The simplicity and plainness of her worship as her peculiar glory

From A Preface to an Edition of the Westminster Confession, &c by the Rev. William Dunlop of the Church of Scotland, 1724. Dunlop was my great-great grandfather’s great great grandfather.

We in the same manner celebrate the goodness of God, which carried our Reformation to such a high pitch of perfection, with respect to our Government and Worship, and delivered them from all that vain pomp which darkened the glory of the Gospel service, and the whole of those superstitious or insignificant inventions of an imaginary decency and order, which sullied the divine beauty and luster of that noble simplicity that distinguished the devotions of the apostolical times. And our Church glories in the primitive plainness of her worship, more than in all the foreign ornaments borrowed from this world, though these appear indeed incomparably more charming to earthly minds.

We are sensible that it is a necessary consequence of the nature of our Reformation in these particulars, that there is nothing left in our worship which is proper to captivate the senses of mankind, or amuse their imaginations. We have no magnificence and splendor of devotion to dazzle the eye, nor harmony of instrumental music to enliven our worship, and soothe the ears of the assembly. Pomp, and show, and ceremony, are entirely strangers in our churches; and we have little in common with that apostate Church, whose yoke we threw off at the Reformation, or with the exterior greatness and magnificence of the Jewish temple and its service.

For which reason, we know we must lay our account to be despised by the men of this world, who value nothing that is stripped of the allurements of sense, and fancy that a rich and gaudy dress contributes to the majesty, and raises the excellency, of religious service,—who seek for the same dazzling pomp and splendid appearances to recommend their worship, which they are so fond of in their equipage and tables,—and think that a veneration and respect to the service of the Church is to be raised by the same methods that procure an esteem and fondness for a Court. We have nothing to tempt persons of such inclinations ;—we know they will entertain the meanest thoughts, and most disdainful notions, of a worship too plain and homely for them, and fit only for the rude and unmannerly multitude, who have not a delicate enough taste of what is truly great and noble.

But how much soever upon this account we may be despised by the great and the learned, the Church of Scotland, we hope, will always publicly own the simplicity and plainness of her worship as her peculiar glory ; and believe, that these, to a spiritual eye, are beautified with a luster which external objects are incapable of, and of too elevated a nature for the senses to look at. She is not ashamed to acknowledge her sentiments—that the devotions of Christians stand in no need of the outward helps afforded to the Jews,—and that the triumphs of all-conquering love, the mighty acts of a Redeemer, all the powers and glories of an immortal life, that are represented to our wonder and meditation under the Gospel, are far nobler springs of devotion, and fitter to animate with a cheerful zeal, and inspire the most fervent affections, than the meaner helps afforded under the law,—— the costliness of pontifical garments,—the glory of a magnificent temple,—the ceremony of worship,—and the power of music.

Our Church believes it to be one design of the better Reformation of things, to raise the Christian worshipers above the airy grandeur of sense; and instead of a laborious service, to introduce a worship worthy of the Father of spirits, that should be truly great and manly, the beauty and the power of which should be spirit and life, and which, instead of a servile imitation of the temple, should be all purified reason and religion, and make the nearest approaches to the devotion of the heavenly state, where “there is no temple.”

And how despicable soever this may appear to earthly minds, and distasteful to the senses, that are pleased with show and appearance, we are not afraid to own, that we believe that an imitation of our blessed Redeemer and his Apostles, in the plainness and spirituality of their devotions, and an endeavor to copy after the example of these truly primitive times, will ever bear us up to all the just decency and order of the Gospel Church; and that, in conformity to this the naked simplicity of our worship is beautified with a superior luster, and shines with a brightness that is more worthy of it, than when dressed in the gayest colors, and busked up with the richest and most artful ornaments of human fancy and contrivance.


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