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Instituted Worship

William Ames (1576-1633) - One of the Greatest Theological Puritans and Writers

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“The first act of religion, therefore, concerns those things which are communicated to us from God. The other concerns those things which we yield to God.”

How should we think about the Worship of God?

1. Instituted worship is the means ordained by the will of God to exercise and increase natural worship.

2. The means ordained by God are wholly set forth in the second commandment, which forbids all contrary means of worship devised by men under the words, graven image and likeness. Since these were once the chief inventions of men for corrupting the worship of God, they are rightly used for all devices of man’s wit pertaining to worship (by a synecdoche constantly used in the decalogue).

3. Worship does not depend in kind [in specie] and directly on the nature of God or on that honor which we owe to God because of creation. It depends rather upon the free institution of God.

4. Hence this worship has varied as the structure of the church has varied. It had one form before Christ and another afterwards.

5. Instituted worship is related to natural worship, otherwise it would not be worship, for one cannot give the honor due to God in any way other than by faith, hope, and love (so far as the essence of the act is concerned). Thereby, in due subjection, we receive from God what he sets forth for us and with the same subjection we offer all that may be offered to his honor. These acts of offering are themselves performed in a special manner by means which God has instituted for his honor. Therefore, a kind of secondary worship takes place in them and they share in a way with the acts of receiving.

6. Instituted worship is related to natural worship as an effect to a cause. It is a means and instrument by which faith, hope, and love function — and these are the components of natural worship. It is an auxiliary cause by which these are furthered; and it is an adjunct of natural worship, of which they form the substance.

7. It is most rightly called worship since it serves as a means and auxiliary cause for primary, natural worship.

8. By the command of God instituted worship depends upon and flows from the primary worship of God. This gives the reason and force of those arguments for they are based on the inward and really essential manner of worshiping God, as found in the second commandment, They that love me and keep my commandments; Deut. 10:12, 13, What does the Lord require of you, but that you fear the Lord your God, walk in all his ways, and that you love and worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, observing the precepts of the Lord and his statutes.

9. The rule of interpreting the Scriptures usually given by some is not universally true, namely, that all duties are moral and immutable which have moral and immutable reasons joined to them — unless this is understood to mean that such duties follow from such reasons if no special command intervenes. Lev. 11:44, I am the Lord your God, so sanctify yourselves, and be holy, as I am holy. Defile not therefore yourselves with any creeping thing.

10. No instituted worship is lawful unless God is its author and ordainer. Deut. 4:1-2; 12:32, Keep all things which I shall command you. . . . Add not to the word which I command you, neither take from it. . . . Everything which I command you observe to do. Add not to it, or take from it. 1 Chron. 10:14, Our Lord broke in on us because we did not seek him rightly.

11. This is declared in those words of the commandment, You shall not make for yourself, i.e., by your own cogitation or your own judgment. Although the phrase, “for yourself,” sometimes has another or broader meaning, here the brief and strict style of the commandments excludes any broadening of the meaning; and it is also clear that dependence upon man’s vain cogitation is prohibited in other places of Scripture relating to the same matter. Amos 5:26, Which you made for yourselves; Num. 15:39, Follow not your own heart and your own eyes, after which you follow a-whoring.

12. The same is also brought out in the universality of the prohibition in the commandment, including all Of the things which are in heaven above, in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth.

13. For no one besides God can know what will be acceptable to him and impart that virtue to worship to make it effectual and profitable to us. Nothing can honor God unless it comes from him as the author. Finally, we do not read that the power of ordaining worship at one’s pleasure was ever given to any man by God. Matt. 15:9, In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the precepts of men.

14. Therefore, implicitly and by God’s own interpretation, we make God ours and give him due honor in religious worship. We subject ourselves to his authority and ordinances.

15. In this sense men are sometimes said to worship the devil when they follow the worship which the devil introduced, 1 Cor. 10:20; Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17.

16. But we must follow the worship which God has appointed with the same zeal with which we receive his word or will and call upon his name, Deut. 6:17, 18; 12:25, 28; 13:18; 28:14.

17. Some of the means so ordained by God lead directly to the exercise and increase of faith, hope, and love, e.g., the public and solemn preaching of the word, celebration of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. And some are for the right performance of these very acts, such as the gathering of the faithful into congregations or churches; the election, ordination, and ministry of ministers ordained by God; and the care of ecclesiastical discipline.

18. The first-named acts belong most properly to the instituted worship of God. The others are also worship, not only in the general sense that every act is one of religious worship which in any way comes from or is guided by religion, but also in their special nature, for their end and use is equally that God should be rightly worshiped.

19. All of these means, therefore, ought to be observed by us both in general and in particular because they are appointed by God. God must be worshiped by us with his own worship, wholly and solely — nothing must be added, taken away, or changed, Deut. 12:32.

20. That is a most empty distinction which some people make to excuse their additions to worship: “Only corrupting and not conserving additions are forbidden.” For every addition as well as every subtraction is a departure from the observance and keeping of the commandments of God, and a corruption of them, Deut. 12:32.

21. Of the same nature is the evasion which is made when it is said that only the addition of essentials is forbidden, not accidentals. Although there are some “accidents” or adjuncts in worship, there is no worship which may simply be called accidental, because all worship has in it its own essence. Furthermore, as the least commandments of God even to jots and tittles are to be observed religiously, Matt. 5:18, 19, so additions that seem very small are for the same reason rejected. Last, Moses seals even those laws of place and manner of divine worship, of abstinence from blood, and the like (which are certainly accidental to worship), with the caution not to add to or take away from them, Deut. 12:32.

22. This worship is called obedience for a special reason, because in it we do that which seems right in the eyes of the Lord, although something else might seem more right in our own eyes, Deut. 12:25, 28.

23. Opposed to instituted worship is will-worship which is devised by men and is unlawful, Matt. 15:9; Col. 2:23.

24. The sin committed in will-worship is generally called superstition.

25. Superstition occurs when improper worship is given to God.

26. In superstition God is always the object and in some way the end, but the worship itself is unlawful.

27. It is called improper worship either because of the manner or measure or because of the matter and substance of the worship. The Pharisees offended in the former way on the matter of the sabbath when they urged its observance by the stopping of work beyond the manner and measure appointed by God. And they offended in the latter way by observing and pressing for their own tradition, Mark 7:8.

28. Therefore, superstition is called an excess of religion not in regard to the formal virtue of religion (for no one can be too religious), but in regard to the acts and external
means of religion.

29. Excess of this sort is found not only in positive acts involving the use of things, but also in abstinence from things such as meat, which are held to be unclean or unlawful, and the like.

30. Abstinence from lawful things (although they may be considered unlawful) is not, properly speaking, superstition unless some special worship or honor is intended for God by the abstinence.

31. This improper worship stands either against the worship wherein instituted worship is set forth and exercised — hearing the word, celebrating the sacraments, and prayer — or against that worship which deals with the means of instituted worship.

32. The hearing of the word is opposed, first, by teaching through images devised by men, Deut. 4:15, 16; Isa. 40:18; 41:29; Jer. 10:8, 15; Hab. 2:18. Second, it is opposed by a vaunting of traditions which are propounded as rales of religion, Mark 7:8.

33. Religious teaching by images is condemned, first, because they are not sanctified by God to such an end; second, because they can represent to us neither God himself nor his perfections; third, because they debase the soul and call our attention away from the spiritual contemplation of the will of God; fourth, because once admitted into the exercise of worship, by the perversity of man’s mind, the worship itself is transferred, at least in part, to them. This is declared in the words of the commandment, Thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them.

34. Similar to images are all ceremonies instituted by men with mystical or religious meanings.

35. Such ceremonies have no fixed power of teaching given by nature or divine institution, and they can receive no power from human institution because man cannot create this by his command, since it is beyond his authority, or by his demand, since God has promised no such thing to the asker.

36. Men cannot arrogate to themselves the authority for instituting such ceremonies because all churches are commanded to do all things decently and in order, 1 Cor. 14:40. Respect for order and decency requires not that any new holy things should be instituted, but that those instituted by God should be employed in the manner becoming their dignity. Order and decency pertain not only to holy things but also to civil duties — for in each case confusion and unseemliness are vices opposed to the right and necessary way of attaining of the ends and uses for which each are intended.

37. Opposed to the sacraments are, first, sacrifices properly so-called, whether they be bloody or, as the papists say about their mass, bloodless. For since the coming of Christ, all former sacrifices are abrogated; and there is to be no new ordinance because the sacrifice of Christ once offered removes the need of other types, save only those which manifest and seal Christ for our benefit — as is sufficiently done in the sacrament according to God’s ordinance — without sacrifices.

38. The institution and use of new seals or ceremonies confirming some grace of God is also opposed to the sacraments, for the one who gives grace can alone seal it.

39. Prayer is opposed by the use of representative images at or before which God is worshiped, even though the worship is referred not to the images themselves — subjectively, as some say — but objectively to God alone.

40. Superstition of this type is called idolatry, Exod. 32:5; Ps. 106:20; Acts 7:41.

41. If idols are themselves worshiped instead of God, this is the idolatry which violates the first commandment. If the true God is worshiped at an image or in an image, this is the idolatry which violates the second commandment.

42. Although such a worshiper does not in intention offend against the primary or highest object in worship, yet from the nature of the thing itself he always offends against the formal worship of God. In his mind a new God, who is delighted with such worship, is imagined as the object of his adoration; religious worship is also given to the image itself. This occurs even when the worship is not considered to be ultimately bound up with the image but is directed to God himself.

43. Therefore, we must shun this kind of idolatry as well as the absolute idolatry of the first commandment. We must also shun the very idols, and the idolothytes or things dedicated to idols, and all the mementos of idols, 1 John 5:21; 1 Cor. 8:10; 10:18, 19, 21; 2 Cor. 6:16; Num. 33:52; Deut. 12:2, 3; Exod. 23:13.

44. Superstition of the second kind is found in the human forms of the church, such as churches that are visibly, and organically ecumenical, provincial, or diocesan, brought in by men. Superstition is also found in the hierarchy which goes with such churches, in the orders of the religious found among the papists, and in their acts and judgments.

45. Intolerable is the audacity of the men who, in order to- save their images, either omit the second commandment altogether or teach that it ought to be so shorn of its meaning that the reading under the New Testament should now be: You shall not adore or worship any likeness or image.

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