Question 16Is 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?

Answer 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.

Rev. 13:4,5,17:1-5.

Explication — That there is an apostasy of the church fortold in the book of the Revelation is acknowledged by all who with sincerity have inquired into the mind of God therein. The state of things at this day, and for many ages past in the world, sufficiently confirm that persuasion. And herein sundry things in general are obvious unto every sober consideration thereof: —

First, The horrible evils, troubles, and confusions that are to be brought into and upon the world thereby.

Secondly, The hign guilt and provocation of God that is contained in it and doth accompany it.

Thirdly, The dreadful vengeance that God in his appointed time will take upon all the promoters and obstinate maintainers of it. These things are at large all of them foretold in the Revelation; and therein also the apostasy itself is set forth as the cause of all the plagues and destructions that, by the righteous judgment of God, are to be brought upon the world in these latter days. Now, as God doth earnestly call upon all that fear him not to intermeddle nor partake in the sins of the apostates, lest they should also partake in their judgments, chap. 18:4, “I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues;” so he doth plainly declare wherein the apostasy and sin itself should principally consist; and that is in the corrupting and contaminating of the ordinances of his worship, or the introduction of false worship, joined with the persecution of them who refused to submit thereunto. For this cause is the sin itself set out under the name of “fornication” and “whoredom,” and the church that maintains it is called “The mother of harlots,” chap. 17:5. That by fornication and whoredom in the church, the adulterating of the worship of God, and the admission of false, self-invented worship in the room thereof, whereof God is jealous, is intended, the Scripture everywhere declares.

It is easy, then, to gather of how great concernment unto us it is, especially in these latter days, wherein this so heinous and provoking sin is prevalent in the world, carefully to attend unto the safe, unerring rule of worship, and diligently to perform the duties that are required therein.

The Life and Works of John Owen Vol.15