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8491Re: Calvin on schisms, separatism

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  • thebishopsdoom
    May 2, 2003
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      OK, I really didn't / don't care to be posting or interacting right
      now, but for the sake of a few clarifications, I will send out this
      one thing.
      --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "Dan Fraas"
      <fraasrd@y...> wrote:
      "Notice the Scripture makes a distinction between sins commited
      willfully, and sins commited ignorantly."
      I believe Jerry has in the past in fact delineated that there are
      degrees of idolatrous worship, and that the one who upholds the
      regulative principle of worship, but errs in application is not the
      same as one who argues that they shall worship God "however they ____
      well please" as it were. I am certain he also recognizes the
      distinction between those things added to worship under the name
      of "decorum," "good order," "enhancement," "aid," etc. that are not
      warranted and acts of worship proper that are not warranted. It was
      the addition of these such ceremonies of "decorum" etc. that led to
      the rise of the ceremonies in the early church. Such diversified
      rites, or uniform rites where they prospered uniformly thru
      Christendom, eventually began to be regarded by many (I dare say
      most) churchmen and theologians, thus blurring them with worship.

      "This sin is a violation of that law, which says that we must only
      worship God according to His appointment."
      Well, as for terminology, in the early church, there is as I say
      confusion because worship and other rites and ceremonies that had
      respect to the service of worship - whether we bathe on a fast day,
      for example, were both called by the name worship. It was at the
      reformation that greater clarification was given. One is told that
      there were those who understood that there was a distinction between
      matters of worship and matters of order, but even early in the
      reformation, one sees terms like "accidental worship" sometimes used
      for circumstances of worship. So it is not so easy to find info
      on "uncommanded worship" at a time when the term "worship" could be
      used indifferently at times between worship (which intrinsically
      glorified God by the nature of the act itself) and "indifferent
      things" which acts neither were in themselves (considered in their
      own nature) counted as righteousness if performed nor unrighteousness
      if not performed, and could legitimately thereby differ in divers
      times and places. This would include all legitimate matters
      of "decorum" and order" whether really so or only imagined to be so.
      One word that seems pertinent that has been used for centuries
      is "superstition." This word continued to be used for such well into
      the reformation era, was frequently used by Calvin and others, and
      remains at times in use today. Superstition is a vice contrary to
      religion that involves religion in the excess. That would include the
      use of an act as worship that God has not revealed unto us, because
      it is adding something new in excess of what God has ordained. So
      Jerome renders the Latin for ethelothreskia ("voluntary worship,"
      or "will worship" from Col. 2), as well as numerous commentators from
      thence in the West, by the term superstition.
      But the reformed, while using the term superstition, as well as will
      worship, also used the term idolatry (under which species it is
      listed in the Westminster Standards by acknowledging it as a
      violation of the 2nd commandment), as exampled by the following, some
      of which gets to some degree into reasonings behind the terminology:
      Philip Melancthon: "Idolatrous worships are all they, which are
      appointed without the command of God" (Tom. 2. p. 107 cited in
      William Ames' Fresh Suit.)
      Westminster Assembly of Divines: "The sins forbidden in the second
      commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and
      anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God
      John Knox: "All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the
      brain of man in the religion of God, without his own express
      commandment, is idolatry." (Vindication of the Doctrine that the
      Sacrifice of the Mass is Idolatry)
      John Calvin: "For this is the origin of idolatry, when the genuine
      simplicity of God's worship is known, that people begin to be
      dissatisfied with it, and curiously to inquire whether there is
      anything worthy of belief in figments of men; for man's minds are
      soon attracted by the snares of novelty, so as to pollute what has
      been delivered in God's word." (John Calvin. Commentaries on the Last
      Four Books of Moses arranged in the Form of a Harmony.)
      Zacharias Ursinus: "The first commandment forbids one form of
      idolatry, as when another God is worshipped; the second forbids
      another species of idolatry, as when the true God is worshipped
      differently form what he ought to be. Reply. But still there is
      always idolatry, and another God is worshipped. Ans. There is,
      indeed, always an idol; but not always in the intention and
      profession of men. Hence, those who sin against the second
      commandment, sin also against the first; because, those who worship
      God otherwise than he will be worshipped, imagine another God, one
      differently affected from what the true God is; and in this way they
      do not worship God, but a figment of their own brain, which they
      persuade themselves is affected in this manner." (Commentary on the
      Heidelberg Catechism)
      Peter Vermigli: "But let us remember that, which we have admonished
      before, that this also doth belongeth unto idolatry, whenas we
      worship the true God by other means and rites than that he hath
      prescribed unto us. For if we otherwise do, we shall worship an idol,
      according to that second form described, by feigning to ourselves in
      our mind or heart any god, which is delighted with the worship
      invented by men: and such a god is there none. Wherefore, we shall
      not honor and worship the true God, but an idol, the which in our
      mind we have fancied." (Peter Vermigli's Loci Communes)
      Johannes Wollebius: "...idolatry is forbid, with all such rites as
      are either contrary to, or not contained in the Word of God" ( The
      Abridgment of Christian Divinity; Wollebius is commenting on the
      meaning of the second commandment - while one may state that he
      discerns between "idolatry" and things not commanded, he is intending
      that the prohibition of the second commandment - touching idolatry -
      prohibits both open idolatry in the form of images and as well as
      such rites as he defines above.)
      Heidelberg Catechism: "What doth God require in the second
      commandment? Answer. That we in no wise represent God by images, nor
      worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word."
      William Young: "The first passage we may consider in this connection
      is the second commandment. It might be said that the second
      commandment contains an express prohibition of idolatry and nothing
      more, and thus has no bearing upon the question. From the point of
      view of historic Presbyterianism, however, this is not the case. Our
      Westminster Larger Catechism states, among other rules to be observed
      for the right understanding of the ten commandments, 'That under one
      sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded;
      together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances
      thereof, and provocations thereunto.' The Larger Catechism further
      includes among the sins forbidden in the second commandment 'all
      devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any
      religious worship not instituted by God Himself; ...all superstitious
      devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from
      it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by
      tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom,
      devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever.' The
      prohibition of idolatry is thus understood to involve the regulative
      principle. As John Knox expressed the matter pointedly: 'All
      worshipping, honoring, or service invented by the brain of man in the
      religion of God, without his own express commandment, is idolatry.'
      One might view the matter in the following way. Idols are the work of
      men's hands. Men make them unto themselves for the worship of God as
      fit means for the worship of God. Deeper even than the fact that the
      idol is unfit to represent the invisible God is the fact that it is
      the product of man's own brain and hand. And every product of man's
      brain and hand introduced into God's worship is, in the very nature
      of the case, an idol." (The Second Commandment)
      In addition, with respect to this thread in general, I noticed there
      were some needful distinctions that have not been mentioned, without
      which distinctions tends to express matters in a simplistic fashion
      and make liable to some misunderstandings. For example, it is
      necessary to distinguish between the separation of an individual from
      a church that has begun to backslide, and the splitting of a church
      court itself, as well as what reasons may make valid either.
      "'Tis granted, that in many Cases, a Testimony, in a Way of Church-
      Communion, is a proper, laudable and indispensible Duty. Such as,
      (1.) When a church is in an Infant-state, and wrestling out of
      Corruption, up towards Reformation; in that Case, 'tis a Duty
      incumbent on every one, in their respective Capacities, to put Hand
      to Work, and strive to strip their Mother of her Grave-clothes, and
      jointly concur, in adorning her as a Bride for the Bride-groom, even
      altho' they should meet with great Opposition, and have but small
      Success for some Time; as in the Case of our reforming Church, when
      throwing off the Antichristian, Popish, and Prelatick Vestments and
      Abominations. Or, (2.) When a Church being rightly constitute, and
      truly married unto the Lord, after Declensions and manifold
      Backslidings, is striving vigorously, in the Strength of her glorious
      Head Christ, to retrieve her lost Ground, repent, and do her first
      Works, and hold fast, that no Man, no Prelate, no King, no Parliament
      take her Crown, or rob her of these precious Jewels, which her
      Husband has vouchsafed her as a Depositum or TRUST, which she is
      bound to keep as inviolable, as a Virgin her Chastity: I say, in this
      Case, surely it is a Duty of the utmost Concern, for all Hands to be
      at Work, in order to build up the Desolations of Zion, raise up the
      Walls of Jeruslem, and Gates therof burnt with Fire, even altho'
      Tobiahs, Sanballats, and some like Elymas or Diotrephes, and others
      of that Kidney, should fight against them. Or, (3.) When a reforming
      Church, enjoying her Privileges and Judcatories in Christ's pure
      Ways, being found in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government,
      honourably asserting and maintaining the Royalties of Christ, has in
      her Communion such, as are dead Weights upon her working Hand, and is
      careful to have them reclaimed and reformed, or that Leaven purged
      out; in such a Case, a Testimony against such Evils and Corruptions,
      even altho' real Scandals is to be maintained in a Way of Church-
      Communion, especially when the greatest Part is not leavened, the
      Church being still in the Exercise of the Duties foresaid; and People
      are to address themselves unto Church-Judicatories, and not withdraw
      from their Ministers (especially for ordinary Scandals) without
      making prior Application to these; yea, Protesting and Joining is a
      most commendable Duty in this Case. But I humbly conceive, none of
      these agree to the Case in Hand, in regard, (1.) This Church is not
      in an infant, but an adult State. Nor, (2.) In a growing, but
      evidently in a declining Case... Nor, (4.) Rightly constitute, sound
      in her Principles and Ordinances; nor does she enjoy her Privileges
      and Judicatories, in the Ways of Christ, nor claim them" (Andrew
      Clarkson, Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting... 1731).

      It is pertinent only to note that Robert Lusk and David Steele, along
      with those who with them seceded from synod did not leave the RPCNA
      until 1840, despite dissenting from some matters with respect to
      Reformation Principles Exhibited, despite faults in church
      discipline, and despite claims of ecclesiastical tyranny already
      entering into the RPCNA. Steele and Lusk (among others) attempted to
      settle matters thru the church courts until by failure of
      representation for 7 years, they determined the courts were not free
      as they had no legitimate representational voice due to some
      political shanenigans going on at synod. At that point, they declined
      Synod and formed a dissenting presbytery. So the call is not separate
      as soon as backsliding of any sort occurs. The question revolves
      around constitutional issues (not merely corruptions entering in that
      had not been dealt with, nor problems of the church failing to uphold
      what was already on the books), and lack of access to church courts
      to remedy the situation. In the case of the Resolutioner controversy,
      the dissent issued forth in declining authority of general assembly
      was not merely the question of the lawfulness of the resolutions, but
      the fact that those who dissented from the resolutions were barred
      from access to the courts of the church to remedy the situation or
      cast a dissenting vote in the proceedings. In terms of the
      covenanters during the time of persecution, there was no recourse to
      judicatories, for the church had succumbed to erastianism and their
      was no means of appeal against the erastian encroachments previously
      testified against. It effectively forced a split in the church.
      "...it may be duty, in a broken state of the Church, to withdraw from
      Ministers chargeable with defection. For, seeing this Church hath
      attained to such a high degree of Reformation; and seeing, by Solemn
      Covenants to the Almighty, we have bound ourselves to maintain and
      defend the same; Seeing by reason of the enemy's subtilty and
      cruelty, and the fainting, falling and failing of Ministers, so many
      dreadful defections have been introduced, embraced, and countenanced;
      Seeing, in these times of distempering confusions, we are now
      deprived of the remedy of settled Judicatories, where unto we might
      recur for rectifying of disorders; And seeing we are bound to witness
      against these Complying and backsliding Courses, whereby the wrath of
      God is so much kindled against the Land: Therefore we hold it as our
      duty, that when a backsliding or defection is embraced, avowed, and
      obstinately defended, in such things as have been Reformed, either
      expressly or equivalently, especially being witnessed against
      doctrinally, and further confirmed by other testimonies; We judge it
      lawful, reasonable, and necessary; in a declining, backsliding, and
      troubled state of the Church, to leave that part of the Church which
      hath made such defection, whether Ministers or Professors, as to a
      joint concurrence in carrying on the public work (according as it is
      given in Command to Jeremiah 15:19, let them return unto thee, but
      return not thou unto them) and to adhere unto the other part of the
      Church, Ministers and Professors, whether more or fewer, who are
      standing steadfastly to the Defense of the Reformation, witnessing
      against others who have turned aside and declined therefrom; until
      the defections of the backsliding party be confessed, mourned over
      and forsaken: This is no separation from the Church of Scotland, but
      only a departing and going forth from her sins, backslidings, and
      defections, as we are commanded by the Lord (James Renwick, An
      Informatory Vindication, 1687).
      Those who remained among the Society People after the fall of James
      II gave in a redress of grievances to General Assembly 1689 calling
      upon their public repentance from their dealings under Charles II and
      James II and to return to their former footing before these
      lamentable circumstances had broken the church, upon which grounds
      they would heal the breach in the church. The paper was rejected by
      the Assembly, though Linning, and Boyd drafted another paper
      promising submission to General Assembly without the Assembly's
      repentance, this paper never gained full support of the Societies
      (though their other Scottish preacher, Mr. Shields, did eventually
      accept the proposal), because General Assembly neither had repented,
      gave in promise to reform the abuses, nor gave any indication that
      such grievances would be allowed to be presented for redress at a
      later date (in fact people who attempted to do so later on were at
      various times censured, discharged from their pastorates, and at
      least in one instance, imprisoned). The actual Revolution Settlement
      itself thereafter gave further cause to harden the division as the
      RPs saw figerprints of Erastianism on the settlement of the church in
      Scotland at that time, and various controversies entering in upon the
      church thereafter only furthered the division.
      It is needful to distinguish between things entering a church and
      things entering that were previously reformed out of, and lastly,
      those that enter, though previously reformed, and maintained at a
      constitutional level. There were problems with several of the
      churches in Asia Minor addressed in John's Apocalypse. So too,
      problems in Corinth - both in terms of scandal, disorder, schism, and
      the inroads of heresy. Now it is one thing to argue that the apostles
      would not have them forsake the assembling togther of themselves in
      these churches despite some errors not yet reformed out of that crept
      into the church. Now let us assume that after they received these
      letters, they reform out of the abuses, but they are brought back
      again. Well, thus far, there may be more need for dealing with a
      church court. Now let us put the same case where they have put
      together a creed and a law whereby it is declared that women may not
      be preachers - but then there is a rise of the belief in the church
      again. Well, there may still be resort to judicatories with respect
      to dealing with the existence of these private sentiments continuing
      among church members. Now let's say the church starts publically and
      obstinately teaching these errors, in spite of their constitution.
      The case is a bit different, and a separation from that local body
      may be warranted while members attempt to appeal to church courts.
      Now what if the church then went on in response to such judicatory
      and declined the authority of the synod, and changed the constitution
      of the church to defend their heresy, whether or not they yet
      actually put women in preaching roles?
      When there are alterations made to the constitution of the
      church, "reforming" correct mattewr to that which is incorrect, when
      there is no recourse to the courts to address the wrong, or appeals
      have been made and rejected already, when the church is already
      constitutionally split into two parties and one wishes to switch
      from the new party those upholding the old side of things, there is a
      regarded a different case:
      "When the public profession and administrations of a church have been
      settled conformably to the laws of Christ, and sanctioned by the most
      solemn engagements, if the majority shall set these aside, and erect
      a new constitution sinfully defective, and involving a material
      renunciation of the former, the minority refusing to accede to this,
      adhering to their engagements, and continuing to maintain communion
      on the original terms, cannot justly be charged with schism" (Thomas
      M'Crie, Unity of the Church, 1821).
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