Chapter III:5: The Acts of Religion

The Acts of Religion are, 1. Elicited, or Commanded. That is, there is a recognized distinction of the Acts into Elicited and Commanded. The Elicited Acts are those that proceed immediately from some faculty, or power/virtue, whether intellectual, or moral, or Theological, as proper to them. In the Commanded Acts some other means comes between, by which these are elicited, or proceed elicitedly. Thus volition is an elicited act of the will; the Elicited Acts of Religion are the Worship and Invocation of God, Prayer, Oaths and Vows, Sacrifices. A commanded Act of the will, for example, is walking, because walking is of the will as commanding, but elicitedly from the faculty of motion in us. Thus it is a Commanded Act of Religion to visit widows and orphans, James 1:27, because Religion commands and produces this act, but with other virtues mediating; inasmuch as the act just mentioned is elicited and exercised by mercy. Nevertheless, it is truly an Act of Religion, because it is commanded by God, who is worthy to be worshipped, and ought ultimately to tend and be directed toward His worship and fear.

Acts Elicited and which formally belong to Religion are immediately concerned with God: But the Commanded Acts of Religion also concern the Neighbor.

2. Both of these kinds of Acts of Religion are also either Internal, in the exercise of which the mind alone is occupied, like Love, the Fear of God, etc.: or External, in which γυμνασία σωματικὴ, bodily exercise,[1] is concerned, like the building of Temples, the offering of Sacrifices, the distribution of Alms: or Mixed, as in the Invocation of God, the Hearing of the Word; in which the attention of the mind, reverence, and faith are most closely conjoined with external speaking and hearing.

All these Acts are not able to be exercised at the same time: yet they ought not to be separated from each other in True Religion, since God requires both the one and the other: although the Elicited and Internal Acts are primary, and the Internal Acts alone are generally able to be exercised at any time, even in a time of Persecution: while on the other hand the External and Commanded Acts are never able to be pleasing to God in their exercise without the Elicited and Internal Acts.

[1] See 1 Timothy 4:8.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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