Communion with Christ (Part 3)

From John Owen’s Communion with God 2.146-152

We keep our communion with Christ chaste also

3. In [keeping] his institutions, or matter and manner of his worship. Christ marrying his church to himself, taking it to that relation, still expresseth the main of their chaste and choice affections to him to lie in their keeping his institutions and his worship according to his appointment. The breach of this he calls “adultery” everywhere, and “whoredom.” He is a “jealous God;” and he gives himself that title only in respect of his institutions. And the whole apostasy of the Christian church unto false worship is called “fornication;” and the church that leads the others to false worship, the “mother of harlots.” On this account, those believers who really attend to communion with Jesus Christ, do labour to keep their hearts chaste to him in his ordinances, institutions, and worship; and that two ways:-

(1.) They [believers] will receive nothing, practice nothing, own nothing in His worship, but what is of his appointment. They know that from the foundation of the world he never did allow, nor ever will, that in any thing the will of the creatures should be the measure of his honour, or the principle of his worship, either as to matter or manner. It was a witty and true sense that one gave of the Second Commandment, ‘Non imago, non simulachrum prohibetur, sed, non facies titbi;’ – it is a making to ourselves, an inventing, a finding out ways of worship, or means of honouring God, not by him appointed, that is so severely forbidden. Believers know what entertainment all will-worship finds with God. “Who hath required this at your hand?” and “In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the traditions of men,” is the best it meets with. I shall take leave to say what is upon my heart, and what (the Lord assisting) I shall willingly endeavour to make good against all the world, – namely, that that principle, that the church hath power to institute and appoint any thing or ceremony belonging to the worship of God, either as to matter or manner, beyond the orderly observance of such circumstances as necessarily attend such ordinances as Christ himself hath instituted, lies at the bottom of all the horrible superstition and idolatry of all the confusion, blood, persecution, and wars, that have for so long a season spread themselves over the face of the Christian world; and that it is the design of a great part of the Book of the Revelation to make a discovery of the truth. And I doubt not but that the great controversy which God hath had with this nation for so many years, and which he hath pursued with so much anger and indignation, was upon this account, that, contrary to the glorious light of the Gospel, which shone among us, the wills and fancies of men, under the name of order, decency, and authority of the church (a chimera that none knew what it was, nor wherein the power did consist, nor in whom reside), were imposed on men in the ways and worship of God. Neither was all that pretence of glory, beauty, comeliness, and conformity, that then was pleaded, any thing more or less than what God doth so describe in the Church of Israel, Ezek. 16.25, and forwards. Hence was the Spirit of God in prayer derided,- hence was the powerful preaching of the Gospel despised,- hence was the Sabbath-day decried, – hence was holiness stigmatized and persecuted. To what end?  That Jesus Christ might be deposed from the sole power of law-making in his church,- that the true husband might be thrust aside, and adulterers of his spouse embraced,- that taskmasters might be appointed in and over his house, which he never gave to his church, Eph. 4.11,- that a ceremonious, pompous, outward show-worship, drawn from Pagan, Judaical, and Antichristian observances, might be introduced; of all which there is not one word, tittle, or iota in the whole book of God. This, then, they who hold communion with Christ are careful of,- they will admit nothing, practice nothing, in the worship of God, private or public, but what they have his warrant for. Unless it comes in his name, with “Thus saith the Lord Jesus,” they will not hear an angel from heaven. You know how many in this very nation, in the days not long since past, yea, how many thousands, left their native soil, and went into a vast and howling wilderness in the utmost parts of the world, to keep their souls undefiled and chaste to their dear Lord Jesus, as to this of his worship and institutions.

(2.) They readily embrace, receive, and practice every thing that the Lord Christ has appointed. They inquire diligently into his mind and will, that they may know it. They go to him for directions, and beg of him to lead. them in the way they have not known. The 119th Psalm may be a pattern for this. How does the good, holy soul breathe after instruction in the ways and ordinances, the statutes and judgements, of God! This, I say, they are tender in: whatever is of Christ, they willingly submit unto, accept of, and give up themselves to the constant practice thereof; whatever comes on any other account they refuse.