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True and False Religion by Bernardinus De Moor (1709-1780)

Articles on Puritan Worship and the Regulative Principle

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Chapter III:17: Things Opposed to True Religion in General: Impiety and Superstition

In general, Impiety and Superstition are Opposed to Religion. And indeed, Impiety, as our AUTHOR holds, is opposed in Defect; which one may also call Profanity, and which obtains when a sinner, with due reverence for God shaken off, is unto such thoughts, words, and deed, by which the honor due to His consummate Perfection is trampled upon: Impious Men of this sort are mentioned by Job, Job 21:14, 15, the Psalmist, Psalm 94:3-7, etc. This Impiety was prevailing in the old world, Jude 14, 15.

But Superstition is said to be opposed to Religion in Excess, which obtains when we religiously attribute to certain things, words, and ceremonies a certain virtue/power, which does not agree with those things according to the Word of God, nor according to the nature of the things; and out of a servile fear we approach God in such a sort of worship that is incompatible with His Perfections and Word. It is not called Superstition not from the continuous prayers and sacrifices of parents, so that their children might be Superstites/Surviving them, as CICERO maintains, book II de Natura Deorum, chapter XXVIII. But it is Superstition when anything in Divine Worship superstat, in the place of superset, is in excess, beyond the legitimate mode; or when we commit anything in Religion supra statutum, beyond what has been established, or supra/beyond that which is able stare, to stand, with Divine Worship: see VOSSIUS’[1] Etymologicon on the word Superstitio. Concerning this see Matthew 15:5, 6, 9; Mark 7:4; Colossians 2:21-23.

Therefore, Impiety denies to God those things that He requires as duties; Superstition obtrudes Worship upon Him that He rejects, and that is averse to His nature. Concerning Superstition, after VOETIUS’ Disputationum theologicarum, part III, pages 91-233, read BUDDEUS discoursing clearly and copiously, de Atheismo et Superstitione, chapters VIII-X: see also below, Chapter XII, § 2.

Chapter III:18: General Marks Differentiating True and False Religion

Marks, by which we are able to distinguish true Religion from false, so that we might be certain of the truth of our Religion, and at the same time persuade others of the true Religion, are supplied by our AUTHOR, § XVIII, XIX: even indeed, 1. Marks more General, by which the Christian Religion is discerned as true, in contrast with false Cults, to which Infidels adhere, § XVIII: 2. Marks more Specific, by which the genuineness of the Reformed Religion is able to appear, in contrast with the Religion of whatever Heretics, § XIX. The former are sought from the nature of Religion itself; the latter also from the Scripture.

The former are:

  1. The handed down Knowledge of God, especially agreeing with His consummate Perfection, which is acknowledged by all; and sought from His Revelation. For Religion is ἐπίγνωσις τῆς ἀληθείας κατ᾽ εὐσέβειαν, the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness,[2] and so it ought to open up the Knowledge of the God to be worshipped, even that which is perfectly true: since it is indeed an acknowledged fact that God is a Being infinitely perfect, that will be true Religion that in its entire system opens to us a Knowledge of God especially agreeable to His consummate Perfection. And, although the Gentiles and the Mohammedans, but also the Jews, acknowledge the necessity of Divine Revelation, and each boasts that through that Revelation they have received their Religion, the Jews also in their Talmud; that Religion shall excel the others that is sought from the Principium, which has in itself the most solid arguments, solid above all others, of Divine Origin.
  2. Worship, directed as Elicited Acts to God alone, instituted by Himself as the consummately wise and sole Lawgiver, and especially agreeable to God’s Immutability and other Perfections. For Religion is not only the Manner of Knowing God, but also of Worshipping God, thus set over against Impiety and Atheism. When we speak of the Worship of God alone, Idolatry is excluded. When Worship instituted by God Himself is required, a bar is placed to all Superstition and ἐθελοθρησκείᾳ, will worship.[3] And when we require Worship especially agreeable to God’s Perfections, we do not allow it to be objected against us that the Worship formerly commanded to the Jews, by its subsequent abrogation, is repugnant to Divine Immutability: since the Ceremonial Worship was, α. a lesser part of the commandment, of greater weight than which was the Moral Law. β. Not instituted for its own sake, but for the sake of something else, namely, to prefigure the grace that Christ would bring; when this body comes, shadows ought recede and vanish. γ. It was not abrogated through a change in the will of God, but according to the intention of the immutable divine will, also signified already of old, Jeremiah 3:16; Daniel 9:27; etc.
  3. The best Manner of Reconciliation with provoked Deity: while even the Gentiles recognized by their sins and God’s judgments that God is angry, and showed that through sacrifices offered and Mediators sought; and while all Religion in accordance with the glory of God has as an end the certain obtaining of the Salvation of man.

Now, these Characteristics are found in the Christian Religion above all others.

Chapter III:19: Specific Marks Differentiating True and False Religion

Now, the More Specific Marks, also sought out of the Scriptures, will prove the excellence of the Reformed Religion above all others. They are these:

1. Esteem of and attention to the Scriptures, 2 Peter 1:19, 20, upon which passage consult my Commentary. This obtains in the Reformed Religion, in comparison with that of the Papists, who next to the Sacred Scripture urge Traditions, and even cause the authority of Scripture to depend upon the Church, keep the common people from the Reading of the Scripture as well; and what things might be able to be alleged here in addition are reviewed one-by-one by GERHARD, Confessione catholica, tome I, book I, generalis, posterior part, chapter IV, which is de Scripturæ Sacræ apud Pontificios æstimio, pages 337-349: in comparison with that of the Socinians also, who hold corrupt Reason equally as a principium of Religion, and urge this as the norm of the interpretation of Sacred Scripture: in comparison with that of the Enthusiasts, who venerate a private Spirit more than the Sacred Scripture.

2. A most efficacious impetus unto Piety, Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14; John 13:17; 1 Timothy 1:5. Now, this in appearance seems to be large in the Papal doctrine concerning the merits of works; all those Pelagianizing calumniate that the same is also taken away in our doctrine through the dogmas of predestination, vocation, justification, and preservation: but whoever looks more closely into our doctrine of Religion, and compare it with the system of the rest that enjoy the Christian name; will hold it necessary to confess that our doctrine in this aspect also takes the palm before the rest.

3. The most powerful Consolation of afflicted Conscience, Romans 15:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17. And again, this is plainly immense and divine in our doctrine: on the other hand, not in the Papal Religion, in which they preach human satisfactions, sacerdotal absolutions, an enormous number of Sacraments, the intercession of Saints, Purgatory, the Mass; nor in the Socinian or other Religions of those Pelagianizing, is solid Consolation able to be found.

4. Finally, the highest acknowledgement and proclamation of the Glory of God with the abnegation of the Creature, Psalm 115:1; Proverbs 16:4. Again, this Mark obtains in the Reformed Religion alone, while in the other assemblies of those that are called Christians the glory of man’s salvation in the greatest part is attributed to man himself. Unto this Mark ought to be referred that Rule that also in the Reformed Religion alone is well observed: “Nothing is to be attributed to God, which is not in every respect Independent: and what is absolutely Independent is to be ascribed to Him alone.” On § XVIII, XIX, compare WITSIUS’ Practyke des Christendoms, pages 24-43.

[Taken from Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology translated by Dr. Steven Dilday from his blog at From Reformation to Reformation]

[1] Gerhard Johann Vossius (1577-1649) was a Dutch classical scholar and theologian. In 1619, his Historia Pelagiana brought him into suspicion of Arminianism.

[2] See Titus 1:1; and also 1 Timothy 6:3.

[3] See Colossians 2:23.

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