“They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim.”—R. Burns.
I. How should praise be offered to God? With the voice, with “the spirit, and with the understanding.” Psa. 30:1; 145:1; 66:17; Heb. 13:15; 1 Cor. 14:15; Psa. 42:4.
II. Why should praise be offered with the voice? Does not God fully know all silent thoughts? Sentiments are capable of being rendered not only more attractive, but also more impressive, by their combination with musical sounds, especially when we “sing with grace in our hearts, making melody to the Lord.”
III. Why should praise be offered with the understanding? Some sounds are adapted to sentiments of social pleasure, others to emotions of sorrow; some to matters of sentimental taste, and others, the reverse of all these, to the worship of God.
IV. May not then any musical sound be employed with propriety in the worship of God? No. It would readily appear abhorrent to every religious mind, to combine those tunes, which are adapted, by their gravity and solemnity, to the worship of God, with the songs of convivial feasting; and it cannot possibly be less so to reverse the case—to associate, by tune, the ideas and feelings of military prowess, amorous yearnings, or bacchanalian revellings, with “the song of Jehovah,” “in the assembly of the saints.”
V. Why must praise be offered with the spirit? Without the spirit, praise, as a part of religious worship, would not be acceptable to God. John 4:23,24.
VI. Was praise, as a part of worship, given to God, under the patriarchal dispensation? Not so far as we are informed. We there find that instrumental music was early cultivated by the posterity of Cain. Gen. 4:21. Yet we are not assured that praise was given either by vocal or instrumental music to God, previous to the days of Moses.
VII. In what manner was praise celebrated under the Mosaic dispensation? At the Red Sea, the whole congregation Exod. 15:1, sang, and at the conclusion of their worship, the women sang “with timbrels and with dances.” Exod. 15:20.
VIII. How was it conducted subsequently? By singing, frequently accompanied with instrumental music, especially in the magnificent worship of the temple, 1 Chron. 23:5; 2 Chron. 29:25, which was arranged by “David, the man of God.” Neh. 12:36.
IX. Was instrumental music employed in Jewish worship by the appointment of God? Yes. Always at the temple, after its erection, on the days of their great and solemn festivals, and at the offering of the morning and evening sacrifice; but never in their synagogues, the usual places of weekly worship. Instrumental music was of various kinds in their solemnities, and bore the same relation to praise that incense did to prayer. The one was always an accompaniment of the other. At the temple worship, or under the Mosaic dispensation, 1 Chron. 23:5; Ezra 3:10-12; 2 Chron. 8:14; Luke 1:10; 1 Chron. 23:13, and both instrumental music and incense were by the sacrifice of Christ superseded together. Psa. 141:2; Mal. 1:11; Rev. 5:8; Acts 10:4,30,31; Rev. 8:1,3,4.
X. Was instrumental music in use when Christ was on the earth? Yes. Both it and the varied sacrifices of slain beasts were in use at the temple.
XI. How long was instrumental music continued in divine worship? By the Jews, instruments were probably used at the temple until the destruction of it by Titus. By the primitive Christians they were never employed. “The weak and beggarly elements” of Jewish “bondage,” sacred persons, places, and things, priests, altars, temple, sacrifices, incense, robes, and instrumental music, all, all alike perished from acceptance in the worship of God, when Emmanuel exclaimed on the cross, “It is finished.”
XII. Do we find any express repeal of the use of instrumental music in the New Testament? or did our Saviour, the evangelists, or the apostles warn us against harp, psaltery, or organ, in the praise of God? New Testament writers tell us what observances God requires under the gospel, not what institutions were abrogated. They teach us that the Lord’s supper is to be perpetually administered, but do not say the passover was no longer to be observed; they do not expressly say that instrumental music must be silenced in worship, but they direct and command us to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name;” to “sing with grace, making melody in our hearts, the word of Christ” contained in the Book of Psalms. Heb. 13:15; Jam. 5:13.
XIII. Was instrumental music used any where else but at the temple, in worship, in the days of our Saviour or of his apostles? No. It was always confined entirely to the temple, (unless we call the sounding of the holy trumpets by the priests, in the time of war, worship), after God had chosen Jerusalem to put his name there, and instruments were never used in the synagogue. The Jews do not use, nor even tolerate, instruments in their worship now, and it is known that they never did. Hence Paul, in all his journeyings, could not find a single harp, psaltery, or organ, in any of the religious assemblies of his countrymen, beyond the precincts of the temple; and of course he never gave any warning or reproof against instruments. As the evil did not exist, the reproof of it could not be expected. He, however, speaks, in language bordering on contempt, of “things without life giving sound,” especially “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” 1 Cor. 13:1; 14:7.
XIV. When was instrumental music permanently introduced into the Christian church? It was introduced into the church at Rome, about 671, by Pope Vitalian; and the use of it was defended, not from Scripture, but from the assertion of “a power in the church to decree rites and ceremonies;” and by this assertion only can it now be maintained. So unlawful was it previously considered, that both the Christians and the Arians would have reckoned it a return back to Judaism to permit it in their public worship. “In the time of Justin Martyr, instrumental music was abolished; and, says he, psalms with organs and cymbals are fitter to please children that to instruct the church.”—Romaine.
XV. Has since been continued in the Papal Church? Always. In demanding tithes from the people, it is helpful to the cause, to tell them of the sacrifice of the mass, of incense, of the priesthood, and of organs; and all go together with “the gorgeous compositions which are heard in the Romish church,” to edify “the simple faithful.”
XVI. How have the reformers and the reformed churches viewed instrumental music?
Luther is said “to have reckoned organs among the ensigns of Baal.”
Calvin says, “In Popery there is a ridiculous and unsuitable imitation of the Jews. They, the Papists, employ organs and many other ludicrous things, by which the word and worship of God are exceedingly profaned,” etc.
Beza calls them “artificial musical performances, which are addressed to the ear alone, and seldom strike the understanding even of the performers themselves.”
“That organs were an abomination to our venerable fathers, (says the Presbytery of Glasgow), is an historical fact, established by the most unexceptionable authorities.”
The General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, in 1644, say, “Many corruptions are removed, such as altars, and the great organs at Paul’s and Peter’s, of London, are taken down.” It may be here stated, that the simple scriptural “form of Presbyterian worship does not admit of any of the gorgeous compositions which are heard in the Romish church,” Prog. of Music, Part II, p.26, ed. London, 1846, and that Presbyterianism denies the existence of any “power” in any “church, to decree rites and ceremonies,” for “the house of God.”
XVII. Did “the Pilgrim fathers” employ instrumental music in the worship of God? No. They had too much regard for divine authority to plunge into such “will-worship;” and when, in 1733, Bishop Berkeley presented the town named after him, in Massachusetts, with an organ, their Puritan feeling rejected his gift. It still gives “sound” in the Episcopal church, at Newport, R.I.
The first organ made in New England was built in 1745. Organs were probably unknown in Boston (excepting among Episcopalians) until since A.D. 1800. It is to the boasted “light of the nineteenth century,” in proportion as it is irradiated by the rays of will-worship from Papal Rome, that we are indebted for “those gorgeous compositions” of the choir and organ, which rival the performances of “the man of sin” himself, “those gorgeous compositions which are heard in the Romish church.”
XVIII. Are not purer devotional feeling and a deeper tone or piety produced by a choir, or with instrumental music, than by vocal and congregational singing? No. The supposed act of worship by proxy cannot at all equal that in which we personally engage. When we listen to the musical performances of others, we are in the mean time prevented from worshipping God ourselves; from “giving to him the fruit of our lips,” and form singing “psalms to him with grace.” Psa. 95:1,2.
“The tickled ears no heartfelt raptures raise;
No unison have they with our Creator’s praise.”
XIX. As organs are fixtures in churches, is not all that is performed on them sacred? No. Since instrumental worship in the Jewish temple was superseded by the sacrifice of Christ, when “the vail was rent in twain,” nothing performed on any instrument, on any “thing without life giving sound,” is sacred; although refined sentimentality divides and distributes musical performances, according to scientific taste and human fancy, in the following order: “W. M. brought out the different styles of which the instrument (a magnificent organ) is capable, with admirable effect, from the truly ecclesiastical to the operatic and secular.”—B. Rec., March 2, 1849.
XX. Is there any connection between the adoption of an uninspired psalmody and the use of instruments in the worship of God? The one usually leads to the other. Where men take the liberty of substituting human effusions for “the word of Christ,” it will not be difficult, when the means can be obtained, to “chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David.” Amos 5:23; 6:5.
XXI. What, then, is the duty of Christian churches in this matter? In whatever manner governed, they ought, as Protestants, carefully to avoid all unauthorized worship, either in the matter or manner or praise; to abide by that which is commanded, recollecting that all the embellishments and meretricious ornaments, with which human skill invests the matter and manner or our praise, are similar to the armour or Saul when placed on David. 1 Sam. 17:39. They form no appointed part of the “armour of God” in the Christian “warfare,” Eph. 6:11, and they must be cast aside, or we will incur the displeasure of “a jealous God;” spread, under his disapprobation, spiritual death over the churches of Christ; cause his children to weep in secret places; the men of this world to rejoice, and the enemies of Christ to blaspheme.
XXII. What, then, should we sing to the praise of God? Our own edification and safety lie in singing only the Book of Psalms; not any “imitation,” but “the word of Christ” itself, in the most literal and correct version which can be obtained. Notwithstanding numerous minor defects, the Scotch or Presbyterian “version is, upon the whole, the best.” When using it, “we have the satisfaction to know, that we utter praise in the very words of inspiration;” and in the opinion of Boswell, “it is vain to think of having a better.” Of the version of Sternhold and Hopkins, the Rev. Wm. Romaine says, “It is generally the sentiment of the Holy Spirit. That is very rarely lost, and this should silence every objection—it is the word of God. Moreover, the version comes nearer to the original than any I have ever seen except the Scotch.” Some judicious verbal amendments, by the omission of antiquated words, would be truly desirable if Presbyterians could unanimously make them.
XXIII. In what manner, then, should we sing these sacred songs to the praise of Jehovah? Always as an act of divine worship, with the spirit and with the understanding, with our voice, and with grace in our hearts, making melody to the Lord—individually—in families—and in the house of God. Avoiding the decorations of a theatrical and sentimental taste, and delighting ourselves in the word of Christ after the inward man, we will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; we will come to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of just men made perfect, and daily join with them in singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb.
While others, in offering praise in human compositions, to their own Master must stand or fall, we, in singing psalms when merry, can never, never, never be wrong. Individually we may say to God,—
“Whom have I in the heavens high
But thee, O Lord, alone?”—Psa. 73.
“Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear none ill:
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.”—Psa. 23.
“But as for me, I thine own face
In righteousness will see;
And with thy likeness, when I wake,
I satisfied shall be.”—Psa. 17.
And when nothing but his own appointed matter shall be offered in praise to God, how soon will then be heard, “from the uttermost parts of the earth, songs, even glory to the righteous!” Then “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs;” the church of the living God being then “established in the top of the mountains, all nations shall flow unto it, singing together with the voice, saying,—
“All lands to God, in joyful sounds,
Aloft your voices raise:
Sing forth the honour of his name,
And glorious make his praise.”—Psa. 66.
Who will not add his tephilah, (his prayer), and say,—
“And blessed be his glorious name
To all eternity:
The whole earth let his glory fill.
Amen, so let it be.”—Psa. 72.