George Herbert recently got my mind back upon RPW. Regulativism is not altogether different from the radical sacramentarianism of Rome. Richard Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity was a massive and brilliant answer to both extremes. For the most part, Anglican worship is based upon general principle not precise commands. In the 39 Articles and the BCP Preface these precepts are generally described as benefiting ‘peace’ and ‘edification’. It is hard to imagine how Anglicanism might theologically explain itself without a defense of kinds of law. With respect to the above precepts, the justify our synods and usage of Common Prayer. Below Hooker nicely sums the precepts mentioned in our BCP preface ,
“it is, however, again argued, that though there be in Scripture no special and specific direction for every thing, yet there are general rules for all things towards one end; and that to prevent men’s acting according their own fancy, the Apostles has set down four general rules, and that all things n the Church must be appointed not only not against, but by and according to them. The rules are, “Nothing scandalous or offensive unto any, especially unto the church of God”. “All things in order and with seemliness;” “All unto edifcation;” and, “All things unto the glory of God.”
George Herbert’s Country Parson is a wonderful, short read. Organized in concise sections providing wisdom on every major aspect of ministry, from the parish to the home, it is recommended reading for all churchmen. In Chapter XIII, Herbert beautifully sums Hooker’s four principles, associating them with the two great commandments of the Lord,
“And all this he doth, no as out of necessity, or as putting a holiness in the things, but as desiring to keep the middle way between superstition, and slovenliness, and as following the Apostle’s two great and admirable Rules in things of this nature: The first wherefore is, Let all things be done decently, and in order: The second, Let all things be done to edification (1 Cor 14:26-40). For these two rules comprose and include the double object of our duty, God, and our neighbor; the first being the honor of God; the second for the benefit of our neighbor”.
For more on these precepts and their relation to primitivism, see this earlier post.