The Musicians of 1 Chronicles 25

For my morning devotions the last couple of weeks I have been reading through the book of 1 Chronicles. 1 Chronicles has taken a bit of a hard time in the higher critical era which is a shame. I can honestly say I do not think in 28 years I have ever heard a Sermon that originated out this book, which is even more unfortunate. The book is filled with innumerable stories and explanations that make the rest of the Old Testament that much clearer and understandable. It also helps in illustrating the life of an Israelite in the period of Israel’s greatest prosperity as a nation, the time spent under the rule of David and Solomon. All that being said the thing I wanted to highlight in this short piece this morning is the section I read this day over coffee and cereal. It again centers around an issue that God seems to continually toss into my lap at every turn of events and readings of Holy Scripture. That issue as one may have surmised at this point from the title is the proper place of musical intrumentation in the worship of God in the New Testament world and church life.  Despite my protestations and the instruction and pleas of others there definitely looks to be a sharp division (as the writer of the Book of Hebrews demonstrates on nearly every page of his letter) between the worship of God in the Old Testament Temple by shadows and types with the slaughtering of bulls and burning incense and all the smells and bells that accompianied worship in the time of David and Solomon up till the day Rome destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the worship in the Church Age in which we now all live. One of these “types” that has seen resurgent use in the last 150 years has been the development of the playing of musical intruments (particularly the organ and piano) in worship. This is something our Puritan and Presbyterian forefathers never dreamt of doing, yet one of the interesting things about the introduction of musical intstruments into worship is that it came about for many of the same reasons people are looking to slide shows, drama, dancing, and other violations of the Regulative Principle in today’s culture. William Romaine, an Anglican priest writing in the early 1800’s notes in his work An Essay on Psalmody that the introduction of musical instruments (which is a side issue and technically unrelated to Exclusive Psalmody) was done in his Church for the effect of attracting and keeping the youths in the pews! How seemingly the same are the arguments made for the inclusion of every thing one can imagine in the worship by the broadly evangelical. Yet how do we speak against it? By using identical arguments found in books like Mr. Romaine’s and others including John Girardeau in defense of acapella worship.

Getting back to the text of 1 Chronicles 25 the basic background is that David is separating for a special service some of the Sons of Asaph that they alone should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. In verses 1-8 we read who the sons are and what their responsibilities will be in the Temple. Verses 9-31 is the listing of what order they have been placed as far as their duties go. So what we read here is three-fold. Firstly, not all the priests who served in the Temple were to play musical instruments, only those given by David for that task, echoing David’s earlier statements in 1 Chronicles 15:16 and 16:4,9.  Secondly, they were only to use the instruments that David had constructed for this purpose.  There is no mention made of David giving these Sons of Asaph the right to do what they pleased in regards to musical instrumentation. In fact their conduct is strictly regulated. Thirdly and finally, we are to notice in verse 6 that this use of Musical Instrumentation was specifically rooted in the worship at the Temple. That there is an intimate tie between the Temple Sacrifices and the use of Musical Instruments.

Now what does this all mean? Well at least to this observer this means that musical instrumentation has a place in the Church that we ought to more closely take a look at and take our pre-suppositions and arguments based on nothing more than romantic notions and understandings and examine what it is we are to do more closely in the Worship of the Divine.

“The Christian View of Man”

A quick word before I hit the hay tonight. I just finished Machen’s The Christian View of Man and outside of his waffling on 6/24 Creation he provides many great words defending and confirming the place of the Law of God in the lives of believers and unbelievers . In his chapter on the “Majesty of the Law of God” (#16) he lays out a number of arguments supporting the Law as being the only rule for all mankind, Christians and non-Christians alike. For example he says this on page 192:

What then is the remedy for the threatened disruption of society and for the rapidly progressing decay of liberty? There is only one remedy. It is the rediscovery of the Law of God.

I highly recommend picking this book up and reading it. It is a printing of several radio addresses Machen gave for laymen over local Philadelphia radio back in the mid-1930’s. There are many eerie predictions that Machen makes about the future of mankind (especially concerning the Atomic Bomb) that will really keep you fascinated. It is 245 pages and is a quick read.

Country Boy Can Survive

A great article by D.G. Hart (someone I do not agree with often) highlights the divide between denominational loyalty to the city and the needs of rural congregations. Dr. Hart makes excellent points that I highly recommend you listen to and meditate upon while sipping your latte.

Here is a snippet.

Lost in this understanding of ministry among cosmopolitans is the sense that one might be trying to elevate one’s own status by hobnobbing with the influential, that the church’s egalitarian streak has a preferential option for the meek and lowly, or that touting pastoral success in New York City leads to a generation of prospective pastors who will not remain in rural communities once they have seen the lure of church life in the cosmopolis – not to mention that the scale, anonymity, and standard of living in places like Manhattan skew church life in ways that may not be compatible with the agrarian imagery that comes straight from the pages of holy writ.

Of course, the reasons why evangelicals fawn over the city may stem from sources other than the obvious appeal of bright lights and big buildings. One of them may a born-again infatuation with celebrity and the disillusionment that follows when public figures like Mark Sanford or Miss California, Carrie Prajean, fall from grace. Evangelicals are disposed to understand grace and faith in extraordinary categories and so overlook stories of ordinary believers, routine piety, and even rural congregations as insignificant…

J.H. Thornwell on Church Government

The Regulative Principle
Applied to Church Government

James Henley Thornwell

The argument from the Scriptures against the system of Boards is, of course, a very short one to all those who sincerely receive and adopt our Standards. If our model of church government is according to the pattern revealed in the Mount, whatever is subversive of its fundamental principles must necessarily be unscriptural and destitute of all Divine authority. The great object of a visible church organization or definite system of church government is to put the Church in a situation, and provide her with all the necessary furniture of officers and means, for building up the kingdom of God and extending its conquests throughout the world. When our adorable Redeemer ascended up on high “He gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

As under the Old Dispensation nothing connected with the worship or discipline of the Church of God was left to the wisdom or discretion of man, but everything was accurately prescribed by the authority of God, so, under the New, no voice is to be heard in the household of faith but the voice of the Son of God. The power of the Church is purely ministerial and declarative. She is only to hold forth the doctrine, enforce the laws, and execute the government which Christ has given her. She is to add nothing of her own to, and to subtract nothing from, what her Lord has established. Discretionary power she does not possess.

Christianity in its living principles and its outward forms is purely a matter of Divine revelation. The great error of the Church in all ages, the fruitful source of her apostacy and crime, has been a presumptuous reliance upon her own understanding. Her own inventions have seduced her from loyalty to God, and filled her sanctuary with idols and the hearts of her children with vain imaginations. The Bible cuts at the very root of this evil by affording us a perfect and infallible rule of faith and practice. The absolute perfection of the Scriptures as a directory to man was a cardinal principle of the Reformation, and whatever could not be traced to them either directly or by necessary inference was denounced as a human invention – as mere will-worship, which God abhors so deeply that an inspired Apostle has connected it with idolatry or the worshiping of angels.

Now the total silence of the Word of God in regard to such contrivances as Boards seals their condemnation. Nay, they are virtually prohibited by those plain directions of the Scriptures in regard to church-government which lead directly to a different system. But, however this may be, it certainly rests on those who maintain and uphold them to produce the warrant by which they have been formed. No system of measures so important in its results, so solemn in its bearings upon the kingdom of Christ, should be adopted by any denomination of Christians without the clear and unambiguous sanction of Him who alone is King upon the holy hill of Zion. To our minds it is clear that our Saviour constituted His Church with a special reference to Missionary operations, and we shall be slow to believe that the most successful method of conducting them was never discovered until eighteen centuries after His ascension.

The only plausible pretext by which a scriptural sanction can be pleaded for such institutions proceeds upon the supposition of a defect in the Constitution of the Church. It takes for granted that our regular ecclesiastical courts are inadequate for the work, and then, upon the general principle that where duties are clearly imposed the necessary means of compliance are implied, the Church bases the right of resorting to such inventions as shall enable her to obey the commandments of God. The scriptural view of the Church, as a visible institution, is that she is a mere instrumentality employed by Christ for the purpose of accomplishing His own ends. She has no will, wisdom nor power of herself. She is the instrument, and He the agent. She is not His confidential agent, to whom He communicates His will, and leaves it to be executed as she may see best. She is a positive institution, and therefore must show a definite warrant for everything that she does. It is not enough that her measures are not condemned. They must be sanctioned, positively sanctioned, by the power which ordains her, or they are null and void. Like the Congress of the United States, she acts under a written constitution, and must produce her written authority for all that she undertakes. Hence, so far is the Church from having the power to ordain means, that she is herself the very means by which her glorious Head accomplishes His purposes in the world; and, therefore, as being ordained by Him, must be completely adequate to meet the ends in view. Let us only have faith in the success and efficacy of Divine institutions, and we shall find experience more than justifying our highest expectations.

We pass now, in the last place, to consider those motives of expediency and necessity by which Boards and permanent Agencies have been commended by their friends, and even by the highest court of the Church itself. And at the very outset of our remarks upon this head, we would utterly protest against the principle that expediency is any measure of duty or obligation in the Church of God. We acknowledge no law but the Divine will, and we acknowledge no successful method of ascertaining the will of God but His own written revelation, which we believe to be perfect and adapted as well as designed to furnish the man of God thoroughly for every good work. We can cordially adopt the language of the immortal Calvin when speaking of the Divine Word, for it is the language of truth and soberness: “If we turn aside from the Word, as I have just now said, though we may strive with strenuous haste, yet, since we have got off the track, we shall never reach the goal. For we should so reason that the splendor of the divine countenance, which even the apostle calls “unapproachable,” is for us like an inexplicable labyrinth unless we are conducted into it by the thread of the Word; so that it is better to limp along this path than to dash with all speed outside it.” (Institutes

The position that expediency is an adequate guide in any department of religious duty proceeds upon a principle having a much closer affinity to the atheistic philosophy of Epicurus, especially as developed in modern times, than to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God uniformly represents man as blind and ignorant, incapable of seeing afar off, perverted in his judgment, warped in his understanding, seared in his conscience and misguided in his affections; and therefore requiring a heavenly teacher and a heavenly guide at every step of his progress. He has not light in himself in reference to Divine things. He is a child, a fool to be taught and led. Utterly unqualified by the narrowness of his faculties to foresee the future, he cannot tell even what is good for himself all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow, and much less can he determine upon a large scale what is expedient for the Church of God. Surrounded by his natural darkness, he has a light, most graciously bestowed, which penetrates its gloom – even the sure Word of prophesy – and to this he is required to give heed.

No more uncertain and fluctuating guide can be followed than calculations of expediency depending upon contingencies which no man can foresee, distorted by the conflicting interests of society, and shaped by the visionary impulses of imagination or the selfish purposes of pride and ambition. If the test of expediency can be introduced in one case, it may in another; and it would be impossible to set limits to the confusion and disorder growing out of the manifold inventions in which it would be found most fearfully prolific. To remove a single chink from the obstructions which bank up a mighty body of waters is to prepare the way for the desolations of a flood. The only safe principle is the noble principle of Chillingworth – the Bible, the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants.

Excerpted from “Argument Against Church-Boards” (1841) and “The Argument For Church Boards Answered” (1842), in James Henley Thornwell’s Collected Writings, volume four.

James Henley Thornwell

The “Charles Hodge of the South” (or better yet Charles Hodge was the J.H. Thornwell of the North) was the Dean of Southern Presbyterianism during the early-to-mid 1800’s. His writings are unfortunately much neglected in our day as Southern Presbyterianism itself has been purposefully and systematically expunged from seminary and church instruction. While he most assuredly has been apologized to death for being a “man of his time” in regards to his views on slavery et al I do not wish to spend time excusing and deliberating on his antiquarian views on certain subjects. What I do intend to do is spend a week or so giving you a taste of his brilliant theological mind. It is my hope that just as R.L. Dabney’s Systematic Theology has found its way back into print (find it here) that someone will take the effort to re-publish Dr. Thornwell’s 4-Volume Collected Writings as well as Benjamin Morgan Palmer’s Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell.(Google Books here)

Here is his short Wikipedia entry.

Tale of Two Calvins

This is my obligatory Calvin 500th birthday post

The occasion of Calvin’s 500th Birthday has led to competing “celebrations” of Calvin’s life and work in Geneva over the last week. One led by WARC, WCC, and other “mainline” organizations that featured such speakers as  Clifton Kirkpatrick, former Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) (read some his thoughts on Calvin here ) and Setri Nyomi, Pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana (He is quoted as saying Calvin would have been for furthering Marxist ideals in society). The other is being backed by NAPARC and other more “conservative” Reformed and Presbyterian Groups (see their website here). So much so that they were required to “share” venues in Calvin’s adopted town. One celebrates the Calvin read through the eyes of Modern Liberalism and Neo-Orthodoxy (read here: Liberation Theology and Karl Barth) and the other allows the John Calvin of 16th-Century Geneva speak for himself (no bias here).  It makes one wonder if both sides are celebrating the same man or each have developed, to paraphrase Albert Schweitzer’s quip about the 19th-Century “Quest for the Historical Jesus”, a Calvin that looks, breathes, and thinks like a reincarnated version of themselves.


As an example here is a Calvin article on a doctrine John Calvin vigorously defended that the Neo-Orthodox and Liberationists would have to and do deal gymnastically with:

On Limited Atonement:

Dr. Roger Nicole Deftly and Carefully Turns Away the Thoughts of R.T. Kendall on Calvin’s Thoughts on the Extent of the Atonement.

For those unaware R.T. Kendall wrote one of the oft quoted books concerning the “Calvin vs. the Calvinists” discussion. In other words it is Kendall’s these that specifically the Westminster Divines (and their Confession of Faith) “bastardized” John Calvin and made him out to believe things he never believed. Dr. Nicole here takes apart Kendell’s thesis. (Also be sure to check out Paul Helm’s two books (Find them here and here) and Richard Muller’s book on the same subject here) that also show Kendall to be quite incorrect in his thoughts concerning Calvin and Westminster)

S. Lewis Johnson

Probably the best thing about the internet for me has been the availability of previously unknown teachers being made known and their influence on the development of my theology. This goes for men from John Calvin (who I first discovered back in 1998 online, not in my PC(USA) church growing up) to the gentleman I have noted above in the title of this post. S. Lewis Johnson was Professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and was a strident defender of 5-point Calvinism and Reformed thought in general. Exepting his Dispensationalism he is a dynamite speaker and thorough exegete.

Read More Here: The SLJ Institute

I highly recommend starting your listening with S. Lewis Johnson’s lectures against “Modified Calvinism” better known as Amyraldism.