On Monuments & Badges of Idolatry



On Wedding Rings



Order of Contents


Rutherford’s Conclusion
Things Associated with Superstition Ought Not be in Worship Unless Necessary
Civil Use of Pagan Names, Days of the Week, etc.





Gillespie, George – English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 3

ch. 2, ‘That the Ceremonies are Unlawful because they are Monuments of by-past Idolatry, which not being Necessary to be Retained, should be Utterly Abolished, because of their Idolatrous Abuse: all which is Particularly made Good of Kneeling [at Communion]’, pp. 15-35

The first 5 pages of this chapter have been cleaned up at Purely Presbtyerian.

ch. 3, ‘That the Ceremonies are Unlawful because they Sort us with Idolaters, being the Badges of Present Idolatry among the Papists’, pp. 35-47



Rutherford’s Conclusion

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), Appendix, ‘An Introduction to Scandal’, Question 6, ‘A Further Consideration of Things Not Necessary & How They be Scandalous Objects’, pp. 62-3

“1st Conclusion.  Monuments or instruments of idolatry are of two sorts, either:

[1.] Such things as have no other use at all but to contribute sorne subservient influence in or unto idolatrous worship, and because these have all their warrant from a mere commandment of man, they are simply not necessary, as the graven image, the idols themselves, all positive observances in God’s worship destitute of any command of God; and the use of these in any case must be scandalous and so unlawful because…

[2.] But there be other things that are instruments of idolatry and subservient thereunto, in a common and physical influence, as a temple builded to the honor of a saint and for the adoring of images, and for the reading and opening the Word of God in the New and Old Testament, though in a corrupt way; these are not properly monuments of idolatry.

Now the house or Church, as such is no monument, nor useless instrument in worship, such as is a surplice, a human holy day, for it has, as such, being a thing of walls and timber, no other than that very same physical influence in worshipping either the true God or a saint, that it has in civil use, in our ordinary dwelling, to wit, to fence our bodies in religious, in natural, in civil actions from injuries of heaven, clouds, and sin.  The adjuncts of the Church, as crucifixes, images, altars, ravels, mass-clothes and the like, are properly monuments and instruments of idolaty, because these are not necessary, as is the material house, nor have they any common and physical influence in the worship, as the temple has, yea all the necessity or influence that they have in the worship is only religious and human flowing from the will of men, without either necessity from our natural constitution of body, or any word of Scripture, and therefore they are to be removed upon this ground, because they are unnecessary snares to idolatry…

…An house for the worship of God is amongst the things that are necessary by way of disjunction in specie, not in individuo; that is, a house is necessary, in its physical use, to fence off our bodies, the injuries of sun, air and heaven, but not this house, for another house may serve the turn as conveniently.”



That Things Associated with Superstition Ought Not to be Used in Worship Unless They be Necessary

George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 3, ch. 2, pp. 21-23, 25-26, 30-31

“…they [Formalists] tell us that it is needless to abolish utterly things and rites which the Papists have abused to idolatry and superstition, and that it is enough to purge them from the abuse and to restore them again to their right use.  Hence Saravia will not have pium crucis usum [a pious use of the cross] to be abolished cum abusu [when abused], but holds it enough that the abuse and superstition be taken away…

Answer 1: Calvin (Resp. ad Versipel., p. 41.4) answering that which Cassander alleged out of an Italian writer, abusu non tolli bonum usum [by abuse is not taken away a good use], he admits it only to be true in things which are instituted by God Himself: not so in things ordained by men: for the very use of such things or rites as have no necessary use in God’s worship, and which men have devised only at their own pleasure, is taken away by idolatrous abuse.  Pars tutior [a part more to be examined] here, is to put them wholly away; and there is by a great deal more danger in retaining than in removing them.

2. The [Scriptural] proofs which I have produced for the proposition about which now we debate [Isa. 30:22; Jude 23; Ex. 34:13; Dt. 7:25-26; Num. 33:52-53; Dt. 7:5; 12:2-3; Isa. 27:9] do not only infer that things and rites which have been notoriously abused to idolatry should be abolished in case they be not restored to a right use, but simply and absolutely that in any wise they are to be abolished.  God commanded to say to the coverings and the ornaments of idols, ‘get you hence’ [Isa. 30:22].  It is not enough [that] they be purged from the abuse, but simpliciter [simply], they themselves must pack them and be gone.  How did Jacob with the earrings of the idols, Elijah with Baal’s altar [1 Kings 18:30], Jehu with his vestments [2 Kings 10:22-28], Josiah with his houses [2 Kings 23:4-19], Manasseh with his altars [2 Chron. 33:15], Moses with the golden calf, Joshua with the temples of Canaan, Hezekiah with the brazen serpent?  Did they retain the things themselves and only purge them from the abuse?

Belike if these our Opposites had been their counsellors, they had advised them to be contented with such a moderation: yet we see they were better counselled when they destroyed utterly the things themselves: whereby we know that they were of the same mind with us and thought that things abused to Idolatry, if they have no necessary use, are far better away than aplace.  Did Daniel refuse Bel’s meat because it was not restored to the right use?  Nay, if that had been all, it might have been quickly helped, and the meat sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.  Finally, were the Churches of Pergamos and Thyatira [Rev. 2:12-29] reproved because they did not restore things sacrificed to idols to their right use? or, were they not rather reproved for having anything at all adoe with the things themselves?

Though it be indifferent to choose this place or that place, etc., also to use these vessels or other vessels [for the Lord’s Supper], etc., yet the Dr. (I trust) will not deny that temples, houses of prayer, vessels and bells are of a necessary use (which exeems them from the touch of our present argument); whereas beside, that it is not necessary to kneel in the communion in this place more than in that place, neither to keep the feasts of Christ’s nativity, passion, etc. upon these days more than upon other days, etc.; the things themselves are not necessary in their kind and it is not necessary to keep any festival day, nor to kneel at all in the act of receiving the communion.

There is also another respect which hinders temples, vessels, etc. from coming within the compass of this our argument: but neither does it agree to the controverted ceremonies.  Temples, houses of prayer, vessels for the ministration of the sacraments and bells are not used by us in divine worship as things sacred or as holier than other houses, vessels and bells; but we use them only for natural necessity, partly for that common decency which has no less place in the actions of civil than of sacred assemblies: yea in some cases they may be applied to civil uses, as has been said.

Whereas the controverted ceremonies are respected and used as sacred rites and as holier than any circumstance which is alike common to civil and sacred actions, neither are they used at all out of the case of worship.  We see now a double respect wherefore our argument infers not the necessity of abolishing and destroying such temples, vessels and bells as have been abused to idolatry, viz. because it can neither be said that they are not things necessary, nor yet that they are things sacred.

Nevertheless (to add this by the way), howbeit for those reasons the retaining and using of temples [church buildings] which have been polluted with idols be not in itself unlawful, yet the retaining of every such temple is not ever necessary, but sometimes it is expedient for further extirpation of superstition to demolish and destroy some such temples as have been horribly abused to idolatry, as Calvin (Commentary on Dt. 12:2) also and Zanchius (in 4th Praec., col. 709) do plainly insinuate.

Whereby I mean to defend (though not as in itself necessary, yet as expedient pro tunc [for the occasion], that which the reformators of the Church of Scotland did in casting down some of those churches which had been consecrated to Popish idols, and of a long time polluted with idolatrous worship.  As on the one part the reformators (not without great probability) feared, that so long as these churches were not made even with the ground, the memory of that superstition whereunto they had been employed and accustomed should have been in them preserved and with some sort of respect recognized: so on the other part they saw it expedient to demolish them for strengthening the hands of such as adhered to the Reformation, for putting Papists out of all hope of the reentry of Popery and for hedging up the way with thorns that the idolatrously minded might not find their paths.

Secondly, our Opposites answer us that beside the purging of things and rites abused by idolators from their idolatrous pollution and the restoring of them to a right use, preaching and teaching against the superstition and abuse which has followed upon them is another means to avoid that harm which we fear to ensue upon the retaining of them.

Answer:  1.  …It is not enough with the scribes and Pharisees to teach out of Moses’s Chair what the people should do, but all occasions, yea appearances of evil, are to be taken out of their sight.  Efficacius enim & plus movent, quae in oculos quam quae in aures incidunt. Potuerat & Hezekias populum monere, ne Serpentem adorarent, sed maluit confringere & penitus è conspectu auferre, & rectius fecit, says one well to this purpose.

2.  Experience has taught to how little purpose such admonitions do serve.  Calvin writing to the Lord Protector of England of some Popish ceremonies which did still remain in that Church after the Reformation of the same, desires that they may be abolished because of their former abuse in time of Popery.  Quid enim (says he) illae Ceremoniae aliud fuerunt, quam totidem lenocinia quae miseras animas ad malum perducerent, etc. (Epist. & Resp., p. 86)  But because he saw that some might answer that which our Formalists answer now to us, and say it were enough to warn and teach men that they abuse not these ceremonies and that the abolishing of the ceremonies themselves were not necessary, therefore immediately he subjoins these words, Iam si decautione agitur, monebuntur homines scilicet, ne ad illas nunc impingant, etc.  Quis tamen non videt obdurari ipsos nihilominus, nihil ut infaelici illa cautione obtineri possit.  Whereupon he concludes that if such ceremonies were suffered to remain, this should be a mean to nourish a greater hardness and obfirmation in evil, and a vail drawn, so that the sincere doctrine which is propounded should not be admitted as it ought to be.

In another epistle to Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Ibid., col. 136), he complains that external superstitions were so corrected in the Church of England, ut residui maneant innumeri surculiqui assidue polluent.  And what good then was done by their admonitions whereby they did in some sort snede [cut or section] the reviving twigs of old superstition, since forasmuch as they were not wholly eradicated, they did still shoot forth again.  If a man should dig a pit by the wayside for some commodity of his own, and then admonish the travelers to take heed to themselves if they go that way in the darkness of the night, who would hold him excusable?  How then shall they be excused who dig a most dangerous pit, which is like to ruin many souls, and yet will have us to think that they are blameless for that they warn men to beware of it?

Paybody…  says that God did not absolutely condemn things abused to idolatry, and tells us of three conditions on which it was lawful to spare idolatrous appurtenances:  …3. If they were without certain danger of ensnaring people into idolatry.

Answer:  …His third condition rests, and touching it I ask, what if those idolatrous appurtenances be not without apparent danger of ensnaring people into idolatry?  Are we not commanded to abstain from all appearance of evil?  Will he correct the apostle and teach us that we need not care for apparent, but for certain dangers?  What more apparent danger of ensnaring people into idolatry than unnecessary ceremonies, which have been dedicated to and polluted with idols, and which being retained, do both admonish us to remember upon old idolatry, and move us to return to the same, as I have before made evident?”


J.H. Heidegger

Medulla theologiae, 14.37  trans. Charles Johnson

“In the worship service itself, it is by no means unlawful to use things, rites, and actions borrowed from the worshippers of idols and polluted with idolatry if, from the law of nature, they are either necessarily presupposed for worship, or if the causes and conditions of the same, without which worship would be impossible, demand them; which conditions are time and place of worship, a baptistry, cups, dishes, tables, the opening of the mouth, extending of the hand, going to the table.”


Corpus theologiae, 14.1.57  trans. Charles Johnson

“Let us not use things and rites in divine worship which are not prescribed, or not necessary by the law of nature, or even which do not have a particular use in worship, which were monuments of past idolatry, and had an enormous abuse, because God commanded to abolish monuments of this sort, Ex. 39:13; Num. 25:3, 33:52-53; Dt. 7:5; Is. 30:22; 1 Cor. 10:20; Rev. 2:14, 20…”

“Let things and utensils, adiaphora and civil in themselves, yet used with some accessory, idolatrous usage and form which is not yet wiped out, chiefly, while the idolaters still live, not be carried around and employed.”



On the Civil Use of Pagan Names, the Days of the Week etc.


The typical puritan position was that using pagan names for civil terms, landmarks, cities, days of the week, etc. was a falling short of the glory of God, not ideal and ought to be reformed if possible.  However, such names were also indifferent enough civilly (the superstition of them no longer being current), that they were capable of being lawfully tolerated and used, given the widespread currency of them, as as the Holy Spirit uses them in Scripture (for instance, in referring to pagan place names in Israel in the histories, etc.).

The separatists, Independents and other sectarians, however, often held them to be unlwaful simply, that they may not be used at all.



Myers, Andrew – ‘Pagan Calendar Names’  (2009)  8 paragraphs

Myers gives an introduction to the issues in the puritan era, quoting a few puritan historians and Gillespie and Burroughs.  The parties that would not use the pagan names at all for civil discourse were the Brownists (English separatists), the Gibbites (the ‘Sweet Singers’, separatists to the right of the Scottish Cameronians) and the Quakers (also separatists).



Robert Baillie

A Dissuasive from the Errors of the Time, wherein the Tenets of the Principal Sects, Especially of the Independents, are Drawn Together in One Map  (1645), ch. 6, pp. 116-17

“In the abolishing of the monuments of idolatry, they [Independents and congregationalists] agree so far with the Brownists [separatists], that they will not name the days of the week, the months of the year, the places of meeting after the ordinary manner;

Yet they make no scruple to use the churches builded in the time of Popery, nor of bells [for calling to public worship, etc.], though invented by a Pope and baptized with all the Popish superstiti∣ons.  How this does stand with their principles, I do not well know…”




Related Pages