Calvin On The Rule Of Worship: The Samaritans Were Wrong

Our fathers worshipped in this mountain. The Samaritans at that time did, as we learn from the words of the woman, what is customary with those who have revolted from true godliness, to seek to shield themselves by the examples of the Fathers. It is certain that this was not the reason which induced them to offer sacrifices there, but after that they had framed a false and perverse worship, obstinacy followed, which was ingenious in contriving excuses. I acknowledge, indeed, that unsteady and thoughtless men are sometimes excited by foolish zeal, as if they had been bitten by a gad-fly, so that when they learn that any thing has been done by the Saints, they instantly seize on the example without any exercise of judgment.

—John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel according to John, trans. William Pringle (repr. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 155.

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  • 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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  1. “Neither in this mountain or in Jerusalem…” As Jesus said, there is no longer any earthly center for worship, for it is in ‘Spirit and truth’.

    • Allan,

      I argued this case, for the capital S in Spirit, in a chapter in Recovering the Reformed Confession. Take a look. That said, clearly Jesus established a visible church to which he gave keys and offices. That public worship must be regulated according to some rule. Calvin is articulating what the churches came to confess.

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