John Owen On Evading The Rule Of Worship

The sum, in general, of what this author opposeth with so much clamour is, That divine revelation is the sole rule of divine religious worship; an assertion that, in its latitude of expression, hath been acknowledged in and by all nations and people. The very heathen admitted it of old, as shall be manifested, if need require, by instances sufficient; for though they framed many gods, in their foolish, darkened imaginations, yet they thought that every one of them would be worshipped according to his own mind, direction, and prescription. So did, and I think do, Christians generally believe. Only, some have a mind to pare this generally-avowed principle, to curb it, and order it so, by distinctions and restrictions, that it may serve their turn and consist with their interest; for an opposition unto it nakedly, directly, and expressly, few have had the confidence yet to make. And the Nonconformists need not go one step farther in the expression of their judgments and principles in this matter; for who shall compel them to take their adversaries, distinctions (which have been invented and used by the most learned of them) of “substantial and accidental, proper and reductive, primitive and accessary, direct and consequential, intrinsic and circumstantial worship,” and the like, for the most part, unintelligible terms, in their application unto the state of the question? If men have a mind, let them oppose this thesis as laid down; if not, let them let it alone: and they who shall undertake the confirmation of it will no doubt carry it through the briers of those unscriptural distinctions. And that this author may be the better instructed in his future work, I shall give him a farther account of the terms of the assertion laid down.

—John Owen, Truth And Innocence Vindicated in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 13 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 465.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    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.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!