“Whatsoever is not of God’s own appointment in his worship, that he looks upon as strange fire; and no wonder he is so highly incensed at it, for as if God were not wise enough to appoint the manner how he will be served; men will go to prescribe to him, and as if the rules for his worship were defective, they will attempt to mend the copy, and superadd their inventions.”

Section 5: A godly man is very exact and careful about the worship of God.

“The Greek word for godly signifies a right worshipper of God; a godly man doth reverence divine institutions, and is more for the purity of worship than the pomp; mixture in sacred things is like a dash in the wine, which though it gives it a color, yet doth but adulterate it; the Lord would have Moses make the tabernacle according to the pattern in the mount, Ex. xxv. 40. If Moses had left out anything in the pattern, or added any thing to it, it would have been very provoking; the Lord hath always given testimonies of his displeasure against such as have corrupted his worship; Nadab and Abihu ‘offered strange fire,’ (other than God had sanctified) ‘upon the altar;’ ‘And fire went out from the Lord, and devoured them,’ Lev. x. 1. Whatsoever is not of God’s own appointment in his worship, that he looks upon as strange fire; and no wonder he is so highly incensed at it, for as if God were not wise enough to appoint the manner how he will be served; men will go to prescribe to him, and as if the rules for his worship were defective, they will attempt to mend the copy, and superadd their inventions.

A godly man dares not vary from the pattern which God hath shewn him in the scripture; and probably this might not be the least reason, why David was called a man after God’s own heart, because he kept the springs of God’s worship pure, and in matters sacred, did not superinduce anything of his own devising.

Use. By this character we may try ourselves, whether we are godly: are we tender about the things of God? Do we observe that mode of worship, which hath the stamp of divine authority upon it? It is of dangerous consequence to make a medley in religion.

1. Those who will add to one part of God’s worship, will be as ready to take away from another, Mark vii. Laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the traditions of men.’ They who will bring in a tradition, will in time lay aside a command: this the Papists are highly guilty of; they bring in altars and crucifixes, and lay aside the second commandment; they bring in oil and cream in baptism, and leave out the cup in the Lord’s supper; they bring in praying for the dead, and lay aside reading the scriptures intelligibly to the living; they who will introduce that into God’s worship which he hath not commanded, will be as ready to blot out that which he hath commanded.

2. Those who are for outward commixtures in God’s worship, are usually regardless of the vitals of religion; living by faith, leading a strict mortified life, these things are less minded by them: wasps have their combs, but no honey in them; the religion of many may be likened to those ears which run all into straw.

3. Superstition and profaneness kiss each other; hath it not been known that those who have kneeled at a pillar, have reeled against a post?

4. Such as are devoted to superstition, are seldom or ever converted, Matt. xxi. 3, ‘Publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you;’ it was spoken to the chief priests, who were high formalists; and the reason why such persons are seldom wrought on savingly, is, because they have a secret antipathy against the power of godliness. The snake is of a fine color, but it hath a sting, so outwardly men may look zealous and devout, but retain a sting of hatred in their hearts against goodness. Hence it is, that they who have been most hot for superstition, have been most hot for persecution. The church ofRomewears white linen, (an emblem of innocency) but the Spirit of God paints her out in scarlet, Rev. xvii. 4. Whence is this? Not only because she puts on a scarlet robe, but because her body is of a scarlet dye, having embrued her hands in the blood of the saints, Rev. xvii. 6.

Let us then, as we would demonstrate ourselves godly, keep close to the rule of worship, and in the things of Jehovah, go no further than we can say, ‘It is written’.”

 Thomas Watson, from A Godly Man’s Picture, p 37-39.


4 thoughts on ““Whatsoever is not of God’s own appointment in his worship, that he looks upon as strange fire; and no wonder he is so highly incensed at it, for as if God were not wise enough to appoint the manner how he will be served; men will go to prescribe to him, and as if the rules for his worship were defective, they will attempt to mend the copy, and superadd their inventions.””

  1. Exodus 20:4-6 (KJV)
    4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
    5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
    6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

    Leviticus 10:1-2 (KJV)
    1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
    2And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

    Numbers 15:39 (KJV)
    39And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:

    Deuteronomy 4:15-20 (KJV)
    15Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
    16Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
    17The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
    18The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:

    Deuteronomy 12:32 (KJV)
    32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

    Deuteronomy 32:46-47 (KJV)
    46And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.
    47For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.

    1 Kings 11:33 (KJV)
    33Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.

    Jeremiah 7:18-20 (KJV)
    18The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
    19Do they provoke me to anger? saith the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?
    20Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched.

    Matthew 4:9-10 (KJV)
    9And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
    10Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

    Matthew 15:9 (KJV)
    9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

    Matthew 28:20 (KJV)
    20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    Acts 2:42 (KJV)
    42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

    Acts 17:25 (KJV)
    25Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

    Acts 17:29 (KJV)
    29Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

    Colossians 2:23 (KJV)
    23Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

    Romans 1:25 (KJV)
    25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

    1 Timothy 6:13-14 (KJV)
    13I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;
    14That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

  2. Yes, a rerun of the scripture verses which you have misinterpreted as evidence for exclusive psalmody. Interestingly, the same God of the strange fire makes no actual prescription for exclusive psalmody. God is much more concerned about the spirit of Worship than the choice of song. it is such a shame that the church is so embroiled in more legalistic squabbling.

  3. Alan,

    The verses listed simply prove that God has determined how we are to approach him. We do not have permission to attempt otherwise. For those who lift their own inventions to heaven, it is perfectly acceptable to describe those inventions as “strange fire”.

    Yes, I also believe God is concerned with the spirit of our worship. We can sing the Psalms with sinful hearts. However, if we have approached God with the attitude of “I am unconcerned for God’s rules, I will determine my own”, this is certain proof that the spirit of our worship is defective. The spirit of worship and obedience go hand in hand.

    You state that God makes no prescription for exclusive Psalmody, yet this statement is completely unfounded. If God has given us the Psalms for our worship and nothing else, are we not wise to sing only what God has given? It would seem that your understanding of worship would lead to God’s displeasure since you would so easily depart from his commands.

    I would encourage you to spend time in study of the thousands of pages referenced here on this website alone. Our subject here is not legalistic squabbling, it is our humble attempt to learn more about the way God wants to be worshiped. I don’t think this is a shame. I think the church would be better off today if Christians thought more deeply about what God wants instead of what they want.

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