“Whatsoever is not commanded is forbidden.”

” ‘Whatsoever is not commanded is forbidden.’ This, the Scriptural law of worship, is the acropolis of the Church’s liberties, the palladium of her purity, and her God-given moorage. Let the Protestant Church, in creed or conduct, in profession or practice, depart from this divine principle, and she has weighed her sheet-anchor only to find its flukes sundered and herself adrift on the high seas, a craft without compass or chart or polestar, in the midnight darkness of rationalism and ritualism, with her prow pointing to ‘Rome’ as her probable landing-place.” William S. McClure, from The Scriptural Law of Worship, Ch 4 of The Psalms in Worship, ed. by John McNaugher, 1907, full text The Psalms in Worship CH4 The Scriptural Law of Worship by William S McClure

Do you agree with McClure’s view of the Regulative Principle of Worship? Is he putting too much emphasis on the doctrine itself?

From his perspective the churches who have abandoned the RPW are headed toward Rome. As EPers, should we take this approach in our discussions with others?


6 thoughts on ““Whatsoever is not commanded is forbidden.””

  1. I agree with this view. It is in line with Calvin himself, who wrote “…there is nothing more perilous to our salvation than a preposterous and perverse worship of God.” We should certainly be humble and kind in our conversations with those who disagree, yet it is crucial that we emphasize the perilous dangers of departing from Biblical worship.

  2. I agree as well. I struggle with knowing how forceful to be when speaking of the issue of Psalmody with my brethren who hold a different view. To depart from the “whatever is not commanded is forbidden” principle is clearly, in my view, marching in step with Rome. The same principle that allows for the singing of hymns also allows for the use of other more obvious violations of God’s worship. Most Protestants are offended at the sight of Roman Catholic worship, however, all of the offenses they see are allowed because of the violation of this principle. They somehow don’t see the singing of hymns being within the same category of offenses.

  3. It’s particularly a difficult issue for laymen who are in a non-EP church. The balance between a faithful witness to Biblical truth and humble submission to your elders is a razor’s edge. I don’t want to be heard as a shrill alarmist, but I also want to sound a necessary alarm…

  4. Bryan,
    There will be a number of upcoming posts on the topic of EPers attending non-EP churches. I understand fully how frustrating this can be. Our family attended a non-EP church for about a year when we were first introduced to the EP position. You said it well in describing it as a razor’s edge.

    One of the objectives of this website is to offer help to those in the situation you have described. In the next few months I will begin recording interviews with EP pastors addressing specific pastoral, theological, and historic issues related to EP. One of the first recordings will be practical advice for worshiping in a non-EP church.

  5. The sad truth is that it is no longer the case that ‘most protestants will be offended at Roman worship’. I know many, even self professed ‘evangelicals’ who find many aspects of Romish worship to be both ‘gorgeous’ and ‘attractive’!!

  6. Using the same reasoning, you had best throw away or recycle your Psalter books since these too are not commanded. And remember too, if it is the singing of Psalms then it is not the singing of paraphrases as this too is not commanded. On a positive note however, the New Testament fleshes out so many things that the Old Testament speaks of in somewhat lesser or less clearly defined ways. We may then use the full revelation of God in our sung praise to express the full orbed doctrine and experience of the Christian faith, and speaking comprehensively of the person and work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the work of Creation, Redemption, Providence and so on. This is to sing a new song. It may be a hymn written 1000 years ago all the way through to today. But the essentials are the same: Must be reverent, Biblical throughout, and sung with the mind engaged and from the heart. There is no mention of instruments in the New Testament. The use of instruments must never dominate. It must be the singing of the people of God to God in a way that I am able to hear you singing and you are able to hear me, with understanding. Furthermore, archaic language need not be removed but it ought to be explained. Similarly doctrinal concepts should likewise be explained, I think, before the singing of the hymn or Psalm. All in all, I think that it is detrimental to the well-being of the church and to the glory of God that this issue exists, I do not doubt the sincerity of those who adhere to Exclusive Psalmody. But it is so easy to be sincere and yet sincerely wrong. Go back to the word of God. God wants us to use our minds. Biblical principles must govern in many an area as not everything is spelt out in black and white statements. Many are. Be immoveable on these. May God be glorified more and more and His people be divided less and less. Let us have an iron tight grip on truth AND grace and progress in the battle for God, as His instruments in a fallen world having the message of the Kingdom guiding our minds, hearts, hands and feet and bringing that same message to fellow believer’s to build them up even as Iron sharpens iron. Let us take the Gospel of Christ to the lost praying that God would sovereignly apply the gospel to the minds and hearts of those to whom we will go. Oh dear, maybe I have opened a can of worms here. I hope not. Yes I believe the Gospel is for all..

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