Because They Are Moral

The Heidelblog:

We know that the earliest post-Apostolic Christians read the Ten Commandments in their worship services. We have evidence of that in the letter of Pliny the Younger to the Roman Emperor Trajan (c. 112 AD), where he described the Christian worship services in Asia Minor.

Christians are not under the Ten Commandments as a schoolmaster. Jesus has satisfied the law for us and has taken away the curse of the law but we are under the law as the rule and guide of the Christian life. We are under them not because they Mosaic but because they are moral. They are God’s moral law.

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Why Still Read the Ten Commandments?

In Reformed churches it’s normal to hear the Ten Commandments read during the morning worship service. This is a historic practice going back to the Reformation. Yet, sadly, there are churches claiming to be Reformed that have dropped this practice. There are individuals in Reformed churches which still do it who question why it continues to be done in their churches. They look at it as unnecessary, repetitive, or creating an unhealthy sense of guilt and maybe even shame. Some also object to it because, they say, it adds a legalistic flavour to our worship. So why still read the Ten Commandments?

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Copper in Exchange for Gold

Rev. Hendrick DeCock writing to the Netherlands Reformed Churches on the error of using uninspired hymns in the worship of God:

Will you, I say, trample and disobey and stray from the path and do away with all the decisions of the general Synods of our fathers regarding their pronouncements from God’s Word against these songs? This ought to be far from you, the faithful and upright, who tremble before God’s word, and who, along with our God-fearing forefathers should resist degenerate lies and perverse sin. They opposed Rome and Spain, and will you be charged with the blood of our fathers?!

Beloved, these songs were not imported solely by the early heretics and emigrants from God’s Word, but also by those who came after. Of this the learned and God-fearing Peter Martyr11 gives evidence, as well as the Reformers in Italy and in Germany, that by this means the Roman church received copper in exchange for gold.

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This is the Day

Naphtali Press:

Psalms 118:24. This [is] the day [which] the Lord hath made. “Famous and remarkable for the above events. Meaning either the day of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, in order to be delivered up to the Jews, and suffer and die in the place of His people; to which the following words agree: or the day of His resurrection from the dead; when God gave Him glory, and was matter of joy to those for whose justification He rose; or the Lord’s day, kept in commemoration of it: or rather the whole Gospel dispensation, made a bright day by the sun of righteousness; and which is the now present day of salvation; we will rejoice and be glad in it; because of the blessings of grace, peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation, which came through the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, and are published in the everlasting Gospel.” John Gill. “they have not acted incorrectly, who have abolished all days except ‘the Lord’s Day’” Jerome Zanchius. “Christ is born, is circumcised, dies, rises again for us every day in the preaching of the Gospel.” Lambert Danæu.

Source:, Comment 1

Christmas and the Return of a Medieval Darkness

Rev. John J. Murray:

It is within the last half century that the Christmas festival has “taken off” in Scotland. Some of us remember when 25th December was a normal working day. The lifting of the former restraints in society and the commercial exploitation of the occasion, has made it what it is now. It is within the last quarter of a century that Christmas has taken hold in evangelical and Reformed Churches. It is twenty years ago this month that a break with tradition was made when the Free Church of Scotland congregation in Aberdeen introduced a carol service. The use of carols was justified on the grounds that it was not public worship and that it was an evangelistic endeavour. Now carol services and all kinds of Christmas activities are common in ‘professing to be Reformed’ congregations. Perhaps it is time to take note of what is happening and open up a debate about where we are heading. The implications for the future well-being of the Church are sobering.

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No Such Custom

Jerrold Lewis on the headcovering:

In the last 100 years, a 2000 year old doctrine, has been all but removed from most Reformed churches, by a single controlling element- culture. The doctrine abandoned was the use of head coverings in public worship.

The fact remains that even 50 years ago, it mattered very little what Church you attended (Baptist, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, or Reformed), all women wore a head covering in public worship. Yet today there are hardly any congregations in Western Culture that practice this with any degree of consistency, if they practice it at all. When you ask the question “Why don’t you believe wearing a head covering is biblical?”, you are met with a uniform answer, “Because it was a cultural practice, and our culture no longer requires a head covering.” The question must be answered then, are head coverings cultural, or are they a requirement for corporate worship?

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When Exposition is the Word of God

John Owen:

The word duly and legitimately interpreted is still the word of God, and so the exposition (if it departs not from the analogy of faith) is also the word of God, so far as it is founded on and expands upon the written word. All correct exposition may thus be said to share in infallibility, so far as it expounds the infallible word.

Biblical Theology pg 816

Source:, Comment 63

Burroughs on Worshiping God Rightly

Leviticus 10:3, “I will be sanctified in them that draw near to me.”

This should make all Christians weep uncontrollably in utter humility:

“Thirdly, here is a use of humiliation to us all, even to the best of us. O how little, how little have the best of us all sanctified the Name of God! How far have we all come short of sanctifying God’s Name in holy duties! And when we look abroad in the world, and see what poor service God generally has from the men and women of the earth, it should make our hearts bleed within us…Many may have cause to lay their hands on their hearts, and say, certainly I have come short of what is required here, and have not been acquainted with this way, this mystery of godliness, of sanctifying God’s Name in holy duties as I ought to be. O, be humbled for all the uncleanness of your hearts in the performance of holy duties…

There are many godly people that through God’s mercy, are able to keep from gross sins. They do not find it any great matter to keep from bad company, swearing, drinking, uncleanness, lying, or wronging of others, and other such sins. They do not need humiliation in this regard, unless their natures are as corrupt as any, though they do not break forth into those actual gross sins. But the main humiliating work of those that are godly is to be humbled for their thoughts, for mispending time, and for not sanctifying God’s Name in holy duties…

Let us be humbled for our best performance that we ever performed in our lives. The best people with the best duties have a need to be humbled. But then as for others that have made little or no conscious effort of sanctifying God’s Name, how do they need to be humbled? You have something more to repent of than you thought; for the truth is, those that have not made a conscious effort of sanctifying God’s Name in holy duties, never, in all their lives, did any service for the honor of God. You have lived perhaps thirty or forty years; it may be sixty years or more; and you never yet honored God in any one thing that you ever did in all your life. You will say, God forbid. Have I not prayed, and heard the word much, and received communion often, and yet I have never honored God? If you have not been acquainted with this mystery of godliness in sanctifying his Name in these things, this is said from God to you this morning, that you have never done any action, not even one, to the honor of God. You have need to begin doing this presently for your time is not long. And will you go out of this world never having honored the Name of God?

Yes, and further, you have lost all your duties, all your time has been lost that you have spent performing duties. Now, it is an ill thing to idle away time in the things of the world. When a man has an opportunity to gain something in the world, if he loses his time and neglects it, we account it a very sad thing to him. But, now to lose our trading-time for heaven (for the times of worshipping God are our trading times for heaven) that is sad indeed. And yet you that do not make a conscious effort of sanctifying the Name of God in holy duties, well, all the time you have spent is lost.”

Source:, Comment 1

Sabbath recreations necessary after being worn out worshipping God?

Naphtali Press:

William Twisse (first moderator of the Westminster Assembly). “But it may be said, that men’s minds being burdened, and oppressed with the former service of the day, therefore some relaxation is to be granted for the refreshing of our spirits; as much as to say, a part of the Lord’s Day is to be allowed for profane sports and pastimes, to refresh us after we have been tired out with serving God. Can this be savory in the ears of a Christian?”

[pp. 242-244] “As for recreations, which are here said to serve lawfully to the refreshing of our spirits; this appellation is very ambiguous, neither do I know any difference between the recreating of our spirits, and the refreshing of our spirits. Yet here the refreshing of our spirits is made the end of recreation. Again it were good to distinguish between recreation of the body, and recreation of the mind. I think the refreshing of spirits pertains to the recreation of the body. Men’s spirits are natural and material things, and they are apt to be wasted (1) naturally; for as life consists in calido, in hot matter, so heat is apt to spend and waste the matter wherein it is; and spirits thus wasted are recreated, that is, repaired by eating and drinking. And thus provisions of victuals are commonly called recreates.

(2.) They are wasted also by labor voluntarily undertaken, and these are repaired, as by the former way, so by rest also. And each way we are allowed to recreate our spirits on the Lord’s Day; and as to allow such rest to our servants as a work of mercy, so to our own bodies also. But now a-days many courses are called recreations, wherein there is found little rest; and the natural spirits of man are rather wasted, and his nature tired; far more than the one is repaired, or the other eased. And when all comes to all, I doubt the issue will be, to style the pleasures of our senses by the cleanly name of recreations.

Now the Jews were expressly forbidden to find their own pleasures on the Lord´s holy day (Is. 58:13); yet were they not forbidden all pleasure, that belonged only to such a Sabbath as was a fast; and therein indeed hypocrites are taxed for finding pleasure on that day (Is. 58:3). But the weekly Sabbath was for pleasure and delight, but not for man’s own pleasure, nor for the doing of their own ways. But to delight in the Lord, which is spiritual pleasure, and the recreating of our souls in the Lord. This is blessed rest, thus to rest unto him; and the Word of God is the best food of the soul. No recreations like unto God’s holy ordinances. Of wisdom it is said, that her ways are the ways of pleasantness (Pro. 3:17). I willing confess, that to the natural man, as the things of God are foolishness, so the word of God is a reproach unto him. He hath no delight in it (1 Cor. 2:14; Jer. 6:10. He delights rather in carnal pleasures; and is it fit to humor him in such courses, and that on the Lord’s day? Our Savior expressly tells us, that The pleasures life choke the word, and make it become unfruitful (Luke 8:14). Therefore it no way fits a man to God’s service; and if way is opened to such courses, though not till after evening prayer, as many as are taken with them, will have their minds running upon them, so as to say, when will the Sabbath be gone, and the time of divine service over? That so they may come to their sports, as well as covetous persons longed after the like, that they may return to their trading.

A natural man, before his calling is described unto us in Scripture, to be such a one as served lusts and diverse pleasures (Titus 3:3), and the wicked are said to to spend their days in pleasure (Job 36:11); and such are they whom the Prophet describes after this manner, Hear now thou that art given to pleasure (Is. 47:8). As for the children of God, as they are renewed in their affections generally, so the matter of their delight is much altered. His delight is in the law of the Lord (Psa. 1:2); as Christ says, I delight to do thy will (Psa. 40:1), and I delight myself in thy statutes; thy testimonies are my delight; and I will delight myself in thy commandments (Psa. 119:16, 24, 47), and Thy comforts delight my soul (Psa. 94:19). On the other side, the character of the fool is this, He hath no delight m understanding (Ps. 18.2). As for the reformation of such fools, let every wise and sober Christian consider, whether it is a fit course to let the reigns loose upon their neck, and give them liberty to take their courses, and not rather to endeavor to wean them therefrom by representing the vanity of them, witnessed by the experience of King Solomon, who was acquainted with the delights of the sons of men (Ecc. 2:8) as much as any, and tells us what fruit and profit he reaped by them, saying vanity of vanities, all is but vanity; and that the end of that discourse of his, is to promote this exhortation, Fear God, and keep his commandments, For this is the whole man. Then on the other side, the blessed, the comfortable and only profitable condition of delighting in the Lord, in the judgment of David, the father of King Solomon, Delight thou in the Lord, and he shall give thee thy heart’s desire (Ps. 37:4); to meet with the contrary judgment of carnal men, who say, It profitteth not a man, that he should delight himself with God (Job 34:9). If it is said that such sports are tolerated to fit a man for his calling the day following; it is very strange that works of our calling should not be permitted on any part of the Sabbath day, and sports and pastimes should. And shall not the spending of our time in God’s service, not public only, but private also, far better fit us to serve God in the works of our calling, and make us more capable of his blessing upon our labors, than the exercising of ourselves in sports and pastimes.”

[pp. 184] “Lastly, all recreations are to this end, even to fit us to the works of our calling; either for the works of our particular callings, or the works of our callings, as we are Christians. Such sports, if they fit us for the service of God, were more seasonable in the morning than in the evening. If for the works of our particular calling, then are they inferior works to the works of our calling, the furthering whereof is their end; and the means are always inferior in dignity to the end. Now if the more noble works are forbidden on that day, how much more such as are inferior are forbidden? But it may be said, that men’s minds being burdened, and oppressed with the former service of the day, therefore some relaxation is to be granted for the refreshing of our spirits; as much as to say, a part of the Lord’s Day is to be allowed for profane sports and pastimes, to refresh us after we have been tired out with serving God. Can this be savory in the ears of a Christian?”

Excerpts from The Morality of the Fourth Commandment, as Still in Force to Bind Christians (London: 1641). By William Twisse D. D. From An Anthology of Presbyterian & Reformed Literature 1.3 (1988) 79.

Source:, Comment 1

Fisher’s Catechism on Images

Fisher’s Catechism on the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. 1. What are the leading sins forbidden in this commandment?
A. Idolatry and will-worship.

Q. 2. What is the idolatry here condemned?
A. The worshipping of God by images: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” &c.

Q. 3. What is an image?
A. It is a statue, picture, or likeness of any creature whatever.

Q. 4. Is it lawful to have images or pictures of mere creatures?
A. Yes, provided they be only for ornament; or the design be merely historical, to transmit the memory of persons and their actions to posterity.

Q. 5. Can any image or representation be made of God?
A. No; it is absolutely impossible; he being an infinite, incomprehensible Spirit, Isa. 40:18 — “To whom will ye liken God? or, what likeness will ye compare unto him?” If we cannot delineate our own souls, much less the infinite God; Acts 17:29 — “We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”

Q. 6. What judgment should we form of those who have devised images of God, or of the persons of the adorable Trinity?
A. We should adjudge their practice to be both unlawful and abominable.

Q. 26. Are our forefathers to be blamed for pulling down altars, images, and other monuments of idolatry, from places of public worship at the Reformation?
A. No; they had Scripture precept and warrant for what they did, Num. 33:52, and Deut. 7:5 — “Ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.”

Source:, Comment 32