Calvin: People Have Never Liked The Regulative Principle

I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God. But since God not only regards as fruitless, but also plainly abominates, whatever we undertake from zeal to His worship, if at variance with His command, what do we gain by a contrary course? The words of God are clear and distinct:

“Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

“In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” (Matthew. 15:9.)

Every addition to His word, especially in this matter, is a lie. Mere “will worship” (εθελοθρησκεια) is vanity. This is the decision, and when once the judge has decided, it is no longer time to debate.

—John Calvin, Humble Exhortation—The Necessity of Reforming the Church (1543).

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