Wednesday, September 28, 2005

“...hymn-singing in the Service of Praise is in its ultimate analysis a species of idolatry.”


Edited by Sola Bookstora©

[Excerpted from the book Psalm-Singers Conference (Belfast: Fountain, 1905), pp. 30l-312. Time did not permit the reading of this Paper at the Conference.]



By REV. S. R. M’Neilly, B.A., Bailiesmills, Lisburn Ireland.

THE question is important, and is not free from difficulty. Its importance may be approximately estimated by the nature and extent of the departure and by the necessity for a return.The departure is from God, and is therefore sin, It involves,
(a) a refusal to offer unto the Lord that which He has expressly commanded and graciously provided,
(b) an offering unto Him of that which He has not appointed, does not require, and will not accept, and
(c) consequently a subordinating of the Divine will to the human, and an exalting of man above God.

That is to say, the using of uninspired hymns in the Ordinance of Praise is at once a rejection and a usurpation of the Divine authority; and the user, though he apparently worships God, really worships himself. In other words, hymn-singing in the Service of Praise is in its ultimate analysis a species of idolatry.
I do not say that every, or any, hymn-singer knowingly offers praise to himself. All may believe that they are worshipping God in an acceptable way, just as Paul believed before his conversion he was rendering to God an acceptable service when he was persecuting the followers of Jesus. Nevertheless, a true analysis of the act of using uninspired hymns in the Ordinance of Praise will reveal the astounding fact that the hymn-singer, though unconsciously, is a worshipper of himself!

As the departure is from God, the return, to be real and permanent, must be to God, and in God’s way. An essential prerequisite of such return is the returning condition, which includes consciousness of and sorrow for having corrupted the Ordinance of Praise, an earnest desire for forgiveness, and a firm resolve to comply fully with the Divine appointment.

A first question, then, with Psalm-singers ought to be, “How is the returning condition to be produced?” Every intelligent Psalm-singer can easily answer the question, though the force of the answer is perhaps seldom realized. The answer is, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Conferences, like the present Conference, would probably produce many good results. But all the efforts of all Psalm-singers, though perfectly right and perfectly well-directed, would of themselves be powerless to change the mind of one hymn-singer. That change cannot be effected by any power but the power of the Holy Spirit. Doubtless every Psalm-singer believes this. But what Psalm-singer does not sometimes lose sight of the fact? And perhaps herein lies much of our weakness in making known and defending the truth respecting the material to be used in the Service of Praise. “The Lord, Whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” “I”, says He “will not give My glory unto another.” If His power to convert is overlooked or partially eclipsed, if it is not regarded as all-sufficient, and every other power as insufficient, we need not wonder if there are conversions that are merely outward, or no conversions at all.

But while it is true that the returning condition can be produced only by the Spirit of God, and the return accomplished only by Him, it is no less true that God has appointed and requires the use of means, and that He will own and bless every Scriptural means used in the right way.

What, then, ought Psalm-singers to do so as to secure a return to the use of the Psalms in the Ordinance of Praise?

1. Psalm-singers ought to remove the things that minister to departure, and the things that tend to hinder return; and,
2. They ought to establish and maintain the things that help to prevent departure, and the things that encourage and assist return.

1. Psalm-singers ought to pray believingly, earnestly, and frequently, for a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit on themselves and on hymn-singers.

If all the members of the Church were “filled with the Spirit”, hymn-singing in the worship of God would be at an end. This modern tower of Babel, whose top makes bold to rise to the third heaven, would be leveled to the ground, without confusion of tongues. The members of the Church everywhere would be of one mind and one heart; and in the Ordinance of Praise only one language— the language of heaven— would be known, and only one Book of Praise — the Songs of the Holy Spirit — would be used.
Why, it may be pertinently asked, is a special baptism of the Spirit being withheld? God has promised that He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh; and His promises are Yea and Amen in Christ. Why is the Church of God not specially enjoying the Spirit’s enlightening and sanctifying influences? There must be a resisting in some way or ways of His striving. And one way undoubtedly is the corrupting of the Ordinance of Praise by one part of the Church, and indifference by another part to the work of corruption, of which indifference one of the strongest manifestations is neglect of prayer, or insufficient faith in the power of prayer. “The hymns,” it is said, “are coming, and we cannot stop them”!

Psalm-singers themselves need to be quickened and strengthened that their lukewarmness, which is unfaithfulness to Christ, may vanish, that they may be quick to resent, with holy zeal, every intrusion on God’s prerogative to order His worship, and that they may be strong to maintain inviolate the law of Christ which governs the Service of Praise. And hymn-singers, some of whom are high and mighty, and look with contempt on Psalm-singers, need to be humbled “under the mighty hand of God”, to forsake with sorrow their evil way, and to return in faith unto the Lord.
That both these needs may be supplied,

1. Psalm-singers ought to pray for a special baptism of the Holy Spirit on the whole Church of God; to pray believingly, for “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin”, and “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”, to pray earnestly, for “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”; and to pray frequently, for “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint”.

2. Psalm-singers ought, intelligently and fearlessly, in faith and hope, to make known, in every legitimate way, as God gives them opportunity, that the Psalms are the only Divinely appointed Songs for the Praise Service of the Church, and that the composing or selecting of uninspired hymns for, or the using of uninspired hymns in, the Ordinance of Praise is sin.

God requires the life of His Church to be holy, and therefore requires the Church’s Praise Service to be holy. Every intelligent, earnest Christian will not only admit this, but acknowledge that the safety, strength, and efficiency of the Church lie in compliance with the Divine injunction, “Be ye holy.” How does the life of the Church become holy? By proclamation of the truth, by belief of the truth, and by obedience to the truth. That is the Divine plan, in the Divine order. The Holy Spirit produces faith and obedience: no other can produce them. And, that faith and obedience may be produced, the Church is to make known the truth. “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.”

To whom is the truth respecting the Ordinance of Praise to be made known? To all — to those who have not heard it, that they may accept it; to those who hold it, that they may be confirmed in the belief of it; and to those who have departed from it, that they may be ashamed and repent.

What then are the most efficient means for making known this truth? The following are perhaps among the more important: — Conferences, such as the present Conference, Public Lectures and Discussions, Church Magazines, Circulation of Literature, and especially the Preaching of the Word.

Why, it may be asked, is the Ordinance of Praise being so much corrupted in the Evangelical Churches? It is certainly not the fault of the Holy Spirit. The sin lies at the door of the Churches, and specially at the door of the ministers of the Churches. If the ambassador of Christ keeps back any part of the truth, for any reason whatever, he virtually takes away that part from the Word of God. And not only will the suppression of one part lead to the suppression of another, but the error or errors to which the suppressed part is directly opposed will be introduced, subtlely and cautiously perhaps, and will become prevalent. This is one way in which the sin of the unfaithful ambassador finds him out, and in which God afflicts the Church for bearing with the ambassador’s unfaithfulness.

Some of us who preach the Gospel may be placed in difficult circumstances. In our congregations there may be hymn-singers, and these may be among the more wealthy and influential members. We may say we don’t wish to offend them; and in order not to offend them we may be constrained — not certainly by “the love of Christ” — to keep back a part of God’s truth. In other words, we may allow “the fear of man”, which “bringeth a snare”, to enter our hearts and exercise its weakening and sin-producing influences upon us, though Christ requires us and we have bound ourselves by the most solemn ties to declare the whole counsel of God whether men hear or forbear, and though God has assured us that His Word shall not return unto Him void, but that it shall accomplish that which He pleases, and shall prosper in the thing whereto He sent it. By taking this effeminate, cowardly, sinful, course, lest we offend man, we offend God. We distrust His promises, we disobey Him, we injure the souls of men, we retard the progress of Christ’s kingdom, and we further the cause of Satan.

Some of us who preach the Gospel may be in happier circumstances. Our congregations may be out-and-out Psalm-singers. Yet, there may be danger in the situation. We may be disposed to think there is no necessity to make known the truth regarding the material to be used in the Church’s Service of Praise, and may criminally neglect to preach a full Gospel. Our neglect, however, will tend to weaken ourselves and those who are strong, to cause the weak to stumble and fall, to keep from the youth of the Church the knowledge of God’s will respecting the acceptable way of worshipping Him, and to withhold, indirectly at least, assistance from those Psalm-singers who are endeavoring, at great personal sacrifice perhaps, to keep “pure and entire” God’s Ordinance of Praise. They who are resting on their oars are not going against the stream. There is no promise for, but a woe pronounced against, those who are “at ease in Zion”.

If we Psalm-singers who are ministers of the Gospel, intelligently and fearlessly, in faith and hope, declare frequently from our pulpits, and Scripturally prove as we may do, that the Psalms are the only Divinely-appointed Songs for the Ordinance of Praise, and that the use of uninspired hymns in the Praise Service of the Church is sin, the effect upon our congregations and upon the whole Church will be marvelous. Psalm-singing members will become more intelligent and willing defenders of Scriptural worship, and remain steadfast in their adherence to the exclusive use of the Psalms. And this unflinching adherence to God’s Psalter, and determined hostility to man’s foolish and sinful substitutes, will doubtless be used by the Spirit of God as a special means of bringing about a return to the use of the Psalms in the Ordinance of Praise.

3. Psalm-singers ought to insist on having in the written Creed, Confession, or Testimony of the Church to which they belong, an express declaration to the effect that the Psalms are the only Divinely-appointed Songs for the Praise Service of the Church, and that the use of uninspired hymns in the Ordinance of Praise is sin.

Is there any reason why every doctrine of God’s Word which has been denied or perverted may not be formally expressed in the Church’s Subordinate Standards? There is not one valid reason. Publication of testimony in behalf of the truth and against error is a duty the obligation of which the Church of God has ever recognized. The duty is not self-imposed: it is a Divine obligation. “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me”, said the risen Lord to His assembled disciples, “...unto the uttermost part of the earth.” And the right performance of this duty is one of the most effective ways by which the Church contends “for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”. Suppose, for example, the doctrines of the Trinity, the Person of Christ, His Atonement, Justification, Faith, and Repentance, had never been explicitly stated in the Creeds of the Reformed Churches, what answers would the members of these Churches give today to the questions:

How many persons are there in the Godhead?
Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
How does Christ execute the office of a priest?
What is justification?
What is faith in Jesus Christ?
What is repentance unto life?

Or, suppose these doctrines were now eliminated from the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, what conception of these doctrines would the Churches holding these Subordinate Standards have, say, in a hundred years, or even in thirty years? Justly and necessarily, denied or perverted doctrines of the Word demand a prominent place in the Subordinate Standards of the Evangelical Churches, and demand, too, to be expressed in clear, precise statement, so that “he may run that readeth” them, and that whereto the people of God “have already attained, by that same rule” they may walk.

Is the truth regarding the Ordinance of Praise so unimportant, is the sin of corrupting this Ordinance so trifling, and are the pernicious effects of the sin of so little consequence that the Church need not burden its Confession of Testimony by explicitly declaring the mind of Christ on the matter? Or, is the offering now of strange fire unto the Lord by those who enjoy the full blaze of Gospel light less revolting to God than the offering of it was by those who in a former and dark dispensation looked through types and shadows? It was then a heinous sin. Is it now a manifestation of Christian culture and piety? God was then a holy and jealous God, and He was a consuming fire. Has He changed? Is He not still holy and jealous? Is He not always a consuming fire? And is not willful disobedience to His law even more abhorrent after, than before, the coming of His Son?

The very fact that the law of Christ respecting the material of the Church’s Praise is flouted and trampled under foot by many professing Christians is a specially strong reason why that law should be explicitly declared in the Subordinate Standards of the Evangelical Churches, and why the sin of violating the law should be explicitly condemned.

The Church of Christ is to “press on unto perfection”, both as regards life and extension. And one way in which it will “press on” is, not by removing from, or by refusing to include in, her written Creed any disputed doctrine, but by adding in explicit terms every doctrine of the Word which is denied or rejected. The cry to give up disputed truths, or to hold them in abeyance, for the sake of union, is really a cry to come down from God’s heights, to come down from the mountain of truth and holiness into the quagmire of error and sin. God permits doctrine after doctrine of His Word to be doubted, opposed, and denied, not that His people may, after a little struggle, quiescently hand it over to Satan for burial, but that they may understand it more clearly and hold it more tenaciously, and that it may have by explicit declaration a definite place in their Testimony. We may, I think, take if for granted that every truth of God’s Revelation will be contested by Satan, and that the followers of the Lamb must “buy”, by conflict, every such truth, and exhibit it in the symbols of their faith as a trophy won. When they do that, they will be united, and the end will be at hand. “They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony.” Meantime, let Psalm-singers thus buy and thus exhibit the truth regarding God’s Book of Praise, and the iniquity of hymn-singing will soon begin to hide its head with shame.

4. Psalm-singers ought to insist that an intelligent and sincere acceptance of their Church’s Creed, Confession, or Testimony, thus amended, be a sine qua non of membership in the Church to which they belong.

Impossible! You could not get the people to understand!

Probably not; for the things of God are spiritually discerned, and it is the Spirit of God that gives spiritual discernment. Teachers in the Church are not responsible for results if they faithfully perform their duty. One part of their duty is to present the truth intelligently, and to wait in faith and hope for the enlightening influences of the Holy Spirit, Who only can guide His people into the truth, and Whose guidance of them “into all the truth” Christ has promised.
But, may the creed of a living Church be a dead letter? Can it be? It is the truth makes free — not the truth sealed, but the truth known and believed. The religious life that is not the outcome of the knowledge and belief of the truth is a miserable counterfeit. Perhaps there never was a time in the history of the Church when spiritual life was so true and full as in the age of the Apostles; and for clear understanding of the will of God, and for strong faith in Him, the Apostolic Church is unsurpassed. To do God’s will, we must believe His Word; and to believe His Word, we must know it.

The requirement of an intelligent and sincere acceptance of the Church’s Creed as an indispensable condition of membership would have a powerful educative influence upon the whole Church. It would quicken and strengthen faithful teachers; and it would increase the knowledge of honest applicants, and deepen their sense of responsibility. On the other hand, it would tend to awaken the conscience of the unfaithful teacher, and to deter the insincere applicant from professing that which he does not know or does not believe. And if the Creed contained, as it ought to contain, a chapter or section of a chapter, setting forth in explicit terms the teaching of God’s Word respecting the Ordinance of Praise, then, the intelligent and sincere acceptance of the Creed being an indispensable condition of membership, the honest applicant, before committing himself, would know and believe that which in the sight of the holy and just God he is about to affirm, and which is to form a part of the bond of union and basis of communion between himself and his fellow members. Moreover, the requiring of such acceptance would, not only necessarily and very efficiently educate in the knowledge and belief of the truth respecting the Ordinance of Praise, but would prepare for working and for suffering in its maintenance and defense; and it would, therefore, strongly tend to prevent departure from, and to hasten return to, the use of the Psalms in that Ordinance.

But would not the requiring of an intelligent and sincere acceptance of such a creed prevent the extension of Christ’s kingdom? No; it would lift the Church up to a far higher intellectual, moral, and spiritual level, and make her far more active and effective in carrying on the work of the Lord. Her members, instead of being as untempered and rusty weapons, would be as polished shafts in Jehovah’s quiver. They would not flee on the approach of foes, nor crouch down and beg for life, but would stand in the gate, and withstand the enemy. “The people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

5. Psalm-singers ought to insist that discipline be exercised on those office-bearers and members of the Church to which they belong, who, in violation of the law of Christ and of their own solemn engagement, use uninspired hymns in the Ordinance of Praise.

Pshaw! Hymn-singers wouldn’t stand discipline! They would leave the Church first!

Well — what then? the Church destroyed? the Church’s Redeemer and King overcome? and Satan reigning universally supreme?

But the question is not, what hymn-singers may do, or what they may be supposed to do, in given circumstances. The question is, “What does Christ require the Church to do when His law is publicly violated by some of His professed followers?” He has appointed Discipline in the Church that offenders may be taught not to offend, that others may fear to offend, and that the purity and therefore the strength of the Church may be maintained. Is this Ordinance to be respected in some cases and ignored in others? Is a member of the Church to be subjected to discipline for being guilty, say, of theft or slander, and to be let go scot-free when he corrupts the Ordinance of Praise? Is man’s property or character of more importance than the worship of the infinitely holy One? And if the Church Courts spare the rod, do they show that they really love the erring members, and hate the violation of Christ’s law? And will the laxity of discipline transform the law-breakers into loving law-abiding citizens of Zion, and please and honor Zion’s King?

As a Church sows, so shall it reap. Had the judicatories of the Evangelical Churches instituted proceedings against the office- bearers and members who at the beginning corrupted the Ordinance of Praise by the introduction of uninspired hymns, and subjected them to wholesome discipline, they would not have done more than Christ requires— they are not a liberty to do less. They would have used one of God’s specially appointed means for “keeping pure and entire” His worship and ordinances, and God would have owned and blessed the right use of the Divinely-appointed means. The sin of hymn-singing would have been nipped in the bud.

It may be said, however, that hymn-singing has become so prevalent, and hymn-singers are so numerous and influential, that it would be altogether fruitless to attempt now to exercise discipline. But neglect to discharge a particular duty in the past, and the evil results of the neglect, are no justification for not attempting to discharge the duty in the present. The neglect and its evil results should rather be regarded as strong reasons why the performance of the duty should be promptly attempted. And if the exercise of discipline were attempted in entire dependence upon the Head of the Church, and with earnest desire to glorify Him, He would honor even the attempt to observe His Ordinance; and He would give power to His faithful servants, so that the small beginnings in attempt would eventually become great in performance. There is nothing too hard for the Lord.

6. Psalm-singers ought to have no organic union with those Churches that refuse to bring their constitution and practice into harmony with the law of Christ which requires the exclusive use of the Psalms in the Ordinance of Praise.

By the constitution of a Church is meant, in this connection, its articles of faith and body of laws. Formal acceptance of these, and public recognition of their acceptance by the proper authority — Session or Presbytery in a Presbyterian Church — produce organic union. Conversely, organic union commits to the acceptance of the Church’s constitution.

Now if a Church refuses to legislate in favor of the exclusive use of the Psalms, whether by enactment in favor of uninspired hymns, or by no enactment at all, the office-bearers and members of that Church are committed to the principle of refusal. Those of them who are Psalm-singers may protest against the refusal, and may so far endeavor to maintain their integrity. Nevertheless, they are in organic union with a Church which officially refuses to recognize the law of Christ respecting the material of the Church’s Praise. The recognition of this law is essential to the spiritual wellbeing of the Church; and the refusal to recognize it naturally opens up the way for the use of uninspired hymns in, and for the exclusion of the Psalms from, the Ordinance of Praise. And once the door is left ajar for the entrance of one sin, it may be soon pushed open for the entrance of its companions. *[The Writer of this Paper is aware that there are respected brethren, members of the Conference, who take a different view of their duty in this matter; and inasmuch as his Paper was not read at the Conference, where there would have been an opportunity for discussion, he omits some detailed arguments which he had written on this particular point.]

7. Psalm-singers ought to refuse to unite in observing the Ordinance of Praise with those who corrupt it by the use of uninspired hymns.

We live in an age of much religious effort which finds expression in various ways. One way is by means of what is termed the Public Undenominational Meeting. Under this head there are what are called Evangelistic Services, United Services, Temperance Meetings, Meetings for Benevolent purposes, etc.*[Though the writer seems to promote these meetings to some degree, he and the editor take opposing views. The existence of these meetings actually serve the greater schism of the present Church today, and defile her well being as much as the use of uninspired hymns] To these meetings professing Christians of the various denominations are often invited; and to overcome religious scruples the assurance is often given, “We shall meet on common ground,” though it might be difficult for an intelligent Christian to find much Scriptural ground that is common to Calvinists and Arminians. At these meetings the use of hymns is the rule, that of the Psalms the exception. If Psalm- singers attend any of these meetings, they ought not to take part in the Praise Service, if uninspired hymns are used. If they do take part, they will be acting inconsistently and their inconsistency will be sin double-dyed.

They will be really assisting to corrupt the Ordinance of Praise, contrary to their own convictions. They will be not merely sinking their own testimony, but by public act testifying against their own testimony, and will thus be doing far more than hymn-singers to prevent a return to the use of the Psalms in the Service of Praise.

The meeting being ostensibly undenominational, the Psalm- singer’s duty is to object to the use of hymns as the introduction of a denominational [schismatic – SA] element, and to insist that the Psalms, which are undenominational, be used. If his objection is unheeded, he ought to protest and leave the meeting. But a better way perhaps would be, for Psalm-singers to make the exclusive use of the Psalms in the Praise Service one of the indispensable conditions of their attending such meetings.

If Psalm-singers adopted either of these courses, but especially the latter course— and they are bound in loyalty to Christ to witness for Him in the most effective way — they would do much to secure compliance with the will of Christ as regards His worship, and to prevent compliance with the sinful desires of sinning man.

I regret that time will not permit me to do more than mention the following additional particulars. The performance, however, of the duties indicated is so obviously necessary to prevent departure from, and to secure return to, the use of the Psalms in the Ordinance of Praise, that the bare statement of the duties will, in the circumstances, be sufficient.

8. Psalm-singers ought
(a) to observe Family Worship daily, and to use in the Praise part of this religious exercise the Psalms in their consecutive order,
(b) to teach diligently their children in early life that the Psalms are God’s Book of Songs, and that these Songs and no other are to be used when His people sing praise to Him, and
(c) to encourage their children to memorize and love the Psalms.

9. Psalm-singers ought to petition the Supreme Court of the Church to which they belong
(a) to enjoin its Sessions, Missionaries, and Sabbath School Teachers to encourage in laudable ways the children under their care to commit to memory the Psalms, and
(b) to enjoin its Ministers to devote a portion of the time of Public Worship on the Lord’s Day to the practical exposition of the Psalms in their consecutive order.

10. Psalm-singers ought to prepare, on the Ordinance of Praise,
(a) an Elementary Catechism for use in the Family and in the Sabbath School, and
(b) a Hand-book for advanced classes, and for members of the Church generally.

11. Psalm-singers ought
(a) to prepare a Metrical Version of the Psalms, which would be in all respects as perfect as possible, and to have it bound without the addition of hymn or paraphrase,
(b) to compile a suitable Tune Book, and
(c) to give assiduous attention to the Theory and Practice of Sacred Music.

12. Psalm-singers ought to meet frequently
(a) for Prayer,
(b) to discuss the various aspects of the Psalmody Question, and
(c) to devise effective means for deepening and extending the knowledge of Scriptural Worship, and to arrange for the prompt and judicious use of the means devised. And,

13. Psalm-singers ought to enter into a Solemn League and Covenant
(a) to witness faithfully against the sin of using uninspired hymns in the Ordinance of Praise,
(b) to use all lawful means in behalf of the exclusive use of the Psalms in that Ordinance, and
(c) to give God no rest until He pours out specially His Spirit upon all His people, so that Psalm-singers themselves may sing the Psalms with clearer light and fuller joy, and that they who have gone into the captivity of hymn-singing may return with weeping and supplications, and may “walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble”.

“Arise, 0 God, plead Thine own cause”

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Scottish History from a private perspective

So this was written by an RP of Ireland guy. I don't know him, but I plan on trying to get to know him. Excellent article. Enjoy.

"Where it all went wrong"


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Landmark Project

Project Gutenburg has provided a forum for scanning and transcribing old works into E-text.

My brother-in-law, Jordan Dohms has been active in getting good books up there to transcribe.

This is his website, where he seeks to promote his efforts.

And here is a site that links the works.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Church Writings of the RPNA

Well I guess I will begin by posting my Church's website with a list of Church Writings. Be edified and feel free to take up dialogue with me concerning any title.