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Question 15 — Whence 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?
Answer — This is
fully taught in the Scriptures; as, aGod 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 bin their use and signification by his
appointment they nearly concern the principal mysteries of his will and
grace; and cby their celebration is he glorified in the world.
And, therefore, das he hath made blessed promises to his people,
to grant them his presence and to bless them in their use; so,
ebeing the tokens of the marriage relation that is between him
and them, with respect unto them alone he calls himself “a jealous God,”
and fhath actually exercised signal severity towards the
neglecters, corrupters, or abusers of them.
aGen. ii. 16, 17, iv. 3–5, xvii. 9–11; Exod. xii. 21, xx.; Matt. xxviii. 19, 20,xxvi. 26, 27; Eph. iv. 11, 12; Rev. i. 13, xxi. 3.
bGen. xvii. 10; Exod. xii. 23, 24; Rom. vi. 3–5; Matt. xxvi. 26–28; 1 Cor. xi. 23–26.
cSee questions the eighth and ninth.
dExod. xxix. 42, 43, 45; Deut. xiv. 23, 24; Ps. cxxxiii. 3; Matt. xviii. 20; Rev. xxi. 3.
eExod xx. 5; Deut. iv. 23, 24; Josh. xxiv. 19; Ezek. xvi.
fLev. x. 1, 2; Num. xvi. 1–40; 1 Sam. ii. 27–34; 2 Sam. vi. 6, 7; 2 Chron. xxvi. 16–21; 1 Cor. xi. 30.
Explication — 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 our 472professed 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, whatever they pretend, have no real respect unto anything 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 tree of life, and of the knowledge of good and evil: Gen ii. 16, 17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest 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 appointed for their trial in the whole: Chap. iii. 11, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”, etc. 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. iv. 3–5, “In process of time it came to pass, that 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. xi. 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. Afterward, when Abraham was called, and peculiarly separated to bear 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. xvii. 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 473shall 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 the ordinance of the passover: Exod. xii. 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. xx.; 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, whatever be the thoughts of men about the worship which at present he requires.
Besides, God hath appointed that his worship shall be an 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 the gospel ordinances; and therefore, in particular, we need not here insist much in the farther proof of it. Thus, Abraham was instructed in the nature of the covenant of grace by circumcision, Gen. xvii. 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. x. 16, xxx. 6, Jer. iv. 4; as also in the New Testament, Col. ii. 11. And by the passover were the people taught not only the mercy of their present deliverance, Exod. xii. 23, 24, but also to look for the Lamb of God who was to take away the sin of the world, John i. 29, the true Passover of the people of God, which was sacrificed for them, 1 Cor. v. 7. How our insition or implanting into Christ is represented and signified by our baptism, the apostle declares, Rom. vi. 3–5; as also our communion with him in his death, by the supper of the Lord, Matt. xxvi. 26, 27, 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25. And all these graces which they teach they also exhibit, and are the means of the communication of them unto believers. Moreover, 474the 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. vi. 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 ourselves not to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, of him and his words, which he so indispensably requireth at our hands: Mark viii. 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 xv. 14, 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. iv. 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 busy-body in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” And a happy and a blessed thing it is to suffer for the observation of the special commands of Christ.
475Farther; 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 our worship according to his appointment; for as he promised of old that he would make glorious “the place of his feet,” or abode among his people, Isa. lx. 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. xxix. 42–45, Deut. xiv. 23, 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. xviii. 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. xxi. 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 souls if we neglect or despise the tenders of such grace!
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. iii. 14, 15, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you unto Zion: and I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Coming unto Zion, 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 a 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. xx. 5; Deut. iv. 23, 24; Josh. xxiv. 19; Ezek. xvi. 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 meretricious ornaments and practices.
476To give yet farther 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. x. 1, 2; of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Num. xvi. 1–40; of the sons of Eli, — a sin not to be “expiated with sacrifice nor offering for ever,” 1 Sam. ii. 27–34, iii. 14; of Uzza in putting the ark into a cart, when he should have borne it upon his shoulders, 1 Chron. xiii. 7–10; of Uzziah the king in offering incense contrary to God’s institution, that duty being appropriated unto the priests of the posterity of Aaron, 2 Chron. xxvi. 16–21. 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 judgments 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. xi. 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. x. 25–29.
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