I. THE light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.a But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.b

a Rom. 1:20; Acts 17:24; Ps. 119:68; Jer. 10:7; Ps. 31:23; Ps. 18:3; Rom. 10:12; Ps. 62:8; Josh. 24:14; Mark 12:33.
b Deut. 12:32; Matt. 15:9; Acts 17:25; Matt. 4:9-10; Deut. 15:1-19; Exod. 20:4-6; Col. 2:23.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

R.L. Dabney on Musical Instruments in Worship

Girardeau’s "Instrumental Music in Public Worship."
A Review
Robert L. Dabney.

Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church. By John L. Girardeau, D.D., LL. D., Professor in Columbia Theological Seminary, South Carolina, 12mo, pp. 208. Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson. 1888.
The author in his eloquent conclusion anticipates that some will meet his arguments with sneers rather than serious discussion, which he proposes to endure with Christian composure. It is a reproach to our church, which fills us with grief, to find the prediction fulfilled in some quarters. Surely persons calling themselves Presbyterians should remember that the truths they profess to hold sacred have usually been in small minorities sneered at by the arrogant majorities. So it was in the days of the Reformers, of Athanasius, of the Apostles, and of Jesus himself.

The resort to this species of reply appears the more ill-considered, when we remember that Dr. Girardeau is supporting the identical position held by all the early fathers, by all the Presbyterian reformers, by a Chalmers, a Mason, a Breckinridge, a Thornwell, and by a Spurgeon. Why is not the position as respectable in our author as in all this noble galaxy of true Presbyterians? Will the innovators claim that all these great men are so inferior to themselves? The idea seems to be that the opposition of all these great men to organs arose simply out of their ignorant old-fogyism and lack of culture; while our advocacy of the change is the result of our superior intelligence, learning and refinement. The ignorance of this overweening conceit makes it simply vulgar. These great men surpassed all who have succeeded them in elegant classical scholarship, in logical ability, and in theological learning. Their depreciators should know that they surpassed them just as far in all elegant culture. The era of the Reformation was the Augustan age of church art in architecture, painting and music. These reformed divines were graduates of the first Universities, most of them gentlemen by birth, many of them noblemen, denizens of courts, of elegant accomplishments and manners, not a few of them exquisite poets and musicians. But they unanimously rejected the Popish Church music; not because they were fusty old pedants without taste, but because a refined taste concurred with their learning and logic to condemn it.

Dr. Girardeau has defended the old usage of our church with a moral courage, loyalty to truth, clearness of reasoning and wealth of learning which should make every true Presbyterian proud of him, whether he adopts his conclusions or not. The framework of his argument is this: it begins with that vital truth which no Presbyterian can discard without a square desertion of our principles. The man who contests this first premise had better set out at once for Rome: God is to be worshipped only in the ways appointed in his word. Every act of public cultus not positively enjoined by him is thereby forbidden. Christ and his apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing with the voice of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except of the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators. But the pretext is raised that instrumental music was authorized by Scripture in the Old Testament. This evasion Dr. Girardeau ruins by showing that God set up in the Hebrew Church two distinct forms of worship; the one moral, didactic, spiritual and universal, and therefore perpetual in all places and ages—that of the synagogues; the other peculiar, local, typical, foreshadowing in outward forms the more spiritual dispensation, and therefore destined to be utterly abrogate by Christ’s coming. Now we find instrumental music, like human priests and their vestments, show-bread, incense, and bloody sacrifice, absolutely limited to this local and temporary worship. But the Christian churches were modelled upon the synagogues and inherited their form of government and worship because it was permanently didactic, moral and spiritual, and included nothing typical. This reply is impregnably fortified by the word of God himself: that when the Antitype has come the types must be abolished. For as the temple-priests and animal sacrifices typified Christ and his sacrifice on Calvary, so the musical instruments of David in the temple-service only typified the joy of the Holy Ghost in his pentecostal effusions.

Hence when the advocates of innovation quote such words as those of the Psalmist, "Praise the Lord with the harp," &c., these shallow reasoners are reminded that the same sort of plea would draw back human priest and bloody sacrifices into our Christian churches. For these Psalms exclaim, with the same emphasis, "Bind our sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." Why do not our Christian aesthetics feel equally authorized and bound to build altars in front of their pulpits, and to drag the struggling lambs up their nicely carpeted aisles, and have their throats cut there for the edification of the refined audience? "Oh, the sacrifices, being types and peculiar to the temple service, were necessarily abolished by the coming of the Antitype." Very good. So were the horns, cymbals, harps and organs only peculiar to the temple-service, a part of its types, and so necessarily abolished when the temple was removed.

If any addition can be made to this perfectly compact argument, it is contained in this suggestion of an undoubted historical truth: that the temple-worship had a national theocratic quality about it, which cannot now be realized in Christ’s purely spiritual kingdom. Israel was both a commonwealth and a church. Her political government was a theocracy. Her human king was the viceroy representing on earth her true sovereign, God. hence, in the special acts of worship in the temple, in which the high priest, Messiah’s type, and the king, God’s viceroy, combined, they represented the State Church, the collective nation in a national act of homage. This species of worship could not lawfully exist except at one place; only one set of officials could celebrate it. It was representatively the nation’s act. It is to be noted that , when at last musical instruments were attached to those national acts of homage to Israel’s political king, Jehovah, it was not by the authority or intervention of the high priest, the religious head of the nation, but by that of the political viceroy. David’s horns, harps and organs were therefore the appointed instruments of the national acts of homage to Jehovah. The church now is not a nation, but purely a spiritual kingdom, which is not of this world. Hence there is no longer room in her worship for the horns, harps and organs, any more than for swords and stonings in her government, or human kings and high priest in her institutions.

Let the true inference from this partial use of instruments of music in the typical, national worship be fairly and perspicuously stated. It is but this: since God saw fit to ordain such an adjunct to divine worship for a special object, it proves the use of it not to be sin per se, like lying or theft, for a holy God would not ordain an unholy expedient for any object, however temporary. The same argument shows that incense, show-bread and bloody sacrifices in worship cannot be sin per se. But how far short is this admission from justifying the use of any of them in worship now? Just here is the pitiable confusion of thought. It is not enough for the advocate of a given member of the church’s cultus to show that it is not essentially criminal. He must show that god ordained it positively for our dispensation.

Dr. Girardeau’s opponents stubbornly forget that the burthen of proof rests on them; he is not bound to prove that these instruments are per se criminal, or that they are mischievous or dangerous, although he is abundantly able to prove the latter. It is they who must prove affirmatively that god has appointed and required their use in his New Testament worship, or they are transgressors. Doubtless the objection in every opponent’s mind is this: That, after all, Dr. Girardeau is making a conscientious point on too trivial and non-essential a matter. I am not surprised to meet this impression in the popular mind, aware as I am that this age of universal education is really a very ignorant one. But it is a matter of grief to find ministers so oblivious of the first lessons of their church history. They seem totally blind to the historical fact that it was just thus every damnable corruption which has cursed the church took its beginning; in the addition to the modes of worship ordained by Christ for the new dispensation, of human devices, which seemed ever so pretty an appropriate, made by the best of men and women and ministers with the very best of motives, and borrowed mostly from the temple cultus of the Jews. Thus came vestments, pictures in churches, incense, the observance of the martyrs’ anniversary days—in a word, that whole apparatus of will-worship and superstition which bloomed into popery and idolatry. "Why, all these pretty inventions were innocent. The very best of people used them. They were so appropriate, so aesthetic! Where could the harm be?" history answers the question: They disobeyed God and introduced popery,—a result quite unforeseen by the good souls who began the mischief! Yes, but those who have begun the parallel mischief in our Presbyterian Church cannot plead the same excuse, for they are forewarned by a tremendous history, and prefer Mrs. Grundy’s taste to the convincing light of experience.

That a denomination, professing like ours to be anti-prelatic and anti-ritualistic, should throw down the bulwarks of their argument against these errors by this recent innovation appears little short of lunacy. Prelatists undertake every step of the argument which these Presbyterians use for their organ, and advance them in a parallel manner to defend the re-introduction of the Passover or Easter, of Whitsuntide, of human priests and priestly vestments, and of chrism, into the gospel church. "God’s appointment of them in the old Dispensation proves them to be innocent. Christians have a right to add to the cultus ordained for the New Testament whatever they think appropriate, provided it is innocent; and especially are such additions lawful if borrowed from the Old Dispensation." I should like to see the Presbyterian who has refuted Dr. Girardeau in argument meet a prelatist, who justifies these other additions by that Presbyterian’s own logic. Would not his consistency be something like that pictured by the old proverb of "Satan reproving sin"? Again, if the New Testament church has priests, these priests must have sacrifice. Thus, consistency will finally lead that Presbyterian to the real corporeal presence and the mass.

To rebut further the charge that Dr. Girardeau is stickling for an unimportant point, I shall now proceed to assert the prudential and the doctrino-psychological arguments against the present organ worship.

1st. Sound prudence and discretion decide against it. The money cost of these instruments, with the damaging debts incurred for them, is a sufficient objection. The money they cost, if expended in mission work, would do infinitely more good to souls and honor to God. In our poor church, how many congregations are there which are today mocking Dr. Craig with a merely nominal contribution to missions on the plea of an organ debt of $1,600 to $3,600! This latter says it is able to spare $3,600 for a Christian’s use (or does it propose to cheat the organ builder?). I ask solemnly, Is it right to expend so much of God’s money, which is needed to rescue perishing souls, upon an object merely non-essential, at best only a luxury? Does the Christian conscience, in measuring the worth of souls and God’s glory, deliberately prefer the little to the much?

Again, instruments in churches are integral parts of a system which is fruitful of choir quarrels and church feuds. How many pastoral relations have they helped to disrupt? They tend usually to choke congregational singing, and thus to rob the body of God’s people of their God-given right to praise him in his sanctuary. They almost always help to foster anti-scriptural styles of church music, debauching to the taste, and obstructive, instead of assisting, to true devotional feelings. Whereas the advocates of organs usually defend them on grounds of musical culture and aesthetic refinement, I now attack them on those very grounds. I assert that the organ is peculiarly inimical to lyrical taste, good music, and every result which a cultivated taste pursues, apart from conscientious regard for God. The instrument, by its very structure, is incapable of adaptation to the true purposes of lyrical music. It cannot have any arsis or thesis, any rhythm or expression of emphasis, such as the pulsatile instruments have. Its tones are too loud, brassy and dominant; all syllabication is drowned. Thus the church music is degraded from that didactic, lyrical eloquence, which is its scriptural conception, to those senseless sounds expressly condemned by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 12.-14. In truth, the selection of this particular instrument as the preferred accompaniment of our lyrical worship betrays artistic ignorance in Protestants, or else a species of superfluity of naughtiness in choosing precisely the instrument specially suited to popish worship.

It so happens that the artistic world has an amusement—the Italian opera—whose aim is very non-religious indeed, but whose art-theory and method are precisely the same with those of scriptural church music. Both are strictly lyrical. The whole conception in each is this: to use articulate, rational words and sentences as vehicles for intelligible thoughts, by which the sentiments are to be affected, and to give them the aid of metre, rhythm and musical sounds to make the thoughts impressive. Therefore, all the world’s artists select, for the opera-orchestras, only the pulsatile and chiefly the stringed instruments.

As organ has never been seen in a theatre Europe; only those instruments are admitted which can express arsis and thesis. I presume the proposal to introduce an organ into the Italian opera would be received by every musical artist in Europe as a piece of bad taste, which would produce a guffaw of contempt. This machine, thus fatally unfit for all the true purposes of musical worship and lyrical expression, has, indeed, a special adaptation to the idolatrous purposes of Rome, to which purposes all Protestants profess to be expressly hostile. So that, in selecting so regularly Rome’s special instrument of idolatry, these Protestants either countenance their own enemies or betray an artistic ignorance positively vulgar. Consequently, one is not surprised to find this incorrect taste offending every cultivated Christian ear by every imaginable perversity, under the pretext of divine worship. The selections made are the most bizarre and unsuitable. The execution is over loud, inarticulate, brassy, fitted only "to split the ears of the groundleings, capable, for the most part, of naught but inexplicable noise and dumbshows." The pious taste is outraged by the monopolizing of sacred time, and the indecent thrusting aside of God’s holy worship to make room for "solos," which are unfit in composition, and still more so in execution, where the accompaniment is so hopelessly out of relation to the voice that if the one had the small-pox (as apparently it often has St. Vitus’ dance) the other would be in no danger of catching the disease, and the words, probably senseless at best, are so mouthed as to convey no more ideas to the hearers than the noise of Chines tom-toms. Worshippers of true taste and intelligence, who know what the fines music in Europe really is, are so wearied by these impertinences that they almost shiver at the thought of the infliction. The holy places of our God are practically turned into fifth-rate Sunday theatres.

I shall be reminded that there are some presbyterian churches with organs where these abuses do not follow. "They need not follow in any." I reply that they are the customary result of the unscriptural plans. If there should be some sedate boys who are allowed to play with fire-arms, but do not shoot their little sisters through the brain, yet that result follows so often as to ground the rule that no parent should allow this species of plaything to his children. The innovation is in itself unhealthy; and hence, when committed to the management of young people, who have but a slim modicum of cultivation, such as prevails in this country at large, has a regular tendency to all these offensive abuses.

2nd. I find a still more serious objection to instrumental music in churches when I connect the doctrine of God’s word concerning worship with the facts of human psychology. Worship must be an act of personal homage to God, or it is a hypocrisy and offence. The rule is that we must "glorify God in our bodies and spirits, which are his." The whole human person, with all its faculties, appropriately takes part in this worship; or they are all redeemed by him and consecrated to him. Hence our voices should, at suitable times, accompany our minds and hearts. Again, all true worship is rational. The truth intelligently known and intelligibly uttered is the only instrument and language of true worship. Hence all social public worship must be didactic. The apostle has settled this beyond possible dispute in 1st Corinthians. Speaking in an unknown tongue, when there is no one to interpret, he declares can have no possible religious use, except to be a testimony for converting pagan unbelievers. If none such are present, Paul expressly orders the speaker in unknown tongues to be silent in the congregation; and this although the speaker could correctly claim the afflatus of the Holy Ghost. This strict prohibition Paul grounds on the fact that such a tongue, even though a miraculous charism, was not an articulate vehicle for sanctifying truth. And, as though he designed to clinch the application of this rule upon these very instruments of music, he selects them as the illustration of what he means. I beg the reader to examine 1 Corinthians 14:7,8,9.

Once more: man’s animal nature is sensitive, through the ear, to certain sensuous, aesthetic impressions from melody, harmony and rhythm. There is, on the one hand, a certain analogy between the sensuous excitements of the acoustic nerves and sensorium and the rational sensibilities of the soul.. (It is precisely this psychologic fact which grounds the whole power and pleasure of lyrical compositions.) Now, the critical points are these: That, while these sensuous excitements are purely animal and are no more essentially promotive of faith, holiness, or light in the conscience than the quiver of the fox-hunting horses’ ears at the sound of the bugle or the howl of the hound whelp at th sound of his master’s piano, sinful men, fallen and blinded, are ever ready to abuse this faint analogy by mistaking the sensuous impressions for, and confounding them with, spiritual affections. Blinded men are ever prone to imagine that they have religious feelings, because they have sensuous, animal feelings, in accidental juxtaposition with religious places, words, or sighs. This is the pernicious mistake which has sealed up millions of self-deceived souls for hell.

Rome encourages the delusion continually. She does this with a certain consistency between her policy and her false creed. She holds that, no matter by what motive men are induced to receive her sacraments, these convey saving grace, ex opere operato. Hence she consistently seduces men, in every way she can, to receive her sacraments by any spectacular arts or sensuous thrills of harmony. Now, Protestants ought to know that (as the apostle says) there is no more spiritual affection in these excitements of the sensorium than in sounding brass or in tinkling cymbal.

Protestants cannot plead the miserable consistency of Rome in aiding men to befool themselves to their own perdition by these confusions, for they profess to reject all opus operatum effects of sacraments, and to recognize no other instrument of sanctification than the one Christ assigned, THE TRUTH. But these organ-grinding Protestant churches are aiding and encouraging tens of thousands of their members to adopt this pagan mistake. Like the besotted Papist, they are deluded into the fancy that their hearts are better because certain sensuous, animal emotions are aroused by a mechanical machine, in a place called a church, and in a proceeding called worship.

Here, then, is the rationale of God’s policy in limiting his musical worship to the melodies of the human voice. It is a faculty of the redeemed person, and not the noise of a dead machine. The human voice, while it can produce melodious tones, can also articulate the words which are intelligible vehicles of divine truths. The hymns sung by the human voice can utter didactic truth with the impressiveness of right articulation and emphasis, and thus the pious singers can do what God commands—teach one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. For his Christian church, the non-appointment of mechanical accompaniment was its prohibition. Time will prove, we fear by a second corruption of evangelical religion and by the ruin of myriads more of nominally Christian souls, how much wiser is the psychology of the Bible than that of Mrs. Grundy.

The reader has by this time seen that I ascribe this recent departure of our Presbyterian churches from the rule of their fathers in no degree to more liberal views or enlightened spirit. I know, by an intuition which I believe every sensible observer shares, that the innovation is merely the result of an advancing wave of worldliness and ritualism in the evangelical bodies. These Christians are not wiser but simply more flesh-pleasing and fashionable. That is exactly the dimension of the strange problem. Other ritualistic adjuncts concur from time to time. Nothing is needed but the lapse of years enough for this drift, of which this music is a part, to send back great masses of our people, a material well prepared for the delusion, into the bosom of Rome and her kindred connections.

This melancholy opinion is combined, in our minds, with a full belief in the piety, good intentions and general soundness of many ministers and laymen who are now aiding the innovations. No doubt the advocates of instrumental music regard this as the sting of Dr. Girardeau’s argument, that it seems to claim all the fidelity and piety for the anti-organ party. No doubt many hearts are now exclaiming, "This is unjust, and thousands of our saintliest women are in the organ loft; our soundest ministers have organs," &c., &c. All this is perfectly true. It simply means that the best of people err and unintentionally do mischief when they begin to lean to their own understandings. The first organ I ever knew of in a Virginian Presbyterian church was introduced by one of the wisest and most saintly of pastors, a paragon of old school doctrinal rigor. But he avowedly introduced it on an argument the most unsound and perilous possible for a good man to adopt—that it would be advantageous to prevent his young people from leaving his church to run after the Episcopal organ in the city. Of course such an argument would equally justify every other sensational and spectacular adjunct to God’s ordinances, which is not criminal per se. Now this father’s general soundness prevented his carrying out the pernicious argument to other applications. A very bad organ remained the only unscriptural feature in a church otherwise well-ordered. But another less sound and staid will not carry the improper principle to disastrous results? The conclusion of this matter is, then, that neither the piety nor the good intention of our respectable opponents is disparaged by us; but that the teachers and rulers of our church, learning from the great reformers and the warning lights of church history, should take the safer position alongside of Dr. Girardeau. Their united advice would easily and pleasantly lead back to the Bible ground all the zealous and pious laymen and the saintly ladies who have been misled by fashion and incipient ritualism.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Family Worship

I touched on this subject a little under a year ago in a separate post. However I'd like to take a look at what Westminster has to say about it.


BESIDES the publick worship in congregations, mercifully established in this land in great purity, it is expedient and necessary that secret worship of each person alone, and private worship of families, be pressed and set up; that, with national reformation, the profession and power of godliness, both personal and domestick, be advanced.

I. And first, for secret worship, it is most necessary, that every one apart, and by themselves, be given to prayer and meditation, the unspeakable benefit whereof is best known to them who are most exercised therein; this being the mean whereby, in a special way, communion with God is entertained, and right preparation for all other duties obtained: and therefore it becometh not only pastors, within their several charges, to press persons of all sorts to perform this duty morning and evening, and at other occasions; but also it is incumbent to the head of every family to have a care, that both themselves, and all within their charge, be daily diligent herein.

II. The ordinary duties comprehended under the exercise of piety which should be in families, when they are convened to that effect, are these: First, Prayer and praises performed with a special reference, as well to the publick condition of the kirk of God and this kingdom, as to the present case of the family, and every member thereof. Next, Reading of the scriptures, with catechising in a plain way, that the understandings of the simpler may be the better enabled to profit under the publick ordinances, and they made more capable to understand the scriptures when they are read; together with godly conferences tending to the edification of all the members in the most holy faith: as also, admonition and rebuke, upon just reasons, from those who have authority in the family.

III. As the charge and office of interpreting the holy scriptures is a part of the ministerial calling, which none (however otherwise qualified) should take upon him in any place, but he that is duly called thereunto by God and his kirk; so in every family where there is any that can read, the holy scriptures should be read ordinarily to the family; and it is commendable, that thereafter they confer, and by way of conference make some good use of what hath been read and heard. As, for example, if any sin be reproved in the word read, use may be made thereof to make all the family circumspect and watchful against the same; or if any judgment be threatened, or mentioned to have been inflicted, in that portion of scripture which is read, use may be made to make all the family fear lest the same or a worse judgment befall them, unless they beware of the sin that procured it: and, finally, if any duty be required, or comfort held forth in a promise, use may be made to stir up themselves to employ Christ for strength to enable them for doing the commanded duty, and to apply the offered comfort. In all which the master of the family is to have the chief hand; and any member of the family may propone a question or doubt for resolution.

IV. The head of the family is to take care that none of the family withdraw himself from any part of family-worship: and, seeing the ordinary performance of all the parts of family-worship belongeth properly to the head of the family, the minister is to stir up such as are lazy, and train up such as are weak, to a fitness to these exercises; it being always free to persons of quality to entertain one approved by the presbytery for performing family-exercise. And in other families, where the head of the family is unfit, that another, constantly residing in the family, approved by the minister and session, may be employed in that service, wherein the minister and session are to be countable to the presbytery. And if a minister, by divine Providence, be brought to any family, it is requisite that at no time he convene a part of the family for worship, secluding the rest, except in singular cases especially concerning these parties, which (in Christian prudence) need not, or ought not, to be imparted to others.

V. Let no idler, who hath no particular calling, or vagrant person under pretence of a calling, be suffered to perform worship in families, to or for the same; seeing persons tainted with errors, or aiming at division, may be ready (after that manner) to creep into houses, and lead captive silly and unstable souls.

VI. At family-worship, a special care is to be had that each family keep by themselves; neither requiring, inviting, nor admitting persons from divers families, unless it be those who are lodged with them, or at meals, or otherwise with them upon some lawful occasion.

VII. Whatsoever have been the effects and fruits of meetings of persons of divers families in the times of corruption or trouble, (in which cases many things are commendable, which otherwise are not tolerable,) yet, when God hath blessed us with peace and purity of the gospel, such meetings of persons of divers families (except in cases mentioned in these Directions) are to be disapproved, as tending to the hinderance of the religious exercise of each family by itself, to the prejudice of the publick ministry, to the rending of the families of particular congregations, and (in progress of time) of the whole kirk. Besides many offences which may come thereby, to the hardening of the hearts of carnal men, and grief of the godly.

VIII. On the Lord's day, after every one of the family apart, and the whole family together, have sought the Lord (in whose hands the preparation of men's hearts are) to fit them for the publick worship, and to bless to them the publick ordinances, the master of the family ought to take care that all within his charge repair to the publick worship, that he and they may join with the rest of the congregation: and the publick worship being finished, after prayer, he should take an account what they have heard; and thereafter, to spend the rest of the time which they may spare in catechising, and in spiritual conferences upon the word of God: or else (going apart) they ought to apply themselves to reading, meditation, and secret prayer, that they may confirm and increase their communion with God: that so the profit which they found in the publick ordinances may be cherished and promoved, and they more edified unto eternal life.

IX. So many as can conceive prayer, ought to make use of that gift of God; albeit those who are rude and weaker may begin at a set form of prayer, but so as they be not sluggish in stirring up in themselves (according to their daily necessities) the spirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in some measure: to which effect, they ought to be more fervent and frequent in secret prayer to God, for enabling of their hearts to conceive, and their tongues to express, convenient desires to God for their family. And, in the meantime, for their greater encouragement, let these materials of prayer be meditated upon, and made use of, as followeth.
"Let them confess to God how unworthy they are to come in his presence, and how unfit to worship his Majesty; and therefore earnestly ask of God the spirit of prayer.
"They are to confess their sins, and the sins of the family; accusing, judging, and condemning themselves for them, till they bring their souls to some measure of true humiliation.
"They are to pour out their souls to God, in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, for forgiveness of sins; for grace to repent, to believe, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; and that they may serve God with joy and delight, walking before him.
"They are to give thanks to God for his many mercies to his people, and to themselves, and especially for his love in Christ, and for the light of the gospel.
"They are to pray for such particular benefits, spiritual and temporal, as they stand in need of for the time, (whether it be morning or evening,) as anent health or sickness, prosperity or adversity.
"They ought to pray for the kirk of Christ in general, for all the reformed kirks, and for this kirk in particular, and for all that suffer for the name of Christ; for all our superiors, the king's majesty, the queen, and their children; for the magistrates, ministers, and whole body of the congregation whereof they are members, as well for their neighbours absent in their lawful affairs, as for those that are at home.
"The prayer may be closed with an earnest desire that God may be glorified in the coming of the kingdom of his Son, and in doing of his will, and with assurance that themselves are accepted, and what they have asked according to his will shall be done."

X. These exercises ought to be performed in great sincerity, without delay, laying aside all exercises of worldly business or hinderances, not withstanding the mockings of atheists and profane men; in respect of the great mercies of God to this land, and of his severe corrections wherewith lately he hath exercised us. And, to this effect, persons of eminency (and all elders of the kirk) not only ought to stir up themselves and families to diligence herein, but also to concur effectually, that in all other families, where they have power and charge, the said exercises be conscionably performed.

XI. Besides the ordinary duties in families, which are above mentioned, extraordinary duties, both of humiliation and thanksgiving, are to be carefully performed in families, when the Lord, by extraordinary occasions, (private or publick,) calleth for them.

XII. Seeing the word of God requireth that we should consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works; therefore, at all times, and specially in this time, wherein profanity abounds, and mockers, walking after their own lusts, think it strange that others run not with them to the same excess of riot; every member of this kirk ought to stir up themselves, and one another, to the duties of mutual edification, by instruction, admonition, rebuke; exhorting one another to manifest the grace of God in denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and in living godly, soberly and righteously in this present world; by comforting the feeble-minded, and praying with or for one another. Which duties respectively are to be performed upon special occasions offered by Divine Providence; as, namely, when under any calamity, cross, or great difficulty, counsel or comfort is sought; or when an offender is to be reclaimed by private admonition, and if that be not effectual, by joining one or two more in the admonition, according to the rule of Christ, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

XIII. And, because it is not given to every one to speak a word in season to a wearied or distressed conscience, it is expedient, that a person (in that case,) finding no ease, after the use of all ordinary means, private and publick, have their address to their own pastor, or some experienced Christian: but if the person troubled in conscience be of that condition, or of that sex, that discretion, modesty, or fear of scandal, requireth a godly, grave, and secret friend to be present with them in their said address, it is expedient that such a friend be present.

XIV. When persons of divers families are brought together by Divine Providence, being abroad upon their particular vocations, or any necessary occasions; as they would have the Lord their God with them whithersoever they go, they ought to walk with God, and not neglect the duties of prayer and thanksgiving, but take care that the same be performed by such as the company shall judge fittest. And that they likewise take heed that no corrupt communication proceed out of their mouths, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.
The drift and scope of all these Directions is no other, but that, upon the one part, the power and practice of godliness, amongst all the ministers and members of this kirk, according to their several places and vocations, may be cherished and advanced, and all impiety and mocking of religious exercises suppressed: and, upon the other part, that, under the name and pretext of religious exercises, no such meetings or practices be allowed, as are apt to breed error, scandal, schism, contempt, or misregard of the publick ordinances and ministers, or neglect of the duties of particular callings, or such other evils as are the works, not of the Spirit, but of the flesh, and are contrary to truth and peace.
A. Ker.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

You Need Not Yearn To Look Back at Former Things

Ready again to open up a can of worms, as it seems I have been doing lately, I would like to now take a look at the Biblical warrant for the use of musical instruments in the stated worship of the Lord's Day. I think one of the things hindering the discussion is a misunderstanding on all our parts on the purpose of Lord's Day worship and how it may (or may not) differ from occasional worship (occasional in the "special occasion" sense not as in the frequency of meeting). So to move past that I would first like to have some introductory words on the subject.

Occasional Vs. Stated Meetings

Stated Services

The stated service is the worship services that take place on Sunday's, as has been "stated" by the Elders of the Church. This service differs from occasional services in the respect that it is stated by God to occur on a specific day and in a specific manner.

Francis Turretin says:

For although sacred assemblies for the public exercises of piety can and ought to be frequented on other days also by everyone (as far as their business will allow) and every pious person is bound in duty to his conscience to have privately his daily devotional exercises, still on this day above others a holy convocation ought to take place (as was the custom on the Sabbath, Lev. 23:3) in which there may be leisure for devout attention to the reading and hearing of the word (Heb. 10:25), the celebration of the sacraments (Acts 20:7), the psalms and prayer (Col. 3:16; Acts 1:14), to alms and help to the poor (1 Cor. 16:2) and in general to all that sacred service pertaining to external and stated worship. (Turretin, Enlentic Theology Vol. II, 11, Q. XIV, xxvi)

Occasional Services

The occasional service are things like daily prayers, family worship, weddings, funerals, and other such things that happen on occasions and a particular way of organizing are not explicitly spoken of in Scripture. Here is a specific example and explanation provided by the RPCNA:

Today the worship of the family and of the individual is primarily a meditation on God’s Word accompanied by prayer and praise. Those leading family or group worship do not have the authority to preach officially, to dispense the sacraments, to pronounce the benediction, or to exercise ecclesiastical discipline. The worship of the Church properly takes place as the Church is assembled for that purpose under the direction of the elders. (The Worship of the Church: A Reformed Theology of Worship)
Now to The Exciting Part!!!

First I would like to give you a few varied and quite striking quotes from Dead Old White Guystm that span the generations.

John Calvin (I am required by law to begin with Calvin) from his commentary on Psalm 71:22:

In speaking of employing the psaltery (a musical instrument not the Psalter) and the harps in this exercise, [David] alludes to the generally prevailing custom of his time. To sing the praises of God upon the harp and psaltery unquestionably formed a part of the training and of the service of God under that dispensation of shadows and figures; but they are not now to be used in public thanksgiving. We are not, indeed, forbidden to use, in private, musical intruments, but they are banished out of the churches by the plain command of the Holy Spirit, when Paul in 1 Cor 14:13, lays pray to him only in a known tongue.
Charles Spurgeon (A Baptist for God's sake) from his commentary on Psalm 71:22:
There was a typical signification in [instruments]; and upon this account [instruments] are not only rejected and condemned by the whole army of Protestant Divines, as for instance, by Zwingli, Calvin, Peter Martyr, Zepperus, Paroeus, Willet, Ainsworth, Ames, Calderwood, and Cotton; who do, with one mouth, testify against them, most of them expressly affirming that [instruments] are a part of the abrogated legal pedagogy. So that we might as well recall the incense, tapers, sacrifices, new moons, circumcision, and all the other shadows of the law into use again. . But Aquinas himself also though a Popish schoolman pleads against [instruments] upon the same account, quia aliquid figurabant and saith the Church in his time did not use them ne videatur judaizare, lest they should seem to judaize (in reference to the Judaizers Paul speaks against in his letters).
John Crysostom (really old guy) on Psalm 92:3:
Instrumental music was only permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. God condescended to their weakness, becasue they were lately drawn off from idols.
Adam Clarke (a Methodist) looking at Eusebius on Psalm 92:3:
Eusebius, in his comment on this Psalm, says:"The Psaltery of ten strings is the worship of the Holy Spirit, performed by means of the five senses of the body, and by the five powers of the soul." And, to confirm this interpretation, he quotes the apostle, 1 Cor. 14:15, "I will pray with the spirit, and with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also. As the mind has its influence by which it moves the body, so the spirit has its own influence by which it moves the soul." Whatever may be thought of this gloss, one thing is pretty evident from it, that instrumental music was not in use in the Church of Christ in the time of Eusebius, which was near the middle of the fourth century. Had any such thing then existed in the Christian Church, he would have doubtless alluded to or spiritualized it; or, as he quoted the words of the apostle above, would have shown that carnal usages were substituted for spiritual exercises. I believe the whole verse should be translated thus: Upon the asur, upon the nebel, upon the higgayon, with the kinnor. Thus it stands in the Hebrew.
Augustine on singing in worship without instrumental accompaniment:
Sometimes from over jealousy, I would entirely put from me and from the Church the melodies of the sweet chants that we use in the Psalter, lest our ears seduce us and the way of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, seems the safe one, who as I have often heard, made the reader chant with so slight a change of voice that it was more like speaking than singing. And yet when I call to mind the tears I shed when I heard the chants of the Church in the infancy of my recovered faith and reflect that I was affected not by mere music but by the subject brought out as it were by clear voices and appropriate tune, then, in turn I confess how useful is the practice.
And one more from Calvin on Psalm 33:2:
The name of God, no doubt, can properly speaking, be celebrated only by the articulate voice, but it is not without reason that David adds to this those aids by which believers wanting to stimulate themselves the more to this exercise, especially considering that he was speaking to God's ancient people. There is a distinction, however, to be observed here, that we may not indiscriminately consider as applicable to ourselves every thing which was formerly enjoined upon the Jews. I have no doubt that playing upon cymbals, touching of the harp and the viol, and all that kind of music, which is so frequently mentioned in the Psalms, was a part of the education, that it is to say the puerile instruction of the law, I speak of the stated service of the temple. For even now if believers choose to cheer themselves with musical instruments, they should I think, make it their object not to dissever their cheerfulness from the praises of God. But when they frequent the sacred assemblies musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this ,as well as other things, from the Jews.

Men who are found of outward pomp may delight in that noise, but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the Apostle is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints only in a known tongue. (1 Cor 14:16). he voice of man, although not understood by the generality, assuredly excels all inanimate instruments of music and yet we see what Paul determines concerning speaking in an unknown tongue...Moreover, since the Holy Spirit, expressly warns us of this danger by the mouth of Paul to proceed beyond what we are there warranted by him is not only, I must say, unadvised zeal, but wicked and perverse obstinacy.
Moving On

This ought to give us a good starting point. My next post will look at the historical use of Instrumentation in worship through the centuries by the whole Church. Some of you may be quite surprised.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Another Look at Exclusive Psalmody

Another Look at Exclusive Psalmody

One of the most used critiques of EP is the pointing to supposed snippets of "hymns" in Paul's letters and other places in the New Testament. The simple response to this is: Where are they? By that I mean if hymns had been use and were being written why do we have zero archaeological evidence for it? We have fragments of nearly every conceivable thing from the 1st and 2nd centuries but why no hymns? Now these arguments are weak mainly because they are arguments from silence but also because they are hardly enough for those who speak against EP. I would also like to as well repeat the refrain that I am not an EPist but I must admit that I do have sympathy for their position.

That all being said I have included a snippet so we can see how serious the Reformers took this issue:

‘All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without His own express commandment, is Idolatry’-- John Knox

By the way this weekend/next week I am going to begin a couple posts on the non-use of Instruments in Worship.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Weekly Communion?

Calvin in his Institutes argues for a weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper. He makes several statements in Book IV concerning this notion including: “No assembly of the church should be held without the word being preached, prayers being offered, the Lord’s Supper administered and alms given” (4.17.44) and “The Lord’s Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually”(4.17.46). We have done well to remember that preaching, praying and the offering be carried on each Sunday but have forsaken Calvin’s and Scriptures understanding of weekly communion. Calvin defends this position by appealing to the practice of the Apostles as recorded by Luke in Acts 2:42 and 20:7. These texts give an account of the weekly meetings of the Apostles and that they included “breaking bread” together. Calvin as well in his commentary on 1st Corinthians 11:25-27 supports this idea of weekly communion.

John Calvin develops his argument for weekly communion by first distinguishing in the Institutes between Zwingli’s memorial view and his own understanding of Christ’s real presence in the elements as well as how this changes the way we view our own participation in the Lord’s Supper. Now this is of course not to say Calvin believed in transubstantiation or even Luther’s consubstantiation but that he did confess “[Christ’s] flesh is meat indeed and his blood drink indeed, nourishing us unto life eternal…”(4.17.4) and that “Christ is the only food of our soul…” (4.17.1). In other words Calvin says that Christ is truly present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper and that these elements are a way in which we receive the “strength” of the food which is Christ’s presence in our lives. Calvin reiterates this by making it clear that any time we take the Lord’s Supper that we recall that “As bread nourishes, sustains, and protects our bodily life so the body of Christ is the only food to invigorate and keep alive the soul.” (4.17.3) To forsake this meal Calvin says would lead to the atrophying of the human soul. Communion is vital to the life and being of the Christian man or woman.

The life bread of the Church is Jesus Christ. We confess this to be true yet we deny the benefits to the people of God that this life bread brings by abrogating our duties as teachers of the faith when we do not follow the instruction of Paul in his letters and our Reformed heritage in John Calvin with respect to the act and true presence of Jesus Christ in the elements of communion. Calvin says, “Take, eat, drink. This is my body, which is broken for you: this is my blood, which is shed for the remission of sins” (4.17.2). Again in other words Calvin very much agrees that Christ is not being symbolic in these expressions but is truly present in the elements of communion. Now Calvin does not say, like Luther and Rome that Christ is physically present, but is truly spiritually present in the act of the Eucharist.

Now that we know what Calvin means by the Lord’s Supper and why we should practice this weekly, how does this finding help to encourage and instruct the modern Church in its life and faith today? Well firstly when we do understand this teaching of the spiritual presence of Jesus Christ in the feast we now take the corporate gathering for the Lord’s Day much more seriously. When the Eucharist is celebrated weekly we have the opportunity to be spiritual fed by Christ in the most intimate of ways.

Secondly, we have in modern days become quite skeptical about the mysteries of the faith. We have relied, to a great extent, too strongly on the empirical to establish the foundations of our faith and have come to be wary of speaking in mysterious terms and paradox whereas our ancestors found great comfort and strength in the mysteries that thrive in the Word of God. This reliance on the observed belies, especially when speaking of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a true lack of faith in the work of Christ in our lives. We have come to expect that the real presence means for us our physical and corporeal dimensions be lifted up by the existence of Christ in our persons. By reestablishing the reality of Christ’s spiritual presence in a weekly communion service we can by both application and this corporate bond establish for our parishioners a lively and direct relationship with Christ that in physical way reminds them of the spiritual presence of Christ.

The life of the mainline Church is hungry for the work of God. It acts and thinks as a malnourished child reacting swiftly and without forethought in any number of arenas. I believe this is a combination of things, including the forsaking of the power of the Scriptures; most important of these is that we have forsaken the daily bread that our Lord Jesus provides to us. Calvin makes the point, as we have discussed earlier, that a body cannot live without proper food. What the Church has attempted to do is forsake this life bread because it has abrogated the proper understanding of the intent of the meal in the first place. By making it nothing more than a memorial (also allowing paedocommunion and not fencing the table has helped lead to the disintegration of the centrality of the Lord’s Supper, however, those are other issues for another time) the Church has abrogated its duty to teach its members the true meaning and benefit of the Lord’s Supper.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Ok I am ready, after finally getting my internet to work, to post my "longer post" on Exclusive Psalmody. I want to start off by saying I am not an EPist. However I have found the arguments put forward by the RPCNA to be convincing and sound and that is what I want to present for you today. First I want to define how the Westminster Standards define the Regulative Principle of Worship and I want to state this is the definition I will refer back to when I speak of the RPW. I believe this definition is biblical when discussing what is proper in worship, especially for the Reformed wing of the Church universal. So here we go:

Reformed Principle of Worship

Chapter 21.1 in the Westminster Confession:

The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all ones might.[1] But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.[2]

1. Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1-4a; 50:6; 86:8-10; 89:5-7; 95:1-6; 97:6; 104:1-35; 145:9-12; Acts 14:17; Deut. 6:4-5
2. Deut. 4:15-20; 12:32; Matt. 4:9-10; 15:9; Acts 17:23-25; Exod. 20:4-6, John 4:23-24; Col. 2:18-23

The underlined and bolded portion of WCF Ch. 21 above is the definition that I will follow in this discussion. One may (and some do) disagree with this definition of the RPW but this is undoubtedly the way 99% of the descendant denominations of Westminster define it.

Further Reading on the RPW:

Banner of Truth
D.G. Hart and John Frame Debate Long, but well worth the time

Moving On to the Heart of the Matter

Having established that the Westminster Confession states that God has prescribed how it is that we should worship him as the New Testament church I want to begin by saying that from now on we will stay in Scripture and I will not use secondary sources and I would appreciate it if when we discuss this we all do the same because I believe this is primarily a primary text question.

Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19

The two main texts in question are Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19, both having the refrain "Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs". Interestingly enough both camps use these verses as keystones in their argument, even more interesting is that the 1780 Presbyterian psalter uses these two verses as source texts on its title page. So why is it that both parties can use these verses to prove their point? Well to give a little background the RP's and the forefathers of nearly all American presbyterians gave greater credence to the Greek Septuagint than the Hebrew Masoretic text (this is vital to understand and there are many reasons for it but that is not the purpose of this post). Therefore when an RP takes the New Testament Greek words
ψαλμοις, υμνοις, and ωδαις πνευματικαις (Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs) and sees their use in the Septuagint Book of Psalms one notices that all three are used to describe the Psalms themselves. For example Psalm 72:20 says "The prayers of David the Son of Jesse are ended" and in the Greek Septuagint the word translated "prayers" is υμνοις or "hymns". Also the intro to Psalm 76 (Psalm 75 in the Greek) uses ψαλμος and ωδoς interchangeably referring to Asaph's Psalm as a song. This same thing can be seen in the introductions to Psalm 65, Psalm 66, Psalm 67, Psalm 68, Psalm 75, and Psalm 76.

Therefore what Paul is saying in Col. 3:16 and Eph 5:19 can be seen as a hendiatris, or in plain English, it is nothing more than a Greek figure of speech intended on saying one thing through three words. Furthermore Nehemiah 12:27 and Nehemiah 12:46-47 are also key verses for the EPer in this defense of the hendiatris. Lets look at them now.
Verse 27: Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres.

Verses 46 and 47: For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. So all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah gave the portions due the singers and the gatekeepers as each day required, and set apart the consecrated portion for the Levites, and the Levites set apart the consecrated portion for the sons of Aaron.
Compare the two and ask the question: What were the songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving led by David and Asaph? Ergo what might Paul be referring to in Colossians 3:16 but the Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of David and Asaph? Again Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 are not commanding them to sing the Psalms and Hymns and spiritual songs but is specifically telling them to sing the Psalms to each other.

Now I want to end there to allow for some more in depth discussion in the comments.

Update: Here is a good site for some quotes on EP

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Over at United Kirk they had a rigorous debate as to the place of the Sabbath in our age. Should we hold to a strict understanding of Sabbath or not? And Why?

Here is what the WCF has to say:

CHAP. XXI. - Of Religious Worship, and the
Sabbath Day.

7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time
be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and
perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He hath particularly
appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from
the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of
the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day
of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's Day, and is to be
continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due
preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs before-hand, do
not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and
thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up,
the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the
duties of necessity and mercy.