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.

The Rich Young Ruler and The American Church

Cowardice strikes hard at the American Church today. Many are called to lead in great measure and fortitude yet dismiss it in favor of earthly pleasures. I quote here two selections from Charles Spurgeon that illustrate this:

“Only be thou strong and very courageous.”

Joshua 1:7

Our God’s tender love for his servants makes him concerned for the state of their inward feelings. He desires them to be of good courage. Some esteem it a small thing for a believer to be vexed with doubts and fears, but God thinks not so. From this text it is plain that our Master would not have us entangled with fears. He would have us without carefulness, without doubt, without cowardice. Our Master does not think so lightly of our unbelief as we do. When we are desponding we are subject to a grievous malady, not to be trifled with, but to be carried at once to the beloved Physician. Our Lord loveth not to see our countenance sad. It was a law of Ahasuerus that no one should come into the king’s court dressed in mourning: this is not the law of the King of kings, for we may come mourning as we are; but still he would have us put off the spirit of heaviness, and put on the garment of praise, for there is much reason to rejoice. The Christian man ought to be of a courageous spirit, in order that he may glorify the Lord by enduring trials in an heroic manner. If he be fearful and fainthearted, it will dishonour his God. Besides, what a bad example it is. This disease of doubtfulness and discouragement is an epidemic which soon spreads amongst the Lord’s flock. One downcast believer makes twenty souls sad. Moreover, unless your courage is kept up Satan will be too much for you. Let your spirit be joyful in God your Saviour, the joy of the Lord shall be your strength, and no fiend of hell shall make headway against you: but cowardice throws down the banner. Moreover, labour is light to a man of cheerful spirit; and success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils, rejoicing in his God, believing with all his heart, has success guaranteed. He who sows in hope shall reap in joy; therefore, dear reader, “be thou strong, and very courageous.”

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”

Exodus 14:13

These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, “Stand still.” It will be well for him if at such times he listens only to his Master’s word, for other and evil advisers come with their suggestions. Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.” But God would have us put on a cheerful courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in his love and faithfulness. Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part, it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.” But, however much Satan may urge this course upon you, you cannot follow it if you are a child of God. His divine fiat has bid thee go from strength to strength, and so thou shalt, and neither death nor hell shall turn thee from thy course. What, if for a while thou art called to stand still, yet this is but to renew thy strength for some greater advance in due time. Precipitancy cries, “do something. Stir yourself; to stand still and wait, is sheer idleness.” We must be doing something at once—we must do it so we think—instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything. Presumption boasts, “If the sea be before you, march into it and expect a miracle.” But Faith listens neither to Presumption, nor to Despair, nor to Cowardice, nor to Precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand still,” and immovable as a rock it stands. “Stand still;”—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.”

How Serious About Our Doctrine Should We Be?

How serious about our doctrine should we be? Should we concede points to try to win souls to Christ so that the gospel can now be more palatable for them to consume? I think not for the reason because I do not-as others have stated-that God does not in any way bless falsehood even if that falsehood could lead a person to him. Charles Spurgeon says

”To try to win a soul to Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth,
is contrary to the mind of the Spirit; and to endeavor to save men by mere
claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold
an angel with bird-line, or lure a star with music. The best attraction is the
gospel in its purity.”

I believe fully what Spurgeon is saying is that to keeping a mind in a lack of knowledge of the gospel for the sake of conversion will always make a false conversion because what you in effect have done is convert the person to a false religion that will damn their soul. By providing a false witness and convincing a person by that false witness you have also damned yourself. So remember not to preach a watered down gospel to impress non-believers because you will not just lead them to a false representation of God but will also lead them blindly away from the full revelation that is Christ Jesus. We must be carful not to hold back precious truth when trying to introduce non-believers to the Word of God and therefore lead them into darkness and despair.