All Additions to God’s Worship are Unlawful

all_additions_to_gods_worship_are_unlawfulSamuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication

pp. 95–100

Cap. I. Q. 1. Whether or not Human Ceremonies in Gods Worship, can consist with the perfection of God’s Word?[1]

These human ceremonies we cannot but reject upon these grounds;

Arg. 1. Our first Argument is: Every positive and religious observance, and rite in God’s worship, not warranted by God’s Word, is unlawfull: But human ceremonies are such: Ergo,

The negative Argument from Scripture valid.

The Proposition is sure, the holy Spirit uses a negative argument, Acts 15:24. We gave no such Commandment (Lev. 10:1, Jer. 7:30 and 19:5, 6 and 32:35; 2 Sam. 7:7; 1 Chron. 15:13). The Lord commanded not this, Ergo, It is not Lawful.

Ans. 1. God’s consequence is from the want of a lawful efficient and author; you make Him to reason from an adjunct of the worship: But all worship has necessity, and divinity, and a binding power only from the author God. For why is it lawful to Abraham to kill or intend to kill his son? Why is not eating the forbidden fruit  lawful? Only because God commands. And if God forbid Abraham to kill his son, and command Adam to eat, it is lawful. 2. If this be good, observe all the ceremonial law, so you lay not divine necessity upon the observance thereof; offer sacrifices to God under the New Testament, and you cannot fail in the worship against the Institutor: So slaying of the children to Molech, so you count it free and changeable, shall not fail against God’s commandments of the first table (I command it not).

They [i.e. formalists] Answer. To kill children is manslaughter; but I reply: God doth not reason against offering the seed to Molech (Jer. 7), as it was murder and forbidden in the sixth commandment; but as false worship and forbidden in the second commandment. Else He proves not that it was unlawful worship against piety, but that it was an act of cruelty. Yea, so it be thought free and bind not the conscience, it may be lawful worship, and is not condemned by this (God commanded it not) Ergo, It is not lawful.

I commanded not (says Morton and Dr. Burges),[2] that is, I discommended, or forbade.

Ans. So says the Jesuit Valentia;[3] but so, circumcising of women, boiling of the Paschal lamb, another ark than Moses made, should not be unlawful, for these are not expressly discommended. But God’s commanding to circumcise the male-child, to roast the Paschal lamb, to make this ark: and His silence of circumcision of women, and boiling the Passover, and silence of another ark, is a command.

Not to command, is to forbid.

2. The text, Jeremiah 7, is wronged. I commanded not, neither came it in my heart to command this abomination. That is, ‘I never purposed it as worship;’ else they knew to kill their children, except to God, as Abraham was commanded, was unlawful. As Isaiah 63:4, The day of vengeance is in mine heart; 2 Kings 10:30, 1 Kings 8:18, Genesis 27:41. To be in one’s heart is to purpose a thing. 3. Valentia says, I commanded not the false prophet to speak (Exod. 18:20); but how? By not sending or calling him. Else God did not say by a positive commandment to every false prophet, prophecy not; but because God bade him not prophecy, he was to know God forbade him. Else to speak arbitrary doctrines and prophesies, not tying the conscience, were no false prophesying.

Of David’s purpose to build the temple, how far it was lawful.

They object, It was well that it was in David’s heart to build a house to God (1 Kings 8:17), and yet David had no warrant in God’s Word for to build a house to God. So Morton and Burges.[4]

Ans. David had a twofold will and purpose to build God’s house: 1. Conditional: it was revealed to David that God would have an house built, therefore David might conditionally purpose to build it; so it was God’s will he should be the man. This wanteth not [does not lack] God’s Word. We may desire whatever may promove God’s glory conditionally. As that petition teacheth (Thy Kingdom come). This was recommended of God and approved (2 Kings 8:17). 2. A resolute will upon Nathan’s mistake, the blind leading the blind, this was not commanded, though the desire of the end was good, that is, that a house should be built.

Morton, 16. It was lawful upon common equity, considering God’s mercy to him, in subduing his enemies, and that he dwelt in cedars, whereas God wanted an house, but he could not actually perform it, without God’s Word; so Burges.

Ans. 1. The consequence without God’s Word is as good to conclude, that David might actually build God’s house, as to will and purpose to build it; because the Word is a perfect rule to our thoughts and purposes, no less than to our actions. If to build without God’s Word was unlawful; ergo, to purpose this without God’s Word was unlawful. A purpose of sin, as of adultery, is sin; a purpose of will-worship is will-worship and sin. 2. A man of blood is as unfit to purpose to be a type of a peaceable Saviour, as to be a type of a Saviour. 3. If God reprove Samuel’s light for judging according to the eye (1 Sam. 16:7); far more He rebukes his purpose to anoint a man without His Word, Who giveth kingdoms to whom he pleaseth. Yet Samuel had a good intention, and God’s Word in general, that one of Jesse’s sons should be King. 4. If that purpose had remained with David deliberately to build the Lord’s house, after the Lord had said Solomon, not David, must build the house, it would have been sinful; yet the reasons upon common equity, and a general warrant that God would have a house had been as good as before. If Morton’s consequence be once good, it’s ever good. 5. By this, without the warrant of the Word, we may purpose to glorify God: [John] the Baptist without God’s warrant may purpose a new sacrament; Cajaphas may purpose that he shall be the man who shall die for the people; I may purpose to glorify God by a thousand new means of worshipping. Papists have good intentions in all they do. 6. A purpose of heart is an inward substantial worship warranted by God’s Word (Ps. 19:14; Ps. 50:21; Ps. 74:11; Jer. 4:14; Gen. 8:2; Eccl. 2, 3; Isa. 55:7). Ergo,  the Word is not a rule in substantial and moral duties; heart-purposes cannot be indifferent heart-ceremonies. 7. David needed not ask counsel at God’s mouth and Word, for an indifferent heart-purpose, grounded upon sufficient warrant of common equity, whether he should act it or not; that which warrants the good purpose warrants the enacting of the good purpose. 8. Who knows if God rewards additions to the Word with a sure house, and all indifferent ceremonies?

Of Additions.

Arg. 2. All additions to God’s Word are unlawful (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18; John 20:31; Luke 16:29, 30; 2 Tim. 3:17; Ps. 19:7, 8). So, Basilius, Hieron, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Procopius, Turtullian,[5] all the fathers, all Protestant divines opposing traditions, put their seal and pen to the plenitude of Scripture. But human rites are additions to God’s Word. Morton and Burges say,[6] God forbidsin the foresaid places, additions of anything, as Divine and a part of God’s Word, or additions contrary to God’s Word, and corrupting the sense thereof, but not additions perfecting and explaining His Word, as commentaries and annotations of the text.

So do Papists answer. Duvallius, a Sorbonist, He forbiddeth other new sacrifices, as of the Gentiles, who offered their sons and daughters.[7] So Valentia, Vasquez, Bellarmine, Suarez, Cajetan;[8] They are not added which the church addeth, they are from the spirit of God. So Bannes;[9] but all these do elude, [and do] not expound the texts: 1. Because, if the Jewish princes had commanded arbitrary and conditional arks, sacrifices, places of worship, so they add not heathenish and wicked, as the Gentiles sacrificing their children, they had not failed by this answer; yet Moses the prince, is commanded to make all according to the pattern in the mount. 2. God speaks to all Israel, and not to the princes only, Deut. 4:1. Hearken O Israel, He speaks to these who are bidden to keep their soul diligently, v. 6. 3.[10] It is Bellarmine’s groundless charity, to think private heads who were not princes and lawgivers, did not take on an hairy mantle to deceive (Zech. 13:4). And say, Thus saith the Lord, when God had not spoken to them (Jer. 23:16, 32). Yea, and private women added their own dreams to the Word of God (Ezek. 13:17, 18).

3. They say traditions are from God’s Spirit: But has God’s Spirit lost all majesty, divinity and power in speaking? If the Popes’ decretals, the councils, the dirty traditions, wanting life, language, and power, be from God’s Spirit: Formalists admit traditions from a human spirit, and in this are shamed even by papists, who say God only can add to His own Word, whereas they say men, and the worst of men, prelates may add to God’s Word.

All additions, even these which perfect the Word are unlawful.

4. But that additions perfecting are forbidden is clear: (1) Additions perfecting, as Didoclavius says, argue the Word of imperfection, and that baptism is not perfect without crossing.[11] (2) It is God’s prerogative to add canonic Scripture to the five books of Moses, and the New Testament, and the doctrine of the Sacraments which cannot be syllogistically deduced out of the Old Testament (Matt. 28:19, 20, John 21:31, Heb. 3:2, Rev. 1:19), and these are perfecting and explaining additions, therefore men may by as good reason add canonic Scripture to Revelation, as add new positive doctrines like this  (The holy surplice is a sacred sign of pastoral holiness; crossing is a sign of dedicating the child to Christ’s service), for papists say, even Vasquez, that the Pope neither in a general council, nor out of it, can ordain any new points of faith, which are not contained in the principles or articles revealed, and may not be evidently concluded out of them.[12]

Formalists answer, It is not lawful to add anything as a part of divine worship, but it is lawful to add something as an indifferent rite, coming from authority grounded upon common equity. And this is the answer of the Jesuit Vasquez.[13] The Pope and Church cannot make an Article of Faith, for that is believed by divine Faith, to come from God only, but as Lawgivers they may give Laws that bindeth the conscience, and yet are not altogether essential in worship.

If additions, as divine parts of God’s worship (say we) be forbidden; God then forbidding to add such traditions, forbids His own spirit to add to God’s Word, for no man but God can add additions divine, that is, coming from God, but God himself, & by good consequence the forbidding men to add additions, as really coming from God, should forbid men to be Gods [gods], for divine additions are essentially additions coming from God; but if He forbid additions only of men’s devising, but obtruded to have the like efficacy and power over the conscience, that canonic Scripture has, then were it lawful to add killing of our children to Molech, so it were counted not really to come from God, with opinion of divine necessity; and by this, God should not forbid things to be added to His Word, by either private or public men, but only He should forbid things to be added with such a quality, as that they should by divine faith be received as coming from God and having the heavenly stamp of canonic Scripture, when as they are come only from the Pope and his bastard Bishops; so all the fables of the evangel of Nicodemus; the materials of the Jewish and Turkish Religion might be received as lawful additions, so they do not contradict the Scripture, as contrary to what is written, but only beside what is written, and withal, so they be received as from the church.

Also (3). Additions contrary to the Word are diminutions; to add to the eighth command this addition (The church saith it is lawful to steal) were no addition to the ten commandments, but should destroy the eighth commandment, and make nine commandments only, and the meaning of God’s precept, Deut. 12, Thou shalt neither add, nor diminish. And so our masters [i.e. the formalists] make Moses to forbid no additions at all.

6 [sic 5?]. Commentaries and expositions of the Word, if sound, shall be the Word of God itself; the true sense of a speech is the form and essence of a speech, and so no addition thereunto but explanation, except you make all sound sermons, arbitrary ceremonies and traditions, whereas articles of faith expounded are sermons, and so the Scripture itself materially taken is but a tradition.


[1] [{Reposted from the Naphtali Press Facebook page.} Samuel Rutherford, The Divine Right of Church Government and Excommunication: or a peaceable dispute for the perfection of the holy Scripture in point of ceremonies and church government (London: John Field, 1646) 95–100. Modest editing; the original number is confused by omissions and/or errors. Bold headings and footnotes were in the margins in the original. Rutherford’s work is online via the TCP EEBO project. For an updated critical edition of a longer work but of similar nature see Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies by George Gillespie (Naphtali Press, 2013); which can be purchased here: http://www.naphtali.com/products-page/]

[2] Morton, defense of Cere. gener. q. q. Sect. 12. Burges, Rejoynder, p. 41.

[3] Gregor. de Valent. tom. 3, dis. 6, 1. 2. ref. ad. 2. obj. Constat quandoquo dici non preceptum id quod adeo non est preceptum, ut sit etiam contra preceptum.

[4] Morton, gener. defe, c. 1. sect 6, 7. Burges, Rejoynder, c. 1. sect. 7, p. 34.

[5] Basil., in morall. Heiron. in Matth. 23. Cyprian, epist. 68. Chrys. in 2 Tim. 1. Procopius, in Deut. 12. Turtullian, de prescript adver. heret.

[6] Morton, Burges, supra, c. 2, 3, p. 136.

[7] Duvallius, 2. delegibus, q. 5. art. 1. res. ad. 3. Hoc tantum facito, id est, non offer as atia victimarum genera filios aut filias deo, utGentiles.

[8] Valent. tom. 3. disp. 6. q. 2. resp. ad. 2. Vasquez, tom. 2. in 12. desp. 152. c. 14. Qui addit novum, non dicitur declinare. Bellarm. de pont. l. 4. c. 17. Moses non alloquitur Principes, quorum est leges condere (et sic addere) sed populum cuius est obedire. Suarez, de trip. virit. disp. 5. sect. 4. Additiones non corrumpentes sed perficientes, non sunt additions, datae enim sunt a Spiritu sancto. Ita Cajeta.

[9] Bannes, in 22. q. 1. Art. 10. Non adduntur verbis dei ipsa dei verba.

[10] I can only conclude the numbering is in error at this point.

[11] Didocla., in alt. Damasc. p. 504, 505. [David Calderwood].

[12] Vasq. tom. 2. in 12. disp. 154. cap. 3. Respondetus pontificem quidem nec extra generale concilium nec inillo posse Statuere aliquid de fide quod non contineatur in principiis & articulis revelatis aut certissime ex iis colligatur.

[13] Vasq. Ibid.

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One thought on “All Additions to God’s Worship are Unlawful

  1. I am having trouble finding your citation of Vasquez in footnote #12 (i.e., Vasq. tom. 2. in 12. disp. 154. cap. 3.). That doesn’t appear in the two editions I referenced. Do you know what edition or year and publishing location you are citing? Something seems amiss here. Thanks!

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