“Fear God, and give glory to Him… and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
Order of Contents
The Regular Elements of Worship
The Definition of Worship
That there is Only One Kind of Religious Worship, & Dulia to Saints is Idolatrous
On Natural vs. Instituted Worship
That Christian Worship Derives from the Synagogue, not the Temple
That the Order of Worship is to be Governed by Natural Convenience
. & Not Any Spiritual Principles
On Distinguishable Aspects of Worship within the Elements of Worship
Opinion of Sanctity & Necessity is Not Essential to False Worship
Regular Elements of Worship
“…after solemn calling on them to the worshipping of the great name of God…”¹
“Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship… the reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God”²
“After which… let the minister dismiss the congregation with a solemn blessing.”¹
¹ Westminster Directory of Public Worship
² Westminster Confession of Faith, 21.3.5
Special Elements of Worship
“…beside religious oaths and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in a holy and religious manner.”
Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 21.5
Related Issues of Worship
Dancing & Drama
Fentiman, Travis – ‘Visual Imagery, Drama & Dancing in Worship’ 2017 140 paragraphs
Begg, James – ‘Dancing in Worship’ 1866 12 pp. being Appendix no. IV in The Use of Organs and Other Instruments of Music in Worship, p. 257-269
Assurance of Pardon
Some Post-Reformation reformed churches included in their worship service an Assurance of Pardon, or the reading of a Scripture promise relating to the forgiveness of sins to those who sincerely confess them, after a public prayer of confession of sin. While such is not a distinct element of worship (and cannot be proved to be such), yet it may be allowed in a worship service as it materially is simply the reading of a pertinent Scripture.
As an Assurance of Pardon is practiced by many reformed churches today, it is very necessary to understand the nature of it, lest one superstitiously understand it as the Absolution (Forgiveness) of Romanism. It is not the case that the repentant sinner only becomes forgiven upon the pronouncement of the minister.
Rather, the Church’s power can only be confirmatory and seal what the Lord’s Will makes effectual, the two not being infallibly joined together. Read Turretin below. What applies an Assurance of Pardon in a worship service applies equally to matters of Church discipline and restoration.
Institutes (P&R), vol. 3, 19th Topic, Q. 31, ‘The Five False Sacraments of the Romanists’, p. 554
“XX. The absolution committed to the ministers of the gospel is not judicial, such as belongs to a judge or lord; but ministerial, such as is partly by the preaching of the gospel (which consists in remission of this kind) or by his heralding or ministry of it, and in the exercise of ecclesiastical discipline, as it is subordinated to that preaching of the gospel (which is none other than that declaration by which he who was before leprous is declared clean); or such as belongs to a herald, who officially announces the favor of the magistrate to anyone.
Nor does the power of the keys involve anything else because they are not the principal keys of the Lord (which are ascribed to Christ alone, Rev. 1:18; 3:7), but ministerial, such as belong to stewards and doorkeepers.”
‘Samuel Rutherford & Thomas Sydserff, Bishop of Galloway, ‘An Discussing of Some Arguments Against Canons & Ceremonies in God’s Worship’ 1636′ in Religious Controversy in Scotland, 1625-1639 ed. David G. Mullan in Scottish History Society, Fifth Series, vol 11 (Edinburgh: Scottish Historical Society, 1998), pp. 82-99 A debate between the two men.
The debate first centers around whether ceremonies in worship, claimed to be indifferent, are legitimately scandals to the weak or not. Then is more specifically discussed the episcopal practice of kneeling in order to partake of the Lord’s Supper. At the end Rutherford gives a definition of worship.
Poole, Matthew – Evangelical Worship is Spiritual Worship as it was Discussed in a Sermon 1660 24 pp.
Wilson, John – A Brief Discourse Concerning the Spirituality and Simplicity of New Testament Worship 1667 140 pp.
MacWard was the protege of Samuel Rutherford. He here defends the non-conforming presbyterians during the era of persecution in Scotland against the criticisms of an episcopal Scottish minister, shortly turned Anglican. For the topics addressed, see the Table of Contents to the dialogues.
Calamy, Benjamin – A Discourse Concerning the Rise & Antiquity of Cathedral Worship in a Letter to a Friend (London, 1699)
Calamy (bap.1646-c.1685) was reformed.
Calamy argues against the Anglican cathedral worship, which, unlike the more simple English, parish worship, included instruments, musicians, conductors, choirs, interludes, complex music and singing, and other ceremonious displays as worship unto God.
Binnie, William – The Christian Ordinances, 1882, p. 52, 58 pages, from his The Church
Binnie was of the Free Church of Scotland.
Rainolds, John – The Sum of the Conference between John Rainolds and John Hart touching the Head and the Faith of the Church, wherein by the way are handled sundry points, of the sufficiency and right expounding of the Scriptures, the ministry of the Church, the function of priesthood, the sacrifice of the mass, with other controversies of religion: but chiefly and purposely the point of Church-government… whereunto is annexed a treatise entitled, Six Conclusions tou\hing the Holy Scripture and the Church… with a defence of such things as Thomas Stapleton and Gregory Martin have carped at therein (London, 1584)
Gillespie, George – A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies Obtruded on the Church of Scotland 1637
This launched the 2nd Reformation in Scotland, in 1638. Gillespie here argues, with the authority of God’s Word, against much of contemporary presbyterian and reformed worship.
Burroughs, Jeremiah – Gospel-Worship, or, The Right Manner of Sanctifying the Name of God in general and particularly in these three great ordinances, viz. 1. Hearing of the Word, 2. Receiving the Lord’s Supper, 3. Prayer (London, 1653)
Craghead, Robert – 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, 1694)
William King (1650-1729) was an Anglican divine in the Church of Ireland and was the archbishop of Dublin. He had written a book reproving and instructing the dissenters in the area of Dublin, entitled A Discourse concerning the Inventions of men in the Worship of God (Dublin, 1694). The book, by its table of contents, is very well organized and easily perused. The subject matter is the details of most aspects of the outward, public worship of God.
Craghead here responds to the work, defending the dissenters. Craghead’s book is dedicated to the presbyterian nobility of London.
On William King’s work, see above under Craghead. Boyse (1660-1728) was a dissenting minister at Dublin who wrote a number of theological tracts and was ‘a pious, learned and useful divine’ (James Darling).
King answered this work of Boyse with his own, entitled, An Admonition to the Dissenting Inhabitants of the Diocess of Derry concerning a book lately published by Mr. J. Boyse, entituled, Remarks on a late discourse of William… (London, 1694) GB.
This work of Boyse answers King’s response to Boyse’s Remarks. King the Vindication of the Remarks with: A Second Admonition to the Dissenting Inhabitants of the Diocess of Derry concerning Mr. J. Boyse’s Vindication of his Remarks… (London, 1696).
A Dialogue between a Curate and a Countryman Ref 1710
The Countryman’s Letter to the Curate, wherein, besides an historical view of the English Liturgy, the assertions of Sage, the author of the “Fundamental Character of Presbytery,” concerning its universal usage in Scotland at the time of the Reformation, etc., are examined and proved to be false Ref
Curate Calder Whipt Ref 1712
A Defence of the Church-Government, Faith, Worship & Spirit of the Presbyterians: in answer to a late book entitled, An Apology for Mr. Thomas Rhind, or, An Account of the Manner how and the reasons for which he separated from the Presbyterian party and embraced the communion of the Church (1714; Edinburgh: 1820)
“But the work by which he is best known, and in which his learning and wit appear to the best advantage, is his ‘Defense of the Church Government… and [it] may be said to have never been answered.” – Wodrow
William G. Blaikie:
“Great anxiety was felt at the time by the presbyterian clergy in connection with the general use of the English liturgy in the episcopalian congregations, which had not been in common use among them till the beginning of the eighteenth century…
This publication has always been considered one of the ablest defences of the presbyterian system.” – DNB
The Divine Right of Church Government… (1646), ‘To the Reader’, no page number
“Religion needs not any such ornaments, except men would make the worship of God, when naked [as Adam & Eve were in the Garden in purity], under shame, and so under sin (for Justice married shame and sin once). But as roses, lillies, the sun, and other glorious creatures, are most beautiful without garments, and not capable of shame; so is the worship of God.”
On the Definition of Worship
‘Samuel Rutherford & Thomas Sydserff, Bishop of Galloway, ‘An Discussing of Some Arguments Against Canons & Ceremonies in God’s Worship’ 1636′ in Religious Controversy in Scotland, 1625-1639 ed. David G. Mullan in Scottish History Society, Fifth Series, vol 11 (Edinburgh: Scottish Historical Society, 1998), p. 98
“Answer [Bishop Sydserff]: How define ye worship?
Opponent [Rutherford]: An act of man whereby God is immediately honored.
Answer: Say also according to God’s command.
Opponent: I will not say, when I define worship in general. If I should define lawful worship I would add this–that it be according to God’s command. I remit to your learning to think:
If one thing can give nature both to genus and to species, you know good logic speaks against this. God’s command cannot but give being to worship and to this particular worship, to wit, to lawful worship; and [in] this [your] way I might say [that] idolatry, sacrificing to Satan as Indians do, slaying of children to Moloch, etc. shall not be false worship except they be urged as commanded of God.”
The Divine Right of Church Government… (1646), pp. 86-88
“Worship is an action, or performance, or thing, by which we tender our immediate honor to God from the nature of the thing itself:
1. I call it an action because the passion of dying or suffering is not formally worship, but only dying comparatively: rather than denying of Christ or dying so and so qualified: [in a comparative way] dying with patience and faith may be called a worship [2 Tim. 4:6].
2. I call it not an action only, but a performance or thing, because an office, as the priesthood, the ministry, is a worship and yet not an action; sometime[s], time itself, as the Sabbath Day is a worship; yet it is not an action: So the Lord calls it his Holy Day: and undeniably the Jewish days, the High Priest’s garment, and many things of that kind, were divine or religious performances, things or adjuncts of divine worship, but so as they are not merely adjuncts of worship, but also worship:
For the High Priest’s ephod was not only a civil ornament, nor was it a mere physical or natural means to fence off the injuries of sun and heaven; we do not think that the Lord in all, or any place of the Old or New Testament sets down any laws concerning garments simply, as they do fence off cold or heat; that belongs to art: only He speaks of garments, as contrary to gravity [being sober-minded], as signs of vanity and lightness, Isa. 3:16, etc.; Zeph. 1:8; 1 Pet. 3:3-4.
And of garments as religious observances, of which sort was the attire and garments of the priests and High Priests in their service, in which consideration the religious times, holy places, and Mosaical garments were divine worship, by which God was immediately honored; but [they were] not adjuncts only, or actions, but religious things or performances.
3. It is such a performance, as from thence honor does immediately redound to God. But that this may be the clearer, I conceive that there is a twofold, immediate honoring of God in the worship of God:
1. An honoring of God less immediate, as hearing of the Word, is an immediate honoring of God, because honor flows immediately from God, both ex conditione operis, and ex conditione operantis; ‘from the nature of the work’, and ‘[from the] intention of the worker’: yet it is a less immediate honoring of God, in regard that I may also hear the Word even from the condition of the work, and so from the intrinsic end of the worker that I may learn to know God and believe; for thus far I am led to honor God immediately in hearing the Word, that action of its own nature conveying honor to God; there intervenes also a medium amidst between me and honoring of God, to wit, the preacher or the Bible (to which no external adoration is due):
[2.] There is another more immediate worship, to wit, praising of God, from which, by an immediate result, God is honored, and in worship especially, strictly, immediate, God is immediately honored both in the intention of the work and the intrinsic end of it, and the intention of the worker; though no other thing be done, and others be not edified either in knowledge, increase of faith or any other ways:
And in this, duties of the Second Table, of mercy and justice, differ from worship in that such acts of love and mercy, as to give alms to save the life of my brother or of his beast, are not acts of worshipping God; their intrinsic end, and the nature of the work being to do good to the creature, principally, ex natura et conditione operis, though God also thereby be honored, yet in a more secondary consideration:
For I praying to God, do immediately, from the nature of the action, honor God, though no good should either redound to myself or to the creature; thereby it is true, God, by acts of love and mercy to our neighbor, is honored two ways:
1. In that men seeing our good works do thence take occasion to glorify our heavenly Father, whose truth teaches us by the grace of God to do these works, but the intrinsic and proper use of these is to do good to ourselves, as in works of sobriety, and to our neighbor, as in works of righteous dealing, but not immediately, and in the first and primary consideration to honor God, as in works of piety, holiness and worship, the honoring of God by secondary resultance, does issue also from these duties of righteousness, but not as from the acts of praying, praising, sacramental eating, drinking.
2. The doer of these acts of mercy may, and is to intend, the honoring of God.”
That There is Only One Kind of Religious Worship, & Dulia to Saints is Idolatrous
Romanists have defined nearly endless distinctions of categories of various shades of worship, which they use to justify their worshipping of saints, images, relics, etc. The reformed, while recognizing that there are various qualities of honor and giving honor (deriving from various characteristics of things that are honorable, or by which one so honors), yet in religious worship all of these must terminate into one religious worship, solely upon that which is infinite and divine, namely God, as He is God.
Romanists distinguish between worship due to God, or latria, and a finite religious worship given to men (alive and dead) for their grace and glory, or dulia. The reformed, for many good and Scriptural reasons, reject this distinction outright.
The Reformed teach that all such ‘worship’ given to men (the Bible uses the term for such: 1 Chron. 29:20; Mt. 18:26; etc.) is purely an expressed, civil acknowledgment, honoring, reverence and subjection to their persons, authority or natural and even gracious powers, which is conditional, limited and qualified. Any such ‘worship’, or reverence of men (due to their religious graces or glory, or otherwise) that rises above the obvious natural circumstances and limitations inherent in the setting or object, is idolatrous (Acts 10:25-26).
Willet, Andrew – ‘The Second Part [of the Appendix], of the Distinction of the Two Kinds of Worship, Latria [given only to God, or on account of God] and Dulia [given to creatures]’ in 9th Controversy, Concerning Saints Departed, 2nd Part, 2nd Question, Concerning the Adoration of Saints in Synopsis Papismi... (London, 1592)
Cheynell, Francis – pp. 10, 14-15 of ‘The Grounds of Christ the Mediator Receiving Divine Worship’ ed. Fentiman (RBO) from The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1650), Ch. 9, pp. 330-355
Cheynell was a Westminster divine.
Rutherford, Samuel – pp. 82-90 of Introduction, Section 6, ‘What Honor, Praise, Glory, Reverence, Veneration, Devotion, Service, Worship, etc. Are.’ in The Divine Right of Church Government… (1646)
Rutherford here makes sense of the many distinctions of Romanists, defining their proper significance and application, while correcting errors regarding them. He also carefully defines and illustrates worship and the constituent internal and external aspects of bowing down before God, or an object (or religious image, etc.), in worship.
Turretin, Francis – Q. 7, ‘Is God Alone to be Worshipped & Invoked? Or is it Lawful to Invoke & Religiously Worship Deceased Saints? We Affirm the Former & Deny the Latter Against the Papists.’ in Institutes (P&R), vol. 2, 11th Topic, pp. 38-47
The Divine Right of Church Government... (1646), Introduction, section 6, pp. 83-84
“It is an untruth which Raphael de la Torres [a Dominican Romanist], with other schoolmen say, that with the same religion by which we honor holy men, we honor God; upon this reason, because holiness in them is a participation of the divine nature, therefore God must be the intrinsical end, and formal reason for which we honor the saints.
[1.] For holiness in saints is a participation of the divine nature; but it is a temporary and a created participation, it is not the same very holiness that is in God; but the created effect thereof: and so the love I bear to any creature, because there is somewhat of God in every creature; and the love to our neighbor, commanded in the Second Table of the Law, should be the love of God, commanded in the First Table of the Law.
2. When I bow to the gray-haired, and to the king, I then do an act of obedience to the Fifth Commandment: No man can say that when I bow to the king or to a holy man, that I am then bowing to the God of heaven and Worshipping God: No acts terminated upon saints living or dead are acts of worshipping God; yea, reverencing of the ordinances of God, as the delighting in or trembling at the Word, are not properly acts of adoring God.”
On Natural vs. Instituted Worship
Ames, William – ‘Natural Worship & Instituted Worship’ from The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, book 2, ch. 5, sections 1-8 & ch. 13 Includes a footnote of Samuel Willard on the topic, from his Body of Divinity, Sermon 159
Cheynell, Francis – ‘Trinitarian Worship: Natural and Instituted’ from The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (1650), pp. 354-360
Heidegger, Johann Heinrich – ‘On Natural Worship’ from Body of Christian Theology, 25.2
That Christian Worship Derives from the Synagogue, not the Temple
Vitringa, Campegius – The Synagogue & the Church, being an Attempt to Show that the Government, Ministers & Services of the Church were Derived from those of the Synagogue, condensed from the Original Latin work of Vitringa trans. & ed. Joshua L. Bernard (London, 1842) ToC
See especially pt. 2, ch. 11, ‘Refutation of the Arguments of those who Derive the Rites & Ceremonies of the Church from the Temple’, p. 208 ff.
That the Order of Worship is to be Governed by Natural Convenience & Not Any Spiritual Principles (as often is the case in Liturgies)
The Divine Right of Church Government... (1646), Intro
“…therefore all the former circumstances, as they are clothed with either moral conveniency and expediency, or with some religious positive goodness, must be warranted by the Word of God, or the rules of sinless and spiritual prudence, which cannot deviate from the Word of God…
And as touching things of prudence, they are things properly mixed, as at what hour sermon shall begin in such a church, at eight, or nine, or ten of the clock; how the worship shall be ordered, whether you should begin the worship with a word of prayer, or a word of praising, or a word of exhorting to stir up for the duty of the day, is a matter of prudence; and because God has not laid the band of a precept on us, to begin with either of the three; therefore it would seem, that though the things themselves be moral, and must be warranted by a Word of God; yet the order is not moral, but prudential, and so cannot fall under a command of the Church;
For to me it is hard that men and the Church should lay on a tie or bond of a precept where God has laid on no such bond; The Church, in these mixed things, where the morality is not clear, at farthest can but go on to directive advices, as Paul does, 1 Cor. 7:6,12, not to [the] imposing of laws, nor to injunctions or commandments under the pain of Church-censures; for Christ must bind and ratify in Heaven all Church-censures on earth, and so the Church cannot command nor censure but as Christ Himself would command or censure.”
Section 5, pp. 80-1
“…they [the apostolic Church] practiced all the ordinances directed, though they had no written directory¹ in a formal contexture or frame: for prayers, preaching, praising, sacraments and censures never Church wanted [lacked] in some one order or other, though we cannot say that the apostolic Church had this same very order and form: But a liturgy which is a commanded, imposed, stinted form, in such words and no other, is another thing than a directory, as an unlawful thing is different from a lawful:
[¹ While Rutherford is speaking of directories in general, yet this section may have some reference to Westminster’s Directory for the Public Worship of God, as the Church of Scotland had adopted it in 1645, a year before this book of Rutherford’s was published.]
2. There be some things positive-humane, as the ordering of some parts, or worship, or prayer, the form of words or phrases, and some things of the circumstantials of the sacrament, as what cups, wood or metal, in these the directory lays a tie upon no man, nor can the Church in this make a directory to be a Church-compulsory to strain men: And this way the directory is not ordered and commanded in the frame and contexture, as was the [Anglican] Service-Book; and the pastor or people in these, are not properly moral agents, nor do we press that Scripture should regulate men in these.”
On Distinguishable Aspects of Worship Within the Elements of Worship
Rutherford, Samuel – pp. 87-89 of Introduction, Section 6, ‘What Honor, Praise, Glory, Reverence, Veneration, Devotion, Service, Worship, etc. Are.’ in The Divine Right of Church Government… (1646)
That Opinion of Sanctity & Necessity is Not Essential to False Worship
The Divine Right of Church Government… (1646), ch. 1, Question 2, ‘Whether Scripture be such a Perfect Rule of all our Moral Actions?’
3rd Conclusion, ‘Opinion of Sanctity, Holiness & Divine Necessity is Not Essential to False Worship’, pp. 116-118
3. ‘Arbitrary Worship Must have God’s Approving Will, Commanding it, Else it is Not Lawful’, p. 120
“Let us also learn that nothing is less consistent than to punish heavily the crimes whereby mortals are injured, whilst we connive at the impious errors or sacrilegious modes of worship whereby the majesty of God is violated.”
on Ex. 32:29
“The worship of Christ, if he be not God, is idolatry, and the Christian religion damnable sin. So we must be very sure that Christ is God before we worship him.”
John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan