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A Guide to Understanding Worship, by William Ames (1576-1633).




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


2. All such like means ordained of God are declared in the Second Commandment, by forbidding all contrary means of worship devised by men, under the title of graven and image: which seeing they were of old the chief inventions of men corrupting the worship of God, they are most fitly (by a synecdoche frequent in the Decalogue) put instead of all devices of man's wit pertaining to worship.


3. This worship does not depend in specie, and immediately upon the nature of God, or upon that honour which by virtue of our creation we owe to God, but upon the most free institution of God.


4. Hence this worship was divers according to the divers constitution of the Church; one before Christ exhibited, and another after.


5. It is a means having relation to the natural worship, otherwise it were not worship, because one cannot give that honour to God which is due to him, as touching the essence of the act any other way than by faith, hope, and love, whereby we do receive from God with due subjection, those things he propounds to us to be received, and with the same subjection we offer to him those things which may be offered by us to his honour. But because the acts themselves are in a special manner exercised in those things, which God has instituted for his honour, therefore there is in them a certain secondary worship, and a certain partaking of the former.


6. But it has in respect to that natural worship the affection of an effect, which exists by virtue of the former: and of a means and instrument, whereby faith, hope, and love, (in which that worship is contained) do exercise their acts; and of an adjuvant cause whereby they are furthered, and also of an adjunct to which thy are subjected.


7. But it is properly called worship, as it is a means and helping cause of that primary worship.


8. But because, the command of God being put, it depends and flows from the primary worship of God, therefore it is oft persuaded, and urged by those arguments which are taken from the inward and essential manner of worshipping God, as in the second precept. They that love me, and keep my commandments. Deut. 10. 12, 13. What does the Lord thy God require of thee, but that thou fear the Lord thy God, walk in all his ways, and that thou love him, and worship the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul: observing the precepts of the Lord, and his statutes.


9. That rule therefore of interpreting the Scripture which is wont to be delivered by some is not universally true; that all those duties moral and immutable, which have moral and immutable reasons joined to them; except it be thus understood, that those duties do follow upon those reasons, no special command coming between. Lev. 11. 44. I am the Lord your God, that sanctify you, that ye may be holy, as I am holy, defile not therefore yourselves with any creeping thing.


10. No worship of this kind is lawful, unless it has God for the author, and ordainer of it. Deut. 4. 2. & 12. 32. Keep you all things which I shall command you, Add not to the word which command you, neither take from it, every thing which I command you observe to do: add not to it, nor take from it every thing which I command you observe to do: add not to it, nor take from. 1. Chron. 16. 13. Our Lord broke in upon us, because we did not seek him aright.


11. That is declared in those words of the Commandment. Thou shalt not make to thyself: that is of thine own brain or judgement, for although that particle to thyself, does sometimes either abound, or has another force: yet here the most accurate brevity of these Commandments does exclude redundancy, and it is manifest that the vanity of man’s cogitations is excluded by other places of Scripture pertaining to the same thing. As Amos 5. 26 ...which ye made to yourselves. Numb. 15. 39.

...that ye follow not after your own heart and your own eyes, which when ye follow; ye go a whoring.


12. The same is also declared by that universality of the prohibition, which is explained in the Commandment by a distribution of the things which are in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth.


13. For none beside God himself can either understand what will be acceptable to him: or can add that virtue to any worship whereby, it may be made effectual and profitable for us; neither can there be any thing honourable to God, which comes not from him as the author of it, neither finally do we read that such a power was at any time given to any man by God, to ordain any worship at his own pleasure. Matthew 15. 9 In vain do thy worship me, teaching for doctrines the precepts of men.


14. Hence implicitly and by interpretation of God himself, we make him our God, and give the honour due to God to him, whose authority or ordinances we subject ourselves unto in religious worship.


15. In this respect also men are sometime said to worship the Devil, when they observe those worships which the Devil brought in. 1. Cor. 10. 20, Lev. 17. 7 and Deut. 32. 17.


16. But we must observe that worship which God has appointed with the same religion, as we receive his word or will, or call upon his name Deut. 6. 17, 18 & Deut 12. 25, 28. & Deut 13. 18 & Deut 28. 14.


17. The means which God has ordained in this kind, some of them do properly, and immediately make to the exercising and furthering of faith, hope and charity; as public and solemn preaching of the word, celebration of baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and prayer.


And some of them are means for the right performance of those former, as the combination of the faithful into certain congregations or churches, Election, Ordination, and Ministration of Ministers ordained by God, together with the care of Ecclesiastical Discipline.


18. Those former are most properly the instituted worship of God; yet the rest are also worship, not only in that general respect, as all things are said to be acts of worship and religion, which do any way flow from, or are guided by religion; but also in their special nature, because the adequate end and use of them is, that God may be rightly worshipped.


19. All these therefore both in general, and in special ought to be observed of us as they are appointed by God; for God must be worshipped by us with his own worship, totally and solely, nothing must here be added, taken away or changed, Deut. 12. 32.


20. That is a very empty distinction, whereby some go about to excuse their additions. That only addition corrupting, and not addition conserving is forbidden; because every addition as well as detraction is expressly opposed to observation, or conservation of the commands of God, as being a corruption, Deut. 12. 32.


21. Of like stamp also is that evasion whereby they say there is forbidden only addition of essentials, and not of accidentals: for first although there be accidents or certain adjuncts of worship, yet there is no worship to be simply called accidental, because it has in it the very essence of worship. Secondly, as the least commands of God even to iotas and tittles are religiously to be observed, Mat. 5. 18, 19. So additions which seem very small, are by the same reason to be rejected. Thirdly, Moses does seal up even those laws of the place of Divine worship, of the manner, of abstinence from blood, and the like which must needs be referred to accidental worship if any such be, with this very caution of not adding, or taking away, Deut. 12. 32.


22. This observation is in a special manner called obedience, because by it we do that which seems right in the eyes of the Lord, although some other may seem righter in our eyes, Deut. 12. 25. 28.


23. There is opposed unto this instituted worship, as unlawful, that will-worship which is devised by men. Mat. 15. 9. Col. 2. 23.


24. The sin which is committed in will-worship, is by a general name called superstition.


25. Superstition is that whereby undue worship is yielded to God.


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


27. It is called undue worship, either in respect of the manner or measure, or in respect of the matter and substance of the worship. In the former manner the Pharisees offended about the Sabbath, when they urged the observation of it as touching the outward rest, above the manner and measure appointed by God. And they also offended in the latter manner, in observing and urging their own traditions, Mark. 7. 8.


28. Hence superstition is called an excess of religion, not in respect of the formal power of religion, because so none can be too religious; but in respect unto the acts and means of religion.


29. This excess is not only in those positive exercises, which consists in the use of things, but also in abstinence from the use of some things, as from meats, which are accounted unclean and unlawful, and the like.


30. Yet every abstinence, even from things lawful, although they be counted unlawful, is not superstition, to speak properly, unless there be some special worship and honour intended to God by that abstinence.


31. This undue worship is either properly opposed to that worship, wherein instituted worship is directly put forth and exercised, that is, in hearing the word celebration of the Sacraments, and prayer; or to that which respects the means of it.


32. Unto the hearing of the word is opposed, first, a teaching by images devised by men. Deut. 4. 15. 16 & Is. 40. 18 & Is. 41. 29 & Jer. 10. 8, 15 & Heb. 2. 18. Secondly, a vaunting of traditions as they are propounded as rules of religion, Mat. 7. 8.


33. Religious teaching by images is condemned, first, because they are not sanctified by God to that end: secondly, because they can neither represent to us God himself, nor the perfections of God; thirdly, because they debase the soul, and turn away the attention from spiritual contemplation of the will of God; fourthly, because if they be once admitted into the exercises of worship, the worship itself by the perversness of man’s wit, at least, in part, will be transferred to them: as it is declared in those words of the Commandment Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them.


34. Of like kind with images, are all those ceremonies, which are ordained by men for mystical or religious signification.


35. For such ceremonies have no determinate power to teach, either by any power put into them by nature, or by divine institution: but they can receive none by human institution, because man can effect this neither by commanding, seeing it is beyond his authority, nor by obtaining, seeing God has promised no such thing to him that asketh.


36. Neither can men take to themselves any authority in ordaining such ceremonies, from that, that it is commanded to all churches, that all things be done decently, and in order, 1. Cor. 14. 40. For neither the respect of order nor decency requires, that some holy things should be newly ordained, but that those which are ordained by God, be used in that manner, which is agreeable to their dignity; neither do order and decency pertain to holy things only, but also to civil duties; for confusion and indecency in both are vices opposite to that due manner which is required to the attaining the just end and use of them.


37. To the Sacraments are opposed. (a) Sacrifices properly so called, whether they be bloody or unbloody, as the Papists fain of their Mass: for after Christ exhibited, all old sacrifices are abrogated: neither is there any new ordinance, because the sacrifice of Christ being once offered we have no need of other types, than those which pertain to the exhibition and sealing of Christ bestowed on us, which is sufficiently by God’s ordinance performed in the Sacraments, (without sacrifices.)


38. Also the ordination and use of new seals, of ceremonies sealing some grace of God is opposed to the Sacraments: for it belongs to him to seal grace, to whom it belongs to give it.


39. Unto prayer is opposed that relative use of images, whereby God is worshipped at them, or before them, although the worship is not referred to the images themselves, as some say, subjectively, but objectively by them to God alone.


40. Superstition of this kind is called idolatry, Exod. 32. 5 & Psal. 106. 20 & Acts 7. 41.


41. If they be idols, which are in themselves worshipped instead of God, it is that idolatry which is against the First Commandment; but when the true God is worshipped at an image, or in an image, this is idolatry, which is against the Second Commandment.


42. For although in respect of the intention of him that worships, he does not offend in the primary or highest object, yet from the nature of the thing itself he always offends against the formal worship of God, and interpretatively also a new god is feign for the object, who is delighted with such worship, and religious worship is given also to the image itself, although it be not done with that purpose that that worship be lastly bounded in the image, but that it be by that directed also to God himself.


43. Hence we must not only shun this idolatry as well as that absolute idolatry which is against the First Commandment: but also the very idols, and idolothites, or the things that are dedicated to idols, and all the monuments properly so called of idols, 1 John 5. 21 & 1 Corinthians 8. 10 & 1 Cor 10. 18, 19, 21. & 2 Cor. 12. 6, 26 & Numbers 33. 52 & Deut. 12. 2, 3 & Exod. 23, 13.


44. Superstition of the second kind is in human forms of the Church, such as are churches that are visibly integrally, and organically, ecumenical, provincial, and diocesan, brought in by men; as also in the hierarchy agreeable to them, and orders of religious persons, who are found among the Papists, and in functions, and censures which are exercised by them.


45. The audaciousness of those men is intolerable who either omit the Second Commandment, or teach it ought to be so maimed, that it should be read now under the New Testament. Thou shalt not adore nor worship any likeness, or image.

Extract taken from The Marrow of Sacred Divinity.