Gillespie & Rutherford on Headcoverings in Public Worship



The Supper is due a Higher Reverence than Preaching



Order of Contents





Under Construction



George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637)

3rd Part, ‘Against the Lawfulness of the Ceremonies’

ch. 3, pp. 46-47

“Yielding by concession, not by confession, that all the [English-Popish] ceremonies about which there is controversy now among us were of old used by the Fathers [of the early Church], yet that which these Formalists say, is (as Parker shows, Of the Cross, ch. 2, section 10) even as if a servant should be covered before his master, not as covering is a late sign of preeminence, but as it was of old a sign of subjection, or as if one should preach that the prelates are tyranni [tyrants] to their brethren, fures [thieves] to the Church, sophistae [sophists] to the truth, and excuse himself thus, ‘I use these words as of old [when] they signified, a ruler, a servant, a student of wisdom.’  All men know that words and actions must be interpreted, used and received according to their modern use, and not as they have been of old.”


ch. 4, ‘That the ceremonies are idols among Formalists themselves; and that kneeling in the Lord’s Supper before the Bread & Wine in the act of receiving them is formally idolatry’

pp. 62-63

“Those who speak out more plainly than bishop [David] Lindsay [d. 1641], do here object to us that reverence is due to the sacrament, and that we ourselves do reverence it when we sit uncovered at the receiving of it.

But Didoclavius [the Scottish presbyterian, David Calderwood] does well distinguish betwixt veneration and adoration (Altare Damascenum, 1623, p. 809), because in civility we use to be uncovered, even to inferiors and equals for the regard which we bear to them, yet do we not worship them, as we worship the king on our knees.  As, then, in civility there is a respect and reverence different from adoration, so it is in religion also.  Yea [Cardinal Robert] Bellarmine himself distinguishes the reverence which is due to holy things from adoration.  Paybody and Dr. Burgess [Formalists] will by no means admit this distinction betwixt veneration and adoration.  But since neither of them has alleged any reason against it, I hope they will be weighed down by the authority of the [Romanist] Archbishop of Spalato [d. 1624], and the [Scottish] bishop of Edinburgh [David Lindsay], both of which agree to this distinction.

So, then, we give no adoration at all to the sacrament, because neither by any outward nor inward action do we perform any worship for the honor of the same.  Burgess himself has noted to us that the first Nicene Council exhorts that men should not be humiliter intenti [basely stretched out] to the things before them.  We neither submit our minds nor humble our bodies to the sacrament, yet do we render to it veneration, for as much as we esteem highly of it as a most holy thing, and meddle reverently with it, without all contempt or unworthy usage.  Res profecto inanimatae [Surely inanimate things], says the Archbishop of Spalato, sint sacrae quantum placet, alium honorem a nobis non merentur, nisi in sensu negativo [may be sacred so far as it may be fitting, not being deserving of another honor from us except in a negative sense], as that they be not contemned, nor unworthily handled.

If it be said that we ought not to contemn the Word, yet has it not that respect given to it which the sacrament has, at which we are uncovered, so that this veneration given to the sacrament must be somewhat more than non prophanatio [a non-profanation];

I answer: as honor in the positive sense, so also in the negative, has various degrees: and according to the more or less immediate manifestation of divine ordinances to us, so ought the degrees of our veneration to be intended or remitted; which is not so to be understood as if one part of God’s sacred worship were to be less contemned then another (for none of God’s most holy ordinances may be in any sort contemned), but that for the greater regard of those things which are more immediately divine, we are not in the usage of them to take to ourselves so much scope and liberty as otherwise we may lawfully allow to ourselves in meddling with such things as are not merely, but mixedly divine, and which are not from God so immediately as the other, but more by the intervention of means.

And thus a higher degree of veneration is due to the sacrament than to the Word preached, not by taking ought from the Word, but by adding more respect to the sacrament than the Word has.  The reason hereof is given to be this, because when we come to the sacrament, nihil hic humanum, sed Divina omnia [nothing of this is of man, but is all divine], for Christ’s own Words are, or at least should be, spoken to us when we receive the sacrament, and the elements also are by Christ’s own institution holy symbols of his blessed body and blood.  Whereas the Word preached to us is but mixedly and mediately divine, and because of this intervention of the ministry of men, and mixture of their conceptions with the holy Scriptures of God, we are bidden try the spirits [1 Jn. 4:1] and are required after the example of the Bereans to search the Scriptures daily whether these things which we hear preached be so or not.

Now we are not in like sort to try the elements and the words of the institution, whether they be of God or not, because this is sure to all who know out of Scripture the first principles of the oracles of God.  The consideration hereof warns us that the sacrament given according to Christ’s institution is more merely and immediately divine than is the Word preached.

But others (I hear) object that if a man should uncover his head at the sight of a graven image, we would account this to be an adoring of the image; and why then shall not we call our uncovering at the sacrament adoration also?

Answer:  Though veneration and adoration be distinguished in holy things, to show that adoration given to them is idolatry, but veneration given to them is not idolatry, yet in profane things, such as images are, veneration given to them is idolatry as well as adoration: and we are idolaters for doing so much as to respect and reverence them, as things sacred or holy.

For as I touched [upon] before, and as Zanchi evidences by sundry instances (bk. 1, de Viti. ext. cult. oppos., cols. 504-5), idolatry is committed when more estimation is had of anything, more dignity and excellency placed in it, and more regard had to it, than God allows, or than can stand with God’s revealed will.  For a thing thus regarded, though it be not exalted, ut Deus simpliciter [as God simply], yet it is set up, tanquam Deus ex parte [like as unto God in some degree].”


p. 70

“But further, it is objected that…  When we come to our common tables before we eat, thither sitting with our heads discovered, or standing, or kneeling, we give thanks and bless with a respect to the meat, which is purposely set on table, etc….”



Gillespie distinguishes below three categories of natural practices that are allowable about worship with sufficient natural, civil or cultural warrant.  If the reader is not familiar and sympathetic with these categories and practices, they may seem startling to you.

However, if one would dispute whether a specific practice ought to be in this or that category, yet it seems undeniable in a broad, catholic view of Church history, natural society, varied cultures, and in Scripture itself, that these categories, and their acceptability about worship in justifying circumstances, must be legitimate.  And once this is admitted, the practices themselves naturally fall into place.


ch. 5, ‘The 5th Argument…  taken from the mystical & significant nature of them’

pp. 85-86

“…whereat Paybody [a Formalist] starts and replies that the gestures which the people of God used in circumcision and baptism, the renting of the garment used in humiliation and prayer, Ezra 9:5; 2 Kings 22:19; Jer. 36:24, lifting up the hands, kneeling with the knees, uncovering the head in the sacrament, standing and sitting at the sacrament, were and are significant in worshipping, yet are not forbidden by the 2nd Commandment.

Answer:  There are three sorts of signs here to be distinguished:

1. Natural signs: so smoke is a sign of fire, and the dawning of the day a sign of the rising of the sun.

2. Customable signs, and so the uncovering of the head, which of old was a sign of preeminence [in 1 Cor. 11:7], has through custom become a sign of subjection [in Gillespie’s own day].

3. Voluntary signs, which are called signa instituta [instituted signs]; these are either sacred or civil.

To appoint sacred signs of heavenly mysteries or spiritual graces is God’s own peculiar[ly], and of this kind are the holy sacraments.  Civil signs for civil and moral uses, may be and are commendably appointed by men, both in Church and commonwealth, and thus the tolling of a bell is a sign given for assembling, and has the same signification both in ecclesiastical and secular assemblings.

Now, besides the sacred signs of God’s own institution, we know that natural signs have also place in divine worship; thus kneeling in time of prayer signifies the submission of our hearts and minds, the lifting up of our eyes and hands signifies the elevation of our affections, the renting of the garments signified the renting of the heart by sorrow, standing with a religious respect to that which is before us signifies veneration or reverence, sitting at table signifies familiarity and fellowship.  For which of you, says our Master [Lk. 17:7], having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, go and sit down to meat.  All these signs have their significations from nature.

Secondly, customable signs have likewise place in divine service, for so a man coming into one of our churches, in time of public worship, if he see the hearers covered, he knows by this customable sign that [the] sermon is begun.

Thirdly, civil or moral signs instituted by men, for that common order and decency, which is respect both in civil and sacred actions, have also place in the acts of God’s worship.  Thus a basin and a laver set before a pulpit are signs of baptism to be ministered: but common decency teaches us to make the same use of basin and a laver in civility which a minister makes of them in the action of baptizing.

All our question [with the Formalists, on the other hand] is about sacred mystical signs.  Every sign of this kind, which is not ordained of God, we refer to the imagery forbidden in the 2nd Commandment.”


pp. 90-91

“As for the vails wherewith the apostle would have women covered while as they were praying (that is in their hearts following the public and common prayer) or prophesying (that is singing, 1 Sam. 10:10; 1 Chron. 25:1), they are worthy to be covered with shame as with a garment, who allege this example for sacred significant ceremonies of human institution.

This covering was a moral sign for that comely and orderly distinction of men and women, which civil decency required in all their meetings: wherefore that distinction of habits [garments], which they used for decency and comeliness in their common behavior and conversation, the apostle will have them, for the same decency and comeliness, still to retain in their holy assemblies.  And further the apostle shows that it is also a natural sign, and that nature itself teaches it: therefore he urges it both by the inferiority or subjection of the woman, verses 3, 8, 9 (for covering was then a sign of subjection), and by the long hair which nature gives to a woman, verse 15, where he would have the artificial covering to be fashioned in imitation of the natural.  What need we [argue] any more?

Let us see nature’s institution or the apostles’ recommendation for the controverted [English-Popish] ceremonies (as we have seen them for women’s vails) and we yield the argument.”


ch. 6, pp. 104-6

“1. The text [1 Cor. 11:16] gives him [Anglican bishop Andrewes] no ground for this doctrine…  that the custom of the Church should be enough to us in matters of ceremony…  for the custom of the Church there spoken of is not concerning a point of circumstance, but concerning a very substantial and necessary point, namely, not to be contentious: neither does the apostle urge those orders of the men’s praying uncovered and the women’s praying veiled from this ground, because so was the Church’s custom (as the bishop would have it), but only he is warning the Corinthians not to be contentious about those matters, because the churches have no such custom as to be contentious.  So is the place expounded by Chrysostom, Ambrose, Calvin, Martyr, Bullinger, Marlorat, Beza, Fulke, Cartwright, Pareus…

And for this exposition it makes that the apostle in the preceding part of the chapter has given sufficient reasons for that order of covering or veiling the women: wherefore if any would contend about the matter, he tells them they must contend with themselves, for they (nor the churches of God) would not contend with them: they had no such custom.

2. The custom of the Church is not enough to pitch on, and it is found oftentimes expedient to change a custom of the Church.

Basil the Great does flatly refuse to admit the authority of custom: Consuetudo sine veritate [Custom without truth], says Cyprian, vetustas erroris est [is an old thing erring].  Frustra enim qui ratione vincuntur, says Augustine, consuetudinem nobis objiciunt, quasi consuetudo major sit veritate, etc.  Nullus pudor est ad meliora transire, says Ambrose to the Emperour Valentinian: Quaelibet consuetudo [Any custom], says Gratian, veritati est postponenda [ought to be put after the truth].

And again: Corrigendum est quod illicite admittitur, aut a praedecessoribus admissum invenitur.  A politic writer admonishes, retinere antiqua [retain that which is ancient], only with this caution: Si proba [if it is proved].

Calvin (speaking against human ceremonies) says: Si objiciatur, etc.  ‘If’, says he, ‘antiquity be objected (albeit they who are too much addicted to custom and to received fashions, do boldly use this buckler to defend all their corruptions), the refutation is easy:  For the ancients also themselves with heavy complaints have abundantly testified that they did not approve of anything which was devised by the will of men.’  In the end of the epistle he alleges this testimony of Cyprian: ‘If Christ alone be to be heard, then we ought not to give heed what any man before us has thought fit to be done, but what Christ (who is before all) has done, for we must not follow the custom of man, but the truth of God.’

What can be more plain than that antiquity cannot be a confirmation to error, nor custom a prejudice to truth?…

3. …If then it be enough to pitch upon custom, why ought not those customs to have been commended and continued?  But if they were commendably changed, then ought we not to follow blindly the bare custom of the Church, but examine the equity of the same, and demand grounds of reason for it.

St. Paul (says Dr. Fulke) does give reasons for that order of covering women’s heads: By whose example the preachers are likewise to endeavor to satisfy by reason both men and women, that humbly desire their resolution for quiet of their conscience, and not to beat them down with the club of custom only.

4. Whereas the custom of some churches is alleged for the ceremonies, we have objected the custom of other churches against them: Neither shall ever our opposites prove them to be the customs of the Church universal.

6. If it were so that we ought to pitch upon the Churches custom, yet (that I may speak with Mr. [Richard] Hooker) the law of common indulgence permits us to think of our own customs as half a thought better than the customs of others.

But why was there such a change made in the discipline, policy and orders of the Church of Scotland, which were agreeable to the Word of God, confirmed and ratified by general assemblies and parliaments, used and enjoyed with so great peace and purity?  Our custom should have holden the ceremonies out of Scotland, hold them in elsewhere as it may.”


ch. 9, p. 200-202

“As touching a man’s self, the Law of Nature teaches him that he should not live as a reasonless creature, but that all his actions should be such as may be congruous and beseeming for a creature endued with reason.  Whereupon it follows that he should live honestly and virtuously, that he should observe order and decency in all his actions, etc.

Hence the apostle says that nature itself teaches that it is a shame for a man to have long hair, because it is repugnant to that decency and comeliness which the Law of Nature requires.  For among other differences which Nature has put betwixt men and women, this is one, that it has given to women thicker and longer hair than to men, that it might be as a vail to adorn and cover them.  The reason whereof, Nature has hid in the complexion of a woman, which is more humid than the complexion of a man.  So that if a man should take him to this womanish ornament, he should but against nature transform himself (insofar) into a woman.

…as the apostle says, ‘Judge in yourselves, etc. doth not even nature itself teach you? etc.’  As if the apostle said, This principle of nature is fixed in all your hearts, that men should affect honesty and comeliness.  Go to; reason in yourselves from the judgment of nature, whether it follow not upon this principle, that a man should not wear long hair, for as much as his wearing of long hair is repugnant to the principle of nature.


A Treatise of Miscellany Questions…  (Edinburgh, 1649),

ch. 5, ‘Whether these prophets and prophesyings in the primitive Church, 1 Cor. 14; 12:28; Eph. 4:11, were extraordinary…’, pp. 75-76

“But where find we that women which were prophetesses and immediately inspired were allowed to deliver their prophesy in the Church [according to Gillespie’s objector]?  I suppose he had a respect to 1 Cor: 11:5, ‘But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head covered, dishonoureth her head,’ which is meaned of the public assembly, for the apostle is speaking of covering or uncovering the head in the Church.

[The argument of the last statement is that one can know that the context in 1 Cor. 11 is of public assemblies of the Church (as opposed to private) because it mentions the practice of headcoverings.  That is, headcoverings had a distinctively public function, likely to all such societal, public functions.  This is confirmed below.]

But diverse interpreters understand here by a woman that prays or prophesies, a woman that joins as a hearer in the public assembly: and so verse 4, by a man that prays or prophesies [signifies] a man that is a hearer and joins in the ordinances.  So that the Geneva annotation upon verse 5 gives a good sense of that text: that women which show themselves in public and ecclesiastical assemblies without the sign and token of their subjection, that is to say, uncovered, shame themselves.  See more for this in Junius, his annotations on the Arabic version in that place.

If the apostle by ‘prophesying’, 1 Cor. 11:4-5, understand prophesying by immediate inspiration, then the objection may be retorted and turned into an argument against the objectors [who advocated for regular lay preaching]: For the sense of the word ‘prophesying’ in the 11th chapter may give light to the word prophesying in the 14th chapter, verse 3.

Peter Martyr (Common Places, eccles. 4, ch. 1) is indeed of opinion that women which were prophetesses and extraordinarily inspired might speak in the Church, provided that their heads were covered, in token of feminine subjection, and that the forbidding of women to speak in the Church extends to such, and so he reconciles, 1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:13 with 2 Cor. 11:5.  I doubt his opinion in this particular is not well grounded, only so far I make use of it: that if 1 Cor. 11:5 be meant of prophetesses praying or prophesying in the Church (which the Objector has to prove).  Then certainly the forbidding of women to speak in the Church cannot be understood universally, but with a reserve and exception of extraordinary cases.

But how can this exception of prophetesses consist with the text, ‘Let your women keep silence in the Church,’ Why [Greek] your women, they had prophesying women, as is supposed by these of the other opinion, from 1 Cor. 11:5.  Nay, even your women must be silent says the apostle; and the reasons which he adds are so universal as to comprehend even prophetesses, they are commanded to be under obedience, and to be in subjection (which Martyr himself notes), holds true of prophesying women as well as others; and that for that cause their heads were to be covered.

Another reason is added, 1 Tim. 2:14, Adam was not deceived; but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression.  It might be feared, says Peter Martyr, if women were permitted to speak in the Church, Satan should return to his first wile and deceive the man by the woman.  Surely he that made use of Eve might also make use of a prophesying woman to deceive, and so much the more, because, now since the fall, both man and woman are more subject to tentation.

So that both the apostle’s command and the reasons of it seem plainly to exclude even prophesying women from speaking in the Church; and if they be allowed to deliver extraordinary prophesies and revelations in the Church, why not also to prophesy as other gifted members?  If that which is greater be allowed them, why not that which is less?  And if prophetesses be excepted from the rule, 1 Cor. 14:34, why not also other women of excellent gifts?”


ch. 13, pp. 165-66

“…an external ecclesiastical reformation and several canons [implemented by the apostles] concerning the reformation of external abuses and scandals in the Church: as for instance, that the churches should abstain from blood and things strangled; that two or three at most should prophesy in the Church at one meeting; that the men should pray with their heads uncovered, the women covered; that young widows should be no longer admitted to serve the Church in attending the sick [1 Tim. 5] and that such widows must be at least 60 years old, and the like.”


ch. 15, pp. 199-201

“Of the Church of the New Testament, it was prophesied that God would give them one way, as well as one heart, Jer. 32:39, that there shall not only be one Lord, but his Name one, Zech. 14:9.  We are exhorted to walk by the same rule, so far as we have attained, that is, to study uniformity, not diversity in those things which are agreed upon to be good and right, Phil. 3:16.  Does not the apostle plainly intimate and commend a uniformity in the worship of God, 1 Cor. 14:27…  verse 33, for God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the Churches of the saints, verse 40, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.’  He limits the prophets to that same number, of two or three, even as he limits those that had the gift of tongues, verse 29.

And was it not a great uniformity that he would have every man who prayed or prophesied, to have his head uncovered, and every woman covered, 1 Cor. 11?  Does not the same apostle, besides the doctrine of faith and practical duties of a Christian life, deliver several canons to be observed in the ordination and admission of elders and deacons, concerning widows, concerning accusations, admonitions, censures and other things belonging to Church policy, as appears especially from the epistles to Timothy and Titus?…

In the ancient Church, although there was not an uniformity in all particulars among all the churches, for instance in the point of fasting: some fasting on the Sabbath, some not, some taking the Lord’s Supper fasting, some after meals, which differences in fasting, gave occasion to the old rule: dissonantia jejunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei [The dissonance of fasting does not dissolve the concord of the faith].  Although likewise, there was a great difference between the custom of one church and another in the time and manner of celebrating the Lords Supper and in other particulars, as Augustine, Socrates and the author of the Tripartite History record unto us.  Yet the Centuries and other ecclesiastical historians show us in every century, a great uniformity in those ancient times, even in very many things belonging to Church government and form of worship.”



Samuel Rutherford


Rutherford’s splicing of the definitions of around a dozen terms below related to worship may seem extravagant to some.  However these terms have all been used throughout Church history, and were often carefully distinguished by Romanists to justify all of their many, various, false forms of worship.  Formalists, or prelates and Anglicans, often used numerous of the categories to justify undue religious reverence of sanctimonious images and practices.

The terms, if they can be distinguished in common usage (in this case in Rutherford’s context), do reflect unique aspects of the relations of persons and things that truly do help us to more carefully describe the varied shades of reverence and worship.  For this we should be thankful.

To see how these distinctions are rightly and precisely applied in very relevant and important ways to the nuts and bolts of religious practices, in contrast to error and various degrees of protestant idolatry, see the larger section of Rutherford.  Rutherford puts his definitions and distinctions, his tools, at the beginning of his discussion.

Rutherford then, on pp. 89-90, explains how the Scottish presbyterians uncovering their heads for the Lord’s Supper (the males at least, it is not clear about females) did venerate the sacrament by this natural custom, though they did not adore it.  In fact, Rutherford points out, there are many lawful ways in which persons have venerated the means of grace through Church history.  This very distinction between veneration, or a certain natural honor, versus worship, Rutherford shows is taught by Paul in 1 Cor. 11:4:  “Every man praying and prophecying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his [own] head.”  Clearly the honor spoken of here is not worship, and yet it is precisely that which is attributed specially to the Lord’s Supper.

As the practice of head-coverings derives from natural principles (1 Cor. 11:4-6, 13-15) as brought forth in society, some societies differing in the positive aspects of such a practice, so if worship takes place, according to Rutherford, in a culture where headcoverings had an opposite natural significance, so their practice would naturally be otherwise in the worship of God.  For more on the head-covering topic from Rutherford, see Divine Right, p. 144.


The Divine Right of Church Government...  (1646)


section 1, pp. 2-3

“And here also [regarding worship] we consider things circumstantial, as time, place, etc.  And circumstances are either merely physical, or 2. merely moral, or 3. mixed, partly moral, partly physical.

Circumstances merely physical are such adjuncts of divine worship as are common and unseparable concomitants of both civil, natural, and religious or sacred actions performed by men, and as they are such, contribute no moral goodness or badness to the action or agent in the performance thereof, such as I take to be the seven individual proprieties of every man: forma, figura, locus, tempus, strips[?], patria, nomen.  Under form and figure: The first two, I comprehend, such a proportion of body, a man of a high stature, or low; a man beautiful, or not beautiful, to which I crave leave to reduce all external forms of habits [garments], as clothes, the head covered, or not covered, the situation of the body, as they are in themselves, mere physical acts; kneeling, sitting, standing; the eyes cast down to the earth, or lifted up; the hands lifted up, or not lifted up, the knocking on the breast, or not knocking, motions of the soul, that are natural, time, place, family, country, name, as such a person…

1. All these are common concomitants of civil, natural, and religious actions, for all actions performed by man of what kind soever, as natural, to eat, sleep, or civil, to declaim an oration before the people; or religious, to preach or pray, must be done by some persons, John or Thomas, men of some family, in some time, in some place, for they are not actions eternal, and so must be done in time and place, so the agents must have some habit, some gesture in the doing of all these actions, and they are unseparable adjuncts of all these actions, because neither actions natural, civil, nor religious, can be performed, but by some persons, in some habit and gesture, in some time, in some place:

And lastly, they are mere circumstantials, and contribute no moral goodness or badness to the actions, as they are but common and unseparable circumstances; for because he preaches in time, or in place simply, the preaching is neither morally good, nor ill, better or worse, because Thomas prays in gown or cloak in this place, rather than that place (so it be not, locus ut sic, of intention, such a religious place, before the image of Christ, or the Father, or the Virgin Mary) the praying is neither the more, or the less acceptable to God because of these common and unseparable adjuncts

…to my knowledge all these that are mere physical circumstances, are particularly enumerated, such as are: 1. time: 2. place, 3. person, or agent: 4. name. 5. family: 6. condition, as country, family, house: 7. habits or garments: 8. gestures, as sitting, standing, lifting of the eyes or hands, knocking on the breast, kneeling, and there is no blind in this enumeration, for there be no other particulars that can be enumerated [that do not fall into one of these categories]…”


pp. 4-5

A habit is a mere accident of worship; the person, John or Thomas, is also an accident; but if God command such an ephod as Aaron and the priests were to wear, this is not a mere circumstance…  And therefore these circumstances, taken in common and their universal nature, are merely physical circumstances; but taken in their particular and determinate restrictions, as such circumstances, they may be merely moral circumstances, such as are the common adjunct of the time of worship, the place, and the Sabbath time and the temple for Jewish worship.  The former are circumstances merely physical, the latter merely moral; I mean, as they are restricted other ways…

I did say that Christ Jesus has set down in the Word a perfect platform of Church-government in all morals; I say in all morals because the Word does not teach us anything of circumstances, physical as physicalScriptura talia non ponit, sed supponit [Scripture does not put forth such things, but supposes them]:

The Scripture says not that the worship of God must have a time, a place, when, and where its to be performed, a person, who is to perform it, a habit, or garments on the person that worships; the Scripture teaches none of these, but supposes that they are and must be; because nature teaches that without time, place, person, habit, gesture, its unpossible that these or any human actions can be;

And therefore prelatical formalists do without all sense or reason require that we should prove by Scripture, the lawfulness of time, place, person, habit, gesture in God’s worship; for these are presupposed in all actions, natural, civil, religious, private, public, lawful, unlawful, in acts of arts, sciences, of moral conversing and all; yea, there is as good reason that they demand Scripture to prove he must be a living man, who has a reasonable soul and senses, and is born of a woman, who preaches and administrates sacraments, which is presupposed by nature.”


p. 6

“…because there is no moral goodness imaginable, but it must have its essential form and being from a law or word of God; 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:

For circumstances clothed with religious positive goodness, such as are the Sabbath day, the Holy of Holiest, the Temple; these are not mere circumstances, but worship itself: So a religious habit, as an ephod or a surplice, is not a mere circumstance, or a mere habit, but a worship, or such a part or limb of worship as must be warranted by the Word of truth, else it is nothing but a will-device and a forgery, and so to be rejected.”


p. 63

“…but a mere physical circumstance, neither up nor down to the worship, and time and place physical, are neither worship nor religious means of worship:

2. Time and place, name, country, form, figure, habit or garments, to hold off injuries of sun and heaven as such are never commanded, never forbidden of God; and therefore the change of these circumstances can be no change of a commandment of God: We never advanced circumstances, as such, to the orb and sphere of morals; Formalists do so advance their ceremonies…”


p. 87

“…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, 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 immediatly honored, but not adjuncts only, or actions; but religious things or performances.”


Section 6, ‘What Honor, Praise, Glory, Reverence, Veneration, Devotion, Service, Worship, etc. are’, 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 receive the Supper of the Lord uncovered, no man can conclude from thence adoration of the elements, as we do from kneeling 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;

For uncovering the head, it is a sort of veneration or reverence, not adoration; and Paul insinuates so much when he says, 1 Cor. 11:4, ‘Every man praying and prophecying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his [own] head;’  But it is not his meaning that he dishonors God.  2. The Jews to this day, as of old, used not-uncovering-the-head as a sign of honor: but by the contrary, covering was a sign of honor [as with the priests in the Temple]:

If therefore the Jews, being made a visible Church, shall receive the Lord’s Supper, and pray and prophesy with covered heads, men would judge it no dishonoring of their head, or not of disrespect of the ordinances of God: Though Paul having regard to a national custom in Corinth, did so esteem of it.”


ch. 1, p. 144

“Uncovering of the head:  Though this last be not adoration, but a national sign of reverence, and is not every where adoration; yet Abulensis says, the Jews did pray and sacrifice with covered heads: So says Virgil, and Lod. Vives:  Therefore the Corinthians had this from the Grecians as a civil sign of gravity, which should not be banished from God’s worship.”


Ch. 2, Question 1, pp. 192-3

“Customs laudable are grounded upon decency and reason, and so moral, or grounded upon no reason at all.

But Christ did nothing in God’s worship, nor did He any human moral actions for the mere fact and will of others going before, for these were not reasonable human actions; and if it [sitting at the First Lord’s Supper] be customable only, it is not lawful to put away a customable action out of worship, and to put a moral action of kneeling and divine signification in the place thereof, for so we might change places, times, persons and all physical circumstances, and make them supernatural.”


pp. 649-50

In the field, or in the bed, clothed with gown or cloak, when we pray or preach, are mere accidents and circumstances of praying and preaching, and we grant them to be variable and indifferent; howbeit, they admit of regulation-moral, and so are not simply indifferent; for to pray in the fields and streets, to be seen of men, is vain glory.  But I hope they are not indifferent in your [Forbes’] meaning, as are surplice, holy-days, etc.  For you will not say the Church may make laws that no prayers be but in the fields, no preaching except the preacher be clothed with a cloak.

3. Place or habit does not constitute praying and preaching in their specific nature; that were a wonder, for their objects do constitute their nature, and their objects are God and God’s Word;”


Appendix on Scandal

p. 7

The materials of worship, as linen, clothes, habits, gestures may be in their physical consideration indifferent, but as applied by formalists, they cannot be indifferent, for in their use, kneeling appropriated to sacramental bread, linen appropriated to the body of a priest, while he officiates, cannot be but religious or profane.”


p. 54

“The instamped civil gravity in a gown [in Rutherford’s day], makes it necessary with the necessity of expediency, being in itself a grave habit fit for an oratour who is to persuade.”


p. 59

“…these physical circumstances, but they oblige not because of the Church’s authority, no more than the Word of God borrows authority from the Church; but they have an intrinsical necessity in themselves, though right reason in the Church see not always this necessity.

Therefore that a sign be given for convening the people, that the preacher officiate in the most grave and convenient habit, is necessary, Jure divino, ‘by God’s law’, and that tolling of bells, and a gown, a pulpit be as particulars most convenient for these ends, the Church ministerially does judge, so as the obligatory power is from the things themselves, not from the will of human superiors.

No necessity of peace which is posterior to truth, no necessity of obedience to authority, no necessity of uniformity in these externals, simply, and as they are such, are necessities obliging us to obedience: for things must first in themselves be necessary, before they can oblige to obedienceI must obey superiors in these things of convenient necessity, because they are convenient, and most convenient in themselves, and so intrinsically most necessary, but they are not necessarily to be done in themselves, because I must obey superiors, and because I must keep uniformity with the Church.

The will of superiors do find in things necessity and good of uniformity, but they do not make necessity, nor the good of uniformity: We should be servants of men if our obedience were ultimate [ultimately] resolved in the mere will of superiors, in any the least circumstance of worship: and what I say of actions, holds in matters of mere custom also.




Related Pages

On Head Coverings in Public Worship

History of Head Coverings

The Post-Reformation Scottish Church on Head Coverings in Public Worship

Head Coverings in the Post-Reformation Era

Gillespie & Rutherford on Head Coverings

Natural Gestures, Signs & Customs about Worship, & of Reverence &
.      Veneration vs. Adoration

On Customs, the Holy Kiss, Foot Washing, Anointing with Oil, Love Feasts, etc.

On Eating & Drinking Blood, & Marital Relations During Menstruation

Vestments, Black Genevan Gowns, Collars & Dress for Public Worship

Wedding Rings

On the Ordinances, Order & Policy of the Church

The History of Scottish Worship

Reformation & Puritan History


The Regulative Principle of Worship

Natural Law

On Ceremonies

Saying Amen at the End of Prayers


Ladies in the Church