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" Owen maintains that it is not important that people engage in the particular actions Jesus engaged in, like washing another's feet, but instead that people strive to express their moral duty of brotherly love, in condescension and mutual helpfulness.
The fourteenth question posed by Owen is, "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 further the devotion of the worshippers, and render the worship itself in its performance more decent, beautiful, and orderly, as the appointing of images, and the like?" Owen's answer is, "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." Owen explains that God is a spirit and is to be worshipped only from faith. The worship of the gospel is not dependent upon the observation of the law. Owen concludes that any additions to the gospel are corruptions because they attempt to change the gospel.
Owen's fifteenth question is, "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?" Owen answers that, "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 in their use and signification by his appointment they nearly concern the principal mysteries of his will and grace; and by their celebration is he glorified in the world. And, therefore, as he hath made blessed promises to his people, to grant them his presence and to bless them in their use; so, 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 hath actually exercised signal severity towards the neglecters, corrupters, or abusers of them." While Owen believes that the worship of God is largely neglected, he also believes that is a problem. Honoring God requires the observation of instituted worship. God's means of worship is an effectual means, because it instructs one as to the mysteries of God's will and mind. Instituted worship is the means that God has given man to glorify Him in this world.
Owens' sixteenth question is, "Is there yet any consideration that may stir up believers to a holy and religious care about the due observation of the institutions of the gospel?" Owen's response is that, "Yes; namely, that the great apostasy 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."
According to Owen, there are several things in the gospel that talk about God's punishment upon the apocalypse. These include the horrible things brought into the world on the apocalypse, God's guilt and provocation that accompanies the apocalypse, and God's vengeance on the unfaithful.
The seventeenth question posed by Owen is, "Which are the principal institutions of the gospel to be observed in the worship of God?" Owen's answer is that, "The calling, gathering, and settling of churches, with their officers, as the seat and subject of all other solemn instituted worship; prayer, with thanksgiving; singing of psalms' preaching the word; administration of the sacraments of baptism and the supper of the Lord; 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." While Owen does not explain his answer to question seventeen, he explains the various components elsewhere in his book.
The eighteenth question is, "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?" Owen's response to that question is that, "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, does 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." God's authority is the only reason for observance God's laws. Nothing is to be done in the Church without Christ's authority. Next, Owen points out that even if a thing is suitable, it should not be observed in the church unless commanded by Jesus Christ. Third, when Jesus commands something, it becomes an institution and is to be observed.
Owen's nineteenth question is, "What is an instituted church of the gospel?" His reply is that, "A society of persons called out of the world, or their natural worldly state, by the administration of the word and Spirit, unto the obedience of the faith, or the knowledge and worship of God in Christ, joined together in a holy band, or by special agreement, for the exercise of the communion of saints, in the due observation of all the ordinances of the gospel." Owen points out that the Catholic Church is not the church of the gospel. Owen stated that the Jewish church was also not a church of the gospel, because Jews were threatened with excommunication if they professed Christ's name.
Churches are necessary for Christians, because they are required for the due observation of the religion. In fact, Owen believes that particular churches are themselves an ordinance of the New Testament. Moreover, Owen indicates that divisions within the church were ordained by Christ; because Christ expressly appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The apostles themselves sought to establish churches. The call to the church is the call out of the darkness and sin into which mankind is born.
The twentieth question asked by Owen is, "By what means do persons so called become a church of Christ?" Owen answers, "They are constituted a church, and interested in the rights, power, and privileges of a gospel church, by the will, promise, authority, and law of Jesus Christ, upon their own voluntary consent and engagement to walk together in the due subjection of their souls and consciences unto his authority, as their king, priest, and prophet, and in a holy observation of all his commands, ordinances, and appointments." Owen maintains that Christ constituted a church-state. Christ has taken the establishment and continuation of the church as his duty and he calls people to Christianity in order to do that.
Owen's twenty-first question is, "Seeing the church is a society or spiritual incorporation of persons under rule, government, or discipline, declare who or what are the rulers, governors, or officers therein under Jesus Christ?" Owen's answer is, "They have been of two sorts: 1. Extraordinary, appointed for a season only; and, 2. Ordinary, to continue unto the end of the world." Owen does not engage in an explication of the twenty-first question.
The twenty-second question posed by Owen is, "Who are the extraordinary officers, or rulers, or ministers of the church, appointed to serve the Lord Jesus Christ therein for a season only? Owen's answer is, "The apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the evangelists and prophets, endowed with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, associated with them and employed by them in their works and ministry." The persons constituting a church must consent to attain the same ends. A church must have rules and laws that guide and direct its members. Churches also need to incorporate a power structure: some to rule and govern and others to obey and be governed.…[continue]
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