Songs of the Spirit can be purchased from Peter and Rachel Reynolds Books. It is £5 and the proceeds go to hospices in Scotland. Estimated postage costs are: USA (0-7): £1.80; USA (8-9) & Rest of World including EU: £3.30
Songs of the Spirit is an important study on the subject of praise. We need sound teaching on biblical worship. The worship that God commands from us, rather than that which we choose to give to Him. A variety of authors from various Churches have contributed to this volume. They share a common conviction that we must worship God in the songs that He Himself has inspired. “It is the conviction of all who contribute to this book that the recovery of earnest, intelligent and spiritual unaccompanied singing of Psalms in the praise of the church is a major part of the repentance and renewal so badly needed in the church today.”
Reformed Worship is a vital guide to worship. Nothing is more sacred and more important than the worship of God. The Bible must have the pre-eminent place in our worship services. But how should a service of public worship feel and sound when the Word of God has central place and reverence for God governs everything? This booklet describes a service of reverent worship grounded upon Scripture principles. It will be helpful for those who conduct public worship as well as those seeking for worship that truly honours God. It will have a hearty reception where there is a sincere desire to know how to worship God in spirit and in truth. It is extracted and updated from an older publication called The Directory of Public Worship. This updated extract is in no way meant to replace the original authoritative document. Instead, it shows its abiding relevance and may encourage many to read the original for themselves.
Thanks to Matthew Vogan for sending this information along!
On the website you will find a new page entitled Scottish Psalterfeaturing two valuable and complementary articles on this subject, by Dr Robert J Dickie and Mrs Isobel Scott. You may also be interested in a new link on our links page to the Spanish Metrical Psalms.”
We pray the recordings will be a blessing to all who listen to them, and bring glory to God who alone is “Worthy to be Praised”.
We hope that the resources that you find here will assist you in praising the Triune God of Holy Scripture, using His own inspired songbook; especially as it has been translated in the Scottish Psalter of 1650.”
“Reformed Presbyterians have frequently commended the use of this Psalter. Robert J. Dodds, an American missionary to Syria from 1856 to 1870, wrote regarding “what an excellent metrical version of the Psalms we have. Its excellence consists,” he said, in its “fidelity to the original Hebrew. It may be asserted without fear of successful contradiction, that, take it all in all, it retains the meaning, spirit, life, energy, majesty and sublimity of the Hebrew Psalms, as little impaired as does the prose translation.”
More recently, the late J. Renwick Wright, in an address on “The Influence of the Scottish Metrical Psalter” (1949), tied in the experiential Christianity so often found in connection with this Psalter with its precision in translation. “Has the Scottish Metrical Version had great influence on the lives and characters of men? Yes, and all for good. Lying close, as it does, to its Hebrew original, it has been used thousands of times to lead men to seek spiritual life, to enter into spiritual life, and to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord. What better influence could it have than that?”
As we sing from this Psalter, let us remember those that have gone before us in the faith, who have been strengthened, comforted, and edified as they sang these very words. And let us give all the praise of any blessing we receive from this Psalter version to the same eternal and unchangeable God worshipped in centuries past by Reformed Presbyterians around the world.”
The Rev. Donald Macdonald has departed from the Free Church of Scotland because of the denomination’s recent decision to allow uninspired hymns and musical instruments in worship.
“Rev Donald Macdonald, who preached for decades at Carloway and is a past moderator of the denomination, said he is thoroughly convinced that contentious policy to drop the 100-year-old tradition of instrument-free, psalm-only singing “is unscriptural, does not have the positive sanction of Scripture and is, therefore, sinful.”
The Lewis man who has been a minister for 47 years is severing ecclesiastical connections with the Free and is joining the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (RPCS) which now holds Sunday services at the Coulnagrein prayer house in Stornoway.” (from the Hebrides article, link below)
From Hebrides: “Mr Macdonald slammed the Western Isles Presbytery for “changing course” and “progressing the agenda for change.”
He stressed: I feel that the Church, and especially my own Presbytery, now leave me no option but to resign from its ministry, notice of which I now, with great sadness and regret, submit, and do so without any sense of ‘violating any duty or committing any sin.’
In his resignation letter, Mr Macdonald said: “This has been the hardest decision I have ever had to make and one that I never thought I would have to make – especially at this late stage in my life after 47 years in the ministry of the Free Church and all of them as a member of this Presbytery.
“I have not come to my decision lightly or in haste. Neither am I motivated by a petulant and defiant spirit that cannot accept defeat: this matter is far too serious for such superficial and infantile reactions.
“I have come to this painful decision after much soul-searching, reading, consultation, meditation and prayer. I can see no other honest and honourable course of action.
Mr Macdonald said the worship changes was “unscriptural.”
He said: “No new compelling biblical arguments have been produced in any of the debates.”
He believes the decision was “unconfessional and unconstitutional.”
Mr Macdonald criticises the new “sham” optional vows which is “supposed provision for the relief of the conscience of any office-bearer who is not in agreement with the new mode of worship now allowed is either a delusion or a deception.”
He said: “That the Free Church for which our Fathers fought and suffered in the 1900s should come to such a sorry pass grieves me beyond words.
“I had hoped, along with many others, that this Presbytery would have taken a stand and hold the line but, sadly and unbelievably, this has proved to have been a vain hope.
“Not only has the Presbytery not withstood the onslaught, it has now headed the van in progressing the agenda for change since it was the Overture from this Presbytery that secured the approval of the Assembly for the supposed conscience-relieving clause.
“A wind of change has most certainly blown through this Presbytery in the past two years to such an extent that I can scarcely believe that it is the same Presbytery. ”
“Pageland Reformed Presbyterian Church is a ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). We are located in Pageland, South Carolina – 55 minutes from downtown Charlotte, North Carolina and 75 minutes from downtown Columbia, South Carolina.
We meet for worship at 11:00 am in the Cambridge Hall at the Guest Lodge located at:
910 West McGregor Street
Pageland, SC 29728-2014
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 843.622.5853 with any questions.
What we believe:
Our beliefs all stem from a full commitment to the authority of the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God. This means that we believe in the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We acknowledge our total inability to save ourselves and, in faith, depend on Christ alone as our Savior. We acknowledge Him as Lord in every area of life, and we vow together to advance His Kingdom on earth.
God made man in His image to glorify and enjoy Him. In the public worship of the church, the people of God, redeemed by Christ, glorify and enjoy the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as He reveals Himself in His Word.
Jesus Christ, as our Prophet, Priest and King, has revealed to His people how to worship Him in a pleasing manner. Therefore, “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 Scriptures” (Westminster Confession of Faith 21:1 [p.49]). This means true worship is commanded by God only; false worship is anything not commanded. In other words, if God did not direct us in the Bible to do something–we do not do it.”
A news article from November in the Progressive Journal from here quotes the Rev. Frank Smith, “We have maintained the practice of singing the Biblical songs in public worship without musical accompaniment. We’ve maintained those standards through the years. We believe this is the way that God desires to be worshiped. We believe that worship should be worship.”
Please pray for a continuous “supply” of Pulpit Supply as our brethren in SC begin to hold worship services on a regular basis.
I haven’t seen any other official reports of this, but the Hebrides News is reporting the following:
“Well-known Free Church minister Rev Kenneth Stewart is quitting the Free Church over the controversy to introduce hymns and music into worship services. Rev Stewart – a fierce critic of the hymn-singing move – has resigned his post as a minister and would also sever his links with the denomination. Crucially, the North Uist-raised preacher is not expected to lead a split in the church nor encourage his congregation to follow him though he will highlight his own reasons for going. He is expected to seek a new home as a pastor in another Scottish Presbyterian church. His actual departure date has not been revealed.”
The Rev. Kenneth Stewart was one of the ministers who objected to the recent ruling of the Plenary Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland that will allow the use of hymns and musical instruments in the denomination. Rev. Stewart’s objection can be found here in a previous post.
Recently, I found a fairly detailed report of the proceedings by the Rev. Peter Wallace, an OPC minister who attended the Plenary Assembly. It can be found here.
The Rev. Kenneth Stewart provides a response to the recent Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland that voted to allow the singing of uninspired hymns and instrumental music in worship. This is a well written and very informative response that I recommend for your reading.
“The situation now created is a mess. I will say something on its practical implications below, but it should give pause for thought that our vow on worship (which is part of our constitution) is now officially committing us to uphold two mutually exclusive views on worship as both being biblical. We now solemnly vow to uphold uninspired hymns as being both commanded and forbidden! The fact that we could enshrine such a legislative position in our constitution is worthy of several adjectives but ‘remarkable’ will have to do for now.”
“This brings us rather neatly to the novel and convenient idea that by binding us to ‘purity of worship as presently authorised and practised in this church’ our forefathers meant to leave the form of worship an open question, something to be decided at any given time by the church. In other words, anyone taking the vow would be required to commit themselves to what was, effectively, an unknown. Surely, a little serious reflection should expose the absurdity of requiring a solemn vow to an unknown practice! After all, how could the person taking the vow know what would be ‘presently authorised and practiced’ in, two, five or ten years time and how then could he pretend to swear to it?”
“The church to which we belong, in continuity with its Reformed heritage and practice, could only find express authority for singing psalms. These psalms could arguably include the ‘scripture songs’ of the Bible which are, of course, psalms themselves. (These are the ‘scripture songs’ which the 1707 Assembly gave consideration to singing, not ‘paraphrases’ or ‘hymns’). This is why the Westminster Confession, in its chapter on worship, specifies the ‘singing of psalms’ as an element of worship.”
“As was pointed out on the floor of the Assembly, the list of worship elements offered by the Confession is not a suggestive list but an exhaustive one. In other words, it does not say ‘worship consists of things like this of which there may be many others besides’, but, ‘all this and nothing else is worship’. That is why the Assembly produced a psalm book, rather than a psalm/hymn book for singing. This Confessional position of psalm singing was what was ‘authorised and practiced’ when I took my vow and, indeed, when Mr Robertson took his. I promised, as he did, to assert, maintain and defend this, and not allow anything that is subversive of it. He now believes that I should have no difficulty in switching the subject of my allegiance to the permission of accompanied uninspired songs.”
“It seems to be the case that Mr Robertson is completely ignoring what my vow requires me to do: it now requires me to believe that our new position (psalms and hymns permissible) is ‘founded on the Word of God and agreeable to it.’ I am now supposed to follow no ‘divisive course’ from this position.”
“Put simply, a vow to uphold purity of worship as presently authorised and practised is not the same as a vow to uphold whatever practice the church authorises. Can Mr Robertson not see the difference?”
“On the contrary, as in the areas of doctrine and government, the church meant to bind itself for all time in its worship practice. Some people profess to find this horrifying. I fail to see why. If the church can bind its government to perpetual Presbyterianism (because that’s what it finds in the Bible) and bind its doctrine to perpetual infant baptism (because that’s what it finds in the Bible), I fail to see why it cannot bind its worship to perpetual Psalm singing (because that’s what it finds in the Bible as well). As in the areas of doctrine and government, the church meant to bind itself in public worship, for all time, to what could be proved expressly from scripture with no addition whatsoever.”
“Sadly, I think it is all too obvious why the Barrier Act was sidestepped, against the advice of both Clerks: it was put rather eloquently by one of the speakers, proposing change, who asked ‘What is the point of putting this back down to Presbyteries when we know what the result will be?’ I think that question reveals it all. It indicates very plainly that the main motive for sidestepping the Barrier Act was to rush through what was felt to be possibly out of step with the views of a majority of office bearers. This is clearly contempt of established church procedure as well as contempt of office-bearers.”
“The church is clearly, and with astonishing accuracy, repeating all the mistakes of the 19th century. And it should be a source of wonder to all that the Free Church is looking for her examples in public worship to the era of the Moderates (which introduced the paraphrases, only officially authorised for one year, in the 1780’s) and the era of Rainy (which introduced hymns and musical accompaniment in the 1870’s and 1880’s respectively). It shouldn’t be forgotten that the church which chose to do this was a church which fragmented shortly afterwards.”
“The Free Church needs less sniping at its constitution, more confidence in her heritage, history and message, and an aggressive reaching out with it to a needy country. The country isn’t fed up of psalms: it needs to hear and understand them. It is astonishingly typical of the so-called ‘progressives’ in the Free Church to reject what is in fact just coming back into vogue: all over the world, there is a resurgence of psalm singing and when that world most needs our witness to the exclusive use of the Songs of the Covenant King, we downgrade and compromise them.”
“The Lord is sovereign, and who can doubt that he is shaking the Scottish churches? This shaking will be done in God’s way and in God’s time, and who amongst us knows how the ecclesiastical landscape may look when he is done with it?”
Well, by now the news has gotten around that the Free Church of Scotland has voted to allow for the use of hymns and musical instruments in their churches. For the cause of Biblical worship, this is certainly a disappointing decision. I cannot comment on the state of the Free Church itself, though I don’t have a favorable impression that they’ve been a strong church in recent years. I could be wrong.
For those who haven’t heard, this is the statement from their website:
Worship Statement (Updated)
November 20, 2010
Free Church of Scotland Decides to Allow for the Singing of Hymns and the Use of Musical Instruments in its Congregations
The Free Church of Scotland, at a special Plenary Assembly, which took place on 18th and 19th November, decided to give liberty to its congregations to sing hymns and use instruments, if individual Kirk Sessions so choose. The special Assembly, which consisted of all its ministers with an equal number of elders, met in Edinburgh and debated over whether to overturn the 100 year old prohibition, which has identified the Free Church as a psalm-singing church.
The debate over its form of worship has lasted for the last five years, since the Moderator at that time, Rev. Donald Smith questioned the prohibition of musical instruments in its services.
The main motion which came from the Church’s Board of Trustees sought to retain the “status quo”, which is the ”avoidance of uninspired materials of praise and musical instruments”, but give more flexibility in understanding as to what is meant by that. But this motion was opposed by Rev. Alex MacDonald, who proposed that the Free Church give liberty to individual congregations to sing scriptural hymns, as well as psalms, if their elders so chose.
The debate, which lasted Thursday evening and most of Friday, was harmonious throughout. Rev. MacDonald’s motion carried by a majority of 98 to 84.
A statement intended for Free Church congregations regarding its decision (including the exact finding of Assembly) on sung praise can be found by clicking this link: FC_Statement.pdf”
We’ve seen this type of decision many times in the recent history of the church. The end result of allowing hymns usually ends up with the exclusion of the Psalms altogether. It also means an openness to other questionable practices into the worship of the church.