Does Anyone Else Think Musical Instruments Get in the Way of Congregational Song?

I do.

The human voice lifted up in unison praising the Holy name of God is as good as it gets.

http://www.crownandcovenant.com/articles.asp?id=122

Revelation 14:2 and Musical Instruments in Worship

One of the verses I see most quoted in the arguments surrounding the propriety of using Musical Instruments in stated corporate worship is Revelation 14:2. This verse is used by many of the proponents of Musical Instruments as being a source text that we can point to for showing a New Testament example of the use of Musical Instruments in worship after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the short exegetical piece after the pericope I will show how the citation of this verse is folly and ripped out of context for those who wish to use it for the purpose of supporting the use Musical Instruments in worship.

Revelation 14:1-5

Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.

The above section of Scripture from Revelation 14 (specifically the highlighted part in verse 2) is often used as a proof text (and we wonder why the Puritans were not too keen on proof texting)  against the view that instruments should not be used in stated corporate worship.  However the problems with using this verse as a proof of “New Testament instrument use in worship” are many.

1) It is a dangerous thing to do, in my opinion, to use the visions of John to support practically anything we do, because hermeneutically and logically if we do it here in Rev. 14:2 then why should we not do so for the other places in Revelation where worship is described in heavenly places? (cf: Rev 4: 9-11, 5: 13-14, 7:11, 11:16, etc…)

2) The Greek grammar in this passage, specifically verse 2, is full of simile. In Greek, just as in English, simile is not meant to be taken literally. The passage uses the Greek word ως before describing the many waters (ως φωνην υδατων πολλων), the loud thunder (ως φωνην βροντης μεγαλης), and the harpers playing their harps (η φωνη ην ηκουσα ως κιθαρωδων κιθαριζοντων). I have never seen “many waters” or “loud thunder” used in corporate worship, but if we take the third clause in that way why should we exclude them? Also we would never use verse 1 in this passage to support writing God’s name on our foreheads so why would we use a like, as simile statement to support what we do in worship?

3) Even more so this passage has nothing to do with the church gathered for worship, on earth or in heaven. Remeber who/what is John describing in verse 2? He is describing the voice from heaven, not what the 144,000 are doing.

Exclusive Psalmody in the ARP, Part IX & X & Conclusion

Last in a Series on EP in the ARP Cont…

IX.

We have in addition to all the above two plain, positive, unmistakable commands in the New Testament to sing the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs of the inspired Psalter.

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns an4 spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”. (Eph. 5:19.)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Coloss. 3:16.)

We not only affirm, but have the highest authority for regarding it as an admitted fact, that the songs here referred to are the psalms and hymns of the inspired Psalter. But inasmuch as these passages are sometimes quoted in support of songs of praise other than the Psalms, we will consider them more fully under Part III of this discussion, Question 4th.

X.

As a concluding argument, let it be remembered that the New Testament knows no book of praises other than the inspired Psalter, there is no intimation whatever that another book of songs is needed or would ever be given to the church. There is neither a direction given to any man to furnish such a book, nor a single promise of the influence of the Holy Spirit to assist any man in preparing one. When Jesus “ascended on high and received gifts for men,” he bestowed upon His church all the gifts necessary for her edification to the end of time. He gave some evangelists, some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body o£ Christ. Now, if it had been necessary for the edification of His church, is it not reasonable to suppose that among other gifts He would have conferred the Spirit of Psalmody? But in vain do we look for the gift of a Psalmist or the spirit of Psalmody. No such office as hymnist is named. The apostles and all who believed through their word had, and still have, the promise of the Holy Spirit to help their infirmities in prayer, and in everything that enters into Christian service save the preparation of songs of praise. There is a promise of the Spirit’s help in the offering of praise, for Paul says: “I will sing with the Spirit;” but there is absolutely no promise of his assistance in the composition of matter to be used in praise. Seek for such pledge from the beginning to the end of the New Testament, and you will seek in vain. There is no promise made for the substitution of another system for that contained in the Book of Praise.

If the collection of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, which had been the church’s sufficient manual of praise for many generations, had been inadequate to the needs of the saints in the gospel dispensation, then He who inspired a John and a Paul to make a fuller and clearer revelation of the doctrines of grace would also have touched the lips and tuned the harps of other Davids and Asaphs. The absence of, such provision may be accepted as proof of the sufficiency of the existing book of songs to meet and satisfy every possible want in this important part of God’s worship.

The conclusion is inevitable. This Book of Praise is the only one that bears the sign manual of the church’s Lord. It is the only, one that can point to the sanction of God as the basis of its claim upon the Church of Christ, and thereby it is the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church declares that “It is the will of God that the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs contained in the Book of Psalms be sung in His worship, both public and private, nor, shall any other songs be used in worship by members of the Associate Reformed Church.”

SOME AUTHORITIES

X. (1.) Dr. Owen, and twenty-five others, signed a preface to the Westminster version of the Psalms published in 1673, in which they said: “To us, David’s Psalms seem plainly intended by these terms of Psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, which the apostle useth.”

(2.) Ridgely, in his Body of Divinity, expresses the same view, and says, “It cannot be denied that the Psalms of David are called indifferently by these names.”

(3.) Dr. Gill, the learned Calvinistic divine of the Baptist school, in the introductory remarks to his commentary on the Book of Psalms, says, “To these several names of this book, the apostle manifestly refers in Eph. v:19, and Colossians iii:16. In his exposition of Eph. v:19, thus expresses himself, “The hymns are only another name for the Book of Psalms,” and “by spiritual songs are meant the psalms of David, Asaph, etc.”

(4.) Calvin, according to Doddridge in his note to Col. iii:16, “thinks all these words refer to David’s poetical pieces.”

(5.) Dr. Broadus on Matt. xxvi:30, says, “The term ‘hymn’ must not here be taken in our common sense as differing from a Psalm, nor is there any radical distinction between the two in Col. iii:16 and Eph. v:19.”

(6.) The Right Hon. Lord Selborne, F.R.S., in the Standard work, The British Encyclopedia says: “The modern distinction between psalms and hymns is arbitrary. The former word was used by the LXX as a generic distinction, probably because it implied an accompaniment by the psaltery or other instruments. The cognate verb ‘psaltere’ has been constantly applied to hymns, both in the eastern and western Church; and the same compositions which they described generically as ‘psalms’ were also called by the LXX ‘odes’ (i.e. songs) and hymns. All the words thus used were applied by the LXX to the Davidical Psalms.”

(5th.) Again it is asked: “Is not the position of our Church a very narrow and exclusive one?”

We answer: No more so, we believe, than the Word of God and the teaching of the Presbyterian Standards. In the words of Dr. Russell:

“It is the narrowness of protection, the exclusiveness of the great dyke, which keeps back the threatening tide of sentimentalism, and saves true worship from being submerged by the dribbling rhapsodies of uninspired men. That some breakwater is needed against this tide, is the constant testimony of those who are leaders in our sister denominations. Our principle is that dyke; our declaration is a standing protest against the view that anyone may prepare matter of praise for the Church; that any and everyone may bring incense for the service of the sanctuary from any garden of spices where imagination may chance to roam; and that any Christian, in moments of spiritual exaltation, may indict the songs which shall supplant God’s own word.”

CONCLUSION

We have now finished our argument and shown a Scriptural warrant for the position of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on the subject of Psalmody. Our appeal has been to the Scriptures and to the Presbyterian Standards as interpreting them. Any arguments in favor of the use of “other songs” in the ordinance of praise must be derived from the same sources, or they are to be regarded as unworthy of answer. We have carefully avoided all side issues and arguments “ad hominem,” and confined our attention exclusively to the Scripture as the sole and sufficient arbiter on this subject. All questions, of human taste and wisdom, of history, experience or of expediency, are subordinate to this fundamental inquiry; what is the will of God? We claim that divine authority and warrant have been shown for the use of the inspired Psalter in the worship of God.

Now if any other songs are to be used we have a right to demand that similar authority be furnished. Here the burden of proof rests on those who introduce other songs in addition to what we have proved to be given by divine appointment. Let it be shown that they too have been divinely “authorized, appointed, prescribed and instituted” by Almighty God. Let it be shown that such compositions bear the direct and unmistakable impress of Christ’s authority, an impress so clear that he who refuses to use them, limiting himself to the inspired Psalm, is guilty of despising an ordinance of Christ.

Can such a case be made out? Can it be shown that I am bound to sing the songs any poet may choose to write and offer as devotional matter? Can the poet himself make such a demand upon me? Can the minister impose any obligation upon his hearers to sing any songs he may choose to announce from his pulpit? Can the Church enforce the reception and use of any hymn book she may select? Now when men are called upon to unite in praising God in the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, of the Scriptures, upon which he has impressed the sanction of his own authority, we can no more decline to respond without sin than we can refuse to read His Word or wait upon the ministry which He has appointed.

But I might have in my possession for half a century unopened and unused any one of the thousand and one hymnals now offered the public, and yet be guiltless before God. But how can this be if God has “authorized, appointed and prescribed their use” in his worship? “To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.”

“Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”

Dr. Chalmers complete article here…

Session-Controlled Communion & 1st Corninthians 11

Last evening my wife, our two little daughters, and I had the pleasure of going to our usually Lord’s Day evening service at North Hills RP Church here in Pittsburgh. We had not been there for a couple of weeks due to car troubles, birth of Mackenzie, being out of town, etc… So it was with a little surprise that we went last night to find out that North Hills was having communion. Also another surprise (actually I had forgotten) that North Hills practices what is called “Session-controlled communion” which means that anyone wanting to take communion at North Hills must meet with the Session and be approved prior to taking the elements at North Hills. As it is with many church doctrines that the mainlines and the more conservative denominations have kicked to the wayside and plain-just forgotten the Presbyterians used to be known for this. While those like NHRPC do not hand out tokens like in days passed they take very seriously the dangers associated with taking the Eucharist with laxity and disregard for its holy nature. The rationale for session-controlled communion can be found in Paul’s warning in 1st Corinthians 11 following the words of institution that we all use. Paul says:

The Lord’s Supper

23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.

Paul clearly is teaching here that a person must examine himself/herself before taking the elements and if they do not and take the elements unworthily they will do harm to themselves. Also implicit in this warning is a call to the Elders of the church at Corinth. For as I am sure Paul directed the Elders at Corinth part of the understanding of the role of the Elder in Paul’s day and in the Presbyterian system in our day is that they are responsible for the spiritual health and welfare of those under their care (cf: 1 Tim 3:5, Titus 1:7). Therefore not only does the individual have a responsible to guard themselves but the Elders have a heavenly call to guard the sheep from hurting themselves much like the Elders would protect them from any other danger. This is why many call for quarterly communion so that all can be protected properly. However as I believe that the Scriptures call for weekly communion and because of this if you are to have both session-controlled communion and weekly communion it is imperative for the session of the local church to be active in the preparation for the worship service each Lord’s Day and that includes introducing themselves to any visitors and letting them know what the policy is at the local church (not just about communion but other things as well).

What is the policy of your local congregation? How do you think this would work at a local level in your denomination?

Let me know what you think.

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 8 (Cont.)

Continuing the post below looking at Hezekiah’s reforms as a good analogy for today’s problems with the 2nd Commandment we see that Hezekiah does not hesitate to return Judah to proper worship of God. While we unfortunately in my view neither have the ability to in a manner of speaking direct the worship of an entire nation as Hezekiah did nor do we have the right to go around smashing idols like our Orange brethren at Utrecht we do have the duty to make sure our Evangelical brothers and sisters know how they are defaming the Word of God by trying to picture him in any way (including injection-mold, heat transfer, or screen printing ChipB). And especially since most representations do not do proper justice to the ethnic origins of Jesus of Nazareth let alone his majesty and holiness. So we must ask ourselves at this point having shown that images of the Godhead do not do justice to the plain reading of the 2nd Commandment  and cannot be tolerated in any Orthodox manner or setting how do we go about directing the proper worship of Christ so that it is compatible in this regard to the 2nd Commandment? Do we have “Idolatry Awareness Month” or “2nd Commandment Sunday”? Do we write polemics and browbeat?

Well what say you?

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
Theopedia
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

http://www.cprf.co.uk/quotes.htm#psalmsinging