Monthly Archives: January 2013

“…no one can dispense with the command of God, and no one can by his wit compose hymns to be compared with the Psalms of God. I want a name for that man who should pretend that he could make better hymns than the Holy Ghost.”

William Romaine 1714-1795

William Romaine
1714-1795

“God has given us a large collection of psalms, has commanded them to be sung in the church, and has promised his blessing to the singing of them. No respect here must be paid to names or authorities, although they be the greatest on earth, because no one can dispense with the command of God, and no one can by his wit compose hymns to be compared with the psalms of God. I want a name for that man who should pretend that he could make better hymns than the Holy Ghost. His collection is large enough, it wants no addition. It is perfect, as its author, and not capable of any improvement. Why in such a case would any man in the world take it into his head to sit down to write hymns for the use of the church? It is just the same as if he was to write a new Bible, not only better than the old, but so much better that the old may be thrown aside. What a blasphemous attempt! And yet our hymn [singers], inadvertently I hope, have come very near to this blasphemy, for they shut out the Psalms, introduce their own verses into the church, sing them with great delight and as they fancy with great profit, although the whole practice be in direct opposition to the command of God, and therefore cannot possibly be accompanied with the blessing of God.”

by William Romaine, An Essay on Psalmody, 1757, republished in 1880

According to Angus Stewart (found here):

“This Anglican evangelical was an ardent advocate of Psalm singing (of which his favourite was Psalm 121; p. 298). Shenton summarises his position:

“Romaine’s zeal for the Psalms was principally directed towards upholding and, where necessary, re-establishing biblical theology in the church. He wanted the pure Word of God read, preached and sung by Christian congregations. Nothing, in his view, should be countenanced that threatened the supremacy of Scripture. He strongly opposed hymns on the ground that they were man’s creation and not God’s, and that they lowered worship to the level of entertainment (pp. 276, 278).”

Romaine saw hymn singing, according to George Ella, as a

“substitute for true worship and a grave departure from the scriptural norm. Wherever there was a lack of “vital religion,” he thought, people left off praying, singing the Psalms and hearing the Word, and descended into singing [Isaac] Watt’s “flights of fancy,” along with other flippant pastimes. The words of man had become more important to a backsliding church than the word of God (p. 278).”

Angus’ review of An Iron Pillar, The Life and Times of William Romaine by Tim Shenton can be found in full here.

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Question #22: The Bible tells us to sing a “new song”. This seems to suggest we should not be limited to singing only the Old Testament Psalms. Isn’t that also proof that we should compose new hymns?

newQuestion #22: The Bible tells us to sing a “new song”. This seems to suggest we should not be limited to singing only the Old Testament Psalms. Isn’t that also proof that we should compose new hymns?

“For avoiding of idolatry you may fall in the hands of earthly tyrants; but obeyers, maintainers, and consenters to idolatry shall not escape the hands of the living God.”

John Knox

John Knox

“The only way to leave our children blessed and happy is to leave them rightly instructed in God’s true religion. For what avails all that is in the earth, if perpetual condemnation follows death – yea, and God’s vengeance also goes before the same? as of necessity they must where true knowledge of God is absent. And therefore God straitly commands the fathers to teach their sons the laws, ceremonies, and rites. And unto Abraham he opened the secret of his counsel touching the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Because,” says the  Lord,“I know that Abraham will teach his children, that they fear my name.” [Gen. 18:19] Then God would that the life and conversation of the fathers should be a schoolmaster to the children. Plain it is, that the true knowledge of God is not born with man, neither yet comes it unto him by natural power, but he must have schoolmasters to train him up in that which he lacks. The chief schoolmasters (the Holy Ghost excepted) of the age following, are the works,  practices, and life of the forefathers. And experience does so teach us, that the  children are so bound and addicted to the works and practices of their fathers (and especially if it is in idolatry), that scarcely can the power of God, speaking by his own word (as the prophets oft complain), reave or pluck any back from their fathers’ footsteps.

Now, if you, altogether refusing God, stoop under idolatry, what schoolmasters are you to your posterity? Assuredly even such as the cruel and foolish fathers
that, consenting to Jeroboam and to his idolatry, left to their children a pattern of perdition. What image [do] you show to your children; yea, in what estate [do] you leave them, both touching body and soul? Blinded in idolatry (alas, I fear and tremble to pronounce it), and bound slaves to the devil, without hope of redemption, or light to be received, before God takes vengeance upon their disobedience!

I speak to you, O natural fathers: Behold your children with the eye of mercy, and consider the end of their creation. Cruelty it were to save yourselves, and damn them! But O, more than cruelty and madness that cannot be expressed, if,  for the pleasure of a moment, you deprive yourselves and your posterity of that eternal joy that is ordained for them that continue in confession of Christ’s name to the end, which assuredly you do if, without resistance altogether, you return to idolatry again. If natural love, fatherly affection, reverence of God, fear of torment, or yet hope of life move you, then will you gainstand that abominable idol; which if you do not, then, alas! the sun is gone down and the light is quite lost, the trumpet is ceased, and idolatry is placed in quietness and rest. But if God shall strengthen you (as unfeignedly I pray his Majesty may), then there is but a dark misty cloud overspread the sun for a moment, which shortly shall  vanish, so that the beams afterwards shall be sevenfold more bright and amiable nor [than] they were before. Your patience and constancy shall be a louder trumpet to your posterity, than were all the voices of the prophets that instructed you; and so is not the trumpet ceased so long as any boldly resist idolatry.

And, therefore, for the tender mercies of God, arm yourselves to stand with Christ in this his short battle. Flee from that abominable idol, the maintainers whereof shall not escape the vengeance of God. Let it be known to your posterity that you were Christians and not idolaters; that you learned Christ in time of rest, and boldly professed him in time of trouble. Think you these precepts are sharp and hard to be observed? And yet again, I affirm, that compared with the plagues that assuredly shall fall upon obstinate idolaters, they shall be found easy and light. For avoiding of idolatry you may perchance be compelled to leave your native country and realm; but obeyers of idolatry, without end, shall be compelled, body and soul, to burn in hell. For avoiding idolatry, your substance shall be spoiled; but for obeying idolatry, heavenly riches shall be lost. For avoiding of idolatry you may fall in the hands of earthly tyrants; but obeyers, maintainers, and consenters to idolatry shall not escape the hands of the living God. For avoiding idolatry, your children shall be deprived of father, of friends, riches, and of earthly rest; but by obeying of idolatry they shall be left without the knowledge of his word, and without hope of his kingdom.

Consider, dear brethren, how much more dolorous and fearful it is to be tormented in hell, than to suffer  trouble in earth; to be deprived of heavenly joy, than to be robbed of transitory riches; to fall into the hands of the living God, than to obey man’s vain and uncertain displeasure; to leave our children destitute of God, than to leave them unprovided before the world. So much more fearful is it to obey idolatry, or by dissembling to consent to the same, than by avoiding and fleeing from the abomination, to suffer what inconvenience may follow thereupon by man’s tyranny. For the extremity of the one is but transitory pain, and the most easy of the other is to suffer in the fire that never shall have end.” John Knox

Selected Writings, 1:185-86, 189-91

“…the Holy Ghost pronounces and gives warning unto us, that maintainers of idolatry, and provokers to the same, intend to draw us from God; and therefore he wills that we neither obey them, neither yet that we conceal their impiety…”

Knox,_John

John Knox

“In these words most evidently is expressed unto us, why God wills that we avoid all fellowship with idolatry, and with the maintainers of the same; in which are three things appertaining to our purpose chiefly to be noted. First, that the Holy Ghost pronounces and gives warning unto us, that maintainers of idolatry, and provokers to the same, intend to draw us from God; and therefore he wills that we neither obey them (be they kings or be they queens), neither yet that we conceal their impiety (were they son, daughter, or wife), if we will have the league to stand betwixt God and us [Deut. 13:6-18]. And here is the confirming of my first cause, why it is necessary that we avoid idolatry, because that otherwise we declare ourselves little to regard the league and covenant of God; for that  league requires that we declare ourselves enemies to all sorts of idolatry. Secondly, it is to be noted, that idolatry so incenses and kindles the wrath of God, that it is never quenched till the offenders, and all that they possess, are  destroyed from the earth; for he commanded them to be stoned to death, and their substance to be burnt; and if a city offended, that it shall be altogether destroyed without mercy. This may appear a severe and rigorous judgment. But if you shall consider the cause, God’s great mercy towards us shall be espied; for thereunto he declares himself [an] enemy unto our enemies. For all those that would draw us from God ( be they kings or queens), being of the devil’s nature, are enemies unto God, and therefore God wills that in such cases we declare ourselves enemies unto them; because he would that we should understand how odious is idolatry in his presence, and how that we cannot keep the league betwixt him and us inviolate if we favour, follow, or spare idolaters. ‘Lord, open our eyes that we may understand the great necessity of this thy precept. Amen.'”

Selected Writings, 1:172

“…whatsoever is added to this word [God’s Word] by man’s device, seem it never so good, holy, or beautiful, yet before God, which is jealous and cannot admit any companion or counsellor, it is evil, wicked, and abominable.”

Knox,_John“We … present unto you … a form and order of a reformed church, limited within the compass of God’s word, which our Saviour has left unto us as only [alone] sufficient to govern all our actions by; so that whatsoever is added to this word by man’s device, seem it never so good, holy, or beautiful, yet before God, which is jealous and cannot admit any companion or counsellor, it is evil, wicked, and abominable.” John Knox

Works, 4:160-61

“I am persuaded that they which retain these ceremonies in a free choice, when they may otherwise do, they are over-greedy and desirous to drink of the dregs.”

Knox,_John“Verily no man well instructed, or of sound judgment, will deny (as I think) that lights and crossings, or such like trifles, sprang or issued out of superstition.  Whereupon I am persuaded that they which retain these ceremonies in a free choice, when they may otherwise do, they are over-greedy and desirous to drink of the dregs. Neither do I see to what purpose it is to burden the church with trifling and unprofitable ceremonies – or, as I may term them with their proper name, hurtful and offensive ceremonies, when there is liberty to have a simple and pure order.”  John Knox

Works, 4:59

“To hear his voice (which is also the voice of God the Father) is to understand and obey the same; and to flee from a stranger is to admit none other doctrine, worshipping, nor honouring God than has proceeded from his own mouth…”

Knox,_John“ ‘My sheep hear my voice, and a stranger they will not hear, but flee from him.’ [John 10:5] To hear his voice (which is also the voice of God the Father) is to understand and obey the same; and to flee from a stranger is to admit none other doctrine, worshipping, nor honouring God than has proceeded from his own mouth – as he himself testifies, saying, ‘All that are of the verity, hear my voice.'[ John 18:37] ” John Knox

Works, 3:40-41; Selected Writings, 1:30.