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 generation’s.

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.

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.

Here is the "Longer Post"…

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

Speaking of Giving In to Culture

I am currently working on a more “full length post” but for right now I’d like you to be thinking about a topic with which I am going to wrestle for a good long while personally.

To give a little context I was blindsided (in a good way) this morning at RPTS on the defense by the RPCNA concerning Exclusive Psalmody. I had never heard the arguments made by my Professor (Dr. Dennis Prutow) before and I would like to search them more deeply. Be ready with your arguments.

Ministry of Worship

This is the course I am taking at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Our main texts for this class include: With Reverance and Awe by D.G. Hart and John R. Muether, Worship Reformed According to Scripture by Hughes Oliphant Old, and The Lord’s Day by Joseph A. Pipa, and Old Light on New Worship by John Price. These works are to be read for the class in the order that I have them listed here. One thing is for sure about this term, while I have less “work” to do per week the reading has doubled. This thankfully, does not present too much of a problem for me as I am a quick reader with the uncanny ability to comprehend what it is that I have read. The book I am most looking forawrd to read is the book by Joey Pipa on the Sabbath. I have always had misgivings about the laxity that most treat the Sabbath and would like to receive a more thorough understanding of Christian Sabbath. Also of interest is the work by John Price, especially since RPTS is the seminary for the RPCNA. It will be very interesting when we get to the part of the course where the professor explained in the first class he will present a defense (using the Price book and some of his own writings on the subject) of Exclusive Psalmody and non-instrumentals in worship. This should be a fascinating class.

Here, as promised, is a couple selections from a main text:

“We worship God because God created us to worship him. Worship is at the center of our existence, at the heart of our reason for being. God created us to be in his image-an image that would reflect his glory. In fact the whole creation was brought into existence to reflect the divine glory.”

Hughes Oliphant Old, “Worship Reformed According to Scripture” pg. 1

“If you listen carefully to current debates, you will encounter rhetoric that is strange for Reformed Christians. Here are some comments we have heard, none of which is terribly unusual:

  • “I like a church thats is casual, where I know I can go and relax during worship”
  • “I don’t always enjoy my church’s worship, but that’s okay. I know it will be different next week.”
  • “I’m tired of the barrenness of worship-I’m looking for something with more beauty.”
  • “Worship is ultimately a matter of taste, and there is no accounting for that.”
  • “If there is one thing you can say about our worship, it’s not boring!”

These popular sentiments all remind us that there is significant confusion about the nature, purpose, and practice of worship. This confusion extends to the Reformed community, and it underscores the urgency of recovering a biblical view of worship.

D.G. Hart and John R. Muether, “With Reverence and Awe” pg.11-12