James Begg's Anarchy in Worship

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D. Paul

Puritan Board Sophomore
As I was listening to an audio of this book, the following paragraph struck me:

The purity of worship practised in the Presbyterian Church ever since the Reformation has not been thrust upon her from without. It has been the result of her own view of Scripture, and of her own deliberate choice; nay, it has been maintained by a determined and heroic struggle for ages on the part of her noblest sons. The appointment of all her ministers, besides, is only made conditionally; the condition being that, before their settlement, or acquiring any rights, they shall avow and subscribe their adherence to all her distinctive principles and peculiarities. To allege that they may afterwards set these avowals at defiance, and still retain their offices, is to outrage morality and overthrow the liberty of the Church and her congregations. No man is forced to become one of her ministers. All enter into office and take the necessary vows with the most unconstrained freedom; and if they are afterwards dissatisfied, and wish to introduce novelties, they are at the most perfect liberty to withdraw and join a more congenial fellowship. Honest men, on finding that they cannot fulfil their vows, will surley adopt this alternative, will withdraw and take the consequences. [Anarchy in Worship pp44, 45]

If the Presbyterian view and contention is true (and I believe it is), that true worship is instituted by God Himself and thus finds Divine warrant through express command, and, as Begg further states:

It is important to understand clearly the true scriptural principle of worship as laid down by our Reformers, and to distinguish it from other views and from counterfeits. The principle of pure worship as held by Presbyterians in oppostition to other theories is set forth clearly in our standards.

then my question is this:
Does not every other expression of "worship" as advocated by today's wayward contemporary "church" fall under this term "counterfeit" and is therefore unacceptable to God? Why, then, would Begg make the allowance for these certain ministers who will not "subscribe their adherence" to go off and "join a more congenial fellowship"? Would they not be joined to the counterfeit and thus become apostate? Are we to infer, then, that since scripture is clear and the Presbyterian view is the most faithful to scripture, all these denominations are also apostate in this regard?
What am I to do in my own church where "innovation" has become the norm? Am I apostate?

I have read other threads here regarding this, but Beggs comments seemed to crystalize the matter.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
It is important to understand clearly the true scriptural principle of worship as laid down by our Reformers, and to distinguish it from other views and from counterfeits. The principle of pure worship as held by Presbyterians in oppostition to other theories is set forth clearly in our standards.

then my question is this:
Does not every other expression of "worship" as advocated by today's wayward contemporary "church" fall under this term "counterfeit" and is therefore unacceptable to God? Why, then, would Begg make the allowance for these certain ministers who will not "subscribe their adherence" to go off and "join a more congenial fellowship"? Would they not be joined to the counterfeit and thus become apostate? Are we to infer, then, that since scripture is clear and the Presbyterian view is the most faithful to scripture, all these denominations are also apostate in this regard?
What am I to do in my own church where "innovation" has become the norm? Am I apostate?

I have read other threads here regarding this, but Beggs comments seemed to crystalize the matter.

The underlined portion allows for other views that are not necessarily counterfeit. As the Confession itself recognizes, churches are not perfect. Some are quite a bit less than perfect but still not counterfeit.
 

D. Paul

Puritan Board Sophomore
[/QUOTE]The underlined portion allows for other views that are not necessarily counterfeit. As the Confession itself recognizes, churches are not perfect. Some are quite a bit less than perfect but still not counterfeit.[/QUOTE]

But up above that line, he states "...the true scriptural principle of worship as laid down by our Reformers..."

True is true. If it IS the true principle, any other is a deviation and unlawful. I see "innovation" everywhere with absolutely no view toward its being by Divine warrant. This is a non-issue????:think:
 

D. Paul

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm just trying to make sense of some things.
If what Begg describes is the biblical view of worship, would not the call be to all churches to this same reformed worship? Again, if "true" is true, why make concession to another? Granted, as Victorbravo points out, there is no perfect church. It just seems to me that unless all churches are to come under this truth regarding worship, we're left with mere opinion once again. Nothing is certain and all is subjective.

:candle:
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Donald -- Here's my :2cents: :pilgrim:

Begg speaks of "other views and counterfeits" in contrast to "the true scriptural principle of worship as laid down by our Reformers." What does he mean here?

He is arguing for the regulative principle of worship as a necessary inference derived the Second Commandment. Opposed to this is another view that found support on the Anglican (and other elements) wing of the Protestant Reformation, known as the normative principle of worship. Begg:

Two theories of worship, as opposed to the monstrous corruptions of Popery, were advocated at the Reformation. The one was, that nothing should be introduced into the worship of God which was expressly prohibited in Scripture. This was much, but not enough.

He then cites the confessional statements of the Westminster Standards and the Heidelberg Catechism in support of the RPW, and a powerful statement by John Knox:

John Knox clearly announces and defends this principle: "All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man," says he, "in the religion of God, without His own express commandment, is idolatry."

Truly, if the RPW is violated, the Second Commandment is broken, ergo, idolatry.

When Begg speaks of "other views," it seems to me that he is referring to those outside the Reformed circle (notably the NPW as articulated by Anglicans). When he speaks of "counterfeits," it seems to me that he is referring to those within the Presbyterian or Reformed tradition, who may even claim to adhere to the RPW, but allow for the worship innnovations which Begg is addressing here, particularly musical instruments, contrary to historic Reformed teaching and confessional vows taken by Reformed office-bearers. Begg wishes that such would be honest and dissever themselves from the Presbyterian Church rather than obscure or dissemble at the vows they have taken. He is not conceding that such innovations have legitimacy, Biblically speaking, as if we all can choose which view of worship we want, for he is affirming that this is God's prerogative to ordain the lawful means by which we may approach him. Merely, in a civil way, Begg is wishing that they would not stay and appear to be teaching the Reformed view of worship when in fact they are not.

Now, as to the question of "apostacy," I don't recall that being Begg's term. In fact, I do not think he would characterize anyone as apostate for adhering to an innovation such as musical instruments in worship. Idolatrous, yes; apostate, no. Begg is not saying that innovators in worship are, ergo, apostates or unbelievers. As Vic noted, and the Westminster Divines stated,

This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

Idolatry and apostacy are not the same, though there is obviously some overlap. The distinctions between the two are perhaps more complicated than I have to time to address at the moment, but it is an important distinction to bear in mind here. Impure worship is idolatrous worship. But praise be to God, that such sinful worship of nevertheless true believers is acceptable in Christ; if not, who among us could stand? Those who do adhere to the RPW and reject innovations nevertheless sin every day, and every Lord's Day, when we worship God with distracted hearts and minds, thinking of earthly things when we should be lifted up in heavenly-minded praise of our Lord and Saviour. Others may not see these things, but God searches the heart. They may not constitute violations of form in what is acceptable worship, but every RPW adherent ought to bear in mind 1 Sam. 15.22:

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

May the Lord have mercy upon us all, and grant us the grace to walk according to the light that has been given to us, and where we have not yet seen the light, semper reformanda!
 
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