“What are the signs of the times in the sphere of Worship?
I confess that upon this subject I scarcely dare trust myself to speak. The movement of our times strikes me with astonishment. There was nothing in the past about which God was so jealous as the mode of His worship. There was nothing around which He threw guards and fences so awful as around His worship. His wrath leaped forth as a vehement flame against those who asserted their wills in His worship. He reserved to Himself the high prerogative of appointing the ways in which men should approach Him in His public worship, and instantly resented every invasion of that prerogative. But all that is now changed, we are told. We have passed under the milder sanctions of the New Testament dispensation, and more discretionary power is granted to the church.
Hold! Did not Christ enjoin it upon His apostles to teach the church to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded? And does not that necessarily imply that they were to teach the church to abstain from all things whatsoever He had not commanded? To do nothing which He had not commanded? Did not the apostles organize the church according to His will? Did they not appoint her whole order, including her public worship? And are we not bound by Christ’s will thus expressed? Did the apostolic church know anything of instrumental music in public worship, of liturgies, of the decorations of church edifices? How come we to know them except by breaking with the apostolic order and the will of our King?
Hearken, men and brethren! Let us take just one of these elements of innovation upon the primitive order of worship and rapidly trace its history. For 1,200 years the Christian church knew nothing of instrumental music in her public worship. In the thirteenth century its proposed introduction into the Church of Rome — corrupt as it then was — was ineffectually resisted by some of her most eminent theologians.
At the reformation the Swiss Protestant Church cast it out; the French Protestant Church cast it out; the Dutch Church cast it out; the Scotch Church cast it out; the English Puritans cast it out; and the Church of England came very nigh casting it out. At its first planting, the American Evangelical Church refused to adopt it.
What do we now behold? Its use by nearly all the leading churches of Protestantism, in opposition to the Scriptures and the venerable precedents which have just been recited. What a change! What a blazing sign in the sky of the Protestant Church! What is to stop the tendency? The beginning is the mother of the end. What end? The full orchestra of Rome.”
from Sermons of John L. Girardeau, The Signs of the Times in the Church, Matthew 16:3
“2. They (the Nature of the Distinctive Principles of our Church) are based on the authority of Scripture. (First Term of Communion; Confession of Faith, I.6, first sentence). It is useless to discuss these principles with any person who does not accept the supreme authority of Holy Scripture for faith and life. That politics, religious worship, social affiliations, etc., must be controlled by the authority of Scripture, not by human preference or customs, is a new idea to many people. Many people in various denominations today have no really vital conviction of the authority of Scripture. They are not in the habit of examining problems in the light of Scripture. For example, there are no doubt millions of church members who regularly use uninspired hymns and instrumental music in worship, who have never even thought of asking the question “Are these practices Scriptural?” Most people just act according to custom without independent thinking and without asking any questions.”
a selection from The Nature of the Distinctive Principles of our Church, J.G. Vos
posted recently at the Old Light Covenanter blog here
“What is there now to do? It is to have songs not only honest, but also holy, which will be like spurs to incite us to pray to and praise God, and to meditate upon his works in order to love, fear, honor and glorify him. Moreover, that which St. Augustine has said is true, that no one is able to sing things worthy of God except that which he has received from him. Therefore, when we have looked thoroughly, and searched here and there, we shall not find better songs nor more fitting for the purpose, than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit spoke and made through him. And moreover, when we sing them, we are certain that God puts in our mouths these, as if he himself were singing in us to exalt his glory. Wherefore Chrysostom exhorts, as well as the men, the women and the little children to accustom themselves to singing them, in order that this may be a sort of meditation to associate themselves with the company of the angels.”
From the Preface to the 1565 Geneva Psalter by John Calvin
“Also about the Conclusion of the Psalmes [Psalter], we had no debate with them; without scruple, Independents and all sang it [the doxology], so far as I know, where it was printed at the end of two or three psalms. But in the new translation of the Psalmes [the eventual 1650 Psalter], resolving to keep punctually to the original text, without any addition, we and they were content to omit that [doxology] whereupon we saw both the Popish and Prelatical parties did so much dote, as to put it to the end of the most of their lessons, and all their psalms.” Robert Baille, April 25, 1645, Letters of Robert Baillie, Vol II, p 259.
Robert Baillie stated this after the Westminster Assembly decided to remove an uninspired Doxology from what would become the authorized 1650 Psalter. Baillie admits that most men sang it without any scruple, but then he makes it clear why they eventually removed it from the Psalter…it was not an inspired part of the original text.
This was the doxology in question:
To Father, Son and Holy Ghost The God whom we adore Be glory as it was, is now And shall be evermore.
David Silversides uses this quote by Baillie to make the following point:
“Later Scottish Covenanters, like Brown of Wamphray and McWard (contending with Bishop Burnett) opposed the sung doxology, not because they deemed its content doctrinally unsound, but because of the regulative principle of worship and the absence of Scriptural warrant to add anything to the 150 Psalms given by God. From the deliberate exclusion of the doxology we learn that the Westminster Confession means by the “singing of psalms” (in ch.xxi, para. v) simply the use of the Biblical Psalms.”
From Thoughts on Family Worship by James W Alexander.
“In families where there is daily praise of God, in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, there is an additional influence on the young. At no age are we more impressed by music, and no music is so impressive as that which is the vehicle of devotion. The little imitative creatures begin to catch the melodies long before they can understand the words. Without any exception they are delighted with this part of the service, and their proficiency is easy in proportion. No choir can be compared with that of a goodly household, where old and young, day after day, and year after year, lift up the voice in harmony. Such strains give a jocund opening to the day, and cheer the harassed mind after labour is done. Sacred song tranquillizes and softens the mind, makes an opening for higher influences, and prepares voice and heart for the public praise of God. The practice is the more important, as it is well known that in order to attain its perfection, the voice should be cultivated from an early age. Nor should we omit to mention the store of psalms and hymns which are thus treasured in the memory. By this it is, even more than by public worship, that the Scottish peasantry to so great an extent have the old version of the Psalms by rote, in great part or in whole. But this is a topic which we reserve for another place.”
While we agree with Mr. Alexander’s excellent thoughts on the importance of music [and the Psalms] in family worship, it is of interest that Alexander goes on to speak against the exclusive use of the Psalms…
“While we condemn the narrowness of that prejudice which would debar the Church of God from naming the name of Christ in public praise, and which would reject all New Testament hymns, we cannot shut our eyes to the singular influence of that ancient version; though written by an Englishman, Francis Rouse or Rous, it has become almost the peculiar treasure of the Scots, and is still used in the Kirk of Scotland, and the Secession bodies of Britain and America. The use of psalmody in Family-Worship we believe to have been almost universal in the old Presbyterian church of Scotland, as it has been laudably kept up till this day. That it tended, in a high degree, to increase -the interest of all concerned in the service, and to promote Christian knowledge and sound piety, we cannot for a moment doubt.”
“In favor of the cause [of Psalmody] we find the witnesses well located. All the lighthouses are not placed in the same corner of the sea; neither are all the street lights found in the same part of the city. Missionaries are not all sent to the same corner of the globe, but, like the lights, they are distributed among needy fields. God has distributed Psalm-singers over the world in such a way that they are well located to be light-bearers and witnesses and missionaries among men.
In favor of the cause we find a safe, strong position. Power does not lie in the direction of a retreat from an impregnable position. These Psalm-singing Churches now have an influence for good in the world out of all proportion to their numbers, and if they should desert their position on Psalmody there is reason to believe that the old sad story of Samson’s strength and weakness would be repeated. Our position on Psalmody is the first line of defense, and a strong line of defense, for the fundamentals of our religion. If we should desert this first position under the assaults that are made upon it, we would find that the roar of battle would be heard about some other position in a short time, and it might be that the point of the next attack would be the inspiration of the Bible, or the Atonement, or the divinity of Christ.” The Status and Outlook of the Cause of Psalmody by SE Martin, from The Psalms in Worship, ed. by John McNaugher, p 540-541.
” ‘Whatsoever is not commanded is forbidden.’ This, the Scriptural law of worship, is the acropolis of the Church’s liberties, the palladium of her purity, and her God-given moorage. Let the Protestant Church, in creed or conduct, in profession or practice, depart from this divine principle, and she has weighed her sheet-anchor only to find its flukes sundered and herself adrift on the high seas, a craft without compass or chart or polestar, in the midnight darkness of rationalism and ritualism, with her prow pointing to ‘Rome’ as her probable landing-place.” William S. McClure, from The Scriptural Law of Worship, Ch 4 of The Psalms in Worship, ed. by John McNaugher, 1907, full text The Psalms in Worship CH4 The Scriptural Law of Worship by William S McClure
Do you agree with McClure’s view of the Regulative Principle of Worship? Is he putting too much emphasis on the doctrine itself?
From his perspective the churches who have abandoned the RPW are headed toward Rome. As EPers, should we take this approach in our discussions with others?
“It was said that the Rev. John Newton was a great lover of cats. Once he possessed a mother cat and a kitten. In the kindness of his heart, and to prevent the too frequent interruption of his studies by waiting on the cats, he had two holes cut in the door of his house, one for the old cat, and a smaller one for the kitten. It had not occurred to the good man that the hole that would admit the larger cat would admit also the kitten, indeed would admit not only two cats but any number of cats. When you have made an opening in the door of God’s house large enough to admit songs of praise which God has not authorized, that same hole will admit the worship of the Virgin Mary, prayers to St. Peter, confession to the priest, holy water, kissing the pope’s toe, and the whole brood of pollutions and monstrosities from which the Church escaped in the tremendous revolution and reformation of the sixteenth century. The great principle that only what is commanded has a place in the worship of God was one of the cornerstones of the Reformation; without it the great battle of Protestantism against Romanism could never have been fought out and won. In asserting this doctrine we are simply calling the Church back to one of the great attainments of the Reformation, when purity of worship and the inspired songs of God’s Word had the right of way in all the Reformed Churches.” by the Rev. William H. Vincent, D. D., Allegheny, Pa. The Scriptural Law of Worship, ch3 from The Psalms in Worship, edited by John McNaugher, full text The Psalms in Worship CH3 The Scriptural Law of Worship by William H Vincent