Question 4Have these ways and means been always the same from the beginning?

AnswerNo; but God hath altered and changed them at sundry seasons, according to the counsel of his own will, so as he saw necessary for his own glory and the edification of his church.

Gen. 2:16,17,17:10,11; Exod. 12:3-24,20:1-26,25:9; Heb. 1:1,2,9:10-12.

Explication— The external worship whereof we speak being, as was showed before, not natural or moral, arising necessarily from the dependence of the rational creature on God as its first cause, chiefest good, last end, and sovereign Lord, but proceeding from the mere will and pleasure of God, determining how he will be honoured and glorified in the world, was always alterable by him by whom it was appointed.  And whereas, ever since the entrance of sin into the world, God had always respect unto the promise of the Lord Christ and his mediation, in whom alone he will be glorified, and faith in whom he aimed to begin and increase in all his worship, he hath suited his institutions of the means thereof to that dispensation of light and knowledge of him which he was pleased at any time to grant. Thus, immediately after the giving of the promise, he appointed sacrifices for the great means of his worship; as to glorify himself expressly by men’s offering unto him of the principal good things which he had given them, so to instruct them in the faith, and confirm them in the expectation of the great sacrifice for sin that was to be offered by the promised seed, Gen. 4:3,4; Heb. 11:4.  These were the first instituted worship of God in the world after the entrance of sin. Hereunto he nextly added circumcision, as an express sign of the covenant, with the grace of it, which he called Abraham and his seed unto by Jesus Christ, Gen. 17:10,11.  And to the same general end and purpose he afterwards superadded the passover, with its attendant institutions, Exod. 12:3-24; and then the whole law of institutions contained in ordinances, by the ministry of angels on mount Sinai, Exod. 20.  So by sundry degrees he built up that fabric of his outward worship, which was suited, in his infinite wisdom, unto his own glory and the edification of his church, until the exhibition of the promised seed, or the coming of Christ in the flesh, and the accomplishment of the work of his mediation, Heb. 1:1,2: for unto that season were those ordinances to serve, and no longer, chap. 9:10-12, and then were they removed by the same authority whereby they were instituted and appointed, Col. 2:14, 18-20. So that though God would never allow that men upon what pretence soever, should make any alteration in the worship appointed by him, by adding unto it anything of their own, or omitting aught that he had commanded, either in matter or manner, notwithstanding that he knew that it was to abide but for a season, but commanded all men straitly to attend to the observation of it whilst it was by him continued in force, Mal. 4:4; yet he always reserved unto himself the sovereign power of altering, changing, or utterly abolishing it at his own pleasure: which authority he exerted in the gospel as to all the mere institutions of the Old Testament. Whilst they continued he enforced them with moral reasons, such as his own holiness and authority. But those reasons prove not any of those institutions to be moral, unless they ensue upon those reasons alone, and are nowhere else commanded; for being once instituted and commanded, they are to be enforced with moral considerations, taken from the nature of God and our duty in reference unto his authority. So saith he, “Thou shalt reverence my sanctuary, I am the LORD;” which no more proves that a moral duty than that enjoined upon the same foundation, Lev. 11:44, “I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Not defiling ourselves with the touching or eating of creeping things is now no moral duty since the institution is ceased, although it be enforced by many moral considerations.

Owen, John. The Life and Works of John Owen Vol.15