Friday, November 9, 2007

John Owen on Worship

Question 2 — By what means do we come to know that God will thus be worshipped?
Answer — 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, the b 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. i. 21, ii. 14, 15 ; Acts xiv. 16, 17, xvii. 23-31 .
b Exod. xx. 4-6 .
c Jer. vii. 31 ; Exod. xxv. 40 ; Heb. iii. 1-6 ; John i. 18 .
Explication — These two things all men saw 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 acknowledgment 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. x. 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. And, —
Secondly, This also they were led to an apprehension of by the same light whereby they are “a law unto themselves,” Rom. ii. 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 excellencies, the apostle convinces and disproves them, as men acting against the light of nature and principles of reason, Rom. i. 20, 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 xvii. 22-31 . 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 means were they knew not. These always depended on God’s sovereign will and pleasure, and he made them known to whom he pleased, Ps. cxlvii. 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 i. 18 ; Matt. xvii. 5 ; 1 Chron. xvi. 7 .
John Owen, A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God, 4 (Joseph Kreifels).

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