God hath appointed them unto, for that end are they useful and effectual, and to no other. If we come to them for any other end, if we use them for any other purpose, or with any other design, if we look for any thing in them or by them, but what God hath appointed them to communicate unto us, we dishonour God, and deceive our own souls. This we ought diligently to enquire into, to know not only what God requires of us, but wherefore also he requires it, and what he aims at therein. Some of the principal things whereof are enumerated in this Answer. And it is well known how horribly many of the institutions of the Gospel, have been by some, especially the Papists, abused, by a neglect of the ends of God in them, and imposing new ends of their own upon them unto superstition and idolatry. Grace is ascribed unto the outward observance of them, whereas all grace is of the promise, and the promise in the Covenant is given only to the faith of the right observers. The elements in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, are turned into a God, first worshipped, and then devoured, with many the like abominations.
Q. 8. How may we sanctify the name of God in the use of Gospel Institutions?
A. (a) By an holy reverence of his sovereign authority appointing of them. (b) An holy regard unto his special presence in them. (c) Faith in his promises annexed to them. (d) Delight in his will, wisdom, love and grace manifested in them. (e) Constancy and perseverance in obedience unto him in their due observation.
(a) Lev. 10:3, Mal. 1:6, Rom. 4:11, Exod. 20:6, 7 and James 4:12.
(b) Mat. 28:20, Isaiah 59:21, Exod. 29:43-45.
(c) Gen. 15:6, Heb. 4:2,6, Exod. 12:27-28, 2 Cor. 6:16-18. Ch. 7:1.
(d) Psal. 88:1, 2, 4, 10, Psal. 65:4 and Psal. 36:7-8.
(e) Psalm. 23.6, Psal. 27.4, Rev. 2.3, 10, Gal. 6.9, Heb. 10.23, 24, 25 & Heb. 12.3.
This is the first thing that God requireth us to attend unto, in the celebration of the ordinances of his worship; namely, that we therein sanctify his name, the greatest duty that we are called unto in this world. This he lays down as the general rule of all we do herein Lev. 10:3. I will, saith he, be sanctified in them that come nigh unto me, and before all the people I will be glorified. Whatever we do in his worship, we must do it that he may be sanctified, or whatever we do is an abomination to him. Now the principal ways how we may herein sanctify the name of God are expressed. As:
First, when in every Ordinance, we consider his appointment of it, and submit our souls and consciences unto his authority therein which if we observe any thing in his worship but what he hath appointed, we cannot do it. Not formality, not custom, not the precepts of men, not any thing but the authority and command of God, is to be respected in this obedience. This is the first thing that faith regards in Divine Worship; it rests not in any thing, closeth nor with any thing, but what it discerns that God hath commanded, and therein it eyes his authority as he requireth it, Mal. 1:6. If I be a father, where is mine honour? if I be master, where is my fear? Rom. 14:11. As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. Reverence then unto the authority of God appointing his worship, is a principal means of sanctifying the name of God therein. This was the solemn sanction of all his institutions of old, Deut. 6:4-7. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might; and these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children. And the observation of them he presseth on this account, that the people might fear that glorious and dreadful name, the Lord thy God, Deut. 28:58. which name he had so often engaged in his commands, saying thou shalt do it, I am the Lord. And in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ proposeth his authority as the foundation of his commanding, and our observation of all the institutions of the Gospel, Matt. 28:18-20. Jesus came and spake unto them saying, all power is given me in heaven and earth, go ye therefore, and teach all Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And he is to be considered in all our obedience, as the great and only law-giver of his Church, as the one law-giver who is able to save and to destroy, James 4:12 the Sovereign Lord over his house, Heb. 3:4-6. unto whom every knee is to bow, and every conscience to be in subjection; and he who heareth not his voice, is to be cut off from the people of God, Acts 3:23. It shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
Secondly, God hath frequently promised his special presence in and with his instituted Ordinances. Of old both unto the things themselves, and the places wherein they were according to his appointment to be celebrated; those of places, being also of his special institution. Under the New Testament, all difference of, and respect unto place is taken away, John 4.21. The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father, but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. And we are commanded in all places equally to make our prayers and supplications: but his presence is promised and continued with the due celebration of the things themselves by him appointed for his service, Matt. 28:20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo I am with you even to the end of the world: In them is the Tabernacle of God with men, and he dwells among them, and they are his people, Rev. 21:3. the promise of Christ being, that where two or three are assembled in his name, there he will be in midst of them, Matt. 8:18, 20. And this promised presence of God, or Christ, consists,
(1) In the power and efficacy which he by his Spirit implants upon his Ordinances to communicate his grace and mercy unto his Church; it being his Covenant, that his Spirit shall accompany his word for ever unto that purpose, Isa. 59:21.
(2) In the special blessing which he gives his people in those duties, both in the acceptance of them and testifying his good will unto them. Exod. 29:42-45. At the tabernacle of the congregation will I meet with the people, saith the Lord, there will I meet with the children of Israel. And the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory, and I will dwell amongst the children of Israel, and will be their God, Zech. 2:10-11 & Ezek. 20:40-41. I will accept you with your sweet savour, Ezek. 43:27 in both giving them intimate communion with himself by Jesus Christ, John 1:3. By all these, he gives that special presence which he requires an especial reverence and regard of faith unto, whereby his name is yet farther sanctified.
(3) God hath given special promises, or promises of his special grace unto them that attend upon him in his worship in a due manner, and hereunto also belongs that sacred relation, which by virtue of divine institution is between the sacramental elements, and the especial graces of the Covenant which they exhibit and confirm; and the mixing of these promises with faith, according as they are appropriated unto any particular institution, belongs also to the right sanctification of the name of God.
(4) So also, doth our delight in them: now this delight in the worship of God so much commended in the Scriptures and proposed unto our example, consists not in any carnal self-pleasing, or satisfaction in the outward modes or manner of the performance of Divine Worship, but it is an holy soul-refreshing contemplation on the will, wisdom, grace and condescension of God; in that he is pleased of his own sovereign mere will and grace, so to manifest himself unto such poor sinful creatures as we are; so to condescend unto out weakness, so to communicate himself unto us, so to excite and draw forth our souls unto himself, and to give us such pledges of his gracious intercourse with us by Jesus Christ: by the contemplation of these things is the soul drawn forth to delight in God.
Lastly, whereas great opposition lies oftentimes against the churches obedience unto God in this matter, and much persecution befalls it on that account, great weariness also being apt from the remainders of unbelief, carnal wisdom, indwelling sin, weakness of the flesh, in believers themselves to arise in the course thereof, and many temptations also beset them on every hand, to turn them aside from the way of truth and holiness, constancy and perseverance in the due and orderly celebration of all the ordinances of the Gospel belongs unto this duty. And this perseverance respecteth both the things themselves, and the manner of their performance, both which are of the highest concernment for us diligently to attend unto.
First, as to the things themselves; herein do we principally glorify God, and give due honour unto Jesus Christ, when we abide in our professed subjection unto him, and observance of his commands, against difficulties, oppositions and persecutions. This he taketh notice of, Rev. 2:13. Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful Martyr, who was slain among you where Satan dwelleth. And this he requireth of us indispensably if we will be his disciples, or ever hope to obtain the reward, Matt. 10:38-39. He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me; and it is he who endureth unto the end, that shall be saved, Matt. 24:13. And unto them who are faithful unto the death, and them alone doth he give the crown of life, Rev. 2:10. giving us caution not to lose those things which we have wrought, that we may receive a full reward, 2 John 8. And as to the manner of their performance, two things are to be regarded in this duty of perseverance, and the sanctification of the name of God therein.The inward principle of our obedience, our faith and love which are to be preserved from decay, Rev. 2:4-5. I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love; remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works, Ch. 3:3. Remember how thou hast received, and heard, and hold fast and repent.
- The inward principle of our obedience, our faith and love which are to be preserved from decay, Rev. 2:4-5. I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love; remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works, Ch. 3:3. Remember how thou hast received, and heard, and hold fast and repent.
- The outward manner of observance which is to be kept entire, according to the primitive institution of Christ, 1 Cor. 11:23. I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you, not admitting of any corruptions in it to avoid the greatest trouble, Gal. 5:11. And I Brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?
Q. 9. How do we in our observation, profess our subjection unto the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel?
A. In that being all of them 1. Appointed by him as the head Law-giver, King of his Church. And 2. Made by him the ensignes and tokens of his Kingdom, and Subjects, in their due observation principally consists that profession of him, and his name, which be so often calleth us unto, and so indispensably requireth at our hands.
Matt. 28:18-20, 1 Cor. 11:23, Heb. 3:6, Heb. 12:25, John 8:31, Ch. 13:13, Ch. 14:15, 21, 23, Ch. 15:14, 17. Ch. 13:35, Ch. 15:14, Luke 9:26, Rom. 10:10 & 1 John 2.3, 4.
The ground and reason of this duty is evident. The Lord Jesus Christ straightly enjoins all his disciples the profession of his name, and lays it on them as indispensable unto salvation, Rom. 10:10, With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, with the mouth confession, or profession, is made unto salvation, John 12:42-45. Now this profession of the name of Christ, which is so much abused and mistaken in the world, consists in the keeping of his commandments, John 15:14 ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you: So also Matt. 28:20 his disciples are to be taught to do, and observe, whatever he commandeth. Now whereas he is the head and King of the Church, the next immediate and special Law-giver of it appointing unto it all his Ordinances, and its whole worship, as it becomes him who is Lord of the house, the institutions of the Gospel worship are his most especial commands: And in their observation, consists that profession of him which he requires of us; Therein doth he call them out of the world by profession, whom he hath redeemed out of it by his blood, 1 Cor. 6:15-17, Rev. 5:9. in these he exerciseth his Kingly, or Lordly power over his Church. Heb. 3:6 and in the willing obedience of his people, gathering themselves unto the ensigns of his rule, he is glorified in the world.
Q. 10. How do we in and by them build up our selves in our most holy faith?
A. By the exercise of that communion with God in Christ Jesus, which in their due observation he graciously invites and admits us unto, for the increase of his grace in us, and the testification of his love and good will towards us.
Gen. 17:10, Lev. 26:11-12, Prov. 9:5-6, Ezek. 26:27-28, Zach. 14:16-17, Matt. 26:27-28 and Rom. 6.3.
The next and principal ends of all instituted worship in respect of believers, are the increase of the grace of God in them, their edification in their most holy faith, and the testification of the good will of God unto them, Eph. 4:11-15. And he gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors, and Teachers, for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the Ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lye in wait to deceive, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted, by that which every joint supplieth according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of it self in love. Whence also is that prayer of the Apostle for the blessing of God upon the Church, in the use of them, Eph. 3:16-18. That he will grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inward man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all Saints, what is the breadth, the length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God: For these ends, and with a design to have them accomplished, in and upon their souls, ought they to attend unto them. James 1:21. Receive with meekness the ingrafted word of God, which is able to save your souls, 1 Pet. 2:2. As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. Unto the effecting of these ends, especially the increase and establishment of our faith, are they suited and appointed of God, whereon all their efficacy doth depend. In their due observation, doth God give out that supply of grace which he hath promised, Eph. 1.16-19. and thus also is faith exercised, in an especial manner, which is the only ordinary means of its growth and increase. Habits both acquired, and infused, are increased and strengthened by frequent acts on suitable objects, Hos. 6:3. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord. In the celebration of Gospel Ordinances, God in Christ proposeth himself in an intimate manner to the believing soul, as his God, and reward; and his love in Christ, in an especial manner in some Ordinances. So doth Christ also exhibit himself thereunto, Rev. 3.20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock, if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Faith therefore directed by the word to rest in God, to receive the Lord Christ in the observation of his Ordinances, is excited, increased, strengthened, and that in answer unto the appointment and promises of God.
Q. 11. How are mutual love and communion among believers testified and confirmed in their observation?
A. In that they are appointed by the Lord Christ for that end, and in their own nature as attended unto in their Assemblies, are in an especial manner suited unto that purpose.
John 13:35, 1 Cor. 10:16-17, 1 Cor. 11:18-19 and Eph. 4:4-6.
The principles of mutual, spiritual love among believers, arise from their relation unto one Father, Matt. 23:9. One is your Father which is in Heaven: who giveth unto all them that believe in Christ, Power to become the sons of God, John 1:12. And their being all children of the same family; that family in Heaven and Earth which is called after the name of God the Father of it, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Eph. 3.14-15 and unto Christ Jesus as their elder brother, who is not ashamed to call them brethren, Heb. 2:11 being by him born of God; and from their participation of one and the self same Spirit, which dwelleth in them, as they are the Temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in them, 1 Cor. 3:16 as also in all the fruits of that one Spirit, 1 Cor. 12:4-8. and in that one faith and hope whereunto they are called; Eph. 4:4-6. endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. And that love which is not built on these principles and foundations, is not Evangelical, whatever other ground it may have, or occasion it may pretend unto.
Communion of Saints consists in their mutual love duly exercised according to rule; and all communion is an effect of union. In union therefore must lie the springs of love: and this consists in a joint incorporation of believers into Christ; for as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body being many are one body, so also is Christ; for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body; and this they have by the means before mentioned, namely their adoption, faith, and inhabitation of the Spirit. Now in the joint celebration of the Ordinances of God’s worship, they altogether make profession of these principles, and act that one faith, hope, and love jointly, whereof they are made partakers, and thereby grow up more and more into the head by that which every joint supplieth, Eph. 4:16 and some of them are peculiarly designed by the Lord Christ, for the testification of their love, and union among themselves, 1 Cor. 10:16-17, the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? as we being many are one bread, and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.
Q. 12. What is principally to be attended unto by us in the manner of the celebration of the worship of God, and observation of the institutions and Ordinances of the Gospel?
A. That we observe and do all whatsoever the Lord Christ hath commanded us to observe, in the way that he hath prescribed; and that we add nothing unto, or in the observation of them, that is of man’s invention or appointment.
Deut. 4:2, Ch 12:32, Jer. 7:27. Ma•. 15:9, 13, Mat. 17:5, Coloss. 2.3. Mat. 28:20, Heb. 3:3-6, 1 Cor. 11:23, Rev. 22:18, 1 Chron. 16:13 & Isa. 29:13.
This was in part spoken to before on the third Question, where it was shewed that the Scripture is the only way and means, whereby God hath revealed what that worship is, which he will accept in and of the Church. Here, moreover, as to the duty of the Church in this matter, three things are asserted.
First, that we are to observe and do all whatsoever the Lord Christ hath commanded us to observe. This lies plain in the command, Matt. 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And we are directed unto it in the injunction given us from Heaven, to hear, that is obey him in all things, Matt. 17:5 he being the Prophet to whose teachings and instructions, we owe obedience on pain of extermination from among the people of God, Deut. 18:15, Act. 3:22-23. Whatever he hath appointed, commanded, revealed as the will of God to be observed in or about the worship of God, that is to be kept and observed by the Church inviolably. For if we are his friends and disciples, we will keep his commandments. No disuse of what continuance soever, can discharge us from the observation of institutions. After the Feast of Tabernacles had been disused from the times of Joshua, unto the return from the captivity, the restoration of it was required of God and accepted with him, Neh. 8:17. No abuse of how high a nature soever can absolve us from obedience unto an institution, 1 Cor. 18:19-23. After the great abuse of the Lord’s Supper in that Church, the Apostle recalls them again unto the observation of it, according to the institution of Christ. And after the defilement of all the Ordinances of the Gospel, under the Anti-Christian apostacy, yet the Temple and the Altar are to be measured again, Rev. 11:1. and the Tabernacle of God was again to be raised amongst men. Rev. 21:3.
No opposition, no persecution, can give the Church a dispensation wholly to omit, and lay aside the use of any thing that the Lord Christ hath commanded to be observed in the worship of God, whilst we are under the obligation of that great rule, Acts 4:19. Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. It is true in the observation of positive institutions, we may have regard unto rules and prescriptions of prudence, as to times, places, and seasons; that by no inadvertency or miscarriage of ours, or advantage taken by the adversaries of the truth, the edification of the Church be hindered. So the Disciples met with the doors shut for fear of the Jews, John 20:19. and Paul met with the Disciples in the night, in an upper chamber, for the celebration of all the Ordinances of the Church, Acts 20:7-8. yet as to the obligation unto their observation, it indispensably binds us, and that always, and that as to all the institutions of Christ whatever, Heb. 10:25. Not forsaking the assembling of our selves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as you see the day approaching. To dispense with Christ’s commands practically is unlawful; much more doctrinally; most of all authoritatively as the Pope takes on himself to do.
This then is the Church’s duty, to search out all the commands of Christ recorded in the Gospel, and to yield obedience unto them. We are not in this matter, to take up merely with what we find in practice amongst others, no, though they be men good or holy. The duty of the Church, and consequently of every member of it in his place and station, is to search the Scriptures, to inquire into the mind of Christ, and to find out whatever is appointed by him, or required of his Disciples; and that with hearts and minds prepared unto a due observation of whatever shall be discovered to be his will.
Secondly, whatever belongs unto the worship of God in the way or manner whereby any of the Ordinances of Christ is to be performed, comes also under the command of Christ which is duly to be attended unto, and observed. Indeed whatever is of this nature appointed by Christ, it doth therefore belong to the worship of God. And what is not so appointed, neither doth, nor can be any part thereof. Of this nature are the celebration of all other Ordinances with prayer; for every thing is sanctified by the word of God and prayer, 1 Tim. 4:5 of some of them indispensably in the assemblies of the Church, 1 Cor. 10:16-17, Chap. 11:20, 24, 25, 33. With care, in the observation of the general rules of love, modesty, condescension and prudence, doing all things decently and in order, 1 Cor. 11:33 & Ch. 14:40. Gestures in some sacred actions, Matt. 26:20, 26, John 13:23. All which the Church is diligently to inquire into, as things that belong to the pattern of the house of God, the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, the forms thereof, and the Ordinances thereof, with the laws thereof, promised to be shewed unto it, Ezek. 43:11 to attend carefully to their observation is its duty, being left at liberty as to all other circumstances which no authority of man can give any real relation to the worship of God unto. Therein lies the exercise of that Spirit of wisdom, and revelation in the knowledge of the mystery of the Gospel, which is given unto the Church, Eph. 1:17-18. It was the wisdom of the ancient Church to do and observe all that God appointed in the way and manner that he had prescribed for their observance, Deut. 4:5-6. Behold I have taught you statutes and judgements even as the Lord my God commanded me; keep therefore and do them, for this is your wisdom and understanding. And herein is the command of Christ kept inviolate and unblameable. The persuasion of some, that the Lord hath not prescribed all things wherein his worship is concerned, seems to proceed from a negligence in inquiring after what he hath so prescribed: and when once that persuasion is entertained, all farther inquiry is superseded, and despised. For to what end should any one seek after that which he is satisfied cannot be found? as that which is not cannot be. But this mistake will be elsewhere more fully discovered.
Thirdly, a principal part of the duty of the Church in this matter is, to take care that nothing be admitted or practised in the worship of God, or as belonging thereunto, which is not instituted and appointed by the Lord Christ. In its care, faithfulness and watchfulness herein, consists the principal part of its loyalty unto the Lord Jesus as the Head, King and Law-giver of his Church; and which to stir us up unto, he hath left so many severe interdictions and prohibitions in his word against all additions to his commands upon any pretence whatever; of which afterwards.
Q. 13. Are not some institutions of the New Testament ceased, as unto any obligation unto their observation, and therefore now rightly disused?
A. (1.) Some symbolical tokens of moral duties occasionally used, only for present instruction in those duties, are mentioned in the Gospel, without any intention to oblige believers unto the formal constant use or repetition of them. (2.) Some temporary appointments relating unto gifts in the Church, bestowed only for a season in the first plantation of the Gospel are ceased; but (3.) No institution or command of Christ, given unto the whole Church, relating unto the Evangelical administration of the New Covenant, for the use and benefit of all believers, doth or shall cease to the end of the world, nor can be wholly omitted without a violation of the authority of Jesus Christ himself.
John 13:12-15, Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, 1 Tim. 5:10, Mark 6:13, Jam. 5:14, Matt. 28:20, 1 Tim. 6:14 & 1 Cor. 11:16.
Mention is made in the Scriptures of sundry things practised by the Lord Christ and his Apostles, which being then in common use amongst men, were occasionally made by them symbolical instructions in moral duties. Such were washing of feet by one another, the holy kiss, and the like; but there being no more in them, but a sanctified use directed unto the present civil customs and usages, the commands given concerning them, respect not the outward action, nor appointed any continuance of them, being peculiarly suited unto the state of things and persons in those countries; as John 13:12-15. After he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, know ye what I have done to ye, ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am; if I then your Lord and Master have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one anothers feet, for I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you. ‘Tis evident that it is the moral duty of brotherly love, in condescension, and mutual helpfulness to be expressed in all necessary offices as occasion doth require, that is the thing which Jesus Christ here enjoins his disciples, and leads them to by his own example in an office of love then in use in those parts. The same is to be said of the holy kiss, Rom. 16:16 which was a temporary occasional token of entire love; which may in answer thereunto, be expressed by any sober usage of salutation amongst men to the same purpose. But the things themselves were not instituted for any continuance, nor do represent any special grace of the New Covenant, which is inseparable from every institution of Gospel worship properly so called. Common usages or practises therefore, directed to be used in a due manner, and unto a proper end, where they are used, make them not institutions of worship. Neither have they in them as so commanded or directed, any one thing that concurs to the constitution of a Gospel-Ordinance: for neither had they their rise in the authority of Christ, nor is any continuance of them enjoined, nor any promise annexed unto them, nor any grace of the New Covenant represented or exhibited in them.
Besides, there were in the first churches continued for a while certain extraordinary gifts, that had their effects visibly on the outward senses of men, and tended not immediately unto the edification of the church in their faith, but unto the conviction of others, and vindication of the authority of them by whom the gospel was preached and propagated. Such was that gift of healing the sick, which being an especial effect of the Holy-Ghost for the advantage of the Church in those days, in some places it was accompanied by anointing with oil; but this being no universal practice, and used only in the exercise of a gift extraordinary, whose use and being are long since ceased, it never was appointed nor intended to be of continuance in the Church, which is not tied by the Lord Christ to the empty signs and shadows of things whose substance is not enjoyed: besides, no spiritual grace of the Covenant was ever intimated, sealed, or exhibited by that usage of anointing with oil. The first mention of it is, Mark. 6:13 where its practice is reckoned among the effects of that extraordinary power which the Lord Christ committed unto his twelve disciples on their first sending out, and is referred unto the same series of miracles which they wrought in pursuit, and by virtue thereof, they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them. And by what is there recorded, the subsequent mention of it, James 5:14 is to be regulated, but now unto a real evangelical institution of worship, it is required (1.) That it be a command of Christ manifested by his Word, or example proposed unto our imitation, Matth. 28:20. (2.) That it be given and enjoined unto the whole Church with the limitation of its administration expressed in the Word, 1 Cor. 11:25. (3.) That unto the due performance of it, Gospel grace be required in them that attend unto it. (4.) That it teach, or represent, or seal, or improve some grace of the Covenant, and have a promise of acceptation annexed unto it, and whatever is thus appointed, the Church is indispensably to continue in the observation of, unto the end of the world.
Q. 14. May not the Church find out, and appoint to be observed, such religious rites, as being adjoined unto the celebration of God’s instituted worship, may farther the devotion of the Worshipers, and render the worship it self in its performance more decent, beautiful and orderly, as the appointing of images, and the like?
A. All acceptable devotion in them that worship God, is the effect of faith, which respects the precepts and promises of God alone. And the comeliness and beauty of Gospel worship, consisteth in its relation unto God by Jesus Christ, as the merciful High-Priest over his house, with the glorious administration of the Spirit therein. The order also of it lieth in the due and regular observation of all that Christ hath appointed; and therefore all such inventions are in themselves needless, and useless, and because forbidden, unlawful to be observed.
Rom. 1:21, Ch 14:23, Heb. 4:2, Ch. 11:6, Deut. 13:4, Ch. 27:10, Ch. 30:2.8, 20, Ch. 11:27, Matt. 27:5, Isa. 29:13, Heb. 11:4, 6, Eph. 2:18, 2 Cor. 3:8-11, Heb. 10:19-22, John 4:21, 23, 1 Cor. 14:20, Matt. 28:20, Exod. 20:4, Deut. 4:2, Matt. 15:13, Isa. 29:13, Deut. 12:32, Chap. 17:3.
Three things are usually pleaded in the justification of the observance of such rites and ceremonies in the worship of God.
(1.) That they tend unto the furtherance of the devotion of the worshipers.
(2.) That they render the worship it self comely and beautiful.
(3.) That they are the great preservers of order in the celebration thereof.
And therefore on these accounts they may be instituted, or appointed by some, and observed by all. But things are indeed quite otherwise, God is a spirit and will be worshiped in spirit and in truth, John 4:24. And no devotion is acceptable unto him, but what proceedeth from, and is an effect of faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. 11:6 and faith in all things respects the commands and authority of God; for, saith he, in vain do they worship me, who teach for doctrines the commandments of men, Matt. 15.9 and he rejecteth all that honour which is given him by those, whose fear towards him, or worship of him, is taught by the precepts of men, Isa. 29.13. These things therefore being utterly destitute of divine authority, they can no way farther or promote the devotion of the worshipers.
What natural, or carnal affections may be excited by them, as men may inflame themselves with idols, Isa. 57:5 or what outward, outside devotion they may direct unto or excite, is uncertain; but that they are no means of stirring up the grace of God in the hearts of believers, or of the increase or strengthening of their faith, which things alone God accepts in Gospel Worship, seeing they are not appointed by him for any such purpose, is most certain: for to say that any thing will effectually stir up devotion, that is, excite, strengthen or increase grace in the heart towards God, that is not of his own appointment, is on the one hand, to reflect on his wisdom and care towards his Church, as if he had been wanting towards it in things so necessary, which he declares against, Isa. 5:4 what, saith he, could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? so on the other, it extolls the wisdom of men above what is meet to ascribe unto it. Shall men find out that, which God would not, or could not, in matters of so great importance unto his glory, and the souls of them that obey him? yea, and it cannot be but that attendance unto them, and their effects must needs divert the mind from those proper spiritual actings of faith and grace, which is its duty to attend unto. And this is evidently seen in them who indulging to themselves in their observation in multiplied instances, as in the Church of Rome, have changed the whole spiritual worship of the Church, into a theatrical pompous shew of carnal devotion.
Secondly, the comeliness and beauty of Gospel worship, doth not in the least depend upon them, nor their observation. The Apostle doth in sundry places expressly compare the spiritual worship of the gospel, with that of the Law, whilst the Church had a worldly Sanctuary and carnal Ordinances, Heb. 9:1 and although it be most evident, that the worship of the Old Testament, did for the glory and ornaments of outward ceremonies, and the splendour of their observation, far exceed and excel that worship which God commands now, as suitable unto the simplicity of the Gospel, yet doth the Apostle prefer this for glory, comeliness and beauty, unspeakably above the other; which manifests that these things can have no respect unto outward Rites and Ceremonies, wherein the chief admirers of them can no way vie for glory with the old worship of the Temple. So the Apostle, 2 Cor. 3:7-11 if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away, how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious; for if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory: for even that which was made glorious had no glory, in this respect, by reason of the glory that excels; for if that which was done away is glorious, much more that which remains is glorious. He compares the two ministrations, and the several worships of the Law and Gospel, preferring this unspeakably above the other; sufficiently manifesting, that the glory of it consists not in any pompous observance of outward ceremonies. And elsewhere he declareth, that indeed it doth consist in its relation to God in Christ, with the liberty and boldness of the worshipers to enter into the holy place, unto the Throne of Grace under the Ministry of their merciful and faithful High-Priest, being enabled thereunto by the spirit of adoption, and supplications; for therein, through Christ we have an access in one spirit unto the Father, Eph. 2:18 as it is expressed, Heb. 10:19-21 having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and having an High-Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. This is the glory of gospel worship, and the beauty of it; whose consideration whilst the minds of men are diverted from, to look for beauty in the outward preparation of ceremonies, they lose the privilege purchased for believers by the blood of Christ. Instead then of furthering the beauty and comeliness of Gospel worship, they are apt to lead men into a dangerous error and mistake, namely that the beauty and excellency of it consists in such things, as upon a due consideration will appear to be mean and carnal, and far beneath those ceremonies and ordinances of the Old Testament which yet in comparison of the worship of the Gospel, are called worldly, carnal, beggarly, and are said to have no glory.
Thirdly, they do not in the least tend unto the preservation of due order in the celebration of divine worship. All order consists in the due observation of rule. The rules of actions are either natural, or of his special appointment. Both these take place in religious worship; the institutions or commands of Christ, containing the substance thereof, in their observation principally consists the order of it. Whatever is of circumstance in the manner of its performance, not capable of especial determination, as emerging or arising only occasionally upon the doing of that which is appointed, at this, or that time, in this, or that place, and the like, is left unto the rule of moral prudence, in whose observation their order doth consist. But the super-addition of ceremonies, necessarily belonging neither to the institutions of worship, nor unto those circumstances whose disposal falls under the rule of moral prudence, neither doth nor can add any thing unto the due order of Gospel Worship. So that they are altogether needless, and useless in the worship of God. Neither is this the whole of the inconvenience wherewith their observance is attended; for although they are not in particular, and expressly in the Scripture forbidden, for it was simply impossible that all instances wherein the wit of man might exercise its invention in such things, should be reckoned up and condemned, yet they fall directly under those severe prohibitions which God hath recorded to secure his worship from all such additions unto it, of what sort soever. Yea the main design of the Second Precept is to forbid all making unto our selves, any such things in the worship of God, to add unto what he hath appointed, whereof an instance is given in that of making and worshiping images, the most common way that the sons of men were then prone to transgress by, against the institutions of God. And this sense and understanding of the commandment is secured by those ensuing prohibitions against the adding any thing at all unto the commands of God in his worship, Deut. 4:2. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, Ch. 12:32 what things soever I command you, observe to do it, thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it, Ch. 17:3. to the same purpose were the places before mentioned, Matt, 15.9 as also is that severe rule applied by our Saviour unto the additions of the Pharisees, Verse 13. Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
And there is yet farther evidence contributed unto this intention of the command, from those places where such evils and corruptions, as were particularly forbidden in the worship of God, are condemned, not on the special account of their being so forbidden, but on that more general, of being introduced without any warrant from God’s institutions or commands, Jer. 7:31. they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I commanded not, neither came it into my heart. Ch. 19:5 they have also built the high places of Baal to burn their sons with fire, for burnt-offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake, neither came it into my mind. These things were particularly forbidden; but yet God here condemns them as coming under the general evil of making additions unto his commands, doing that which he commanded not, nor did it ever enter into his heart.
The Papists say indeed, that all additions corrupting the worship of God are forbidden; but such as further, adorn, and preserve it, are not so; which implies a contradiction; for whereas every addition is principally a corruption because it is an addition, under which notion it is forbidden, (and that in the worship of God which is forbidden is a corruption of it) there can be no such preserving, adorning addition, unless we will allow a preserving and adorning corruption. Neither is it of more force which is pleaded by them, that the additions which they make, belong not unto the substance of the worship of God, but unto the circumstances of it; for every circumstance observed religiously, or to be observed in the worship of God, is of the substance of it; as were all those ceremonious observances of the Law which had the same respect in the prohibitions of adding, with the most weighty things whatsoever.
Q. 15. How may it appear that the right and due observation of instituted worship, is of great importance unto the glory of God, and of high concernment unto the souls of men?
A. This is fully taught in the Scriptures; as (a) God would never accept in any state of the Church, before or since the fall, moral obedience without the observation of some institutions as trials, tokens, and pledges of that obedience. And (b) in their use and signification by his appointment they nearly concern the principal mysteries of his will and grace. And (c) By their celebration is he glorified in the world: And therefore, (d) As he hath made blessed promises to his people, to grant them his presence and to bless them in their use: So (e) being the tokens of the marriage relation that is between him and them, with respect unto them alone he calls himself a jealous God; And (f) hath actually exercised signal severity towards the neglecters, corrupters or abusers of them.
(a) Gen. 2:16-17, Gen. 4:3-4, Gen. 17:9-11, Exod. 12:24, Exod. 20, Mat. 28:19-20, Mat. 26:26-27, Eph. 4:11-12, Rev. 1:13, Rev. 21:3.
(b) Gen. 17:10, Exod. 12:23-24, Rom. 6:3-5, Mat. 26:27, 1 Cor. 11:25-27.
(c) See question the eighth and ninth.
(d) Exod. 29:42-45, Deut. 14:23, Psal. 133:3, Mat. 18:20, Rev. 21:3.
(e) Exod. 20:5, Deut. 4:23-24, Josh. 24:19, and Ezek. 16.
(f) Lev. 10:1-2, Num. 16:3, 8, 9, 32, 35, 1 Sam. 2:28-29, 2 Sam. 6:6-7, 2 Chron. 26:16, 19 and 1 Cor. 11:30.
For the most part, the instituted worship of God is neglected and despised in the world. Some are utterly regardless of it, supposing that if they attend, after their manner, unto moral obedience, that neither God nor themselves are much concerned in this matter, of his worship. Others think the disposal and ordering of it to be so left unto men, that as to the manner of its performance, they may do with it as it seems right in their own eyes, And some follow them therein as willingly walking after their commandments, without any respect unto the will or authority of God. But the whole Scripture gives us utterly another account of this matter. The honour of God in this world, the trial of our faith and obedience, the order and beauty of the Church, the exaltation of Christ in his professed subjection to him, and the saving of our souls in the ways of his appointment, are therein laid upon the due and right observance of instituted worship, and they who are negligent about these things, what ever they pretend, have no real respect unto any thing that is called Religion.
First therefore, in every state and condition of the Church, God hath given his Ordinances of worship, as the touchstone and trial of its faith and obedience, so that they by whom they are neglected, do openly refuse to come unto God’s trial. In the state of innocency, the trial of Adam’s obedience according to the law of nature, was in and by the institution of the trees of life, and of the knowledge of good and evil, Gen. 2:16-17. And the Lord God commanded the man saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayst freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou, shalt surely die. This was the first institution of God, and it was given unto the Church, in the state of innocency and purity. And in our first Parents neglect of attending thereunto, did they transgress the whole law of their creation, as failing in their duty in that which was appointment for their trial in the whole; Ch. 3:11 Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? &c. And the Church in his family after the fall, built upon the promise, was tried also in the matter of instituted worship. Nor was there any discovery of the wickedness of Cain, or approbation of the faith of Abel, until they came to be proved in their sacrifices, a new part of God’s instituted worship, the first in the state and condition of sin and the fall whereinto it was brought. Gen. 4:3-5. In process of time, it came to pass Cain brought of the fruit of the ground, an offering unto the Lord, and Abel he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof; and the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering, but unto Cain, and his offering he had not respect. The ground whereof the Apostle declares, Heb. 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. In the observation of that first institution given to the Church in the state of the fall, did Abel receive a testimony of his being justified and accepted with God. Afterwards when Abraham was called, and peculiarly separated to bare forth the name of God in the world, and to become the spring of the Church for future ages, he had the institution of circumcision given him for the trial of his obedience; the Law and condition whereof was, that he who observed it not should be esteemed an alien from the Covenant of God, and be cut off from his people. Gen. 17:9-11. God said unto Abraham, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee, every man-child among you shall be circumcised, Verse 14 and the uncircumcised man-child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people, he hath broken my covenant. And in like manner so soon as ever his posterity were to be collected into a new Church state and order, God gave them the Ordinance of the Passover, Exod. 12:24. Ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever and that upon the same penalty with that of circumcision; to these he added many more on mount Sinai, Exod. 20. all as the trials of their faith and obedience unto succeeding generations: How he hath dealt with his Church under the New Testament, we shall afterwards declare. In no state or condition then of the Church, did God ever accept of moral obedience without the observation of some instituted worship accommodated in his wisdom unto its various states and conditions. And not only so, but as we have seen, he hath made the observation of them according unto his mind and appointment, the means of the trial of men’s whole obedience, and the rule of the acceptance or rejection of them. And so it continues at this day, what ever be the thoughts of men about the worship which at present he requires.
Besides, God hath appointed that his Ordinances of worship shall be as effectual means as to instruct us in the mysteries of his will and mind, so of communicating his love, mercy, and grace unto us; as also of that communion, or intercourse with his holy Majesty, which he hath graciously granted unto us by Jesus Christ. And this as it is sufficiently manifested in the Scriptures quoted in answer unto this question, so it is at large declared in the writings of those holy and good men, who have explained the nature of gospel ordinances, and therefore in particular we need not here insist much in the further proof of it. Thus Abraham was instructed in the nature of the Covenant of Grace by circumcision, Gen. 17:10 which is often explained in the Old Testament, by applying it in particular to the grace of conversion, called the circumcision of the heart, Deut, 10:16, Ch. 30:6, Jer. 4:4 as also in the New Testament, Col. 2;11. And by the Passover, where the people taught, not only the mercy of their present deliverance, Exod. 12:23-24. but also to look for the Lamb of God who was to take away the sin of the world, John 1:29 the true Passover of the people of God which was sacrificed for them, 1 Cor. 5:7. how our incision or implanting into Christ, is represented and signified by our Baptism, the Apostle declares, Rom. 6:3-5 as also our communion with him in his death, by the Supper of the Lord, Matt. 26:27, 1 Cor. 11:25 and all these graces which they teach, they also exhibit, and are the means of the communication of them unto believers. Moreover the experience of all believers, who have conscientiously waited upon God in their due observance, may be produced in the confirmation of it. The instruction, edification, consolation, spiritual strength, courage, and resolution, which they have received in and by them, hath been witnessed unto in their lives, and ends; and they to whom these things are not of the greatest importance, do but in vain pretend a regard unto God in any thing whatever.
Furthermore, God hath appointed our duty in the observation of his instituted worship, to be the means of our glorifying him in the world. Nor can we otherwise give glory to God, but as we own his authority over us, and yield obedience to what he requires at our hands. And what we do herein, is principally evident in those duties which lie under the eye and observation of men. Some duties of obedience there are, which the world neither doth, nor can discern in believers. Such are their faith, inward holiness, purity of heart, heavenly mindedness, sincere mortification of indwelling sin, some whose performance ought to be hid from them, as personal prayer, and alms. Matt. 6:2-6. Some there are, which are very liable to misconstruction amongst men, as zeal in many of the actings of it. But this conscientious observation of instituted worship, and therein avowing our subjection unto the authority of God in Christ, is that which the world may see, and take notice of, and that, which unless in case of persecution ought not to be hid from them; and that which they can have no pretence of scandal at. And therefore hath God appointed that by this means and way, we shall honour and glorify him in the world, which if we neglect, we do evidently cast off all regard unto his concernments in this world. Herein it is, that we manifest our selves not to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, of him and his words, which he so indispensably requireth at our hands, Mark 8:38. For, saith he, whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels. Hereby do we keep the commandments of Christ, as his friends John 13:35 for these peculiarly are his commands, and if we suffer for them, then we do most properly suffer as Christians, which is our glory, that 1 Pet. 4:14-16. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you, on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified, but let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters, but if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this behalf. And a happy and a blessed thing it is, to suffer for the observation of the special commands of Christ.
Further, to encourage us in our duty, the holy faithful God hath given us many great and precious promises, that he will graciously afford unto us his especial sanctifying blessing presence, in our attendance on his worship according to his appointment. For as he promised of old that he would make glorious the place of his feet, or abode amongst his people, Isa. 60:13 that he would meet them in his sanctuary, the place of his worship, and there dwell amongst them, and bless them, and be their God, Exod. 29:42-45, Deut. 14:24 so the Lord Jesus Christ hath promised his presence to the same ends and purposes, unto all them that assemble together in his name, for the observation of the worship which in the Gospel he hath appointed, Matt. 18:20. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. And therein is the tabernacle of God, his gracious dwelling place, with men. Rev. 21:3. Now when God offereth unto us his presence, his gracious blessing, sanctifying, and saving presence, and that in and by promises which shall never fail, what unspeakable guilt must we needs contract upon our own souls, if we neglect or despise the tenders of such grace?
But because we are apt to be slothful, and are slow of heart in admitting a due sense of spiritual things that fall not in with the light and principles of nature, to stir us up unto a diligence in our attendance unto the will of God in this matter, he hath declared that he looks upon our obedience herein as our whole loyalty unto him in that conjugal covenant which he is pleased in Christ Jesus to take believers into with himself, Jer. 3:14. turn O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you, and will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and will bring ye unto Sion, and I will give you pastors according unto mine heart, which shall feed ye with knowledge and understanding. Coming unto Sion, in the worship of God, under the leading and conduct of Pastors according to the heart of God, is our answering the relation wherein we stand unto him as he is married unto us, and thereupon he teacheth us that as an husband, he is jealous of our discharge of our duty in this matter, accounting our neglect of his worship, or profanation of it by inventions and additions of our own, to be spiritual disloyalty, whoredom and adultery, which his soul abhorreth, for which he will cast off any church, or people, and that for ever, See Exod. 20:5, Deut. 4:23-24, Jos. 24:19, and Ezek. 16 whatever he will bear withal in his Church, he will not bear with that which his jealousy is exercised about. If it transgress therein, he will give it a bill of divorce; which repudiated condition, is the state of many churches in the world, however they please, and boast themselves in their meritricious ornaments and practices.
To give yet further strength unto all these considerations, that we may not only have rules and precepts, but examples also for our instruction, God hath given many signal instances of his severity against persons who by ignorance, neglect, or regardlessness, have miscarried in not observing exactly his will and appointment in and about his worship. This was the case of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, Lev. 10:1-2. of Corah, Dathan and Abiram, Numb. 16:3, 8, 9, 32, 35. of the sons of Eli, a sin not to be expiated with sacrifices and burnt offerings forever, 1 Sam. 2:28-29. of Uzza in putting the Ark into a cart, when he should have born it upon his shoulders, 1 Chron. 16:13, of Uzzia the King in offering incense contrary to God’s institution, that duty being appropriated unto the Priests of the posterity of Aaron, 2 Chron. 26:16, 19 these are sufficient intimations of what care and diligence we ought to use in attending unto what God hath appointed in his worship, and although now under the New Testament he doth not ordinarily proceed to the inflicting of temporal judgements in the like cases of neglect, yet he hath not wholly left us without instances of his putting forth tokens of his displeasure in temporal visitations on such miscarriages in his Church, 1 Cor. 11:30. For this cause, saith the Apostle, many are weak, and sickly among you, and many sleep. From all which it appears of what concernment it is unto the glory of God, and the salvation of our own souls, to attend diligently unto our duty in the strict and sincere observation of the worship of the Gospel; for he lets us know, that now a more severe punishment is substituted against such transgressions in the room of that which he so visibly inflicted under the Old Testament, Heb. 10.25-29.
Q. 16. Is there yet any other consideration that may stir up believers to an holy and religious care about the due observation of the institutions of the Gospel?
A. Yes! namely that the great apostacy of the Church in the last days, foretold in the Scripture, and which God threateneth to punish and revenge, consists principally in false worship, and a departure from the institutions of Christ.
Rev. 14:4-5 and Ch. 17:1-5.
That there is an apostacy of the Church foretold in the book of Revelation is acknowledged by all who with sincerity have inquired into the mind of God therein. The state of things at this day, and for many ages past in the world, sufficiently confirm that persuasion. And herein sundry things in general, are obvious unto every sober consideration thereof.
First the horrible evils, troubles and confusions that are to be brought into, and upon the world thereby.
Secondly, the high guilt and provocation of God, that is contained in it, and doth accompany it.
Thirdly, the dreadful vengeance that God in his appointed time will take upon all the promoters and obstinate maintainers of it. These things are at large all of them foretold in the Revelation, and therein also the Apostacy it self is set forth as the cause of all the plagues and destructions that by the righteous judgement of God, are to be brought upon the world in these latter days. Now as God doth earnestly call upon all that fear him, not to intermeddle, nor partake in the sins of the Apostates, lest they should also partake in their judgements, Rev 18:4. (I heard a voice from Heaven, saying, come out of her my people that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.) So he doth plainly declare wherein the Apostacy and sin it self should principally consist, and that is in the corrupting and contaminating of the ordinances of his worship, or the introduction of false worship joined with the persecution of them who refused to submit thereunto. For this cause, is the sin it self, set out under the name of fornication, and whoredom; and the Church that maintains it, is called the Mother of Harlots, Rev. 17:5. That by fornication, and whoredom, in the Church, the adulterating of the worship of God, and the admission of false self-invented worship in the room thereof, whereof God is jealous, is intended, the Scripture every where declares. It is easy then to gather of how great concernment un∣to us it is, especially in these latter days wherein this so heinous and provoking sin is prevalent in the world, carefully to attend unto the safe unerring rule of worship, and diligently to perform the duties that are required therein.
Q 17. Which are the principal institutions of the Gospel to be observed in the worship of God?
A. (1.) The calling, gathering and settling of churches with their officers, as the seat and subject of all other solemn instituted worship. (2.) Prayer with thanksgiving. (3.) Singing of Psalms. (4.) Preaching the Word. (5.) Administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord. (6.) Discipline and rule of the Church collected and settled; most of which have also sundry particular duties relating unto them, and subservient unto their due observation.
(1.) Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 2:41-42, 1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11-12, Matt. 18:17-19, 1 Cor. 4:17, 1 Cor. 7:17, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5, 1 Tim. 3:15.
(2.) 1 Tim. 2:1, Acts 6:4. Acts 13:2-3.
(3.) Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16.
(4.) 2 Tim. 4:2, Acts 2:42, 1 Cor. 14:3, Acts 6:2, and Heb. 13:7.
(5.) Matt. 28:19, Matt. 26:26-27 and 1 Cor. 11:23.
(6.) Matt. 18:17-19, Rom. 12:6-8 and Rev. 2:3.
These things being all of them afterwards to be spoken unto severally and apart, need not here any particular explication. They are the principal heads wherein Gospel-worship consists, and whereunto the particular duties of it may be reduced.
Q. 18. Whereas sundry of these things are founded in the light and law of nature, as requisite unto all solemn worship, and are moreover commanded in the moral law, and explications of it in the Old Testament; how do you look upon them as Evangelical institutions to be observed principally on the authority of Jesus Christ?
A. Neither their general suitableness unto the principles of right reason, and the dictates of the light and law of nature, nor the practice of them in the worship of God under the Old Testament, do at all hinder them from depending on the mere institution of Jesus Christ, as to those especial ends of the glory of God in and by himself, and the edification of his Church in the faith which is in him, whereunto he hath appointed them: Nor as unto that especial manner of their performance, which he requireth in which respects they are to be observed on the account of his authority and command only.
Matt. 17:5, Matt. 28.20, John 16:23-24, Heb. 3:4-6, Eph. 1:22, Ch. 2:20-22, Heb. 12:25.
The principal thing we are to aim at in the whole worship of God, is the discharge of that duty which we owe to Jesus Christ the King and Head of the Church, Heb. 3:6 Christ as a son over his own house, whose house are we, 1 Tim. 3:15. That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thy self in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God. This we cannot do unless we consider his authority as the formal reason and cause of our observance of all that we do therein. If we perform any thing in the worship of God on any other account, it is no part of our obedience unto him; and so we can neither expect his grace to assist us, nor have we his promise to accept us therein; for that he hath annexed unto our doing and observing whatever he hath commanded, and that because he hath commanded us, Matt. 28:20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. This promised presence respects only the observance of his commands. Some men are apt to look on this authority of Christ as that which hath the least influence into what they do. If in any of his institutions they find any thing that is suited or agreeable unto the light of nature, as Ecclesiastical societies, government of the Church, and the like they say are, they suppose and contend, that that is the ground on which they are to be attended unto, and so are to be regulated accordingly.
The interposition of his authority they will allow only in the Sacraments which have no light in reason or nature; so desirous are some to have as little to do with Christ as they can, even in the things that concern the worship of God. But it would be somewhat strange, that if what the Lord Christ hath appointed in his Church to be observed in particular, in an especial manner, for especial ends of his own, hath in the general nature of it an agreement with what in like cases the light of nature seems to direct unto, that therefore his authority is not to be considered, as the sole immediate reason of our performance of it; But it is evident:
First, that our Lord Jesus Christ being the King and Head of his Church, the Lord over the house of God, nothing is to be done therein but with respect unto his authority, Matt. 17:5 This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him; Eph. 4:15 Speaking the truth in love, grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of it self in love; Eph. 2.20-21 Ye are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the spirit.
Secondly, and that therefore, the suitableness of any thing to right reason or the light of nature, is no ground for a Church observation of it, unless it be also appointed and commanded in especial by Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, that being so appointed and commanded, it becomes an especial institution of his, and as such, is to be observed so that in all things that are done, or to be done with respect unto the worship of God in the Church, the authority of Christ is always principally to be considered; and every thing to be observed as commanded by him, without which consideration it hath no place in the worship of God.