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How May We Have Suitable Conceptions of God in Duty? by Thomas Mallery D.D. (n.d.)

Articles on Puritan Worship and the Regulative Principle

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DOCTRINE: That such as speak to God or speak of God, such as draw near to God or have to do with God in any part of divine worship, must manage all their performances with right apprehensions and due conceptions of God.

The use I shall make of this point is, to inform Christians how much it concerneth us to acquaint ourselves more intimately with God as he hath manifested himself in Jesus Christ; in whom alone we can have right apprehensions and due conceptions of God; without which we cannot perform aright any kind of worship to God.

1. Without due apprehensions and conceptions of God, we cannot perform any part of that NATURAL worship we owe to God.—We cannot love him, fear him, trust in him, pray unto him, praise him, &c.
2. Without the right apprehensions and due conceptions of God in Jesus Christ, we cannot perform aright any part of his INSTITUTED worship.

(1.) For all the ordinances of God’s instituted worship (as the sacrifices and sacraments under the law, so the sacraments and other ordinances under the gospel) seem to have immediate relation to, and near dependence on, Christ.—“God manifested in the flesh.” You may observe, they consist of two parts, the one natural, the other spiritual; the one external, the other internal; the one, as it were, the body, the other, the soul, of it; the one representing the humanity, the other the divinity, of Jesus Christ: so that every ordinance of worship is, as it were, a representation of Christ incarnate.

(2.) The divine essence or Godhead in Jesus Christ seems to be the proper object of all worship.—The Schoolmen have concluded, (to which I find our learned and pious divines have given their assent,) that “the essence of the Godhead is the primary and proper object of worship.”*

This divine essence is wholly in Christ: “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9.) In that body or human nature of Christ the fulness of the Godhead dwelt not locally, as locatum in loco, or contentum in continente,† but by personal union. And the divine essence, as it is in Christ, seems to be the proper object of all gospel-worship: it was so under the law in types and figures; and such was the tabernacle and temple-worship in its spiritual notion.

The tabernacle or temple was God’s habitation or dwelling-place. (Psalm 76:2.) There was the only place of public worship. (Psalm 29:2.) No sacrifice was to be offered in any other place. There the spiritual worshippers had by faith a sight of God, and communion with God. (Psalm 63:2; 68:24.) Towards God in this place they were to make all their supplications and prayers wherever, or in what country soever, they were. (1 Kings 8:29, 30. See Dan. 6:10.) Now the tabernacle and temple were a type of the body or humanity of Christ, as himself explaineth; (John 2:19;) in which the divine glory of the Godhead dwelt. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” (or “tabernacled in us,” as the Greek word signifies,) “and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.” (John 1:14.) Therefore, what the tabernacle or temple was to them under the law, that is Christ Jesus to us under the gospel. And as God manifested to them in the temple was the proper object of worship to them, so God manifested to us in Christ is the proper object of worship to us.

(3.) The flesh or humanity of Christ is the medium or mean by which we have access to God in all our worship.—This is expressed: “Having boldness to enter into the holiest,” where the divine glory appeared between the cherubims on the mercy-seat, “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.” (Heb. 10:19, 20.) By the “flesh” of Christ here, I do not understand his natural flesh barely considered as such, but in that notion as it is to be understood in John 6:53–56; where Christ speaketh of eating his flesh and drinking his blood unto life; where Christ’s flesh, by a metonymy of the cause for the effect, signifies the righteousness, satisfaction, reconciliation, grace, peace, glory, [which] Christ procured for us by the obedience he performed to God in that flesh. By the flesh of Christ in this sense, we have access to God in all our worship.
Yet is not the consideration of Christ’s natural flesh altogether useless unto this end; for whereas we are apt to frame images and similitudes of God in our minds, the right apprehensions of God dwelling in the human nature of Christ, who is the true “image of the invisible God,”* may be effectual to remove all other images and likenesses of God out of our minds. But then we must be careful that we do not terminate our conceptions of God in the man Christ, or in the manhood of Christ; for then we shall make the human nature of Christ the image of the Godhead, and that would be an idol. But when we have taken up an apprehension of the humanity of Christ, if our conceptions pass “through the veil into the holiest,” if we are led thereby to worship that Godhead that dwells in it, this is a right conception and true worship.

The humanity of Christ was to the Godhead as a back of metal to a crystal glass: look on such a glass in its pure substance, and it is transparent; put a back of metal to it, and it gives a beautiful reflex. So, if we take up conceptions of the Godhead in its pure essence, it is transparent: if we consider God infinite, almighty, immense, eternal, what is this to the creature, or our comfort? If we consider him in his power, justice, wisdom, holiness, goodness, truth, what is this to us? Yea, all these are against us as we are sinners. But if we take up conceptions of God in all these attributes as they appear to us in Christ, as they are backed with the humanity of Christ, so they make a most comfortable reflex upon us. In this glass we behold “the glory of the Lord,” and “are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18.) In this glass we behold that wisdom by which we are instructed, that righteousness by which we are justified, that power by which we are preserved, that grace by which we are chosen and called, that goodness by which we are relieved and supplied, that holiness by which we are transformed, that glory to which we shall be conformed.

The conclusion of all this is, that our right apprehensions and due conceptions of God must spring from the manifestations of God in Jesus Christ.

Taken from Nichols, J. (1981). Puritan Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 366–368). Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers.

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