Reformed Liturgical Services and the Puritan Order of Worship

Articles on Puritan Worship and the Regulative Principle

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The Order of Worship

Musing on Order Based on Biblical Theology and Historical Precedent, by C. Matthew McMahon

“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth,” (Psalm 96:9).

The order of worship in a given worship service is set in the context of what we call “liturgy.” In 1582 Thomas Cartwright proposed a set liturgical form (i.e. an order of worship to be universally used) from Parliament based on Calvin’s Genevan Model of Worship that was originally outlined in Strassborg. This did not “officially” happen, in fact, until the 1647 Westminster Standards. The order of worship in a church service on the Lord’s Day, is an integral part of the acceptability of worship as the Regulative Principle requires. Such a biblical stance on the worship of Jesus Christ demonstrated, for the Reformers and Puritans, that God alone determines the manner in which sinners approach him. In approaching God, the Reformed church has always looked to set down an order of worship that they could biblically validate, and practically utilize for the good of the congregation as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” (1 Peter 2:9).

This order of worship has remained essentially the same throughout the Reformed Church during the time of the Reformation, through to the time of the Assembly of Divines and Puritanism. The first Puritan prayer-book, or set form of liturgy, was copied from Calvin’s liturgy to a great extent, and called, “The Forme of Prayers and Ministrations of the Sacraments, etc., used in the English Congregations at Geneva: and approved by the famous and godly learned man, Iohn Caluyn.” This was originally “written by John Knox” but followed Calvin’s Genevan Liturgy. It had other names such as Book of Common Order, Order of Geneva, or Knox’s Liturgy. It was the first Reformed manual of worship in English, introduced to the English congregation in Geneva by John Knox in 1556, adopted by the Scottish Reformers in 1562, and revised in 1564. The norm of public worship followed in the book is the ancient service of word and sacrament. A “book of common order,” looks to secure a common biblical pattern of worship without making specific verbal forms compulsory, and the prayers said by the minister, are accordance with a practice introduced by John Calvin in Geneva.

The Form of Worship of the Genevan Service Book

  1. A Confession of Sins [Lev. 16:21; Num. 14:40; 2 Sam. 24:10, 17 1 Chr. 21:17. 2 Chr. 29:6; Ezra 9:4–7, 10–15; Neh. 1:6, 7 vs. 8, 9.; Neh. 9:2, 3, 33–35 vs. 5–38.; Job 7:20; Job 9:20; Job 13:23; Job 40:4; Job 42:5, 6; Psa. 32:5; Psa. 38:3, 4, 18; Psa. 40:11, 12; Psa. 41:4; Psa. 51:2–5; Psa. 69:5; Psa. 73:21, 22; Psa. 106:6; Psa. 119:59, 60, 176; Psa. 130:3; Isa. 6:5; Isa. 26:13; Isa. 59:12–15; Isa. 64:5–7; Jer. 3:21, 22, 25; Jer. 8:14, 15; Jer. 14:7, 20; Jer. 31:18, 19; Lam. 1:18, 20; Lam. 3:40–42; Dan. 9:5, 6, 8–11, 15; Luke 15:17–21; 1 Cor. 15:9; Jas. 5:16; 1 John 1:8–10]
  2. A Prayer for Pardon [Ex. 34:6, 7 Num. 14:18. Lev. 4:20, 26 vs. 31, 35; Lev. 5:10–13; Num. 15:25. Lev. 5:4–10; Num. 14:20; 2 Sam. 12:13; 1 Kin. 8:33, 34 vs. 22–50.; Job 10:14; Psa. 19:12; Psa. 25:7, 11, 18; Psa. 32:1, 2, 5; Psa. 51:9; Psa. 65:3; Psa. 79:9; Psa. 85:2, 3; Psa. 99:8; Psa. 103:12; Psa. 130:4; Isa. 1:18; Isa. 6:6, 7; Isa. 43:25, 26; Isa. 44:21, 22; Isa. 55:6, 7; Jer. 2:22; Jer. 5:1, 7; Jer. 31:34; Jer. 33:8; Ezek. 33:14, 15 [Ezek. 18:21, 22.] Ezek. 33:16; Matt. 1:21; Matt. 6:12, 14, 15; Matt. 18:23–27; Matt. 26:28; Mark 2:5, 7 Matt. 9:2, 6; Luke 5:21, 24. Mark 3:28; Mark 11:26 Matt. 18:35. Luke 3:3 Matt. 3:6. Luke 24:47; John 8:11; John 20:23; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:36, 43; Acts 13:38, 39; Acts 26:16–18; Rom. 4:7, 8; Eph. 4:32; Col. 2:13; Heb. 8:12; Heb. 9:22; Heb. 10:2, 17, 18; Jas. 5:15, 20; 1 John 1:7, 9; 1 John 2:1, 2, 12; 1 John 5:16 Matt. 12:31, 32; Luke 12:10. Rev. 1:5]
  3. A metrical Psalm [Psa. 142, 60, 32, 42, 45, 53, 55, 56, 74; Isa. 52:8; Acts 16:25; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:15-16, 26; James 5:13; Matthew 26:30]
  4. A Prayer for Illumination [2 Sam. 22:29; Ezra 9:8; Psalm 13:3; 18:28; Eph. 1:18; Heb. 6:4; John 14:26; 1 John 2:20, 27; Luke 24:31; Romans 12:2; Eph. 4:23; Jude 1:20; 1 Thess. 5:17; Eph. 6:18]
  5. Scripture Reading [Neh. 8:8; 2 Chron. 34:18; Luke 4:17-19; 1 Thess. 2:13]
  6. Sermon [Romans 10:14; Ezra 7:10; Neh. 8:8]
  7. (Baptisms and Publication of Bans) [Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:16; Romans 6:3]
  8. Long Prayer and Lord’s Prayer [Matthew 6:9ff; 1 Thess. 5:17; Col. 1:9]
  9. Apostle’s Creed Recited by the Minister [1 John 5:11; Heb. 11:39; 1 Tim. 6:13]
  10. A metrical Psalm
  11. The Blessing (Aaronic or Apostolic) [Numbers 6:24; 2 Cor. 13:14]

Such a form of worship is biblical, didactic and congregational. (See Horton Davies, Worship of the English Puritans, 9).

Consider the following 3 Models for liturgy of Reformed Worship:

Calvin’s La Form Geneva 1542

  1. Scriptural Sentence and Call
  2. Confession of Sins
  3. Metrical Psalm
  4. Prayer for Illumination
  5. Scripture Reading (N.T.)
  6. Sermon
  7. [Marriages, Baptism and Publication of Banns]
  8. Long Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
  9. Apostles Creed said by the Minister
  10. Metrical Psalm
  11. Blessing (Aaronic)

John Knox, Form of Prayers, Geneva 1556

  1. Confession of Sins
  2. Prayer for Pardon
  3. Metrical Psalm
  4. Prayer for Illumination
  5. Scriptural Reading
  6. Sermon
  7. [Baptisms, Publications of Bans, possible offering for the poor]
  8. Long Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
  9. Apostles Creed said by the minister
  10. Metrical Psalm
  11. Blessing (Aaronic or Apostolic)

Directory of Public Worship, London 1644

  1. Call to Worship
  2. Prayer of Approach (or Invocation)
    1. Adoration
    2. Supplication
    3. Illumination
  3. Metrical Psalm
  4. OT Reading
  5. NT Reading
  6. Prayer of Confession and Intercession
  7. Sermon
  8. General Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
  9. [Communion]
  10. Metrical Psalm
  11. Blessing (Aaronic or Apostolic)

Consider the following 3 Models for the Lord’s Supper.

Calvin’s La Form Geneva 1542

  1. Apostle’s Creed Sung during preparation
  2. Words of Institution
  3. Exhortation
  4. Eucharistic Prayer
  5. Fraction
  6. Delivery
  7. Communion (while Psalm or Scripture is read or sung)
  8. Post-Communion Prayer
  9. Blessing (Aaronic)

John Knox, Form of Prayers, Geneva 1556

  1. Words of Institution
  2. Exhortation
  3. Eucharistic Prayer
  4. Fraction
  5. Delivery
  6. Communion (while Psalm or Scripture is read or sung)
  7. Post-Communion Prayer
  8. Psalm 103
  9. Blessing (Aaronic or Apostolic)

Directory of Public Worship, London 1644

  1. Exhortation to Come
  2. Fencing the Table
  3. Words of Institution
  4. Exhortation
  5. Eucharistic Prayer
  6. Fraction
  7. Delivery
  8. Communion (while Psalm or Scripture is read or sung)
  9. Exhortation to a Worthy Life
  10. Post-Communion Prayer
  11. Metrical Psalm
  12. Blessing (Aaronic or Apostolic)

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

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