Question #13: Do the same rules that apply to public worship (RPW, the regulative principle of worship) also apply to private and family worship? Are the songs we sing in private/family worship considered to be praise songs?
In an earlier post Raymond raised the following questions that can be addressed here, “the question to raise is whether meditations or devotions are a part of worship? If not, then the only problem is what to do when musical meditations or devotions take the form of praise? Can they or should they?”
The full post includes a number of related questions: “…the question to raise is whether meditations or devotions are a part of worship? If not, then the only problem is what to do when musical meditations or devotions take the form of praise? Can they or should they? Nextly, the question must be raised whether it is possible to sing a song which was meant (whether rightly or wrongly) to be used in worship without offering it up as worship? What if the portion of Scripture to be memorized happens to be one of the songs of the Bible outside the Psalter? Are there some songs which, in and of themselves, when sung or listened to are seen by God to be offered up in worship to Him? If so, then we need to look at it from another end also. How about musical meditations which people offer up in worship that were never meant to be offered up in worship? Does authorial intent matter? If so, how could we tell authorial intent in some cases? Are there some songs which, in and of themselves, when sung or listened to are seen by God to **not** be offered up in worship to Him because they were merely meditational or devotional in nature and were never intended to be offered up as worship?
So the major question then is: Is it lawful to sing or listen to something that takes the form of praise (even inspired praise in the case of the Psalms and the setting to music of Scripture in order to aid in the memory of Scripture when such music happens to fall into the songs outside the Psalter in Scripture) without offering it up as worship to God? If yes, then the implication seems to be that the Psalms themselves could be used outside of worship–unless of course I’ve messed up in my reasoning somewhere or am forgetting certain portions of Scripture.”
“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.”