Order of Contents
Creeds in the Bible
Scriptures Sometimes Used as Warrant
Only Creed Used in Worship in the Bible
Biblical Distinctions Between the Elements of Worship
Is a Creed a Vow or Oath?
Elements of Worship are Appointed Means of Grace
Ecumenicity of Biblical Worship
Travis Fentiman, MDiv.
While creeds have their useful instructive purpose in everyday life and in the life of the Church, should the confession of creeds be used as an act of worship to God?
As God teaches in the Bible that we are only to worship Him in the way that He directs by His revealed will in scripture (see the Regulative Principle of Worship), we must look to the scriptures to see if creeds are commanded, exampled or are necessarily inferred (WCF 1.6) to be an act of worship, and this specifically in the regular, public worship of God.
While creeds may be read and expounded upon by the minister in worship as a statement of, or teaching upon, the Christian faith (it falling under the scriptural directive for ministers to teach the faith in worship, Mt. 13:54; Mk. 1:21; 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24; etc.), the specific question at hand is whether the unison confession of a creed or catechism (a short summary of doctrinal truth) by the congregation is an act of worship prescribed and approved by God for the regular public worship of the Church.
The position Biblically defended here is that of the Westminster Assembly: No.
Creeds in the Bible
While there are many elementary confessions and creeds in the Bible (Deut. 6:4; 1 Kings 18:39; Matt 16:16; John 1:49; John 6:68-69; Acts 8:36-37; 1 Cor. 8:6; 12:3; 15:3-7; Phil. 2:6-11; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 6:1-2; 1 John 4:2, 1 Tim. 1:15; 6:13, and others), and we are commanded to ‘hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard’ (2 Tim. 1:13, which necessarily entails the guarding of a publicly owned set of Biblical teachings by appointed teachers governed by the church, Titus 1:5,9; 1 Tim. 4:14; Acts 14:23; 16:4, etc., and thus subscription by vows to creeds by church officers), yet none of these mentioned passages speak of creeds as an act of worship or in the public worship of the church. It is not enough to show that creeds are in the Bible (as is war, sleeping, eating, playing games, etc.), but that they were designed for worship. Clearly God is able in scripture to communicate to us moral obligations in life not all of which are to be in worship, as is the case with creeds.
Scriptures Sometimes Used as Warrant for Creeds in Worship
In the Old Testament Neh. 9:3 is sometimes used as warrant for creeds in worship. It says that the children of Israel,
‘…stood up in their place, and read in the book of the Law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the Lord their God.’
The context makes it clear, though, that, in the way this was done, the only persons to publicly read the Word were Ezra and the priests (Neh. 8:1-8), the worshipping involved the people saying ‘Amen’ (which is warranted in Scripture) and prostrating themselves on the ground (Neh. 8:6), and the ‘confession’ consisted in that they ‘confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers’ (Neh. 9:2), otherwise known as prayer.
Whether these prayers of confessing sin were of an individual nature, or more likely, of a corporate nature (see Neh. 9:4-38), it was not a creed. Prayer, which is an element of worship (WCF, 21.5), the content of which is to be made for ‘all things’ and ‘all men’ (Mt. 21:22; 1 Tim. 2:1-2), is, according to God’s prescriptions, very different in nature than the element of a creed, which was only to be offered to God (according to Deut. 26:1-11) upon very specific conditions, including, amongst other things, the inspiration and prescription of its exact content (discussed below).
In the New Testament, sometimes Phil. 2:11 is used in support of creeds in the regular, public worship of the Church. The greater context (vv. 5-11) says,
‘…Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God… made Himself of no reputation… and became obedient unto death… wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… [v. 11] and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…’
While verses 6-9 are a brief, poetic, summary form of doctrine about Christ’s life and death, there is nothing in the context, or any available evidence, that demonstrates this passage to ever have been used as a public creed or to have been used in the public worship of the Church. Verses 10 & 11, that every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, is an ethical obligation upon all people that derives from Christ’s exaltation and is a prophecy of what will happen at Judgment Day, but as this is not in the context of, and does not address, the regular, public worship of the Church, it can in no way serve as warrant for it.
Sometimes the argument is made that, as Paul directs his letters to be read to the congregations, Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27 (they being inspired scripture, 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Pet. 3:15-16, etc.), that Phil 2:6-11 and similar passages would have been read in the worship of the churches and hence would have been elements of worship. Upon such a premise, though, this would make our regular business, paying taxes, going on journeys, and getting robbed (Rom. 12:11; 13:7; 15:24-25; 2 Cor. 11:26) all elements of the regular, public worship of the Church; but it is clear that one can read scripture in worship, as we do, without everything mentioned in it (going to sleep, fighting in war, reciting poetry, etc.) becoming elements of worship.
Sometimes the various responses of the heavenly host in the book of Revelation are quoted as warrant for using creeds in worship, such as 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:9-12; 11:15-18; 14:6-7; 15:2-4; 19:1-7; etc. However, all of these responsive ascriptions of praise (whether declaratory prayers, or songs, of praise) are not creeds (confessions of summary forms of doctrine and/or experience, such as is found, for instance, in Dt. 26:1-11). One should also be cautious (as were the reformers and puritans) about quoting aspects of worship as it takes place in heaven, in the most difficult and apocalyptic book of the Bible, as normative for the regular worship of the Church on earth, especially as many of such elements do not occur elsewhere in the plain, historical and didactic portions of Scripture.
The Only Creed Used in Worship in the Bible
In all the Bible Deut. 26:1-11 is the only passage where a confession or creed is used in worship. Israel is about to enter the promised land of Canaan after their 40 years in the wilderness. God speaks through Moses and tells them that when they are in the land they are to keep a yearly holiday named the Feast of Firstfruits. They are to take the first ripe portions of their harvest before the Lord’s presence at the tabernacle (and later the temple in Jerusalem) and give it to the Lord. In doing so, before the priest, they are to make a confession remembering their humble beginnings and how the Lord had prospered them. The inspired confession is given to them, word-for-word, by God. The passage reads:
“And it shall be, when you are come in unto the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, and possess it, and dwell therein; That you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which you shall bring of your land that the Lord your God gives you, and shall put it in a basket, and shall go unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose to place his name there. And you shall go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him,
‘I profess this day unto the Lord your God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord swore unto our fathers for to give us.’
And the priest shall take the basket out of your hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. And you shall speak and say before the Lord your God,
‘A Syrian ready to perish was my father [Jacob], and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression: And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: And He has brought us into this place, and has given us this land, even a land that flows with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which You, O Lord, have given me.’
And you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God: And you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given unto you, and unto your house, you, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.”
Is this regulation in Deuteronomy still binding now that we live in the New Testament? The book of Hebrews (especially chapters 9-10) says all of these ceremonial stipulations have ceased. There is no temple in Jerusalem, we do not live in the land of Israel or have an inheritance therein, there are no Levitical priests, most of us are not descended from Jacob, and the Feast of Firstfruits is not binding, Col. 2:16-17 (as Christ has fulfilled everything it spiritually symbolized, 1 Cor. 15:20,23), and to try to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits any other way, not how Deuteronomy says to do, would be sinful.
The next question is: Does the general element of a creed in worship carry over from the Old Testament into the New Testament? Clearly the exact words of Deut. 26:1-11 could not be truthfully confessed by most people today (truthfulness being a moral requirement for a person confessing a confession). But do we have warrant to use our own creeds in worship today?
The only warrant Scripture gives in worship is for the use of an inspired creed, no more and no less. Could the Old Testament Israelite make up his own uninspired confession to confess before the Lord’s presence on the annual day instead of the God-inspired confession preserved in the Canon that God had said to confess? The answer, of course, is no. God told them exactly what to say, and to deviate therefrom would be to add or subtract from how God commanded them to worship (Deut. 4:2; 12:32).
Thus, there is no warrant for the use of uninspired creeds in worship. God originally gave an inspired creed to be used in worship, has since abrogated it by his revealed will and apostolic authority, and has since neither inspired nor directed by his will for any other creed to be used.
Biblical Distinctions Between the Elements of Worship
Historically the element of preaching (WCF 21.5) in reformed worship has been understood as a human, verbal act (Acts 8:35; Rom. 10:8), limited to called and ordained ministers (see Larger Catechism, #158, 1 Tim. 2:7; Rom. 10:15; etc.) acting with the authority of, and as the, ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), which preaching is to include persuading, declaring, exhorting, rebuking, and teaching (Acts 13:32; 2 Tim. 4:2; 2 Cor. 5:11, etc.).
In much of modern reformed theology about worship, the very well defined element of preaching has been turned into the more general element of ‘teaching’, which is said to be able to be expressed through the many ‘forms’ of preaching, reading Scripture, reciting creeds, singing, drama, etc., and that by lay-persons alike, such as the congregation. Thus, reciting of creeds by the congregation is often defended as being a form of ‘teaching’. Does such a broad-reductionism, influenced by modern American educational philosophy, hold water?
Whether it is preaching, reading, praying or singing, all the elements of worship have their own specific regulations, appointed by God’s will, including who is at liberty to do them:
The reading of the scriptures in public worship has likewise been prescribed to ministers and teachers alone, and not by the congregation (L.C. #156).
The only creed appointed in Scripture, on the other-hand, was to be confessed by Israelite, male, heads of households during the Old Testament period once a year only (Deut. 26:3,11), not by anyone else (Deut. 4:2) and not by the whole congregation (common men, women and children) weekly.
Scripture also forbids women (and consequently children as well, Isa. 3:12) from speaking during worship (1 Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:8-12), precluding them from partaking in an audible confession of faith during worship. Modern culture may be egalitarian, but God’s Word is not. If laymen, women and children may exercise the element of ‘teaching’ in worship by reciting a creed, then, on such a paradigm, it follows that they may also preach (contra 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6, etc.; L.C., #158).
Similarly, the content and aims of the different elements of worship are differently regulated by God’s will expressed in scripture:
The content of preaching is to expound the Word, is free within the bounds of God’s moral guidelines, is to include the ‘whole counsel of God’, is directed to the people (Isa. 61:1; Acts 8:5) and is to aim at their conversion and upbuilding (Acts 20:27; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 4:11-15; 2 Tim. 4:2).
The content of prayer is also free (Mt. 21:22), or may follow a form (Mt. 6:9), is to include adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplications (Ps. 18:1-3; Ps. 51; 1 Thess. 5:18; 1 Pet. 5:7), is directed to God (Mt. 6:6,9) and is to especially include that all men would ‘be saved’ and ‘come unto the knowledge of the truth.’ (1 Tim. 2:1-4)
The reading of the scriptures is to be of the God-inspired, completed canon (Acts 13:15; Luke 4:16-17; Isa. 8:16,20, etc. not the Apocrypha, Christian stories, secular literature, etc.), the whole thereof with time (all the Word, and all that is the Word), is directed as God’s voice (2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 3:7-15; etc.) to the people (Neh. 8:2-3) by an articulate reading in the common language conveying the sense (Neh. 8:2-3; 1 Cor. 14:15-16).
The singing of praises is to be made with a melodius (see the many titles to the psalms, Eph. 5:19) and joyful noise (Ps. 81:1; 95:1), the content appointed for such in the regular worship of God being the inspired, sufficient and complete Psalter (see Schwertley’s, Exclusive Psalmody: A Biblical Defense), which Psalms are to be directed to the Lord (Ps. 9:11; Eph. 5:19).
For all of these reasons, while preaching is to include teaching, there is no such thing as an element of ‘teaching’ that may be expressed by in a variety of ‘forms’, including crossing over the boundaries of God’s Word regarding who exercises the teaching, the content of it, and its aim.
(Sometimes, in defense of the modern-revised Regulative Principle of Worship, Col. 3:16 is put forward as demonstrating that singing is simply one allowable form of teaching:
‘teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts…’
It is very true that, because many of the Psalms are instructive (‘maschil’ means ‘instructing’, see the titles to Psalms 32, 45, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 68, 69, 142), that we are able to be, and are, taught by the singing of them. Many of the elements of worship share harmonious overlap in this regard. Another instance is many of the Psalms being sung prayers (see the titles to Psalms 17, 86, 90, 102, 142); thus we sing prayerfully when we sing these prayerful songs (though some Psalms are not prayers: Ps. 1, 2, 24, 110, many parts of Ps. 119, etc.).
All of this, though, does not make praying to be singing, singing to be preaching, preaching to be the congregation reciting creeds, nor any of the clear, distinct, Biblical prescriptions delineated above to be lessened. For an extensive (and devastating) critique of the loose view of the Regulative Principle of Worship, see Rev. Brian Schwertley’s article: A Biblical Analysis of John Frame’s ‘Worship in Spirit and in Truth’.)
Is a Creed a Vow or Oath?
Nor is the weekly confession of a creed in worship a religious oath or vow (which are exampled in scripture as worship, see the proof-texts in WCF 21.5), as they have different natures and circumstances. An oath is a swearing to the truth of something that may be in doubt upon due necessary circumstances, calling upon God to judge therein (either to confirm or punish). A vow is of a similar nature, but promises to perform something (for both see WCF, ch. 22). Both oaths and vows are especially grave, may be imposed by authorities, sealed with signs and tokens, and are only occasional, not a part of regular worship (both in the Bible and in WCF 21.5). Creeds, however, are often claimed to be a part of the regular weekly worship of God (unlike the elements of oaths and vows), and yet creeds are simply a confession of faith and do not necessarily entail the other aspects of oaths and vows. Children commonly say creeds informally in doing their catechisms at home, and yet they are not taking oaths and vows every time.
The Westminster Assembly (1640’s) recognized the difference between the creeds and confessions of councils (ch 1.5,7,10; ch. 31) and lawful oaths and vows (ch. 22). They explicitly included oaths and vows in worship (ch. 21.5) and excluded creeds. Their minutes record:
Session 342, Dec. 16, 1644
Ordered—That Dr. Burgess inform the Honorable Houses of Parliament that the reason why the Assembly have sent up nothing in the [Westminster] Directory [for Public Worship] concerning the Creed and the Ten Commandments, is because they reserve it for the Directory for catechizing, where they conceive it will be most proper.
(Alexander Mitchell & John Struthers, Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1874, p. 21)
Thus: who performs the act of worship, the inspiration of the content, and the nature of the element is all regulated by God’s will in scripture, and does not transfer between the elements of worship. Creeds, having a different nature and regulations, do not fall into the categories of the other elements of worship such as preaching, reading of scripture, praying, singing, oaths or vows, and hence must be established from scripture as being in worship by their own warrant. Yet, scripture gives no warrant for the use of uninspired creeds in worship.
Elements of Worship are Appointed Means of Grace
The reason why the confession of uninspired creeds is not an element of worship is because it is not a regular means of grace, which all elements of worship are (such as preaching, reading of scripture, praying, singing, and the sacraments). The means of grace are the means by which we commune with God and receive grace from Him, God having promised in scripture to do so.
Thus, grace is promised to be bestowed through: preaching (Isa. 55:11; 61:1; Acts 3:12,19-20; 4:1,4; 1 Tim. 4:11,16, etc.), the reading of Scripture (Deut. 17:19; Neh. 8:1-6; Jn. 17:17; 1 Tim. 4:13-16, etc.), prayer (2 Chron. 7:14; Matt 7:7-11; Matt 21:22; James 5:15, etc.), and singing (Ps. 22:22; 147:1; 149:5-6; Eph. 5:18,19, etc.). While there is a blessing that follows obedience upon confessing Jesus before men in our daily lives (Luke 12:8; Matt 5:16), and we do confess Jesus in worship before men by giving our audible ‘Amen’ to prayers in his name in worship, yet there is no scriptural promise for God to confer grace and commune with our soul through the inherent act of our confessing our faith to God. As one’s confession of faith is not a regular means of grace, it is not an element of worship.
The Ecumenicity of Biblical Worship
The Lord in his wisdom having appointed the ordinances of Christian worship in a simple manner in the New Testament, the youngest converted Christian with a sincere profession of faith in Christ the resurrected Lord (Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3, WCF 25.1-2) can fully participate in Biblical worship: every church member is able to be lead in prayer by the minister, hear God’s Word read (and receive it implicitly by faith in God the author thereof, see WCF 1.4), sing the Psalms, and be instructed, encouraged, reproved and spiritually built up by the preaching of God’s Word. This is the worship as outlined in the Westminster Directory for Public Worship.
When the recitation of creeds, though, is imposed on congregations, new babes in Christ, and even more older sheep than one may like to admit, are elicited to profess by implicit faith what they very often do not understand. The Westminster Confession of Faith, 20.2, says that ‘the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.’
While office-bearers in (good) Presbyterian Churches are held to the Westminster Standards (having usually gone to seminary and taken doctrinal exams to attain such), as there is a higher level of doctrinal knowledge required of teachers (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9; etc.), to hold babes in Christ to the Westminster Standards (the level of mature teachers in the Church) by the confession of them in Christian worship is the opposite of how God teaches his children, leading toddlers in the faith precept by precept (Isa. 28:9-10; Hos. 11:1-4; Heb. 6:1-3) and is detrimental to the health of Christ’s Church. Even creeds of lesser length and detail are often very theologically very technical, such the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325). If one does not have a detailed knowledge of historical theology, they are probably misunderstanding what they are confessing. Even the Apostles’ Creed (not written by the apostles), the simplest of all the creeds, contains the phrase ‘He descended into Hell’, which there is often more confusion over than clarity. For if I speak ‘in an unknown tongue’, ‘my understanding is unfruitful.’ (1 Cor. 14:14-16). For a solid understanding of this creedal phrase, see Hyde’s In Defense of the Descent Buy.
Another (usually unintended) consequence of using the recitation of detailed creeds and catechisms in worship is sectarianism. No matter how right one thinks their theology is, the recitation of denominational creeds in worship prohibits Christ’s sheep in other denominations from fully participating in Christ’s ordinances of worship. To those who have little love for the individuals Christ died for, this will matter little; for those who love the brethren and desire the healing of Christ’s splintered body on earth (Jn. 17:20-23; 1 Cor. 12:25; Col. 1:24; 1 Jn. 3:14), it will break your heart (Ps. 79, 80).
In the Biblical practice, one’s dear brother of a different persuasion, yea, any Christian, may fully enjoy and feed on Christ and Him crucified in the public worship of Christ’s Church, and may be led along and sanctified in the truth (Jn. 17:17) more perfectly (Acts 18:26), being convinced (Tit. 1:9) by the preaching as it is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21), if he be ‘spiritual’, recognizing that the things preached unto him ‘are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.’ (1 Cor. 14:37-38)
To make up one’s own uninspired confession to confess as worship to a thrice holy God, who has never revealed his desire or acceptance of such, is will-worship (Col. 2:23), a man-made tradition (Matt 15:9) and is offering strange fire to God (Lev. 10:1-2). As such, uninspired creeds, not being willed by God for his worship, are forbidden as not being prescribed by Him (see the Regulative Principle of Worship). As Scripture and its ordinances are sufficient for our worship (2 Tim. 3:16), let us be content to take great delight in the simple worship that God has promised to bless and take great delight in.
The Early Church
While creeds were used ‘from an early period’ as an individual profession of faith in connection with baptism, the use of creeds being recited by the congregation in worship was not an element of Early Church worship, but only came in much later during the 500’s and afterwards, long after the worship had became very liturgical.
Willliam, Maxwell, An Outline of Christian Worship (1936) p. 38
“In the East the [Apostles’] Creed found a place in the liturgy earlier than in the West.¹ From the sixth century onwards it appears in the Liturgy of the Faithful [an Eastern rite], closely associated with the Offertory or Communion. Creeds were from an early period used at baptisms…
¹ ‘The introduction of the Creed into the eucharist was first made by Peter the Fuller, monophysite [the heresy of holding the Christ only has one nature, and not two] Patriarch of Antioch (476-88)… The first mention of the introduction of the Creed into the liturgy in the West is a canon of the Council of Toledo in 589.’ F.J. Badcock, The History of the Creeds (London, 1930, p. 188)”
The British Puritans
William Perkins 1558-1602
‘A Warning Against the Idolatry of the Last Times & Instruction Touching Religious or Divine Worship’ in The Works of William Perkins (1626), vol. 1, p. 699. HT: Andrew Myers
“Some worship God with their good meaning, some with their good dealing, some with the babbling of a few words, as namely, of the Apostles Creed, and Ten Commandments for prayers. This service of God is very common, but alas, it is poor service. For the rule of divine honor is not the will of him that honors, but the will of Him which is honored.
Secondly, here we learn to detest the service and worship which is performed to God in the Church of Rome. For it contains many parts and points of will-worship, having no warrant from God, either by commandment or promise. . . . For these and many other practices, let them bring forth the Word of God, if they can.
They plead for many things, that they have the word of traditions. I answer, that traditions ecclesiastical are no word of God, but the word of man. And traditions which are called apostolical, are either of no moment, or doubtful. For how shall we know certainly, that they were the traditions of the apostles, considering none has said so, but some of the Fathers, whose testimonies are not sufficient, because they are subject to error?”
Hooker (1554-1600), a defender of the status quo in the Church of England, here lists the English puritans’ complaints with the English liturgy. Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, bk 5, ch. 35
“…the people’s praying after the minister they say both wastes time, and also makes an unpleasant sound; the Psalms they would not have to be made (as they are) a part of our common [unison] prayer, nor to be said our sung by turns, nor such music to be used with them; those evangelical hymns they allow not to stand in our liturgy; the Litany, the Creed of Athanasius, the sentence of Glory [Gloria Patria] wherewith we use to conclude psalms, these things they cancel, as having been instituted in regard of occasions peculiar to the times of old, and a being therefore no superfluous.”
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. 4, ‘Of Bodily Worship’, p. 99 Craghead (1633–1711) was a presbyterian minister, born in Scotland, who ministered in Ireland.
“and for confessions of faith, I demand by what rule they are made any part of worship? except as they may be comprehended under the heads of prayer or praises.”
The Westminster Assembly
Notice the absence of creeds as an element of worship in the Confession (below), the Westminster Directory of Public Worship and the Form of Presbyterial Church Government, ‘Of the Ordinances in a Particular Congregation’. Their minutes explain this deliberate exclusion.
Confession of Faith, 21.4-5
“Prayer is to be made for things lawful…
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…”
The Westminster Assembly specifically excluded creeds from worship.
Alexander Mitchell & John Struthers, Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1874), p. 21
“Session 342, Dec. 16, 1644
Ordered—That Dr. Burgess inform the Honorable Houses of Parliament that the reason why the Assembly have sent up nothing in the [Westminster] Directory [for Public Worship] concerning the Creed and the Ten Commandments, is because they reserve it for the Directory for catechizing, where they conceive it will be most proper.”
On the History of Creeds in Worship in the Church of Scotland
The official and primary order of worship used in the Church of Scotland since the Reformation in 1560 to 1645 with the adoption of the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God, was the Book of Common Order, being only slightly revised from John Knox’s The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, etc. used in the English congregation at Geneva, and approved by John Calvin (1556), which was the first reformed directory for worship published in English.
In both documents (the latter quoted below), the Apostle’s Creed was not recited by the congregation, but rather read by the Minister.¹ This, of course, is consistent with the Biblical teaching on the matter (as described in the third paragraph of the Introduction above).
¹ William Maxwell, John Knox’s Genevan Service Book, 1556… (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1931), p. 102 & Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997), p. 263. For the omission of the creed altogether by ‘many of the clergy’ for ‘many years’ before 1637, see George Sprott, Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland… (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1868), p. xxxiv.
The first split in Scottish Church history since its reformation, was the division between the Resolutioners and Protesters in 1652. The Protesters, with the new opportunity to reform worship, took out the Creed from worship altogether.
Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (1948, SDG: 1947) p. 263
John Knox’s The Forme of Prayers, 1556
Confession of Sins
Prayer for Pardon
Prayer for Illumination
Baptisms and Publication of Banns [relating to prohibitions to a wedding] (? with offering for poor [in case of Lord’s Supper])
Long Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Apostles’ Creed (said by minister)
Blessing (Aaronic or Apostolic)
George Sprott, The Worship of the Church of Scotland, During the Covenanting Period, 1638-1661 (Edinburgh, 1893), p. 47
“As to worship they [the Scottish ‘Protestors’ between 1652-60]… introduced Fast Days and extra preaching days at the administration of the Lord’s Supper. They no doubt stopped the use of the [Apostle’s] Creed and witnesses at baptism [god-fathers, etc.], and they appear to have introduced the exposition of the opening psalm [that was sung]…”
The American Presbyterian Directory of Public Worship 1788
This was the Directory of Public Worship for all presbyterian churches at the national inception of the denomination in 1788. All American branches of presbyterianism descended from this order of worship. Notice the absence of any creed. As given in Julius Melton, Presbyterian Worship in America: Changing Patterns Since 1787, p. 149. HT: Andrew Myers
“ORDER OF WORSHIP
Prayer of adoration, invocation, and preparation
Reading of Scripture
Singing of praise
Long prayer of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, and intercession, followed by Lord’s Prayer
(Lord’s Supper, when celebrated)
Singing of a psalm