Natural vs. Instituted Worship

” And to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Mk. 12:33

“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”

Ex. 20:3

“And Nadab and Abihu…  took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not…  and they died before the Lord.”

Lev. 10:1-2




1st Commandment
2nd Commandment
What Constitutes “Worship” on the Lord’s Day?
Relations of the Tables of the Law



Order of Contents

Bible Verses  110+
Articles  18+
Quotes  10+

Natural Worship  14+
Instituted Worship  4+
Differences Between  3
Instituted Worship: for Natural Worship  6+
Commentary on Westminster 21.1
Latin  4



Bible Verses

Order of Verses

Natural Worship  50+
Instituted Worship  60+


Natural Worship

See also the Bible verses listed at ‘On Internal Worship’, ‘Worship Includes Good Works’ and ‘All of Life is Worship’.


Gen. 4:26  “…then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.”

Gen. 20:11  “And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place…”

Gen. 24:26  “And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord.”

Ex. 14:31  “And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.”

Ex. 20:6  “And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

Dt. 6:2  “That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life;”

Dt. 6:4-9  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:  And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

Dt. 28:47  “Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;”

2 Sam. 6:14  “And David danced before the Lord with all his might;”

2 Sam. 6:16  “And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord;”

1 Kings 8:66  “On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people.”

2 Kings 19:1  “And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord.”

2 Kings 22:19  “Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord.”

1 Chron. 15:25  “So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obededom with joy.”

1 Chron. 16:36  “And all the people said, Amen, and praised the Lord.”

2 Chron. 12:6  “Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, The Lord is righteous.”

Ezra 6:22  “And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the Lord had made them joyful…”

Neh. 5:13  “And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord.”

Job 36:3  “I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.”

Ps. 22:22  ”I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.”

Ps. 27:6  “therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy…”

Ps. 32:11  “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”

Ps. 79:6  “Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.”

Ps. 95:6  “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.”

Ps. 97:12  “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”

Isa. 17:7  “At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.”

Isa. 66:2  “…but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my Word.”

Joel 2:23  “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.”

Zech. 8:19  “…shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.”

Mal. 3:16-17  “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.  And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels;”

Mt. 2:11  “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him:”

Mt. 22:37  “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”

Mt. 25:21  “His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant…  enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

Mk. 12:33  ”And to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Lk. 1:44  “For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”

Lk. 1:64  “And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.”

Lk. 18:13  “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’”

Lk. 18:43  “And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.”

Jn. 4:23-24  “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

Jn. 12:43  “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Acts 2:43  “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.”

Acts 3:8  “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”

Acts 9:31  “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost…”

Acts 10:34-35  “Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:  But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

Acts 17:27  “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:”

Rom. 5:11  “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

1 Cor. 14:25  “…and so falling down on his face he will worship God…”

Eph. 3:14  “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

1 Thess. 1:6  “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.”

Phile. 1:20  “Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.”

Rev. 4:9-11  “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.'”

Rev. 5:14  “And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”


Instituted Worship

Gen. 8:20  “And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”

Ex. 12:14  “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”

Ex. 12:24  “And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.”

Ex. 12:43  “And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:”

Ex. 13:10  “Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.”

Lev. 18:3-4  “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.  Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.”

Lev. 22:6-9  “The soul which hath touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water…  They shall therefore keep mine ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, and die therefore, if they profane it: I the Lord do sanctify them.”

Lev. 22:29-32  “And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord…  ye shall leave none of it until the morrow: I am the Lord.  Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the Lord.  Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the Lord which hallow you…”

Lev. 23:2-3  “Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.  Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.”

Num. 1:50  “But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.”

Num. 9:12  “They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it.”

Num. 9:14  “And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the Lord; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.”

Num. 10:8  “And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations.”

Num. 28:6  “It is a continual burnt offering, which was ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord.

Josh. 24:24-26  “And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.  So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.  And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.”

1 Kings 12:32-33  “And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel…”

2 Kings 23:5  “And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah…”

1 Chron. 9:22  “All these which were chosen to be porters in the gates…  whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office.”

2 Chron. 2:4  “Behold, I build an house to the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to Him, and to burn before Him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the Lord our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel.”

2 Chron. 11:15  “And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.”

2 Chron. 23:18  “Also Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the Lord by the hand of the priests the Levites, whom David had distributed in the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David.”

2 Chron. 29:27  “And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel.”

Ezra 3:10  “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.”

Esther 9:26-28  “Wherefore they called these days Purim…  The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year; and that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed.”

Ps. 81:3-5  “Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.  For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.  This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony…”

Ps. 99:7  “He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that He gave them.”

Isa. 24:5  “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”

Isa. 58:2  “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.”

Eze. 11:20  “That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

Eze. 43:18  “These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon…”

Eze. 44:5  “And the Lord said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.”

Mal. 3:7  “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord…”

Mal. 3:14  “Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?”

Mt. 15:2, 9  “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread…  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Mt. 26:19  “And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.”

Mk. 11:25  “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Lk. 1:6  “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

Lk. 4:16-21  “and, as his custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.  And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias.  And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written…  And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down…  And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

Lk. 10:1  “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.”

Lk. 22:29  “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;”

Acts 2:41-47  “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…  And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

Acts 3:1  “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”

Acts 6:3-4  “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”

Acts 7:44  “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.”

Acts 10:9  “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:”

Acts 10:30  “And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house…”

Acts 14:23  “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

Acts 16:4  “And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.”

Acts 16:13  “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made;”

Acts 28:23  “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.”

1 Cor. 9:14  “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”

1 Cor. 11:2  “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”

1 Tim. 2:7  “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”

1 Tim. 2:8-12  “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting…  Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.  But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

1 Tim. 4:13-14  “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.  Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”

1 Tim. 5:20-21  “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.  I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.”

2 Tim. 1:11  “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.”

2 Tim. 4:2  “Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”

Titus 1:5  “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:”

Heb. 5:1  “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:”

Heb. 8:3  “For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.”

Heb. 9:6  “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.”

Rev. 8:3-4  “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.”



Articles on Both Natural & Instituted Worship


Bullinger, Henry – pp. 116-17 of the 2nd Sermon  in Fifty Godly & Learned Sermons Divided into Five Decades...  (London, 1577), 2nd Decade, ‘Of God’s Law, & of the Two First Commandments of the First Table’



Ames, William

Marrow of Sacred Divinity

‘Natural Worship & Instituted Worship’  being bk 2, ch. 5, ‘Faith’, sections 1-8 & ch. 13, ‘Of Instituted Worship’  at Purely Presbyterian  Includes a footnote of Samuel Willard on the topic, from his Body of Divinity, Sermon 159

Ames (1576-1633) was an English, puritan, congregationalist, minister, philosopher and controversialist.  He spent much time in the Netherlands.

sections 17-19  in ch. 13, ‘Instituted Worship’, trans. John D. Eusden (1623; Baker, 1997), bk. 2, p. 280

pp. 2-3  of ch. 1 of English Puritanism, containing the Main Opinions of the Rigidest Sort of those that are Called Puritans in the Realm of England  (London, 1641)

Caryl, Joseph – pp. 190-91 in Job 1:13-14  in An Exposition with Practical Observations upon the Three First Chapters of the Book of Job…  (London [1643])

Norton, John – pp. 57-58  of ch. 10, ‘Of Obedience unto God’  in A Brief & Excellent Treatise containing the Doctrine of Godliness, or Living unto God…  (London: Field, 1648)

Cheynell, Francis – pp. 354-360  of ch. 9  in The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit  (1650)  Cheynell was a Westminster divine.

Burroughs, Jeremiah – pp. 600-3  of ch. 6:6, ‘For I desired mercy and not sacrifice…’  in An Exposition with Practical Observations continued upon the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth & Seventh Chapters of the Prophesy of Hosea...  (London: 1650)

Stone, Samuel – pp. 633-78 The Whole Body of Divinity in a Catechetical Way Handled  (Hartford, CT: probably between 1647-1663)  This section encompasses the preface to the First Table of the Law and the first two commandments.

Owen, John – A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God  (London: 1667), pp. 1-8

Question 1
Question 2

Alleine, Joseph – Commandments 1-2, pp. 69-78  in A Most Familiar Explanation of the [Westminster] Assembly’s Shorter Catechism…  (London, 1674)

Barker, Matthew – Natural Theology, or, The Knowledge of God from the Works of Creation Accommodated & Improved...  (London, 1674)

ch. 6, ‘The Several Moral Duties that Result from Man to God, as the Creator of the World…’, pp. 79-94

Barker (1619-1698) was an English, non-conformist, Independent minister and parliamentarian, known for this work.  This section is on natural worship (only).

pp. 120-22  of ch. 8, ‘The Deficiency of Natural Theology compared with the Scriptures, Evidenced…  It shows not…  the Right Worship of God…’

This is good.

Strong, William – A Discourse of the Two Covenants…  (London: Tyton, 1678), bk. 3

ch. 2, section1, p. 265
ch. 4, section 4, p. 336

Strong was an English, Independent puritan and Westminster divine.

Corbet, John – Of Divine Worship, in Three Parts  in The Remains of the Reverend & Learned Mr. John Corbet…  (London: Parkhurst, 1684), pp. 171-81

§ 1. Of Worship in General.
§ 2. Of Divine Worship in its more comprehensive Sense.
§ 3. Of Divine Worship in the stricter or narrower sense, and which is specially here intended.
§ 4. Divine Worship distinguished into internal and external.
§ 5. Divine Worship distinguished into Natural and Instituted. And first, of Natural Worship.
§ 6. Of Divine instituted Worship.
§ 7. Of Moral and Ceremonial Worship.
§ 8. The parts of Worship distinguished from the adjuncts or accidents thereof.
§. 9. Of those acts of Religion that are Moral Natural Worship.
§ 10. Of particular acts which are Natural Ceremonial Worship.
§ 11. Of External acts which by custom of the Age or Countrey express devotion in Worship.
§ 12. Of External acts, which by divine Institution, or the general custom of Nations, express Divine Honour.
§ 13. Of fasting, wearing of Sackcloth, or other vile apparel, lying in ashes, being barefoot, and the like austerities used in Gods Worship.

Corbet (1620-1680) was a congregationalist puritan who was ejected in 1662.  Richard Baxter said that he and Corbet never once “differed in any point of doctrine, worship, or government, ecclesiastical or civil, or ever had one displeasing word.”

Collinges, John – pp. 564-70  of Sermon 39  in The Intercourses of Divine Love betwixt Christ & his Church…  in the First Chapter of the Canticles…  (London, 1683)

Willard, Samuel – pp. 6-9, 13, 22-24  of The Sinfulness of Worshipping God with Men’s Institutions  (Boston, 1691) on Mt. 15:9, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Willard was a New England, puritan minister.

van Mastricht, Peter – Theoretical Practical Theology  (RHB)

vol. 4, bk. 5, ch. 11, section 37

vol. 5, bk. 6, ch. 8, section 17, on Commandments 1-4

vol. 6, bk. 8, ch. 1,

section 12, ‘With respect to the things that must be done’, points 14-18

section 16, points 28-31

Heidegger, Johann Heinrich – ‘On Natural Worship’  from Body of Christian Theology, 25.2  This treats of instituted worship also.



Fentiman, Travis – ‘Natural vs. Instituted Worship’  in 1 Corinthians 11: Head-Coverings are Not Perpetual & they were Hair-Buns, with or without Cloth Material: Proven  (RBO, 2022), pp. 77-80



Order of Quotes

Irish Articles
Palmer & Cawdrey
Brown of Wamphray





The Irish Articles

Reformed Confessions of the 16th & 17th Centuries...  ed. James Dennison, Jr.  (RHB, 2014), vol. 4, p. 98

“46. Our duty toward God is to believe in Him, to fear Him, and to love Him with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength: to worship Him, and to give Him thanks, to put our whole trust in Him, to call upon Him, to honor His holy name and His Word, and to serve Him truly all the days of our life.”


William Ames

A Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship…  (1633), pp. 495-96

“…the Rejoinder [of an apponent] brings abundance of instances [for human ceremonies idolatrously abused] out of his old store: 1. Kneeling, bowing, prostrating, lifting up of the eyes, and of the hands, shouting, and dancing for joy.  But these we absolutely deny to be human inventions.

The Rejoinder knew this and therefore by prevention replies: to say these are not human inventions because they partly spring out of natural light is as much as to say they are not because they are human inventions: for what are human inventions, but such as spring out of natural light?  What? the cross and surplice; the cornered-cap and tippet; the bishop’s rochet and cope, with a thousand such like; which whoesoever will equal, or (in regard of naturalness and willfull invention) liken unto lifting up of eyes and hands, etc. in prayer, must for that time lay aside right natural invention and judgment…

I think it would trouble all the graduates in England to find out that natural light from whence bachelors of art, maisters of art, bachelors and doctors of divinity received their several kinds of hoods, even as much as to find out light of nature for all the several habits of monks.  But (says the Rejoynder) all came from natural light, better or worse, more or less agitated, just as men’s long hair and women’s short, which nature itself teaches to be uncomely (according to the apostle’s light [1 Cor. 11:14]) came from the light of nature.

It is natural to a child, for to suck the dug and after to put the hand to the mouth; and after to creep or go: Is it like natural to sound a certain distinct sound upon a trumpet? to dance a certain round, or galliard after every fiddle?  It is natural for a child to signify his discerning of those that it is used to by some such sound as dad and mam, but not to make verses in a certain number.”


George Walker

ch. 11  of The Doctrine of the Sabbath…  (Amsterdam, 1638), p. 61  Walker was a Westminster divine.

“…to know and acknowledge God for his sole Lord and Creator, and one only God, to serve and worship Him with such worship and reverence, as his pure reason taught him to be meet for God, to think and speak of God accordingly…”


Herbert Palmer & Daniel Cawdrey

Sabbatum redivivum, or the Christian Sabbath Vindicated  (London: White, 1645), ch. 12

“1. Worship, generally, is the tender of our homage to God, and giving Him immediate honor.  Accordingly, a part of worship is whatsoever is presented to God (whether thing or action) as a special homage, and as an immediate honor to Him.  Or at least ought to be so, if it be not.

But now, as worship denotes only true and right worship, so the proper efficient cause, and that which both legitimates and necessitates such intention, is the command of God.

6. Once more, the command of God of things for His honor may either be:

1. By the Law of Nature, that is, of things which in a rational and ethical consideration, according to the Light of Nature, may be and are to His honor, either constantly or accidentally, as prayer to Him, swearing by His name, and calling Him to witness, or appealing to Him.

2. Or by Positive Law, in Scripture (which is the only way now; or of old by Dreams and visions, and the like) altogether by virtue of His divine institution and appointments.  As the use of water in the sacrament of baptism and of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, which being things of common use for worldly purposes, have no other aptitude to be immediately to His honor, but from His own command.”


Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government  (London, 1646), Introduction, pp. 88-89

“Hence, adoration is worship, but every worship is not adoration…  all bodily worship or expression of our affection to the means of graces (though these means be but creatures) is not adoration properly, either of God, or of these means; it is lawful to tremble at the Word, and for Josiah to weep before the Book of the Law read, and for the martyrs to kiss the stake as the instrument by which they glorified God in dying for the truth; all these being objectam quo, and ‘means by the which’ they conveyed their worship to the true God, and natural and lawful expressions of their affection to God:”


Richard Mather

A Catechisme, or the Grounds & Principles of Christian Religion…  (1650), ch. 32, ‘Of the life that beievers ought to live in the world, and of the Law of God’, pp. 114-16

“Q. What is the main scope of the First Commandment, ‘Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me?’

A. Here is required all that natural worship of God, whether the same be inward or outward, which is such as if there were no Law prescribed, yet if we well know his nature, we would undoubtedly perform it to Him.

Q. Name some principal duties that are here required, with the contrary vices forbidden?

A. Here is required faith in God, love to his Majesty, and hope in Him, hearing his voice, calling upon Him by prayer, and such like.

Q What is the main scope of the Second Commandment?

A. The Second Commandement enjoyns all that worship of God which is by divine institution and ordinance, Mt. 28:20; Dt. 12:32.

Q What are some of the particulars?

A. The public and solemn preaching and hearing of his word, and prayer, celebration of sacraments, Church fellowship, election and ordaining of ministers and their whole ministration, with the due observation of Church discipline.

Q. What is the sum of the Third Commandement?

A. The things here required are the due manner of observing and using all things that pertain to the natural or instituted worship of God, and all that name of God whereby He makes Himself known unto his people?”


Jeremiah Burroughs

Gospel Worship…  (London, 1653), Sermon 1, pp. 9-11

“They offered fire that God had not commanded.  Hence I say that all things in Gods worship must have a warrant out of God’s Word, must be commanded.  It’s not enough that it is not forbidden: I beseech you observe it: it is not enough that a thing is not forbidden, and what hurt is there in it?  But it must be commanded:

I confess in matters that are civil and natural, there this may be enough; If it be but according to the rules of prudence, and not forbidden in the Word; we may make use of this in civil and natural things.  But now when we come to matters of religion, and the worship of God, we must either have a command, or some what out of God’s Word by some consequence drawn from some command wherein God manifests his will; either a direct command, or by comparing one thing with another, or drawing consequences plainly from the words.  We must have a warrant of the worship of God…

It’s true, there are some things in the worship of God that are natural and civil helps, and there we need not have any command: As for instance; when we come to worship God, the congregation meets, they must have a convenient place to keep the air and weather from them: now this is but a natural help, and so far as I use the place of worship as a natural help I need have no command.  But if I will put any thing in a place beyond what it has in its own nature, there I must look for a command.  For if I account one place more holy than another; or to think that God should accept of worship in one place rather than in another: This is to raise it above what it is in its own nature.  So that when any creature is raised in a religious way, above what it has in it by nature; if I have not Scripture to warrant me I am therein superstitious.

It’s a very useful rule for to help you: If any creature that you make any use of in a way of religion beyond what it has in its own nature, if you have not some warrant from the Word of God (whatsoever specious show there may be in it) it is superstition.

As now for the place, there was a place that was holy, but then it had an institution from God.  And so for garments, to use those that are decent, the light of reason is enough: but if I will put any thing upon them beyond what there is in them in their own nature, as heretofore in a surplice, what, had that any more decency in its own nature, but only man’s institution?  Now when man shall put a religious respect upon a thing, by virtue of his own institution when he has not a warrant from God; here’s superstition!

Now God has written the law of natural worship in our hearts, as that we should love God, fear God, trust in God, and pray to God; this God has written in our hearts: But there are other things in the worship of God that are not written in our hearts, that only depend upon the Will of God revealed in his Word, which were no duties except they were revealed in his Word.  And these are of such a nature as we can see no reason for, but only this, because God will have them.

As now, there are many kinds of ceremonies to manifest honor to princes that there is no reason for them at all, but merely because it is a civil institution so appointed: So God would have some ways for the honoring of Him, that the creature should not see into the reason of them, but merely the Will of God to have them so:”


William Ames

The Substance of Christian Religion…  (London, 1659), 35th Lord’s Day, pp. 217-18

“This [Second] command is distinguished from the former [First Commandment], in that there essential and natural worship of God was commanded [see 34th Lord’s Day]; but here accidental and of free institution.”


Edward Leigh

A System or Body of Divinity…  (London: A.M., 1654), bk. 9, ch. 3, ‘2nd Commandment’, p. 767 margin note on Dt. 4:15-19

“Herein it [the 2nd Commandment] differs from the First Commandment, that commanded the worship of God which is natural, this the worship which is by divine institution. Downame Sum of Divinity.

Cultus naturalis [natural worship] is that which nature directs all people to, or which arises from the nature of God.  This belongs to all reasonable creatures.  He that acknowledges there is a God, will acknowledge that He is to be be believed, feared, trusted, loved and prayed to: this was performed by Adam in Paradise and by the angels in Heaven, Isa. 6:3; Heb. 1:6.

Cultus institutus, ‘instituted worship’ depends on the revelation of the will of God, this was commanded Adam in his innocency, as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life show.

Natural worship is the chief, instituted worship may be interrupted.  A time of worship is juris naturalis [of the law of nature], the seventh day juris positivi [of positive law].  Some in these days say all institutions are mere forms, and men may use or not use them at their pleasure according to their light:

Qui non est religiosus non est Christianus.  Cultus institutus est medium ex Dei voluntate ordinatum, ad cultum naturalem exercendum et pro novndum. indicatur hujusmodi media omnia à Deo instituta, in secundò praecepto per prohibitionem oppositorum medio∣rum omnium cultus ab hominibus excogitatorum, sub titulo sculptilis et imaginis, que cum praecipua fuerunt olim▪ hominum inventa, cultum Dei depravantia, aptissimè proponuntur (per Syn••dochen in Decalogo praecipuam) loco omnium humani ingenii commentorum ad cu••um spectantium. Ames, Marrow of Theology, bk. 2, ch. 13.”


Thomas Manton

A Fourth Volume containing One Hundred & Fifty Sermons on Several Texts of Scripture…  (d. 1677; London: J.D., 1693), 2nd Sermon on 1 Thess. 5:16, p. 767

“Let me now perswade you to re∣joyce evermore by the two arguments of necessity and utility.  1. The necessity of it:

(1) That you may own God as your God, delighting in God is a duty of the First Commandment, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me:’ that is, rejoice in no other, but in Me only, as thy full and all-sufficient portion and happiness: And therefore it is a part, not of instituted, but of natural worship; such worship which we are to give God though He had never given direction about it; which immediately results from the owning and choosing of God for our God.  For if God be not loved and delighted in more than anything, or all things else, He is not our God.

Now then is there not a necessity, if you would worship God as God, that you should rejoice evermore, and delight in Him as sufficient to your happiness, whether the world comes or goes, whether your creature comforts and relations continue with you, or be taken from you?  God still must be the heart’s delight and your exceeding joy.  Ps. 37:4, ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.'”


John Brown of Wamphray

Quakerism the Pathway to Paganism…  (Edinburgh: Cairns, 1678), ch. 30, ‘Of Lawful Oaths,’ p. 526

“…he shall never prove that swearing by the name of God was a ceremonial thing, being a part of natural worship, taught by the Law of Nature, Gen. 21:23; Josh. 2:12; 2 Chron. 36:21, and is several times put for the whole moral worship, Isa. 19:18 & 45:23; Ps. 63:11.  And where, I pray, and when, was this ceremonial precept (if it be such) first given?”


Isaac Chauncy

A Theological Dialogue: containing the Defence & Justification of Dr. John Owen from the Forty Two Errors charged upon him by Mr. Richard Baxter…  (London: Author, 1684), p. 21

“We tell you prayers and praises are natural worship, considered merely as such: likewise there are indifferent occasional acts attending natural worship; as suppose, lifting up the hands or eyes to God in prayer, or in an usual ejaculation, or holy meditation.”


Francis Turretin

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3, 18th Topic, Question 31, section III, p. 286

“III.  On the statement of the question take notice:  (1) acts of divine worship are twofold, some which do not differ form the worship itself (to wit, from piety and holiness, in which worship essentially consists); others ordinated to worship as helps or instruments to perform that worship suitably and declare it abroad.

The former kind of acts can be instituted and commanded by God alone, who is the sole chief and legislator, who has dominion over the conscience; nor does any right belong to the Church of adding, taking away or changing anything.  The latter, again, are either necessary and so also instituted by God, at least as to being (to on)–for example that assemblies should be held, the word preached, the sacraments administered; others are contingent and free as to quality (to poion), the reason of which depends upon the honesty and fitness of particular churches (to wit, that assemblies should be held in this or that time and place and the sacraments administered).

The former, as being necessary, depend upon God alone and the Church has no control or power over them; the latter God has thus far left to the will of the Church as means and indifferent, so that a regard be always paid to divine truth, Christian simplicity and public edification.”



Samuel Willard

Body of Divinity, Sermon 159  HT: Purely Presbyterian

“[Natural worship] is to know God, to acknowledge Him to be God, and glorify Him as God.  Now man, as a dependent creature, stands in need of help in this concern; much more fallen man, who has no natural light left in him, to direct him how to worship God acceptably.

And therefore God has pleased to show him a way, wherein he may do it; and to this way belong all the institutions appointed to man since the fall.”



James Henley Thornwell

Collected Writings, vol. 2, ‘The Sacrifice of Christ: the Type & Model of Missionary Effort’, pp. 418-19

“The moral grandeur of the death of Jesus is not a little enhanced when it is apprehended in its distinctive character as an act of worship.  If we consider it exclusively in the light of a judicial sentence, and detach from the Saviour those active sentiments of piety and religion which make Him a doer rather than a sufferer, we may understand the principles of moral government which underlie the atonement, but we shall fail to appreciate the dignity and glory of Jesus.

It is not right to consider Him as the helpless victim of inexorable wrath; and all the imputations upon the goodness and clemency of God, which the malice of the human heart has made His vicarious punishment the pretext of suggesting, are at once dispelled when we enter into His own mind, and see the spirit of devotion in which He presented His soul as an offering for sin…  We dare not entertain the thought, even for an instance, that the Father is harsh or vindictive, or that a cloud obscures the benevolence of His nature, when the very circumstances which are most revolting in the tragedy of Calvary are elements of a worship which the Son delighted to render, and felt that the Father was glorious in accepting.

Considered as an act of worship, there is a majestic awe, a moral sublimity thrown around the death of Jesus, which fails to be impressed when attention is exclusively confined to the legal principles which made it indispensable to the pardon of the guilty.  It is invested with a sacredness which makes us pause and adore. Never was there such a doxology as when Jesus died, and the whole work of redemption is a grand litany which has no parallel in the history of the universe.

There can be no wonder that the Father should love the Son.  Such worshippers are not to be dismissed from the sanctuary, nor such homage lightly esteemed.  Never, never was there displayed before, and never, never will there be displayed again, such piety as that which burned in the bosom of Jesus when He laid down His life of Himself.”



On Natural Worship

Order of Contents

Articles  6
.    Latin  4
Quotes  8+




Byfield, Richard – pt. 2, section 6, ‘Of the Worship of God’  in The Light of Faith & Way of Holiness...  (London: Harper, 1630), pp. 75-83

Palmer, Herbert & Daniel Cawdrey – Sabbatum Redivivum, or the Christian Sabbath Vindicated…  (1645), Part 1

ch. 6, sections 3-15, pp. 74-82

ch. 8, ‘Considerations of Time in Relation to Religion & the Worship of God: how far it may be profitable thereunto’, pp. 106-47

ch. 9, ‘A Determinate Solemn Time for God’s Worship is Moral-Natural: & that in the First Commandment: & what Kind & Manner of Determination of Time for Religion may be Proved Necessary by the Law or Light of Nature & General Rules of Scripture’, pp. 148-216

Burgess, Anthony – Lecture 7  in Vindiciae legis, or, A Vindication of the Moral Law & the Covenants…  (London, 1647), pp. 67-76

Ferguson, Robert – pp. 174-210  of ch. 3  in A Sober Inquiry into the Nature, Measure & Principle of Moral Virtue… (London: Newman, 1673)

Ferguson (c. 1637–1714) was a Scottish covenanting minister.

Barker, Matthew – Natural Theology, or, The Knowledge of God from the Works of Creation Accommodated & Improved...  (London, 1674)

ch. 6, ‘The Several Moral Duties that Result from Man to God, as the Creator of the World…’, pp. 79-94

Barker (1619-1698) was an English, non-conformist, Independent minister and parliamentarian, known for this work.

pp. 120-22  of ch. 8, ‘The Deficiency of Natural Theology compared with the Scriptures, Evidenced…  It shows not…  the Right Worship of God…’

Collinges, John – ch. 4  in A Reasonable Account why some Pious, Nonconforming Ministers in England Judge it Sinful for them to Perform their Ministerial Acts, in Public, Solemn Prayer by the Prescribed Forms of Others…  (London: 1679), pp. 71-92

Collinges was an English puritan.  This chapter is notable for teaching about means of worship directed by nature.

“To use a mean in an act of worship which God has neither by the light of nature directed, nor in his Word prescribed (no natural necessity compelling us so to do) is sinful:

But for us, or any of us to whom God has given the gift of prayer, ordinarily in prayer to perform our ministerial acts by the prescribed forms of others read or recited, were for us (no natural necessity compelling) in acts of worship to use means neither of God directed by the light of nature, nor by Him in his Word prescribed; Therefore.” – p. 71

Corbet, John – §5. ‘Divine worship distinguished into Natural & Instituted. And first, of Natural Worship’  in The Remains… (d. 1680; London: Parkhurst, 1684), ‘Of Divine Worship’, pt. 1, pp. 174-75




Wendelin, Marcus Friedrich – Christian Theology  (Hanau, 1634; 2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1657), bk. 2, ‘Of the Worship of God’, pp. 655-743

ch. 2, ‘Of the Consideration and Dijudication of the Divine Works, and of the Congruent Affection of the Soul’

ch. 3, ‘Of Praise, Giving Thanks & of Adoration’

ch. 4, ‘Of Obedience to God’

ch. 5, ‘Of Invocation or Prayer’

Alsted, Johann H. – Encyclopedia of All Sciences  (d. 1638; Leiden, 1649), vol. 3, bk. 25, section 1, ‘Of Theology…  Natural Theology’

ch. 1, sections 3-4, p. 322
ch. 3, ‘Of the Decalogue’, p. 336

Voet, Gisbert – Select Theological Disputations  (Utrecht, 1648 ff.),

vol. 1, 21. ‘Appendices to… on the Authority & Righteousness of God, pt. 2’, p. 398, 7th Problem

“7th Problem.  Whether therefore out of the natural law, as contradistinguished from supernatural, the rule and way of worshipping God is able to be deduced or subsumed under it?  Response: I deny.

Indeed, in general and indefinitely in what way God is to be worshipped, and negatively, in what way He is not to be worshipped, in many things it is able to be shown from there; but the natural worship of God, positively and in the species, now as modified after the Fall, is not able to be explicitly and definitively subsumed under it or deduced from it, much less instituted worshp.

This is to be expected, therefore, from supernatural revelation…”

vol. 5, ‘Problems on Justification, pt. 2’, p. 284, 1st Objection, mid



Velthuysen, Lambert – A Tract on Natural Worship & the Origin of Mortality, Opposite the Theological-Political Tract & Posthumous Work of Benedict Spinoza  no ToC  in All the Works of Lambert Velthuysen…  part 2  (Rotterdam: Leers, 1680), pp. 1363-1570

Vethuysen (1623-1685) was a reformed-Cartesian doctor, physician and administrator in Utrecht.


Table of Contents

Dedicatory Epistle  1365
To the Reader  1368

ch. 1, Brief exposition of Spinoza’s opinion on God, the human mind, and the fundamentals of morality  1371

ch. 2, The most important arguments and fonts of solutions…  1390

ch. 3, On the nature of the human mind…  1413

ch. 4, Of the will or liberty of choice, that it is in man, is proved contra Spinoza; what is its nature…  1428

ch. 5   1453

ch. 6  1475

ch. 7  …and the fundamentals of natural divine worship are greatly confirmed  1492  [This is mainly about proving natural theology against atheism.]

ch. 8, ‘…and how far one is able to subject one’s conscience to the authority of superiors or other men not inspired by the Spirit of God’  1542-70


Order of Quotes




George Gillespie

English-Popish Ceremonies (1637), pt. 3, ch. 9, p. 202

“Now albeit Nature (as was said) teach all men that there is a eternal and mighty God, who should be worshipped and honored by them.  Yet it descends not unto such particular precepts as can have any show of making ought for significant ceremonies Omnibus enim innatum est et in animo quasi insculptum, esse deos: but yet quales sint, says Cicero, varium est. 

And as Nature has not taught men to know the Nature and the attributes of the Godhead,¹ together with the sacred Trinity of persons in the same: so neither has it taught what sort or manner of worship should be given unto God, Lex naturalis rerum communium est, and does only inform us with those common notions called [Greek].  Concerning the worship of God, it speaks only de genere, not de specie

¹ [This is contrary to WCF 21.1 (which came later), “The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all…]
² [This is questionable in light of the first half of WCF 21.1.]

Wherefore there can be no inference from that worship which the Law of Nature requires, either of any distinct kind of worship, or of any ceremony in that kind.  No more than it follows, Si est animal, est Asinus [‘If it is an animal, it is a donkey’]; for à genere ad speciem non valet consequentia affirmando.”


John Ball

A Friendly Trial of the Grounds tending to Separation in a Plain & Modest Dispute…  (Cambridge: Daniel, 1640), ch. 12, p. 233

“For although the light of nature teach that God is to be worshipped, yet in substantial things reason teaches not how this worship of God is to be administred, nor the house of God to be governed, but in all this we must depend upon the mind and pleasure of Christ, the King of his Church, and Saviour of his body.”


Anthony Burgess

Vindiciae legis, or, A Vindication of the Moral Law & the Covenants…  (London, 1647), Lecture 7, pp. 74

“It’s [the light of nature is] altogether insufficient to prescribe or set down any worship of God.  Hence God does so often forbid us to walk after our own imaginations and to do that which we shall choose.  The apostle calls it will-worship, when a man’s will is the mere cause of it.

Now, it’s true, men are more apt to admire this, as we see in the Pharisees and Papists; they dote upon their traditions more then God’s institutions…

It’s true indeed, even in worship, light of Nature and prudence is instrumentally required to order the institutions of God; but as reason may not make a new article of faith, so neither a new part of worship.”


Samuel Rutherford

Divine Right of Church Government (London, 1646), pp. 89-90

“Hence, adoration is worship, but every worship is not adoration.  Uncovering the head seems to be little older than Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians.  The learned [Claudius] Salmasius [d. 1653, a French reformed classical scholar], thinks it but a national sign of honor, no ways universally received: But certainly it is not adoration: Though therefore we [men] receive the Supper of the Lord uncovered, no man can conclude from thence adoration of the elements, as we do from kneeling [before the Supper] conclude the same, as we shall [conclude] here for all bodily worship or expression of our affection to the means of graces (though these means be but creatures) is not adoration properly either of God, or of these means:

It is lawful to tremble at the Word, and for Josiah to weep before the book of the Law read, and for the martyrs to kiss the stake, as the instrument by which they glorified God in dying for the truth; all these being objectam quo, and ‘means by the which’ they conveyed their worship to the true God, and natural and lawful expressions of their affection to God;”


Influences of the Life of Grace…  (London, 1659), ch. 1, pp. 2-3

“…for if prayer was a worship enjoined to Adam before the Fall, no less than public worship of praising for the workmanship of creation, Gen. 2:2-3, it may be said, if Adam was to suit any thing in prayer to God, then especially was he to pray that he might not sin, and might not be led into temptation, but might stand in obedience, and so might have influences to determine his will to stand and continue therein, and this the law of nature seems to say.”


John Owen

A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God… (London: 1667)

Question 1, pp. 1-2

“By the worship of God inquired after [in this treatise], not that which is natural or moral, which is required in the First Commandment is intended.  Such is our faith and confidence in Him, our fear of Him, our subjection of soul and conscience unto Him as the great Soveraign Lord, first cause, last end, Judge and Rewarder of all men; the Law whereof was originally written in the heart of man, and has been variously improved and directed by new revelations and institutions.  And this worship is called natural upon a double account.

First, because it depends on the nature of God, a due perception and understanding whereof makes all this worship indispensibly necessary: for none can know God but it is his duty to glorify Him as God, that is, to believe in Him, love Him, trust Him, and call upon Him, which all are therefore cursed that do not, Ps. 79:6; 2 Thess. 1:8.”


Question 2, pp. 5-6

“That God is to be worshipped, and that according to his own will and appointment, is a (a) principal branch of the Law of our creation, written in our hearts; the (b) sense whereof is renewed in the Second Commandment; but the ways and means of that worship, depend merely on God’s (c) soveraign pleasure and institution. (a) Rom. 1:21, ch. 2:14-15; Acts 15:16-17; 17:23-24-29. (b) Exodus 20:4-6, (c) Jer. 7:31; Ex. 25:40; Heb. 3:1-6; John 1:18.

Explication.  These two things all men see by nature.

First, that God, however they mistook in their apprehensions of Him, would be and was to be worshipped with some outward solemn worship.  So that although some are reported to have even cast off all knowledge and sense of a divine being, yet never any were heard of that came to an acknowledgement of any God, true or false, but they all consented that he was constantly and solemnly to be worshipped.  And that not only by individual persons, but by societies together, that so they might own and honour Him whom they took for their God.

And thus far outward worship is required in the First Commandment; namely, that the inward be exercised and expressed.  When we take God for our God, we take Him to worship Him, Dt. 10:12-13.  Other thoughts, namely of inward worship without outward expression at all or any time, or in any way, are but a covert unto atheism.”


John Corbet

The Remains… (d. 1680; London: Parkhurst, 1684), ‘Of Divine Worship’, pt. 3, §3, ‘Of the Rule that limits the kinds of Worship’, p. 210

“Of natural worship, the law of nature is the limiting rule for all the kinds thereof.”


Francis Turretin

Institutes of Elenctic Theology (P&R, 1994), vol. 2, 11th Topic, ‘On the Law of God’, Question 13, ‘Whether the first institution of the Sabbath was in the Fourth Commandment…’, section 36, p. 89

“For since it is natural and moral not only that man should worship God publicly with some external service (and indeed in the communion of saints and in a public assembly), but also that some time should be set apart for this purpose…”


Matthew Hale

A Discourse of the Knowledge of God, & of Ourselves I. by the Light of Nature, II. by the Sacred Scriptures  (London: 1688), pt. 1, ‘By the Light of Nature’, ch. 5, pp. 87-88

“4. When a man, finding that God is a free and intellectual Agent, and sees, as he may by natural reason, everything ordered to a suitable end to his Being, and by a suitable means or rule conducing to that end, and finds a higher degree of being in himself than in other creatures, and consequently an higher end, and consequently an higher rule conducing to that end, he does most naturally resolve this rule into that law, which by the will of God is given to man conducing to that end, the subject of which rule must be all his internal and external actions, both in reference to God, to himself and to others: but here then is the next question, and the next degree of ignorance in men, viz. What that law or will of God is concerning man? and from hence grow those varieties and errors in worship of God.

And though haply most men, knowing the true God, may by the same Light of Nature concur in the general and fundamentals of worship, viz. That God is to be feared with all reverence, loved with all intention, obeyed with all sincerity, cheerfulness and exactness: all which are but natural conclusions from the nature of God, the nature of Man, and the relation that he bears to God, as his Creator, Lord, and Preserver…”


Robert Craghead

An Answer to a Late Book entitled, A Discourse concerning the Inventions of Men in the Worship of God, by William, Lord Bishop of Derry...  (Edinburgh: Anderson, 1694), ch. 1, pp. 17-18

“Objection: The use of instruments was by the light of nature before the ceremonial Law, and therefore could not expire with it.

Answer: 1. The dictates of Nature can make no man know that the sound of any innanimate creature can be acceptable service to God, if you abstract from his positive institutions; yea, without institution it were presumption to offer such manner of service unto God; Nature, I grant will dictate that our voice and tongues, which God has given us as a glory to glorify Himself, should be made use of in his praises:

Nature also may prompt a man to use instruments for his own recreation, and may prove sometimes an useful diversion in time of disquiet of mind, but it’s beyond the reach of nature to know that such noise and sounds shall be pleasing to God, except when God reveals and appoints it.”



On Instituted Worship


Goodwin, Thomas – Of the Constitution, Right, Order & Government of the Churches of Christ (London: Snowden, 1696)  in The Works of Thomas Goodwin…  the Fourth Volume (London: Darby, 1697)

ch. 4, ‘What Power Spiritual or Ecclesiastical Is, of the Nature of a Divine Institution; How the Knowledge of Divine Institutions is Derived to Us, that we may be Assured What are Truly & Really Such’, pp. 17-29

This discussion in general is excellent, though certain assumptions tie into Goodwin’s congregationalism.  On natural worship, see pp. 18 & 33.

ch. 5, ‘That there are Ordinances of Public Worship Established in Churches under the New Testament, which are to Continue to the End of the World’, pp. 29-35

Owen, John – A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God… (London: 1667), pp. 1-89

Q. 1, ‘What does God require of us in our dependance on Him that He may be glorified by us and we accepted with Him?’
Q. 2, ‘By what means do we come to know that God will thus be worshipped?’
Q. 3, ‘How then are these ways and means of the worship of God made known unto us?’
Q. 4, ‘Have these ways and means been always the same from the beginning?’
Q. 5, ‘Is there any farther alteration to be expected in, or of those institutions and ordinances of worship, which are revealed and appointed in the Gospel?’
Q. 6, ‘May not such an estate of faith and perfection in obedience be attained in this life, as wherein believers may be freed from all obligation unto the observation of Gospel institutions?’
Q. 7, ‘What are the chief things that we ought to aim at in our observation of the institutions of Christ in the Gospel?’
Q. 8, ‘How many we sanctify the name of God in the use of Gospel institutions?’
Q. 9, ‘How do we in our observation profess our subjection unto the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel?’
Q. 10, ‘How do we in and by them build up our selves in our most holy faith?’
Q. 11, ‘How are mutual love and communion among believers testified and confirmed in their observation?’
Q. 12, ‘What is principally to be attended unto by us in the manner of the celebration of the worship of God, and observation of the institutions and ordinances of the Gospel?’
Q. 13, ‘Are not some institutions of the New Testament ceased, as unto any obligation unto their observation, and therefore now rightly disused?’
Q. 14, ‘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 farther the devotion of the worshippers and render the worship itself in its performance more decent, beautiful and orderly…?’
Q. 15, ‘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?’
Q. 16, ‘Is there yet any other consideration that may stir up beleivers to an holy and religious care about the due observation of the institutions of the Gospel?’
Q. 17, ‘Which are the principal institutions of the Gospel to be observed in the worship of God?’
Q. 18, ‘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?’


Order of Quotes




Anthony Burgess

Spiritual Refining…  (London, 1652), section 3, sermon 19, p. 105

“[Error:] To cry down the very being and use of these external ordinances as being but forms, and the spiritual frame of the heart is made all in all.  Thus there are blasphemous heretics that cry down the sacraments, the ministry, yea, the Scripture itself, yea Christ Himself, as being but forms, and we ought to have communion with God immediately.

But it is elsewhere to be showed that Christ has appointed an external form of communion in his Church, which consists in reading, and preaching of the Word, administration and receiving of sacraments, prayer, and Church-government and censures, with a ministry from Him, all which are of a perpetual institution for the substantials of them, and to cry down these forms which God has appointed as means to beget and increase grace, which are in the gracious use of them a solemn acknowledging and owning of God, is a Beelzebub error as I may so say and a false doctrine in the first magnitude: we are therefore to sail between these extremes neither resting upon externals in religion, as enough without Christ and regeneration, or on the contrary abolishing and neglecting the use of them.”


John Owen

A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God… (London: 1667)

Question 1, pp. 2-4

“…but it [instituted worship] concerns those outward ways and means whereby God has appointed that faith, and love, and fear of Him to be exercised and expressed unto his glory.  And this kind of worship, though it depend not upon the nature of God, but upon his free and arbitrary disposal, and so was of old liable unto alterations, yet God did ever strictly require in the several states and conditions that his Church has gone through in the world.  And this is that, which most commonly in the Scripture is called by the name of the worship of God; as that whereby all the acceptable actings of the souls of men towards him are expressed, and the only way of owning and acknowledging Him in the world, as also of entertaining a visible intercourse with Him.

This therefore He calls for, and requires indispensibly of all that draw nigh to Him, and that because He is the Lord our God, Rev. 14:6-7; Mt. 4:10; Dt. 10:12-13.  For his observance hereof does He so approve of Abraham, Gen. 18:19, and sets it down as an everlasting Law unto all others that in a holy observation thereof He will be sanctified in all that draw nigh unto Him, Lev. 10:1-3.  His commands also concerning it are multiplyed in the Scripture, with the approbation of all those that attend unto them.

We may not think to find acceptance with God or to inherit the promises, if supposing ourselves to adhere unto Him in worship internal and natural, we neglect that which is external and of his free appointment: for besides, that we renounce thereby our inward dependance on Him also in not observing his commands, as Adam did in transgressing an institution, we become wholly useless unto all the ends of his glory in the world, which is not the way to come to an enjoyment of Him.

Neither do we only express and profess our inward moral, natural worship of God hereby, by which means it becomes the principal way and instrument of faith and trust exerting themselves in our obedience, but also it is a most effectual help and assistance unto the principle of that natural worship, strengthening the habit of it, and exciting it unto all suitable actings, unto its increase and growth.”


Francis Turretin

Institutes of Elenctic Theology (P&R, 1994), vol. 2, 11th Topic, ‘On the Law of God’, Question 24, ‘What was the end and use of the ceremonial law under the Old Testament?’, section 4 & 6, pp. 146-47

“The ceremonial law is the system of God’s positive precepts concerning the external worship in sacred things, prescribed to the ancient church, either for the sake of order or signification.

Ceremonies are external rites and sacred accidents of the worship of God.  They are not of themselves the worship of God, but concomitant adjuncts and assistants by signification, exercise, exercise, work and decorum.”


Latin Article

Wendelin, Marcus Friedrich – ch. 6, ‘Of Ceremonial Worship’  in Christian Theology  (Hanau, 1634; 2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1657), bk. 2, ‘Of the Worship of God’, pp. 744-50

“Thesis 1.  Thus of the moral worship of God.  Ceremonial follows, which is a necessary observation of rites mandated by God, subserving moral worship.”

“Thesis 3.  The efficient [cause], or author, is God Himself.  Indeed God is worshipped truly and per se by no thing except by which He Himself commands to be worshipped by.”

“Thesis 4.  The materials are all external and sensible things which we commonly term ceremonies.  Of which kind in the Old Testament were sacrifices, sacraments, various feast days and other rites.  In the New, likewise, sacraments, feast days, divinely instituted, etc.”

“Thesis 5.  The form consists in whatever legitimate divine ceremonies, by an observation to the prescript of the divine Word.

Thesis 6.  The end of ceremonial worship is to subserve moral, or spiritual, worship.”



On Differences Between Natural & Instituted Worship

Order of Quotes





Summa, pt. 2, pt. 1, Question 99, ‘Of the Precepts of the Old Law’, Article 3, ‘Whether the Old Law comprises ceremonial, besides moral, precepts?’, Reply to Objection 2

“…the precepts of the natural law are general, and require to be determined: and they are determined both by human law and by Divine law.  And just as these very determinations which are made by human law are said to be, not of natural, but of positive law; so the determinations of the precepts of the natural law, effected by the Divine law, are distinct from the moral precepts which belong to the natural law.

Wherefore to worship God, since it is an act of virtue, belongs to a moral precept; but the determination of this precept, namely that He is to be worshipped by such and such sacrifices, and such and such offerings, belongs to the ceremonial precepts.  Consequently the ceremonial precepts are distinct from the moral precepts.”


William Ames

A Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship…  (Amsterdam: Thorp, 1633), Manuduction, ch. 4, ‘Concerning the nature and definition of a ceremony’, pp. 26-27

“Dr. [Thomas] Jackson [d. 1640] in his Original of Unbelief [1625], pp. 334-35, very aptly to this purpose notes that some expressions may sometime be used, and observed well, which to use ordinarily (much more to institute) would be ridiculous or impious.

As Jacob did unblameablely kiss his son Joseph’s coat, yet to have hanged it about his bed or table that it might receive such salutations evening and morning or at every meal time, might have countenanced many branches of superstition: once and use it not, may be discretion of those things whose continual use degenerates into abuse.”


Thomas Goodwin

Of the Constitution, Right, Order & Government of the Churches of Christ (London: Snowden, 1696), ch. 4, pp. 17-19  in The Works of Thomas Goodwin…  the Fourth Volume (London: Darby, 1697)

“An institution is that which is merely founded upon God’s will, raising up a thing beyond its own natural or moral efficacy, with an efficacy beyond it…

Institutions are not only express commands in the letter of them; for examples and promises, hints and implicit intimations may hold forth the will of Christ.  Neither is everything that is the will and command of Christ an institution…

So also there are means of edification which are providential, and so occasionally will serve…  So as the constant setting apart of such a thing, for such an end (though providentially and occasionally, it may serve for such an end) rises up to an institution also.

…Institutions are but the will of Christ, declared concerning such things as are exercised above the common nature of them, to a further spiritual end.  Therefore the declaring the will of God about them, holds in common with the declaration of God’s will in other commands…

We do not make everything a promise is made to an institution…  promises are the declaration of God’s will, be they made to what things soever; and if they fall upon such things as are raised up above natural and common efficacy, with promise of a supernatural power to accompany them, then they are institutions….

When there is a commission of power given, there is a declared institution.”


Francis Turretin

Institutes of Elenctic Theology (P&R, 1994), vol. 2, 11th Topic, ‘On the Law of God’, Question 24, ‘What was the end and use of the ceremonial law under the Old Testament?’, section 3, p. 146

“Hence arises a manifold difference between the moral law and others [ceremonial and judicial] both in origin (because the moral is founded upon natural right and on this account is known by nature; but the others upon positive right and on this account are from free revelation) and in duration.

The former is immutable and eternal; the latter mutable and temporary.  In regard to object, the one is universal embracing all; the others particular applying only to the Jews…  In regard to use, the moral is the end of the others, while the others are subservient to the moral.”



Instituted Worshp is for Natural Worship, & is Subservient to it


Marcus F. Wendelin

Christian Theology  (Hanau, 1634; 2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1657), bk. 2, ‘Of the Worship of God’, ch. 6, ‘Of Ceremonial Worship’, p. 744

“Thesis 1.  …Ceremonial follows, which is a necessary observation of rites mandated by God, subserving moral worship.”




William Ames, The Marrow of Theology, bk. 2, ch. 13, ‘Instituted Worship’, section1, p. 278

John Owen, A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God…  (London, 1667), Question 1, pp. 2–4

Francis Cheynell, The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit
(London: Gellibrand, 1650), ch. 9, p. 356

Johann H. Heidegger, ”On Natural Worship,” trans. Charles Johnson, from Body of Christian Theology, 25.2

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James Dennison Jr.  (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1997), vol. 3, p. 286



Alsted, Johann H.

ch. 29, ‘Of Christ, that He is to be Adored’, section 2, mid  in A Forerunner [Prodromus] of Religion Triumphing  (Transylvania, 1635), bk. 5, p. 1042

ch. 3, ‘Of the Decalogue’, p. 336, lt. col, mid  in Encyclopedia of All Sciences  (d. 1638; Leiden, 1649), vol. 3, bk. 25, section 1, ‘Of Theology…  Natural Theology’

van Mastricht, Peter – ch. 13, ”De cultu Dei instituto et superstitione” in Idea Theologiae Moralis, bk. 2 in Theoretico-Practica Theologia… edition nova… tomus primus  (d. 1706; Utrecht: W. van de Water, 1724) 1238–40



A Commentary on Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1 on Worshp & its Theological Context


Travis Fentiman, MDiv

Updated 7-14-23


WCF 21.1 speaks to the substance of natural worship (albeit implicitly) and then instituted worship:

“The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.[a]

But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.[b]

[a] Rom. 1:20Acts 17:24Ps. 119:68Jer. 10:7Ps. 31:23Ps. 18:3Rom. 10:12Ps. 62:8Josh. 24:14Mark 12:33.
[b] Deut. 12:32Matt. 15:9Acts 17:25Matt. 4:9,10Deut. 4:15-20Exod. 20:4-6Col. 2:23

This paragraph is much misunderstood due to not knowing that era’s background theological context.  A commentary will be given on this paragraph to bring out its fuller understanding, especially with regard to the regulation of worship.  Everything herein taught is evidenced in the articles on this webpage (though note there was some diversity in the details).


Commentary on WCF 21.1

“The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.”

All the listed items in the latter part of this sentence were recognized as forms of natural worship,¹ though the term “natural worship” is not here used.  These items are not an exhaustive list of natural worship, though the confession’s affirmations are true so far as they go.  The excellencies, authority and works of God (doing good unto all) are the grounds of the obligation for natural worship, this deriving from there being a God, known by nature’s light.

¹ e.g. William Strong (Westminster divine), A Discourse of the Two Covenants…  (London: Tyton, 1678), bk. 3, pp. 265 & 336

This natural worship, while being primarily internal and deriving therefrom, yet often may have some external, natural expression suitable thereto, taught by nature’s light¹ (1 Cor. 11:13-14, “Judge in yourselves, is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?  Doth not even nature itself teach you…”), insofar as many of the acts listed naturally manifest outwardly.  The outward expressions could be various, though are constrained to be suitable with the light and coherence of nature.  As nature’s light is a revelation of God’s will, so natural worship is taught by and in conformity with God’s revealed will.†

¹ George Walker (Westminster divine): “…to know and acknowledge God for his sole Lord and Creator, and one only God, to serve and worship Him with such worship and reverence, as his pure reason taught him to be meet for God, to think and speak of God accordingly…”  Doctrine of the Sabbath…  (Amsterdam, 1638), ch. 11, p. 61

George Gillespie (Westminster divine): “They will say perhaps, that nature teaches us to use certain rites in the worship of God, to observe set times for his worship, also to kneel down in reverence of God whom we worship.  Answer: Be it so…”  A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies (1637), pt 3, ch. 9, p. 201  Gillespie goes on (p. 202) to deny that nature’s law requires “any ceremony” in a “distinct kind of worship” (in the context of arguing against kneeling while receiving the Lord’s Supper), but he does not deny that such a natural ceremony as kneeling may be used, as taught of nature, in worship generally, or that nature teaches “to observe set times for his worship,” as Palmer and Cawdrey taught (evidenced below).

John Collinges (English puritan): “To use a mean in an act of worship, which God has neither by the light of nature directed, nor in his Word prescribed (no natural necessity compelling us so to do) is sinful:”  A Reasonable Account why some Pious, Nonconforming Ministers in England Judge it Sinful… (London: 1679), ch. 4, p. 71

† See ‘Scripture Upholds Nature’s Light & Law’.

As God, by nature’s light, is to be “served” in light of his excellencies, serving God’s will and keeping his commandments, the whole duty of man, was generally regarded as part of natural worship, though a more mediate kind.ª  As all the listed items flow out of God’s existence and character, so they all entail from the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3)

ª See ‘Worship Includes Good Works’ and ‘All of Life is Worship’.

If this all is to be done with all our heart, soul and might (per the Confession), then there should be an emphasis upon natural worship as more foundational and important than even instituted worship, as many reformed divines have said,¹ and Jesus so approved:

“And to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mk. 12:33, compare with Ps. 40:6-8)

¹ Besides the material on this webpage, including ‘Instituted Worship is for Natural Worship’, see also ‘On the Relations between the Tables of the Law’.


“But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself…”

The “but” here indicates, not necessarily a contrast, but at least a difference.  Note there are numerous possibilites it could be indicative of, and that, amidst this ambiguity, the Confession was produced through a consensus process.  One acceptable interpretation is understanding the difference to be between what nature’s light shows and the listed acts obligated therefrom, and the “acceptable way,” or manner, of worship.  These sentences do not necessarily entail that the fore-listed items were not worship.  It seems likely “worship” first gets mentioned here as “worship” properly speaking commonly signified an immediate worship (in contrast to serving God in common life), and the term often popularly designated instituted worship.

While “instituted” worship often was set in contrast to “natural” worship, that contrast, as it is not explicitly stated in the confessional paragraph, may not be necessary here.  At least two later English puritans, John Collinges (presbyterian) and Richard Baxter (congregationalist) spoke of natural worship as “instituted.”

Collinges, speaking of worship:

“…God should prescribe it; this He has done as the God of Nature, imprinting a law in our hearts, obliging us to call upon Him for good things we want and to praise Him for good things received, partly in his holy Writ.

There is no natural worship but is also instituted, but there is much instituted worship which the Light of Nature does not show nor the Law of Nature oblige us to, such as reading the Scriptures, hearing the Word preached, communicating in the holy sacraments.”  Intercourses of Divine Love betwixt Christ & his Church… (London: Snowden, 1683), Sermon 39, on Cant. 1:6, p. 565


“And it is another mistake [of the opponent], ‘That this prayer is not of Christ’s institution, because it is a part of natural worship’: All is of Christ’s institution which is a part of his commanding Law.  The Law of Nature is now Christ’s Law.”  as quoted in Isaac Chauncy, A Theological Dialogue…  (London: Author, 1684), p. 27

That these two puritans reflected an earlier tradition from at least just before the time of Westminster is confirmed by the English puritan, John Ball, whose treatise on Covenant theology was very influential on Westminster.  Ball, in a different treatise, asked affirmatively: “Does not positive worship require one manner of institution; natural another?”¹

¹ An Answer to Two Treatises of Mr. John Can, the Leader of the English Brownists in Amsterdam…  (London: R.B., 1642), ch. 1, section 4, p. 51

Likewise several years before the Westminster Assembly, George Gillespie, who would be a Westminster divine, said to his opponents, after speaking of and affirming natural and moral signs in the Corinthian worship (then required by civil decency):

“Let us see nature’s institution or the apostles’ recommendation for the controverted ceremonies…  and we yield the argument.”  English Popish Ceremonies (1637), pt. 3, ch. 5, p. 91

Thomas Goodwin, a congregationalist Westminster divine, spoke of things being “prescribed by the Law of Nature” in relation to “the distinction that our divines give…  as there is Cultus Naturalis [Natural Worship]….”¹

¹ Of the Constitution, Right, Order & Government of the Churches of Christ (London: Snowden, 1696), ch. 4, p. 18 in The Works of Thomas Goodwin…  the Fourth Volume (London: Darby, 1697)

Likewise the presbyterian Westminster divine, Daniel Cawdrey, said, “A man cannot pray too earnestly (whatever he may do too often) for that is natural and prescribed worship…”¹  This statement by itself is a bit ambiguous, but his context is praying in natural life, not in church assemblies. Cawdrey shortly goes on to speak of, “God having prescribed all men callings to be waited on…”  As this clearly refers to naturally prescribed callings of men, this confirms that afore he was speaking of natural worship as prescribed.  This is further confirmed in Cawdrey speaking in his Preface of “worship commanded, especially natural worship…”

¹ Cawdrey, Diatribe Triplex, or, A Threefold Exercitation concerning 1. Superstition, 2. Will-Worship, 3. Christmas Festival… (London: Wright, 1654), ‘Of Superstition’, p. 23.  This consists with his view that natural law commands: “Prudence itself being a virtue, in our created nature, then certainly it commanded, and obliged to do what was fittest, and so it does still;”  Diatribe Triplex, ‘Of Superstition’, p. 105

If the phrase, “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself,” be understood of God instituting that way by special revelation, or Scripture (as many reformed divines took it), Scripture upholds nature’s light, law¹ and worship.

¹ See ‘Scripture Upholds Nature’s Light & Law’.

Natural worship is confirmed, commanded and made statutes and judgments, or instituted, by Scripture:

Dt. 10:12-13

“And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Dt. 30:14, 16

“But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it…  In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments…”

1 Kings 9:4

“And if thou wilt walk before Me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments:”

More references include: Lev. 20:7-8; 25:17-18; Dt. 5:1, 6-7; 6:1-2:; 8:10-11; 11:1, 13, 18-20, 22, 32; 2 Kings 17:34, 37; 23:3; 1 Chron. 29:19; 2 Chron. 7:17; 34:31; Ps. 18:21-23; 119:10-16; Mt. 22:37; Jn. 4:23-24.

If “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself” is understood as only referring to Scripture, yet it may still (and must) allow for the variability that reformed divines commonly allowed and taught with respect to outward expressions of immediate, natural worship even with instituted worship and in services of instituted worship, as found in Scripture.¹

¹ Besides ‘Natural Worship Bible verses’ above, see also ‘On Posture & Gestures in Worship’, ‘On Natural Ceremonies,’ as well as ‘When & How Circumstances Properly Join, or are Included in, Acts of Worship, or Not’.  Cawdrey: “Our divines…  do condemn significant ceremonies…  unless they be…  such as naturally signify such a thing, or such as the Scripture gives instances of, as lifting up the hand in taking an oath, or the eyes to heaven in prayer, etc.”  Diatribe Triplex, ‘Of Superstition’, p. 26

Palmer (introduced below) and Cawdrey understood that the Light and Law of Nature commanded prayer and other actions to God’s honor, or worship, and yet this now has been encompassed by “positive law in Scripture (which is the only way now…) by virtue of his divine institutions and appointments.”  Yet that certain aspects involved in worship still derive from the light and law of nature is clear from the larger passage and what is below.  Christian Sabbath Vindicated, p. 369 with 366.

Ball allowed “the way or manner of worship” to refer to natural worship.²  Herbert Palmer (Westminster divine) wrote with Cawdrey a chapter in 1645 defending, ‘A Determinate Solemn Time for God’s Worship is Moral-Natural: and that in the First Commandment: and what Kind and Manner of Determination of Time for Religion may be Proved Necessary by the Law, or Light of Nature…’,ª the year before the topic of worship, to form Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 21, was debated in the Westminster Assembly in the early months of 1646.†  Palmer and Cawdrey go on to speak of a “natural necessity” for persons “to behave themselves orderly in the service of God, and…  partake of the sacraments in a fitting and decent manner.”º

² Answer to Two Treatises of Mr. John Can, ch. 1, section 4, pp. 50-51

ª pt. 1, ch. 9 of Sabbatum Redivivum: Or The Christian Sabbath Vindicated… (London: White, 1645), pp. 148-216

† Alexander Mitchell, The Westminster Assembly: its History & Standards… (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1897), pp. 371-72; eds. Alexander Mitchell & John Struthers, Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly… (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1874), p. 318; ed. Chad Van Dixhoorn, The Minutes & Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 3.770-75, March 9-10, 1646, sessions 601-2

º Christian Sabbath Vindicated, pp. 347-48

Cawdrey in his own volume, reflecting WCF 1.6 (after it was written), wrote:

“…some rites and ceremonies must necessarily be in religion, yet they are such as pertain to order and decency, 1 Cor. 14:40… determined partly by the general precepts of God, partly by the nature of the things themselves, and partly by circumstances…  which are common adjuncts of religious and civil affairs…  than properly religious, in ecclesiastical rites and ceremonies, much less to be accounted parts of worship.”  Diatribe Triplex, ‘Of Superstition’, pp. 25-26

While Cawdrey minimizes that such rites “determined…  partly by the nature of the things themselves, and partly by circumstances” (involving nature’s light and law), ought to be counted “parts of worship,” yet he uses the qualifier that they are not “properly” religious.  Are such rites improperly religious?

A standard reformed teaching in the era, in accord with the broader catholic tradition, not to mention Scripture and nature, taught that the circumstances of natural gestures or other things conveying honor, applied to God, entered into the act of worship (and its approval or disapproval before God).†  It is impossible to deny standing, bowing or bowing one’s head at times in prayer (when called for), or with some other appropriate gesture taught by the light and laws of nature (whether primary or secondaryº), form (whether properly or improperly) part of “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God,” and that as “instituted by Himself” in nature and Scripture (especially as part of Scripture’s regulations about worship is that it is to be done decently and in order‡).

† See ‘When & How Circumstances Properly Join, or are Included in, Acts of Worship, or Not’.

º On secondary laws of nature, see p. 28 of Travis Fentiman, 1 Corinthians – Head-Coverings are Not Perpetual & they were Hair-Buns, with or without Cloth Material: Proven  (RBO, 2022).

‡ That issues of decency and order fall under the Regulative Principle of Worship, see pp. 74-75 of Fentiman, Head-Coverings are Not Perpetual.

Cawdrey’s follow up work, albeit in different particulars, affirmed that natural reason tells us, not how to properly worship God, but the manner how He is to be worshipped.†

† “If we have a God, natural reason tells us He must be worshipped: He must be treated with, addressed to, etc…  which [things] are not properly worship, but the manner how we must come to Him to tender our worship;”  The Account Audited, section 2, p. 68

Does not doing things decently and in order, unto edification (1 Cor. 14:26, 40), enter into “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God”?  It surely does.  Gillespie rightly taught that doing all things decently and in order unto edification is necessary from nature’s law.†  Anthony Burgess (Westminster divine) said, “It’s true indeed, even in worship, light of Nature and prudence is instrumentally required to order the institutions of God.”‡

English Popish Ceremonies, pt. 3, ch. 5, p. 91; ch. 6, p. 95; ch. 9, pp. 200, 202

 Vindiciae legis, or, A Vindication of the Moral Law & the Covenants…  (London, 1647), Lecture 7, pp. 74


“and so limited by his own revealed will…”

Note this phrase does not say “Scripture,” nor even “special revelation.”  God’s revealed will was understood to include nature’s light and law.¹  It is true nature’s light and law, expressing God’s will, significantly limits “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God,” especially in light of general revelation showing God’s “lordship and sovereignty over all.”†

¹ William Ames, in combatting will-worship, notably does not specify “Scripture” or “special revelation” in the following, but “God’s revealed will”: “It is no will-worship…  Kneeling in prayer is expressly allowed by God’s revealed will: and the determination of it to this or that time is to be ruled by occasion.” A Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship… (Amsterdam, 1633), ch. 2, section 2, pp. 150-51

John Owen: “That God is to be worshipped, and that according to his own will and appointment, is a (a) principal branch of the Law of our creation, written in our hearts…” A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God… (London: 1667), Question 2, p. 5

† See ‘How the Light of Nature does Not Direct to a Supernatural End’.  Robert Ferguson: “Nor do we deny…  that we may arise by the light of reason to that knowledge of God as may sufficiently instruct us that some media of worship taken up by diverse [persons] are unbecoming rational creatures to perform towards a Being of that nature and perfections that God is.”  A Sober Inquiry into the Nature, Measure & Principle of Moral Virtue… (London: Newman, 1673), ch. 3, p. 175

Gillespie, around nine years before Westminster’s discussion of the Confession’s section on worship, spoke of the necessary grounds (p. 116) for worship ceremonies (p. 107, 120), in the context of “the Law of God and nature” (pp. 116-17), to be, not Scripture alone, but “the appointment of his own Word and will revealed unto us.”¹  Cawdrey spoke of: “the will of God, the only Rule of worship…”²  The later English puritan, John Corbet, taught natural law to be a limiting rule of worship.³

¹ English-Popish Ceremonies, pt. 3, ch. 7, p. 120
² Diatribe triplex, ‘Will-worship,’ p. 45
³ The Remains… (d. 1680; London: Parkhurst, 1684), ‘Of Divine Worship’, pt. 3, §3, ‘Of the Rule that limits the kinds of Worship’, p. 210.  See also §§4 & 5.

The renowned Dutch, reformed professor, Gisbert Voet, a paragon of Reformed Orthodoxy, queried and taught in 1648:

“Whether therefore out of the natural law, as contradistinguished from supernatural, the rule and way of worshipping God is able to be deduced or subsumed under it?…

Indeed, in general and indefinitely in what way God is to be worshipped, and negatively, in what way He is not to be worshipped, in many things it is able to be shown from there;”  Select Theological Disputations  (Utrecht, 1648), vol. 1, 21. ‘Appendices to… on the Authority & Righteousness of God, pt. 2’, p. 398, 7th Problem.  For the full quote, see above on this webpage.


“that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men,”

How does God’s revealed will limit the way in which God may be worshipped?  This section gives the answer: God may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men.  Not only does Scripture teach this, but so does nature’s light and law, as worshipping “according to the imaginations and devices of men” is unnatural and against nature and general revelation.

Note precisely what is prohibited.  Many persons speak of worshipping God according to man’s will, in contrast to Scripture, as will-worship (Col. 2:23) and prohibited.  Yet this is not what the Confession says.  Man, by his will, which is natural,º may lawfully worship God in concurrence with the variations of natural worship;† this is not prohibited.  Cross-reference WCF 1.6 which says some circumstances of God’s worship are to be ordered by nature’s light.

º Cawdrey: “‘Will-worship’…  may be taken in a double sense: 1. For voluntary, spontaneous, or willing worship, that is willingness and freeness in worship commanded by God;”  “Prudence itself being a virtue in our created nature, then certainly it commanded and obliged to do what was fittest; and so it does still; that what is short of the rule, by our imprudence, is a fault…”  Diatribe triplex, ‘Will-worship,’ pp. 44, 105

† Corbet: “Of Natural Worship, the Law of Nature is the limiting rule for all the kinds thereof.”  ‘Divine Worship’, pt. 3, §3, p. 210.

What is prohibited is worshipping by “the imaginations and devices of men,” not in concurrence with nature or Scripture (whether in natural or instituted worship) but only having man’s will, alone, as its standard, apart from nature and Scripture.  Cawdrey confirms (Diatribe Triplex):

“A man cannot pray too earnestly (whatever he may do too often) for that is natural and prescribed worship: But if a man shall tender to God, devised worship, the least degree here is too much:”  ‘Of Superstition’, p. 23

“But their significant ceremonies are superstitious when neither in their nature, nor by any instituted of God, they are instituted by men to signify some grace to be procured from God in the use of such ceremonies: of which sort the Church of Rome has many.”  Ibid., p. 27

“the sense of voluntary worship, which if he take for willingness in commanded worship, we shall not contend with him; but if for worship invented and constituted by the will of man…  not only we, but God Himself observes it [as faulty].”  ‘Will-worship,’ p. 81

When Gillespie argued against the human, significant ceremonies being imposed upon the Church of Scotland, he granted nature’s law to be warrantable ground for ceremonies in worship:

“I will prove that the lawfulness of those ceremonies…  can neither be grounded upon the Law of God, nor the Law of Man, nor the Law of Nature, and by consequence, that they are not lawful at all.”  English Popish Ceremonies, pt. 3, ch. 6, pp. 92-93

Hence Gillespie, and many other reformed divines, considered natural and moral ceremonies to be warrantable in worship.  Gillespie: “Now, besides the sacred signs of God’s own institution, we know that natural signs have also place in divine worship;”¹ see also ‘On Natural & Moral Signs & Ceremonies’.

¹ English-Popish Ceremonies, pt. 3, ch. 5, p. 85.


“or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”

Again, Scripture prescribes natural worship, done in a natural way, as well that worship be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40, whether natural or instituted), in accord with nature’s light (1 Cor. 11:14; WCF 1.6).

Hopefully this commentary has made you more aware of what Westminster (especially in its consensus context) does and does not say about the regulation of worship, and has given you a greater appreciation for some of the nuances of our Lord’s worship.  To see that this understanding stands with a strong view of the Regulative Principle of Worship and its detailed, necessary consequences, see the cited works of the Westminster divine, Cawdrey.



Latin Articles


Zanchi, Girolamo – Of the Fall of the First Man, of Sin & of the Law in The Theological Works, vol. 4  (d. 1590; Stephanus Gamonetus, 1613)

ch. 12. Of the First Precept  234

Of the First Precept, and of the virtues and vices which are referred to it  234
Of faith  240
Thesis 1.  Faith is a virtue given to us from God…  241
Thesis 2.  The genus of faith is even twofold: living, and that perpetual, and dead faith, and that temporary  241
Thesis 3.  Faith is again divided into living, then dead, in the habit and act  242
Thesis 4.  Twofold even is the act of faith: interior, or (as the Scholastics say) elicited, and exterior, or commanded  242
Thesis 5.  So truly we are bound to believe the Word of God, even thus to hear and understand it  243

Of unbelief, and of its actions
Thesis 1.  Unbelief, or infidelity, is an innate vice after the first sin of man…  243
Thesis 2.  So there are four principal species of unbelief: Gentilism, Judaism, Heresies, Apostasy  244
Thesis 3.  The unbelief of Jews is more grave than that of Gentiles, and that of heretics than that of Jews, and that of apostates than that of heretics  245
Thesis 4.  245
Thesis 5.  246
Thesis 6.  247
Of the Knowledge of God  248
Thesis 1.  We are taught to know God by the law of nature; we are also so bound by the written law of God  249
Thesis 2.
Thesis 3.
Thesis 4. There are truly three reasons by which God…
Thesis 5.  And so the knowledge of God is divided by a multifold partition…  251
Thesis 6.

Of the Ignorance of God
Thesis 1.  Ignorance of God is not only a punishment of sin and a cause of sin, but even is sin  252
Thesis 2.  256
Thesis 3.  Though truly all ignorance of God is sin, notwithstanding one is greater and more grave than another  257
Thesis 4
Thesis 5  258

Of Righteousness  259
Thesis 1.  Righteousness is a virtue…  259
Thesis 2.  Righteousness in general and particular follows

Of Unrighteousness  261
Thesis 1.  General unrighteousness is an innate vice after the sin of Adam…

Of Gratitude
Thesis 1.  Hence gratitude to God is a virtue…
Thesis 2.

 ch. 13, Of Religion and truly of worship and its parts  263

Thesis 1.  True religion, which is the same as [Greek] eusezeia, piety, is placed in, certainly, the true worship of God, both the external, yet most of all, the internal  264

Thesis 2.  The one true religion is only that one knows and worships Jehovah  266

Thesis 3.  True religion is that one worships God by no other worship than that which He Himself has declared he wills to be worshipped by, even the true piety of the soul.  266

Thesis 4.  The interior worship of God is maintained by many parts…

Of Adoration
Thesis 5.  Only the true God is to be adored with religious adoration.

Of the fear of God  274
Thesis.  Only the true God, Jehova, is to be feared simply and per se, and to be worshipped with a pious fear.

Of Trust  281
Thesis 1.  281

Of Mistrust  284
Of Hope  286
Thesis 1.  One is to hope in God alone simply and per se, and from Him alone to expect every good, especially most of all eternal life.

Of Desperatione & Fearfulness, the vicious opposers of hope  292
Thesis 1.  Desperation is a vice arising from infidelity…

Of Patience  294
Thesis 1.  295

Of Impatience  303
Of the Love of God  304
Thesis.  Only God (properly speaking) is to be loved by us.  304

Of the Hatred of God  310
Of Invocation  311
Thesis.  Out of the invisible spirits, only God is to be invoked simplicter by us for all things.
A Response to the sophisms of the Papists for the invocation of the saints  322
Thesis.  336

On Presenting Obedience to God  341
Thesis 341
Explanation  344

Of Disobedience  347
Of Idolatry  355
Thesis 1.  357
Thesis 2.  359
Thesis 3.  360
Thesis 4.  361-62

14. An Explication of the Second Precept…  and of shunning images, and of external worship  362-80

16. Of the External Worship of God  410

Question 1, Thesis 1.  Although God especially and per se takes pleasure in our internal piety, and certainly pious works, yet not from that thing, but what follows, because of that previous thing, He has even instituted exercises of piety, by which He wills from us worship  411

Question 2.  Whether external worship pertains to the law of nature, or to the ceremonial?  And hence how far those Christian men are bound, and how far they are not bound?

Thesis.  The external worship of God pertains partly to the law of nature unto all gentiles commonly, partly and properly to the specific religion of any people.

Question 3.  What is this external worship of God, and what are its parts?

Thesis 1.  The true worship [cultu] of God is an action proceeding from piety, by which acting from the Holy Spirit, God being adored by the highest reverence, we serve Him from his will revealed in the Word: presenting that which He offers to receive, believing his promises with certain faith, and presenting that which is stipulated from us, having been in turn promised, and which He enjoins, and all that to his glory, to the edification of the Church and our neighbor, and our salvation.  418

[Zanchi defines worship’s four causes in this section, the efficient, material, formal and final causes.]

Thesis 2.  The whole worship of God, by multifold partition, follows.  419

Thesis 3.  The external and ceremonial worship of God is a sacred action proceeding from piety, by which acting by the Holy Spirit, adoring God with the highest reverence, we serve Him from his will revealed in the Word, by words and deeds, receiving sacraments and offering sacrifices, to his glory, the edification of the Church and our salvation.  421

Of Christian Sacrifices  475


Alsted, Johann H. – ch. 29, ‘Of Christ, that He is to be Adored’, section 2  in A Forerunner [Prodromus] of Religion Triumphing  (Transylvania, 1635), bk. 5, p. 1042

Leydecker, Melchior – p. 75  in ch. 7  in The Idea of Reformed Theology out of the Writings of Theologians…  (Utrecht: Clerck, 1696)



van Mastricht, Peter – ch. 13, ‘On the Institution of the Worship of God & on Superstition’  in The Idea of Moral Theology, bk. 2  in Theoretical-Practical Theology  new ed.  (1698; Utrecht, 1724), pp. 1238-1240  in




“But go ye and learn what that meaneth, ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice’…”

Mt. 9:13

“But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, ‘Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.’  But He said unto them, ‘Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?'”

Mt. 12:2-4

“This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.”

Mt. 15:8




Related Pages


On the Definition of Worship

On Internal & External Worship

Expositions of the 1st Commandment

Expositions of the 2nd Commandment

Expositions of the Ten Commandments

Moral vs. Ceremonial Worship

Regulative Principle of Worship

Simplicity of Worship

Order of Worship & Liturgies


Natural Gestures & Customs in Worship; of Reverence

Worship by Distance through Technology

Only One Kind of Religious Worship; Dulia to Saints is Idolatrous

Christian Worship: from the Synagogue, not the Temple

Distinguishable Aspects in the Elements of Worship

Impurities of Worship

Opinion of Sanctity & Necessity: Not Essential to False Worship

Modern Evangelical Worship

Romanist Worship