Overturning The Reformation In 1617–18

The government of the Scottish Church was thus completely subverted in its external aspect. The crown was now determined to see whether with equal ease it was possible to introduce the ceremonies of the English Church. James ordered repairs to be made to the Chapel of Hollyrood House in Edinburgh. An organ was put in place and English carpenters began to set up statues of the twelve apostles made of carved wood and finely gilded. People began to murmur,”First came in the organs, now the images, And ere long we shall have the mass.” In the King’s chapel, the English liturgy was ordered to be read daily. The communion was taken in a kneeling posture, and for the first time since the Reformation, Holyrood echoed with the sounds of choristers and instrumental music. In November 1617 the King called a meeting of the clergy at which he proposed Five Articles of conformity to the English Church. These Articles, following further bribery and intimidation, were approved at a meeting in Perth in August 1618 and have become known in history as the Five Articles of Perth. The articles were: 1. Kneeling at communion; 2. The observance of holy days: Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas…; 3. Episcopal confirmation; 4. Private baptism; 5. Private administration of the Lord’s Supper.

The Reformed Church in Scotland viewed these innovations with horror. Kneeling at communion was, in its view, just one step away from the adoration of the visible elements. Popish days of human invention diminished respect for the Christian Sabbath. Confirmation had no warrant in scripture, and the practice of private baptisms and communions was fitted to revive the Romish notion that unbaptized infants were excluded from heaven and that the reception of the consecrated host before death was essential to salvation.

—Roy Middleton, “Historical Introduction” in George Gillespie, A Dispute Against The English Popish Ceremonies (Dallas: Naphtali Press, rev. ed. 2013), xxi.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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    • Phil,

      This (Anglican) response, even if in jest, illustrates the indifference to sola Scriptura (as applied to worship) and to freedom of the Christian man (Christian liberty) that helped to animate the Reformed articulation of the regulative principle of worship.

    • Twice in two weeks has to be a record for me, but, while I’m as happy as anyone who reads this blog to say ‘boo, hiss’ in the bits where Archbishop Laud is mentioned, it’s probably fair to say that lots of Anglicans (and for that matter Lutherans) follow the normative principle not out of a supposed ‘indifference to Sola Scriptura as applied to worship’, but because we’re not convinced the principle is itself a biblical principle.

  1. The RPW (for example, singing psalms only without musical instruments) is no guarantee of the prevention of the introduction of unbiblical practices and bad theology.

    Even a denomination that supposedly adheres to Exclusive Psalmody itself can have other forms of “popish” inventions.

    For example, Your church might sing psalms only without musical instruments, but the pastor and the leadership of your denomination, does not preach the Gospel, is ignorant of the Law and Gospel distinction, thinks that the Reformed confessions are divisive, the church members are without solid Reformed teaching and understanding, etc.

  2. The Reformed confessions see authority, whether in church, state, or family, as stewardship rather than mastery. The regulative principle of worship, in its purging of a host of things from worship, reflects this view of the church’s authority. Perhaps it’s part and parcel of the same spirit that led the Westminster divines to spill more ink on the sins of superiors than on the sins of inferiors in the Larger Catechism’s exposition of the Fifth Commandment.

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