I heard a recording of a talk about a year ago on ‘Reverence in Worship’ which included something along the lines of ‘Don’t let anyone tell you that it doesn’t matter what you wear to church’. I wondered at the time what sort of suit the Apostle Paul wore when he went round the houses where the 1st century churches met, and was cheered recently when I came across the following in John Coffey’s excellent Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford:
The defence of a rigid regulative principle did not, of course, entail that absolutely everything in divine worship had to be determined by Scripture. Rutherford was ready to admit that some things were not instrinsically ‘moral’ but ‘meere circumstantials’ – the materials used to make the pulpit or the communion cup, and the clothes worn by the congregation, for example, were not specified by Scripture’. (p. 195)
The source is Rutherford’s The divine right of church-government and excommunication: or a peacable dispute for the perfection of the holy scripture in point of ceremonies and church government (that’s the short title!), where he lists it as a circumstance of worship alongside ‘the head covered, or not covered’ (p. 1).
Rutherford goes on to explain a few pages later:
The Scripture saith not, That the Worship of God must have a time, a place, when, and where its to be performed, a person, who is to perform it, a habit, or garments on the person that Worshippeth; the Scripture teacheth none of these, but supposeth that they are and must be; because nature teacheth, that without time, place, person, habit, gesture, its unpossible that these or any humane actions can be (p. 4).
Don’t let anyone tell you? If the silence of Scripture and the Confession isn’t enough, I’ll let Rutherford.