Ursinus On The Rule Of Worship

It must be commanded by God. No creature has the right, or power to institute the worship of God. But good works (we speak of moral good) and the worship of God are the same. Moral good differs widely from natural good, inasmuch as all actions, in as far as they are actions, including even those of the wicked, are naturally good; but all actions are not morally good, or in accordance with the justice of God. This condition excludes all will-worship, as well as the figment of good intentions, as when men do evil that good may come, or when they perform works founded upon their own imaginations, which they endeavor to thrust upon God in the place of worship, which, indeed, are not evil in themselves, but yet are not commanded by God. It is not sufficient for the worship of God, that a work be not evil, or not prohibited: it must also be commanded by God, according to what the Scriptures declare, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” “Walk in my statutes.” “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (1 Sam. 15:22. Ez. 20:19. Matt. 15:9.)

Zacharias Ursinus,, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. G. W. Williard (Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1888), 477.

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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. Ursinus did know a thing or two about theology and Scripture. People want to worship a god acceptable to their own idea of what a god should be like. The nature and worship of this god is not necessarily the God as revealed in Scripture. This is ultimately a form of self-worship and is by its very nature idolatrous. If we change the revealed nature of God to conform with our sense justice, if we worship God in ways that soothe our own sensibilities, then we are no longer worshiping the living God of Scripture but rather an idol

  2. This is a wonderfully insightful quotation. Dr. Neveling, I think you are exactly right to say that when we worship a god other than the one revealed in the scripture, we are worshipping an idol. It is frightening to think that this is a transgression of the first commandment. As such, it invites the most severe curses of the true God, who is revealed only in the Word.

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