Tag Archives: William Romaine

“…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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