Of Sovereign Grace Church at Gettysburg
By Jeremy Kerr
The following is a refutation Sovereign Grace Church of Gettysburg's Session Statement regarding the use of unauthorized hymnody and musical instruments in worship. As a refutation, most of its content is negative and lacks much of the positive grounds for the practice of a cappella exclusive Psalmody. It is highly recommended therefore that the reader, in addition to reading this document, spend some time reading a number of the defenses of Exclusive Psalmody and the Regulative Principle of Worship available on the Internet at http://www.covenanter.org Of particular value are The "Preface to the Bay Psalm Book," McLaren's "The Psalms of Holy Scripture the Only Songs of Zion," and the short article "Are Hymns Idols?"
Conceded by the session of Sovereign Grace Church:We take no issue with... the "Regulative Principle" which seeks to describe the biblical truth that God forbids all false worship outside the explicit command and provision of his Word.This statement really concedes very little by its use of the terms "all false worship." The question at hand is not so much, "should we reject all false worship?" but rather "what worship is false worship, and thus to be rejected?" The above concession, unless it suggests that there is some false worship inside "the explicit command and provision of his Word," is redundant and concedes nothing to the point.
A more proper assertion of the regulative principle would be the statement that "God forbids as false, all worship whatsoever which is offered without the explicit command and provision of his Word."
Next it is suggested that this "regulative principle" should be somehow identified with the gospel itself. It is asserted that "We seek to identify " without giving any reason or warrant for thus undermining the ruling of God's law in this principle, except that God does not need to make a commandment as a provision for the "protection" of the gospel. This fact however does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that God has established no law for the conduct of his people, nor ordinance concerning what service they shall render him. As a more general rule for the order of God's worship, this law, never identified in scripture as typical or ceremonial, nor ever repealed by Him who came not to destroy the law, must be moral. Further, we may conclude that it is natural law, and not positive, because nature itself teaches us that no sovereign in any sphere will accept that as service to himself which he never expressed to be in accordance with his will, unless it be some service as will be found needful to him or essentially beneficial to his being or well-being. But God is in no need of anything that man can offer Him, and has expressly stated that He will only be pleased with obedience, so that we may not assume that there is any servicing of God except that which He wills to account as His service, namely, obedience.
But, if this law is a natural law (established by the will of God as an essential part of creation itself,) then it is incorporate in nature created, and thus, as immutable as any other moral law, yea, even the very law that binds us to worship God. Now, that which has its being in nature from the creation, does not have its being from the Gospel, for the Gospel Covenant was established to restore that of creation which was destroyed. But no law of God needs correction, neither are any laws revoked as moral laws and directions to obedience upon the account that they are fulfilled by the Mediator of this Gospel Covenant, therefore, this regulative principle, which is held forth in essence in the second commandment, is not revoked, nor even tempered to find compatibility with the Gospel, for the Gospel itself was introduced (among other reasons) that this law, like all other moral laws, might finally find "compatibility" with man, when God shall have fully sanctified His people through the faith of the Gospel, teaching them to obey his commandments. Therefore, the Regulative Principle of Worship is not to be "identified with the Gospel."
Further, there can be no evidence to the contrary of this brought forth, for even this Mediator of the Gospel Covenant, or Covenant of Grace, who is appointed King over Zion and High Priest over the people of God, did never abrogate this law. Yea, He held the Pharisees to be in sin because they did violate it, and when he dwelt among us, subjected Himself to the same law by singing the ancient songs of Zion, though it was His great prerogative to appoint the songs to be included in His Psalter, adding more if he so pleased. But this He did not do, and it is high presumption to assume that He would have any other to do this, when He never appointed any apostle or any officer of His Church this responsibility, nor did they assume the same to themselves. Therefore, it is certain, and evident by example, that the Classic Regulative Principle, as held forth in God's law, and no other, is the Gospel Regulative Principle; and he who seeks to establish any other in its place, seeks to change the laws of God and to remove not only the ancient landmarks of the Church, but even the service itself, carrying the sacrifice from the altar of Jerusalem which sanctifies to the cursed altar of Bethel which turns all "worship" to sin.
Statement of the issue by Sovereign Grace Church:The charge that singing other than canonical Psalms without musical accompaniment is sin, and an act of "will worship" which adds to the provision God has made for the worship of his people in the Psalms.This statement of the issue is accurate. It should also be noted that the accusation of such will-worship implies an accusation of a violation of the second commandment and therefore idolatry. The nature of the idolatry in discussion is not the intended worship of a false God but the idolatrous and false worship of the true God, which may be termed a worshipping of devils insofar as God is not thus worshiped and only devils are served. Often an attempt is made to abstract will-worship and idolatry, but this is neither honest, nor does it express a proper concern for those that are involved in this sin. Likewise, this watered-down view of the seriousness of will-worship idolatry is further reflected in the straw-men arguments setup in the SGC Statement which were to be refuted. Arguments concerning the dangers of hymn-singing as an inlet to heresy and the implicit messages that might be communicated are useful against the institution of hymn-singing by men, but they do not actually demonstrate that God has forbidden this institution.
Particular exception is taken to the representation of argument three as stated, where it is suggested that the reason why psalms and hymns should not be sung together, is because this would communicate a slighting of God's truth by setting man's word and God's word on the same level. The argument is presented as an over-scrupulous and perhaps even superstitious concern for an implicit message that could possibly be taught through this practice, that doesn't take into consideration obvious realities with regard to the powerful nature of the truth itself. However, as childish as the argument may sound as presented here, and even as presented by some who do seek to defend the Regulative Principle of Worship, this argument is not without merit, and one would think that the SGC Session would be likely to use reasoning similar to this in regard to scripture reading if the Presbytery of Philadelphia were to command the reading of excerpts from the Anglican prayer-book interspersed with the scripture readings for public worship. Other and weightier arguments would certainly be used, but this would not be mocked. Likewise, it is for a far different reason that Presbyterians do not sing hymns than that which is suggested by this representation. Indeed, had God commanded that the hymns of men should be sung, or had Christ appointed officers to compose new psalms (whether inspired or not,) Presbyterians would take no offense at the singing of these songs to the praise of God; rather, they would delight greatly in doing so in obedience to their good God. What they do take offense at, is the setting up of a command of men, next to the command of God, seeing the scriptures so strictly condemn the "commandments of men." Hymns do not find their way into the worship of God by themselves. Hymns are brought into the worship of God, and they are brought in by nothing else but the institutions and commandments of men. Hymns are brought into the church the same way as musical instruments, holy days, puppet shows, images, multimedia presentations, choirs, kneeling at the sacrament, altars, bowing down to the same, signing of the cross in baptism, and all other ceremonies without the commandment of Godall these are brought in by men who so commanded. The use and practice of these forms of worship are therefore not an obeying of God, but an obeying of mennot a service and worship of God, but a service and worship of men and their idols.
Likewise, the fourth argument stated is also worthy of some note, but again, there is a serious matter of authorization and appointment that is ignored here. Had Christ authorized the composition of new hymns, we would not object to their usage, so long as they were composed and adopted in accordance with whatever rules He had set down. But this is not the case.
With regard to the fifth argument, exception is taken to any statements which might just as easily militate against the use of musical instruments in the temple by the Jews. This was an ordinance of God which deserves not the mocking nor complaints of men. It is to be noted therefore, that the use of musical instruments in the temple under the old dispensation was for an entirely different purpose than that of any modern congregation. Nor were instruments appointed for the worship of God in the local assemblies of the Jews in their synagogues; so that it is evident that the purpose for which these modern churches have instituted (and so self-commanded) the use of musical instruments must be a purpose foreign to the people of God in all that time.
At the introduction to the Response section it is "assumed" that the points stated as the arguments for exclusive a cappella psalmody "accurately represent the concern of those who maintain that the 'Regulative Principle' of worship requires exclusive Psalmody in the worshipping church in a way rendering all other musical expression an act of 'will worship' and 'strange fire' which is condemned and prohibited by God" while conceding that the above arguments are not a comprehensive statement of the position of those who adhere to the practice of exclusive psalmody. Let it be stated however, that these articles are neither comprehensive, nor are they accurate in representing the position, although it is to be granted that they represent the position just as well as some in the RPCNA and other 'denominations' who do not know why they worship as they do.
The refutation of the first argument begins with what is a matter most irrelevant to the discussion. It need not be affirmed whether Ephesians 5.19 or Colossians 3.16 refers to the ordinance of praise as an element of worshipthe matter still stands the same, that neither of these passages, commonly referred to as supporting an ordinance of hymn singing because the English translations of these passages traditionally render humnos as 'hymns', can be used to prove a warrant for or institution of the use of any psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs except those found in the Psalter. If it is granted that the reference here to "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" cannot be proven to refer to anything but canonical psalms, then the point is madethere is here no support for the institution of non-canonical hymnody in the worship of God. If it be insisted that these two verses have no reference to the ordinance of praise, then it still gives the advocates of non-canonical hymnody no support, and those calling for an exclusive psalmody from the Psalter shall find their support for singing the Psalms elsewhere. In fact, the Psalter itself is sufficient with all of its commands to 'sing' and 'praise' found in the psalms themselves. The commands and suggestions in our modern hymnals however, have no authority behind them other thanthe commandments of menand when it is asked "who hath required this at your hands?" a great many people will be holding up their 'companion-to-the-bible' hymnals as the answer, but no such answer will be accepted by Him who delivered to man the hymnal-in-the-bible Psalter with sufficient commands contained therein to make clear what was His will.
As suggested in the third paragraph of the response to the first argument, there are some persons who would attempt to make Ephesians 5.19 and Colossians 3.16 the basis for a restricting of unauthorized hymnody from worship. This is not however the point which true Presbyterians have made from these verses to defend their practice of exclusive psalmody. It is not argued that these verses explicitly set forth a practice of exclusive psalmody. What is true however, is that they exclusively set forth the practice of psalmody, that is, they do not teach us to go only to the psalms, but, they do only teach us to go to the psalms. Had there been other verses in the Bible to direct us to go elsewhere, these sources would also be authorized by Christ through His apostle. This not being the case however, Christians are left exclusively with a practice of psalmody, and therefore practice exclusive psalmody. There need be no restriction other than "thou shalt not add thereto" to teach Christians what they ought not to sing. No commandment saying "thou shalt not sing the abominations of Isaac Watts" is necessary for those who follow only the commandments of God.
Regarding the first observation on Colossians 3.16 with its comparison of the NIV and AV translations of this verse, there is no argument among those that hold to the AV Psalter (1650 Scottish Psalter) because they also use the AV Bible. However, these verses need not have an exclusive reference to the ordinance of praise at all, public or private,it shall still remain that they do not support the use of any hymns not instituted by Christ. It would be observed however, that "the word of Christ" mentioned in this verse should by no means be limited to the Gospel Message or Promise but must also extend to the Law of Christ. The allowing of the word of Christ to dwell in the believer richly in all wisdom is the necessary active response of those who are "renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created them" as in verse 10. This renewing in knowledge after the image of God is the work of God, who writes His law upon the hearts of His people and fills them with a love toward Him that compels them to conform to that image of God revealed in his Law. This is the obvious meaning of Paul in II Timothy 3.16 where he writes to Timothy, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," which 'scripture' at that time had reference to the Law and the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures. So likewise, in writing to the Colossians, Paul exhorts them to make use of the Psalms for this end, as they are filled with a thorough expression of Gospel truth, (especially relating to the gracious justification of sinners,) a commentary on the entire Christian life with relevant application to all situations, an abundant expression of admiration at the perfection and wisdom of God's law, as well as a glorious exposition of the attributes and acts of God with suitable praise.
In light of this, the reason why Colossians 3.16 does not "mean all teaching and admonishing among believers which does not cite or explicitly quote a canonical Psalm is excluded and prohibited" is not because Colossians 3.16 teaches us to use anything else, or because it fails to limit use to the Psalms (which, as stated was not the purpose of this verse) but because there are other commands of God which would instruct us to go about admonishing and teaching one another in a different manner. This is not true however with the ordinance of praise, concerning which, whether exercised in public or private, the scriptures point to no other matter for song than the psalms, and no other authority to teach new psalms, but those prophets who have now been taken away.
As the SGC statement continues, there is an assertion that "those who say that the mention of singing in connection with the Psalms in this passage forbids all singing save the verbatim quotation of canonical Psalms are obliged by the same logic to say the same thing about teaching and admonishing." Then follows an accusation of arbitrariness in the application of this principle by the proponents of exclusive Psalmody. Again, it must be observed that the proponents of exclusive Psalmody do not say that the "mention of singing in connection with the Psalms in this passage forbids all singing save the verbatim quotation of canonical Psalms." It is evident from the text itself that nothing is specifically forbidden by this positive command of Paul. There may be some few who make such arguments as above, but the assertion itself betrays a lack of understanding in regards to what the real arguments are in favour of exclusive psalmody. The reason the proponents of exclusive psalmody teach and admonish in words other than direct quotations from the Psalms is because they are commanded to do so. If there were no other commands to direct Christians in their teaching and admonishing of one another, the proponents of exclusive psalmody and the regulative principle would then take a course similar to that taken with regards to the ordinance of praise. This however, is not the case, and nature so clearly teaches otherwise that it seems it would be impossible to do otherwise if we are to teach and admonish to the extent that God requires. However, exclusive use of the Psalms as matter of praise does in no way limit the Christian's ability to praise God according to His commandments.
The position statement of SGC on this issue again betrays complete blindness to the real issue at hand by citing II Timothy 3.16, also cited above. This is the reason why teaching and admonishing are not so restricted as singing. It is worthy of note therefore, that II Timothy does not say "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for singing, for praise ." This passage is actually a solution to the alleged contradiction of the exclusive psalmody position.
In response to the question, "Is there something about expressing that thanks in song that makes it inherently sinful because the thanks in song is not a verbatim quotation of a canonical psalm?" where "that thanks" refers to the expressing of thanks to God in the everyday life of a Christian and his association with others,the following points should be noted. First, thanks to God is expressed to God, not to those with whom we are associate. Thanks to God is one matter of the praise that is expressed in the singing of the psalms, which is one particular institution of worship. It is also expressed in prayer, either by an individual, or by a representative individual among an association of Christians. For both of these acts of prayer there is scriptural warrant by institution and examplethis is another institution of the worship of God. Thanksgiving as a matter of prayer is never offered by the simultaneous prayers of a group of people, nor is the prayer ever to be made by reading or reciting the prayers of others, whether inspired or not. This is the liturgical superstition of the Papacy & the Church of England. It is therefore evident that this question has reference to an entirely different institution, seeing as the proponents of exclusive psalmody do never recite the psalms as prayers and the proponents of hymnody do never sing their own extemporaneous prayers. The reverse reasoning of the above argument (for the singing of personal prayers) is just as valid, which would argue for the use of the psalms as actual prayers. It is expected however, that a commandment by the 'Presbytery' of Philadelphia to use only the psalms as prayers in worship on Sabbath would be objected to by Sovereign Grace Church. Secondly, as intimated above, the hymns used for matter of praise by SGC are not the thanks that they have offered to God in their everyday lives, nor in their association with one another. This is obvious truth. The proponents of hymnody must cease to pretend that their hymns are their prayers. It is dishonest to pretend that a warrant to pray one's own prayer proves a warrant to sing one's own songs, and then go and sing Isaac Watts' songs as if this had been validated. If SGC argues that, for the substance of her hymns, they are identical to the thanks she offers daily and when gathered together, then it must be asked if the substance of her prayers and thanksgiving is not contained in the Psalms? If it is not, this argues a deficiency in the Psalms, or misdirected prayers on the part of SGC. If it is, then there is no need for her hymns. At this point then, arises the discussion of form versus substance, to be addressed later. Let it be simply stated for now, that if the Psalms are sufficient for substance, and if form really is not important, then no Presbyterian church has any reason to sing anything else besides the 1650 Scottish Psalms. These were appointed by a lawful General Assembly. It is contrary to all order, and in no way conducive to true uniformity, for synods in America, calling themselves "General Assemblies" to overrule the decisions of higher church courts by appointing entirely new Psalters when it is admittedly unnecessary. So much the more then is it disorderly, and in respect to Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, just plain rebellion, to appoint new hymns to be included in these (for so they are become) "hymnals." Thirdly, to answer the question, the proponents of exclusive psalmody say, "No." The fact that it is not a verbatim quotation of a canonical psalm does not inherently make the act sinful. Let it be remarked: First, nothing is sinful except that which is contrary to the revealed will of God. Nothing is absolutely inherently sinful. An act is sinful because it is a violation of God's law, which is His revealed will. Had God's law commanded the singing of Isaac Watts' hymns, or hymns approved by some special entity, or hymns of our own composing, then there certainly would not be anything sinful about singing other than verbatim quotations of the psalms, inherently or otherwise. Second, God's Law commands that nothing be added to His worship. Adding thereto is therefore sinful. Likewise, the institution of one's own hymns for the same purpose for which the Psalms were instituted by Christ, is an obvious adding to those psalms, and practically can never be seen as anything else, unless some arbitrary circumstance is added to make these appear as two different ordinances. But then again, whatever the appearance may be, mere circumstances do not change the identity of an institution of worship. For this reason, hymn-singing is sinful, because it is either an ordinance added to God's worship, or it is essential matter added to an ordinance, for which God has already made provision. Finally, the act described is sinful because it is presumptuous. It is not founded on the commandment of God, but the erroneous reasoning of men. It therefore cannot be done according to Faith. If there is a faith associated, it is a trusting in the commandments of men, and not the commandments of God, and therefore it is all the same as no faith, being no true faith, all which is founded on God's Word.
The accusation of Pharisaism will be ignored and forgiven as a sin of ignorance. It should only be noted that the Pharisees were those who added to God's Law the commandments of men and, in spite of their legalism, were accused by Christ of coming short of or neglecting the law in its fullness more than any thing else.
The conclusion of the response to the first argument is agreeable to the proponents of exclusive psalmody. As said before, it should be noted that although Ephesians 5.19 and Colossians 3.16 do not have an exclusionary purpose explicitly expressed, they do not either implicitly or explicitly command the use of any hymns for the purpose of singing outside of the 150 Psalms appointed by God. This response is therefore irrelevant to the matter brought into discussion by argument one.
At the outset of responding to argument two, SGC confesses that "it is indeed true that man-made expressions of worship are condemned in the Bible." This is encouraging, but the remaining discussion presents an unfaithful representation of the position held by proponents of exclusive psalmody. Here it is claimed that it is argued in favour of the position of exclusive psalmody that "all worship which does not consist in the verbatim quotations of Scripture is, because it is not singing only the words of the Psalms, man made worship." Let it first be noted that the statement is illogical. Not all "verbatim quotations of Scripture" are "the words of the Psalms." It would be possible to sing "verbatim quotations of Scripture" without singing the Psalms, and this would be just as unauthorized (as uninspired-hymn-singing), and therefore just as presumptuous an act of will-worship. Second, the statement is foolish. It amounts to nothing more than saying, "all singing of hymns is, because they are not psalms, man-made worship." The fact that hymns are not psalms is not the reason why the institution is man-made, or man-authorized (that is, a 'commandment of men'.) Had Christians been commanded to sing other songs of their own composing, the institution of hymn singing would not be a man-made institution or commandment of men. Hymns would still have been 'man-made', but their use would have been authorized, it would have been a commandment of God. The real reason why hymn-singing is man-made worship is because it is not a commandment of God, nor is it a fulfilling of the commandment that He has given us, to receive the Psalter at His hand, and sing His Psalms. It is not merely the fact that hymns are uninspired that makes the singing of them a commandment of men, but the fact that the institution of hymn-singing is uninspired, that is, the authorization is not of God, but of men. The practice itself is a commandment of men just as much as the words to be sung are commanded of men. Thus, the exclusive psalmist is not to be identified as one who authorizes the use of only God's word but rather as one who uses only the words that God has authorized. He is not seeking to make his own institutions and commandments, but rather to carefully adhere to the institutions and commandments of God.
Next, it is argued that "it is possible to glorify God with words that come from a heart which has been changed by the Spirit of God." Brought in to demonstrate this are a few verses of scripture, the first of which is a Psalm (19.14) and has direct application to the author himself. It is not surprising that the words of David's mouth (namely, all of the Psalm preceding, for this is the conclusion of the psalm) should be acceptable in the sight of God. With David, Presbyterians hope and pray that God will accept these words when sung to Him in accordance with his command and promise. The last verse (II Corinthians 6.7) is likewise of no use to this purpose because the text refers not to "truthful speech," but to "the word of truth," as literal translations such as the AV and the Geneva Bible read. Whether or not this passage is to be interpreted literally is another question. Regardless, it is granted that the rest of the passages do bear out the truth that it is possible for a Christian by the grace of God to conceive and speak such words as are truthful, edifying, ministering grace unto the hearers, and a means whereby thanksgiving is expressed to God. In fact, with regard to the words themselves, it may be said that by a "common operation of the Spirit," even the unregenerate may conceive and speak such words as meet all of these same standards in an outward way. These are not however the standards which qualify any words for use as praise song. They are not backed with the authorizing seal and approbation of God's commandment. Again, it is reiterated: the exclusive psalmist is not to be identified as one who authorizes the use of only God's word but rather as one who uses only the words that God has authorized.
Continuing with this thought, that "verbal expression offered to God [that] is not a verbatim quotation of the Psalms does not make it man-made and therefore false," an attempt is made to support this by claiming that such expression is an expression of the very life of Jesus Christ. Then it is claimed that the "fruit of the Spirit" evident in the people of God, is proof "that the life lived according to the truth of the Gospel is anything but man-made." This assertion however, begs many questions. Is hymn-singing a "fruit of the spirit"? One must try the spirit. If the act is not in accordance with God's law, it should not be assumed that this is a "fruit of the Spirit." Is this an example of living life according to the truth of the Gospel? If it is living life after the commandments and traditions of men, without the commandment of God, it should not be assumed that this is an aspect of the Christian's life that flows from his Christianity, but from the old man, who, if he can not have a complete rebellion against God, will at times settle for a partial, hidden rebellion. But this brings in the last question that ought to be asked. Are Christians at all times led by the Spirit of God in their worship in such a way that there can be nothing therein contrary to God's law? Now, it is certain that insofar as the Spirit of God does graciously lead Christians in their worshipping of God, thus far that worship is undoubtedly in conformity to his law. But the common experience and acknowledgement of every true Christian while living this life is that he does never truly worship God as he ought. His worship is not prefect, but tainted with wandering thoughts, sinful distractions, and other wickedness. Likewise, it has been the case that some have gone wrong in regards to the very form of their worship. To argue that Christians are so sanctified by the Spirit that there can be nothing sinful in their worship with regard to the manner in which they go about worshipping God is to argue for an inspired, infallible behaviour from which we may learn God's will, not unlike that of some enthusiastic charismatics. The only time that a Christian's worship may be considered in any sense 'inspired' is when that worship consists only of obedience to the commandments of God, found in his inspired word. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8.20) If worship is not according to the Word of Christ, then it is not from the Spirit of Christ.
In the next paragraph of SGC's statement, representations of the position of exclusive psalmody are made suggesting that it is held that "expressions of thanks or praise that do not consist in a verbatim quotation of Scripture" are inherently untruthful. This is only to mock those that argue for exclusive psalmody as well as any reader of the SGC position statement. There is no truth in this representation. Likewise, the suggestion that the position affirms an 'inherent' sinfulness in these words for this reason is also dishonest (or at best highly uninformed) and has been addressed already. It is not held by the proponents of exclusive psalmody that it is "impossible for the Church to confess the truth with any certainty, " for the Church's Confession of Faith as adopted in 1647 is an evident demonstration of her ability to, at times and by the grace of God, confess the truth without any error. All true Presbyterians and Christians condemn the philosophy of Van Til & the Skepticsthey do not seek to make use of it to defend Exclusive Psalmody.
Hereafter another argument is laid down, not to refute the claim made by the supporters of exclusive psalmody, that the institution of hymn-singing is man-made and therefore sinful, but the less relevant claim that the hymns are man-made and therefore not the institution that God has made. This second claim, made by some of the supporters of exclusive psalmody is inaccurate however, and it should rather be stated "that hymns are not of the 150 psalms given and authorized by God (for the purpose of singing) and therefore not the institution that God has made." The SGC statement produces nothing of effect however, because it does not even prove that hymns are not 'man-made,' but only that they may be true and confessed by grace. This therefore, does not go far enough to refute the claims of those supporting exclusive psalmody, and indeed, if it went any further, it would only prove that such hymns were infallibly inspired.But as stated above, this is not the issue. The inerrancy of many orthodox hymns is evident and may really be known by sinful men if their minds are enlightened by the Spirit of God; but though the text of the hymns was inspired by God, they must also have his inspired authorizing commandment to be used as Psalms. If they are not used as Psalms, then it is not evident from scripture what they shall be used as.
Having thus demonstrated that hymns can be just as true as Psalms (a matter true, but certainly not to be boasted of,) it is concluded that the "concern of exclusive Psalmody can only be maintained with respect to the form of the words, and must be separated from the meaning of the words sung." Perhaps this is true, and indeed, it might have been far more easily demonstrated by the fact that exclusive Psalmody also excludes the use of other "scripture songs" as they too can only be used without God's warrant. But, ought Christians to have no concern with the "form of sound words?" (II Tim. 1.13.) Indeed, it is likely that even the SGC Session would oppose replacing the book of psalms in their Bibles with a hymnal, even if they were given the grand and lofty seat of authority to decide which hymns ought to be included and which ought not. But if SGC offends at being asked to replace the 150 Psalms in her Bibles with 150 orthodox and edifying hymns, composed by men sanctified by the Spirit of God, why ought not those that sing only the Songs of Zion be offended when they are asked to trade in their Psalter for a Hymnal with so much of the same substance of truth and edifying content? It may be that the reasons here are different. It may not be. But in either case, the reasons have to do with this so-called "form of the words."
Furthermore, accusations against the position of exclusive psalmody suggesting that a greater significance is placed on the form than the meaning of the words used must be met with the following observations:
Next, it is asserted that "It is not possible to express true thankfulness and Godly fear and be other than worshipping." Now, this "true thankfulness" either has reference to the outward act, or to the spiritual act. With regard to the outward act, the statement is evidently not true, as affirmed by the SGC statement earlier, "It is possible to sing the words of the canonical psalms and to not be worshipping." The obvious reason implied is that there may yet be no spiritual worship. The statement above must therefore have reference to the spiritual act. But, while the psalm-singer may not be worshipping when he sings the Psalms if he does not believe, so the hymn-singer does not worship when he sings his hymns because he does not obey. If unbelief or misbelief can poison the worship of the one, presumption and will-worship poison the worship of the latter. Both may outwardly express "true thankfulness and godly fear" at some level, and both may sincerely believe that they are serving their God, but, for all that, they are not worshipping God in spirit or in truth. If true worship "is found in that expression born of the Spirit" then it is not found among those who are led by another spirit to worship God in ways that He has not commanded nor in those that exalt themselves to Christ's throne as usurping tyrants and institute new hymns of their own or anyone else's composition.
- Whenever the form is preserved, the meaning is also necessarily preserved. By a concern for form, nothing of the substance or meaning of the words is ever lost or compromised.
- The accusation is dishonest. Exclusive psalmody does not place a greater or undue significance in the form. The fact is however, that the position of exclusive Psalmody does place some significance in the form. It considers both form and meaning to be of importance to the point where they are essential, but this does not necessarily imply an exalting of form over substance. Likewise, the very idea is meaningless so long as one is holding to the exclusive psalmody position, because none of the truth or meaning of the psalms can be compromised while holding to the psalms themselves.
- The position which SGC claims to take, that form is not important, is contrary to the scripture (II Tim 1.13) and a position that she would never hold consistently. It is certain that exceptions would be made such as that instanced above (in the matter of replacing the Psalter in one's Bible with a hymnal.)
- SGC does not actually do as she claims. She does not give preference to the meaning of the psalms over the form and she definitely does not ignore the form. If this were so, she would have contented herself with the 150 heavenly hymns received of God. She would have had no reason to abandon the form of the Psalms. It is evident therefore that, ignoring arguments in favour of adhering to the Psalms appointed by God (if for nothing else, for uniformity among God's people throughout all nations and in all presbyteries and congregations) SGC has out of an undue regard for form, chosen other forms to make the matter of her worship-song. She is guilty of what she accuses, though she knows it not.
Let it be reaffirmed therefore, in response to the conclusion of the SGC statement on argument two, that it is impossible for those who are adhering to the Psalms to be exalting the form over the meaning, for none of the meaning can be compromised until the form is first changed from its original. The observations therefore are dishonest and should rather be directed at the favourers of the Songs of Bethel who have chosen to move the meaning to a different form and make use of a new altar upon which to offer the praises and thanksgiving of their hearts, an altar like to the first, but not the same.
In response to the third argument presented (by SGC) as an argument used to defend Exclusive Psalmody, the session statement begins by rejecting "the point that an implicit message is communicated which diminishes the authority and the uniqueness of the revelation of God when confession of truth is joined with its biblical expression." In response, three things should be noted. First, although it may not be the intention of SGC to communicate an implicit message that "diminishes the authority and the uniqueness of the revelation of God" and although a diminished respect for "the authority and the uniqueness of the revelation of God" may not necessarily be the reason for SGC's use of hymns, this does not mean that no such message is communicated or could be communicated. It is suggested by SGC in defence of her unwarrantable practice thatIf the Scriptures are faithfully read, sung, and confessed, the message communicated will always point to the primacy of the word of God and the uniqueness and sufficiency of His revelation, and the explicit truth of the primacy of the Word and the sufficiency of Scripture as a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ will be served by "un-inspired" confessions rather than diminished by them.Now, it is granted, that explicitly, in regards to what is verbally said, this is true. However, implicitly, with regard to what is understood by the hearer, the faithful reading, singing, and confession of the scriptures only point the hearer to the primacy of the word of God and the uniqueness and sufficiency of His revelation when it is accompanied with the blessing of God's Spirit. Without God's blessing, the entire Bible can be read, sung, confessed, and expounded without any profit to those present. As Thomas Boston observes in his sermon on "How the Word is Made Effectual to Salvation" -Doctrine: 'The word of God is the sword the Spirit makes use of for raising up a kingdom to Christ.' This more fully in the words of the Catechism, runs thus: 'The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.'In support of this, two scriptures are cited: 1 Cor. 3.5-6 and Heb. 4.2. Such truths, together with the commands to read, sing, and confess God's word for this end, are as sweet promises from God to those who will with faith read, sing, and confess the Scriptures in obedience to God. But it is presumption to expect that God will bless the institutions and commandments of men, because He has never promised to do so. "Un-inspired confessions" are commanded for certain purposes, but they are never commanded for use as matter of praise in the ordinance of praise. Christians must not ever think that they may make use of God's truth for any purpose they please, and that they shall find success just because the instrument that they are using is of God. Christians must instead, make use of God's truth according to His commandments, thereby submitting themselves to be used by God's truth. Therefore, if Christians will point others to the supremacy and uniqueness of God's word, they must do so in accordance with God's word, for there is no promise of a spiritual blessing apart from this.
Second, in response to the above claim that "the authority and the uniqueness of the revelation of God" is not diminished by any implicit message communicated in the use of hymns, let it be noted that although a respect for God's word as the infallible inspired Word of God may not be diminished, the regard held for Christ's institutions in worship is diminished. Even if it were true that hymns may direct the hearers to a proper regard for the "truth of the Gospel" and the "inspired infallible word of God," yet the institution of hymn-singing cannot direct the hearers away from a commandment of men, to the institution of Psalmody, a commandment of God. So long as the commandments and institutions of men are upheld, they are also exalted to the position of the commandments and institutions of God. It is hoped that no Protestant, and especially no professing Presbyterian, will argue that this does not at least reflect a diminished respect for the institutions of God.
Third, which flows naturally from the above considerations, although a respect for God's word as the infallible inspired Word of God may not be diminished by the content of the hymns, the regard held for the authority of Christ as King over his holy hill of Zion is diminished by their use. No longer is He High Priest to appoint His own ordinances of worship according to His own will, but now He is compelled to bow to fellow "kings and priests" so-called, who shall also appoint ordinances for His temple in accordance with what service they are willing to yield to Him. They will do what is right in their own eyes. Certainly then, to disregard that command, "thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" does in fact diminish the regard held for the authority of God, the institutions of God, and even the commandments of God, and therefore the Word of God.
Furthermore, it is asked by the SGC Session, does the singing of an uninspired confession in combination with the reading and singing of Scripture constitute "a de facto undermining of Scripture read and sung?" As an answer to this she suggests that because "non-inspired" sermons do not diminish the reading of the Scriptures, therefore, "non-inspired" hymns do not necessarily diminish the reading of the Scriptures either. Let it be observed however, that:
Furthermore, as the conclusion of the SGC statement's response to argument three reiterates its claim that a greater weight is placed on the form than the meaning of the expressions used in God's worship, it must be reiterated that this claim is both incorrect and dishonest. Never are the orthodox and edifying truths of the meaning of the hymns rejected by keeping to the infallibly orthodox and edifying form of the Psalms. If this distinction is to be made, then it is only the form of the orthodox hymns that is rejected. It is therefore clear that although some weight is placed on the form of these expressions, indeed, so much that where the proper form is not present, the expressions themselves are rejected because of their form, yet this weight cannot be identified as being greater than the weight placed on the meaning of the expression because the meaning of the expression used in singing the Psalms does in no way come short of expressing the edifying and enlightening truths of the Gospel. Only those are to be identified as placing a greater weight on the form than on the meaning, who choose to express their thanksgiving and praise in the forms of Isaac Watts and Augustus Toplady rather than those of Jesus Christ who delivered unto His servants both the substance and form of the hymns He would have them sing with Him and to Him.
- Scripture reading and Psalm singing are, to sinful men, de facto vain and nothing but the repetition of a dead letter until they are blessed by the Spirit of God graciously working in the hearts of the hearers. The question is therefore not whether uninspired words have an inherent ability to nullify the inspired word of God because they are uninspired, but whether it can be expected that God will bless the use of His word when mixed with the leaven of those who keep the traditions of their fathers. Will God bless the use of hymns? He has never promised to do so. Will God continue to bless the reading of His Word when it is accompanied with the commandments of men? Let these questions first be answered: Will God accept the sacrifice offered on the altar polluted by the tools of men? Will God dwell in the temple polluted with the abominations of the heathen? Now, if God does not approve of His ordinances when they have been altered by men, and threatens to depart from that temple where the commandments of men are established, what promise is there that his Spirit will continue to remain and bless His Word when the ordinance of hymn-singing is established? Let it therefore be concluded, that although God may, according to His good pleasure, exercise His gracious influences in a sovereign way, contrary to any impediments offered by men, winking (Acts 17.30) at the accompanying institutions of men for a time, He does never promise to do so anywhere. Thus, the Christian who desires to walk uprightly in God's service according to His commandments is compelled to flee from the altars of the High Places.
- In light of the real reason (given above) why God's word is ever graciously effective in the hearts of sinful men, it is obvious that the real reason why the proponents of exclusive psalmody believe that non-inspired hymns will have a negative influence upon the hearers while "non-inspired" sermons may have a positive influence upon the attenders thereto, is because they believe that God will bless the "non-inspired" sermons of His faithful servants, while at the same time they refuse to presume He will bless any hymns used in the praise ordinance but those found among the 150 Psalms in their Bibles.
- The reason why the keepers of Zion's Songs reject uninspired hymns while keeping "non-inspired sermons" is not because of inspiration. If this were so, all words of the Bible would be admitted as hymns for God's service. But this is not done. Rather, the reason that sermons are admitted and hymns are not is because one is the ordinance of God, founded on commands to preach, teach, and exhort, and the other is the ordinance of men founded on the ungrounded assumption of a right among Christians to
- Sing as Praise whatsoever seems good in their own eyes and command others to do the same.
- Compose new songs to include among those that God has given, for the purpose that God has given them.
- Establish an ordinance for the singing of new songsa commandment of men.
- The validity of using "non-inspired" sermons does not validate the use of non-inspired scriptures for scripture reading, nor would the SGC Session argue that it does. It is therefore clear that each particular ordinance of worship has its own accidents which are essential to the proper use of that ordinance and are to be determined by the scriptures alone. If God gives His people a command to sing and then hands them a Psalter of 150 Psalms fit for His praise, they should not respond any differently than they did when He commanded them to read the Law, and then handed them a Bible.
- The fact that scriptures such as Nehemiah 8.8 can be cited to support the "non-inspired" exposition of the Scriptures should lead the keepers of the Songs of Bethel to question why they cannot produce scriptures to positively defend their ordinance.
In the beginning of her response to point four, SGC represents the proponents of exclusive psalmody as "establishing a law which forbids all but canonical psalms to be sung in worship to God, and calling it the 'regulative principle of worship.'" This can only be identified as another false and misleading representation of the entire position of exclusive psalmody and the defenders of reformed worship. Those who are contending against the commandments of men, are not seeking to establish any new law. The Regulative Principle of Worship formerly acknowledged and confessed to be true by SGC is now mocked as the imagination of the hearts of men and a matter relating to only a strange institution regarding worship song. Those who hold to the institution referred to as Exclusive Psalmody do no differently in keeping hymns out of their Psalters than those who refuse to admit other books, otherwise true for their substance, into their Bibles. No law is established. They are merely adhering to that general law, "thou shalt not add thereto," established long ago. When God shall command the singing of "Rock of Ages" and "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," then these shall be added to their Book of Praise. Until then, the only laws of men to be found are among those who establish a new law by adding to their Psalters these unauthorized hymns and presenting them to be sung with the Psalms. If they have not the command of God, then they have only the command of men. The Regulative Principle of Worship should therefore be viewed not merely as the law forbidding the use of hymns, but as the law forbidding the ordaining of any new law or institution in God's worship, including those commanding or "permitting" the use of hymns.
Again, the alleged inconsistency of not forbidding all uninspired preaching, speaking, &c. is brought forth because no law is established against these by those who purportedly "establish a law which forbids all but canonical psalms to be sung." As asserted before, these activities are supported by positive commandments of God and approved examples. The institution of hymnody is not, and the reason why hymns are not used is, not the mere fact that they are uninspired, but the fact that they are unauthorized.
Following this allegation it is then suggested that Christians "are protected from error by the power of God, by which they are sustained in the faith he gives through the message of the Cross." This statement is true, but it must be noted that those who walk contrary to the commandments of God, many of which are given as means for their protection and guidance, are those who are often given up to their own delusions and a reprobate mind so that they wander further and further from Jerusalem until they come so far as Canterbury or even Babylon.
Next it is asserted that "it is the responsibility of the Elders of the Church" to determine what may be sung in church. Is it also the responsibility of the Elders to determine what may be read as Scripture? This is Independency to the extreme. It is Independency from Jesus Christ, the Head of the True Church, who has already determined both what is to be read, and what is to be sung. In time past, the only persons to exercise this sort of responsibility were the prophets, and this they did in submission to Him who appointed them to this office with this responsibility.
Continuing, it is asserted that, "The safeguard from false teaching is found in the active care and instruction of the Church and not in a law which forbids the Church from singing any but canonical Psalms." As has been said before, the dangers of false teaching are not the grounds of the Exclusive Psalmody position. They are merely reinforcing reasons why hymnody is not adopted by those who know no command of God dictating or suggesting that such should be done. It should be noted however, that the reasoning concerning "the safeguard from false teaching" is not used to support the idea of introducing unauthorized Scriptures. The fact that new scriptures could be introduced "safely" into the Bible (that is, without inserting heresy) does not validate the practice. Neither does the fact that new hymns could be introduced "safely" into the authorized Hymnal validate that practice. Therefore, it cannot be argued that newly authorized hymns can be sung as Psalms, because they cannot be added to the book of Psalms any more than other scriptures can be added to the Holy Scriptures. But if hymns cannot be sung as Psalms, then they are another institution apart from that established by Christ in his commanding that His Psalms be sung. And if no new institutions, ordinances, or commandments are to be admitted of in the Church of Christ, then no hymns are to be sung upon any pretense whatsoever.
Furthermore, the argument that concludes from the "safety" of singing certain hymns a necessary usefulness and reason to establish the same is inherently man-centered. That concern can only be considered as man-centered which makes sure man gets the truth he needs and does not take into consideration whether or not God has the obedience He demands. Likewise, the proponents of exclusive psalmody do not claim an "inherent refuge [from false teaching] is found in maintaining the formal practice of singing only the words of Scripture" because singing any other words of Scripture besides those commanded to be sung also communicates a heretical view of the institutions of worship appointed by Christ and a profane attitude with regard to the Holy Scriptures, which makes them to be a tool to be used by us according to our pleasure, rather than the Sword of the Spirit which we only use rightly when we do so in accordance with the divine laws set down therein, and are thus used by the Scripture. Whatever imperfections and dangers may be identified in the practice of exclusive psalmody, these are all accidental to the institution itself and flow rather from the imperfections of those singing the psalms than the psalms themselves. The psalms, being of divine origin, are necessarily perfect. Uninspired hymns however, being of human origin, may be perfect as to their content, but they are not so necessarily. Rather, the hymns used shall be subject to the imperfections of those authorizing and approving them, as well as the imperfections of the composer. Therefore, the imperfections and dangers associated with the ordinance of hymnody are inherent in the ordinance itself, because they flow from the same source as the hymns. It is true, and to be granted, that God could have instituted a hymnody-based praise ordinance despite these "dangers," and could have made clear this institution from His word (thus giving assurance of his blessingthat we may sing with true faith,) and then the practice would be just as valid as the singing of Psalms, but all the same, it must be granted that the institution of Psalmody (assuming a "faithful" preaching of the Word and exercise of Church discipline in both cases) is inherently "safer" than an institution of uninspired hymnody.
The concluding rejection of the concerns of argument four might have been ignored since the actual concerns of this argument do not necessarily establish the ordinance of Exclusive Psalmody, seeing God could have instituted a system for the establishment of hymnody in His church, in which case it would be blasphemy to bring these concerns against God. However, because God did not institute such a system in His word, and therefore does not will that any such should be established, it is appropriate that the singers of the Songs of Bethel be warned that they are not promised a blessing of God's Spirit upon the use of the songs that they adopt, nor upon the institution whereby they are adopted. Therefore, they are exposed to dangers to which Zion's singers are not, and do have reason for concern. The suggestion that God's truth should be relied on apart from the form thereof for expression is entirely pointless, seeing God's truth cannot be authoritatively (in the sense of a supreme & final authority) learned & tried from anywhere but the Scriptures where that truth is revealed through an inspired form. If the "truth itself is the only safeguard against error" and the form thereof is unimportant, then it is not true that the Scripture (with its inspired form) is "the supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined " (WCF 1.10) But it is not supposed that any but Papists, Heathen, and Atheists will deny this. Furthermore, it must be noted that, with regard to what Christians are to trust in for the preservation from error, SGC is incorrect here as well. It is not the truth itself (in an inspired form or otherwise) which Christians are to trust in or "rely" on for an orthodox understanding of the truth. It is only the blessing of God upon His word through the gracious operation of His Spirit in the believer's heart that can secure this preservation from error by enlightening him so that he understands and embraces with love the Truth that he hears. The proponents of Exclusive Psalmody do not place their trust in the ordinance of Exclusive Psalmody, but in the God who has exclusively ordained Psalmody.
With regard to musical instruments, the fifth point discussed in the SGC statement, there continues to be a misunderstanding of the entire argument of those that hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship. The statement that a "concern for outward form is seen in the insistence on a prescriptive requirement forbidding the use of musical instruments in worship" labels those who will not institute the use of musical instruments as having instituted a law forbidding the use of musical instruments. But the entire argument offered against musical instruments is of a very different nature. Indeed, those that adhere to the forms of worship established by Christ as established by Christ do not seek to make any law, but only complain that those who have introduced the use of musical instruments have established a law permitting them by establishing their own worship ordinance. As with the introduction of hymns, so likewise with the introduction of musical instruments: if they are not brought in by the commandment of God, then they are brought in by the commandment of men. That this is a worship ordinance (or at least part of another) and not a mere circumstance is evident by the words of the SGC session itself which confesses the use of musical instruments to be "an expression for the glory of God." It is astounding that such an act could be esteemed as something done for the glory of God, when it has never been commanded by Him and therefore cannot be an act of obedience. Such an act, outside of the Levitical service of the Jewish Temple can only be esteemed as an honoring of men, since it can only be done in obedience to men. Furthermore, as with the introduction of hymns, the use of musical instruments also reveals an undue concern for outward form because it expresses a discontentment with the singing of the psalms the way that Christ appointed. Musical instruments do not introduce themselves, they are introduced with specific intentions by men who put much effort into providing for their use. As musical instruments are entirely unnecessary to the singing of the Psalms, and as their inclusion in the worship of God is no true worshipping of God, not being any obedience to His revealed will, so it is evident that these instruments must be introduced only out of an undue concern for outward forms, namely sound,such a sound as is useful only to the pleasing of men and artificial exciting of their emotions.
Here again, as before with hymns, the Session of SGC asserts that the presence or use of instruments in worship is not inherently sinful. But as with hymns, this is besides the point also with musical instruments. Those that contend against the use of musical instruments in Christ's Church are not unaware of the fact that the ancient ceremonies of the Temple included the use of musical instruments by specific families and persons of the Tribe of Levi, and that therefore, the use of musical instruments in worship cannot be 'inherently' sinful. It is then contended by SGC that because the use of musical instruments are mentioned frequently during the old dispensation, any argument from silence in the New Testament should lead to the conclusion that musical instruments were included in the use of the early Church. This method of reasoning however is founded on the ungrounded assumption that the New Testament Church finds its origin in the Old Testament Temple. But contrary to this, the development of the New Testament Church as related in the Acts of the Apostles as well as the Epistles, indicates that the churches of the New Testament did not take their being or order from the Temple, but rather from the local meetings of individual congregations in synagogues and houses, under the direction of the inspired Apostles. Now, if the meeting of individual congregations of the early Church found their origin in the congregations of the Jews in synagogues and houses, then an argument from silence in the New Testament scriptures regarding the use of music instruments should not lead to the conclusion that temple ordinances were adopted into the homes and synagogues of local congregations as the Christian Church took root, but that the Church would have patterned the synagogue which did not make use of musical instruments. Therefore, whether the ceremonial dichotomy mentioned afterwards in the SGC statement is valid or not, it remains that any argument from silence does in fact lead to the conclusion that instruments were not used. Furthermore, silence on this issue does not only indicate that the Church did not then use musical instruments, but also constitutes a lack of divine warrant for the use of musical instruments by any who would later introduce the practice.
Next it is asserted by the SGC session that the ceremonial institutions of the Old Testament were ordained by God only for the sake of demonstrating a sacred versus secular dichotomy symbolic of the distinction "between the imputed righteousness of Christ and all human expressions of righteousness." It is then argued that because the purpose and use of this dichotomy was fulfilled and completed by Jesus Christ, no such distinction between clean and unclean exists any longer. But ceremonial distinctions of clean and unclean are not the same as moral distinctions of lawful and sinful. Indeed, this reasoning would be useful in considering what institutions ought to be kept as temple ordinances, but it has absolutely no relevance to the spiritual worship common to both the New Testament churches and the Old Testament synagogues wherein are never found the ceremonies of the temple such as the use of musical instruments and the burning of incense, but only such worship as has been commanded by God to all people in all places. Now, if the use of musical instruments can no longer be continued as the ceremonial worship of God because this has been abrogated by Christ, and the Father will now only be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4.), then they who will use musical instruments to worship God must use them in the spiritual worship of private, family, or public worship. But although neither a horn nor a pipe is an unclean thing (nor was it ever,) yet it is morally a sin to introduce, and so institute, such ceremonial worship as to use these instruments in the service of that God who will now no longer be worshipped ceremonially (except by such new ceremonies as He Himself has instituted in the New Testament.) Therefore, the use of such instruments in the worship of God at this day cannot but be considered as the institutions and commandments of men bringing in again the shadows of the ceremonial law and thus detracting from the spiritual nature of that worship authorized by God.
Hereafter in the SGC Statement is found a denial of "the dichotomy between activity and behaviour appropriate to the 'formal' worship service of the people of God and the activity and behavior appropriate to their everyday lives." All true proponents of Exclusive Psalmody seek to apply the Regulative Principle of Worship in their private and family worship as well as in "corporate worship." Likewise, it is agreed, that in these situations, and throughout all of life, one ought to have the same "attitude of reverence and awe" at God's grace which necessarily compels him to present himself as a living sacrifice unto God in all that he does.
The concluding statements regarding argument five begin with the assertion that "the Bible cannot be used to support" the claim that "there is something inherently evil and corrupting about a Christian using a musical instrument?" Naturally this is the case, since the Bible relates how the Levite Christians of old were commanded to use musical instruments, and that even in the worship of God. The question to be asked however, is not whether there is something "inherently evil" in a Christian using such instruments, but whether such a use of musical instruments to worship God which is not done in obedience to his commandments is legally sinful and proceeds from a corrupt principle of worship. Those that hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship (uncorrupted) maintain, in accordance with scripture, that any principle of worship which admits of the commandments and traditions of men is contrary to the revealed will of God and to be held in contempt as a corrupt principle which offers to God the things concerning which He spake not. Likewise, they hold that to be corrupt which proceeds from this corrupted principle, including the instruments of musick which men will "invent to themselves" though they be like David's (Amos 6.5) because they cannot be David's, which were the only instruments ever authorized by God.And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. (2 Chronicles 29:25-26)If the instruments of music are not used according to the "commandment of the LORD by his prophets," then it matters not how much they are like the instruments of David, they are not the instruments commanded by God, and therefore, their use cannot be any obedience to the commandments of the Lord, unless new commandments are revealed by new prophets. Such instruments as are not used in obedience to the commandments of the Lord, can only be used sinfully in worship as an act of obedience to the commandments of men (imposing themselves on the ordinances of God) and therefore shall be left to the followers of the new prophets and new spirits who have not contented themselves with the simplicity of that worship in spirit and in truth which is void of all such unnecessary, burdensome, and form-oriented ceremonial worship.
In conclusion, let it be observed that the above arguments of the SGC Session intend effectively (although they fail) to make the Regulative Principle of Worship to be removed by Christ's fulfillment of the Ceremonial Law, while at the same time they allow the continued use of the institutions of the Ceremonial Law. But such reasoning must certainly be erroneous when it ends in the abrogation of a Law which is Natural and therefore unchangeable, namely, the Regulative Principle of Worship, which point was made above. Likewise, the reasoning of the SGC Session must be seen as highly questionable when it effectively makes the abrogation of the Ceremonial Law to leave unchanged one specific Positive institution of the Law, which institutions, being positive, are changeable, and were ordained as such so that they might be changed. These two observations alone should be sufficient to direct those adhering to the position of SGC to reconsider whether their position has any real ground at all, besides the arbitrary commandments & unbiblical presuppositions of men.
F I N I S.
CC: John Pedersen, Don Buysee, Bob Foster