The Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God: Commentaries on, Discussions of & Historical Documents Related Unto


The Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God



Order of Contents

Commentaries on  7
Discussions of  10+
Related Historical Documents  18+



Commentaries on Westminster’s Directory for Public Worship


Practical Commentaries  2

Dever, Mark & Sinclair Ferguson – The Westminster Directory of Public Worship  Buy  (2008)  128 pp.

* Silversides, David – ‘The Westminster Directory of Public Worship: a Puritan View’  in Malcom Watts & David Silversides, The Worship of God  Buy  (Edinburgh: Marpet Press, 1998), pp. 26-47

This booklet is the best introduction there is to the purity of God’s Worship.  While the history of the Directory is not here gone into much, this essay faithfully expounds and applies the Directory to all those who love the reverent worship prescribed by God in Scripture.  Silversides is of the Reformed Presbyterians of Ireland and Watts is a Reformed Baptist.



Historical Commentaries  3

Leishman, Thomas

‘A Directory for the Public Worship of God’  in The Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland… & The Directory for the Public Worship of God with Historical Introductions & Illustrative Notes  (1868), pp. 257-367  There is a 22 page Introduction before a reprinting of the Directory.  The 43 page commentary notes commence on p. 325.

Leishman (1825-1904) was part of the Liturgical Renewal movement in late-1800’s Scotland, which philosophy of worship was directly contrary to the Biblical simplicity of worship contained in the Westminster Directory.

* The Westminster Directory  (1901)  205 pp.  The Introduction is 35 pp, followed by the Directory.  The notes afterward are 75 pp.

This work is fuller and substantially different than the one above, written 33 years earlier.  See the note above about Leishman.

Ward, Rowland – ‘Part 2: The Directory for Public Worship’  in Richard Muller & Rowland Ward, Scripture & Worship  Buy  (P&R, 2007) pp. 83-140

Ward’s work is historically helpful in many ways, though he is sometimes out of sympathy with the (correct) theology of the Directory.  For instance, Ward claims that though the Directory only mentions singing ‘psalms’, yet this does not imply exclusive psalmody (p. 136).  See Matthew Winzer’s article which overwhelmingly, historically demonstrates that the Directory and the Westminster Standards are exclusive psalmody documents.

Ward also, amongst other things, allows ‘Christmas and Easter to be days of opportunity in a multicultural and secular context in Western societies of today, even if we agree that they are not required by Scripture’ (p. 139), whereas the Directory says that ‘festival days, vulgarly called holy-days, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued.’  For an exposition of the Directory that is theologically orthodox, see that of David Silversides above.

See reviews of this book:

Van Dixhoorn, Chad B. – ‘Scripture & Worship: Biblical Interpretation & the Directory for Worship’  New Horizons (2008), pp. 23-24

Harman, Allan – ‘Scripture & Worship: Biblical interpretation & the Directory for Worship’  Reformed Theological Review (2009), pp. 216-17



Commentaries Critical of the Directory  2

Hammond, Henry – A View of the New Directory & a Vindication of the Ancient Liturgy of the Church of England, in Answer to the Reasons Pretended in the [Civil] Ordinance & [Directory’s] Preface for the Abolishing the One & Establishing the Other  (1646)  106 pp.

Hammond  (1605-1660) was an influential Arminian in the Church of England.  His contemporary, critical commentary on Westminster’s Directory is important, as it shows how the Directory was received by the opponents of its day.  In particular, for instance, Hammond (rightly) understands that when the Directory speaks of the singing of the ‘psalms’, that it means psalms in contradistinction to hymns (see p. 29), and hence the Directory, as viewed by its contemporaries, only prescribed psalm singing exclusive to that of singing hymns.

Howgill, Fancis – Mystery Babylon, the Mother of Harlots Discovered, her Rise & When, with many of her Sorceries, with her merchants of diverse orders & ranks, & merchandise of diverse sorts this many hundred years, also her last merchants, with their delicate merchandise discovered: in Answer to a book titled The Directory for the Publick Worship of God through England, Scotland & Ireland, which now is the chief traffic her last reformed merchants trades with, in all these nations  (London: Thomas Simmons, 1659)  38 pp.

Howgill (1618–1669) was a Quaker.



Discussions of the Directory

In General


Murray, Iain H. – ‘The Directory for Public Worship’  Banner of Truth (1994), pp. 169-91

Clifford, Alan – ‘The Westminster Directory of Public Worship (1645)’  (Surrey: Westminster Conference, 1990)

Breward, Ian – The Westminster Directory: being a Directory for the Publique Worship of God in the Three Kingdoms with an Introduction by Ian Breward  (Bramcote: Grove Books, 1980)




Shields, Charles – The Directory of Public Worship & the Book of Common Prayer, considered with Reference to the Question of a Presbyterian Liturgy  (Philadelphia: Martien, 1863)  50 pp.  ToC



McNally, Frederick Walker – The Westminster Directory: Its Origin & Significance  PhD thesis  (Edinburgh Univ., 1958)  450 pp.



Van Dixhoorn, Chad B. – Brief & Perspicuous Text: Plain & Pertinent Doctrine: Behind Of the Preaching of the Word in the Westminster Directory  (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2016)

Casselli, Stephen J. – Divine Rule Maintained: Anthony Burgess, Covenant Theology & the Place of the Law in Reformed Scholasticism  Pre  (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2016)  200 pp.  ToC

Burgess was on the special committee that prepared the Directory for Public Worship.

Gilbert, David E. – The Westminster Standards & Public Worship  (Grand Rapids: EP Books, 2018)



Historical Documents Related to the Directory


A Directory for the Publique Worship of God, throughout the three kingdoms of England, Scotland & Ireland together with an Ordinance of Parliament for the taking away of the Book of Common-Prayer, & for Establishing & Observing of this Present Directory throughout the Kingdom of England & Dominion of Wales  (London: Evan Tyler, Alexander Fifield, Ralph Smith, & John Field, 1644)  85 pp.

See the 1651 & 1656 reprint of the Directory.


King Charles I – A Proclamation Commanding the Use of the Book of Common-Prayer according to Law notwithstanding the Pretended Ordinances for the New Directory  (Oxford: Leonard Lichfield, Printer to the University, 1645)  1 page

Anon. – His Majesty’s Proclamation concerning the Book of Common-Prayer, & the Directory for Public Worship (Given at Oxford, Nov. 13, 1645) with Some Observations Thereupon  (Oxford: Leonard Lichfield, printer to the University: and reprinted at London, by R. Austin, 1645)  5 pp.

Anon. – A Dirge for the Directory: Written by one of King James’ Ancient Protestants  (Oxford: Leonard Lichfield, printer to the University of Oxford, 1645)  6 pp.

Prynne, William – Section 5  of A Fresh Discovery of Some Prodigious New Wandering-blazing-stars, & firebrands, styling themselves new-lights, firing our Church & State into New Combustions. Divided into ten sections, comprising several most libellous, scandalous, seditious, insolent, uncharitable, (and some blasphemous) passages; published in late unlicensed printed pamphlets, against the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and power of parliaments, councils, synods, Christian kings and magistrates, in general; the ordinances and proceedings of this present Parliament, in special: the national covenant, assembly, directory, our brethren of Scotland, Presbyterian government; the Church of England, with her ministers, worship; the opposers of independent novelties; … Whereunto some letters & papers lately sent from the Sommer-Islands, are subjoined, relating the schismatical, illegal, tyrannical proceedings of some Independents there, in gathering their new-churches, to the great distraction & prejudice of that plantation  (London, 1645), pp. 25-26

Prynne (1600–1669) is here defending the Directory, but quotes many criticisms of it from opponents.

Prynne was an English lawyer, author, polemicist, and political figure. He was a prominent Puritan opponent of the church policy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. His views on church polity were presbyterian, but he became known in the 1640’s as an Erastian, arguing for overall state control of religious matters. He published over 200 books and pamphlets.

Anon. – A Supply of Prayer for the Ships of this Kingdom that want [lack] ministers to pray with them: agreeable to the Directory established by Parliament. Published by authority  (London: John Field, [1645])  16 pp.


A Declaration of the Protestant Clergy of the City of Dublin, showing the reasons why they cannot consent to the taking away of the Book of Common Prayer, and comply with the Directory.  Presented to the Honourable Commissioners for the Parliament of England, July 9, 1647  ([London] 1647)  6 pp.

E.M. – E.M. a Long Imprisoned Malignant, his humble Submission to the Covenant & Directory: with Some Reasons & Grounds of use to settle & satisfy tender consciences.  Presented in a petition to the Right Honourable the Lord’s Assembled in Parliament, in Whitsun-week, in the year, 1647  ([London] 1647)  7 pp.

England’s New Directory: Commanded to be used in Great Britain & Ireland, & may Serve to give Light to all Christendom  (London, 1647)  5 pp.

The Last Propositions Proposed betwixt the King’s most Excellent Majesty, the Commissioners & Two Learned Divines of the Church of England. Wherein is set forth, His Majesty’s resolution, concerning Church-Government, with his objections against the Directory, & his desires therein. And the proceedings of the English ministers thereupon. Also, several remarkable passages from the court at Holmby, and from the northern parts. Published by authority, March 4  (London, 1647)  5 pp.

The two divines are Stephen Marshall and Joseph Caryl.

T.W. – A Letter of Friendly Admonition to a Divine of the [Westminster] Synod, upon occasion of a Sermon preached by him, Oct. 18, 1647 together, with certain quæres presented to the [Westminster] Synod: wherein the main objections against the Common-Prayer set forth in the preface to the late Directory are examined: together, with other acts that have been done against the suffering party of this kingdom: and the answer of the Synod desired thereunto  ([London] 1647)  21 pp.

A Divine – A New Catechism Commanded to be set forth, for the Instruction of All those who still affect a reading ministry & the Common-Prayer, but remain opposite to the true Directory of Christ: Wherein is contained, six remarkable branches of the Church of England, viz. the great vow in Baptism, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, etc.  By a reverend divine  (London: B. Alsop, 1647)  14 pp.

New Propositions Propounded at the King’s Royal Court at Holmby, betwixt the King’s Most Excellent Majesty & Mr. [Stephen] Marshall & Mr. [Joseph] Caryl concerning the Presbyterial Government, the Book of Common-Prayer & the Directory: also His Majesty’s Several Reasons concerning Episcopacy, & Mr. Marshall’s Reply for the clearing His Majesty’s Objections: together with Diverse Remarkable Passages of the Commissioners of the Kingdom of Scotland, propounded to His Majesty for his Royal Assent to the Propositions & Signing the Covenant: with another message from His Majesty at Holmby, to both Houses of Parliament  (London: F.F., 1647)  6 pp.

A Perfect Relation of Several Remarkable Passages which passed betwixt the King’s most Excellent Majesty & the Commissioners, the last fast-day at Holmby, about the Directory & Form of Prayer.  And His Majesty’s Resolution therein.  Also, some other passages of note…  (London, H.R., 1647)  5 pp.

Jenkins, David – A Scourge for the Directory & the Revolting Synod [of Westminster]: Which hath sitten this 5 years, more for Four Shillings a Day than for Conscience Sake, by Judge Jenkins  (London: J.B., 1647)  6 pp.

Allington, John – A Brief Apology for the Sequestered Clergy. Wherein (among other things) this Case of Conscience is Judiciously Handled: whether any minister of the Church of England may (to avoid Sequestration) Omit the Public Use of the Liturgy, & Submit to the Directory.  In a Letter from a Sequestered Divine, to Mr. Stephen Marshall  ([London] 1649)  22 pp.

Hammond, Henry – Euschēmonos kai kata taxin, or, The Grounds of Uniformity from 1 Cor. 14:40 Vindicated from Mr. [Henry] Jeanes’s Exceptions to one Passage in the View of the Directory  (London: J.G. for Richard Royston, 1657)  24 pp.

Hammond was an Arminian, Anglican royalist minister.  Jeans was a London presbyterian.

Allington, John – The Reformed Samaritan: or the Worship of God by the Measures of Spirit & Truth. Preached for a Visitation-Sermon at the Convention of the Clergy  (London: Thomas Basset, 1678)  30 pp.



Free Church of Scotland – A New Directory for the Public Worship of God: founded on the Book of Common Rrder, 1560-64, & the Westminster directory, 1643-45  (Edinburgh: MacNiven & Wallace, 1898)

Presbyterian Church of England – Directory for the Public Worship of God: on the Basis of that Agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, A.D. 1644; Recommended for Use in the Presbyterian Church of England by the Synod, 1898  (London: Publication committee of the Presbyterian Church of England, 1898)




Related Pages

Westminster Assembly

Commentaries on the Westminster Standards

Order of Worship & Liturgies

Critiques of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer

On the Simplicity & Spirituality of Worship

On Ceremonies


The Regulative Principle of Worship

Works of the Westminster Divines on Worship

Religious Holidays

The History of Scottish Worship

On Holding Public Worship & Church Courts by Distance Through Technology, & on Using Satellite Campuses, under Necessity & for Edification

On the Ordinances, Order & Policy of the Church