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Principles of Public Worship: The Rule

God has revealed his design for worship in Scripture, and the consciences of worshipers must be free. Therefore, “true public worship must be either directly Scriptural, or deducible from Scripture, or in harmony with Scripture.”


It is written plainly concerning the Jews of our Lord’s time, ‘In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’ (Matt. 15:9). No doubt there is a conspicuous absence of particular injunctions about New Testament worship. No doubt there is a reasonable liberty allowed to Churches and congregations in their arrangements about worship. But still the rule must never be forgotten: ‘Nothing must be required of men contrary to God’s Word.’ Well says the Twentieth Article of the Church of England: ‘The Church hath power to decree rites and ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith. And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written.’ Well says the Thirty-fourth Article: ‘Ceremonies . . . at all times . . . have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word.’ I say therefore that any man who tells us that there are seven sacraments, when the Bible only mentions two,—or that any man-made ordinance is as binding on our consciences and as needful to salvation as an ordinance appointed by Christ, is telling us what he has no right to tell. We must not listen to him. He is committing not only a mistake, but a sin. St Paul distinctly tells us that there is such a thing as ‘will-worship,’ which has a ‘shew of wisdom,’ but is in reality useless, because it only ‘satisfies the flesh.’ (Col. 2:23).

—J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 315.

Posted 2017·06·15 by David Kjos
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